The 21– Muhammad’s answer to the people of the cross…

“Life itself, without faith, would have been worthless to them. It would be mere existence–
an existence more lowly than that of the animals, for animals are perfect in and of themselves, but humans are imperfect;
their aim for perfection requires divine assistance.”

Martin Mosebach author of the book The 21: A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs


(book cover)

My friends at Plough Publishing have gifted me with another tantalizing morsel
book for perusal and review.
Well, my publishing friend actually was offering several books for sharing but I requested the hard copy of
but one book—
The 21.

It is the story of those murdered and martyred Egyptian Copts on a Libyan seaside in 2015,
at the hands of ISIS—a story that continues to haunt me.

And it seems that I am not alone in feeling haunted by the memory of this heinous act.
The German author, Martin Mosebach is haunted as well.

Obviously, in order to delve into the story, Mr. Mosebach watched the full video of the beheadings
that was still floating around out there somewhere in cyberspace…that odd juxtaposition of
both space and time where nothing seems to die despite any and all humans involved either eventually
or having long since died.

At the time, as well as now, I did not nor do I care to watch such.

There have been many highly publicized videoed beheadings…
all carried out in the name of Allah by ISIS over past 5 or 6 years, but I have not watched them.

And yet oddly millions have been drawn to watching as if having bought a ticket to some macabre
Hollywood blockbuster…mesmerized by the unthinkable…
The unthinkable of one human being ending the life of another human being–
A life that is literally being held in the hands of an executioner…
or better put, a life’s head pulled up by the hair, all in order to sever the neck and eventually
the head more readily from its body.

Mosebach notes in his book how the original ISIS video actually cut away from what became an extended
as well as messy time the executioners were having in literally cutting the heads from the bodies…
not neat and quick as say the swift effortless job of a guillotine.
And it was very apparent that for the sake of the video’s shock value and propaganda,
the executioners desperately needed, as well as wanted, to look as professional, in control
and as efficient as possible.

A messy beheading can give the impression of being amateurish and ISIS wants nothing
to do with appearing amateurish or not being in complete control—as that feeds into their
desire to always appear large and in charge.

After watching the video and studying the odd camera image of the captors marching their
prisoners to the shoreline while appearing as black-clad giants
next to their captives who were wearing the unmistakable orange jumpsuits reminiscent of the Islamic
prisoners at Gitanomao, as each captive appeared small and less than–

Mosebach was moved by the posturing of the captors mirrored by the near emotionless
and oddly resigned yet the serene sense of their captives.
Prayers could be seen and heard flowing from the lips of the captives as well as the offered
praise for Jesus Christ despite knowing their fate was soon to be grisly.
There were no cries for mercy or of fear …but only controlled prayers to Jesus.

Early in the book Mosebach wonders aloud whether or not martyrdom and Christianity must
always go hand in hand…as he inquisitively muses
“as long as there are Christians there will also be martyrs?”

Mosebach knew that he must make his way to Egypt to visit the
homes and families of these martyred men.
And that he desperately needed to know more about the Copts and the Coptic faith.

The Copts are as old as Christianity itself–for they are some of the earliest known followers
of the Christian faith. Coptic actually means Egyptian—so these are Egyptian Christians.
They originated in the city of Alexandria and claim the author of the book of Mark,
that being John Mark, as their founder and first ‘bishop.’

Long before there was a Latin West or Eastern faith, long before there was
an East and West spilt in the faith, there were the Copts.

According to gotquestions.com,
Prior to the “Great” East/West Schism of A.D. 1054,
the Coptics were separated from the rest by the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451.
The council met to discuss the Incarnation of Christ and declared that Christ was
“one hypostasis in two natures” (i.e., one person who shares two distinct natures).
This became standard orthodoxy for Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic,
and Protestant churches from then on Coptic understanding is that Christ is one nature from two natures:
“the Logos Incarnate.”
In this understanding, Christ is from, not in, two natures: full humanity and full divinity.
Some in the Coptic Orthodox Church believe that their position was misunderstood at
the Council of Chalcedon and take great pains to ensure that they are not seen as Monophysitic
(denying the two natures of Christ), but rather “Miaphysitic”
(believing in one composite/conjoined nature from two).
Some believe that perhaps the council understood the church correctly,
but wanted to exile the church for its refusal to take part in politics or due to the rivalry
between the bishops of Alexandria and Rome.
To this day, 95 percent of Christians in Alexandria are members of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

It is interesting to note that when the Coptics were under the rule of the Roman Empire,
they suffered severe persecution and death for their steadfast faith and beliefs in Christ while
refusing to worship emperors. However, by A.D. 641,
yet another tribulation began when the Arab conquest took place,
overthrowing the Romans’ rule in Egypt and, at first, relieving the Coptic Church from persecution.
What appeared to be their liberty and freedom became yet again bondage.
The societal strength and control of the Arabs caused the Coptics to endure a major language and
culture change as well as confront the Islamic faith. Unfortunately,
over the centuries, Christianity lost foothold and most Coptics converted to Islam.

I am only to page 26 in the story and Mosebach has not yet traveled to Egypt—
so I am hopeful to read a story rich in history, Faith, resilience, forgiveness and above all Hope—
Hope despite the choking backdrop of Evil.

Some of his words prick the skin.
I find it difficult reading the words written by those who are not Americans…
those who write about America and our politics…
words about our leaders, our actions, our lack of action,
our complications in world affairs…
because like most Americans, I like to think our hearts are in the right place but I also know that
our National actions and reactions are deeply complicated by our politics.
Actions and reactions that fail not only our hearts and our people but fail those of our world.

I think as Americans we tend to feel a responsibility, albeit it a false responsibility, to
make the world a better place and to be the quintessential Superman for those in need.
We sometimes fail…we fail others and we fail ourselves.
So it does hurt reading the words of those who keenly notice.
But as they say, the truth can often hurt.

Throughout his quest, while seeking truth and information, Mosebach is moved by what he
actually does find…
that being a deeply sincere forgiveness found in the hearts of the Copts.
A century’s long-oppressed people who can find the capacity to truly forgive those
who have brutally killed their own families.

Unlike those of the Islamic State who seek misguided bloody, torturous and grisly revenge…
the Copts literally embrace the words of Christ…to forgive one’s enemies, no matter what.
For it is in forgiveness that we find our true liberation and hope.

Their faith goes beyond what we think of Christianity in the West.
That of an ever-growing, feel good wannabe that is polarizing and lukewarm at best.

The Copts seem to understand that our Faith transcends this earth.
Life on this earth is a blink of an eye that matters not…what matters is Christ and Christ alone.
Nothing more, nothing less.

I’ll offer more as I progress as time allows but for now, I will leave us with the
words of Mr. Mosebach…

Much as the brutal nature of their deaths and the firmness,
even stubbornness with which they confessed their faith seem to match one another in context,
we find their fate equally eerie.
Hasn’t the Western world, with its openness toward discussion and dialogue,
long since overcome such life-threatening opposites?
We live in an era of strict religious privatization and want to see it
subjected to secular law.
Society seems to have reached a consensus to reject proselytizing and religious zeal.
Hadn’t all that put an end to the merciless, all-or-nothings alternatives or believe or leave,
renounce your faith or die?

Here is a link to Christianity Today and a story about the Copts and forgiveness.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/april/forgiveness-muslims-moved-coptic-christians-egypt-isis.html

Third term abortions, Absolutely NOT!

‘Abortion’ “[the] anticipated murder to prevent someone from being born”
Tertullian

All this is causing a profound change in the way in which life and relationships between people
are considered. The fact that legislation in many countries,
perhaps even departing from basic principles of their Constitutions,
has determined not to punish these practices against life,
and even to make them altogether legal,
is both a disturbing symptom and a significant cause of grave moral decline

Pope John Paul II
Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)
1995


(a puny pigeon sits at the breaking surf / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019

I am simply beside myself.

So gravely upset.

So much so that the words will not come.

And the words that do come, are not the right words…not for this…not right now.

Third. Term. Abortions.

I need to gather my thoughts, feelings, and words carefully before I can write
the type of post that is deserving of this latest issue of absolute madness.

My initial response is not only absolutely not, but more like, Hell NO, Absolutely NOT!!!

I have never believed in abortion.

It eludes me as to how a civilized society can somehow convince itself that abortion is ok.

The matter of simply a choice.
A yes or a no.
Somewhat reminiscent of a Ceaser offering a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
Simple as that…life or death.

I consider abortion the taking of a life and I think when I last checked, the taking of a life
equated to murder…and murder is a capital offense, plain and simple.

I am adopted.
Not aborted.

In 1995 Pope John II wrote an encyclical entitled Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life—
a treatise regarding the sanctity of human life…all human life…
as well as the responsibility that the Chruch has to protect that sanctity and that of life.

His words address the threats to human life— capital punishment, euthanasia, sterilization, murder,
and abortion.

He begins his encyclical with the scripture from Luke—reminding all of us about the importance of
birth and salvation…it is the proclaiming of the good news and that of great joy which is to
all people…’for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…”

The Pope is reminding us that our hope comes in the form of a birth of a baby…

Nancy Pelosi, the current Speaker of the House, is Catholic.
Yet she supports abortion.
She knows the teaching of the Chruch and yet her choice is to disregard this teaching
regarding the sanctity of human life.

And now we have the Governor of Virginia and several legislatures thinking full-term
pregnancies..that being the delivering of a living, breathing baby to not be tended to or
cared for but rather to be set aside, like a wet towel after a shower,
while the powers that be in the room decide whether or not the
baby may be “allowed” to live or simply die.

When I went to sleep in 1995 on a night when the Pope was putting his thoughts to paper,
I was a 36-year-old mother of a 6-year-old little boy.
I was also a wife and a teacher.

I had already lost my own mother (adopted) to cancer.
My brother (adopted) to suicide.

I was not a perfect mother or wife let alone a perfect teacher.

I was well aware of my own shortcomings and sinfulness.
I was also aware of the sanctity of life.
As well as the forgiveness of sin as found in a Savior who had come into the
world as an innocent child.

I knew other people who also believed in the sanctity of life.

My church, The Episcopal Chruch, at the time, believed in the sanctity of life.

That is not so much the case these 24 years later.

Politicians, clergy, educators, news personalities, entertainers and just average folks like wives,
husbands, college kids, high school kids…
all these 24 years later…more and more people think abortion is ok…

And now, we have the notion that a full term birth…an actual living and breathing baby may
in turn, be killed if those in that delivery room deem it so.

So until I can put my own thoughts together in some sort of coherent, common sense sort of order,
I will offer the following words from Pope John Paul II, taken from Evangelium Vitae,
with a link following the quote to the full encyclical.

At the dawn of salvation, it is the Birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news:
“I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people;
for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11).
The source of this “great joy” is the Birth of the Saviour;
but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth,
and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfilment
of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn 16:21).

When he presents the heart of his redemptive mission, Jesus says:
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
In truth, he is referring to that “new” and “eternal” life which consists in communion
with the Father, to which every person is freely called in the Son by the power of the
Sanctifying Spirit.
It is precisely in this “life” that all the aspects and stages of human life
achieve their full significance.

The Church knows that this Gospel of life…

58. Among all the crimes which can be committed against life,
procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable.
The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an
“unspeakable crime”.54

But today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become
progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour
and even in law itself,
is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense,
which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil,
even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation,
we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call
things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the
temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is
extremely straightforward:
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20).
Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology,
such as “interruption of pregnancy”, which tends to hide abortion’s true nature and to
attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a
symptom of an uneasiness of conscience.
But no word has the power to change the reality of things:
procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is
carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence,
extending from conception to birth.

The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize
that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved.
The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life.
No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be
considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor!
He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence
consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears.
The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman
carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother
herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated,
and who then goes about having it done.

It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother,
insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for
purely selfish reasons or out of convenience, but out of a desire to protect certain
important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the
other members of the family. Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live
in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place.
Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic,
can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

59. As well as the mother, there are often other people too who decide upon the
death of the child in the womb. In the first place, the father of the child may be to blame,
not only when he di- rectly pressures the woman to have an abortion,
but also when he indirectly encourages such a decision on her part by leaving her alone
to face the problems of pregnancy:
55 in this way the family is thus mortally wounded and profaned in its nature as a community
of love and in its vocation to be the “sanctuary of life”.
Nor can one overlook the pressures which sometimes come from the wider family
circle and from friends. Sometimes the woman is subjected to such strong pressure
that she feels psychologically forced to have an abortion: certainly in this case
moral responsibility lies particularly with those who have directly or indirectly obliged
her to have an abortion. Doctors and nurses are also responsible,
when they place at the service of death skills which were acquired for promoting life.

But responsibility likewise falls on the legislators who have promoted and approved
abortion laws, and, to the extent that they have a say in the matter,
on the administrators of the health-care centres where abortions are performed.
A general and no less serious responsibility lies with those who have encouraged
the spread of an attitude of sexual permissiveness and a lack of esteem for motherhood,
and with those who should have ensured-but did not-effective family and social policies
in support of families, especially larger families and those with particular financial
and educational needs. Finally, one cannot overlook the network of complicity which
reaches out to include international institutions, foundations and associations
which systematically campaign for the legalization and spread of abortion in the world.
In this sense abortion goes beyond the responsibility of individuals and beyond the
harm done to them, and takes on a distinctly social dimension.
It is a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people
who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders. As I wrote in my Letter to Families,
“we are facing an immense threat to life: not only to the life of
individuals but also to that of civilization itself”.
56 We are facing what can be called a “structure of sin” which opposes human life not yet born.

60. Some people try to justify abortion by claiming that the result of conception,
at least up to a certain number of days, cannot yet be considered a personal human life.
But in fact, “from the time that the ovum is fertilized,
a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother;
it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth.
It would never be made human if it were not human already.
This has always been clear, and … modern genetic science offers clear confirmation.
It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the programme
of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic
aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins,
and each of its capacities requires time-a rather lengthy time-to find its place and to
be in a position to act”.57 Even if the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be
ascertained by empirical data, the results themselves of scientific research on
the human embryo provide “a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason
a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of a human life:
how could a human individual not be a human person?”.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae.html

And as we, the pilgrim people, the people of life and for life, make our way in confidence towards
“a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1),
we look to her who is for us “a sign of sure hope and solace”

Pope John Paul II
Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)
1995

Upholding God’s word, part II: when your child is not your child

Let this be the way that I go,
And the life that I try,
My feet being firm in the field,
And my heart in the sky.

Philip Britt

It was May 2nd, the day the Chruch recognizes St Athanasius, a true defender of the
Holy Trinity, when I caught the latest episode of Anglican Unscripted featuring our
favorite rouge cleric Gavin Ashenden.

Before beginning his interview, the good Bishop made note of the feast day of this
former bishop within the Chruch, St Athanasius.
An obscure saint to most of the faithful but none the less important in the
history of our faith…
His is the story of a man who stood up in defense of the Godhead of Christ
when the early church was being run amuck in heresy.

Not much different it appears from our own current run amuck days.

St. Athanasius
A champion of orthodoxy!
He did not die a martyr, but his life was martyrdom in the truest sense.
Athanasius was the Church’s greatest hero in the battle against Arianism
(a heresy that denied Christ’s divinity).

“the entire Catholic congregation with one accord, as one soul and body,
voiced the wish of the dying bishop Alexander that Athanasius should succeed him.
Everyone esteemed him as a virtuous, holy man, an ascetic, a true bishop.”

Bishop of Alexandria and a great defender of the orthodox faith,
throughout his, life opposed the Arian heresy.
By denying the Godhead of the Word the Arians turned Christ into a mere man,
only higher in grace than others in the eyes of God.
St. Athanasius took part in the Council of Nicea in 325 and until the end remained a champion
of the faith as it was defined by the Council. Even as a young deacon at the Council.
he was recognized as “Arius’ ablest enemy” and the foremost defender of the Church’s faith.
After the death of his bishop (328),
“the entire Catholic congregation with one accord,
as one soul and body, voiced the wish of the dying bishop Alexander that
Athanasius should succeed him.
Everyone esteemed him as a virtuous, holy man, an ascetic, a true bishop.”
In him the Church venerates one of her great Doctors.
He was subjected to persecutions for upholding the true teaching concerning the person
of Christ and was sent into exile from his see no less than five times.
He died at Alexandria in 373 after an episcopate of forty-six years.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The good bishop began the interview with a reflection on the life and death of Alfie Evans–
the young boy I wrote about the other day in the post “When your child is not your child”

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2018/04/30/when-your-child-is-not-your-child/

I found it important to hear the perspective of the good bishop—
the perspective of one who is British and understands better than I do
the workings of the healthcare system and the legal system in the UK.

Bishop Ashenden notes that this all boils down to a pure rank prejudice as to why the
British Court wouldn’t allow Alfie’s parents to be what is their God-given responsibility…
that being Alfie’s parents.
Parents tasked with making those hard decisions for their own children…
and not a legal system who blatantly decrees that it is the one who knows
what is best for a child not its own.

For as parents, it is our Divine responsibility to mirror the parenthood of God the Father,
a Father who sent His only begotten son so that we may have eternal life…

The Godhead of the parent to the Son.

Bishop Ashenden explains that at first, this was basically a case about a power struggle.
It was a struggle for power between the medical professionals who decreed that they knew best
for the child over that of Alfie’s own two parents.

But it turned more sinister and very anti-Christian when Alfie’s Catholic parents stated
that the Pope, along with the Italian Government who had granted Alfie citizenship,
offered to bring Alfie to Rome in order to receive continued care in Italy versus terminated
care in the UK.
No matter if that care was for 24 hours or 24 days, etc.

So wouldn’t any parent, no matter how dire the circumstances may be,
opt for, as well as cling to, any ray of hope???
That hope being, in this case, the generosity of both the Pope and Italy?!

Yet the judge involved, who happens to be an ardent Gay Rights supporter and known for his
outspoken disdain of Christianity, brought in the element of anti-parent and anti-Christian and
anti-Chruch by putting state and secular values before the values of the Gospel.

He ruled that Alfie could not leave the country for care elsewhere and that the hospital
should remove all life support from the child ASAP.

The child would then be expected to die immediately.

But Alfie did not die immediately.

He actually lived for 4 days…

And here is where the sinister enters in…
the hospital, seeing that the child would not die, withheld any and all sustenance, water,
IVs, fluids, noursihment…in essence murdering this 23-month-old child.

With the argument being that he would die anyway so why prolong the inevitable.

But do we mere mortals ever really know the inevitable or rahter merely the assumed?

So let us imagine for this moment the sheer hopeless anguish this young couple felt for
their child.
As his parents, it is their innate prewired disposition to protect, care for, nurture,
console, help, aid, and sustain their child.
It is what we as parents do…
Just as God the Father has so bestowed upon us all with His being the pinacle example.

Baby In My Arms I Took

Baby in my arms I took
Through the gentle night,
Tawny, tawny were the clouds,
By the moon alight.

And we found a golden tree,
All alone and old,
Standing in the tawny light,
Palm tree made of gold.

Golden palm tree, bend your head,
Tell my baby why
Here you stand all tawny-gold,
With your head so high.

Whispered then the golden palm,
Bending low and near,
“Long ago another Child
Found me standing here;

And He gave me leaves of gold,
Laughing in His glee,
Saying ‘When the babies come,
Speak to them of me.'”

Philip Britt
September 5, 1943

I’m not looking for trouble, honest…

“In her voyage across the ocean of this world,
the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s
different stresses.
Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course.”

St. Boniface


(I wonder if any of these birds know anything about the missing owl decoy’s head? / Julie Cook / 2018)

I think I’ve gotten to the age where I really don’t go looking for trouble…rather,
trouble merely seems to come looking for me.

Now that’s not to say that I’d back down or run from trouble…
I’ve learned that it’s often best to simply brace oneself while stepping into the wind…
the wind of trouble that is.
Marching forward and dealing with it head on…that is, when it comes marching my way.

I say all this because I had four things yesterday that I found troubling all within about
the span of a blink of the eye—
I didn’t find them, they found me.

Like I say, I don’t go perusing for these sorts of things and I do my darndest to keep such
off my radar…but…

Usually, every time when I go in to fetch my email, a “news” feed page comes up first…
AT&T’s home page.
It runs a scrolling snippet of the day’s headlines…

Now the idea of what I’ve always thought of as a headline versus what our “society”
now considers a headline, separated and parted ways eons ago.

So before I could even click the ‘take me to my mail page’ icon,
I saw that John Kerry was making fun of President Trump’s girth,
Tom Brady stopped an interview over a reporter’s snide remark regarding his daughter,
that the Grammy’s were a huge “I am woman hear me roar” moment and that—
with that last one actually being a twofer—
it was a night of who’s who in Grammyville loving one another while hating the rest of
everyone else…as the women untied and wanted to bash the heads of those who
countered their endearing and de-masculating moment of unification…

Then in my email, I read that our friend the Wee Flea reviewed a movie that will probably be up
for best picture–a typical movie plot over racism in small town USA, a movie that he actually
hated—and left him sad and hopeless that we as a society have sunk to calling such a film
“entertainment” and actually a bravo moment…

Then before I could run and hide, a movie ad pops up for a totally different movie that I
actually looked into regarding the plot line as it too was claiming to be a best picture.
It’s that movie about the Shape of Water business and having read the storyline–
about a mute woman falling in love and actually having sex on screen with a mutant sea creature,
while they then swim off happily together into the sunset, left me shaking my head…

As in shaking to see if something was lose inside my brain cause I just don’t get any of this.

A, I’ve never heard of either movie until first, I saw the Wee Flea’s post and then secondly
when the pop-up ad for the other movie actually popped up…and I confess,
I fell for its ad and looked further. So they accomplished their desire of fishing for curiosity.
But that was enough because I was resolutely reminded once again as to why I really don’t
ever go to see a movie.

They are either ridiculous, full of hidden agendas, laced with unnecessary awful violence and sex
or just flat out stupid.

Then we have the notion of news…that which makes news news…
and whatever that actually is—and that I don’t care for any of it.

I miss Huntly and Brinkley…I’ve written about them before…and I’m still missing them.

I could care less about award shows such as the Grammy’s, the Oscars, the Tony’s,
the you name its.
Why do I want to see an elitist crowd who is so far out of touch with reality, patting one another
on the back, while they use their public platform to tell the little people why it
is they are so little and why they the elitists, are so indeed so elite…

Sigh…

Today’s quote is by St Boniface—an English Benedictine monk (675-754 AD) who was tasked with
spreading the Gospel into the pagan Germanic tribes while also working to bring reform
to what Christian Churches had previously been established in the land of the barbarian Franks.

Neither task was easy and keeping one’s life was not a guarantee.
As Boniface was eventually massacred as he was preparing to baptize a group of converts.

He was committed to his faith in Jesus Christ.
He knew the significance of leading others to Christ and to sharing the Gospel with those
who had not yet heard or seen or whose hearts had once known but were now hardened.

Boniface bore out the Christian rule: To follow Christ is to follow the way of the cross.
For Boniface, it was not only physical suffering or death, but the painful,
thankless, bewildering task of Church reform.
Missionary glory is often thought of in terms of bringing new persons to Christ.
It seems—but is not—less glorious to heal the household of the faith.

(Franciscan Media)

I imagine that today’s current society is not much different than that of the time of Boniface
in that he was tasked with healing an ailing household of faith during a time of grave
personal peril. The Germanic Chruch, what there was of it, had fallen back into Paganism
along with having fallen into corruption.
Much like the day of St Francis when he was told by Christ on the Cross to “rebuild my house”
And again, not much unlike today.

Seems that not only are Believers meant to share, live and spread the Gospel,
they are also tasked with keeping house…
and when that house falls into ill repair, they are tasked with the repair and
even the rebuilding.

So I actually take heart when I read and see most vividly the wantonness of our day…
everything from the anger, the hatred, the belligerent chatter of the tit for tat and the
global persecution of the faithful…
because from all of this, be it the current “news” feeds or the latest ailments within the Chruch,
all of which is certainly enough to make me feel almost hopeless, and yet I take heart
in the words of St Boniface–
words which resonate with both my heart and soul.

We must not abandon the ship…
but rather we must work diligently to make certain
that we keep her on course…as well as make any needed repairs…

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called,
and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12

what are you willing to die for

“You cannot turn me from my holy Faith by threats, nor with promises of riches and pleasures.
I will obey your orders willingly, if you will leave me free to follow my religion.
I would rather surrender my head to you than to change my faith.
I was born a Christian, and I shall die a Christian.”

+ St. John the Russian


(lingering pomergarnite / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

The definition of the word martyr, according to Merriam Webster is: a person who voluntarily
suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion.

When we think of individuals who fit that description…we think of those individuals
who reach out to us from various Biblical tales.
We recall the stories of individuals who were tried and sentenced to death
for their faith in God, people like Daniel in the lion’s den—
or of Mesach, Shadrach, and Abednego along with King Nebuchadnezzar who decreed
having them thrown into the furnace…
We think of the stories of those individuals who refused to recant their belief in
the Omnipotent God.

Stories that are both far away and long ago.

And so in turn, we know from our Biblical history teachings that St Stephen was the first
recorded Christian martyr—
a man who refused to renounce his Christian faith, that of his belief in Jesus Christ…
with the near obvious result being his death…
and in Stephen’s case, it was by stoning.

The New Testament is laced with such stories—the stories of those who
suffered and died for refusing to denounce Jesus Christ as the Risen Son of God.

Yet today when we hear the word martyr or martyrdom, our 21st-century minds focuses in
on radical extremists…radical Islamic suicide bombers who offer themselves,
their lives, in order to kill as many other people as possible.
Not like the Christian who simply stands firm in his or her faith.

Christian martyrs are still being killed worldwide…
They die more or less quietly as their deaths are not publicized or are of common knowledge—
in part because they die in places where news of such is very hidden and or controlled.
Their deaths do not make the papers or the evening news.
Their deaths are not the headline gripping stories of deaths carried out by those who
prefer to kill mass numbers of people due to a skewed faith…

Many in the West, members of the Christian faith along with nonbelievers,
erroneously assume that Christian martyrdom ended with the fall of Rome…
due in part because the deaths of martyred Christians
does not make the nightly news or is not sprawled across the headlines.

The tales of imprisonment, tortures, and deaths of today’s Christians are not on the level
of breaking news as are those of the martyred Islamists because of the flip-flopped
extremist’s view of martyrdom.
Whereas the radical kills hundreds in one act—the countless numbers of tortured and
martyred Christians go virtually unnoticed.

However what we do know is that an Islamic Martyr sacrifices self in order to kill
while the Christian martyr is killed because he or she will not recant their faith…
and often is killed because of an attempt to protect others…
certainly not to harm others.

A vast difference.

Today most Westerners, and again that would be both Believers and non Believers,
does not feel a life or death threat or link to or for any martyred Christians
simply because the notion of a martyred Christians is not currently taking place.
Or at least that’s what we assume.

We aren’t still stoning or curcifying a person because they claim to be a Christian,
are we???

But what many in our society do not realize is that just because we live in an oh so
very modern society, there are indeed places still around the globe where Christians
are being stoned to death and even crucified for their faith despite our thinking
such barbarism disappeared eons ago.

Yet we read of IS and of the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians and
we occasionally hear a word of those who are killed for their faith in places
like North Korea, China, Myramar…but not here we will gloat, not where life
is civilized…right?

Yet what we fail to both see and understand is that the persecution of the Christian
in our Western Society is very much real…. however it is more hidden,
more insidious and quietly more subtle than those types of murders and deaths of those
Christians from either our history books or of those in far-flung regions of the world.

It would behoove us to realize that just because we consider ourselves “civilized” and
above the torture and or persecution of individuals for their Christian belief,
we should stop and take notice that there is one who is very much aware of the fact that
there is indeed such persecution taking place…
as such acts are carried out in a much more hidden and sinister type of execution…
And this individual is much more keenly aware of such…much more so than any human being.
And He couldn’t be more excited…

Abba [St] Athanasios, bishop of Alexandria, said:
“One of you often says: ‘Where is the persecution so I can be martyred?’
Suffer martyrdom in your conscience; die to sin;
‘Mortify your members which are upon the earth’ [cf. Col 3:5]
and you will have become a martyr by intention.

Those [former martyrs] fought with emperors and rulers;
you have the devil, the emperor of sin, for adversary and demons for rulers.
For at that time a shrine and an altar stood before them and an abomination
of idolatry, an execrable idol.

Take careful thought;
even today there is an altar and a sanctuary and a virtual execrable idol in the soul.
An altar, that is luxurious gluttony; a sanctuary, the longing for delights;
an idol, the spirit of covetousness.

bits and pieces

In designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences.
Pope John Paul II

You can’t sacrifice truth because some people will suffer because of the truth.
Ben Shapiro


(shelf fungus deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2017)

Slowly a Nation is learning the bits and pieces of the unimaginable horrific puzzle that now makes up the small Texas town of Sutherland Springs.

A town shattered…along with families shattered…
as a Nation shatters just a little bit more.

The stories of a madman now percolate to the surface as fact is sifted from fiction.

People have raced to conclusions—be they true or false, mainly because people
want to validate their own thoughts, fears and notions of the hows and whys.

But as I said yesterday, the real how and why is simple.

Satan.

Satan, Evil, demons exist and it is all very much real…
all because you and I live in a fallen world.

So believe and argue as you may, there is no other rationale or
understandable explanation but for where we fall into the world of
the Creator as His created.

Evil is evil and will perpetuate itself throughout the course of all of time
while human beings walk this planet…until Salvation returns….

Yet people will blame everything and anything else, the this and that of things
because they refuse to accept that the root of all the blame is simply Evil’s
product…with that being hate.

Hate for people…
Hate for self.
Hate for God.

The Scottish Pastor David Robertson offered his own take yesterday in an article
written for Premiere Christianity:

In June 2015, when Dylan Roof, who was a militant racist, killed nine church members
in a church prayer meeting in Charleston South Carolina,
there was justified outrage which highlighted the continuing poison of racism in
US society and even led to the removal of several Confederate monuments throughout the nation.

So when a professed atheist goes into a church and kills 26 Christians,
why is that not even considered as a possible factor?
Where are the demands to remove all memorials of famous atheists?

….I have already seen several comments which mocked Christians who have prayed for the situation. “They were in church. They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else.”
Even the BBC news report on it this evening signed off with a snide gibe that Americans seem to think the answer is in guns and God.

https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/The-Texas-Christian-Massacre-and-the-man-who-committed-it

Hate.
It was a word growing up as children we were told never to use.
We were taught that ‘hate’ was not to be a part of our language,
let alone a thread in our fiber as a human being…
If you were good and decent, you didn’t hate…rather you cared for, you loved,
you were empathetic, you were compassionate…you were to be anything but ‘hate’

And yet we subconsciously saw and heard it in its nuanced guise hidden behind our
fears, phobias and our sense of both right and wrong…
and when those bad unimaginable things happened,
we allowed ourselves to finally speak and feel the full fury of the word..
as the full level of our hate was unleashed under our own sense of self righteous
indignation.

Just as we now see how easily it rolls out of our mouthes and emerges ever so freely
from our own actions.

As the one glaring fact remains…that hate indeed begets further hate.
As in a perpetual state of a hate filled continuum.
And it is a continuum that we have bought into and adopted as our own.

Yet our Faith constantly admonishes us…Do Not Hate.

But how hard, how difficult that all is when Evil kills children at point blank range.

My thoughts and tears are now there in Sutherland Springs for the Holcombe family
who lost 8 family members Sunday morning to Evil’s hate.

Sons, daughters, husbands, wives, unborn babies….all gone, all taken…
as prayers were being said and hymns had been sung.

In his book Lessons in Hope George Weigel shares the tale of his personal
time spent over the years with Pope John Paul II—
Weigel recounts the assassination attempt on the Pope’s life by the assasin Ali Agca.

“In salvation history—that inner core of world history in which God’s purposes are
worked out through the action of divine grace on individual lives—there are neither happenstance nor coincidences. Rather, what appears to be sheer happenstance or coincidence is an aspect of Providence we don’t yet grasp.”

So here we now are…feeling alone, vulnerable and reeling from what seems to be
an endless march of madness against humanity….
We are left grappling with our own emotions and fears and lack of security.
We are left struggling while sorting out our disbelief, denial, acceptance,
forgiveness and even our hate…

All the while we wrestle with what is to be our reaction to Satan

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.
For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen,
cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love
their brother and sister.

1 John 4:20-21

thinking good

“Help Other People By Thinking Good About Them”
Elder Thaddeus

Thinking good.
Sounds easy enough.
Yet is it?

Elder Thaddeus reminds us how much the world can effect those efforts of trying to
think “good”….turning those best efforts upside down as the world works
to cloud all thoughts of goodness, kindness, benevolence and graciousness.

Just turn on the news as any and all thoughts of anything good quickly dissipate.

“A person who is entrapped in the vicious cycle of chaotic thoughts,
in the atmosphere of hades, or has only so much as touched it, feels the torments of hell.
For example, we read the newspapers or take a walk in the streets,
and afterwards we suddenly feel that something is not quite right in our souls;
we feel an atmosphere; we feel sadness.
That is because by reading all sorts of things, our mind becomes distracted and the
atmosphere of hades has free access to our minds.”

Thaddeus (born Tomislav Štrbulović) of Vitovnica, was both a Serbian and Orthodox monk.
Born in 1914 to humble working class parents, Tomislav was a sickly child who was not
expected to live much past the age of 15.
It was shortly after doctors made their grim prognosis of his supposed short earthly life,
that Tomislav entered an Orthodox monastery.
In 1935 Tomislav made his final vows and became known as Fr Thaddeus.

Thaddeus served dutifully the spiritual needs of the Serbian faithful as heirmonk,
or what is known as both priest and monk during the 1930’s and 40’s.
As a priest Thaddeus would conduct services, administer communion, hear confessions, etc.
As a monk, he would be more prone to the life of a hermit, a life of solitude and prayer
within a monastery.

During WWII the Serbs suffered grievously at the hands of both the Nazi regime as well as
the Ustaše, otherwise known as the Croatian Revolutionary Regime—
a fascist National Terrorist organization which became a puppet state of Nazi Germany
during WWII.

The Ustaše was responsible for the heinous barbaric treatment and the mass murders of
hundreds of thousands of Jews, ethnic Serbs, Romas and all those living in Yugoslavia
who were not considered “ethically pure.”

It is estimated that upwards of 500,000 Serbs and Croats living within the borders of
Yugoslavia, those in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, were systematically murdered in what
became known as the Serbian Genocide.
With the infamous Jasenovac Concentration Camp being known as the Auschwitz of the Balkans.

Fr Thaddeus was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo for refusing to stop
practicing his faith and for refusing to cease administering his office of priest.

Following the war and his eventual release,
Fr Thaddeus became the hegumen, or acting abbot, of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Belgrade.
He served at the church and several monasteries in and around Belgrade until his death in 2003.

He is both revered and respected by Serbs, Croats and Bosnians alike and many
Muslims who converted to Christianity hold Elder Thaddeus in special high esteem.

Elder Thaddeus is “credited for proposing the idea that our thoughts determine the
outcome of our lives.”

(Wikipedia)

I am always amazed by the wisdom of those who have suffered so grievously at the
hands of monsters…
those who have witnessed unspeakable horrors and yet have found the resolve and
eventually the peace to not only forgive and pardon those offenders,
but who actually go forward, teaching and reminding the rest of us what it is
that we must do in order to save not only ourselves but our sick and ailing world….

Elder Thaddeus is one such individual…

“We can keep guard over the whole world by keeping guard over the
atmosphere of heaven within us,
for if we lose the Kingdom of Heaven, we will save neither ourselves nor others.
He who has the Kingdom of God in himself will imperceptibly pass it on to others.
People will be attracted by the peace and warmth in us;
they will want to be near us, and the atmosphere of heaven will gradually pass on to them.
It is not even necessary to speak to people about this.
The atmosphere of heaven will radiate from us even when we keep silence or talk about
ordinary things.
It will radiate from us even though we may not be aware of it.”

Elder Thaddeus