not of this world

“We are Christians, and strangers on earth.
Let none of us be frightened; our native land is not in this world.”

St. Augustine


(etching of a Rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer / 1515 / The Biltmore House/ Julie Cook / 2020)

“Christian life is a retreat.
We are ‘not of this world’,
just as Jesus Christ is ‘not of this world’ (John 17:14).
What is the world? It is, as St. John said, the ‘lust of the flesh’,
that is, sensuality and corruption in our desires and deeds; ‘the lust of the eyes’,
curiosity, avarice, illusion, fascination, error, and folly in the affectation of learning,
and, finally, pride and ambition (1 John 2:16). To these evils of which the world is full,
and which make up its substance, a retreat must be set in opposition.
We need to make ourselves into a desert by a holy detachment.
Christian life is a battle …
We must never cease to fight.
In this battle, St. Paul teaches us to make an eternal abstinence, that is,
to cut ourselves off from the pleasures of the senses and guard our hearts from them…
it was to repair and to expiate the failings of our retreat,
of our battle against temptations, of our abstinence, that Jesus was driven into the desert.
His fast of forty days prefigured the lifelong one that we are to practice by abstaining
from evil deeds and by containing our desires within the limits laid down by the law of God.”

Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, p. 17-18
An Excerpt From
Meditations for Lent

in a manger

“Augustine drew out the meaning of the manger using an idea that at first
seems almost shocking, but on closer examination contains a profound truth.
The manger is the place where animals find their food.
But now, lying in the manger, is he who called himself the true bread come down from heaven,
the true nourishment that we need in order to be fully ourselves.
This is the food that gives us true life, eternal life.
Thus the manger becomes a reference to the table of God,
to which we are invited so as to receive the bread of God.
From the poverty of Jesus’ birth emerges the miracle in which man’s
redemption is mysteriously accomplished.”

Pope Benedict XVI, p. 68
An Excerpt From
Jesus of Nazareth Infancy


(image courtesy Maxlucado.com)

I love this offering by Pope Emeritus Benedict regarding St. Augustine’s comparison in that a manger
is the place where animals are both sheltered and fed…is, in essence, the same place where mankind
finds both his shelter and food—

That the saving Bread of Life…the body and blood of our Savior, first came to us in the
way of a humble manger on a precarious night and located in a far-flung middle eastern village.

A trough turned crib, resting in an animal’s manger.

A newborn infant becomes both the sustenance and, in turn, Savior of all mankind.
The analogy of feeding and nourishing the soul of man.

We know that birth leads to life and life requires sustenance…
yet in the end, when death does come…we know that death is but a mere formality…

For the one who was born in a humble animal’s stall brings both sustenance
as well as eternal life…

Merry Christmas…
and to our Jewish brethren, Happy Hanukkah.

It’s off the to the Mayor and Sheriff…

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

All the cool cats…

I wish that I could be like the cool kids
‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in
I wish that I could be like the cool kids
Like the cool kids

Echosmith


(a painting as seen in our vet’s exam room / Julie Cook / 2019)

This is a painting in one of our vet’s exam rooms.
Percy and I are still visiting the vets now every other day as there has been one more last-ditch
effort to close up his wound and now he dons a cone daily.

When I asked about the painting/ collage,
they told me that their office manager had picked up most of the art and photographs gracing the walls at
a hobby store.

Meaning that the painting and photographs were not exactly unique but rather products of mass
merchandizing.

And so naturally when I saw this particular image the song The Cool Kids came straight to mind…
but in this case, the word ‘kids’ was replaced with the word ‘cats’…
as in this was obviously a “cool cat” as in a song lyric as
“I wish I could be like the cool cats”

As I read today’s quotes by both St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Augustine regarding prayer…
what prayer is…what makes prayer effective, etc…
I thought of this business of unique vs mass marketing;
I thought of mainstream and what our culture considers to be ‘cool’–as in
our current pop world, what it is to be in sync with the culture gods, and that which
is not “cool.”

Prayer, Christian prayer, is not cool.

Prayer, be it said privately and individually or en masse by a gathering in public,
has been under fire now for decades.

As the scrutiny, the irritation, the perceived wrong affected by those
who pray upon those who find it repugnant, is growing by leaps and bounds.

And we should note that this is only directed at Chrisitan prayer as no one is asking
Muslims not to publically call followers to pull out a prayer rug and bow towards Mecca throughout the day.

So what is it about Christian prayer that has the masses up in a dither?

What is it that is so offensive about those who offer the Christian prayer of intercession,
thanksgiving, healing, etc…while no one is finding the same offense when hearing the minnuetes
sounding the call to those who demonstratively stop work or schooling in order to bow
toward Mecca 5 times daily?

This is a most perplexing anomaly?

And thus I like what St Therese notes as “a surge of the heart”

May our hearts continue to surge…despite the ‘culturally cool kids’ who are
saying otherwise

For God hears our prayers…be they en masse or uniquely individual…

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven,
it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

St. Therese of Lisieux

“Prayer is greatly aided by fasting and watching and every kind of bodily chastisement.
In this regard each of you must do what you can.
Thus, the weaker will not hold back the stronger, and the stronger will not press the weaker.
You owe your conscience to God.
But to no one else do you owe anything more except that you love one another.”

St. Augustine, p. 143
An Excerpt From
Augustine Day by Day

The Will, the Savior, the Salvation

The sacraments of the New Testament give salvation,
the sacraments of the Old Testament promise a savior.

St. Augustine
from The Bible and The Sacraments


(Tiger swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Finally—-and this is perhaps the most difficult aspect of what concerns the practice of
conformity to the will of God—-we should desire virtue itself and the degrees of grace only
insofar as God wishes to give them, and not desire more.

Our whole ambition should be to attain the degree of perfection that has been appointed for us,
since it has not been given to everybody to reach the same height.
It is obvious that however well we may correspond with the graces given us,
we can never equal the humility, charity and other virtues of the Blessed Virgin.
And who can even presume to imagine that he can reach the same heights as the Apostles?
Who can equal St. John the Baptist whom Christ called the greatest of the children of men?
Or St. Joseph to whom God entrusted His Son?

In this we must as in all else submit to the will of God.
He must be able to say of us, My will is in them; it rules and governs everything.

So when we hear or read that God in a short time has brought some souls to a very high degree of
perfection and shown them signal favors, enlightened their understanding and imbued their hearts
with His love, we should repress any desire to be treated likewise so as not to fall short in pure love of conformity to His Will. We should even unite ourselves still more closely to His Will by saying,
‘I praise Thee, O Lord, and bless Thee for deigning to show Thyself with so great love and
familiarity to the souls Thou has chosen …'”

Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure,
p. 75-76
An Excerpt From
Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence

Grace, Glory and ….a white pigeon?!

“If you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice,
forgive him—lest there be two bad men.”

St. Augustine


(an odd visitor / Julie Cook / 2019)

Yesterday morning, I was out picking the burgeoning blueberry bushes.
I must confess that I’ve gotten a late start doing such due to both a lack of time
and desire…
So in my absence, the birds have pecked their fair share and the latest rains
have plumped them up a bit too much…
Yet I felt obliged to get to my picking responsibilities…

Suddenly I hear my husband hollering.
What he was hollering was alluding me, but I could tell it was with a heightened sense of alarm.

I drop my berry bowl and race up the bank toward the carport.
He’s not there.
I race into the house and he’s now on the back deck scanning the yard looking for me.

“Did you see it???!!” he exclaims—
“See what?” I reply with heightened concern.

“The white bird!!”

Huh???

“The white bird by the driveway??”

“No” I dead pan.

“How could you miss it???”

“Well I heard you hollering and I thought something was wrong…I wasn’t aware there was a bird…”

But sure enough, I walk out into the carport and I see a white bird bobbing about in the grass.

It was too big to be a white dove.

I walked closer.

The bird was nonplused and was obviously accustomed to people as it paid me no never mind.

Upon further investigation, we determined the dove was a pigeon.

Firstly, pigeons don’t hang out in our neck of the country woods and secondly,
a solid white pigeon is certainly an anomaly.
The bird was not an albino.

In his own little world and not bothered by us, the bird sauntered up the driveway
over to the other side of the yard where the grass is actually greener—
he just kept bobbing up and down making his way through the grass while I went back to berry picking.

My theory was that perhaps there had been a wedding over the weekend and
someone released white birds…one of which was not a dove but a pigeon who just
kept flying.

And so as we were gifted by this odd little visitor, a white bird that brings my thoughts
immediately to that of the Holy Spirit…and given the fact that Sunday was the marking of Pentecost,
I will leave us with these thought-provoking words by Blessed Cardinal Newman…

“My God, you know infinitely better than I how little I love you.
I would not love you at all except for your grace.
It is your grace that has opened the eyes of my mind and enabled them to see your glory.
It is your grace that has touched my heart and brought upon it the influence of
what is so wonderfully beautiful and fair . . .
O my God, whatever is nearer to me than you, things of this earth,
and things more naturally pleasing to me, will be sure to interrupt the sight of you,
unless your grace interferes.
Keep my eyes, my ears, my heart from any such miserable tyranny.
Break my bonds—-raise my heart.
Keep my whole being fixed on you.
Let me never lose sight of you; and, while I gaze on you,
let my love of you grow more and more every day.”

Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman, p. 44-5

the responsibilities we have

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship,
and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

St. Basil the Great


(gull, Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Scattered about the entire earth, your mother the Church is tormented by the assaults of error.
She is also afflicted by the laziness and indifference of so many of the children she carries
around in her bosom as well as by the sight of so many of her members growing cold,
while she becomes less able to help her little ones.
Who then will give her the necessary help she cries for if not her children and other members to
whose number you belong?”
Saint Augustine, p. 90
An Excerpt From
Augustine Day by Day

The Creator

“To argue that God is “trying His best” to save all mankind,
but that the majority of men will not let Him save them,
is to insist that the will of the Creator is impotent,
and that the will of the creature is omnipotent.”

Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God


(Le Mont-Saint-Michel / Normandy, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Now, may our God be our hope.
He Who made all things is better than all things.
He Who made all beautiful things is more beautiful than all of them.
He Who made all mighty things is more mighty than all of them.
He Who made all great things is greater than all of them.
Learn to love the Creator in His creature, and the maker in what He has made.”

Saint Augustine, p. 136
An Excerpt From
Augustine Day by Day


(a view of the “chruch on the rock” at low tide / Julie Cook / 2018)