testing point of the saint

Every martyr knows how to save his/her life and yet refuses to do so.
A public repudiation of the faith would save any of them.
But some things are more precious than life itself.
These martyrs prove that their 20th-century countryman,
C. S. Lewis, was correct in saying that courage is not simply one of the virtues
but the form of every virtue at the testing point, that is, at the point of highest reality.

(as seen on the CSSF site / Felician Sisters)


(Virgin entroned with angels and saints / Duccio di Buoninsegna 1285)

This past week has seen me so incensed over the absurdities that are taking place
all over this country…
Absurdities being shared as “news” stories, taken from across the land…
yet stories with one central missing theme…that being the key theme of common sense.

So incensed that I had a few volumes of the assinine posted in order to shed some
light on our glaring lack of common sense.

And I should note that the absurdities just keep coming as I now must confess that
I am actually finding myself feeling a bit sorry for the current Speaker of the House
as she toils to keep her Fab 4 newbies in line as they continue having
temper tantrum after tantrum.

They may be known best as formidable twitter warriors, but they fall woefully short in
the area of common sense.
Theatrics yes, common sense no.

Throw in a serious lack of humility and we have a wealth of trouble on our hands.

But I digress and must move on because their finger waging tantrums simply leave me
tired from all the eye-rolling and head-shaking I’ve caught myself doing as of late.

So today we won’t focus on the wealth of lack of common sense that is now engulfing our
land but rather we will look at something much more nobler than any one of
our legislators or governing officials seem to demonstrate,
acknowledge let alone possess.

So yesterday I was reading a post regarding the Saints of the Day from one of the
Felician Sisters blog sites.

The saints were actually two Englishmen…
John Jones and John Walls.

These two friars were martyred in England in the 16th and 17th centuries
for refusing to deny their faith.

John Jones was Welsh. He was ordained a diocesan priest and was twice imprisoned
for administering the sacraments before leaving England in 1590. He joined the Franciscans
at the age of 60 and returned to England three years later while Queen Elizabeth I
was at the height of her power. John ministered to Catholics in the English countryside
until his imprisonment in 1596. He was condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.
John was executed on July 12, 1598.

John Wall was born in England but was educated at the English College of
Douai, Belgium. Ordained in Rome in 1648, he entered the Franciscans in Douai several years later.
In 1656 he returned to work secretly in England.

In 1678, Titus Oates worked many English people into a frenzy over an alleged papal plot
to murder the king and restore Catholicism in that country. In that year Catholics were
legally excluded from Parliament, a law which was not repealed until 1829.
John Wall was arrested and imprisoned in 1678, and was executed the following year.

John Jones and John Wall were canonized in 1970.
(Felician Sisters)

And so let me be clear, saints are no different from you or me…
We are all sinners and we are all also very capable of eventually becoming a saint.
For saints are simply the ordinary doing the extraordinary.

The one important thing we need to remember, however, is that saints
are of a humble lot.

And humility is often in short supply in our land these days.

Saintly is a matter of doing what is right when no one is looking,
listening or paying attention because what is being done is for the betterment
of others…with no regard to self and no recognition or applause.

Saints have no twitter accounts or Facebook posts.

It’s doing those things that are not popular, trendy or politically correct but are being done
because they are the right thing to do regardless of what the world may have to say.

Even despite the threat of harm or even death.

It’s a conviction.
It’s a drive that reaches far beyond personal desire.

It’s falling face down in the mire.
It’s being the sinner who picks himself up and says no more.

Sights shift.
Hearts change.

It’s doing what God calls to be done…not what the self would want done.
It’s discernment along with death to self.

It’s hard.
It’s not easy.
It can be dangerous.
It might be life-threatening…
…but none of that seems to matter.

The thought of self is never even considered.
Self is never an issue.
There is no personal gain but rather personal loss.

The spotlight shines elsewhere.

There are no stats or likes.
No followers.
No trending.
No polls.
No cameras.

No, saints are not far from sinners at all.
In fact, a saint is a sinner who simply turned his eyes outward rather than inward.

Some things are more precious than life itself…

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the
twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp,
and golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 5:8

temptation and humility

“God wishes us to be meek even toward ourselves.
When a person commits a fault, God certainly wishes him to humble himself,
to be sorry for his sin, and to purpose never to fall into it again;
but he does not wish him to be indignant with himself,
and give way to trouble and agitation of mind; for,
while the soul is agitated, a man is incapable of doing good.”

St. Alphonsus De Liguori, p. 259
An Excerpt From
The Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori


(lone plover / Rosemary Beach/ Julie Cook / 2019)

At this point, it is extremely important to keep in mind that a person is not bad
because he has a temptation.
Many believe, because they have a temptation to pride, to avarice, to hate, to lust,
that there is something wrong with them.
There is nothing wrong with you if you are tempted.
You are not tempted because you are evil; you are tempted because you are human.
There is nothing intrinsically evil about human nature just because a little devil knocks
at the door.
Evil begins only when we open the door and consent to the temptation.
Scripture praises the man who suffers temptations. When we resist temptations,
we strengthen our character.

Ven. Fulton J. Sheen
from Life is Worth Living

Consequences of being armed without prayer or humility

“Arm yourself with prayer rather than a sword;
wear humility rather than fine clothes.”

St. Dominic


(Saint Dominic adoring the Crucifixion by Fra Angelico / The Covenent of San Marco/
Florence, Itlay/ with silhouette of photographer, Julie Cook / 2018)

Just as Christian doctrines have consequences, so do false teachings.
And the experience of the last several decades shows us the consequences
of false teachings about marriage: broken hearts and homes, spouses betrayed,
children abandoned by father or mother and slowed or derailed from the path to healthy maturity.
And when these things befall large segments of the next generation,
every other social institution is impaired.
For all associations—including the Church herself—depend on
formation that only the marriage-based family can reliably provide.

Gerhard Cardinal Müller
from The Power of Truth:
The Challenges to Catholic Doctrine and Morals Today

humility lives among us…we just happen to over look it.


(Master Sargent William Crawford)

During his daily readings, my husband recently stumbled on a story that touched his heart.
It was a story that he, in turn, felt compelled to share with me.

It’s that type of story.

It is so much that type of story, that I, in the same like spirit, felt compelled that I should
now share with you.

It’s a story of war, sacrifice, loss, life, discovery as well as that of a quiet and very deep humility.

A forgotten story really.

And it seemed that it was to remain a forgotten story…that was until one day
in 1976 when a young airman cadet, studying at the United States Air Force Academy,
who much like my husband happened upon a particular story during his daily reading…
a story that in turn, deeply touched his heart.

One that he knew he would not only need to investigate but would be compelled to eventually
share in like kind.

It is a story that I pray continues to touch all of our hearts…

It is a story that unfolded in the mid-1970s when a couple of young Air Force Academy cadets
discovered a hidden unknown little fact about their school’s quiet and unassuming janitor.

A story that would have our current culture’s minds racing to the muck and mire of the nefarious…
but rather it was to be a tale that harkened to the amazing and the near miraculous.

Perhaps it was the way he carried himself in an unassuming and humble manner,
but day after day hundreds of Air Force Academy cadets would pass this janitor in the hall
oblivious to the greatness that was among them.

In the mid-1970s, William Crawford might spend one day sweeping the halls and another cleaning
the bathrooms, but it was a day approximately 30 years prior that would create for him a special
place in the history of war…

Fast forward to a military dinner in 2011…

Retired Air Force Col. James Moschgat shared Medal of Honor recipient
William “Bill” Crawford’s story last Friday night with about 200 people gathered
at the annual Pueblo Medal of Honor Foundation Golf Tournament Dinner.

Moschgat was a cadet at the Academy when, one day in the fall of 1976,
he was reading a book about individual experiences from World War II.

Moschgat said he was reading about a Colorado man named William Crawford,
an Army private who, in September 1943 in Italy, raced through intense enemy fire —
three times and on his own initiative — to detonate hand grenades on enemy gun sites.

After the battle, Crawford later was captured by the Germans and was presumed dead.
In 1945, the Medal of Honor was presented to his father, but later that year,
Crawford was found alive when a group of soldiers were rescued from German control.
Crawford re-enlisted in 1947 and retired in ’67 as a master sergeant.
After the Army, he went to work at the academy where, according to Moschgat,
he blended in and developed a reputation for being a shy, shuffling janitor.

Moschgat said he wondered if this war hero was the same man who cleaned his squadron’s quarters.

“I looked at my roommate and said, Jim, you’re not going to believe this,
but I think Bill our janitor is a recipient of the Medal of Honor.”

The next day, Moschgat said he showed Crawford the book and asked if it was him.
“He looked at it a moment and said it was him. He said,
‘That was a long time ago and one day in my life.’

Read the full article here:
https://medalofhonornews.com/2011/05/story-told-of-medal-of-honor-recipient.html

Crawford’s was a tale of the ordinary doing the extraordinary.
As well as that of a forgotten prisoner of war.

Once released and back home, Crawford reenlisted in the Army and eventually retired from
the Service in 1967.

Eventually making his way to that of janitor at the United States Airforce Academy.

Crawford was once heard to lament that his one regret was that he not had been awarded the medal
honor in person once it was discovered that he was actually alive as a prisoner of war and not
dead as it was presumed.

So unbeknownst to Crawford, in 1984 when then-President Ronald Reagan came to offer the commencement
speech at the Academy’s graduation, a special presentation had been arranged.
President Reagan would present the Medal of Honor, during the commencement, service to an
unsuspecting Crawford.

When Crawford passed away in 2000, he was awarded one final and unique honor for a non-airforce veteran.
He was buried in the United States Airforce Academy’s cemetery—the only member of the
United States Army afforded such a fitting tribute.

Crawford’s story reminds us of the importance of humility as well as how the ordinary
can always be extraordinary albeit humble and quiet.

https://www.warhistoryonline.com/world-war-ii/air-force-academy-janitor-medal-of_honor-x.html

Please do not turn away from us

“If JESUS cannot control you, HE cannot save you.
And if HE cannot control ALL of you HE cannot control any of you.”

A.W. Tozer

“The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!”

Fyodor Dostoevsky


(lone starling waits / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2019)

My heart was so grieved last night when I finally crawled into the bed—
I had thought I’d read a bit but then thought better of such a notion and opted
to just turn out the lights.

Sorrowfully, I blankly stared out into the darkness until finally squeezing my eyes shut.

The words, ‘Third Term Abortions’, swirled in my brain.

Abortion is horrific.

And yet we now have those who wish to make it even more horrific…if such was possible.

We have been greeted with the news this week of those who now callously think that a live birth,
a living, brand new baby should be allowed to simply be left to die—
that that child may not be allowed to live, to thrive, to grow, to love, and to be loved…
it was, it is, more than my heart could or can bear.

What world do I live in?
What nation is this?
What century is this?

Educated we brag.
Highly evolved we boast.
Egotistical we are.
Humble we are not.

I found my mind imploring…
Please God, do not turn your back to us.
Please do not leave us..
Do not leave us to this…

But this is what I know…God will leave man to his own devices.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people,
who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them,
because God has made it plain to them.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have
been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him,
but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God
for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading
of their bodies with one another.
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie,
and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.
Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.
Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.
In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.
Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God,
so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.
They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.
They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful;
they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;
they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.
Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death,
they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Romans 1:18-32

consider the lowly

Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.
Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands give me delight.
Your statutes are always righteous;
give me understanding that I may live.

Psalm 119:141-144


(the lowly sea cucumber, aka the lollyfish / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2019)

In the pecking order of the sea, I would imagine that a sea cucumber would be pretty much the lowest
of the low.
More slug than fish.
More bottom dweller than swimmer.
Living life on the ocean floor filtering out all the residue from one’s fellow creatures…

Wash up on the beach and you might be mistaken as the excrement from something else.

Not a glamours creature by any means.

We would never consider ourselves to be anything like a sea cucumber.
Lowly and ugly.
A bottom dweller.

But the introduction of sin has made man much lower than that of even a poor sea cucumber.

Pride may cloud the eye of man but sin clouds the sight of man from the eye of God …

“…the hyphenated sins of the human spirit.
They are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies both their
subtlety and their power. To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity,
self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them.
They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention
till the light of God is focused upon them. The grosser manifestations of these sins, egotism,
exhibitionism, self-promotion, are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders even in circles of
impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people,
to become identified with the gospel.
I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for
popularity in some sections of the Church visible.
Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common
as to excite little notice.”

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Sinfulness masking itself as self-promotion… or even worse…
masking itself as the seemingly self-righteous promoting of Christ when in actuality it is
an act that is merely self-serving…
an act that consists of self-promotion at the expense of Christ himself.
Merely using Christ as a tool for our own sense of selfishness, ego, and pride.

A sinful nature that makes us lowly…

And yet, it is in that lowliness where our hope is to be found and where it rests. …
hope in the lowliness of an open and admited humility…

Only in God is my soul at rest
In Him comes my salvation
He only is my Rock
My strength and my salvation

My stronghold my Savior
I shall not be afraid at all
My stronghold my Savior
I shall not be moved

Only in God is found safety
When the enemy pursues me
Only in God is found glory
When I am found meek and found lowly

My stronghold my Savior
I shall not be afraid at all
My stronghold my Savior
I shall not be moved

Only in God is my soul at rest
In Him comes my salvation

Lyrics by John Michael Talbot based upon Psalm 62

principles found in an oddly shaped black hat

Great ambition is the passion of a great character.
Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts.
All depends on the principles which direct th
em.
Napoleon Bonaparte


(one of only a handful of Napoleon’s hats that remains / Le Proccope Restrauant /
Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

Well, after a week of here and there babysitting, I’ve finally, however painfully
and reluctantly, returned The Mayor back home to Atlanta.
She was returned home in one piece albeit with her nagging cold still intact.

And so slowly I am now literally picking up the pieces while working on regaining
my thinking brain.

So on Saturday our local news offered the latest breaking state news that has me more
than simply thinking…

But before I get to that story, let me offer up a tiny precursor…
a tiny tale that reminds me of this particular current news situation of ours.

The hat in the image above is but one of a handful of the remaining famous bicorne hats
worn by France’s most famous leader, Napoleon Bonaparte (Marie Antoinette aside).
The last known hat of only 19 that remain, went to auction earlier this year.
It was a hat that was supposedly recovered from the battlefield at Waterloo and
fetched a whopping $325,000 at auction.

History offers us the small tidbit that, whereas most military leaders of the day
wore their hats with points facing forward and back, Napoleon,
on the other hand, preferred wearing his hats sideways.
This allowed Napoleon to be readily identified when on the battlefield.
A rather bold stance given the fact that many military leaders preferred blending in so
as not to be easily “picked off” by the enemy…
because what’s an army without its leader?

But given Napoleon’s ego, it is no surprise that he would prefer to be noticed
rather than not.

And I must confess, I have always had an affinity for France’s most famous,
or perhaps more accurately, infamous little general…
And so since I’ve previously written about that attraction before it should come as no
surprise of the level of excitement I experienced when recently given the opportunity
of seeing one of his earliest bicorne hats up close and personal.

On our recent visit to Paris, we opted to enjoy an evening’s meal at Le Procope, Paris’
oldest consecutively operating restaurant.
Le Procope has been serving discerning pallets since 1686.
They also boast having one of the most synonymous items associated with one of Paris’
most well-known individuals.
One of Napoleon’s earliest bicorne hats.

The story goes that Napoleon would often frequent Le Procope.
But so did Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Rousseau, Robespierre, Marat,
and George Sand to name just a few
But the story goes that as a young soldier, Napoleon would come to eat and in typical
fashion, brood night after night…running up quite the tab.

As payment for his escalating bill, Napoleon paid with what he had…that being his hat.
He informed the proprietors that one day his hat would be world famous because he would,
in turn, become famous.
And obviously, the proprietor took him at his word and accepted the hat.

And so now the oldest restaurant in Paris boasts owning one of the earliest hats
worn by what many consider to be France’s greatest and most brilliant tacticians and
military leaders.

Well, that is how they feel now as we all know that France has had an up and down,
love-hate relationship with her dearest yet height challenged leader.

I say all of this because as an up and coming soldier, Napoleon was like any young
soldier, woefully strapped for cash.
Acknowledging that he needed to pay his debt, he did so by giving what he had, his hat…
coupled with the guarantee that the hat would indeed suffice as payment as it would
certainly, cover his expenses given that his future was on track for fame…

And so this not so modest offering has indeed become quite rare and somewhat priceless
while in the end, Napoleon’s guarantee had come to fruition and then some.

A few weeks back I wrote a post about life in ‘the middle’—
as in our nation’s recent proclivity for being pretty much split down the middle given
our voting persuasions.

There are no clear-cut winners anymore because it’s now a matter of an almost equal tug of war
with an opponent’s toe barely crossing the line when suddenly the other opponent, who’s still
pulling, is proclaimed the victor…

So with more near miss victors than ever before…
a wealth of those having won by only a toe’s length or the proverbial skin of the teeth,
the losing side has taken to the ugliness of temper tantrums.

The problem in all of this is the growing numbers of near-miss victors and their equally
determined tug of war partners unwilling to surrender—despite their toe having crossed
the line.

It just seems there are simply no real clear cut winners any more—no full out right bodies
that come flying over the line after being jerked over by the formidable foe—
rather it’s come down to a constant stream of photo finishes.

Take for instance the recent race for Governor here in Georgia.

The numbers told us that the Republican Brian Kemp won.
The numbers were simply not there for his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams.
Although the numbers were indeed close.

Brian Kemp is a what many consider to be a typical good ol’ boy, Southern politician
while Abrams is a single black woman who was poised to be the first black woman
to hold such a prestigious office here in the deep south…
putting her on the edge for making monumental history.

Lots of unspoken thoughts and opinions are now floating and flying around about both of
these tug of war opponents and their collective sides.

So in typical ‘in the middle’ mindset of this nation…Abrams whose toe was pulled slightly
over the line…obviously over the line…refused to let go of the rope despite
the arms raised of the victor Kemp.

Two weeks have now passed despite Kemp claiming the victory in the wee hours of the vote counting,
as Abrams has now dug in and refused to give up her end of the rope.

Mathematically it has been clear that it would be impossible for her to call for a re-count
let alone a runoff.

So finally yesterday, two weeks after the fact, Abrams emerges to make a statement.
She announces that Kemp will be governer but that she will not concede…
in fact, she will file a lawsuit over Georgia’s voting irregularities…
Irregularities for a state that proudly boasts that its voting practices have been on point
for the past oh so many years.

On the one hand, we have someone admitting their opponent has won the prize while they in turn
refuse to admit that they have lost.
A refusal to concede while skirting around the obvious.
A win and a loss…no tie.

No longer do we as a public witness any level of magnanimity between opponents.
There is no graciousness between opponents let alone between one party to another.
No sense of decorum.
No extending of the hand from the vanquished to the victor noting a race well run…

Rather there is refusal.
There is denial.
There are claims of foul play.
There is the stomping of the tantrum’s foot.

No more is there a “may the best man, or woman, win” mentality.

No longer are there lessons of fair play or the lessons of how to win or lose graciously
being offered for our youth.
No examples of taking the high road.
No living with the numbers…
Rather its a matter of refusing to acknowledge defeat.
No more selflessly throwing one’s support behind the victor in order to work together
for the betterment of “the people”…for the sake of both sides of voters.

This current sort of mentality and poor sportsmanship leaves me, a voter, resentful of the
tantrum makers.
It makes me angry.
I am discovering very quickly that I have no tolerance for obstructionists.
Those who are the stalematers, the momentum breakers, the saboteurs of our own successes.
Those who wish to stop the good of the entire nation for the good of themselves.

And so I think of Napoleon.

But not so much for reasons one would assume.

Yes, he was a man who was small in stature but huge in ego.
A man who even I admit hated the notion of losing.
His was a life of battle and conquest with the ultimate goal being his own rising to the top.

Not the most magnanimous of mindsets.

Humility was not a word ever used to describe Napoleon.
No self-deprecating in his corner of the world.

The question of his true motives and his real concern being either for France and her people or
simply for himself…well…only history can help us pick that apart…

And yet here in this tale of an obscure little black and oddly shaped hat,
we learn of a would be great man acknowledging his being in a bit of a tight spot.

We hear the acknowledgment that even those
with great expectations of self can still recognize and even own up to stumbling
while being, in the end, at somewhat of a loss.

In this case, the loss of enough cash to pay one’s bill.
Living fast, loose and large and not being able to afford to do so.
Just like so many in our society today.

And yet we know Napoleon did not run out on his debt…something he easily could have done.
Yet there was the matter of honor and of principles.
Honor and principles that many of us lack today while preferring to live loose and large…
We assume that someone else, such as the government, should come to the rescue
and excuse or even pay for such wanton living.

But here, an otherwise self-centered egotist owns up to owing…
and pays his bill with the only thing he really owns at the time, he pays with a hat.
A hat along with a promise…
All while a gracious proprietor, who at the time, probably rolled
his eyes as he’d heard his fair share of grandiose dreams from one dreamer too many,
in turn, graciously accepted this pitiful payment none the less.

A simple act of give and take.

As we learn that a truthful acknowledgment, albeit hard truths, actually give way to a glimpse
of humility.
And there must always remain humility if there is to be any sense of hope in our society.

So when even just a hair of that toe crosses the line, admitting we’ve been defeated is not only
the right thing to do, it is the only thing.

Fair and square losses…
losses with no amount of whining, fussing and cussing, challenging, foot stomping
or threats of lawsuits can turn a loss into a win…
and if it could, in the end, would the win by hook and crook be worth the cost of our
humanity?

I worry that our society has lost all hope for the glimmer of her principles, those being
foremost graciousness and humility.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but
each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4