thankfulness intertwines with hopefulness

“In giving us this regular hunger for food,
we are also given opportunity to sacrifice for each other and for God
and to discipline our appetites.
Always cognizant of our nature, the liturgical year is rife
with periods of both fasting and feast.
In order to feast, we must also know sacrifice;
in fact, it’s only in sacrifice that we understand what a feast really is.
Our lives can contain an ever-repeating rhythm of each in its proper time.
In the same way that it would be profane to feast on Good Friday,
so would it be improper to fast on Easter.
This rhythm is a reminder of both a need to be filled as well
as a need to strengthen our resolve so that we might long first
and foremost for the feast that has no end.”

Carrie Gress and Noelle Mering, p. 88


(turkey season in Georgia 2017/ Julie Cook)

Ok, so just maybe the above image is not necessarily an image of what we might consider
to be one of thankfulness and gratitude—
well certainly not for this particular creature being photographed that is…

…but oh isn’t it such a beautiful and magnificent bird?

We know Ben Franklin thought as much as he wanted the wild turkey to be our
Nation’s national symbol.
However, I must admit, I suppose wiser heads prevailed allowing for
the eagle to take center stage…

So maybe beautiful, or even pretty, isn’t exactly the right word or words
to describe the turkey.

Let’s just go with, say…colorful, textural, unusual, sublime, prehistoric,
and yes, how about even mysterious.

Mysterious, much like this time of year…
a time of year when we find ourselves entering into that which
reminds us that there is something much bigger and truly greater than
ourselves—even greater than any black Friday sale.

And it is a time that begins with today’s kickoff of the
annual advent of thankfulness.

I’ve always been one to give Thanksgiving day its due…
as in I believe it is a day that should indeed have its own time
in the spotlight.

A set day to remind each of us of all things full of
both gratitude and thankfulness.

Yet far too many of us seem unable or even willing to keep our thoughts
on such notions as we find it difficult keeping our Christmas spirit
of childlike glee at bay.

Many of us have already decked the halls with our Christmas decorations…
having done so well before the final candle of the jack-o-lantern
was even extinguished.

That lingering pumpkin spice scented candle’s smoke still lingers
in the air as Christmas trees, what with their glistening baubles and balls,
now come racing past to take center stage.

Thanksgiving Day, for many, receives only a cursory nod as folks have set their
sights on all things such as sales and bargains laced with the taste of
peppermint and gingerbread.

For me, I think this year in particular reminds me that…no, wait…
I think “reminds me” is the wrong phrase…I think that my soul has
actually been pricked to remember, perhaps actually even prodded with
a red hot cattle iron….
that for me, particularly this year, it is a time to be thankful
and such thankfulness must be paramount…especially this year of all years.

In the midst of a year that has seen its full bait of both loss and heartache,
the sense, that palpable feeling of both gratitude and thankfulness,
must still exist. They must still be allowed to manifest themselves
despite a seemingly insurmountable wall of all things contrary.

Because if we cannot find, if I cannot find or if we cannot
find our ability to give thanks even in the midst of our pain and suffering…
if we cannot cling to a sense of gratefulness despite our heaviness…then
we have lost all ability to hope.

And it is in that hope…that deep down sense of hopefulness,
that we actually find our ability to move forward…
even if that forward motion is simply one step at a time or simply
one more minute in a lifetime full of minutes..
one more breath at a time…

Thanksgiving reminds us of hope.

The notion that things will get better…not simply that they must get better
but rather that they WILL get better—
no matter what that getting better might look like.

It might not be what we imagined, it might not be what we expected…
but it will be hope none the less.

So I wish each of you not merely a happy Thanksgiving day but rather I
wish you each a renewed sense of hope—
for in that hope rests our real sense of thankfulness and gratitude…

“Prayer is an aspiration of the heart.
It is a simple glance directed to Heaven.
It is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy.”

St. Therese Lisieux

“Remember the past with gratitude.
Live the present with enthusiasm.
Look forward to the future with confidence.”

St. John Paul II

Good-bye my dear old friend…

Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.
Saint Thomas Aquinas

Animals are such agreeable friends –
they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.

George Eliot


(Peaches in her beautiful prime / Julie Cook/ 2017)

How do you pick a day, a time or even the place for the death of another?
The death of someone you love dearly?

How can you be the master of another’s right to live or die?

Or perhaps more simply, how can one be given the tremendous responsibility
to glibly turn the hand with a thumbs up or a thumbs down?

…just like those various Roman emperors,
those long ago bloodthirsty leaders who were burdened, or perhaps gifted,
with such decisions— never seemingly having any internal
moral turmoil…none like I have had…

How in the world can one balance both mind and heart in
such everlasting ending sorts of decisions?

Oh there are those out there who seem to give such thoughts no never mind…
Those who have little if any regard for the living or the sanctity of
their, or anyone elses for that matter, life.

The phrase moral responsibility has been tossed at me like a
dead weight over the past several weeks.
As in…. it is my moral obligation to do the “right thing” by my
cat…my pet, my tender responsibility.

That being Peaches, the older of my current two cats.

She is/was 15 years old…
diagnosed with aggressive and advanced bone cancer in her jaw
just a few short weeks ago….

I’ve had a cat in my life ever since I was 6 years old.

Oh there was the occasional bird, fish, mouse, along with several dogs
over the years, but cats have been the constant.

So I did a little counting….
during the course of 57 years… that being from age 6 to 63, I have had a total
of 7 cats.
7 cats spread out over 57 years.

Some of them were more cat-like, while two of them were more dog-like.
(Yes even a vet once told me one of my cats was more dog-like than cat-like…
meaning they had a deeply bonding personality…not aloof and independent like
most typical cats.)

Peaches, who was more cat-like, came into my life in 2007.
She came as a lonely, lost and starving 8 month old kitten.

Our son had just graduated high school and had left for college when Peaches showed
up—it was as if on cue she came into my life when there was a drastic void.
She readily filled that void.
She was tenacious, street wise and determined to live.
And yet faithfully, throughout both the good and bad, Peaches stood by my side.

So fast forward to a recent divorce, upheaval and obvious loss…
all multiplied by a major move—
and suddenly, and oh so sadly, it came time for her to leave her post…leaving me.

So having overseen me resettled, I suppose she believed her job was complete.

It’s just that I wasn’t ready to make that decision for her, for me, or…for us…
not yet…
but whoever said life would be fair…

And so I thank you Peaches, my dear tenacious friend,
Mommy will always love you!!!


(sporting her “Mimi” hat)


(holding on to Percy’s tail, her surrogate child)


(Wednesday at the Vet’s when we said our good-byes)

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in
peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters,
you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ,
stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua

finding peace…in and with the world

Be at peace with your own soul,
then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.

Saint Jerome

Who except God can give you peace?
Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?

St. Gerard Majella


(an apple gourd—who knew??? / Julie Cook / 2022)

Ten some odd years ago when I started this little blog…when I began taking up
a tiny bit of residence in this endless space known as the blogosphere,
my desire was to share my personal ramblings of that of both journey
and transition…I was a teacher for heaven’s sake…we share by the sheer
nature of our trade!

And at that time, it just so happened that my life was one big journey
of transition…

There was the new transition and journey into retirement.

While at the same time there was the sorrowful transition of walking
from that of life to that of death’s door with both my dad and my aunt.

There was the journey of handing a child’s hand, turned that of a
man, to that of another woman’s hand…the passing of a torch so to speak
from one to another.

There was the discovery of a real biological past…complete with names and faces.
Yet there was the renewed rejection of a birth mother to that of her adopted child.
Again.

There was the eventual addition of two new joyous lives into my own.
The filling up of one’s heart…a heart that had just shortly before felt so
sorrowfully full of loss.

There was a pandemic.

There was a new retirement.
There was moving.
There was divorce.
There was loss.
There was unfamiliar.

And so now, as I stop for a bit of introspection and reflection,
I think my thoughts have shifted just a tad.
As in my axis has tilted just a wee bit off from its normal rotation.

I’m finding the notion of Peace…be that peace within, as well as peace outward,
to be a more immediate focus.

I think that’s why the following observation by Thomas á Kempis
has resonated so deeply within this restless soul of mine this evening.

I don’t believe that our dear brethren Thomas is inferring, as so many observers
quickly and most falsely assume of our Christian faith….
that being that we must suffer in order to eventually acquire peace…
but rather I find it all to be quite to the contrary…

It is the notion that we should seek peace amidst the chaos of
this life…a feat short of the miraculous given our current day and times..

We mere mortals will all eventually endure some sort of suffering in this
life—some, more it may appear, than most.
Fair or unfair as it may be….yet suffering, be it just or unjust, there
it will be.

And so therefore, it should be our task to seek peace within such times
and within such circumstances as we may be currently finding ourselves.

For it will only be in that Peace…that we may find rest amidst the storm.
For if we do not seek we will never find nor know that there is indeed a
Peace far greater than any turmoil life can throw at us…

And so now we begin a new journey of transition…that of Peace…

Will you come walk this path with me?

“You must first have peace in your own soul before you can make
peace between other people.
Peaceable people accomplish more good than learned people do.
Those who are passionate often can turn good into evil and
readily believe the worst.
But those who are honest and peaceful turn all things to good
and are suspicious of no one….
It is no test of virtue to be on good terms with easy-going people,
for they are always well liked.
And, of course, all of us want to live in peace and prefer those
who agree with us.
But the real test of virtue and deserving of praise is to live
at peace with the perverse, or the aggressive and those who contradict us,
for this needs a great grace…
in this mortal life, our peace consists in the humble bearing
of suffering and contradictions,
not in being free of them, for we cannot live in this world without adversity.
Those who can best suffer will enjoy the most peace,
for such persons are masters of themselves,
lords of the world, with Christ for their friend,
and heaven as their reward.”

Thomas á Kempis, p.72-73

the last of the lions

“What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.”
Hans Urs von Balthasar

(Senator Bob (Doyle, 95, salutes the casket of his friend, colleague, opponent and
fellow WWII vertern, George, H.W. Bush)

(this is a portion of a post I offered back in 2018 with the passing of
President George Herbert Walker Bush— Bush 41…
Bush was the dear friend, colleague and fellow veteran of Senator Bod Dole
—one of the last of the greatest generation who pledged their life
and service to our great nation—Senator Robert Dole passed away
yesterday…)

If there is one image that has touched my heart the most, over the past couple of days
other than the image of former President George H.W. Bush’s service dog Sully resting
at the foot of his casket, it is this image…
this one picture…

The poignant and heart touching image of Senator and fellow WWII Vet
Bob Dole of Kansas being helped to his feet, in order to salute his longtime friend.

Senator Dole, of Kansas, is 95 years young yet is frail and is in failing health
but he was determined to be brought to the US Capitol building in order to pay his
respects to his fellow veteran and friend.

To most men of ‘that generation’ respect has always meant standing, and in this
case saluting, as both men fought, and were each wounded,
during what they simply referred to as “The War.”

Bob Dole was in the infantry fighting in Italy when he was hit by German
machine gun fire in the back and arm.

According to Wikipedia:
Dole was badly wounded by German machine gun fire,
being hit in his upper back and right arm.
As Lee Sandlin describes, when fellow soldiers saw the extent of his injuries,
all they thought they could do was to “give him the largest dose of morphine they dared
and write an ‘M’ for ‘morphine’ on his forehead in his own blood,
so that nobody else who found him would give him a second, fatal dose.”

Dole was transported to the United States, where his recovery was slow,
interrupted by blood clots and a life-threatening infection.
After large doses of penicillin had not succeeded,
he overcame the infection with the administration of streptomycin,
which at the time was still an experimental drug.
He remained despondent,
“not ready to accept the fact that my life would be changed forever.”
He was encouraged to see Hampar Kelikian, an orthopedist in Chicago who
had been working with veterans returning from war.
Although during their first meeting Kelikian told Dole that he would
never be able to recover fully, the encounter changed Dole’s outlook on life,
who years later wrote of Kelikian, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide,
“Kelikian inspired me to focus on what I had left and what I could do with it,
rather than complaining what had been lost.”

Dr. K, as Dole later came to affectionately call him, operated on him seven times,
free of charge, and had, in Dole’s words,
“an impact on my life second only to my family.”

I am always gratified when I read of or hear of the stories about the impacts
that one human being can have upon another…
impacts, that more often than not, are unbeknownst to the one who is doing the impacting.

I call it the gift of the unknowing.

These unknown gifts actually consist of simple things such as time,
assistance or a listening ear or even what might be perceived as an
insignificant opportunity…
These gifts, which more often than not are unbeknownst to the giver…
become paramount and even life-changing to the recipient.

Bob Dole had his gift giver.
And we Americans are better for it.

And if the truth was told, I think most all of us have had a gift giver, if not several,
during the course of our lives.

Senator Robert J. Dole (1923-2021)
Mr. Dole, a son of the Kansas prairie who was left for
dead on a World War II battlefield,
became one of the longest-serving Republican leaders.

(NYT)

so thin a line

“Solitude has soft, silky hands,
but with strong fingers it grasps the heart and makes it ache with sorrow.
Solitude is the ally of sorry as well as a companion of spiritual exaltation.”

Kahlil Gibran


(Julie Cook / 2015)

There is a thin line.

It is so thin a line that it is not visible to the human eye.

It is so thin a line that even the web of a spider appears heavy
and large in comparison.

And dare I say that such a line is not even visible by means of the
strongest electron microscope.

It is a line that cannot be detected by sound waves or any sort
of visible imagery.

No doctor, scientist, engineer or even artist has ever seen such a line…
because this line is impossible to see…

And yet there are those who know far too well that this line exists.

There are but a few hardy souls who, for both better and worse, know
that this line is very much active in our daily existence.

For those who know that this line exists…
also understand that this line is not visible to the eye but rather
visible to one thing and one thing only.

And thus knowing that this line exists…as in not through
a visual ability but one that is rather more visceral than not,
those who know, know that this is a line that can only be felt.

For this is a line that is only experienced within the human heart.

The line exists somewhere between love and sorrow…
Sweet and bittersweet….
Gain and loss….
For it is composed of both complete joy and utter despair.

One side of this line is marked by love while the other side is marked
by sorrow…
with nary a space or gap in between.

Man has long since accepted the fact that to love does indeed,
more often than not, guarantee sorrow.
The degree of that sorrow is only dependent upon each particular individual.

But what is known is that to have loved and to have ever lost that love,
that is indeed the line of which we speak.

The cognizant mind knows that to love means that there is indeed a real
possibility of hurt, loss and pain, but it is not until that love is removed…
that anyone can fully understand the endless depth of such a loss
and such a love.

For it is in that loss and separation that one can finally grasp the full
spectrum and depth of that very love.

So the question we must ask…are we willing to suffer in order to love?
Or maybe that question should be…are we willing to love, knowing that
we very well may suffer.

I for one think the answer is a resounding yes.

So here is to the thin line of love.

But because of his great love for us,
God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—
it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5

When you lose one of the good ones…

We all have our likes and our dislikes.
But… when we’re doing news – when we’re doing the front-page news,
not the back page, not the op-ed pages,
but when we’re doing the daily news, covering politics –
it is our duty to be sure that we do not permit our prejudices to show.
That is simply basic journalism.

Walter Cronkite


(Jovita Moore, WSB new anchor, reporter, journalist)

It was a chilly, grey, rainy Friday morning.
Not exactly a conducive day nor conducive weather for traversing the maze
of interstates leading into the massive city of Atlanta.

However, as oddly as it seemed, the knotted network of roadways actually
flowed better than they normally should.

The weather, however, pretty much reflected the somber news
Atlanta had woken up to earlier that morning.

One of the few remaining good ones had passed away Thursday night.

It had been the heavy responsibility of Channel 2’s news anchor
Justin Farmer to share the heartbreaking news Friday morning
that his friend and colleague Jovita Moore had lost her battle with cancer.

Perhaps you think it might seem like an odd thing for me write a
post about…that of a news anchor’s death from cancer….
but what I want folks to know is that Jovita Moore was not just any
old news anchor, reporter or journalist.
She was one of the good guys…or is that good gals?

We are currently living in a culture that is rife with fake news, lying
journalists and overtly biased reporters.
Foaming at the mouth is more apparent than at any other time
in the history of the industry.

Journalism is now considered a caustic profession.
Scoops and stories are spewed out at the cost of any and all facts.
Skewed is the name of the game.

Truth is one of the first casualties these days from
both liberal and conservative journalists.
Neutrality no longer exists.

However it did with Jovita.

Truth mattered to Jovita.
As did an always upbeat and positive demeanor, when she’d take
to her desk each evening in order to report Atlanta’s and the nation’s news.

She was well worth turning on the evening news for as she delivered the facts
and the climate of the times, with a professionalism that is now as rare
as an extinct species.

Kindness marked her delivery yet she could be tough when the need
called for it.

That toughness was called upon back in the Spring, back
one day in April.

Jovita had run to a local grocery store one evening following
her newscast. Suddenly she realized that she was about to pass out
in the parking lot.

Her head was swimming.
And she had noted that she’d been a bit foggy as of late.

A trip to the ER offered some telling news.
There were two small tumors in her brain.

There was surgery and she offered her own update.
Positive and even cheerful as always.

However, the biopsy was not what anyone had hoped for.
She had an aggressive form of brain cancer.

The city, and even the state, held a collective breath and began a link
of prayer…a diverse city and state all gathering heart and soul
for the sake of one of their own…just another Atlantan, just another
adopted Georgian.

Jovita lost her brief battle Thursday night.
She was only 53.
She was surrounded by her mother and three children.

The link to her story is below.

The world always seems a bit less bright when one of the good
ones goes home.

https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/channel-2s-jovita-moore-passes-away-after-battle-with-brain-cancer/BYZ3I5MHBJC57PTH56PG3IA75E/

can a grape break your heart…maybe it’s time for Grace

“Doctoring her seemed to her as absurd as putting together
the pieces of a broken vase. Her heart was broken.
Why would they try to cure her with pills and powders?”

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina


(red grapes /Julie Cook / 2021)

What causes a heart to break?

What causes that overwhelming suffocating pressure inside
your chest when you realize that your heart is actually breaking?

Is it sorrow?
Is it loss?
Is it absence?

What is it that causes that deafening pounding inside one’s brain
while an unending flow of tears leaves an etched trail cascading
down cheeks?

Is it fatigue?
Is it distance?
Is it emptiness?

Could a grape break your heart?

The fact that the bag stated seedless grapes and yet they were full of seeds…
can that break your heart?

Grapes most likely will never break your heart…

But maybe it’s who was last eating those grapes…
Maybe, just maybe, that’s who can break that heart.

What about a can of diet Dr. Pepper?
Can a soft drink break you heart?

Doctors might agree that caffeine isn’t necessarily good for your heart
as it might just make your heart race, however the chances are that
that drink won’t leave your heart broken…

But maybe, just maybe, it’s the person who was last drinking that soda
who might break your heart.

So what about an endlessly hungry, bottomless pit, of a cat…can such a cat break your heart?

The incessant meowing of one who wants feeding at each and every turn,
might break your nerves, but most likely a hungry cat won’t break your heart…

Yet maybe, just maybe it’s the thought of who last fed the cat which
can break your heart.

And what of a stack of wine corks…
Can a random stack of wine corks break your heart?

Some agree that drinking wine might actually be good for your heart, it is however
doubtful that an idle stack of leftover corks would ever break your heart…

But maybe, just maybe, it’s the creator of that idle stack that might just
break your heart.

And so what of scent?

What of the lingering scent that remains from one who was, only moments
prior, holding you in their arms?
Does that remaining presence which is now woven into the fibers of your own clothing–
does that scent of that person who is now no longer physically present…can that
remaining scent break your heart?

Maybe.

It might just  break your heart because you find yourself holding on tightly to your
own piece of clothing…burying your face deeply into that shirt while breathing
in as if your very life depended on it…trying desperately to catch a last lingering reminder
that love was indeed present despite a now empty and silent distance.

And so what about homework?
Can homework break your heart?

Homework…
There was a time when certain types of homework nearly broke my will…
but school work never broke my heart.

Yet what I am discovering however, is that the homework of learning how to accept Grace, allowing Grace to penetrate
into what was once perceived to be an undeserving soul…Grace that yearns to pry open and
break down one’s ancient walls…walls built to be impenetrable…yet walls that must succumb to Grace that is now being offered freely and graciously from one to another…is a lifeline that I never knew how badly I needed.

And so it now seems that that simple act of an offering of Grace can indeed break one’s heart…and more often than not, that breaking is agonizingly painful, yet it is also something most necessary if one hopes to push through this thing we call life.

And so my hope for you is that you too may also be fortunate—fortunate to find and to receive this gift known as Grace…

Yes, it might just break your heart, but that breaking just might be the only way you can find it and hold on to it.

“I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”
Hermann Hesse

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

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in
peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters,
you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ,
stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(a statue to St.Anthony in the small chapel of St. Blasiuskirche,
Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

When I first read the quote that I’ve opted to use today,
I was immediately transported to a different time and place…
and to a previous post.

It was 2012 and I had recently retired from 31 years of teaching—
I was also preparing
to embark on an arduous journey with my elderly father…
how arduous, I had no idea,
but I knew life was changing and I knew it was not going to
be for the better.

My aunt, another friend, and I had all embarked on a bit of an adventure
during that fall of 2012.
It was a wonderful trip which holds some very precious and
treasured memories…especially since my aunt is no longer with us.

Yet during that trip, there were a couple of very special moments
that have stayed near to my heart…
and one thing I’ve learned over the years,
adventures offer lessons.

And so I looked back at that original post and found
that the serenity that I had experienced
during that adventure, and later in the writing of the post,
I realized that I greatly needed to relive, as well as share, again,
that peaceful gratitude I found one quiet fall afternoon.

And so here is that post from October 2013 about a warm fall
afternoon in 2012 in Salzburg, Austria:

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient
wooden door being pulled open echoes loudly throughout the small
yet cavernous chapel.
It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep
into the hallowed room.
The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow.
There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…
her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly,
bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before
the small statue.

I once heard it put that religion was just something for
old women and children.
Pity that…as that must mean that older women and children are the only ones
who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful,
and too arrogant to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air
is a welcomed feeling against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside.
I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle,
my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew,
as I make my way to my seat of choice.
I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence,
before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–yet I oddly welcome
and greatly appreciate the nuances
of ancient worship–-more than would be expected from my raising.
There is a deep mystery that I believe many in our mainstream churches miss.
This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too
sadly forgotten in this age of the technologically savvy megachurch.
The ancient components of worship seem lost on those now sitting
in stadium type seating waiting, as if ready for the latest blockbuster to begin,
to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements,
each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations
through this ancient room,
I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present.
She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation.
She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees.
The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s.
Dark wood paneling with cream-colored walls.
Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed,
acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room.
This is not one of the beautifully bright and light
Rococoesque churches of Austria that the tourists clammer to enter in order
to view famous paintings,
statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs
heralding glad tidings.
This chapel is small, dark, ancient, and humble.
Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross.
I begin my “conversation”—-it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude
as a tremendous sense
of warmth and contentment engulfs me.
I then begin my petitions—-not for myself,
but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey.
After some time, I open my eyes.
How long had I been praying?
I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–-
it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel,
I am a pilgrim.
I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…
I want to be a part of each moment in time.
I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer,
watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of
voyeuristic individual
or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure,
but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears
each of our prayers.
I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way.
I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life,
wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously
have gathered here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice.
I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew.
I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive.
I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–
my hand slightly shakes.
I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles.
I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony
and God for this time of communion with not only them but with
this woman who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful.
I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door.
I make my way back outside, into the light.
It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright.
The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets are almost painful to my ears.
This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment, I had a glimpse of the Divine.
I feel different for the encounter.
Changed.
Better.
Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate
to be privy to something so rich and so special.
I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting
city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special
secret that no one else knows…no one other than that older woman back in the chapel
and myself.

all that remains is Silence (a timely repeat)

Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts:
secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned.”

James Joyce

In the silence of the heart God speaks.
If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.
Then you will know that you are nothing.
It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness,
that God can fill you with Himself.
Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Mother Teresa


(Julie Cook / 2014)

****Yesterday, while I was searching through some older posts,
I came across a post that I wrote back in April of 2014.
I am assuming it was written as a lenten /Good Friday post.
While rereading it, there was something in it that I couldn’t quite
put my finger on, yet I knew something, very strongly, was speaking
to something deep inside of me.
It speaks these seven years later as I find myself in a different
space and time.

It’s that transcendence notion again.
That of going beyond to that which is calling us home.

And so perhaps it is Nicodemus who I can relate to at this particular
moment in time.
Perhaps I too feel the weight of a deafening, defining yet empty Silence…

Yet blessedly, what I do know, despite coming these many centuries after Nicodemus,
is that the Silence will not remain silent for long.

It has only been a few hours.
There is. . .
no rush of wind,
no gossip or chatter,
no signing birds
no barking dogs
no children at play
no rumble of thunder
no toil of labor.
Nothing.

The only thing which remains is the Silence,

And yet there is a sound to Silence.
It is the sound of a heartbeat pulsing through tired worn out ears.
The heaviness of a labored sigh expelling through a dry open mouth.
The sound of hunger wrestling through an empty gut.
The popping of tired old joints.

He had asked them to bring the body here.
To the cold Silence of a bought grave.
Emptiness fills the Silence.
A lingering sweet scent of myrrh and aloe now fills the cold empty space.
With the women all gone, as well as for all the others, he silently holds a solitary vigil.
Two laborers wait nervously by the trees ready to seal the tomb.

He stands alone staring, for what seems to be an eternity,
at the now lifeless shrouded mass.
A surreal moment for a tired old man who has seen far too much of
a life that he cares not to recall.
What was it his old friend had told him of the conversation he
had had with the Teacher that night which now seemed so long ago…
“No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven:
the Son of Man.
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes
will in Him have eternal life. . .

What does any of that now mean at this particular moment in time?
Does the Son of Man now die as any other man?
Everything he thought he knew is now turned upside down.
He silently wrangles with these thoughts of life and death,
when suddenly he is reminded of how very tired he feels.
He had raised his hand, without thought, resting it against the
cold massive stone in order to steady himself.
It has been a terribly long and pain filled day.
He is no longer a young man.
He is old and tired, but the events of today have aged him further.

There are no more tears, for they have long since fallen.
He shutters slightly, pulling the tallit, the prayer shawl,
closer over his aged body, as an empty coldness now envelopes the dark tomb.
Silently the sun begins a slow descent below the horizon,
as he notices an odd coloring to the sky.
It is now time he takes his leave for the Sabbath is soon to begin.

Sabbath.
How odd that suddenly seems.
He slowly turns towards the two men waiting in the shadows.
No words are spoken.
He offers a silent nod as he walks away.
The workmen wait until he is gone before bracing the long pole under
the massive stone.
It is done.

And now Silence fills the World.
Not even a whisper remains.

Yet oddly, vibrations faintly rumble underfoot.
An expectancy fills the air.
A small flock of birds chaotically flutter in the night sky.
Something in the dark has sent them into motion.
The animals sense it first.
They always sense change before any human.
Mankind doesn’t yet take notice.

Within the Silence, the Earth begins to tremble.
Birth pangs fight viciously against Death’s motionless hold.
Transcendence is at hand,
as blinding light seeps up through cracks in the ground.
Tremors roll over a planet as waves crash against distant shores.
The Earth now shifts ever so slightly on its axis, as cosmic explosions mysteriously shimmer in the night sky.
All in Hell begin to quake.

The Silence is no longer so silent.

down the slippery slope –off we go…time for a revolution?

“To join two things together there must be nothing between
them or there cannot be a perfect fusion.
Now realize that this is how God wants our soul to be,
without any selfish love of ourselves or of others in between,
just as God loves us without anything in between.”

St. Catherine of Siena

‘He that deceives me once, its his fault;
but if twice, its my fault.’”

“The Italians having a Proverb,

Bumbling, stumbling, fumbling, miscues, incompetence, misguided,
bloodied guilt, laughter, foolishness, ignorance, blindness, calculating,
arrogance, ineptitude, stupidity, mismanagement, hapless, clueless,
blatant defiance, wrong, hurtful, deceitful, cold, uncaring, blame…

Shock, anger, resentment, betrayal, loss, sorrow, bereft, bewildered,
now rage…

Tumbling, falling, rolling, sliding— lost..into an abyss

Hear us oh Lord…

He said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you,
persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,
for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the salt of the earth.
But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out
and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world.
A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.
Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone
in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds and glorify
your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:3-16

And Jesus said…I am here for a revolution.
Not a revolt, but a revolution.
Believer…are you ready?