Tag Archives: Day Off

Holy Souls Hermitage (update)

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Someone I know says that he has never seen a picture of Holy Souls Hermitage rising up above the forest floor at the top of a ridge in these Blue Mountains, these Smoky Mountains. In the above slideshow we are, of course, looking due East.

Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is no longer there. No tabernacle, no altar, no angels, all gone. In October 2019, I will have been in the parish here for six years. There was urgent movement being made on selling the property underneath the hermitage for quite a while. It’s a little less urgent right now. Off the market, in fact.

I still go out to the hermitage every week for a “day off”, even if only for minutes, so that I can tell my Vicar Forane that, yes, I’m taking care of myself, taking a “Day Off.” He likes when the priests in his vicariate in the diocese get a bit of a change of pace, a change of scenery, some recreation. I often end up doing lots of “priest stuff” as I mysteriously call it, driving the curious batty as they try to figure out what “priest stuff” is. But the hermitage is a welcome refuge.

What happens at the hermitage for those minutes or hours? Target practice with timers are variously placed and sized targets, sometimes moving targets on ropes or whatever, takes up some of the time. The Vicar and I just spoke, in fact, about what kind of ammo I got yesterday. Just boring ammo: Federal brass 9mm FMJ 115 grain target practice ammo.

Sometimes it’s reading some complex email communications. Sometimes some more complex phone calls are made. Sometimes just a bit of quiet with the Lord. Always the Angelus many times for the bishop and priests of the diocese.

Always I try to look around for flowers for the Immaculate Conception. The joyful appreciation of Jesus’ good creation with the end of having the joy of giving Jesus’ good mom a flower is, how to say it, a simple joy, always, every time.

If I have enough time, today I plan to read Pope Francis’ letter to priests. The best laid plans of mice and men and donkeys like me are often laughed at by the Lord. But, we will see what happens. There may be other “priest stuff” to do today. But I would really like to get to this letter. It may be that a return letter, a response, equally public, may be in order. Have you read that letter? Any ideas on that?

/////////// Later… I made it to the hermitage. Some prayers were said. Some target practice was accomplished. First thing, 25 feet out, 7″ pie plate, six rounds in 1.74 seconds, and accurate. Later, two to the body, one to the head in 1.27 seconds. Both flukes, though. I’m not that good. Far from it.

Here’s what the window looks like now:

2:30 pm… I read up to paragraph 8 of the Pope’s letter to priests and had to stop. This may take more exegesis than I can do on my phone. Anyone with comments on paragraph 8?

A bit more target practice. Then it’s off to visit a few people, check the UPS store, and then do some priest stuff….

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Gunslingery and Confession: perishable skills

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I’ve done about zilch target practice on the days off these past weeks what with not feeling well. Although going to the hermitage “range” and getting all set up, I just had no energy to pull the trigger. So, no. For me, that‘s feeling under the weather. I try not to let anything stop me from anything. Gunslinggery is a perishable skill and has to be kept up with. But, no. So, any skill sets have faded.

The last time I seriously threw out some bullets, say, a month ago, I had practiced what’s also called “the failure drill” of two to the body one to the head out 21 feet with a 6″x10″ “body” and 2″x4″ “head.” The anomalous best I had gotten down to 1.1 seconds from the holster, but maybe not accurate (I hadn’t kept up with marking the target). Anomalous means nothing to do with reality, btw.

This time, catching up again – and not yet fully recovered from feeling terribly under the weather which was already bad – I got 1.86 seconds with accuracy, twice, from the holster. But even those times are anomalous, as it’s usually a bit slower than that, in the 2.25″ range. Anywhere under 2 seconds is almost guaranteed to be faster than any urgent mortal threat being carried out as criminals usually aren’t so well practiced.

As someone said, if you want to know where you’re really at, do it ten times in a row all under time with a hundred percent accuracy each time. So, not in this life for me I don’t think. I’ve never done anything like that, at least so far. At least I had a couple of good 1.86 times. Our special operators and agents must do it 100% of the time.

But I did get a 96% (one bullet slightly stray of my reduced tiny targets) on the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal Course. But I was  also DQ’d for all that by edging over-time on a stage or two of that seven stage course. And it wasn’t cold barrel. I was happy to be back again.


Confession: If you’ve been away from Confession for a while, you know that that’s also a perishable skill.

A person who goes to Confession frequently can develop an accurate, informed conscience that is devoid of scrupulosity but which takes care to avoid sin. Such as person more easily sees sin for what it is in all its ugly, selfish, arrogant, entitled reality because of being good friends with the Standard of Goodness and Kindness and Truth, Jesus Himself.

A person who doesn’t go to Confession, who’s been away for a long time, tends to think that they have no sin, that they are good people, that they don’t need any mercy, any forgiveness, that they are just fine with the type of life they have chosen, congratulating themselves that what they do “makes up for” not being good with God in the way Jesus indicated to the Apostles of His own Church, because, you know, they are good with God because they think that they do nice stuff, reciting that nice stuff for all to hear. But not everyone who says, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. People can be hypocrites.

It’s true that some who go to Confession do so for hypocritical reasons, as if this chance to be forgiven gives them a right to sin, but this is a sin against the Holy Spirit. It is a sin of despair. It says that one doesn’t want to be forgiven.

To get back to the practice of Confession, to pick up off the charts skill sets once again, one need only… go to Confession. Just do it. It brings great happiness. It lifts burdens. It is beautiful to say sorry to Jesus through the Church, the Body of Christ in the way Jesus had this done, being forgiven by God and neighbor – via the priest ordained for this purpose – simultaneously.

And then one has the peace of being in humble thanksgiving before the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, whereby one’s life is once again on target with all God-speed, aimed at heaven.


And if anyone thinks that this is an inappropriate analogy, just remember that Jesus Himself said that those who go to heaven are those who take heaven by force, by violence.

That violence, by God’s grace, is being crucified to the world, the flesh and the devil so as to live for Jesus, for goodness and kindness and truth, that is, by Jesus’ goodness and kindness and truth. It’s all Jesus. He’s the One. He’s the only One.


If you carry, practice often. Be frosty. Be edgy. Know how to deescalate situations. Know how to avoid situations.

Go to Confession regularly. This isn’t about us being merely exteriorly good as if that were something God appreciates. No. Saul kept the law exteriorly but interiorly carried hatred. Saint Paul, instead, was brought to understand that this was all a loss compared to keeping the law because one carries God’s love. That love, God’s love, only comes from God. That’s the renewal of sanctifying grace we receive with the absolution.

After Confession one isn’t to congratulate oneself for being good (which only sets one up for a fall, trusting in one’s strength one doesn’t have of oneself), but one is instead to be in humble thanksgiving before Jesus, walking with Jesus, rejoicing to walk with Jesus.

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“Day Off” health & blogging

There was a huge list of things to get accomplished on the “Day Off”, some done, some furthered, some with logistical difficulties. Lots of follow-ups on certain situations. And someone seems also to have lost a phone… All the same things or not as any “Day On”, except this time I took a different way home. One of my favorite scenes that I haven’t seen for a while is in the 8 second video I took above. This was a welcome change of pace. I love being in the heart of Appalachia.

These past 2 1/2 weeks I’ve been way under the weather, with some pretty miserable weather. I even saw the doctor about it – avoiding the doctor for some 14 months – and we discussed some strategies for my peculiar hereditary circumstances. But otherwise, sugar is normal, blood pressure is normal, etc. But still, it was too difficult to keep up with the blog, so I just had to let it go for a while. There are questions and comments to catch up on. That’s life.

While feeling under the weather my ICANN top level domain registration expired, and immediately there was a hack from Saint Petersburg, you know, the one in Russia. That was right after my “Shadow” went to an old locked down post on hacking. Just a coincidence?

I must absolutely therefore be put under investigation for whatever Russian conspiracy that the Dems want to bring, right? Sorry, a little humor there, but maybe not so far off. Pretty crazy in D.C. right now. Just some more humor there. Sorry.

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“Day Off” at the hermitage

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img_20190521_172306~2-17681136628144419326..jpgWhat that means is three shots (2 body, one head, pictured below according to the SEALs measurements 21 feet out) in 0.26 seconds starting at 1.14 seconds starting out of a locked holster. So, 0.03 hundredths of a second faster than last week. Another group came in 1.25 seconds (which group may have had the first shot out in less than a second from a locked holster), but I don’t want to claim that group as validated as I hadn’t marked previous shots on the paper and couldn’t be sure if all three were precisely accurate. Mind you, that’s the flukey best. I’m NOT that good. Not at all.

Meanwhile, a good chat was had with the neighbors to the hermitage about the priesthood. They suffer for priests. They pray for priests. They are in solidarity with priests. Such a good crowd. Meanwhile, we spoke of a particular priest. They are an inspiration. And besides, they made a delicious meal, complete with monster cookies and ice cream. I am unworthy.

Meanwhile, having had a good chat with a priest writing this next week’s guest post for These Stone Walls, I read his revision up in the hermitage itself, as was only fitting, and responded again. Awesome. He touched the Heart of Jesus for us all.

Meanwhile, I spoke with another priest, the one whose case I brought to Pope Francis. He’s doing extraordinarily well. It’s the stuff of the lives of the saints. What a great joy. What a great joy.

Meanwhile, conversation was had about yet another priest who has a case parallel to the one whose case I brought to Pope Francis. He’s an amazing, faithful, devout priest – an excellent faithful Thomist – now nailed to the cross, for years. Plotting about how to go about things to be of assistance was wrought.

Meanwhile, logistics errands for the neighbors to mechanics and banks were accomplished, at the end of which…

Meanwhile, I finally spoke with… […] It is such a blessing to be able to tap into first hand wisdom of the best of the best of the best. A good “Day Off.”

Oh, and, of course, tons of pictures of flowers for the Immaculate Conception were taken. That’s the undisputed best part of a “Day Off”.

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Day Off and the Chrism Mass: Show of Force Prevention

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It’s Holy Week. Busiest days ever for a priest. Apologies to those sending questions etc.

Tuesday saw well over 400 miles clocked on Sassy the Subaru Forester, going from Andrews to the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral in Charlotte. The priests renewed their promises at Mass, the Sacred Chrism and the Oils of Catechumens and of the Infirm were blessed. There was a meal for the priests afterward. Artwork and best wishes by the children of the Cathedral were at all the places for the priests. This one was at my place:

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Of course, vocations are from Jesus!

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Everything about the day was enjoyable, well, except for something rather unexpected, rather out of the ordinary show of force with armed security, which is always done with the motivation of prevention. The security guy, in full uniform and a heavily decked out duty belt followed the bishop and his two deacons for the procession in and then out. So, I guess, this was more of a bodyguard thing.

What I say here is NOT a criticism, not in the least. I don’t know the circumstances. I’m guessing that if there was a credible and imminent threat, either the Mass would have been cancelled or there would have been support from “normal” law enforcement, with a couple of squad cars out front, etc. Perhaps there were some other undercover guys as at, for instance, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

The Bishop’s homily was rather abbreviated. And then, also out of character, he only appeared for perhaps one minute at the meal afterward to do the blessing. Again, I don’t know the circumstances.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The policy of the diocese, surely to appease insurance companies, is that there can be no officially mandated armed presence for church services on any campus of the diocese. Let’s stare at that:

“No officially mandated armed presence…”

In other words, volunteers can volunteer, and it’s up to the priest to assess a volunteer’s viability on any number of levels and in all sorts of ways, but nothing that the priest says can make anything with weapons that which is expected of anyone for any reason ever. Fine. In the end, the policy is a non-policy. It just facilitates attorneys protecting whoever.

I’m guessing that this security guy at the Chrism Mass was told where he was to be and even that he was to be uniformed, but that any weapons were totally his option.

I had a good chat with him ranging from his provenance (that was interesting), a particular “group” to which he belongs (that was interesting).

During the hundreds of miles long trip there was plenty of time to mull things, that is, about this and a number of other issues, always enjoyable speeding by the mountain scenery.

But I wanted more time to mull things over. The Day Off suggested the option of gun-slinging. A detour was made to the neighbors to the hermitage. As usual, some FBI and FAM tactical pistol courses were accomplished.

I should volunteer to be a kind of security secretary to the Bishop, you know, with some optional security options optionally being put into play, optionally, of course, but surely in a more low-key manner. But for now, just to say, in support:

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

After the tactical pistol courses – which afford time for prayer for the bishops and priests during target set-up and replacement – it was then time for discussion with the neighbors to the hermitage. The topic above went on for hours. It is quite a bit to take in.

We discussed undercover as opposed to open show of force. Even at Saint Peter’s in Rome, the top operator guys are dressed in tuxedos so as to be more low key.

We ended by praying for the security of the Bishop, and that the Lord continues to give him the grace and strength he needs each day (to quote the card pictured above). Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory be…

To repeat: we don’t know the circumstances of the preventative show of force, and this is no criticism. Far from it. The whole “ounce” “pound” thing is very wise. Perhaps this is a paradigm for the diocese in hopes of saving lives amidst so many attacks on churches.

Yes, there is a picture of a glorious cross pictured at the top of this post in that card made by a child. “Out of the mouths of babes” and all that… And, yes, Our Lord did say, “As the Master, so the disciple.” Yes.

But defense of the innocent is a good thing. I’m sure there will be debate…

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Day Off: Seamless Garment edition)

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Driving into the yard of the neighbors to the hermitage was easy on such a dark and cloudy, dangerously stormy day, illuminated as all things were by the pear tree blossoms. An Immaculate Conception statue looks upon the scene from next to a nearby rosebush. Lightning also brought some light, accompanied with great audio: thunder! This (at the time) real-time video was provided by the neighbor as to what was happening just down the mountain:

Hail! Some were to be seen walking about confused, snow-shovels in hand. Floods were all around, with water just about up to the floorboards of Sassy the Subaru Forester. Cars were in the ditch, emergency vehicles (fire engines, law enforcement, ambulances, tow-trucks) everywhere to be seen.

Meanwhile, continuing up the ridge, prayers were said for the Bishop and priests of the diocese. And behold, one other lone flower for the Immaculate Conception was to be seen. I say it’s for her because it’s precisely here where it is somehow necessary to pray the Angelus and other Marian prayers. This necessity has been going on for seven years.

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But then it was time for other day off activities. Up went a target at seven yards away including the “A” body-box (8″ tall by 6″ wide) and a head-box (2″ tall by 4″ wide). This was for the supposed stage 4 of a surely outdated SEALs tactical pistol course, namely:

  • Two to the “body”, one to the “head” equal to or less than two seconds from a holster. My holster is “locked”, so that slows me down. Best was slow: 2.19 secs. My best ever was, I think, down in the 1.70s and 1.60s range.

It’s a perishable skill. Practice is needed. The extremely restrictive European Union rules limit ammo to 1000 rounds a year per person. Maybe I need more than that because I’m such a terribly bad shot. But more realistically, making sure that people don’t practice much makes people within the legal parameters dangerous.

After that drill, the pre-2001 Fed. Air Marshal course went up. 100% accurate and under-time for five stages, but DQ for being slightly but predictably overtime on a couple of other stages. Accuracy trumps quick every time however. It’s fun to shave off hundredths of seconds. But those other two stages need separate work.

After that, it was time to empty out a partially emptied mag at the series of swinging plastic coffee buckets. Starting to get used to wildly moving small targets.


 

Then it was dinner time at the neighbors with spiritual discussions lasting hours. Always so enjoyable. This time, the major topic was the cloak of our Lord for which the soldiers cast lots, being that it was of super-high-quality, being woven from top to bottom throughout. This was the garment that Jesus’ good mom would have made for Him, not the resplendent, gorgeous apparel that Herod had mockingly put on Him to send Him back to Pilate.


Two Notes on the Seamless Garment: 

  • There is a position in heretical moral theology blasphemously called the Seamless Garment, which has it stopping the threat of a murderous unjust aggressor in the defense of the innocent (which is actually a contribution to the virtue of justice) is equivalent to murdering the innocent (which is always an evil and admits of no excuse): a so-called “seamless garment.” No. They are not the same.
  • Mary, the true Woman of Genesis 3:15, is the “Mother of All the Living,” the title (in bad translation) that Adam tried to give his wife. Fail. Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer is, in good translation, the “Mother of the Entire Living-One,” what Saint Paul calls the Body of Christ, with Jesus as the Head of that Body and we as the members of that Body. How appropriate that the garment for this one Body of Christ be woven as a seamless garment. Good call, Mary. You are Jesus’ good mom, and ours.

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Day Off: guns & spiritual conversations – Jesus bragging on His mother in hell

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Not having bought any ammo since, I think, sometime in late 2018, the “long-way” was taken to the hermitage, passing by a number of Walmarts with variously stocked ammo desks, some desk managers being more on top of things than others. Then, after hitting the UPS Store, it was up and up and up “the mountain.” BTW, can you spot the huge cross made out of I-beams partially hidden by the trees towering above the driveway in the picture above? The neighbor to the hermitage is a master welder.

After a couple of hours of quiet time – a day off after all – energy returned, prayers were said, protection of angels was requested, targets went up, mags were loaded, timers were set, “ears” were adjusted, adrenaline was forced, trigger fingers, left and right, were steadied, concentration was narrowed…

The first course consisted of some six stages of drills, supposedly of a SEAL team, surely dumbed down and from “back-in-the-day.” Here’s a picture of the first stage, just three yards out, from cover/holstered, with an 8 1/2 x 11 target of the usual “body” (inside the two vertical lines: 5:3/4″ x 10:1/2″) and “head” (consisting of a 2″ x 4″ box at the top, an eye-forehead shot instantly “stopping the threat”). The first stage is just one shot from holster to the “head” ≤ 1.5 seconds. Dunno why, but this time I was much more accurate and quick for all stages of all courses, coming in mostly (way) under time and with smaller more centered patterns, mostly inside the “inside bottle” representing the spinal cord. Prayers for priests and the bishop while moving, marking, changing out targets.

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The target then moves further away for different stages until 75 feet away up the ridge.

DIGRESSION: Someone had given me some massively oversized targets (23″ x 35″), I guess to poke fun at my aim, the comment surely being that I’m not able to hit the side of a barn… from inside the barn! I took those dozen or so roll of wallpaper-esque targets just to see if there was anything superimposed. Nope. Having ascertained that, those targets will now go back to the giver. As of a couple years, the most recent policy really is no gifts from intel, ever, zip, zero, zilch… can’t happen. I’m guessing the targets are for zeroing in rifle scopes, say, from a mile out. But I’m not a sniper. I don’t own or use rifles. Not my thing. With a Glock, as the saying goes, aim small, shoot small.

After that, it was time for an FBI course with reduced QIT 97-99 inside bottle targets (that partial detail fitting on legal paper), and then the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal courses (that target consisting of foam dessert plates propped up by pigtail wires), and then some swinging breakfast blend plastic coffee buckets on ropes and filled with dirt (out to about 15 yards), totaling for day I’m guessing about 175 bullets. Not much, but enough. It was a good day for review and keeping edgy.

With the Glock thoroughly cleaned and oiled and the target-ammo changed out for appropriate carry-ammo, I was eager to go to the neighbors of the hermitage. That’s when the real happiness of the day began.

The spiritual conversations after plinking are becoming a thing, as it were, something that’s expected and to which we all look forward. We spoke of judgment, heaven, hell, purgatory, witnessing to the point of martyrdom, suffering, angels, Jesus, our dearest Heavenly Father, the state of the Church, the state of our souls, the patience of our Lord with us sinners, and being happy for Jesus that after all He has gone through for us, He is now in heaven with our Heavenly Father.

But most of all – at length – we spoke about our Blessed Mother, Jesus’ good mom, about what she went though in this world, what with her purity of heart and agility of soul and clear vision confronting this fallen world, how it is that she was in solidarity with her Divine Son Jesus as He was tortured to death right in front of her. If recorded, these conversations would be good material for an ongoing series of blog posts.

A repeat-topic about our Lady came up, you know, which of the 14 Stations of the Cross would be most – how to say? –  involving to Jesus. The neighbor said it would surely be the meeting with His mother. I agreed, but in another way, saying that it may well be when Jesus is taken down from the cross and put in the arms of His blessed mother.

Aquinas says that the divinity of Jesus never left His body even when that body died and He, with His soul, descended to hell to preach to the fallen spirits. It struck me then, devastated as He would be in His soul that His mother was so devastated holding His dead body, that He would be bragging on His mother to the fallen spirits: “Look at her! She’s the mother-warrior who crushes you, Satan, under her heel. She’s remained faithful in the most adverse circumstances, all of hell attacking. You have failed! She has won souls for heaven!” These are the words, so full of love, which will torture those fallen spirits, so full of hate, for eternity.

Much better to have our souls in order, frequenting the Sacraments, to go to heaven and rejoice to be happy that, after all they went through in this world for us, both Jesus and our Blessed Mother are there.

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Day off: Ultra super mega Snow Moon

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A few days back there was a slight break in the clouds and my neighbor pointed out the Snow Moon. “It’s been going crazy all day,” he said.

Good day for a snow moon. The very second I arrived at the hermitage, it started to snow, well, ice crystals began to cascade heavily from the skies. And then immediately everything was ultra-super-slippery.

Nevertheless, I did do up a few minutes of target practice, one magazine at the three swinging buckets after two other magazines were put out cold barrel for the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal tactical pistol course. Two of the thirty necessary went slightly wide, leaving me with a score of 93%. As is usually the case, I was DQed for a slight overtime on two stages. I tried out the Hogue grip again (a Christmas gift from a LEO in the parish). That particular grip works great in icy cold weather. I would have done the course again (cheating, as that’s “hot barrel”), just to try to get 100%, but the pile-up of ice crystals was getting concerning for any further delayed travel up on the back ridges.

After some errands further down the mountain, it was up to Asheville. All five bolts on the back wheel were replaced. Good thing. I never would have been able to get them off to replace a flat in the middle of the night in a cell phone dead zone. The head mechanic brought me to lunch, but I was quicker than him at the register. I think this was the third time in my entire life that I’ve had a Reuben.

We had a great conversation about Jesus.

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FBI Pistol Instructor re-qualification course: first time for this priest

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You can’t practice what I’m guessing is the FBI Firearms Instructor Pistol re-qualification course at an indoor range what with all the running and jumping around, so it’s away to the great outdoors where one appreciates the beauty of God’s creation. And that’s all part of it, btw, and all the more for those who are in deadly situations every day. The integrity of knowing how to be safe with some tools of self-defense is consistent with the integrity of walking in God’s presence.

The hermitage gun range is stretched up a super-steep pathway – at about 3,000 ft up, close to heaven, if you will – with the only kind-of-flat place being the starting firing line (used in this case for the first stage only), the rest of the path/course being as steep as 38º. But I won’t allow myself extra time for the parts where one is supposed to run, in this case climb, even with my middle-aged-ness kicking in. Real situations don’t allow for extra time. I’m told that shooting up-hill is more difficult. Good.

Here’s a downloadable graphic presenting in my own shorthand what I’m guessing is the briefest of re-qualification courses for FBI Firearms Instructors. This is only part of what they do, excluding the drive-by shooting scenarios, the “kill-house” scenarios, the pop-up discern bad-guy from good-guy exercises, etc. You can copy the graphic of this most basic part of the course below and fit two of them on one 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper. The timings are very generous.

FBI Tactical Pistol Instructor Course

If there are any mistakes with that, let me know. It’s a point per bullet. But I don’t know if a “hit” refers only to entirely inside the line of the QIT inside bottle or the whole “body.”

I only briefly researched this once like a year ago. I tried to verify it just now. There’s a lot of BS on-line. For instance, the entire first stage above is, from my research, to be done continuously in a total of 75 seconds or less. One guy put up four minutes for the first stage. That can’t be right. My times – which I thought were really slow, even for a first attempt, and not having practiced for a good while – came in at about 60 seconds. I mean, the entire course shouldn’t take but two minutes shooting time max, which, as I say, is already very generous. Of course, if you’re not changing out the target, you’ll still have to stop to count hits and mark out already fired shots after each stage.

Btw, I use not-foreseen-for-this-course Glock 19 Gen 4 that was refurbished by Glock down in Smyna, GA. With that, I use the absolutely forbidden ultra-evil never-to-be-used Blackhawk Serpa (it has a dangerous trigger-finger unlock for the holster). It’s just that it’s safe for everyday carry as it’s almost impossible for a bad-guy to take the gun. Any suggestions are welcome for an alternative OWB holster that’s similarly close to the body (which excludes pretty much all LEO holsters).

Previously, I’ve tried my own makeshift running courses – like running by a small target [paper plate] some seven yards away while shooting with whatever hand – but this is the first time I’ve done an “official” tactical pistol course involving running, or going from prone to a knee to standing, back to a knee, amid combat reloads and after that more running. The extra activity is done for the sake of getting the adrenaline going, and to make for a more realistic exercise. Great.

But perhaps I should combine the courses I’ve been doing, like the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal TPC (the timings for which are hilarious for me, as they are two and three times quicker than the FBI instructor course), and what I know of the SEALs TPC (even quicker), as well as a few exercises of my own, like shooting a suspended wobbly stake in half. Even direct hits with target ammo won’t snap it. It’s gotta be hit many times in the same place:

It’s not a sin to have some innocent fun that is also useful in real life. As I say, I’ve already had to draw up on a carjacker who had just robbed everyone at a rest stop and wanted a get away car. I had a police officer in desperate straits as a passenger. I was bringing him to the hospital for major surgery for an almost fully ripped-off arm at the shoulder. He was already helpless besides that as he was still suffering from a broken back because of one of the traffic stops he had made in the past. This cop in my passenger seat desperately said that this was a car-jacking. What was I supposed to do, let him be kidnapped, become a hostage (because he’s a cop) and perhaps be murdered? I support our LEOs! Surely saving the life of a cop and otherwise protecting a cop from grave injury isn’t an unseemly activity for a priest, is it?

Thankfully, at that very nanosecond, another LEO screeched to a stop in front of the robber, now would-be carjacker, kidnapper, hostage-taker guy. Then eight more cruisers joined that cop within seconds, and how many more from the other direction I don’t know as the first cop let us go as other cops joined in the apprehension.

If I write such things, it’s to demonstrate that priests are people too. It’s good for priests to know that they are human beings. And good for other people to know that priests are human beings. Just because of my background, this is my way of having fun. But it comes with a price – enjoyable – of keeping sharp, a bit edgy, well-practiced. I was happy for a day off. And, yes, lots of prayers were said too.

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E.R. 2nd day

This is the Emergency Room at Emery Hospital in Atlanta where I’ve been with a parishioner for the second day running. No day off today.

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Day-Off: flags

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Paying it forward, I got a 4’x6′ American flag for my neighbor. We put it up together and folded the old one, getting it ready for respectful retirement by fire. I threw in my old and tattered papal flag. Patriotism and well reasoned loyalty (is that nuanced enough?) are always appropriate, even when bad actors are afoot.

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Don’t worry. No forest fire at the hermitage. Unlike those in California who have to deal with environmentalist terror and dry conditions, WNC forests, 90% of the time, are soaked through and through with often double the rainfall of an average rain forest.

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Day Off: Guns and Fiery Ecumenism (Russian Orthodox), and then… Yikes!

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The “Day-Off” started off at 2:00 AM editing this Wednesday’s post for Father Gordon’s These Stone Walls. What a fright! Then, after feeding the dogs, it was off with Sassy the Subaru to be checked out some 100 miles away from the rectory, a two hour trip with the appointment being for after 7:00 AM sometime. Sassy’s fine, but I’m thinking of trading her in for something… else…

Then the “Day-Off” brought me to Mission Hospital in Asheville to visit an elderly friend who was bleeding out for an unknown reason for days on end, getting lots of bags of blood being pumped into her. They figure she’s going to get better and will be home in a few days.

After some sacramental work, it was then off to the pharmacy, the “mail-box”, then lunch with some gun slingers, which brings me to some time at the hermitage…

The old ripped towel on the ground you see at the bottom of the picture above is for protecting click-dropped magazines from being clogged with forest floor stuff while doing timed tactical and combat changes, while in the action of falling to a knee after firing a shot and before another. I’m not sure why, but these are exercises I can do way under time with good accuracy (better than all the other stages of courses). Targets are 7″ pie plates all at seven yards out (three yards apart), typical of the average furthest distance in a critical defensive shootout with accuracy you want to have if at a gas station in an imminently life-threatening situation (as set up with the violent rhetoric of Maxine Waters).

Aiming for perfect scores with my little targets did see some progress, particularly with strings, in this case six pumped out as fast as one can pull the trigger. The grouping got smaller even as the timing shortened more than 1.5 seconds (from a few weeks ago), all under the time permitted for the Federal Air Marshall Tactical Pistol Course (pre-2001).

And yet, I got nothing near my best scores to date (always DQs for whatever reason, of course). I was terribly preoccupied with mulling over doing up a communication with the Holy See on recent dramas in Holy Mother Church. I should learn to not let myself be so lackadaisical during practice since one cannot and will not be otherwise preoccupied during a critical incident.

Anyway, I gave up in favor of doing up some practical ecumenism with the Russian Orthodox Church (sorry my Greek friends!). Another neighbor is Greek Orthodox well on his way to priestly ordination, with a beautiful family. He already has the famous moonshine wood stove I used in the hermitage. I marched up the ridge a couple of times to get the stainless steel stove pipe I used with bits and pieces of caps and clean outs, but about 15 feet of pipe all told. Winter is upon us!

And then, while talking with my other neighbor to the hermitage about all sort of topics, I suddenly and quite simply sent off an extremely brief email to a certain someone in the Holy See, asking a question I had been mulling for days, oppressively so, as mentioned above. Immediately I got back a response, very nuanced, offering new information and direction and encouragement. It was almost as if he had been waiting for my request and was ready to drop me that response since the time I had gone to Rome to give those two packages to the Holy Father. But I digress.

Still at the neighbors we talked about Jesus, as we always do. We spent some time on meditations involving the horrors of going to hell for eternity and how easy that is to avoid, and also about the joys of heaven and the desire to go there. It was as if a great, great weight had been lifted from me, even though what had transpired in those brief quick emails entails a huge amount of work.

So, of course, cherry ice cream with huge chunks of chocolate had to be devoured. Then “Day-Off” ended back at the rectory before midnight. Having been up since 2:00 AM, and it being waaaay past my bedtime, I had to stop along the highway and take a nap in the car. Sooo tired.

Meanwhile, the day-after, today, will be filled with sewerage up at the church, the second day for the plumbers to come by and see what in the world might be done so as to open up the parish again…

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Day Off: Scoping & best dq to date. Automated course: pulleys, ropes?

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Just prior to my going farther up the mountain – where one finds Holy Souls Hermitage – I put up a target for some vet friends, Army above and Air Force below, so that they might set their scopes a bit more accurately.

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Then it was time for me to throw out a few rounds from the Glock 19 before the retreat begins in another handful of days for all the priests of Charlotte Diocese.

  • Five targets for the FBI course went up at all their various distances. That netted an “instructor” level result.
  • Three targets all seven yards out then went up for the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal tactical pistol course. This netted my best disqualification yet. 100% accuracy for all seven stages (with my 4.7 times smaller than regulation targets), all under time except stage six. Drat! The two sets to that stage (spinning from 180 degrees with holstered cover to hit three targets three yards apart  in 3.5 seconds. One set was 0.11 hundreds of a second over, and the other 0.32 hundreds of a second over.

Not quite getting it perfect and still not cold barrel keeps the challenge there. That challenge keeps going even when 100% and all under time is achieved every session since it’s a perishable skill. As the neighbor says: only God is perfect.

I wish I could get the description and timings for all stages of the SEALS TPC. Anyone? I won’t publicize it. Surmisings of a few stages are guessed at on the internet but that’s it. If you drop it in the comments box I’ll be able to copy it without letting it through the moderation queue.

Meanwhile, texting back and forth with number two guy above, he’s talking about jacking it up a level by building me an automated course on the cheap, with strings and pulleys and ropes that can be randomized. Timer would be counterproductive. That sounds waaaaaay out of my league, but surely a huge challenge. And that’s why it’s good for the day off, right?

 

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Day Off at the hermitage: the most protected air space in the world

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I had just arrived at the hermitage on my day off this past week when a storm of Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks came thundering over, seemingly causing earthquakes. This is the usual experience as this exact spot is where one might set up a chair and watch an airshow of all that which is old and new and experimental of anything directly or remotely related to the military or our intelligence services, well, if the thick forest canopy didn’t block one’s view.

AH 64

One might also see some version of Boeing’s Attack Helicopter 64 Apache:

AH 64-

Or a Bell Attack Helicopter 1W Super Cobra:

super cobra ah 1W attack-

Or, if you’re lucky, you might even see General Atomics’ Gray Eagle derivative of their MQ-1 Predator attack drone:

General Atomics Drone Gray Eagle

Sadly, a Boeing CH-47 Chinook crashed out some years ago near to the hermitage:

Boeing CH-47 Chinook

Outside of these guys, planes or all sorts also use this flight path, including Boeing’s FA 18 of whatever version:

Boeing FA 18

Just because the hermitage is on the most remote ridge of the Smoky Mountains doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have what is perhaps by far the most protected airspace in the world. As I understand it, there are, above, fully nine levels of military experimental airspace. Almost an Area 51.

But that’s NOT why it’s the most protected air space. Instead, the angels are there.

 

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Day-off: Getting professionally baited, you know, on purpose. ;-)

baiting

Waiting for boarding time for the trip to Rome, I’m noticing more old drafts that need sprucing up and publishing.

On my “day-off” the other week… month.. I returned the Sig Sauer P226 variant to “The Guy” (a label which can refer to any guy or number of people or group or groups of people in any number of places in any number of countries, right?). He lent his Sig to me to that I could see what a Sig is all about. He’s had it since the mid-1980s. I actually in the end didn’t like the grip, a bit like a revolver, almost the opposite grip-system as is found on a “normal” pistol, at least compared to my Glock 19 Gen4.

This time, our chat wasn’t a mere two or four hours. We went six hours non-stop.

suicide bomber land day 2001

Before I could say anything at all – no, really, nothing – he gave me further lessons in shooting. Non stop talking. Like he was on assignment. Great, thought I, as I need all the help I can get. I didn’t say anything, just took it all in. Strange, though, as this time he was mentioning targets, as if they were assignments. Instructions were about how to kill as many people (all head shots) as possible as fast as one could pull the trigger, that is, how it is, counterintuitively, that one moves from one target to the next as fast as one can aim even while not quite aiming, if that makes sense. To real shooters it will. Imagine a row of small steel targets on springs but unevenly spaced and of uneven heights and all moving on horizontal bars in different directions but you able to get a “kill” each trigger pull as fast as you can pull the trigger. Its where your eyes are looking. Not where you think. This was scaring me, needless to say. I decided to let him just keep going to see where this was going to go. He was clearly baiting. Field guys aren’t always the best counterintel guys.

Before I could say anything at all – no, really, nothing – he gave me lessons in bomb making for all situations, for cars, for entire buildings, for suicide bombing – yep- or for events from which you could walk away before it happened, always looking for a reaction from me, a question from me, a request for clarification from me. I said nothing. I just watched the show of baiting. He described usage of Composition-C (C-4) and of other otherwise easily obtainable materials. On and on he went. And that’s not the first time he said he could actually obtain such things. I’m sure he must have been leaving out details – or perhaps all the details were entirely fictional – as I’m guessing that such lessons would otherwise be rather illegal. He knows I write this blog. I have to wonder what he’s up to. He didn’t mind that all-hearing-cell-phones were present… So…

terrorist suicide bomber

This is like the third time he’s shared bomb making, so I suppose he’s just venting about his life up to now in the military and The Company. But this was different with the detail, even named targets such as an elevator toward the top of the […!]. Was he looking for another partner in a group no one would suspect, you know, like, a priest? He spoke to that point rather incisively. I’m guessing these are not conversations priests casually have now and again. But, then again, this was a monologue. So, coming at that from a different angle, is he trying to frame me for some future event, or perhaps frame the guy who stole my identity, you know, if I took an interest in all this? It’s all too easy, isn’t it? But, whatever, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. For myself, I didn’t show any interest, ask any questions, or take any notes, or set any appointments to see some demonstrations. Nor did he push any of that. Probably just venting. Yep. That‘s what he’s doing. PTSD and all that. Fine. A bit weird all the talk on suicide bombs though.

Attempting to move on to a conversation instead me just watching a monologue for the longest time – as the hands of the clock were now spinning around – I recounted to him more of the baiting to which I’ve been subjected a few weeks ago by the GTMO guys with the bit about murder as “suicide” as an “assignment”. He said it was all perfectly familiar to him, that that’s how it’s done, how assignments are given out. Bingo, thought I. I asked: How’s that? He said it was all so familiar – expressly exclaiming this many times – but also signaling his recognition of details of what I was saying with his body language, point after point, nodding his head, smiling for just a nanosecond at this or that, pointing with a finger at any important detail… because, he said, this is all exactly the kind of thing he himself did, in detail, when he was stationed in France, baiting people, manipulating people, having people carry things out without their even knowing they were doing it at his bidding, expert, he thought anyway, at counterintelligence in a field-counterterrorism way. Why do things yourself if you can get your enemy to do them against himself for you? It’s all a rather murky world.

It gets so screwed up that in the end you don’t know who’s who and what’s what, whether the deep state is the real government or whether there are string pullers who make nations and governments a fiction and anything said to be deep into self-delusionary self-protectionist dramas lacking importance and influence on the world stage whatever individual players think of themselves. “The Guy” supported the view of just a few string pullers, while actual nations, including our own USA, are entirely irrelevant, unimportant, almost fictional. He himself, for instance, laughing at the upper echelon of The Company, in particular at Pompeo, then Director now Secretary, and Haspel, then someone providing enhanced interrogation now Director. Um…

Catching him off guard, I mentioned a possible connection down in the far western Florida panhandle. “So what?” he challenged, glaring me down.

Catching him off guard, I mentioned KSM singing after enhanced interrogation. This put him into controlled anger mode. He did well, but he was upset. To be clear, he was angry at the fact of enhanced interrogation being used, and his doubts that anything whatsoever actionable had been obtained in such fashion and where exactly did I get my information that KSM actually gave up anything actionable.

Mind you, it wasn’t all like this. We spoke of the faith. He also went on an on with social justice issues that he immersed himself into coming off of his ops. But in speaking of the faith there were a couple of topics which he himself brought up, as he always does, which put him into barely controlled anger mode, specifically anger against the Successor of Saint Peter, speaking not just of Pope Francis, but all of the Popes these past decades, none of them caving in on two topics, not caving in because of the truth of the matter (that being irrelevant), but because, he said, with white hot, momentarily shaking anger, because of power. They won’t give up on their power, he insisted again and again, with a crazy look in his eyes when he said ‘power’. The two topics making him so angry?

  • He supports divorce and remarriage (he’s happily married) because, after all, what difference does it make? This goes along with marriage for any reason, like LGBTQ “marriage”. I recall the Eritrean operative (Front of House for Pope Francis) who was murdered with the child in her womb as a shot over the bow when there was a referendum on “Gay Marriage” in Italy and there was huge pressure that the Catholic Church would make no intervention.
  • But the topic that made him really angry was that the Catholic Church teaches that women’s ordination is impossible regardless of any rite that anyone pretends to accomplish. It was like the Popes are interested not in truth, but just in ‘power’ because they follow the example of Christ.

Surreal, you say? No. Not at all. Actions against the Catholic Church are all about getting the Successor of Peter to cave in on but one matter of faith or morals, because after that, the Catholic Church is simply no more, because then Christ is a liar, the Church is as wishy-washy as anyone else, merely politically correct, a nothing, to be dismissed, which allows us, then, to congratulate ourselves, cursing God and feeling the power. Oooo! Power! He’s repeated very many times that these USA maintains a two-hour window in which we can assassinate any world leader. Some very few, one or two, might take just a bit longer, but it will happen very quickly. Think about that for a moment. The changing logistics needs massive teams just to be readied to do this in any given two-hour window.

Here’s the deal: Pope Francis wants his Missionaries of Mercy to go into and even beyond the peripheries, right out into the darkest of existential suffering, not necessarily to be successful, mind you, but to be a presence of mercy – at least the offering of it – for those who want it. In this case, it is to witness to the light of Christ regardless of the rage of the world.

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Day Off: church shootings, advice from diocese, best DQ with my Glock 19

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[Humor alert: no need to be triggered!] That’s not me in the staged joke-picture above that I gleaned from another priest’s site who took the opportunity a while back to make sure priests follow the directions of their respective (arch)dioceses in regard to firearms. Yay!

Anyway, the total amount of direction we got the other week from the Vicar General of the Diocese is that firearms shall play no officially mandated part of any plan for parish preparations for a critical incident of an active shooter on the church campus, a mass shooter during Mass, so to speak. And all the parishes are heavily encouraged to have a plan, the first part of which is always situational awareness.

Someone once asked the bishop about what he has surely said to the priests about priests having guns. His response was spectacularly that of a good American citizen, something like: Oh! I guess I’ve never had a discussion with priests about their rights as citizens in good standing as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution. I love that response. A just and appropriate defense of self and others is a good thing.

Anyway, back to that staged joke-picture above: just to say, in case you were wondering: I do not have a holster like that as I do not have a light or laser on my Glock. I have not used a Hogue grip for a long time. I do not open-carry.  I do not carry on the side of the hip. Just not any of that, at all. Nothing. Zilch. Zippo. No. I don’t even have a set of green Roman Mass vestments. Get a life. Having said that, protesteth-ing way too much:

  • that’s not to say I don’t have a concealed carry handgun permit with its gazillion extremely thorough FBI criminal background checks;
  • that’s not to say I don’t have a Glock 19 Gen 4 that the factory down in Smyrna worked on a bit, they being very good to me;
  • that’s not to say I don’t keep my familiarity with my Glock somewhat sharp.

In fact, on the day off the other day at the hermitage I celebrated a minor victory with my Glock 19. Finally, a better disqualification, a better DQ, my best so far. I take what I can get. I was shooting the pre-Sept 11 2001 Federal Air Marshal course, which was ditched after the attacks for being too difficult. 5000 Air Marshals were wanted after the attacks. Only 50 could do this course. It was a fast, timed course used before flights. If you did it up right, you could fly. If you were 1/100th of a second over time on just one stage you were disqualified from the course and from flying, meaning you might just lose your job. The targets are small: just the “inside bottle” of the FBI QIT. But I use 7″ Styrofoam plates as an equivalent as they’re easy to set up with “pigtail” wires. Aim small, shoot small.

Finally, 100% and (even way) under time on the first five of seven stages. But then the sixth stage was overtime by some hundredths of a second, as was the seventh which I usually do in about half the time. But any overtime is a disqualification, a DQ. Rats. But, hey! That’s all progress for me. 100% accuracy but not as lightning quick as humanly possible is O.K., and leaves something to shoot for, so to speak. I enjoy it. I’d like to be able to do it cold barrel, and every time, with ease. Shaving off those milliseconds is important, right? Sorry, I’m being silly. I know some people have no sense of humor, especially with this topic.

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Day Off: feast for this priest in a time of smashing priests down

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Happenstance stopping by at a friend’s house on the day off, I was immediately presented with rib eye with Bearnaise and mushrooms in a wine bath, with deli bread and Perrier to wash it down. And then dessert (there’s ice cream in there too):

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That’s really very nice altogether with the whole swirl of no due process for priests darkening peoples’ minds and souls. Really very nice altogether. Might your priest appreciate this support?

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Exercise on this priest’s Day Off

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There are those who terribly resent priests taking a day off:

  • Priests should never get a day off. They don’t deserve it because they’re not human beings and they should ignore what Jesus said to the Apostles about taking some time away. I listen to gripes. Quietly, off to the side, I laugh with Jesus.
  • Priests should never exercise! Even if it’s good for their health, it might make it look like a day off is legitimate. I listen to gripes. Quietly, off to the side, I laugh with Jesus.
  • Priests should never help others on their day off, as that might make it look like a day off is legitimate. I listen to gripes. Quietly, off to the side, I laugh with Jesus.

Meanwhile, I just go about my day off doing whatever I want, with joy in my heart and gratitude in my soul, trying also to listen to my guardian angel who listens to my gripes on a continuous basis. On the start of this last day off it very much seemed to me that my guardian angel was smacking me upside the head so that I might be smart enough to take a change of clothes. I did, wondering what in the world was in store for me on the day off.

I was soon to find out at the soup kitchen in another part of the state, where I met my neighbor to the hermitage. He told me what was in store for him that afternoon and I instantly knew that that was what I was meant to do that day. It was helpful to another and got me some exercise. A friend was finishing building a house, alone, by hand, and wanted some trees removed out back. I helped load up some logs and then helped him unload and stack those at another location. That reminded me of working with my dad when I was a kid in the north woods of Minnesota.

Oh, and, of course, um… I did put off a few rounds. I ignored some of the other course scoring sheets I brought with me and concentrated on the FAM course, going through it five times, all passing as far as scores but none quite 100%. Accuracy is improving slowly. Most stages are under the time limit, even far under the time limit, but a couple of stages need work, going over the time limit, which is a Dq. Maybe next time I won’t go through any course, but just work on those stages.

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The fool says in his heart… [but then…]

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I was having a chat about the ways of God with the neighbor to the hermitage on the day off when of a sudden a critical incident unfolded before us with a battle falling from the tree down to our feet all in a wrestling agonizing roiling heap. “Crunch-crunch.” The jaws of the Great American Hornet could be heard snapping off wings and legs. One recalls the psalmist mocking the arrogant in the midst of times of continuous critical incidents:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good.

God looks down from heaven on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good, not even one.

Do all these evildoers know nothing?
They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on God.

But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
where there was nothing to dread.

God scattered the bones of those who attacked you;
you put them to shame, for God despised them.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

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Today sadly nostalgic “Day-Off”

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We tell God our plans. He laughs.

Today’s the Day-Off at the hermitage. We’ll see what happens. I’d like to clean things up a bit. The property is on the market. It ain’t my property. Sigh. But this world isn’t our home. We must look forward to heaven. I do, every second.

There are also ultra super special flowers for the Immaculate Conception which bloom in these days. I hope I can find them.

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve done anything with the Glock, so I’ll try to put out a few rounds as well. Since the hermitage is where my range is, I will soon be bereft of a place to practice the more outrageous of timed military and agency courses that are forbidden at more public venues. One of my baiters just happened to mention in passing recently the exact number of rounds I’ve put out over the past two years, though I never use a credit card for ammo. I would be most pleased if some of my baiters would come with me for some shooting, giving me some lessons. Anyway, a day off puts me into a different world for just a bit.

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