What does love look like…

“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.”

– St. Augustine


(a lone gull bears up under the cold storms of January / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Not to try to live in interior silence is equivalent to giving up the effort to lead a
truly Christian life.
The Christian life is a life of faith, lived in the invisible for what is invisible.
Anyone who is not in constant contact with the invisible world runs the risk of remaining always
on the threshold of a true Christian life…
Solitude is the stronghold of the strong.
Strength is an active virtue, and our power of keeping silence marks the level of our capacity for action.
‘Without this interior cell, we would be incapable of doing great things,
either for ourselves or for others.'”

Raoul Plus, S.J., p. 40-1
An Excerpt From
How to Pray Always

The Spirit and the Soul

“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart.
Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.”

St. Augustine


(the light coming in to a room at the old Cable home place at Cades Cove complete with rat hole/
Julie Cook / 2018)

“The strength of the soul consists in its faculties, passions and desires,
all of which are governed by the will.
Now when these faculties, passions and desires are directed by the will toward God,
and turned away from all that is not God, then the strength of the soul is kept for God,
and thus the soul is able to love God with all its strength.”

— St. John of the Cross, p. 259
An Excerpt From
Ascent of Mt. Carmel

desire of the soul

“[O Lord,] You grasp my soul, and topple my enemies with it.
And what is our soul?
A splendid weapon it may be, long, sharp, oiled,
and coruscating with the light of wisdom as it is brandished.
But what is this soul of ours worth?
What is it capable of, unless God holds it and fights with it?
Any sword, however beautifully made,
lies idle if there is no warrior to take it up…
So God does whatever He wishes with our soul.
Since it is in His hand,
it is His to use as He will.”

Saint Augustine of Hippo,
Exposition of Psalm 34

st_augustine_hippo_24
(detail of the painting Sant’Agostino by Antonello da Messina 1472, Italy)

So therefore…
if God does whatever He wishes with our soul…
whatever He pleases and whatever He desires…
then may my prayer be to you, dear Father in Heaven,
that I will always be at your disposal…
that I may be forever willing and always at the ready
to be used by and for your very will….
Just as I may forever and always remain in the palm of your hand….
Amen

a humble heart

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
Saint Augustine

“It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.”

St.Bernard

DSCN1339
(a humble snail near the Cliffs of Mohr / Country Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s hard balancing a humble spirit when one is living in the land of the free and home of the brave…
Whose fighting force boasts “the few, the proud, the marines”…
We are accustomed to being a world power, a superpower, a leader among nations…
When others run away, we rush in….
We are stivers, fighters, winners.
If we’re ever knocked down, we get back up.
We love those come from behind stories of triumph.
We are like the cream, always rising to the top.
We prefer being accomplished, polished, knowledgeable as well as rough, tough and scrappy…

That’s just how we are and we like it that way.

Yet at times we forget that we are not the be all to end all.
We forget that we have come to and by this rather lofty position of ours by hard work, toil, suffering, bruising and bleeding by digging our way out from under plight, oppression, depression, aggression…doing battle——battles we have considered as necessary, right and just within our purist of freedom for all.

We speak of unalienable (or inalienable depending on what you’re reading) rights given to us by the Creator–meaning that such “rights” cannot be taken away as they have been pre and hard wired within our being as human beings, granted to us at time of “creation” by the Creator. A Creator we now no longer have much time to listen to let alone give any sort or credit or credence to…

Some of us see that from time to time it can be hard to remain humble of heart and spirit when we’re accustomed to being large and in charge. Sometimes arrogance slips in along with haughtiness.
As we grow proud over and by our accomplishments and endeavors, we tend to gloat and boast more than we should. We pride ourselves in our self-efficiency, our knowledge and in our very “freedoms.”

Yet I fear we lose sight of our humble beginnings.
We begin to take things both tangible and intrinsic for granted.
We puff up our chests while resting on the laurels of our predecessors–forgetting that it could all be taken away tomorrow, or today…leaving us where we started, with little to nothing to call our own.

We assume perhaps more than we should.
Many of us have forgotten what it is to “go without”
We place our actors, sports figures, entertainers, politicians, successful entrepreneurs, slick talking religious leaders and leading officials in the limelight and up on pedestals, touting them as heroes–forgetting what a hero actually is and that these individuals are merely fallible human beings as we seem to sickly marvel and oddly enjoy watching them fall. Funny how that is with human beings.

Yet we continue to yearn and covet what it would be to “be like them” for we too want to be in the limelight and one of the “beautiful people” as we want the glitz, the glitter, the money the success—as we rationalize that we would handle all of the “pressure” of being famous far better, not allowing it to go to our heads while giving “x amount” to charity…

How many of us rationalize that if God would just let us when the lottery, we’d be so good with the winnings by giving a designated share to charity, we’d remain just a plain and simple are we are…yet deep down, we feel as if it would be the money, the abundance of which, which would make our lives so much easier and better…and perhaps for a while it would as we would set off in the pursuit of paying off only to obtain and to have…new cars, new homes, new vacations, new clothes…

We must be mindful that there are those around this planet of ours who don’t rationalize about winning a lottery…rather they dream of escaping their lot in life and fleeing to America because that is the land of freedom and of choice and of abundance and of safety…

It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose…

DSCN0224
(seagull rest on the head of a statue / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

And yet it is those voices of ancient wisdom and those voices of the past— those who were able to see through the haze of brilliance, pride and self efficacy–who understand that it is the humble heart which is the true attainable goal.

Being able to yield to the one who is always Greater–as we are the ones who are finite and it is He who is the infinite.

I fear we have lost sight of our own humility of being as we have forgotten that it was the king of Kings whose birth was predestined to take place in a lowly stable, of lowly parents in a small and lowly village of insignificance. . .seems this humility business is not an underlying theme by random chance.

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 28-29

Often all it takes in order to knock one down a notch or two is for a bird to rest over or simply fly over ones head, doing what birds do– reminding one of one’s place in life…as the birds neither discern or discriminate as to whom is better than another–

DSCN1911
(a seagull surveys the city of Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

No more sorrow or trials

DSCN0089
(photograph: Julie Cook 2013)

“When I am completely united to You, there will be no more sorrow or trials; entirely full of You, my life will be complete.”

St. Augustine

When I saw this small feather, a mockingbird’s feather, laying in a barren field, it proved a stalk contrast to it’s surroundings. The ground had been plowed up, appearing only dry and dusty–all but a few blades or grass and weeds remained– indicating that, at some point, “life” had existed in this place, but not any longer….and then there was the feather. Seemingly forgotten, abandoned–an aspect of life on a landscape oddly barren of such.

This contrast reminded me of our very lives–the difficulties,the sorrows, the trials, the often dry barren places we find ourselves, and then I was reminded of this quote by St. Augustine. When we are untied to the God of Creation, to His son who vanquished all death and despair, then and only then will our lives be made complete—our barren landscape will reflect the radiant light of Glory and Grace. And we will be made whole!