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

Back to prayer…

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing,
to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me.
It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised.
It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door,
and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness,
when all around and above is trouble.”

Andrew Murray


(side chapel in Saint Sulpice / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

Now that it’s Monday, it’s time we get back to work as we figure out
our specific prayer that this little blog family of ours shall need to concentrate on.
Prayers for our ailing world.

We’ve had some great thoughts…such as the latest from
our dear friend Salvageable who offered this suggestion for our collective prayer…

Last night some thoughts came to may as I was lying in bed.
Not to hijack your project,
but just to make a modest suggestion, building on Kathy’s thought of using the
Lord’s Prayer/Our Father/Jesus’ Sample prayer to guide our praying.
On a certain time every Sunday we could all pray that God and his name would be
honored and respected in our lives,
in our nation, and especially in our churches (which are His Church).

On Monday we could all pray that his kingdom would come–
that the missionaries of the Church would faithfully bring his message to all the world,
and that we also would faithfully share his forgiveness with those near us.

On Tuesday, that his will be done by the leaders of our country,
by the leaders of his Church, and by each of us,
and that he would reveal his will to us as much as is good for us to know.

On Wednesday, that we would receive daily bread–and not just our small group,
but the poor and homeless among us, the victims of abuse and neglect and addictions,
the children born or unborn who are not wanted and loved–that they would
be granted what they need to live and to have better lives, whether that be bread,
advocacy, or strength to persevere.

On Thursday, that we be forgiven our sins, both known and unknown to us.
Also that we be channels of forgiveness to others,
even to our enemies with whom we disagree.

On Friday, that we, along with the leaders of our nation and those of his Church,
be led on proper paths pleasing to the Lord and kept safe from temptation.

And on Saturday, that we, our nation, and his Church be protected from every kind of evil.
Just a thought. J.

Now I do love this idea but I worry that some of us (me) could get confused as to what day it is
and what prayer we are to be focusing on for that particular day…

Then Marie offered this thought filled observation:

I have one more observation. We have outlined the basic object of our prayers.
How we ask it differs from one individual to another.
And I am always reminded that there are times when we don’t know what or how to pray
and that’s when the Holy Spirit takes over.
Romans8:26-27 tells us He intercedes for us through wordless groans and that it is
always according to the will of God.
Our hearts are an open book to our Lord.
What a blessing. We must not forget His sovereign will.
Yes, let’s pray as one body asking with all boldness before the throne of grace.
He knows our hearts so if we ask with different words He knows our intentions.
I threw out the 6:00 time only to emphasize that we need the time also.
As said, with all of the time differences here in the US as well as across the pond,
that might be a difficult task.
Would daily be a better option?
I intend to wear something as a reminder that I must not forget this great time of prayer.

I like Marie’s thought about wearing something as a reminder…because once again we (me) might forget
both day and time.

And so one thing I was thinking about—

If we just add it in, say to our already very full prayer plates during our regular
daily “Quiet” prayer time…
it might end up as a bit of a PS…an, ‘oh by the way God’…

I feel very strongly that this should be some sort of “Joan of Arc”, jaw set, sword raised high
sort of prayer…
Meaning a strong and Godly warrior sort of prayer—because things are indeed really that bad.

And yes, as IB reminded us, things have been bad from the get go…from our Fall from
Grace…from the Fall from our God, our Father…

I feel very compelled that the faithful must be focused more than ever
as we continue to stand our Holy ground.

This is because I feel very strongly that what we are currently seeing and witnessing is all
very much a result of Spiritual Warfare—meaning Satan is working fast and furious.
And so what we know when there is a rise in Darkness and a raging Spiritual battle that
is swirling all around us, Satan is feeling the squeeze.
He’s gone into overdrive…because his time of rule on this earth is drawing nigh.

Satan loves a ‘divide and conquer mentality’—separate the troops from one another,
then swoop in for the strike.

So it must be a firm and unified prayer.

And so yesterday as we were driving home from a late breakfast, the words
“The wages of sin is death” just popped into my head…out of nowhere.

So when we got home, I looked up the verse as well as the chapter….
Romans 6:1-23…
and so what was it in that chapter that was speaking to me?

Chapter 6 opens with the words…
“What shall we say then?”
Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”

The answer, of course, is a resounding NO!
Because we know that in sinning, grace cannot increase…as in it actually decreases.

We are told not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies.
We are told that we are baptized in Christ, we are buried with Him, and…
we have risen with Him–as our old self is now crucified, dead and buried.
A new self has risen…one that has been cleansed and made whole.

We are now, in turn, instruments of righteousness.
Sin is no longer our master…for we are not under the law but under that of Grace.

“What then?” we are asked as the chapter continues.

We have been set free from sin and from our old selves…only to become ‘slaves to righteousness’.

Slaves to righteousness??!!

Odd thinking to most reading such—how is it that one can be set free only to become a slave?

We know that to be a slave means to be under the ownership of, under the authority of–
literally yoked, bound or tethered to something or someone.

So from this, we know that we are no longer to be a part of the sinfulness we once knew
nor are we to be a part of the sinfulness that we are currently witnessing each and every
day in this culture of ous—
because we are now products of Righteousness as well as Grace.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations.
Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness,
so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.
20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.
21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?
Those things result in death!
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God,
the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So I find myself coming back around to the notion of a prayer that stands against Darkness…
A prayer that proclaims Light.
A prayer in which we, the Believers, proclaim our humility—proclaiming our role as the instruments of
God’s Grace, Peace as well as the reflections of His light—
A prayer in which we denounce Satan’s darkness cast over humankind…
standing in our place of Light–as Christian warriors…

Maybe it’s the memory of singing the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers as a child in children’s chapel.
The imagery of what a Christian Soldier would look like in the mind of a 7-year-old girl.

That having been a Joan of Arc or a Martin of Tours.

Defiant and focused soldiers.

Brave and unwavering in the face of Evil.

However that image today, in my more developed and “healed” mind and heart,
is a much different image…

It is the image of a Maximilian Kolbe—

The Catholic priest who died in Auschwitz in the place of a fellow prisoner who was not
a Christian but rather a Jew.

It is a seemingly meek and emaciated prisoner in Auschwitz who is now the image that comes to
my mind when I think of Christian Warriors…

Quiet, humble, focused, compassionate, sustained by a love of God and determined to live out The Fatih
unto death…

https://history.info/on-this-day/1941-nazis-execute-maximilian-kolbe-via-lethal-injection/

And so now we need to think of a time…

freedom or security or maybe both

“Anyone who can appease a man’s conscience can take his freedom away from him.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor

That unmistakable musty smell of old books and papers is still lingering in my nose
despite the needed shower in order to purge my skin of the accumulated dust and debris
from a previous life now clinging to my now older self.
The allergies are revving up as I sneeze, I mean type.

We’ve spent the last three days in our attic emptying it of its hoard of boxes and stuff…
most of which has been sitting in the same spot where it was deposited some 20 years ago
when we packed everything up from our first house before departing and moving
to where we are now.

Being the parent to an only child is both blessing and curse.
The curse is found in the saving of each and every little shred of his existence.
What that only child wore, played with, made or accomplished in school.

Treasures of the heart, but way too much stuff.

Throw in the boxes that have cradled mom’s china-head dolls, her tea set from childhood,
three generations of toys and stuffed animals, photographs upon photos,
outdated electronic this and that…add in those boxes of the well-read and dearly loved
books both from those who have called this house home as well as those who have not—

And so we have had a real mess!

I did, however, manage to rescue a few books left over from college.

You see that book sitting on top of my lap?…that Dostoevsky book?
And yes it does smell.

It is a paperback book of the Notes from the Underground and The Grand Inquisitor?
Well, you should know that that single little musty dog-eared book got me in a bad spot
during my sophomore year in college.

I’ve mentioned this tale before but I think given our current day and time, a revisit
just might be warranted.

But first a bit of background regarding the tale of the book…

According to Britanica.com

Dostoevsky’s novel The Brother’s Karamazov is most famous for three chapters that
may be ranked among the greatest pages of Western literature.

Brothers Dmitry, Ivan, Alyosha and the illegitimate Smerdyakov.
Within the story, there is another story…a poem written by Ivan…
that being The Grand Inquisitor.

In “Rebellion,” Ivan indicts God the Father for creating a world in which children suffer.
Ivan has also written a “poem,” “The Grand Inquisitor,” which represents his response to
God the Son.
It tells the story of Christ’s brief return to earth during the Spanish Inquisition.
Recognizing him, the Inquisitor arrests him as “the worst of heretics” because,
the Inquisitor explains, the church has rejected Christ.
For Christ came to make people free, but, the Inquisitor insists,
people do not want to be free, no matter what they say.
They want security and certainty rather than free choice, which leads them to error and guilt.
And so, to ensure happiness, the church has created a society based on “miracle, mystery,
and authority.”
The Inquisitor is evidently meant to stand not only for medieval Roman Catholicism but
also for contemporary socialism.
“Rebellion” and “The Grand Inquisitor” contain what many have considered
the strongest arguments ever formulated against God, which Dostoyevsky includes so that,
in refuting them, he can truly defend Christianity.
It is one of the greatest paradoxes of Dostoyevsky’s work that his deeply Christian
novel more than gives the Devil his due.

Here is another look behind this troublemaker of mine…
a quick tutorial thanks to Sparknotes.

I didn’t have Sparknotes back in my day.

If I had, then maybe I would have tempered my more impulsive and defiant self
by having perused the gist of the story before meeting it cold turkey and in turn, going
rogue on a most liberal atheistic professor who pretty much thought he “got me” and my head on a platter.

The story is based on the notion that Christ has come back to earth.
He came to Seville, Spain where he performed miracles and was embraced by the people.
But the head of the Spanish Inquisition comes to town and has Christ immediately arrested.
The story then proceeds with the Inquisitor leading the majority of dialogue of the tale.

The Grand Inquisitor tells Christ that he cannot allow him to do his work on Earth,
because his work is at odds with the work of the Church.
The Inquisitor reminds Christ of the time, recorded in the Bible,
when the Devil presented him with three temptations, each of which he rejected.
The Grand Inquisitor says that by rejecting these three temptations,
he guaranteed that human beings would have free will.
Free will, he says, is a devastating, impossible burden for mankind.
Christ gave humanity the freedom to choose whether or not to follow him,
but almost no one is strong enough to be faithful, and those who are not will be damned forever.
The Grand Inquisitor says that Christ should have given people no choice,
and instead taken power and given people security instead of freedom.
That way, the same people who were too weak to follow Christ, to begin with,
would still be damned, but at least they could have happiness and security on Earth,
rather than the impossible burden of moral freedom.
The Grand Inquisitor says that the Church has now undertaken to correct Christ’s mistake.
The Church is taking away freedom of choice and replacing it with security.
Thus, the Grand Inquisitor must keep Christ in prison,
because if Christ were allowed to go free,
he might undermine the Church’s work to lift the burden of free will from mankind.

The Grand Inquisitor tells Christ that it was Satan, and not Christ, who was in the right during this exchange.
He says that ever since the Church took over the Roman Empire,
it has been secretly performing the work of Satan, not because it is evil,
but because it seeks the best and most secure order for mankind.

Our professor was young, probably 30 if that, teaching a room filled full of late teens and early
20 somethings.
He came to class barefoot.

This was the height of the preppy fashion trend…of which I embraced.
A barefoot instructor was a throwback to about 10 years prior add
my being a conservative Reaganite and I did not have a settled
sense of anything good.

He sat cross-legged, Indian style, on the classroom’s generic desk.
Some day’s he’d take us outside to sit in the grass.

He’d wax and wane over the advanced literature we were to read and discuss.

He rarely gave grades but when he did, what I received were A’s and B’s.
Of which was pretty good for me and I was most pleased.
We were reading challenging tales…some of which captivated me.
If it hadn’t been such…I would have lost interest quickly and then struggled.

He announced on day 1 that he was raised Catholic but was now an ardent Atheist.

“Great”— I felt my eyes roll within my head.

I was a 20-year-old who, despite living that hard balance of lose and large in college,
I was also a conservative and an ardent Christian,
.
For when it came to push or shove, I knew what was my Truth.

When it came to the end of the quarter, we read Dostoyevsky’s book.

Our illustrious professor took on the role of Inquisitor, of course, in the open class discussion
as I embraced that of Christ.

For each dig he offered to the class, I spoke up a counter thought.
For I took on the role of defense attorney for a man who truly needed no defending
but I wasn’t about to let this flippant professor spew falsehoods to a captured
audience.

The final exam was based on the story.
I wrote feverishly for the allotted 3 hours examination time.
I turned in the infamous blue book, walked out, got in my car, and in turn drove home
for the summer.

When the grades were mailed out, as they were back then since these were the days before computers,
my report noted that I had received a D in my Lit class.

WHAT!!!!!!????

I immediately called the University and eventually made my way to the English Department where I was told
that my professor had resigned his post and left to teach in Arizona…taking all of his records with
him.

That was that.

No recourse.
No petition.
No action news interviews.
No legal action as we see so often today.
No “one call, that’s all.”

My GPA dropped and I was crestfallen because it wasn’t that great, to begin with.
My mother knew I had been cheated and therefore did not say a word about the “D”
And I had been cheated for one reason and one reason only, my faith.

I know now that this was to be the beginning of what we currently see today—
that being a staggering indoctrination and persecution of the Christian faith
on college campuses.

And that single frustrating event came flooding back today when I opened that musty old box
full of books.

And so I flipped through the book.
There was underlining and pen scrawled notes in the section dedicated to Notes From the Underground…
“Pope [Alexander] says that if you want to see how to run a society, look at an anthill”
Hummmmm…

As I went back and looked over the premise of the story, I was struck by what the Inquisitor tells
Christ….that the Chruch is seeking “the best and most secure order for mankind”
and I find that exceedingly telling.

Just look at the Episcopal Chruch and the Chruch of England—both desperately trying to appease
man while turning a blind eye to God’s word.
Other denominations now follow suit.

“Satan was right,” the Inquisitor tells Christ—who only politely listens while remaining silent.

With our having been given free will…of which the Inquisitor sees as an inherently impossible burden
for mankind, he ignorantly believes that it is his sole responsibility to thwart what God, and in turn Christ,
afforded man. He does so in the name of the Chruch.
The Bride fighting the Bridegroom for dominance.

Hummmmm…

We see that it is the Inquisitor who knows what is best for humankind, not so much God nor His Son.

Historians agree that Dostoevsky is noted for having a canny understanding of the psychology of man.
In part because of his life and upbringing.
He is also oddly prophetic regarding the future of Russia and her undoing Revolution–
a theme that runs throughout much of his work as he often foretells of a great fall and of man’s ultimate
demise as there is always the struggle between free will and what is perceived as security…
as in what does man really want for his life and living?

I for one find Dostoevsky works most telling for our own day and time.
So much so that I need to reread this “poem”
Because it seems we are currently living the life of the Inquisitor as we prefer a sense of security,
a guarantee of living life in the 21st century rather than that of choice.
The choice of eternal life or eternal death.

In the end, Christ rises to kiss the Inquisitor as He takes His leave.

May He not take His leave of us.

If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not,
let your peace return to you.
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words,
leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.
Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment
than for that town.

Matthew 10:13-15

May love and joy come to you…

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wandering, so fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you, and to you our wassail, too.
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year

1st stanza to a traditional English carol

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Even though the Disciples suffered persecution, they were filled with joy.
One would have expected them to be depressed or angry or resentful.
The very fact that they responded to persecution with joy is a sign that
the Spirit was guiding their actions.
We can use that same test with our own words and actions.”

Rev. Jude Winkler, O.F.M., p. 11
An Excerpt From
Daily Meditations Holy Spirit

Love and joy…
two sentiments found in an old English carol which are, if the truth be told,
actually so much more than mere holiday fodder sung during just a particular time of year
but rather they are two paramount fruits of the Spirit.

We sing about them.
We think about them.
We might even find ourselves with wistful thoughts yearning over
along with hoping over…
Yet sadly I fear that we have become so jaded as a culture that we have
allowed the caustic wave that is blanketing our society to corrode our yearnings
leaving us more than simply longing but rather coming up woefully short.

Love and Joy, for and with our fellow man, woman, and child, are not only difficult
to find but are more and more difficult for us to actually feel.

It’s certainly easy enough to say all of this after turning on a television and
catching any news program, talk show, or late night comedy show…
as they are rife with everything that has nothing to do
with Love or Joy or any gift having anything to do with the Spirit…
but I say this more from a little incident Sunday morning that left me
scratching my head while questioning the notion of both Love and Joy.

Yesterday was the third Sunday of Advent.
It is known as Gaudete Sunday or Gaudete Domino Semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”).

The word ‘rejoice’ is found in the Latin lyrics of the traditional and ancient Advent Hymn–
Veni Veni Emmanuel

Veni, veni Emmanuel!
Captivum solve Israel!
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio,
Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
nascetur pro te, Israel.

O COME, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!

We are to rejoice with a spirit of Love and Joy…
over the Spirit of Love and Joy

My little tale began this weekend.

We had spent the night Saturday evening babysitting the Mayor as her dad had taken her mom
to see the Nutcracker—both of them will be celebrating their 30th birthdays this week
so our son surprised our daughter-n-law with tickets to the play at the historic
Atlanta Fox Theater.

And because we wouldn’t be able to celebrate with them during the week due to
work schedules, we thought we could go enjoy a late Sunday morning brunch
for a little low key family celebration before we were to head back home.

We opted to go to a lovely little French restaurant that we have loved and enjoyed
throughout the years which happens to be located in what was once a quaint
old neighborhood home.

These particular neighborhood homes, in this particular area of town,
came into existence beginning in the early 1920s and were lived in
until about late 1960’s—right when the city was hitting a stride of a boom,
turning the entire area into the trendy shopping and dining mecca it’s known for today
that being Buckhead.

In fact, the high school my parents attended is just around the corner…which is now
some sort of new learning center.
Many of the homes in this neighborhood were once the homes of their friends yet have
since been turned into haute couture boutiques or trendy restaurants.

The street where this restaurant is located is as it was decades ago…
shaded by old oaks with cars parked on either side of
the street making it a tight squeeze when two cars meet that are driving either
up and down the street simultaneously, narrowly missing one another let alone those
parked along the curb.

Our reservations were for 11:30.

We arrived about 10 minutes early and the valet fellow
was setting out his sign but there was a large truck delivering fresh fruit currently
blocking the driveway.
I had my blinker on to turn as we were waiting for the delivery guy to move his truck.

At this point, my daughter-n-law hopped out of the front seat to help me maneuver my car
into the driveway between the truck and a parked car as the valet told us to try and
squeeze in if we could.
She was going to check the distance between the car parked on the curb right by the
driveway and the truck.

Thankfully the delivery guy came out at this crucial moment to get in his truck and move.
Leaving us without having to hold our breath squeezing in between unmovable objects.

However, it was also at the same moment that suddenly a jeep drove up right up behind me
and proceeded to blow their horn.

My daughter-n-law motioned to the jeep to please wait for just a minute.
Because obvioulsy they could see that we were waiting on a delivery truck
to pull out of the driveway we were waiting to turn into.

However, the horn blowing proceeded.

My husband and son, sitting in the back seat with the baby, both reached for the door
so fast, practically falling out of the car over one another, to see what was up with
the jeep.

At this point, my daughter-n-law tells the lady in the jeep that we’re just about
to pull in if she could just hold on a minute, we’d be out of her way,
since obviously, we were having to wait on the delivery truck to move.

The lady in the jeep tells my daughter-n-law that we are being rude sitting in the
road and that she needed to hurry to take her daughter to her riding lessons.

Late for a horse riding lesson in the middle of the urban city??…hummm

She obviously wanted me out of her way come hell or high water or both.

We had only been waiting maybe 3 minutes max when she had pulled up
and we were just about to turn in.

And so with the continued honking horn and the selfish escalating words from the
lady in the jeep fussing about me not moving out of her way,
my oh so pregnant and out of patience daughter-n-law had had her fill…
she proceeded to tell this woman that she could kindly wait just one minute or take those
riding lessons and shove them into a dark, tight and painful place.

At this point the truck moved, the valet motioned me in while the jeep zoomed
past me, narrowly missing my car’s back end.

The valet guy, who had felt helpless, was beside himself telling us that that lady in
the jeep was “a rude looser” and that “this is the season for love and joy”,
as well as a time for little bit of patience. Where was her giving spirit??!!

Did I mention it was a chilly, grey, misty, foggy yucky kind of day…
of which cast a somber veil over the day?
Did I mention that this is a section of town known for being a bit upper crust?
Something my aunt use to laugh over whenever she came back to Atlanta
to visit as she remembered this neighborhood when…

All of us adults in the car, with the Mayor oblivious, were now frazzled with raw nerves.
The Mayor was just ready to be set free from the restraints of a car seat…
restraint is not something the Mayor is fond of as of late.

Grousing as we made our way inside, I had to remind everyone, myself included,
not to let this ruin our day or our time together.

But those sorts of occurrences tend to linger in one’s craw.

Especially when considering yourself to be a mild-mannered, patient
law-abiding citizen of the world whose thought process is live and let live.

I was glad my husband and son could not maneuver seatbelts and a car door both fast
enough to get out of the car, having to leave the dirty work to a pregnant lady who
teaches jr high school right here before a major holiday and was well past putting
up with anyone’s selfish nonsense.

And so now I am pulled back to the notion of Love and Joy.

As in where is the Love and Joy?
Where is the patience, the kindness, the peace?
The fruits?

Finally seated at the table, with the Mayor now opting to go wild,
my husband reminded us that 99% of folks are nice and kind and of whom want to
do the right thing…but it’s always that one person out there who can simply ruin
it all in one fell swoop and think nothing of it.
Leaving us to forget all the good while the bad glaringly taunts our thoughts
and emotions.

And so I was quickly reminded of the one who rejoices in the negative, the bad and
the wrong all found in the tiny percentage versus the good found in the
large percent. Much the opposite of the One who leaves the whole in order to seek
out the one who is lost.

From all of this, the one thing I do know is that Satan, who much like Santa
(note, Satan is real…Santa is, well, in the North Pole)
goes into to overdrive, particularly this time of year, working very hard to rob us all
of any sentiment of a Holy season while he joyously strives
to rob us of those life-giving fruits of the Spirit.

Because if we lose those Fruits we lose ourselves and in turn, a wedge is driven between us
and the very Spirit of God and in turn, Satan claims a tiny victory.

And so yes–whereas we, those of us in my car, needed to be mindful of that very
thought when confronted with a sudden difficult situation, we, as in humankind,
all need to be mindful of how we treat one another—
as holidays seem to bring out both the very best and the very worst in humanity.

So as this is the season of gift giving…
We must remember that we have each been given Spirit-filled gifts.
Life-giving gifts.
We have also been given the gift of Salvation.

Life-giving gifts which are meant to be lived and shared.

The remembrance of this particular holiday season blessedly remains as not merely a reminder
but rather as a wake-up call…
A call not so much of nostalgia or of the fact that we struggle with consumerism…
but rather the call that we are to strive to be gracious gift givers…
gracious in giving gifts that are neither bought nor wrapped…
but rather gifts that we as Believers have each been endowed with…giving
way to the best gift given to all mankind.

May we then be quick to share our Fruitful gifts while at the same time rejoicing
in the most precious gift of all…our very Salvation.

May love and joy come to you…

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High,
because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Luke 6:35

worse than the wild beasts

“We follow the ways of wolves, the habits of tigers: or, rather we are worse than they.
To them nature has assigned that they should be thus fed,
while God has honoured us with rational speech and a sense of equity.
And yet we have become worse than the wild beast.”

John Chrysostom


(door knocker, Florence, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“The Devil didn’t deal out temptations to Our Lord only.
He brings these evil schemes of his to bear on each of Jesus’ servants—
and not just on the mountain or in the wilderness or when we’re by ourselves.
No, he comes after us in the city as well, in the marketplaces, in courts of justice.
He tempts us by means of others, even our own relatives.
So what must we do? We must disbelieve him altogether, and close our ears against him,
and hate his flattery.
And when he tries to tempt us further by offering us even more,
then we should shun him all the more. . .
We aren’t as intent on gaining our own salvation as he is intent on achieving our ruin.
So we must shun him, not with words only, but also with works;
not in mind only, but also in deed.
We must do none of the things that he approves,
for in that way will we do all those things that God approves.
Yes, for the Devil also makes many promises, not so that he may give them to us,
but so that he may take away from us.
He promises plunder, so that he may deprive us of the kingdom of God and of righteousness.
He sets out treasures in the earth as snares and traps,
so that he may deprive us both of these and of the treasures in heaven.
He would have us be rich in this life, so that we may not be rich in the next.”

St. John Chrysostom, p. 152-3
An Excerpt From
Manual for Spiritual Warfare

defeating the octopus…

“To be defeated and not submit, is victory;
to be victorious and rest on one’s laurels,
is defeat.”

Józef Piłsudski

Knowing their thoughts, he said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste,
and no city or house divided against itself will stand.

Matthew 12:25


(detail from the Fontana dei Calderari, Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

Is it just me or is this how many of us are feeling these days?

All wrapped up by something menacing, trying its best to not only entangle us but to
consume us and suck us down to the depths of the sea?

Yet in actuality, this is a statue of Neptune trying to spear an entangling octopus.

However, it might as well be a statue of any one of us…an image of any average American
who is working frantically and desperately to fend off the current craziness consuming our Nation.


(Fontana dei Calderari, Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

The fountain is within the enclosed piazza, or what we Americans call a plaza,
perched in the heart of Rome.
It’s the piazza where we will find the statue of the sea god Neptune perpetually at battle
with an aggravating octopus.

There is a massive fountain in the center of this piazza by the famous artist Bernini flanked
by two lesser fountains on either end of the piazza, each by different artists.

The Neptune fountain as it is known is The Fountain of Neptune
(Italian: Fontana del Nettuno) and is located at the north end of the Piazza Navona.
It was once called “Fontana dei Calderari” because it was located close to a small
alley with blacksmith’s workshops, makers of pots and pans and of other metal-based
businesses, all of them generating heat.

(Wikipedia)

I saw this statue of Neptune and immediately felt the connection.

Entangled, enraged and working fiercely to be set free.

Free from the ills of our culture.
Free from the depths of our sins.

I think of Satan being much like the octopus…he wraps his arms and
tentacles around us, squeezing us, squeezing out our very breath while attempting
to pull us down and under.

But rather than the fictitious Neptune left to fend off this ravenous enemy,
we have Jesus who, rather than a spear, used a cross to permanently defeat this
ancient nemesis.

Being eternally defeated, this ancient foe, however, continues fighting while we are left
to wander this, his realm.

He is working fast and furious, as time is not on his side, to steal as many
of us he can with his unrelenting grasp.

He is frantically pitting us all…one against another.
Driving dividing wedges deep within the heart of our nation and deep into the hearts of us,
her people.
And sadly, each night the news seems to triumphantly share how well his efforts are
actually working.

Groups like Antifa blindly follow his call.
Anarchy being a demon’s delight.

Disrespect, defiance, lawlessness, violence, disregard, anger, hate…are key actions
each taken from an ancient playbook used as a manual for humankind’s defeat.

Yet God has sounded the warning.

The war, He reminds us, is actually long won…
Yet He also reminds us that this defeated menace will not surrender while the sun still
rises and sets over his domain..not until the very end…
not until he has done his best to snare us as his prey.

To divide, to separate and to conquer, taking who and what he can.

As choices continue to remain.

For if we turn our backs on the Lord our God and on all that He has done,
as so it seems that our nation has, there will be consequences.
This much we have been told.

Just look around at this country and this world in which we live.
Is what we see right?
Is what we see just?
Is what we see as it should be?

Or have we allowed the arms of hate and evil to reach too far while ignoring
the consuming strength of a beast that will not stop until he pulls us all under.

So pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath
Matthew 24:20

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves,
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

“O house of Israel,
can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord.
Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom,
that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation,
concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil,
I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.
And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it,
and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice,
then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.

Jeremiah 18:6-10

losing my mind…

There is no antithesis between hope for heaven and loyalty to the earth,
since this hope is also hope for the earth.
While we hope for something greater and definitive,
we Christians may and must bring hope into that which is transitory,
into the world of our states
.
Joseph Ratzinger


(detail from Sainte Chapelle / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

I mentioned the other day the irony that as we…we being anyone,
work toward pushing our way toward a Godly life, a Godly
mindset, a Godly perspective as to how we live our lives…
the harder we work toward such, Satan, in turn,
goes into overdrive trying desperately to thwart any and all efforts.

I know this.

Hence why I’m opting to just walk around with an umbrella over my head 24/7.

But more about all of that later.

One thing that I have noticed that isn’t helping…isn’t helping my mindset, my demeanor,
my outlook, is this country’s quagmire of division and hatred and the constant news
feeds… be they from a liberal progressive henny penny the sky is falling slant or from
the more conservative slant of ‘oh woe is us’ (of which I tend to be more of the ‘oh
woe is us’ camp) it is enough to be driving me absolutely nuts…
so much so that I dare turn on a television or click on news…
and Heaven’s help us, when I get the world breaking news alerts on my phone.

And so it was a bit serendipitous to stumble upon the following quote by
Joseph Ratzinger…aka Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Joseph Ratzinger, as Cardinal Ratzinger who worked under Pope John Paul II as the
Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,
was known as God’s Rotweiller.

He headed a Vatican department responsible for enforcing doctrinal orthodoxy, and was
the successor to the Inquisition.
A tough-minded man who once said that “rock music was “the expression of basic passions”
And he described homosexuality as a “more or less strong tendency ordered toward
an intrinsic moral evil”.

He did not mince the words of Biblical truths.

The former Pope, who now lives a reclusive, prayerful and scholarly life in a small
apartment on the grounds of the Vatican, is German by birth.
Hence the Rottweiler reference as well as being known as the Panzer Cardinal.

However it was as a youthful boy, Ratzinger’s heart was set on being a priest.
But Hitler and his Nazi monster reign put that dream on hold.

The family was very anti-Nazi, anti-Hitler.
The Nazi regime’s politics ran counter to the Ratzinger’s Catholic Christian faith.
So much so that the senior Ratzinger moved his family multiple times in hopes of living a life
somewhat free from the growing madness.

However time eventually ran out and as required of all young German boys during this dark time
in mankind’s history, this future Pope was mandated to serve time as a member of Hitler’s
Youth Group. Should he opt not to participate, the family would face financial penalties
and most likely worse.

During the dark, chaotic days of Nazi Germany, Ratzinger witnessed first hand the
horrors of what life was like under Hitler’s spell.
Ratzinger had a younger cousin who had Down’s Syndrome—
Such individuals were considered to be defective….imperfect and impure.
It was the likes of Josef Mengele, the physician who performed countless “experiments” of such individuals-who viewed people like Ratzinger’s cousin as living guinea pigs, had those like
Ratzinger’s cousin rounded up and taken away.

And so his cousin was indeed “taken away” from the family by the local authorities.
A short time afterward the family was given word that the boy had been killed for being one of the “undesirables”—an individual considered to be a flaw…
a weak and unpure part of the Aryan gene pool.

During his time as a Hitler Youth, Ratzinger was miserable.

In Ratzinger’s book Salt of the Earth, Ratzinger says the following “…
Thank goodness, there was a very understanding mathematics teacher.
He himself was a Nazi but an honest man, who said to me,
‘Just go once and get the document so that we have it’ …
When he saw that I simply didn’t want to, he said, ‘I understand, I’ll take care of it’,
and so I was able to stay free of it.
(Wikipedia)

Later when he was of age, Ratzinger was drafted.
Three separate times his service was terminated, only to be reinstated and serving in various capacities
but never seeing active fighting on the front.

Eventually, he made the harrowing decision to desert.

Ratzinger has often stated that Heavenly angels watched over him and his family during those
frantic final days of Nazi Germany as there were multiple times when the authorities
discovered a young man of draft age who was oddly not enlisted—
and yet, his desertion was oddly never pursued.

As soon as the war was over, Ratzinger and his brother both entered seminary.

So if there is one who understands the attacks by Satan on those who attempt to pursue a
Godly life and of the role a political ethos plays in the lives of Christians
it would be Ratzinger…as well as Karol Woytjla, aka Pope John Paul II who
lived a life of labor, pain, and suffering in a Nazi-occupied Poland…

So may the following words of wisdom offered by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
speak to all of us today…those of us who are finding ourselves living
in these very uncertain and surreal political times…

True human objectivity involves humanity, and humanity involves God.

True human reason involves morality, which lives on God’s commandments.

This morality is not a private matter; it has public significance.

Without the good of being good and of good action, there can be no good politics.

What the persecuted Church prescribed for Christians as the core of their political
ethos must also be the core of an active Christian politics:
only where good is done and is recognized as good can people live together
well in a thriving community.

Demonstrating the practical importance of the moral dimension,
the dimension of God’s commandments—publicly as well—must be the center of responsible
political action.

Joseph Ratzinger