when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

Valentine’s day…humbug

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings,
what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Pedro Arrupe, S.J.


(detail of mosaic of the 3rd century martyr, St Valentine)

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day—that being the made up “holiday” and not that of the real person.
And yes, St Valentine was a real person.

I never had a traumatic incident regarding the day for all things amóre–
in fact, my grandmother use to love telling the story of how I once received roses
from 5 different suitors on a Valentine’s day long, long ago.

My cousins still enjoy reminding me of that story as my husband casts a sideways glance my way…
he wasn’t one of the suitors…

I just have never cared for the exploitation of the life of a person who was not about all things
marketing but rather more about the sacrifice of self for his faith and his fellow man.

It’s that whole notion of the ultimate gift of self…
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

I had labored all last evening on a post about our Founding Fathers.
I spent most of the evening writing it.
I saved it.
Oddly it wasn’t there this morning…just the initial post I had started several days ago…
None of the additions or the final completed edited post…
the completed edition that was to be posted this morning.

I went in via my phone this morning to publish the post and realized, after posting it,
that what I posted was not the completed post I had thought I’d finished late last night–
a post that was good to go, but rather just the initial incomplete writing.

Odd and frustrating to be sure!

What happened you ask?
I don’t know…
But my witness, my husband, was equally baffled as we had chatted a bit about what I had
found regarding the “faith of our fathers”—which was the gist of the post.

I did, however, have a nagging thought all evening that, whereas I wanted to write about the faith of
President Washington and his fellow founders, perhaps I should be writing about St Valentine.

So be it by Divine Providence or some sort of nefarious act—the President will have to wait
until I can rework him and try to remember what I wrote…
and no, it’s oddly not in any of the history on the computer or WP.

So here is my Valentine day offering—what perhaps should have been my initial offering
on this day of Love.
A reminder that our love for one another is to be the greatest gift we can give one another…
because the ultimate example was given to us on Calvary.

According to Church lore,
Saint Valentine lived in Rome in the third century and was a priest who helped the martyrs
during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II the Goth.
The great virtue and catechetical activities of the Saint had become known.
For this he was arrested and brought before the imperial court.

“Why, Valentine, do you want to be a friend of our enemies and reject our friendship?”
asked the Emperor.

The Saint replied: “My lord, if you knew the gift of God,
you would be happy together with your empire and would reject the worship of idols and
worship the true God and His Son Jesus Christ.”

One of the judges stopped the Saint and asked him what he thought about Jupiter and Mercury,
and Valentine boldly replied:
“They are miserable, and spent their lives in corruption and crime!”

The judge furiously shouted: “He blasphemes against the gods and against the empire!”

The Emperor, however, continued his questions with curiosity,
and found a welcome opportunity to finally learn what was the faith of Christians.
Valentine then found the courage to urge him to repent for the blood of the Christians that was shed.
“Believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized and you will be saved,
and from this time forward the glory of your empire will be ensured as well as the triumph of your armory.”

Claudius became convinced, and said to those who were present:
“What a beautiful teaching this man preaches.”

But the Mayor of Rome, dissatisfied, began to shout:
“See how this Christian misled our Prince.”

Then Claudius brought the Saint to another judge.
He was called Asterios, and he had a little girl who was blind for two years.
Listening about Jesus Christ, that He is the Light of the World, he asked Valentine
if he could give that light to his child. St. Valentine put his hand on her eyes and prayed:
“Lord Jesus Christ, true Light, illuminate this blind child.”
Oh the great miracle! The child could see!
So the judge with all his family confessed Christ.
Having fasted for three days, he destroyed the idols that were in the house and
finally received Holy Baptism.

When the Emperor heard about all these events,
he initially thought not to punish them,
thinking that in the eyes of the citizens he will look weak,
which forced him to betray his sense of justice.
Therefore St. Valentine along with other Christians, after they were tortured,
were beheaded on 14 February in the year 268 (or 269).

Apart from the historical data we have for Valentine’s life,
there is accompanied various legends,
such as from those who say he is the patron saint of lovers.

The Saint had a reputation as a peacemaker, and one day while cultivating some roses
from his garden,
he heard a couple quarrel very vigorously.
This shocked the Saint, who then cut a rose and approached the couple asking them to hear him.
Even though they were dispirited, they obeyed the Saint and afterwards were offered
a rose that blessed them.
Immediately the love returned between them, and later they returned and asked the Saint
to bless their marriage.
Another tradition says that one of the charges against Valentine was that he did not adhere
to the command of the emperor which stated that men who had not fulfilled their military
obligations were not allowed to marry;
meanwhile the Saint had blessed the marriage of young Christian soldiers with their beloveds.

Besides all this, the likely choice of him as the “saint of lovers” is to be associated with
the pagan festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival, celebrated by the Romans on February 15.
Others connect the celebration of this feast with the mating season of birds during this period.
Certainly, however, the Saint has nothing to do with the commercialism (marketing) of flowers,
gifts and secular centers which trivialize Eros, this great gift of God.

St Peter’s Orthodox Church and Mystagogy Resource Center

life’s blood

“It is not sin as we see it that was laid on Christ but sin as God sees it,
not sin as our conscience feebly reveals it to us but sin as God beholds it in all its unmitigated
malignity and unconcealed loathsomeness.
Sin, in its exceeding sinfulness, Jesus has put away.
But when we perceive sin, then we are to trust the blood.”

Charles Spurgeon


(detail from Matthias Grünewald, Isenheim altarpiece, 1512-1516, Musée Unterlinden, Colmar)

Every 3 months or so, I have to go in for blood work.
I go in primarily for the checking of my thyroid levels.
I have a roller coaster for a thyroid.
Up and down…never just one or the other.

They call that not hypo or hyperthyroidism but rather Hashimoto’s Disease…meaning my thyroid levels
fluctuate both up and or down with no specific rhyme or reason.

A thyroid is a gland in the neck, near the larynx, that regulates the body’s metabolic rate…
It helps to regulate the heart, the digestive system, muscle control, bone growth, and even one’s moods.
It’s a small gland but hugely important.

So I must take a synthetic thyroid hormone to help keep mine working as it should.
The bloodwork lets the doctors know if they need to change the strength either up or down.

Since I go in to see my doctor next week, I needed to go in for the bloodwork today, a week prior.

I’m not afraid of needles nor am I afraid of seeing blood–that being the blood of others
not so much keen on seeing my own—

As an Art teacher, my kids were accidentally yet constantly, as in all the time,
cutting their hands with either razor blades or the gouges we used in printmaking—
in turn, leading them to freak out.
And so my girl scout and first-aid training would kick into action–
direct pressure and hold above the heart, call the school nurse.

So whereas I don’t enjoy being stuck and drained as if a vampire had gotten a hold of me,
being stuck doesn’t really bother me.

So there I was sitting with my sleeve rolled up, tourniquet tied tight, fist clenched
while my head turned elsewhere looking away lest I might possibly faint…
other’s blood, no problem— my blood, small problem.

But I mindlessly chattered with the phlebotomist, praying she’ll take off that blasted tourniquet that
was squeezing the life from my arm, and before I knew it, we were done.

She gathered her needed vials—

Three vials of blood.

Vials that will tell my doctor where my current thyroid levels rest.
They will tell her that my cholesterol is most likely up.
They will tell her whether there are any vitamin deficiencies in my body.
They will tell her if there is any sort of infection in my body– as in high white blood cells.
They will tell her if my liver enzymes are still too high as in fatty.
They will tell her if the Hemochromatosis is out of sorts.
They will tell her if my hormones are awry.
They will tell her if there is inflammation.
They can tell her if there might be a cancer.
They can tell her if I have celiac disease or any other number of diseases.
And if I were a much younger woman, they could tell her whether or not I was pregnant.

All of that and more from three small vials of blood pulled directly from a vein.

Amazing really.

And whereas some of the results may not be necessarily pleasing, the results can, in turn,
be life-saving.

My thoughts quickly shifted from the notion of medical information to that of
the essential necessity of life’s sustaining blood.

The doctor can tell so much from just a couple of vials of blood–life or death things…
but the one thing she can’t tell is whether the blood in my veins is merely mine or that
of the blood of the lamb…

The Bible is rife with tales of the importance of blood.

The African Research Review offers this insight:
“From the earliest times, God had insisted on blood sacrifice as the ground upon which He was to be approached.
As God’s revelatory act and the corresponding relationship developed,
the Levitical sacrifices had to be systematized and made an integral part of the Hebrew religion.
Blood-related sacrifice to the Jew, therefore, was an ultimate demand from God resulting in a unique relationship.”

The significance of Blood sacrifice in the Old Testament could, therefore,
be seen in its union with God, from whom man distanced himself due to disobedience to set norms.
This union eventually culminates in substitution, for the fact that punishment for sin cannot be averted.
The concept of substitution has to do with taking the place of the actual culprit.
In citing Moraldi, Gabriel Abe (2004:26) said that the offerer is substituting his life with the victim
in order to undertake his deserved punishment as a result of his sins or wrong doing committed with Israel…
the blood sacrifice was obligatory in cleansing.
Blood is life (Lev. 17:11, 14) and to shed blood, a victim must be killed in place of the sacrificer.

According to Biblesprout.com

The blood of humans and animals is a high complex fluid which contains cells,
various forms of nourishment for tissues, oxygen, disease antibodies, hormones and other
substances which, when in balance, maintain health and well being.
Thus, the life of the flesh (i.e., the whole body) is indeed “in the blood.”
(THE OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARIES — LEVITICUS, p. 181).

Blood is known to be a vital principle of the physical body.
The discovery of the circulation of the blood was revolutionary in the study of anatomy.
In more recent years it has been demonstrated that the health of the body depends on the
rapidity of the blood flow; and blood transfusions are an accepted means of prolonging life.
(THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS, C. R. Erdman, p. 81).

The Bible does say for the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11);
for it is the life of all flesh (Leviticus 17:14);…
for the blood is the life (Deuteronomy 12:23).

The blood represents life, and so sacred is life before God that the blood of animals was used
in all offerings for sin as man’s vicarious substitute (atonement)
under the Mosaic (Old Testament) law.

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood;
and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Hebrews 9:22

Only as atonement is linked with death, the shedding of blood, and not life set free,
would it appear to become efficacious in the covering of human sin.

Enter the need for a substitute…
no amount of sacrifice or the letting of animal or human blood can expunge the sin of mankind.

Enter the Lamb.

“The regulations concerning the sacredness of blood are full of spiritual meaning for the Christian.
In addition to justification and forgiveness through the blood of Christ (see Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7),
the Christian gains access to God in faith (Hebrews 10:22),
experiences victory over evil (Revelation 12:11), and obtains eternal glory (Revelation 7:19).
The death of Christ has brought new life into being for mankind by atoning for us in a manner completely
beyond our own human abilities to perform.
(TYNDALE OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARIES– LEVITICUS, pp. 182,183).

(Dr. Elmer Towns)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,
according to the riches of his grace,

Ephesians1:7

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

To all those who won’t be making it home this Christmas

Christmas is a time when you get homesick —
even when you’re home.

Carol Nelson

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time;
a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of,
in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open
their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were
fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

Charles Dickens


(an odd site here at home / Julie Cook / 2018

Driving home yesterday after visiting the dentist, I was cutting through an area of town
full of some of our communities older homes, when I found myself driving behind a
vintage WWII Army ambulance.

An odd sight but suddenly I felt strangely transported to a different time and era.

The vehicle, the homes, the time of year.

If you didn’t happen to notice the small security company sign out front of this house,
you might just think it was 1943.

My thoughts drifted across time and space to places that were far away from
my own current little corner here in Georgia.

Despite there being such a heightened sense of urgency wafting through the air
this time of year…
What with the odd increase in mid-day traffic and the massive number of folks hustling
here and there…along with that unseen force that was moving the masses of folks
to go out and buy, buy, buy with a frantic frenzy…

And despite the current pull I was personally feeling to race from the dentist to some
local den of commercialism, seeking out those last minute items to fill in the blanks…
I felt a tinge of warming nostalgia instead.

I heard Bing Crosby’s crooning…his rich melodious voice echoing deep in my head.

A small smile spread across my face for no one in particular to see.

A simpler time, yet a precarious time.
A warmer time of humanity, yet a violent time for our world.

No matter that it was an ominous time,
we knew what our collective civilization was fighting for.
We were a united civilization standing against a giant monster of tyranny and an invasive evil.

There was a decisive and determined collective willingness to sacrifice.
Rations, victory gardens, sharing and giving when there wasn’t ever much to give nor share.

There was a joint desire for unity.
A shared experience of apprehension blanketed by a blessed sense of thankfulness.

I found myself gently humming a familiar yet comforting tune.

My gift to you today…

“In 1943, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” joined “White Christmas” to become one of
America’s most popular homegrown holiday songs.
Recorded in a rich baritone by Bing Crosby,
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” shot to the top ten of the record charts
(as “White Christmas” had for Crosby the previous year)
and became a holiday musical tradition in the United States.”
Library of Congress

looking up and being reminded


(a pigeon rests on a statue placed above the ridge of the Assumption chapel at the corner
of Garancière street and Palatine street, behind the Saint-Sulpice church. / Julie Cook / 2018)

Back in the summer, back when the beach was consuming so many of our minds,
I offered a post featuring some shots I’d taken of some pelicans I’d seen while enjoying
our summer trip to the panhandle of Florida.

Nothing says beach and ocean like seeing a brown pelican sitting on an old weathered pier or that
of a formation of these gangly birds gliding effortlessly just above the surf…

Days such as today…days that are damp, windy, overcast and grey quickly push our thoughts
to warmer sunnier days. This as we are just entering into our darker colder days of the year.

I noted in that previous post how much, for reasons unknown, that I love pelicans…
They are my favorite birds oddly enough.

Birds that eat whole fish and hold them in their gullets for later…
my husband calls them nasty birds while I call them resourceful.

My previous post touched on the seemingly odd relationship pelicans have had in Christian lore
and tradition.

I did a little research and offered a bit of teaching from the information that I had gleaned…
The premise was that during times of famine, mother pelicans have been known to pluck their own
breasts until they bled in order to offer their own blood to their hungry babies…
offering life-giving sustenance.

A direct reference to Christ who offers His own blood for our spiritual hunger and
our own salvation.

So recently when visiting Paris, we were staying at a small hotel just outside of
the Luxembourg Gardens.


(just a tiny area of the Luxembourg Gardens with a shot of the Senate building behind/
Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

This boutique hotel sits in the shadow of the second largest church in Paris,
Eglise Saint-Sulpice.


(Eglise Saint-Sulpice / Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

I happen to really love this church as it is not Notre Dame.


(Notre Dame / Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

It is not consumed by crowds and tourists.

It was the anchor to the neighborhood my aunt and I called home for a couple of
days about 8 years ago and the same anchor to the same neighborhood my husband and I called
home more recently….the Germain-des-Prés, Odéon of the 6th arrondissement.

Entering this historic building is definitly otherworldly.

It’s like walking into an ancient, silent and dark crevasse…as well as
stepping back into a far removed time…think pre-Revolution and pre-Bonaparte.
Yet the Revolution did hinder the finishing of the facade.

The original church was constructed in the 13th century but the building we see
today dates to the early 1600’s—finally being completed in the late 18th century.
Yet it suffered, as did so many in Paris, during the Revolution.

There are some famous paintings by Eugene Delacroix…

Along with some masterful statues and some simple but lovely stain glass…

Along with the scars from living through the days of a revolution down to
simple neglect and decay…

Add of course the massive and impressive organ

And yet there is reverence…
There is a deep and mystical yearning by many who come here…
those who come curious or those who come seeking.

They come to sit,
to pray,
to sleep,
to hide,
to rest,
to wander,
to wonder…

And so it was when I was actually outside on a side street…
walking alongside the perimeter of this massive hulking building that I looked up
and actually saw it…
the mother pelican sitting atop a spire of a side chapel.

The same imagery that came to mind back in July…and here it was again in September.
Found not at the beach and not in some warm tropical locale but rather in the midst
of a massively large city whose people are often too busy to glance upward albeit toward
their rather famous tower…

And yet here it was…as always, a powerful reminder of sacrifice.
Life, death, redemption, and salvation…


(all photos by Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

Remember to always stop long enough to look up…

And may we now offer our prayers for our Jewish brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh
as well for all the first responders…

Lord have mercy…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/pelicans/

Omaha, Utah, Sainte-Mère-Église


(view from one of the myriad of German bunkers that covered the Normandy coastline /
Julie Cook / 2018)

Several years ago, one Sunday afternoon I found myself flipping through the television
channels in hopes of finding something of interest.
I stopped on what was obviously a dated war movie.
Yet having never seen the movie, I knew immediately what it was…
It was the 1962 film The Longest Day.
A big screen depiction of the lead up to and the event of
the Invasion of Normandy…D-Day.

The movie starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Richard Burton along with a host of
other big name stars of the day.

Despite not particularly wanting to watch a war film on this particular sunny Sunday afternoon, I
hunkered in, none the less, ready to endure a long afternoon watching a long film about
about a truly significant long day.

My purpose here is not to retell the historical events of that infamous day now 74 years ago.
but rather to offer a glimpse into what was and what is.

Our day for the D-Day tour couldn’t have been much worse.

As I noted in a post from the other day…there was rain, lots of rain…blowing wind and
bitter wet cold.

And yet the peaceful ebbing ocean that greeted us this day,
was anything but peaceful 74 years ago


(a parasilor enjoys the surf that was once red from the blood lost by those
soilders who never got to shore)

Rain blew sideways, winds gusted 35 to 40 MPH, umbrellas turned upward and a Patagonia
rain jacket that hails as an H2No…proved to be no match as I might as well
have been wearing a paper bag.

But the weather didn’t seem to matter on this particular September day as it seemed
almost fitting.
I knew that the weather on this northwestern coast of France, a coast right off the
often chaotic English Channel is famous for its squalls and unpredictability.

A predicament that proved crucial 74 years ago as the Allied forces needed a window to open.

During the course of our tour, I learned that the movie The Longest Day,
along with other similar movies such as Saving Private Ryan, are actually more movie
than truth.

John Wayne’s character was not the pivotal commanding officer that decisive day but because
John Wayne demanded the most airtime, his character came across as such.
The true leader of the offensive that day was a mere blip in the movie.

And the real tale of the Ryan brothers was not what Tom Hanks offered us as viewers…
And the currently hanging mock paratrooper who perpetually dangles from the bell tower
of Sainte-Mère-Église did not actually fall on that side of the tower at all.
Today’s manikin hangs from its current wall because it simply offers a better view
for visitors arriving into town.

John Steele, the unfortunate soldier whose parachute got hung up on the church tower, in the tiny
village of Sainte-Mère-Église survived his predicament but unfortunately went deaf
that fateful night—
It was the night that he, along with hundreds of parachuters jumped on a moonless night
out of hundreds of planes sent behind enemy lines just prior to the following day’s
infamous landing.

It just so happened that a fire had broken out in town and the church bells were ringing…
endlessly ringing alerting the villagers and occupying Germans that there was a fire and
that all available hands were needed to assist in putting out the fire.
Steele, having been shot in the foot, had to “play” dead so the Germans would not continue
shooting at him.
He hung for hours beside those ringing bells.

Other soldiers fell into the trees, getting tangled up in the limbs…many broke bones
and suffered traumatic punture wounds…
those lucky enough not to be shot while falling from the sky, hunkered in to fight.

Many who were shot as they helplessly floated in the night sky were killed long before
even hitting the ground.

One soldier that fell into this particular tree worked frantically to cut himself loose
from his shute, cutting off his thumb in the process.
Once he fell free to the ground, bleeding profusely, he managed to
get to a secure location in order to engage the enemy

Bullet holes remain in the rod iron fencing around a home once occupied by the
German commanding officer of the occupying army.
The scars of a small village which are the remaining physical reminders of
a battle fought so long ago.

From Utah Beach, we climbed down, in and around the now chared bunkers.
Soldiers who managed to survive the intial assualt after storming the beachhead
and then scaled the rocky cliffs, tossed grenades into the bunkers or used flamethrowers
to render the giant guns, used to fire at the Allied Naval ships just off the coast,
inoperable…


(one of the large guns remains in its bunker/ Julie Cook / 2018)


(the stone base where one of the “big” guns was once postioned)


(the hedgehog, that giant steel x shapped barrier, is origianl)

These particular beachheads were chosen in part due to the fact that the sand is
extremely dense and compactable.
Not a soft fluffy sort of sand but rather a hard packed sand, hard enough to allow
heavy equipment to be brought ashore.

Beachgoers today continue finding remnants of that fateful day.

What appears to be a grassy covered dip in the landscape is actually a bomb crater…
the shoreline is covered with such craters…

Sheep have been brought in to assist with ground maintenance as mowers cannot traverse
the pockmarked landscape

Bunkers and beaches have been transformed and are now somber memorials…

Eventually, we moved inward, driving a few miles from the beaches,
making our way to a tiny village and its cafe Cafe J. Phillippe….a cafe
that once greeted war-weary soldiers just as it greeted us this cold wet afternoon.

Mike holds a photograph of Allied troops making their way to this same village.
Stopping just as we did for a needed bite to eat…
the cafe remains just as it did 74 years ago–preserved and frozen in time…

Following our late lunch, we made our way to the final leg of our day which seemed most
fitting as it was indeed the final leg for upwards of 9400 men and women.

Yes, there are actually four servicewomen buried here in the cemetery.

The trees that line the cemetery are all capped off at the top…cut off as a purposeful
and visual reminder of all the fallen whose lives were cut short.

As visitors to the cemetery, we noticed that the names on all of the markers appeared
to be turned around as if backwards— facing away from arriving visitors.
However, we were told that there was a purpose here as well… all 9,387 markers face west…
as in they face home…a homeland that these brave men and women would never see again.

Seeing a sea of impeccably white and neatly aligned stars and crosses standing in silent
attention, each turned so as to face the United States which was nearly 5000 miles away
was almost more than my heart could bear.

Oddly the number of the buried in the cemetery continues to fluctuate.

Modern technology now allows for DNA testing on remains that are still being discovered.
As well as for those bodies that, for all these years, have gone unnamed and unknown.
The families of those Americans now being identified are afforded the option to either bring
home their loved one or to allow them to remain in France…buried in the American Cemetery.

The United States has vowed that they will identify all unknown soldiers buried in France.
Thus the number of buried now changes yearly with the latest body
receiving honors this past summer.

There is even one soldier from WWI who is actually buried in this WWII cemetery.

President Theodore Roosevelt, cousin to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had 4 sons.
All four sons served in WWI. The youngest son, Quentin, was a WWI flying ace who was shot
in the head during a dogfight and whose plane eventually crashed.
Two other sons suffered serious injuries during the war but
it was Quentin who remaind behind as he was buried in Belgium.

Years later his older brother Teddy Jr, who was at this time a grown man with a successful
business and political career was also a soldier.
Teddy Jr was actually a brigadier general.

By 1944 Teddy Jr. was in poor health suffering from both a serious heart condition and
crippling arthritis.
Knowing of the impending invasion, Teddy Jr. requested to be assigned as a
leading commander.
Yet due to his health, his initial request was denied.
Undeterred, he petitioned the high command and was allowed to serve as leading commander.

Teddy Jr. bravely lead the assault on Omaha Beach.
Four days later, Brig Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr died from a massive heart attack.

The Roosevelt family was asked if they would like for Teddy Jr’s body to be brought home for
burial at Arlington—however knowing that Teddy would want to remain with his men,
he was buried in France.
The family then asked if Quentin could be exhumed from his grave in Belgium and moved to be
beside his brother.
The request was granted.

And so when I hear of the stupidity, yes stupidity, about over-payed Football players, athletes,
and even now cheerleaders, who are all wanting to kneel during the singing of our National Anthem…
claiming that the flag of the United States does not represent them…
I am incensed.

Those kneeling individuals such as Colin Kaepernick, who is the poster face for
all things disrespectful, are no heroes.
It is not a risk to life to kneel rather than stand at the start of a ballgame.

He and his ilk are certainly entitled to their feelings and thoughts…
Kaepernick may even speak out and state his peace as to why he feels the flag does
not represent him or who he is—and who he is is a young man of mixed heritage
who happened to have been adopted as a child and reared and raised by a white family
who afforded him all the privileges and comforts of a middle-class family life…
He attended and played football on scholarship at UNLV–in part because that was the
only school, as reported by his mom, who would give him a scholarship.

And yet the irony in all of this is found in the lives and eventual death of those
young men from a previous and different generation who were actually the ones who
stormed those Norman beaches…
They were fearful and nervous as to what awaited them on that fateful June day in 1944—

Young men…some who prayed, some who smoked, some who whimpered through tears
and those who sat stoically before they were given the call to charge…

They raced into the sea which turned red with their blood, racing into a hail of
machine gun fire, grenades, and bombs blasting all around them…
they did so for the likes of Colin Kaepernick and his NIKE sea
of followers…they did so as well as for you and me…for those of us who are humbled
by their bravery and for those of us who prefer to show disdain for the same flag these
young men proudly carried and quickly died under…

https://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials/europe/normandy-american-cemetery#.W8j6f6eZP2Q

pelicans

O loving Pelican!
O Jesu Lord!
Unclean I am but cleanse me in Thy Blood;
Of which a single drop, for sinners spilt,
Can purge the entire world from all its guilt.

St. Thomas Aquinas
from the hymn, Adoro Te Devote


(a brown pelican bobs with the surf of the sea / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

More often than not, while sitting idly outside…
be it either early in the morning or even late in the evening, shrouded in silence but for the
chirping of a passing bird, my husband will often muse that if he could be anything other than a
human being, he’d like to be a bald eagle.

While I immediately counter that I’d like to be a pelican.

“A PELICAN?!”

He practically screams with incredulous disgust.

“Those are nasty birds!
They sit around with dead rotting fish in their gullets”

“Maybe so, but how resourceful is that to keep supper and the supper for their children
always ready and waiting?”

I’ll cheekily counter.

Pelicans and humans have often had a contentious relationship as fishermen have perceived
these gregarious birds as rivals to their livelihood.
But the truth is that pelicans don’t actually compete for a fisherman’s catch…
they’re just a bit more opportunist than adversary.

Yet for over a hundred years or so they have been culled and their eggs destroyed–
to such numbers that several species have become dangerously endangered.

And yet, to me, these awkwardly shaped birds are synonymous with all things of the ocean.
Despite making no beautiful song of their own other than the odd
clacking of their bill or ballooning of their throat pouch, they are my troubadours of the sea.

I always know when I’m finally getting close to the longed-for destination of the ocean
when I spy my gangly looking friends perched sublimely on a pier’s dock or gliding
in regimental formation along the currents of the wind.

But I was surprised to learn the Christian history behind my beachy feathered friends.
It seems that in Medieval times, pelicans were actually symbolic of Christ.
It was believed that during times of famine and shortages of food,
a mother pelican would actually peck open her breast offering her own blood to her
young brood in an attempt to help sustain them when hungry.

A selfless act which reflects the same selflessness of Christ’s offering his own life’s blood
for our own survival.

St Thomas Aquinas, in 1264, wrote a hymn noting the similarity… “Adoro te devote”
And so it appears that my desire of opting to choose a pelican as my alter ego,
my choice appears to be much deeper then I could have ever imagined…

0 loving Pelican! 0 Jesu Lord!
In Holy Communion, Our Lord does not offer us only spiri­tual nourishment,
but gives himself to us as Food.
The Ancients thought that when the chicks of a pelican died,
the pelican opened his breast and with his blood fed his dead young,
in this way bringing them back to life.
Christ with His own Blood gives us eternal life.
When we receive Holy Communion with the right dispositions,
it rouses in our soul fervent acts of love, transforms us, and identifies us with Christ.
The Master comes to each one of His disciples with His love,
which is at one and the same time effective, creative and redemptive.
He presents him­self to us as the Savior of our lives, offering us His friend­ship.
This Sacrament is the food of· all intimacy with Christ, for which there is no substitute.

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