Bl. Pope Paul VI’s Message to Women


Very interesting and very pertinent, too.

Originally posted on 8 Kids And A Business:

Below is the full text of Bl. Pope Paul VI’s message to women as part of the  speeches and messages at the close of the Second Vatican Council,  December 8, 1965. You can read the entire text of the closing speeches and messages here.

pope paul viTO WOMEN

And now it is to you that we address ourselves, women of all states—girls, wives, mothers and widows, to you also, consecrated virgins and women living alone—you constitute half of the immense human family. As you know, the Church is proud to have glorified and liberated woman, and in the course of the centuries, in diversity of characters, to have brought into relief her basic equality with man. But the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power…

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More on Our Lady of Vladimir Icon

The question was asked, after my last post, why do I think this particular icon is the most famous and the most venerated, why does it stand out? It is not just a subjective call by myself.  This is a true masterpiece, beloved historically and spiritually as well as artistically.

Many many icons are loved and venerated.  Venerating icons is a major part of Eastern Christian worship, both in the Orthodox Church and the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches.

The best-loved ones are translated over and over again, so that every church and every chapel will have the image to lead them to prayer.  Some of the other much-loved icons, besides Our Lady of Vladimir, are of The Savior, others of the Mother of God, and saints, especially St.Nicholas and St.George. The image of the Vladimir Theotokos (Theotokos means The God-Bearer) is a very popular subject in both workshops and churches. (My own Catholic parish church has a version of the icon, painted by a nun in New York state.)

The image of the Mother of God of Vladimir has been painted millions of times over the past thousand years right up to the present time.  Some of the translated images, painted by master iconographers, are beautiful in their own right–but none are as highly regarded as a masterpiece of art as the original Byzantine icon.

One way to determine fame is by numbers.  There are about 300 million Orthodox Christians in the world.  80 to 100 million of them live in Russia.  Another 11 million live in Greece (as much as 98% of the Greek population).  The rest are scattered throughout the world:  in the Middle East countries, in the United States, in Serbia, in Romania, etc. All of them venerate icons, and this one is especially precious, particularly to the Russian people.  In the St. Nicholas chapel wing of the Tretyakov Museum in Moscow–which I believe was built just to house her– a constant stream of visitors comes to see and honor her.  Each person has a brief minute or two to come forward individually and stand and bow before the icon,  giving thanks, and venerating Our Lord and His Holy Mother.

The Mother of God of Vladimir is the National Treasure of Russia, and was even recognized as such during the atheist Soviet years, as both an art masterpiece and a precious historical artifact.

It is more than just the sheer numbers of admirers that make this icon famous.  It is also a Miracle-Working Icon.  People who come before the image to pray have been granted healing of all kinds.  Towns who have venerated and prayed before her have been spared tragedy–in fact the entire nation of Russia has credited the icon with historical victories.  I think it is also pretty miraculous that this icon, 1000 years old, has survived turmoil, war, harsh weather,  has been carried directly into battle and attacked by enemy troops–and that the faces of Mary and Jesus remain intact and undamaged throughout.

The icon is widely recognized.  Photographs of Our Lady of Vladimir can be found in  nearly every icon book, and serves as the example of the highest artistic achievement in the Byzantine icon in secular art books as well.  It is technically and compositionally, theologically and expressively, beautiful and perfect.  Paper prints are sold at church gift shops for use in home altars and “red corners”.

It can even be seen on the “silver screen”.  Mel Gibson has named his own production studio “Icon Productions” and has made the eyes and face of the Theotokos his logo.

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Our Lady of Vladimir

The Icon of the Mother of God of Vladimir.

It is arguably the most famous, the most venerated, and the most beloved icon of all time.  Like many icons, it was said to simply appear to the people, miraculously.  There is a legend that says this very icon was painted by St.Luke, on a board taken from the table used for the Last Supper.

Careful examination by experts show that it was likely painted by an anonymous Greek Byzantine master in the early 12th century.  It has inspired other iconographers through the centuries, but no one has succeeded in capturing the mystery and beauty of this image.

It quickly became known as a miracle-working icon, inspiring widespread devotion. It was moved from place to place, and became important to all of Russia.

It was given to the Russians by the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1155, and placed in a convent near Kiev.  Prince Andrew Bugoliebsky (Andrew the God-Lover) carried the icon into battle with him, achieving many victories.   In 1160, he built the Cathedral of the Assumption in Vladimir to house the image, giving it its name.  Twenty five years later, the entire cathedral burnt down, but the icon survived intact.  Invading Tatar hordes stole jewels and coverings from churches, but left this icon untouched.  Two hundred years later the armies of Genghis Khan moved towards Moscow, where the image had been taken for safekeeping.  The people gathered around the icon, praying to the Mother of God, venerating the icon.  The army inexplicably halted its advance. Similar events occurred three separate times in the 15th century.

In fact, there is no single great event in the history of Russia from the 12th to 17th century in which the icon of The Mother of God of Vladimir did not play its vital part.” (

In 1917, the Bolsheviks stole the pure gold covering and jewels, but did not harm the icon itself, and placed it in the Tretyakov Museum.  Today it is in a small wing by itself, set up to resemble a chapel, and the Russian people again come to venerate the image and give honor to the Mother of God and her Son.  In 1919, it was restored, but there was no need to repaint the faces.  They are the only parts of the icon that are the original Byzantine master’s work, as beautiful and grace-filled today as they were then.

The Vladimir Mother of God

The Vladimir Mother of God

           Pray for us,  O Holy Mother of God,  that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

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Teachings from the Tiny

We were hiking one day in the forest, and came across a huge tree that had fallen across the trail.  No problem:  the Forest Service kept the trail well maintained, and the log was cut through, the section blocking the pathway removed, leaving the trail flanked by 2 huge logs nearly 4 feet in diameter.

We often stop at such logs to estimate the number of rings and guess the age of the fallen tree.  So we paused here, to rest and count.

Something moved on the smooth face of the cut log.  There was a hole near the top, with a tiny black ant poised at the opening.  We watched him.  He appeared to drop something and retreat back.  As the first ant retreated, a second ant appeared and did the same:  drop something.  We inspected more closely. The hole was tiny:  about 2 ants wide. There was a seemingly endless stream of ants coming forward single file in the hole, each holding a speck of sawdust, carrying it to the edge of the “precipice” and hurling it over the side.  Then each little guy turned and went back inside, making room for his coworker to dispose of the bit that he had chewed out of the solid wood.  One ant after another, intent on the task.

A small mound, perhaps 4 inches high, of soft sawdust particles was forming directly below.  Those ants were aiming to hollow out the tree, bit by bit.

Grain by grain, they each did what they were needed to do, undaunted by the scale of it all, steadily, with patience and diligence.  Presumably without complaining.  Given the size of the log, this was going to take thousands, if not a million, of ant generations.  The ants we were watching were certainly not going to see this project through. They didn’t know the master plan, or the goal, they just did what needed to be done, what they were called to do.

Last month, we were again hiking, in another forest, and we saw this log:




Not as big as the first log, but this one was “finished” (from an ant perspective.) It was completely hollowed out.  All full-size tree-length of it, right through to the other side. Other ant teams, long gone from this world, had spent hundreds, or maybe thousands, of years on this project, and they had done it effectively and well.  Bit by bit.

I think we Christians can learn something from those diligent ants. I know that I certainly can, and did.  We have no idea of God’s plan, of how He will build His Kingdom and return in glory.  We don’t know the when or the how or the where–only the Who.  We don’t need to know the rest.  We only know that we need to do our part, our own small bit that only we can do and to do it faithfully and well,  to persevere with love and faith to the best of our ability and capacity.

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”
Mother Teresa

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St. Therese, Pray for us



Happy Feastday of St. Therese of the Child Jesus!




Pray for us, St. Therese, especially those who have drifted away from the Lord and His church.

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Icon Workshop: Holy Theophany Monastery

This past summer I was blessed to be able to attend an icon workshop.  It was quite a surprise for me: disappointing in some ways, opening new vistas in others.  I learned some new techniques, different ways of painting icons, some of which I will keep, others discard. I even heard my first iconographer riddle there:  What do you call an iconographer without a brush?  (Answer below.) The most amazing part of this adventure was not the painting, though, it was the immersion in Eastern Christian spirituality.  My short week there was such a blend of impressions for me that I am not able to form a coherent narrative, but still want to share bits of quotes and moments.

The monastery, a Romanian Eastern Rite Catholic community with a Greek Melkite chaplain, is located in Washington state,  near a military base.  As we painted, silent and intent, praying with every stroke, there was the sound of automatic weapons fire in the background.  So incongruous.  It would go on for hours, the harsh rat-a-tat-tat  of the guns contrasted with the stillness of the icon studio.  It was kind of surreal.

Holy Theophany is a small monastery, with four nuns living there.  The chapel was beautiful, and tiny.  Attending services meant sitting and standing right alongside of the nuns as they chanted and sang orthros, vespers, the Divine Liturgy. No separation.  I felt totally immersed in and part of the prayers.  Services were very long, hours long, and the nuns chanted without ceasing, a beautiful vocal, polyphonic harmony.  The priest chanted as well.  Bells rang.  The fragrance of incense rose to the heavens.  Icons lined the walls and the iconostas in front.  The chapel was filled with color.  Although at first I was mostly conscious of the length of time, I quickly learned to see the great beauty of the Eastern tradition.  It filled mind and senses, lifting one’s heart and soul to God.

The liturgy itself is very ancient, dating back to our early Christian roots.  The Liturgy of St. John Crysostom, composed just before the turn of the 4th Century in Antioch in western Syria, is used on “ordinary days”.  For special feastdays, the Liturgy of St. Basil is used.  It is heard only 10 times per year, and I was lucky enough to be there for the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God and to be able to experience this beautiful liturgy.  The composer, St. Basil, was bishop of Ceasarea from 370 to 379 A.D.

Eastern spirituality is marked by profound bows and prostration as well as chant.  It is the heart that is considered the seat of wisdom, and not the head or intellect.  Bowing, the priest told us, puts the heart above the head, in a very physical gesture.  He also explained some of the differences between Eastern and Western Christianity as coming about in response to cultural pressure and influences.  The West was challenged by the “Enlightenment” and thus many devotions and canons arose concerning the Eucharist and the form of the Mass.  In the East, these things were not questioned, the controversies  instead were often surrounding art, and thus there are many devotions emphasizing images and miracle-working icons.  Taking both traditions together, they seem to make a whole, to my mind.

Were the nuns Catholics with a different, Eastern tradition in the expression of their faith?  Or were they Orthodox who had accepted the primacy of the Pope?   The Mother Abbess thumped her cane emphatically on the ground to reiterate her point:  We are Orthodox! We are Orthodox!  Certainly there were no differences in teaching that I could recognize.

I don’t know, and I don’t know that it matters in the end.  We were one in loving God and worshipping His Son.  I am not certain there are too many doctrinal differences between East and West, and would welcome any education that readers might offer me on this subject.

Whatever differences there might be, our love of Jesus is what will bring us together.  The icon is a bridge between us, the ancient art of the unified church, leading us all to prayer.

My icon is blessed and anointed.

My icon is blessed and anointed.

The answer to the iconographer riddle above: A cantor.


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St.Michael, Pray for Us

Many of you probably know that the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall has allowed the scheduling of a satanic black mass on September 21.  Archbishop Paul Coakley protested and sued to stop the event, which planned on using consecrated hosts to degrade during the ritual.  The satanist group agreed to return the hosts in exchange for the dropping of the lawsuit, and I believe that this was done.

But still, I think protests are called for. The event is on for September 21.  Archbishop Coakley has organized an hour of prayer during the time of the event for all people of good will.  Feel free to express your outrage, and here are some addresses if you decide to write:

Mayor Mick Cornett, 200 No. Walker, Oklahoma City, OK 73102

Stephen Sharp, Oklahoma Civic Center Music Hall/City Space Theatre, 201 No.Walker, Oklahoma City, OK 73102

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, 2300 No. Lincoln Blvd Room 212, Oklahoma City OK 73105

There are online petitions to sign, too.  I wrote the following letter, sending a version of it to each of the individuals named above.

St. Michael, pray for us.

September 7, 2014

Mayor Mick Cornett

200 North Walker

Oklahoma City, OK  73102

Dear Mayor Cornett:

I have heard that your city is allowing a satanist black mass to be celebrated in a public building.  I am disgusted.  Although I do not live in Oklahoma City, I speak as a citizen of this country.  As an elected government official in this country, your decisions affect me, and all Americans.

I heard Jennifer McClintock say that as long as state law is not broken, that the city cannot judge content.  One such law is prohibiting lewd acts—would not the manner of desecration of a host/wafer—something that is symbolically precious to the 247 million Christians in this nation, and specifically holy and precious to the 66 million of those Christians that are Catholic—as described on the satanists’ own website: “the consecrated host is then corrupted by sexual fluids”, be considered lewd?  Whether the host is actually consecrated, or symbolic, what difference does that make in intent?  What about having a satanist woman urinate in a cup on the “altar” in front of the participants?  Don’t you have laws about public urination?  How many homeless people have had problems with that restriction?

And as for “not judging content”– please.  Would you allow a group to rent a public building to stage a parody of a gay marriage ceremony, just to mock, outrage, insult and humiliate homosexual couples with all that they hold dear?  I doubt it.  Would you allow a group to mimic a Baptist gospel choir in blackface to make fun of the culture and history from which it comes?  I suspect you would consider the offensive content of such an event.  Would you allow hate-filled nonbelievers to dress up as phony imams and ridicule prayer to Allah?  Burn a Koran in the Civic Center?  Hardly.  I am sure you would consider the content, and the offensiveness.  So why allow this—an event which is designed to mock, denigrate and insult a religious group.  Why pretend that this is different?

The claim of freedom for satanists to “practice their religion” is also questionable. What legitimate religion has as its sole central practice the insult, denigration, ridicule and disrespect of another?

Have the courage to stand up and forbid this outrageous event.  It is totally offensive.

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Cathedral of Trees

A stream of cars pours into the parking lot, tires crunching gravel,  and come to a halt.  Doors open.  As soon as they get out of their cars,  people’s voices become hushed.

Small groups wander along the trails, looking upwards, whispering or simply remaining silent.  It is an awesome place, with shafts of light illuminating the atmosphere, tall pillars of trees reaching to the heavens, warm, quiet, peaceful, beauty wherever you look.

I can come up with no words of my own to describe the sense of wonder, what it is like to walk among these ancient redwood trees.

The photographs I took don’t do it justice, but here are some of them anyway.  I can always find inspiration in the words of the psalms, in this case, from Psalm 104.

You made springs flow into channels that wind among the mountains.

They give drink to every beast of the field; here wild asses quench their thirst.

Beside them the birds of heaven nest; among the branches they sing.

You water the mountains from your palace; by your labor the earth abounds.

How varied are your works, Lord!  In wisdom you have wrought them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord be glad in these works!

I pray that these beautiful works of creation do endure.  There is only a remnant left.  It was logged heavily approximately 100 years ago.  Some stands of truly ancient trees–seedlings before Jesus was born–still stand, but they are rare.  The logging continues today. One large tree can make 2,000 picnic tables, you know.  The forest is growing back, thick and lush, in these parks.  I read that by the years 2500 to 2800, it will be a mature forest once again.

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St. Monica, pray for us


I just returned from vacation last night, and found this beautiful post waiting for me about my hero, St. Monica. It might be a day late as far as feastdays go (Happy Feast of St. Augustine to you today), but every day is a good day to pray for loved ones with St. Monica.

Originally posted on 8 Kids And A Business:

Assereto_Gioachino-Saint_Augustine_and_Saint_MonicaThe Antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah, Morning Prayer for August 27, Memorial of St. Monica reads:

“You answered her prayer, O Lord, you did not disregard her tears which fell upon the earth wherever she prayed”

As a mom, I want the very best for my kids:  academic success, a healthy social life, reasonable financial comfort, good health, professional achievement.  While all those things are good, they are not enough.  What I desire most for my kids is spiritual success. I want them to be purpose-driven, generous, honest, humble, faith-filled and God-centered.  In our modern age, it’s easier and definitely more acceptable to achieve financial and professional success than spiritual success.

My husband’s and my ability to ensure that our kids put God first in their lives is limited by our personality flaws and human frailty.  As much as we try to model a faith-filled life for our kids…

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An Evangelization Wish

I’ve been thinking about books . . . especially children’s books.  Books play a part in informing our minds, developing our thinking and our understanding of the world.This is especially true of books for children and young adults.

Working in a library, I see so many volumes. I used to be an illustrator, and can’t help browsing through the picture book section in particular.  There are so many lovely ones.  Such variety–and sometimes such propaganda, both good and bad.

What I have noticed in children’s literature (and movies, and TV shows)  is a near total lack of any mention of God, of religion, of prayer, especially in more current favorites.  It is just not part of the life of any fictional characters.   Most books simply do not mention or refer to it at all.  (And, sure, there are exceptions.) The God of any religious tradition is simply ignored, as life and adventures go on without any thought of Him.

This has to have a subtle, negative affect on young people, this sidelining of the importance of the spiritual, keeping God entirely off of their radar.  Kids love to read about the lives of other kids, and how they solve problems. Reading about others helps them develop and shape their own lives.  To leave God out of the equation results in secular kids who do not consider Him at all.  It furthers the compartmentalization of religion, and the pressure to have it be totally “private” and with no voice in society.  It undermines the lessons that parents teach their kids about God and spirituality.

Not being a writer, I can fret about this but can do nothing.  My wish is for authors–and screenplay writers–to just include God as a part of life.  I don’t mean I think that everybody should write pious stories of saints, or overtly moralizing tales. Not at all.  Write the story that is in your heart, but casually, simply, occasionally,  have normal kids and families, and superheroes and fantasy characters, in the course of the plot, do something like, say, go to church on Sunday, say a prayer, or celebrate a holy day/season/celebration.  I think that just that simple step would go a long way to teach our children that faith is indeed a part of life.

Just to bring up the possibility is to plant a seed.

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