A new saint with an old soul

When it comes upon me how late I am trying to serve the Church,
the obvious answer is, even saints, such as St. Augustine, St. Ignatius,
did not begin in earnest till a late age.

Blessed John Henry Newman


(courtesy AP)

Today Pope Francis will canonize a new saint.

To those of you who are non-Catholics, this news is no more than a blip from some
religious news feed, but to me, I find it quite interesting.

As many of you reading this already know, I was born and raised in the Episcopal Church—
which is, in a nutshell, the American branch of the global Anglican communion.

Anglican being the Chruch of England.

A denomination I once loved, but for many years have found myself at a crossroads of odds.
I have found that I cannot remain in a fold that disregards the Word of God while
preferring to re-write God’s tenants to suit a disgruntled liberal culture.

John Henry Newman was an Anglican priest, writer and intellectual who was considered
‘an evangelical Oxford University academic.’

He too felt at odds with his “church.”

And so I offer you a little background from a few periodicals who offer us a bit of background
to this new saint with an old soul…

According to Wikipedia,
He [Newman] became known as a leader of, and an able polemicist for the Oxford Movement,
an influential and controversial grouping of Anglicans who wished to return to the
Church of England many Catholic beliefs and liturgical rituals
from before the English Reformation.

In this, the movement had some success.

In 1845 Newman, joined by some but not all of his followers,
officially left the Church of England and his teaching post at Oxford University
and was received into the Catholic Church. He was quickly ordained as a priest and
continued as an influential religious leader, based in Birmingham.
In 1879, he was created a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in recognition of his services
to the cause of the Catholic Church in England.
He was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland in 1854,
although he had left Dublin by 1859.
CUI in time evolved into University College Dublin, today the largest university in Ireland.

Newman came to his faith at an early age.

At the age of 15, during his last year at school,
Newman was converted, an incident of which he wrote in his Apologia that it was
“more certain than that I have hands or feet”.
Almost at the same time (March 1816) the bank Ramsbottom, Newman and Co. crashed,
though it paid its creditors and his father left to manage a brewery.
Mayers, who had himself undergone a conversion in 1814,
lent Newman books from the English Calvinist tradition.
It was in the autumn of 1816 that Newman “fell under the influence of a definite creed”
and received into his intellect “impressions of dogma, which, through God’s mercy,
have never been effaced or obscured”.
He became an evangelical Calvinist and held the typical belief that the
Pope was the antichrist under the influence of the writings of Thomas Newton,
as well as his reading of Joseph Milner’s History of the Church of Christ.
Mayers is described as a moderate, Clapham Sect Calvinist,
and Newman read William Law as well as William Beveridge in devotional literature.
He also read The Force of Truth by Thomas Scott.

Although to the end of his life Newman looked back on his conversion to
evangelical Christianity in 1816 as the saving of his soul,
he gradually shifted away from his early Calvinism.
As Eamon Duffy puts it, “He came to see Evangelicalism,
with its emphasis on religious feeling and on the Reformation doctrine of
justification by faith alone, as a Trojan horse for an undogmatic religious individualism
that ignored the Church’s role in the transmission of revealed truth,
and that must lead inexorably to subjectivism and skepticism.”

According to a news article on the Washington Post,
Pope Francis on Sunday will canonize John Henry Newman,
a Victorian-era intellectual, Catholic convert and cardinal.
A self-described “controversialist,” Newman was an early leader in the Oxford Movement,
an attempt to reinstate ancient forms of faith and worship in the Church of England.
After converting to Catholicism at age 44,
Newman went on to found a Catholic university and a religious community,
as well as a school, and he clashed with authoritarian,
or “Ultramontane,” Catholics over the issue of papal infallibility.

Newman called liberalism “false liberty of thought,”
or the attempt to find truth through reason alone independent of faith and devotion.
He characterized his life as one long campaign against this view in his spiritual autobiography.

The Wall Street Journal continues Cardinal Newman’s story…
noting that he could well be known as the patron saint of the lonely…

On Sunday Pope Francis will officially recognize as a saint the
British clergyman and Oxford academic John Henry Newman (1801-90).
Nearly 130 years after his death, Newman’s writings still offer readers
incisive theological analysis—and practical wisdom.

A theologian, poet and priest of the Church of England,
Newman found his way to Catholicism later in life and was ordained a
Catholic priest in his 40s.
Pope Leo XIII made him a cardinal in 1879.

Cigna, a global health service company,
surveys feelings of social isolation across the U.S. using the UCLA Loneliness Scale.
Last year Cigna released the results of a study of 20,000 Americans.
It found that adults 18 to 22 are the loneliest segment of the population.
Nearly half report a chronic sense of loneliness.
People 72 and older are the least lonely.

I spend a lot of time with young adults in my job,
and the results don’t surprise me.
I often observe young couples out on dates, looking at their cellphones rather than each other.
I see students walking while wearing earbuds, oblivious to passersby.
Others spend hours alone watching movies on Netflix or playing videogames.
The digital culture in which young people live pushes them toward a kind of
solipsism that must contribute to their loneliness.

“No one, man nor woman, can stand alone;
we are so constituted by nature,” Newman writes,
noting our need to cultivate genuine relations of friendship.
Social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter connect people,
but it’s a different sort of connection than friendship.
The self one presents on Facebook is inauthentic,
someone living an idealized life unlike one’s daily reality.
Interaction online is more akin to Kabuki theater than genuine human relations.

When young people do connect face to face, it’s often superficial,
thanks in part to dating and hookup apps like Tinder and Bumble.
Cigna’s study found that 43% of participants feel their relationships are not meaningful.
Little wonder, if relationships are formed when two people decide to swipe right on their phones.

Cardinal Newman never married, but warm, sincere, and lasting friendships—the kind that
we so seldom form through digital interactions—gave his life richness.
He cultivated them with his neighbors in Oxford and, after his conversion to Catholicism,
at the Birmingham Oratory. He sustained them in his correspondence,
some 20,000 letters filling 32 volumes.

In one of his sermons, delivered on the feast of St. John the Evangelist,
Newman reflects on the Gospel’s observation that St. John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
It is a remarkable thing, Newman says, that the Son of God Most High should have loved
one man more than another.
It shows how entirely human Jesus was in his wants and his feelings,
because friendship is a deep human desire.
And it suggests a pattern we would do well to follow in our own lives if we would be happy:
“to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us.”

On the other hand, Newman observes that “nothing is more likely to engender selfish habits”
than independence.
People “who can move about as they please, and indulge the love of variety”
are unlikely to obtain that heavenly gift the liturgy describes as
“the very bond of peace and of all virtues.”
He could well have been describing the isolation that can result from
an addiction to digital entertainment.

When Newman was named a cardinal in 1879, he chose as his motto
Cor ad cor loquitur.
He found the phrase in a letter to St. Jane Frances de Chantal from St. Francis de Sales,
her spiritual adviser:
“I want to speak to you heart to heart,” he said.
Don’t hold back any inward thoughts.

That is a habit of conversation I hope we can revive among our sons and daughters.
Real friendship is the cure for the loneliness so many young people feel.
Not the self-referential stimulation of a cellphone or iPad;
not the inauthentic “friending” of Facebook; not the superficial hooking up of Tinder,
but the honest, intimate, lasting bond of true friendship.

Mr. Garvey is president of the Catholic University of America.

“Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!
Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.”

John Henry Newman

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

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…

How we continue to make God into matter…and does it matter?

We try to make Jesus present…
Gavin Ashenden

Firstly—yes, it does matter that man continues to attempt to make God into matter…
because that means that where the spark of the Creator remains,
the created continue to seek Him…

I was so very blessed yesterday when I got to watch the video, included below,
that was actually an interview between Bishop Gavin Ashenden and the British journalist
Rodney Hearth concerning the good bishop’s observation regarding the fire at Notre Dame.

Bishop Ashenden does a marvelous job of sorting through this emotional event from the lens
of a Protestant…

Contrary to popular belief, Anglicans / Episcopalians are Protestants…
and as I’ve tried explaining before, Catholics are not some sort of two-headed monster.

I’ve grievously come to realize that many of the Protestant faith do not understand
why everyone is making such a to do over the fire at Norte Dame.

Sadly they do not see the relevance to their own faith.

And that is in part…a lost lesson in history.

Yet I am not here today to teach but rather to share.

The good Bishop explains that humankind has always attempted to make God into what
we all can comprehend…that being matter–the same of which we are made.

This is why the ancient churches and cathedrals were built—man reaching upward
to the unseen Creator—a tangible to the nontangible.

With regard to this very tragic and very public fire,
the good Bishop notes the significance of fire and the Christian faith as a
“Theology of Fire.”

He also shares the observation of crisis—of which this fire was…
as it is just one more piece to the crisis of the collective Church in Europe,

Crisis in Greek, κρίσις, translates to judgment.

And when we stand in judgment, we are exposed to God’s fire—
It is a fire that burns away the dross… that of our sin—
It burns but it equally cleanses when we repent…becasue we are cleansed by a Holy fire.

But on the other hand, if we do not repent, we are also exposed to Holy fire—
however, this is the fire of Holy Judgement and in that unrepentance,
we are cast into an unending inferno.

It was not lost on either of the men that ironically, there is a symbol of Christianity
burning on an island that was flanked on either side by the right and the left banks…

In the reality of the current battle being waged by the culture gods of secular relativism
as they strive to prevail, working earnestly to erase any vestige of our Judaeo / Christian
heritage…the Left fights the Right over which values our culture must embrace—all the while,
in between these two warring factions sits the Church— engulfed in a raging inferno.

The key question to Christians and to all of Christianity, a question I continue to ask—-
how will we, the faithful, respond?

“Interpreting the great fire of Notre Dame.” Gavin Ashenden in conversation with Rodney Hearth.

Yes and No

Just as Eve brought death into the world through her fall,
and through her succumbing to Satan,
so too Mary becomes the new Eve who brings life into the world through her ‘yes’ to God.
This imagery of Mary as the new Eve goes all the way back to the Old Testament.
She is the new woman, who will overcome the serpent through her ‘yes’ to God and through
the coming of her Son, the Messiah.

Dr. Michael Barber
from What Every Catholic Needs to Know About Mary


(image of Mary from The Passion of the Christ looking upon the foot of her dead son)

My aim today is not to debate the importance or lack of importance of Mary in our
collective faiths.
Be that in the Catholic Faith or be that that within the Protestant faiths…

Bless Mary…for she has become such a pivotal, and dare I say, a contentious image within the
collective Christian Chruch.

I for one find that to be a truly sad factor for us all of the collective Christian faith
as we have allowed Mary’s significance or insignificance to become divisive.

Yet that topic is not my focus today.

Not being Catholic, I was not raised with a strong sense of a Marian devotion.
Yet I do not hold that against my Catholic kinsmen.
Mary is important to our Catholic kin, just as she is important to all of us of the Fatih
for she bore willingly a most heavy burden…a burden she bore willingly for all of us.

She does not surpass the importance of her Son.
Yet that is often lost in the accusations and fussing.
No Catholic puts the mother above her Son
but her role as a universal mother does not go ignored.

Yet all of that is neither here nor there today.

Yesterday morning I read the quote I’ve added above by Dr. Barber regarding both Mary and Eve.
Two very pivotal women within the Christian Fatih.

Eve is blamed for all of our current state of affairs while Mary is the quintessential image
of willingness, sacrifice, and selflessness.

Darkness and shame versus selfless light.

After reading the quote and knowing I wanted to use it in a post, I actually noticed that
several folks had viewed a previous post that I had offered on Christmas Eve…
it was a post based on a homily offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden.

And as I don’t believe in coincidence but rather the prompting of the Spirit, I will
again offer that same post here…as it seems to be calling out…

The post is titled “Eve’s no verses Mary’s yes…”

“i imagine that yes is the only living thing.”
E.E. Cummings


(Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden / Masaccio / 1425 / Florence )


(Bicci di Lorenzo / 1433-1434 / The Annunciation panels / private collection)

Please enjoy the Christmas Eve Homily offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden.
Bishop Ashenden raises an interesting observation…

That in Eve’s having said “no” to God—in her refusal to His obedience,
man in turn then fell victim to the addiction to sin and disobedience.

Mary then counters that sinfulness no by offering her simple “yes”….

And in Mary’s yes…she brings us all to God’s saving Grace.
Of which brings to all of humankind, through the birth of her son Yeshua,
the freedom from this never-ending cycle of disobedient addiction…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/12/24/eves-no-verses-marys-yes/

There is but one Gospel

After finishing every piece of his glorious music, Bach would sign it SDG.
To the glory of God alone. If we recovered more of that zeal,
humility and love – what a transformation would be seen in our self-obsessed,
faction ridden, hypocritical churches.

David Robertson


(a lone Lilly / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2017)

I am no theologian nor biblical scholar.
I am no mystic who has a special connection to God via the Holy Spirit.
I am just a simple believer, follower of Christ, member of the Christian fold.

I am also a person who greatly enjoys history…

So I am well aware that this is the 500th year marking the Reformation.
Otherwise known as the day a disenchanted German Catholic monk nailed 95 points of contention to the doors of his hometown church, the Wittenberg Cathedral.

And life, as the faithful had known it, has never been the same since….
for good and bad.

For some of us, that was a grand and glorious day…
for others, it was the opening of Pandora’s box in a Christian nutshell.

Meaning all hell had broken loose.
And of course we know who really enjoys that notion….

I happen to know that there are some Catholics out there who, to this day, will
not even allow themselves to say the name Martin Luther as it is
linked to heresy, schism and blasphemy.
Just as I know that there are some Protestants out there who relish calling all
Catholics “the Devil’s own children.”

Gotta love the squabbling of family
As in one big happy Christian family don’t you know….

And of course those squabbling family members don’t think either’s side is
actually truly Christian… but that is a tale for another day….

Personally I hate that it ever had to come down to such.
Because I’m just not a fan of schism or divide…
or of the ensuing wars and disputes and inquisitions that followed suit.

But what exactly does one have to do to get the ‘powers that be’
to step up to the plate and fly right!!!?

As obviously that very notion seems to have plagued our friend
Martin the monk.

I for one just see a now long sad line of spiraling ever outward.

First the West and East spilt.

Then the reformers spilt from the west.

Then the English followed a king and his kin who got mad at the West.

As the spiraling and spiraling and spawning and spawning has given birth to
denominations begetting more denominations.

Even today local churches are getting in on the act when one group in the church gets
mad at another group and breaks away starting their own new little church….

On and on ad nauseum it goes…

So I was quite interested when I read that our friend the Scottish Reformed
Presbyterian Pastor David Robertson added his 2 cents on this momentous
marking of these 500 years on out…

“I was once asked to take part in a joint mission in a Scottish town that included
one of the local Church of Scotland’s.
I did not see that as a problem because there were (and still are)
a good number of C of S congregations and ministers that remained faithful
to the Gospel and whom we could work with.
During a preliminary meeting I began to be concerned about the basis on which
we were going to do this mission.
“Are you a Gospel Church?” was the subtle question.
“Oh, yes” came the certain reply.
‘What do you mean by the Gospel?’
“Telling people that they are saved!”.

That was the end of the mission.

These were two different gospels –-
telling people that they are saved is vastly different from telling people they
are lost but they can be saved!

More recently I have come across this strange phenomena.
Mainstream churches that use all the Gospel language but mean something
very different.
They would deny the atonement, the virgin birth, heaven and hell,
and the necessity of the New Birth,
but they still get mortally offended and ‘hurt’;
if you dare to say they are not a Gospel church.
“Of course we are a Gospel church–look at all the work we do.
We are faithful people seeking to bring the Good news of Jesus into our communities”.
The combination of the hurt card and nice sounding language often means that
those who are genuine evangelicals back off and buy into what is in fact nonsense–
indeed, worse than that.
It is poison.

Those who are genuine bible believing Christians need to stand together, even if they differ on secondary issues, for the basic and most fundamental truths of the Gospel.

Instead of showing denominational loyalty to dead churches and false,
lazy or ignorant shepherds (the real wolves in sheeps clothing),
we need to get back to the basics of the Reformation and make sure these glorious
truths are heralded clearly throughout our land.”

And so as a “reformed” Presbyterian, I see that the good Pastor is right on point…
but he is also on point as a member of the greater Christian fold….
in that, despite these secondary issues that we divided and often divisive Christian
family members tend to bicker over and make greater than they actually are,
it is to the fundamental Biblical principles in which we truly must attend…
That being the Gospel of Jesus Christ—
And not our own proclamations and decimating of the twists and spins we feel
necessary to offer according to the times…

God’s word is God’s word.
It has stood the test of man’s time on this planet…just as it will remain long
after we are all gone and this planet is no more…

His sacred and holy Word is not in need of being reinvented for each new generation.
It does not need to be amended to fit this ridiculous new mindset of
all things inclusive.
It is not simply a signpost for peace and love…

It and He are each much much more…

Man was given tenants and rules in which God decreed.
He also decreed that should said rules, laws, tenants be broken, there will be consequence…
Simply rewriting them or ignoring them does not make them go away.

Then Jesus, who was immaculately conceived, was born of a Virgin.
He was the bridge to reunite fallen man with God…
who is not of sin, space nor time.

Jesus freely offered himself as payment for our sins.

He was crucified, died and buried.

He descended into Hell.

After 3 days, He rose from the dead.

It sounds all so unbelievable and yet so simple all at the same time.

As C.S Lewis reminds us…
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that
people often say about Him:
I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher,
but I don’t accept his claim to be God.
That is the one thing we must not say.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a
great moral teacher.
He would either be a lunatic—-on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—-
or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
You must make your choice.
Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.
You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you
can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God,
but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher.
He has not left that open to us.
He did not intend to. . . .
Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend:
and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem,
I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

(Mere Christianity, 55-56)

And yet it was even far earlier that a man proposed this very notion of
lord or lunatic…

In the mid-nineteenth century the Scottish Christian preacher “Rabbi” John Duncan
(1796-1870) formulated what he called a “trilemma.”
In Colloquia Peripatetica (p. 109) we see Duncan’s argument from 1859-1860,
with my numbering added:

Christ either [1] deceived mankind by conscious fraud,
or [2] He was Himself deluded and self-deceived,
or [3] He was Divine.
There is no getting out of this trilemma.
It is inexorable.

Justin Taylor

And so…Reformation or not—be it good or be it bad…it is.

No ignoring it or being mad at it or simply embracing it…
the bottom line is that we must be a people of the Gospel…
not dogma, not demigod, not ourselves and our culture but of the Gospel–
because when it’s all said and done and and nothing else is
left standing…the Word of God remains…

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
2 Timothy 3:16

An unlikely tale of unity

“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business;
we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

― Gwendolyn Brooks

DSC02690
(American Beautyberry bush / Julie Cook / 2015)

Crown Him with many crowns. . .a much beloved and joyful hymn sung in any number of Catholic, Anglican and Protestant churches. How many of us, who have sung this hymn during any given Sunday service, have known that this hymn is as much about Biblical scripture as it is about Christian unity?

Catholics and Protestants have long suffered through a strained relationship of both love and hate–a tenuous relationship that has existed ever since Martin Luther set loose a reformation with all that nailing to a door business.
It’s been a tug of war between acceptance and rejection ever since 1517.

There has been blood shed, heads chopped off, houses of worship destroyed, statues crushed, books burned, the faithful tortured, confessions coerced, beliefs recanted, prayers cursed. . .
all in the name of the proper observance for the Christian faith.

During one such tumultuous time period in this long suffering relationship, a hymn was composed by two vastly different men—Matthew Bridges a Catholic convert and Godfrey Thring an Anglican clergyman. The composition however was not originally intended as a joint effort in unity but rather, in actuality, was a conglomeration of equal time for each opposing team.

In the 1800s there was great tension between the Catholic and Anglican churches. Crown Him with Many Crowns is a wonderful example of how God takes the troubles of man and turns them around for good (Romans 8:28).The song was originally penned in 1851 by Matthew Bridges (1800-1894), who once wrote a book condemning Roman Catholic theology, and then later converted to Catholicism. Bridges wrote six stanzas, based upon Revelations 19:12, “…and on His head were many crowns.”

Godfrey Thring (1823-1903) was a devout Anglican clergyman who was concerned that this popular hymn was allowing Catholic theology to be sung by protestant congregations. And so he wrote six new verses.

The 12 stanzas have been mixed and matched down through the years.
(excerpt taken from Sharefaith.com)

So as we stand in our collective churches this Sunday morning, lifting our voices skyward, may we all be mindful that our faith in the resurrected Son of the Most High God, is the tie that binds us as brothers and sisters–bound by the blood of Christ—one belief, one faith, one Savior, one voice lifting to Heaven. . .