the distortion of discernment—I think we call it fear

“. . . we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil,
death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”.
We find ourselves not only faced with but necessarily in the
midst of this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it,
with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally
pro-life.”

(Evangelium Vitae)
Pope John Paul II


(detail of a painting I did 11 years ago/ Julie Cook)

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of distortion is:
the act of twisting or altering something out of its true, natural,
or original state

The definition of discernment is:
the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure

After reading Oneta’s post yesterday over on Sweet Aroma, I was moved
in wanting to echo her thoughts regarding her topic Roe v Wade and the
near cataclysmic and apocalyptic affect the notion of a new Supreme Court justice,
who happens to be a practicing Catholic and mother to seven, is having on the
Democratic party and those who are ardent Pro-Choice supporters.

Here is the link to Oneta’s post
REVIEW NOT WANTED

The entire fiasco taking place in this very public and radically vicious and divisive
confirmation hearing over the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is not based
on the merit of her time spent in court nor of the legal training or arduous education
she labored over in order to become a lawyer and judge, but rather,
it is over one simple thing…that thing, being fear.

It is the fear that a legal precedent determined in a court case in 1973 will be
automatically reversed.
As in POOF…should she be appointed to the bench, the henny penny folks
are thinking that suddenly a ruling from 1973 becomes null and void.

It doesn’t work that way folks.

Yet it is fear that is driving this train.
Fear for and over both life and death.

I thought I’d google quotes for the phrase “the sanctity of life”

One would think that Goodreads or even brainyquote, two of the top sites when one
is searching for a quote, would have tons of good quotes…but oddly
both had a mere handful—mostly obscure, a smattering of the well known, and
several of those in favor of population control.

I did not see the quotes by those who I knew in the past had spoken out very strongly
on that very thought.
And if memory serves me well, I had found those quotes among those very sites in past years.

My number one thought being Pope John Paul II…Mother Teresa coming in second.
I had to go back and google quotes by JPII just to find his words
on the subject…and find them I did.

I am still baffled by those who call themselves Catholic in faith and yet defend and even
promote the very idea of abortion…
How can you call yourself a Catholic and voice support for things that
are totally opposed to the tenents of your faith?

Or how can you call yourself a Christian and support the things that are
totally opposed to the command of God?

Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are two that come to mind.
Catholic in name only—and if I recall, such a person is usually not
allowed to receive Holy Communion—for to oppose the doctrine of the Church
is to cut one’s self from the Chruch.

The following are a few of Pope John Paul’s thoughts regarding the
sactity of life—both for the unborn as well as for the dying.

“A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members;
and among the most vulnerable are surely the unborn and the dying.”

(Address to the New Ambassador of New Zealand to the Holy See May 25, 2000)

“As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
(Homily, Perth, Australia, Nov. 30, 1986)

“No country on earth, no political system can think of its own future otherwise
than through the image of these new generations that will receive from their parents
the manifold heritage of values, duties and aspirations of the nation to which they
belong and of the whole human family. Concern for the child, even before birth,
from the first moment of conception and then throughout the years of infancy and youth,
is the primary and fundamental test of the relationship of one human being to another.”

(Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Oct. 2, 1979)

“Every individual, precisely by reason of the mystery of the Word of God Who was
made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14), is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church.
Therefore every threat to human dignity and life must necessarily be felt in the
Church’s very heart;
it cannot but affect her at the core of her faith in the Redemptive Incarnation
of the Son of God, and engage her in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel of life
in all the world and to every creature (cf. Mk 16:15).”

(Evangelium Vitae)

“Not only is the fact of the destruction of so many human lives still to
be born or in their final stage extremely grave and disturbing,
but no less grave and disturbing is the fact that conscience itself,
darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning,
is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in
what concerns the basic value of human life.”

(Evangelium Vitae)

real hard truth found in life’s warfare

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

Pope St. John Paul II


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

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

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

Off with their heads!

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the cat.
“We’re all mad here.”

The Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland


(a toppled statue of St Francis / Julie Cook / 2020)

No, my little St. Francis statue is not the victim of our current hate-fueled madness but
rather it was the victim of a severe thunderstorm.
He toppled over onto the sidewalk and literally lost his head.

Yet, to be honest, seeing poor ol St. Francis having lost his head,
stung my senses a bit.

And so if an old worn garden statue I’ve had for years can prick my emotions, imagine how
I feel watching American monument after monument being defaced or destroyed?

Imagine my dismay over our suddenly removing the names of those more famous among us,
those who are now long gone, being removed from buildings or airports all because their only crime
was having lived generations ago.

What of those now screaming that all white European images of Christ be removed,
or better yet, destroyed?

What of those in the LGBTQ communities exclaiming they don’t wish to co-exist with Christians
but would rather prefer seeing Christianity as nonexistent.

But more about that nonsense later…

Have you ever found yourself pondering the notion of your existence?
As in a ‘why am I here’ sort of pondering?

I know that there have been those amongst us who have felt a keen sense
of purpose for their lives early on…a sense of destiny.
It is a sense of knowing, even as a child, that they were destined for something
so much bigger and so much greater than simply being themselves.

Karol Wojtyla, later the first Polish Pope and Saint, John Paul II felt such.
George Patton, later 4-star general, also felt such.
Winston Churchill, later the UK Prime Minister during WWII, again, felt the same.

As a young boy, Churchill is noted for telling a young schoolmate that he knew
that greatness was in his future.
This coming from a precocious young boy who struggled in his schooling.
A boy who was shipped off to boarding school and was often an embarrassment to his
famously prestigious father.
Greatness was not the initial thought that came to the mind of those who knew
the boy before there was to be the man.

There have been countless others who have also felt the very same sense of purpose.

A feeling that their life was a calling.
A calling to something greater than.

Such callings are often referred to as vocations.
With vocations being vastly different from mere jobs.

A vocation requires a deep sense of dedication—up to and not limited
to one’s very existence.

Those who become members of religious orders and even those who are lead to become teachers,
doctors, policemen, firefighters, nurses…they are but a few of those who we consider as
being called to vocations rather than 9 to 5 jobs.

Those who seek vocations rather than the average job have often felt such calls
early on in life.
An invisible pulling to something so much more than…

If you were ever a kid who attended any sort of Sunday School,
chances are you heard stories and tales about ‘the saints’ —
those brave men and women who dedicated their entire beings to serving God
and proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Those who were willing to face the dire consequences of doing so.

Gruesome tortures with eventual death being the inevitable.

Some of these men and women had been average folks but many had been roughnecks,
criminals and most often the worst amongst us…
yet God had tapped them early on for something so much greater.

And once the scales had fallen from their eyes and their hearts broken,
their true mission began.

And so, we know…
there is indeed a calling.
And there will be no denying this calling.

Some of us already know this very keenly.
Others of us come to this knowledge reluctantly…but come we do.
And when we do so, we do so resolutely.

So tell me, have you heard it?

Have you heard or felt the calling?

I have.

And so now I know…

This thought will be continued…tomorrow.

Call to me and I will answer you,
and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

Jeremiah 33:3

Whoever is of God hears the words of God.
The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

John 8:47

the year of being a mother, a dad, a child…a family

The need to get parenting right has become an obsession for many of us.
But we can make some simple changes and bring some fun and sanity into our lives.
We can love being moms again.
We can sit.
We can laugh with our kids.
We can love life and enjoy our wonderful kids.

Dr. Meg Meeker
The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers


(Madonna and Child by Raphel)

2019 seemed to the year of the hashtag did it not?
Or was that the year of the feminists?

The year of a fanatical and even angry #metoo movement—

As in I am woman, hear me roar.

As in let’s demasculinize and neuter all men in the name of revenge.
As in let’s let little boys be girls while we let little girls be boys as
in gender is no longer relevant.
As in let’s say hooray for abortions…for pregnancy is an inconvenience
As in it is my right and my choice by gosh by golly…
As in it’s all about women empowering women…cause power is important is it not?
And so let’s hear it for the rise of militant feminism.

The rallying cry has gone out…
Challenging, even defying, any and all legislation put out there to protect
a fetus in the womb.
Strike down those heartbeat bills…

As we are left wondering who will speak for those who cannot speak…

And so it is my prayer that the coming year of 2020 would be the year of the moms,
motherhood, and the family.
The year of the traditional family.
The year of both moms and dads along with their children.
Bound by the covenant of God.

As the late Pope John Paul II continues to remind us …
“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world
in which we live.

To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children.
Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.

It is the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman.”

The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols
are pleasure, comfort, and independence,
lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.

And thus I will leave this offering of hope with a final offering of wisdom
from Dr. Meg Meeker, a Christian, a Catholic who is married to an Evangelical, a pediatrician,
an author and most importantly– a mother…

If every mother could wrap her mind around her true value as a woman and a mother,
her life would never be the same.
We would wake up every morning excited for the day rather than feeling as though
we’d been hit by a truck during the night.
We would talk differently to our kids, fret less about our husbands’ annoying habits,
and speak with greater tenderness and clarity.
We would find more contentment in our relationships,
let mean remarks roll off our backs,
and leave work feeling more confident in the job we performed.
Each of us would live a life of extraordinary freedom.

Dr. Meg Meeker
from The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers

the realities of our irreligious times…

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Even though the Disciples suffered persecution, they were filled with joy.
One would have expected them to be depressed or angry or resentful.
The very fact that they responded to persecution with joy is a sign
that the Spirit was guiding their actions. We can use that same test with our
own words and actions.”

Rev. Jude Winkler, O.F.M., p. 11
An Excerpt From
Daily Meditations Holy Spirit


(detail of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling)

Tis the season that the collective thoughts of Western Civilization turn to all things
Christmas…and for many others, all things Hanukkah.

Shopping, Christmas fairs, parties, presents, food, candy, baking, traveling…
and perhaps less and less are the thoughts of manger scenes, candles, dreidels, caroling,
Christmas pageants, Advent wreaths, Menorahs, Midnight Mass, the lighting of candles
Christmas vigils…

I have written on and off, for the past near seven years, about the growing tide
of secularism—of which is rapidly eroding the Judeo-Christian foundation that
has been our chief founding cornerstone since its conglomerate inception during
the latter days of the Roman Caesars.

And in those seven years, the erosion has only grown exponentially.

Now we should know that the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ is a relatively new term–
especially compared to the moral foundation that those same two words helped build.

Some even argue that such a principle is a falsehood—that Western Civilization and
Judeo-Christian do not go hand in hand.
Such principles are not the making of the chief cornerstone of the civilization
we call our own.

I for one, however, disagree…as I have written a myriad of posts as to why those two words
most certainly do matter in both the building and longevity of our Western Civilization,
but no need to rehash that now–because today’s thoughts deal with a couple of
articles that recently came across my radar.

The other day my eye caught a title to an article that caused me to stop, taking
the time to read what it had to say.

It’s an article about how millennials are leaving religion and not coming back.

The “not coming back” part was what I found to be troubling.

The article notes that over the decades many a generation of youth,
especially when going off to college, would, in the immortal words of R.E.M,
lose their religion…only to come back to the fold once they settled, married
and began having children.

It was a homecoming of sorts to the religious raising of one’s youth.
Returning to life’s moral compass.

But the millennial argument is that religion causes more trouble than it eases
and one can still be ‘moral’ without the guidance of religion…
and so, who needs it?!
They, nor their children, will be returning to the fold.
No desire, no need…

Hummmm—

Here is the article:

Millennials Are Leaving Religion And Not Coming Back

And so a few day’s later I caught another article about some sort of hybrid Baptist Church
in North Carolina that is pro-socialism, pro LGBTQ, and pro debt forgiveness—
as in not forgiving trespasses but actual debt (think AOC’s wants).

Rather than reading and studying, say, one of the various books of the Bible, they’re
reading Karl Marx…
That was about all I needed to read before X-ing out of the article…
but I went back in and read on.

The article is long and yes, intentions might be meant for what seems to be the good
and well-intended, but that’s the problem these days…
well-intended does not get one to Heaven….well-intended and Salvation do not go
hand in hand.

These types of up and coming morphing churches rewrite the whole narrative of God’s word to man.
They change the ‘what to do and the what not to do’, as stated by God, all in order to
assuage the feelings of those who threw the notion of sin out with the baby and the bathwater.

Add into the mix ours being a grossly materialistic commercialism driven society.

That’s also something I’ve written about over the years.

In fact, it all runs together…
The loss of our moral direction…along with our growing hunger for things,
the self-medicating found through sexual immorality, addictions, technology…
the demise of the traditional family…
the blurring of sexual identity…
ad infinitum…

Pope John Paul II noted in a mass at the Capital Mall in Washington, D.C.–

The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure,
comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.”

Meaning that our attentions have turned more and more to our own selfish wants
rather than our needs and the needs of our fellow man.

We simply cannot pick and choose what we do and do not like of God’s word.
And thus condoning the lifestyle of such communities like the LGBTQ communities as being
sanctioned by God is in a word, wrong.

Here’s the article:

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/jubilee-baptist-church-debt-forgiveness-lgbtq-socialism

Adding to these two articles, I read something rather telling on the Zwinglius Redivivus blog–

Millennials Were Failed By Churches When They Were Teens
So they’re leaving and not coming back.

So it looks like all those pizza parties and game sessions and all the other crap
they were given as teens in youth group didn’t pay off.
Maybe they should have been given the gospel instead…

Hummm…

https://zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com/2019/12/13/millennials-were-failed-by-churches-when-they-were-teens/

However, this next story offers a bit of optimism…well for me at least.

And maybe having been raised under the umbrella of Anglicanism in the Episcopal Chruch,
I can perhaps see this little current event as a delightful positive.

It has to do with our favorite across the pond former Anglican cleric and his move to the
Catholic fold.
A move I actually saw long coming.
And a move that has great meaning to my own little spirit…
but well chat about that later…

The article gives a bit of background as to why Bishop Ashenden stepped down from his position as
Chaplin to the Queen which eventually lead to his parting with the Anglican denomination.

The outspoken prelate became a global media celebrity after he objected to the
reading of the Koran at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Koranic chapter on Mary, read from the lectern at the service of Holy Communion,
on the Feast of the Epiphany 2017, explicitly denied the divinity of Jesus.

Under pressure from Buckingham Palace, Dr. Ashenden resigned his royal chaplaincy in order
to be free to challenge the rising tide of apostasy in the Church of England.

Later that year, Ashenden was consecrated a missionary bishop to the United Kingdom
and Europe by the Christian Episcopal Church to provide episcopal cover to traditionalist
Anglicans leaving the Church of England.

Hummm…

Here’s the article:

https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/anglican-bishop-and-queens-chaplain-converts-to-catholicism

So perhaps to sum all of this up, this post is actually a small look at the comings and goings
of the foundation of our faith…our moral compass, our religion, our Western Civilization,
our Judeo-Christian base, and the continued erosion and rewriting of it all…
for both bad and perhaps some good…

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous,
without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness,
but denying its power.
Avoid such people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

honey and locust… or would that be grasshoppers?

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

Pope St. John Paul II


(a locust passing by / Julie Cook / 2015)

Sometimes I just think it would be best if I found some hollowed-out tree, ditched
all the trappings of this life and opted to survive off of honey and locust.

Think John the Baptist.

The voice of the one crying out in the wilderness.
The man who lived in the desert eating only honey and locust while preaching about the
repentance of man…

So in my case, maybe we should make those grasshoppers because grasshoppers are more prevalent
in my neck of the woods.
But if the truth be told, I could easily do honey all day long, grasshoppers, however,
are things that I’m just not so certain about.

But this little reflection is not about eating bugs or living in
a hollowed-out tree—
but rather this post is about ridding oneself of all the trappings of a distracting world.

Giving to God all that I am and all that I have…which is simply me and me alone.

Because isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
What we’re supposed to be about?

So maybe this IS a post about living in a hollowed-out tree, or in a cave or in a hut
or in the desert…

It’s about giving all and crying out.

It’s much like having a St. Francis moment.

Stripping down naked in the town square, tossing off all the fine clothing given
by one’s well to do parent and opting instead to offer the only thing one truly has that
is his or her own…that being one’s unclad naked self.


(St. Francis’ renunciation of worldly things / Giotto /1295 /Bascillica of San Francesco Assisi, Italy)

Yet Life gets complicated.

Our culture and society have both grown caustically complicated.

We can get so caught up in the minutia of living.
We tend to worry about things that are totally trivial in the grand scope of what is
truly worthy of concern…

We fret over silly little things like matching appliances, buying name brand purses, shoes, and cars.
We want a house in that oh so special neighborhood while putting our kids in the best of the best schools…
We live on our phones, on Facebook, on twitter on Instagram…
We have become the masters of making nothingness into life-altering concerns and thoughts.

The proverbial mountain verses the molehill.

Throw in the daily constant fixation with our toxic political sludge…
and well, we are all living a life of perpetual distraction— and if the truth be told,
it is a life of heaviness and negativity.

What then do we have left to give God?
What remains?

Maybe having a St. Francis moment is in order for us all.
Throwing off the trappings of this world and giving to God what it is at the heart of the matter—
that being ourselves and ourselves alone…
ourselves with nothing covering us or allowing us to hide behind…no distractions.

Just us.

Just us making Him our focus..the focus of what truly only matters.
Because in the end…nothing else in this world does matter…
Everything and everyone will eventually die and or pass away.

So only Him and us…

Creator and created…

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

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

the mystery of Judas; the Church’s dark night of the soul

“We (the Church) are experiencing the mystery of iniquity,
the mystery of betrayal, the mystery of Judas”

Robert Cardinal Sarah


(The Taking of Jesus by Caravaggio 1602 / The National Gallery of Ireland / Dublin)

A couple of weeks back I highlighted a small intro to a new book offering by the Guinea Catholic
prelate Robert Cardinal Sarah…
a man who minces no words when it comes to God’s commands to man.

He is a staunch advocate for the Christian faith and the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.
A true defender of the faith.
And a man who viscerally recognizes the sins of the Chruch, the sins of those entrusted
with shepherding the fold.

I pre-ordered this latest book offering, The Day Is Now Far Spent
It is a book that is based on a conversation between the Cardinal and the French journalist
Nicolas Diat

The book arrived today via the mail and just so you know,
the first two introductory pages are already more yellow than they are
white and black as I have highlighted almost every word.

Cardinal Sarah’s voice has been long needed…not only for the Catholic Chruch but for our
entire Global Christian Church.

Cardinal Sarah addresses, head-on, the sexual abuse scandal that is taking the
Catholic Chruch to her knees.
He addresses the dire situation the West is currently facing regarding her very foundation…
that being her Judaeo/Christian cornerstone.
He addresses the growing crisis of faith.
A crisis that is eating away at the very core of Christianity.
As we are living in a post-Christian culture that reviles the Christian faith.

The Cardinal explains that in his first book,
The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise,
he had invited us all to learn the gift of silence…
however, today, the Cardinal finds that he can remain silent no more.

“I must no longer remain silent.
Christians are disoriented.
Every day from all sides, I receive calls for help from those who no longer know what to believe.
…The Chruch is experiencing the dark night of the soul.
The mystery of iniquity is enveloping and blinding her.”

As Pope VI used to say, we are being invaded by the smoke of
Satan. The Church, which ought to be a place of light, has become a dwelling place of darkness.
It ought to be a secure, peaceful family home, but look: it has become a den of thieves!”

“Following Jesus, the Chruch is experiencing the mystery of scourging.
Her body is lacerated.
Who is inflicting the lashes?
The very ones who ought to love and protect her?
Yes I make so bold as to borrow the words of Pope Francis: the mystery of Judas hangs over our time
The mystery of betrayal oozes from the walls of the Church.”

I am both deeply encouraged as well as deeply concerned reading what this solider
of the Cross has to say to all of us regarding our faith and that of the Church in general.

We need to be mindful that there is indeed a smoky veil that is engulfing our faith.
Those of us in the West are under dire persecutions albeit on a vastly different level
than that our brothers and sisters around the globe who live in a physical peril for
holding fast to their beliefs.

Ours is more an insidious downward spiral…a psychological attack.
Add in the culture of death that both Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa each
addressed as a key contributor to the demise of Christianity in the West along, with the
death of the traditional family and we have a toxic mix for our own totality of loss.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing more of this insightful man’s wisdom.

Let us pray for the global Christian body of believers as we must arm ourselves against
Satan’s attacks.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

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

let me tell you…

It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring
momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them.
The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


(our son and his daughter, the Mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)

Let me tell you a little bit about our son…

He turns 31 later this year and would absolutely die if he knew his mother was
sharing anything about him on her blog.

Oh well.

I’ve written about him before, several times…it’s just that I don’t tell him that I do.

I’ve written about him not because he’s simply my son nor because he’s famous, infamous
or terminally ill…thank the Lord he’s none of those things but just our son.

I write rather because his growing up was not an easy journey…

It was a journey that seems oh so long ago and yet the memories of the difficulties
remain.

Despite that long and often difficult journey, we, his parents, are so exceedingly
proud of the man, husband, and father he’s grown into.

And that is what I want to write about.

But I also want to write, not so much about our son,
but rather about the very surreal time in history in which we are now
finding ourselves living in.

We are living in a dystopian culture that is playing fast and loose with
something so straightforward and simple as the obvious fact of biology and gender…
that being the exacting fact of male and female.

It is a culture that is trying its best to demasculate any and all males.
A culture that is shaming boys, young men, and adult men…for being just that, male.
A culture that allows children to “choose” a gender, with gender being
a fluid notion.

I, for one, believe in and very much want strong men.

I want strong men in my life.
I want strong male role models who know what it means to be a man…
I want men who know what it means to be a Godly man.
Mature men.
Men who understand God’s intention for them as husbands, leaders,
role models, fathers…

And these desires of mine do not equate me with being weak, dominated,
overrun, demure, belittled or abused.

Just shy of 40 years ago, my late godfather, an Episcopal priest,
sat me down right before I got married in order to share a few important
thoughts with me.
As my priest, but more importantly, as my Godpoppa, he felt compelled to tell me that
marriage was not going to be easy.

I think we all know that an engaged bride-to-be lives in a bit of an unrealistic fairytale
of fantasy.
There is a whirlwind of activities, details, and parties to attend to;
reality is not often found in the fanfare.

My Godpoppa told me that I was marrying a good man but a man who had been abused
both physically and emotionally as a child by a hardcore alcoholic father.
He told me that my husband-to-be had not had a positive role model of
what it meant to be a loving husband and father.

He wanted me to keep this all in mind as we prepared to embark on
a life together.
He knew all too well that there would be difficult times.

He already knew, up close and personal, of my own issues with adoption and
dysfunction within my adopted family— but in his wisdom, he knew that
two broken people were about to be joined as one…
as in two becoming one big broken person.

Not only did I have to learn how to be a loving, supportive, forgiving wife and later
a mother–of whom was also working and tending to the house…
but my husband had to learn how to be a good husband, provider,
and an eventual positive father—
the type of father he desperately wanted to be for our son.


(our son and my husband many moons ago / Julie Cook / 1995ish)

And my Godfather was right—marriage was and is hard—add work, bills,
life and parenthood to that and things can become dangerously complicated fast!

I read the following quote this morning from the author Tom Hoops:
People think of “the family that prays together stays together” as a quaint old saying.
But it was a favorite saying of Saint John Paul II and Saint Teresa of Calcutta,
and the daily practice of Pope Benedict XVI’s family, according to his brother’s biographer.

I had to learn the hard way the importance of seeking God first and foremost when
it comes to one’s most intimate relationships.
It is imperative that He be in the middle of all we do because if He is not and
we substitute ourselves in the center, then we have a toxic equation for
stress and disaster.

It is Satan’s desire that the family fails.
If the family fails, Satan gains a greater foothold in our world…as all binding institutions
begin to crumble.

But I suppose I’ve deviated a tad from my original intention with this post…

Yet we need to understand that parenthood, like marriage, is often a learn
as you go experience.

And so it was with us—especially when our 5-year-old son was diagnosed
with a rather severe learning disability and a year later with ADD.

Life suddenly took a difficult turn.

He didn’t learn to read until he was entering the 3rd grade.
We spent the previous summer driving back and forth every day to a
specialized private school in Atlanta that focused on teaching kids with
dyslexia how to read.

We spent our afternoons fighting over homework and driving from tutor to tutor.

It all sounds so matter of fact now…but at the time it was anything but.

There was a father who was gone working 16 hour days, 6 days a week, a wife who
was teaching and commuting 30 minutes to and from work to home while shuttling a
child from school to tutoring to home, to homework, to Scouts, then back home again…

Throw in making supper, tending to the house, washing, cleaning, preparing
lessons for the next day…and life just seemed to get more and more difficult.

There was enough exhaustion, frustration, resentment, tears, fears and worry
circulating in our young lives to last a lifetime.
And there were many times I angrily raised a fist and questioned God.

Yet our son wanted nothing more than to be “normal” and of course we
wanted that for him.

But what was normal?

For him to be “normal” meant that there was going to have to be a great deal of
commitment, time invested, assistance, sacrifice and lots and lots of work.

But of course, you can read about all of that in the following linked posts written years back…
because today is not a day to dwell on what was but rather today is a day to look at what is:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/the-journey/
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/a-large-collective-sigh/

I actually had colleagues who openly voiced their skepticism over our son ever
going to college let alone being successful.

It wasn’t easy.
There were hurdles.
There were setbacks.
There were mistakes.
There were injustices.
And there was simply dumb rotten luck.

Then there came a girl.
And then came love.
And then came marriage.
And eventually, there came a degree.

Some very tough jobs followed—they came complete with low pay, poor hours,
dangerous conditions, a lack of appreciation, pounded pavement,
all the way to a shuttered company, a lost job, and then news of a baby.

When things were looking their lowest, a ray of light shone through.

Out of the blue came a new job.
New promises from a prominent company.
A new start.
Along with that new baby.

Yet hours remained frustratingly poor, pay remained minimal and frustration remained high
as the promises kept being pushed aside.

However in all of that remained something more important, something more instrumental,
something more exacting…that being…perseverance.

It was a desire and a will ‘to do’, not only for himself but more importantly the
desire to do, to be and to provide for his young family.

He wanted to be that man he saw in his father.

A man who made years of sacrifices of self for the betterment of his wife and child.
A man who was just that, a man who possessed both determination and a respect
for responsibility.

There was work, there was a growing family as baby number two appeared…
added to all of that was more college work for an additional degree add-on.
A balance of living life while looking ahead.

And just when life was looking overwhelming and growth was looking stymied and stagnant…
along came an opportunity for something different, something new and something that
seemed improbable, unattainable and most unlikely…and yet it came none the less.

After gaining a toehold in the door and with nearly two months of
interviews and scrutiny, the new job offer came last week.

I know I’ll be writing more about all of this change in the coming weeks…
but first, there are the necessary two weeks of finishing up one job before
starting another.

There will be the training, learning the adjusting…for not only our son
but for his entire small family.

Change is good, but it is also hard.

Yet the one thing in all of this that I know to be true is that our son did this on his own.
He earned the opportunity and sold himself as the best asset he could be…

There is God’s hand and timing in all of this.
And I can say this as I’m now looking back.

On the front end, things can look overwhelming and impossible…

Yet my husband toiled to become that man, that father, he so yearned to be…
and now his son is following suit…

Living the life as the man God intended for him to be.

A strong focused man who loves his family.
A man who works to lead his family and honor his wife.
A strong role model for both his young son and daughter.
A man who continues to make us, his mom and dad, so very proud.

Correct your son, and he will give you comfort;
He will also delight your soul.

Proverbs 29:17

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