prayer and the victory over death

“There is nothing the devil fears so much, or so much tries to hinder, as prayer.”
St. Philip Neri


(it is so hot and dry here, even the toadstools in the woods are swiveling and decaying/ Julie Cook / 2019)

Yesterday I spoke of the running thread of a single word and thought that just
seemed to keep popping up at each turn and corner.

That word and act would be that of prayer.

And so again the following morning, my incoming quote of the day focused
on that very same notion.

Prayer.

As St. Philip Neri teaches, Satan fears our very prayers.
They become a hindrance to both him and his plans so therefore he painstakingly attempts
to hinder us as we long to reach out to our Father.

We become busy.
We become distracted.
We become distant.
Or we simply grow hardened.

So often we feel defeated when our prayers seem to go ignored or unanswered—
And yet even worse, we can grow despondent when they appear to be answered in a
way so utterly contrary as to how we would have hoped.
When our oh so deeply prayerful “please yes” is answered with a gut-wrenching “no, not today.”

No to healing.
No to life.
No to avoiding the bad and painful.

And yet our hearts remain steadfast because despite the answers,
despite the bitter disappointments, we still know that our prayers are our
only means of conversing with our God.

St Athanasius’ quote below adds to this thought by examining the
fear man has with death and decay.
Because if the truth be told, are not so many of our prayers aimed at avoiding
that very thing?
As we fervently pray to avoid death, pain and suffering at any and all cost?

Man sees death as the inexplicable chasm of separation.
That of isolation, loneliness and unending sorrow.

The non-believer scoffs and belittles the simplistic pleas and petitions
of the believer as he cries out to that unknown and unseen God.

The un-believer mocks and sneers at the childlike actions of the believer.

And yet I have often wondered…in that single solitary moment of overwhelming grief,
unbearable sorrow, engulfing fear and isolation of abandonment…
who does that non-believer cry to?

Who does he turn to in that micro-moment of the blinking of an eye that exists between
living and dying?

Whose hand does he reach for?
Whose arms does he yearn for to envelope him?
To whom does he cry out?

Or is his mind merely an empty void, his ego too full, his heart so hard that he has
already withered with decay?

Yet despite the ridicule and vitriol, the prayer of the humbled believer will
always be for that hardened non-believer…
it will be a prayer for blessed deliverance…
a prayer that he would find solace, comfort as well as Grace.

Even to the end, the believer prayers…even for the sake and soul of the non-believer.

“Now, man is afraid of death by nature, afraid of the decay of the body.
But here is a startling fact: whoever has put on the faith of the Cross
despises even what is naturally dreadful, and for Christ’s sake is not afraid of death.
So if anyone is skeptical even now, after so many proofs,
and after so many have become martyrs to Christ,
and after those who are champions in Christ have shown scorn for death every day—
if his mind is still doubtful about whether death has been brought to nothing and come to an end—well,
he’s right to wonder at such a great thing. But he should not be stubborn in his skepticism,
or cynical in the face of what is so obvious.
Let him who is skeptical about the victory over death receive the faith of Christ,
and come over to his teaching.
Then he will see how weak death is, and the triumph over it.
Many who used to be skeptics and scoffers have later believed,
and despised death even enough to become martyrs for Christ himself.”

St. Athanasius, p.15
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Church Fathers

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

wants and fears

“You are asking for something that would be harmful to your salvation if you had it—
so by not getting what you’ve asked, you really are getting what you want.”

St. Catherine of Siena


(black-eyed susans / Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2019)

What really hurts is not so much suffering as the fear of suffering.
If welcomed trustingly and peacefully, suffering makes us grow.
It matures and trains us, purifies us, teaches us to love unselfishly,
makes us poor in heart, humble, gentle, and compassionate toward our neighbor.
Fear of suffering, on the other hand, hardens us in self-protective,
defensive attitudes, and often leads us to make irrational choices with disastrous consequences.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 47
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

P is for Perseverance

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that?
We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves.
We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.

Marie Curie


(Percy resting in a basket, notice the shaved back leg / Julie Cook / 2019)

Here’s a brief update regarding our patient.

You may remember that on June 3rd our cat Percy had a joint fusion on his back hock.

He is named Percy for Perseverance…all because since a kitten, he came to us
in dire straights when we found him he found us
after having been thrown from a moving car.

He was broken, bruised and dying.

But once we went to work…he not only survived, he actually thrived.

There have been some mouth surgeries and teeth issues along the way
but the biggest stumbling block has been this back hock.

We believe this hock business is due to an old injury with his leg…
and because of the injury, he had worn the skin down
on the hock (aka knee) to the tendon…meaning the tendon was exposed.

Months of all sorts of treatments and minor surgeries didn’t help…
so we had to bite the bullet and pay a small fortune to a Veterinary surgical group
over north of Atlanta for a joint fusion surgery.

It meant a 12-week confinement and life in a cast and a cage and a cone.

Well come Monday we will be 9 weeks in.

Two weeks ago they removed the cast.

I realize that up to 6 weeks in a cast leads to atrophy of the leg muscle…and yes things
can smell rather ripe from having been closed up…
but I knew enough to know that I smelled infection.

The Surgeon told me to keep the cone on and let the leg be exposed to air.

Problem was it was oozing and bleeding.

After 3 days home, I called in a bit of a panic, because Percy was in obvious misery and pain
as his foot looked black. Gangrene fears set into my overactive mind.

They told me to see if I could get him to my local vet before driving the
hour and a half it would take to get to their practice.

I took him to our vet.
The doctor told me to put him on the floor so he could watch what he did with the leg.
He held it up and wouldn’t put weight on it.
Plus the vet agreed with me, he too smelled infection.

Following surgery, they had actually done a biopsy on the leg and found that Percy
had a bone infection.
It was a resistant infection to most antibiotics so he had to have a special antibiotic
I had to order from Arizona.

I think he spit out more than I could get in him via the syringe.

Our Vet was betting that Percy had never gotten over the initial infection.

And so now for every day since our first visit back, two weeks now,
Percy has had to go in for a shot.
And in order to give his body a break, they are now rotating with pills.
And thankfully, he is actually now walking using the leg.

The Vet explained that bone infections are difficult to treat therefore the
treatment regime can be lengthy.
He was also a bit concerned by Percy’s depressed appearance.

So despite the surgeon’s demands that he remain coned in a cage the entire 12 weeks,
our vet told me to give him some freedom.
Of which has made a tremendous difference in his demeanor.

Percy has become a bit of a rock star at the Vet’s office as they all great him the
minute we walk through the door.
We don’t sign in and simply head to the available exam room.

All the vets in the practice know Percy and all the vet techs flock in to visit.

Percy is not the typical cat.
I’ve always said he’s more dog-like than cat.
Personable, loving and intuitive.

Rescues are like that.

Our visits are short and sweet, in and out…only for us to return the next day for
another dose.

His hock is still bleeding so I continue treating it and wrapping it.
He continues to spend each night in the cage with the cone but I try to give
him a break throughout most of the day as long as I am home,
allowing him to lounge on the back deck…
As long he doesn’t insist on chewing on his bandaged leg…which if given any
unobserved time, he would gnaw it off it left to his own devices.
And when I leave the house, it’s back in the cage.

And hence the cone…

At this point, I don’t know if we will ever get the bleeding under control.
And at this rate, I wonder about the infection.

When I walked into the vets that first afternoon, with an infection smelling patient,
I felt an overwhelming sense of desperation and I was in tears.
I practically begged our vet to help us.

As Percy’s mom, I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility for his well being.

I explained to the Vet that had I known what I know now, we never would have had the surgery.
I would have never put him through this misery.
Nor would I have done this to us and what all the rehab is requiring at home.

Problem is that I bet the infection set in while the tendon was exposed.

So we’re living with a catch 22 sort of scenario.

We will head back to see the surgeon in two weeks.
Who will probably x-ray and fuss that I’ve not been diligent with the cage and cone.

But I told this young surgeon during our last visit that if I had to do it all again,
I would have exhausted all other options.
His response was “he’s just a cat, what’s 12 weeks?”

I thought then and there that this guy, Vet surgeon or not, doesn’t ‘get it’…
he’s not just a cat.
He’s more than that.

He’s overcome so much in his 8 years.
And by gosh, I’m not going to let him go backward now.

Just being able to sit with me again in our chair, each evening, wrapped up in a soft throw
has done wonders for his disposition…giving him a small glance of our normal routine.

I don’t care if you are a human or an animal…a regular regime of life goes
a tremendous way toward healing…

Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me
true faith,
certain hope,
and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge,
Lord, that I may carry out
Your holy and true command

St Francis

“Yes – but parents are ignorant”.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
Aldous Huxley, Complete Essays 2, 1926-29

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
Daniel J. Boorstin

Now that I have your attention…
No.
Parents are not ignorant…

But perhaps we best clarify…let’s just say that the majority
of parents out there are bright and utterly competent.

Yet reading the latest post (as in yesterday by now) by our dear friend, the Scottish Pastor David Robertson,
I read that very quote. “Yes – but parents are ignorant”.

It was made by a Scottish Government Minister, spoken to David.

It came about because David challenged this particular Governmental official to allow him
to address a group of Scottish parents as to the whooie (aka crap) that they are being
fed by the Government, the School System and now by even many in “the Church” regarding everything from
gender identification to sexual orientation…
with such indoctrination starting at the ripe old age of 5 and 6.

According to David:“Not just Christians and Muslims, but many other parents who are fed up
of their children being sacrificed to the whims of a progressive establishment who don’t
give a fig for the poor and the weak –
and seem concerned only with protecting their own position.”

And so now it seems that a local (Scottish) Church vicar has come under fire for simply citing
one of David’s articles in this vicar’s weekly column in his church’s news flyer.

A media outlet got wind of the ‘blasphemy’ and in true form, without any sort of true
journalistic investigation, offered up an article damning the vicar for quoting from
an article offered by the Wee Flea blog.

Well.

Since I quote from The Wee Flea all the time, I suppose that makes me persona non grata–
but of course, I am but a retired educator and not a person of the cloth, or of any real importance…
just a person who happens to keep a little blog—- so I think I’m good.

But my point is that not all are…’good’
And perhaps we should use the word ‘safe’ versus good.

Not all who speak the Truth of God’s word, not man’s rewritten version of such
but the true Word, are safe from the mob of progressivism or
safe from the self-appointed PC police.

David offers these kind words to this now wrongly maligned vicar.

“Simply abusing those who assert these views,
rather than having an intelligent and informed discussion is not helpful.
As someone who has faced the Twitter mob when you dare to blaspheme the new authoritarian State doctrines–
I can only empathise with my Anglican brother, praise him for his courageous stand…and stand with him.

Brother – you will win.
Not because you have political power –
but because you belong to the One before whom, one day, every politician will bow –
and give account for what they have done with their power…

Please find David’s article below by clicking on the link below.
Perhaps I should add the disclaimer that…if you are not afraid to click, read or like…
because you are not afraid of The Truth.

Vicar ‘under Investigation’ for Quoting The Wee Flea!

Lord, I stand in awe

“Lord, help me to make time today to serve you in those who are most
in need of encouragement or assistance.”

St. Vincent de Paul


(Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Fear of the Lord does not mean to be afraid of God.
St. John tells us that where there is love, there is no fear.
Rather, fear of the Lord is to stand in awe and wonder before the greatness of the Lord.
It is to recognize that God is the creator and we are the creatures.
Fear of the Lord should lead us to praise and worship.”

Rev. Jude Winkler, OFM, p.95
An Excerpt From
Daily Meditations with the Holy Spirit

riding a seasonal wave or just waiting for us to die…

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant:
if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

[Meditations Divine and Moral]”
Anne Bradstreet


(a neighbor’s wanning blooming tulip tree / Julie Cook / 2018)

Still in Atlanta, still playing nurse and grandmother…as our daughter-n-law,
the new mother, is still quite ill…
and as we are all still very very sleep deprived.

This new grandbaby has her nights and days confused…
she is, however, her father’s daughter as I seem to recall having the same problems
with him…

Slowly I’m making my way back to redirecting a little bit of outward focus.

Yesterday in my post I wrote about the disparaging remarks being made about the
now late Christian evangelist Billy Graham.

In that post, I referenced our lovable renegade Anglican bishop Gavin Ashenden’s post
regarding that now very troubling trend of Graham bashing…
of which leads us all back full circle to that of Christian bashing.

I followed that up with a similar observation being made by our friend the Wee Flea
who had also written several posts regarding the recent and ever-growing secular melee
taking place regarding the passing of this ardent Herculean Christian crusader.

I don’t know—but maybe this business about being a new grandmother has resurrected the
sleeping mama bear in me…
Whereas I have been rather glum over the direction I’ve watched our society skirting
these past many months…
I think I am now gravitating back to just being flat out mad.

What type of world are we….we meaning you and me…those of us who are members
of the Faith, what type of world are we allowing to mould and shape our children?

Do we not care that each and every day more and more famous, infamous and
just plain ol folk are taking aim at the practice of our personal Faith and beliefs?
Even that of the very underpinnings of Western Civilization’s foundation—
a Judaeo /Christian base?!

As the attacks grow, we find growing ridicule against our beliefs in God’s mandates—
Mandates such as marriage being between one man and one woman.
Mandates that children are born either male or female—
Mandates that Jesus Christ is the Way and the only Way to Salvation.

Do we not care that those who are considered to be conservative, a traditionalist or
an orthodox member of the faith, those who adhere to the moral fiber of the
Christian faith, do we not care that they are now being considered expendable
and a pariah?

Perhaps we’ve simply decided that it is best not to upset the apple cart…
perhaps being a non-committal, disengaged ostrich, sticking our heads in the sand,
is the best approach to life.
Maybe if we just keep our heads down, ‘they’ won’t notice us.

Does it not bother us that because we seek to adhere to God’s word that we are in turn
ridiculed, attacked, threatened and told that we may no longer believe or
act upon that Word of faith?

Does it not bother us that our rights as Christian believers are no longer the
same as others who are non-believers.

Well…

It bothers me.

It bothers me that boys and girls as young as 6 are considered “mature” enough to
decide if they want to remain said boy or girl.
What does a non-sexually active individual, one who has yet to develop or mature
sexually, understand about sexual orientation?

Boys are boys
Girls are girls…

When did we decide that man was a better guide than God in our lives?

You may answer to the contrary…
You may counter that none of that is who we, the Faithful are…
Answering with a resounding no…that no, we haven’t allowed those things to happen…
And yet haven’t we helped to create this current caustic life…??

Our indifference, our appeasement, our fear, our choosing blindness to the chipping
away at our very foundation…that is indeed the fault of us all.

However, it should be noted that Christians, as in you and I are currently being told that we
may no longer hold our prayers publically…
that we may no longer demonstrate our faith outwardly…
all the while other religions are encouraged by our current culture to bask in their rituals.
Are we not being dubbed as homophobic while being branded ignorant…
all because we believe in the mandates of our God.

And as our Wee Flea friend succinctly points out…
we are now being told that we exist on the “wrong side of history.”
That even Jesus Christ existed on the wrong side of history…
as the demigods of today have hailed themselves the all-knowing wise sages
who are currently attempting to alter and rewrite our history.

Our Wee Scottish friend continues in his latest post with a stinging observation
regarding the current negative coverage of Billy Graham’s death:

“And as there have been many fine tributes to the life and testimony of
Billy Graham, what struck me were the number of people and organisations who couldn’t
even wait until his body was cold before they stuck the boot in.
These reactions tell us a great deal about our culture and churches.”

Billy Graham preached Christ, and he preached the cross of Christ.
He may have been on ‘the wrong side of history’ from the perspective of those who think
they know what that is, but he is now on the right side of eternity where I’m sure he has
already heard the words that all believers long to hear:
‘well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Lord.
(Matthew 25:21).

So perhaps the question which we must ask ourselves…
are we merely riding a seasonal wave of a series of modern-day Christin persecution or
are we experiencing something much more sinister…

Was Billy Graham a homophobic, Christ denying, antisemitic and bigoted failed evangelist on the wrong side of history?