the wisdom of a child

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


(a contemplative little Mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)

So I must make a confession on this Holy Saturday…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come, Lord Jesus, come!


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

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

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

the innocence of a child

All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children.

Isaiah 54:13

“For children are innocent and love justice,
while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.”

G.K. Chesterton


(Autumn with her new sheep that Joy brought her)

I marvel daily at the tiny small gains of growth and knowledge.
I look into those glistening blue eyes highlighted by feathery little lashes…
small tiny hands reaching with the herky-jerky battle of involuntary versus control.
The longing to touch, to hold, to move, to sit upright…

How do you look at a child and question the existence of God?
How do you look at a child and consider an abortion?
How do you look at a child and selfishly put them in harm’s way?

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.
But the disciples rebuked them.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

Matthew 19:13-15

Innocence and wonderment…

“In any case, you must remember, my dearest,
that the main strength of innocence is innocence itself.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”
Albert Einstein

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(an alert fawn in the backyard / Julie Cook / 2016)

It is now time that we all just stop for a moment.

Time to stop with all the…
malice and ill intent.

It is time to stop the…
polarization,
the divisions,
the anger,
the lies,
the slandering,
the accusatory nonsense…

It is time we stop just long enough….
Just long enough to remember…
to remember and recall that there is still a world…
a world where we can find…
innocence,
joy,
wonderment,
rapture,

A world still full of the…
amazing
miraculous
mystifying
and the loving…

A world where God’s Grace still remains…

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 8-10

What are we to do?

“Make up your mind,” Moab says. “Render a decision. Make your shadow like night – at high noon. Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees.”
Isaiah 16:3

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(a morning glory found deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2015)

Both Lucy Lipiner and Gerda Weissmann Klein have a tale to tell. . .

Each woman weaves a story steeped in the sweet innocence of childhood which is suddenly and unimaginably lost in the midst of unspeakable horrors. . .yet thankfully theirs is a tale of eventual survival and of small yet victorious triumphs.

There are a few differences between these two woman of which create two very individual stories. . .
Differences such as their age and the fact that they were each born in different small towns.
Yet it is to the similarities between them that inextricably binds them together for all of eternity.
I am pretty certain that these woman do not personally know one another nor have they ever met, but I somehow think that in many ways they have known one another very well for a very long time as they have both survived the unimaginable stemming from the same wicked source. . .

Each woman was born in Poland and each woman was born into a Jewish family.
Whoever would have imagined that those two seemingly insignificant factors would mark these women for the rest of their lives by placing them in the valley of the shadow of Death. Had they been born say, in America or Canada, or England, their stories would certainly have been less then memorable. Lives lived as mostly anyone else’s.
But because they were born in a country lying in the path of a very hungry and vicious animal, tragedy was to be their lot.

I have finished reading Lucy’s tale and have now begun Gerda’s equally gripping story.
As I waited in the dentist office yesterday, reading until I was called back, I had tears flooding my eyes as I read the story of an individual family, like my own family or anyone’s family, being ripped apart as they stood by helpless to prevent the rupture.

Despite the fact that these two lady’s stories took place over 70 years ago, I have been struck by the similarities of the worldwide current plights now littering our news.

Each was a young girl when The War broke out–when Germany marched forth seizing Poland as its own.
Each girl came from a prominent family within their respective towns. They were loved, nurtured and happy living their lives as innocent children.

I think it is Lucy’s story that I have found to be most relevant to any story I might read in today’s paper—that of any number of families fleeing Syria or Egypt or Turkey or Somalia or Tunisia, or Eritrea, etc.— each seeking refuge from the unspeakable horrors of the upheaval of what was an average life.

Lucy’s family was on the run for almost 10 years. Starting when she was 6 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939– they became just another statistic of families in the throng of the displaced as they sought refuge in the Soviet Union and later Tajikistan then briefly back to Poland and ironically to Germany and eventually to the US.
There was death, violence, sexual abuse, grave hunger, incapacitating illness, loss, sorrow, separation and near madness.

They had been a family like any other family–they had a nice home, nice clothes, nice jewelry. They went to Temple. They enjoyed their extended family. They attended school. They had jobs. They played music as they lived, loved and laughed—-

Suddenly life took a turn beyond their control and they lost everything–they became hunted, like animals. They were reduced to wearing clothes turned to rags as there was no longer choice. They lost weight. They were hungry. They were infested with bugs, inside and out. They ate rotten trash and drank fetid water to quell an endless hunger. They were dirty, they smelled. They were sick both physically, spiritually and mentally.
They were shells of human beings.

Miraculously the family remained intact but it came at a tremendous cost to each member of the family. They survived in part due the kindness of those strangers and individuals encountered along the long and arduous journey who were willing to offer aid, shelter and comfort, as meager as it was. . .to dirty and seemingly unsavory subhuman individuals who were considered enemies of every state simply for being Jewish.

Yesterday’s news ran a story about the discovery of a lorry, or tractor trailer, abandoned on a road in Austria containing at least 70 dead bodies of migrants, or refugees, who were on what they thought to be a journey to freedom.

Today there was the story of another capsized ship losing possibly 500 individuals–men, women and children drowning while on their way to freedom.

There have been the stories of the Chunnel being overrun and shut down, day after day, by the thousands of migrants in Calais seeking asylum and freedom.

There was the story of an arson attack on a migrant shelter in Germany, as Angela Merkel was booed by those Germans not wanting to see Germany overrun by the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking safe haven.

It is said that the current influx of migrants from both Africa and the Middle East is the largest exodus of people since World War II.

A humanitarian crisis of epic proportion.

The worry– how will the small European Nations absorb the millions of people running away from tyranny, abuse and horror. . .how will they be able to provide for all of these “other” people as they continue providing for their own. . .?

These refugees are different–culturally, religiously and ethnically.

Later I read a story about the marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The story told the tale of how one group of New Orleans citizens did not want the “other” New Orleans citizens, those who were the evacuees coming from the more disadvantaged areas, to cross the bridge bringing them into the more affluent neighborhoods.

These citizens were afraid of being overrun with what was thought to be unsavory individuals bringing with them drugs, crime and violence—those citizens coming from the areas which were known to be rife with such—
And I suppose some of those feelings may have been justified after we heard the stories of the rapes and murders taking place within the Superdome when it was opened to those evacuating the lower 9th ward.

Is it fear that keeps us weary, holding our arms outward not as arms offering a welcoming embrace but rather as arms pushing away and repelling those who come seeking aid and assistance?

How can we take on an endless sea of people in need–economically absorbing the astronomical costs for healthcare, housing, education, employment and assimilation?

What of the hidden terrorists among the masses?

Are we not told to be hospitable and welcoming–offering sustenance and aid to our fellow human beings who are in desperate need?

Would we not want someone to do the same for us?

One country closes its borders.

Is that fair to the other surrounding countries?

How do we feed them all?

Where will they stay?

What of those who are criminals?

What of the illness and disease they bring with them?

What of the myriad of language barriers?

What will happen to our own way of life when it yields to the incoming masses?

Do we lose ourselves, our identity, while giving of ourselves to the “other?”

I don’t know the answers to these hard questions and I don’t think the rest of the world knows the answers either–
yet I simply keep hearing these words. . .

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 35-40

Lusia’s Long Journey Home
A young Girls’ Memoir of Surviving the Holocaust
by Lucy Lipiner

A Memoir
All But My Life
by Gerda Weissmann Klein

The pursuit of purity

“I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”
― Mae West

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(azalea bloom / Julie Cook / 2015)

I suppose if anyone could exude a rather racy, even wanton lifestyle, it would be the famously baudy actress Mae West. Mae was considered a maverick well before her time as she was a fierce woman of independence long before such was fashionable. She began her career acting in Vaudeville and continued writing, producing, singing, appearing, performing for the next 7 decades.

Her famous line full of buxom appeal and coy shift of shoulder, “why don’t you come up sometime n see me” left audiences, in 1933, a bit shocked as well as intrigued by this overt coquette of an actress. Wholesomeness, innocence and purity were not virtues claimed by Mae West.
She made no bones about it as her life reflected, up to her death at age 87, a woman who didn’t seem to care much for social norms.

Whereas Mae West was always up front and honest about basically being bad or a pushing the envelope sort of individual, there are today so many others who wish to project an image of pure goodness without much regard for honest self examination. Meaning, the best foot forward may be well intended or even purposely placed, yet the truth of the matter is that it is actually greatly soiled.

Projecting a persona of humility and squeaky clean living while actually racing toward the polar opposite would or should certainly require a bit of self reflection and introspection. Who among us wouldn’t benefit from a little delving into our hearts? Examining our intentions, our desires, our ambitions, our drive, the pursuit of our goals—questioning our true motives and asking the hard questions as to whether our desires, pursuits, lives, thoughts are as pure and as good as we project and actually believe, or rather are they not perhaps a bit soiled? We work so hard trying to fool others, yet are we not the ones who are truly fooled?

It is to each of us, each single individual, to consider the purity of our own lives and heart.
Some of us will claim we don’t have time to bother with a life where purity or wholesomeness is involved.
Some of us will even wonder why we should dare take to the time to even consider such.
Some will argue that the idea of a pure life equates to a boring life. . .and by world standards,
I suppose that might be true.

Purity equates to wholesomeness, chastity, and innocence. Not exactly popular virtues by way of Hollywood’s or the Entertainment industry’s standards. It’s a sad observation that virtues consisting of the positive and of goodness simply don’t sell like vices such as sexual promiscuity, violence, greed, self absorption, etc.
Yet there remains buried deep within our hearts a desire to seek that which is pure.
That which is whole, clean, virtuous, good . . .

To be washed clean.
To be given hope.
To be made whole.
To be turned around.
To find true peace.
To be made pure

Life changing.
Life altering.
Life saving.

And it is to the One who is Pure. . .it is He who calls our name and to whom we all long.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

The Holy Innocents

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:16-18 / Jeremiah 31:15

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Nicolas Poussin / Massacre of the Innocents / 1628

Feast day of the Holy Innocents / December 27th

To what extent will a man go in order to preserve his realm, his kingdom, his leadership, his position, his way of life?
To such an extreme as to order the murder of his two sons?
Or perhaps the death of every male child two years of age and under?
Could a grown man fear the birth of a baby so much that he will do the unthinkable?

Who can even begin to imagine the incomprehensible moments that the mothers of Bethlehem and beyond experienced that fateful day as the guards came with their swords. This thought mingles with similar disheartening moments that we have witnessed more recently with the taking of many innocent young lives across the globe.

We are reminded today, the feast day of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, of the fear which ran deep in Herod’s veins over the realization that there was one who would come to be much greater then he.
We are reminded of the price paid for Salvation’s birth.
We are reminded that great men can and do fear innocence.
We are reminded that the weak will be made strong.
May we be mindful this day of the price paid for our salvation, our hope, our lives. . .as it began over 2000 years ago with the loss of many small young lives. . .

“Blessed are you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah! You suffered the inhumanity of King Herod in the murder of your babes and thereby have become worthy to offer to the Lord a pure host of infants. In full right do we celebrate the heavenly birthday of these children whom the world caused to be born unto an eternally blessed life rather than that from their mothers’ womb, for they attained the grace of everlasting life before the enjoyment of the present. The precious death of any martyr deserves high praise because of his heroic confession; the death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. For already at the beginning of their lives they pass on. The end of the present life is for them the beginning of glory. These then, whom Herod’s cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers’ bosom, are justly hailed as “infant martyr flowers”; they were the Church’s first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.

— St. Augustine

What? You talking to me?

We live in deeds not years In thoughts not breaths In feelings not figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives who thinks most, feels noblest, acts the best.”
― Philip James Bailey

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(wary eyed pigeon, Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014)

When my son was a little boy, he and I spent a great deal of time together. And not that it’s odd for a mother to spend a great deal of time with her child, my child happened to be only child with our living in a separate community from the one in which I taught, way back in the middle of 20 acres of woods. I was pretty much his only playmate, up until it was time to start school. His dad worked long hours so it was often just the two of us.

A favorite pastime would often find us curled up on the couch watching his favorite shows, with cartoons being a big part of our viewing. My dad had spent time with me watching cartoons so it just seemed natural for me to do the same with my child. And I must admit that those are some of the best memories I have of those simple easy days spent contently together–nothing special, no big deal–just he and I simply enjoying being together and laughing as we watched a silly cartoon

One of the cartoons we both enjoyed watching was the Goodfeathers.

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Goodfeathers was the cartoon’s world take on the movie the Goodfellas. I’d never seen the Goodfellas movie but I knew enough about the movie to know that it was a story about the Mob. The cartoon was so tongue and cheek and such a funny take on the stereotypical life of Italian Americans and Mob life that I think I probably enjoyed it as much, if not more, than my son–and if the truth be told, most likely on a vastly different level. That subtle little nuances that only I could pick up on.

The Goodfeathers even had their own version of Marlon Brando’s role from the Godfather–a role portrayed by the Godpigeon.

good feathers

And so it was, on an idle evening stroll, along a beautifully old victorian era street lined with the brownstones of days gone by, that I spied a lone pigeon lounging along the rim of a bird bath. My proximity to him seemed to make no never mind, so I stopped long enough to take his picture.

Later, when I was actually going through the myriad of pictures I’d taken throughout the day, I noted the wary eye this pigeon shot my way–with the immediate thought and words of a young Robert de Nero—“What, You talking to me?”
Which in turn immediately sent my thoughts tumbling back in time, many years prior to a delightful time of joy and innocence when a mom and her young son lived a simpler time of contentment. . .

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(cookie and little cookie, on his wedding day / June 7, 2014 –and it should be noted, he’s little cookie 😉 )