Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday stuff...


Twiddily dee...dah... dah... ta... dah.... twidid... whatever.
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I'm painting shepherds today - with an angel appearing to them - on the first Christmas eve.  I would have liked to have seen that - the angels.  I decided to dream about it last night, but nothing happened - I was hoping to see angels.
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Have you ever seen an angel?  I don't know if I have either - I saw someone once - but I didn't realize it could have been an apparition until after it was over - and there is no guarantee it was an actual apparition either.  Anyway, though I wanted to get away, I looked in the direction the person was pointing - just for a moment mind you, when I looked back - the person had disappeared.  I may have written about it before - it happened in the Basilica of St. Peter's years ago.  At least the shepherds knew they were seeing heavenly beings, all that light and glitter and music and stuff - my experience was pretty normal.  I think God prefers normal.
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You won't believe what happened to me this morning.  I saw Mrs. Rabitowitz!  No kidding.  I was saying my prayers and looked out the french doors and there she was - looking into the house.  She was saying something but I couldn't hear her because the doors were shut.  I made a gesture of praying hands, and then lifted my office book to show her I was praying, so she'd understand why I couldn't come to the door.  (I never go to the door or answer the phone when I am praying, and frequently while I'm painting.)  She nodded and cocked her head towards the bird feeder indicating it was time to start feeding the wildlife.  Then she hopped off into the hedge and took up her station, watching and waiting for I don't know what.  And here I thought she was dead.
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Speaking of prayer.  This morning I considered how every sin is a choice - after baptism that is.  The temptations - or the tribulations of life - test our fidelity.  In every life one is faced with a fundamental choice - to choose between good or evil, Christ or the Antichrist.  Some people may live in such severe testing, the choice is every day.  Sometimes we lose, sometimes we win - yet so long as we live in the body we have  hope and mercy is available to us - so we can lose a battle, recoup, and begin anew.  But we have to keep trying.
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"Even though we are unable to remain in control of the temptation, we are nevertheless being asked not to run from it or avoid it.  We need to undergo the temptation and pass through it in order to come to Jesus, and we need to follow in his footsteps, our eyes focused upon his, he in us and we in him...  In every temptation, in the depths of the infatuation of our senses or in the densest darkness of our mind, there is but one way out, for us as well, the way of Jesus." - Dom Andre Louf, o.c.s.o.
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Don't run from the struggles of the temptations and trials and tribulations - if you do - come back - come back to Jesus.  Never settle for, or opt for the easy way out - if you do - come back - come back to Jesus.  If you fall away - or die like Mrs. Rabitowitz did, which is just a metaphor for mortal sin - come back - come back to Jesus.  Choose life, not the temptation.  Choose real life, eternal life, and not a lifestyle.  Choose Jesus not the drama of daily compromise.  It's a choice - it really is.
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Art: Govert Flinck - Aankondiging aan de herders  Source
       Bunnycake Source
       Study for Jacob Wrestling Angel - Léon Joseph-Florentine Bonnat, 1876

The Irish Timeline...


How the story of abuse allegations in the Irish Catholic Church emerged...
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1987 to now.
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"The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law; it is and always was a crime [in] canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful." - Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin
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Link
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A perversion of power.
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Art:  Our Lady of Sorrows, Sossoferrato, Uffizi

Friday, November 27, 2009

Poverty of spirit amid the recession.


Do you buy it?
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Watching news coverage of shops open on Thanksgiving and stores invaded by shoppers on Black Friday, one might not believe there is a recession going on.  It all seems to be business as usual...  Thus far our  recession is not like the Great Depression - masses are not exactly lining the streets standing in breadlines.  At least we are not hearing much about it if they are.  Network news no longer hides the fact it is a propaganda machine for the the liberal agenda, in today's terms, a mouthpiece for the Obama Administration.  So you won't learn anything there.
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There are really poor people out there, families who have lost jobs and homes.  Yet if you get all of your information from television - as many Americans still do - you get the impression everything is just fine despite the recession and the isolated stories of financial woe.  Climate change is still the big crises as evidenced by NBC's Green Week, wherein all the programming adapted some sort of green story line to their prime time line-up.  See, so we are so not poor if we can worry about greenhouse gasses.
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Every American is aware that as a nation, we are the most affluent in the history of human society.  We continue to have access to all the riches our world offers.  We are a country where many of the poor are too fat - few, if any are actually starving; I just read today we throw away 40% of our food.  As we all know health care is a problem - nevertheless - there really is access, albeit limited.  (Ironically, with reform, it could be even more limited - rationed.) 
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My point is that most of the poor in the U.S. can get what they need - the basics.  Yet even in welfare homes, most have a television, DVD player, cell phone, and so on.  And even if  these things are lacking - these items - or the material perks they represent - are often the first things poor people want - after better food, clothing and shelter of course.  But people want that no matter how affluent they become:  A newer, bigger house, better clothes, fancier food... In our era of the epicurean, the ostentatious, and the avaricious.
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Who are the poor?
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Which poses the question, where is poverty of spirit?  Indeed, what is poverty of spirit?  Many established religious orders of vowed men and women seem to offer a sort of lip service to poverty - many genuinely working for social justice issues and wearing ugly clothes - but the majority live pretty well, benefiting from paid for higher-education, health care, housing (including apartments), wardrobe budgets, travel expenses, and so on.  Of course there is nothing wrong with that when it is necessary for the mission of the congregation.  In such case, the well formed religious understands the necessity to practice spiritual poverty and detachment - which happen to be interior virtues usually unascertainable to outsiders, not to mention none of my business. 
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Nevertheless, it is extremely difficult to be truly poor in spirit when modern men - religious or otherwise,  take pride in their academic achievements, intellectual riches and progressive socio-politico ideals, which tend towards an elitism oblivious to the devastating moral poverty the culture.  Moral poverty is not the same thing as spiritual poverty, much less, actual poverty. 
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Moral poverty is not a virtue.   

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving...


Epicureans, sceptics and cynics, oh my!



And ostentation, avarice and laziness too?
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Britain's Chief Rabbi on the decline and fall of Europe...
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Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:  "Europe, at least the indigenous population of Europe, is dying, exactly as Polybius said about ancient Greece in the third pre-Christian century. The century that is intellectually the closest to our own - the century of the sceptics and the epicureans and the cynics."
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Quoting Polybius he stated: "The fact is, that the people of Hellas had entered upon the false path of ostentation, avarice and laziness, and were therefore becoming unwilling to marry, or if they did marry, to bring up the children born to them; the majority were only willing to bring up at most one or two."
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Rabbi Sacks did point out however:
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"...that sincere religious belief is able to overcome the cultural impediments to having children. "Wherever you turn today anywhere in the world, and whether you look at the Jewish or Christian or Muslim communities, you will find the more religious the community, the larger, on average, are its families," he said." - Source
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Thank God we are not like that in the United States....  ;D

Thanksgiving Day


Nothing to do?  Holidays get you down?  Family bores you too?  Looking for a new sweat suit?
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Go shopping.  This year Walgreen's, Walmart, K-Mart, Old Navy, Radio Shack and Toys R us will be open Thanksgiving Day.
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Who says the holidays are too commercial?

Kiss my...



Oops!  It's Thanksgiving - don't wreck it.
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Well it is only Thanksgiving in the U.S. - not elsewhere - especially in the U.K.  As reported here, Archbishop Nichols offered flowers to Hindu deities last Saturday.  Come on!  Hindus have been killing Catholic Christians in India for the past couple of years and the Archbishop offers flowers to pagan gods?  Christian martyrs shed their blood rather than submit to such apostasy.  So if the Archbishop doesn't believe in them - does that make it okay?  Does he really believe that Jesus is Lord?  Is he really preaching Jesus and him crucified when he makes offerings to idols?
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When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Christmas is only a month away!


November 25 - start decorating!
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Another reason I'm into Christmas so early and love it that Christmas stuff is up in the public square (ads, merchandise, etc.) is that I always make stuff for Christmas.  This year I continue my work on card designs - picking up where I left off last year, and I'm also doing Bethlehem backgrounds for the nativity at my parish.  Not huge ones - just 30" x 40" views out the stable windows.  It's fun - not great art - but pazzi and fanciful - I'm working without preliminary drawings - or strict composition.  Just doing it.
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Making things for Christmas - to sell, to gift, to donate - it makes the season come alive - it allows the prep time to be as much fun as the season itself - which lasts from December 25 all the way to Candlemass - February 2!


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The photo's here are early examples of some work I did for an exclusive interior design company - way back in 1989!  They are copies of Fra Angelico angels - flat boards I cut out, painted and gilded, and then mounted on a wood base I painted faux ivory and lapis, adding gold ball feet.  I think the firgures were about 40" tall.  At the time they retailed at $450 each.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

For Cathy of Alexandria!

She loves elves. Tomorrow is her feast day too!

John Paul II and the 'discipline'.



Hidden acts of penance.

One of my very best friends in the whole world is a very holy priest.  He once asked a very holy prioress of a very holy Carmelite monastery if the community still used the discipline and if so, where may he obtain one?  Mother responded sweetly, "Oh Father, that is a rather indiscreet question."  As was her custom, she discreetly changed the subject and poor Father never got his answer.  Unfortunately he initially felt slighted, but we all feel slighted when someone surprises us with a direct answer and charitable rebuke.  I'm quite sure my friend laughs about it now.
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I mention this as news of Holy Father John Paul II's use of the discipline has come to light this week - apparently testimony from a Polish nun who worked in the papal household has been leaked from the Causes of Saints investigation.  Talk about indiscreet.  It is especially unfortunate since contemporary society has little to no knowledge about the practice of corporal penance in the spiritual life, and have no understanding of such voluntary mortification.  (Perverted sexual practice and fetish aside of course - which poses the question, what will Theology of the Body hedonists make of this news?  I'm being sarcastic.)
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People 'get' dieting or going through painful surgical procedures to lose weight or look better.  They understand the need for an athlete to go through continual repetition of arduous exercise and practice to perfect his game.  They understand that type of body-punishing sacrifice - but not a priest or a nun whipping one's self in a spirit of penance.
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Since the Council, few religious orders continued using the discipline.  Perhaps on account of St. Therese and her Little Way, most religious superiors and spiritual directors would advise against such corporal penances - but the practice was never lost, as Pope John Paul's story reveals.  Nevertheless, it is a very private matter, isn't it.  That said, the revelation that a modern Pope, who endured so much suffering throughout his life, practiced such corporal penance can be a wonderful reminder for the Christian to return to the practice of voluntary mortification and penance in his every day life...    
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Corporal penance in the lives of the saints.
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While the Saints regarded interior penance (that is, denial of the will through the vow of obedience) greater than any kind of exterior penance, nonetheless instruments of penance have been used by the Saints throughout history, and were in widespread use in religious communities for centuries up until the 1960's. One type of exterior penance common in religious life was known as "The Discipline" (self-flagellation, using a whip, rod, or lash), which was used in Padre Pio's friary. Saint Pio was known to have continued this penance even when it was no longer required of him to do so. The Discipline was also commonly used in Saint Faustina's convent as well.
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It should again be noted that these mortifications were always done within the context of a religious community (with permission from a superior), or under the direction of a spiritual director. We might also recall that the Saints were careful to do these penances in secret, and even went out of their way to hide such instruments from their own communities. To be considered an average religious, to them, was of far more value than to be highly regarded as an austere aesthetic. Any instance that would draw the praises of men was to be severely shunned. As the Lord reminded Saint Faustina that what pleases Him most, above exterior penances, even above fasting, is the denial of one's own will through obedience to superiors and the rules of the community (which cannot be fully practiced apart from religious vows). A humble and obedient soul before God wins the most graces. - Redemptive Suffering - The Science of the Saints
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John Paul II on suffering:
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"Christ did not conceal from his listeners the need for suffering. He said very clearly: "If any man would come after me... let him take up his cross daily, and before his disciples he placed demands of a moral nature that can only be fulfilled on condition that they should "deny themselves". The way that leads to the Kingdom of heaven is "hard and narrow", and Christ contrasts it to the "wide and easy" way that "leads to destruction." Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but he states: "Follow me!". Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my Cross. Gradually, as the individual takes up his cross, spiritually uniting himself to the Cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed before him. ...It is then that man finds in his suffering interior peace and even spiritual joy." - Source
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Art:  Flagelation of Christ, Ruiz - Source

At novena's end...


Today is the last day of the monthly novena in honor of the Infant Jesus - exactly one month away from Christmas Eve...  How cool is that?
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Just think, at Bethlehem Christmas is celebrated every day...  and yet some of us complain it comes along too soon when we see Christmas decorations going up before Thanksgiving - every year. 
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Tut!  Tut!  No complaints as to how it is celebrated in this country, how secular and commercial it has become, and so on.  Remember, the real Bethlehem is not exactly located in a Christian country.  Oh!  Oh!  And those secular Palestinians sell Christmas souvenirs - many rather tacky - all year long.  And they listen to non-Christmas rock music while they do it.
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Yeah.  So lighten up and have a nice Thanksgiving if you can manage it.  ;)
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Art:  Adoration of the Shepherds, Murillo
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Home for the holidays.

Some people think Christmas ads and decorations go up too early these days. They should be grateful they get to celebrate the holidays at all. And how do they think fourth quarter works anyway?

Yeah. And just think about the poor Jews - the United States doesn't shut down for their holidays, even though conspiracy theorists claim the banks and entertainment industry are controlled by them.

Confidentiality in spiritual direction.



The seal of the confessional.
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As Catholics we know that the priest is bound by strict law to keep secret anything a penitent confesses in sacramental confession.  Even if a penitent were to bring up a sin he had confessed outside the sacrament, the priest would have to ask the penitent to repeat the matter or ask permission to discuss it with him.  One confessor I had refused to ever discuss matters of (my) confession outside the sacrament - ever.
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Catholics ought to know that if they accidentally overhear a confession, they are bound by the same law of secrecy as the priest. (Code of Canon Law, No. 983.2)
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Recently, there have been blog posts concerning violations of the seal - primarily the situation where a confession was been taped in order to acquire evidence against a prisoner,  I believe similar stories have emerged in cases of espionage in former Communist countries.  Elsewhere, especially on blogs I have read things such as, "My confessor said this or that wasn't a sin," or "You should do this or that," and "I've been guilty of that myself," and worse, "I'm gay too," or "I cheated too."  (Which just might explain why some priests have been posthumously accused of being gay.)
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Bishop Tobin and Patrick Kennedy.
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Today it has come to light that Bishop Tobin is disappointed that Representative Kennedy disclosed that he was asked to refrain from receiving Holy Communion - the story of the so-called Communion ban broke last week, fomenting a great deal of inappropriate discussion on the theological priestly blog circuit.   Bishop Tobin stated:
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“I am disappointed that the Congressman would make public my pastoral and confidential request of nearly three years ago that sought to provide solely for his spiritual well-being,” said Bishop Thomas Tobin in a strongly worded statement. “I have no desire to continue the discussion of Congressman Kennedy’s spiritual life in public.” - Source
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This incident brings up a very important point - respecting the confidentiality of spiritual direction.  As in the case of sacramental confession, it can be argued there is serious responsibity on the part of the penitent to respect limitations of confidentiality as well.  In that sense it is a two way street. 
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All spiritual direction is for the good of the person's soul - as the Bishop pointed out, "For his spiritual well-being".  Hence if it is negative or disciplinary in nature it is to bring forth a greater good. 
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Matters of conscience are private.
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Nevertheless, one piece of advice may not necessarily fit all - especially when it was meant just for you.  Spiritual direction, and sacramental counseling are matters of conscience and ought not to be disclosed to others, except perhaps for greater clarification and instruction - with the priest's permission, and/or in the context of stricter confidentiality.  Think Teresa of Avila who had several directors and confessors examining her spirit.  Few of us will ever have to worry about such things - if only we could!
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So here is the deal - keep your mouth shut about what your confessor says to you - I've been guilty of discussing such things in the past as well - don't do it - the privy counsel was for you - no one else.  Don't flit around the Internet or coffee and donuts Sundays,  bragging about what your spiritual director told you about how far you made it on the ladder of perfection, or how often he suggested this or that for you.  It's just for you - no one else.  (And good for you that you have a spiritual director - no one needs to know that.)
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If you are a priest or a theologian, or an Internet know it all - I don't know if I'd step in on someone else's turf to discuss the spiritual direction of a soul in their charge - public figure or not.  Especially as in the case of Patrick Kennedy - don't tear into someone when they are down - don't interfere with the process - and maybe resist the temptation to flaunt your brilliance with line by line commentary.  (I also think posting a poll on the matter of Kennedy vs. Tobin on your blog is particularly disgusting.  You will never be made a bishop, and may be lucky if you even get one to assign you to anything.) 
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That said, I'm confident Bishop Tobin is perfectly capable to defend himself:
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“At the same time, I will absolutely respond publicly and strongly whenever he attacks the Catholic Church, misrepresents the teachings of the Church or issues inaccurate statements about my pastoral ministry.” - Bishop Tobin
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Note:  I'm quite sure the penitent does not sin if he reveals counsel or advice he hears in confession.  Disclosing a personal revelation a priest may make for the sake of empathy with the penitent must remain confidential to avoid the sin of detraction.  If a priest (or anyone) has more to offer on this, or to correct what I've said - please step in.  Thanks.
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Photo:  Montgomery Clift in "I Confess".

Blessed Miguel Pro



Today, November 23 is his feast day.  It seems to me he needs to be better known - he should have a larger cult in the United States - especially now when the Catholic Church and the priesthood is held in such contempt by secular/popular culture.  Blessed Miguel Pro has an entire website devoted to him here.
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Prayer for the Intercession of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, S.J., Priest and Martyr


Loving Father, You have revealed your greatness through your saints.

The Christian faith which You have planted in your Church has been

made abundant and fruitful by the blood of Your martyrs.

May we imitate the life and example of your servant,

Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro. May we courageously proclaim

the Gospel in every aspect of our lives. May we serve You,

just as he did, in the poor and the oppressed. And like him, may

we stand for Justice and Equality towards building Your Kingdom

here on earth.

Grant, through his intercession, the grace I ask of you if it will be for my good.

(recite your intention).

And, in Your chosen time, may he be raised to the honors of Your altar

as one of our exemplary Saints.

Amen.

O Virgin of Guadalupe, our Mother and Queen,

Pray for us!

By Engr. Christian Allain P. Cerda
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Art:  Image by T. Nelson

Holy crap!


St. Joan's Cabaret.
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St. Joan of Arc dinner theater in the worship space... gym.
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I picked this up over at Vincenzo's:
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The 15th annual SJA Cabaret: Peace, Love & 40 Years of Church In a Gym presented October 23 and 24 featured the hippy look of 1969 with peace signs adorning shaggy wigged performers and an impressive eight feet wide four canvas paneled peace sign painted by four SJA youth students greeted the crowd upon arrival. Performers jammed with their favorite songs from 1969 and a video created by Fred Vagle recapped pivotal events that year when Mass began in St. Joan’s gym. Underscored by the Beatles “A Day In the Life” iconic moments flashed rapidly by from Vietnam war protesting and President Nixon, television’s the Smothers Brothers and the Brady Bunch shows, the first man on the moon to finally the man who turned St. Joan’s into what it remains today— passionately peace seeking and inclusively welcoming, Father Harvey Egan.  - Source
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I don't care what they do to applaud and entertain themselves...
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St. Joan of Arc was never cool to anyone who was actually an 'active participant' of that era - least of all the pop-culture they portray in their "Up With People" cabaret night bull-crap.  No self respecting hippie would have had the least interest in their religious schtick.  I'll never ever understand why these peace and justice types, along with their contemporary gay-rights buddies, think that genuine anti-cultural types would be interested in their brand of bourgeois socialism. 
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Anyway - when radicals convert - they go for the truth.  Authenticity - not compromise.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

John Kennedy


President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on this date in 1963.
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May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
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