lessons from a difficult sister

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
for myself, I have chosen your altars,
my King and my God.

Psalm 84:3


(Léonie Martin, known as Sister Françoise-Thérèse)

Since I was adopted as a baby I’ve never known whether I had a sister or not.
I did not have a sister in my adoptive family.
However, I do know what it means to have been a bit of a difficult child.

I was rather headstrong growing up.

I wouldn’t say I was difficult, but that label might need to be addressed by my mom and dad,
and since neither of them is here to add to or refute such a claim, we’ll just keep it as headstrong.

I was often willful, somewhat defiant and had a mind of my own.

I knew what I liked and what I wanted despite those wants and ideas not always being the
wisest of thoughts.

After reading the following story about a rather obscure woman and nun,
I found that I could actually relate to her story.

She is what I call a shadow dweller—a person who lives in the shadows of a more prominent sibling.
A girl who wrestled with her own standing in life and what hand she had been dealt.

That’s the thing…isn’t life just merely a matter of what we make of it…
or on the other hand, it’s what Life makes of us?

Either of which makes us, in turn, who we will become

Will we choose to rise above or will we simply succumb?

Will we allow all of the negative to swallow us whole or will we learn to stand up and out
of the negative, rising up to our true potential?

We can either give in and up or we can purposely and willfully fight our demons in order
to be who we are truly called to be.

And who we are called to be might just be a person who is content living in the shadow
of a more famous sibling…

“Léonie Martin is arguably the least known and admired member of her entire family,
but I doubt she minds.
She’s used to being in that position.”

I’ve written often about one of her sisters.
A now well know sister, who despite having lived a very short life, dying from TB at the age of 24,
made a tremendous impact on the world.

Her parents were just recently recognized by the Pope as exceptional.

All of her sisters sought the vocation of serving Christ.

One sister, however, had a more difficult path to walk than that of her siblings.

And the thing is that once she found her way…Grace prevailed over a lifetime of trial,
willfulness, and difficulty.

Here is the link to Léonie Martin’s story…the sister of The Little Flower.

What We Can Learn From the Forgotten Sister of St. Thérèse of Lisieux

one woman, legislation, obedience…life and love

“to dedicate oneself as a Victim of Love is not to be dedicated to
sweetness and consolations;
it is to offer oneself to all that is painful and bitter,
because Love lives only by sacrifice and the more we would surrender ourselves to Love,
the more we must surrender ourselves to suffering”

St. Thérèse de Lisieux,

“God never inspires a wish that cannot be fulfilled”
St. John of the Cross

We can say,
‘It is what it is—now Lord, show me how to deal with it.’
St. Therese said she had no peace in her soul until she started her day with that orientation.
Then, trusting God to walk beside her,
she finished her journey as the woman four popes called the greatest saint of modern times.

Doug Lorig

In 1937, a pamphleteering psychiatrist claimed that the “Glorious Hurricane” (Pius XI)
unleashed by Thérèse was an infallible sign that the Catholic Church was in its death throes.
The universal exaltation of an insignificant “neurotic” was proof that a masochistic religion
was on the way out at last.
Fifty years on, today’s psychologists and religious writers know a great deal more about
Thérèse Martin and her world, and are quick to acknowledge the wonders wrought by grace
in the mind and heart of a child stricken by the loss of her mother when she herself was
only four and a half years old. Indeed, Thérèse’s path to sainthood is a source of
comfort and inspiration to countless victims of emotional or other crises today.
Sainthood is not reserved for “normal” people.

The “Little Way” is not some sleight of hand for getting to heaven on the cheap.
It is the modern realization of the Gospel injunction,
“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into
the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18, 3).

On June 2, 1980, Pope John Paul II, the first Pope to make the pilgrimage
to Lisieux, put it strongly: “The `Little Way’ is the way of `Holy Childhood’.
It is a way which both confirms and renews the most fundamental and universal truth.
After all, which of the Gospel’s truths is more fundamental and more universal than this,
God is our Father and we are His children?”.
thelittleflower.org

“Sainthood is not reserved for ‘normal’ people.”
No, I would suspect it is not.

Nor is it for the faint of heart.
But for a young frail Thérèse, to serve, while in turn drawing as one with God,
was her sole goal…sainthood would merely become a by-product.

I’ve written about Thérèse before.
She is a bit of an anomaly really.

Nothing about this young girl should be the hallmarks of becoming not only a saint
but that of a Doctor of the Chruch.

Giants among theological and spiritual giants.

And yet here is a young girl.

Words that described her in life…

Obscure.
Sickly.
Frail.
Unassuming.
Quiet.
Young.
Almost shy and even quite childlike.

Childlike not in a sense of her maturity but rather in her approach to God.

A simple childlike faith.

One that consisted of love and love alone.

She was only 24 when she died a painful death from the ravages of tuberculosis.
And yet 4 separate popes have stated that she is the greatest saint of modern times.

High praise for a young girl who lived a simple life of a cloistered nun

“Conscious of her own weakness, but willingly trusting in God’s merciful love,
which finds its way even to the humble, she came to love her poverty.
Her offering of herself to merciful love begins with these words;
“God is asking me to do something, I cannot do it on my own, so He will do it for me”
(June 9, 1895). From this moment on Thérèse lived the daring surrender of herself.
A totally dependent child has no choice but to surrender itself completely
to its father’s merciful love.”

Again, Thérèse discovered the truth of Jesus’ words,
“If you do not become as little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 18:3).
The way of “spiritual infancy” is Jesus’ own way as a son, the supreme son,
living only for his Father. Who is more fully an adult but Jesus or more fully a child?
From this point on Thérèse lost her fear of sin, of falling asleep during prayer
or any other imperfection; love had burned everything away.

Pope John Paul II reminds us when speaking of St Thérèse of Lisieux
That “God is our Father and we are His Children.”

The notion of God as father and we as children is not new.
It is something Jesus often reminded those who listened to him speak…
the importance of being like little children.

And it is the way in which Thérèse lived…

To enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become like little children.

So the importance of children is not lost on me when I read about
House Bill 481, the Heartbeat bill.

Nor is it lost on those who hunker down quietly yet steadfastly to hear God’s word.

This is a controversial bill which actually passed the Georgia Senate this past week.
It will now travel to the House for a yay or nay…. and if the yays have it,
it’s off to the Governor’s desk for final approval and signature.

This is a state bill that if passed, will limit when an abortion can be performed in
the state of Georgia.
The bill reads that six weeks is the “magic” number and time when a doctor can hear a heartbeat…
the telltale sign of an entity living separately from the mother…
meaning that there are two hearts now beating in a woman’s body.
Her heart and that of the child she carries in her womb.

I see this bill as a victory for those who have no voice of their own.
A victory for unborn children.

Others see it very differently.

Many protestors outside of the State Capital this past week have dressed up as characters from
the Hulu show and popular book The Handmaid’s Tale.

These women march in an odd macabre mass of unity protesting a baby’s right to live
while somehow viewing the notion of life rather than murder as abhorrent.
The Salem Witch trials seem to come to mind when I see their images.

Various female members of Georgia’s House Democrats have been very vocal in their dismay
of the passing of this bill.
They argue that this bill is a setback for women at the hands of male legislators.

While on the other hand, many female Republican legislators are ardent supporters of the bill.

Kind of like me…a woman, who just so happens to be in favor of this bill.

Allysa Milano, a very outspoken hashtag sort of Hollywood actress, in light of this bill,
is now calling for filmmakers to boycott Georgia.
She just so happens to be shooting a film here in Georgia.
Lucky us.

The movie industry has become big business for Georgia.

This is not the first time a controversial piece of legislature has brought out those who
attempt to tighten the screws on Georgia’s economy…that is if Georgia opts to go in an opposite
direction from that of what Hollywood or other giant business marketers think…
if the state steps out of line with a progressive liberal culture’s mindset,
then it’s lookout Georgia.

There is the “religious liberty” bill that was recently re-introduced…having been
previously introduced and reading much like a similar national bill that happened
to have been signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

This more recent bill is a rift on a 2016 bill that was nixed by then Gov. Nathan Deal
when the LGBTQ communities sounded a very loud and very vocal alarm that they sensed some sort
of potential discrimination—never mind that such a national bill passed in 1993.

Yet even the owner of the Atlanta’s Falcons and Atlanta’s Soccer United teams, Arthur Blank
chimed in—he told a reporter that he disagreed with the Governor and thought
that such a bill would be bad for Georgia—as he saw the potential for dollar bills to
quickly disappear from state coffers if advertisers and others pulled out over such a bill.
He didn’t word his disapproval as such, but that was his bottom line unspoken reasoning.

The NFL, NBA, etc had already threatened to exclude Georgia from consideration as a
potential host city should such a bill come into effect.

Advertisers and the entertainment industry were also making their loud grumbles

How ever would dear Coca-Cola, aka Coke, make it if her home state
took a step backward, or so thought all of these big shakers and shifters?

And so now with The Heartbeat bill set to become a possible law, the same loud and
money ladened voices are beginning to sound.

And thus it is that I am reminded of a demure St Thérèse of Lisieux—

Despite such giants of opposition…be they physical or institutional,
Thérèse never wavered or backed down from her faith or of her desire to love.

She was simply obedient to God…to His commandments and to His will.

She fixed her eyes on God and God alone…allowing for all things to fall into place.

And so now we the faithful must also be obedient.

We can get behind a bill that protects the lives of unborn children…who indeed
have their own heartbeat by 6 weeks, or we can allow Hollywood, a plethora of
‘communities’, and those who throw their money around as their weight
to determine what is best for Georgia and its unborn children.

Sadly we continue seeing how these things play out.

However, we remain—
Obedient in prayer and to what we know to be God’s will…

Life and Love.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up
with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

simple and vulnerable… tiny and small

“He who carries God in his heart bears heaven with him
wherever he goes.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola


(julie cook / 2013)

While it is the loudest, the brightest and the biggest that currently vies desperately
for attention…

A culture dares to scream out to all who give ear…that bigger is better…
and that even bigger is better still…

It is a time when more equates to satisfaction and it is only in fullness where true
happiness will be found…

Yet it is also oddly a time when more is never truly enough…and the full
are never contently satiated…

It is a time of glaring sensory overload…
when even in sleep a brain is unable to find rest…

Yet Omnipotence continues to seek out the lowly,
capturing the attention of a world gone mad.

A reminder is currently proclaimed…
that it was but a baby who entered the world, humble and meek, who would
in turn, be King.

It was the simple and the vulnerable, the tiny and small, who stopped the world from
spinning…but for the briefest of moments.

Where have all those prophets of old now gone?
Those voices who foretold the glories of Salvation?

Where are those who defied the world while proclaiming both Hope and Peace?

Rest assured, we are told, they have not gone far from view.

They are still very much amongst us.
Walking tiny and small between the giants of this land

They are quieter than the oh so loud and prideful self-consumed…

They are the ones who stop, lingering long enough to listen…those who
will hear the baby’s cry while standing ever so still…

“Write:
I am Thrice Holy, and I detest the smallest sin.
I cannot love a soul which is stained with sin; but when it repents,
there is no limit to My generosity toward it.
My mercy embraces and justifies it.
With My mercy, I pursue sinners along all their paths,
and My Heart rejoices when they return to Me.
I forget the bitterness with which they fed My Heart and rejoice at their return.
Tell sinners that no one shall escape My Hand; if they run away from My Merciful Heart,
they will fall into My Just Hands.
Tell sinners that I am always waiting for them,
that I listen intently to the beating of their heart . . .
when will it beat for Me?”
St. Maria Faustina
excerpt from The Diary of St Maria Faustina

“Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, a simple, uneducated, young Polish nun receives
a special call.
Jesus tells her, “I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world.
I do not want to punish mankind, but I desire to heal it,
pressing it to My merciful Heart.”

Jesus also tells her to record His message of mercy in a diary:
“You are the secretary of My Mercy. I have chosen you for that office in this and the next life.”
These words of Jesus are found in the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska,
which chronicles Sr. Faustina’s great experience of Divine Mercy in her soul and her mission
to share that mercy with the world.

In the Diary, this woman mystic’s childlike trust, simplicity,
and intimacy with Jesus will stir your heart and soul Her spiritual insights will
surprise and reward you.
“Only love has meaning,” she writes.
“It raises up our smallest actions into infinity.”
(The Catholic Company)

Sister Faustina was a young, uneducated nun in a convent of the Congregation of
Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Poland during the 1930s.
She came from a poor family that struggled during the years of World War I.
She had only three years of simple education,
so hers were the humblest tasks in the convent, usually in the kitchen or garden.
However, she received extraordinary revelations — or messages — from our Lord Jesus.
Jesus asked Sr. Faustina to record these experiences, which she compiled into notebooks.
These notebooks are known today as the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska,
and the words contained within are God’s loving message of Divine Mercy.

“Though the Divine Mercy message is not new to the teachings of the Church,
Sr. Faustina’s Diary sparked a great movement,
and a strong and significant focus on the mercy of Christ.
Saint John Paul II canonized Sr. Faustina in 2000 making her the
“first saint of the new millennium.”
Speaking of Sr. Faustina and the importance of the message contained in her Diary,
the Pope calls her “the great apostle of Divine Mercy in our time.”
thedivinemercy.org

just running with it…

I can understand a person believing in God without knowing science;
I cannot understand a person knowing science and not believing in God.

Oneta Hayes


(detail painting on a column within Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayeux, France / Julie Cook/ 2018)

Yesterday I offered a few quotes.

Life is still hectic as I continue playing catch-up.

So, therefore, spending the proper amount of time and energy necessary for more
meatier posts continue to be proving elusive.
And so I offer thoughts and observations that I find to be heavenly and even Grace
filled in their offerings…

Yesterday I had found some rather interesting quotes…quotes regarding both
science and Christian faith…
as there seems to always be some sort of friction between the two.

And probably the most famous clash was between Galileo and the Catholic Chruch.

We all know that Galileo actually got had gotten it right…
he had realized that the planets revolved around the sun rather than the sun revolving
around the planets…with the particular planet being that of the earth…
as the earth was and continues to be, the seemingly center of all of our little universe.

Yet his thoughts, observations, and theories challenged a church that was unsure
and even afraid…as the hierarchy was unwilling to think outside of the box.
And so Galileo, who was a devout Catholic and whose daughter was actually a nun,
was in a bit of a pickle.

The Chruch demanded Galileo recant his conclusion…or if he chose not to,
he would be imprisoned as well as excommunicated.

History affords us the answer to this quandary.
He was imprisoned, living his life under house arrest and was indeed excommunicated
from the Church he respected and loved.

A great book which affords us a small snapshot into this moment of history…
is a collection of intimate letters written between a father and his beloved daughter–
Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel

Letters that were written from a father, who was currently under house arrest
by the Chruch, written to his daughter who was living her life for that very Chruch.

It wasn’t until 1992 that the Chruch actually owned up to the fact that they, the Chruch
as a whole, was wrong in their treatment of Galileo.

More than 350 years after the Roman Catholic Church condemned Galileo,
Pope John Paul II is poised to rectify one of the Church’s most infamous wrongs —
the persecution of the Italian astronomer and physicist for proving the
Earth moves around the Sun.

With a formal statement at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Saturday,
Vatican officials said the Pope will formally close a 13-year investigation into
the Church’s condemnation of Galileo in 1633.
The condemnation, which forced the astronomer and physicist to recant his discoveries,
led to Galileo’s house arrest for eight years before his death in 1642 at the age of 77.

(New York Times)

Pope John Paul II, who had one of several degrees in Philosophy, and who actually delved
deeply into the study of both science and philosophy, understood better than most,
the relationship between Science and the Church.
“Karol Wojtyla’s second doctoral dissertation,
submitted in 1953 to the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland,
concerned the thought of Max Scheler (1874-1928)
a leading exponent of the philosophical school known as phenomenology.
Phenomenology, together with the more conventional Aristotelian-Thomistic
tradition, proved to be the two great influences on the philosophical development
of Karol Wojtyla.
From the latter, he learned to be a philosophical realist.
From the former, he learned to develop of rich sense of the moral life of the human person.
It is worth considering these two influences in a little detail.

(Encyclopedia Britannica)

And so thus we know that Pope John Paul II understood the importance of science,
and that he worked to rewrite the previous wrong with his “pardon” of Galileo.

I find the quotes by renowned scientists regarding their studies along with their deep
faith to be so refreshingly uplifting.

There are so many who are rabidly anti-church and who claim that atheists
cannot abide by the Chruch’s lack of acceptance of science…
and yet we have so many notable scientists who are deeply committed Christians…
so perhaps that arugument simply doesn’t hold water.

I find much of their arguments actually mute.

Thus after reading my post yesterday, our dear freind Oneta offered such a wonderful
reflection—a reflection that actually reminded me of something Albert Einstein had once
noted about his belief in God…

The more I study science, the more I believe in God.”
Albert Einstein
(The Wall Street Journal, Dec 24, 1997, article by Jim Holt, “Science Resurrects God.”)

My response to Oneta was that her comment to my post was quite the quote—
as she then resonded with the idea that I could then “run with it”…
and so run I have…

If the universe were a product of chance,
we would not expect to find such order and intelligibility and laws.
We would find chaos. Anyone who has studied the second law of thermodynamics
knows that any system, like the molecules of air and gases in this room,
by their natural state are in the maximum of disorder.
The molecules don’t line themselves up; they’re just bouncing around.
That’s what we would expect to find in the whole universe—absolute chaos.
This led Albert Einstein to make this famous statement:
‘The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it’s comprehensible.’

Fr. John Flader
from God and Science

submission, constancy and perseverance

“You must make a sound and firm resolution to submit yourselves totally to His will and,
with a lively and steadfast faith, to receive from Him what you have to do for love of Him.
And in this (whatever may happen) to persevere with constancy to the very end.”

St. Angela Merici


(from bloom to fruit—patiently we wait for the meyer lemon / Julie Cook / 2018)

Reading this morning’s quote by the 16th century Italian Saint, Angela Merici,
I was struck by two things—
First by the notion of submission to Christ…
not merely belief, but submission…
as in the notion that most 21st century women shutter when they hear the word…submit
as in “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority
of another person.” (Merriam-Webster)

Then secondly I was struck by the idea of
both perseverance and constancy.

That stick-to-it-ness business of pushing through the strain and pain with no waffling,
no ups, no downs….just straight through the middle…

After the death of her parents, Angela and her sister were left as orphans.
And sadly shortly thereafter, Angela’s sister also died, leaving her alone to spend her
childhood living between various extended family members.

One day Angela experienced a vision in which she believed that Jesus had told her to create
an order of chaste women who would, in turn, go on to instruct young girls religiously
as well as in areas of general education.

She became the foundress of what would be known as the order of Ursuline nuns,
originating as an order dedicated to offering poor girls an education.
An education rooted in the Catholic faith but coupled by a general education as well.

Girls were not ones to be afforded formal educations, not unless they came from nobility.
So the idea that “poor” girls were to be given such, speaks a great deal to Sister Angela’s
drive and passion.

So as the prime teacher she was, Angela reminds us that we are to commit soundly,
making a solid resolution…being steadfast in and with our love for Jesus—being
constant as we persevere till our very end…as in never ceasing, never stopping…

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Ephesians 6:18

Driving home after a summer storm

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”
― Rabindranath Tagore

IMG_0789

Holy Life-Giver
Doctor of the desperate,
Healer of everyone broken past hope,
Medicine for all wounds,
Fire of love,
Joy of hearts,
fragrant Strength,
sparkling Fountain,
Protector,
Penetrator,
in You we contemplate
how God goes looking for those who are lost
and reconciles those who are at odds with Him.
Break our chains!

You bring people together.
You curl clouds, whirl winds,
send rain on rocks, sing in creeks,
and turn lush earth green.
You teach those who listen,
breathing joy and wisdom into them.

We praise You for these gifts,
Light-giver,
Sound of joy,
Wonder of being alive,
Hope of every person,
and our strongest Good.

St. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179 German mystic Benedictine nun and Doctor of the Church)
as translated by Carmen Acevedo Butcher

IMG_0788
(sunset after a summer storm / Julie Cook / Georgia / 2014)