pierced heart

“As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster,
so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the
tortures of the martyrs.”

St. Basil


(detail of Mary at the deposition of Christ by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden circa 1435)


“In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and all must suffer,
by enduring the evils that take place every day.
But how much greater would be the misery of life,
if we also knew the future evils that await us!
‘Unfortunate, indeed, would be the situation of someone who knows the future’,
says the pagan Roman philosopher Seneca; ‘he would have to suffer everything by anticipation’.
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials that await us so that,
whatever they may be, we may endure them only once.
But he didn’t show Mary this compassion.
God willed her to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like his Son.
So she always had to see before her eyes, and continually to suffer,
all the torments that awaited her. And these were the sufferings of the passion
and death of her beloved Jesus.
For in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the divine Child in his arms,
foretold to her that her Son would be a sign for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. …
Jesus our King and his most holy mother didn’t refuse,
for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives.
So it’s reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 222
An Excerpt From
A Year with Mary

I’m still making my way slowly through the book The Divine Plan by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando.
A book based on a seemingly oddly matched friendship and the ‘dramatic end
of the Cold War.’
The book is about the relationship between the Catholic Pope, John Paul II,
and the Protestant American President, Ronald Reagan and of their individual
journies toward that friendship that changed the course of history.

I’ve previously read many books recounting the work of this dynamic duo and the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR…books that recount the seemingly odd match Fate found in
two vastly different world stage players.
But this book’s authors, as do I, believe that this particular match was a match set in
motion long before there was ever an iron curtain,
a relationship that was formed by something much greater than mere Fate.

Hence the title, the Divine Plan…

But today’s post is not so much about that particular Divine match…
that post will come later…
Today’s post, rather, is actually a post about someone else whose life was
Divinely tapped to play a pivotal role in our collective human history.

A post inspired in part by something that I actually read in the book regarding
Pope John Paul II when he was but a young boy growing up in Poland and known
simply as Karol Wojtyla.
It’s what I read which actually lead me to today’s waxing and waning.

When the Pope, or rather young Karol, was 8 years old, his mother died after an
acute urinary tract infection, leaving an impressionable young boy to be raised
by his former military father.

Blessedly the elder Wojtyla was a very devout Christian man and was determined to raise his
young son under the direction of the Chruch.
And so he took a bereft young boy to one of the many shrines to the Madonna in order to pray
and to explain to Karol that the woman he saw in the shrine, that being Mary the mother
of Jesus, was to now be the mother to whom he must turn.

If you’ve ever read anything about Pope John Paul II then you know that he had a very
deep and very real relationship with the Virgin Mary—it is a relationship that reached back
to the void in the heart of an eight-year-old boy who had lost his earthly mother.
It was a relationship that would serve the Pope well throughout his entire life.

So it was this little tale about Mary that got me thinking.

Being raised as a Protestant, we don’t always fully grasp the relationship our Catholic kin
have with Mary.
In fact, we often look at the relationship sideways as if it were some sort of
obsessive oddity.

We scorn them for it.
We ridicule them over it.
And we’ve even accused them of idolatry over it.
And I think we have been unfair.

But this post is not about all of that, not today.

However, this post, on the other hand, is about my thoughts about the mother of Jesus,
the mother of our very own Lord and Savior.

I think history, theology, Christianity often gives Mary a bum rap.
And if it’s not a bum rap, it simply opts to gloss over her.

We tend to put her over in a corner someplace and move on.

And yes that is the role she readily accepted.

We think of her on or around Christmas eve as we recall her wandering the backroads of
a desert night, riding on the back of a donkey as she and her young husband look
for shelter as she is about to give birth…
and then, after Christmas, we don’t think much else about her, ever.

Many mothers accept such a role.
One of obscurity and the role of simply being put in a corner someplace as their child or
children shine in the limelight of whatever direction life should take them.

It’s kind of what mothers do.

And thus I write this post today in part because I have been, as I am currently,
a mother.
And in turn, I kind of get what it means being both mother and grandmother and what
that entails on an earthly level.

I get that it can be a deeply gut-wrenching, emotionally charged roller coaster
ride of life.
I get that it can be both physically, emotionally and spiritually exacting.

Just as it can literally break one’s heart.

Think of those women who have lost their children to illness, accidents, suicides or even
lost to war.

But for Mary, let’s imagine a woman who’s more than just a mother of a son,
but rather a woman who must also look to that son as an extension of her own God.

Who amongst us wouldn’t find that dichotomy utterly impossible to comprehend?

Your son being also your God…

This being the baby you carried for nine months.
Who you delivered through in pain and duress…
The baby who you had to flee town over.
The baby who kings came to visit.

Yet the same baby whose dirty diapers you changed.
Whose spit-up you cleaned up.
Whose hands you popped as they reached for danger…
The toddler whose hand you held when he took his first steps;
The child whose fever you prayed would go away; whose broken bones you willed to heal…
Whose broken heart, you wept over…

And then this same child grew to be an extension of the same God who had come to you
on a lonely night, telling you that He was taxing you with a seemingly impossible task.

Imagine the anguish you felt when, on a family trip, you thought this child of yours was
in the care of relatives…until you realized that no one really knew where he was.

This only child of yours was lost.

It had been three days when you realized he wasn’t with your family.
You had assumed and taken for granted and now he was gone.
How could you have let this happen?
You mentally begin to beat yourself to death.

You now realize he was left behind, alone, in an unforgiving town.
Who had him?
What had become of him?
Was he frightened?
Was he alone?
Was he hungry?
Was he dead?
Was he gone forever?

After frantically retracing your steps, desperately searching both day and night,
calling out his name, you miraculously finally find him.

He is at the Temple.

Your knee jerk reaction is to both cry out while taking him in your arms and then to simultaneously
yank him up by his ear, dragging him off back home all the while fussing as to the
sickening worry he has caused you.

And yet he meets you as if you’ve never met before.
You eerily sense an odd detachment.
He is subdued, calm, even passive…
An old soul now found in what should be a youthful, boisterous child.

Your brain struggles to make sense of what greets your eyes.
His now otherworldliness demeanor is puzzled by your own agitated level of angst.

He matter-of-factly tells you that he’d been in “his Father’s house,
about His father’s business. A simple matter of fact that should not have
you surprised or shocked.
It was as if he felt you should have known this all along.

You let go of him and stare while you try to wrap both your head and heart around what
you’re hearing.
Your anger and fear dissolve into resignation when you painfully recall the words
spoken to you years earlier…
“your heart, like his, will be pierced”…

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I was keenly stuck by one particularly
heartwrenching scene.

It was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets as
Mary ran alongside, pushing through the gathering crowd, watching from a distance
as tears filled her eyes while fear filled her heart.

Mother’s are prewired to feel the need, the urge, the necessity to race in when their
children are hurting.
Mothers desperately try, no matter the age of their children, to take them in their arms…
to caress their fevered brow, to kiss away their salty tears to rock their pain-filled body…

In the movie we see Mary watching as Jesus stumbles under the weight of the
cross–this after being brutally beaten.
She particularly gasps for air…willing her son to breathe in as well.
Her mind races back in time to when, as a young boy, Jesus falls and skins his knees.
He cries as the younger mother Mary, races to pick up her son and soothe his pain.

And just as suddenly, Mary is rudely jolted and catapulted mercilessly back to the current moment,
painfully realizing that she is now helpless to be there for her son.

Her heart is pierced.
As it will be pierced again as the nails are hammered into his flesh and he is hoisted
up in the air…left to die a slow and excruciating death of suffocation
while bones are pulled and dislocated.

And so yes, my thoughts today are on Mary.
A woman who taught us what it is to be a loving mother as well as an obedient woman…
obedient unto the piercing of a heart.

I would dare say that we still have so much to learn from her example.

Obedience seems to have very little in common with such things as abortions,
hashtags and feminism.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 ESV

loss in blogging

“Why, then, do I set before You an ordered account of so many things?
it’s certainly not through me that You know them.
But I’m stirring up love for You in myself and in those who read this so that we may all say,
great is the Lord and highly worthy to be praised.
I tell my story for love of Your love.”

St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions


(Robert Cottrill)

I often find myself wondering why it is people feel compelled to “blog.”

Why is it that ordinary people create a personal space,
out there someplace on the interweb, and then proceed to spend precious time writing
about whatever it is they opt to write about?

It really is a rather odd phenomenon.

My own personal story started with retirement.

I started my blog a little over 6 years ago, almost 9 months after I retired from a
lifetime of teaching high school.
I thought a blog made sense because I still had things I wanted to share, or more aptly,
things I wanted to teach.

And so that’s what I’ve decided… there is a wealth of people out there who want to share
and in essence, teach.
They want to teach about travel, food, cooking, health, books, music, art, politics, faith, religion,
or the lack thereof, photography, sports… you name it.

People feel compelled to share and “teach”

When I first started this blog, I touched on a bit of all of that.
I loved to travel.
I was a teacher.
I was an art teacher.
I was adopted.
I loved to cook.
I was a wife, a mother, a Christian…on and on it went.
Obviously a wealth of topics to share and teach about.

On one of my early posts, I wrote something about one of my most favorite hymns,
Veni Veni Emmanuel—or—Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel.
It is a typical hymn sung during the season of Advent.
I always preferred its original Latin context.

After that posting, out of the blue, I had a gentleman from Saskatchewan, Canada
comment about my post regarding the hymn.
It seems he was a retired minister who was in the process of building a blog about hymns
and their history.

He was a living wealth of knowledge.

His name was Robert Cottrill.

I thanked Robert for his comment and from that, a lovely friendship developed.

Robert would touch base, ever so often, via email—informing me about what he and
his wife were up to.
He shared about his son and his son’s family living in Mexico as missionaries and of
his pride in his young granddaughter being a budding artist. And he always included
photographs from around his home.
Snow when we were settling into heat, blooms when we were beginning our decline.

Robert usually posted a new hymn, along with its history, each Monday and I, in turn,
would read and click like to his post.

There wasn’t a great deal of generated likes on the history of hymns so Robert
was always thankful for my interest.

He emailed a few months back that he and his wife had moved from their home to
an assisted living community there in Saskatchewan.
He was upbeat and positive as he shared pictures of their new digs.

I noticed that for the past couple of Mondays, Robert hadn’t posted anything.
And then this morning, out of the blue, his site popped up on my reader with a disclaimer.

Robert’s son reported that after a short illness, his dad had gone home to be with the Lord.

Just like that, Robert was gone.

There has been what seems to be a great deal of loss in the blogging family as of late, and
Robert’s death is just one more peg in the loss column.

His son notes that the blog will be maintained as it offers a wealth of history for
any and all who have an interest in the development and history of Christian hymns.

The blogging world will miss Robert.
May his light, the light he reflected from his love of Jesus,
continue to shine on generations to come

https://wordwisehymns.com

Veni, Veni Emmanuel

Veni, veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.
R: Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

Veni, O Sapientia,
quae hic disponis omnia,
veni, viam prudentiae
ut doceas et gloriae.

Veni, veni, Adonai,
qui populo in Sinai
legem dedisti vertice
in maiestate gloriae.

Veni, O Iesse virgula,
ex hostis tuos ungula,
de specu tuos tartari
educ et antro barathri.

Veni, Clavis Davidica,
regna reclude caelica,
fac iter tutum superum,
et claude vias inferum.

Veni, veni O Oriens,
solare nos adveniens,
noctis depelle nebulas,
dirasque mortis tenebras.

Veni, veni, Rex Gentium,
veni, Redemptor omnium,
ut salvas tuos famulos
peccati sibi conscios.

9/11

“I still have the shoes I wore to work that day.
The soles are melted and they’re caked in ash.
I keep them in a shoebox with the word “deliverance” written all around it.
They’re kind of like my ark, a reminder of God’s presence and the life I owe to him.”

Stanley Praimnath, 9/11 survivor

It was a day ripe with a cloudless clear blue sky.

The kind of deep blue sky that beckons one to look up..
to look up and far beyond…

It was the second week of September.
Labor day was behind us and fall-break was over a month away.

But there was something about this day, this bright blue day,
that made me stop and pause.

Since it was just before the end of my planning period, I had walked over to our vocational
wing in order to pick up some copies I had run off for my upcoming class.

On the walk over between the two buildings, I caught myself looking up.
Looking up and noting the brilliance of such a beautiful cloudless blue sky.

It was still very summer-like in Georgia despite the calendar reading September 11th…

I walked back into the main building just as the bell was ringing for class change.
I reached the door to my classroom in order to monitor the hallway as the kids
traversed up and down, in and out.

One of my colleagues, a coach who also taught Social Studies down the hall from me,
suddenly came sprinting by my room stopping long enough to tell me to turn on my
television because “we were under attack!”

I can remember asking him to repeat what he had just told me.

“We’re under attack, they’ve attacked New York and now they’re attacking Washington!”

“WHAT?!”

As the kids were filtering in, I ran to turn on the television because
I really wasn’t comprehending what I had just heard.

As everyone began to trickle in, we gathered around the wall-mounted television
just staring at the images taking place in New York.

I remember hearing one of my girls announcing to no one in particular that her dad was
currently on a plane to New York…she needed to call her mom.

Needless to say, the day’s work and lessons were long over before they even began
as we were now in the midst of a tragic moment of our Nation’s indelible history.

That cloudless blue September sky changed our lives that day.
It changed our entire world, forever.

My colleague and friend who had stopped to tell me the tragic news would not live to see
the end of the next school year.
He was unaware that on that most fateful of days, the cancer that was multiplying inside of him,
was insidiously at work.

So much was changing, so much had changed.

It seems almost surreal, but today we have generations who were born well after
the fateful day of change…they are actually unaware that we were, that we are,
now different.

New York
Washington
Pennsylvania

Planes
Buildings
Fields

Simple names of states.
Simple names of things and places.

Yet all these years later, nothing remains simple about them.

Nearly 3000 lives were lost that day.
Many more lives were damaged.

Since that fateful day, many more lives have been lost due to the caustic air
inhaled as responders toiled to find the ashes of remains hiding in between the ashes of debris.

And then a war ensued.

And thus more lives have been lost and damaged.

Yet some people have the audacity to claim that the terribleness of that day was simply our own fault.
Some people think it really matters not that we should even take pause to remember.
Some people think it’s no big deal.

And yet on that day, lives ended.
Dreams were broken.
Hearts were broken.
Lives changed.
We changed.

And so yes, it is a big deal.
It was a horrific day of what seemed like a day of unending change…
and thus, in turn, we are now bound to forever remember…

Because the important thing today is that we must never forget why we have changed
and why all of those broken and shattered lives still matter.

Because if we do forget…if we allow our memories to fade…
then the pain, the suffering, the hurt that was felt by so many,
can and will actually return…

Such sweeping and tremendous pain mustn’t be allowed to ever return…

And so on this 11th day of September, we collectively gather to remember…
as we continue with our healing…
vowing that this will never happen again.

Our country is strong:
These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat.
But they have failed. Our country is strong.
A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.”

Former President George W. Bush on Sept. 11, 2001.

Asking forgiveness, it’s never too late nor futile…Poland is such an example

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has
forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

C.S. Lewis

“Freedom is the capacity to assert one’s will against the willfulness of others.”
William of Ockham


Over the past weekend, I caught a lovely news story.

In between the nerve-racking updates about Hurricane Dorian here on the east coast—
the hurricane that just doesn’t want to go away—
to the sorrowful story coming out from the west coast about the tragic boat fire in the
Pacific claiming nearly 40 lives, to another sorrowful mass shooting…
finding a news story that read of hope, if not simply civility, was greatly welcomed.

Below, I’ve simply cut and paste the AT&T news story.
My take on it all follows…

Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has asked for Poland’s forgiveness
80 years after the start of World War II.

“I stand before you, those who have survived, before the descendants of the victims,
the old and the young residents of Wielun, I am humbled and grateful,”
Steinmeier said during a ceremony in the Polish city of Wielun,
the site of one of the first Nazi bombings in the country on September 1, 1939.

“I bow to the victims of the attack in Wielun,
I pay tribute to the Polish victims of German tyranny and I ask for forgiveness,” he said.

Nearly 6 million Poles died during World War II,
which remains the bloodiest conflict in history.

More than 50 million people were killed in the conflict overall,
including some 6 million Jews, half of whom were Polish.

At a ceremony in Warsaw, Polish President Andrzej Duda spoke of the atrocious history
suffered by Polish people during WWII and the “trauma” that they still carry today.

The Polish President remembered the fallen and thanked the soldiers
“who fought and sacrificed their lives for freedom.”

In an address on Sunday morning in Westerplatte, Gdansk,
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke of the huge material, spiritual, economic
and financial losses Poland suffered in the war.

“We have to talk, we have to remember about the losses we suffered,
we have to demand the truth, we have to demand compensation,” Morawiecki said.

War reparations remain a contentious issue in Poland —
since coming to power in 2015, the Law and Justice (PiS)
party has revived calls for compensation, Reuters reported.
Germany made the last payment on reparations in 2010.

US Vice President Mike Pence spoke in Warsaw on Sunday at the commemoration ceremony
to mark the 80th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland.
Two days later, on September 3, Britain and France declared war on Germany.

“During the five decades of untold suffering and death that followed the outbreak of World War II,
the Polish people never lost hope, they never gave in to despair,
and they never let go of their thousand-year history,” Pence said.

“In the years that followed this day 80 years ago,
their light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it,” he added.

https://start.att.net/news/read/article/cnn-german_president_asks_for_forgiveness_80_years_aft-cnn2/category/news

The nation of Poland has a great deal to teach the rest of the world about perseverance
as well as the ability to forgive…just as it seems a German leader has a few things to teach
all of us about the never-ending ability to ask one who has been tragically wronged, to forgive.

But you’d need to understand a bit of history first to truly appreciate this story.

I’ve touched on Poland and her history before in a few previous posts,
but it seems the importance of revisiting has resurfaced.

Poland sits in a pivotal location geographically.

According to the renowned author and biographer, George Weigel, in his international bestseller
Witness to Hope / The biography of Pope John Paul II,
Poland’s location at the crossroads of Latin and Byzantine Europe, it’s geography,
and its repeated experience of invasion, occupation, resistance and
resurrection gave rise to a distinctive Polish way of looking at history.

Poland sits in the middle of Europe—in between the majority of Europe to the west
and Russia along with her broken minions to the east.
Poland has, down through the centuries, proven to be a historical bulwark.

She has literally been the defending line between tyranny and democracy for centuries.
And she has never complained about her pivotal lot.

I am reminded of the verse from the book of Luke:
“From everyone who has been given much,
much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much,
much more will be asked.

Luke 12:48

“Polish history is generally taken to begin with the baptism
of the Piast prince Mieszko I in 966. Mieszko’s choice for Latin Christianity
over Eastern Christianity, which had been formed in the orbit of Constantinople,
decisively shaped Poland’s history for more than a millennium.”

By Mieszko’s choice, a Slavic land and people would be oriented toward the Latin West.

These Roman Slavs were a bridge between Europe’s two cultural halves;
they could “speak the language of two spiritual worlds.”
Poland’s Catholicity and its geographic location led to a certain catholicity
of cultural temperament.

Tartars and Swedes had laid waste [to] the country; the Austrians had stripped the
Old Town of its fortifications and walls (Kraków); occupying powers of varying degrees of
ferocity had displaced the kings and queens of Poland from the royal castle,
atop the “Polish Zion.”
Now, on September 1, 1939, Wawel Cathedral was about to experience something beyond the
imagining of those who had worshiped beneath its gothic vault for centuries.

Poland, as a nation, has been erased numerous times from the known geographical
maps of human history.
Meaning, she was eliminated as a nation…
absorbed by her greedy neighbors on more than one occasion…
actually being erased for over 100 years from any historical map.
Yet the Polish people and their spirit as a unified people, has always remained.

Weigel notes “Poland is not always appreciated this way.
Indeed, the suspicion seems widespread that the Poles
must, for some reason or other, deserve their bad luck.
Yet Poland’s curse is neither in the stars nor in the Polish people.
It’s the neighborhood.”

“For more than a thousand years, the Polish people and their state have inhabited an enormous
flat plain bounded by large, aggressive, materially superior neighbors.
…The Germans were always to the west, and almost always aggressive.
German-Polish enmity followed and peaked in World War II,
when the Nazis sought to eradicate the Polish nation from history.

World War II, which the Poles sometimes describe as the war they lost twice,
was an unmitigated disaster for Poland.
Six million of its citizens our of a prewar population of 35 million,
were killed in combat or murdered– a mortality rate of eighteen percent.
The nation was physically decimated.
Poland became the site of the greatest slaughters of the Holocaust.
And, at the end, another totalitarian power seized control of Poland’s political future.

Karol Wojtyla, the future pope, would live under and eventually be formed by
these two occupying and oppressive regimes–two regimes that would each lend an
unknown hand to the building of a formidable world leader and in turn their own
nemesis and foe.

According to Wikipedia:
On 16 October 1978, Poland experienced what many Poles literally believed to
be a miracle.
Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the archbishop of Kraków, was elected pope at the Vatican,
taking the name John Paul II. The election of a Polish Pope had an electrifying
effect on what was at that time one of the last idiosyncratically
Catholic countries in Europe.
When John Paul toured Poland in June 1979, half a million people came to welcome
him in Warsaw; in the next eight days, about ten million Poles attended the
many outdoor masses he celebrated.
John Paul clearly became the most important person in Poland, leaving the regime
not so much opposed as ignored. Rather than calling for rebellion,
John Paul encouraged the creation of an “alternative Poland” of social
institutions independent of the government, so that when the next crisis came,
the nation would present a united front.

On 27 October 1991, the first (since the 1920s) entirely free Polish parliamentary
election took place.
This completed Poland’s transition from a communist party rule to a Western-style liberal
democratic political system.

And so despite the centuries of war, siege, occupation, death, murder, and even obliteration…
Poland has remained…just as she continues to remain.

And so we are fortunate in that we, as a world, may watch as a one-time warring
and occupying nation sincerely offers a very humble and visceral apology.
Words that cannot erase the pain, suffering, loss or unfathomable human tragedy…
but words offered by a nation who can admit to the sins of her past…
which in turn now offer hope to a renewed future for us all.

Forgiveness, Hope and Healing—all offered to a very troubled and very needing world…

We continue to hold on to Hope…

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander,
along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32

apostello

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him,
but because he loves what is behind him.”

G.K. Chesterton


(the Mayor offers her blessings to St Francis / Julie Cook / 2019)

According to Wikipedia, the word apostolate means:
An apostolate is a Christian organization “directed to serving and evangelizing the world”,
most often associated with the Anglican Communion or the Catholic Church. …
The word apostolate comes from the Greek word apostello,
which means to “send forth” or “to dispatch”.

And isn’t that pretty much a summation of what is known as the Great Commission within
the Christian faith?

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Then Jesus came to them and said,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20

So I recently read about an interesting little book that’s really not very new…the copyright
date is 1946.
It is the book that was on the bedside table of Pope Pius X…
and so intrigued as to what a pope found to be essential to the Faith,
I naturally thought I too needed to have my own copy.

And whereas this book was written by a Catholic Monk who was born in 1858 and died in 1935,
the words offered are eerily very current and timely…
Or perhaps there’s nothing eery about it at all because such words are more or less timeless.

Not overly familiar with the political history of France during the era of her Prime Minister
Georges Eugène Benjamin Clemenceau, I did not realize that he was very much an enemy of
the Catholic Chruch as well as an active anti-semite.

He considered himself to be a Radical Socialist.
He had no use for religion– that being not only The Catholic Chruch, but any church, as he was an avowed and very vocal atheist.
His feelings about the Jews were equally as venomous.

At one point, he mounted an all-out crackdown on the Catholic Chruch.

Some called it an outright persecution.

Yet French History is not totally unflattering of Clemenceau as he did lead France
strongly when she most needed strong leadership during the throes of WWI.
He even survived an assassination attempt by an anarchist during the midst
of the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1901 when Clemenceau was speaking very vocally against the Chruch and vowed
to close down as many of the monasteries and various Church Orders that he could,
a certain Catholic Cistercian monk was nominated to meet personally with the president
in order to ‘defend the faith.’

The unsympathetic atheist president admitted that he found this particular monk to be sincere,
fearless and of high integrity.
Clemenceau spared the monk’s Order but other Orders were not so fortunate.

The monk was Jean-Baptiste Chautard.

This particular monk was himself, not always one who was of religious thinking.
He had actually attended college to study economics and finance—
religion was far removed from his radar.

Chautard began attending a study group for Catholic students…an organization that would
be instrumental in his “conversion”—
a conversion from being Catholic in name only to that of practicing devout Chrisitan Catholic.

He later noted that this religious organization was…
“more than a tame and sheepish attempt to rival the attractions of the dance hall and the
cafe by vainly trying to beat them at their own game of pleasing and entertaining human nature.
There was something more, something that appealed to a much deeper and more urgent and more
vital necessity: faith, supernatural charity,
a deep and simple and unbreakable solidarity among souls united, as he was to discover, in Christ.
And he began to taste “that peace which the world cannot give.”

I am reminded of the recent posting by Bishop Gavin Ashenden regarding the frivolity of various
Anglican churches and their sad attempts of drawing in attendants by offering putt-putt golf
down the center aisle of the sanctuary or placing a Helter Skelter amusement ride in close proximity
to the altar.
A feeble attempt hoping to draw in and amuse the masses rather than “feed” their souls.

Dom Chautard story continues…

In the persecution of the Chruch in France, under Clemenceau, in the early days of the century,
Dom Chautard’s keen eye had discovered a glaring inconsistency in the reaction of a certain
type of Catholic leader.
He observed that some priests, some organizers of Catholic Action,
imagined that they could fight political enemies with more or less worldly and politically weapons,

Oh how this sounds like our sad state of affairs today.
The now misguided global Christian Chruch, not merely the Catholic faith, wrestling with and fighting
her political enemies with worldly weapons rather than with her true spiritual armor.

In defending the Chruch against state persecution,
they thought the most important thing was to gain and preserve political and social power,
they believed that these gains could best be consolidated by a great material expansion.
They expended all their efforts in running newspapers, holding conventions,
publishing pamphlets and magazines, and above all,
they measured the growth of Catholic life by the number of new school buildings,
new Church buildings, new hospital buildings, new orphanages, new social centers.
…As if the Church of God were built exclusively of bricks and mortar!

Such apostles tended to congratulate themselves when they had raised large sums of money,
or when their Churches were filled with great throngs of people,
without reference to what might be going on in the souls of all those who were present
It (the Church) is built of saints.
And saints are made only by the grace of God and the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost,
not by speeches and publicity and campaigns, which are all dommed to sterility without the
essential means of Prayer and mortification.

…the only remedy was a return to the fundamentals of Christian Doctrine in
all the power and beauty of their traditional presentation.

excerpts from The Soul of the Apostolate
Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O.

We’ve been hearing so much as of late, have we not, about those spiritual comets that were
once so bright… blazing comets that have all but quickly burned out as they so publicly
denounce their once staunch faith.

We’ve been reading so much about churches that are prostituting themselves all in the name of numbers
and that of the feel-good religion of a progressive post-Christian church.

We find ourselves in a bit of a panic as we think that we are undergoing some new
and strange predicament…but in reality, our predicament is nearly as old as time itself.

So yes, the only remedy, the only solution, is that we return to the fundamentals of our
Christine doctrine.

We are called to dispatch the Word.
It would behoove us to be mindful that our time is running out…

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness
to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Matthew 24:14

ora pro nobis—pray for us

So the religious soul finds in the heart of Jesus a secure refuge against
the wiles and attacks of Satan, and a delightful retreat.
But we must not rest merely at the entrance to the hole in the rock,
we must penetrate its depths. At the mouth of the deep hollow, at the mouth
of the wound in his side we shall, indeed, find the precious blood which
has redeemed us.
This blood pleads for us and demands mercy for us.
But the religious soul must not stay at the entrance.
When she has heard, and understood, the voice of the divine blood,
she must hasten to the very source from which it springs,
into the very innermost sanctuary of the heart of Jesus.
There she will find light, peace, and ineffable consolations.

St. Anthony of Padua


(a mysterious painting of St. Anthony and the Christ child)

The saints pick us, we don’t pick them…
Or so that’s what they say.

But firstly, let’s remember, this is going to be a story about a painting…
nothing more, nothing less…

For starters, I’ve stated this before…I am not a Catholic—rather I was raised in the
fold of the Episcopal Chruch…that of the Anglican Communion.

I am however familiar with the family of Saints.
A seemingly Catholic notion.
Yet also very Anglican…

Also, I love my traditional Anglican hymns…
One little hymn, in particular, I Sing a Song of the Saints of God
I loved singing that hymn when I was a little girl attending children’s chapel.

Saints, in my youthful mind, were individuals who loomed large in our Christian Faith.
Brave, and even stoically defiant, in the face of persecution.
Some had been ardent unbelievers or dastardly sinners who had, for whatever reason,
come face to face with the God of all Creation and in turn, fell into His redeeming arms,
never looking back but rather becoming ardent defenders of the faith.

It was always the 3rd stanza of the hymn that offered me a sense of hopefulness that I too
could one day be counted among that same fold of brave Christian individuals.

they lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still;
the world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
for the saints of God are just folk like me,
and I mean to be one too.

I also know that when one is confirmed within the Catholic Chruch,
they are encouraged to choose a patron saint.
A heavenly individual who will walk alongside them as they navigate the world…
all the while the saint helps to provide inspiration along with a more spiritual focus.

The old saying goes, ‘you don’t pick the saint, the saint picks you.’

And I must admit, I actually agree.

We Protestants haven’t always quite understood the relationship our Catholic kin
have had with the Saints, but I’m one who has always appreciated that little relationship.
And that’s in part due to my Anglican upbringing.
As well as spending years in college studying religious Renaissance Art.

So no, it’s not an attempt at replacing Jesus as the focus of our prayers, praise,
and adoration but rather it’s more like having a few more folks in one’s corner
it’s just that those folks are a bit more heavenly than earthly.

Think of it like having a close friend who joins you in prayer and
who walks along by your side…it’s just that they’re there in spirit rather than
in the flesh.

But this isn’t a post about the virtues or vices of Saints in our lives…
rather this is a post about a painting…a painting of a saint…

Well, sort of…

The saint in question is Saint Anthony of Padua, otherwise known as
Santo Antonio di Padova.

Anthony was born Fernando Martins de Bulhões in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195.
Eventually, he became a Franciscan Friar, making Padua (Padova), Itlay home.

He is known as the patron saint of lost things.

But again, this is not necessarily to be a biographical post, just a post
about a painting…

I have had a long connection with St Anthony—one I’ve written about before.
But this particular tale is unlike our other run-ins and lingering relationship.

So just know, Santo Antonio and I have a history.
But this story isn’t about that story, but rather about a painting.

Several months ago, I took a couple of my grandmother’s old lamps over to Atlanta
in order to have then rewired.

They are lovely antique lamps that have just sat, never being used due to ancient
and most dangerous wiring.
My grandfather, who was an electrical engineer would, as a hobby, often turn the
antiques figurines or urns that my grandmother would bring home into lamps…
and so some of these lamps haven’t been updated in decades.
So I figured it was high time I got them up to speed so I could actually use them.

A friend of mine recommended a nice little lamp shop located over in Midtown…
and it just so happened that the shop also had a hodgepodge smattering of antiques.

I made several trips back and forth as I also decided that I needed to update a few lampshades.
Over the course of my visits, the owners and I struck up a nice little friendship.

We knew mutual old Atlanta stories and they knew some customers from Carrollton who
I knew.
Life can be delightfully small like that.

During one of my many trips over, one day my eye suddenly gravitated to an old beat-up
unframed oil painting perched all alone over in a forgotten corner.

The painting was ripped, chipped and cracking as the canvas was coming
untacked from the wooden base frame.
It was old, it was sad and it was unloved…
and it oddly drew me in.

Or rather it was the subject matter which immediately drew me in.

I asked the owners if they would consider selling the picture.

They said yes and it was actually a very affordable penance of a price for such an old painting.

Next they proceeded to tell me the story of how they came about the painting.

It seems that back in the early 1920s, The Vatican reached out to an Abbey in Michigan
about sending them approximately 50 paintings.
Why I’m not certain, but I do know that it was not uncommon for the Vatican to
‘lighten the load’ so the speak by gifting various abbeys, monasteries and churches
with some of their burgeoning collection of artwork.

The abbey kept the paintings until recently.

A nun from the abbey, out of the blue, reached out to these owners…
as it seems that one of the owners has a proclivity for antique
paintings and is known for such.

The nun explained how the abbey had gotten the paintings
but for a reason I never caught in this convoluted tale, asked if they’d be interested in
buying any of the paintings.

When they hung up the phone with the nun, they immediately rented a U-haul and drove
all night to Michigan.

They bought all 50 paintings and brought them back to Atlanta.

Many of the paintings have in turn been sold or were simply kept.

All but the one painting that had caught my eye—sadly because it
was most likely the one in the worst shape.

But that didn’t matter to me.
The painting called out to me and I couldn’t resist.

What I was planning on doing with a dilapidated,
torn old painting was beyond my husband’s soul…
but it mattered not, the painting had called to me.

A few weeks after bringing home my new old broken treasure,
my husband and I ventured down to a small town outside of
Callaway Gardens to spend an afternoon roaming around and having lunch.

I wandered into an antique shop and started looking at a couple of old frames that were for sale.
The owner asked what I had in mind for the frame.
That was when I began to share my tale about my painting and how I was looking for a frame.

She asked if I would consider bringing her the painting as she had a friend who actually
did restoration work on old paintings.

I agreed.
I was curious as to its background and there was just something about the painting
that seemed to plead with me to please bring it back to life.

I think that comes from spending a lifetime as an Art teacher

The short of this long story…we finally picked up the painting today…
It is estimated to be almost 200 years old.
It has been lovingly repaired, cleaned, re-stretched
and now rests in a pretty new frame…nearly 3 months after
I first saw it sitting alone in a corner.

So tomorrow, the painting of Santo Antonio will finally be hung up, surrounded by things
received and gathered during a lifetime of running into St Anthony.

I don’t know its origin.
I don’t know its artist.
I don’t know if the Vatican ever really once owned it or not.
And I don’t know the abbey that held on to it all these years.
I really don’t know anything about it…only but one thing…
it seems that saints find us, we don’t find them…

“I have learned on this journey that we can’t only study the saints who have personalities
or interests exactly like our own.
Our friends, including our Heavenly ones, should challenge us and help us to grow.
In seeing what we lack in our own lives, we are able to forge ahead and grow.
If we never seek out our defects or weaknesses, then we can never begin to overcome them.
So be open to saints who choose you and want to befriend you.
It is God moving in your life through His saints.
There is something you need to learn or I need to learn.
Let us be thankful for the saints who choose us through no merit of our own.
All you holy men and women, ora pro nobis.”

Constance T.Hull
Catholic Exchange

Rebels and rebellions…tennis shoes, flags and slavery…. a brief history lesson

“Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white;
that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

UShistory.org

Do you remember back in late June, just before our Nation’s celebration of the 4th of July?

If you’re anything like me, remembering last week can be challenging enough.

But let’s try it.
Let’s try to recall a current event that took place during that time.
It made all the news rounds.

The current event in question is how athletic apparel wear giant Nike had come out with
a commemorative shoe featuring what is known as “the Besty Ross” flag–
just in time for the 4th of July celebration.

And how then former football player and flag protester Colin Kaepernick told the
athletic giant not to sell the shoes because he believed the shoe’s flag
image was steeped in racism?

Remember all of that??

And do you remember that the athletic giant caved to his demands?

First of all, that story alone is enough to make me shake my head.

That a youthful former NFL player could tell a mega-money power company that they shouldn’t do
something and they actually listen to him and don’t do as he says is beyond my
small mind’s thinking.

Oh to be so powerful that the powerful quake.

But here’s the thing.

As an educator and one who had majored in history the majority of her time in college,
I could never allow the uneducated to perpetuate a lie.

I could not allow Betsy Ross, who is obviously not here to defend herself—
I could not allow her name to be forever sullied or associated with racism,
slavery or anything other than freedom.

And the funny thing is…we’re so all about #metoo and women’s rights and girl power,
yet we’ve actually allowed a woman to be painted into the ugly narrative of racism,
falsehoods and lies.

Is that what is known as hypocritical?

Let’s back up a couple of hundred years and let’s look at what that flag is all about.
However, let’s first back up even further and take a look at the woman in question.

Elizabeth Griscom, also known as Betsy, was the 8th of 17 children born to
Samuel Griscom and Rebecca James.
She was born in the colony of Pennsylvania, in the city of Philidelphia in 1752.

The Griscoms were a Quaker family and a family that ran an upholstery business.

Quakers were a religious group founded in 1652 in England by George Fox.
They were a split from the Chruch of England and were devoted to peaceful principals.
And most notably, they were pacifists.

(It might be of interest to know that President Richard Nixon was born to
Quaker parents…but that’s another story for another day)

Quakers, more often than not, married other Quakers.
If one opted to marry outside of the religious denomination then they would be “read out”
or cut off both emotionally and financially from one’s family and religious community.

Upon the completion of her formal Quaker schooling, Betsy’s father apprenticed
her to another upholsterer.
This is when she met John Ross, another apprentice, and member of the Episcopal Chruch.

The two fell in love and actually eloped.
They crossed the Delaware River over into New Jersey where they were married at a
near-by Tavern.

Obviously, the union led to Betsy being cut off from the Quaker community that
she had known since childhood.

She and John were happy and now worshiped at the Episcopal church, Christ Chruch.
The same church that George Washington attended.
There is church documentation that the Ross’ and the Washingtons occupied pews
across the aisle from one another.

This was also during the time that tensions had come to a head between the
Colonists and the British.

The Ross’ were busy with their upholstery business but as the tensions grew,
fabric supplies became scarce and the business all but dried up due to a lack of
demand and materials.

It was at this time that John Ross joined the Continental Army as a volunteer.

He was in charge of guarding a munitions cache.
At some point, the cache exploded, killing John— leaving
Betsy a young widow.

History tells us that at this point, Betsy went back to being a practicing Quaker.

However, this was also the time that there was a rift within the Quaker community itself.

Many of the members believed in the cause for freedom and actually split from the
Quaker body, forming the Fighting Quakers who joined the Continental Army.
Betsy and her new husband, sea captain, Joseph Ashburn, joined the side of the
Fighting Quakers.

Capt. Ashburn was in charge of bringing supplies back to the fighting colonists.
His ship, however, was eventually captured by British forces and he was taken, prisoner.

Joseph actually died in prison…a fact that Betsy would not discover until quite
sometime later.
It was a mutual friend of the family, a fellow sea captain named John Claypoole, who
came to Betsy with the grim news.

Betsy was a widow once again.

Betsy had had no children with her first husband John but had two with Joseph.
Sadly only one survived past infancy.
However, this would not be the end of Betsy’s married life nor that of motherhood.

Betsy married one final time.

This time it was to Joseph’s friend, John Claypoole.
A man, who to no surprise, Betsy convinced to retire from sailing.

The Claypoole’s went on to have 5 children of their own, four of whom survived to adulthood…
So 5 of Betsy’s children actually outlived her and were the ones who would
go on to leave a written testament to their mother’s contribution to
the Colonial fight for freedom.

In a signed affidavit, one of Betsy’s daughter’s recounted her mother’s
involvement with the creating of the unifying 13-star colonial flag.

Bety’s daughter tells of three men from the Continental Congress who came to call
upon her mother.

Robert Morris, the wealthiest man in Pennsylvania and the largest landowner,
Col. George Ross, the uncle to her late husband, as well as General George Washington.

Betsy knew the General quite well as she had not only worshiped alongside him and his
family at Christ Chruch, she had also done some embroidery and sewing work for the General.

Her daughter recounts:
That when the committee (with General Washington) came into her store she showed
them into her parlor, back of her store;
and one of them asked her if she could make a flag and that she replied that she did not know
but she could try.

That they then showed her a drawing roughly executed, of the flag as it was proposed to be
made by the committee, and that she saw in it some defects in its proportions and the
arrangement and shape of the stars.
That she said it was square and a flag should be one third longer than its width,
that the stars were scattered promiscuously over the field,
and she said they should be either in lines or in some adopted form as a circle,
or a star, and that the stars were six-pointed in the drawing,
and she said they should be five pointed.

That the gentlemen of the committee and General Washington very respectfully
considered the suggestions and acted upon them,
General Washington seating himself at a table with a pencil and paper,
altered the drawing and then made a new one according to the suggestions of my mother.
That General Washington seemed to her to be the active one in making the design,
the others having little or nothing to do with it.

That mother went diligently to work upon her flag and soon finished it,
and returned it, the first star-spangled banner that ever was made,
to her employers, that it was run up to the peak of one of the vessels belonging to one of
the committee then lying at the wharf, and was received with shouts of applause by the
few bystanders who happened to be looking on.
That the committee on the same day carried the flag into the Congress sitting in the State House,
and made a report presenting the flag and the drawing and that Congress unanimously approved
and accepted the report.
That the next day Col. Ross called upon my mother and informed her that her work had been approved
and her flag adopted, and he gave orders for the purchase of all the materials and the manufacture
of as many flags as she could make.
And that from that time forward, for over fifty years she continued
to make flags for the United States Government.

The affidavit is signed, notarized and still held as a historical document.

I believe the facts stated in the foregoing Article entitled
“The First American Flag and Who Made It,” are all strictly true.
This affidavit having been signed by Rachel Fletcher with violet ink,
the signature has faded, but is at this time, Seventh Month 24th, 1908,
still plainly legible.

Rachel Fletcher
I, Mary Fletcher Wigert, daughter of the said Rachel Fletcher,
recognize the signature in the rectangular space outlined in black above,
as the signature of my mother Rachel Fletcher.

Mary Fletcher Wigert

Signed in the presence of Mary W. Miller Philadelphia Seventh Mo. 24th, 1908

State of New York

City of New York SS

On the 31st day of July A.D. 1871.
Before me the subscriber a Notary Public in and for the Commonwealth of New York,
duly commissioned, residing in the said City of New York,
personally appeared the above named Rachel Fletcher,
who being duly affirmed did depose and say that the statements above certified
to by her are all strictly true according to the best of her knowledge and belief,
and that she is a daughter of Elizabeth Claypoole.
Affirmed and subscribed before me the day and year aforesaid.
Witness my hand and Notarial Seal.

Th. J. McEvily
Notary Public City & Co. New York

So what we know is that ‘the Betsy Ross’ flag is not a symbol of racism nor slavery.
But rather a symbol of freedom, democracy as it symbolized the birth of a Nation.

Yes the new Nation did have slave labor…as had the colonies prior,
as had the new land when the Spanish, the Dutch and the British had brought with
them slaves who had been in the Carribean and South America working the sugar plantations.

Slavery was not a new problem to a new Nation.
Nor was it a problem created by the new Nation.

It had been a form of “free labor” used by other Nations long before there were 13 colonies
and even before there had been a new land.

And the Quakers were actually one of the first religious groups to denounce the ownership of slaves
and vocally oppose the practice of slavery.

Betsy Ross, the Continental Congress, and the new flag had nothing to do with racism
or slavery…end of sentence.

It would take many more years of growing pains, struggle and eventually a
near-catastrophic internal conflict for this united Nation to come to terms
with what had long been part and parcel of the more negative part of her history.

But to look through the lenses of the 21st century back to a nation’s inception in the 18th century
and to cast condescending judgment is not only lacking in prudence and wisdom,
it is absolutely wrong.

Hindsight does that, doesn’t it?
It grants us the holier than thou ability to tell the past of its grievous mistakes.
But isn’t that how we learn??…from the mistakes of the past???

One day a future will look back on us and tell of our mistakes…
And one of those glaring mistakes will be that we do not know, nor care to
know the truth of our own history.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana

Perhaps we might then say that a nation that does not know its past,
is doomed to repeat it…

It would, therefore, behoove our up and coming progressive-leaning millennial angst-ridden
generation to do a bit of studying before they continue their attempt at rewriting
our own history.

May God have mercy on us.

http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flagaffs.html