Thank you

Grief is the price we pay for love.
Queen Elizabeth II


(Town and Country)

Indulge me please, if you will, as I look backwards a bit—to a different year,
a different day, a different funeral…but yet…a funeral that harkens forward
to today’s global family’s funeral.

There were, no doubt, countless numbers of funerals today around our world.
Hearts that are broken.
Lives that are now turned upside down…all as good-byes have been somberly said.
Good-byes that we mere mortals find most difficult to comprehend.

Death.

We as a collective group of humankind do not “do” death very well.
We find it very difficult to wrap our heads, let alone our hearts, around
such a notion.

We often feel anger, resentment, unbearable sorrow and for some, yet for a
fortunate few, we might even feel a sense of relief and yes,
eventually if we are fortunate…we feel that ping of hope.

There has been lots of global news as of late…sorrows, tragedies,
storms, pain, suffering…
yet the majority of the news, along with a good bit of the the world, stopped
today to say their farewells to a well known woman.

All as a family grieves and a nation grieves and as a global world family
grieves…

Yet in all the well televised grief, one thought came galloping into my mind—
the simple thought of gratitude.
That of a simple, “thank you.”

For I believe a soul’s example of simply living out one’s life day to day,
is the best example, the best teacher, any of us will ever or can ever receive.

And so we look back to April 2021….
knowing in our now hindsight that the gentleman in the photograph at the
end of the post who is tipping his hat, undoubtedly extended his hand to
the lady we bid farewell to today…

more and more alone…
but we all know we are never alone…and she knows too!

“What you are to do without me I cannot imagine.”
George Bernard Shaw

“The strongest men are the most alone.”
Ibsen


(BBC)

Anyone who might have watched the funeral Saturday for Prince Philip,
or even caught a passing news story regarding his service,
undoubtedly saw the painful image of an elderly woman clad in black, stooped
with age, sitting alone in a cavernous and seemingly empty sanctuary.

Donning a black mask–attempting to breath, shedding tears, mouthing
the ancient words to an ancient faith…muffled and hindered–all adding
to the heaviness of grief.

It matters not that she just happens to be the current sitting Queen
of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland along with
other realms, as well as head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith…

On Saturday, Elizabeth that elderly woman, was very much alone.

Elizabeth is the only ruling leader, from around this great big world of ours,
who is a part of that Greatest Generation…
She is the only remaining active leader who can personally remember the
time when a world was torn a part and a time when she,
along with the rest of her generation rolled up their sleeves,
doing what it took to fight tyranny and defend Western Civilization’s
democratic freedom.

I was deeply struck by that thought…
the only remaining currently active leader…

Awed by such a thought and yet I also was left feeling rather empty.

We are losing members of our Greatest Generation daily…
actually quite rapidly.

“According to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 325,574
of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2020.”
nationalww2museum.org

Those who I have known and loved, those who served either in war or
at home, are now gone…all but my one remaining aunt who will be 96
later this year.

Before they were wed, Prince Philip served active duty in HMRN
(His Majesty’s Royal Navy) and while as a young princess, Elizabeth,
upon turning 18 in 1944, insisted on joining the women’s branch
of the Royal Army–the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS)

Despite royal lineage, they each chose the path of service.
It mattered not that their service would be precarious and even dangerous…
doing one’s part for the betterment of the whole was the only thing
that mattered.

And that is what troubles me.

Elizabeth is now alone—as in having lost those who lived that
previous time with her.
Those who knew peril yet persevered none the less.
They were stalwart.
They didn’t complain, they simply pressed on…ever forward.

No limelight, no self seeking attention, no apology tours, no
tell all books, no interviews of self complaints…
no “look, woe is me” placards worn around one’s neck…
there was nothing about self because there was no time to
think about self–there were too many others to worry over.

More or less, it was a stoic approach to a foreboding and
unrelenting storm.

And by the way, you and I, and all the generations behind us,
are the better for their generation.

But the thing that truly saddens me is that the following generations
don’t get it…they have no idea as to the sacrifice or lessons that
are to be gleaned.

I can only imagine the grief this woman feels in her heart.
Her family are all a rather fractured lot and now she has lost her
only remaining stalwart companion–
a man who had been by her side for 73 years.
That companion, that husband, that “stay” is now gone–leaving
a woman lost in her solitude.

Her grief, as witnessed in that picture of a lone figure bidding
her husband good-bye, is palpable…but I also know that Elizabeth
has a strong faith.

She and Billy Graham had a chance encounter decades ago.
A documented encounter that appears to have had a lasting effect
on Elizabeth’s faith.
So whereas Elizabeth is certainly feeling most alone today,
she actually knows that she really is not alone…not ever really.

She knows who her Savior is.

So whereas I am not worried that Elizabeth will succumb
to her grief–because she is a woman of duty and service who knows where
her true Hope lies—rather—I worry for us…
I worry for both you and I.

We are rapidly losing the leadership who understood what it meant to serve.
To put others ahead of self…putting others before their own self-centered
wants or needs.

No talk of self or selfish agendas…
No dalliance in to false ideologies.

Simply the defenders of both freedom and faith.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and in view of his appearing and his kingdom,
I give you this charge:
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct,
rebuke and encourage—-
with great patience and careful instruction.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires,
they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say
what their itching ears want to hear.
They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship,
do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:1-5

“these three Persons determine my life…”

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship,
and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

St. Basil the Great


(wild crabapples blossoms / Julie Cook / 2013)

“Now surely I do see what an immense effect such a doctrine
[of the Holy Trinity] must have upon life.
It is no mere question for theologians, but one that concerns every living soul.
Whatever is allowed by God’s power must be guided by His wisdom and
urged on by His love.
All that happens to me in life, the little worries and the great anxieties,
the crises and the daily annoyances, the sorrows and the joys,
the harms that reach me through the sins of others,
the great crimes of history, the huge and devastating wars,
the partings and loves and the whole cycle of human experience
are permitted by Power, which is itself wise and loving.
These three Persons determine my life, and, since I walk by faith,
I must surely grow very patient in my attitude toward life.
For how can I complain or criticize God’s Providence,
since it all comes under that triple influence of Power, Wisdom, and Love?
Under the guidance, then, of this mystery,
I can walk through the valley of death or the more perilous borders
of sin without loss of courage or hopefulness.
Nothing can make me afraid. How these are separate, yet one,
I do not know, nor can I reconcile in my concrete experience
the claims of each.
It is always a mystery, but a mystery in which I believe.
Whatever Power allows on earth is designed in Wisdom
and attuned by Love.”

Fr. Bede Jarrett, p. 10
An Excerpt From
Classic Catholic Meditations, p 10

the day after…

You desire that which exceeds my humble powers,
but I trust in the compassion and mercy of the All-powerful God.

Saint Stephen

“If you know what witness means, you understand why God brings St. Stephen,
St. John, and the Holy Innocents to the crib in the cave as soon as Christ
is born liturgically. To be a witness is to be a martyr.
Holy Mother Church wishes us to realize that we were born in baptism
to become Christ — He who was the world’s outstanding Martyr.”

Love Does Such Things, by Rev. M. Raymond, O.C.S.O.


(the recycle bin / Julie Cook / 2021)

The paper is torn and discarded.
the ribbons are cut and forgotten…
while the bows are simply tossed aside.

The table is a cluttered mess.
Dishes, bowls, plates, glasses all sit scattered in a skewed
disarrayed jumble.

Empty boxes long to be filled while other empty boxes are
forlornly broken down.

The moving of seasons…the in between of what was and what must be…

Is there a glow in the aftermath of what was?
Or does there remain a sense of longing?

The secular world clashes with the world of Christian heritage.

The calendar tells us that today is Boxing day…
the newspapers tell us it is the day for after Christmas sales.
Yet the Church calendar tells us that today is the
feast day of St.Stephen.

Previous posts have been written about both–

And yet we cannot ignore the fact that we are reminded that there
remains a history…
a history that is both ancient as well as more recent.

A clash of time and space…
between the then and now.

And whereas most of us have lived these past four weeks though
the season of Advent–a four week anticipation of light while we
transition from what will be to that of the miraculous…
we must remember that our world does not stop on December 25th.

St Stephen reminds us of this.
The first recorded Christian martyr.

Oddly or purposely we are reminded that sacrifice must follow
the joy of birth.
Or are the two not already intertwined?

It seems as if we are dogged by the specter of death.
Unfair as that may seem.

Here we are basking in the joy of the innocence of birth yet we are
reminded that sacrifice must follows directly behind that joy.

Yet if there was or is anyone who had to understand the notion of sacrifice,
it would be Mary.
A woman who’s heart would be pierced.

And so as we begin the transition between then and now..the old and the new..,
may we be reminded that we are afforded but a brief time in which to bask
in our joy…for tomorrow will always remind us, time is of the essence,

There were thus two things which the Savior did for us by becoming Man.
He banished death from us and made us anew; and,
invisible and imperceptible as in Himself He is,
He became visible through His works and revealed Himself
as the Word of the Father,
the Ruler and King of the whole creation.

St. Athanasius,
On the Incarnation

What he knew and others chose to ignore. Déjà vu or simply a continuum? (let’s revisit this shall we?)

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic,
an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.

Winston Churchill


(Winston Churchil /Casablanca, 1943)

Following the 2014 Winter Olympics hosted in Sochi, Russia–
the world was basking in the afterglow of global peace and harmony.
This collective sense of worldly kumbaya was found in the simple idea of
the competition of winter athletics.
Yet that sense of good cheer was quickly crushed when that year’s
Olympic hosts, that being Russia, boldly decided to invade neighboring
Ukraine. A sovereign nation.
And now once again, the world sits waiting and watching as a hungry ravenous bear
raises a massive deadly paw, poised to strike.
So given our times…be it 2014 or 2021, I offer this previous
post—not much seems to have changed in 7 years…

On March 21, 2014, with the sweeping act of a single pen, Valdimir Putin signed away Crimea, transforming a portion of Ukraine back to what was Soviet Russia. Changing the world map.

In 1938 Adolph Hitler annexed Czechoslovakia, with a similar sweeping act of a pen, known as the Munich Pact.
Changing the face of Europe forever.

This week, Lithuania’s president Dalia Grybauskaite, who is attending a European Council meeting of the heads of state discussing the EU’s response to the situation in Ukraine, told a BBC reporter that we, the world, are sitting on the edge of a new Cold War.

In 1946, Winston Churchill, addressing Westminster College in Missouri, introduced the world to the phrase “iron curtain” just as the Cold War was rearing its ugly head.


(Churchill surveys the ruins of chamber of The House of Commons after
a German assault of the Blitzkrieg.)


(The smiles of Uncle Joe deceive, while a wise Winston is all too keen to true motives.)


(1943 Churchill addresses a joint session of Congress urging the American allies to remain steadfast, staying the course, in their “duty to mankind”)

Within the blink of an eye and the sweeping act of a pen,
the world changed this week.
The world map shifted as a piece of the free world was unimaginably
sucked back in time.
If we, the world, choose to simply remain as mere spectators,
change will continue–history teaches us such.

Winston Churchill was the lone voice of foreboding warning alerting
the World to the true motives of first, Adolph Hitler,
then those of Joseph Stalin.
Each time, the free world chose to ignore his words.
Words which were alarming, scary, troubling.
Who wanted to think of such?
Why should anyone worry,
it’s not like this was happening in the backyard of the US or
that the island nation of Great Britain would be affected.
That was all over there, not here—
these being our thoughts as we lulled ourselves into looking the other way.
Maybe it’s all just bravado and bluff.
We just want to live our lives.
We don’t want to dwell on bad things. . .

But then the bad things happened. . .

Each time, Churchill was correct.
And each time, the world was too slow to react.

I wonder what Churchill would say after this week’s blatant act of
“what’s yours is now mine” by Valdimir Putin?
I somehow think there’s an “I told you so” out there somewhere.

May we be mindful of our continuing duty.

(and on we go…once again…over and over and over…)

Veni, Veni Emanuel–mourning mixed with hope

Veni, veni Emmanuel;
Captivum solve Israel,
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
Nascetur pro te, Israel!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that morns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel


(a woman worships in silence alone, in a small Florentine chapel in Florence, Italy /
Julie Cook / 2007)

(since this past Sunday marked the first Sunday in Advent,
and since we all know that time has not been on my side as of late…
I wanted to share a post regarding my most favorite of hymns—a hymn
that happens to be only sung during the season of Advent…)

Growing up in an Anglican, or more specifically an American Episcopal Church–
with my growing up happening to be taking place within a large
Gothic Cathedral to be more exact,
I was immersed at an early age with beautiful choral music and hymns.

Many of which boast of ancient roots and beginnings.
To hear and to feel the massive and beautiful organ deeply reverberating throughout
the massive stone cavernous church, as it engulfs one’s entire being–
accompanying the voices of the classically trained choir,
echoing and rising out from behind the chancel, was all short of magical.
It was the life and mystical wonder from a time when I was being formed as
a spiritual being.

I am very old fashioned when it comes to hymns and the music associated with
that of a Cathedral.
There is a solemnity and a reverence.
Just merely reading the lyrics of these hymns,
one is struck by the rich poetic history of the stories being told via
the use of ancient song.

There are a handful of hymns, to this day,
which tug upon my heart… bringing tears to my eyes each
opportunity I have to hear them.
Be that either as a member of a Sunday congregation or merely
gently singing to myself as I go about my day–
hymns that move my heart to a place of deep reflection–
an almost mystical reverence.

Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, the Latin version of O come O come, Emmanuel,
is one such hymn.
It is a hymn for the season of Advent, as that is the only time it is sung.

It’s roots are indeed ancient as some scholars date it (the Latin version)
to that of an 8th century Gregorian Chant.
Others date it to either the 12th or 15th century France as a
processional type of hymn.
Even others date it to as late as the 18th century as an antiphon or
type of sung liturgical response.

Sadly, I must confess that I don’t know a thing about music,
as I’ve never been trained or had an opportunity of singing in a choir.
I really can’t sing, but have always wished I could.
So as I explain the power of this particular hymn,
those of you who do understand music, please forgive me for I speak
from my heart about this music and not of classical study.

O come O come Emmanuel is sung slowly…
beginning quite low, being “sung” a cappella.

It can be accompanied by an organ or other single instrument.
Mannheim Steamroller, the wonderfully synthesizing modern music group,
who has produced marvelous holiday music based from many medieval songs,
has a beautiful rendition.

It is very reminiscent of the chants heard from various early Christian monasteries–
which is why I believe it does have it’s roots seeded in that of Gregorian Chants.
The cadence is steady and specific–there is power in the simplistic rhythm
of the 7 groups of stanzas which make up the full body of the text.

I understand the whole joyful noise business,
but I am of the serious school when it comes to worship.

The ancient hymns, that are more typical of a liturgical service,
speak of solemn serious worship–meditative and reflective,
which seems to rise up from one’s very core.

There is not that over the top emotionalism so often associated with
the prayer and praise musical services of today.
In this chant, as well as other similar types of hymns,
there is rather an acute awareness.

Tears will readily cascade down my cheeks even today when
I hear this most ancient of hymns.

Much of the early Church’s music, which has it’s roots in Medieval Europe,
speaks of wondrous mysteries of the world–words which spoke to those
who were apart of those “dark ages,”–as that was indeed a mysterious
time of both space and place.

Those people who were of such a different time than ours, did actually know
the things which we don’t seem to necessarily know today–just as we know things that they did not.

Much of our scientific world has solved many of their mysteries and problems.
While their musical worship was based deeply in a belief and faith that
was undefinable, full of questions, wonderment and awe…much of what we often lack today.

God and the understanding of Him, His Son and that of the Holy Spirit
was unfathomable–
That was something not easily or readily defined or put in a nice little
box of understanding.
Nor is it to this day.

Their music reflected such.
Mystery and awe.

This particular hymn / chant is serious, steady, determined, meaningful and lasting.
It strikes at something very deep.
It doesn’t get one worked up in a sweat induced, clap your hands and shout
to the heavens sort of deal, but rather it is almost spoken—
spoken as in a statement that is meant to make those who hear it contemplate
its very importance.

It is a hymn that is actually mournful and even heavy.
In part why it is one of the first hymns of Advent–a time of great expectation.
And with expectation comes questions.
It is a time of year that we, the faithful, approach with reverence and measure.

So why mournful and heavy you may ask…why now of all times should there be such
a heaviness as we enter the season of Advent only to followed by the joy of Christmas…
both of which, for the Church, marks a time of waiting and
expectant watching…and eventual joy.

For are we not anticipating a birth?
And is not the anticipation of a birth an event of great joy?

A time of joy, yes, and yet at the same moment, with this particular birth,
comes a deep heaviness as it is a birth marked with tremendous hardship–
only to be followed by the fleeing for safety and then again, a time of more waiting.
The very conception, waiting and birth stay constantly in the shadow of one thing
and that one thing is that of Death.

With this birth comes grave consequence for both me and you…
and yet, as with all births, there is tremendous Hope of what will be.

And as with the anticipation of any birth comes a sense of urgency.
The urgency here is of the coming of the one who is referred to as Emmanuel,
as it is He who is come to ransom the captive Israel,
which in turn refers to all of us today.

He is to come and is to set the captives free.
To free you and me from the prison of our sin and of our death.
As we mourn throughout our “exile” or separation from our Father.

The Immanuel, Hebrew עִמָּנוּאֵל, which has been Romanized to Emmanuel–
meaning God with Us, is invoked…rather meaning, He is to come,
coming to us all…but yet is acknowledged as already being here with us–
the Omnipotent one.

We sing to the God who is with us and yet who is to come,
and who is to come quickly.
We are then told to Rejoice,
Rejoice because He will come, as He has come and as He will come again.

On this first Tuesday in this new season of Advent,
may we all be mindful of our continual need for this Holy Coming–
of the One who will set free and make things right—
who will, in turn, free both you and me from the constant presence of
the shadow of Death—-
who will bridge the gap of separation, as this Emmanuel is the only one who
can and will and has done all of this!
So may we Rejoice and Rejoice continually as He shall come to us indeed—
Amen. Amen.

Dark night triggers

“In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”
St. John of the Cross

“The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.”
St. John of the Cross

So a few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted–or maybe that should read,
I needed to revisit a dear old friend…St. John of the Cross.

I felt St. John’s own ‘dark night of the soul’ calling my own lonely
darkened soul.

For a quick bit of background on my ancient friend…according to Wikipedia
John of the Cross (born Juan de Yepes y Álvarez;
Spanish: Juan de la Cruz; 24 June 1542 – 14 December 1591),
venerated as Saint John of the Cross, was a Spanish Catholic priest,
mystic, and a Carmelite friar of converso origin.
He is a major figure of the Counter-Reformation in Spain,
and he is one of the thirty-six Doctors of the Church.

John of the Cross is known especially for his writings.
He was mentored by and corresponded with the older Carmelite, Teresa of Ávila.
Both his poetry and his studies on the development of the soul
are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and among
the greatest works of all Spanish literature.
He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.
In 1926 he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI,
and is commonly known as the “Mystical Doctor”.

And thus I went searching for my own copy of St. John’s book
as I find that sometimes…I simply desperately
need a Christian mystic in the worst of ways!

So I began to search…
Where was it???
Where was my book?

Was it on a bookshelf?
Was it in a box that might have been overlooked in the move?
Was it in this stack or that stack??

I scoured every book I owned.
I scanned every shelf in the house.
I tore every drawer in the house apart.
I rummaged through every box and tub that remains squirreled away in a
new basement.

Had it ended up in the yard sale by accident?
Had it errantly gone to the Goodwill?
Or worse—had it been borrowed???

St. John and his dark night were no where to be found.
All of which seemed to be adding to my own oppressively growing darkness.

However, I actually think that oppressive darkness of mine was probably due
to too much digested news…but I digress.

And thus, I knew my only recourse…order another book!
Of which I did.

When the package arrived in the mail, I was so excited to greet my
dear old friend.

And for those of you who know me, you know that I treasure my books!

I was so excited opening the package and pulling out the small new treasure
tucked neatly within.

Excitedly, I opened the book…
savoring the newness and crispness of each fresh page.

I looked excitedly and expectantly at those first few pages…
all with great anticipation.
And that is when I first saw it…
It was the moment I felt the collision of both then and now.
An odd yet sickening juxtaposition of time and space.

This was when I first saw something I found almost repugnant given who it was that
I was reading—reading the deep personal struggle of one who had the courage
and the gift to write about what we all have each struggled over…
that very depth of wondering…”God are you there? Do you hear me?”

Immediately I stopped dead in my tracks…
did I just catch an odd out of place “warning” of all things????

A trigger warning for St. John of the Cross.
I felt a bit of heat rising up into my cheeks.

This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as
it would if it were written today. Parents night wish to discuss with
their children how views on race have changed before
allowing them to read this classic work.”

“Oh really–does not reflect the same values??”–
I found myself speaking aloud for anyone present to hear.

Despite what one might think, I will opt not to jump on my soapbox today…
for I have done so often here in this little corner of mine in
this blogosphere of ours.

I just fret that when I see what we are allowing in our schools as now,
we feel threatened by a 16th century mystic monk.

It amazes me what we are allowing our children to exposed to and yet
we opt to censor a Christian mystic.

I just don’t seem to know us anymore and that is what i think troubles me most.

“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on,
he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”

St. John of the Cross

“Opening Shots Against the New Paganism”

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.”
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


(political cartoon from the Roanoke Times)

As time allows, I’m still making slight headway in the book
THE LION OF MÜNSTER–The Bishop Who Roared Against The Nazis
by Daniel Utrecht of the Oratory

If curious, here’s a link to the previous post written about this
daring Catholic prelate who took a loud vocal stand defying
Adolph Hitler and his Nazi madness.

THE LION OF MÜNSTER…we need more lions

So yesterday, picking up the book, I read the following passage
from the chapter entitled the same title of this post…
and it was like a sledgehammer hit me on the head—

I’ll let you read it, allowing you to digest this snapshot of
German schools along with The Catholic Church and how each one
clashed with the controlling policies of Nazi
Germany… and I wonder…does it sound familiar??

Bishop von Galen was consecrated and enthroned on October 28,1933.
Just over a week later, On November 6, he wrote a private letter to
the superintendent of schools for Münster.
Schools had received lesson plans “in connection with All Souls’ Day”
to teach “the theory of heredity and ethnology”
in all subjects. The details leave no doubt as to what this phrase meant:
hatred of the Jews.

“Very clearly, the Nazis meant to convince everyone, especially the young
of German racial superiority.

Thus in a letter written to the school superintendent to express his disagreement
to such racial and pagan theories, Bishop August Galen began his open disdain of
Hitler and his New World Order:

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching and
having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their
own likings and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander
into myths (vv.3-4, RSV),
he commented that “a Bishop dare not keep silent if false teachings
and unbelief raise their head, if what is warned of in the letter
to Titus comes to pass:
‘A word of truth is so much more necessary when enemies of religion,
such as we now see, are fighting not only against this or that
teaching of the Church but deny or falsify the very foundations
of religion itself and the most holy mysteries of revelation”‘

“Whoever undermines or destroys man’s faith in God attacks
the very foundations of religion and the whole of culture.”

Critical Race Theory…hummmm

refuge found in a memory (re-run number 3–it’s that good)

“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 St.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.

Past and Future (tweaked repeat 2015)

“…It’s got me hoping for the future
And worrying about the past
‘Cause I’ve seen some hot hot blazes
Come down to smoke and ash…”

a few lines from Joni Mitchell – Help Me


(Thistles at the The Cliffs of Moher/ Co. Clare, Ireland/ Julie Cook/ 2015)

Has the past left you worrying about the future?
Will the future find you wistful for the past?
Does the present find you hopeful about much of anything?

Have you turned on the television, read the paper, seen the stories?

Terror attacks on a beach.
Heads chopped off like weeds.
Migrants flooding across both land and sea.
Legislation turns topsy turvy.
Killings where we worship.
Good guys now set bad guys free.
Sharks lurk hungry in the surf,
While flags flap in the wind.

A culture sees what was and decides it’s now time to
strike it all from sight, from history, from acknowledgment—
Seek and destroy quickly lest anyone notice.

And so hysteria cries foul as the masses must now acquiesce.

Wipe it clean with the sweep of a pen and that’ll make it right.
But do it quick and don’t dare pause to consider the bigger picture.
Just erase it from view and that’ll be the end of it…for now.

Rewrite what was and that’ll keep them happy, quiet, confused…
or out of sight and out of mind as we lose our minds.

Is straddling that fence getting uncomfortable?
Is the grey any more clear?
Upside down for one is now right side up for many.
Thought you knew which way to go? Think again.

Masked and muzzled.
Vaccinated with a passport.
When rainbows once came after the storms and
Hope grew out of the past…

History once directed our future…
and we thought everything simply made more sense…

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal
that has come on you to test you,
as though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ,
so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ,
you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any
other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.
However, if you suffer as a Christian,
do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household;
and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who
do not obey the gospel of God?
And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will sh
ould commit themselves
to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
1 Peter 4: 12-19

Memento mori

“Begin now to be what you will be hereafter.”
St Jerome

Memento mori (Latin for ‘remember that you [have to] die’)
wikipedia


(painting of St. Jerome by Caravaggio (1605-6))

Yesterday I caught a great little write up regarding St. Jerome.
September 30th, yesterday, in the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches,
was the Feast Day of St. Jerome—
or more succinctly, the day The Church recognizes the life and legacy
of one of the great early fathers of the Christian Church.

In a quick nutshell:

Jerome, also known as Jerome of Stridon, was a Latin priest, confessor,
theologian, and historian; he is commonly known as Saint Jerome.

Jerome was born (c. 342–347) at Stridon, a village near Emona on the border
of Dalmatia and Pannonia.
He is best known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin
(the translation that became known as the Vulgate)
and his commentaries on the whole Bible.
Jerome attempted to create a translation of the Old Testament
based on a Hebrew version, rather than the Septuagint,
as Latin Bible translations used to be performed before him.
His list of writings is extensive, and beside his Biblical works,
he wrote polemical and historical essays, always from a theologian’s perspective.

Jerome was known for his teachings on Christian moral life,
especially to those living in cosmopolitan centers such as Rome.
In many cases, he focused his attention on the lives of women
and identified how a woman devoted to Jesus should live her life.
This focus stemmed from his close patron relationships with several prominent
female ascetics who were members of affluent senatorial families.

Thanks to Jerome’s contribution to Christianity,
he is recognised as a saint and Doctor of the Church by the Catholic Church,
the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion.
His feast day is 30 September.

(Wikipedia)

Well, from his biography, we can see that Jerome was probably one of the
first pro-women fellows for his time.
Imagine that….
And happily Jerome is the one who gave us the Latin Bible…

So whereas we can understand why Jerome is always painted or drawn as
sitting at some sort of desk…for he was a translator and scholar…

But also within those images Jerome is always depicted with a skull
either on his desk or in his hands.

And this is where the write up comes into play.

The write up comes from a Catholic Company’s Get Fed segment.
This fed segment was in honor of St. Jerome and focused in on the reason as
to why there is always a skull sitting in close proximity to the
studious saint while he labors writing.

Now we come to the skull. Not something we would normally put on our desks.

In portrayals of St. Jerome and other saints, the skull symbolizes our mortality.
Memento mori —the memory of death—is something we as Christians should
always have in our minds, though not for the sake of meaningless morbidity.

Instead, the recollection of death reminds us to stay
detached from worldly things and to be always prepared to die,
since we will die eventually, and sometimes unexpectedly.
When our own death does come, may the Lord find us ready!

For Jerome and other ascetics, the skull is particularly suitable.
They deliberately separated themselves from the world and embraced
a life of prayer and penance in order to better attach themselves
to spiritual things and to prepare themselves for the next world.

The skull could also indicate St. Jerome’s spirit of penance
for the sins of his youth.
While studying in Rome as a young man, he fell into the immorality
common among his confrères.
Spurred by a guilty conscience and frequent visits to the Roman catacombs,
he converted and was baptized in the 360s.

Memento mori, detachment, penance—a skull in your study seems a little
more reasonable now, doesn’t it?’

And it was the notion that “the memory of death—is something we as Christians should
always have in our minds, though not for the sake of meaningless morbidity.”

Instead, the recollection of death reminds us to stay
detached from worldly things and to be always prepared to die,
since we will die eventually, and sometimes unexpectedly.
When our own death does come, may the Lord find us ready!

And it is this single thought, that of detachment, that is sadly the furtherest
notion from the minds of oh so many.

Detachment from the world.

How can any of us be detached when our world is more alluring than ever…
A sparkly shiny temptation vying for our very souls.

Our governments vie for our total dependance.
Big tech vies for our total allegiance.
Big merchandizing vies for any and all income.

It will only be in detachment that we can truly find our our salvation.

May the Lord find us ready indeed…
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you
free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.
By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,
he condemned sin in the flesh,
in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,
who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit

Romans 8:1-5