Bitterness

Between the uprightness of my conscience and the hardness of my lot,
I know not how either to show respect to my feelings or to the times.
The bitterness of my mind urges me at all hazards to speak what I think,
whereas the necessity of the times prompts me, however unbecomingly,
to keep silence.
Good God!
Which way shall I turn myself?

Thomas Becket


(5 o’clock somewhere / Julie Cook / 2020)

Way back in the early ’80s, I was but a young naive, early twenty-something art teacher.

As an art educator, I thought it was my duty, meaning I had the bright idea,
that I should create a European adventure in order to take my students upon—
one that would focus on the great art capitals of Europe.

Ahhhhh…

Note to self…when you are mid-twenties…don’t take teens on a trip…
especially out of the country.

And don’t do it when terrorism was actually becoming a thing
and there was no such things as cell phones.

That will be another story for another day.

However, for now, I want to share one little story.

At that time, as a young art teacher, who had recently been a young student myself,
I had a deep love and fascination with all things Italian.

I had minored in Art History with a focus on the Italian Renaissance.
Italy was, to me, the mecca of the art world.
And to truly appreciate such, I had immersed myself in all things Italian.

As a kid, I always loved Italian food, albeit 1960’s Americana Italian.
As an adopted kid, I just knew my true roots were Italian.

Was I not the secret love child of Sophia Loren???

Yet sadly that all actually proved to be a Scotch / Irish and English background,
but I digress.

So when our little adventure finally brought us to Italian soil, I had the
bright idea that I would, by gosh, treat myself to a quintessential Italian drink…
Campari.

That glistening brilliant red Italian liqueur.
I had seen all the famous advertisement posters… Campari was THE
Italian drink…

I remember marching up to a bar at a disco we had taken to kids to enjoy
and boldly telling the bartender I would like a Campari on the rocks.

Oh I felt so Sophia Lorenesque—-waiting on Dean Martin to come croon me a sweet Italian
love song.

I was so excited, so full of expectation…that was all until I brought that glass to my
expectant lips and took a big swallow.

There are no words for the nano-moments following.

It was a swallow followed by a quick spitting out what remained in my mouth.

Oh my great heavens above, I had just ingested kerosene!!!

A fire was now coursing down my throat as the bitter taste of poison cloyingly
coated my mouth.

If not some sublime red delightful liquid, what in the heck was Campari!!!?????

Oh, what my naivete and immature taste did not understand of aperitifs and digestifs
and more importantly bitters.

A story I now recall fondly as I’ve actually acquired quite the taste for Campari–
albeit mixed with a bit of lime and prosecco.
In more of a spritz verses that of a hardcore sipper.

And all this talk of bitters brings me full circle to our lives today.

For we are living during some bitter days.

A shadowy Spector seems to be waiting on each of us with some sort of sadistic
bated breath.

We are finding ourselves isolated, dislocated and as if living in some strange foreign land.

Our world has been literally turned upside down.

And how ironic that we should find ourselves in the midst of one of the holiest times
in all of Christendom—the week leading to Good Friday…and eventually Easter.

A time of jubilation followed by humility, betrayal, torture, and eventually death…

It is a bitter time.
A time of gall and bile.
A time of blood and vomit.

Not a pretty picture.
Not a picture of sweet little bunnies and precious little lambs.

This is a time of reality.

A time of life, lies, deceit, and death.

And how odd that our world now is actually walking the same sacred
walk we Christians have walked now for nearly 2000 years…
the Via Dolorosa…

A painful and difficult journey.

Yet what we followers of Christ already know…
the ending is not nearly as tragic as the world would have us believe.

Victory, in the end, is truly ours.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,
and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning,
nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Captain’s log—has it been almost a week????

“The Divine Heart is an ocean full of all good things,
wherein poor souls can cast all their needs;
it is an ocean full of joy to drown all our sadness,
an ocean of humility to drown our folly,
an ocean of mercy to those in distress,
an ocean of love in which to submerge our poverty.”

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

I went back to the grocery store yesterday…
The sign reads, ‘meat custom cut the way you like”
I ask, what meat???

We’re all hunkered in and down in the house…all together.

And right now, we’re all having to make sacrifices…

Consider changing the Sheriff’s big messy diapers…
they have now become a massive joint effort…

I actually took my chances today and in a moment of desperation, I went to Target.
I walked in carrying my own Lysol wipes.
I bought the Mayor a dart shark board.

Plus some sidewalk chalk…but it’s now supposed to rain for the next three days…
of course it is…

Luckily we can play darts sharks and fish
in the house.
Or fill an empty water bottle full of dried rice, screw the cap on tight and shake it
till our heart’s content, or I’m crazy.

And in the middle of all of this new craziness that we’re each finding ourselves
living in, I really don’t know what should be considered new, normal or merely insane.

I have a dear friend in Florence, Italy…I’ve tried getting in touch with her now
for over a week…not a word.

Each day there is a new tally of loss.
Italy has not experienced losses like this since WWII

And what about Spain?
Iran?
France?
The US?
My state of Georgia.
My county?
My city?

I walked outside this afternoon and I heard the birds.
This is such a wonderful time of year to hear the melodic symphony of singing.

I can actually see Spring rounding the corner and I think life is oh so normal.
Oh so rhythmic.

But yet I know it is anything but normal and our ‘oh so taken for granted’
rhythm has been broken.

We only think that we are living with inconveniences.

We grumble.
We grouse.

But what we are seeing, experiencing goes far beyond inconvenience.
This goes beyond our grumbling and complaining.

And I think it is slowly dawning of those who had thrown caution to the wind and went on
living life as if nothing was different…I think maybe, just maybe, they might finally
be getting the memo…life is now very different.

I had read a friend’s post today and she said in all of this craziness she had actually forgotten
it was Lent—and it dawned on me that I too had forgotten Lent as well.

But then I considered the thought that I hadn’t actually forgotten Lent…but rather
I am living Lent.
We are all living Lent.

In this desert wasteland that we now find ourselves wandering,
I am assured that both good news and Hope remain.

Victory is waiting for us on the other side of this desert.
We just need to keep making our way through the barren wasteland because when we do,
we will find Christ waiting with open arms…in part because he walked this desert long
before we ever took the first step.

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Captain’s log: Do more!

“There is no indication that God explained to Joseph what He was doing
through those many years of heartache or how the pieces would
eventually fit together.
He had no ways of knowing that he would eventually enjoy a
triumphal reunion with his family.
He was expected, as you and I are, to live out his life one day at a time
in something less than complete understanding.
What pleased God was Joseph’s faithfulness when nothing made sense.”

James C. Dobson


(1942 patriotic poster from WWII)

Captian’s Log, Day 3 of the mandated social distancing…aka stay at home!

There once was a time when each member of this country was asked to do their part.

The world was at war and we had joined in.

Many had enlisted in the various branches of service in order to go fight.

There were those who stayed home to tend to the importance of running a nation.

We had women, wives, mothers, young and old, all working in factories since
most of the men had left to fight.

We had ration books to use when going to the store.

We had to limit what we could buy and when we could buy it…
most fresh foods were going overseas to support the hungry troops.

People planted victory gardens–growing their own produce.

We were asked to donate metals, silver, gold, brass…
metal that could be melted into ammunition or the making of necessary equipment.

We were asked to buy war bonds.

People were encouraged to be supportive.

People had to use blackout curtains at night lest the enemy should see
their way to bomb us at home.

People were asked to monitor shortwave radios.

Gasoline was in short supply so travel was limited.

Sacrifice was a given.

We were each asked to help in our own small or big way.
It was a nation of folks ready to roll up their sleeves to lend a hand and do their part.
The goal was the same.

Victory in unity.

It was not easy.
It was lonely.
It was scary.
It was sad.
It was hard.
It was difficult.

But everyone knew it had to be done…the alternative of not doing would be disastrous.

And so as my family now does what it has been asked to do…
of staying at home as much as we can.
Working from home if at all possible.
Limiting our exposure to those outside of our home.
Washing our hands.
And not hoarding grocery items…

I am disheartened when I see, read and hear of those who throw caution to the wind.
I am troubled by the stories of those who say that they will keep doing as they wish.
My own community remains very much busy and on the go.

People such as the American ex-pat cookbook author who calls Paris home, David Lebovitz to
Megan McCain, to my own family and friends…there has been a great deal of concern that
the mandates of limiting our social contacts are simply falling on deaf ears…
as it is all going largely unheeded.

David Lebovitz, in his food blog, has offered some great “stuck in the house” recipes
we might like to try.
David lives in Paris and is the author of several cookbooks, French travel books as well as
a great food blog.

In David’s blog post yesterday he shared his frustration, given the French government’s
mandate, much like Itlay’s, to stay indoors and to limit all social gatherings—
his frustration came from seeing so many of the younger French congregating in the streets,

We are on day #1 of a fifteen-day confinement.
Bars, cafés and restaurants were closed Saturday at midnight
(which were packed in my neighborhood, as usual, with twenty- and thirty-somethings),
and people were told to keep a distance between them and avoid public places.
But the revelry continued on the streets around here through the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Later in the morning, people waited in line, shoulder-to-shoulder, shopping at the Bastille market,
and Sunday afternoon, people filled parks in Paris, or sat by the canal to have a beer with friends.
To be honest, it was disheartening, and a little frightening,
to watch the news and hear people being interviewed, talking about how they didn’t care,
that they were going to do whatever they wanted.
So here we are, with talk of the military coming in to make sure people stay indoors.

https://www.davidlebovitz.com/stay-at-home-recipes-confined-confinement/

And so now the French government now considers marshal law…hmmm

https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/macron-invokes-war-europe-goes-213419878.html

Even Megan McCain, daughter of the late Senator Joh McCain and conservative commentator, has
joined the bandwagon by echoing a similar concern…

https://www.foxnews.com/media/mccain-de-blasio-millennials-coronavirus

And then there is the following link of a story about a message gone viral from an Italian
who utters a dire warning to the US. A message that we must heed the warnings given to us
before things spiral into the disastrous mess Itlay has found herself in as the virus
cases multiple faster than one’s head can spin and the death rate becomes staggering.

https://currently.att.yahoo.com/lifestyle/creators-behind-viral-video-of-quarantined-italians-share-coronavirus-warning-161158583.html

So, while I’m beginning to feel as if we are the only Americans hunkering down…
I pray that my fellow Americans will take heed, doing their part by joining the fight…
the fight against an unseen but very real enemy.

Yes, I think more people have died from the typical flu but this sinister bug is effecting
us on a multitude of levels that I have never seen in my lifetime.
Why that is, I am not certain…but the effect is real and it alone is proving
just as deadly and catastrophic..

Our shops and stores are closing.
All of our sporting events are being canceled.
Graduations are being canceled.
Weddings are being canceled.
Our travel industry is a ghost industry.
Churches and Synagogues are closing their doors.
People are losing jobs.
The stock market is falling.
And people only thought Russia would be our undoing.

It might just be that we will be our own undoing if we don’t join together to put an end
to the madness.
And the faster we work together, the faster this all can be put behind us!

So please, do your part!

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when
he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together,
they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone,
two will withstand him—-a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

keep calm?

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows,
it empties today of its strength.

Corrie ten Boom


(my extent of “prepping” for our latest cirises/ Julie Cook/ 2020)

The market has crashed.
Our savings have suddenly taken a nosedive.
Our life’s savings have shrunk drastically, if not totally having disappeared.
All in the course of a few hours on a Monday morning.

Thanks to Russia and Saudi Arabia…

Italy is closed for business.
Forget the impending Holy Season of Good Friday and Easter.
Forget your favorite olive oil, pasta or historical wonders.
News flash, the Pope has a cold.

China…

Well, China is a bad word…in more ways than one.

South Korea and North Korea…typhoid Marys…

Delta is canceling flights left and right.
Grocery store shelves are reminiscent of an impending snowstorm,
let alone the ending of the world as we now know it…

But remember, you just lost your life savings in the crashing market…
therefore you can’t afford the grocery store’s price gouging on things you really don’t
normally need.

And whatever you do…
DO NOT TURN ON THE NEWS!!!!!!

Do you remember the days following 9/11?

We were told to prepare.

We were told to put together a “survival” kit.

We needed to fill a plastic tub with:

Duct tape.
Duct tape should be used to seal all windows and doors in case there was a dirty bomb.
Duct tape, as a saving grace from nuclear annihilation, who knew?!

Water.
Because our water systems would be targeted.

Freeze-dried foods.
If there was a run on grocery stores, supply would not meet demand —
Should a catastrophe ensue, our food sources would be targeted.

Cash.
Because there would be a run on the banks and the Government would
shutter the bank’s doors in order to protect the markets…in turn,
you’d not be able to get any of your money.
But remember, you don’t have any money because the markets crashed.

Flashlights and batteries as power grids would be targets.

Old fashion radios because communication would be limited due to destroyed
power grids.

Batteries– to power our now old school technology.

First aid supplies since we wouldn’t be able to leave the house should we need care.

A bottle of bourbon.

That was my addition—

So fast forward to today…
Each morning I’m blessed to wake up, I’m hearing more and more about doomsday reporting.

I’m hearing that hand sanitizer is now a rare commodity and so the DYI folks are
offering hacks to make our own.
Think alcohol and aloe vera gel.

So this morning was my typical morning to head to the grocery store for my
weekly shopping.

If I listened to the people, be they the news folks or just friends or neighbors,
I would need to go out and prepare for this latest plague and end of times crisis…

I would need to stock up on bleach, hand sanitizer, canned foods, bottled water,
iodine tablets, surgical masks, nitrile gloves, zinc tablets…

I would also need to grab my mail out of the box while wearing gloves.
All deliveries would need to be put down at the door while I retrieved them while
wearing gloves and a face mask.
And better yet, I should not order anything because chances are everything has
been touched by ‘the infected’.

And so that image up above, well it’s the extent of my gathering.

I saw the sanitizer wipes on an end cap on sale…what the heck, I’ll pick up a canister.
I use them when cleaning up around the cat box.

The bleach… well, spring and pollen are coming and I’ll need to be cleaning down the deck
following the onslaught of yellow powder that will settle upon our world.
Plus we’ve had so much rain, the deck is a giant piece of mildew.

The Oreos you ask??!!

Well, my husband will need something sweet to nibble on should he be stuck
inside a duct tapped domicile due to the impending apocalypse.
No better way to go then while munching on a few Oreos.

And whereas we should always take precautions, as we normally do when viruses or
bacteria such as the flu, West Nile virus, Ebola, Ecoli…
each run amuck, we also shouldn’t ready ourselves to climb out on
the latest window ledge to jump before we are taken out by the latest plague.

Be smart with your health but NOT a henny penny panicker who is listening to the
doomsday news naysayers…folks who actually want our nation to fail and fall apart…

Because yes, there are those who want our Nation to fail…
We need to stay calm while staying smart…

Oh, and by the way…I caught wind that toilet paper is becoming scarce.
Who knew???
Why in the heck there’s a run on toilet paper I have no idea, but supposedly some
shoppers in Australia got into a smackdown over the last package on the shelf.

When I visited my local grocery store today…I’m happy to report that the
shelves were full and there wasn’t the slightest sign of scarcity…
I did, however, pick up a package of toilet paper…
just to be on the safe side…

Because like Kathy over on atimetoshare noted, the Sears catalog has since long come and gone…

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

honey and locust… or would that be grasshoppers?

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth;
and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word,
to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God,
men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

Pope St. John Paul II


(a locust passing by / Julie Cook / 2015)

Sometimes I just think it would be best if I found some hollowed-out tree, ditched
all the trappings of this life and opted to survive off of honey and locust.

Think John the Baptist.

The voice of the one crying out in the wilderness.
The man who lived in the desert eating only honey and locust while preaching about the
repentance of man…

So in my case, maybe we should make those grasshoppers because grasshoppers are more prevalent
in my neck of the woods.
But if the truth be told, I could easily do honey all day long, grasshoppers, however,
are things that I’m just not so certain about.

But this little reflection is not about eating bugs or living in
a hollowed-out tree—
but rather this post is about ridding oneself of all the trappings of a distracting world.

Giving to God all that I am and all that I have…which is simply me and me alone.

Because isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
What we’re supposed to be about?

So maybe this IS a post about living in a hollowed-out tree, or in a cave or in a hut
or in the desert…

It’s about giving all and crying out.

It’s much like having a St. Francis moment.

Stripping down naked in the town square, tossing off all the fine clothing given
by one’s well to do parent and opting instead to offer the only thing one truly has that
is his or her own…that being one’s unclad naked self.


(St. Francis’ renunciation of worldly things / Giotto /1295 /Bascillica of San Francesco Assisi, Italy)

Yet Life gets complicated.

Our culture and society have both grown caustically complicated.

We can get so caught up in the minutia of living.
We tend to worry about things that are totally trivial in the grand scope of what is
truly worthy of concern…

We fret over silly little things like matching appliances, buying name brand purses, shoes, and cars.
We want a house in that oh so special neighborhood while putting our kids in the best of the best schools…
We live on our phones, on Facebook, on twitter on Instagram…
We have become the masters of making nothingness into life-altering concerns and thoughts.

The proverbial mountain verses the molehill.

Throw in the daily constant fixation with our toxic political sludge…
and well, we are all living a life of perpetual distraction— and if the truth be told,
it is a life of heaviness and negativity.

What then do we have left to give God?
What remains?

Maybe having a St. Francis moment is in order for us all.
Throwing off the trappings of this world and giving to God what it is at the heart of the matter—
that being ourselves and ourselves alone…
ourselves with nothing covering us or allowing us to hide behind…no distractions.

Just us.

Just us making Him our focus..the focus of what truly only matters.
Because in the end…nothing else in this world does matter…
Everything and everyone will eventually die and or pass away.

So only Him and us…

Creator and created…

“We live in a fallen world.
We must, therefore, work out our destiny under the conditions created by sin.
Did we but realize this truth, we would accept each of life’s trying changes in the same spirit
in which we accept the penance from the confessor.
Were we truly convinced that our hope of pardon, and consequently our salvation,
depends upon repentance, we would willingly undergo all the sufferings of life’s warfare.”

John A. Kane, p. 81
An Excerpt From
How to Make a Good Confession

running thread

Like Peter, the modern world has denied Christ.
Contemporary man is afraid of God, afraid of becoming his disciple.
He has said, “I do not want to know God.”

Robert Cardinal Sarah


(a sad little dried acorn in a very dry land / Julie Cook / 2019)

The other day I caught a lead-in title to a story by journalist Sam Sorbo
Conservatives must wade into [the] cultural fray –
yes, even making their own movies – to expand base

Meaning conservatives are more or less losing the proverbial culture war…but
the good news is that a complete loss is not yet a guarantee.

Sorbo notes that “while conservatives are leading in the battle of ideas,
they have all but surrendered the culture war.
Academia, entertainment and high- and low-culture are completely dominated by liberals.
Conservatives must enter the cultural fray if they’re going to expand their base.”

I think we might all agree that words such a conservative, morality, and Judaeo / Christian
run hand in hand while running against our ever-rising post-Christian progressive liberal world.

There is a war…and there are many of us who might agree that it seems
as if the ‘good-guys’ are losing?

If you consider yourself a Christian, a conservative, a Jew, a person of high moral principle…
then you have some sort of understanding of this “war…”

It is a war on both faith and values.
It is a war on the traditional family.
It is a war on the sanctity of marriage.
It is a war on the sanctity of life.

And thus those of you who visit cookieland know that I don’t believe in coincidence but
rather I believe in the urgings of the Holy Spirit.

There has been a word…a single word that is considered to be also an action…
That word, that action, is ‘prayer

I’ve noticed that the idea of prayer, or simply the word prayer,
has been a running thread recently here in the blogosphere,
as well as popping up in the things I’ve been reading and even in average conversations…
be they books or various on-line sites.

Prayer… the act of petition, asking, addressing, worshiping, praising…
a conscious practice of either or all mental, vocal or physical actions.

One of the quotes I shared the other day was a quote by St. Angela Merici.
The quote was actually more of a command.
A command she offered to others in the early 16th century…however it is a command
that is most timely and relevant these many centuries later.

St. Angela Merici, a religious educator and according to Wikipedia,
‘founded the Company of St. Ursula in 1535 in Brescia, Italy,
in which women dedicated their lives to the service of the Church through the education of girls.
From this organisation later sprang the monastic Order of Ursulines,
whose nuns established places of prayer and learning throughout Europe and,
later, worldwide, most notably in North America.

St. Angela Merici extolled her young female charges just as she extols us today to
“Pray, and get others to pray, that God not abandon His Church,
but reform it as He pleases, and as He sees best for us,
and more to His honour and glory.”

Most of you know I’m currently working my way through a powerful book by Catholic
Robert Cardinal Sarah, The Day Is Now Far Spent

It is a powerful rallying cry of the faithful—not simply the Catholic
faithful, but rather a cry for the entire global Christian faithful.

Cardinal Sarah is very candid about the ills of our current state of affairs…
ills both in and outside of the Chruch body.
The Cardinal shares that both fasting and prayer are the two crucial weapons that he
relies upon during this spiritual battle, we now find ourselves facing.

He reminds us that…
“We have abandoned prayer.
The evil of efficient activism has infiltrated everywhere.
We seek to imitate the organization of big businesses.
We forget that prayer alone is the blood that can course through the heart of the Chruch.”

And so today I echo the words I read yesterday on Kathy’s post at atimetoshare.me
“What lies below”
“I pray that God will hear the prayers of the faithful and once again intercede.
We need Him now more than ever.”

WHAT LIES BELOW

Just as I echo Fran’s comment she offered to me when I commented on her post
Showers of Blesings:
“Julie, the Spirit fills us with praise for what He is doing, though we cannot see it.
As the unseen God of all life, He works behind the scenes within the heart and spirit of man
to accomplish all His will.
We need to pray for more of His Spirit to do His work in our own hearts and lives as
He continues to work in others. Blessings for your day.

Showers of Blessing

Calls for fasting.
Calls for revival.
Calls for prayer.
Calls for a Nation to fall upon her knees.

The thread keeps running.
Will we heed the call?

“Without union with God, every attempt to strengthen the Chruch and the faith will be in vain.
Without prayer, we will be clanging cymbals.
We will sink to the level of media hypesters who make a lot of noise and produce nothing but wind.
Prayer must become our innermost respiration.
It brings us face to face with God.
Unless we place our head on the heart of Christ, like Saint John, we will not have the strength
to follow him to the Cross.
If we do not take the time to listen to the heartbeats of our God,
we will abandon him, we will betray him as the apostles themselves did.”

Robert Cardinal Sarah.

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