signs of the Spirit

“Let us love the Cross and let us remember that we are not alone in carrying it.
God is helping us. And in God who is comforting us,
as St. Paul says, we can do anything.”

St. Gianna Molla


(Girolamo dai Libri / God the Father / 1555)

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Even though the Disciples suffered persecution, they were filled with joy.
One would have expected them to be depressed or angry or resentful.
The very fact that they responded to persecution with joy is a sign that the Spirit
was guiding their actions.
We can use that same test with our own words and actions.”

Rev. Jude Winkler, O.F.M., p. 11
An Excerpt From
Daily Meditations Holy Spirit

As I read this quote by the Rev. Winkler, I wonder do I, can I, possess this same power
of the Spirit–
a power that allows me to rise above the hardships of this day, the pressures of this life, the
trials of fighting an uphill and up-stream battle…
can I too possess joy in the face of persecution and suffering?

May God give me the gift of such a burden…

gift, grace

“We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life.
We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace;
and though we are so weak of ourselves,
this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton


(a gift from 2014 / Julie Cook)

“‘As God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one,
so let him walk.’
No one can do better with his life than that; no one can put it to a better use.
Any life must be perfect in proportion as it does what it was made to do.
There are many lives that are brilliant failures; they strive after many things
that they were never intended to do and fail in that one thing.
It seems strange that a reasonable being should never ask himself
why he was put upon earth, or that it should not occur to him that
the reason must be found in the will of his Creator…
At the end of the day of our earthly life,
we have to answer to our Maker whether we have been employed about our own work
or about His, whether we have even made an effort to find out what He would have us do.
A life that is inspired by such a motive is sure to be a success,
for of this we may be absolutely certain: that each of us can fulfill in our life
that for which we were created.
We cannot be sure that we have the gifts needed for any other purpose…
For God, in creating us, equipped us for the work for which He created us.
We have every gift of nature and of grace, of mind and body that is needed for this work.”

Fr. Basil Maturin, p. 35
An Excerpt From
Spiritual Guidelines for Souls Seeking God

acknowledge our need

“God will not give me humility, or patience, or holiness,
or love as separate investments of His grace.
He has given only one gift to meet our need, His Son Christ Jesus.”

Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life


(St. Peter’s Holy Spirit window / The Vatican, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2013)

“The fullness of wisdom is fear of the Lord, she is present with the faithful in the womb (Sirach 1:14).
Fear of the Lord does not mean to be afraid of God.
It means to stand in awe and wonder before the greatness of the Lord.
When we recognize that God is God and we are creatures,
we develop a healthy sense of humility.
We acknowledge our need for wisdom and grace, which are both gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Rev. Jude Winkler, p. 9
An Excerpt From
Daily Meditations Holy Spirit

a needed day in the woods–following the traces–the lowest, not the highest

“I ask you to consider that our Lord Jesus Christ is your true head and that
you are a member of his body.
He belongs to you as the head belongs to the body.
All that is his is yours: breath, heart, body, soul and all his faculties.
All of these you must use as if they belonged to you,
so that in serving him you may give him praise, love and glory.”

St. John Eudes


(fungi continue to sprout /Julie Cook / 2020)

“Since Jesus has gone to Heaven now,
I can only follow the traces He has left behind.
But how bright these traces are! How fragrant and divine!
I have only to glance at the Gospels;
at once this fragrance from the life of Jesus reaches me,
and I know which way to run:
to the lowest, not the highest place!”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 153-4
An Excerpt From
Story of a Soul

When in the woods, especially this time of year with falling leaves and treasures hidden underfoot,
I have learned to look for the lowest secrets rather than those of the highest and most soaring wonders.
I give thanks for being able to spend time in God’s creation!

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

Psalm 33:8

refuge found in a memory

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ, stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of St. Blasiuskirche, Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

When I first read the quote that I’ve opted to use today,
I was immediately transported to a different time and place…
and to a previous post.

It was 2012 and I had recently retired from 31 years of teaching—I was also preparing
to embark on an arduous journey with my elderly father…how arduous, I had no idea,
but I knew life was changing and I knew it was not going to be for the better.

My aunt, another friend, and I had all embarked on a bit of an adventure
during that fall of 2012.
It was a wonderful trip which holds some very precious and treasured memories…
especially since my aunt is no longer with us.

Yet during that trip, there were a couple of very special moments that have stayed
near to my heart…and one thing I’ve learned over the years,
adventures offer lessons.

And so I looked back at that original post and found that the serenity that I had experienced
during that adventure, and later in the writing of the post,
I realized that I greatly needed to relive, as well as share, again, that
peaceful gratitude I found one quiet fall afternoon.

And so here is that post from October 2013 about a warm fall afternoon in 2012
in Salzburg, Austria:

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open
echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel.
It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room.
The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow.
There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…
her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly,
bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.

I once heard it put that religion was just something for old women and children.
Pity that…as that must mean that older women and children are the only ones
who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, and too arrogant
to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling
against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside.
I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle,
my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice.
I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–yet I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances
of ancient worship–-more than would be expected from my raising.
There is a deep mystery that I believe many in our mainstream churches miss.
This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age
of the technologically savvy megachurch.
The ancient components of worship seem lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting,
as if ready for the latest blockbuster to begin,
to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements,
each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room,
I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present.
She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation.
She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees.
The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s.
Dark wood paneling with cream-colored walls.
Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed,
acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room.
This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria
that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings,
statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs
heralding glad tidings.
This chapel is small, dark, ancient, and humble.
Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross.
I begin my “conversation”—-it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense
of warmth and contentment engulfs me.
I then begin my petitions—-not for myself,
but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey.
After some time, I open my eyes.
How long had I been praying?
I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–-it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim.
I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…
I want to be a part of each moment in time.
I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer,
watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual
or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure,
but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers.
I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way.
I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life,
wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered
here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice.
I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew.
I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive.
I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes.
I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles.
I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony
and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman
who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful.
I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door.
I make my way back outside, into the light.
It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright.
The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets are almost painful to my ears.
This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment, I had a glimpse of the Divine.
I feel different for the encounter.
Changed.
Better.
Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate
to be privy to something so rich and so special.
I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting
city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special
secret that no one else knows…no one other than that older woman back in the chapel
and myself.

Update– wee beasties abound

A sly rabbit will have three openings to its den.
Chinese Proverbs


(a nest or den hidden in the pinestraw)


(the fur lining is a clue)


(a wee beastie nestles at the doorway_


(a bestie makes a mad dash)

Yesterday we had a really bad thunderstorm around lunchtime.
Once things cleared, I rushed outside to check on the rabbit den and the tiny little
baby I had met the day prior.

Low and behold, as the sun broke through the clouds, there was
indeed that one familiar little head poking out of its den—
it was my little friend.
Yet I noticed something else.
Nestled around my wee friend’s head, it appeared as if he had company.
There was an additional two to three little backsides—
Making a total of either 3 or 4 wee beasties…I couldn’t quite tell.

I was relieved knowing my wee little friend was not alone.

So now I’m blaming what happened next on my friend Kathy.
“Take more pictures” she implores, “they’re so cute.”

Well after supper I headed out to see if I could indeed snap a picture or two
of the wee clan living under the fire bush.

Crawling on my hands and knees, easing my way to the small opening, I gently reached
toward the little brown bottom sitting at the opening of the den.
Suddenly baby rabbits came barreling out of the hole running every which-a-way.

“What are you doing?! my husband hollers out while watching babies scoot
here,there and yon.

“Stop that one” I yell, as I watch my husband just stand there watching a brown blur
race alongside the rock wall, racing for dear life seeking shelter under
the masive viburnum bush.

“Why didn’t you stop it? I wailed.
“I didn’t want to step on it” he quipped.

Rolling my eyes I began to scrunch and inch my way under the giant viburnum bush…
gently moving the straw, while hoping to get the baby so I could put him back in the nest.

I eventually managed to get one of the babies back in the nest but one remained under the
viburnum bush while the other baby was on the opposite end of the shrubbery bed
under a butterfly bush.

The tiny sparrows hopping about kept looking at me, wondering what in the world was
this latest creature in the yard who was crawling around on all fours.

I searched and searched..and searched in vain.
The missing two babies had seemed to disappear into thin air…or more aptly
disappeared under a mass of straw and spent leaves…perfectly camouflaged.

I will go back out in the morning to check on them.

But oh what a blessing.

God is so gracious…so kind…so thoughtful.

I’ve been so consumed by the latest current events of this world.
Those of our dreadful woes and seemingly guaranteed demise…and yet here is God, granting me
a tiny look into His world…a far cry from the world I am a part of… that of
man’s world…a world full of strife and frustration.

Granted, nature at times can indeed seem cruel and harsh…but for now, I will simply
glory in the Grace I’ve been afforded–that of watching a few wee beasties
learn about life in a world full of bushes and plants… and an odd creature
teetering about on all fours cooing like a nut to a handful of wee beasties.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what
God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

One man’s torment is another man’s gift

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength,
and whosoever loves much performs much,
and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”

Vincent Van Gogh


(a box of absente or absinthe / Julie Cook / 2020)

Let’s talk about art and food and drinks…
let’s talk about torment and gifts…

And so I must share a small revelation.

One that I have discovered during this time of lockdown****.

(**** a lockdown being a state of never-ending sheltering in place—
A state of being, of which, we have all been living now for nearly two solid months…
a state that started back on St. Patrick’s Day…but I digress)

I have learned that throughout this virus imposed social exile…
well, probably there are multiple things that I have learned but for today,
we shall leave it at one thing…
I have learned that we each possess a seemingly innate desire for some sort of
creative outlet!

The desire to find creativity within the mundane has oddly become a most
dire consequence of being ‘confined”.

The choice is either we go bonkers from madness—
or instead, we release the pent up weariness and channel it into something grand.

Yet perhaps that is simply my delirium talking.

Cooking, cleaning and caring for family who are now all living together
under one roof, while some are working from home, leaves one drained
both physically and mentally.
Throw in a 1 and a 2-year-old who are in constant motion, plus who are in constant need,
from sunrise to sunset…thus, the desire for some sort of diversion, any diversion,
becomes critical…critical for all who reside under the same said roof.

For if one blows, they all blow!

Enter the colorful picture of the box shown above.

The portrait should be familiar.
It is a picture of Vincent van Gogh but not exactly a portrait we are familiar seeing.
It is on the packaging for a bottle of absinthe.
A bottle I recently purchased.

Now before you say anything, let me explain.

During this lockdown, I have been cooking three big meals a day.

Those who know me, know that I have always loved to cook.
It was oddly this art teacher’s outlet into the creative.
I was always happier cooking than I was painting.
Go figure.

It was a joy, as well as a foray, into the world of taste, texture, and visual imagination.

But now let’s throw in a pandemic…
of which means cooking has suddenly become both a necessity and a chore.

Gone are the days of excitement and the desire of what might be—gone is the frill and flair…
as that is now replaced by the need for speed, fulfillment, and satiation.

Only to wash the dishes and get ready to do it again.

Enter the l’heure de l’apéritif or the aperitif hour…
aka— the happy hour.

There is an American ex-pat who lives in Paris—he is a cook, author,
as well as food/travel blogger.
His name is David Lebovitz and just before the pandemic hit, he had just released
his latest recipe book for classic Belle Époque French cocktails.

Drinks that harken back to a time of sophistication and elegance

So guess what…
L’heure de l’apéritif has become my new creative outlet.
The moment of the day, other than the bed, that I look most forward to.

For each afternoon, I am offering the adults in this lockdown of mine,
a sample of days gone by…as I concoct libations found in David’s book.

Libations that have me pulling out and dusting off my grandmother’s finest crystal glasses.
Coupes, flutes, sherries, and highballs.

Libations that have sent me to the curbside liquor store in search of liquors and liqueurs
some of which, I can hardly pronounce.

Enter Absinthe.

According to Wikipedia:
Absinthe (/ˈæbsɪnθ, -sæ̃θ/, French: [apsɛ̃t] is historically described as a distilled,
highly alcoholic beverage (45–74% ABV / 90–148 U.S. proof).
It is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers
and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”), together with green anise,
sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs.

Absinthe traditionally has a natural green color but may also be colorless.
It is commonly referred to in historical literature as la fée verte (“the green fairy”).
It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a liqueur,
but it is not traditionally bottled with added sugar and is,
therefore, classified as a spirit.[6] Absinthe is traditionally bottled at a
high level of alcohol by volume, but it is normally diluted with water before being consumed.

Absinthe originated in the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland in the late 18th century.
It rose to great popularity as an alcoholic drink in late 19th-
and early 20th-century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers.
The consumption of absinthe was opposed by social conservatives and prohibitionists,
partly due to its association with bohemian culture.
From Europe and the Americas, notable absinthe drinkers included Ernest Hemingway,
James Joyce, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,
Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust,
Aleister Crowley, Erik Satie, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron, and Alfred Jarry.

Absinthe has often been portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug
and hallucinogen.
The chemical compound thujone, which is present in the spirit in trace amounts,
was blamed for its alleged harmful effects.
By 1915, absinthe had been banned in the United States and in much of Europe,
including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria–Hungary,
yet it has not been demonstrated to be any more dangerous than ordinary spirits.
Recent studies have shown that absinthe’s psychoactive properties
have been exaggerated, apart from that of the alcohol.

A revival of absinthe began in the 1990s,
following the adoption of modern European Union food and beverage laws that removed
long-standing barriers to its production and sale. By the early 21st century,
nearly 200 brands of absinthe were being produced in a dozen countries,
most notably in France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Spain,
and the Czech Republic.

In fact, the 1875 painting below, by Edgar Degas, of a lonely stupified woman is rather reflective
of the effects of what imbibing too much in absinthe could lead to.


(L’Absinthe by Edgar Degas 1875 / Musée d’Orsay)

And thus I have always been leary of absinthe.
It was cloaked in intrigue as well as the forbidden.

That is until I needed a bottle of it for one of my new recipes.

So off I trotted…driving myself to the local curbside liquor store where
I handed the masked and gloved young man, on the curb, my list of needs–
I asked for a mid-range priced bottle of absinthe…
and he returned with the same box you see above in the picture.
Complete with an absinthe spoon.
Ooooo.

I felt a slight thrill and rush as I placed a single toe into the world of the forbidden
as I marched my new bottle into the house.

And so this is the spot where the gist of my post comes into play…
that of both torment and gift.

As an art /art history teacher, I have always had a soft tender spot in my heart for
Vincent van Gogh…the ever tormented, isolated Dutch Impressionism painter…

Vincent never sold a single painting during his short lifetime—except to his loving
brother Theo.

It is true he cut off his ear.

It is true he loved a prostitute.

It is true he originally wanted to enter the priesthood.

It is true that he was sickly much of his life and in turn, ate very poorly.

It is true he lived with and fought physically and vehemently with his friend and fellow
artist Paul Gauguin.

It is true he was mentally troubled…most likely what we today might call bi-polar
or even schizophrenic.
And thus, he spent time in and out of mental hospitals.

It is true he was broke and financially destitute throughout his life.
His brother Theo provided financial assistance throughout most of Van Gogh’s life.

It is also true that he drank—and drank heavily.
Depression has a way of leading the depressed to that which might dull the unending ache.
And for van Gogh, much of the drinking was of absinthe.

Was it the wormwood?
Was it the hallucinations that lead to his vision of beauty, of colors, of texture?

At the age of 37, Van Gogh committed suicide by shooting himself in a cornfield.

It is debated as to what exactly lead to van Gogh’s mental instability.

Was it genetics?

Or was it the effects of a poor diet, artistic frustration, romantic rejection, or
was it just the alcohol?
Or perhaps…it was merely a combination of it all.

There is no doubt that Van Gogh was both troubled and tormented—this much we know.
But we must also know that it was in his death that we, the world, was actually given the
true gift of his talents..that being his art.

His brother Theo made certain, after van Gogh’s death, that the world would
finally, see his brother’s art.

In 1990, one of Van Gogh’s paintings, the portrait of Dr.Paul Gachet,
was sold at auction for $75 million dollars— making it, at the time,
the most expensive painting to have ever been sold.

A tormented soul who would be loved by a different time and a different generation of people—
He would finally be embraced by a world that would fall in love with him and his art.
Yet it is a relationship sadly too late for Van Gogh to have ever known and enjoyed.

And thus, in this vein of thought, I was struck by the notion of both torment and gifts.

A ying and yang of life.
A conundrum.
An anomaly.

My thoughts turned to a different man.
A different time.

A man who was not haunted by personal demons but rather a man who came to quell the demons.
To quell the demons in man.

A man who was loved by some yet hated by others.
A man who is still deeply loved as well as deeply hated.

A man whose gifts healed the souls of those he touched.
A man who was willingly tormented and was, in turn, killed by his tormentors…
killed in order to give others the gift of life.

So yes—it seems that there can be beauty found in torment.
As therein can lie the gift of life.

For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

the year of Mercy…

“Deserves it! I daresay he does.
Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life.
Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.
For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


(Original painting of the Divine Mercy, by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in 1934)

It’s the end of another year as well as the end of another decade…
A time when we grow full of reflection and even introspection.

And if we don’t, well, I think it would behoove us to do so…
it’s good for the soul.

And by the way, I can say that because I’m now on the downhill slope of what is
considered to be US life expectancy, and thus—
older people are supposed to have gleaned from hindsight…
so my hindsight is saying that you need to reflect.

The other day I had offered my hope that the coming year could be a year
for moms and motherhood along with their children and husbands…
as in the fathers of their children…as in families…traditional families
as in those families found within the covenant of God the Father.

And no, this post is not about a debate regarding what constitutes a “family”–
that’s a discussion for another day.

But for now, let’s hear it for moms.
Be they working or stay at home….
because at the end of the day…
the bottom line is that a mom is still a mom…
and that is the single most important job.

And so this notion has gotten me thinking.
Thinking and pondering.

I’ve started a new book…in part because I saw that Bishop Gavin Ashenden had
written the forward to the book.

Oh and just in case you missed it, our favorite across the pond Anglican cleric
is now a new Catholic convert.

The book is The Warning by Christine Watkins

“Authentic accounts of saints and mystics of the Church who have spoken of a day when
we will all see our souls in the light of truth,
and fascinating stories of those who have already experienced it for themselves.”

As I was reading my few pages last night, as that is about all the reading I’m afforded
these days–a page here or there at night, Ms. Watkins mused about death—
something that we will all eventually face.
Whether we are a believer or not, death does not discriminate.

So she posed a question about what happens upon death—our death.
It’s the age-old mystery…death and what happens to us at that defining moment.

For Believers, this is a time of accountability.

As in all sins, all those things done and not done will be set before us.
Even those sins we have confessed and asked forgiveness over will
still, be displayed.

That notion made me swallow hard.

Even though there is and has been forgiveness, our sins will still be on display.
Both known and unknown.
Displayed before us and our Savior, Father and Holy Spirit.

How do you defend such?
How do you explain such?
How do you play off such?

Because isn’t that what we currently do in life? We make excuses.
So why not in death?

But here’s the thing, we won’t be able to nor can we.
The moment will be beyond earthly comprehension
and somehow I think to stand before God, will leave us without defense.

We will be totally exposed, opened like a splayed chicken and utterly vulnerable.

And on that thought, I closed the book, turned off the light and laid there thinking…
and praying.

A key word came to mind…

Mercy.

According to Merriam Webster ‘mercy’ is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown
toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

God has shown His mercy to man—both you and me, by sending His only son…
offering mercy to a corrupt and sinful humankind.
Grace has been given to those who do not deserve Grace but who have been offered it freely
and without attached strings.

And so I would like to see this to be a year for all of us to put mercy atop our list.
To show and to offer mercy to our fellow human beings, despite whether they deserve it or not
because deserving is not the issue.

It will not be easy.
It will demand us to stop and think before quickly casting our hate-filled
angry filled resentment and judgment.

We are such a divided nation, so full of the notion of ‘I am right and you are wrong’
that we allow our national convictions to outweigh the human act of Compassion, Grace and
especially Mercy.
We have become so knee jerk in our reactions that the thought of Mercy never crosses
our minds.

In the turning of the calendar, in the moving into a new year,
may we be mindful of the gift we have each been given…
that being the gift, the ability, to offer to others our compassion, our grace,
and our mercy only because God first offered His Compassion, Grace, and Mercy to us.

In 2015 Pope Francis proclaimed that the year of the Jubilee of Mercy,
The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (Latin: Iubilaeum Extraordinarium Misericordiae)
was a Roman Catholic period of prayer held from 8 December 2015,
the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to 20 November 2016,
the Feast of Christ the King.
Like previous jubilees, it was seen by the Church as a period for remission of sins
and universal pardon focusing particularly on God’s forgiveness and mercy.
It was an extraordinary Jubilee because it had not been predetermined long before;
ordinary jubilees are usually celebrated every 25 years.

I think we need to offer such jubilee one more time!

I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus,
but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with,
to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think –
and I say it with humility – that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.

Pope Francis
Homily on March 17, 2013

The before and after the magic…of Santa…

“Of course there is a Santa Claus.
It’s just that no single somebody could do all he has to do.
So the Lord has spread the task among us all.
That’s why everybody is Santa Claus.
I am.
You are.”

Truman Capote, One Christmas


(the local Atlanta Channel 2 news Santa tracker report)

During the local new’s weather segment, Santa appears on a television in the house
of children across the land. He tells all the little boys and girls that he’s on his way…
and suddenly little people start losing their minds.

They don’t really know why they’re losing their minds…it just seems to be
the seasonal thing to do.


(The Mayor seeing Santa on the televison


(The Sheriff shares his sister’s enthusiasm)

And of course, there are always some who don’t lose their minds but rather think
their ‘parents’ have lost their minds by dressing them in a Christmas sweater.


(Percy not a fan of his sweater)

And here is the image of the aftermath…the moment the air, the energy and
the enthusiasm has left the room…

All having left once Santa came and went…
Gone and departed once the packages were shredded open…
Removed along with the boxes and paper now filling the recycle bin,
Swallowed and digested with the final morsels of savored Christmas foods.

Pure exhaustion…


(moppie and her posse / Julie Cook / 2019)

I could write something philosophical or even offer a psychological treatise about
the evils regarding Santa and children…the evils of secular Christmas vs religious Christmas,
the evils of the hypnosis of our commercial and materialistic world…
but I don’t want to do that…

Rather, I want to relish in what is now the memory of a Christmas that just was.

As a grandmother, I know that such moments are more fleeting on my end but seemingly
everlasting on their young end.

I’m simply going to savor this moment, this time given to me as a gift.
God’s gift to me.

I do so while thanking Him for the universal gift He gave to all mankind…
that of his only begotten Son…

Children and Christmas are certainly a magical combination…

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

are you willing to man up?

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

St. Angela Merici

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

“Am I ready?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spoiler alert…he did.

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

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