hope for us all…

“Where there is no obedience there is no virtue,
where there is no virtue there is no good,
where there is no good there is no love,
where there is no love, there is no God,
and where there is no God there is no Paradise.”

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina


(a willet shorebird / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019)

Recognition that lost periods of a life can never be returned can provoke
an intense desire to give completely to God what is yet remaining in a life.
The soul scarred by former sin is sometimes, after grace, the soul that will give without reserve.
It is not at all an exaggeration to affirm that great sinners often do become hidden saints.

Fr. Donald Haggerty
from Conversion

detach from worldly things

“Be brave and try to detach your heart from worldly things.
Do your utmost to banish darkness from your mind and come to understand what true,
selfless piety is.
Through confession, endeavor to purify your heart of anything which may still taint it.
Enliven your faith, which is essential to understand and achieve piety.”

St. John Bosco


(St John Bosco)

There is so much more that I’d like to write about John Bosco, this educator/saint,
but again time is not on my side.

Hopefully, I will do so, God willing, as time allows.

But until then, I’ve included a brief biography of this man from Turin, Italy below.

This past school year was a very trying time for my daughter-n-law.
And that is putting it mildly.

Here she was, a new young first-time mother of a young child learning to manage
motherhood and her work…as work was anything but easy.

She had taught school in the public sector for several years, earning the reputation
as a stellar educator.

This past year, due to moving and making home in Atlanta, she made the move to a parochial school.

Initially, the hire seemed to be a God-send.
The woman who hired her, the then acting principal, was moved by my daughter-n-law’s record as
an educator as well as her exceptional interview.

Yet as fate would have it, this woman retired only to be replaced by an interim principal.

To say that the replacement was a bully and difficult would be an understatement.

As a veteran educator of 31 years, when I had the opportunity to meet her fellow colleagues
at her baby shower, I was struck at how miserable this staff actually was.

The entire staff hated this bullying tyrant acting principal—several vowed to quit,
many long-time veterans were fearful their contracts would not be renewed.
All the while this sadistic man seemed to have a laser of extreme hatred,
focused on his co-teacher, our daughter-n-law.

I was fretful because as our daughter-n-law was very pregnant, I was more than aware of
what outward stress internalized could possibly do to an unborn child.

We were all on pins and needles as our hands felt tied.

Frustrated and anxious summed up the winter months.

At the end of February, our son and daughter-n-law bought a new rug.
I was there the day they brought the rug home.
As we unrolled the rug, we found what first appeared to be a half dollar rolled up
inside the rug.

Upon further inspection it was a St John Bosco medal.

Hummmm…

We are not a Catholic family so my son and daughter-n-law were a bit perplexed
and unaware of who this man was.

My quasi-Catholic self knew good and well about St. John Bosco.

“Abby”, I exclaimed, “don’t you see…this is St John Bosco…he is more or less
the patron saint for educators…”
“It is a sign…God sees and He knows of your troubles…you’ve got to trust”

I had no doubt after this “coincidence” that God was at work.
Because in my world there are no coincidence but rather only the
workings of the Holy Spirit.

It’s is a long story that I will save, but circumstances grew to such a level that this
hateful man actually painted himself into a corner.
Word was issued, via e-mail, during Spring Break that this principal had been relieved of his duties
and would not be returning.

It was an answered prayer not only for our family, but also for entire school staff.

God hears, God sees, and God knows…

It is us, His often lost and clueless children, who so often need reminding.

St. John Bosco reminded our small family…

Saint John Bosco’s Story

John Bosco’s theory of education could well be used in today’s schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with one’s work, study and play.

Encouraged during his youth in Turin to become a priest so he could work with young boys, John was ordained in 1841. His service to young people started when he met a poor orphan in Turin, and instructed him in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. He then gathered young apprentices and taught them catechism.

After serving as chaplain in a hospice for working girls, Don Bosco opened the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales for boys. Several wealthy and powerful patrons contributed money, enabling him to provide two workshops for the boys, shoemaking and tailoring.

By 1856, the institution had grown to 150 boys and had added a printing press for publication of religious and catechetical pamphlets. John’s interest in vocational education and publishing justify him as patron of young apprentices and Catholic publishers.

John’s preaching fame spread and by 1850 he had trained his own helpers because of difficulties in retaining young priests. In 1854, he and his followers informally banded together, inspired by Saint Francis de Sales.

With Pope Pius IX’s encouragement, John gathered 17 men and founded the Salesians in 1859. Their activity concentrated on education and mission work. Later, he organized a group of Salesian Sisters to assist girls.

Saint John Bosco

the wisdom of Catherine of Siena

“We’ve had enough exhortations to be silent.
Cry out with a thousand tongues –
I see the world is rotten because of silence.”

St. Catherine of Siena

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
St. Catherine of Siena

“I’ve appointed the Devil to tempt and to trouble My creatures in this life
[St. Catherine of Siena reports that Our Lord said to her].
I’ve done this, not so that My creatures will be overcome,
but so that they may overcome, proving their virtue and receiving from Me the glory of victory.
And no one should fear any battle or temptation of the Devil that may come to him,
because I’ve made My creatures strong, and I’ve given them strength of will,
fortified in the Blood of My Son. Neither the Devil nor any other creature can control
this free will, because it’s yours, given to you by Me.
By your own choice, then, you hold it or let it go if you please.
It’s a weapon, and if you place it in the hands of the Devil,
it right away becomes a knife that he’ll use to stab and kill you.
On the other hand, if you don’t place this knife that is your will
into the hands of the Devil—that is,
if you don’t consent to his temptations and harassments—you will never be injured by
the guilt of sin in any temptation.
Instead, you’ll actually be strengthened by the temptation,
as long as you open the eyes of your mind to see My love,
and to understand why I allowed you to be tempted: so you could develop virtue by having
it proved.
My love permits these temptations, for the Devil is weak.
He can do nothing by himself unless I allow him.
So I let him tempt you because I love you, not because I hate you.
I want you to conquer, not to be conquered,
and to come to a perfect knowledge of yourself and of Me.”

— St. Catherine of Siena, p. 159-60
An Excerpt From
Manual for Spiritual Warfare

What is a saint?

A saint is somebody who has learned to love God.
Learned to love. It’s nothing extremely mystical.
It’s that a person really tries to be united to God, to love our Lord with all his heart.
To escape from that prison that we find ourselves in sometimes of our personal
selfishness and self-centeredness, which we carry with us.
In spite of the fact that we have all sorts of shortcomings and sins and so forth,
if we are striving to love our Lord with our whole strength,
that is a growing in the sanctity of life.

Fr. Jerry Gehringer
from Being a Saint in the World


(mother’s tea rose bush is blooming again / Julie Cook / 2018)

“God creates out of nothing.
Wonderful you say.
Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful:
he makes saints out of sinners.”

Soren Kierkegaard,

seeing or simply seeing through….

Do you wish to honour the body of Christ?
Do not ignore him when he is naked.
Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk,
only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad.
He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said:
“You saw me hungry and you gave me no food”, and
“Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me”…
What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden
chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying
his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well

St John Chrysostom


(rainy cold day in Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Winter arrived today in Georgia…a cold rain with freezing temps
as snow is predicted for later in the week…
But we don’t like to use that ‘S’ word here in Georgia as it tends to
send everyone into an apocalyptic tizzy.

I was out running errands in this cold rain, hitting the grocery store,
picking up odds and ends while playing the role of pre-Santa—
as in I was doing those things and gathering those things we usually do and gather
this particular time of year.

Once I was finally home, I felt pretty good about what I had accomplished
and actually started some more rounds of baking…
yet I had woken this morning with a rather fetid brow along with a
troubled spirit about the news of a friend…

I say friend but really she is just someone whose business I have frequented
for probably the last 25 years…as we’ve seen one another about once a week
or so…

Yet that’s pretty much been the extent of the relationship.
We each know one another’s families, because that’s how it is in a
smaller community. Particularly with those particular businesses that have been
a part of the community for eons.

This friend basically watched my son grow up and whereas I don’t sew,
she actually sewed his cub scout badges on his uniform for me.

I had also known her mother.
A genteel southern lady who worked at this family business until she was almost 90.
She always called me honey or sweetie and I appreciated that.

Over the years, I’d bring in small remembrances at the holidays as
they in turn would offer me and my family the same…
the appreciation of being a customer mixes with that of a true level of friendship.

This friend, as she is older, is not technologically savvy but did try
following my blog once.

That was when I actually learned that her grown son suffered from the same mental
illness that had plagued my brother—a tale which was in a post I had
once written about forgiveness.
(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/)

The post had touched her so much that she tried delicately talking to me about it
one day when I had run in to pick up a few things.

She is older and very southern and was thus taught that there are just some
things “a lady” does not talk about in public…
and she adheres strictly to that notion.
So I knew and appreciated the great effort it had taken for her to share her
own story with me.

It was then, following our conversation, that I actually began to see her in
a very different light….
because I now knew she knew about dark heartache and hardships.

And it was then that it actually dawned on me that we only think we know people—especially those in our narrow corners of the world…
we see them, we chat with them, we keep up with them here and there…
but….

So I have to admit that I was a bit convicted with the thought that we
really don’t know our neighbors like we think we do.

For you see we don’t always tell folks things about ourselves.
Things that we are either burdened by, mistakenly ashamed about,
or things we really just want to hide away.

There is often the mindset that if anyone really knows the truth about us…
they will certainly feel differently about us…perhaps non accepting….

She always spoke of her daughter, very proudly—a daughter who doesn’t live in state….but a daughter who shares my same name…
so each time I’d come into the business, this friend would always call me
by a double name—her daughter’s first and middle name—
of which is not my first and middle name….
however, I never corrected her—I just let her call me by her daughter’s name
as I think the “connection” simply made her feel good.

Her health and age have both gotten the best of her…
so about 3 weeks ago, rather unexpectedly, abruptly and unceremoniously, she up
and announced to her brother, the business owner, that she was quitting….
right then and there—
and out the door she went.

Since then her brother and I have spoken rather candidly about his sister,
my friend, as he is keenly aware of how I have sincerely cared about her
well being—
he shared the worries, the concerns, the frustrations in her refusals in having
anything with doctors—doctors she’s needed to see for years…
all of which is coupled by a most stubborn demeanor.

Then last night my husband came home telling me that my friend’s brother
had come into my husband’s business and shared with him news that his sister
had fallen at home and no one had known.
She laid on the floor for about 3 or 4 days before the family checked in on her.

She was rushed to the hospital and had to have a leg removed….
due to a loss of blood flow and may have also suffered a stroke.

I went by the business today with an orchid..as visiting at the hospital is
not an option.

The prognosis, the brother told me, was not good but that the daughter
will be moving her mother out of state in order to be near her and her family,
when and if she can be released.

So the thoughts of the plight of this friend of mine weighed heavy on my heart today
much like the grey cold which added to that sense of heaviness.

Reading the post this evening, by an Orthodox believer, I was struck by the words
that were shared by the 4th century Archbishop, Doctor of the church and later saint,
John Chrysostom over his concern for the poor and the suffering whom he had
witnessed first hand one winter when traveling through a busy city
marketplace in Antioch.

His words and the recalling of seeing those physically suffering, much
maligned and overlooked human beings…
human beings who were looked through as if invisible….
rather than being looked at as living beings,…
stuck me in a most profound sense.

I thought of my friend and of others who we see, but don’t really see.
Not just the obvious individuals who are perhaps homeless and suffering…
but those who we see on a daily basis and are also suffering, only in
a different and more quiet sort of way.

And so I pray that we—meaning you and I— may be more mindful of those
individuals who we pass by either mindlessly or even purposefully–yet do not see.

Each of us has a story…and each of us has a connection…
We are each created by the same Creator…and we are precious
in His sight despite being scorned upon in the sight of others or simply
never seen in the sight of others…

And at the same time we are each called to be compassionate and to serve those who
cannot serve themselves…..

As the words of this most astute saint haunt us to this day:

I have come hither today to undertake a righteous mission among you,
a mission profitable and suitable for you.
By no others than the poor who dwell in this city of yours have I been
appointed the spokesman.
I have been sent not by word of mouth,
nor by vote of the citizens,
nor by a decree of the senate,
but by a most grievous and piteous spectacle.

For as I was hastening to preach before this congregation,
I passed through the market-place and the alleys,
and I saw many lying in the midst of the crossings,
some lacking hands and feet, some without eyes,
some filled with ulcers and running sores and exposing
as much as possible those parts which because of the suppuration
should have been covered.
And I thought I would be most inhuman if I did not appeal to your
charity in their behalf, especially since,
in addition to the reasons I have just given,
I am constrained thereto by the season of the year.
For although it is always fitting to preach about alms
(seeing that we in our dealings with other men are wanting in the
great mercy of our Lord and Creator)
yet at this season especially it is meet so to speak,
when the cold is so urgent.

He did not say, “Now concerning the collections for beggars” or
“for the poor”, but “for the saints”;
instructing his hearers to honor the poor—that is,
of course, if they were devout—and to spurn the rich if they despised virtue.

Come, let us in place of employers hold out compassionate hands to them,
and on this mission let us take as our companion Paul,
the true patron and protector of the poor.
For he more than anyone else concerns himself with this question.
For this reason, when he divided the disciples with Peter,
he did not divide the care of the poor; but when he had said,
“They gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship:
that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision,” he added,
“Only that we should be mindful of the poor:
which same thing also I was careful to do.” (Gal. 2:9–10).
In fact, throughout his epistles he preaches about these things,
and you will not find a single letter of his without an admonition of this kind.
For he knew, he knew with certainty of how great moment this question is;
and therefore, as if he were placing an exquisite dome upon a building,
so to his other admonitions and counsels he adds his teaching in regard to charity.

(Delivered at Antioch by St John Chrysostom
After Passing Through The Marketplace In The Wintertime,
And Seeing The Paupers And Beggars Lying There Neglected)

for the full text click the following link:

https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/i-have-come-hither-today-to-undertake-a-righteous-mission-among-you/

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

forgiveness

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because
God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

C.S. Lewis

“Out of the depths, I cry to you, Lord”
Psalm 130:1

4931
(Pope Francis walks through the gate at Auschwitz. Photograph: Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock)

This past July,
July 29th to be exact,
Pope Francis journeyed to Oświęcim,
a small industrial town in southern Poland…
He next ventured a bit further to the small village of Brzezinka…

He had come to Poland to meet with an excited and joyful throng of young people
who had journeyed to Krakow in order to celebrate World Youth Day.

Yet it was to Oświęcim and Brzezinka that Francis made a solomon detour.
For in this once obscure and quiet area of Poland, 76 years ago,
the first of 23 concentration camps was opened to receive its first prisoners of war…
This was the beginning of Hitler’s incomprehensible final solution…
this was Auschwitz…

There were major camps…camps where exterminations took place,
of which were scattered throughout Poland,
And there were sub-camps…camps where hard manual labor was the focus.
But it was at Auschwitz that an estimated that 1.5 million people
died during the 5 years it operated.

Six million jews and an additional 11 million individuals
lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis, most of which died in the camps.

And it is estimated that 80 million people lost their
lives during the course of the war.

Pope Francis came to Auschwitz to reflect and to remember…
to remember what the world must never forget…

Yet like all of us who claim Jesus as our Savior,
that Savior who, when nailed to a cross, lifted
his face toward Heaven and asked His father to forgive…
to forgive those who knew not what they were doing…

to forgive us…all of us…
over and over and over…
for our egregious sins…
sins that are unfathomable,
sins that are horrid,
sins that are unspeakable,
sins that are unthinkable,
sins that are inhumane….

All of which leaves us…you, me, the Pope…
charged with that same living and dying example…
to forgive…to forgive those who have sinned against us,
just as we have sinned against others…

It is the most difficult and challenging action of the human ego…

Seventy-five years ago, when Francis was a four-year-old boy
called Jorge living in Buenos Aires,
this cell at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp was occupied by prisoner number 16770,
Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan friar.

When 10 fellow inmates were selected to die in punishment for the escape of another prisoner,
Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered his life instead of that of Franciszek Gajowniczek,
who had cried out in anguish for his wife and children. Kolbe’s offer was accepted.
He was thrown into the starvation bunker for two weeks and finally given a
lethal injection on 14 August 1941.

The pope came to Auschwitz on Friday to pray in silent memory of Kolbe and the
other 1.1m people the Nazis exterminated there. Jews made up the vast majority-
960,000, including 185,000 children–
but thousands of Polish Catholics, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war were also put to death.

He had signaled his intention to visit the memorial “without speeches, without crowds”.
His simple plan was:
“Alone,
enter,
pray.
And may the Lord give me the grace to cry.”

In the shadows of the cell, his long silence was an eloquent tribute to the suffering of so many and a profound condemnation of evil.
At the end of his prayers, he raised his head, crossed himself,
stood and left.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/29/no-words-as-pope-francis-visits-auschwitz-death-camp-in-silence

“Lord, have pity on your people.
Lord, forgive so much cruelty.”

Pope Francis

the portrait of a saint

I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like,
but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us,
He will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’
rather He will ask,
‘How much love did you put into what you did?”

Mother Teresa

DSC00398
(photo A Photographic Record by Michael Collopy)

It matters not whether you are a fan of the Catholic Church.
It matter not whether you believe in saints and sinners…
It matters not if you are a fan or critic of this particular individual…

Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, a humble woman from Skopje, Albania was canonized yesterday…
To you and I, she was known simply as Mother Teresa.

I’ve written extensively about this tiny woman before…

the following link is more about the feet…
(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/these-feet-were-made-for-love/)

But what does exactly matter is that despite her detractors,
for she had many,
is that she spent a life time
tending to the lesser of the least…

There are those who felt she was too difficult a task master…
Demanding the impossible from those woman who gave up all to follow her way and direction.

There are those who criticized her notoriety, her popularity,
but one glance at those feet begs to ask if these feet belonged to someone who played to
the limelight.

She spent 50 years of her life feeling cut off and disconnected from the very God she
sacrificed her entire life to serve.

And yet…
she served…
She never publicly complained.
She never threatened to quit.
She never gave in.
She never gave up.

She brought attention to life, to love, to living and…
to dying.

Think what you will, but know that we are all the better for her life….

“By blood, I am Albanian.
By citizenship, an Indian.
By faith, I am a Catholic nun.
As to my calling, I belong to the world.
As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”

Mother Teresa

Said the sinner to the saint

“You must not be discouraged or let yourself become dejected if your actions have not succeeded as perfectly as you intended. What do you expect? We are made of clay and not every soil
yields the fruits expected by the one who tills it. But let us always humble ourselves and acknowledge that we are nothing if we lack the Divine assistance.”

Padre Pio (Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina)

The only difference between saints and sinners is that every saint has a past while every sinner has a future. ”
Oscar Wilde

DSCN1811
(a photograph of Padre Pio on the wall of a small cottage in Glencolmcille, County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

Said the sinner to the saint, bending low in humble contrition…
“You must pass first sir, for I am unworthy to be seen in your presence…”
Said the saint to the sinner, bending deeper in overwhelming compunction
“Sir it is you who has offered me the glimpse of Light which has been hidden within my own shadow”

To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:7

For all of us sinners are indeed called to be saints…..

the frivolity of the frivolous

Thus it is necessary to commence from an inescapable duality:
the finite is not the infinite.

Hans Urs von Balthasar

The spirit of man can endure only so much and
when it is broken only a miracle can mend it.

John Burroughs

DSCN0241
(statue on the grounds of Christ Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Tis the season to be merry and bright, happy and light, warm and fuzzy…
Christmas and Santa.
It’s all neatly rolled into one within the wrappings of December.
The giddy frivolity of a season which gives way to making merry while paying homage to the birth of a child.

Yet let us look more closely at a single word…

Frivolity– a noun meaning lightness, gaiety, fun, the making of merriment

yet counter that with

Frivolous–an adjective–flippant, glib, lacking worth or merit

One word divided into two of its variations, its various grammatical formations and contexts–each with very different meanings…

Christmas–the olde English—Cristes Maesse–or Mass of Christ
The sacred celebration of the Nativity or birth of Christ…the birth of the One proclaimed as the savior of mankind.

And then there is Christmas of the ho ho ho, jolly ol’ St Nick, the giving of gifts kind of Christmas…

With the introduction of Saint Nicolas, who evolved over time from a 3rd century Greek Catholic saint whose real life story of giving and providing paved the foundation for today’s more secular jolly older bearded, reindeer driving, present giving, hero of both young and old…Christmas the holy joined with Christmas the worldly, as the two became synonymous, joining as one.

And sadly today we see that the world of consumerism has run away with the latter of the two….creating part of our problem.

One word’s united meaning, the celebration of the birth of Christ, as well as the season of Santa and the giving of gifts….
Yet today the word is painfully becoming estranged, polarized and oh so sadly divided.

The Christian faithful throughout the ages have always had a wonderful way of melding traditions taken form the various seasons and times of the year from their various cultures and countries, coupled with the more traditional pagan / secular celebrations of those various countries and cultures, uniting and embracing all with their Christian teachings with the end result being those yearly holy observances which blend both the religious/ holy with secular celebrations.

Lest we forgot the story from the other week regarding the celtic cross…
As St Patrick used the circle around the traditional latin cross as a bridge between the Celtic worship of the sun–uniting both sun and Son together…in turn creating the iconic Celtic Cross.

Yet mankind frustratingly always has had a knack for messing up, distorting and even destroying good intentions.
What was once a time affording all a collective remembrance of the young and less fortunate during a time which was also witness to the faithful’s remembrance of the birth of the Savior—has now tragically morphed into a self consuming monster of advertising, marketing, consumerism and a big business feeding frenzy of madness.

Couple that with the now secular overt political correctness war of words of holiday and winter celebration with the keeping of Santa, as that’s good for the economy, while in turn booting the holy Christ Child totally out of the picture as that has nothing to so with the economy….

Seems as if we greatly prefer material gifts and presents verses the one true gift of a Savior….

It is indeed a truly sad kettle of fish we have going on as law suits now abound where once stockings were hung by the chimney with care—
As the word Christmas is no longer welcomed or allowed to be associated with this “special” time of year… especially in our public governmental sector, schools, colleges, etc—
If it receives any sort of federal funding or assistance, than you can forget Christmas and the whole birth of Christ associated with it.

Lest we offend the Atheists, the Jews, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Satanists, the Wickens….who if the truth be told, buy and gather to give those “christmas” gifts…

A long long time ago when I was in elementary school, way back in the early 1960s…My school had a healthy mix of both Jewish and “Christian” kids.

When it came to Christmas, with our teacher bringing in the small tree for our classroom, as we excitedly and joyously made ornaments in order to decorate the small tree— ornaments which now poignantly hang on my own tree today, the excitement of one and all was palpable.
Names were drawn for the classroom secret santa party which culminated on the last day of school before the Christmas break.

Our teachers, in their infinite wisdom, did something great.
In addition to our classroom Christmas tree, we also had a classroom menorah. Our Jewish classmates would, for the eight days of Hanukkah, share with us their
“holiday” along with its traditions.

Excitedly each day of Hanukah we’d ooo and ahhh, as only kids in the innocence of wonder do, over the lighting of a single candle—hardly able to contain the excitement until all 9 candles were lit.
It was a reverent event and we appreciated as well as respected the importance that the lighting of those 9 candles meant and what that 8 day observance represented to our Jewish classmates… just as they appreciated our reverence for our classroom’s small nativity scene.

A marvelous teaching tool and key to helping our young minds understand, tolerate, respect as well as allowing us to develop an appreciation for one another’s spiritual customs.
As the spirituality within man is a key component to being human.

We loved hearing our classmates excitement as they shared with the entire class the receiving of each gift on the night prior during their familiy’s observation of the Festival of Light.

We were taught the dreidle song and would play for the chocolate coins while we in turn shared the various customs of Christmases form around the world…
As we would buy our Jewish classmates their secret santa gifts as they, in turn, would buy us ours—
Never was there any resentment, no forbiddance to the right to observe, share or worship, no jealousies, not animosity….but rather a collective joy found in the frivolity of a season so merry and bright, yet sadly now seemingly steeped in what has become the frivolous, the polarized, the secular, the forgotten, the worldly and the empty….

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(statue on the grounds of Christ Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:8-14

Therapy amongst the mint

“All of earth is crammed with heaven
And every bush aflame with God
But only those who see take off their shoes.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
Anne Frank

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(a clump of freshly pulled mint mixed in a pile of roots / Julie Cook / 2015)

The air was punctuated with the pungent aroma of mint and basil mingled with a heavy dose of loamy moist dirt.
I had taken pruning shears with me, but put them aside in favor of my two gloved hands.
My intent was to simply cut it all back but instead I opted to hopefully rid my yard and life of the invasive mayhem.

The growing green mass had covered the whole front corner of the bed by the garage and was set to cover up Mimi’s ancient cement bench if something wasn’t done and done soon to stop this almost giddy encroachment.

My heart has felt much the same in recent days, overrun and over burdened with and by the onslaught of the grim global headlines.

The now burgeoning sickly yellowish green patch is usually the first thing in the yard to show its tender new verdant foliage during those sleepy hopeful wee days between winter and spring. It’s what gives me hope that life, rebirth, regrowth and Spring will indeed vanquish Old Man Winter while ushering in welcoming warmer days.

As I wondered about how best to tackle the latest infestation of overgrowth in the shrub bed, my thoughts wandered a world away to what or whom would or could now vanquish the sweeping global sorrows that were entangling both my heart and soul.

Come late Summer. . .when life is dried out and burned out, just as the seasons prepare to knock on the door of Autumn, the leggy gangly masses have become a truly unsightly tangled mess of tired and spent. As in I’m just ready to cut it all away, rid my life of the jumbled mess and happily welcome in some cool crisp colorful order.

I wish I could easily do the same for our hurting planet.

I’ve always found solace in working with my hands.
The more manual the labor the more productive and alive I feel.
There is a cleansing honesty in working with one’s hands.
Never mind that my back has been giving me fits, never mind the heat index is still in the triple digits, I will gladly get down and dirty, as the sun continues to bake the world, for working hard in the yard is good for the soul, the mind and often literally the heart.

Oh that it could be so easy with this greatly burdened world of ours.

As a true Southerner I’ve grown up with mint sprouting from every yard I’ve ever called home. What better accompaniment to one’s tea or julep, depending on your preference, than a sprig of fresh mint? Anyone will tell you mint is easy, as in it grows itself. In fact it’s just a little too easy, as in too eager and way too invasive. It’s more like a weed gone wild then a treasured herb. Plus everyone who does any work in a garden will tell you, any novice can grow mint— it offers instant gratification to the more hesitant would-be gardeners among us.

But my mint patch has been on the run and I had to stop it before things got anymore out of hand. Rather than cut it back, just for it to sprout right back to this same spreading madness within a few days, I took to pulling it up, by the long lanky root full. Even poor ol St Francis had to be laid on his side just so I could get to what was running under my favorite saint’s feet. I don’t think he was much bothered by the intrusion.

As I yanked and pulled, buried just under the top layer of straw and soil, was a criss crossing network of an eerily bone white root system stretching for what seemed to be miles. With each tugged, pulled and unearthed jumble of lanky roots and dirt, earwigs and beetles alike scurried helter skelter, madly seeking a dark cloak of safety in the damp compost soil.

The more my thoughts drifted over the latest mounding national and global turmoils, I pulled harder and deeper. Sweat trickled down my face, pooling at the tip of my nose before dripping and disappearing into the blackened soil. The sweat seemed to reach across the globe mingling with the tears of those thousands of people now walking hundreds of miles in search of asylum and safety.

As the morning turned to afternoon, I had finally pulled up the last of the mint. The piles were now all raked up, the walkway swept and the pine straw smoothed as the shrub bed now had a delightfully clean and fresh look.

I still had no grand revelations as to how to help the ever growing global crises sweeping across our lives nor how to ease the lingering tensions within our own Nation. I was hot, tired and weary of body, but there was oddly a refreshing clarity of thought.
No longer did I feel totally overwhelmed or at a loss.
Still not knowing where to even begin to help, I gratefully no longer felt as defeated as I had.
There’s just something about physical labor, with it’s overwhelming beginning and productive ending, that gives hope to the overwhelming obstacles of life. . . hope that we can indeed tackle and eventually overcome the litany of misery facing our current global family.

I trust we will be able to do so. . .
for only in God, comes hope to the hopeless, and strength to the weak. . .

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:10

“Let me arise and open the gate, to breathe
the wild warm air of the heath,
And to let in Love, and to let out Hate,
And anger at living and scorn of Fate,
To let in Life, and to let out Death.”

Violet Fane