mincing no words

“At the root of the collapse of the West, there is a cultural identity crisis.
The West no longer knows and does not want to know who made it,
who established it, as it was and as it is.
Many countries today ignore their own history.
This is self-suffocation naturally leads to a decadence that opens the
path to new, barbaric civilizations.”

Robert Cardinal Sarah


(Cardinal Sarah)

Many of you may or may not be familiar with Cardinal Sarah.

I’ve quoted and even mentioned Cardinal Sarah before.

I am not Catholic, but having been raised in the Episcopal Chruch,
I have always been considered Catholic lite… or so they say…
of which I take as a compliment.

But I want you to know that despite my not being a Catholic, I have always felt
encouraged when ever reading Cardinal Sarah’s words.

He does not mince his words.
He does not apologize for those words.
And he always takes God at His word while never looking back.

That is such a refreshing stand in a time of endless apologies, backtracking, politicizing,
and the current persecution of Christians in, of all places, Western Civilization.

Robert Sarah was born in 1945 in Ourous, a village in then rural French Guinea.
His parents were both Christian converts.
Sarah began his religious studies at the age of 12.

With ongoing conflicts within Guinea, Sarah eventually completed his schooling in both
France and Senegal with his final ordination studies in both Rome and Jerusalem.
He was ordained in 1969, serving as a priest and eventual bishop in Guinea.
Both pope’s Benedict and Francis elevated Sarah to first cardinal deacon then
eventually Cardinal in 2013.

What we know about Africa, Cardinal Sarah’s home nation, is that it is the fastest-growing
Christian nation on the planet.
And it is a bastion of a conservative perspective on God’s word and of Christianity.
Meaning, the global Christian Chruch in Africa does not mince God’s word.
If God said it, then it is so…end of sentence.

There is no deciphering, interpreting, or rewriting to suit the whims of the times.

In a time in which Christianity is under tremendous attack and Christians are facing
all sorts of persecutions, Africa offers Christianity hope.

Cardinal Sarah makes no excuses for his Christian faith, his African Christianity,
his Catholicism and no excuses for what many claim to be politically incorrect
stances on Christianity.

Cardinal Sarah has been very vocal, as well as pointed with his words, regarding ISIS,
Radical Isalm, gender identity, LGBTQ lifestyles, mass immigration, abortion,
the current demise of the traditional family, and the current seemingly
demise of Western Civilization.

The good Cardinal says that he “considers that the decadence of our time has
all the faces of mortal peril.”
He has also stated that ‘Gender Ideology is a Luciferean Refusal’
of the Sexual Nature Given to Us by God.

There are no apologies for such wording as he speaks with only the
word of God as his guide.

Cardinal Sarah has a new book to be released in September…
The Day Is Now Far Spent.

The publisher’s review is telling…

In this powerful book by the acclaimed spiritual leader and best-selling writer,
one he calls his “most important”, he analyzes the profound spiritual,
moral and political crisis in the contemporary world.
He says that he “considers that the decadence of our time has all the faces of mortal peril.”

“At the root of the collapse of the West, there is a cultural identity crisis.
The West no longer knows who it is, because it no longer knows and does not
want to know who made it, who established it, as it was and as it is.
Many countries today ignore their own history.
This self-suffocation naturally leads to a decadence that opens the path to new,
barbaric civilizations.”

In these words, Cardinal Sarah summarizes the theme of his book.
His finding is simple: our world is on the brink of the abyss.
Crisis of faith and of the Church, decline of the West, betrayal by its elites,
moral relativism, endless globalism, unbridled capitalism, new ideologies,
political exhaustion, movements inspired by Islamist totalitarianism…
The time has come for an unflinching diagnosis.

While making clear the gravity of the crisis through which the West has gone,
the Cardinal demonstrates that it is possible to avoid the hell of a world without God,
a world without man, a world without hope.

After the great international success of his first two books,
God or Nothing and The Power of Silence,
Cardinal Sarah offers a wide-ranging reflection on the crisis of the contemporary
world while teaching many important spiritual lessons.

I look forward to reading this latest book by this ardent soldier of the Faith,
and I am thankful that there are prelates, clergy, and
men of the cloth who will not apologize nor back down in the face of mounting backlash,
criticism or persecution—

In the word of God, there are no mistakes…there is no mincing of His word…

So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth:
it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless],
but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose,
and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11

arrow of beauty, the tiny spark of Love

“If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you,
do not expose it to the wind,
for it may get blown out…
Stay quiet with God.
Do not spend your time in useless chatter…
Do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself.”

St. Charles Borromeo


(a gull in unfazed by the crashing surf / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019)

True knowledge is being struck by the arrow of beauty that wounds man: being touched by reality,
‘by the personal presence of Christ himself’, as [Nicholas Cabasilas] puts it.
Being overcome by the beauty of Christ is a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deduction.
Of course we must not underestimate the importance of theological reflection, of exact and careful theological thought;
it is still absolutely necessary.
But to despise, on that account, the impact produced by the heart’s encounter with beauty,
or to reject it as a true form of knowledge would impoverish and dry up both faith and theology.
We must rediscover this form of knowledge—it is an urgent demand of the present hour.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
from On the Way to Jesus Christ

if I only had a heart…

“Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional
memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child.
This is a healing memory; it brings hope.”

Pope Benedict XVI


(mother’s kitchen funnel has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2018)

This pitiful image of what was once my mother’s kitchen funnel, that I have
obviously “loved” to death by overuse and wash, always reminds me of the hat of
the head of the tinman from the Wizard of Oz…
albeit a kitchen funnel and not an oil funnel.

Who can forget Jack Haley singing…if I only had a heart…

When a man’s an empty kettle he should be on his mettle,
And yet I’m torn apart.
Just because I’m presumin’ that I could be kind-a-human,
If I only had heart.
I’d be tender – I’d be gentle and awful sentimental
Regarding Love and Art.
I’d be friends with the sparrows …
and the boys who shoots the arrows
If I only had a heart.
Picture me – a balcony. Above a voice sings low.
Wherefore art thou, Romeo? I hear a beat…
How sweet.
Just to register emotion, jealousy – devotion,
And really feel the part.
I could stay young and chipper
and I’d lock it with a zipper,
If I only had a heart.

Wizard Of Oz – If I Only Had A Brain/Heart/Nerve Lyrics

If I only had a heart…

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

To remove the heart of stone and receive the heart of flesh…

And so it seems on that fateful day when an apple was received and in turn eaten,
two hearts grew hard…
spawning a spiraling outward of generational stone hardened hearts.

Shuttered hearts.
Closed hearts…
turned cold

Yet all the while the mind deludes, claiming otherwise.

The mind convinces the heart to remain closed and hardened,
otherwise, there will be pain, weakness, and vulnerability…

C.S Lewis says it this way…

“There is no safe investment.

To love at all is to be vulnerable.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.

If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one,
not even to an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements;
lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.

It will not be broken;
it will become
unbreakable,
impenetrable,
irredeemable.

The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.

The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers
and perturbations of love is…
Hell.”

Yet it was the famed English preacher, Charles Spurgeon, who had previously addressed this
notion of the heart of stone.

“Spurgeon surmised that the stony heart is, specifically:
cold,
hard,
dead,
not easily softened and utterly senseless.

He said the person with the hard heart is “Satan’s throne.”
And he said the hard heart is “impervious to all instrumentality,”

(Cliff Vaughn)

In a sermon delivered in 1887 Spurgeon addresses the hardened heart:

Hardness of heart is a great and grievous evil.
It exists not only in the outside world,
but in many who frequent the courts of the Lord’s house.
Beneath the robes of religion many carry a heart of stone.

Nothing good can come out of a stony heart;
it is barren as a rock.
To be unfeeling is to be unfruitful.
Prayer without desire,
praise without emotion,
preaching without earnestness — what are all these?
Like the marble images of life, they are cold and dead.

Yet he reminds us that all is not lost.

The Holy Spirit makes us like wax, and we become impressible to his sacred seal.
Remember, you that are hard of heart, that your hope lies this way;
God himself, who melts the icebergs of the northern sea,
must make your soul to yield up its hardness in the presence of his love.
Nothing short of the work of God within you can effect this.
“Ye must be born again,” and that new birth must be from above.
The Spirit of God must work regeneration in you.
He is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham;
but until he works you are dead and insensible.
Even now I perceive the goings forth of his power:
he is moving you to desire his divine working,
and in that gracious desire, the work has already begun.

Note next, that as this tenderness comes of the Spirit of God,
so it also comes by his working in full co-operation with the Father and with the Son.

We hear the Father say, “I will pour upon the house of David the spirit of grace,”
(angelfire.com)

And so it is from that same genealogical house–the house of David which is born the Grace
which is our hope from the impenetrable death found in the stone cold heart.

It is a hope found in the genealogical line from Abraham, to David, to the Christ.

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David,
fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon,
and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
(Matthew 1:17)

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea,
to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and
was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
(Luke 2:4-7)

And so the genealogical line of hardened hearts, hearts which once seemed destined to reside
closed for all time and destined to spend an eternity in Hell,
will be broken…broken by the gift found in a genealogical line of hope,
the gift found in the birth of a single child…

And a little child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6)

Leading once stone hardened hearts, now broken by Grace, to healing found only in Salvation.

United in the Divine Heart

“Would that I could exhaust myself in acts of thanksgiving and gratitude towards
this Divine Heart, for the great favor He shows us,
in deigning to accept our help to make Him known,
loved and honored;
He reserves infinite blessings for all those who devote themselves to this work.”

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque


(tangerine tree /Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2018)

“If you stay united with Christ, each one of you will be able to do great things.
This is why, dear friends, you must not be afraid to dream with your eyes open of
important projects of good and you must not let yourselves be discouraged by difficulties.
Christ has confidence in you and wants you to be able to realize all your most noble and
lofty dreams of genuine happiness.
Nothing is impossible for those who trust in God and entrust themselves to Him.”

Pope Benedict XVI
An Excerpt From
Pope Benedict XVI

losing my mind…

There is no antithesis between hope for heaven and loyalty to the earth,
since this hope is also hope for the earth.
While we hope for something greater and definitive,
we Christians may and must bring hope into that which is transitory,
into the world of our states
.
Joseph Ratzinger


(detail from Sainte Chapelle / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

I mentioned the other day the irony that as we…we being anyone,
work toward pushing our way toward a Godly life, a Godly
mindset, a Godly perspective as to how we live our lives…
the harder we work toward such, Satan, in turn,
goes into overdrive trying desperately to thwart any and all efforts.

I know this.

Hence why I’m opting to just walk around with an umbrella over my head 24/7.

But more about all of that later.

One thing that I have noticed that isn’t helping…isn’t helping my mindset, my demeanor,
my outlook, is this country’s quagmire of division and hatred and the constant news
feeds… be they from a liberal progressive henny penny the sky is falling slant or from
the more conservative slant of ‘oh woe is us’ (of which I tend to be more of the ‘oh
woe is us’ camp) it is enough to be driving me absolutely nuts…
so much so that I dare turn on a television or click on news…
and Heaven’s help us, when I get the world breaking news alerts on my phone.

And so it was a bit serendipitous to stumble upon the following quote by
Joseph Ratzinger…aka Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Joseph Ratzinger, as Cardinal Ratzinger who worked under Pope John Paul II as the
Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,
was known as God’s Rotweiller.

He headed a Vatican department responsible for enforcing doctrinal orthodoxy, and was
the successor to the Inquisition.
A tough-minded man who once said that “rock music was “the expression of basic passions”
And he described homosexuality as a “more or less strong tendency ordered toward
an intrinsic moral evil”.

He did not mince the words of Biblical truths.

The former Pope, who now lives a reclusive, prayerful and scholarly life in a small
apartment on the grounds of the Vatican, is German by birth.
Hence the Rottweiler reference as well as being known as the Panzer Cardinal.

However it was as a youthful boy, Ratzinger’s heart was set on being a priest.
But Hitler and his Nazi monster reign put that dream on hold.

The family was very anti-Nazi, anti-Hitler.
The Nazi regime’s politics ran counter to the Ratzinger’s Catholic Christian faith.
So much so that the senior Ratzinger moved his family multiple times in hopes of living a life
somewhat free from the growing madness.

However time eventually ran out and as required of all young German boys during this dark time
in mankind’s history, this future Pope was mandated to serve time as a member of Hitler’s
Youth Group. Should he opt not to participate, the family would face financial penalties
and most likely worse.

During the dark, chaotic days of Nazi Germany, Ratzinger witnessed first hand the
horrors of what life was like under Hitler’s spell.
Ratzinger had a younger cousin who had Down’s Syndrome—
Such individuals were considered to be defective….imperfect and impure.
It was the likes of Josef Mengele, the physician who performed countless “experiments” of such individuals-who viewed people like Ratzinger’s cousin as living guinea pigs, had those like
Ratzinger’s cousin rounded up and taken away.

And so his cousin was indeed “taken away” from the family by the local authorities.
A short time afterward the family was given word that the boy had been killed for being one of the “undesirables”—an individual considered to be a flaw…
a weak and unpure part of the Aryan gene pool.

During his time as a Hitler Youth, Ratzinger was miserable.

In Ratzinger’s book Salt of the Earth, Ratzinger says the following “…
Thank goodness, there was a very understanding mathematics teacher.
He himself was a Nazi but an honest man, who said to me,
‘Just go once and get the document so that we have it’ …
When he saw that I simply didn’t want to, he said, ‘I understand, I’ll take care of it’,
and so I was able to stay free of it.
(Wikipedia)

Later when he was of age, Ratzinger was drafted.
Three separate times his service was terminated, only to be reinstated and serving in various capacities
but never seeing active fighting on the front.

Eventually, he made the harrowing decision to desert.

Ratzinger has often stated that Heavenly angels watched over him and his family during those
frantic final days of Nazi Germany as there were multiple times when the authorities
discovered a young man of draft age who was oddly not enlisted—
and yet, his desertion was oddly never pursued.

As soon as the war was over, Ratzinger and his brother both entered seminary.

So if there is one who understands the attacks by Satan on those who attempt to pursue a
Godly life and of the role a political ethos plays in the lives of Christians
it would be Ratzinger…as well as Karol Woytjla, aka Pope John Paul II who
lived a life of labor, pain, and suffering in a Nazi-occupied Poland…

So may the following words of wisdom offered by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
speak to all of us today…those of us who are finding ourselves living
in these very uncertain and surreal political times…

True human objectivity involves humanity, and humanity involves God.

True human reason involves morality, which lives on God’s commandments.

This morality is not a private matter; it has public significance.

Without the good of being good and of good action, there can be no good politics.

What the persecuted Church prescribed for Christians as the core of their political
ethos must also be the core of an active Christian politics:
only where good is done and is recognized as good can people live together
well in a thriving community.

Demonstrating the practical importance of the moral dimension,
the dimension of God’s commandments—publicly as well—must be the center of responsible
political action.

Joseph Ratzinger

living for what?

Everything in this world will pass away.
In eternity only Love will remain.

Pope Benedict XVI
from An Invitation to Faith


(detail of shelf fungs / Cades Cove, TN / Julie Cook/ 2018)


(shelf fungus circles a cut log / Cades Cove, TN,
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park/ Julie Cook/ 2018)

“He who wishes for anything but Christ,
does not know what he wishes;
he who asks for anything but Christ,
does not know what he is asking;
he who works, and not for Christ,
does not know what he is doing.”

St. Philip Neri

the light, courage and one’s will

“When you pray, you only have to ask for two things:
You should ask for the light to see the will of God,
and you have to ask for the courage to be able to do the will of God.”

Venerable Msgr. Aloysius Schwartz


(my own peter cottontail / Julie Cook / 2018)

This is the question that arises over and over again,
particularly in our hour of a new paganism and also of a new longing for God:
Is the light of God, the light of Jesus Christ, hidden under the bushel of our habits,
our indifference, under the flood of our words,
so that beneath them the word can no longer shine forth?
Or can it emerge and once again become light for all who live in God’s house,
in his creation?

Joseph Ratzinger
from Teaching and Learning the Love of God: Being a Priest Today