living in the world…

Where we see sin, God sees pain;
and He wishes to heal us, refresh us, and free us.

Fr. Éamonn Bourke
from his book Make Your Home in Me: Reflections on Prayer


(quince blossom / 2017 /Julie Cook)

“I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment,
that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.
By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties,
problems, successes and failures.
In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God,
taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world.
That, I think, is faith.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

don’t be comfortable with the status quo

Perfect holiness is the purpose for which we were created,
so we can’t allow ourselves to be comfortable with the status quo.

Fr. J. Augustine Wetta, OSB
from his book Humility Rules


(2017 / Julie Cook)

“It is undoubtedly true that each of us, men and women,
irresponsible and thoughtless as we often are,
hold within our hands the happiness and sorrows of others.
We cannot help it or escape from it.
The power is in us inalienably almost from birth to death—in us,
because we are persons—and we are responsible for the use we make of it.
Indeed, so mysterious is this power that the very presence of a person
who does not realize his responsibility is often the source of the keenest pain of all..
The failure to exercise the power to give happiness to others is
not merely negative in its results;
it is the source of the most positive suffering of all.
Thus there is no escape from the responsibility involved in the
possession of this power.
Not to use it where it is due is to destroy all happiness.
Strange power, indeed, to be committed to such weak and unworthy hands;
yet there could be but one thing worse:
that none could interfere with the joys and sorrows of others.
We might envy their happiness and pity their sorrows,
but we could not help them.
It would be a world of isolated individuals wrapped in inviolable selfishness;
each must take care of himself and the world must go its way.”

Fr. Basil W. Maturin, p. 149

Awake at night (still)

“When you awake in the night,
transport yourself quickly in spirit before the Tabernacle, saying:
‘Behold, my God, I come to adore You, to praise, thank, and love you,
and to keep you company with all the Angels.'”

St. John Vianney


(sunset over the the gulf /Julie Cook / 2018)

****ok, so I no longer have this particular herniated disc of which this
post highlights, but rather I still, however, find sleep oh so very elusive.
Be it age, hormones, anxiety….who knows the reasons…
all I do know is that both night and sleep have become my equal nemeses…
And thus, I find it perhaps timely that I opt to repeat this post…
as I continue attempting to quiet my mind with the ever ancient prayer…
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner…

——–

The past several nights I have woken up around 2:30 AM—wide awake.
Hot.
Sweaty.
Uncomfortable.
Despite the AC running and my husband gently snoring, sleep for me is over.

My back aching with the slightest of movements–
and now an aching neck and shoulder add to my misery.

It hurts to turn, to roll, to twist.

Dreams, when they come, have been vivid, leaving me wondering and pondering.
Pondering much too much for such an unwelcoming hour.

Time passes with no relief as the numbers of the clock tick on and on.
No calm nor slumber.

Sleep, for me, is often elusive but more so as of late.

When the morning light comes, it is almost rude and unkind as
I find it harder and harder to get up since sleep now tries to
arrive right when it’s time to get up.

Exhausted and ill, I grouse at the day.

Last night, my brain turned on, my eyes popped open and it was only 2:30—
my mind racing.
I ruminated on and on like a cow chewing cud over my latest odd dream.
Unresolved ancient issues or just the aching of a herniated disc?

I examine the past.
“NO”, I shout to my hyper-focused mind…” this is not the time!”

So my brain now toys with me, as the unending partial lyrics to a song
begin playing over and over as the earworm bores deeper into my brain.

“STOP”, I silently plead to my restless brain….”just let me rest”,
I implore.

And so…I pray.
Focusing on that which is greater than the madness, greater than my weariness.
I offer myself over to You of Lord as a sacrifice…
Hear my prayers oh Lord…

“Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”

Over and over I repeat the soothing ancient and time worn words until
I sense my mind and body finally quieting in unison.
Thank you Lord…

“My Lord, I offer you myself in turn as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
You have died for me, and I in turn make myself over to you.
I am not my own.
You have bought me; I will by my own act and deed complete the purchase.
My wish is to be separated from everything of this world;
to cleanse myself simply from sin; to put away from me even what is innocent,
if used for its own sake, and not for yours. I put away reputation and honor,
and influence, and power, for my praise and strength shall be in you.
Enable me to carry out what I profess.”

Bl. John Henry Newman, p. 135
An Excerpt From
Everyday Meditations

Prayer of the insignificant (repeat 2015)

There is nothing insignificant in the world.
It all depends on the point of view.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


(mum / Julie Cook / 2015)

Who am I oh Lord that you should consider my worth…
That you, the God of all that was…
Of all that is…
And all that will be…
Whose hands sweep across time…
Who has masterfully scattered the stars across the heavens…
And whose own breath is captured in the rhythmic roll of each and
every crashing wave…would look upon me,
a tiny speck in the vast churning sea of life and humanity…
And call me your own


(mum /Julie Cook / 2015)

A thousand tiny petals…
Each lovingly placed by your hand and your hand alone.
Counted, numbered and perfectly aligned.
Tightly woven.
Spiraling outward.
Unfurling simultaneously.
An insignificant happening transpiring daily and unnoticed by millions…
Yet You are keenly aware of it all as nothing, absolutely nothing,
takes place on this planet without your desire and knowledge


(stamens full of pollen / Julie Cook / 2015)

Each tiny microscopic dot of pollen exists because You have deemed it so.
Every single unassuming spore, necessary to set a miraculous chain
of events into motion,
Exists only because of You.
Pollination, a miracle unto itself, yet countlessly taken for granted,
Plays out every day, over an endless expanse of time,
as yet another flower blooms.

My mind is woefully limited, unable to grasp the vastness of all that is You.
I cannot understand how or why You, the all encompassing You,
stops because of the small and insignificant me.
Yet stop You do.

You stop to
Listen
See
Touch
Care
Love

Long before my birth, You claimed me as yours–
with both the rising and setting of the sun.

The Psalmists tells me that each hair on my aging head is accounted for
And that nothing which transpires in my life escapes your knowledge.
As I often…
Question…
Wonder…
Argue…
Curse…and rail against the seemingly random and mindless fates
of life that appear unfair and unjust.

Yet each life is inextricably linked together
Each breath, each tear, each sound of joy, pain or sorrow
is woven tightly together, as the Master of the Universe
Jehovah-Jireh has declared it so . . .
As You, the Master weaver, Jehovah-Rapha has knit my heart to your own.

May the Glory of the Heavens declare your Majesty, Oh Lord. . .
May the earth, and all that is in it, sing your praise.

And may my seemingly insignificance, which is held tightly in your hand,
as I am never from your sight, be a testament to your enduring Love
Forever and always…
Amen


(Hope in a flower / Julie Cook / 2015

transcendence

Suffering seems to belong to man’s transcendence:
it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense
“destined” to go beyond himself,
and he is called to this in a mysterious way.

APOSTOLIC LETTER
SALVIFICI DOLORIS
OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF
JOHN PAUL II 1984


(Cades Cove / TN/ Julie Cook / 2015)

Maybe it’s the grey skies.
Maybe it’s the deluge of rain.
Maybe it’s age.
Maybe it’s not feeling 100%
Maybe it’s life’s circumstances.
Maybe it’s just our current times..

It seems as if I’ve had a weighted heaviness sitting on my spirit
for quite sometime now…and this “heaviness” seems
much like a festering splinter that is attempting
to work its way to the surface…

What I know about such a type of splinter is that it is
being worked to the surface by a body wanting to rid itself
of an infecting foreign entity.

So maybe this heaviness will be worked up and out as well.
Maybe, just maybe, the heaviness is only a symptom.
But a symptom of what is not exactly clear.

Recently I’ve found myself ruminating on idea of the
transcendence of time.

Vocabulary.com tells us that
transcendence comes from the Latin prefix trans-,
meaning “beyond,” and the word scandare, meaning “to climb.”
When you achieve transcendence, you have gone beyond ordinary limitations.
The word is often used to describe a spiritual or religious state,
or a condition of moving beyond physical needs and realities.
One way to achieve transcendence spiritually might be to fast
for a long time.
If you have trouble letting go of material needs,
then you will have a difficult time achieving transcendence.

As a Christian, I believe, that on this earth, we live in a
constant state of transcendence or perhaps that is transcending…
meaning we are constantly trying to climb beyond.

Gravity and time each keeps us bound to this earth, yet our spirits long
to go to a place beyond and unknown.
There is a longing in our beings for that which we cannot see
but yet we feel is calling us.

Over the years I’ve often written about my “godpoppa”–
He was an Episcopal priest.
Adopted like me.
And he bore the bulk of my teenage angst and
later my often tumultuous choices of life, both good and bad.

He died in December of 2016 only a few months prior to my dad’s death
and even that of my aunt’s.
Loss, let alone back to back losses, is/ are never easy.

And yet this one man’s influence on my life remains just as it
always has–both strong and robust.

It matters not that he is not here physically, because in my reality
he continues on in my soul–day in and day out.
His influence and teachings continue to positively impact all
that I do.

I was fortunate to have had such a person come into my life
when he did, but I do not believe it was by fate, chance or some
random encounter.
I know without a doubt God places folks within our life’s journeys
at just the right time and place.

I do think, however, we’d all agree that it is the physical that
we miss the most when we lose someone we love.
Not so much their words, not at first anyway.

We want to be able to see them, hear them, feel them.
Just as a child who has fallen and skinned a knee, we want to be held
and comforted in our sorrow.
And despite our knowledge of what the separation means when speaking
of death, we still want this now ‘lost’ person to hold us.

And yet their love, the love we shared, transcends both space and time.

What I gratefully remember is the man whose eyes smiled at me…
and yet those same smiling eyes could and would always penetrate past all
my thick protective walls.

He taught me that walls must be broken if true healing is to take place.
He taught me that I had to risk all things earthly in order to find my true
peace and well being.
He taught me that I had to be broken before I could be built back up.

And so I suppose that journey of brokenness to transcendence continues
as I write.
Hence the oft felt heaviness.

God continues to push, or maybe that should be pulls, us along…
as we put one hand over the other, rung after rung…climbing
ever upward and ever forward to that which we cannot see yet knows
waits for us just beyond…

And do you know what makes this journey all that more mystical and
otherworldly??

It is the single fact that along this journey, we might be fortunate
enough to find someone who we thought we’d previously lost forever.

And that’s when it suddenly dawns on us…this most beloved person had
never been lost at all…they were simply waiting for us…
despite neither of us realizing it at the time…
and it is in that single moment of reconnection that we
find our greatest blessing…

So here’s to transcendence, time, space and to the one constant that
always binds—that being love.
(thank you Patti)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant 5 or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,
endures all things.

Love never ends.
As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues,
they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

rousing a deaf world… do you hear Him?

“Pain insists upon being attended to.
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences,
but shouts in our pains.
It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

C.S. Lewis


(a prematurely warm February has lead to early blooms…ornamental quince / Julie Cook/ 2020)

Life is hard.

The world around us only helps to make it even harder.
Our current political turmoil, with Socialists actually becoming viable presidential candidates,
hangs like a suffocating wet blanket over our heads.

There are days we all feel beaten, defeated and even worse—
days when we feel as if we have sorely lost our way.

Depression weighs heavy like a thick fog, making it difficult to feel our way
through the murky mist.

Yet oddly, on various recent days…days which really felt heavy, burdensome and nearly unbearable,
a voice spoke through the fog…
Words were spoken that were far more than coincidence.
Words that pierced through the thick heavy shadows with shining clarity…

I wanted to share these words with you and hope that they
might perhaps lighten your spirits just as they lifted mine…
at the very moment I needed to hear them…

Reminders that yes, there is still a great and loving God the Father…
God the Redeemer, God the Savior—
The Great I AM

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Psalm 13

Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you,
LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

1 Kings 18:37

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
and clever in their own sight.
Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine
and champions at mixing drinks,
who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
but deny justice to the innocent.
Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw
and as dry grass sinks down in the flames,
so their roots will decay
and their flowers blow away like dust;
for they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty
and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 5:20-24

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

pierced heart

“As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster,
so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the
tortures of the martyrs.”

St. Basil


(detail of Mary at the deposition of Christ by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden circa 1435)


“In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and all must suffer,
by enduring the evils that take place every day.
But how much greater would be the misery of life,
if we also knew the future evils that await us!
‘Unfortunate, indeed, would be the situation of someone who knows the future’,
says the pagan Roman philosopher Seneca; ‘he would have to suffer everything by anticipation’.
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials that await us so that,
whatever they may be, we may endure them only once.
But he didn’t show Mary this compassion.
God willed her to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like his Son.
So she always had to see before her eyes, and continually to suffer,
all the torments that awaited her. And these were the sufferings of the passion
and death of her beloved Jesus.
For in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the divine Child in his arms,
foretold to her that her Son would be a sign for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. …
Jesus our King and his most holy mother didn’t refuse,
for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives.
So it’s reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 222
An Excerpt From
A Year with Mary

I’m still making my way slowly through the book The Divine Plan by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando.
A book based on a seemingly oddly matched friendship and the ‘dramatic end
of the Cold War.’
The book is about the relationship between the Catholic Pope, John Paul II,
and the Protestant American President, Ronald Reagan and of their individual
journies toward that friendship that changed the course of history.

I’ve previously read many books recounting the work of this dynamic duo and the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR…books that recount the seemingly odd match Fate found in
two vastly different world stage players.
But this book’s authors, as do I, believe that this particular match was a match set in
motion long before there was ever an iron curtain,
a relationship that was formed by something much greater than mere Fate.

Hence the title, the Divine Plan…

But today’s post is not so much about that particular Divine match…
that post will come later…
Today’s post, rather, is actually a post about someone else whose life was
Divinely tapped to play a pivotal role in our collective human history.

A post inspired in part by something that I actually read in the book regarding
Pope John Paul II when he was but a young boy growing up in Poland and known
simply as Karol Wojtyla.
It’s what I read which actually lead me to today’s waxing and waning.

When the Pope, or rather young Karol, was 8 years old, his mother died after an
acute urinary tract infection, leaving an impressionable young boy to be raised
by his former military father.

Blessedly the elder Wojtyla was a very devout Christian man and was determined to raise his
young son under the direction of the Chruch.
And so he took a bereft young boy to one of the many shrines to the Madonna in order to pray
and to explain to Karol that the woman he saw in the shrine, that being Mary the mother
of Jesus, was to now be the mother to whom he must turn.

If you’ve ever read anything about Pope John Paul II then you know that he had a very
deep and very real relationship with the Virgin Mary—it is a relationship that reached back
to the void in the heart of an eight-year-old boy who had lost his earthly mother.
It was a relationship that would serve the Pope well throughout his entire life.

So it was this little tale about Mary that got me thinking.

Being raised as a Protestant, we don’t always fully grasp the relationship our Catholic kin
have with Mary.
In fact, we often look at the relationship sideways as if it were some sort of
obsessive oddity.

We scorn them for it.
We ridicule them over it.
And we’ve even accused them of idolatry over it.
And I think we have been unfair.

But this post is not about all of that, not today.

However, this post, on the other hand, is about my thoughts about the mother of Jesus,
the mother of our very own Lord and Savior.

I think history, theology, Christianity often gives Mary a bum rap.
And if it’s not a bum rap, it simply opts to gloss over her.

We tend to put her over in a corner someplace and move on.

And yes that is the role she readily accepted.

We think of her on or around Christmas eve as we recall her wandering the backroads of
a desert night, riding on the back of a donkey as she and her young husband look
for shelter as she is about to give birth…
and then, after Christmas, we don’t think much else about her, ever.

Many mothers accept such a role.
One of obscurity and the role of simply being put in a corner someplace as their child or
children shine in the limelight of whatever direction life should take them.

It’s kind of what mothers do.

And thus I write this post today in part because I have been, as I am currently,
a mother.
And in turn, I kind of get what it means being both mother and grandmother and what
that entails on an earthly level.

I get that it can be a deeply gut-wrenching, emotionally charged roller coaster
ride of life.
I get that it can be both physically, emotionally and spiritually exacting.

Just as it can literally break one’s heart.

Think of those women who have lost their children to illness, accidents, suicides or even
lost to war.

But for Mary, let’s imagine a woman who’s more than just a mother of a son,
but rather a woman who must also look to that son as an extension of her own God.

Who amongst us wouldn’t find that dichotomy utterly impossible to comprehend?

Your son being also your God…

This being the baby you carried for nine months.
Who you delivered through in pain and duress…
The baby who you had to flee town over.
The baby who kings came to visit.

Yet the same baby whose dirty diapers you changed.
Whose spit-up you cleaned up.
Whose hands you popped as they reached for danger…
The toddler whose hand you held when he took his first steps;
The child whose fever you prayed would go away; whose broken bones you willed to heal…
Whose broken heart, you wept over…

And then this same child grew to be an extension of the same God who had come to you
on a lonely night, telling you that He was taxing you with a seemingly impossible task.

Imagine the anguish you felt when, on a family trip, you thought this child of yours was
in the care of relatives…until you realized that no one really knew where he was.

This only child of yours was lost.

It had been three days when you realized he wasn’t with your family.
You had assumed and taken for granted and now he was gone.
How could you have let this happen?
You mentally begin to beat yourself to death.

You now realize he was left behind, alone, in an unforgiving town.
Who had him?
What had become of him?
Was he frightened?
Was he alone?
Was he hungry?
Was he dead?
Was he gone forever?

After frantically retracing your steps, desperately searching both day and night,
calling out his name, you miraculously finally find him.

He is at the Temple.

Your knee jerk reaction is to both cry out while taking him in your arms and then to simultaneously
yank him up by his ear, dragging him off back home all the while fussing as to the
sickening worry he has caused you.

And yet he meets you as if you’ve never met before.
You eerily sense an odd detachment.
He is subdued, calm, even passive…
An old soul now found in what should be a youthful, boisterous child.

Your brain struggles to make sense of what greets your eyes.
His now otherworldliness demeanor is puzzled by your own agitated level of angst.

He matter-of-factly tells you that he’d been in “his Father’s house,
about His father’s business. A simple matter of fact that should not have
you surprised or shocked.
It was as if he felt you should have known this all along.

You let go of him and stare while you try to wrap both your head and heart around what
you’re hearing.
Your anger and fear dissolve into resignation when you painfully recall the words
spoken to you years earlier…
“your heart, like his, will be pierced”…

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I was keenly stuck by one particularly
heartwrenching scene.

It was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets as
Mary ran alongside, pushing through the gathering crowd, watching from a distance
as tears filled her eyes while fear filled her heart.

Mother’s are prewired to feel the need, the urge, the necessity to race in when their
children are hurting.
Mothers desperately try, no matter the age of their children, to take them in their arms…
to caress their fevered brow, to kiss away their salty tears to rock their pain-filled body…

In the movie we see Mary watching as Jesus stumbles under the weight of the
cross–this after being brutally beaten.
She particularly gasps for air…willing her son to breathe in as well.
Her mind races back in time to when, as a young boy, Jesus falls and skins his knees.
He cries as the younger mother Mary, races to pick up her son and soothe his pain.

And just as suddenly, Mary is rudely jolted and catapulted mercilessly back to the current moment,
painfully realizing that she is now helpless to be there for her son.

Her heart is pierced.
As it will be pierced again as the nails are hammered into his flesh and he is hoisted
up in the air…left to die a slow and excruciating death of suffocation
while bones are pulled and dislocated.

And so yes, my thoughts today are on Mary.
A woman who taught us what it is to be a loving mother as well as an obedient woman…
obedient unto the piercing of a heart.

I would dare say that we still have so much to learn from her example.

Obedience seems to have very little in common with such things as abortions,
hashtags and feminism.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 ESV

9/11

“I still have the shoes I wore to work that day.
The soles are melted and they’re caked in ash.
I keep them in a shoebox with the word “deliverance” written all around it.
They’re kind of like my ark, a reminder of God’s presence and the life I owe to him.”

Stanley Praimnath, 9/11 survivor

It was a day ripe with a cloudless clear blue sky.

The kind of deep blue sky that beckons one to look up..
to look up and far beyond…

It was the second week of September.
Labor day was behind us and fall-break was over a month away.

But there was something about this day, this bright blue day,
that made me stop and pause.

Since it was just before the end of my planning period, I had walked over to our vocational
wing in order to pick up some copies I had run off for my upcoming class.

On the walk over between the two buildings, I caught myself looking up.
Looking up and noting the brilliance of such a beautiful cloudless blue sky.

It was still very summer-like in Georgia despite the calendar reading September 11th…

I walked back into the main building just as the bell was ringing for class change.
I reached the door to my classroom in order to monitor the hallway as the kids
traversed up and down, in and out.

One of my colleagues, a coach who also taught Social Studies down the hall from me,
suddenly came sprinting by my room stopping long enough to tell me to turn on my
television because “we were under attack!”

I can remember asking him to repeat what he had just told me.

“We’re under attack, they’ve attacked New York and now they’re attacking Washington!”

“WHAT?!”

As the kids were filtering in, I ran to turn on the television because
I really wasn’t comprehending what I had just heard.

As everyone began to trickle in, we gathered around the wall-mounted television
just staring at the images taking place in New York.

I remember hearing one of my girls announcing to no one in particular that her dad was
currently on a plane to New York…she needed to call her mom.

Needless to say, the day’s work and lessons were long over before they even began
as we were now in the midst of a tragic moment of our Nation’s indelible history.

That cloudless blue September sky changed our lives that day.
It changed our entire world, forever.

My colleague and friend who had stopped to tell me the tragic news would not live to see
the end of the next school year.
He was unaware that on that most fateful of days, the cancer that was multiplying inside of him,
was insidiously at work.

So much was changing, so much had changed.

It seems almost surreal, but today we have generations who were born well after
the fateful day of change…they are actually unaware that we were, that we are,
now different.

New York
Washington
Pennsylvania

Planes
Buildings
Fields

Simple names of states.
Simple names of things and places.

Yet all these years later, nothing remains simple about them.

Nearly 3000 lives were lost that day.
Many more lives were damaged.

Since that fateful day, many more lives have been lost due to the caustic air
inhaled as responders toiled to find the ashes of remains hiding in between the ashes of debris.

And then a war ensued.

And thus more lives have been lost and damaged.

Yet some people have the audacity to claim that the terribleness of that day was simply our own fault.
Some people think it really matters not that we should even take pause to remember.
Some people think it’s no big deal.

And yet on that day, lives ended.
Dreams were broken.
Hearts were broken.
Lives changed.
We changed.

And so yes, it is a big deal.
It was a horrific day of what seemed like a day of unending change…
and thus, in turn, we are now bound to forever remember…

Because the important thing today is that we must never forget why we have changed
and why all of those broken and shattered lives still matter.

Because if we do forget…if we allow our memories to fade…
then the pain, the suffering, the hurt that was felt by so many,
can and will actually return…

Such sweeping and tremendous pain mustn’t be allowed to ever return…

And so on this 11th day of September, we collectively gather to remember…
as we continue with our healing…
vowing that this will never happen again.

Our country is strong:
These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat.
But they have failed. Our country is strong.
A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.”

Former President George W. Bush on Sept. 11, 2001.

Asking forgiveness, it’s never too late nor futile…Poland is such an example

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has
forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

C.S. Lewis

“Freedom is the capacity to assert one’s will against the willfulness of others.”
William of Ockham


Over the past weekend, I caught a lovely news story.

In between the nerve-racking updates about Hurricane Dorian here on the east coast—
the hurricane that just doesn’t want to go away—
to the sorrowful story coming out from the west coast about the tragic boat fire in the
Pacific claiming nearly 40 lives, to another sorrowful mass shooting…
finding a news story that read of hope, if not simply civility, was greatly welcomed.

Below, I’ve simply cut and paste the AT&T news story.
My take on it all follows…

Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has asked for Poland’s forgiveness
80 years after the start of World War II.

“I stand before you, those who have survived, before the descendants of the victims,
the old and the young residents of Wielun, I am humbled and grateful,”
Steinmeier said during a ceremony in the Polish city of Wielun,
the site of one of the first Nazi bombings in the country on September 1, 1939.

“I bow to the victims of the attack in Wielun,
I pay tribute to the Polish victims of German tyranny and I ask for forgiveness,” he said.

Nearly 6 million Poles died during World War II,
which remains the bloodiest conflict in history.

More than 50 million people were killed in the conflict overall,
including some 6 million Jews, half of whom were Polish.

At a ceremony in Warsaw, Polish President Andrzej Duda spoke of the atrocious history
suffered by Polish people during WWII and the “trauma” that they still carry today.

The Polish President remembered the fallen and thanked the soldiers
“who fought and sacrificed their lives for freedom.”

In an address on Sunday morning in Westerplatte, Gdansk,
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke of the huge material, spiritual, economic
and financial losses Poland suffered in the war.

“We have to talk, we have to remember about the losses we suffered,
we have to demand the truth, we have to demand compensation,” Morawiecki said.

War reparations remain a contentious issue in Poland —
since coming to power in 2015, the Law and Justice (PiS)
party has revived calls for compensation, Reuters reported.
Germany made the last payment on reparations in 2010.

US Vice President Mike Pence spoke in Warsaw on Sunday at the commemoration ceremony
to mark the 80th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland.
Two days later, on September 3, Britain and France declared war on Germany.

“During the five decades of untold suffering and death that followed the outbreak of World War II,
the Polish people never lost hope, they never gave in to despair,
and they never let go of their thousand-year history,” Pence said.

“In the years that followed this day 80 years ago,
their light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it,” he added.

https://start.att.net/news/read/article/cnn-german_president_asks_for_forgiveness_80_years_aft-cnn2/category/news

The nation of Poland has a great deal to teach the rest of the world about perseverance
as well as the ability to forgive…just as it seems a German leader has a few things to teach
all of us about the never-ending ability to ask one who has been tragically wronged, to forgive.

But you’d need to understand a bit of history first to truly appreciate this story.

I’ve touched on Poland and her history before in a few previous posts,
but it seems the importance of revisiting has resurfaced.

Poland sits in a pivotal location geographically.

According to the renowned author and biographer, George Weigel, in his international bestseller
Witness to Hope / The biography of Pope John Paul II,
Poland’s location at the crossroads of Latin and Byzantine Europe, it’s geography,
and its repeated experience of invasion, occupation, resistance and
resurrection gave rise to a distinctive Polish way of looking at history.

Poland sits in the middle of Europe—in between the majority of Europe to the west
and Russia along with her broken minions to the east.
Poland has, down through the centuries, proven to be a historical bulwark.

She has literally been the defending line between tyranny and democracy for centuries.
And she has never complained about her pivotal lot.

I am reminded of the verse from the book of Luke:
“From everyone who has been given much,
much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much,
much more will be asked.

Luke 12:48

“Polish history is generally taken to begin with the baptism
of the Piast prince Mieszko I in 966. Mieszko’s choice for Latin Christianity
over Eastern Christianity, which had been formed in the orbit of Constantinople,
decisively shaped Poland’s history for more than a millennium.”

By Mieszko’s choice, a Slavic land and people would be oriented toward the Latin West.

These Roman Slavs were a bridge between Europe’s two cultural halves;
they could “speak the language of two spiritual worlds.”
Poland’s Catholicity and its geographic location led to a certain catholicity
of cultural temperament.

Tartars and Swedes had laid waste [to] the country; the Austrians had stripped the
Old Town of its fortifications and walls (Kraków); occupying powers of varying degrees of
ferocity had displaced the kings and queens of Poland from the royal castle,
atop the “Polish Zion.”
Now, on September 1, 1939, Wawel Cathedral was about to experience something beyond the
imagining of those who had worshiped beneath its gothic vault for centuries.

Poland, as a nation, has been erased numerous times from the known geographical
maps of human history.
Meaning, she was eliminated as a nation…
absorbed by her greedy neighbors on more than one occasion…
actually being erased for over 100 years from any historical map.
Yet the Polish people and their spirit as a unified people, has always remained.

Weigel notes “Poland is not always appreciated this way.
Indeed, the suspicion seems widespread that the Poles
must, for some reason or other, deserve their bad luck.
Yet Poland’s curse is neither in the stars nor in the Polish people.
It’s the neighborhood.”

“For more than a thousand years, the Polish people and their state have inhabited an enormous
flat plain bounded by large, aggressive, materially superior neighbors.
…The Germans were always to the west, and almost always aggressive.
German-Polish enmity followed and peaked in World War II,
when the Nazis sought to eradicate the Polish nation from history.

World War II, which the Poles sometimes describe as the war they lost twice,
was an unmitigated disaster for Poland.
Six million of its citizens our of a prewar population of 35 million,
were killed in combat or murdered– a mortality rate of eighteen percent.
The nation was physically decimated.
Poland became the site of the greatest slaughters of the Holocaust.
And, at the end, another totalitarian power seized control of Poland’s political future.

Karol Wojtyla, the future pope, would live under and eventually be formed by
these two occupying and oppressive regimes–two regimes that would each lend an
unknown hand to the building of a formidable world leader and in turn their own
nemesis and foe.

According to Wikipedia:
On 16 October 1978, Poland experienced what many Poles literally believed to
be a miracle.
Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the archbishop of Kraków, was elected pope at the Vatican,
taking the name John Paul II. The election of a Polish Pope had an electrifying
effect on what was at that time one of the last idiosyncratically
Catholic countries in Europe.
When John Paul toured Poland in June 1979, half a million people came to welcome
him in Warsaw; in the next eight days, about ten million Poles attended the
many outdoor masses he celebrated.
John Paul clearly became the most important person in Poland, leaving the regime
not so much opposed as ignored. Rather than calling for rebellion,
John Paul encouraged the creation of an “alternative Poland” of social
institutions independent of the government, so that when the next crisis came,
the nation would present a united front.

On 27 October 1991, the first (since the 1920s) entirely free Polish parliamentary
election took place.
This completed Poland’s transition from a communist party rule to a Western-style liberal
democratic political system.

And so despite the centuries of war, siege, occupation, death, murder, and even obliteration…
Poland has remained…just as she continues to remain.

And so we are fortunate in that we, as a world, may watch as a one-time warring
and occupying nation sincerely offers a very humble and visceral apology.
Words that cannot erase the pain, suffering, loss or unfathomable human tragedy…
but words offered by a nation who can admit to the sins of her past…
which in turn now offer hope to a renewed future for us all.

Forgiveness, Hope and Healing—all offered to a very troubled and very needing world…

We continue to hold on to Hope…

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander,
along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32

awake at night

“When you awake in the night,
transport yourself quickly in spirit before the Tabernacle, saying:
‘Behold, my God, I come to adore You, to praise, thank, and love you,
and to keep you company with all the Angels.'”

St. John Vianney


(sunset over the the gulf /Julie Cook / 2018)

The past several nights I have woken up around 2:30 AM—wide awake.
Hot.
Sweaty.
Uncomfortable.
Despite the AC running and my husband gently snoring, sleep for me is over.

My back aching with the slightest move–and now an aching neck and shoulder.

It hurts to turn, to roll, to twist.

Dreams, when they come, have been vivid, leaving me wondering and pondering.
Pondering much too much for such an unwelcoming hour.

Time passes with no relief as the numbers of the clock tick on and on.
No calm nor slumber.

Sleep, for me, is often elusive but more so as of late.

When the morning light comes, it is almost rude and unkind as
I find it harder and harder to get up since sleep now tries to
arrive right when it’s time to get up.

Exhausted and ill, I grouse at the day.

Last night, my brain turned on, my eyes popped open and it was only 2:30— my mind racing.
I ruminated on and on like a cow chewing cud over my latest odd dream.
Unresolved ancient issues or just the aching of a herniated disc?

I examine the past.
“NO”, I shout to my hyper-focused mind…” this is not the time!”

So my brain now toys with me, as the unending partial lyrics to a song
begin playing over and over as the earworm bores deeper into my brain.

“STOP”, I silently plead to my restless brain….”just let me rest”, I implore.

And so…I pray.
Focusing on that which is greater than the madness, greater than my weariness.
I offer myself over to You as a sacrifice…
Hear my prayers oh Lord…

“Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”

Over and over I repeat the soothing words until I sense my mind and body quieting in unison.

“My Lord, I offer you myself in turn as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
You have died for me, and I in turn make myself over to you.
I am not my own.
You have bought me; I will by my own act and deed complete the purchase.
My wish is to be separated from everything of this world;
to cleanse myself simply from sin; to put away from me even what is innocent,
if used for its own sake, and not for yours. I put away reputation and honor,
and influence, and power, for my praise and strength shall be in you.
Enable me to carry out what I profess.”

Bl. John Henry Newman, p. 135
An Excerpt From
Everyday Meditations