bring an empty heart

“It is part of the discipline of God to make His loved ones perfect through trial and suffering.
Only by carrying the Cross can one reach the Resurrection.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen


(fall leaves doing what they do, fall / Julie Cook / 2020)

Reading the late great archbishop’s words…I would imagine that some readers don’t
much care for the notion of man’s enduring trials and suffering while on this earth…
that of carrying the Cross…with each as a means of reaching the final end goal—
that of our being Resurrected with Christ.

We don’t like to think that we are meant to carry a cross, that we are meant
to suffer or endure…a loving God should want us happy and content right??
A loving God shouldn’t allow those He created and supposedly loves to suffer
or to encounter pain, violence, or be handed a heavy cross to bear…

yet…

What we need to remember is that we live in a fallen world.
Sin shadows our every move.
In our lifetime we will each experience various trials.
Avoiding them as best we try, trials will still come regardless of our vain attempts
to keep them at bay.

However, our best recourse is to rid ourselves of ourselves…
To sever our ties to the trappings of this earth.
To completely empty our hearts.

For it is in that emptying, as St Liguori reminds us, that we are allowed
be open ourselves for the filling of the Holy Spirit.

We must detach ourselves from ourselves and from the world in order to save ourselves.

And it is only through following Christ, first to Golgatha then to that empty
tomb, that we will find our true peace and joy and everlasting life.

“The heart cannot exist without love; it will love either God or creatures.
If it does not love creatures, it certainly will love God.
In order to become holy, we must therefore banish from our heart all that is not for God.
When anyone came to the Fathers of the desert and desired to be received by them he was asked:
‘Do you bring an empty heart that it may be filled by the Holy Ghost?’
And they were right, for a heart that is filled with the things of earth has no room
for the love of God.
He who brings a vessel filled with earth to the spring will never be able to fill it
with water until he empties it of the earth with which it is filled.
How does it happen that so many pray and go frequently to Holy Communion and still make
no considerable progress in the love of God?
The reason is doubtless because the heart is full of self-esteem, of vanity, of self-will,
and of attachment to creatures.
He, therefore, who wishes to arrive at the perfect love of God must practice poverty in spirit.
He must be detached from worldly possessions, from temporal honors,
from his fellow creatures, and from himself.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 114-5
An Excerpt From
12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation

***off for a few days in order to find a few more falling leaves with the Mayor and the Sheriff

confession of sins and prayer

“O my God, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve to be served,
to give without counting the cost, to fight without fear of being wounded,
to work without seeking rest, and to spend myself without expecting any reward,
but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will.
Amen.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola


(fallen fungi / Julie Cook / 20202)


(fallen fungi / Julie Cook / 20202)


(fallen fungi / Julie Cook / 20202)


(fallen fungi / Julie Cook / 20202)

“Whoever confesses his sins…is already working with God.
God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God.
Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear ‘man’ –
this is what God has made; when you hear ‘sinner’ –
this is what man himself has made.
Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made…
When you begin to abhor what you have made,
it is then that your good works are beginning,
since you are accusing yourself of your evil works.
The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works.
You do the truth and come to the light.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1458
An Excerpt From
Catechism of the Catholic Church

“Be not puffed up, be not overjoyed, nor vainly presume…”

“If God were our one and only desire we would not be so easily upset when our opinions
do not find outside acceptance.”

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2020)


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Therefore, when God gives spiritual comfort, receive it with thanksgiving,
but know that it is the bounty of God, not thy merit.
Be not puffed up, be not overjoyed, nor vainly presume,
but rather be the more humble for this gift and the more cautious and fearful
in all thine actions; for this hour will pass away and temptation will follow.
When comfort shall be taken away from thee, do not presently despair;
but wait with humility and patience for the heavenly visit,
for God is able to restore thee a greater consolation.
This is no new thing, nor strange to those who have experienced the
ways of God: for the great saints and ancient prophets have often felt
this kind of variety.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 64
An Excerpt From
The Imitation of Christ

To the place where God is hidden

“Faith and love are like the blind man’s guides.
They will lead you along a path unknown to you,
to the place where God is hidden.”

St. John of the Cross


(mushrooms found along my walk in the woods / Julie Cook / 2020)

The point is simply that without God’s grace we cannot be good.
Without love, justice turns to cruelty.
Without hope, courage turns to blind despair.
Without faith, this-worldly wisdom is foolishness to God.
The two levels, natural and supernatural, hang together.

Peter Kreeft
from Back to Virtue

the soul humbles herself…

“Our perfection does not consist of doing extraordinary things,
but to do the ordinary well.”

St. Gabriel Possenti


(Julie Cook / 2020)


(Julie Cook / 2020)


(Julie Cook / 2020)*

“No human motive should lead us to pray:
neither routine, nor the habit of doing as others do, nor a thirst for spiritual consolations.
No, we should go to prayer to render homage to God.
It is not, however, a common-place visit of propriety,
nor a conversation without any precise object;
we want to obtain from Him some definite spiritual good,
such or such progress in the uprooting of some vice, in the acquisition of some virtue.
We have, therefore, a purpose upon which we are bent, and all our considerations,
affections, petitions, and resolutions should combine for its attainment.
God is there, surrounding us and penetrating us;
but we were not, perhaps, thinking of this.
We must, therefore, withdraw our powers from the things of the earth,
gather them together, and fix them upon God;
thus it is we place ourselves in His presence.
Naturally, we approach Him by saluting Him with a profound and humble act of adoration.
In presence of so much greatness and holiness,
the soul perceives herself to be little and miserable;
she humbles herself, purifies herself by an act of sorrow;
apologizes for daring to approach a being of so lofty a majesty.
Powerless to pray as she should, she represents her incapacity to God,
and begs the Holy Ghost to help her to pray well.”

Rev. Dom Vitalis Lehodey, p. 91
An Excerpt From
The Ways of Mental Prayer

(Fall’s wild persimmons hang and fall from the tree)

‘patches of Godlight’

“Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could
never get from reading books on astronomy.
These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’
in the woods of our experience.”

C.S. Lewis


(shelf fungus oddly existing on the dry red dirt of Georgia / Julie Cook / 2020)

I think we need to go to the woods.
Why?
Because we need a diversion from ourselves.

I am oh so weary from the vitriol and hatred that is eclipsing our senses.

We need to be reminded that we are truly small and that there is a world out there that is
actually much greater than ourselves.

We actually need to be put back in the food chain in order to grasp
the bigger picture—-
however sadly, we tend to run in the realm of human predation…so what can I say.

Let’s get out of our cities, our lockdowns, our narrowmindedness.
Let’s get out from under the bickering and hatred racing around our lives.
Let’s go to the woods…

But before we actually get into the woods, we’ve got to park the truck.
We’ve got to start walking…
and here’s what we see before we even get into the woods…

We see a lone downy turkey feather covered in the morning dew…


(turkey feather covered in dew / Julie Cook / 2020)


(detail of turkey feather covered in dew / Julie Cook / 2020)

Before we venture much further, before we leave the rutted red dusty path and diverge
into the thick stand of trees and vines, we see a carpet of dew-covered netted webs…


(a spider web covered in the dew / Julie Cook / 2020)


(detail of dew covering a spider web/ Julie Cook / 2020)

More tomorrow when we finally venture readily and willingly deep into another world…

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

humility of the heart

“Love proves itself by deeds, and how shall I prove mine? …
I can prove my love only by scattering flowers, that is to say,
by never letting slip a single little sacrifice, a single glance, a single word;
by making profit of the very smallest actions, by doing them all for love.
I want to suffer and even rejoice for love, for this is my way of scattering flowers.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 4-5
An Excerpt From
The Story of a Soul


(wildflowers at the beach /Julie Cook / 2020)

“The true reason for which God bestows so many graces upon the humble is this,
that the humble are faithful to these graces and make good use of them.
They receive them from God and use them in a manner pleasing to God,
giving all the glory to Him, without reserving any for themselves…
It is certainly true that he who is humble is also faithful to God,
because the humble man is also just in giving to all their due, and above all,
in rendering to God the things that are God’s; that is,
in giving Him the glory for all the good that he is,
all the good that he has and for all the good that he does;
as the Venerable Bede says:
‘Whatever good we see in ourselves, let us ascribe it to God and not to ourselves.’
To give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received and are continually
receiving is an excellent means of exercising humility,
because by thanksgiving we learn to acknowledge the Supreme Giver of every good.
And for this reason it is necessary for us always to be humble before God.
St. Paul exhorts us to render thanks for all things and at all times:
‘In all things give thanks.’ (1 Thess. 5:18).
‘Giving thanks always for all things.’ (Eph. 5:20).
But that our thanksgiving may be an act of humility it must not only come
from the lips but from the heart, with a firm conviction that all good comes
to us through the infinite mercy of God.”

Rev. Cajetan da Bergamo, p. 87-8
An Excerpt From
Humility Of Heart

timing is not mine

Truth has no special time of its own.
Its hour is now – always.

Albert Schweitzer


(a very fearful and shy visitor / Julie Cook/ 2020)

Time has never been my own.

It is not mine, nor is it yours.

Time is truly not any of ours to claim.
Time is beyond control.
It is beyond ‘our’ control.

And guess what…we humans don’t like that.

So what that all means is that “things” happen.
They happen whether we like it or not.

We have two cats.

Both cats were rescue cats.
Cats who found us to rescue them rather
than our finding them to rescue.

Now whereas most folks go to a shelter or have a friend who contacts them regarding
a found stray animal, we had two animals who actually found us.
Each about 7 years apart.

They sought us out.
We did not go looking for them.

Percy, who was in dire straits at just about a month old, was in the most desperate of shape.
Peaches, on the other hand, was about 8 months old, wandering alone in a back field,
and was very very hungry.

They were in need and each one had some innate drive which brought them to where they
each believed help would come.

Help came.
Love came.

Fast forward to present day.

Two days ago, I saw a dark blur dash across our front porch.
Huh?
What the heck??

I told my husband about seeing this odd blur and he told me that he meant to tell me
that he’d also seen a dark blur race across the back patio that he thought was certainly
a cat.

UGH! was my response.

We live on 5 acres in a mostly rural area with a few subdivisions nearby.
Stray animals, obviously, are not strangers to our area.

So I poked around the yard, bent over nearly on my head peeking through the lattice
covering our front porch, when low and behold, up under that front porch, first,
I heard a small mew and then I could make out two small ears.

UGH…agian
Oh, did I mention Percy has blown out his other back knee and really needs another
expensive and ardrous surgery??

This kitten, who appears to be part calico, is not like Peaches or Percy, whereas he, she, it
is not necessarily seeking us out–it has merely taken up residence in the dirt under my front porch.

I sumise that it is about 3 months old.

And yes, as you can see from the pictures, I have obviously offered free food and water.
Call me a softie but St. Francis is constantly whispering in my ear…

A friend of mine told me that her sister would take the kitten.
The problem is that I can’t “get” the kitten.

It is so skittish that I can’t get near it.

I tried yesterday…as it readily ate the food I offered, to pet its head after I coaxed it out
from under the porch…
.
I thought I had a perfect moment and tried to scoop it up, wraping it in a towel
as I hoped to move it to a cage that I’d set up with food, water, a litter box and cushion
until I could transport it to my friend’s sister.

And that’s when it bit me.

It then jumped and ran.

Great.

Rabis or cat scratch fever…maybe worms.
UGH!

So needless to say, the kitten ran and remains under our porch.
I continue to place dry food and water near the front porch in the evening
and by morning, each have disappeared.
Call me a sucker.
But like I say, St. Francis speaks loudly in my heart and soul.

So this story of three different cats, each needing and wanting, got me thinking about us
as humans both wanting and needing.

Sometimes we humans go forth needing…we seek because whe innately know we need.
Yet at other times we are needing but we dare not acknowledge such…I think we call that
hubris and pride.

Yet God, our Father, knows of both our needs and wants.

He is the consumate Gentleman.
He’ll place the food and water out by the porch..knowing we’ll come out
at some point, in the cover of darkness, in order to find our necessary sustenance…
but He will not force us out to take what He offers.

He is patient, dilentgly waiting.

He’s been bitten more times than can be counted…yet He still puts out
the sustenance, that being His own Son, and continues to sit and wait on the steps…
waiting with open arms…
He knows His children and He waits until they can actually figure their needs and wants.

Sometimes they, we, will readily come out from under that porch.
Sometimes they, we, will never come out.
Sometimes they, we, know their needs.
Sometimes they, we, know their wants.
Sometimes they, we, are humble enough to seek out what we know we need.

He will never force us…
He just patiently waits.

I’m thankful He waits.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

Isaiah 30:18

Flames of love

Let us remain very far from all that sparkles; let us love our littleness;
let us love to feel nothing. Then we shall be poor in spirit,
and Jesus will come to look for us, and however far we may be,
He will transform us in flames of love.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux
from a letter to her oldest sister Marie, September 17, 1896


(a brush pile / Julie Cook / 2020)

You know I’m not one for the notion of coincidence but rather the working of the Holy Spirit.

So when we had a guy come to use a dozer to push out a brush pile we’d had growing
and growing over the years along the edge of our woods, all in order to finally burn it,
imagine my thoughts when that very same day the quote by St. Thérèse of Lisieux
showed up in my inbox.

“He will transform us in flames of love”

It seems however that the fellow who pushed out the brush pile was a bit too zealous
in his bulldozing.
He pushed lots of dirt in with the brush…lots and lots of dirt.
Dirt, particularly wet dirt saturated by the remains of Hurricane Delta, will not burn…ever.

We jumped the hoops, gotten the necessary burn permit, and my
valiant husband tried his best to burn that brush—

Even late into the night…

And yet it only smoldered.

For hours it smoldered and smoked as if a wet blanket lay atop…
All the smoking made me wish that I had a pig put inside all that mess in order
to have a fabulous BBQ.

Yet the wet dirt and wet matted grass clippings piled on top of the real brush underneath
smothered any attempt to burn the actual wood, limbs, and shrubbery.

And so by this afternoon, we had a shorter pile in height, but still a pile nonetheless.

No flames here.

But in the end, the one thing I do know is that we will all need the burning flames of God’s love
to transform our hearts from the trappings of this world…
and it was the Little Flower, St.Thérèse of Lisieux, who reminded me of such exactly when
I was searching for a flame.


For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God,
which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power,
love, and self-discipline.
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.
Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.
He has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done
but because of his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus,
who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Timothy 1:6-10

O mortal

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


(a blue heron caught trapsing through the woods on a my husband’s trail cam / 2020)

When I read my ‘daily verse’ Friday morning,
a new verse for each new day that I receive each morning,
I read Friday’s verse, over my phone, early while still rather bleary-eyed.
BAM
it was like being stung by a hornet from out of the blue.
An electric shock ran through my entire being.
I simply put my phone down…staying silent for quite some time, stung by
what I had just read.

O mortal.
What does the Lord require of you?

Talk about a wave of real humility washing over me.
And that’s when it hit me.

We are each, indeed, mere mortals.
And we are here to do the work of The Creator…
not the work of man…

And so when have you heard that on the news..

We are the created, not the Creator.

How do I behave toward my neighbor?
How toward my brothers?
If I except a single one, it is not Jesus Christ I consider in them.
If I love them, it is merely so that I may be liked and considered,
or because their character suits mine. Let us each one see Jesus Christ in his neighbor.

St. Claude de la Colombière
from The Spiritual Direction of Claude de la Colombière