carrying the cross

When the son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Luke 18:8


(fall persimons / Julie Cook / 2019)

Where confusion reigns, God cannot dwell!
Let us not be afraid!
What more wonderful gift is there to offer to mankind than the truth of the Gospel?
Certainly, Jesus is demanding.
Yes, following him requires carrying his Cross each day!

Robert Cardinal Sarah

from bitterness to sweetness

“Let us make up for lost time.
Let us give to God the time that remains to us.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori


(a blushing magnolia “seed pod”/Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2019)

“By accepting the sufferings ‘offered’ by life and allowed by God for our progress and purification,
we spare ourselves much harder ones.
We need to develop this kind of realism and, once and for all,
stop dreaming of a life without suffering or conflict.
That is the life of heaven, not earth.
We must take up our cross and follow Christ courageously every day;
the bitterness of that cross will sooner or later be transformed into sweetness.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 49
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

She died stringing beans

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Hamlet / William Shakespeare


(tomb in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“After William Shakespeare’s Horatio sees the ghost of Hamlet’s father and
scarcely believes his own eyes, Hamlet tells him that there is more to reality
than he can know or imagine including ghosts.”

So reads a small excerpt I recently came across when flipping through a new book catalog
I’d just received in the mail.
The catalog is from Ignatius Press and the excerpt was part of a brief overview
for a new book release by both college professor and Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft.

I found the Shakespeare piece, the quote from Hamlet, quite telling.

That there is indeed more to this reality of ours…with death being a bit of a doorway…
not so much the ghost thing…as I do believe in a spiritual warfare…but this is
not about that…not today anyway…

But I should confess that every once in a while I do find my thoughts turning to my
own mortality.
Perhaps that’s a bit morbid, but hey, it happens.

I suppose such thoughts increase as one’s age increases.

Since I hit another birthday last week, I suppose such thoughts concerning both
life and death are just typical brain fodder.

You know when you’re actually closer to that magic number that those supposed experts
keep telling us is a typical life expectancy age for a relatively healthy US woman…
well, the reality becomes a bit hard to ignore.

I’ve mentioned before that if you have ever lived through losing, utterly prematurely, a
loved one or perhaps a dear friend due to a catastrophic illness or tragic accident…
you naturally find yourself wondering, more often than others,
‘when might my your own number get called up??’

So yesterday while I found myself standing at the kitchen sink…a sink full of green beans
that needed snapping and stringing before being cooked…my thoughts wandered off course.

And by the way, I don’t know why but I can never find fresh pole beans this time of year…
just those generic string beans now sold in pre-packaged plastic bags all imported from
south Florida or worse…California….anywhooo, I digress.

So there I was mindlessly stringing and snapping a sink full of imported beans as my mind
started wandering.

My thoughts actually got around to the notion of what if I did just suddenly fall out
here at the sink…
what if I dropped dead while stringing these beans…???!!
I suppose they could sadly write my epitaph “She died stringing beans”

But there are certainly worse ways to go.

And in typical fashion for my life, that’s how it will be you know.
It won’t be like something out of the movies but rather it will be
nothing I will have expected or planned on.
Death doesn’t work that way.

With a healthy melding of both humility and hubris, I’ve always thought it will never
be in some sort of glorious heroic sort of finale.
It’ll be more like something stupid or either something plain awful.

Funny how the brain and ego work in tandem when imagining one’s own ending.

Death waits for no man, and if he does, he usually doesn’t wait long…
That quote comes from Markus Zusak, author of The Book Theif (I didn’t care for the book)

So yes, Mr. Zusak is correct, Death doesn’t wait.

And I think we’d all agree that Death, here in our realm, is mostly perceived as
something most tragic and dreaded…
It’s a permanent-seeming sort of separation and, for far too many, it can be
a painfully slow and lingering happening.
And the odd thing is…that when it is long and painful, we then view Death as a blessed
release.
We even note that the one suffering suffers no more.

Yet death is a thought that leaves all of us unsettled…
particularly when we think about our own demise.

Chances are all of us, at one point or another has mused over when, where, how and why…

Yet what we must remember is that in the mind of God, death is more or less liberating.
It’s the cutting of an earthbound tether… as we humans suffer from
a gravitational pull that keeps us grounded… and Heaven knows, we certainly like
our earthly grounding.
But the cutting of the earthly tether allows for a reunion.
A reunion between Creator and created…
it’s just that we don’t always think of it those sorts of terms.
Instead, we dread it or simply see it more as an ending rather than a beginning.

It’s hard to imagine that death is actually an act of ‘freeing’ us.
Yet for me, it tends to be more of a scary thought than not.

For those of us who lay our hearts, our lives, our sins, our hopes at the foot
of the cross…
those of us who die on the Cross with Christ and are in turn risen from the tomb with
Christ Resurrected…death should not be seen as the ending but rather the beginning…
but yet I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a bit scary walking out into that unknown.

So as I was stringing my beans, I quickly realized that our idea of death is not God’s
idea of death…and that in itself alone is a very good thing.

When I recently visited the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, I
was taken aback a bit when I saw two separate tombs that actually had the real skulls
of the deceased embedded into the tombs as part of the elaborate construction.

A somewhat creepy reminder of our own mortality.

Just like those catacombs in France and other places scattered around the world…
catacombs with thousands of human bones..those of deceased monks,
elaborately displayed in a macabre reminder that from dust we come and to dust,
we will return.

And so as we prepare to enter into this season of Advent, that season of waiting and
watching…
A time of anticipation, birth and the newness of life…we must be mindful that the
shadow of the Death remains…
it remains not to frighten us but rather to offer us hope.
The Hope of Life which comes through the Ressurection of a life that overcame Death.

A hard concept to wrap our earth bound heads around, but wrap we must because it is in
our dying that we truly have our life…

It remains not as a harbinger but rather as a reminder…harbinger being man’s idea as
Hope is God’s idea…

And thus the reminder being….that Jesus, through His own death, overcame our death,
allowing us to live…to truly live with Him.

Therefore in Christ, we gloriously find birth, life, death and then finally life eternal…
all intertwined.
A gift as it were…with it being the best gift our Heavenly Father could give…
that being a reunited life free of sin or earthly strife…

So tomorrow when I find myself making a pumpkin pie, who knows where my thoughts will
lead me…at least my epitaph won’t read she died stringing beans…
dying while making a pumpkin
pie certainly sounds so much more festive…complete with whipped cream…


(images from The Bascilica of Santa Maria sopa Minerva / Julie Cook / 2018)

defeating the octopus…

“To be defeated and not submit, is victory;
to be victorious and rest on one’s laurels,
is defeat.”

Józef Piłsudski

Knowing their thoughts, he said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste,
and no city or house divided against itself will stand.

Matthew 12:25


(detail from the Fontana dei Calderari, Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

Is it just me or is this how many of us are feeling these days?

All wrapped up by something menacing, trying its best to not only entangle us but to
consume us and suck us down to the depths of the sea?

Yet in actuality, this is a statue of Neptune trying to spear an entangling octopus.

However, it might as well be a statue of any one of us…an image of any average American
who is working frantically and desperately to fend off the current craziness consuming our Nation.


(Fontana dei Calderari, Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

The fountain is within the enclosed piazza, or what we Americans call a plaza,
perched in the heart of Rome.
It’s the piazza where we will find the statue of the sea god Neptune perpetually at battle
with an aggravating octopus.

There is a massive fountain in the center of this piazza by the famous artist Bernini flanked
by two lesser fountains on either end of the piazza, each by different artists.

The Neptune fountain as it is known is The Fountain of Neptune
(Italian: Fontana del Nettuno) and is located at the north end of the Piazza Navona.
It was once called “Fontana dei Calderari” because it was located close to a small
alley with blacksmith’s workshops, makers of pots and pans and of other metal-based
businesses, all of them generating heat.

(Wikipedia)

I saw this statue of Neptune and immediately felt the connection.

Entangled, enraged and working fiercely to be set free.

Free from the ills of our culture.
Free from the depths of our sins.

I think of Satan being much like the octopus…he wraps his arms and
tentacles around us, squeezing us, squeezing out our very breath while attempting
to pull us down and under.

But rather than the fictitious Neptune left to fend off this ravenous enemy,
we have Jesus who, rather than a spear, used a cross to permanently defeat this
ancient nemesis.

Being eternally defeated, this ancient foe, however, continues fighting while we are left
to wander this, his realm.

He is working fast and furious, as time is not on his side, to steal as many
of us he can with his unrelenting grasp.

He is frantically pitting us all…one against another.
Driving dividing wedges deep within the heart of our nation and deep into the hearts of us,
her people.
And sadly, each night the news seems to triumphantly share how well his efforts are
actually working.

Groups like Antifa blindly follow his call.
Anarchy being a demon’s delight.

Disrespect, defiance, lawlessness, violence, disregard, anger, hate…are key actions
each taken from an ancient playbook used as a manual for humankind’s defeat.

Yet God has sounded the warning.

The war, He reminds us, is actually long won…
Yet He also reminds us that this defeated menace will not surrender while the sun still
rises and sets over his domain..not until the very end…
not until he has done his best to snare us as his prey.

To divide, to separate and to conquer, taking who and what he can.

As choices continue to remain.

For if we turn our backs on the Lord our God and on all that He has done,
as so it seems that our nation has, there will be consequences.
This much we have been told.

Just look around at this country and this world in which we live.
Is what we see right?
Is what we see just?
Is what we see as it should be?

Or have we allowed the arms of hate and evil to reach too far while ignoring
the consuming strength of a beast that will not stop until he pulls us all under.

So pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath
Matthew 24:20

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves,
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

“O house of Israel,
can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord.
Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom,
that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation,
concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil,
I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.
And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it,
and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice,
then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.

Jeremiah 18:6-10

simplicity of faith

“Christ is my Spouse.
He chose me first and His I will be.
He made my soul beautiful with the jewel
s of grace and virtue.
I belong to Him whom the angels serve.”
St. Agnes

(a simple cross on an old pine for a simple deditcation / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Jesus Christ did not think the sovereign beatitude and glory of Heaven too dearly
purchased at the price of unspeakable tortures, and by suffering His sacred
flesh to be mangled by nails, thorns, and scourges.
Great indeed must be the value of that which cost the Son of God so dear!
And yet we esteem it so little, as to be even ready to renounce our claim to it,
as, in fact, so many of us do, for the sake of some wretched pleasure or despicable interest!
Ye blind and deluded children of men, contemplate the Wounds of your Crucified God,
and see in what manner the gates of the kingdom of glory have been opened to you!
See what it has cost Him to place you in possession of it,
and understand, if possible, how infinite a benefit was bestowed upon you by the
Son of God when He purchased for you, Heaven, which you had lost by sin! …
Enter in spirit into these sacred Wounds,
and you will comprehend the value and sublimity of that eternal felicity which
they have acquired for you, and you will learn to detach your heart from the
earth and from creatures, so as to place all your affections and desires upon Heaven.”

Fr. Ignatius of the Side of Christ,
p. 226-7
An Excerpt From
The School of Christ Crucified

This is the real reason…

“If you wish to strengthen your confidence in God still more,
often recall the loving way in which He has acted toward you,
and how mercifully He has tried to bring you out of your sinful life,
to break your attachment to the things of earth and draw you to His love.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori


(the first tiger swallowtail takes flight at the blueberry bushes / Julie Cook / 2018)

Somedays I get it better than other days.

There are those days I totally get it.

I understand it.
I can see it.
I can live it.
I can claim it.

And I readily share it…

For there is a conviction.
A confidence.
Plus I even have a bit of a swagger as I wear it smoothly and easily.
It is mine and I rest in it.

And I feel good about it.

But then there are the other days…

The days, which for unknown reasons, things are not nearly as clear.
I totally miss it.
I totally, and very obviously, don’t get it.
I don’t demonstrate it.
I don’t mirror it.
I don’t live it…
while doing it a great disservice.

And that disservice is very much acknowledged by my inner self…
As sometimes I can even feel a bit of ill intent.
A defiance.
Add a bit of delight and satisfaction to that defiance.
And the wickedness rises.

This is when I actually realize how very much I am off track.

I have wandered, for whatever disjointed reason, away.

And this is when I am pulled back to a cross and an empty tomb…

“God will forgive you if you ask him to.
Though your sins be numerous as the grains of sand on the shore,
God’s merciful forgiveness is far greater than your sins.
Do not be afraid.
Trust in his love.
Repent of your sins without delay and return to the house of the Father.
He is waiting for you.”

Patrick Madrid, p.15
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Bible

when the sacred becomes the forgotten

Those who love desire to share with the beloved.
They want to be one with the beloved, and Sacred Scripture shows us the great
love story of God for his people which
culminated in Jesus Christ.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pray always for all the learned, the oblique, the delicate.
Let them not be quite forgotten at the throne of God when the simple
come into their kingdom.

Evelyn Waugh


(detail of the face of an antique french crucifix I bought several years ago at
an antique show / Julie Cook / 2017)

The other day when I was listening to the latest segment of Anglican Unscripted
featuring my favorite man of the cloth and rebel with a Cause, Bishop Gavin Ashenden,
I was struck by something the good bishop said—
yet it wasn’t something you would have thought would have or should have
made any sort of profound impact on me or on anyone else for that matter—
but it did.

I would bet that it wasn’t even something that the good bishop would probably
have thought anyone really even noticed he had said.

Bishop Ashenden was offering a bit of an aside about a recent trip to Normandy…
just idle chatter really with the host—
as it seems Normandy is a place where he and his wife often enjoy visiting
as it seems they have a “retreat” there in Northern France.
And it just so happens to be a place where they seem to enjoy visiting various
antique / flea markets…

The good bishop made mention that during such shopping adventures,
he’s always on the hunt for all things nautical.
A nod to his father who had severed in the Royal Navy during the war and had taken his young son on many a sailing adventures.

But it wasn’t to sailing or to all things nautical that caught my attention but rather
the single one line he offered just following his explanation of his antique quests…
and that being “and to rescue crucifixes”

Seems the good bishop also keeps an eye out for the antique and vintage crucifix.

Funny….I do too.

And I have for most of my life.

When I was maybe 11 or maybe 12, my dad took us on a “vacation” as we drove
from Atlanta to Lake Charles, Louisiana to attend the wedding of my oldest cousin.

Dad thought he’d be smart and kill two birds with a couple of stones by
turning our having to attend a wedding into a family vacation—
as well as marking his and mom’s anniversary which was to take place while
on the road.

We stopped in Mobile on the way out and toured a submarine.
We went to Vicksburg and Natchez to visit old stately plantations and now silent battlefields.
We visited with cousins and family in both Lake Charles and Monroe as I even found
a first young love in our cousin’s neighbor—a boy about my age.

On our return home, we stopped in the Big Easy to get a youthful education on
the more profane side of life…
Bourbon Street, to a preteen and her 6 year old brother, was truly an eye opening
life lesson.

While in New Orleans, we visited The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France,
otherwise known to most folks as St Louis Cathedral.
It was in the bookstore that dad bought a small marble replica of Michelangelo’s
Pieta. He also bought something for me…a small black wood and silver crucifix.

That crucifix sat by my bedside, resting on the bedside table for the remainder
of my growing up…a symbolic and tangible link to the words
spoken in Matthew–“Lo, I am with you always, until the end of time…”
this was the hand reaching out to literally hold my hand–
especially over the years when I would find myself scared, sad or upset…
He was always there.
It even went with me to college as well as beyond.

And it seems that I’ve had an affinity for such ever since.

Now this is not a post to defend or deny the image of a crucifix,
I’ve done that.
Nor is this a post to defend or deny the Christian’s undeniable link to the image
of the cross,
I’ve done that.
Nor is this a post about the notion of the cross becoming a trendy fashion object
rather than a sacred religious symbol,
I’ve done that one as well.

But I do want to look a little further into this notion of “rescuing crucifixes.”

I’ve obviously been doing just that since as long as I can remember—
Often times in my purchasing history, these crosses have started out as new.
Yet as I grew and aged, finding myself visiting various flea markets and
antique shops, first with my mother then later with my aunt and friends,
I found myself unconsciously gravitating to antique Christian religious items.

My gathering has not been relegated only to crosses but there are small figurines
of the saints, Orthodox Icons, very old ‘finger’ bibles or the Book of Common Prayer
and even very old rosaries….

With the largest rescue being about a 3 foot tall, badly damaged,
very old, antique French plaster crucifix.
A crucifix that I would imagine to have once been a part of a local parish
church somewhere in France.

I’ve written about this cross before…and it is an interesting post about the
cross and its known history…a tale that, now having finished The Book Thieves,
makes me even more keenly aware of European religious items and books that have
been long lost, destroyed and or misplaced…all the victims of two world wars.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/the-relic-the-mystery-and-theres-just-something-about-those-eyes/

But it wasn’t until I heard Bishop Ashenden actually verbalize the notion of
‘rescuing crucifixes’ that the thought dawned on me—

Why are we having to rescue them?

Why have they come up so randomly and obviously missing in the first place?

These items that someone once held dear and precious–
items instrumental to ones spiritual life and growth that are now simply sitting
forgotten on some dusty old random shelf of some shop or tucked away in some
booth at some sort of flea market…has me actually more sad then vexed.

And so I wonder, when was it exactly, when did we allow the sacred to become the
forgotten…

And in so doing…are we allowing our very faith to fade….

“Then they will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go
into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land;
and I will leave none of them there any longer.

Ezekiel 39:28