the wisdom of a child

“One just soul can obtain pardon for a thousand sinners.”
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque


(a contemplative little Mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)

So I must make a confession on this Holy Saturday…

Whereas in years past my posts were reflective of this time of year…
starting with Ash Wednesday, those dark heavy 40 days of Lent leading up to the
Holy Week of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday—
as we culminate all of this on a triumphant Easter.

I’d pray earnestly.
I’d fast regularly.
I’d be diligent in my observance.
I would have even gotten some purposeful Lenten reading.
I would focus on the cross and that of an empty tomb.

However, this week has passed in a blur.
In fact, Lent passed in a blur.
As much of the year has passed in a blur.

I hardly even noted that yesterday was Good Friday as I was on the road in
torrential rains and horrendous traffic as my thoughts were elsewhere.

There was a time I would attend the 3 hours long Good Friday service while
purposely fasting this highest of Holy days.
I would go to the Great Easter Vigil…clutching my candle with deep intent.

However, this year has been different.
For lots of reasons I suppose.

Whereas there were both sorrow and loss in years past, I none the less managed to keep
the tires in the middle of the road.

This year, sadly, I pretty much simply fell off the tracks.

There are some distracting extenuating circumstances that will most likely be written
about when there is finally a bit of clarity…
But in a nutshell, my time and my focus have been pulled into a thousand different degrees…

And speaking of degrees—
I have been suffering through some sort of flu bug this past week that has left me hot
to the touch yet cold and shivery to the body.

Add in the Mayor visiting her satellite office and the walking dead comes to mind…
not in the zombie kind, but rather literally feeling dead while still walking.

There’s been little sleep, lots of heavy thoughts, as well as thoughts of anticipation with
a new little sheriff set to arrive any day now.

And having spent the past two days trying to keep an ever-growing, rambunctious, newly walking
borderline toddler out of harm’s way while trying to keep up at the same energy level has
been no easy task.

And yet I often find myself sitting back and simply marveling at her intense gaze.
I watch her little wheels turning while wondering what are her thoughts.

Her love, excitement, and openness to each and all she meets.
Be it animal or human or a stuffed animal or even an interesting plant.
Each one is met with a raised hand and a resounding “HI”

There is such an open innocence and trust that we adults,
who love her and are entrusted with her care, wish to warn her of the dangers
as we work to protect and keep her from harm.

Any parent or grandparent will tell you that that is a life long task that can,
in this current angry world’s day and age, leave anyone who loves a little one
both anxious and nervous.

Because we adults know that there is bad, there is danger and there is evil.

My husband noted this morning at breakfast,
as she gobbled up some bits of maple syrup-soaked waffles,
that if the world possed the same sort of sweetness and same refreshing innocence…
oh, how the world could be so different.

And so on this Holy Saturday, I am reminded that God is reminding me…
He is calling me to return to that same trusting spirit…
return to an openness…allowing Him to pour out His sweet balm
within this weary soul of mine.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!


(the Mayor in such a pondering pose / Julie Cook / 2019)

“No one who follows Me will ever walk in darkness (Jn 8:12).
These words of our Lord counsel all to walk in His footsteps.
If you want to see clearly and avoid blindness of heart,
it is His virtues you must imitate.
Make it your aim to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.
Christ’s teachings surpasses that of all the Saints.
But to find this spiritual nourishment you must seek to have the Spirit of Christ.
It is because we lack this Spirit that so often we listen to the Gospel without really hearing it.
Those who fully understand Christ’s words must labor to make their lives conform to His.”

Thomas á Kempis, p.15
An Excerpt From
The Imitation of Christ

best laid plans right?

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

‘To a Mouse’
Robert Burns

The Cross!
There, and there only though the deist rave,
and the atheist, if Earth bears so base a slave;
There and there only,
is the power to save.

William Cowper


(Wood mouse image by Andrew Everhale)

The best laid plans of mice and men…..

Ok…. so first Lent seems to have come and almost gone…
Mainly because we had a baby come Feb 17th with what started as a panic but
eventually turned thankfully to joy…

Next it was nearly 3 weeks there, then they all came here.
Then back there…
There is still very little sleeping when it’s dark…

Lent…hummm…

We managed to get a sweet little Easter dress, a little monogrammed sweater, an Easter
basket that is good to go…

Then the first of this week there was a trip to the Urgent Care for mom–

I was there to watch the baby while my son and daughter-n-law dealt with what was
thought to be food poisoning.

I’ve been around long enough to know I usually know more than Urgent Care…
what older mom, and now grandmother, doesn’t trump Urgent Care?!
My diagnosis….not any ol run of the mill food poisoning.

So I’ve brought the baby back home with me while the young parents spent a day in the ER
as my daughter-n-law got morphine, and an IV and multiple tests run…
then it was home with prescriptions and time left to wait on labs…

So as this has been anything but a typical Lent for this family…
as Easter weekend, complete with a brand new first Easter dress and a first visit to
mom’s small family church is all very much up in the air…
and with this little world of ours being somewhat upside down…

Today is still Good Friday.

We are still entering the holiest week of the Christian Faith.

Saturday will still be Holy Saturday…

And Sunday will still be Easter…

So despite all that life and this world throws our way…those best-laid plans of both
mice and men, moms and grandmothers…
Jesus still vanquished Death!

Alleluia!!!

To a Mouse
BY ROBERT BURNS
On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785
Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
’S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss ’t!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

in the sound of silence

“On Good Friday last year the SS found some pretext to punish 60 priests
with an hour on “the tree.”
That is the mildest camp punishment.
They tie a man’s hands together behind his back, palms facing out and fingers pointing backward.
Then they turn his hands inwards, tie a chain around his wrists and hoist him up by it.
His own wight twists his joints and pulls them apart…
Several of the priest who were hung up last year never recovered and died.
If you don’t have a strong heart, you don’t survive it.
Many have a permanently crippled hand.”

Jean Bernard, Priestblock 25487: a Memoir of Dachau


(worn grave marker, Rock of Cashel / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook)

“Despite our earnest efforts, we couldn’t climb all the way up to God.
So what did God do? In an amazing act of condescension, on Good Friday,
God climbed down to us, became one with us.
The story of divine condescension begins on Christmas and ends on Good Friday.
We thought, if there is to be business between us and God, we must somehow get up to God.
Then God came down, down to the level of the cross, all the way down to the depths of hell.
He who knew not sin took on our sin so that we might be free of it.
God still stoops, in your life and mine, condescends.
“Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” he asked his disciples,
before his way up Golgotha. Our answer is an obvious,
“No!” His cup is not only the cup of crucifixion and death,
it is the bloody, bloody cup that one must drink if one is going to get mixed up in us.
Any God who would wander into the human condition,
any God who has this thirst to pursue us, had better not be too put off by pain,
for that’s the way we tend to treat our saviors.
Any God who tries to love us had better be ready to die for it.
As Chesterton writes, “Any man who preaches real love is bound to beget hate…
Real love has always ended in bloodshed.”

― William H. Willimon,
Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words from the Cross

Travesties

There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience.
It supercedes all other courts.

Mahatma Gandhi

In war, truth is the first casualty.
Aeschylus

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(a bumblebee busily enjoys the sunny day / Julie Cook / 2016)

Truth and justice…
Two of the massive building blocks to man’s existence.

If this was a perfect world, a pre-fallen world, or rather a never fallen world, then truth and justice would be as commonplace as breathing. They would be woven into the everyday living of man and most likely never really contemplated or fretted over…

They would be nothing out of the ordinary.
As nothing could challenge such as each would simply just be part and parcel of man’s existence.

For if there were no fall of man, there would be no lies, no falsehoods, no injustices, no deceptions,
no fabrications, no misdeeds hidden under the pretense of false or half truths and no repercussions of such…

There would be no harm nor fouls.
No need for others to impose justice in defense of the truth…
no casualties of war as there would be no wars….

Yet sadly, for better or worse, we do live in a fallen, as well as broken, world.

We, both you and I, are victims of our own duality—the inner struggle between right and wrong…
With that duality being rooted in the very fall of man…
and in turn…a direct result of man’s sinfulness…

The duality of Good and Evil…
with “truth” being the first victim of that sinful nature.

There is the metaphysical and philosophical concept of dualism, or binary opposition, which addresses the concept of man being both good and bad.
There is also the Christian concept of dualism, or the inherent condition of man’s sinful nature, and the earthly battle of Good and Evil.

C. S. Lewis, the noted British academic, theologian and writer observed that “good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

Lewis goes on at length about the concept of dualism and its relationship to Christianity…
“But I freely admit that real Christianity (as distinct from Christianity-and-water) goes much nearer to Dualism than people think. One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe–a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.”

We fight a constant battle—within ourselves as well as without.

We are often victimized doubly—first by our own sinful nature, then as the direct result of the sinful nature of our fellow man.
Victims of crime, of war, of lies, of deciet…all attacks outside of ourselves, attacks that we are often helpless to defend.

6 million innocent lives taken in the death camps of World War II—-
…victims of the evil duality of man.
First that of Hitler, then of his commanders, then of his soldiers who carried out the arrests, the tortues and the deaths and finally to the culpability of their fellow countrymen who placed all blame for all things wrong with Germany upon their Jewish neighbor’s shoulders.

We face a constant barrage of attacks from outside of ourselves.

You can call it what you will, but Evil has claimed Earth as his own.
It happened that fateful day in the Garden…
And it has raged against us ever since.

Pope Emeritus Benedict continues this idea of duality and Good and Evil in his 2008 Advent catechesis on original sin
“And finally, the last point, man is not only curable, he is in fact cured. God has introduced healing. He entered in person into history. To the permanent source of evil he has opposed a source of pure good. Christ crucified and risen, the new Adam, opposed the filthy river of evil with a river of light. And this river is present in history: We see the saints, the great saints but also the humble saints, the simple faithful. We see that the river of light that comes from Christ is present, is strong.

The dark night of evil is still strong. And that is why we pray in Advent with the ancient people of God: “Rorate caeli desuper.” And we pray with insistence: Come Jesus; come, give force to light and goodness; come where falsehood, ignorance of God, violence and injustice dominate; come, Lord Jesus, give force to the good of the world and help us to be bearers of your light, agents of peace, witnesses of truth. Come Lord Jesus!”

So yes, come Lord Jesus….
Even in the duality of this Good and Evil and in our constant battle… we can rejoice…
As Pope Benedict reminds us, we have already been cured and healed…the hope is regenerated with each Advent, the healing began on Good Friday and the cure came Easter morning…
Hallelujah!!!

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair.
We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

Pope John Paul II

Costly Grace

“God’s merciful love lives in the midst of its foes.
It is the same Jesus Christ who by grace calls us to follow him
and whose grace saves the thief on the cross in his last hour.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

DSCN1466
(detail from the altar at Klyemore Abbey,Connemara, Co Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Costly Grace is the hidden treasure in the field, for the sake of which people go and sell with joy everything they have.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The assent

We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others.”
Elisabeth Elliot

DSC00247
(bronze hanging Crucifixion / Muzeum Polskie (Polish Museum) Rapperswil, Switzerland / Julie Cook / 2013)

We all are climbing upward are we not?
The task of scaling up along the rocky face of an arduous mountain.
Each of us burdened by the load that we carry across our shoulders.
Each load being different, one from the next. . .
My load is not the same as yours. . .
Some loads seem heavier than others.
Perhaps those who appear to bear the heavier burdens are pitted. . .
Perhaps others are thankful for a falsely perceived lighter load. . .
Yet no one really comprehends that all burdens equal out as dead weight in an uphill climb.
Nevertheless, the assent must continue, ever upward, for there is no going back down.
Everyone labors under the crushing weight strapped across their shoulders.
All souls battle putting one foot in front of the other.
Hands are bloodied and muscles ache as swollen mouths burn dry.
A desperate tongue works to find any remaining moisture in a mouth full of grit.
The howling winds pushing those trying to inch their way forward, sends many falling far behind.
Frustration mixes with the sense of doom.
The mind races debating the choices–continue or quit. . .
Live another moment or perish on the mountain.
The assent becoming greater than any climber seems able to bear.
Torn feet slip amongst the jagged rocks.
The path runs red as liquid begins flowing downward.
Hopelessness glances upward

At the top of the mountain a lone figure hangs lifeless against a raging sky
All journeymen along the mountain stop, as dimmed eyes turn toward the pinnacle.
A sudden silence overtakes the mountain.
The winds cease as the air becomes heavy.
Clouds no longer swirl overhead.
The earth is now without movement.
The only sign of life is the distant caw of a lone cock far below in the unseen valley.
No one moves along the mountain, yet the weight of each man’s burden mysteriously eases.
Bent and distorted frames begin to stand erect as all continue gazing at the lifeless form.
Burdens vanish in the stillness.
Torn hands and feet heal.
The jagged path now oddly smooth.
Life flows from one being to the next,
As mouths no longer yearn for moisture.
Time turns itself inside out,
as those who climb now find themselves descending
No longer the arduous climb, but rather an ease filled descent
All that was is suddenly no more
as everything has been left in the shadow of the lifeless form.

all that remains is Silence

Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned.”
― James Joyce

In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”
― Mother Teresa

DSCN4502
(old fence post, Julie Cook / 2014)

It has only been a few hours.
There is. . .
no rush of wind,
no gossip or chatter,
no signing birds
no barking dogs
no children at play
no rumble of thunder
no toil of labor.
Nothing.

The only thing which remains is the Silence,

And yet there is a sound to Silence.
It is the sound of a heartbeat pulsing through tired worn out ears.
The heaviness of a labored sigh expelling through a dry open mouth.
The sound of hunger wrestling through an empty gut.
The popping of tired old joints.

He had asked them to bring the body here.
To the cold Silence of a bought grave.
Emptiness fills the Silence.
A lingering sweet scent of myrrh and aloe now fills the cold empty space.
With the women all gone, as well as for all the others, he silently holds a solitary vigil.
Two laborers wait nervously by the trees ready to seal the tomb.

He stands alone staring, for what seems to be an eternity, at the now lifeless shrouded mass.
A surreal moment for a tired old man who has seen far too much of a life that he cares not to recall.
What was it his old friend had told him of the conversation he had had with the Teacher that night which now seemed so long ago. . . .”No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. . .

What does any of that now mean at this particular moment in time?
Does the Son of Man now die as any other man?
Everything he thought he knew is now turned upside down.
He silently wrangles with these thoughts of life and death, when suddenly he is reminded of how very tired he feels.
He had raised his hand, without thought, resting it against the cold massive stone in order to steady himself. It has been a terribly long and pain filled day.
He is no longer a young man.
He is old and tired, but the events of today have aged him further.

There are no more tears, for they have long since fallen.
He shutters slightly, pulling the tallit, the prayer shawl, closer over his aged body, as an empty coldness now envelopes the dark tomb.
Silently the sun begins a slow descent below the horizon, as he notices an odd coloring to the sky.
It is now time he takes his leave for the Sabbath is soon to begin.

Sabbath.
How odd that suddenly seems.
He slowly turns towards the two men waiting in the shadows.
No words are spoken.
He offers a silent nod as he walks away.
The workmen wait until he is gone before bracing the long pole under the massive stone.
It is done.

And now Silence fills the World.
Not even a whisper remains.

Yet oddly, vibrations faintly rumble underfoot.
An expectancy fills the air.
A small flock of birds chaotically flutter in the night sky.
Something in the dark has sent them into motion.
The animals sense it first.
They always sense change before any human.
Mankind doesn’t yet take notice.

Within the Silence, the Earth begins to tremble.
Birth pangs fight viciously against Death’s motionless hold.
Transcendence is at hand,
as blinding light seeps up through cracks in the ground.
Tremors roll over a planet as waves crash against distant shores.
The Earth now shifts ever so slightly on its axis, as cosmic explosions mysteriously shimmer in the night sky.
All in Hell begin to quake.

The Silence is no longer so silent.