Loving the Sacred through Word and Image. B-Down Gobo Light Show – Memories. A Wordpress Production

Archaeology

Just beneath the Surface …

theology-print-1.jpg

Do you see it?
Can you feel it?
Do you ever think about it?

M O R T A L I T Y !!!!

I started my day in a church. Do you know why I did that? Why it was important for me to receive the sacraments today? To have a minister pray with me and for me, to bless me and absolve me,

Almighty God,
to you all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hidden,
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The older I get, the more serious is my thought about Mortality. We all will face it one day, but I can’t help but ponder this subject in greater detail, because unlike many of you, life could take a turn very quickly and I could die, the last time this happened was in 2006 when I was testing new medications, and I got severely ill and I remember saying to myself one particular night that “I thought I would die.”

On my birthday I was sitting in the room at the meeting, the church above us I spoke about the fact that none of us know when that appointed day will come, but for me I have been waiting on it for some time. I fancy God sitting up in his heaven, with a sly look on his face, holding strong to one corner of the carpet that I am standing on and he yanks it up and I fall, the end comes crashing down around me.

Nobody wants to say the words, but I know that many of my friends are wary of mentioning the word “death” so they speak in hushed tones using words like “I’m so proud of you”, and “that I am a miracle” and “that God has blessed me with long life,” to date. The best line is this one “He looks so good, that unless you knew or asked – you’d never know he had AIDS!”

I work very hard at avoiding or talking about the obvious strain on my mental health, yet I do not dwell on death, but I have a healthy fear of it for sure. You’d never know I was even gay, from the outside. You’d never know that there was an ember burning quietly and strongly beneath the surface. That person sitting in the same place as you had a date with death several times in his life, and he avoided the reaper.

I remarked to a friend that I was afraid of what was ahead of me after the meeting, and for some they cannot fathom this fact, but my friends did. Some of the men told me that I should go on with my life and not think about it, but how can I Not think about it?

I just wanted to remind you that Mortality is an issue that I deal with every day now. Each day that passes – I thank God for life – which is why I went to mass and I think in retrospect, that is why the Reverend Canon laid hands on me and asked God to bless me and keep me healthy. I heard the urgency in her voice – the necessity that God grant that prayer – right then and there. To guarantee me a place “in community” for as long as God would permit.

I do not know how long my body will continue to take the pills I push upon it daily, or how long these new medications will continue to work – we are only a few months in and things look very good on paper, my body seems to like these mew medications and I haven’t had any great bodily changes. The look of death has not come over me – that gaunt AIDS look that most men get at some point in their journey, those you know are marked for death.

I remember my spirit and I pray daily and I attend mass when I can, and I spend time helping others because as long as I keep the focus off of me and on someone else, I can avoid having to look at the cold hard truth for very long. But I must tell you that I have had that “conversation with God” this week, and I made a deal. I think he agreed on the deal, as long as I served Him – and did my best every day – and I stayed in my day and not expected to die – that I would live a long life.

Religion, what is it? Is it a comfort to help us on the way to our graves? To give us something to focus on in death? A loving God, a forgiving Christ and a Spirit that loves us to fill the soul of man with hope that on that appointed day we would stand with our maker and be granted eternal life!

Is religion a cop out? The easy path?

I don’t know what to think – but I do believe – and for me that simple kernel of faith saves me. I know that nobody wants to think about it, so I write and remind you of the ever present fact that we all will face our mortality, some sooner than others. I’ve studied death and dying in my undergraduate career.

roma-glow.jpg

For many years I held on to the visual of Monica, the Angel from “Touched by an Angel” who said those simple words “I’m an angel sent by God, to tell you that God Loves You.”

I have seen every episode and I have a collection of hundreds of episodes here at home. During those years that I was so sick and I needed something to hold onto this little television show was my salvation, a second helping of God every Sunday after returning home from an evening mass. I kind of fancy that Andrew would stand here with me on that final moment to carry me to God in heaven.

touchedbyanangel1.jpg

It was easy to let go and let God, because of my faith in God and this little show that confirmed to me in visual form that there were angels and that I wasn’t alone, sitting in my apartment, sick as a dog. They even touched on the “aids” stories and the fact that even people with AIDS had angels. I believed that and I still do. Now in syndication, on Vision TV I can watch TBAA at night here in Montreal. And at Christmas I can watch the special shows that were created over the years while the show was running.

I find it funny the lengths I went to to maintain my spiritual beliefs when everyone around me was worrying that I was going to die, I was worried about that and the fact that I had no idea how I was going to survive another year. These memories are found back in 1998 and 1999.

When Christians were condemning us, my family included there, the angels were there to tell us that God loved us and still loves us today. That faith worked, because I lived another ten years and now we start another decade with stronger faith and a few angels here and there…

I’m fully aware of my mortality and that scares me.


On Being 40 …

b-down-gobo-copy.jpg

The lights go down, the smoke machine is fired up and Seal is on the turntable. I stand in a large space, it is just me, the smoke and my music, as I ready for the nights events. This visual is very useful because it takes me back to the most important time in my young life as a gay man – and an HIV positive man.

I have spoken of this time and place at great length in the pages here on the blog. But I invoke it as I write because it taps that part of my brain where all those memories are stored.

This is supposed to be my “40th Birthday” retrospective. None of my friends have offered up any wisdom to turning 40, and several of my blog reads reached 40 before I did, and they seem to be well adjusted and the same men I knew before they turned 40.

I am not feeling any kind of depression or do I have any problem with my body image the only vain thing I do for me is cut and color my hair, to hide those ugly grays!! That reminds me I need to make an appointment for Tuesday!! It is Sunday Late night as I am writing this.

I was 26 when I was diagnosed in 1994. The doctors gave me 18 months to live. And here we are celebrating my 40th birthday. All the men I loved, liked, followed and idolized in my young gay life are dead, and I am still here …..

I have much to be grateful for. I have many men to thank for getting me here. The men who saved me from death at the Stud, the councilors who helped me cope and heal, the doctors who treated me, the men and women who “Loved” me into existence. Little did I know then, in 1994, that we would be here celebrating. I guess as a gay man with AIDS I see the world differently than most of you.

I am not consumed with the trappings of wealth. I am not a rich man nor a rich husband. We live on modest means and I work a modest job doing God’s work in my community. I don’t obsess over things that most gay men obsess over.

Image, money, wealth, sex, men, drugs and alcohol and going out to the bar to socialize. I guess I have mellowed with age. I have grown into the man I really want to be. And I can’t complain, because I have everything I need today. Being sober is another additive to this perception.

I get tired of reading whine after wine. Marriage has tempered me – life has taught me how to be married. That you find one to love – and that one loved you in return without question, argument or issue. Hell, I had no idea I would fall in love and get married when I was 26. I was concerned about getting through the day alive!

For many months after my diagnosis I kept a daily calendar, marking the 560 days until my death. My first sponsor kicked my ass several times over this. He was apt to tear the calendar off the frig and I would, as usual make another one. It was my way of coping then. When I reached that “Death Date” and I was still alive, it was only then that I started to work on a future.

I was sick an awful lot in the beginning. I was in the hospital all the time. I was sick as a dog for long periods of time. I haven’t had a major illness in many years. “knocks on wood!”

When I turned 30 that was in 1997. I had been sober three years, I was living in Miami, and going to the Coral room for meetings. I made it four years sober. The good thing about hindsight in sobriety is this: I can see what I DID and DIDN’T do right. From 1994 until my slip after four years of sobriety, I was just learning how to survive. Granted staying alive on the U.S. Medical system was a chore, let me tell you.

This is not racist but I was on social assistance and HRS assistance for a long time until I got on Medicaid. And I have to tell you that I had to go to places that “little white boys” did not go in the daytime! Let alone after dark. In order to get services I had to work the system before I either got denied, got sick or DIED! In the United States, Miami, in fact, until I found the loop it was kill or be killed. People were not going to help a little white boy with AIDS, that was clear. And the Government, sure as shit thought i was better off dead than to give me assistance. That is where I learned to be a “Cast Iron Cunt!!”

More than a few times I had to stop taking my pills and get deathly ill to get someone to help me. When I applied for disability I was so sick, I thought I was going to die. I stopped bathing, stopped taking my pills and walked into that government office that day, I was green. I coughed all over that poor women who signed off on my application and finally I made headway and I was able to get what I needed to live.

I became the Cast Iron Cunt from hell. Because I knew where all the contacts were. I had files at home, phone numbers and names of credible people I had amassed for myself. And more than once I was called to a hospital to help a friend who was set in chairs for 13 to 15 hours waiting for a bed, unpilled and unfed!! Those hospital administrators were truly afraid of me, because I was fucking kidding.

These people, my people would be helped or they could find other jobs. We got a lot of nurses and care workers fired over those years. There was no time to train you – your a health care worker, then do your fucking job asshole! Because we aren’t getting better with you worrying about getting AIDS from someone, unless you were fucking us or using our needles…

I was a Little Mean Asshole.

My parents did not help me. My parents traumatized me as an adult and that is their shit, not mine. I got them back years later. Never tell lies to your children because eventually they get washed out in the laundry.

So where are we 1997, I was 30. I was still alive. I set out on a number of really BAD decisions, a geographic that almost killed me a year later. That brings us to the year 2000.I was back in Miami in July of 2000. I stayed with friends after my relocation back after I was hospitalized with facial and bodily trauma.

I was agoraphobic I wasn’t eating and I had to reconnect to the system after being away from 18 months while I tripped to hell and back. I found a place to live, I had a job and my doctor took me back as a patient. That man saved my life. I tested every drug on the market from 1994 THROUGH today!! So Thank me….

I had to learn how to live again. I had to learn how to go outside. I had to take back my life. And Andrea, my therapist saved me once again. I was so god damned lucky you know that, I met some incredibly amazing people in my life, and they all played a part in getting me here. People who believed in me when I could not believe in myself. People who loved me until I could learn what it meant to Love Myself. That took YEARS !!!

And I was on the fast track plan, because people with AIDS were not living very long in Florida. Every time I saw the quilt, hundreds of more quilts were added yearly. This is the period that I learned that Dana Manchester had died. He was a drag queen artist that I knew when I first came out at the Parliament House when I was 21 – in Orlando. That’s where I came out!!! All good gay boys who live in Florida come out at the P-House!!!

God, Ive been though some serious shit in my life. AND I Lived to tell the tale! I am one lucky son of a bitch!! Someone up there likes me. I guess in a way, loosing the people I loved early in my life “family wise” steeled me to either live or die. My grandmothers deaths affected me in ways that nobody knows, not even my family.

And I don’t have any family to speak of left in my life today, and I haven’t had any family in my life since well before I left the states. My parents condemned me as an abomination. Funny that I went on and got a Degree in Religion from Concordia University in Montreal and I did it all before my 40th Birthday…

I showed you, you Fuckers !!!

I’m sorry, but Itty Bitty Bad Ass creeps up on me at times, when I reflect….
I have ever right to be angry … Their loss. My Loss. Nobody won that fight…

I miss my Master.

I miss my friends.

I miss the past – the laughing – the fun – the Joy of drag shows and of being young again.

My mother told a strategic lie to her children. And in 2001 I capitalized on that lie. My mother had retained her Canadian Citizenship until AFTER my brother was born in 1970. She was naturalized in 1974. I had an out – and I took it. They fucked me over and so the last fuck was mine and it was going to be a good, wet and dirty one…

I was 34 years old when I left the United States. I packed everything I owned and I set off for the new world. Hell, I was still alive!! And I had not even started living yet. I was just merely surviving. But I was SOBER when I pulled that next geographic and I STAYED sober during the move.

I came for Easter 2002 to Montreal. I stayed two weeks, I just LOVED this city. And I still do. It is not Miami… that’s when I returned home packed and I left. My parent’s were horrified and insulted that I would gain Canadian Citizenship because of my mother’s well told lie… She almost got deported over my application. She was so angry at me she was spitting!! It was great! Payback is a bitch!!

Itty Bitty Bad Ass…

The last conversation I had with my mother was in 2003. She said to me and I quote:

“If we get sick and one of us or both of us die, we will not call you nor notify you of any funeral or tell you where we are buried!!”

How do you like that line? I had to cope with this news the best way I could. So I had to bury them in my heart forever. We had hurt each other to the point of severance. I was going to have the last laugh. But my mother cut me to the bone. I have seen her twice here in my apartment. She came on my 1st and 2nd wedding anniversary. I saw her here and I spoke to her.

I have always said that the one thing that would send me over the edge and I would drink over is the thought that she is dead, and nobody called to tell me.  I am sober and I want to keep it that way. But I tell you, if this secret ever becomes reality, I will surely go insane!!

Almighty God,
to you all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hidden.
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

So you know the rest of the story if you’ve been reading this blog. All the stories and achievements are there to read about, including the history of Jeremy. I came to Canada to conquer death. I did that. This will be my 40th birthday, and I am still alive. There surely is a God. I know his voice and I’ve seen his face. I am loved.

  • I came to Conquer Death
  • I met a man in sobriety
  • I married that man in 2004
  • I went back to school at age 35
  • And I graduated in June of 2007 with a Degree in Religion
  • I am still sober – by the Grace of God
  • I am still alive – by the Grace of God

I don’t worry about dying any more. I don’t worry about the past any more. Save one truth of secrets would probably kill me, so we don’t talk about it ever. I trust my gut to know what God is telling me. My psychic abilities are strong enough to know the truth about death. And I know for myself today. And I have accepted the truth in my heart and I am the man I wanted to become and am still becoming. So join us at Tuesday Beginners tonight and let’s celebrate my birthday Big Brassy and GAY!!!

When I had my near death experience in 1997, I went across and was seated in a garden of the most beautiful flowers. They sent me back without any answers that I had questions about. I met a wise man one night who said to me, “Why wait till you’re dead to ask your questions, ASK them NOW! So I did that…

I’ve never told anyone what I am about to share with you…

In 2001 – I had two “visitations” in my South Beach apartment. One by the Lady in White. She came to bless me. She brought the scent of roses, that I could never find the origin of and never did. I never smelled those roses ever again after that …

The second was the “taking” where I was lain on a table, in a room where beings were present. They pricked my arms and told me that I would be healed and that I would live, that all would be well. Somewhere inside I knew it and I felt it, that was the first time my t-cells ever hit 1000 – in my labs in the Spring of (2001), on the last round in July my T-cells were 1186!! My T- cells have been hovering at 1000 since 2001. They had never gotten that high before ever before…

Someone is protecting me … My faith has saved me, and Christ has redeemed me, and God continually blesses my life. Thank God for all of you.

Thank you to all my readers and friends and fellows. And as always, if you like what you read, please, by all means let us know. It is always nice to hear from my readers. I am not your “run of the mill” Christian, but quite the opposite.

I just do what I am called to do

I help where I am directed to

and I love because I am commanded to

And from the Old Testament I remind of these most important words:

“The most vital commandment in the Old Testament is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Deut. 6:5…


Bye for now…


Enter the Inquisitor to Baltimore …

cleric-baltimore.jpg

Cleric Who Led Witch Hunt for Gays Named Baltimore Archbishop


by The Associated Press

(Baltimore, Maryland) The pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal William Keeler as archbishop of Baltimore on Thursday and named Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, who leads the U.S. military archdiocese, as his successor.

Keeler turned 76 in March, a year past the normal retirement age for bishops.

O’Brien, 68, served as an auxiliary bishop in New York before taking over the Archdiocese for the Military Services in Washington in 1997. He coordinated a major evaluation of U.S. seminaries in 2005-2006, ordered by the Vatican in response to the clergy sex abuse scandal.

The seminary review, completed last year, gave special attention to what seminarians are taught about chastity and celibacy. It also looked for evidence of homosexuality in the schools.

In a 2005 Associated Press interview, O’Brien said that most gay candidates for the priesthood struggle to remain celibate and the church must “stay on the safe side” by restricting their enrollment. The Vatican reaffirmed that year a longstanding church policy of keeping men with “deep-seated” homosexual tendencies from becoming priests.

O’Brien, a New York native, said he would be leaving his Washington post with mixed emotions.

“I just loved the military,” he said. “The service has taught me so much.”

Keeler, a native of San Antonio, was appointed archbishop in Baltimore in 1989 and marked his 50th anniversary in the priesthood in 2005. He submitted his resignation last year to the Vatican when he turned 75, as required by the church.

In May, Keeler said he planned to remain in Baltimore as head of the Basilica Historic Trust after his successor was named. He oversaw the restoration of the historic church.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore serves 510,000 Catholics in Baltimore and nine counties in central and western Maryland, according to the archdiocese Web site.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services serves about 1.5 million Catholics, including all in the military and their families.

©365Gay.com 2007


Gay Marriage Protestor Files Papers To Run For Miami Beach Mayor

070607mayor.jpg

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: July 6, 2007 – 5:00 pm ET 

(Miami Beach, Florida) A Miami Beach man who has angered gays, his neighbors and city hall over a huge banner denouncing same-sex marriage filed his papers Friday to run for mayor in November. 

As 365Gay.com reported on Tuesday, the banner which runs the entire width of Bill Smatt’s lot proclaims “God created Adam + Eve, not Adam + Steve.”  

The banner has raised the hackles of LGBT rights groups and Smatt’s neighbors, several of whom have complained to city hall.

The city has issued Smatt with five code violations.  He says he has no intention of removing the banner and will fight the city in court.

The 76-year old Smatt, with a long white unruly beard, says he is “a messenger from God.”

But the Jamaican-born Smatt says he isn’t a homophobe.

Gay leaders in Miami Beach would beg to differ.  

It isn’t the first time he has placed an anti-gay banner in front of his home.

When he lived in Miami’s Belle Meade area in 1998 he hung a banner across his fence reading “Belle Meade, City of Sodom and Gomorrah. Vengeance is Mine Sayeth the Lord.”  

Smatt says if elected mayor he will shut down Miami Beach’s domestic partner registry that was created in 2004.

He wants to clean up the gay club and beach scene in Miami Beach and says he would ban skimpy bathing suits for men and women.

His campaign Web site says that he would increase the pay for police by 100 percent and abolish property and school taxes for Miami Beach residents. 

Three other candidates are already in the mayor’s race – Commissioners Matti Bower and Simon Cruz and resident Raphael Herman.

©365Gay.com 2007


History – Anniversary – Photography …

 

aids7.jpg

 Callie I loved him, knew him, Mourned him

aids6.jpg

 Carl was sick, and he died.
All the men in this quad were from the bar

aids5.jpg

Jorge, Ricky and I worked in Reservations at(then-RCCL)
on Dodge Island.

 

aids4.jpg

 Who did not KNOW who VITO was?
Stories from the Quilt

aids8.jpg

 Pedro Zamora – Activist, The Real World

aids9.jpg

aids10.jpg

Dennis Johnson, the bar owners lover – is spoken
of in my memoirs from the Patti Labelle Concert
at the James L. Knight Center – Before he died.

 

***********************************************

Where were you on July 4th, 1994?

We you with your family and friends celebrating the July 4th Holiday? Did you BBQ in the back yard, or maybe someone else’s home? Did you see the fireworks, like many of us did?

That was 13 years ago…

I should be dead and buried already.

Over in the Pages under “History” you can read all about it, or re-live it if you wish.  To remind all of my readers why my header image is what it is right now, to remind me where I have been and to keep me vigilant of where I am and grateful for being able to look ahead to the future.

Because doctors believed that I would live – That I had that “spark of life” not to mention a different strain than the rest, that something “other” than AIDS that killed all of my friends.

aids2.jpg

 Those are my flowers on his quilt – he visited many displays
when it came to Miami

aids11.jpg


Recognising grievances

Brian Taylor — 2 Jul 07, 07:08 PM- Hyperlink to Blog

For politicians, it’s a real quandary. An exceptionally sharp dilemma in a generally tricky business.

Put yourself in the place of our politicians. Say you’re a front bench spokesperson. You want to condemn terrorism without equivocation. It is criminal, abhorrent, utterly wrong. Yet at the same time you may want to spotlight – and seek to alter – circumstances in which you believe such terrorism might thrive.

How do you do that, how do you highlight the culture, the soil in which terrorism exists without appearing, to some degree, to exculpate the acts of terror themselves?

In the Commons this afternoon, Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats tiptoed towards this quandary. He argued that, while we condemn terrorism without reservation, we should also recognise the grievances that exist in the wider Islamic community. Those might include Iraq and the conduct of Middle East policy.

Let me stress – as Mr Clegg did – that he was in no way condoning those who targeted Glasgow Airport or the London night club. Rather he was arguing that it is naïve to consider the extremist responses without also considering the political circumstances in which such responses may develop.

It had been an occasion of unity. The new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was warmly praised on all sides for her steadfast and calm response to events. She told MP’s that Britain would not be intimidated by terror.

And, in response to Angus Robertson of the Scottish National Party, she extolled the value of the co-operation she had received from the SNP executive, mentioning Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill.

In an impressive contribution, David Davies of the Conservatives endorsed the efforts of the police, the security services – and the public, including the civilians who intervened to help officers at Glasgow Airport. He said: “A real hero is someone who runs towards danger whilst others run away.”

To repeat, Mr Clegg did not depart from this united approach. Indeed, he nodded vigorously when the home secretary intepreted his remarks as seeking to isolate extremists from the wider, law-abiding Muslim community.
But perhaps he raised an intriguing political – and philosophical – point.


The Church of St. Louis (where I grew up)

st-louis6.jpg

The unassuming building hides among the homes that line the street where my former High School is located, Palmetto Senior High. You’d never know such a church exists until you happen upon it driving down 120th street. Since many years there are tall sentinel palm trees that line the streets adjacent to the church grounds. This most peculiar “space ship” looking church would gather thousands upon thousands of parishoners over the years.

This would become home for many, and later a place of education for students. An aspiration that was the brainchild of one Rev. Father James Fetscher. The leader of a rag tag bunch of men who knew their faith and led us through life with their wisdom, faith and love. Many of us came to know God here, and many young people came to know the love and forgiveness and most importantly the “acceptance” of Jesus, no matter who we were or what road we traveled.

The landscaping around the Church and school site lends to the natural beauty of the plants and trees and also accents the neighborhood and this oasis of spiritual life is an amazing retreat away from the world outside not far away.

We would walk up the street from the High school and have lunch on the grounds every day during the school year. The proximity of sacred space to the profane world of life and school lent to the fostering of a spiritual life and practice. As long as one kept their minds and hearts on the life of Jesus once could not go wrong.

st-louis-5.jpg

Looking from the West end of the courtyard and the (then) Religious Education and Youth Ministry offices this is the courtyard of St. Louis Catholic church. I spent many a day and night sitting in this courtyard with my friends, with ministry leaders and fellow parishioner’s who attended mass in this amazing church. The architecture is unlike any church many had ever seen. It’s modern lines and circular and dome themes are prevalent all over the church campus.

There is a noticed departure from sharp lines and corners, the builders of this space, moved away from the “square – box” method of church building when the new sanctuary was built. All the outdoor accents and seating have curved edges which invites people to sit and linger. To gather and converse. To the right of the photo you see a raised seating area, where many of us met to travel around the city on ministry projects and retreats all over the world.

We celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Church outside in this square when I was a teen ager. Imagine the congregation being seated in the square and the celebration of Holy Eucharist in the open air, it was quite an amazing time in our church history.

st-louis-2.jpg

The Great Doors – each door with its own religious themes replaces wooden doors over the years. Under the most amazing domed reception area outside the main sanctuary and chapel and Blessed Sacrament Chapel which is open twenty four hours a day with someone always praying before the Blessed Sacrament.

Inside these doors sits a baptismal fount / fountain which gurgles with the flow of blessed water for the worshipers in the church as they come to mass. A very holy “oasis” amid the architectural masterpiece that is the main sanctuary of St. Louis.

st-louis1.jpg

A very special anecdote: The battle of the aspersorium (L), aspergill (Eng). When the four horsemen where together on the altar, Fr’s Fetscher, Kish, McGowan and Fr. Radloff, on certain holy days when the blessing of the people with holy water would take place, it was a battle of the men to see who would drown the other in Holy Water. As each High Holy Mass was celebrated, the ‘main’ celebrant would usually change. So each would have his turn in dowsing the other with massive amounts of Holy water from the aspergill. It was a hoot to sit on the altar and watch this little ‘in house’ competition progress over the years.

This is the main sanctuary. The most amazing Holy Space ever to be built. Built in the spirit of the Roman Amphitheater style, there is not one bad sight line in the entire space. With the sanctuary in the “round” and banked as the amphitheaters of antiquity, the worshipers are witness to the theatrics of the Holy Mass.

To the right and left of the brick altar area are large blank walls, as I began to attend church here, there was the move from hand held lectionaries-missals and song books to a more multi-media savvy congregation. With hands free worship there wasn’t the need to take the focus away from the action going on – on the altar or within the sacred space.

All of the spoken words, prayers, responses and music and as well, audio visual accompaniment for the mass are projected onto the walls (left and right) of the altar. This audio visual lends to the complete participation of everyone in the worship space. No one is preoccupied with looking down into some book or missal. All eyes are front and center, participating in the rites of Holy Mass and the celebration of Eucharist.

Lighting is a very important component to worship in this space. As you notice in this photograph, light is concentrated on the altar itself, and the congregation is darkened to bring lighted accent to the location of celebration, the ‘focal point’ of the Eucharist, the altar and the main celebrant. Over to the far right of the altar, located off screen is the band pit where the light controls are located. As mass progresses from start to finish, the lighting in the entire sanctuary moves. Lighting is the indicator of movement, and in this space with the wood accents and white walls, light and shadow play off each other as mass is presented each weekend.

Tucked in between the levels of the aisles, are the entrance doors, for entry and exit and also to the left of the altar stones in the funerary doors which allow access for the caskets of the deceased to be brought into the sanctuary for blessed rites of Christian burial. The immense size of the main sanctuary lends to fantastical processions on high holy days and the procession of ministers on any given Sunday.

A wedding procession of a bride through the space to meet her husband at the central point directly in front of the altar bricks is just an amazing vision. Circular lines of the space lend to the flowing of people and ministers throughout the space. There are no sharp corners or the interruption of the flow of people and holiness.

The lighting moves from the main sanctuary to the celebratory area, where the celebrant, lectors and the cantor take their places during mass. Above and behind the main altar you notice the gold colored wall which houses a projection room above and behind the altar space. This back lit screen also adds audio visual accompaniment to the mass.

On any given Sunday you will see the liturgical theme of the day, the liturgical color of the Christian Liturgical season and also progressive slide shows during High Holy Days and celebrations. The ‘Easter Vigil’ is the highest liturgical celebration in this space. Mass on Holy Saturday is the most cosmic and most amazing presentation of high mass theatrical worship I have ever witnessed. The sacred space decorated with the most beautiful of trees, flowers and religious items is just amazing.

If you notice high above the altar upwards towards the ceiling, a notch, following with straight architectural lines of the building, there is yet another space for liturgical decoration. You see the yellow fabric behind the very large cross that hangs behind and above the altar. At the uppermost area of the sanctuary is the highest point of access in the sacred space.

During Advent and the Christmas season, you will see Christmas trees there, high above the altar, as they are also decorated aside the altar proper on the ground level. As you must ponder, with the wide open spaces here in the main sanctuary the eyes are drawn to multiple locations in the sanctuary, as there is much to see. It is a veritable feast for the eyes on any given Sunday.

As the ceiling is formed in wood in circular patterns the cement architecture is in round forms as it encircles the whole of the uppermost sanctuary ceiling. As one looks up at the spectacle of the most beautiful wood form, during the Christmas holidays, you might find an angel hanging over the sacred space, trumpet in hand, announcing the coming of the Christ child. She is a most beautiful angel.

The cross that you see hanging above the altar once stood on the altar during lent. There were years when the passion play was performed on Good Friday, and one of our members, we used to say, “he looked like Jesus,” would play his part. And one would swear that with the lighting technology and the meaning of the mass, that he was actually crucified on that very cross. I remember sitting in my pew weeping for Jesus on that most Holy of days.

The architecture of the sacred space, the interplay of light and shadow and the music of the season and the additional choirs and congregants inside the space made worshiping God and the celebration of the Eucharist an amazing weekly mass event. There has never been another Catholic Church, that I have ever seen built nor operated as this unique church has for so many decades.

To the right of the altar space is the lectern for the cantor or music minister and farther to the right you will see the seating area for the elderly and the handicapped. They are situated right close to the altar which is very important to those who come to hear the word and celebrate in the Eucharist. There is also a cry room, which is located to the upper far left of the frame. There is an old anecdote of the Rev Fr. Fetscher.

On any given Sunday, the good father would be preaching, as he walked around the sanctuary, a child would begin to wail, as the acoustics of the room lends to the reverberation of sound throughout the domed wooden structure, like a divining rod, the good father’s hand would rise as he continued to speak to the congregation, until he zeroed in to the exact location of the wailing child, as the parents attempted to quiet them or move as quickly as possible to the cry room, or out of the church completely, so as not to interrupt the train of the good father’s thought on the topic he was preaching on at the moment.

What is lacking in this new architecture is the lack of ‘old church’ visuals. The absence of statues, a tabernacle and candles as we would see in any given sanctuary in Montreal, in the Gothic and cathedral style church in this historical city of faith. The tabernacle was located in the chapel, then as I see in the photographs to follow, it must have been relocated into the Blessed Sacrament Chapel located in another area of the building.

You will see candles in use during mass and also during Advent. But there are no standing candles in open space within the sanctuary. Fire and soot from candles burning does not lend to the wood building of the sanctuary and the clean lines of the white washed walls.

I have served on this altar as an altar boy, a seminarian, lector and Eucharistic minister. It is a most beautiful vision to stand upon the altar and look out at the massive community of worshipers there to celebrate Holy Eucharist.

st-louis4.jpg

The Chapel of St. Louis Catholic Church. These are the stained glass windows that bank the rear wall of the chapel and looks out to the parking lot and new covenant school. Each of the windows has origins in biblical scripture. I want to say that, if memory serves, but don’t quote me on this, but these are images from the book of Revelation.

Somewhere in my mind is a memory of this being mentioned to me at some point of time. In the chapel is where morning masses are held along with the recitation of the Holy Rosary. Funerals are also held in the space, there have been musical accompaniment in this space. This is the space where we buried my paternal grandparents, when Roger and Paul were still music ministers at the Church.

st-louis3.jpg

This is the Sacred Space altar and lectern in the chapel. This chapel is also situated in ‘the round.’ the theme of circular space is repeated in all the main buildings in this specific building housing the main sanctuary, chapel and sacristy. There is a logical progression of ever changing architecture on the site moving from the primary sanctuary location which housed religious education, to this sanctuary space which is themed in the circular domed spaces.

As I look at this photo, observing the interplay of light and shadow, you have three elements. The light above the crucifix, the shadow on the walls to either side, and the light that streams in the windows in front of the altar space looking on. With circular space and the accent of internal lighting and the addition of natural light in the chapel and in the hallways of the building, the ‘drama of the spaces’ is made even deeper.

Different from the box – cathedral type church spaces we have here in Montreal, streaming light travels in one direction and towards the floor in our churches. With more rounded buildings such as these, light bends across, down and around the spaces, which brings movement and action to a quiet and sedate space. You do not see modern ‘churches in the round’ in a city steeped in architectural history.

As on kneels before Christ on the cross – you can imagine that – He is there, in the flesh, as you look upon his face, more than once, I imagine in my minds eye, that he is there alive, and beckons us to see Him in his most powerful state, that liminal space between life and death, where we are called to pray and believe that He will rise again on the third day. The crucifix sculpture is one of the most striking images of Christ I have ever seen.

The tabernacle was once located behind the altar beneath the most beautiful crucifix I have ever seen. This most lifelike representation of Christ on the Cross is amazingly detailed in size and scope. To the left of the crucifix is a painting of the Blessed Mother and child. In this sacred space you will find more conventional ‘church’ representations of religious artifacts. It is a most beautiful room to sit and pray, by ones self and ‘in community.’

When I was seeing Fr. Jeff for spiritual direction, some years ago, I would meet the daily group of people who attended the morning mass and we would recite the scriptural rosary every morning. It was an amazing way to star ones day, as the sun rose out of the east, the light would filter in the stained glass windows and illuminate the chapel, those seated in the chapel and as the light changed and light and shadow played off each other to lend such dramatic mood to the sacred space.

So this concludes a tour of my home parish of St. Louis Catholic Church in Miami Florida. I will be adding some more spiritual stories from this place to my ‘pages’ in the coming weeks as I compile my spiritual stories for my next publishing project.



It’s a girl …

rv1.jpg

We welcome with glad tidings of peace and joy the arrival of Asia Rayne Bell born May 30th at 12:51 p.m. Asia is the daughter of the World re known  personality of radio on the incredibly popular and largest late night radio show in the world, Coast to Coast AM.

Art and Airyn Bell reside in Pahrump Nevada. Art can be heard on weekends on Coast to Coast AM.

CONGRATULATIONS Art and Airyn Bell  (I know I’ve misspelled her name again!!!)


It's a girl …

rv1.jpg

We welcome with glad tidings of peace and joy the arrival of Asia Rayne Bell born May 30th at 12:51 p.m. Asia is the daughter of the World re known  personality of radio on the incredibly popular and largest late night radio show in the world, Coast to Coast AM.

Art and Airyn Bell reside in Pahrump Nevada. Art can be heard on weekends on Coast to Coast AM.

CONGRATULATIONS Art and Airyn Bell  (I know I’ve misspelled her name again!!!)


Archaeologist recounts discovery of oldest biblical text

Mar 8, 2007
By Brent Thompson
Baptist Press

Click to download Hi-Res Photo
Biblical archaeologist Gabi Barkay reads a passage from Numbers 6 in an English Bible during his lecture at Southwestern Seminary on his discovery of the oldest written Bible verses. Photo by Matt Miller

FORT WORTH, Texas(BP)–Serendipity plays a role in many of the world’s greatest discoveries, and this was no less the case for biblical archaeologist Gabriel “Gaby” Barkay during a dig he led in Jerusalem 30 years ago. Barkay never would have guessed that a pesky child with a hammer would reveal the resting place of the oldest piece of biblical text ever discovered.

During a lecture at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Barkay took a crowd of 200 on a journey that began with slides of St. Andrews Church of Scotland, within view of Old Jerusalem. It was on the grounds of that church, erected in 1927 on a rocky knoll on the Valley of Hinnom (Ketef Hinnom), where Barkay oversaw an archaeological dig in the mid- to late-1970s.

“I was looking for less-looked-at subjects: places of extra-rural, para-urban land uses,” Barkay said, describing the reasons why he chose that location as he was developing his doctoral dissertation. “I asked myself, ‘If I were a patriarch, where would I put a defensible place? Where would I put a cemetery or a stone quarry?’”

Barkay decided the answers lay outside the city walls of Old Jerusalem, out of range of ancient weapons, but close enough for easy access. This led him to the hill where St. Andrew’s Church sits. Pointing to an aerial view of the location, he described some features of the terrain.

“There was an ancient road cut out of the rocky escarpment upon which the apse of the church clings,” Barkay said. “This ancient road led to Bethlehem and was in use until the 1800s [A.D.]. This hill is very important because it is just outside the range of city weapons. If I was besieging the city, I would encamp on this hill.”

With the dig underway, Barkay’s team first uncovered artifacts from the 19th century A.D. — British trinkets, Turkish railroad spikes, coins, military insignias and remains of rifles, many of which were museum-quality pieces.

They also uncovered the threshold of an early Christian church some 1,500 years old. Under the place identified as the church’s narthex, or lobby, the team discovered an intact crypt. Barkay described finding various remnants of the church, including its footings. He said the church likely was destroyed in the seventh century A.D. by a Persian king.

As Barkay’s team continued deeper into the dig, their discoveries went backwards in time, era by era: From the late Roman period, tiny fragments of human bones were found, incinerated inside cooking pots. The team had unearthed a crematorium of the 10th Regiment of the Roman Army. Roman-era hobnails from Roman boots, earrings, coins, rings and glass perfume containers were found intact.

From the Herodian period, Barkay joked about finding clay cooking vessels with tiny holes in them and thinking someone on his team had carelessly punctured the rare treasures. But subsequent research revealed that the cooking pots had been deliberately punctured by first-century Jews in order to “cancel” the cooking pots after they had been used for sacred purposes in the temple.

Further on, discoveries from the First Temple Period, the time of King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah. Fertility figurines told the sad story of how residents of Jerusalem had worshiped false gods, giving substance to the warnings of Isaiah and his contemporaries recorded in the Bible.

Soon burial caves came to view. Barkay’s excavation was revealing artifacts from the fifth century B.C. These repositories revealed clues about how ancient Hebrews buried their dead.

Then Barkay described for his audience how, in 1979, a group of 12-year-olds from an archaeology club in Tel Aviv had come to the dig. Barkay thought the children were “pesky.” One in particular, a boy named Nathan, was always “tugging on my shirt and asking silly questions,” Barkay said.

Barkay assigned Nathan to a far-off, unimportant task: clearing out an ancient repository cave to prepare it for being photographed. Nathan took to the task with a hammer and “expressed his frustration by hammering the floor of the repository.” Barkay recalled being quite perturbed when young Nathan, who had not been on task very long, tugged on this shirt to tell the archaeologist that the hammer had broken through the floor of the cave and there was something below.

Upon inspection, Barkay realized that what he had thought was the floor of the chamber was, in fact, the ceiling of another ancient chamber underneath. Nathan had opened up a chamber where Barkay would make his most renowned discovery.

Below was a repository containing a large quantity of intact vessels dating from the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries B.C., Barkay said. Many had survived Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Glazed pottery, gold jewelry, silver, semi-precious stones and beads all gave evidence of a thriving population. Silver coins minted in Greece showed that the Hebrews were part of a network of international trade.

That was when the “very important” discovery came to light. During his lecture Feb. 5 at Southwestern’s main campus in Fort Worth, Texas, Barkay projected a photograph of a tiny, dirty cylinder he described as “the size of a cigarette butt.” It was an amulet designed to be worn on an arm or forehead in literal obedience to Deuteronomy 6:8, an ancient precursor to what are today known as phylacteries.

“Inside [the amulet] we found a tiny, silver scroll, which took us three years to unroll,” Barkay said. “The scroll yielded 19 lines of minuscule writing … in ancient Hebrew script.”

Stratigraphy enabled Barkay to date the silver scrolls to the seventh century B.C., to the time of King Josiah. He said the scrolls refute scholars who claim the books of the Pentateuch were written later.

The writing included three repetitions of ancient Hebrew letters which are transliterated YHWH. “This is the private, unpronounceable name of God, which is often pronounced in the West as ‘Jehovah,’” Barkay said.

Experts in ancient Semitic languages showed that the tiny scrolls contained the earliest written example of the Aaronian benediction recorded in Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.”

“This text predates the earliest Dead Sea Scrolls by four centuries,” Barkay said in reference to the importance of the silver scrolls. “They are the oldest biblical verses identified in the world.”

Born in Hungary, Barkay moved to Jerusalem early in life, where he later earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He then earned his doctoral degree in archaeology at Tel Aviv University. Barkay currently is professor of archaeology at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv. Throughout his career, he has been involved with excavations at Lachish, Jerusalem, Megiddo, Tel Zayit and Susa in modern-day Iran. He has directed excavations at Ramat Rachel, Ketef Hinnom and other sites. Barkay has published numerous articles in the Israel Exploration Journal, Biblical Archaeology Review and other scholarly periodicals. He is a recipient of the prestigious Jerusalem Prize in Archaeology.