believe in order to understand

“I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe,
but rather, I believe in order that I may understand.”

St. Anselm of Canterbury


(Stained glass of Saint Anselm in Chester Cathedral cloister | photo by Mum’s taxi)

“I was striving unto God but
collided with myself. I was seeking rest in my inner recesses but
found tribulation and grief in my inmost being.”

Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion

“Lord, give me what you have made me want;
I praise and thank you for the desire that you have inspired;
perfect what you have begun, and grant me what you have made me long for.”

Anselm of Canterbury

your heart…house of traffic or house of God

Our technological society has no longer any place in it for wisdom
that seeks truth for its own sake, that seeks the fullness of being,
that seeks to rest in an intuition of the very ground of all being.
Without wisdom, the apparent opposition of action and contemplation,
of work and rest, of involvement and detachment,
can never be resolved.

Thomas Merton


(Spaghetti junction / Atlanta / Julie Cook / 2021)

Your heart.

Not the physical beating muscle within your chest that pumps life
sustaining blood racing throughout your body…
but rather I speak of the heart, the place where both your soul and
inner “being” each reside…

Is that heart, that place within your soul,
is that personal and private inner space a place of madness and confusion…
a place of never ending infuriating traffic?

Meaning… is your heart reeling, congested, frustrated, overwhelmed
and rife with rage?

or in contrast…is it…

a house of and for the omnipotent God…
that hallowed dwelling place of the Holy of Holies?
Is that very sacred place and space, is it a place where
the Great I Am can reside?
A place of interior silence, severe reverence and a place of
deafening peace?

I wonder.

And thus I must ask…are we, meaning both you and me…
are we oddly and surreally more content with the confusion, noise, madness
and chaos…the frenetic swill of uncertainty…
Are we actually afraid of finding that long awaited
overwhelming silence…are we afraid to find that astounding reverence
and that most deafening Peace?

Should we not actually be willing, or rather pleading, to quiet the rage within,
detach from this world and recollect our true home?

“Man will not consent to drive away the money-changers from
the temple of his soul until he realizes that it is a Holy of Holies—-
not a house of traffic, but in very truth the house of God.
We thus reach two striking conclusions:
There cannot be entire dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s guidance,
which is the true meaning of living in Christ, without complete self-renunciation.
There cannot be complete self-renunciation without the constant
underlying spirit of faith, without the habit of interior silence,
a silence where God is dwelling.
Many do not see the connection between thoughts about the King
and the service of the King; between the interior silence…
and the continual detachment…
If we look closer, it will be seen that there is a strong, close,
unbreakable link between the two.
Find a recollected person, and he will be detached;
seek one who is detached, and he will be recollected.
To have found one is to have discovered the other…
Anyone who tries, on a given day, to practice either recollection
or detachment cannot ignore the fact that he is doing a double stroke of work.”

Raoul Plus, S.J., p. 39-40

Warriors and gaurdians

So I walk up on high and I step to the edge
To see my world below
And I laugh at myself while the tears roll down
‘Cause it’s the world I know, it’s the world I know

Lyrics Collective Soul


(St Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough / Co. Wicklow, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

Some years are harder than others.
Some months are harder than others.
Some weeks are harder than others.
Some days are harder than others.
Some nights are harder than others
Some hours are harder than others.

We often feel as if we are traversing life alone.

Within as well as outward, we hear and see a myriad of attacks
hurled in our direction…

Voices whispering…
naysaying, lying, undermining…

We dip, dodge and stumble as we attempt to miss being blindsided.

These attacks come from the external world yet even more precariously
and dare we day dangerously,
these attacks come from our own individual internal worlds.

And so we spend our days tiptoeing through a minefield,
fearful that the next step might just be the last.

As that is exactly what our ancient nemesis would have us believe.

The lies, the emptiness, the loneliness, the deception…

Until a guardian, a warrior arrives by our side…

“Christians long ago concluded that each individual human being
has his or her own particular guardian angel.
Though the Church has never defined the teaching about
individual guardian angels, the Catechism of the Catholic Church
sums up the matter this way,
quoting St. Basil:
‘From infancy to death human life is surrounded by [the angels’]
watchful care and intercession.
Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd
leading him to life’.
In this light, we can turn to our guardian angels for help in spiritual warfare,
especially to resist the temptations of the Enemy.
Yet angels are more than guardians; they are also warriors.”

Paul Thigpen, p. 30
An Excerpt From
Manual for Spiritual Warfare, p30

the day after…

You desire that which exceeds my humble powers,
but I trust in the compassion and mercy of the All-powerful God.

Saint Stephen

“If you know what witness means, you understand why God brings St. Stephen,
St. John, and the Holy Innocents to the crib in the cave as soon as Christ
is born liturgically. To be a witness is to be a martyr.
Holy Mother Church wishes us to realize that we were born in baptism
to become Christ — He who was the world’s outstanding Martyr.”

Love Does Such Things, by Rev. M. Raymond, O.C.S.O.


(the recycle bin / Julie Cook / 2021)

The paper is torn and discarded.
the ribbons are cut and forgotten…
while the bows are simply tossed aside.

The table is a cluttered mess.
Dishes, bowls, plates, glasses all sit scattered in a skewed
disarrayed jumble.

Empty boxes long to be filled while other empty boxes are
forlornly broken down.

The moving of seasons…the in between of what was and what must be…

Is there a glow in the aftermath of what was?
Or does there remain a sense of longing?

The secular world clashes with the world of Christian heritage.

The calendar tells us that today is Boxing day…
the newspapers tell us it is the day for after Christmas sales.
Yet the Church calendar tells us that today is the
feast day of St.Stephen.

Previous posts have been written about both–

And yet we cannot ignore the fact that we are reminded that there
remains a history…
a history that is both ancient as well as more recent.

A clash of time and space…
between the then and now.

And whereas most of us have lived these past four weeks though
the season of Advent–a four week anticipation of light while we
transition from what will be to that of the miraculous…
we must remember that our world does not stop on December 25th.

St Stephen reminds us of this.
The first recorded Christian martyr.

Oddly or purposely we are reminded that sacrifice must follow
the joy of birth.
Or are the two not already intertwined?

It seems as if we are dogged by the specter of death.
Unfair as that may seem.

Here we are basking in the joy of the innocence of birth yet we are
reminded that sacrifice must follows directly behind that joy.

Yet if there was or is anyone who had to understand the notion of sacrifice,
it would be Mary.
A woman who’s heart would be pierced.

And so as we begin the transition between then and now..the old and the new..,
may we be reminded that we are afforded but a brief time in which to bask
in our joy…for tomorrow will always remind us, time is of the essence,

There were thus two things which the Savior did for us by becoming Man.
He banished death from us and made us anew; and,
invisible and imperceptible as in Himself He is,
He became visible through His works and revealed Himself
as the Word of the Father,
the Ruler and King of the whole creation.

St. Athanasius,
On the Incarnation

bloom more beautifully

“Be patient, because the weaknesses of the body are given to us in
this world by God for the salvation of the soul.
So they are of great merit when they are borne patiently.”

St. Francis of Assisi


(Julie Cook / 2019)

“Strong passions are the precious raw material of sanctity.
Individuals who have carried their sinning to extremes should not despair or say,
‘I am too great a sinner to change,’or
‘God would not want me.’ God will take anyone who is willing to love,
not with an occasional gesture, but with a ‘passionless passion,
‘a ‘wild tranquility’.
A sinner, unrepentant, cannot love God,
any more than someone on dry land can swim;
but as soon as a person takes his errant energies to God and asks
for their redirection, he will become happy, as he was never happy before.
It is not the wrong things one has already done that keep one from God;
it is present persistence in that wrong.
Someone who turns back to God, as the Magdalene and Paul,
welcomes the discipline that will enable him to change his former tendencies.
Mortification is good, but only when it is done out of love of God….
Mortifications of the right sort perfect our human nature;
the gardener cuts the green shoots from the root of the bush,
not to kill the rose, but to make it bloom more beautifully.”

Venerable Fulton Sheen, p. 185

Dark night triggers

“In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”
St. John of the Cross

“The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.”
St. John of the Cross

So a few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted–or maybe that should read,
I needed to revisit a dear old friend…St. John of the Cross.

I felt St. John’s own ‘dark night of the soul’ calling my own lonely
darkened soul.

For a quick bit of background on my ancient friend…according to Wikipedia
John of the Cross (born Juan de Yepes y Álvarez;
Spanish: Juan de la Cruz; 24 June 1542 – 14 December 1591),
venerated as Saint John of the Cross, was a Spanish Catholic priest,
mystic, and a Carmelite friar of converso origin.
He is a major figure of the Counter-Reformation in Spain,
and he is one of the thirty-six Doctors of the Church.

John of the Cross is known especially for his writings.
He was mentored by and corresponded with the older Carmelite, Teresa of Ávila.
Both his poetry and his studies on the development of the soul
are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and among
the greatest works of all Spanish literature.
He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.
In 1926 he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI,
and is commonly known as the “Mystical Doctor”.

And thus I went searching for my own copy of St. John’s book
as I find that sometimes…I simply desperately
need a Christian mystic in the worst of ways!

So I began to search…
Where was it???
Where was my book?

Was it on a bookshelf?
Was it in a box that might have been overlooked in the move?
Was it in this stack or that stack??

I scoured every book I owned.
I scanned every shelf in the house.
I tore every drawer in the house apart.
I rummaged through every box and tub that remains squirreled away in a
new basement.

Had it ended up in the yard sale by accident?
Had it errantly gone to the Goodwill?
Or worse—had it been borrowed???

St. John and his dark night were no where to be found.
All of which seemed to be adding to my own oppressively growing darkness.

However, I actually think that oppressive darkness of mine was probably due
to too much digested news…but I digress.

And thus, I knew my only recourse…order another book!
Of which I did.

When the package arrived in the mail, I was so excited to greet my
dear old friend.

And for those of you who know me, you know that I treasure my books!

I was so excited opening the package and pulling out the small new treasure
tucked neatly within.

Excitedly, I opened the book…
savoring the newness and crispness of each fresh page.

I looked excitedly and expectantly at those first few pages…
all with great anticipation.
And that is when I first saw it…
It was the moment I felt the collision of both then and now.
An odd yet sickening juxtaposition of time and space.

This was when I first saw something I found almost repugnant given who it was that
I was reading—reading the deep personal struggle of one who had the courage
and the gift to write about what we all have each struggled over…
that very depth of wondering…”God are you there? Do you hear me?”

Immediately I stopped dead in my tracks…
did I just catch an odd out of place “warning” of all things????

A trigger warning for St. John of the Cross.
I felt a bit of heat rising up into my cheeks.

This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as
it would if it were written today. Parents night wish to discuss with
their children how views on race have changed before
allowing them to read this classic work.”

“Oh really–does not reflect the same values??”–
I found myself speaking aloud for anyone present to hear.

Despite what one might think, I will opt not to jump on my soapbox today…
for I have done so often here in this little corner of mine in
this blogosphere of ours.

I just fret that when I see what we are allowing in our schools as now,
we feel threatened by a 16th century mystic monk.

It amazes me what we are allowing our children to exposed to and yet
we opt to censor a Christian mystic.

I just don’t seem to know us anymore and that is what i think troubles me most.

“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on,
he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”

St. John of the Cross

Sense of scent or the simple act of breathing

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be
inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth;
in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea,
bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where
you feel it touching the first sounds.
Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words,
appearances, emotions, or will.
The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off,
it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up,
imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

Patrick Süskind


(perfume bottles on a silver tray / Julie Cook / 2014)

(I found this little nugget from 2014 and thought it worth repeating…)

Opening the door I immediately smelled March.
But this is November, how does one smell March in November?
It was the humid damp warmth mixed with the grey sky.
More mild than cool, more heavy then light.
Not sweetness but rather warm dampness–but not so warm that it was enveloping.

Not long ago, I randomly bought a jar of facial night cream by Lancome.
When I first opened the jar, in order to use it,
I immediately smelled my grandmother, Nany.

Not in that sickeningly sweet grandmother smell that borders on cheap perfume,
hair permanents, and medicine, but rather the smell of sudden nearness.
It is a palpable longing for someone who has been gone for what seems forever.

I am five, standing in her bathroom.
I’m at the vanity on the right standing by my cousin as we are
readying for bed during a tiny special spend the night party–
a grandmother and both of her granddaughters.
It was as if I was actually standing in that bathroom as the memory
was so strong.
Not only did I smell the smells,
I even saw the captured moment frozen in time in my mind.
The white cabinets, the double sinks…

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing in my own bathroom, alone.

On a recent trip to Target, I wandered down the candle aisle.
Picking up a candle, I give it a good sniff,
I close my eyes as I draw in the warm scent.
Immediatley I am transported, as if by magic,
to a candle store at the mall near where I grew up. It’s the early 70’s.
I’m a young teen who is wandering around the mall as I walk into a
new store that sells candles.
On a round brown table in the center of the store,
I notice a small candle in the shape of a little red convertible VW bug with a blue top.
At the time, my dad had a blue bug.
I loved the smell, sweet and light,
being drawn to the fact that it was a cute little VW bug–
I made the purchase, proudly adding the little candle to
the growing eclectic treasures of a teenager’s room.

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing on the candle aisle in a Target, alone.

I recently bought a bag of mothballs,
not even knowing if they still made those things.
I had brought home a box of old papers and what-nots from Dad’s.
I wanted to preserve what was in the box but there was no telling
of the minuscule critters that were already doing damage
to the yellowing papers and books.
I thought that when I repacked the “archives” in a new plastic bin,
a few moth balls thrown in might ward off any unsuspecting and unseen nibblers.

When I opened the sack of moth balls I was no longer standing
in my son’s old room but rather I was crouched in my grandmother Mimi’s closet,
my mom’s mom.
Her house, in Atlanta, was built in the early 20’s.
It was old and she had a cavernous closet in her bedroom.
I was playing hide and seek.
Disappearing deep into her closet, pushing past clothes,
shoes and boxes, all the way to a back corner,
I’m now consumed with a smell, that to this day, reminds me of my grandmother.
Dotting the floor, the flat old light brown carpeting,
are a myriad of tiny white balls. Moth balls.
Moth balls will always smell like Mimi’s.
To most people the smell might repel, to me, it’s Mimi.

When I open my eyes, I’m no longer hiding in a closet at my grandmother’s,
but standing in my son’s old room, alone.

It is said that scent is most often considered the greatest of
our senses because of it’s exceedingly strong association with memory.
The olfactory bulb in the brain, the part of the brain which processes scents,
smells, odors, is linked to both the amygdala and the hippocampus,
the parts of the brain responsible of both the processing
of emotions as well learning.

The smells that we draw into our brain though the nose,
which are caught by the olfactory receptors,
allow our brain to process and then link the individual smell with
those initials smells from childhood,
the time we begin in earnest the association of events with smells.
Yet researchers have even determined that we are actually exposed
to scent while in utero, which is actually when the imprinting,
processing and associating of smell with memory begins.

It is often noted, particularly in Catholic teaching,
that there exists a “scent of sanctity”
It is a very real and very strong smell or odor of perfume,
specifically floral in nature, that emanates from “the saintly”
just prior to the time of death or immediately following.
It is said that those who have seen or sensed the presence of various
saints were first overcome by a powerful scent of “perfume.”

We know that the making of perfume dates back to early Egypt,
followed by both Greek and Roman cultures.
The use of perfumes and scented oils was essential to ancient Jewish
customs and rituals, in particular the burying of the dead.
There is biblical reference of the woman who came to the tomb to anoint
the dead body of Jesus.
There is the story of the woman, thought to be Mary Magdalene,
who had brought a very expensive perfumed oil in which to anoint Jesus.
It is a story symbolizing the future anointing of his crucified body
yet some believe it symbolized his bringing the grace of forgiveness
into an unforgiving world.
This is also one of the few stories which is included in all four gospels.

And so it is, on this March smelling November day,
that there is indeed a change in the air.
Rain is on the way, and with it the cold and the comforting fragrant balm
of crackling fires…
I can smell its presence in the air.
As the scent of change swirls about, dancing lightly in the wind,
those thoughts and memories of days gone by, gently drift,
sweetly woven to the very air which sustains my life,
waiting to be brought to the forethought of recall by the simple act of breathing…

But thanks be to God,
who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession
and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being
saved and those who are perishing.
To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other,
an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task.

2 Corinthians 2: 14-16

Loving Grace flips you upside right

Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement,
and death will be part of your journey,
but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors.
No evil can resist grace forever.

Brennan Mannin


(my favorite place on earth—the old Methodist Church in Cades Cove/
The Great Smokey Mts National Park / Julie Cook / 2021)

Have you ever felt that switch flip?

You know the one…

The switch which flips you from upside down to right side up?

As in all of a sudden, there is some sort of vast difference
between now and then.

Something new is now residing in your soul while the old has been
blessedly removed.
As an unseen presence now lifts you ever upward.

One day you’re one way…and then suddenly, the very next day,
you’re something else entirely.

You’re simply not the same person today as you were yesterday.
And thank God you’re not.

It is that odd juxtaposition of a before and an after sort of flip of the switch.

A profound difference begins to resonate within your inner core.
As in…there was first angst and emptiness…and then next there
grew a blessed peace and a sense of being sweetly content.

A huge difference happening all within a single 1 minute.

Marvelously, actually miraculously, you feel a peace that had been
nonexistent just one minute prior.
This new comforting sense of peace that, had been so elusive for such a long time–
longer than you could recall, now wraps you in a soothing embrace.

And so now you actually find yourself finally being able to exhale.
Being able to exhale the heaviness of forever,
while then breathing in a fresh new air of life.

The body goes weak.
The soul has been broken.
And now…we are the better for it…
as I think we call that loving Grace…

Love is the crowning grace of humanity, the holiest right of the soul,
the golden link which binds us to duty and truth,
the redeeming principle that chiefly reconciles the heart to life,
and is prophetic of eternal good.

Petrarch

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things which should be changed and the wisdom
to distinguish the one from the other.

Reinhold Niebuhr

“Opening Shots Against the New Paganism”

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.”
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


(political cartoon from the Roanoke Times)

As time allows, I’m still making slight headway in the book
THE LION OF MÜNSTER–The Bishop Who Roared Against The Nazis
by Daniel Utrecht of the Oratory

If curious, here’s a link to the previous post written about this
daring Catholic prelate who took a loud vocal stand defying
Adolph Hitler and his Nazi madness.

THE LION OF MÜNSTER…we need more lions

So yesterday, picking up the book, I read the following passage
from the chapter entitled the same title of this post…
and it was like a sledgehammer hit me on the head—

I’ll let you read it, allowing you to digest this snapshot of
German schools along with The Catholic Church and how each one
clashed with the controlling policies of Nazi
Germany… and I wonder…does it sound familiar??

Bishop von Galen was consecrated and enthroned on October 28,1933.
Just over a week later, On November 6, he wrote a private letter to
the superintendent of schools for Münster.
Schools had received lesson plans “in connection with All Souls’ Day”
to teach “the theory of heredity and ethnology”
in all subjects. The details leave no doubt as to what this phrase meant:
hatred of the Jews.

“Very clearly, the Nazis meant to convince everyone, especially the young
of German racial superiority.

Thus in a letter written to the school superintendent to express his disagreement
to such racial and pagan theories, Bishop August Galen began his open disdain of
Hitler and his New World Order:

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching and
having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their
own likings and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander
into myths (vv.3-4, RSV),
he commented that “a Bishop dare not keep silent if false teachings
and unbelief raise their head, if what is warned of in the letter
to Titus comes to pass:
‘A word of truth is so much more necessary when enemies of religion,
such as we now see, are fighting not only against this or that
teaching of the Church but deny or falsify the very foundations
of religion itself and the most holy mysteries of revelation”‘

“Whoever undermines or destroys man’s faith in God attacks
the very foundations of religion and the whole of culture.”

Critical Race Theory…hummmm

A re-visited prayer

(dragonfly, Troup Co. Georgia / Julie Cook/ 2018)

“Our Father…”

You made me and chose me before time, to love you, to serve you,
and adore you; to long for your voice, to recognize you,
to return home to you. For you are the Father, prodigal in your love,
who runs forward to meet us as we kneel to pray.

“Who art in heaven…”

Give me a vision, Lord, of the saints in heaven, of the community in heaven,
of the joy of heaven, so that I may be drawn out of this dull world into the light
of all that is real.

“Hallowed be thy name…”

Lord, may your name be holy in my mouth, holy in my heart, holy on my lips,
holy in my life; “I am that I am”, “the lamb that was slain”.
Lord, may the words that describe you sanctify the lips of all who
call upon you.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done…”

Let our hearts and our words be shaped by yours.

“On earth as it is in heaven…”

Lord, call those you have chosen on earth to follow you and to live your life,
to make space for you, for the earth is in the hands of your enemy,
it is in the hands of the ruler of this world.
Help us repulse him with your authority, and in your name, and by your power,
to reclaim earth for heaven.

“Give us this day our daily bread…”

For Jesus is the bread of life. Help us feed on Jesus in the word of the Gospels,
by the presence of the Holy Spirit, in the holy and blessed sacrament.
Give us, Lord, all that we need to feed on you in Christ our saviour.

“And forgive us our trespasses…”

Both those sins that we know about and those sins we have not seen.
Cleanse us, and forgive us, and renew us,
Lord, and wash away all that stands between your love,
and your mercy, and our wounded hearts.

“As we forgive those who trespass against us…”

As we allow your kindness and your goodness to overflow and to free
those we hold in
anger and unforgiveness.

“And lead us not into temptation”

For we are weak-willed.
We are blind and intemperate.
We have very little strength of our own.

“But deliver us from evil.”

For he (the evil one) prowls around us like a lion seeking whom he may devour,
insinuating words into our mind, laying traps of false desire in front of us,
whispering untruths into our heart. Deliver us, Lord, from all evil,
and from the snares the devil sets for us.

From the Ashenden Daily Office:
https://ashenden.org/2018/07/16/our-father-who-art-in-heaven-an-extended-prayer/