don’t put a squashed pine cone in your mouth…

“the ‘task of the conscience’– a word of great value in Western civilization,
is to determine what that divine purpose is and then to live
it out irrespective of the cost”

observations about Pope John Paul by George Weigel
excerpt taken from The Divine Plan
John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and the Dramatic End of the Cold War
by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando

The above image is a picture within a picture…or rather, it’s a still-shot from a video.
And the title is a quote I actually uttered yesterday…
as in, “DO NOT PUT THAT SQUASHED PINECONE IN YOUR MOUTH!!

However, that story will have to wait as I simply needed an
the attention-grabbing title today…
As in I wanted your full and undived attention.

I’ve been spending time with the Mayor and the new Sheriff the past several days,
helping out…and I hate that I’ve not even had the chance to share with you about their
charming encounter with the ocean…
But it seems as if the world has tilted just a bit further off her axis and has needed
a tad more of my attention than merely my chattering on as a doting grandmother
who’s droning on about her grandkids…

But first a quick word to the wise…it is not prudent nor is it wise to pick up a run over
and flattened pinecone and proceed to poke it into your mouth and then bite down…just saying.

But now to the matter at hand.

It seems that there has been a lot of talk as of late…here in the blogosphere, FB
(or so I’m told) as well as on various Christian media outlets about more and more
big-name Christians announcing their seemingly sudden withdrawal from the fold
so to speak.

As in there appears to be a slight uptick in the number of those recanting their faith
all in very public places and on very public platforms.

Odd to want to grandstand over losing one’s faith.
Opting to be vocal and in the spotlight rather than introspective, sad and
living the loss.

Or as IB so aptly noted the other day, in the words of the famous band out of
Athens, GA—REM—grandstanding over ‘Losing My Religion’…

And to be honest…not being one who runs in the evangelical or other
protestant denomination’s circles or one who keeps up with the current mega-church craze,
I can’t say that I’m familiar with many of these recently fallen sheep.

But as I’ve been reading…there is indeed a long, sad, public and very vocal fall
taking place.

I have, however, on the other hand, been a bit more focused on the sexual abuse scandal
rocking the Catholic Chruch as well as the naming of a few notable and now long deceased
Anglican priests whose names have been sullied by the same accusations.

And so as I look out over the horizon of our collective Christian faith—
our denominations far and wide, I can see Satan being very busy as work.

I’ve written about this so many times before that I think I must just be beating my head
against a brick wall but there is a divide and conquer mentality being applied to the
Christian fold and it is being applied fast and furious…
And the thing is… nobody seems to “get it”

I’ve also written that this is indeed a mad world—a mad mad world on so many levels.
Mad as in crazy nuts and mad as in viscerally angry.
We have troubles my friends and I do indeed fret for my darling grandchildren.

The slick lies that are being tossed about fast and loose as truth
from things such as children’s tv and music, to what defines a family, to
legalized murder in delivery rooms, all the way to the odd notion of fluid genders…
it is enough to make me want to grab up my babies and run and hide.

But we cannot hide.

We cannot ignore it any longer.
We cannot turn a blind eye and pretend this isn’t happening.

We are being spoon fed lies as truth.
Lies as legalized truth.

As a once overly zealous teen, when reading the stories of those early Christian martyrs in
places such as Rome and Judea, I would often imagine having been there and how I would have
hoped to have stood up so bravely as those countless men and women who suffered
grievously under torture, mutilation and even death—
suffered almost readily rather than giving in and recanting their faith.

Because their faith was precious.
It was dear.
It was sacred.

Today it seems to be more passe, victimized and tired.

And so when I read of these modern-day Christians recanting their faith
so flippantly and arrogantly, apologizing to the masses of those seemingly innocent souls
who they feel as if they had helped to lead astray, I am more than saddened, I am sickened.

For they have bought into the culture gods hook, line and sinker…
They are now the poster children of a hedonistic and self-absorbed culture…
selling a bad bag of goods to an innocent fold.

There are thousands around this world of ours who continue to die for the Christian faith.
They worship in secret and in whispered tones.
They live in places such as Russia, China, Africa, Myanmar, Yemen, Iran, Iraq…
They love Jesus and are willing to pay the ultimate price for that love.

Their worship is not easy nor is it easy to come by…
not as it is here in the West.

And yet here in the West, we too indeed suffer as well.
It’s just that we suffer on a quieter level.

Our suffering is on a more insidious level.
Our suffering is often more psychological than physical.

We are shunned, ridiculed, threatened with legal action and told we may not utter
the name of God or Jesus as we once did…
Words spoken, along with the right to speak those words, was simply taken for granted.

And maybe that’s part of the problem.
We’ve taken for granted the Precious and the Sacred.
We trivialized our God and made that which is Great, small.

And now Satan is working overtime.

Time is running out.
He knows this.

So, therefore, be not quiet.
Speak up and speak out.
Because it is a mad world…
in all sorts of places and in all sorts of ways…

freedom and faith…

“Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot.
Religion is more needed in democratic societies than in any other”

President Ronald Reagan during a 1988 address marking Georgetown University’s 200th anniversary.


(piping plover / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019)

[Seek] authentic freedom [and] avoid every kind of illusory freedom,
every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into
the whole truth about man and the world.

Pope John Paul II
Redemptor Hominis 1979

reparations vs Grace

“Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself,
‘Who could be the Master of these beautiful things?’
I felt a great desire to see him, to know him and to pay him homage.”

St. Josephine Bakhita

When speaking of her enslavement, she often professed she would thank her kidnappers.
For had she not been kidnapped, she might never have come to know Jesus Christ and entered His Church

Catholic.org


(St Josephine Bakhita)

Firstly this business about paying reparations for slavery is about the dumbest thing our
legislators have ever opted to take up and pursue…let alone conduct a three ring circus
of unbridled idiocy over.

Now whereas I’ve written about this notion before…as in will we pay those free blacks who
were also slave owners. Will we pay the Native American Indians…and of course will the
Egyptians pay the Jews, will the various African tribes pay the other tribes, will the
Chinese pay the Koreans, will the Russians pay the Russians…yada, yada, yada.

No nation is exempt from this sinful crime.

But this is not so much a post about reparations as it more about Grace.

The following story is about a woman who was born in Darfur in 1869.
As a young girl, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery to the Arabs.

Her’s is a harrowing tale of slavery, torture, and cruelty that lead to
serving not man, but instead, Jesus Christ.

How could one begin to pay reparations for Josephine’s life of servitude to man?
How could one begin to remove the 114 lasting stripes across her back?

Josephine would never expect nor accept such…her greatest gift,
coming to know Jesus Christ.

If ever there was one who should have quit, given up all the while begging to simply die…
It would have been Josephine Margaret Bakhita.

But she did not…
What can money do in the place of everlasting Grace?
Nothing.

May we all come to know that Grace…

Saint Josephine Margaret Bakhita was born around 1869 in the village of
Olgossa in the Darfur region of Sudan. She was a member of the Daju people and
her uncle was a tribal chief.
Due to her family lineage, she grew up happy and relatively prosperous,
saying that as a child, she did not know suffering.

Historians believe that sometime in February 1877,
Josephine was kidnapped by Arab slave traders.
Although she was just a child, she was forced to walk barefoot over 600 miles
to a slave market in El Obeid. She was bought and sold at least twice
during the grueling journey.

For the next 12 years she would be bought, sold and given away over a dozen times.
She spent so much time in captivity that she forgot her original name.

As a slave, her experiences varied from fair treatment to cruel.
Her first owner, a wealthy Arab, gave her to his daughters as a maid.
The assignment was easy until she offended her owner’s son,
possibly for the crime of breaking a vase.
As punishment, she was beaten so severely she was incapacitated for a month.
After that, she was sold.

One of her owners was a Turkish general who gave her to his wife and mother-in-law
who both beat her daily.
Josephine wrote that as soon as one wound would heal, they would inflict another.

She told about how the general’s wife ordered her to be scarred.
As her mistress watched, ready with a whip, another woman drew patterns on her skin with flour,
then cut into her flesh with a blade. She rubbed the wounds with salt to make the scars permanent.
She would suffer a total of 114 scars from this abuse.

In 1883, the Turkish general sold her to the Italian Vice Consul, Callisto Legani.
He was a much kinder master and he did not beat her.
When it was time for him to return to Italy, she begged to be taken with him, and he agreed.

After a long and dangerous journey across Sudan, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean,
they arrived in Italy.
She was given away to another family as a gift and she served them as a nanny.

Her new family also had dealings in Sudan had when her mistress decided to travel
to Sudan without Josephine,
she placed her in the custody of the Canossian Sisters in Venice.

While she was in the custody of the sisters, she came to learn about God.
According to Josephine, she had always known about God,
who created all things, but she did not know who He was.
The sisters answered her questions.
She was deeply moved by her time with the sisters and discerned a call to follow Christ.

When her mistress returned from Sudan, Josephine refused to leave.
Her mistress spent three days trying to persuade her to leave the sisters,
but Josephine remained steadfast. This caused the superior of the
Institute for baptismal candidates among the sisters to complain
to Italian authorities on Josephine’s behalf.

The case went to court, and the court found that slavery had been outlawed
in Sudan before Josephine was born, so she could not be lawfully made slave.
She was declared free.

For the first time in her life, Josephine was free and could choose what to do with her life.
She chose to remain with the Canossian Sisters.

She was baptized on January 9, 1890 and took the name Josephine Margaret and Fortunata.
(Fortunata is the Latin translation for her Arabic name, Bakhita).
She also received the sacraments of her first holy communion and confirmation on the same day.
These three sacraments are the sacraments of initiation into the Church and were always
given together in the early Church.
The Archbishop who gave her the sacraments was none other than Giusseppe Sarto,
the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, who would later become Pope Pius X.

Josephine became a novice with the CanossianDaughters of Charity religious order on
December 7, 1893, and took her final vows on December 8, 1896.
She was eventually assigned to a convent in Schio, Vicenza.

For the next 42 years of her life, she worked as a cook and a doorkeeper at the convent.
She also traveled and visited other convents telling her story to other sisters
and preparing them for work in Africa.

She was known for her gentle voice and smile.
She was gentle and charismatic, and was often referred to lovingly as the
“little brown sister” or honorably as the “black mother.”

When speaking of her enslavement, she often professed she would thank her kidnappers.
For had she not been kidnapped,
she might never have come to know Jesus Christ and entered His Church.

During World War II, the people of the village of Schio regarded her as their protector.
And although bombs fell on their village, not one citizen died.

In her later years, she began to suffer physical pain and was forced to use a wheelchair.
But she always remained cheerful.
If anyone asked her how she was, she would reply, “As the master desires.”

On the evening of February 8, 1947, Josephine spoke her last words,
“Our Lady, Our Lady!” She then died.
Her body lay on display for three days afterwards.

In 1958, the process of canonization began for Josephine under Pope John XXIII.
On December 1st, 1978, Pope John Paul II declared her venerable.
Sadly, the news of her beatification in 1992 was censored in Sudan.
But just nine months later, Pope John Paul II visited Sudan and honored her publicly.
He canonized her on October 1, 2000.

Saint Josephine Bakhita is the patron saint of Sudan and her feast day
is celebrated on February 8.

Catholic.org

Third term abortions, Absolutely NOT!

‘Abortion’ “[the] anticipated murder to prevent someone from being born”
Tertullian

All this is causing a profound change in the way in which life and relationships between people
are considered. The fact that legislation in many countries,
perhaps even departing from basic principles of their Constitutions,
has determined not to punish these practices against life,
and even to make them altogether legal,
is both a disturbing symptom and a significant cause of grave moral decline

Pope John Paul II
Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)
1995


(a puny pigeon sits at the breaking surf / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019

I am simply beside myself.

So gravely upset.

So much so that the words will not come.

And the words that do come, are not the right words…not for this…not right now.

Third. Term. Abortions.

I need to gather my thoughts, feelings, and words carefully before I can write
the type of post that is deserving of this latest issue of absolute madness.

My initial response is not only absolutely not, but more like, Hell NO, Absolutely NOT!!!

I have never believed in abortion.

It eludes me as to how a civilized society can somehow convince itself that abortion is ok.

The matter of simply a choice.
A yes or a no.
Somewhat reminiscent of a Ceaser offering a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
Simple as that…life or death.

I consider abortion the taking of a life and I think when I last checked, the taking of a life
equated to murder…and murder is a capital offense, plain and simple.

I am adopted.
Not aborted.

In 1995 Pope John II wrote an encyclical entitled Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life—
a treatise regarding the sanctity of human life…all human life…
as well as the responsibility that the Chruch has to protect that sanctity and that of life.

His words address the threats to human life— capital punishment, euthanasia, sterilization, murder,
and abortion.

He begins his encyclical with the scripture from Luke—reminding all of us about the importance of
birth and salvation…it is the proclaiming of the good news and that of great joy which is to
all people…’for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…”

The Pope is reminding us that our hope comes in the form of a birth of a baby…

Nancy Pelosi, the current Speaker of the House, is Catholic.
Yet she supports abortion.
She knows the teaching of the Chruch and yet her choice is to disregard this teaching
regarding the sanctity of human life.

And now we have the Governor of Virginia and several legislatures thinking full-term
pregnancies..that being the delivering of a living, breathing baby to not be tended to or
cared for but rather to be set aside, like a wet towel after a shower,
while the powers that be in the room decide whether or not the
baby may be “allowed” to live or simply die.

When I went to sleep in 1995 on a night when the Pope was putting his thoughts to paper,
I was a 36-year-old mother of a 6-year-old little boy.
I was also a wife and a teacher.

I had already lost my own mother (adopted) to cancer.
My brother (adopted) to suicide.

I was not a perfect mother or wife let alone a perfect teacher.

I was well aware of my own shortcomings and sinfulness.
I was also aware of the sanctity of life.
As well as the forgiveness of sin as found in a Savior who had come into the
world as an innocent child.

I knew other people who also believed in the sanctity of life.

My church, The Episcopal Chruch, at the time, believed in the sanctity of life.

That is not so much the case these 24 years later.

Politicians, clergy, educators, news personalities, entertainers and just average folks like wives,
husbands, college kids, high school kids…
all these 24 years later…more and more people think abortion is ok…

And now, we have the notion that a full term birth…an actual living and breathing baby may
in turn, be killed if those in that delivery room deem it so.

So until I can put my own thoughts together in some sort of coherent, common sense sort of order,
I will offer the following words from Pope John Paul II, taken from Evangelium Vitae,
with a link following the quote to the full encyclical.

At the dawn of salvation, it is the Birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news:
“I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people;
for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11).
The source of this “great joy” is the Birth of the Saviour;
but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth,
and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfilment
of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn 16:21).

When he presents the heart of his redemptive mission, Jesus says:
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
In truth, he is referring to that “new” and “eternal” life which consists in communion
with the Father, to which every person is freely called in the Son by the power of the
Sanctifying Spirit.
It is precisely in this “life” that all the aspects and stages of human life
achieve their full significance.

The Church knows that this Gospel of life…

58. Among all the crimes which can be committed against life,
procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable.
The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an
“unspeakable crime”.54

But today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become
progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour
and even in law itself,
is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense,
which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil,
even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation,
we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call
things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the
temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is
extremely straightforward:
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20).
Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology,
such as “interruption of pregnancy”, which tends to hide abortion’s true nature and to
attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a
symptom of an uneasiness of conscience.
But no word has the power to change the reality of things:
procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is
carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence,
extending from conception to birth.

The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize
that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved.
The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life.
No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be
considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor!
He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence
consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears.
The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman
carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother
herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated,
and who then goes about having it done.

It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother,
insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for
purely selfish reasons or out of convenience, but out of a desire to protect certain
important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the
other members of the family. Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live
in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place.
Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic,
can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

59. As well as the mother, there are often other people too who decide upon the
death of the child in the womb. In the first place, the father of the child may be to blame,
not only when he di- rectly pressures the woman to have an abortion,
but also when he indirectly encourages such a decision on her part by leaving her alone
to face the problems of pregnancy:
55 in this way the family is thus mortally wounded and profaned in its nature as a community
of love and in its vocation to be the “sanctuary of life”.
Nor can one overlook the pressures which sometimes come from the wider family
circle and from friends. Sometimes the woman is subjected to such strong pressure
that she feels psychologically forced to have an abortion: certainly in this case
moral responsibility lies particularly with those who have directly or indirectly obliged
her to have an abortion. Doctors and nurses are also responsible,
when they place at the service of death skills which were acquired for promoting life.

But responsibility likewise falls on the legislators who have promoted and approved
abortion laws, and, to the extent that they have a say in the matter,
on the administrators of the health-care centres where abortions are performed.
A general and no less serious responsibility lies with those who have encouraged
the spread of an attitude of sexual permissiveness and a lack of esteem for motherhood,
and with those who should have ensured-but did not-effective family and social policies
in support of families, especially larger families and those with particular financial
and educational needs. Finally, one cannot overlook the network of complicity which
reaches out to include international institutions, foundations and associations
which systematically campaign for the legalization and spread of abortion in the world.
In this sense abortion goes beyond the responsibility of individuals and beyond the
harm done to them, and takes on a distinctly social dimension.
It is a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people
who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders. As I wrote in my Letter to Families,
“we are facing an immense threat to life: not only to the life of
individuals but also to that of civilization itself”.
56 We are facing what can be called a “structure of sin” which opposes human life not yet born.

60. Some people try to justify abortion by claiming that the result of conception,
at least up to a certain number of days, cannot yet be considered a personal human life.
But in fact, “from the time that the ovum is fertilized,
a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother;
it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth.
It would never be made human if it were not human already.
This has always been clear, and … modern genetic science offers clear confirmation.
It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the programme
of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic
aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins,
and each of its capacities requires time-a rather lengthy time-to find its place and to
be in a position to act”.57 Even if the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be
ascertained by empirical data, the results themselves of scientific research on
the human embryo provide “a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason
a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of a human life:
how could a human individual not be a human person?”.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae.html

And as we, the pilgrim people, the people of life and for life, make our way in confidence towards
“a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1),
we look to her who is for us “a sign of sure hope and solace”

Pope John Paul II
Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)
1995

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

the take away of hope and hopefulness

“Hate corrodes the container its carried in”
Senator Alan Simpson during his eulogy of President G.H.W Bush


(image of Senator Simpson offering a eulogy during the funeral of G.H.W. Bush)

One thing I learned as an educator is that we are always learning.

When we are a part of or exposed to various learning moments, those moments
which are both known, and even most often unknown,–moments throughout our
lives, we inevitably are given gifts of the ‘take aways’…

Those nuggets and morsels of wisdom that we glean…
glimpses of that which speaks deeply to our souls.

They are the things we ruminate over…chewing on and pondering over.
They are the small gifts we receive from both moments and individuals…

If you’ve read any of my posts this week, you know I’ve been trying to take
in what I can from the life, death, mourning and now funeral of our 41st President
George H. W. Bush.

I’ve been watching the state funerals of our presidents since John F. Kennedy’s funeral
as my parents instilled that sense of duty and respect in me…
a respect extended to our presidents for their service to us, the people.
It mattered not the party, we gathered for each one—that is until I was on my own,
And I still watched…just as I did today for our 41st President.

It was never about party or politics…but it was about respect and service.

President Bush 41 was just finishing the first year of his presidency when my son
was born.
It’s one of those things written down in a baby book…” who was the president
the year you were born”…with his being Bush, mine being Eisenhower.

Most who know me, know that I was a huge fan of President Reagan.

And if you’ve read many of my posts over the years, you’d then know that the tandem
working relationships between President Ronald Reagan,
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and
Pope John Paul II all played a significant role
in my life at a time when I was just coming into my own…
coming into my own thoughts and conviction about the world around us.

They fed my keen interest and love for our democracy, freedom as well as the importance of
having a working Christian faith within that very democracy and freedom—
as the cost for each comes at a very high price.

They taught me that hope remains even when things appear hopeless…that
a Cold War could be broken, a wall could be torn down and people could taste freedom
after living a lifetime under tyranny.

The presidency of George H.W. Bush seemed to serve as an asterisk to those
four world giants and the ture gifts they offered our world.

So it comes as no surprise that I’ve been quite taken with much of what I’ve learned
throughout the course of this week regarding the life of our 41st president.

Some things that I had known and some things that I had never known.
Some things about The President, some things about his cabinet and some things
about his lifelong friends.

It has been, however, from his death that I have actually found a surprising sense
of hope—hope for this oh so divided Nation of ours.
A deep-ceded, hate-filled division that I have anguished over now for
oh so many months.

Look at these two images.

The first image of this group of American movers and shakers is at the
beginning of the President’s funeral.
It is an image of past and present.

And within that past and present is a great deal of visible stain.

This was a gathering of people who we all know don’t exactly care much for one another.
Some in the group are better at hiding their real feelings in public than
some of the others.

This historic picture shows four presidents, along with one hopeful want to be,
along with spouses gathered together, seated side by side,
in order to pay homage to one of their own.
The mood is somber yet the tension on this front row is palpable.

The second image appears to show that humor can be unifying emotion.

Humor seems to be one of the small final gifts given by the 41st President to
this group who have followed his footsteps.

And it was Al Simpson, the former senator from Wyoming and lifelong friend of
President George H. W. Bush who, in his eulogy of his dear old friend,
offered many of those stories which provided a thankful amount of humor.
A gift freely offered to all those gathered and particularly needed by those gathered on
that front row.

But it was what Senator Simpson said toward the end of his eulogy that
I found most telling of which I could only pray that those seated on that
first row would each digest in his or her own private way.

Senator Simpson noted that President Bush never “hated” anyone…

Meaning this age-old friend never heard his very important friend ever
express vehemence or disdain…for anyone…not publicly nor privately.

Not even after a difficult and challenging campaign and defeat.
Not even after the dealings with aggressive and difficult world situations.
Not even after a life spent in the often ugly and petty business of politics.
Not even despite the trials of living life after losing a young child.
As this approach to life and living was something instilled in him at a young age.

For the Senator noted that both he and Bush had learned this particular lesson
early on in their young lives as each of their mothers carried what they
called velvet hammers.

These men learned hard lessons at the knees of their mothers with one of the most important
lessons being that “hate corrodes the container it is carried in”

That container being one’s heart.

So I was now curious for a little more background behind Al Simpson…
curious because he was much funnier delivering this eulogy than I had remembered
him to be during his days in the Senate.
So I found this little bit of his background story…

Another offering of hope found in a now elderly man’s earlier life…

The story is about a one-time youthful holy terror,
who almost, and most certainly would have in today’s time, served jail time for his
life of running wild, yet who, with time and redemption, actually grew up to become
a leader, a senator and dear friend to a president.

So the first of the takeaways that I want to share from a seemingly sorrowful event is
that of hope and hopefulness.
Other takeaways will be shared later.

I want to offer Alan Simpson’s backstory regarding how this now 87-year-old survived
to come out on the upside of what was nothing more than a selfish reckless youth…

The story is a reminder that if there is hope for a youthful hellion who
no doubt seemed to be a hopeless cause, so then surely there is hope for
a group of politicians who find great disdain for one another…
The same Hope that remains available for a deeply divided Nation.

A lasting gift offered even in death by a President to his grateful yet divided Nation.
A gift that our 41st President always knew came from his faith…
that being the faith and Hope found in and freely given by Jesus Christ.

There has been a great deal of this notion of hope that I have found in these
rapidly disappearing members of this Greatest Generation…

I even read of it coming from Barbara Bush.

Just a few months ago she herself was now dying,
her son Jeb asked her if she was afraid to leave their dad behind.
Barbara unequivocably told Jeb that she will miss her husband and his father
but that she believes in Jesus Christ.
She knew that George would be okay without her as she would be home with her
Savior—all the while waiting on George to follow.

Bereft as he was when his wife of 73 years died, George senior, knew where Barbara was,
that she’d be waiting on him as his hope also rested in his faith—
faith in a Savior who would also bring him home when the time was ready.

So I offer the back story to a once difficult young man who put his trust in
the notion of hope and hopefulness as he grew to be a man who also chose
to serve others over serving self.

According to Wikipedia:
In Simpson’s words to this Court, “I was a monster.”

In that brief, in support of the claimant in the Supreme Court case,
Simpson admitted that, as a juvenile, he had been on federal probation for shooting mailboxes
and punching a cop and that he “was a monster”.

One day in Cody, Wyoming, when Simpson was in high school,
he and some friends “went out to do damage.”
They went to an abandoned war relocation structure and decided to “torch” it.
They committed arson on federal property,
a crime now punishable by up to twenty years in prison if no one is hurt,
and punishable by up to life in prison if the arson causes a person’s death.
Luckily for Simpson, no one was injured in the blaze.

Simpson not only played with fire, but also with guns.
He played a game with his friends in which they shot at rocks close to one another,
at times using bullets they stole from the local hardware store.
The goal of the game was to come as close as possible to striking someone without
actually doing so.
Again, Simpson was lucky:
no one was killed or seriously injured, or caught by their parents.

Simpson and his friends went shooting throughout their community.
They fired their rifles at mailboxes, blowing holes in several and killing a cow.
They fired their weapons at a road grader.
“We just raised hell,” Simpson says.
Federal authorities charged Simpson with destroying government property and
Simpson pleaded guilty.
He received two years of probation and was required to make restitution from his own funds –
funds that he was supposed to obtain by holding down a job.

As he [Simpson] has described it, “The older you get, the more you realize . . .
your own attitude is stupefying, and arrogant, and cocky, and a miserable way to live.”

Simpson stated “I was just dumb and rebellious and stupid.
And a different person.” and then added,
“You’re not who are when you’re 16 or 18.
You’re dumb, and you don’t care and you think you are eternal.”

And so the state where this young hellion would cause so much trouble would eventually
vote him in as their United States Senator.
Setting his life on a path to becoming dear friends with the 41st President of the United States.
A man who remembered yesterday in the Nation’s National Cathedral.

There is always hope…

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