what lessons…sure intentions

What lessons God gives us in nature if we take the time to reflect on them…
If we take the time to reflect on the meaning and
purpose revealed to us in the ordinary experiences of our lives,
the world lights up, even in the darkness.

Fr. Joseph Kelly
from On Second Thoughts: A Book of Stories


(flowers in the snow / Julie Cook/ 2017)

“It is necessary to have an absolutely sure intention in all our actions,
so that the generous fulfillment of our daily duties may be
directed toward the highest supernatural ideal.
Thus, our life, apart from moments of prayer, will be a prayerful life.
It is clear that the habit of giving an upward glance to God
at the moment of action is a great assistance in aiding us to behave
always with a pure intention and in freeing us from our
natural impulses and fancies, so, that, retaining our self-mastery,
or rather, God becoming the sole Master,
all our movements become dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
We see in the Gospel that whenever our Lord was about to
undertake some important step,
He always paused for a moment to raise His eyes to Heaven,
and only after this moment of recollection did He take up the work
He had to do.
‘He lifted up His eyes to Heaven’ is a phrase that
recurs with significant frequency.
And doubtless, when there was no outward sign of this prayer,
there was the inward offering.
The ideal is the same for us.
The constant subjection of self to the guidance of the Holy Spirit
is made easier from the fact of His presence in the soul,
where He is asked explicitly to preside over all our doings…
We shall not submit wholeheartedly to the
invisible Guest unless He is kept in close proximity to us.”

Raoul Plus, S.J., p. 37-8

the one difference between Heaven and Hell….only Love

“You have not chosen one another,
but I have chosen you for one another.”

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

“There is no safe investment.
To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact,
you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries;
avoid all entanglements;
lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable,
irredeemable.
The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.
The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

A re-visited prayer

(dragonfly, Troup Co. Georgia / Julie Cook/ 2018)

“Our Father…”

You made me and chose me before time, to love you, to serve you,
and adore you; to long for your voice, to recognize you,
to return home to you. For you are the Father, prodigal in your love,
who runs forward to meet us as we kneel to pray.

“Who art in heaven…”

Give me a vision, Lord, of the saints in heaven, of the community in heaven,
of the joy of heaven, so that I may be drawn out of this dull world into the light
of all that is real.

“Hallowed be thy name…”

Lord, may your name be holy in my mouth, holy in my heart, holy on my lips,
holy in my life; “I am that I am”, “the lamb that was slain”.
Lord, may the words that describe you sanctify the lips of all who
call upon you.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done…”

Let our hearts and our words be shaped by yours.

“On earth as it is in heaven…”

Lord, call those you have chosen on earth to follow you and to live your life,
to make space for you, for the earth is in the hands of your enemy,
it is in the hands of the ruler of this world.
Help us repulse him with your authority, and in your name, and by your power,
to reclaim earth for heaven.

“Give us this day our daily bread…”

For Jesus is the bread of life. Help us feed on Jesus in the word of the Gospels,
by the presence of the Holy Spirit, in the holy and blessed sacrament.
Give us, Lord, all that we need to feed on you in Christ our saviour.

“And forgive us our trespasses…”

Both those sins that we know about and those sins we have not seen.
Cleanse us, and forgive us, and renew us,
Lord, and wash away all that stands between your love,
and your mercy, and our wounded hearts.

“As we forgive those who trespass against us…”

As we allow your kindness and your goodness to overflow and to free
those we hold in
anger and unforgiveness.

“And lead us not into temptation”

For we are weak-willed.
We are blind and intemperate.
We have very little strength of our own.

“But deliver us from evil.”

For he (the evil one) prowls around us like a lion seeking whom he may devour,
insinuating words into our mind, laying traps of false desire in front of us,
whispering untruths into our heart. Deliver us, Lord, from all evil,
and from the snares the devil sets for us.

From the Ashenden Daily Office:
https://ashenden.org/2018/07/16/our-father-who-art-in-heaven-an-extended-prayer/

all that remains is Silence (a timely repeat)

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


(Julie Cook / 2014)

****Yesterday, while I was searching through some older posts,
I came across a post that I wrote back in April of 2014.
I am assuming it was written as a lenten /Good Friday post.
While rereading it, there was something in it that I couldn’t quite
put my finger on, yet I knew something, very strongly, was speaking
to something deep inside of me.
It speaks these seven years later as I find myself in a different
space and time.

It’s that transcendence notion again.
That of going beyond to that which is calling us home.

And so perhaps it is Nicodemus who I can relate to at this particular
moment in time.
Perhaps I too feel the weight of a deafening, defining yet empty Silence…

Yet blessedly, what I do know, despite coming these many centuries after Nicodemus,
is that the Silence will not remain silent for long.

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.

down the slippery slope –off we go…time for a revolution?

“To join two things together there must be nothing between
them or there cannot be a perfect fusion.
Now realize that this is how God wants our soul to be,
without any selfish love of ourselves or of others in between,
just as God loves us without anything in between.”

St. Catherine of Siena

‘He that deceives me once, its his fault;
but if twice, its my fault.’”

“The Italians having a Proverb,

Bumbling, stumbling, fumbling, miscues, incompetence, misguided,
bloodied guilt, laughter, foolishness, ignorance, blindness, calculating,
arrogance, ineptitude, stupidity, mismanagement, hapless, clueless,
blatant defiance, wrong, hurtful, deceitful, cold, uncaring, blame…

Shock, anger, resentment, betrayal, loss, sorrow, bereft, bewildered,
now rage…

Tumbling, falling, rolling, sliding— lost..into an abyss

Hear us oh Lord…

He said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you,
persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,
for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the salt of the earth.
But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out
and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world.
A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.
Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone
in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds and glorify
your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:3-16

And Jesus said…I am here for a revolution.
Not a revolt, but a revolution.
Believer…are you ready?

Only God satisfies

“In this life no one can fulfill his longing,
nor can any creature satisfy man’s desire.
Only God satisfies, he infinitely exceeds all other pleasures.
That is why man can rest in nothing but God.”

St. Thomas Aquinas


(a lone pelican cruises the surf / Julie Cook /2021)

“In the spiritual life,
I can promise myself nothing without the special help of God…
From one moment to another, I may fall into mortal sin:
consequently, even though I may have labored many years in acquiring virtues,
I may in one instant lose all the good I have done,
lose all my merit for eternity, and lose even that blessed eternity itself.
How can a king rule with arrogance when he is besieged by his enemies
and from day to day runs the risk of losing his kingdom and ceasing to be a king?
And has not a saint abundant reasons,
from the thought of his own weakness,
to live always in a state of great humility,
when he knows that from one hour to another he may lose the
grace of God and the kingdom of Heaven, which he has merited by years
of laboriously acquired virtues? ‘Unless the Lord build the house,
they labor in vain that build it’ (Ps. 126:1).
However spiritual and holy a man may be,
he cannot regard himself as absolutely secure.
The Angels themselves, enriched with sanctity, were not safe in Paradise.
Man, endowed with innocence, was not safe in his earthly paradise.
What safety,
therefore, can there be for us with our corrupt nature,
amid so many perils and so many enemies who within and without
are ever seeking insidiously to undermine our own eternal salvation?
In order to be eternally damned,
it is enough that I should follow the dictates of nature;
but to be saved, it is necessary that divine grace should prevent
(go before) and accompany me, should follow and help me,
watch over me and never abandon me.
Oh, how right therefore was St. Paul in exhorting us to
‘work out our salvation’—which is for all eternity—
‘with fear and trembling’ (Phil. 2:12).”

Fr. Cajetan da Bergamo, p. 21-22
An Excerpt From
Humility Of Heart

something beyond

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary.
To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

St. Thomas Aquinas


(a sunflower head prepares to give up its seeds / Julie Cook / 2021)

“I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity
seems at first to be all about morality,
all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue,
yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond.
One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things…
Every one there is filled full with what we should call goodness
as a mirror is filled with light.”

C.S. Lewis, p. 149
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

always remember, end well

“See, my children, we must reflect that we have a soul to save,
and an eternity that awaits us.
The world, its riches, pleasures, and honors will pass away;
heaven and hell will never pass away.
Let us take care, then.
The saints did not all begin well; but they all ended well.
We have begun badly; let us end well,
and we shall go one day and meet them in heaven.”

St. John Vianney


(a lone iris / Julie Cook / 2021)

When a person sacrifices his life out of love for God,
by allowing God to send him on a given mission or by enduring martyrdom
or by allowing himself to be completely diverted from his own plans and intentions,
it is love that moves him to do so.
This love cannot be equated with the love that people have
for one another, which moves them to regular acts of love of neighbor.
Rather, this person is so gripped by the God who loves him
that his gift of self—however long or short God intends it to be—
bears in it the mark of eternity.

Adrienne von Speyr
from her book The Boundless God

do not lose courage

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.
Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections,
but instantly set about remedying them, every day begin the task anew.”

St. Francis de Sales


(a lovely red zinnia / Julie Cook / 2021)

“Let us not fancy that if we cry a great deal we have done all that
is needed—rather we must work hard and practice the virtues:
that is the essential—leaving tears to fall when God sends them,
without trying to force ourselves to shed them.
Then, if we do not take too much notice of them,
they will leave the parched soil of our souls well watered,
making it fertile in good fruit; for this is the water which
falls from Heaven.
I think it is best for us to place ourselves in the presence of God,
contemplate His mercy and grandeur and our own vileness and
leave Him to give us what He will, whether water or drought,
for He knows best what is good for us;
thus we enjoy peace and the devil will have less chance to deceive us.”

St. Teresa of Avila, p.147
An Except From
Interior Castle

stairway to heaven

“Apart from the cross,
there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.”

St. Rose of Lima


(Hotel Oud Huis de Peellaert stairway/ Bruges, Belgium/ Julie Cook 2011)

Remember back in the day, those heady days of the early 1970’s?
We had just crossed over the infamous Rubicon—a time of transition from the turbulent 60’s
crossing the threshold into a new decade—we did not want to look back.
Rather we crossed over, hoping the new decade would bring us
the gift of change….positive, war-free days change.

Musically it was a time just prior to the colorful days of spinning mirrored balls,
platform shoes, Night Fever and the world of all things Disco.
It was a quickly closing window of time…a time when rock bands still vied for the
waning spotlight.

It was a time when every sweaty-palmed young man and every young lady whose smile bore
the glint of silver braces, each felt a magical flutter when hearing the familiar and melodic
opening notes to the perfect slow dance song of all time—
the song that created an almost 10 full magical minutes of holding close slow dancing…

Should you dare rest your head on his shoulder??
Should you dare pull her closer to your chest??

Led Zepplin’s Stairway to Heaven

And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all is one and one is all, that’s what it is
To be a rock and not to roll, oh yeah
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven

Robert Plant, Jimmy Page / Led Zeppelin

Granted, I for one loved dancing to the song…especially if I was dancing
with “the one”—that particular boy who had stolen my fancy at that particular time
in life.

But I must admit, I often pondered those lyrics as the visual image of a stairway to Heaven
was akin to St. John Climacus’ The Ladder of Divine Ascent, also known as the Ladder of Paradise.


(The 12th century Ladder of Divine Ascent icon /Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt/
showing monks, led by John Climacus, ascending the ladder to Jesus, at the top right.

There were 30 rungs to the ladder…each a nod to the thirty some odd years of Christ’s life.
“It is the Divine model of the religious,
it presents a picture of all the virtues and contains a great many parables and historical touches,
drawn principally from the monastic life, and exhibiting the practical application of the precepts.”

And all of these thoughts came flooding to the forefront of my thoughts when I read today’s quote
by St. Rose of Lima.
There is no avoiding the cross as we look to climb the ladder to Heaven.

Many of the faithful, more of our Protestant brethren, often don’t understand what is
most often perceived as a bizarre and often macabre view of the cross, or crucifix,
that our Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican brethren seem to fixate upon.

And I for one tend to be one of those who look toward that cross.

It is the dark shadow of our faith that so many prefer to ignore or simply look past
pretending it doesn’t exist…but I see it for what it is.
The only means by which I now have hope.

For it there was no cross, there would be no hope.
If there is no decent into Hell, there is no ascent to Heaven.

It is the ugly truth as some would say…but I say it is the only truth.

There would be no Easter, no resurrection, without the cross.

We are told that we must carry that cross if we wish to live.
We can not avoid it.

There is no Easter joy if there is no cross of Good Friday.

The sacrifice had to be made if any of us were to be saved.

So yes, the cross is indeed our stairway to Heaven…

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you.
And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Isaiah 60:1-3