So much change yet so much anticipation…

There is a rich parallel between farming soil and spiritual soil.
It’s no accident that one of the most important virtues of the Christian life is humility,
a word that stems from the Latin word “humus”, meaning “earth”, or literally, “on the ground.”
Humility is a virtue required of men and women alike,
and truly the one virtue all the saints hold in common.

Carrie Gress and Noelle Mering
from Theology of Home II: The Spiritual Art of Homemaking


(early January 2020 / the sun comes up over the ocean / Julie Cook)

I took the above picture almost exactly a year ago to the day.
It was early January 2020…

2020.

Let that soak in.

A year, that before it would blessedly come to a close, we would all eventually grow to loath.

Yet on this particular morning in January of 2020, it was just a quiet walk along the beach.
Life was life.
Peace was found in the rhythmic sounds of an undulating surf that simply
was breathing in and out.

We had yet to hear of words such as Wuhan, COVID, Coronavirus, pandemic,
lockdown, masks, George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, riots, protests, CHAZ, socialism,
radicalism…
words that would soon come washing over us like a callous Tsunami.

There was however already the nauseating media circus over an impeachment proceeding…
but had we not all basically grown somewhat numb to the media’s OCD obsession over
all things Trump?

And who could have known that a year ago, when life seemed typical and average…we would find
ourselves, a year later, yearning and pleading for things to be just that…
simply typical and average?

I learned a long time ago to be cautious about wishing one’s life away.

On a collective whole, we have all grown to hate the year 2020.

Oh there are some who had joy throughout the year, but we haven’t
heard much about that joy or the positive milestones nor of the blessings.
Rather we have been inundated with the negative, the darkness, the isolation
and the death.

And so the collective thought is for a good riddance to 2020.
Yet in that good riddance, we must be both willing and open
for welcoming in a new and unknown.

So my prayer on this new day of this new and unknown year is appropriately
from the Book of Psalms…sung prayers.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.

Psalm 143:8

A Happy NEW year to us all!

“If you would suffer with patience, the adversities and miseries of this life,
be a man of prayer.
If you would obtain courage and strength to conquer the temptations of the enemy,
be a man of prayer.
If you would mortify your own will with all its inclinations and appetites,
be a man of prayer.
If you would know the wiles of Satan and unmask his deceits,
be a man of prayer.
If you would live in joy and walk pleasantly in the ways of penance,
be a man of prayer.
If you would banish from your soul the troublesome flies of vain thoughts and cares,
be a man of prayer.
If you would nourish your soul with the very sap of devotion,
and keep it always full of good thoughts and good desires,
be a man of prayer.
If you would strengthen and keep up your courage in the ways of God, be a man of prayer.
In fine, if you would uproot all vices from your soul and plant all virtues in their place,
be a man of prayer.
It is in prayer that we receive the unction and grace of the Holy Ghost, who teaches all things.”

St. Bonaventure, p. 25-26
An Excerpt From
The Ways of Mental Prayer

glimpses

“Can there be a more fitting pursuit in youth or a more valuable possession in
old age than a knowledge of Holy Scripture?
In the midst of storms it will preserve you from the dangers of shipwreck
and guide you to the shore of an enchanting paradise and the ever-lasting
bliss of the angels.”

St. Boniface


(the Gulf of Mexico / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Know that our faith is strengthened by the resurrection of Christ.
The passion of Christ represents the misery of our present life,
while the resurrection of Christ gives us a brilliant glimpse of the
happiness of the future life.
Let us apply ourselves energetically in the present life, and hope in the future.
Now is the time for painful struggle; then will come the recompense.
Those who are lazy about carrying out their work will be brazenly impudent
if they expect the recompense.”

St. Augustine, p. 61
An Excerpt From
Augustine Day by Day

real hard truth found in life’s warfare

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

Pope St. John Paul II


(a wandering willet / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)

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

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

the life of Heaven, not earth…

“By accepting the sufferings ‘offered’ by life and allowed by God for
our progress and purification, we spare ourselves much harder ones.
We need to develop this kind of realism and, once and for all,
stop dreaming of a life without suffering or conflict.
That is the life of heaven, not earth.
We must take up our cross and follow Christ courageously every day;
the bitterness of that cross will sooner or later be transformed into sweetness.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 49
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom


(things that come ashore during a storm / Julie Cook / 2020)

We were not made for earth but for Heaven.

That is the single truth for those who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior.

It is for those who believe there was Omnipotent breath blown into Adam,
giving him life.

It is for those who believe the Word of God is both the first and last word.
The Alpha, the Omega.

It is for those who believe in the Resurrection.

It is the sole truth for those who watch a world gone mad and wonder where
and how they fit in.

The answer is simple, they don’t, we don’t, fit in.

You and me…we don’t fit into any of this mess.

God is God and we are not.
It is that simple.

I Am Who I Am (Exodus 3:14)

And we are His.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Deuteronomy 31:8

time changes everything

“We should take as a maxim never to be surprised at current difficulties,
no more than at a passing breeze, because with a little patience we shall see them disappear.
Time changes everything.”

St. Vincent de Paul


(piping plover / Rosemary Beach, Fl /Julie Cook / 2020)

“Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you.”

St. Thomas Aquinas

Disciples of hope!

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”
St. Catherine of Siena


(a pre pandemic January sunrise at Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)

There is an excuse for some anxiety today, but no one has a right to be without hope.
Yet the prophets of gloom abound, and the disciples of hope are few.

Ven. Fulton J. Sheen
From The World’s First Love

Yep, I’ll be the first to admit that these have been some trying times.

And yes, much like everyone else throughout this global ordeal, I have found myself fretful,
fearful and even angry.

We, humans, strive to control our destinies no matter what.
We like to believe that we are the captains of our own ship.
And we want to steer those ships upon the seas of life while
sailing into only calm waters.

But life, much like a wild horse, will not yield to being tamed.
The seas will pitch and roll at will.

We find ourselves tossed about in a maelstrom,
growing anxious as both frustration and depression set in.

If we throw in an already deeply divided and often hate-filled nation, we have the makings of
a most toxic mishmash of fear, bitterness, and resentment all sprinkled with a heavy dose
of a pandemic…it doesn’t get much worse.

The prophets have been touted and proclaimed… the prophets of falsehoods, ill-will,
and doom.
Prophets with a little p, prophets who profess conspiracy, animosity, divisiveness
and even hate.

But that need not be our fate.

We can make a conscious decision.
We can choose to set ourselves a part.
We can step aside from the small prophets
opting to be a disciple, a follower of Hope…

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand,
and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:2-5

Simple, humble and pure…

“By reason of His immensity, God is present everywhere; but there are two places
where He dwells in a particular manner.
One is in the highest heavens, where He is present by that glory which He
communicates to the blessed; the other is on earth—within the humble soul that loves Him.”

St Alphonsus Liguori


(seagull and reflection/ Rosemary Beach, Fl /Julie Cook/ 2020)

“Furthermore, let us produce worthy fruits of penance.
Let us also love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us have charity and humility.
Let us give alms because these cleanse our souls from the stains of sin.
Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world,
but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give.
For these they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve.
We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh.
Rather we must be simple, humble and pure.
We should never desire to be over others.
Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God’s sake.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on all who live in this way and persevere in it to the end.
He will permanently dwell in them. They will be the Father’s children who do his work.
They are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

St. Francis of Assisi, p. 333
An Excerpt From
Witness of the Saints

winter’s shadows overpowered by Grace

“If the heart wanders or is distracted,
bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence.
And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back
and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you
brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.”

St. Francis de Sales


(Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)


(Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)


(Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)

“This great power of grace over nature appears at first sight as unnatural,
for which reason nature strives against it and does not even wish to hear of the necessity
of penance and mortification. But the obligation of penance remains,
and precisely because of nature’s opposition,
it cannot be emphasized often enough or earnestly enough.
Softened, wounded nature, moreover, makes difficulties greater than they really are.
Grace does not wish to destroy nature, but only to elevate it,
that is, to drive out the evil that makes it sick and then to introduce a new and better life.
By taking away all that nature loves to its own detriment,
and thus wounding it in its innermost depth,
it at the same time pours such a healthful balsam into this wound that it is
a delight to be wounded in this way.
Ask the Saints if they have ever experienced any greater delight than in those moments
when they offered themselves, body and soul, as a victim to God…
Ask yourself if you have ever enjoyed a deeper or more genuine delight than when you
suppressed a violent desire of proud, angry nature, or performed any other act of
heroic mortification with the help of grace. If, then, grace could give the Saints
such a wonderful, superhuman and heroic courage as to elevate them above themselves
and make them lead an angelic life already in the flesh,
can it not enable you to live at least as a man, in harmony with your natural dignity,
and not as a slave of the flesh, of the passions, of your own will and opinion?”

Fr. Matthias J. Scheeben, p. 260
An Excerpt From
The Glories of Divine Grace:
A Fervent Exhortation to All to Preserve and to Grow in Sanctifying Grace

It is the winter of our discontent…may we seek contentment

“I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe,
but rather, I believe in order that I may understand.”

St. Anselm of Canterbury


(an early January morning / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Francis [de Sales] insists that true devotion must touch every area of our life.
True devotion is not just a matter of spiritual practices but of bringing all our life
under the lordship of Christ. Francis is known for his slogan:
‘Live, Jesus! Live, Jesus!’
What he means by this is an invitation to Jesus to ‘live and reign in our hearts
forever and ever’…
In other words, for Francis, to live the devout life is to reach the point in our love for God
and neighbor that we eagerly (‘carefully, frequently, and promptly’)
desire to do His will in all the various ways in which it is communicated to us:
in the duties of our state in life, in the objective teaching of God’s Word,
in opportunities and occasions presented to us, in response to our interior inspirations.”

Ralph Martin, p. 107
An Excerpt From
Fulfillment of All Desire

to appear before man or God, that is our choice

“He took what is mine in order that He might impart to me what is His.
He took it not to overturn it but to fill it.”

St. Ambrose


( a quiet January morning / Rosemary Beach / Fl / Julie Cook / 2020)

“A hidden and obscure life affords great security to those who sincerely desire to love God.
Our Divine Master Himself deigned to teach us this by His own example,
for He spent thirty years in the obscurity of Nazareth and the workshop of a humble carpenter.
In imitation of their Divine Model, many saints withdrew into the desert and lived
in remote caves to escape the esteem of men.
The desire to put ourselves forward and merit the plaudits of men,
to be regarded as very successful in our undertakings, is, according to St. Vincent de Paul,
an evil that causes us to forget our God;
it vitiates our holiest actions and more than anything else impedes our progress in the
spiritual life. To be pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God,
we must therefore banish from our hearts the desire to appear before men to win their
approval and applause and especially the desire to rule over others.”

St. Alphonsus Liguiori,
p. 128-9
An Excerpt From
12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation