it’s never too late, but it might be getting close….

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your life, or how bad you’ve sinned.
I rejected God, but he still knew that I was redeemable.
I was worth saving.
There is no soul anywhere on this earth that is beyond the reach of God.
It’s never too late.

Deborah Lipsky
from Confessions of an Ex-Satanist: A Message of Hope


(mushroom in the woods / Julie Cook / 2020)

“The story of Christ’s life and ministry cannot be told without giving due space to Satan’s activity.
The Gospel writers carefully distinguish between cases of mere physical ailments and cases
of a demonic character (both of which Jesus cures).
Jesus frequently refers to the devil in his parables and other teachings,
and the devil himself tempts Jesus in the desert and returns again later to engineer Judas’ betrayal
(cf. Jn 13:2).
This Gospel motif teaches us an undeniable, if uncomfortable lesson: the devil is real,
and he is interested in counteracting the work of grace.
In one sense, accepting this fundamental truth, and keeping it always in the back of our minds,
can comfort us tremendously:
it helps us make sense of all the unpleasant influences at work in and around us.
We are not crazy; we are not failures; we are simply engaged in a spiritual battle.
If we believe in Jesus Christ, we must also believe in the devil—-doomed as he is,
he would love to take as many souls as he can along with him.”

Fr. John Bartunek, p. 350
An Excerpt From
The Better Part

Always be busy in spiritual actions…no other action is nearly as important

“Persevere in labors that lead to salvation.
Always be busy in spiritual actions.
In this way, no matter how often the enemy of our souls approaches,
no matter how many times he may try to come near us,
he’ll find our hearts closed and armed against him.”

St. Cyprian of Carthage


(red indian pheasant / Parrot Mt. /Pigeon Forge, TN/ Julie Cook /2020)

“Christ Himself is our mouth through which we speak to the Father,
our eye through which we see the Father, our right hand through which we
offer to the Father.
Without His intercession neither we nor all the saints have anything with God.”

St. Ambrose

All sorts of things are running through our thoughts today.
Some of us are pleased yet hesitant.
Some of us are sad and resentful.

But what we need to remember is that there is One who is so much greater than
all of this mess.

If you’ve been a regular guest here,
then you already know that I am a big fan of the series The Chosen

https://studios.vidangel.com/the-chosen

It is solely a crowdfunded production.
Since I was afforded the opportunity to watch season 1 due to the giving of someone
who came before me…
I have opted to do the same, I have paid it forward, twice.

Here are just two of the “thank yous” I received…

So on election day…I have found that these types of words transcend the silliness of man…
words of anger, divisiveness, and bickering…all of which cast a pall over the
ways of this world.

So today, the day after, no matter how things turned out for you or me…be it good or bad …
remember, there is One who is so much greater than any of this mess…

Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 NIV

bring an empty heart

“It is part of the discipline of God to make His loved ones perfect through trial and suffering.
Only by carrying the Cross can one reach the Resurrection.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen


(fall leaves doing what they do, fall / Julie Cook / 2020)

Reading the late great archbishop’s words…I would imagine that some readers don’t
much care for the notion of man’s enduring trials and suffering while on this earth…
that of carrying the Cross…with each as a means of reaching the final end goal—
that of our being Resurrected with Christ.

We don’t like to think that we are meant to carry a cross, that we are meant
to suffer or endure…a loving God should want us happy and content right??
A loving God shouldn’t allow those He created and supposedly loves to suffer
or to encounter pain, violence, or be handed a heavy cross to bear…

yet…

What we need to remember is that we live in a fallen world.
Sin shadows our every move.
In our lifetime we will each experience various trials.
Avoiding them as best we try, trials will still come regardless of our vain attempts
to keep them at bay.

However, our best recourse is to rid ourselves of ourselves…
To sever our ties to the trappings of this earth.
To completely empty our hearts.

For it is in that emptying, as St Liguori reminds us, that we are allowed
be open ourselves for the filling of the Holy Spirit.

We must detach ourselves from ourselves and from the world in order to save ourselves.

And it is only through following Christ, first to Golgatha then to that empty
tomb, that we will find our true peace and joy and everlasting life.

“The heart cannot exist without love; it will love either God or creatures.
If it does not love creatures, it certainly will love God.
In order to become holy, we must therefore banish from our heart all that is not for God.
When anyone came to the Fathers of the desert and desired to be received by them he was asked:
‘Do you bring an empty heart that it may be filled by the Holy Ghost?’
And they were right, for a heart that is filled with the things of earth has no room
for the love of God.
He who brings a vessel filled with earth to the spring will never be able to fill it
with water until he empties it of the earth with which it is filled.
How does it happen that so many pray and go frequently to Holy Communion and still make
no considerable progress in the love of God?
The reason is doubtless because the heart is full of self-esteem, of vanity, of self-will,
and of attachment to creatures.
He, therefore, who wishes to arrive at the perfect love of God must practice poverty in spirit.
He must be detached from worldly possessions, from temporal honors,
from his fellow creatures, and from himself.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 114-5
An Excerpt From
12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation

***off for a few days in order to find a few more falling leaves with the Mayor and the Sheriff

what we need is a heavy dose of Divine humility

In order to be able to commune with divine things,
it is necessary to agree to acknowledge that one is radically unworthy of them.
Unless we enter into fear and adoration, we never arrive at love and union.

Robert Cardinal Sarah
from his book, The Day Is Now Far Spent


(the adultress scene from The Passion of the Christ)

We are all unworthy.

Each and every last one of us.

Unworthy of what you ask?

Unworthy of Divine Grace.

But you probably don’t care about Divine Grace because you either don’t
know what it is or you simply don’t believe in such.

Yet most of us feel that we are more than worthy…worthy of whatever we may want…
This is because we readily believe that we are better than the man or woman who stands next to us,
across from us, in front of or behind us…that is our smug arrogance.

A smug arrogance that only grows with each passing day.

We hear that smug arrogance.
We see that smug arrogance.
We live that smug arrogance.

The opposite of such is humility–

Humility..the freedom from pride or arrogance…

It is becoming more and more clear with each passing day…
we human beings are in desperate need of being saved from ourselves.
Saved from our seething pride and arrogance.

and in turn…simply being saved.
Yet the irony is that we are not worthy of saving or of being saved.

We’ve seen the news,
we’ve read the articles,
we’ve seen the pictures…
We hear the anger.
We feel the rising tension, the division, the hate.

Humility.
Saving.
Grace…

He who had no sin became sin… for us,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

(2 Corinthians 5:21)

Our hope, our salvation.

“Although we feel the humiliation keenly when we are insulted, persecuted, or calumniated,
this does not mean that we cannot suffer such trials with sentiments of true humility,
subjecting nature to reason and faith, and sacrificing the resentment of our
self-love to the love of God.
We are not made of stone, so that we need be insensible or senseless in order to be humble.
Of some martyrs we read that they writhed under their torments;
of others, that they more or less rejoiced in them,
according to the greater or lesser degree of unction they received from the Holy Ghost;
and all were rewarded by the crown of glory, as it is not the pain or the feeling
that makes the martyr, but the supernatural motive of virtue.
In the same way some humble persons feel pleasure in being humiliated,
and some feel sadness, especially when weighted down with calumny;
and yet they all belong to the sphere of the humble,
because it is not the humiliation nor the suffering alone which makes the soul humble,
but the interior act by which this same humiliation is accepted and received through
motives of Christian humility, and especially of a desire to resemble Jesus Christ,
who though entitled to all the honors the world could offer Him,
bore humiliation and scorn for the glory of His eternal Father.”

Fr. Cajetan da Bergamo,
p. 19-20
An Excerpt Fromm
Humility Of Heart

in the company of or separate from…

“It is in the company of Jesus that you work for the glory of God.”
St. John Baptist de la Salle


(the sedum begin to get a tinge of color / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Man was created for a certain end.
This end is to praise, to reverence, and to serve the Lord his God and by this
means to arrive at eternal salvation.
All other beings and objects that surround us on the earth were created for the
benefit of man and to be useful to him, as means to his final end;
hence his obligation to use, or to abstain from the use of, these creatures,
according as they bring him nearer to that end, or tend to separate him from it.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola,
p.18
An Excerpt From
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

wants and fears

“You are asking for something that would be harmful to your salvation if you had it—
so by not getting what you’ve asked, you really are getting what you want.”

St. Catherine of Siena


(black-eyed susans / Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2019)

What really hurts is not so much suffering as the fear of suffering.
If welcomed trustingly and peacefully, suffering makes us grow.
It matures and trains us, purifies us, teaches us to love unselfishly,
makes us poor in heart, humble, gentle, and compassionate toward our neighbor.
Fear of suffering, on the other hand, hardens us in self-protective,
defensive attitudes, and often leads us to make irrational choices with disastrous consequences.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 47
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

pardon the small disruption in service

No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one.
Elbert Hubbard (1859-1915)


( a little seaweed / Julie Cook / Rosemary Beach, FL / 2019)

Apologies abound for the slight disruption recently in blogging…
But our family packed up two cars late last week and headed southward
toward the emerald waters and those sugar-white sands of Florida’s northern Gulf coast.

But more about all of that later…

So yes, a family vacation.

And so what do we know about vacations?
What do we know vacations to be?

In part, a vacation is intended for those who opt to head off to parts known or unknown,
in order to unplug, to unwind, to relax and perhaps actually reconnect with those
closest to the heart.

Our own little personal family’s jaunt included two under two,
so there wasn’t a whole lot of relaxing…
however there was a delightful shift in focus.

We were together.

And we were isolated from the rest of the world…or so it seemed.

The television, while seldomly turned on, was never turned to the news.

Computers were not turned on, let alone even touched.

Phones were used to take pictures not to check emails or alerts.

There was a much-welcomed 5 days of sheltered isolation.
We were simply left savoring the magic that happens between children and the seashore.
Nothing more, nothing less.

Yet yesterday, as we reluctantly and sadly loaded the cars in order to head back
to our real worlds, we were reminded in very quiet, yet very powerful ways,
that news had happened in our absence.

In small out of the way towns to tiny outpost post offices, as we journeyed northward,
flags were all flying at half-mast.

A US flag at half-mast is a very visceral and sobering gut check.
It reminds us that we are indeed a united Nation…no more so than in our
collective sorrow.

The half-mast flag is a significant sign of unification for a nation that has smugly
forgotten the very fact that it is united rather than divided.

It seems that there were more mass shootings taking place almost simultaneously around
the country.

31 lives lost
while many more hang in the balance from their sustained wounds.

And once again, the people cry out to their government, “What will you now do?!”

And it is in that cry that I am once again perplexed…

The people cry out to their government, their legislators, their president…
“what will you do to stop all of this???”

This oh-so divided Nation that tends to draw within herself when her flags are lowered,
now demands its government do something to stop the madness.

The evil madness of mass murders.

The real help, however, the real answers, will not be found in the voices of our
presidential pundits or of our local or national legislators…or even
in the words of our much-maligned president…

No…the answers will not be found in what man can do for man…
simply because man is too busy killing man…

The answer is simple really and is found in the tiny fact that we are a nation
that has abandoned our God.

There will be those, many in number, who will argue that God matters not when
a madman takes a gun…

And yet the evil remains does it not?

And so, therefore, where lies our hope, our help, our solutions, our redemption,
our salvation…?

In our government?
In our leaders?
In the words of man?

I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me;
I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name,
I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’
All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people,
who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—
a people who continually provoke me to my very face,

Isaiah 65:1-3

“If you deny me before men, I will deny you before my Father”

But whoever denies and disowns Me before men,
I also will deny and disown him before My Father Who is in heaven.

Matthew 10:33

According to Wikipedia the story behind today’s image:
The Light of the World (1851–53) is an allegorical painting by the
English Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt (1827–1910)
representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and
long-unopened door, illustrating Revelation 3:20:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door,
I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me”.
According to Hunt: “I painted the picture with what I thought,
unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject.”
The door in the painting has no handle, and can, therefore, be opened only from the inside,
representing “the obstinately shut mind”. Hunt, 50 years after painting it,
felt he had to explain the symbolism.

The original is variously said to have been painted at night in a makeshift hut at
Worcester Park Farm in Surrey and in the garden of the Oxford University Press
while it is suggested that Hunt found the dawn light he needed outside Bethlehem
on one of his visits to the Holy Land.
In oil on canvas, it was begun around 1849/50, completed in 1853,
exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1854 and is now in a side room off the large chapel at Keble College, Oxford.

I saw this particular painting posted on our dear friend Bishop Gavin Ashenden’s blog
posting from yesterday.
He included it because he had uploaded a brief (approximately 4-minute) interview with a
British journalist stating why it was wrong that St Matthew’s and Luke’s Chruch in Darlington,
the Diocese of Durham in the UK, had offered to cover its altar cross and replica of this painting,
when it had decided to invite local Muslims to come in and worship in the sanctuary
following the end of Ramadan.

The interview is here:

Nick Ferrari graciously apologises- ‘The Truth matters’. LBC radio:- Nick Ferrari asks Gavin Ashenden why it matters that the C of E covered crosses & hid Jesus- & gracioiusly apologises when he finds out. The difference between the God of Islam & the God of Christianity is at stake & is crucial.

I touched on this same matter last week when the good Bishop was interviewed on Anglican Unscripted
regarding this rather bizarre gesture.

Isn’t that just like the Christian Chruch today???
A church wanting so desperately to appease and to appear inviting and hospitable by demonstrating
its all-inclusiveness, all the while, denying the very One who she claims as her Bridegroom.

A skewed thought process indeed.
For in its zeal of promoting the peace of one accord and good gestures,
the Church’s leadership’s ignorance shines forth.

I applaud the journalist, Nick Ferrari, for actually admitting at the interview’s end
that he had indeed been wrong when he felt that he should actually support the vicar of this parish
for opening the doors of her church to their Muslim neighbors.

To open a parish hall or to host an interfaith gathering in a neutral location is one thing,
but to offer up the Sanctuary, the place considered to be the most sacred within
a church, reminiscent of the Holies of Holy, by covering up the cross and images of Jesus,
is a venture into lunacy.

I dare say no Iman would allow any mosque to ever hide the Koran lest any Christians
venture forth.

We seem to have a great desire to rush in and show ourselves to be all-inclusive…
to show the world that we are open-minded and kind…
yet we do ourselves and our faith a great disservice when we do so
with little, if any regard, to the very teachings of Christ…
the very teachings we are expected to uphold.

Jesus never said to be unkind or inhospitable, but he also never said to hide one’s faith in Him or
pretend that, as the risen Savior, He isn’t intended for all mankind…
mankind includes Muslims, Jews, atheists, you name it…
He came into the world to save sinners…and that pretty much covers all of mankind.
It is, therefore, our responsibility to share that fact with all of those whose paths we cross.

We share hope and salvation to and for all…for anyone willing to accept and in turn follow.

We are told time and time again not to hide our faith or the Truth but to share it.

A light is not meant to be put under a basket, but rather upon a table permitting
all to see.
(Matthew 5:15-16)

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Luke 19:39-40

Be kind, be gracious but never deny your Lord before any man.
Never attempt to hide Him, mask Him or disguise Him…
but rather let the light of Redemption and Salvation shine forth.

In 2015 21 Coptic Christians were marched out on to a beach in Lebanon and were
offered the chance to be spared from the fate of beheading if they would simply deny Christ
and embrace Mohammad—-the answer was no.

Even unto death…
We are told, you and I who follow Christ, we are told to follow Him even unto death.

We know that death, in this life, is not everlasting…not for the followers of Christ.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10

if I only had a heart…

“Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional
memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child.
This is a healing memory; it brings hope.”

Pope Benedict XVI


(mother’s kitchen funnel has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2018)

This pitiful image of what was once my mother’s kitchen funnel, that I have
obviously “loved” to death by overuse and wash, always reminds me of the hat of
the head of the tinman from the Wizard of Oz…
albeit a kitchen funnel and not an oil funnel.

Who can forget Jack Haley singing…if I only had a heart…

When a man’s an empty kettle he should be on his mettle,
And yet I’m torn apart.
Just because I’m presumin’ that I could be kind-a-human,
If I only had heart.
I’d be tender – I’d be gentle and awful sentimental
Regarding Love and Art.
I’d be friends with the sparrows …
and the boys who shoots the arrows
If I only had a heart.
Picture me – a balcony. Above a voice sings low.
Wherefore art thou, Romeo? I hear a beat…
How sweet.
Just to register emotion, jealousy – devotion,
And really feel the part.
I could stay young and chipper
and I’d lock it with a zipper,
If I only had a heart.

Wizard Of Oz – If I Only Had A Brain/Heart/Nerve Lyrics

If I only had a heart…

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

To remove the heart of stone and receive the heart of flesh…

And so it seems on that fateful day when an apple was received and in turn eaten,
two hearts grew hard…
spawning a spiraling outward of generational stone hardened hearts.

Shuttered hearts.
Closed hearts…
turned cold

Yet all the while the mind deludes, claiming otherwise.

The mind convinces the heart to remain closed and hardened,
otherwise, there will be pain, weakness, and vulnerability…

C.S Lewis says it this way…

“There is no safe investment.

To love at all is to be vulnerable.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.

If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one,
not even to an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements;
lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.

It will not be broken;
it will become
unbreakable,
impenetrable,
irredeemable.

The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.

The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers
and perturbations of love is…
Hell.”

Yet it was the famed English preacher, Charles Spurgeon, who had previously addressed this
notion of the heart of stone.

“Spurgeon surmised that the stony heart is, specifically:
cold,
hard,
dead,
not easily softened and utterly senseless.

He said the person with the hard heart is “Satan’s throne.”
And he said the hard heart is “impervious to all instrumentality,”

(Cliff Vaughn)

In a sermon delivered in 1887 Spurgeon addresses the hardened heart:

Hardness of heart is a great and grievous evil.
It exists not only in the outside world,
but in many who frequent the courts of the Lord’s house.
Beneath the robes of religion many carry a heart of stone.

Nothing good can come out of a stony heart;
it is barren as a rock.
To be unfeeling is to be unfruitful.
Prayer without desire,
praise without emotion,
preaching without earnestness — what are all these?
Like the marble images of life, they are cold and dead.

Yet he reminds us that all is not lost.

The Holy Spirit makes us like wax, and we become impressible to his sacred seal.
Remember, you that are hard of heart, that your hope lies this way;
God himself, who melts the icebergs of the northern sea,
must make your soul to yield up its hardness in the presence of his love.
Nothing short of the work of God within you can effect this.
“Ye must be born again,” and that new birth must be from above.
The Spirit of God must work regeneration in you.
He is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham;
but until he works you are dead and insensible.
Even now I perceive the goings forth of his power:
he is moving you to desire his divine working,
and in that gracious desire, the work has already begun.

Note next, that as this tenderness comes of the Spirit of God,
so it also comes by his working in full co-operation with the Father and with the Son.

We hear the Father say, “I will pour upon the house of David the spirit of grace,”
(angelfire.com)

And so it is from that same genealogical house–the house of David which is born the Grace
which is our hope from the impenetrable death found in the stone cold heart.

It is a hope found in the genealogical line from Abraham, to David, to the Christ.

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David,
fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon,
and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
(Matthew 1:17)

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea,
to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and
was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
(Luke 2:4-7)

And so the genealogical line of hardened hearts, hearts which once seemed destined to reside
closed for all time and destined to spend an eternity in Hell,
will be broken…broken by the gift found in a genealogical line of hope,
the gift found in the birth of a single child…

And a little child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6)

Leading once stone hardened hearts, now broken by Grace, to healing found only in Salvation.

the secular stealing the Sacred

As a survivor of the Communist Holocaust I am horrified to witness how my
beloved America, my adopted country, is gradually being transformed into a
secularist and atheistic utopia, where communist ideals are glorified and
promoted, while Judeo-Christian values and morality are ridiculed and
increasingly eradicated from the public and social consciousness of our nation.
Under the decades-long assault and militant radicalism of many so-called
“liberal” and “progressive” elites, God has been progressively erased from
our public and educational institutions, to be replaced with all manner of
delusion, perversion, corruption, violence, decadence, and insanity.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn


(vintage Christmas Card)

About a week back or so, I wrote a post about the fact that we actually have two
Christmases…with the truth being that we do…we do have two.

And in turn, we have what seems to be a melding.

One is the secular Christmas of Santa, presents, stockings, commercialism and merchandising.

The other, of which is the original of the two, is the Christmas of a birth.

A birth that isn’t just any kind of birth…but rather it’s the birth of
a Savior…the birth of the Sacred.

So now that we have all of that clear—I should let you know that I have always tried hard
to keep the two separated yet at the same time, trying to keep them as one.

I think that chore is more of a burden that is not merely my burden alone…
but rather a burden that most Christians have struggled with…that being
the balance of the Sacred and secular.

And it seems as if, every year about this time, I jump on a tiny soapbox pontificating this
same ol conundrum…
And every year I tell myself, enough is enough.
I won’t get sucked in…not again.

There’s a lot of work to do for our secular side.
And it’s really a great deal of busy, and even expensive, sort of work.
And oh how we stress over it all.

We fret over the tiniest of details.
We strive for perfection while always falling short as we are then made to feel as if
we did not live up to the expectation our culture has put upon us.

But let’s be honest, we really put it on ourselves do we not?
If put another way, we actually “allow” it to make us feel as if we have not lived
up to the perfection….
However, me thinks there is something more going on here, more than meets the eye…

It’s actually something which many would consider near criminal…
A crime that is actually taking place in plain sight—
yet none of us appears to be any the wiser.

It is the stealing of the Sacred by the secular.

Yep, you read correctly.

The secular is, or certainly is trying, to steal the Sacred.

Yet here’s the thing…we are allowing it to happen.
We are complicit.
We are falling hook, line, and sinker— while all throughout this theft, we’re being dupped.

It is in our defense, that I state for the record, that we are being hoodwinked.
We are being lulled into this crime of complicity by the shiny lights and sounds
of the slick merchandising of the season that now ramps up sometime after July 4th.

So this year, my one small “rebellion” against complicity…

I opted not to send out Christmas cards.

At first, it was going to be the lights.
Then it was the tree, the gifts, the cooking, the decorating….see what I’m saying??
we’re living on an out of control fast rolling snowball turned avalanche.

Every year, early in the Fall, I’d seek out my Christmas Cards.
I did not take the task lightly.

When our son was little, ours was the basic card of a small family wishing
A Merry Christmas to all.
It was always a photo type card of our little boy with a Christmas Greeting from
all three of us.

Yet as time passed and he grew to be a young man versus that of a little boy, I shifted our
card focus from the greeting of a family through the image of their child to now
a card of only the Sacred.

A religious card that proclaimed the birth of a Savior.

It was not to be one of those types of cards with pictures of the whole family at the beach,
or on some exotic trip or some sort of montage of family feats and accomplishments…
nor was it to be one of those letter types of card that is a laundry a list of who, what
and where of the great and grand.

I understand that the simple sacrificial Christmas card morphed into becoming a surrogate
form of communication…
It became the equivalent of filling in the gaps of a year without having touched base
with the list of names on a list.

The Christmas card turned into the catch-up of life, liberally spiked with a heavy dose
of grandstanding.

It became the litany of a brag sheet of trips, events, accomplishments, and milestones…
Nothing about Christmas…that being Christ’s mass.

Nothing about Christ even being hidden in the details of that spectacular vacation to Machu Pichu
or your eldest now graduating top of her class.

Where is Jesus in the tales of where you went, who you saw, or what you accomplished?
Are there any thoughts or reflections regarding your service to Him or his sheep?

I don’t mind the images of the little children or even those of grandchildren as children
seem to be the connecting glue between the Sacred and the secular…
it is the children…or so that is what it should be.
The Sacred is that of a child and the secular is that of collective children.
Or so it was to be…
Innocence and the mystical mixed with the gift of Sacred birth.

So I figured…I’d send out my card here instead.
Just one big card for friends, family, and even strangers…

And since I would have sent them out by now, I figured I should do so here today.

So I offer you this lovely Italian baroque time period painting of the Nativity–also known
as the Adoration with Saints Francis and Lawrence…
a beautiful image for reflection and proclamation.

Yet it is a painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio—commissioned in 1609 as an altarpiece
for an oratory in Palermo, Sicily, the Oratorio di San Lorenzo…
A painting with a mysterious past, painted by a rogue of a painter…

It would be centuries following its completion that the painting would be
quietly taken by two men working for the Mafia and in turn
it would be “lost” for nearly 40 years.

A painting of the Sacred, painted by one who was anything but…
A painting that was stolen by those who were perhaps even worse than the artist…

Thus we have an example of the secular literally stealing an image of the Sacred….hummmm

(here’s a little link to the backstory behind the painting and artitst…I’ve written
about Caravaggio before…a very secular rogue of an artist who could paint oh so powerfully
the of the Sacred in a way unmatched by many other artists…one of my favs…
http://art-crime.blogspot.com/2009/12/breaking-news-on-stolen-caravaggio.html )

May we all be blessed as we recall the Sacred birth of Salvation…


The Adoration / Nativity with St. Francis and St Lawrence / Caravaggio 1609)