crisis of faith or living faith…a choice

In a speech to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2011, Benedict XVI
reflected that
“The essence of the crisis of the Chruch in Europe is the crisis of faith.
If we find no answer to this…then all other reforms will remain ineffective.”

The Day is Far Spent / Cardinal Sarah


(a lone turkey feather lost in the woods / Julie Cook / 2019)

When Joseph Ratzinger speaks about a “crisis of faith”,
we should understand that he is not talking in the first place about an
intellectual or theological problem in the academic sense of the word.
He means a “living faith”, a faith that imbues and transforms life.
“If faith does not take on new life, deep conviction and real strength
from the encounter with Jesus Christ,” Benedict XVI added that day,
“then all other reforms will remain ineffective.”

This loss of the sense of faith is the deep root of the crisis of civilization
that we are experiencing.

As in the first centuries of Christianity, when the Roman Empire
was collapsing, all human institutions today sem to be on the
path of decadence.
Reflections between people, whether political, social, economic, or cultural,
are becoming difficult.
In losing the sense of God, we have undermined the foundation of all
human civilization and opened the door to totalitarian barbarity.

Human beings, separated from God, are reduced to a single dimension—
the horizontal—
and this reduction itself is one of the fundamental causes of the various forms
of totalitarianism that have had tragic consequences in the past century,
as well as the crisis of values that we see in the current situation.

By obscuring the reference to God the ethical horizon has also been obscured,
to leave room for relativism and for an ambiguous conception of
freedom which, instead of being liberating, ends by blinding
human beings to idols.

The temptation that Jesus faced in the wilderness before his public ministry
vividly symbolize which “idols” entice human beings when they do not
go beyond themselves.
Were God to lose his centrality man would lose his rightful place,
he would no longer fit into creation, into relations with others

Pope Benedict XVI
Nov 14, 2012

wilderness

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.
Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple;
the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,”
says the Lord Almighty.

Malachi 3:1

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(Dutch Book of Hours / mid 15th century/ The Masters of the Delft Grisailles/ John the Baptist / Walters Art Museum)

Woe to an age when the voices of those who cry in the wilderness have fallen silent, out-shouted by the noise of the day or outlawed or swallowed up in the intoxication of progress, or smothered and growing fainter for fear and cowardice. The devastation of our time will soon be so terrifying and universal that the word “wilderness” will readily slip off our tongues.
This is already happening.

For how shall we hear unless someone cries out above the tumult, the destruction, and delusion?
Alfred Delp

Haste

“Gentlemen, why in heaven’s name this haste?
You have time enough.
Ages and ages lie before you.
Why sacrifice the present to the future,
fancying that you will be happier when your fields teem with wealth and your cities with people?
In Europe we have cities wealthier and more populous than yours, and we are not happy.
You dream of your posterity;
but your posterity will look back to yours as the golden age, and envy those who first burst into this silent, splendid nature, who first lifted up their axes upon these tall trees,
and lined these waters with busy wharves.
Why, then, seek to complete in a few decades what the other nations of the world took thousands of years over in the older continents?
Why, in your hurry to subdue and utilize nature, squander her splendid gifts?
Why hasten the advent of that threatening day when the vacant spaces of the continent shall all have been filled, and the poverty or discontent of the older States shall find no outlet?
You have opportunities such as mankind has never had before,
and may never have again.
Your work is great and noble;
it is done for a future longer and vaster than our conceptions can embrace.
Why not make its outlines and beginnings worthy of these destinies,
the thought of which gilds your hopes and elevates your purposes?”

Lord James Bryce

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(Autumn in Cade Cove / Julie Cook / 2015)

Lord Bryce was the British Ambassador to the United States from 1907-1913.
He witnessed first hand the advent of the American Industrial Revolution.
A time of almost unchecked growth and development by an overtly zealous people.
The seemingly vast natural resources, which for a time appeared to be almost limitless, were in actuality, being gobbled up at an alarming rate.

Timber, land, crops and even animals were not to be spared during the boom of American growth and development.This was the time when the passenger pigeon, a bird that once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, was hunted to extinction. Buffalo were well on their way to the same fate as were thousands of ornately feathered birds of the Everglades which provided the plumage for the day’s high fashion of ladies hats.

If it was there, we felt it was ours for the taking.
Our appetites were ravenous as it became impossible to satiate our hunger.

Thankfully wise men such as John Muir, Stephen Mather and Theodore Roosevelt, to name but a few, saw the dangers of the Nation’s maddeningly rapid growth and appetite for all that it saw.
Lands which were directly in harm’s way began being designated as National Parks.
Animals that were on the verge of eradication were granted protection.
Laws were enacted to put the brakes on our quest of all that was in sight.

Yet it seems as if Lord Bryce’s observation is as telling today as it was over one hundred years ago.
As we are continuing to sacrifice the present for the future.

The photo above is an image of Cades Cove taken last fall.
Cades Cove is one of my most favorite places…yet I am not alone in my love of the Park.

The Cove, as it is so lovingly referred to, is an area of great historical as well as environmental significance within The Great Smokey National Park. Located just outside of Townsend, Tennessee, it boasts being on the “quiet side of the Smokies” as it rests in the shadow of the mega busy and ultra touristy Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Yet it is said that the 11 mile one way loop within Cades Cove is one of the most heavily visited sections of the National Park—more so than that of any of the other great parks.

An estimated 2 million people visit the Cove annually (with an estimated 9 million visiting The Great Smokey Mountains Park as a whole) with the heaviest onslaught being late Spring through mid Fall.
With 2 million annual visitors, how many cars do you imagine drive that 11 mile loop?
If you have ever been caught in the often 3 to 4 hour traffic jam nightmare of too many cars trying to make an 11 mile loop at once, then you know it is far too many.

But the question of what to do with all those cars and all those tourists has plagued Park officials and Government leaders for years. The Park, the Cove in particular, is one of the heaviest air polluted parks in the country…

What to do will all those cars and all those people is indeed vexing.

It should be noted that this sort of problem is not indicative only to the Great Smokey Mountains alone…

Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, the Everglades… these parks know all too well the repercussions from the growing onslaught of tourism—the true love / hate relationship of our national parks.
Yet these areas, these lands, these parks with their vistas, wildflowers, snowcapped peaks, their crystal blue lakes, their truly wild animals and their wide open spaces are our legacies to ourselves…they are our reminders of what this country was in its rawest form. They are our gifts to ourselves…yet it appears, for better or for worse, we very much enjoy these gifts…maybe if not a bit too much…

So yes, we are indeed a hungry people as we continue living our lives in great haste…
With this being the 100th year of the National Park Service, we are aptly reminded that we have a handful of precious gifts scattered throughout this great land of ours which are in desperate need or our thoughtful care and consideration.
In our often zealous nature, we sometimes have a tendency to love a good thing to death…

In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world –
the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.
The galling harness of civilization drops off,
and wounds heal ere we are aware.

John Muir

Compass

A rusty nail placed near a faithful compass,
will sway it from the truth, and wreck the argosy.

Sir Walter Scott

Antique Compass on Map
(image borrowed from the web)

Toward the end of the 1920’s Winston Churchill’s long, illustrious and prolific life in politics seemed to have come crashing down on him much like the global economy of the Great Depression.
For various reasons, such as his support for issues which the majority were not supporting to perhaps his overt sense of confidence as was often perceived as arrogance, Churchill was not reelected to Parliament and was subjected to spending the next 10 years of his life as an ordinary citizen who simply opted for the serendipitous career of a writer—just another politician, past his prime, all but relegated to the annuals of history.

Yet it was during his time of isolation that Churchill continued to sound those cymbals, of which he felt passionate, to any and all who might give him ear— especially his concern for a wounded German nation licking its devastating wounds following its surrender with dishonor at the end of WWI. Woodrow Wilson’s Treaty of Versailles had sealed Germany’s fate as a neutered nation, cast aside and discarded–left to deal with a devastated economy as well as a lost generation of men not to mention the demoralized sense of national identity. A once proud Prussian people were not only globally disgraced but were now left literally starving and alone.

Such grave and severe consequences extracted from and heaped upon the aggressors following the loss of any war usually results in a dark and dangerous vaccum—sterilization and humiliation begets resentment, which left to fester, breeds a seething hate laced with thoughts of revenge and a hunger to dominate those now perceived as the oppressor. . .all of which Churchill was well aware—long before either his fellow MPs or a war weary world were willing to acknowledge.

History affords us a peek at the end of this story of isolation—but not before millions of people had died.
It is estimated that 60 million people were killed during WWII—yet we don’t how accurate that figure is given the brutality and secrecy of the USSR under Stalin’s regime—some historians put that 60 million much higher as it was reported that the USSR lost 8.5 million soldiers and citizens during WWII—yet it is widely believed however that that number is more like 14 million. . .a staggering number lost from what is now known as modern Russia. Such numbers are nearly impossible for the human mind to comprehend.

Yet Churchill had long sounded the alarm, much to the rolling of eyes from politicians and citizens alike. No one wanted to hear his ominous rhetoric preferring life to that of an ostrich who has buried his head in the sand–fingers stuffed in ears as everyone ran about “la-la-laing” taking the mindset of “what we don’t know, or worse– won’t admit, won’t hurt us”. . .

And it is with this look back at Churchill’s plight, of that lone voice crying in the wilderness, that my thoughts turn today. . .to those lone voices sounding the alarm over the growing threat of a militant muslim nation better known as IS or ISIS.

Did you know that ISIS recently beheaded a Croatian man?
He was a typographer out simply working on mapping things when he was kidnapped.
The news coverage was minimal at best as we’ve obviously got too much going on with our own impending election wannabes. . .

I have shared story after story, as well as interview after interview alike, over the past several months regarding the brutality and hatred of a growing menace in the Middle East that has tentacles which are reaching far and wide. Just click on any news feed to see the latest young person deciding to run away to fight in the caliphate.

Here in my little corner of blogland I sound a lone little bell that most folks don’t like to, or preferably don’t want to, hear. . .with the majority thought being it’s a lot to do about nothing.

The systematic killing of Christians and the slow and agonizing death of the human moral compass. . .is, to me, a very big deal.

Here is a link to a recent interview given by the actor John Rhys-Davis on his take of the loss of this proverbial moral compass

http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2015/08/12/lord-of-the-rings-actor-blasts-political-correctness-we-have-lost-our-moral-compass/

And as I was reading this morning a posting by one of my favorite Benedictine monks, not that I know many monks, I was struck by a few things Father Hugh stated so soundly in his morning’s post–of which hit me in the head with the thought of “if not you, who?”

“because what we do here in this fleeting world has direct and potentially irreversible consequences for our lives in the next, and eternal, world. Apart from the fact that basic human decency should bid us have concern for our neighbour wherever and whoever he or she might be, our Christian faith demands that we do. What we do, or fail to do, to our neighbor is done to Christ.”

“Our Christian faith demands that we do”. . .demands, as in commands unequivocally, that we do . . .it is that thought which really struck me this morning as most profound. That it is through my Christian faith, a faith which demands and expects of me a certain duty and moral obligation to my fellow man, that I speak for those who are globally persecuted, for those who are suffering for their belief in the Resurrected Son of God–those who are being attacked, tortured, enslaved, heinously murdered all for their faith. . .

You can read Fr Hugh’s full post which is addressing the whys of our prayers seemingly going unanswered:
https://hughosb.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/why/

Father Hugh’s words, as well as the actions of a seemingly beaten politician some 80 years ago who continued with his warnings against an evil menace as the rest of the world preferred distraction, is encouragement enough to continue to sound the alarm. . .Yet more importantly, it is because of the obligation, duty and demand of faith which is the true catalyst–the very real reason that I or you or any believer should not keep silent in the face of such violent tyranny. I am not an alarmist or naysayer but rather one who hears the thundering hooves of darkness galloping ever closer to my world of contentment–just as our leaders, our news networks, our politicians, our entertainment industry and even those who profess to be believers, prefer to be lulled into a state of neutrality and complacency. . .

I will close with a prayer offered to the Nation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt following the invasion of Normandy by the allied forces. . .an amazing thought that a President would implore a nation to join in prayer on a nationally aired radio broadcast—what a novel thought. . .as he spoke these words, there were already thousands of soldiers who lay dead and dying as they fought for their lives to keep the evil darkness of their day at bay. . .

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

Head on a plate

We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.
Aiden Wilson Tozer

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
1 John 4:1

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(howling winds usher in a foreboding change / Julie Cook / 2015)

Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Malachi 4:1-5

Who is this strange man, dirty and crazed?
This man who calls the wilderness home?
He is nothing more than a poor homeless clout.
Perhaps a demon possessed spirit,
who has been driven mad by the winds and rain.

Was he not one of us, born here amongst us?
Was he not raised as us, nestled in our safety?
Who is he to proclaim the word of God?
Yet why do we find ourselves unable to meet his eyes, his glance.

A seer, a visionary, a prophet, a fool.
He talks to the birds, the lizards and to anyone who would give him ear.
“Repent” and “prepare” are the tools of his trade
“Yet look not to me” he proclaims, “for there is one who comes, much greater than I. . .”
“I only point the way. . .”

And the people of the land laughed.
They mocked and pointed, hiding behind bravado and ego.
Yet individually, they each wondered.
They questioned.
They fretted.
They squirmed in their shoes.

His words penetrated to a place no one felt comfortable to visit.
His stare made them feel dirty and wrong.
So they laughed harder and made merry with abandon.
Uncomfortable.
Guilty.
Yet some were compelled to listen, even eventually choosing to follow.

His words relentless, his message never faltering.
Day and night he hammers the same message as if hammering a stake penetrating the souls of the masses.
More people turn, they listen, they follow.
However not all heed his words.
Those in authority grow wary, nervous.
They scream amongst themselves, “Silence the madman”

Plots and schemes are formulated.
An arrest is planned.
Betrayal is at hand.
Recant
Repent
Destroy
Prepare
Lust whispers in the darkness.
Greed reaches out its greasy hand.
Pleasure mingles with pain.
Yet his words remain the same.
“I am not the one whom you seek.
I am not the One.
I am but the messenger.
The one who was sent to prepare the way.
You will see, there will be One greater,
One who you cannot silence. . .”

All as a single head rolls, served upon a platter,
As the people resume their dancing and laughter,
Uneasiness reigns and the demons giggle with glee.
“Repent” and “prepare” swrill upon the foreboding winds. . .