Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In Una Grotto al Freddo al Gelo

This little statue of the Christ Child is carried in procession on Christmas Eve to the cave under the Basilica of the Nativity where Christ was born. I took this blurry photo in the adjacent church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, where the figure is kept behind glass under an altar.

I have been touched more and more during these past few Christmastides with the stunning paradox that God became a poor baby born in the filth of a stable. His earthly parents were exposed to scandal, the Baby God was born into squalor, and his birth, though it was attended with marvelous apparitions of angels and followed by the visit of kings, was soon after followed by a wrenching uprooting and a flight in fear of His assasination. Logically, one might think that the Son of God should not be treated such. And that is the Mystery, that He came to be treated that way, and to show us how to endure whatever God wills for us.

If Mary had been a more usual young woman, she might not have been so accepting of conceiving the Son of God with what she must have known would be the scandal hanging over her head. We all know how people talk, especially in small towns like Nazareth, where she and Joseph must have been well known.

And what would have been the reaction of an average woman to have to give birth in a stable to the son of the Most High King of the Universe? Wouldn't she have had the right to expect a much more suitable setting? Where animals are, are found dirty straw and bad odors. Even if she wasn't squeamish about her own comfort, the average mother's concern would be great for the health of herself and the baby in such a place.

Then Came a Long Terrifying Journey Away from Home
Not too much later, under the terror of Herod's assasain's in pursuit of their Child's life. Mary had to follow the angel's instruction in her husband Joseph's dream. Instead of returning from Bethlehem to Nazareth, they had to leave friends and family behind, and flee to Egypt.

How Did They Support Themselves?
I sometimes wonder if the Holy Family sold the gifts of the Magi during their exile for the wherewithal to support them on their journey and during their sojourn in the strange land.

Out of Egypt I have Called My Son
People then and now count the days between a marriage and the birth of the first child. The memory would still have been alive when they returned to Nazareth from Egypt some time later. Gossips have long memories. And it's sure that neighbors would have wondered where they disappeared to, and why.

The Deep Poverty of the Baby God
The Italians have a beautiful Christmas song about the baby God and His deep poverty. Liberty and I learned to sing it when we sang with the Italian choir at Holy Cross in San Jose at Christmas for a few years. I'm crazy for chant and polyphony, but I also love Christmas songs like this one.

Following is a rough translation:

Tu scendi dalle stelle, o Re del Cielo,
You descended from the stars, O King of Heaven

E vieni in una grotta al freddo, al gelo.
And came into a cave to cold and ice.

O Bambino mio Divino,
O my Baby God

Io ti vedo qui tremar.
I see you tremble.

O Dio beato,
O blessed God

E quanto ti costò l'avermi amato!
And how much it cost you to love me!

A Te, che sei del mondo il Creatore
You who are the world's Creator

Mancano panni e fuoco, o mio Signore.
Lack clothing and warmth, oh my Lord.

Caro eletto Pargoletto,
Dear chosen Baby

Quanto questa povertà
How much this poverty cost

Più m'innamora,
Makes me love you more.

Giacché ti fece Amor povero ancora.
For you, Love, made yourself poor.

Hear a version of this sung at the Vatican.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Quicksilver Meets The Dogs of Hell -- An Election Night Dream

I don't like horror movies. I don't dream horrifying dreams. But election night after the results were in, I had a horror-movie type dream.

As the dream started, I was in a run down house that I own only in my dreams. (Come to think of it, I do have horrifying dreams of a sort. The horror is in their futility. They are generally about vainly looking for a place to live or about wandering around a dismally run-down house and numbly trying to figure out how to make a liveable home out of it.)

In that nightmare home that I've lived in before, in my dreams, I was in the kitchen pantry, which I had finally gotten around to looking at closely and to try to fix up. In other dreams, I had looked through a doorway at the pantry, but had never gone in.

My dream started when I was standing near the counter in that pantry. I realized the floor that looked like wood turned out not to be. It was a layer of something flimsy like heavy cloth over splintered worn wood. Well, I thought to myself, that project is going to take a lot of work, and all I had been planning to do was clean out the sink there and organize the counters.

Then my son Liberty came through a basement door into the kitchen with a cat lunging ahead of him on a leash that was held on by straps around her body. The cat looked like Quicksilver, the family pet we'd had for 21 years, but she was huge for a cat, at least knee high.

She immediately dragged Liberty towards the kitchen windows, and she hissed and bristled with a supernatural intensity. Her grey fur rose in matted spikes around her face and around the straps of the leash. It looked like static sparks of rage were coming out from her tail, which stood out stiff behind her like a furry banner. She was in a fury. And no wonder.

Outside the windows, two big snarling dogs with spiked collars were leaping up to the glass. On the second leap, one of the dogs morphed through one of the panes. The glass stretched around him like a horror movie special effect until his snarling face with its fangs bared was inside the kitchen with the rest of his body following. And then the dream was over.

Except for the residual fear. The dogs of hell, I said to myself as I woke up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Catholics: Do Note Vote for Pro-Abortion Candidates. The Country You Save May Be Your Own.

No other issue, not all other issues taken together, can constitute a proportionate reason for voting for candidates that intend to preserve and defend this holocaust of innocent human life that is abortion.Fr. John Corapi (see his article included at the bottom of this post).

On the Democratic ticket, we have Joe Biden, a Catholic for abortion (against the teachings of the Church) running for vice-president. For his part, presidential candidate Barack Obama has repeatedly voted against anti-abortion legislation, and even laws that would comfort and try to save infants that are born alive after abortions.

Democrats hotly defend the "right" to partial birth abortion. This "procedure" partly delivers a baby that is almost at full term and kills it by inserting a surgical instrument into the base of its skull. They don't wait until it is fully delivered because they want to avoid the charge of infanticide only by the most cynical of technicalities.

Please, for the sake of the health of this country and your own soul, do not vote for any person who thinks it is moral to allow a little babe to be chopped up or burned by saline solution or vacuumed out of the womb, which should be the safest place in the world for her or him. And do not vote for anyone who thinks there is a "right" to stab babies in the spinal cord after partial delivery. Please don't. That politician who is for the legalized killing of unborn children has killed a part of his or her humanity. Do not join the dark side your self.

If you are unconvinced, ask God to guide you. I challenge you to pray and ask God to show you the truth. Pray the rosary for the outcome of this election for much is at stake. This is my prayer, may God show us all the truth in these matters.

The devil does not seduce us with ugliness and clumsy speech. He set before us glamour and appeals to all of our nature, including our ideals.

As Fr. Corapi wrote in the included email, the fate of the nation and the world is at stake. As Roy Schoeman has written about the Nazi regime, Satan gets a foothold in a person's soul through the introduction of sexual deviance. Actually, any sex outside of marriage is a perversion. Allowing "freedom" in this are has led to the promotion of spurious "freedoms" like the "right" to choose abortion.

Many Catholics have been influenced by the promoters of a false compassion. It is true that we have to love individuals, but we don't have to love and legalize and normalize the evils that they do.

If you want to see what the Catholic Church has taught about abortion from the beginning see the Catholic Encyclopedia at:

The article has many quotes like the following, which are from Tertullian

----------- Start Catholic Encyclopedia Abortion Article --------------------

"In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed" (Apology 9:8 [A.D. 197]).

"Among surgeons’ tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs [of the child] within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery.

"There is also [another instrument in the shape of] a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: They give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes, [meaning] "the slayer of the infant," which of course was alive. . . .

"[The doctors who performed abortions] all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and [they] pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive" (The Soul 25 [A.D. 210]).

"Now we allow that life begins with conception because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does" (ibid., 27).

"The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion [Ex. 21:22–24]" (ibid., 37).

------ end quote from Catholic Encyclopedia ------------------------------------------------------

Many sexual evils have been legalized since the start of the 20th century: contraception, divorce, living together outside of marriage, pornography, all kinds of sexual acts, . . .. For a while, the ersatz sex researchers justified any kind of sex, even sex between children and adults. But they have silenced themselves, for the time being at least, because crying out against pederasty give such great ammunition against the Catholic Church. No one recognizes that some of the priests and bishops in these sick events had their judgment clouded by these same psychological experts who are currently lying low about their real beliefs.

In the name of everyone's right to untrammeled sex, we have even gone so far as to legalize the destruction of unwanted children.

The spin doctors justified loosening abortion laws for the "hard cases" of rape and incest. But God loves every soul that He calls into being. I once talked to an Evangelical Free Church pastor on this topic. He showed verses in the Scriptures that show God knows and has a plan for each soul.

"Before you were in your mother's womb, I knew you" is one of them.

To kill a child because of the circumstances of his or her conception is adding another evil to the first one. Two great wrongs do not make a right. And now, how many of the 4,000 abortions committed daily are for those hard cases? Very very few.

Now women are routinely screened during pregnancy, and if any defect is found, they are pressured to commit abortion on the child. They even claim it's for the good of the child, so the child will not suffer. What worse suffering is there than death? How many "defectives" would ever say to their mothers, I wish you had taken my life?

The devil got his toe in the door and kept pushing and pushing until all hell has broken into our world in these matters. We live in a society with mad scientists creating monsters by combining human and animals (Frankensteins) and human clones. What brave new world is this?

Much is at stake. If you are leaning towards candidates that offer all kinds of rosy prospects, consider the black back sides of their platforms. As Fr. Corapi writes, all the other terrible and grave issues [the war in Iraq, torture, financial misdealings], they do not add up to justification of the routine slaughter of and experimentation on human lives.

With love, in HIm, your sister,


Begin Fr. Corapi's article:

A Call for a Rosary Novena
By Fr. John Corapi

Among the most important titles we have in the Catholic Church for the Blessed Virgin Mary are Our Lady of Victory and Our Lady of the Rosary. These titles can be traced back to one of the most decisive times in the history of the world and Christendom. The Battle of Lepanto took place on October 7 (date of feast of Our Lady of Rosary), 1571. This proved to be the most crucial battle for the Christian forces against the radical Muslim navy of Turkey. Pope Pius V led a procession around St. Peter’s Square in
Vatican City praying the Rosary. He showed true pastoral leadership in recognizing the danger posed to Christendom by the radical Muslim forces, and in using the means necessary to defeat it. Spiritual battles require spiritual weapons, and this more than anything was a battle that had its origins in the spiritual order―a true battle between good and evil. Today we have a similar spiritual battle in progress―a battle between the forces of good and evil, light and darkness, truth and lies, life and death. If we do not soon stop the genocide of abortion in the United States, we shall run the course of all those that prove by their actions that they are enemies of God―total collapse, economic, social, and national. The moral demise of a nation results in the ultimate
demise of a nation. God is not a disinterested spectator to the affairs of man. Life begins at conception. This is an unalterable formal teaching of the Catholic Church. If you do not accept this you are a heretic in plain English. A single abortion is homicide. The more than 48,000,000 abortions since Roe v. Wade in the United States constitute genocide by definition. The group singled out for death―unwanted, unborn

No other issue, not all other issues taken together, can constitute a proportionate reason for voting for candidates that intend to preserve and defend this holocaust of innocent human life that is abortion.

I strongly urge every one of you to make a Novena and pray the Rosary to Our Lady of Victory between October 27th and Election Day, November 4th. Pray that God’s will be done and the most innocent and utterly vulnerable of our brothers and sisters will be protected from this barbaric and grossly sinful blight on society that is abortion. No woman, and no man, has the
right to choose to murder an innocent human being.

May God grant us the wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and counsel to form our conscience in accordance with authentic Catholic teaching, and then vote that well‐formed Catholic conscience.

Please copy, email, link and distribute this article freely.
God Bless You

Fr. John Corapi
Fr. Corapi's conversion story on YouTube

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It All Started when A Northside San Jose Neighbor Posted a Comparison of the Republican and Democratic Candidates

It all started when M- (a woman) posted a humorous comparison between Sarah Palin, John McCain, and Barack Obama on my Northside Neighborhood yahoo

--------- initial post from M --------------------
Since we're takling about the candidates...

Got this from a good friend and found it to be quite interesting. It's all about spin I guess. I'll try not to send anything else political, but just couldn't pass this one up. Enjoy or not...

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight...
If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you?re ?exotic? and ?different?. Grow up in Alaska eating moose, you?re an American story.

If your name is Barack, you?re a radical, unpatriotic Muslim. Name your kids Willow, Bristol, Piper, Trig and Track, and you?re a maverick.

Graduate from Harvard Law School and you are unstable. Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating with a degree in journalism and can't name any newspaper you read on a regular basis, then you?re well-grounded.

If you spend 3 years as a community organizer, become the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, help register 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a constitional law professor, 8 years as a state senator of a district of 750,000 people, chair the state senate?s Health and Human Services Committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people, sponsor 131 bills, and serve on the Foreign Affairs, Environmental and Public Works, and Veteran?s Affairs committees, you don?t have any real leadership experience.
If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 daughters, all within Protestant churches, you?re not a real Christian. If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, left your ill wife, and married the heiress the next month, you?re a Christian.
. . .

N. 21st
--------- end initial post from M --------------------

In response, I quoted the first part of this blog up to "I think that that Hilary Clinton and women like her must be wondering how things could be any more unfair" and sent it to the group:

And then M wrote back:

--------- reply from M --------------------
Re: [nnasj] Re:Since we're takling about the candidates... I Hate to Admit It, But I Like Sarah Palin. A Lot.

Just the opposite. I work in the financial industry and I'm surrounded by conservatives (maybe working with money made them so) who refuse to really discuss the issues with me or even around me so hide in their offices and talk about 'guess what Obama did or did you hear what Biden said'. Plus hatred for Obama is much larger and comes from much deeper roots (elephant in the room). Also Palin did not over-strategize Hillary. Palin didn't run - she was picked. I just don't think she's ready. And I think that if not offered this grand opportunity, would she even have strived for it eventually? I don't think so. What I see is not what I get. I feel it's a facade, an act that is not charming nor funny. I just don't see it.

Anyway, it's not just about her. For every election since Reagan, Democrats have been labeled as ammoral, god-less, unpatriotic and liberal. I cannot support a party that adopts such a platform and to claim to be the Moral Majority, looking down on the rest of us.

--------- end 2nd reply from M --------------------

---------- start my 2nd reply to M--------------

HI M-,

Thanks for your thoughtful response.

It is funny that you are surrounded by conservatives and I am surrounded by liberals. :-) From my point of view, liberals don't want to dialogue with anyone who doesn't agree with them.

I am not saying Sarah Palin over-strategized Hilary. My point was that Hilary did all the "right things" and didn't get the prize. And it is amazing to me that this comparatively naive Alaskan got picked over Hilary. God's ways are mysterious.

The "Immoral Minority" looks down on the Moral Majority, so both sides do the same thing.

I cannot support a party that thinks it is a "right" to be able to cut up little babies inside of and outside of their mother's wombs. And Obama has fought laws that would intervene to save a baby if the abortion fails and the child is born alive. In my book, anyone who believes that slaughtering pre-born or partly-born babies is OK has lost part of his or her humanity. Rape or incest, two wrongs don't make a right. It would be wrong to kill a baby conceived by rape or incest after it was born, and it is equally wrong to kill a baby while it is in what should be the safest place in the world for it, it's mother's womb.

God loves each one of us. Before we were conceived in our mothers' wombs He knew us. We don't have the right to destroy a baby because of the circumstance of his conception or because she might be flawed. God gives life and only God has the right to take away .

Religious people are being labeled as amoral, dangerous, sexually-repressed, the source of all wars and all the evil in the world. These slurs ignore the vast numbers of murders under atheistic regimes such as Russia and Cambodia. But why not overgeneralize when the facts will prove you wrong?

But this is too big a subject. I don't have anything against you. I just thought I'd try to speak my piece.

Best to you,


---------- end my 2nd reply to M --------------

And then G- (a man) joined the discussion

Re: [nnasj] Re:Since we're takling about the candidates... I Hate to Admit It, But I Like Sarah Palin. A Lot.

Hi Roseanne,

Thought I'd take a moment to correct a couple of the more insulting stereotypes with which you apparently feel justified in dismissing large segments of human civilization.

>I generally am surrounded by people of a uniformly liberal > bent. You know the type. After their professors indoctrinated them in > the whole "religion is a crutch" curriculum, these people walked away > all facing the same direction, away from God and Christ, and never > looked back.

A lot of *people* - as distinct from brainwashed types, y'know those convenient strawmen that get paraded when a sweeping generalization is otherwise unwarranted - are atheists because there are simply better explanations available in the 21st century that render the concept of gawd as superfluous as luminiferous ether. It's called Occam's razor in case you're curious.

> And they pretty much walk in lock step in all their other > sympathies, likes and dislikes: I don't have to ask any of them where > they stand on issues of sexual morality, global warming, or Sarah > Palin.

Yes, there is a probable majority of the American electorate who have decided to vote for Barack Obama on the basis of these and other issues. For many these include disgust with the Republican party's platform of endless war, ruinous economics, blatant disregard for civil liberties, etc. etc.

Oh, and the cynical valuation of loyalty over competence that brings us the token-female candidacy of Sarah Palin.



---------- end G's first post --------------

---------- start my reply to G's first post --------------

Re: [nnasj] Re:Since we're takling about the candidates... I Hate to Admit It, But I Like Sarah Palin. A Lot.

Hi G-,

The media and other anti-religious people are insulting believers all the time. Don't I get a chance to try to get my licks in too?

I didn't think I was making sweeping generalizations: I never heard anyone say what I wrote from my own observation, that anti-religious people's opinions are usually cookie-cutter versions of each others'. There is no nuance. Whatever was picked up while they were sophomores is carried high like a banner the rest of their sophomoric lives. Even when the evidence of their wrecked lives and a wrecked society proves that there is a fallacy involved somewhere in their God-less belief system.

Whether or not you think God is superfluous, He does not think the same about you.

You know, whatever slur you could throw against religion, I have hurled it too. I left the Church when I was a 18, brainwashed by the big thinkers like Satre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Ashley Montagu, an endless list of anti-religious novelists and intellectuals, and by my college professors. And I came back 15 years later after trying all the available alternatives and finding all the other explanations of life fall short. I am not a blind believer. I am a sadder but wiser believer.

Don't get me wrong, I loathe the Republicans too. I think John McCain is despicable for having been unfaithful to his injured wife and for abandoning her for a trophy wife. It was crazy for President Bush to have invaded Iran. Torture, the lack of respect for human rights in Guantanamo, and croneyism of the rich greasing the hands of their rich friends, all are shockingly wrong.

I was mostly trying to say I'm amused that a woman who did all the "right things" was eclipsed by a woman who didn't.

I suspect that Sarah Palin was talking nonsense because she was picking up the scorn of those questioning her, and it made her nervous. That happens to me sometimes.

Really, I don't know who out of the whole bag of politicians is any more competent than any other.

The history of the American presidency is full of people who weren't qualified. Who ever could be?

If you think Barack Obama is the best man for the job, then vote for him. I don't know why, but I feel that there is something really scary about him.

But it really comes down to the fact that I basically cannot support a party that has in its platform that it is a moral good to slice up little babies in their mother's wombs. And also when they are partly outside of their mother's wombs. It makes me sick.

Sorry. I guess that makes me a single-issue voter.


More later

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hugh Wants Women to Castrate Themselves and Other Reactions to the Lies They Feed Us These Days

Subtitle: Riling up the Opposition at The California Democratic Party Line Blog

At The CA Dem Party Line Blog, a video of Sarah Palin's vist to CA shows only Obama supporters. They talk a lot about how women need to protect their rights to control their own bodies, which prompted the following comment from me:

Women need the right to be in charge of their own bodies. The truth is that we have been shamed by the "free" sex spin doctors. We have lost the right to say no to sex that stops with the orgasm or that lasts only as long as a temporary "relationship" might last. We have been told we don't have the right to wait and give ourselves in love in a life-long, life-giving marriage.

The proponents of male sexual predation like Hugh Hefner are the biggest supporters of sex outside of marriage, contraception, "free" love, and the horror of abortion. These so-called rights give unprincipled men free reign over women's bodies.

Can't you see what these people have done, pulling the wool over our eyes? In our day, women are brought up to live in a way that thwarts their sexuality. This lines up exactly with the desires of men who do not want commitment. We have lost the joy of being chosen as life-long partners without being "tried out" first. We have followed their lead and become predators ourselves.

When every woman is pressured to believe that she must have sex outside of marriage with the hope that maybe the man might someday make a commitment, and every woman is forced to make sure to use artificial means to prevent her sexuality from its full flowering in child-bearing, this is the equivalent of female castration.

All this being said, I cannot support a presidential candidate who believes it is good to chop up babies inside and outside of their mother's wombs. And if they are born alive, Obama is adament that they be abandoned to die uncomforted. Anyone who believes these actions are good has lost a big part of his or her humanity.

Women throw off these lies. Look at Sarah Pahlin. Whatever her failings, she is a woman who truly has it all. See for more.

Reality check: Which would you rather be? A Playboy bunny living with an 81 year old lecher who wears pajamas all the time and has multiple "relationships" or a fulfilled woman with five kids and a supportive husband?

BTW, when interviewed, Playboy bunnies almost universally say that what they want is to be married and have children. As I just found out by googling Hugh Hefner this morning, his current crop of girlfriends from his infamous "reality" show Girls Next Door are leaving him apparently for that reason. And a Playboy survey in the 70s brought back unexpected results. People who waited to have sex until marriage and who were faithful within marriage reported a much higher degree of sexual happiness. Go figure. Could it be that sexual morality promotes our happiness?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Isaiah Wrote: If You Keep Holy the Lord's Day "Then You Will Delight in the Lord"

If you separate your labor from the day of rest and from doing your will on my holy day, and call yourself the delicate, holy, and glorious Lord's day of rest, and if you glorify him by not doing your own ways and not fulfilling your own will, then you will delight in the Lord, and I will extol you above the heights of the earth and feed you with the inheritance of Jacob[Isaiah 58: 12-14].

This morning while eating breakfast and reading, I was struck by the above quote from Isaiah that I found in the commentary by St. John of the Cross on Stanza 36 of his work The Spiritual Canticle.

St. John of the Cross explains "Jacob's inheritance here is God himself."

The mystic writer also known as San Juan de la Cruz is honored as one of the greatest Renaissance poets. But as this quote passage shows, Isaiah's poetry resonates too.

How many of us go this far? separate your labor from the day of rest and from doing your will on my holy day,

Even if we do, we are supposed to go further.

I am pondering what it means to call myself the delicate, holy, and glorious Lord's day of rest. I suppose it entails changing my heart so I can say: Today I am not Roseanne. I am the Lord's day of rest.

I suspect this means that on the Lord's day, at least, I am not to identify myself with the ambitions that drive me the whole rest of the week. At least on Sunday, I must identify myself with God's will for me that day. It is, after all, His Day.

And I can glorify Him by not doing my own ways and not fulfilling my own will.

We can keep our Sunday obligation and attend Mass reluctantly as an interruption of our plans to enjoy ourselves on the weekend. Or we can love the Lord's day because God wants us to, so much that we become one with it and give it all to God.

During my digression into evangelical Protestantism, I was struck by this. They have no threat of mortal sin if they miss Sunday services. But they seem to have internalized the joy of Sunday better than us Catholics. They spent their Sundays in church, starting with Bible study, followed by a long service during which the pastor reads from an interprets the Word of God, and they come back for evening service after a family dinner. They seem to have grasped the spirit of the Law of keeping holy the Lord's day better than we have.

I sometimes pray that all that evangelical zeal be brought back into the Church. They would gain the strength to be obtained only by participating in the sacrifice of the Mass and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. And the rules-based formalism of many cradle Catholics might melt away at the example of their zeal. As the conversion of Scott Hahn and many like him, the formation of the Coming Home Network, and Marcus Grodi's show, The Journey Home, on EWTN indicate, that conversion of evangelicals is happening en masse. Thanks be to God.

The reward of living Sunday God's way is great. When we call ourselves the Lord's day of rest, then Isaiah promises that we will "delight in the Lord." And we will be fed with Jacob's inheritance, God Himself. Small price to pay.

This goes along with a prayer I have been led to pray frequently lately:
"My Lord replace my ambitions with Yours this day. Lead me to do only what You want me to do."


Further reading:
From Dies Domini by Pope John Paul II. He wrote: I would strongly urge everyone to rediscover Sunday: Do not be afraid to give your time to Christ! 7

Read the Third Commandment with care: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath [holy] to the Lord your God. Then you shall do no work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your servant, or your maid, or your ox, or your ass, or any of your beasts, or the foreigner within your gates, that your servant and maid may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded that you keep the Sabbath day" (Dt 5:12-15).

God's will be done.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Hate to Admit It, But I Like Sarah Palin. A Lot.

Sarah Palin's sudden emergence out of the North as the Republican Vice Presidential candidate was shocking at the very least. Many many people are very very upset about her candidacy. In the article, "Why Some Women Hate Sarah Palin," Time magazine called her Queen of YouTube and the clips are mostly mocking. Hatred for Sarah Palin is strong in many circles.

In the face of all this vitriol, I am ashamed to admit it, but I like her. I'm writing this while feeling like the barber in the Greek myth who couldn't keep secret his knowledge that King Midas had donkey ears, so he spoke the secret into a hole in the ground. I can't comfortably talk about this with hardly anyone, so here goes, oh anonymous blogsphere, I'll have to tell my secret to you.

Sarah Palin's candidacy has made me feel awe-stricken and thrilled. It took me a couple of weeks of pondering to figure out why.

Snatches of offensive conversations about Sarah Palin float around me when I lunch at work with my fellow technical writers. When I am not at Church, I generally am surrounded by anti-religious neighbors and co-workers of a uniformly liberal bent. You know the type. After their professors indoctrinated them in the whole "religion is a crutch" curriculum, these people walked away all facing the same direction, away from God and Christ, and never looked back. And they pretty much walk in lock step in all their other sympathies, likes and dislikes: I don't have to ask any of them where they stand on issues of sexual morality, global warming, or Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin is a Nazi, one of my fellow tech writers said at lunch a few days after the announcement,the same day when everyone else at the table was chortling about her daughter Bristol Palin's pregnancy. Why? Because she is against abortion? I blurted out. The guy didn't answer me. My diplomatic boss changed the subject. I remembered I had some urgent work to do, and left the group in the break room. to continue slamming Sarah Palin without me

There are obvious reasons for all this scorn against Palin. But I think one not-so-obvious reason she is enraging people is that she achieved her sudden prominence in spite of not doing the things that the common wisdom teaches that a woman has to do to make it in a man's world. She hasn't gotten to be a governor and now a vice-presidential candidate by going to good schools, being politically correct, or un-sexing herself. Think of that!

According to Wikiedia, poor Hilary Clinton married reluctantly. She interrupted her career to have one child only, and has been strategizing her way to the White House for most of her life. She went to Wellesley, got a law degree at Yale, paid her dues. And sadly for her, during this election year the coveted prize she wanted so badly has eluded her once again.

Then out of the blue, Sarah Palin, this pretty, charming, funny, uncultivated rifle-toting woman from Alaska, stepped gracefully over the master strategizer's politically-correct body and appeared as a vice presidential candidate on a major national ticket. And this even though she married young and started having a big family right away. She didn't go to the best schools. She just lived her life, and took the opportunities that presented themselves to her, and now here she is making serious cracks in the glass ceiling.

I think that that Hilary Clinton and women like her must be wondering how things could be any more unfair.

I've got to hand it to her. Sarah Palin is an original.

She hasn't denatured herself by having two, one, or no children. Oh, no, she has five. She breast fed them, brought two of them to work and nursed them in the governor's mansion. She is currently nursing the youngest, carrying a breast pump on the campaign trail. I remember what it was like to be nursing a baby and trying to keep up a busy schedule. How can she do that? Where does she get her strength?

Instead of aborting her first son when she got pregnant before marriage, Sarah Palin married the father, and she loved both him and the child. Instead of aborting her second son when she got pregnant with him in her early 40s, when the baby was diagnosed with Downs syndrome, Palin bore the baby and is equally proud of him too as she is of the rest of her five children.

And when her oldest daughter got pregnant at a critically embarrassing time for her, and thereby proved to the whole world that she was practicing sex outside of marriage even though they are an evangelical Christian family, Sarah Palin did not encourage her daughter to abort the baby or shame her with blaming words in the statement she released to the press. For these things alone, she is a hero to me.

She stood out on that stage at the Republican National Convention, now the world stage, supported by her five children and her genial handsome husband. And I thought to myself that she is living proof once again of this verse from Psalm 127.

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. {Psalm 127:1].

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Response to Jeffrey Tucker's "Four Masters of Catholic Music"

Jeffrey Tucker, who is an actuary, family man (he told me he has four children!), Sacred Music managing editor, CMAA organizer, and very active contributor to multiple blogs about sacred music, who must simply never sleep, wrote a tribute to Wilko Browers, Horst Bucholtz, William Mahrt, and Scott Turkington at The New Liturgical Movement blog. The four musicians and teachers he lauds were just a few of the many talented individuals who contributed to the glorious week of learning and singing to the Lord last week at the CMAA Sacred Music Colloquium. See my photos of the event.

Below, Jeffrey Tucker, Horst Buckholz, MeeAn Cecilia Nam, and Wilko Browers at the opening reception.

I wrote the following comment in reply to Jeffrey's tribute to Browers, Bucholtz, Mahrt, and Turkington:

Where do you find the time to create pieces like this tribute, Jeffrey? Do you have a twin who keeps working while you sleep? Or do you sleep at all?

We ARE fortunate to have such musicians and teachers among us. And let us not forget how much we owe to organizers and promoters like you and Arlene [Oost-Zinner].

Wilko Browers

I never encountered Wilko Browers before this colloquium, and I was amazed at the sound of the chant sung by his group. I told him it didn't sound like work, but it sounded ethereal, light, angelic. He said that it was work! (I know that but it didn't sound labored at all to me.) He also told me they were not completely happy because they had not reached their ideal. [It was close enough to perfection for me.]

Part of his method -- as I recall his explanation to me -- is that he aims to make the high voices fuller and richer in sound and the low voices lighter.

The Ineffable Light-ness of Being is somehow communicated, by whatever means Wilko used, rhythmic or otherwise.

And I agree with what Wilko said to Jeffrey about the lake. Without a doubt, it changes every day.

Below, Lake Michigan near sunset.

Above, Lake Michigan during showers.

Horst Buckholz

Horst Bucholtz is a phenomenal musician and leader. It's a great pleasure to sing under his direction. His talent is immense and so is his humor. I too got the sense that Horst has a talent for knowing where the music is going from the beginning, and so he can deftly keep the singers moving forward along the expressive musical line while the momentum keeps them from sodden slogging through the individual notes. It also helps that his quips keep the singers practically rolling in the aisles during rehearsals. [Try that at home, rolling in the aisles and gliding along an expressive musical line, at the same time. :-)]

Below, Horst Buckholz floats above the notes.

Scott Turkington

Scott Turkington's personality and talent are also huge. His facial expressions and gestures are uniquely his, and they convey volumes. Evem when he is passionately expressing a point about sacred music, I think he purposefully softens his tone. When I first took a workshop from him in Alabama, I was delighted by the energy of his teaching style and the beauty of the results. For the next year, I listened to and sang along with a CD of the Gregorian Chant Master Class Scott created. which was based on the lessons of his own master, Theodor Maurier, during my daily commute in my car. After you hear Scott speak, it is striking how rich and deep his singing is.

Above: Scott Turkington teaches a chironomy (chant direction) workshop at the colloquium.

William Mahrt

William Mahrt's achievement in keeping this quality of sacred music alive in performance in a parish for the past 40 years is astounding. If you wonder how did he do that, you have to realize that a lot of it was the fact that he persisted. He kept showing up and drew others to show up and sing with him, week after week, no matter what the current liturgical fad was and no matter the size of the congregation. And he kept adding to the choir's repertoire.

The impressive Vespers service Bill conducted at the Colloquium was not much different from the typical Vespers service with polyphony that he still conducts Sunday evenings at St. Ann Chapel in Palo Alto.

Every week, he brings new polyphony along with the ordinary chant for Sunday Vespers to the chapel. After a 1/2 hour rehearsal (often using the thrilling technique of faux bordon), the small group of singers processes into the almost empty chapel and fills the space with sung prayer.

Below: CMAA president,William Mahrt, at the farewell brunch on the last day of the CMAA colloquium, told attendees to remember what they experienced in Chicago when they got back to their parishes, and then to "Go and do likewise."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Is anyone an expert on religion who is willing to interview on religious art?

Left: Cartoon on canvas for a painting of mine in progress, "Notre Dame des Vignerons""

This blog contains answers to the following question that was posted on LinkedIn Answers forum in April: "Is anyone an expert on religion who is willing to interview on religious art?"

Menachem Weckeer published my answers in his blog, Iconia.

The answers were prepared thoughtfully, but they are somewhat tentative. I haven't totally formulated my thoughts about this subject yet. Now I'm posting them here in case anyone else might find them interesting. It might be instructive for you to read through the questions first and think about how you might answer them yourself before seeing what I had to say. Comments would be welcomed.

On 4/7/08 11:00 PM, I wrote this in reply to the question at LinkedIn Answers:

"I am a well-informed Catholic writer and artist, with a degree in Studio Arts. Let me know if you think I can help."

Menachem Wecker wrote back:

"I'd love to pose some questions to you on the subject via email. If you are willing to discuss your thoughts on faith and art, please send me an email and I will send you some questions."

And I wrote him back again, "Pose away."

From: "Menachem Wecker"
Date: April 15, 2008 12:33:09 PM PDT
Subject: Religious art

Thanks! Here are a few for starters.

1. What, if anything, does the term "Catholic art" mean to you?
2. You said below that you are a "Catholic writer and artist." To what extent does your Catholic identity inform your work?
3. Are you worried about being pigeonholed as a religious artist?
4. To what extent can non-Catholics understand Catholic art?
5. How much is art stressed in Catholic churches and schools?
6. Who are some of your favorite Catholic artists working today? How much do you think contemporary Catholic art is on the radar screen of mainstream galleries and museums?
7. What are some of the greatest challenges working as a religious artist? Are there things that are off-limits for a Catholic artist to depict?
8. What, if anything, is an idolatrous sculpture or painting?
9. What kinds of works do you make? Do they often draw from biblical and religious sources?

Thanks in advance,

Date: May 4, 2008 10:54:11 PM PDT
To: "Menachem Wecker"
Subject: Re: Religious art

Hello Menachem,

Below are my answers to your first set of questions, finally.

Who are you? Why are you asking these questions? What do you plan to do with the answers?


Roseanne Sullivan

1. What, if anything, does the term "Catholic art" mean to you?

A Catholic is a member of the Roman Catholic Church, which is the body of Christ.

United with Christ through the sacraments, the Catholic writer or artist of any kind creates art for the greater glory of God. Humility is a requirement. Excellence should be also. God deserves only the best.

Modern art is created for the purpose of epater les bourgeois, shock the little minded middle class. In contrast, I believe Catholic art should be created with love. According to St. Paul, love is not proud, it does not seek its own ends. It rejoices in the truth. As Christ taught us, love serves. Love lays down its life for the other, and it doesn't puff itself up.

The opposite attitude of how to be an artist was taught when I studied art in the 1970s. The essential ideal was to express one's self. The unstated ideal was to shock, discomfort, or annoy, or all of the above.

For one example, one of my art teachers had a show at the Minneapolis Museum of Art, where to enter the room where her work was displayed, you had to go through a little constructed entryway that had a low altar and a small, low window above the altar that gave a preview glimpse into the room. She told the class with relish that by making the window low, she was forcing the gallery goers to bow before her altar. Her art consisted of hundreds of plaster statues of a rearing horse, all identical, about 14 inches high. She cast them out of a mold she had picked up somewhere. It cannot be denied that this artist's intention was to manipulate and offend and to leave the viewer wondering what the point was. Another professor's installations was a series of chairs hung on a wall in a stairwell at the student center.

The culmination for me occurred when a world famous artist spoke at the school, and he told the audience that he had to be on his guard to make sure the art he made was not beautiful. His art at the time consisted of concrete rectangles that he poured at gallery installations, which ruined the beautiful wood gallery floors. He exulted in the constrained discomfort of the gallery owners as they saw what he had done to their floors and the bewilderment of patrons as they viewed his pieces. He told us he took special care to ensure that the concrete did not assume any of the attractive swirling patterns that might form if it was left to pour naturally. For him, beauty was not only not the point. Beauty was absolutely to be avoided.

I am in a sense recovering from those years. I didn't accept the nonsense I was taught, but I was discouraged and paralyzed by it for a long time.

Of course, if an artist attempts to do "Catholic" art, the danger is that the artist can fall into the nether world of the maudlin, the insincere, and the cliched. I think that art done by a Catholic is Catholic art, if it is true art, because true art tells the truth.

True art is true to the demands of the art being practiced. As Pope John Paul II wrote, an artist responds to the demands of art and faithfully accepts art's specific dictates. He wrote and spoke with great appreciation about the creativity of the artist, whose creativity mirrors within human limits the creativity of God.

The Catholic artist should not do anything to draw the viewer's or reader's or hearer's attention to the artist's own cleverness. All of the artist's work should be in the service of the thing being conveyed, whether it be the topic of the painting or the written story or the scripture, in the case of liturgical music. That's why Gregorian chant fascinates me. The vast body of chants was written anonymously, for the glory of God.

Famous Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor wrote that a writer has to tell stories that are about life and character. Any artistic work fails when it is created to get a point across. Every story has to have a meaning, she wrote, but the meaning is perceived as part of the story not something extrinsic to it. The same is true for a painting or a music composition. The meaning must be intrinsic to the composition.

Art that is created to be in a Church and that is going to be experienced by people during the liturgy probably has to be more explicit in its meaning than art created for other venues. Art in the Church exists to draw the worshipper's mind and heart to God.

2. You said below that you are a "Catholic writer and artist." To what extent does your Catholic identity inform your work?

My Catholic identity makes me want to use my talents to show the truth and the beauty of God.

3. Are you worried about being pigeonholed as a religious artist?

No. My art stands on its own.

4. To what extent can non-Catholics understand Catholic art?

Non-Catholics can experience the beauty and perhaps they can glimpse the transcendence. Knowing the symbolism helps, but it isn't necessary. I think people recognize a great work of art when they experience it.

For example, I'm doing a painting of a scene from the Langedoc Roussillon wine growing region of France, and it includes a statue called Notre Dame des Vignerons that was erected by the vine growers of the area and includes a cask of wine at the statue's feet. The Virgin Mary is holding the Christ Child who is reaching for a fleur de lis that she is holding. Knowing that the fleur de lis is a symbol of purity that was originally applied to the Virgin and then to Christ, and that in France it is used for royalty, and that it also is a symbol for the Trinity, all that would help make the painting more meaningful, but not knowing would not prevent the viewer from enjoying the painting.

5. How much is art stressed in Catholic churches and schools?

I don't know much about art in Catholic schools, except from my own experience in nine years as a student in Catholic schools in the 50s and 60s. I first studied art in Catholic grammar school, and I was shown very good examples including Flemish masters. I don't remember being offered any art classes in high school.

Since the 1960s, the modern Catholic church has been largely stripped of art and has been essentially protestantized. From Bauhaus to our Church . . .. Worship spaces have been stripped of applied ornamentation.

The trend amounts almost to a new iconoclasm. Someone told me a related joke yesterday; a woman told a priest that she didn't want to belong to the Catholic Church because we worship statues. The priest said indignantly, "Madam, you haven't been around the Catholic Church in 40 years. We don't worship statues any more. We worship banners."

Far too often beauty of statuary and painted murals has been replaced with hanging bolts of cloth that to my eye resemble sheets left to dry. And often beautiful works of statuary, stained glass, paintings and murals have been thrown away or buried under church parking lots, and if it has been replaced with art, the art is mediocre or worse. In the St. Joseph Cathedral that was renovated in the 80s in San Jose, much of the beautiful art and ornament and statuary was maintained, but two statues were added that are rough hewn out of wood and are positively ugly. I resent the fact that in the statue of St. Clare, the artist even got the iconography wrong.

I hope that my art can make a small contribution to the restoration of beautiful art to the Catholic Church.

6. Who are some of your favorite Catholic artists working today? How much do you think contemporary Catholic art is on the radar screen of mainstream galleries and museums?

I know only a few Catholics who are artists. One painter I know, who is my favorite Catholic painter, sells most of what she paints, and she is really excellent at it. Aside from some illuminated Gregorian chant pages she did for the St. Ann Choir, she usually doesn't do art with religious themes. She said it's because she doesn't know anyone who wants to buy that kind of art. She would if she knew anyone who wanted to pay her for it.

I don't think that contemporary Catholic art is on the radar screen of mainstream galleries and museums. Excellent art should be. If the galleries and museums wouldn't want to show religious art, even if it excels, just because it is religious, well that would be a form of prejudice, wouldn't it?

7. What are some of the greatest challenges working as a religious artist? Are there things that are off-limits for a Catholic artist to depict?

Probably the biggest challenge is making a living at it.

It's off limits to depict things that lead people into sin.

Flannery O'Connor wrote about that from an interesting point of view. She wrote that her duty was to depict reality and that some reproached her because some readers might follow the bad example of some of her characters. Her response was that she couldn't take on the role of God and take responsibility for others' actions in those cases.

I think we should consider returning to the days when we could suggest evil acts being done without depicting them in a way that inflames the viewers' emotions and possibly leads them to spiritual harm.

8. What, if anything, is an idolatrous sculpture or painting?

When I think of the "nuanced" responses by people who seem terrified of seeming censorious, I realize I am not very sophisticated in my reaction to this question. The famous photographs showing a man urinating on a crucifix comes to mind. A painting I once saw published in the San Jose Mercury News that was a parody of Our Lady of Guadalupe also seems sacriligeous. Our society has deified sexual license in the name of freedom. The artist used the coloring and aureola that appears on the miraculous image on the cloak of St. Juan Diego, but it replaces the Virgin with a scantily clad woman with a provocative expression.

9. What kinds of works do you make? Do they often draw from biblical and religious sources?

I am currently doing landscapes that include religious symbols, statues, or crosses, or shrines, at sites of great natural beauty or that are significant in our culture. I also am working on my own versions of the Madonna and Child and St. Francis of Assisi. Almost everything I plan to do from now on will be reverent and point the viewer towards some aspect of the light that is in Christ Jesus.

On Sat, May 24, 2008 at 2:08 PM, Roseanne Sullivan wrote:
Hello Menachen,

Did you get my answers?

Do you have any further questions or comments for me?


From: "Menachem Wecker"
Date: May 24, 2008 12:58:52 PM PDT
Subject: Re: did you get my answers?

Thanks so much, Roseanne. Your responses were really fascinating and helpful. I would love to post the interview on my blog, I think my readers would really learn a lot from your comments. Is that okay with you?


Below: Layer two of a seven-layer oil painting. I'm trying a seven-layer glazing technique practiced by the Flemish masters.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Suspended: St. Thomas Aquinas Catechism Study Group

The St. Thomas Aquinas Catechism Study Group is suspended.

The leader, Fr. Wiener, starts a new assignment in Sept. in St. Louis. The priest who replaces him may be willing to continue with this group, but we'll have to see.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This may be the last time for La Tavola di San Giuseppe in San José.

From an email I sent a few weeks ago to the San Jose Mercury News:

I am a freelance journalist and photographer, and I hope you can take a look at a story about what might be the last public St. Joseph's Table (La Tavola di San Giuseppe) put on in San José.

It will be held March 19 at 10:30 a.m. at the Italian American Heritage Foundation on 425 North 4th St., San José.

La Tavola di San Giuseppe is an Italian American custom that originated in Sicily. After over 20 years, this may be the last public event of this kind, because the core group of volunteers is in their late 80s!

Hope you can point me to the right editor if you think it could be used.

Best regards,


----------- Article Start -----------------------

St. Joseph’s Table
By Roseanne Therese Sullivan, OCDS

What does St. Joseph have to do with fava beans, fennel, a famine, and Silicon Valley?

All these elements—except the last (more about that later)—are part of a Sicilian custom, La Tavola di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Table), which honors St. Joseph on his feast day, March 19.

At the Italian American Heritage Foundation hall on 425 North 4th St., San José, doors to their St. Joseph Table will open at 10:30 a.m. Wed. March 19 as they have for about 20 years. The event is free and open to the public.

St. Joseph is prominent in area history. In 1777, the first Spanish settlement that later became the first capital of California and the present city of San José was named El Pueblo de San José del Rio de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe—the pueblo of Saint Joseph at the River of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1797, a mission was founded in Fremont and named La Mision del Gloriosisimo Patriarca Señor San José—The Mission of the Most Glorious Patriarch Lord Saint Joseph.

When the Catholic diocese was founded in 1981 in Santa Clara Valley, it too was given his name: Diocese of San José. Of course, Santa Clara Valley is more commonly known these days as Silicon Valley.

Catholics see St. Joseph as a powerful intercessor with God because he was the foster father of Jesus. St. Joseph’s Table originated in Sicily because his intercession is believed to have ended a famine there. St. Joseph’s Table is actually multiple tables loaded with breads, cakes, and cookies in symbolic Christian shapes, such as crosses and staffs. A statue of St. Joseph with the Christ Child stands at the center. Flowers and fruits abound. Gifts to the needy are also part of the tradition. Work to prepare the table is performed as a way to give thanks for favors, make reparation for sins, and ask for future help.

On February 11, I talked about the custom with some second-generation Italian-American grandmothers and great-grandmothers. We met where the ladies gather for coffee after daily Mass, at Rollo’s Doughnuts, across from Holy Cross Church in northside San Jose. Holy Cross started as a mission to Italians in 1906, and many Italians still attend the church.

Eighty-eight year old Mae Ferraro makes arrangements for the Mass that usually is said before the feast. Mae told me that chairperson Rosalie Turturici and volunteers were already at work to prepare and freeze food for the event. The pastor, Fr. Firma Mantovani, C.S., told Mae they cannot say a Mass this year, since the feast falls on the Wednesday of Holy Week, but he will bless the table. Even though the diocese has moved the celebration of the feast to March 15, the group was permitted to host St. Joseph’s Table on the traditional date.

Pauline Ciraulo, Mabel Maninna, and Rose Santanocito spoke about pasta served with a traditional marinara sauce made with fennel (sweet anise), anchovies, and bread crumbs sprinkled on the top. Some say the breadcrumbs symbolize sawdust, because St. Joseph was a carpenter. Because of Lent, no meat is served.

Everyone gets a sack with an orange, and a blessed bun and fava bean. Mae pulled a blessed fava bean out of her purse for me. Pauline told me a few years ago that if you keep one in your wallet, they say you will never run out of money. Rose showed me a card that says if one is in your pantry, you will always have food. The Catholic Church frowns on “lucky charms,” but fava beans can be used in a non-superstitious way, as a reminder to pray.

Several ladies remembered St. Joseph’s Tables in homes. Children, called “the saints,” would dress up as the Holy Family. Mae remembers her brother played Joseph. The three saints would be given a place of honor and a taste of each dish.

Pauline recalled that the saints would knock on doors, and they would be turned away until they reached the third home.

In an interview this week, Chairperson Turturici, another 88 year old, told me that three volunteers are from Santa Clara: Camela Gullo, Bessie Nicocia, and Frances Magio are also in their 80s (“one is 88, and the other is 89”). They worked on “every [table] we have had since Day One.”

Turturici told me, “Every year I’m in a pinch. I decided I could handle it again this year only because my daughter retired and could help me.”

Because the volunteer pool is aging, the custom is in danger of dying out. Four years ago, two groups were still hosting public St. Joseph’s Tables, St. Clare’s Parish in Santa Clara and the Italian American Heritage Foundation. Now only one group is left. If you are interested, this year’s event might be one of your last chances to take part.

Italian American Heritage Foundation
425 North Fourth Street
San Jose, CA 95112
Phone: 408-293 -7122

Below: The Italian Church Ladies in 2005. Rollo’s owner Paul Keonakhone pours coffee for Mae Ferraro, Mabel Maninna, Pauline Ciraulo, Dolores Spada (recently deceased), and Rose Santanocito

For more about Rollo’s see this article.

For more photos from 2005, see this gallery.

Postscript: After receiving my pitch, Mercury News columnist Joe Rodriguez wrote me that he was going to write an article himself. Last Thursday or Friday, he wrote me that he wouldn't be able to get to it, and he gave me the name of Linda Zavoral, another contact at the paper. Encouraged, I tried to pitch the article to her as a freelance piece. She wrote me back and said there was no budget for freelancers any more. Sal Pizarro, Mercury News columnist, wrote and asked me a few questions, since he planned to cover it.

Since I couldn't sell it, I might as well post it here, I thought to myself. So here it is, above. Below is the short piece San Pizarro wrote about the event on March 20.

Sal Pizarro column:
Younger blood needed to keep free feast going [San Jose Mercury News, Calif.]

Mar. 20--Some traditions die hard, and I hope that's the case for the Italian American Heritage Foundation's annual St. Joseph's Table feast.

Volunteers -- led by the family of Rosalie, Sal and June Turturici -- served fish, pasta Milanese and countless Italian pastries and breads to about 300 people Wednesday, which was St. Joseph's Day.

"We're trying to keep this old tradition alive, but I don't see many younger people here," said Rosalie Turturici, who's in her 80s and has been volunteering at the event for years.

The meal's free for anyone who comes through the door -- you don't have to be Italian or Catholic. And any leftovers are donated to shelters.

But the IAHF's Ken Borelli says he's confident the group can keep it going. "We're going to have it again next year no matter what."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Carmelite Spring Retreat at Holy Hill

This past weekend, I attended a Carmelite retreat at San Damiano retreat center on top of a big hill outside the upscale town of Danville. The Franciscans who run the retreat center refer to the place as "Holy Hill" in their newsletter.

It's warmer there than here where I live in San Jose, and though I see a few harbingers of Spring in my yard at home, with the forsythia putting out tentative little yellow flowers on their buff branches,I was happy to find Spring in full bloom in Danville.

The retreat center has a big sprawling garden, with an amorphous fountain in the middle, which didn't impress me much on a couple of earlier retreats I've attended there.

But the timing of this retreat in Mid-March, on Palm Sunday weekend 2008, put us smack dab in the middle of a profusion of blooming red tulips, yellow and orange and white daffodils, purple irises and more. The clumps of flowers along the paths and roads were a delight to the eyes and to the Lent-sobered and winter-weary soul.

The dear retreat director, Fr. Donald Kinney, told us on the first conference on Saturday morning that he woke up that morning "so happy. The sun was shining. It's so like Him!"

He got a fond laugh from everyone at that; he was feeling as we all must have felt that God was blessing us all by pouring down His sunshine on us that beautiful day.

My room had a great view of an oak tree. I'm going to attach a sketch I did, that is is not complete and is not colored, but you can glimpse how nice a vista it was. Imagine that the hills and the leaves and the grasses are colored in a multitude of God's profligate palette of shades of green and that the sky is blue with white clouds. I especially was moved at the sturdy blades of irises poking up through the ground and the tender baby Spring grass.

The top image on this blog is a quick sketch of some tulips I made while waiting in line outside the sacristy for confession.

I almost didn't get to go to the retreat. The morning before, I had called the retreat organizer to see if I could get my deposit back since I was having second thoughts about going, mostly for financial reasons. [I got laid off in January.] He said he would check to see if anyone had given a scholarship for his group. I found a message from him when I got home later that afternoon that said I wouldn't believe it but a woman had just called and said she couldn't make it, and she wanted to give away her room. So I was able to go for only the cost of the deposit after all.

As Rita Donnelly, who rode up with me, said, "God is good." And as Father Donald and my friend Regina said, "God must have wanted you to be there."

What a great start for Holy Week.

BTW, EWTN is advertising their coverage of the Holy Week services from the Vatican with the slogan: "The Week That Changed the World."

That was the title of a book about the Russian revolution. But how much more fitting a title that is for the week that Christ our God in His humanity took on the punishment for our sins. He died in the most degrading humiliating way imaginable. The Mighty God suffered the death of a criminal on a cross! He loved us that much. Thanks be to God for the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Christmas in the hotel and in the stable

Dec. 25, 2007, is long past. Just as I thought I'd get a chance to jot down my yearly reminiscences early this time, a series of unfortunate events occurred. The first event was a small fire on my dining room table on the 4th Sunday of Advent, three days before Christmas. I lit the four candles on my Advent wreath, said a few prayers, and then left the wreath unattended when I went off to sing with the choir. After my son woke up three hours later, he found the front rooms of the house pitch black with soot. He couldn’t see anything, and it was broad daylight! He found the source of the smoke and extinguished it. When he got over the shock of how close he came to possibly dying of smoke inhalation, he took photos, which show the soot damage throughout the house. Above is a photo of what was left of the Advent wreath.

I thank God my son didn’t get hurt, and that the house didn’t burn down. The dining room table is the only thing that actually burned.

Liberty's room had two closed doors between it and the smoldering fire, so his room was livable, while my room, which is just off the dining room, was not. A few days later, a fabric restoration company took my clothing, curtains, and bedding for cleaning, an electronics restoration company took my electronics, a fire clean-up company started washing the structure, and I moved into a hotel.

As a result of my pleading about what I really wanted for Christmas, Liberty joined me at Midnight Mass and sang with the choir. We came back to the house around 2 a.m. and opened stockings together, sampled some of the traditionally weird foods I’d picked up as stocking stuffers (gummy rats, for one), played with a little blue wind-up penguin and laughed. I went back to the hotel around 3. I sang again at noon Mass on Christmas Day.

Then I got the sad news a few days later that my Uncle Raymond had died. Uncle Ray was my father’s sister Agnes’s husband, and Ray was the closest I ever came to having a father after my own father died when I was two. I am very grateful for the home he and my aunt and my grandmother provided for us. While my aunt worked nights, he helped us with our homework. I especially remember his sailor stories, that he taught me how to draw perspective and how to swim. Liberty and I flew to Boston for his wake on New Year’s Eve and funeral Mass the next day. We attended with my sister, Joe-anne, two of her daughters, and four of their children.

When we returned, I moved back into the same hotel.

Last Monday, the 14th, I moved back into my house after the fabric restoration company returned my bedding and clothing. Painting and wallpapering and carpet and curtain replacements still need to be arranged. The disorder is getting to me. I miss the order of hotel living, and the heated pool, which I had pretty much to myself as I swam laps every night before bed.

After this litany of really good reasons why I didn’t write anything yet this year, I need to finish up this letter before the official end to the Christmas season occurs in a few minutes at the end of Candlemas.

My pre-Christmas meditations were mostly about the stable. The one that Christ was born into. The one that He lives in, in my heart.

These meditations were partly fueled by a story that was sent to me before Christmas by Hilary Rojo. (Hilary and her husband Mac organized the pilgrimage I took to Israel three years ago.)

Hilary's story was about the couple's experiences as they went to Bethlehem to attend Midnight Mass one unspecified Christmas Eve. They had gotten tickets months in advance, and they looked forward to the chance to celebrate one of the holiest nights of the year in one of the holiest spots in the world.

As I had found out when I was there, Bethlehem is Palestinian controlled. Our Israeli-driven bus had to be parked in a garage on one side of the border. Then we had to walk down a street and through a security checkpoint in a building where rifle-armed guards strolled on open catwalks over our heads. When we exited the building, we were in Bethlehem. We had to get into a Palestinian-driven bus and continue our journey to the Church of the Nativity.

When the Rojos got to Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity that Christmas Eve, the din was hellish. As more and more people poured into the square, the press of bodies was so intense, it sometimes was hard to breathe. The way Hilary told it, the Palestinian soldiers who provided security stood by and laughed among themselves at the tourists as they pushed and shoved each other trying to get to the head of the line. A flying wedge of Germans elbowed by them. Young Palestinian children pushed into the crowd to pick pockets.

The Rojos were dismayed even further when then they saw the soldiers only allowed dignitaries and their entourages to enter the church doors. The Rojos stuck it out, mostly because there was no escape, and no place else to go. Their tour bus was locked in a garage. After a long wait, it seemed their persistence had been rewarded when they got as far as the church door. They were briefly relieved, until the guards suddenly announced, “The church is full, go away!” and BANG, the big wooden doors slammed shut.

Just as suddenly they spotted another opening, the famous Door of Humility, which some say was bricked over at the top and one side to keep the Crusaders from riding their horses into the church. In any case, the door keeps you humble because you must bow your head to enter.

Below: Door of humility
The Rojos rushed over to the door, and suddenly Hilary recognized Mahmoud Abass, the former president of the Fatah movement. She looked him in the eye, and then she and Mac got in line and drafted through the door on his figurative coattails.

Abass and his entourage were escorted to a reserved seating area in the adjacent church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, while the Rojos melted into the crowd somewhere behind him in a press of bodies that was as packed as the square outside had been. They couldn’t even see the altar. People began to faint and throw up all around them. Chunks were actually flying through the air. In the heat and unpleasantness, the stench and the fear, Hilary complained to God, “Is this what Christmas is all about in Bethlehem? Is this what I get for coming half way around the world to honor your Son?””

She went on to write that as soon as she had finished her lamentations, “the room became mysteriously quiet for me. I suddenly felt at peace and then felt a warmth encircle me. A thought/voice questioned me in a soft and loving tone, `What do you think it was like 2,000 years ago? Didn’t you want to experience the birth?’”

During my visit with my spiritual director, Carmelite Fr. Donald Kinney, in December, I had been telling him about my struggles. As we attempt to grow closer to God, the areas in which we fall short of His perfection become disgustingly vivid to us in the illumination of His Light. Fr. Kinney said in consolation that Christ is with us even then. After all, "Christ was born in a stable," I told him Hilary's story. He nodded, yes that's it.

"It's not a pretty sight, Father!" True, but He is with us any way.

When we create our little manger scenes, we leave out the manure and the flies. But these were surely part of that first Christmas night. City folks may not have experienced a stable first hand, so they don't know. Where you have asses and oxen--and humans--you have excrement.

The spot where Christ was born is covered by marble and a silver star now. You get to it now by going down a narrow stairway under the basilica. Two stone mangers were excavated there in the past frew years, so there really was a stable in that cave.

I remember the shock of my first visit as an adult to my Uncle Ralph and Aunt Irene's dairy farm in Wisconsin. The reek of cow urine permeated even the farmhouses. And as I gradually came to realize, much of the dairy farmers' energy is devoted to shoveling out the manure. Beside most barns in the country in winter is a manure pile sometimes as high as the roof, which will be spread on the fields in the upcoming spring as fertilizer.

While we were still sinners, Christ was born for us, lived with us and died for us. And He resides with us still, in the stables of our hearts, even if the best we can give him for a welcome is a bed in a manger full of hay and a modicum of warmth from a mix of animal breath and steaming manure.

It helps to be reminded of this from time to time, He is with us no matter how high and deep the pile is. Dare I hope that a composting is happening and that spring will bring the time when all that rich composted stuff will be plowed under to prepare the soil for the seed time and the harvest to come?


After I wrote the previous meditation, I was struck more than even before by the Gospel on January 30, which was the parable about how the sower went out to sow the seed. At first, I saw myself in the image of the seed that fell among thorns:

"Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain." As Jesus said, "Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit."

But then I thought, if my little vision of God's composting comes true, I can also see my future self in this:

"And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” As Jesus said, "But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

If the composting is going on the way I think it is, then the soil is being prepared for the next time the sower comes by. His mercy is never ending.

All who struggle for years with slavery to sin, don't give up the struggle as Luther and James Joyce and many others have done because it is so hard and seems to be impossible. To give up is to be proud, to believe ourselves to be so bad that we are outside the capacious mercy of God. The truth is the God can use all of it, even the sinfulness, the struggles, the fallings and the risings and turn it all into good.

Speaking more about fallings and risings, my son and I both got laid off recently, Liberty in November, me just last week. A bit overwhelmed by the disruption in our home, it is hard to deal with our job losses, but we bounce from one necessity to another with many digressions, and we manage to make small but steady progress in all areas.

Highlights of the past year:

Six Days of Musical Heaven - the Church Music Association colloquium at Catholic University of America, Washington D.C. in June was six days of practicing and singing chant and polyphonic music in liturgies at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and at St. Mary's Church in Chinatown with140 singers, composers, and musicians. Words for once fail me except to say that it was one of the best experiences of my life.

I continued my monthly meetings with the lay Carmelites (OCDS) at the Monastery of the Infant Jesus in Santa Clara. I had the privilege of attending the wedding of two fellow OCDS, the ordination of a Carmelite priest, and the funerals of another priest and of an OCDS. Also, I continued to sing with the St. Ann choir. I took a musicology class for choir members, and then was lucky enough to take singing lessons and Latin lessons that have been offered free by choir members. I started to sing when needed in the choir at the Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Santa Clara, at their traditional rite High Masses. I continued with more freelance journalism too. Articles and photos by me were published locally in the Santa Clara weekly and nationally in the National Catholic Register. A photo of me appeared in articles about the choir in the Stanford Report and in the San Francisco Chronicle, and I was quoted in the second article.

On a business visit to Alabama last year, during a side trip to the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament, I met the EWTN vice president, a very dear man who is a Tennessee lawyer and great supporter of Mother Angelica's work, Deacon Bill Steltemeier. I mention that meeting because it bore fruit this year when Deacon Bill followed through on my suggestion that they program an interview Prof. Mahrt, our choir director. The EWTN Live show on which he was interviewed was on Dec. 12. This was my biggest PR coup ever. I was happy to see the word is getting out about the importance of the Gregorian chant and sacred music in reverent worship in the Catholic Church.

Lauren is happy in a nanny job in Philadelphia.

It’s been another good year of Our Lord, under the mantle of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why I missed the Latin class last night. I attended the wake of a saint.

Why I missed the Latin class last night.

A saintly woman at Holy Cross Church, Dolores Spada, died last Sunday at 75, and I attended her wake last night. I told Kevin (our Latin class teacher) that I would stay for the rosary and then come to Susan W's 1/2 hour late for the class, but then it seemed rude to get up and walk out in the middle of the tributes that followed the rosary. Besides, my car was blocked in the mortuary parking lot.

So I stayed and listened, sometimes a bit impatiently, and lingered afterwards to watch a video the family had prepared of family photos as a Christmas gift. One woman from the parish read a generic poem about how Dolores was now in the sunset and the waves and the breeze and would never die as long as she lives on in our hearts. A grandson read a more personal tribute, a poem that didn't quite scan but had lots of feeling. The same poem was printed on the back of a little program they handed out at the entrance to the viewing room along with a bag with a rosary in it for each, and a story of how much Dolores loved and believed in the rosary.

Here is the front of the little program:

The grandson said that relatives had been wondering what he was up to scribbling away during Dolores' last hours, but he met his goal to be able to read the poem to her before she died. t was called, "Almost Time to Dance," and looked forward to Dolores' first dance with her husband in heaven. I note these things merely as a record of how death is celebrated in our times, at least in this corner of the world, in northside San Jose CA.

Yesterday morning in Rollo's doughnut shop after 7:30 Mass across the street, I heard even the most hard-hearted little old lady in her group of friends had positive things to say about Dolores. The most apt was "She taught us how to live and she taught us how to die."

Dolores had cancer years ago and it recurred. The first time, her children were already grown, so when she learned that a younger woman with children at home got cancer too, she told the Lord she would offer herself so that the other woman might live. I don't know what happened to the younger woman, but Dolores had a long remission afterwards.

That first time and then when the cancer returned, Dolores offered up her sufferings in an old fashioned Catholic way for the good of others. But then joining one's sufferings with the sufferings of Christ for the good of the world is an intrinsic part of Catholic doctrine, although it is generally more honoured in the breach than in the observance.

It was a privilege to know her. She never gossiped or was unkind, even though she was surrounded by people who did and were. What amazes me most is that she seemed oblivious to the failings of her friends and family. That old unconditional love thing, she had it down pat. She also had a great devotion to Our Lady and said two rosaries a day.

One of her friends told me that at one point when she was dying, Dolores opened her eyes and said that she had seen the Blessed Virgin with a bouquet of roses. Our Lady was holding the hands of her two little sons who had died. They were waiting for her arrival.

Her five living children and many grandchildren, and great grandchildren were at the wake along with hundreds of others.

The California Tower of Babel experience I so often notice was in full effect. (Since English is a second language for many people around here, I often see people from different parts of the world speaking their own kind of English dialect at each other when they don't share the same dialect and hence don't understand hardly a word the other side is saying.) The biggest manifestation of the Babel phenomena occurred when the parochial vicar, a nice young Scalabrinian priest from Mexico, told the parishioners yesterday morning that the wake would be in the hall and waved towards the back of the church. I wondered why the wake was being held in the church hall, but one of the ladies told me he meant the mortuary, which is about 10 blocks away in the direction towards which he waved.

Not everyone understood. So, at 6:30 last night, the choir that sings at the 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass (mostly Filipinos) was wandering around the parish hall wondering where everyone else was. When they finally figured out where the wake actually was located, they arrived late with their guitars. They sang On Eagle's Wings, I am the Bread of Life, Oh Lord my God and two abysmally bad renditions of Ave Maria. The distinctive Filipino "a" and "i" sounds were dominant throughout. Winging it without hymnals, the choir seemed to making up some of the words and they definitely made up many of the notes. Each of them seemed to create new arrangements as they went along

Dolores would not have criticized, maybe she would not have even noticed.

Every time I ran across Dolores the past year or two, I was relieved and delighted because at the end of each previous encounter, I had been afraid that meeting might be the last. She took all the treatments available, and she said would be happy as long as she could drive herself to daily Mass. When she could, she would join the ladies for coffee in the doughnut shop afterwards. She did the books and volunteered in the church office as long as she could too. Every time I saw her, I would hug her and kiss her and thank God for her still being around and smiling her cute smile. Now the time has come that I dreaded, and I won't be seeing her on this earth any more.

It did my heart an immeasurable amount of good to know her. We need saints because they show us glimpses of the goodness of God.

Love in Him,