testing point of the saint

Every martyr knows how to save his/her life and yet refuses to do so.
A public repudiation of the faith would save any of them.
But some things are more precious than life itself.
These martyrs prove that their 20th-century countryman,
C. S. Lewis, was correct in saying that courage is not simply one of the virtues
but the form of every virtue at the testing point, that is, at the point of highest reality.

(as seen on the CSSF site / Felician Sisters)


(Virgin entroned with angels and saints / Duccio di Buoninsegna 1285)

This past week has seen me so incensed over the absurdities that are taking place
all over this country…
Absurdities being shared as “news” stories, taken from across the land…
yet stories with one central missing theme…that being the key theme of common sense.

So incensed that I had a few volumes of the assinine posted in order to shed some
light on our glaring lack of common sense.

And I should note that the absurdities just keep coming as I now must confess that
I am actually finding myself feeling a bit sorry for the current Speaker of the House
as she toils to keep her Fab 4 newbies in line as they continue having
temper tantrum after tantrum.

They may be known best as formidable twitter warriors, but they fall woefully short in
the area of common sense.
Theatrics yes, common sense no.

Throw in a serious lack of humility and we have a wealth of trouble on our hands.

But I digress and must move on because their finger waging tantrums simply leave me
tired from all the eye-rolling and head-shaking I’ve caught myself doing as of late.

So today we won’t focus on the wealth of lack of common sense that is now engulfing our
land but rather we will look at something much more nobler than any one of
our legislators or governing officials seem to demonstrate,
acknowledge let alone possess.

So yesterday I was reading a post regarding the Saints of the Day from one of the
Felician Sisters blog sites.

The saints were actually two Englishmen…
John Jones and John Walls.

These two friars were martyred in England in the 16th and 17th centuries
for refusing to deny their faith.

John Jones was Welsh. He was ordained a diocesan priest and was twice imprisoned
for administering the sacraments before leaving England in 1590. He joined the Franciscans
at the age of 60 and returned to England three years later while Queen Elizabeth I
was at the height of her power. John ministered to Catholics in the English countryside
until his imprisonment in 1596. He was condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.
John was executed on July 12, 1598.

John Wall was born in England but was educated at the English College of
Douai, Belgium. Ordained in Rome in 1648, he entered the Franciscans in Douai several years later.
In 1656 he returned to work secretly in England.

In 1678, Titus Oates worked many English people into a frenzy over an alleged papal plot
to murder the king and restore Catholicism in that country. In that year Catholics were
legally excluded from Parliament, a law which was not repealed until 1829.
John Wall was arrested and imprisoned in 1678, and was executed the following year.

John Jones and John Wall were canonized in 1970.
(Felician Sisters)

And so let me be clear, saints are no different from you or me…
We are all sinners and we are all also very capable of eventually becoming a saint.
For saints are simply the ordinary doing the extraordinary.

The one important thing we need to remember, however, is that saints
are of a humble lot.

And humility is often in short supply in our land these days.

Saintly is a matter of doing what is right when no one is looking,
listening or paying attention because what is being done is for the betterment
of others…with no regard to self and no recognition or applause.

Saints have no twitter accounts or Facebook posts.

It’s doing those things that are not popular, trendy or politically correct but are being done
because they are the right thing to do regardless of what the world may have to say.

Even despite the threat of harm or even death.

It’s a conviction.
It’s a drive that reaches far beyond personal desire.

It’s falling face down in the mire.
It’s being the sinner who picks himself up and says no more.

Sights shift.
Hearts change.

It’s doing what God calls to be done…not what the self would want done.
It’s discernment along with death to self.

It’s hard.
It’s not easy.
It can be dangerous.
It might be life-threatening…
…but none of that seems to matter.

The thought of self is never even considered.
Self is never an issue.
There is no personal gain but rather personal loss.

The spotlight shines elsewhere.

There are no stats or likes.
No followers.
No trending.
No polls.
No cameras.

No, saints are not far from sinners at all.
In fact, a saint is a sinner who simply turned his eyes outward rather than inward.

Some things are more precious than life itself…

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the
twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp,
and golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 5:8

Faith without content

“Don’t ask why, ask what—
What am I suppose to do?”

St Padre Pio


(a killdeer hunkers down on Mackinac Island, MI /Julie Cook / 2017)

In reading through the the tiny book that literally fell off the shelf
the other day, landing squarely at my feet,
There Are No Accidents / In All Things Trust God
by the late Fr. Benedict J Groeschel
with John Bishop

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/08/11/there-are-no-accidents/)

I have naturally circled and highlighted things that happen
to “speak” to me as I go.

The first half of the book is a running dialog between and interviewer
(John Bishop) and interviewee (Fr Benedict)

The book was published in 2004 but as I’m reading through
all comments, questions and responses,
I’m finding them to be ever most timely.
As in not much seems to have changed in 13 years time…
but perhaps only grown wider in both depth and scope.

Fr Benedict notes that “there is a decline in society in the western world.
Because, after all, sexual morality, among its many purposes,
is the protection of family life.
That is a very high, primary responsibility.
Family life is decaying everywhere.
The cause is a naïveté of the pro-abortion group,
and particularly Planned Parenthood.
They not only have done everything possible to undermine the sacredness of life,
but have done everything to undermine sexual morality.”

He goes on to explain how “the media” follows along these same lines of thought.
Fr. Benedict points to a study /survey that was conducted in California,
around the same time of the interview, of approx. 200,000 media folks.
The results showed that 92% of them favored abortion on demand…
and that 94% favored public acceptance of homosexual relationships.

Opinions that obviously ran/ run very counter to the teachings of the Church
(and I mean the universal Christian Church not only the Catholic Church).

Next Fr Benedict points out that there were also numbers showing,
once again numbers true to the time of the interview,
that 94% of folks in the US believed in a personal God.
92% believed in meeting God upon departing Earth and 86% believed that Jesus Christ
was the Son of God.

Yet Fr Benedict also points out that despite the high percentage numbers,
in actuality, he notes that most of those folks have no idea of what all any of
that really means—of which basically boils down to “faith without content.”

Which obviously made me think.

Faith is indeed a noun but I believe it also a verb…
as in Faith, our Christian Faith, is not merely something passive,
but rather active…as in it seeks, searches, serves…

Christianity is not a passive religion.
God is not a passive God.
He expects more from us than a lukewarm, quasi connected relationship.
He expects that we follow and live out His commands, His words.
There is no picking or choosing,
no this but none of that…
It is not easy and most everything He tells us runs counter to what
the world would have us say, think and do….
It’s all or nothing.

And it appears that more and more of those who profess to have faith,
are currently opting for nothing….

“Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways,
to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies,
according to what is written in the Law of Moses,
that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn,
so that the LORD may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying,
‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in
truth with all their heart and with all their soul,
you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

1 Kings 2:3-4

comfort

“For myself, I find I become less cynical rather than more–
remembering my own sins and follies;
and realize that men’s hearts are not often as bad as their acts,
and very seldom as bad as their words.”

J.R.R. Tolkien


(the beach is calling at The Pearl Hotel / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Anyone who has ever been to the beach and mixed…
wet bathing suits + sticky salty ocean water + greasy lotions + red burning skin +
lots and lots of sand…
all know first hand that the idea of comfort is a relative concept.

Add into the mix sitting in a wet sagging canvas “lounge” chair and the thought
of running naked through the surf becomes somewhat appealing….

Now don’t get me wrong—I love the whole notion of all of the above, as it is
part and parcel of a true “beach” experience…
as we throw in the sound of shrieking children bouncing in the surf,
alcohol induced howling conversations,
beach volleyball, football, bocce ball aficionados showing off the not so sculpted bodies,
music that is not a part of your personal iTunes…
and the whole concept of peaceful and soothing also becomes relative.

And yet there is comfort in the moment.

Comfort found in being elsewhere and other than.

As we are all creatures who truly love their comfort…
Both physical comfort as well as emotional…
We don’t much care for the idea of being deprived of anything in our neat little
comfortable worlds.

I suppose it would be well observed and easily noted that we humans may be known as
creatures who live for our comfort…
as well as for those things which make us such….

But the thing is….we were never promised comfort…
God made no promises in the area of all things comfortable.
And if truth be told, He had actually provided for such in the very beginning,
but there was that little issue over that apple and just as quickly,
any continuing promise of comfort vanished….

So it seems as if we, as in we human beings, have been in pursuit of all things
of comfort ever since that fateful day.

But now we see a little rub within said pursuit…

Enter one named Yeshua…

I prefer using the Aramaic translation of the latin name, Jesus,
as in it is more inline with what Jesus himself was familiar in hearing—
as in his name is what it is…and that is Yeshua ben Yosef…but I digress….

So Yeshua was asked where it was he stayed,
as those asking wanted to follow him.

But his response was not one of comfort.

For there was not a warm welcoming abode in which he resided.
There was no rest for the weary where He was concerned.
No creature comforts were to be offered, waiting nor ever to be found…
“Foxes have dens and birds have nests,
but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

And again He offers anything but comfort in His admonition to his followers…

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world,
yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels,
and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before
they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

And even later it was Paul who reminded those wishing to follow that
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”

So as Christians, a word which actually means little Christ…
the notion of comfort and a life that is comfortable,
is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Maybe it’s high time we venture from the safety of our comfort zones…

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

let’s make it a true daily double Alex…

images

The other evening, while I was at the sink doing the dishes, following the National News,
Jeopardy was next up on TV.

Halfway listening, as the water ran and the dishes clanged in the sink,
I heard one of the contestants asking for a question in one of day’s categories…
It was the hidden daily double.

You know, those hidden opportunites where the contestant is offered the choice of
wagering their entire accrued winning total…
all in hopes of answering the question correctly…
with the chance of either doubling their winnings,
or, should they choose to play conservative, at least adding slightly…

“Let’s make it a true daily double Alex”….

This is where the audience will often gasp while Alex is heard to sardonically quip “helllloooo”

I don’t remember the particular question, nor the amount for which the contestant was now playing…
but I remember hearing the contestant stating what I thought to be the correct answer.

Alex however, the ever audacious, all knowing host, quickly corrected her pronunciation
informing her that her answer was incorrect due to the fact that
she did not correctly pronounce the word—-

But the thing is Alex knew,
as I knew,
that she knew…
the answer…

She just pronounced it incorrectly.
And in Jeopardy, pronunciation is key… down to each vowel, consonant and syllable.

And as a native southerner….accents can play the devil in pronunciation….just saying…

So the contestant lost it all…
her entire show’s winnings….
and was now forced to play catch up…
working her way from behind back into the running….

Odds were not in her favor…

So the question for us all is….

Are we gamblers in life or are we the play it safe kind of person?

Would we be feeling confident, perhaps even daring, by making things a true daily double…

or…

would we play it safe, holding onto what we had by wagering only a nominal amount,
if we even wagered at all…??

You may claim to be the latter of the two—always playing it safe…
But do you really?
And to what extent….?

We’ve all read the stories…
the one about Peter…
that lovable yet often mindless disciple who took to the notion of speaking first
and thinking later…
The one who lead more with his heart and often less with his head…
Impulsive perhaps
Full of emotion
and most likely a true daily double kind of guy…

Remember it was Peter who was charged with the keys to Heaven…

However when the going got rough and things went bad,
really bad for the Carpenter and then his followers,
Peter, when confronted with his association and knowledge of the rebel rousing Carpenter…
as he was no doubt regretting that whole daily double attitude…
Peter pled the 5th.

He knew him not…

Three times he took the 5th…
He knew him not….

And like Peter, we are currently finding ourselves, this very day and time,
faced with the same sort of accusations…

Aren’t you one of them?

Don’t you know Him?

Are you not one of His followers?

They ask this when prayer is no longer allowed in public and you keep silent.

They ask this when the faithful are told that they can’t use or display a cross,
have a public Christmas tree or manager on display, use the word Christmas or even
read a bible publicly…while you remain silent.

They ask this when your fellow brothers and sisters, around the world,
are tortured and murdered for their faith in Jesus Christ,
the very Carpenter Peter once tried to deny…
and you choose to remain silent…because that is over there…
and you are over here…
In the home of the free and brave….

You play it safe, you play it conservative…
You dare not play the daily double because then they will know that you are “one of them”
and there will be nowhere to run, nowhere to hide…like Peter…

So maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about…
those missed pronunciations,
those missed spellings,
those overt politically correct stances,
the overt politeness
the falsehoods that we are continually fed
the denials we face daily over our belief…

It was later, when it truly mattered, when Peter,
who when faced with his own martyrdom opted for the true daily double…
by announcing to Nero and the crowd…

“Yes, I knew Him”

“Yes I know Him”

“And yes, I am one of them…one of His…”

…”And I have made this life a true daily double for His sake,
your sake and the sake of the salvation for the world to come….

Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the
Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Acts 28:31

what’s in a word

“My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel–it is, before all, to make you see.”
― Joseph Conrad

“A man must be prepared not only to be a martyr, but to be a fool. It is absurd to say that a man is ready to toil and die for his convictions if he is not even ready to wear a wreathe around his head for them.”
― G.K. Chesterton

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”
G. K. Chesterton – Where all roads lead, 1922

DSCN0346
(St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough National Park, Co Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Strike while the iron is hot”
or so they say…
I don’t know if the iron is truly hot but the thoughts are fresh and the spirit seems willing…

I am a far cry from being a grammarist or etymologist.
And those of you who read much of anything I write, probably painfully observe I would imagine, that often I either fall victim to my own inability of having ever mastered spelling or either I fall prey to the dreaded autocorrect monster who simply doesn’t understand me or gets where I’m coming from.

Add to that that I am a southern belle, born and bred, with my syntax and or jargon often being more times than not, based on my regional dialect and verbiage….ie my southern drawl….so anyone who stumbles this way may be hard pressed making sense of things…

Yet despite all of the aforementioned, one thing is certain, I love words.
I am most intrigued by words.
I find words fascinating.
Just as I find language fascinating…
Yet sadly my brain has failed miserably when it comes to
learning a language…other than my own southern style of english.

Yet that never stopped me from incorporating the use of words, language and even alphabets within my classroom with my kids or in my own art work.

One thing that I have found intriguing, when delving into the use of words, is that of their origins and of how the original meaning morphs over the passage of time. It is also interesting when words sound alike but are vastly different in meaning.
Those who try their hand at learning English, I am told, have quite a time as we, primary english speakers, have so many similarly pronounced words that have vastly different meanings— a quick example being there and their.

Let’s take another word—apology.

A word rooted in Greek which means to admit a wrong doing or owning up to a slight or misdeed.
Yet the word apologetic is not necessarily referring to one who is sorry for said misdeed but rather refers to one who is defending a certain belief or stance.

I can see where this can all become confusing.

I never really understood why the word apologist was used when referencing one who was defending a point of view verses one who was offering an “I’m sorry”

The Greek, ἀπολογία, translates to “speaking in defense”—or—apologetics
With the classical Greek word being apologia
Wikipedia explains it with this sort of example… “the prosecution delivered the kategoria (κατηγορία), and the defendant replied with an apologia.”
Meaning the defendant wasn’t apologizing but rather was arguing in defense…

Talk about confusing…

Interesting that the word used to admit a wrong sounds so much like defending a stance.

Which brings me to the meat of this wondering…

I read many Christian blogs that are written by very knowledgeable, learned individuals, who are equally passionate in what they write.
They are well versed in their knowledge and they are true defenders of the Faith.
They are apologists.
They are staunch and even zealous in and of their defense…
They are not ones to apologize….nor should they

And that’s the thing…
They are witnessing and presenting a case and / or defending a case…not apologizing for it.
There is no need for an apology…but there is need for the apologetics.

In today’s society we may or may not see any similarities to nearly 2000 years ago when the Church was but young and new. However it may certainly behoove all of us to take a closer look.

Back then the disciples and followers of the risen Christ had begun to spread far and wide in order to teach, preach and share the Gospel of both Hope and Salvation.
Some of the faithful found themselves in positions of acting defense attorneys, where the preaching had quickly turned into the defending of one’s beliefs.
There were arrests and trials.
There were deaths and persecutions.
And there were the apologetics.

Yet how familiar a position are the faithful now finding themselves today.

What had become accepted and even commonplace in the day to day life of mainstream folks, is now questioned and even actually banned out right.
The talking about one’s faith in Jesus with fellow students on college campuses is being banned.
Those who opt to join in prayer before and after sporting events are now warned against such.
The display of Christian religious symbols in public settings is now outlawed.
The use of bibles in various places of learning are now prohibited.
Those who profess to be believers of the Faith are now finding themselves as targets of violence and hate.
Those of the Faith are being pegged as scapegoats for all the is now wrong with the world.
Those who write about their beliefs and faith in magazines, papers and blogs are being called to task
to defend such beliefs as they are mocked, ridiculed and scorned.

However…. this is not the time for apologies…
But simply, rather, a time for apologists….

and rightly so it seems…

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:5-6

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
1 Peter 3:15-16