Exchanging the present for the future

“In everything, whether it is a thing sensed or a thing known,
God Himself is hidden within.”

St. Bonaventure


(self fungus grows on the end of a fallen cut tree/ Julie Cook / 2019)

“What made the holy apostles and martyrs endure fierce agony and bitter torments,
except faith, and especially faith in the resurrection?
What is it that today makes true followers of Christ cast luxuries aside,
leave pleasures behind, and endure difficulties and pain?
It is living faith that expresses itself through love…
It is because of faith that we exchange the present for the future.”

Pope Benedict XIV, p. 205
An Excerpt From
Witness of the Saints

dystopian or reality?

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

Robert Hugh Benson, Lord of the World


(Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson)

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

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

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

When governments ridiculed religion
and exalted the progress of humanity…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except one.

Father Percy Franklin.

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

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

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

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

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

“Classic and prophetic work.”
—Joseph Pearce

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

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

Author Robert Hugh Benson
will make you ask yourself:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evelyn Waugh
Author & Convert

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

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

Ok, so let’s chat a minute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I ordered the book.

Freedom and slaves on the 4th

“You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve YOUR freedom.
I hope you will make a good use of it.”

John Adams

“Act as if every day were the last of your life, and each action the last you perform.”
St. Alphonsus Liguori

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

We often give up our freedom because freedom means doing things for
ourselves, which is a great bother.
We stop working for ourselves and work for someone else who will take care of us.
We stop ruling ourselves because it is easier and even safer to have someone else rule us.
We stop thinking for ourselves because we find it simpler to have someone else think for us.
Then we wake up one morning and find that we are slaves to institutions that are
far out of our control.

Dale Ahlquist
from Knight of the Holy Ghost

I wonder if one day, in the not so near future, it won’t be considered, not only bad form,
but actually an unpardonable sin, to celebrate our own 4th of July—
that of the marking of the beginning of what was to become a great nation?

We seem to be on a hell-bent precarious and most dangerous path of self-righteous indignation
against what made us who we are today…be that a good making or now what many perceive to be
a bad making.

This week, the giant sporting goods maker, Nike has had to pull it’s new Betsy Ross sneaker–
before it even hit the shelves in anticipation of a patriotic 4th—
all because of a now-former football player who has deemed that our flag, our anthem,
and our very country is each a symbol of racism.

This coming from a young man who was raised by white parents in a life of middle-class privilege…
and yet he speaks knowingly of what it is that represents an oppressive past as if he
had lived that experience.

The city council in Charlottesville, Va has voted to no longer recognize the birthday of her
favorite son, Thomas Jefferson, due to his having owned slaves.
Lest we forget that he reportedly fell in love with one of those slaves…
and wrote of his desire to better the lives of enslaved people.

Statues have been removed, emblems taken down, mottos erased and pasts now painstakingly silenced…
all because people are imposing the 21st-century mindset on the mindset of those who lived
hundreds of years prior—those who lived the life they knew and not one of our modern hindsight.

Yet our goal is to expunge our past, at any and all cost- so help us…
(remember, we must not say ‘so help us God’ because that too is no longer acceptable)

Yet erased or not, our past will remain our past.
And the fact is that we are no longer those people.
We have become a better people…that is, until now.

Our current obsession seems to rest in a long ago and thankfully long abolished
use of human beings as free laborers at the hands of
both benevolent and cruel men.

The marketing of men and women bought and sold by other men and women.

Slavery sadly came as part of new world discoveries as old world ways depended on the
strong backs of men, both free and not free, to build a new world.

Slaves had been in the Carribean hundreds of years prior to the establishment of our colonies,
working on the sugarcane plantations for the Spanish.
The British, French and Dutch each soon followed suit.
As we know that Africans sold their kinsmen to both the white men of Europe as well as to the
brown men of the Middle East.

Slavery sadly was not, nor is it, something new.

Today we actually see a new form of slavery taking place…the market of human beings
for that of sex trafficking.

And so we must ask ourselves in this ongoing debate over reparations, are we willing to pay the
countless families, who have lost loved ones as sex slaves?
Those individuals who now must use their bodies in most profane ways at the
expense of others?

This as voices now demand that we pay the families of former black slaves.
Yet how do we determine who was slave and who was owner?

What of the Jews who escaped to the US following WWII?
Those who had either survived the death camps or simply the remaining families
who had lost loved ones, do we or does Germany owe them?
What of those who worked as slaves for the Nazi regime and those who simply were killed?
Should the Germans now pay the families of those who were lost in the gas chambers?

And what of the countless Russians in gulags…those from the days of Communist regimes?
What of the countless numbers of Chinese and Koreans who are imprisoned for
simply expressing free speech.

Who pays their families?

The list is endless.

And it is in the endlessness in which the absurdity is found.

As America begins to wade through the tit for tat of minutia…
fighting over what and who we once were while trying to rewrite it all…
we have actually lost who and what we are—and that is a people who overcome hardships
toil and sorrow while picking ourselves up and having moved forward…all
in order to build a better tomorrow.

Tragically we are now so busy attempting to erase our past, that we’ve forgotten
the very real future that needs us.

Patriotism was once part and parcel of calling oneself an American.
We grew from what was to what might be…

And yet it now appears we are desperately trying to fall backward as we now associate
patriotism with that of racism.
All of which simply makes us slaves to our past.

Yet in all of this, be we free man or slave… there is but one truth that remains…
that in Jesus Christ, the global family of Christian believers,
there is neither slave nor slave owner…
but only freedom for all men and women.

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.
What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?
Those things result in death!
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God,
the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Romans 6:20-22

wisdom found in the obscure

“My mission, to make God loved—will begin after my death.
I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.
I will let fall a shower of roses.”

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux


(the cover of an 1881 edition of a book by Fr. Charles Arminjon)

I’ve written in recent weeks about Saint Thérèse of Lisieux–known as the Little Flower.
She possessed a great depth of Spiritual knowledge and vision despite dying at the tender
age of 24.

A sickly, quiet, servant of God who, despite her frailty and age, became a giant for
the Christian Faith.
Her devotion to loving and serving Jesus was undeniable.

Yet I am always curious as to the backstory behind such “gentle giants”

Knowing that the work of the Holy Spirit is a mystery beyond our comprehension,
I marvel over the factors that are at work…mysteries which direct an obscure young
French girl to devote her life to God…entering a convent,
living a short life of service yet such a life that it influenced the path of another
tiny giant…Mother Teresa

31 years following the death of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, an equally young Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu
(Agnes), left home in Albania, at the age of 18, taking herself to an Irish convent…
eventually choosing the Little Flower’s name as her own as she professed her vows as a nun…
a nun who also chose service and charity…
eventually becoming known as Mother Teresa…

A domino effect of Spiritual guidance and grace.

So my curiosity was pricked when I read about an obscure book written in 1881 by an
elderly French priest, Father Charles Arminjon…

It was a book which became the impetus for a young Thérèse…
a book prompting her to seek more…

It was a long forgotten book, hiding in obscurity yet was recently sought out,
rediscovered and translated into English.

The following excerpt from the book comes blowing in across the winds of time,
speaking equally as clearly to us today…

“Although Christ chose to leave us ignorant of
the exact time of the end of the world, He deemed
it fitting to give us detailed information on the
matter and circumstances of this great event…”

“…The end of the world, Christ says, will come at
a time when the human race, sunk in the outermost
depths of indifference, will be far from thinking about
punishment and justice. It will be as in the days of Noah,
when men lived without a care, built luxurious houses,
and mocked Noah as he built his ark.
‘Madman!
Dreamer!’
they cried.
Then the flood came and engulfed the whole earth.”

“So,” writes Fr. Arminjon,
“Christ warns us that the final catastrophe will take place when the
world is at its most secure:
civilization will be at its zenith, markets will be overflowing with money,
and government stocks will never have been higher.

“Mankind, wallowing in an unprecedented
material prosperity, will have ceased to hope
for heaven.
Crudely attached to the pleasures
of life, man, like the miser in the gospel, will
say ‘My soul, you possess goods to last for
many years.
Eat, drink and be merry.'”

Fr. Arminjon reminds us that “the present world,
precisely because it was created, necessarily
tends toward its conclusion and end.”

Perhaps we should be as mindful, just as a young Thérèse became mindful
when she first read the words of Fr Arminjon,
that the world will eventually cease and we will either perish
with the world or we will have chosen to be bound up in the Saving Grace of
Jesus Christ.

A timely choice indeed.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today,
that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.
Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

Deuteronomy 30:19

past, present and future

“The Future is, of all things,
the thing least like eternity.
It is the most temporal part of time–
for the Past is frozen and no longer flows,
and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”

C.S. Lewis


(a 1980 replica of an original glass medallion in the ornate ceiling of The Hermitage Hotel /
Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Among the various indications that make the holiness of God known to men,
the most convincing sign is the holiness of men, who are sanctified by the divine indwelling…
In teaching us the words, ‘hallowed be Thy name,’ our Lord also bids us,
when we pray, to ask that God may be glorified by our lives.
The sense of the prayer is this: ‘Grant us so to live, that all men may glorify Thee through us.’
God is sanctified or hallowed in the minds of other men through us,
to the extent that we are sanctified by Him.
Hence when we say: ‘hallowed be Thy name,’ we pray, as Cyprian remarks,
that God’s name may be hallowed in us.
Following the lead of Christ, who says: ‘Be holy, because I am holy,’
we beg that we, who have been sanctified in Baptism,
may persevere in the state in which we began.
Furthermore, we pray daily to be sanctified in order that we,
who daily fall, may wash away our sins by a constant process of purification.”

St. Thomas Aquinas
p. 350-51
An Excerpt From
Aquinas’ Shorter Summa

the wisdom of Francesco

“Some preachers will keep silence about the truth, and others will trample it
under foot and deny it.
Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it,
for in those days JESUS CHRIST WILL SEND THEM NOT A TRUE PASTOR,
BUT A DESTROYER.”

Saint Francis to his followers upon his deathbed


(art work by Julie Cook / 2011)

I was offered a link yesterday to a rather obscure little book…
Works of the Seraphic Father St. Francis Of Assisi
which was published in London in 1882 by R. Washbourne

Long out of print, digital copies are the best way if one actually wants
to read the book.

The book is basically a collection of the writings and words offered by
Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).
It is a collection of wisdom that was more or less written and spoken to those of
Francis’ order, the Franciscans, as well as to the sisters of The Poor Clares–
an order of likeminded women founded by Francis’ longtime friend Clare of Assisi.
They were more or less the female version of the Franciscans.

Toward the end of the book, there is a recounting of when Francis was on his deathbed.
Francis had called the Brother Minors
(those men who followed Francis and the Franciscan Order) to his side.

Francis had lived long enough to actually witness the splintering of his
own order as it spiraled out and away from the original intent of which Francis
had envisioned when he founded the order…

And so he spoke to his brothers with a Divine sense of what we today would call
speaking with a spirit of prophecy…
he was foretelling a time of great crisis in the Chruch.

During Francis’ lifetime, the Chruch was the Catholic Chruch,
but today, when I hear the word Chruch, I actually consider that to be the entire
the Chruch of the collective Christian community, the bride of Christ, the universal Chruch.

I also believe Francis’ words transcend that of both space and time as they
speak deeply to us today…

Those who preserve in their fervor and adhere to virtue with love and zeal for the truth,
will suffer injuries and, persecutions as rebels and schismatics;
for their persecutors, urged on by the evil spirits,
will say they are rendering a great service to God by destroying such pestilent men
from the face of the earth.

But the Lord will be the refuge of the afflicted,
and will save all who trust in Him.

And in order to be like their Head,[Christ] these, the elect,
will act with confidence, and by their death will purchase for themselves eternal life;
choosing to obey God rather than man, they will fear nothing,
and they will prefer to perish rather than consent to falsehood and perfidy.

Hidden faith

“The cause is hidden.
The effect is visible to all.”

Ovid


(a portion of the interior of St. Kevin’s Monastary, Glendalough National Park / Co. Wicklow, Ireland/
Julie Cook / 2015)

The thrill of the dig.
Or is that the thrill of the hunt??

Either way, I think it’s how archeologists describe what it is they do.

They dig, sift, hunt and discover.

It’s that adrenaline rush when searching through endless layers of rock, dirt, and sand
knowing that ‘treasure’ is but a shovel scoop away.

When I was young, I was fascinated by digging, unearthing and discovering.
Add to that a love of history, and for me, it all made for an imagination which was running wild.
Wild with wonder and of possibilities and of the what could be’s…

Would I find a Piece of Eight while building a sandcastle at the beach or
perhaps a fossil in the soil while camping…not to mention the anticipation
of striking it rich while panning for gold in the North Georgia mountains.

Nowadays I usually relegate my digging to Antique stores…
yet the hunt is no less exciting.
And the find—well the real finds are few and far between.

So it was with a tad of bated curiosity that I clicked on the following story.
It’s an intriguing tale about the unearthing
of what is believed to be a 2nd century hidden underground Christian church;
hidden for centuries, right under the feet of occupying ISIS fighters
in the city of Manjib, Syria.

Historians and archeologists believe this underground maze of chambers, trap doors,
and tunnels to be that of a secret church dating to the time when this area of
modern-day Syria was under Roman occupation.
It dates to the time when Christians were persecuted for the practicing of their faith
and therefore met in secret as they were literally forced underground for their faith.

As I watched, read and wondered about this latest discovery of those who courageously once
worshiped during perilous times, my thoughts couldn’t help but wander to a time in our own
future and that of our own practicing Faith’s uncertainty…
I felt that I had received a more somber history lesson than I actually cared to imagine…

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2018/05/01/ancient-christian-ruins-discovered-under-former-isis-held-territory.html

Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.
The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
but I do not turn from your law.
I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
and I find comfort in them.
Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
who have forsaken your law.
Your decrees are the theme of my song
wherever I lodge.
In the night, Lord, I remember your name,
that I may keep your law.
This has been my practice:
I obey your precepts.

Psalm 119:49-56