She died stringing beans

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Hamlet / William Shakespeare


(tomb in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“After William Shakespeare’s Horatio sees the ghost of Hamlet’s father and
scarcely believes his own eyes, Hamlet tells him that there is more to reality
than he can know or imagine including ghosts.”

So reads a small excerpt I recently came across when flipping through a new book catalog
I’d just received in the mail.
The catalog is from Ignatius Press and the excerpt was part of a brief overview
for a new book release by both college professor and Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft.

I found the Shakespeare piece, the quote from Hamlet, quite telling.

That there is indeed more to this reality of ours…with death being a bit of a doorway…
not so much the ghost thing…as I do believe in a spiritual warfare…but this is
not about that…not today anyway…

But I should confess that every once in a while I do find my thoughts turning to my
own mortality.
Perhaps that’s a bit morbid, but hey, it happens.

I suppose such thoughts increase as one’s age increases.

Since I hit another birthday last week, I suppose such thoughts concerning both
life and death are just typical brain fodder.

You know when you’re actually closer to that magic number that those supposed experts
keep telling us is a typical life expectancy age for a relatively healthy US woman…
well, the reality becomes a bit hard to ignore.

I’ve mentioned before that if you have ever lived through losing, utterly prematurely, a
loved one or perhaps a dear friend due to a catastrophic illness or tragic accident…
you naturally find yourself wondering, more often than others,
‘when might my your own number get called up??’

So yesterday while I found myself standing at the kitchen sink…a sink full of green beans
that needed snapping and stringing before being cooked…my thoughts wandered off course.

And by the way, I don’t know why but I can never find fresh pole beans this time of year…
just those generic string beans now sold in pre-packaged plastic bags all imported from
south Florida or worse…California….anywhooo, I digress.

So there I was mindlessly stringing and snapping a sink full of imported beans as my mind
started wandering.

My thoughts actually got around to the notion of what if I did just suddenly fall out
here at the sink…
what if I dropped dead while stringing these beans…???!!
I suppose they could sadly write my epitaph “She died stringing beans”

But there are certainly worse ways to go.

And in typical fashion for my life, that’s how it will be you know.
It won’t be like something out of the movies but rather it will be
nothing I will have expected or planned on.
Death doesn’t work that way.

With a healthy melding of both humility and hubris, I’ve always thought it will never
be in some sort of glorious heroic sort of finale.
It’ll be more like something stupid or either something plain awful.

Funny how the brain and ego work in tandem when imagining one’s own ending.

Death waits for no man, and if he does, he usually doesn’t wait long…
That quote comes from Markus Zusak, author of The Book Theif (I didn’t care for the book)

So yes, Mr. Zusak is correct, Death doesn’t wait.

And I think we’d all agree that Death, here in our realm, is mostly perceived as
something most tragic and dreaded…
It’s a permanent-seeming sort of separation and, for far too many, it can be
a painfully slow and lingering happening.
And the odd thing is…that when it is long and painful, we then view Death as a blessed
release.
We even note that the one suffering suffers no more.

Yet death is a thought that leaves all of us unsettled…
particularly when we think about our own demise.

Chances are all of us, at one point or another has mused over when, where, how and why…

Yet what we must remember is that in the mind of God, death is more or less liberating.
It’s the cutting of an earthbound tether… as we humans suffer from
a gravitational pull that keeps us grounded… and Heaven knows, we certainly like
our earthly grounding.
But the cutting of the earthly tether allows for a reunion.
A reunion between Creator and created…
it’s just that we don’t always think of it those sorts of terms.
Instead, we dread it or simply see it more as an ending rather than a beginning.

It’s hard to imagine that death is actually an act of ‘freeing’ us.
Yet for me, it tends to be more of a scary thought than not.

For those of us who lay our hearts, our lives, our sins, our hopes at the foot
of the cross…
those of us who die on the Cross with Christ and are in turn risen from the tomb with
Christ Resurrected…death should not be seen as the ending but rather the beginning…
but yet I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a bit scary walking out into that unknown.

So as I was stringing my beans, I quickly realized that our idea of death is not God’s
idea of death…and that in itself alone is a very good thing.

When I recently visited the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, I
was taken aback a bit when I saw two separate tombs that actually had the real skulls
of the deceased embedded into the tombs as part of the elaborate construction.

A somewhat creepy reminder of our own mortality.

Just like those catacombs in France and other places scattered around the world…
catacombs with thousands of human bones..those of deceased monks,
elaborately displayed in a macabre reminder that from dust we come and to dust,
we will return.

And so as we prepare to enter into this season of Advent, that season of waiting and
watching…
A time of anticipation, birth and the newness of life…we must be mindful that the
shadow of the Death remains…
it remains not to frighten us but rather to offer us hope.
The Hope of Life which comes through the Ressurection of a life that overcame Death.

A hard concept to wrap our earth bound heads around, but wrap we must because it is in
our dying that we truly have our life…

It remains not as a harbinger but rather as a reminder…harbinger being man’s idea as
Hope is God’s idea…

And thus the reminder being….that Jesus, through His own death, overcame our death,
allowing us to live…to truly live with Him.

Therefore in Christ, we gloriously find birth, life, death and then finally life eternal…
all intertwined.
A gift as it were…with it being the best gift our Heavenly Father could give…
that being a reunited life free of sin or earthly strife…

So tomorrow when I find myself making a pumpkin pie, who knows where my thoughts will
lead me…at least my epitaph won’t read she died stringing beans…
dying while making a pumpkin
pie certainly sounds so much more festive…complete with whipped cream…


(images from The Bascilica of Santa Maria sopa Minerva / Julie Cook / 2018)

pretty much dead middle

“Ignorant people see life as either existence or non-existence,
but wise men see it beyond both existence and non-existence
to something that transcends them both;
this is an observation of the Middle Way.”

Seneca


(Chaple ceiling Museo Delle Cappelle Mediciee ( the De Medici chapel) / Florence, Italy /
Julie Cook / 2018)

For whatever reason, I have always been one who looks up when I go into someplace new.
Especially when traveling and visiting different locations.

When I walk into a massive Cathedral or other historic building…
I have learned that what’s on the ceiling often makes the ceiling more impressive than
what remains at eye level…

And yet so many people miss out as they never bother looking up.

I’ve even been known to look up in elevators wondering why the ceiling is a mirror.


(the elevator to the Luxembourg Parc Hotel in Paris / Julie Cook / 2018)

Early domed temples such as the Roman temple, the Pantheon,
situated in the heart of Rome, whose open oculus continues to capture our imagination,
is an early case in point.

The Pantheon’s opening was not simply left open in order to be some sort of a famous
architectural oddity or simply to allow light to enter into a windowless temple, but was
rather due to the fact that early engineers and builders could not figure out how to actually
enclose such a massive free-standing dome without wooden beam supports..
of which would prevent it from caving in upon itself from the sheer unsupported weight.

Yet the opening was a cool way to follow the sun, follow the time of day,
while watching the rain pour indoors…


(Pantheon oculus / Julie Cook / 2018)

The open niches along the dome’s surface are not only a decorative purpose but rather
work to help solve some of the weight issues.
The decorative openings required less concrete, therefore reducing the weight of the structure.

Yet figuring out how to close the opening was still a conundrum…

That was until the early 1400’s when the artist, designer, and architect Filippo Brunelleschi
was credited with designing the first successful free-standing dome for the Cathedral of Florence,
the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore…
A cathedral that had gone without its roofed dome for over a hundred years as no one could
figure out how to successfully design and execute such a structure without wooden supports.

Services and rainy days did not mix well.


(a viewoncities.com)

Cathedrals and civic buildings all over medieval and gothic Europe have been constructed
with similar massive domes, impressive soaring towers and open barrel vaults complete
with their flying buttresses and ribbed vaults…
impressive engineering feats accomplished by relatively low tech societies.


(vaulted ribbed ceiling of Sainte Suplice, Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)


(ribbed vault of Norte Dame Cathedral / Julie Cook / 2018)

Eventually, ceilings would become extensions of their surroundings, lavishly
painted and decorated…
pulling our eyes upward and beyond.


(Chaple ceiling Museo Delle Cappelle Mediciee / Florence, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)


(Both of these images, with one being a detail, are in the Pantheon in Paris/ Julie Cook / 2018)


(Both of these domed ceilings are found in Les Invalides / Paris, France
/Julie Cook / 2018)


(Santa Maria sopra Minerva/ Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)


(St Peter’s, The Vatican / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

I’ll be the first to admit that the better pictures of ceilings are usually the ones when
the photographer is able to stand directly underneath the very center…
much like I managed to do for the first image.

Nice, round, equal and symmetrical.

Most of the other shots are taken at angles due to the inability to get smack dab in the middle.
Therefore they just aren’t as visually appealing and just don’t offer that same sense of
dimensional perspective.

And so whereas the middle seems to be a pretty good spot when wanting to look directly upward
while wanting to take a pretty symmetrical photograph, I’m left wondering about the
middle we’ve seemed to have worked ourselves into in this nation of ours.

We’re nearly smack dab center in this ongoing battle of tug of war.
Or so say our last several years of elections.
With this past week’s elections being not much different.

Contrary to what either side wants, prefers or hopes for…
there were no waves…blue or red.

Deplorables came out in similar numbers as their progressively liberal counterparts.

There were no landslides.

No referendums.

Candidates won not by large margins but in some cases, just by a handful of
just enough extra votes.

Several key elections are still, 3 days after the fact, still up in the air…teetering
like a seesaw swaying toward one then swaying back to the other as the numbers are simply
too close to that 50 / 50 mark.

Recounts and runoffs are more common than not.

Candidates are lawyering up, refusing to concede while others are prematurely claiming
victory.

It’s become a messy situation from sea to shining sea.

We are a divided nation almost right down the middle.
Divided and exceedingly divisive.

Yet as to what this middle is and as to why it seems so hate-filled, I am uncertain…

But what I do know is that we are standing almost divided directly in half.

And whereas equally divided usually means equally weighted and balanced…
that is sadly not our case.

I don’t understand that despite our being divided nearly equally half in half…
there is such a growing divide of vehemence and discord.

Our symmetry is woefully skewed.

And so I think I’ll just continue looking upward.
Setting my sights up above.
Still lifting my view heavenward as the view upward seems much better than what’s
currently here at eye level…

“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the
earth and be an atheist,
but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”

Abraham Lincoln

the Holy Spirit is on the move…

“Often, actually very often, God allows his greatest servants,
those who are far advanced in grace,
to make the most humiliating mistakes.
This humbles them in their own eyes and in the eyes of their fellow men.”

St. Louis de Montfort


(detail from an altar’s funerary tomb within the Chruch of Santa Maria sopra Minerva/
Rome, Itlay / Julie Cook / 2018)

On a warm October afternoon as my husband was back in the hotel taking a much
needed and long awaited nap—
I opted to step out into the streets of the madness which is synonymous
with the Eternal city of Roma…
Wandering with a purpose while drinking in both past and present.

Now I will say that ever since I was a wee child,
napping was just something that was never ever on my radar.
Mother would ‘put me down’ for my nap, gently closing the door, as I’d wail in protest…
Once I realized I was pretty much stuck, I would then defiantly stand up on the bed with
little elbows resting on a windowsill as I’d stare out wondering about the world outside.

What was I missing?
I wasn’t sleepy.
Why waste this precious time offered for living by sleeping??

And before all of you nap advocates out there begin to read me the riot act over the
glorious benefits of naps…
with those first protestors being my cats and my husband…
I will simply plead my defense to my odd wiring…
I am simply not a napper.

So on this early October afternoon, I chose not to nap but rather to explore, meandering
the overtly crowded streets near the frenetic sea of tourists milling in and around
the Pantheon in Rome.
And as usual, I found myself drifting off course.
I cut down a side street that gave way to a quieter and much smaller piazza.
The Piazza della Minerva.

Seeking peace amongst the madness.

I quickly realized I was standing outside of the Dominican Chruch of
Santa Maria sopra Minerva, or rather known to English speakers as
Saint Mary above Minerva—
The name is due to the fact that a Christian Chruch was built over an early temple
dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis, or rather the Latinized version being
that of Minerva.

Nothing gives me a greater sense of peace when I’m visiting a large frantic historic city
then finding a hidden, off the radar, church…be it big or small…

Ode to the sacred that beckons me to come in…
Coming in to marvel,
to rest,
to wonder
to ponder,
to think,
to pray…

I am drawn in to such places like an iron ball is drawn to a magnet.
With my eyes open wide, usually adjusting to the dim flickering candlelight,
as my head tilts upward, all the while I try to find my balance as I take in the size
and scope of what it is I’ve been drawn in to.

I allow myself to bask in the utter majesty or rest in the pure simplicity of our
Christian roots.

Such was the case in this ancient gothic church constructed in 1320.

I’ll share more about this visit later as there is a beautiful statue of the risen Christ,
flanking the main altar, carved by Michelangelo…along with the beautiful frescoed altar
paintings by Filippino Lippi
(you remember I was an art teacher right??)

I reverently wandered in this cavernous church while the footsteps of both myself
and those who had also come inside..those who were both curious as well as seeking,
echoed throughout the massive sanctuary.

I stopped before each niche and each chapel, studying and soaking in what I saw.
Soaking in the stories, the emotions, the glory, and even the sorrow offered
to those who take the time to look, read, ponder and imagine.

When suddenly I found myself gazing upon what
appeared to be a large collection of various polished white marble statues.

It was actually more like one particular statue that was just one piece of a much larger
carved funerary tomb which held my gaze steadfast.

There were several statues of women and angels.
Large and imposing, they made me feel very small…both physically as well as metaphorically.

One figure, that of a woman who I initially assumed to be Mary, turned her body away from
the viewers, as well as from her fellow statues.

She was covering her face, turning her body, in what appeared to be a
state of anguish or perhaps even shame…
All the while, a small cherub, also known as putti, looked directly at her in a most knowing
and penetrating fashion.

What did he know about this woman?
What had happened?

Yet rather than being a statute of Mary, this woman was actually a portrayal of Justice…
And rather than being a typical blindfolded image of a woman, as Justice is usually depicted,
this statue, designed by Bernini, was portrayed as a woman who seemed consumed by grief.

There were suddenly a thousand thoughts racing through my mind as I gazed up at this somewhat
painfilled moment of time.
A moment that should have otherwise been private, was here on display for all to see.

No hiding her grief.
No mourning and crying privately.
The putti knew…and now I knew.

But what did I know?

I felt compelled to offer, albeit in some distant fashion, comfort.
I could feel the weight of her pain.
But why?
I had no idea.

Fast forwarding to yesterday morning, I was reading my morning devotions when I came to
the following excerpt from Father Jacques Philippe.
I had a similar reaction to his words as I did to that statue…
there was a sense of the deep weight of both pain and understanding.

Like I say, we will come back to take a deeper and wider look into the beauty and mystery
of Santa Maria sopra Minerva but for now…
The Holy Spirit is busy…
this much I do know…

“When uncertain about God’s will, it is very important that we tell ourselves:
‘Even if there are aspects of God’s will that escape me,
there are always others that I know for sure and can invest in without any risk,
knowing that this investment always pays dividends.’
These certainties include fulfilling the duties of our state in life and practicing
the essential points of every Christian vocation.
There is a defect here that needs to be recognized and avoided:
finding ourselves in darkness about God’s will on an important question . . .
we spend so much time searching and doubting or getting discouraged,
that we neglect things that are God’s will for us every day,
like being faithful to prayer, maintaining trust in God, loving the people around us here and now.
Lacking answers about the future,
we should prepare to receive them by living today to the full.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 55
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

All Souls Day

“Don’t spend your energies on things that generate worry, anxiety and anguish.
Only one thing is necessary:
Lift up your spirit, and love God.”

St. Padre Pio


(a plethoa of peppers and flowers at one of the stalls at the Campo di Fiori piazza in
Rome, Itlay/ this has been an open air market for the past 500 years!! / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Never say, ‘What great things the saints do,’ but,
‘What great things God does in His saints.'”

St. Philip Neri

a house divided and the repeating of history

“History, like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere
of imaginary brightness.”

James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans


( a view of the Collesium not often seen by the general public / Julie Cook / 2018

Having always had a keen interest in history, as well as having to delve deeply into
European Art History throughout college, it only seemed natural that I should then spend
a lifetime of teaching such…
Of which I did.

And so it should then come as no surprise that I am all too familiar with the old adage
that history will always repeat itself.

Words that always haunt me whenever I visit Rome.

Yet if the truth be told, those words could apply to anyone who visits anywhere
throughout most, if not all, of Europe—
all the way from Northern Africa as well as westward into Asia…
Be it from the highlands of Scotland to the arid desert of Egypt,
Rome’s influence remains visible to this day.

Engineering marvels such as massive marble and granite aqueducts can still be
seen crisscrossing an extensive continent…
having once readily delivered fresh and free-flowing water all the way from the Alps
down to the heel of Itlay…it gives pause to our own current day Army Corps of Engineers.

Hadrian’s wall which “ran from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the
Solway Firth on the Irish Sea was the northern limit of the Roman Empire…”

remains visible to this day…as in the original “Border Wall.”

The borders of the Roman Empire, which fluctuated throughout the empire’s history,
were a combination of natural frontiers (most notably the Rhine and Danube rivers) and man-made fortifications which separated the lands of the empire from the countries beyond.

(Map and excerpt courtesy Wikipedia)

However, most of what we see today as mere tourists or passerbys are mere shadows
of various ruins and rubble of what was once a massively impressive Empire.
Yet Rome’s influence remains…it remains even within our own republic
as it is based on similar practices and principles.

It truly boggles the modern mind when looking at such a classic yet trendy city as the
likes of Rome…
A city rife with darting Vespas, begging gypsies, high-end fashion houses…all the while as
black suited priests and colorful nuns scurry about mingling with some of the best-dressed
businessmen and women in the world.

A city whose past is clearly visible to the naked eye as her ruins run far and wide.
No new building project goes without ancient discoveries just below the current surface…
for Rome is a multi-layered treasure trove of humankind.

We know from detailed documentation that this is what Rome’s Collesium once looked like…

A sports arena that could be filled with water allowing for the reenactment of
famous naval battles or outfitted with a sandy field for blood sports that would
make way for wild animals ripping apart the current enemies of the state…
most often Christians who would be wrapped in canvases soaked in blood and
meat by-products as wild animals, that had been unfed for upwards of a week
or more, would then be loosed upon the hopeless in order to devour the helplessly
bound human victims…
a macabre spectacle played out before the deafening crescendo of bloodthirsty
cheering crowds.

The Collesium could hold 50,000 “sports fans.”
And much like the new Atlanta Mercedes Benz Arena that has a giant sculpted bronze
falcon which harkens to the city’s football team,
Rome’s Collesium once had a 100-foot tall bronze statue of Nero
depicted as a sun god.

So it seems not much has changed with sports fans in 2000 some odd years.
Big, bold, violent with lots of sensory overload.

It was said that the caesars and emperors knew the best way to keep the people happy
while avoiding rebellion…
that was to provide cheap food and free entertainment.

And so when I think of such great empires as that of Rome and her Roman Empire…
it is difficult for me to wrap my head around the realization that such a massive,
feared and impressive society…
one that was far beyond its time in engineering and force could
simply crumble into the annals of time…left now as mere tourist attractions and
archeological mysteries.

Thus would it not behoove us to recall the verse from Matthew about what happens to a
house divided…
for history teaches us that the Roman Empire was indeed divided…
crumpling in upon herself…
just as it seems that we Americans are also equally and bitterly divided amongst
ourselves today.
I wonder what our fate will be if we continue on this current path of self-destruction?

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them:
“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation,
and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.
If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself.
How then will his kingdom stand?
And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?
Therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God,
surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Matthew 12:25-28

A sickly mayor, lies, truth and the notion of an a-political life

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Mark Twain


(the mayor thankfully on the mend / Julie Cook / 2018)

Having been gone for nearly three weeks, I walked into the seemingly empty house
putting down my bags while grabbing a different smaller bag and immediately headed to
Atlanta in order to see the Mayor.

Jet lag??!!
What jet lag???

So what was to be a few days stay to help out during schedule changes and
overlapping work hours which came before the daycare lady opened her doors,
actually turned out to be a week
of nursing.

When I got to Atlanta, I was met at the door by a set of worried parents noting a sudden
spate of tiny little red spots covering two tiny little legs and arms coupled
with a puny little girl.

The following day a slight fever developed so an after-hours visit to Urgent Care was
in quick order.

A lingering sinus infection mixed with severe teething woes made for one miserable little
girl and several troubled adults.
She refused to take a bottle and shunned her applesauce.
Sleep was something that alluded us all as laying down exacerbated the difficulty in
breathing and the throbbing little gums.
When the Mayor is awake, all of her aides are awake.

Gone was the happy perky little girl which was replaced with a very fussy miserable baby
who only wanted to held and rocked.


(an ailing little Mayor / Julie Cook / 2018)

Yet blessedly today, finally, I could tell the antibiotics were kicking in as breathing
was no longer regulated through a tiny mouth agape while the angry tugging at ears and hair
had happily abated.
A smile sporting two tiny little teeth replaced the upturned frown and protruding bottom lip.

As she and I sat outside this afternoon, actually enjoying the sun and a crystal blue sky
following yesterday’s ominous stormy weather thanks to the passing of a monster named Michael,
I simply marveled over what I held in my lap while basking in the moment of engulfing peace.

No Right
No Left
No hate
No news
No crime
No fear
No lawlessness
No bashing
No distrust
No disrespect…

It was the only thing that really mattered…just she and me…
a rare moment of simple care and simple peace.

There was nothing outside of the moment…because right then and there, life was that moment.

No cries from Democrats about kicking hard and low at the Republicans.

No issues over preferring to be moralistic while eschewing the current cultural push
for all-inclusiveness total acceptance of whatever floats one’s boat.

No ridicule over desiring to live a Christian life.
No persecution for believing in the traditional family.
No news media pushing personal liberal agendas…

And so it dawned on me…
since this culture of ours is now all about lifestyles that are
basically asexual—meaning our society wants so badly to be gender neutral,
not male, not female, but simply whatever one chooses at the moment…
Why then not opt for what is a-political…meaning…
to hell with politics and politicians??
Who needs them?

Because I for one have grown weary of the hoopla and the hype that screams for our
attention each time we turn on a television, open a paper, click on a computer…

The latest idiocy over the Kavanaugh hearing was such a travesty of humanity…
of what it means to be a decent human being to another human being,
that I really wish I could just cut all of the politics and politicians
out of our lives.

Which reminded me of our recent trip to Rome.

We had the opportunity to visit a relatively infamous oddity—
the hauntingly odd Bocca della Verità—otherwise known as
The Mouth of Fate.


(Bocca della Verità / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

According to those in the know,
Long before the modern lie detector and its harmlessly jittering graphs and
wires were invented,
the superstitious and untruthful faced a much more severe fate between the jaws
of the Bocca della Verità, or Mouth of Fate, an ancient carving which is said to bite
the hands off of liars.
While no one is exactly sure when or why the frieze was created,
there are a number of theories.
Dating back to around the 1st century CE, the Mouth of Truth is a tall stone disc carved
into a humanoid face with hollow holes for eyes and its gaping mouth.
The original purpose of the large medallion has been theorized as everything from a
ceremonial well cover, to a piece of fountain decoration, to a manhole cover.
The face itself has been said to represent a pagan god although exactly
which one is up for debate with scholars guessing at everyone from forest god Faunus,
to sea god Oceanus, to a local river god.

While the origin is up for debate the one unifying legend surrounding the stone carving is
that if one were to stick their hand inside the disc’s mouth and tell a lie,
the rocky maw would bite the offending hand off.
This belief seems to have originated during the Middle Ages when the disc was supposedly
used during trials having the accused put their hand in the slot and if found to be untruthful
a hidden axeman would lop off the appendage.
While this use seems to be apocryphal, the superstition persists to this day.

The Mouth of Truth, which now rests outside the doors of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church,
has been used as a whimsical lie detector in a number of movies and video games,
most famously in the 1953 romance, Roman Holiday, in which the carving was a major plot device.

Excerpt from Atlas Obscura

So with this notion of a Mouth of Truth in the works, how many then of our current
mob mentality, rabidly progressive politicians, bounty hunting news media
and hateful cultural demigods would be willing to place a hand into the Mouth of Fate?
How many would emerge with hands intact?

How many of the lies that are thrown at us on a daily basis would then not simply be
cut out of our lives?

My life has been so grossly full as of late, in so many areas of this tiny world of ours,
that I have fallen woefully behind in my reading of the good Bishop Gavin Ashenden
and of our friend the Wee Flea, the Scottish Pastor David Roberston.

But for all of my negligence, these brave Christian men are continuing to the fight
the good fight.
So much so that the good Bishop was actually recently banned from Twitter for
hate speech…hate speech because the good Bishop noted that the seemingly endless revelation
of the pedophilia plague unraveling within the Catholic Chruch actually has its roots
stemming from that of homosexuality…an observation that the Gay community took to task
and didn’t much find to their liking–and therefore crying foul…
while Twitter acquiesced.

While we must remember that before he was an ordained Anglican priest,
our friend earned degrees in, practiced and taught both law and psychology.

Archbishop Cranmer on Twitter censoring Gavin Ashenden for describing the facts…

And yet it was what I read today from Bishop Ashenden’s take on the Kavanaugh confirmation
that I wish to also share.
Wisdom from across the pond concerning our latest American dirty laundry.

The presumption of innocence saves both bodies and souls in this civil war with ‘Identity Politics’.

So I must confess that I have gravely missed those voices of reason and Spiritual groundedness
throughout my recent travels and nursing duties while the madness has simply been allowed
to run amuck.

May we pray for those who continue to sound the bells of Truth, fighting the good fight
during these such dark days of falsehoods and lies…

And here is to a happy and healthy Mayor!!!!

the importance of an oral tradition

The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ;
Jesus Christ [has done so] from God.
Having, therefore, received their orders…
and thus preaching through countries and cities,
they appointed the firstfruits [of their labours],
having first proven them by the Spirit,
to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe.
Is it any surprise if those in Christ who were entrusted with such a duty by
God appointed those [ministers] before mentioned,
when the blessed Moses also…noted down in the sacred books all the injunctions
which were given him, and when the other prophets also followed him,
bearing witness with one consent to the ordinances which he had appointed?

Clement of Rome


(Trajan’s Market complex, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

Only 1 out of 10 in the Roman Empire was literate.
9 out of 10 were illiterate and couldn’t read!
To build the Church upon a book would’ve been a stupid idea if that was all that there was.
We’re already now into the fourth and fifth century and nobody had this book to even read.
Where did they hear it?
In the Mass.
Think about this: if you were in these first generations and you didn’t have this book,
think about how you would listen to the readings at Mass differently than you do today!
Those were words of gold for you because you couldn’t read them for yourself.
You would listen and you would memorize what you were hearing because you might
never hear those words again in your life.

Steve Ray
from Finding the Fullness of Faith

faith and reason and choices

“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


(Bust of Pope John Paul II located in Église de Saint Germain des Prés / Julie Cook / 2018)


(Marker in the floor of St Peter’s Rome / The Vatican, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness;
He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you;
He is the beauty to which you are so attracted;
it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle
for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life;
it is He who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices,
the choices that others try to stifle.”

Pope St John Paul II

confessionals

“The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder.”
St. Augustine of Hippo


(an Italian confessional in St Peter’s / The Vatican, Rome / Julie Cook / 2018)

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another,
that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16

Let me back up a tad…

Back at the end of June, my husband retired.

He had spent 50 years running a small family business.

It was not how he had wanted to spend his life.
It was not his dream.
But it was his lot in the world of his sense of duty.

So when he made the decision to throw in the towel after 50 long grueling years,
I knew I wanted to do something special.
Something memorable to mark such a monumental occasion.

But what would be special?

A trip perhaps?

And perhaps not just any trip.
Perhaps a bucket list sort of trip.

For my husband, however, his idea of leaving this country has simply been crossing over the
border into Canada.
Not that anything is wrong with wandering into Canada…
but Canada’s border wasn’t in the bucket.

The only time my husband had truly left the country, as in the continent,
was in the mid-1970’s.

He was in his sophomore year of college, playing college football, with his eye set on
dentistry or even coaching…
but at the behest of his father, or more like the demand of an abusive alcoholic father,
he stoically left where he was happiest and went to the Joseph Bulova School
in Queen’s New York where he eventually earned a degree in Horology.
That being the study of watches and watchmaking.
And with that followed studies with the GIA institute to become a gemologist and
diamond graduate.

Never his plan but rather what his father demanded what he was to do with his life as
he felt obliged to do so.

Following two years of surviving ad enduring life in New York,
this small town country boy was then sent to America Somoa where he managed the Bulova Watch Plant
for a year’s time.

It was following this year in absentia, a year of living on a 5-mile wide and long island that he
vowed, that if he ever made it home, he’d never leave the country again.

And that vow stuck…for 50 long years.
With, of course, Canada being excluded.

So now let us fast forward to a man 69 years of age and finally retiring…
I told him that if he would like…if he was willing…
I would make the bucket list trip happen.

And so he actually delightfully agreed.

The bucket list trip had always been to Normandy, France.

Or rather, it was to the beaches and towns of the D-Day invasion.
The places where regular men were to be unknowingly transformed into heroes…
heroes because these average young men willingly gave up their lives for all of
Western Civilization’s precious gift of democracy and freedom—
a gift so woefully tested by our current society.

I will soon write about this personal pilgrimage of sorts within the coming days…
but before I do so, I want to address my concern over a current global obsession.

An obsession that only those living under rocks must be missing.

If you’ve ever found yourself traveling outside of the US and after a long
day or either business or touring, wanting to simply fall onto a bed while flipping on
a television hoping to catch a familiar sound of someone speaking your own language,
chances are your choice has been limited to one of two channels…
CNN International or the BBC International.

Both of which have a heavy dose of progressive liberalism in their slant
on global happenings.

Such was our lot during this recent Supreme Court nomination fiasco.

We were subjected to the willy-nilly, the sky is falling Henny Penny sense of
hysteria coming from the news anchors of CNN International.
I actually caught each and every nuanced slur and sensationalistic little dig.

So I will giddily confess…I was greatly happy to be out of the country during all of the
obsession over the Kavanaugh hearings…
or more aptly put…the grilling, the scrutinizing and the personal persecution
of a seemingly decent man, husband, father and professional.

I will not belabor this latest idiocy of ours as I am sick of it all.
Sick of the latest low we, as a Nation, have sunk to.

That we have actually allowed ourselves to conduct governmental dealings as a sleazy
tabloid trash reality show would do…of which I find disgusting…
disgusted over our irreprehensible assinine behavior…is beyond my soul.

Scintillating and titillating are two words I would never have ever considered using when thinking
about, let alone describing, a hearing process working towards the nomination of a Supreme
Court Justice…
Rather we should consider words steeped deeply in the tedious law-minded legal policies
and ponderings of a judicial system.

If we are now wanting to use the haphazard adolescent behavior from our teenaged years
as benchmark measures for our adult appointments and advancements then I fear every last
human being will be in store for a rude awakening if not a ton of troubles.
For what young person among us hasn’t done something dumb, shameful, wrong, illegal
and or simply arrogantly stupid?

For is that now how we, in part, learn?
Learning from youthful idiotic mistakes and poor choices as we make our way
to adulthood?

We just pray, as do the adults in our lives, that such mistakes and poor youthful judgment calls
are not overly detrimental, utterly devastating or sadistically dubious…
and yet sadly, in many cases, they are…

Consider the adolescent bravado of living fast, furious and large while mixing life and death consequences…
James Dean comes to mind.

And no, we are not talking about pathological psychosis that gives way to bizarre heinous actions.
Here we are talking about poor judgemental actions by, more often than not,
self-centered egotistical youth not the actions of psychopaths.

And so when recently visiting St Peter’s in Rome while passing by a confessional booth…
I was struck immediately by our human sinful nature.
Something that hangs over us like a heavy dusty suffocating curtain.

I grew up in a liturgical church…a church with the prayers of confession and confessions
to a priest…all being the norm.
I for one often found myself on that confessing end, seeking both prayerful wisdom and direction
from those more knowledgeable and wizened than myself as I made my way through the muddy waters of
growing up balancing on the wire between my newly professed faith while finding my way as a willful
teenager.

Absolution.

Absolution which we graciously offer to those who seek forgiveness…
the ultimate absolution granted to each of us from the one who hung on a cross.

“Go and sin no more” said the Jewish rabbi to the adulteress woman.

The confessional is a sacred form of sharing from the penitent to the priest.
It is a protected sharing…protected even in a court of law.
For it is a sharing between penitent, priest and God.
And yet, I somehow sense that our rabid politicians and progressive liberal culture,
coupled with the hyper-rabid news media, would find the confessional null and void
for the sinners among us…as they seem to find themselves above reproach…

Yet who among us is worthy of casting that stone?

My concern is not with what took place 35 years ago by a supposed 16-year-old kid
and those who can and cannot recall the who, what and wheres of cloudy recollections…
but rather with the dubious ploys used by those who simply hate a president and everything
attached to his tenure.

Such that they seek a saint amongst the sinners…

May God have mercy on us all…

If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

It’s simple really…

“It is not that I want merely to be called a Christian, but to actually be one.
Yes, if I prove to be one, then I can have the name.”

— St. Ignatius of Antioch


(painting attributed to Cesare Fracanzano (1605-1651) Galleria Borghese, Rome)

This morning when I read today’s quote by St Ignatius of Antioch,
it was as if I had been hit upside the head.
How simple yet so profound—

It begs the question…
does being dubbed, labelled, branded a Christian…
or…
claiming, professing, proclaiming to be a Chrisitan necessarily make one…a Christian??

The answer, in a nutshell, is a resounding no!!!…it most certainly does not!

Ignatius follows up this thought with the novel idea of then having to prove oneself as a Christian.
Meaning that if one can live it, share it, show it, prove it…
then one may lay claim to the name!

This is not to be an in-name-only sort of affair…

The back story of our friend…

Born in Syria in the year 50AD, Ignatius converted to Christianity and eventually became
bishop of Antioch.

It is believed that it was actually St Peter who appointed Ignatius as bishop of Antioch and
the surrounding region.

“The saint was called “God-Bearer” (Theophoros),
because he bore God in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him.
He also had this name because he was held in the arms of Christ, the incarnate Son of God.”

And as the outspoken Chrisitan, he was, Ignatius was eventually arrested by the local Roman
authorities on grounds of “atheism” against the Roman gods.

In the year 107, Emperor Trajan visited Antioch and forced the Christians there to
choose between death and apostasy.
Ignatius would not deny Christ and thus was condemned to be put to death in Rome.

“In the year 106 the emperor Trajan (98-117), after his victory over the Scythians,
ordered everyone to give thanks to the pagan gods,
and to put to death any Christians who refused to worship the idols.
In the year 107, Trajan happened to pass through Antioch.
Here they told him that Bishop Ignatius openly confessed Christ,
and taught people to scorn riches, to lead a virtuous life, and preserve their virginity.
Saint Ignatius came voluntarily before the emperor,
so as to avert persecution of the Christians in Antioch.
Saint Ignatius rejected the persistent requests of the emperor Trajan to sacrifice to the idols.
The emperor then decided to send him to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts.
Saint Ignatius joyfully accepted the sentence imposed upon him.
His readiness for martyrdom was attested to by eyewitnesses,
who accompanied Saint Ignatius from Antioch to Rome.

Ignatius bravely met the lions in the Circus Maximus.

On December 20, the day of a pagan festival, they led Saint Ignatius into the arena,
and he turned to the people: “Men of Rome,
you know that I am sentenced to death, not because of any crime,
but because of my love for God, by Whose love I am embraced.
I long to be with Him,
and offer myself to him as a pure loaf,
made of fine wheat ground fine by the teeth of wild beasts.”

After this the lions were released and tore him to pieces,
leaving only his heart and a few bones.
Tradition says that on his way to execution,
Saint Ignatius unceasingly repeated the name of Jesus Christ.
When they asked him why he was doing this,
Saint Ignatius answered that this Name was written in his heart,
and that he confessed with his lips Him Whom he always carried within.
When the saint was devoured by the lions, his heart was not touched.
When they cut open the heart, the pagans saw an inscription in gold letters:
“Jesus Christ.” After his execution, Saint Ignatius appeared to many of the faithful
in their sleep to comfort them, and some saw him at prayer for the city of Rome.

Hearing of the saint’s great courage,
Trajan thought well of him and stopped the persecution against the Christians.
The relics of Saint Ignatius were transferred to Antioch (January 29),
and on February 1, 637 were returned to Rome and placed in the church of San Clemente.

Ignatius is well known for the seven letters he wrote on the long journey from
Antioch to Rome.
Five of these letters are to churches in Asia Minor;
they urge the Christians there to remain faithful to God and to obey their superiors.
He warns them against heretical doctrines,
providing them with the solid truths of the Christian faith.

The sixth letter was to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was later martyred for the faith.
The final letter begs the Christians in Rome not to try to stop his martyrdom.
“The only thing I ask of you is to allow me to offer the libation of my blood to God.
I am the wheat of the Lord;
may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ.”

Despite the story about Ignatius’ life being considered ancient history,
it would be wise for those of us who claim the name of ‘Christian’ to actually follow
the example of Ignatius.
…that we could / would not only claim to be a Christian… but that we could / would actually
live out being a Chrisitan.
Not just the worldly notion of Chrisitan but actually that of Christ’s true intention.

Imagine the change in this world if we each claimed the act behind the label of faith.
It now seems so simple really…

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you,
for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Isaiah 41:10

Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
Ephesians 6:11 NIV