are you willing to man up?

“When we contemplate the sufferings of Jesus He grants us, according to the measure of our faith,
the grace to practice the virtues He revealed during those sacred hours.”

St. Angela Merici

When I read the above quote for the day by St. Angela Merici,
my immediate response was…

“Am I ready?”

Am I ready to step up, to man up, to woman up (for those more sensitive to gender)
to the virtues, the trials, the tribulations that Jesus
readily revealed, experienced and endured during his time of suffering???

That of betrayal, arrest, a mock trial, scourging, the Via Dolorosa, being nailed
to a tree, being hoisted into the air…only to hang by his hands and feet…
deprived of relief…
a long, slow, torturous and inevitably painful death…?

Am I ready?
Am I ready, am I willing, to take up my own cross that He is ready and most willing to
handoff to me?

I ran track in high school…
I ran two different relays.
I know about handoffs.
I know about the importance of the syncing of the handoff.
The necessary effortlessness.
The timing.
The precision.
Hand to hand.
Trust.

So the question remains…
Am I ready…
Am I ready when He would desire to extend such a “grace” to me?

It is a tall order.
It is even a hazardous order given our day and times.

But it is one that we, the faithful, must be willing to take.

The day’s light grows dim.
Time is of the essence.
Are we, both you and I, ready to man up?

St. Francis had to ask himself the same question when confronted with what was a perceived
horror of his own day…leprosy.

In his conversion, he had submitted his all to God.
He had humbled himself to man…but was he willing to humble himself to God?
Was he willing to trust with a blind faith?

Would he, could he, walk the talk when faced with a possible and impending doom?

Spoiler alert…he did.

“Now, as he was riding one day over the plain of Assisi he met a leper,
whose sudden appearance filled him with fear and horror;
but forthwith calling to mind the resolution which he had made to follow after perfection,
and remembering that if he would be a soldier of Christ he must first overcome himself,
he dismounted from his horse and went to meet the leper, that he might embrace him:
and when the poor man stretched out his hand to receive an alms,
he kissed it and filled it with money.
Having again mounted his horse, he looked around him over the wide and open plain,
but nowhere could he see the leper;
upon which, being filled with wonder and joy,
he began devoutly to give thanks to God,
purposing within himself to proceed to still greater things than this.”

St. Bonaventure, p. 4
An Excerpt From
The Life of St. Francis

hope for us all…

“Where there is no obedience there is no virtue,
where there is no virtue there is no good,
where there is no good there is no love,
where there is no love, there is no God,
and where there is no God there is no Paradise.”

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina


(a willet shorebird / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019)

Recognition that lost periods of a life can never be returned can provoke
an intense desire to give completely to God what is yet remaining in a life.
The soul scarred by former sin is sometimes, after grace, the soul that will give without reserve.
It is not at all an exaggeration to affirm that great sinners often do become hidden saints.

Fr. Donald Haggerty
from Conversion

hidden danger in the rotting apple

All badness is spoiled goodness.
A bad apple is a good apple that became rotten.
Because evil has no capital of its own,
it is a parasite that feeds on goodness.

Ven. Fulton J. Sheen
from Through the Year with Fulton Sheen

“Do not suppose that after advancing the soul to such a state God abandons it so easily that
it is light work for the devil to regain it.
When His Majesty sees it leaving Him, He feels the loss so keenly that He gives it in many
a way a thousand secret warnings which reveal to it the hidden danger.
In conclusion, let us strive to make constant progress:
we ought to feel great alarm if we do not find ourselves advancing,
for without doubt the evil one must be planning to injure us in some way;
it is impossible for a soul that has come to this state not to go still farther,
for love is never idle.
Therefore it is a very bad sign when one comes to a standstill in virtue.”

St. Teresa of Avila, p.99
An Excerpt From
Interior Castle

P.S.
I came home for the weekend for a bit of R&R and now I’m off again…back to Atlanta to help tend to
the children…
Here is to The Mayor and her Sheriff!!!

looking for saints in all kinds of places

This is the very perfection of a man,
to find out his own imperfections.

St. Augustine


(St. Augustine of Hippo painting by Philippe de Champaigne, 1650)

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise;
your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning.
And so we humans, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you –
we who carry our mortality about with us,
carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud.
Yet these humans, due part of your creation as they are, still do long to
praise you.
You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy,
because you have made us and drawn us to yourself,
and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

The passage above appears to have been written by a person who was painfully aware
of his own mortality and sins yet yearns, nay longs,
to be in the arms of the Beloved Creator.

And so perhaps it might be hard for those of us reading these long ago penned words
to imagine that this person was not always so deeply attuned to
living life worshiping the Triune God.

For the past couple of days, my posts have veered toward the idea of saints.
No particular reason really…and when there seems to be no real rhyme nor reason for my
ramblings, that usually just means the Holy Spirit is at work and not so much
me.

Yesterday’s post offered two quotes summing up the notion of sainthood quite nicely…
yet it was especially the Kierkegaard quote which serves to remind us that God’s mastery
of creation is one thing, but to be able to make saints from sinners…
well, that’s something else altogether.

Augustine of Hippo…
a giant when it comes to thought and theory has been studied down through the ages by
all sorts of students—from theologians and philosophers to literates and historians…
many of whom have been Believers and many who have not.

Yet Augustine was not always one of Christendom’s most learned and revered theologian
turned saint.

According to Wikipedia,
“His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole
fruit they did not want from a neighborhood garden.
He tells this story in his autobiography, The Confessions.
He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry,
but because “it was not permitted.”
His very nature, he says, was flawed.
‘It was foul, and I loved it.
I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.”
From this incident, he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin
and in need of the grace of Christ.”

Augustine went on to have a long-lasting affair with a woman who bore him an
illegitimate son.
He later broke off that relationship in order to marry a 10-year-old heiress but had to wait
two years until she was of legal marrying age.
During his wait, he took up with another concubine.

Yet the time came in which Augustine abandoned all concubines and fiancees alike
lamenting“that he was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust”

Eventually, at the age of 31, Augustine broke off all his relationships with these
various women because he, like many before and after him, had his Road to Damascus moment.
He was struck from his lofty, self-absorbed, carnal way of living by the
One True Omnipotent God who literally called out to him..

As Augustine later shared
“his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to
“take up and read” (Latin: tolle, lege), which he took as a divine command to open the Bible
and read the first thing he saw.

Augustine read from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans –
the “Transformation of Believers” section, consisting of chapters 12 to 15 –
wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers,
and the believers’ resulting behaviour.
The specific part to which Augustine opened his Bible was Romans chapter 13,
verses 13 and 14, to wit:

“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness,
not in strife and envying,
but put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

It was at this moment that his life turned.

Augustine eventually penned an autobiography of sorts which many of us,
trained in the classics were at some point, required to read— Confessions.

It is from the pages of his Confessions that we read these beautiful and deeply
haunting words:

Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou wast with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispel my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.

And thus what we have learned is that many of those who are known to us today as saints
seem to have, at some point or other figured things out.

Namely, that life isn’t all about them.

But life, rather, is a yearning…and that yearning is the created’s longing to be
one with the Creator.

Some seem to understand this better than others.

Many have been rogues and scallywags.
Some have been liars and drunkards.
Some have been rich and arrogant.
Some started out as cowards and turncoats yet became brave and true.
And some will simply be known only to God and God alone.

And so with all this talk about saints and sinners, I am struck by a current circus of sorts.

Brett Kavanaugh, the latest Supreme Court nominee, has been in the center of a maelstrom.

I don’t know much about him, but from what legal experts and judges on ‘both sides of the
aisle’ have said, he is a stellar wealth of legal prowess.
A fair and just man who is deeply knowledgeable with regards to right and wrong.

Yet his experience, his record, his knowledge, his examples don’t seem to matter to
this pack of hearing committee members who are foaming at the mouth,
as they rip into this man for the simple reason that they hate the man who nominated him.

Desperate Democrats are grasping at ugly straws to do their darndest to stop this nominee’s
chance of confirmation…even resorting to highschool hearsay.

And in so doing…these very politicians who so vehemently cling to the separation of
Church and State and find themselves cringing over the notion that their precious
Roe v Wade would be overturned… these worshipers of all things cultural and secular
now seem to be seeking a saint…a saint who doesn’t exist.
As all of this is just one more example of the irony of man standing at odds with
his blinding self-serving pride.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micha 6:8

Oops he did it again…

“Strong men ruled bloodily; weak men gladly exchange freedom for protection…
for freedom is meaningless in a world of anarchy.”

Morris Bishop
The Middle Ages

“We seem to be witnessing the coming of Antichrist, for this is the falling
away of which the Apostle speaks.”

French Bishops from the 991 council


(statue of Robert The Bruce / Stirling Castle, Stirling, Scotland)

Robert the Bruce, King of the Scots was not always the leader he needed to be.
He waffled to and fro…confused about what he was truly representing or
fighting for.

Himself, or something much greater than himself.

Yet with most of those brave individuals tapped for great leadership,
Robert eventually came around to his senses and to that of his destiny.
He figured things out while in exile on a lonely cold windswept Irish isle and
finally came home to rout the British out of Scotland.

Once Robert understood his true destiny, he rode forward, never looking back.
His mind was made up.
He was going to fight to win or die trying.

Freedom has that sort of draw on men.
You will fight for it or die trying.

Yet most of us know that our brave freedom fighters throughout the annuals of time
have not always been the saints or perfect individuals we often imagine.

In fact more often than not, valiant individuals usually have a rather checkered past.
For it usually takes a lot of falling and dying unto self before real virtue
bubbles its way to the top.

We’ve seen as much here in the States in our own quest for freedom.

Yesterday our good friend the Scottish Pastor David Robertson offered a post
of observation.

Just when I think he’s said everything there is to say while saying it so succinctly
as he covers all the bases, he reminds me he’s only just getting started.

Should I be embarrassed for us here in the States that people now around the world
are taking notice of our latest public temper tantrums and are actually writing
about them and us?

And I don’t think it’s the kind of stuff we really want other people to be
seeing let alone writing about… that being our egregiously dirty laundry.

But our Scottish friend has been most astute in his observations.
Let’s take the latest crazed mentality of ours to desecrate, destroy and remove
the static polestars of history.

Robert E Lee-
Lets talk about removing statues.
In the Ukraine over 2000 statues of Lenin are being removed.
In the UK our loony left are falling into line with this latest virtue
signaling fashion—according to this article in the Guardian Nelson’s
column must go—
Never one to miss a trick, the Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie wants
statutes pulled down as well…
I wonder if anything will be left standing!

In America the liberal left are going hysterical about monuments to
Confederate generals – especially Robert E Lee.
The irony is that they know nothing about Lee –
they are just virtue signalling.

Lee himself was opposed to the breakup
of the Union and was also apparently opposed to slavery.

In 1856 he wrote to his wife –
“in this enlightened age, there are few I believe,
but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution,
is a moral and political evil in any country.”
He set up an illegal school for slaves at Arlington and all
the slaves they were freed in 1862. Lee has become the latest victim
of “identity politics”.

The irony is that he did not think statues of himself should be erected
and he hoped that the wounds of the civil war would be healed.
“I think it wiser not to keep open the source of war, but to follow
the examples of those nations who endeavoured to obliterated the marks
of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.”

But if the fashion of the day is statue destroying – can I suggest others?

Statues of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce should be destroyed.
After all they were slaveholders – at least in the sense that serfs were slaves.

One of the reasons that Wallace went to war was to maintain the right
of the Scottish nobles to have their own serfs.

Will the Scottish government start pulling down statues soon?!

And what about the statue of the Duke of Sutherland above Golspie –
the ‘Mannie’ responsible for some of the most savage clearances in the Highlands.
Every time I sit in my parents home at Portmahomack and stare across
the water to the Sutherland hills, I see that monstrosity of a statue
on top of Ben Braggie and I am offended.

I had an elder in Brora who at one point,
before he became a Christian had seriously considered blowing it up –
even as a Christian he was tempted!

Meanwhile can anyone tell me the substantive difference between
ISIS and the Taliban

Buddhist statutes removed by the Taliban
pulling down monuments to ideologies they don’t like and Antifa doing
the same thing in the US?
It strikes me that once you start removing
a nation’s history you end up being as bad as the people you are trying
to replace.

And that was but one observation by our good friend in a litany of observations
worth your perusal when clicking the following link:

LED 6 – Back to Uni – Demolishing Statues – Natural Disasters – Robert E Lee – The Duke of Sutherland – Houston – Poland – Trudeau and Abortion – Australia and SSM – Macron – Tower Hamlets Adoption Madness…

While I stand mouth agape, dumbstruck…wondering once the dust settles if anything recognizable of this country I’ve known and loved,
all these many years, will be left standing…
As the protestors and politicians have long forgotten the cost paid for their freedom
to do what it is they are doing, forgetting, hating and desecrating…
I wonder…
will Shirley Temple will be next…..


(Shirley Temple and Bill Robinson in The Littlest Rebel, 1935)

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,
for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:17

Clear as mud

When a man speaks the truth in the spirit of truth, his eye is as clear as the heavens. When he has base ends, and speaks falsely, the eye is muddy and sometimes asquint.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

DSC00301

DSC00303

DSC00309
(Japanese glass floats / Julie Cook / 2015)

Who to believe?
What to believe?
Pundit, cognoscente, critic. . .

Journalists have an angle
Politicians have a slant
Lawmakers have an advantage

Small truths, half truths, no truth
Cover ups, cover overs, cover it all

Integrity or corruption
Under the table or over the table

Secrets, closets, skeletons
Where is the. . .
Morality
Virtue
Honor

Is it a. . .
Mistake or pattern
Is it either. . .
Erroneous or sound

Who do you trust?
Everyone?
No one?
Do you dare go it alone?

Blind eye to that,
but hell to pay for this.

Waffling?
Balancing?
For how long?

No to having, as well as, eating cake

Either
Or

Too easy to opt out of decision making
No to choosing
No to deciding
Neither, either, or perhaps both
Sadly not a viable or lasting option

Do we no longer care?
Are we too jaded?
Have we all merely become lemmings?

Follow me?
Follow you?
Follow who?

Talking points
Turning points
Point of no return

Nothing matters but what is mine
My world
My corner
My way
or
no way

Wake up and smell the coffee
the roses
the truth

Topsy turvy
Spiraling
Spinning
Sliding

Time to get off
time to get on
Time to quit

Do not settle
You are better than this
WE are better than this
Life is better than this

Only one way
not my way
not your way
not their way
only His way. . .

Jesus answered,
“I am the way
and the truth
and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through me.

John 14:6

Gentle Humility

The voice of beauty speaks softly; it creeps only into the most fully awakened souls”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

IMG_0478
(soft downy feathers of a hawk found on a walk in the woods / Julie Cook / 2014)

“These are the few ways we can practice humility:

To speak as little as possible of one’s self.

To mind one’s own business.

Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.

To avoid curiosity.

To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.

To pass over the mistakes of others.

To accept insults and injuries.

To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.

To be kind and gentle even under provocation.

Never to stand on one’s dignity.

To choose always the hardest.”

― Mother Teresa, The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living

Each morning, as I begin my prayers, the very first thing I do is to ask for forgiveness of my sins, of those things known and of those things unknown–sins of self–especially that of ego and pride. And it is often those very type of sins, those of self which are the ones that I am most unconscious of as they tend to be a bit insidious, seeping in through the chinks in the armor.

Our western culture tends to embrace bravado–we like winners, we like confidence, we like fighters–we also like glitz and glamor and the notion that bigger is better, more is best. All of which runs counter to the concept of gentleness and humility. It should be noted that even our reputation in other countries is often of being loud and obnoxious. Not exactly a virtuous sort of moniker.

As I read these wise words of Mother Teresa, I am convicted of heart–as is usually the case under Mother Teresa’s gentle reprimands. Oh I can rationalize that, as an American, we / me are curious people who tend to be all over the place as far as managing our lives as well as the managing of other’s lives. We / me, tend to bristle at insults. We / me do not do well with slights or complaints, and heavens knows we / me do not tolerate provocation very well at all and we / me relish waving our dignity here, there and yon. Our Media / Entertainment worlds do not help with these nasty little habits of ours, but they seem to rather enjoy instigating such and adding fuel to the fire. Makes for better ratings I’m sure.

On this new day to this new week, in the wee hours of this new year, may we all be mindful that it is gentleness that is truly the greater virtue. That humility is stronger than bravado and hype. And that it is the meek who shall inherit the earth. . .for:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.