John the Baptist in river Jordan, near Bethany.
“A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” – Gospel of John
John the Baptist baptizing Jesus.
The video below with bible verse narrative brings to life the baptism of Jesus by John in a creative interpretive way. This video is an excerpt from the movie Gospel of John by the Lumo Project, not to be confused with another Gospel of John movie widely available on the internet, but not as good. The entire Lumo version of the movie is available on Netflix and iTunes.
Designing a website, whether a church, a spiritual center or shrine, requires a strategic framework that begins with Discovery.
I. Conduct a Discovery
Up front discovery will prevent any miscues later in the design process. The current situation is analyzed as part of Discovery. Several key Discovery questions for decision makers are:
- Who is the Audience?
The starting point, is it local or international or both. Is it a Christian audience or non religious. By understanding your audience, it will aid in designing an effective website.
- What do we want people to learn?
Often religious website owners want the audience to learn “who we are”. This could range from the parish mission, a religious order, or religious affiliations and institutions.
- What do we want people to do? What is actionable?
For many, it is a desire for visitors to the website to be active in events, be active in commenting on the website and in some cases become active financially, if they are capable. Another area for many religious organizations is to reach their students, both current or new students to get their interest. Actionable items can allow visitors to sign up for an on-line event or an in-person event. Also, actionable items can be to get email addresses to send future correspondence.
- What is the Message?
The message needs to be front and center throughout the website. It can include praying, healing and a life giving spiritual life. The website designed correctly can be innovative and stand out to show how the organization is different from other similar organizations.
II. Create Several Spiritual Models
A spiritual model is a conceptual look at the future website. Emphasis and priorities are placed for topics like education, religious orders, saints, liturgy and good works. A review by key decision makers will show how they view and prioritize the key components of their organization. Creating several spiritual models will aid in the discussion and decision making process.
III. Understand the Technology Options
Web site design technologies have changed in the last several years. Today, templates or themes are used extensively by web developers to expedite the creation and deployment of a website. These Content Management Systems (CMS) become your website that is stored on a third party hosting service.
- Open Sourced Content Management Systems
WordPress is a leader in the open sourced Content Management Systems (CMS), used by 25% of all websites. Open source software can be freely used, changed, and shared by anyone. Gone are the days of development from scratch. By starting with a working template that has been tested and streamlined with user friendly features, the setup customization can begin immediately. Other CMS’s are Joomla, Drupal and Rainmaker.
There are literally thousands of templates with which to choose, many can be adapted to a religious theme.The WordPress architecture allows plug-ins for flexible designs. As new functionality is requested, it can be added with the appropriate plug-in; like a ecommerce or event reservation and payment system. In this way the website stays fresh and up to date as you grow in functionality.
- Propriety Content Management Systems
Another type of website builder are the propriety content management systems, like WIX, Squarespace, Weebly and Go Daddy. They are inexpensive software tools but have some limitations in terms of design, functionality, file access, and ability to customize. They don’t use plug-in architecture as in the open source systems. For the somewhat simple website application, propriety software can be effective, especially if you are looking at a minimum number of pages of introductory or placeholder content. Note: There are several church web site vendors with customized propriety software offerings. Contact me for this listing.
- Ecommerce Solutions
Ecommerce offers shopping cart experience for selling products on-line through websites. Self hosted or open source solutions can be fully integrated into a website. For example, WOOCommerce is a customizable software package integrated with the WordPress core. Shopify on the other hand, is a hosted propriety system that guarantees high availability and reliability but is limited to personal customizations. Shopify in this example of an ecommerce platform acts as separate system outside of the WordPress CMS.
- Hosting Services
Hosting companies offer space on their servers or even your own dedicated server if you’re willing to pay for it. Factors like uptime, reliability, customer service and site speed play into which company to use. Several WordPress centric hosting companies are Blue Host and Site Ground. Other hosting companies are listed below in a performance chart.
IV. Capture High Level Requirements
Capturing high level requirements will address scope of the project and areas of design concentration or in the case of an existing site, redesign efforts. A church or religious website may have some or all of the following requirements:
- be available in a variety of digital formats
- upfront vocations section
- prayer intentions feature
- an events calendar
- provide a donation button
- live streaming of events
- on-line retail store (shopping cart) for selling of books, cards, gifts
- email sign-up feature
- support of digital newsletter
- social media integration with content streams
- support liturgical music
- on-line event registration
- provide saints writings, graphics, poetry, icons, expert opinions
- time driven blog
- user friendly, easy to maneuver, well organized
- recognize affiliated institutions
- SEO with strong domain name
- enhance our site, to be wherever our followers are.
TIS India created this infographic on the latest website design trends.
In a redesign of an existing website, the task becomes to dismantle the existing website and rebuild and reorganize content on the new platform. Depending on the old platform, it may be feasible to auto migrate some of the content from the current website to the new site. The effort to create new content may be easier than moving existing content.
V. Use a Risk Free Approach
The best way to reduce risk is creating a live demo website for private viewing and evaluation. The live demo shows the look and feel with recognizable content. If there is an existing site involved, this site continues operating during this period. Once the new website design is accepted, the remaining content is loaded and it can then go live for public consumption.
VI. Determine Post Go Live Support
There are two forms of support of a live website; technical maintenance support and operational support. Technical maintenance revolve around the web hosting service and includes updating themes and plug-ins, updating the CMS version, backups and site security. Operational support involves loading approved content, monitoring activity and small theme fixes.
Post go live strategies are dependent on the desire, resource availability and technical prowess of the website owners.
Bishop Robert Barron, Blessed Louis Martin, Blessed Marie Zelie Guerin Martin, Carmelite Monastary, Discalced Carmelite Nun, Philadelphia Carmel, St. John Paul II, St. Therese of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face
Saint Thérèse said that she would spend her time in heaven doing good on earth. Also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face and the “Little Flower”. She lived to be 24 years old. Pope John Paul II proclaimed Thérèse of Lisieux a Doctor of the Church in October 1997, the year of the 100th anniversary of her death, making her the youngest and most contemporary of all Doctors of the Church.
St. Thérèse on flowers:
“Great deeds are forbidden me. I cannot preach the Gospel nor shed my blood – but what does it matter? Others toil instead of me, and I, a little child, keep close by the throne of God and I love for those who fight. Love proves itself in deeds. I will scatter flowers, perfuming the Divine Throne, and I will sweetly sing my hymn of love. These flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least of actions for love.”
St. Thérèse on being a saint:
“I always wanted to become a saint…Instead of being discouraged, I told myself that God would not make me wish for something impossible…I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight. It is your arms, Jesus, which are the elevator to carry me to heaven. So there is no need for me to grow up. In fact, just the opposite: I must become less and less.”
The canonization of Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux will take place on Mission Sunday, October 18, 2015, during the Synod of Bishops on the Family.
St. Thérèse, Louis and Zellie relics:
Shown above are the three individual reliquaries, housing the relics of Therese, Louis and Zellie. This is the first family reliquary for veneration and procession. The reliquary of St. Thérèse, Doctor of the Church is placed highest. Louis and Zellie reliquary are united by wedding rings. The two white lilies are for the parents and the rose is for St. Thérèse.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has entrusted the relics of Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin and St. Thérèse to the Philadelphia Carmelite Monastery. The latest news from the Carmelite Monastery in Philadelphia: “Pilgrims are welcome to venerate the reliquary in the chapel Monday – Friday 9:00 am to 12 noon and Sunday 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. You may confide your intentions to these soon-to-be-saints.”
Pope Francis in Philadelphia, September 26, 2015. Photo by Will Yurman.
The Papal Connection:
Pope Francis has a strong devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux while as a Cardinal and now as Pope. Using a quote from St. Thérèse, Pope Francis calls us to “not miss out on a kind word, a smile, or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship.”
Pope Francis has said he received signs from St. Therese while asking for her intercession, in 2010, while still a Cardinal. He told reporters he received a white rose from a man while greeting pilgrims, who said, “you don’t understand anything: this is the sign that you are waiting for.” The man was never seen again.
Pope Francis has carried forward the devotion to St. Thérèse. From October 4 through 25, the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family will be held at the Vatican. This synod will mark the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops. The theme of this 2015 synod is “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.”
The parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux will be canonized by Pope Francis on October 18, 2015 at the Vatican during the synod. Louis Martin (1823-1894) and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin (1831-1877) are the first married couple with children to be canonized in the same ceremony.
Pope Francis has also said, while reflecting on St. Therese’s words, “he (Jesus) does not care if you’re big, or you’re small.” What interests him is “if you are filled with the love of Jesus.”
St. Therese on nature:
“Nature seemed to share in my bitter sadness, for during these days, the sun did not shine and the rain poured down in torrents. I have noticed in all the serious circumstances of my life that nature always reflected the image of my soul. On days filled with tears the heavens cried along with me; on days of joy the sun sent forth its joyful rays in profusion, and the blue skies were not obscured by a single cloud.”
The Discalced Carmelite Monastery of Philadelphia were the originators of devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux in the United States. It was founded in 1902, less than five years after St. Thérèse died
St. Thérèse on Blessed Virgin Mary:
“How I love the Blessed Virgin! She is represented as unapproachable, rather ought she to be shown as imitable. She is more Mother than Queen! I have heard it said that all the Saints are eclipsed by her radiant brightness as the Sun at rising makes the stars disappear. How strange that seems! A Mother eclipsing the glory of her children! I think quite the contrary, I believe that she will immensely increase the splendor of the elect. The Virgin Mary! How simple does her life appear to me!”
Bishop Robert Barron on St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Martin Family
“I am not dying; I am entering into life,” wrote Thérèse of Lisieux a few weeks before her death in Carmel on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24.
At the time of her death, Therese knew no more than 50 people, having lived in a cloistered, contemplative convent. As she studied and prayed the science of love from her own experiences, her wisdom blossomed.
I wanted Carmel as soon as I learned of it; I find that all the aspirations of my heart are fulfilled in this Order. – Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Thérèse of Lisieux on the Science of Love:
“I desire only this science of love…I understand so well that it is only love which makes us acceptable to God that this love is the only good ambition. Jesus deigned to show me the road that leads to Divine Furnace [of God’s love] and this road is the surrender of the little child who sleeps without fear in it’s Father’s arms.”
St. John Paul II on St. Therese:
Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face is the youngest of all the “Doctors of the Church”, but her ardent spiritual journey shows such maturity, and the insights of faith expressed in her writings are so vast and profound that they deserve a place among the great spiritual masters.
bilocation, capuchin franciscan, miracles, mystic, Our Lady of Grace Chapel, Padre Pio, Padre Pio Spiritual Center, Pio of Pietrelcina, Pope Francis, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina Museum, saints, The National Centre for Padre Pio
Padre Pio was famous for bilocation. He appeared in others dreams, by voice, by his presence, fragrance and bilocating in physical form. Near Barto, Pennsylvania, Padre Pio bilocated into Vera Calandra’s life, asking her to come to Italy quickly (he was to die several months later) and see him, as her daughter’s health was deteriorating. It was 1968 and doctors had surgically removed the child’s bladder, but after seeing Padre Pio in Rome, the child miraculously received a new bladder.
This became another of the known miracles attributed to Padre Pio, but not the miracle used for beatification or canonization. Later in life, Ms. Calandra went on to build The National Centre for Padre Pio in Barto Pennsylvania, a true devotion to the saint.
May the example of the Holy Family,
with the aid of your Holy Spirit,
guide all families, especially those most troubled,
to be homes of communion and prayer
and to always seek your truth and live in your love.
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Connection: Pope Francis, St. Francis of Assisi, Padre Pio.
Although a Jesuit, Pope Francis has a strong devotion to St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order, as evident by taking the saints name.
Pope Francis has visited and prayed at the site of the original San Damiano Cross in Santa Chiarra (St.Clare) Church in Assisi, Italy.
Padre Pio, a Capuchin Franciscan is intimately familiar with St. Francis, and like Pope Francis, has also prayed at the San Damiano Cross.
Here is the San Damiano Cross (in Barto, PA) that St. Francis of Assisi was praying, when asked by God to rebuild the Church. This Cross and St. Francis of Assisi is another connection between Pope Francis and Padre Pio. See the symbolism of the San Damiano Cross.
Pope Francis visited the USA and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, roughly 50 miles from the National Centre of Padre Pio in Barto, Pennsylvania, where the miracle that made Padre Pio a saint originated.
Pope Francis will have the Jubilee of Mercy in 2016, to highlight the Catholic Church’s “mission to be a witness of mercy.” Jubilee for Padre Pio’s Prayer Group will take place Feb. 13, 2016, as the body of Padre Pio will be exposed in St. Peter’s Basilica Feb. 8-14, at Pope Francis’ request.
Padre Pio celebrated his final Mass the day before he died, on September 22, 1968. He is and will always remain a Capuchin Franciscan. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio was a stigmatic, he had on his hands, feet and side the wounds of Christ, starting in 1910 and ending a few months before his death. He performed thousands of miracles and could read the hearts of those who went to his confessional. Padre Pio’s feast day is September 23.
“No matter how great the trial…never lose heart. Have recourse, with more childlike trust, to Jesus who will never be able to resist bestowing on you some little solace and comfort.” Padre Pio’s Words of Hope
On June 25, 1950, Padre Pio was seen attending to the death of a fellow monk in Milwaukee. When asked about it he said, “If Christ multiplied the loaves and fishes, why cannot he multiply me?”
“Go Ahead! Courage! In the spiritual life, one who does not go forward goes backward.” – Padre Pio
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” – Padre Pio
Have courage and do not fear the assaults of the Devil. Remember this forever; it is a healthy sign if the devil shouts and roars around your conscience, since this shows that he is not inside your will.
If the people of the world could only see the beauty of ones soul when it is in the grace of God, all sinners and unbelievers of this world would be instantly converted.
Building and marketing a social media presence can be a challenge for any organization. It requires a disciplined and structured approach leveraging the spiritual uniqueness of the organization. As Pope Francis says, “Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world.”
ShrineTower has put together a 8 step guide for creating spiritual social media program. This guide uses a hands on consulting business model in helping others market their religious ideals to maximize benefits.
Step 1: Discovery: Listening to the Heartbeat
Start by listening to the organizations heartbeat and analyze the current social media platforms and websites. The Discovery phase determines the spiritual landscape, the overall mission and the leaderships vision.
Since there are many types of religious organizations, each with a unique culture, program offerings and worship practices, the social media strategy, to be effective needs to build upon tradition. It doesn’t reinvent the spiritual practices, it magnifies what is already present. In some cases this tradition spans hundreds of years or even centuries. For example, a contemplative monastery has different goals than a parish or a religious shrine. Discovering the prominent saints, their lives and how they relate back to the organization is a key strategy. Understanding the significance of events in the liturgical calendar year specific to the organization will also determine content.
A prime influence in the discovery phase is the type of religious rite the organization is affiliated. For example, Eastern rites, Latin rites and Orthodox Christian, each have their own culture and goals for using social media. The specific religious order and academic affiliations will give the necessary background for the social media engagement.
Jesus I Trust in You, from Daylesford Abbey campus, Paoli PA.
If at all possible, meet the representatives of the organization you are planning to help in person. Although Skype, Facetime and phone calls are good follow-up forms of communications, they are not optimal for initiating a project. A professional consulting services approach is a relationship business and requires front time.
Also important is to tour the church, monastery or chapel facilities. Ask for permission to take photos. Participating in the liturgical services is effective way to get indoctrinated in the culture, practices and beliefs.
Next, create a Discovery deliverable, typically a letter or email correspondence where you playback what you heard. This highlights the strategic direction, existing strengths and reasons for using social media. Several reasons to expand into social media are to communicate events, inspire the community and grow a following. In the current age, the entire world is active in social media, both young and seniors alike, so being relevant and communicating where people are congregating is prime reason people want to build a social media presence.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia.
Most client organizations ask about costs during the Discovery period. To benefit all parties, define the scope of effort and deliverables before discussing costs or fees.
By sharing the Discovery document, which is usually a brief synopsis, you will get feedback, gain consensus and show an understanding of the spiritual climate, culture and vision. After the scope is defined during Discovery, a brief one page proposal can be created.
Step 2: Craft a Proposal
Once the discovery letter is agreed upon, steps to conduct a social media consulting engagement begin; by sharing the deliverables, timetable and addressing any fees or costs. If you classify your effort more as ministry than a business, the fees become inconsequential. Rewards are not always monetary, they can be spiritual.
At this point determine if a social media campaign is in order. A social media campaign is a 90 day takeover of the proposed social media platforms including all content creation, obtaining a following and growing the presence. It’s an effective way to gain traction in this space quickly.
What is in scope and what is out of scope should be highlighted. The proposal builds off the Discovery and provides a deliverable based outline. Once the proposal is issued, the client you are helping needs time to decide on proceeding with the campaign. Stay in touch and be patient, God’s at work here.
With approval to proceed, assuming this is the outcome, share the financial arrangements if agreed, so the transition is smooth and professional.
Step 3: Information Request
St. John of the Cross, Carmelite Monastery, Philadelphia PA
Gathering resource materials quickly will jump start the content creation process. Request core prayers, cultural information; religious rite history, poems (especially by religious), background of the religious order. Also gather media; video, commemorative books, digital photos, yearly calendar of key events; programs, artifacts and saint feast days. All will be instrumental in creating spiritual content.
From this information request, you will understand core beliefs, ideals and saintly influences. As mentioned, attend a liturgical service or a spiritual program to get fully indoctrinated into the culture. Use a quality dSLR camera to document stained glass windows, church icons and sacred spaces. In todays social media, photos and graphics play an important role in spreading the message.
Step 4: Platform Build
The workhorse of spiritual social media is Twitter, an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called “tweets”. Twitter is trending away from personal conversations to more content sharing and links sharing. More than twenty Roman Catholic cardinals have active Twitter accounts and can be easily accessed.
in building the platforms consider the integration with existing or planned media. The chart below can be used to explain the build components.
Social Media Platform Integration Chart by @ShrineTower.
Some of the integrations are built into the platforms, like Facebook to Twitter, and WordPress to Twitter; both requiring a simple checked box to activate. Others require a manual effort. In either case, cross platform integration of a single post is becoming the norm.
The video distribution landscape is changing and now integrates across all platforms; from video snippets on Instagram (10-15 seconds), to embedded code on websites, to uploads on Facebook, to video tweets on Twitter. the landscape is always changing, consider the new periscope video now available.
The handle naming nomenclature of each social media platform is important in branding the organization to the digital world. This requires client buy in, since the handle name is usually short and yet the abbreviation needs to be recognizable.
Step 5: Spiritual Content Creation
St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order, St. Basil the Great, Kimberton, PA
Creating content can be a positive spiritual experience. Many churches, monasteries and spiritual centers abound with icons, statues and stained glass windows that tell a story that can be photographed and used in social media as inspirations for content. A good practice is to relate a post content back to the religious organizations ideals.
In addition to interior photos, some of the surrounding grounds can make good backdrop photos, either as standalone photos used with Twitter text or background photos overlaid with text. Pablo is a god tool for this.
To create a social media campaign of multiple themed posts requires discipline and structure. Here are two planning steps in the process:
A concentrated social media effort .
- create a manual worksheet schedule (pages table document),
- use an automated scheduling tool (internet subscription tool).See 4 Tools for a Spiritual Social Media Campaign for more details on tools.
The research from the information request and photos captured from a tour are combined to create posts. Naturally, photos from google searches can be obtained but for a true spiritual post, the immediate Church property and surrounding grounds are important.
Typically, a post created with Twitter is released real time. A post created in a scheduling tool, like Buffer, Hootesuite or ManageFlitter, can be released real time or have a future release day and time.
Several types of posts are:
- The scripture quote tweet
- The religious painting tweet
- Event promotion tweet
- The YouTube tweet
- The author quote tweet
- Retweet (suggestion is to used sparingly at first)
- The directed tweet. This uses the @handle to get their attention.And the list goes on as more creative posts using the latest technology are applied.
Several advanced social media techniques are:
Hashtag. A word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic. Searching for that hashtag will then present each message that has been tagged with it. Several popular hashtags are: #Catholic, #Prayer and #PopeFrancis.
List. A list is a curated group of twitter users. As a clients followers grow, lists become the better way to view tweet streams. There are other creative ways to use lists, like “Cardinals on Twitter”.
Themes – Themes provide a guide to creating social media content so that the message is reinforced with regularity and structure. For example, a saint dedication, like John the Baptist, on a specific day of the week, or a group of posts like the Prophets over a period of time. A common theme is Feast days where the posts are matched to the saint on a particular date.
Fortunately, there are safeguards designed to suppress annoying users:
Mute – When you mute a user, their tweets and retweets become invisible to you. The muted user can still interact with your tweets, ie they can favorite, reply, or retweet your content, but those actions won’t appear in your Twitter timeline. A muted user can follow you, it’s just like you’ve turned the volume down on their voice.
Block – Another safety feature is to block an annoying Twitter user. In this case an account will be unable to follow you or add you to their Twitter lists, and you will not receive a notification if they mention you in a Tweet.
Report – This files a report that someone is Tweeting abusive messages.
Posts can include icon photos from the Church/Chapel, prayers, saint photos and quotes, poems, sacred art and scripture. The approach is to grow followers with trust and respect, also called growing a following organically.
One strategy, especially those wishing to share their posts only, is to limit retweets of another users content. Having minimal dialogue with the public respects the religious nature of some organizations. Therefore, the “newsy” type posts are not used, adhering to beliefs in contemplative or monastic religious orders.
Step 6: Mining for Followers
A method to triple or quadruple a “following” on Twitter uses the “copy followers” technique. You locate a user who has followers you would like to engage with and invite these followers, either manually or with an automated tool like ManageFlitter. Adjustments are required to keep followers and following relevant, but this does work.
Gaining approval and staying positively engaged can be done with the Favorite button on Twitter and the Like button on Facebook. Positive sentiments are conducive to meeting people by sharing approval. Many use the favorite button to gain supporters and followers, often called gaining followers organically. This good natured method of mutual admiration resonates well with many people.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12
Connecting with an influencer can be rewarding. Influencers such as @BishopBarron, @JamesMartinSJ, @DianavonGlahn and @MatthewFKelly have followers in the thousands and even millions.
Step 7 Growth Analytics
Analytics are available from the social media platform or third party tools. The Twitter analytics shows platform growth, engagement rate by tweet, top tweets and trends. Other analytic tools are Facebook Insights, SumAll and most of the scheduling tools like Buffer, Hootesuite and ManageFlitter.
Step 8: The Hand-Off – A Users Guide
Leaving the Our Father with the disciples. James Tissot, The Lords Prayer, Brooklyn Museum.
A Users Guide to Social Media is intended for a person or group of persons with little or no knowledge of social media. There are opportunities to recruit volunteers to assist in these type of infrastructure endeavors. What better way to get a congregation to act for a common cause than with social media in their own parish or Church. The Users Guide allows anyone, including volunteers, to become proficient at using social media for the greater glory of God.
“The principal mission of the Church is evangelization, bringing the good news to everyone” – Pope Francis.
Social media continues to enlighten and inspire others to get closer to God, and to increase the publics knowledge of activities to reach that end. High quality social media content raise awareness in the Christian community locally, regionally and worldwide.
Approach spiritual social media with a vengeance, all the while sharing the joy, kindness and goodness brought by each post.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” Galatians 5:22
Charity is not just giving, rather removing the need of those who receive charity and liberating them from it when possible.
St. Thomas of Villanova, an Archbishop, educator and carer of the poor. The patron saint of Villanova University, shown in the plaza in front of St. Thomas of Villanova Monastary. He lived from 1488-1555. His feast day is September 22nd.
Details depicts Thomas dressed as a bishop with crozier and mitre, giving alms to poor children.
If you want God to hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor. If you wish God to anticipate your wants, provide those of the needy without waiting for them to ask you. Especially anticipate the needs of those who are ashamed to beg. To make them ask for alms is to make them buy it.” – St. Thomas of Villanova
St. Thomas attended Arts and Theology at the University of Alcala de Henares and eventually became a university professor. He decided to leave the university setting and entered an Augustinian monastery.
Later in life St. Thomas received mystical encounters with God, having ecstatic visions during Mass. He sucumbed a heart condition in 1555 at the end of Mass. He is said to have died on the floor rather than in his bed, which he insisted on offering to a poor man who had come to his house.
He also had a great devotion to the Virgin Mary, whose heart he compared to the burning bush that is never consumed. He was canonized by Pope Alexander VII on November 1, 1658.
Seven key elements are represented:
1. Motto: Villanova’s motto, “Veritas (truth), Unitas (unity), Caritas (charity)” is highlighted on the crest, with each term enclosed in a rectangular box.
2. Book: A large book in the center of the crest represents St. Augustine’s commitment to learning as well as his study of Scripture when making his famous conversion to Christianity.
3. Cincture: On top of the book, a cincture or cord with tassels depicts part of the clothing worn by friars in the Order of St. Augustine.
4. Flaming Heart: St. Augustine’s quest to know God meant that he needed to pursue his goal with all his heart. The flaming heart also characterizes Augustine’s commitment to love one’s neighbor.
5. Crosier: The crosier, or staff, on the Villanova crest marks St. Augustine’s role in the church as the Bishop of Hippo.
6. Crosses and Laurel Wreath: Crosses, a symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection, show the importance of St. Augustine’s conversion. The laurel wreath marks his victory through learning and knowledge.
The Bible tells us that the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the needy, and the hungry and thirsty were the Lord’s favorites.Why, then, should they not be our favorites as well?” – St. Thomas of Villanova
St. Augustine statue with his own heart set on fire with the love for Christ. The friars of his religious order founded Villanova University, where they administer today.
Another Augustinian, St. Rita of Cascia, shown here at one of the courtyards in the St. Augustine Center for Liberal Arts at Villanova University.
This door is always open as St. Thomas of Villanova would want it.
A spiritual or religious Social Media Campaign is an effective way to create a new digital presence or expand an existing presence to enlighten and inspire others to get closer to God. A Social Media Campaign is a concentrated effort, usually 90 days, to create one or more social media platforms and takeover all content creation, follower management and maintenance. It’s an effective way to gain traction in this space quickly and effectively.
Yet, Social Media Campaigns takes organization and discipline. Tools for planning and releasing posts followed by analytics are necessary for conducting a successful Social Media Campaign for a religious organization.
There are two parts to creating and scheduling a series of social media posts; first, a manual Schedule Table for planning and capturing ideas and second; an Automated Scheduling Tool for releasing posts.
Tool 1- Schedule Table
Although technically not a software tool, a Schedule Table is a planning tool for managing work-in-progress content creation for social media posts. In religious circles, content release is typically based on the liturgical calendar. Many religious organizations offer programs and events also based on a calendar.
Religious Calendar from Give us this Day, Daily Prayer for Todays Catholic
The Schedule Table worksheet captures post research, photos, and documented sources during and after a Social Media Campaign. The Schedule Table is a simple table within a pages or word document (or excel), created as a placeholder for future tweet releases by day and month, including feast days, saint days and religious themes. It does not require the exact time within the day for release, since the Automated Scheduling Tool takes care of that, but it should have the correct day of the sent and planned posts. The Schedule Table also acts as a backup repository to the Automated Scheduling Tool.
Tool 2 – Automated Scheduling Tool: ManageFlitter
From the planning Schedule Table, content is then populated in the ManageFlitter scheduling tool, both photo and text. The tool is a core component to a Social Media Campaign. In this case, the Power Post feature of the tool schedules future posts for auto releases inter-day on Twitter. The PRO version of ManageFlitter, which is a paid subscription, manages multiple posts per day, both weeks or months in advance, whereas the free version allows only one post per day. Since a social media campaign is a concentrated media effort within a given time frame, there should be a minimum of 3- 5 tweets per day.
Several ManageFlitter features include:
- Unfollow, which shows the people who you’ve followed who don’t follow you back or inactive users,
- Search to find people or groups of people by region or keyword;
- CopyFollowers, allowing a user to filter and copy another person’s followers; and Find those who follow you but you donʼt follow them back.
Reuse of a post is a key feature of ManageFlitter. This can maximize social media effectiveness, if one ascribes to Guy Kawasaki’s rule of reposting the same content multiple times over several platforms.
Tool 3 – Analytics: Twitter Analytics
In 2014, Twitter allowed a basic twitter account to use their premium analytics tool. The Twitter Analytics feature shows engagement rate by tweet, top tweets and trends. For a startup twitter account, knowing which type of post generated higher than average activity is valuable data, since you can then alter the nature, timing and type of future posts.
This graph shows follower growth from inception of a new platform for a clients social media campaign conducted in the Summer of 2015. From Audience Insights by Twitter.
Tool 4 – Image Design Tool: Pablo by Buffer
Pablo by Buffer example of imported photo with text overlay title and subtitle.
With emphasis on graphics in social media, an image design tool can provide an interesting array of visuals. Pablo by Buffer is an image design tool. Pablo allows text overlays onto an imported photo or a stock photo. A recent Buffer study showed an image post on Twitter increases retweets by 28% and favorites by 36%. Once mastered, an image can be created in less than 30 seconds.
A Spiritual Social Media Campaign is a concentrated effort at creating and releasing high quality themed posts for a religious organization. Tools used with a disciplined methodology are essential in planning and executing a Spiritual Social Media Campaign. The four tools: Schedule Table, Automated Scheduling, Analytics and Image Design, and the methodology described, can be used to assure a successful Spiritual Social Media Campaign, “All for the greater glory of God.”
Andrew D. Ciferni, Franklin Institute, hymns, Mary, Neilson Carlin, Our Lady of Sorrows, Pope Francis, Saint John Paul II, Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom, St. Gianna Molla, The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, WMF2015, World Meeting of Families 2015
Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom is the hymn created for the World Meeting of Families (WWM2015) in Philadelphia this September.
Hymn lyrics were penned by Norbertine canon regular Andrew D. Ciferni, O.Praem., and music composition by Normand Gouin, the former music director at Daylesford Abbey. The Norbertines praise God in psalms, hymns and chants in their daily Mass, morning and noon prayers and vespers. Sacred sounds of word and tone have resonated in the Norbertine culture for centuries.
Biblical verse on the Liberty Bell, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10).
Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom
I. The first verse of the hymn is an invitation to prayer.
Sound the bell of holy freedom; call all nations of the earth.
Sons and daughters of one Father, sent to spread God’s saving Word.
Come, and gather, as one fam’ly at the table of the Lord.
II. The second verse is about the family history of Jesus from David.
David branch from root of Jesse, Mary that vine’s flow’ring rose.
She brought forth for us the Savior as the angel did propose;
Overshadowed by the Spirit, by her “yes” new life arose.
III. The third verse is about St. Joseph and Mary.
Blessed Joseph, spouse of Mary, teacher of your God and Lord,
You did shelter and provide for wondrous child by kings adored.
Open to God’s Word in dreaming saved your child from Herod’s sword.
IV. The fourth verse is about Jesus’ youth in Nazareth and the wedding at Cana.
Jesus, youth in low’ly Naz’reth, faithful son, and loving child,
Guest and host at Cana’s wedding, finest wine you did provide.
You, our rock and you our shelter, keep us ever by your side.
V. The fifth verse is about Mary’s sorrow at the cross and all mothers sorrow shared.
At the cross a grieving mother, on the cross, her only son,
With all mothers and their children, Blessed Mary, you are one.
In our joys, and in our sorrows may we do as you have done.
Our Lady of Sorrows.
VI. Closing verse
Sound the bell of holy freedom; call all fam’lies of the world
To be fed by love incarnate; to proclaim God’s holy Word;
Through the love of Christ our brother, in the Spirit make us one.
Text: Andrew D. Ciferni, O.Praem., St. Norbert College; Daylesford Abbey
Tune: PHILADELPHIA, 8 7 8 7 8 7:Normand Gouin; College of Holy Cross
Pope Francis will makes his first Papal visit to the USA for the WMF2015.
The Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom hymn will be heard throughout the Pope’s visit in Philadelphia. As St. Augustine said, “They who sing, pray twice.”
Pope Francis Visit 2015 to the USA:
September 23/23, 2015 – Pope Francis Visits Washington. Canonization Mass at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception / White House meeting / Senate speech
September 25, 2015 – Pope Francis Visits New York. United Nations/ St. Patrick’s Cathedral /Ground Zero
September 26, 2015 – Pope Francis Visits Philadelphia. Children’s Hospital / Youth Prison/Festival of Families at Benjamin Franklin Parkway /Prayer Vigil for World Meeting of Families
September 26, 2015 – World Meeting of Families
World Meeting of Families
Mary, Undoer of Knots is Pope Francis’s favorite Marian devotion.
St. Irenaeus said,
Eve, by her disobedience, tied the knot of disgrace for the human race; whereas Mary, by her obedience, undid it.
Let us love the Cross and let us remember that we are not alone in carrying it. God is helping us. And in God who is comforting us, as St. Paul says, we can do anything.
Per Saint John Paul II :
As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
“Love between man and woman cannot be built without sacrifices and self-denial.
Saint John Paul II at The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Philadelphia Pennsylvania.
St. John Paul II was the last pope to visit Philadelphia in 1979.
Johann Sebastian Bach: Easter Oratorio, BWV 249
3 Aria. Kommt, eilet und laufet
4 Recitativo. O kalter Männer Sinn
5 Aria. Seele, deine Spezereien
6 Recitativo. Hier ist die Gruft
7 Aria. Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer
8 Recitativo. Indessen seufzen wir
9 Aria. Saget, saget mir geschwinde
10 Recitativo. Wir sind erfreut
11 Chorus. Preis und Dank
Hannah Morrison, soprano
Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Mulroy, tenor
Peter Harvey, bass
Monteverdi Choir English Baroque Soloists
John Eliot Gardiner, conductor London, Proms 2013
Lyrics – BWV 249 – The Easter Oratorio – first performed on 1 April 1725.
Cantata for the First day of Easter
|2. Arie (Duett) T B
Kommt, eilet und laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße,
Erreichet die Höhle, die Jesum bedeckt!
Lachen und Scherzen
Begleitet die Herzen,
Denn unser Heil ist auferweckt.
|2.Aria (Duett) T B
Come, hurry and run, you speedy feet,
reach the cavern which conceals Jesus!
Laughter and merriment
accompanies our hearts,
since our Savior is risen again.
|3. Rezitativ (Maria Magdalena [A], Maria Jacobi [S], Petrus [T], Johannes [B])Maria Magdalena
O kalter Männer Sinn!
Wo ist die Liebe hin,
Die ihr dem Heiland schuldig seid?Maria Jacobi
Ein schwaches Weib muß euch beschämen!Petrus
Ach, ein betrübtes GrämenJohannes
Und banges HerzeleidPeter, Johannes
Hat mit gesalzen Tränen
Und wehmutsvollem Sehnen
Ihm eine Salbung zugedacht.Maria Jacobi, Maria Magdalena
Die ihr, wie wir, umsonst gemacht.
|3. Recitative (Mary Magdalene [A], Mary Jacobi [S], Peter [T], John [B])Mary Magdalene
O cold hearts of men!
Where has your love gone,
that you owe to the Savior?Mary Jacobi
A weak woman must put you to shame!Peter
Alas, a troubled grievingJohn
and anxious heartachePeter, John
along with salty tears
and woeful longing
were intended as a salve for Him.Mary Jacobi, Mary Magdalene
Which you, like us, prepared in vain.
|4. Arie S
Seele, deine Spezereien
Sollen nicht mehr Myrrhen sein.
Mit Lorbeerkranze prangen,
Stillt dein ängstliches Verlangen.
|4. Aria S
O soul, your spices
need no longer be myrrh.
crowning with the laurel wreath
will quiet your anxious longing.
|5. Rezitativ (Petrus [T], Johannes [B], Maria Magdalena [A])Petrus
Hier ist die GruftJohannes
Und hier der Stein,
Der solche zugedeckt.
Wo aber wird mein Heiland sein?Maria Magdalena
Er ist vom Tode auferweckt!
Wir trafen einen Engel an,
Der hat uns solches kundgetan.Petrus
Hier seh ich mit Vergnügen
Das Schweißtuch abgewickelt liegen.
|5. Recitative (Peter [T], John [B], Mary Magdalene [A])Peter
Here is the graveJohn
and here the stone
which sealed it.
Where, however, can my Savior be?Mary Magdalene
He is risen from the dead!
We encountered an angel
who gave us these tidings.Peter
Here I behold, with pleasure,
His shroud lying tossed aside.
|6. Arie T
Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer,
Nur ein Schlummer,
Jesu, durch dein Schweißtuch sein.
Ja, das wird mich dort erfrischen
Und die Zähren meiner Pein
Von den Wangen tröstlich wischen.
|6. Aria T
Gentle shall my death-throes be,
only a slumber,
Jesus, because of your shroud.
Indeed, it will refresh me there,
and the tears of my suffering
it will tenderly wipe from my cheeks.
|7. Rezitativ und Arioso (Duett) S A
Indessen seufzen wir
Mit brennender Begier:Ach, könnt es doch nur bald geschehen,
Den Heiland selbst zu sehen!
|7. Recitative (Duet) S A
Meanwhile we sigh
with burning desire:Ah, could it only happen soon,
to see the Savior ourselves!
|8. Arie A
Saget, saget mir geschwinde,
Saget, wo ich Jesum finde,
Welchen meine Seele liebt!
Komm doch, komm, umfasse mich;
Denn mein Herz ist ohne dich
Ganz verwaiset und betrübt.
|8. Aria A
Tell me, tell me quickly,
say where I can find Jesus,
whom my soul loves!
O come, come, embrace me;
for without You my heart is
completely orphaned and wretched.
|9. Rezitativ B
Wir sind erfreut,
Daß unser Jesus wieder lebt,
Und unser Herz,
So erst in Traurigkeit zerflossen und geschwebt,
Vergißt den Schmerz
Und sinnt auf Freudenlieder;
Denn unser Heiland lebet wieder.
|9. Recitative B
We are delighted
that our Jesus lives again,
and our hearts,
which first dissolved and floated in grief,
forget the pain
and imagine songs of joy;
for our Savior lives again.
Preis und Dank
Bleibe, Herr, dein Lobgesang.
Höll und Teufel sind bezwungen,
Ihre Pforten sind zerstört.
Jauchzet, ihr erlösten Zungen,
Daß man es im Himmel hört.
Eröffnet, ihr Himmel, die prächtigen Bogen,
Der Löwe von Juda kommt siegend gezogen!
Praise and thanks
remain, Lord, your hymn of praise.
Hell and devil are conquered,
its gates are destroyed.
Rejoice, you rescued tongues,
so that you are heard in heaven.
Open, o heavens, your magnificent drawbridges,
the Lion of Judah approaches in triumph!
Translation by Pamela Dellal
Gospel means “proclamation” and this movie does a good job of that. Launched by The Lumo Project and distributed by Netflix this is one mesmerizing movie in a 21st century format. According to Vincent M. Smiles at St. John’s University, “The Gospel” was not originally a book or even a creed, it is a confession, known as a way of life, something we do more than something we have. The Gospel of John movie is an effective medium to show “the way of life”.
The actors speak Aramaic in the background, the original tongue of the times, while the story is told entirely by the narrator, directly from scripture, word for word! The movie really opens another dimension to the storyline, with fresh images of the day filling the screen. It was filmed in Morocco and took five years to make.
The Gospel of John I viewed on Netflix (on Apple TV) was the King James Version narrated by Brian Cox. There is another version, of the same movie images, narrated by David Harewood using the NIV (New International Version) bible from director David Batty. Narration is also available in Spanish and I believe Chinese.
There was attention to detail with extensive historical research to recreate Palestine of the first century. As writer Cathy Bryant noted, “…there is something especially uplifting about having music and visuals added to the Word of God.”
The Lumo Project is also planning to release shortly the remaining three individual Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. So we have more to look forward to in 2015. The IMDB rating for The Gospel of John is 8.6/10.
In the movie, the shrines of the day were accurately depicted, showing the massive temples and synagogues in the center of town. Also a persons house could be a sacred place for prayerful worship where small groups would gather in the precursor to the modern Church.
Although both biblical texts of the movie are streaming on Netflix, my favorite is the Brian Cox narration of the King James version, with the English accent. It’s a long movie, just under three hours, so it’s best to view in multiple sittings to get the most out of it. IMHO.
Note: There is another unrelated Gospel of John movie released in 2003, using a more conventional movie format with the actors in English dialog. It is directed by Philip Saville and available on YouTube. Its IMDB rating is 7.7.
Ascent of Mount Carmel, Carmelite Spirituality, Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Discalced Carmelites, Friends of Carmel, Philadelphia Carmel, Prayer, saints, soul, St. Albert, St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Jesus, The Dark Night
I followed John of the Cross
and Teresa of Jesus
inside the Carmelite Monastery,
seeing their pleasant ways
I ran up the mountain
following their path
seeking Almighty God
reaching for the
Summit of Mt. Carmel.
Here’s what I found…
I. Spiritual Guides: St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross
Opening Prayer: Love and honor to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, to Saint Joseph, Saint Anne, to our Holy Mother Saint Teresa, to our Holy Father Saint John of the Cross, whose powerful intercessions we invoke that the spirit of prayer, penance and apostolic zeal may flourish in the community. Amen
The Triumphal arch, with crucifix suspended, inspired by the crucifix of Fra Innocenzo de Palermo (1637) in the Church of San Damiano, Assisi. – Holy Spirit Chapel Sanctuary at Philadelphia Carmel. Photo courtesy of Friends of Carmel Pinterest.
The origins of Triumphal arch comes from the Roman era when captives were led under an arch to symbolize their submission to the authority of Rome. In later centuries the liturgical procession through the triumphal arch symbolizes Christians, as captives of Christ, being lead to the Kingdom of Heaven. The sacred space of the Sanctuary represents the Kingdom of Heaven.
The round medallion of Teresa of Jesus (Ávila) as she looks upward on the altar terra cotta wall over the cloister grilles of the Sanctuary. Her feast is celebrated by the Discalced Carmelite Order on October 15.
The round medallion of John of the Cross, with the Christ on the Cross in his arms on the altar terra cotta wall over the cloister grilles of the Sanctuary. His feast is celebrated by the Discalced Carmelite Order on December 14.
II. The Sanctuary Mosaic
From left to right, Teresa of Jesus; the sanctuary doors with the Cross; St. Elisha with hand reaching to the Lamb of God, reaching for the summit of Mt. Carmel; where the Prophet Elijah rides a chariot on the wings of a cloud. The Holy Spirit is in winged flight above St. Teresa who is in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The images of the Sanctuary mosaic express the reality of divine love in the charism of Carmel. It is love revealed by God in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New, a love that en-kindles our hearts and transforms them. Ultimately this transformation enables one to enter, body and soul into full union with God. Horizontal and spatial concepts of the mosaic echo passages of time in the Old and New Testament history of the Carmelite Order. – The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel Philadelphia
Symbolic images in the mosaic are:
Fire symbolizes divine love.
– St John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle 39:14, St. Teresa of Jesus Life 30:20
Fire and Water
Oh, God help me, what marvels there are in this greater en-kindling of fire by water. The water does not impede the fire though it’s the fire’s contrary, but rather makes its fire increase! – St. Teresa of Jesus, The Way of Perfection 19:3
These lamps of fire are living waters of the spirit…although it is fire, it is also water.
– St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love Stanza 3, #8
Chariot of Fire
in Christian art, St. Elijah is carried into heaven on a chariot of fire, a symbol of Christ’s Ascension. In the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, Christ himself is referred to by the Father as a fiery chariot.
St. Elijah en-route to Heaven “You make the clouds your chariot, traveling on the wings of the wind. You make the winds your messengers, flaming fire your ministers.” Psalm 104:3-4
Elijah the Prophet is called the founder of the Carmelite ideal. There are two accounts of him being taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:1-12 and Sirach 48:9). His feast is celebrated by the Carmelite Order on July 20.
The Holy Spirit (Dove)
The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Sanctifier, the living Flame of Love. – Romans 5:5
St. Teresa of Jesus
St.Teresa of Jesus (1515-1582), the foundress of the reformed Carmel (Discalced Carmelites) is portrayed on the mosaic in Adoration of the Eucharist. In her spiritual writings one finds frequent images of fire and water. The Carmelites celebrate her memory on October 15.
The Lamb of God and the Eucharist
Fulfillment is found in Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the sacrificial lamb of god, who gave himself for the life of the world. His sacrifice is perpetuated in the Eucharist. From this divine reality the graces symbolized by the fire and the water are sought and obtained. Mt. 26;26-29; 1 John 5:6-8; Rev:5:6-14
St. Elisha (c. 840 BC) was the first disciple of St. Elijah. He was the leader of the prophets on Mt. Carmel. The Carmelite Order celebrates his memory on June 14.
III. The Repository Doors
The symbols that are employed on the doors shows St. Teresa’s image of the Interior Castle, her guide to union with God. They are:
“The door of entry to this castle is prayer and reflection.” – St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle I:i,#7
The castle is the image of the soul: We consider our soul to be like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of a very clear crystal in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many dwelling places. – St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle
The soul of the just person is nothing else than a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight. I do not find anything comparable to the magnificent beauty of a soul and its marvelous capacity. – St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle I:i, #1
The triangle is the symbol of the Most Holy Trinity dwelling in the center of the soul.
The Cross is the symbol of the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s passion, Death and Resurrection.
Blood and Water
Blood and water flowed out of our Redeemer on the Cross. The Doctors of the Church interpret this to mean that from the pierced Heart of the Son, God the Father pours out through the Holy Spirit, the saving graces of the Church’s Sacraments.
Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal clear down the middle of the city street. – Revelation 22:1-2
Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood. – 1 John 5:6
Center Room of the Castle
The castle has many dwelling places. Located at the center, is the abode of the most Blessed Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
IV. Blessed Virgin Mary
The Blessed Virgin Mary, dwells with the Holy Trinity in the most profound union, supreme above all creatures, beloved Daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, Spouse of the Holy Spirit Mediatrix of all Graces. – Mt. Carmel prayer
V. Seal of Mount Carmel (Coat of Arms)
The coat of arms is a roadmap to the background and religious beliefs of the Discalced Carmelite Order. There are multiple levels of meaning and symbolism of the Seal of Mount Carmel acquired over the centuries.
The Shield of Carmel
In the center of the seal is Mount Carmel, cradle of the Carmelite Order, and the star in the mountain refers to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The two stars above are the prophets Elijah and Elisha.
Mount Carmel is the Carmelite’s place of origin located in modern day Haifa, Israel. In the 9th century BC the prophet Elijah lived there and had a profound experience of God. In that same place in the early 12th century some hermits, inspired by the memory of Elijah, gathered there, with a desire “to live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ” (Rule of St. Albert).
The cross on the summit of the mountain was added in the 16th Century by St. John of the Cross as a distinctive mark of the Discalced Carmelites (OCD) branch of the Carmelites. There is no cross for the Order of Carmelites. (O.Carm.)
The colors are the brown of the mountain and the white of the skies. Brown is the color of earth. White is the reflection of light. It is the color associated with the tunic of Christ at the resurrection, the transfiguration.
On this particular shield, there are three, eight pointed stars. The number three has numerous symbolic meanings; the Triune God in unity of three divine persons: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit; the three virtues of faith, hope and love; and three monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The three stars also represent the three great epochs in the history of Carmel; the first, or prophetic era, represented by the star inside the mountain, denotes the time of the prophet Elijah to the time of St. John the Baptist; the second indicates the era of those hermits living on Mount Carmel before the arrival of the Latin Crusaders; and the third signifies the present epoch spanning from the first Carmelite community living under the Rule of St. Albert until the end of time.
A deeper meaning of the stars is that they stand as a remembrance to the members of the Carmelite order. The star inside the mountain represents the Carmelites who are still on their way to the Summit of Mount Carmel (Heaven), the other two stars in the sky represent all the Carmelites who have gone before us and have reached the goal of their life’s vocation; union with God in love in the eternal Joy of Heaven.
– from Croatian Carmel Province
The Crown of the King
The golden crown represents the Kingdom of God on earth, present through “Emmanuel,” “God with us,” Jesus Christ. Carmelites endeavor to serve God faithfully with “a pure heart and a steadfast conscience” (Rule of St. Albert). They understand their vocation to be a call to rooting and strengthening Christ’s Kingdom of self-sacrificing love and goodness in the world. In their service to this King they take their inspiration from the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose patronage they enjoy, and Saints Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, the great reformers of Carmel.
The Sword of The Spirit
Over the crown is an arm and hand brandishing a flaming sword, signifying the fiery spirit of Elijah. Burning with zeal for the Lord “burned like a torch” (Eccl. 48:1).
For Carmelites, Elijah is the solitary prophet who nurtured his thirst for the one and only God and lived forever in His presence. Elijah is the biblical inspiration of the Carmelite life and, like him, Carmelites seek both to continually carry in their minds and hearts “the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God” (Rule of St. Albert) and to live constantly with a loving, contemplative awareness of His presence.
– Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Halo of Stars
In this stained glass window, the halo of twelve stars above the crown represents the prerogative of every Carmelite’s acclaim – the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom St. John saw in an apocalyptic vision as: “a woman clothed with the sun… on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1).
In the coat of arms of the Discalced Carmelites these stars also signify the twelve points of the rule, which are: Obedience, Chastity, Poverty, Recollection, Mental Prayer, The Divine Office, Chapter, Abstinence from meat, Manual Labor, Silence, Humility and Supererogation. (defined as those works or good deeds performed by saints over and above what is required for their own salvation, the merit of which is held to be transferable to others in need of indulgence). – Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Also shown on this particular Philadelphia Carmel shield or seal, is the Latin legend referring to the Prophet Elijah’s phrase: “Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercitum,” which translated means: “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts.”
This is not present on the Coat of Arms plaque but present in this stained glass window and at the portico entrance to the Holy Spirit Chapel.
Coat of Arms Sources: Philadelphia Carmel Monastery
Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region
Croatian Carmel Province
Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
VI. St. Albert and the Carmelite Rule
St. Albert wrote the Rule for hermits living in the spirit of Elijah near the prophet’s spring on Mount Carmel near present-day Israel.
Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross would have both prayed to St. Albert for intersessions. He was one of the first saints of the order to be venerated. He is represented here with a lily, a symbol of purity and an urn for water he had blessed. Water is still blessed with his relics and the Carmel and is used for healing the sick.
– The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia
VII. Hearing God in Silence
And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” Mark 6:31
The Apostle would have us keep silence, for in silence he tells us to work. As the Prophet also makes known to us: Silence is the way to foster holiness. Elsewhere he says: Your strength will lie in silence and hope … be careful not to indulge in a great deal of talk, for as Scripture has it – and experience teaches us – Sin will not be wanting where there is much talk, and He who is careless in speech will come to harm; and elsewhere: The use of many words brings harm to the speaker’s soul. – Carmelite Rule of St. Albert, [21a]
And our Lord says in the Gospel: Every rash word uttered will have to be accounted for on judgment day. Make a balance then, each of you, to weigh his words in; keep a tight rein on your mouths, lest you should stumble and fall in speech, and your fall be irreparable and prove mortal. Like the Prophet, watch your step lest your tongue give offense, and employ every care in keeping silent, which is the way to foster holiness. – Carmelite Rule of St. Albert, [21b]
Life on Mount Carmel: Contemplation and Prayer
Carmelite spirituality proposes silence and solitude as necessary prerequisites for prayer and contemplation. Silence refers not only to external noise but also to the stilling of one’s internal noises. Silence is the condition for listening attentively to the still small voice of God. Solitude provides the ambiance where one may be alone so as to focus more attentively on the Beloved. Solitude then is not primarily separation or isolation from others, but a place of privileged encounter with the Beloved. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region
Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, speak of prayer and contemplation as ‘friendship with God’ and ‘union with God’ respectively.
– Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region
The soul does not use words. Is surrounds words with space, and that is what I mean by silence” – Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion
In order to foster and facilitate relationship with God, through prayer and contemplation, Carmelite spirituality proposes certain means, both personal and communal, namely meditation on the word of God, liturgy, silence and solitude, and asceticism (avoidance of indulgence). The Rule of St. Albert urges an unceasing pondering of the Law of the Lord in Scripture and the strengthening of one’s heart with holy thoughts, so that the word of God may abound in one’s heart and lips, and guide all one’s actions. Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region
Asceticism is the means of freeing self from the tyranny of self-will, simplifying one’s life, and preserving all of one’s energy for journeying to God. For St. John of the Cross, the main expression of asceticism involves a radical detachment from inordinate or disordered desires and appetites. Detachment is a way of prioritizing God above all creatures. As such, it witnesses to the primacy and all sufficiency of God. Asceticism is not only at the service of a deeper life with God, but it is also geared to the demands of the apostolic ministry. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region
Holy Spirit Chapel, side aisle, Philadelphia Carmel. Holy Spirit is principle guide in spiritual life. Photo courtesy of Friends of Carmel Pinterest.
Although Carmelite spirituality highly esteems prayer and contemplation these are always in service of the apostolate. For St. Teresa, while prayer and contemplation are paramount, they are not ends in themselves but are orientated to the support, welfare, and apostolic fruitfulness of all those engaged in the work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Carmelite spirituality, then, is not simply about self salvation, but a way of co-operating with God in bringing about God’s reign on earth. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region
Finally Carmelite spirituality teaches that authentic prayer and contemplation is accompanied by and promotes growth in the human and theological virtues. This leads to a flowering in the Carmelite of the two-fold gospel commandment of love of God and love of neighbor. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region
From credence niche side wall of Holy Spirit Sanctuary. Pattern from church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy (6th century). At the center of the radiating disc contains the first letter of the Greek alphabet, Alpha, the symbol of creation, “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1)
Both Saints Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross teach us that God, the Blessed Trinity, dwells within the human person. Hence, one need not go out of self in search for God but enter progressively ever deeper within oneself to be with God who dwells at the very center of our being.
St. Teresa speaks of this journey within as an itinerary through a castle with seven mansions. St. John of the Cross hymns this reality:
“What more do you want, O soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfactions, fullness and kingdom – your Beloved whom you desire and seek? Be joyful and gladdened in your interior recollection with Him, for you have Him so close to you. Desire Him there, adore Him there. Do not go in pursuit of Him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and wearied thereby, and you shall not find Him, or enjoy Him more securely, or sooner, or more intimately than by seeking Him within you.” (S.C. 1:8)
VIII. The Path of John of the Cross
The model of this portrait of St. John of the Cross was the brother of one of the foundresses of the Carmel of Philadelphia. Contrary to what is seen here, St. John was actually of very slight stature, had a oval lean face with a beard, a broad receding forehead, and was also quite bald. St. John of the Cross was associated with St. Teresa of Jesus in the reform of Carmel. The writings of both these Saints speak about the deepest communion with God and the way that leads to it. – The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel Philadelphia.
The “discalced” in the name “Discalced Carmelites”, references the practice of wearing sandals or going barefoot instead of shoes. In the stained glass window, John is shown wearing sandals. In Teresa’ s reformed convent of St. Joseph’ s, which she founded in 1562, the nuns wore strap sandals as well.
John and Teresa Team Up
St. John of the Cross, co-reformer of the Carmelite Order, was born in Spain in 1542 to a loving but struggling family. At the age of fourteen, John took a job at the hospital of Median caring for the poor and incurable. He spent the rest of his time learning at a nearby Jesuit school.
John eventually joined the Carmelites of Medina. He was ordained a priest in 1567, but John became overwhelmed at the idea of fulfilling the duties of the priesthood, and decided to join the Carthusians instead.
St. Teresa of Avila who had come to Medina to found a convent for her Carmelite nuns convinced John to stay with the Carmelites, and he began to help her in the reform of the order. But his fellow Carmelites were against his attempts at reform and they went so far as to kidnap and lock him up in a small cell. During this time, John wrote much of his mystical poetry, from his hours of silent prayer, including:
Beloved, in you I find
The mountains, wooded vales;
Choice islands, distant, strange.
The river’s voice resounds
With ever-changing flow.
As whisper soft of breeze
Now sings our love.
After nine months, John escaped the prison cell. Several of John’s books are available on-line:
Spiritual Canticle (poem)
John spent the rest of his life establishing monasteries, spreading his reform, and writing many spiritual works, which are now treasured by the Church. He died in 1591 at the age of 49 – his body is still incorrupt to this day. He was canonized on December 27, 1726, and was also named a Doctor of the Church. St. John of the Cross is one of the Church’s most beloved mystics, known for his compassion and deep understanding of the inner workings of the soul. – Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus
IX. The Path of Teresa of Jesus (Avila)
In the stained glass window above, St. Teresa of Jesus is writing at a desk. The scroll hanging from the desk reads:
“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God wants for nothing. God alone suffices.”
Saint Teresa of Jesus is the foundress of the Discalced Carmelite life and is one of the thirty three Doctors of the Church, who are considered guides due to their great significance in our understanding of Church theology. St. Teresa believed in the presence of God in every person.
Jesus gives St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) a nail. Mt. Carmel Philadelphia.
St. Teresa of Jesus received a profound mystical grace during Holy Communion on November 18, 1572. Our Lord appeared to her and gave her a nail as He declared that she was His bride. At this time she entered the highest degree of the spiritual life, that of Spiritual Marriage. – St. Teresa of Jesus, Spiritual Testimonies #31 – from The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel Philadelphia.
This episode is recounted in the life of St. Teresa. One day the saint was passing a flight of stairs and saw a Child.
He asked her, “Who are you?”
“I am Teresa of Jesus” she replied,
“Who are you?”
I am Jesus of Teresa,” the Child said.
St. John became the spiritual director (confessor) of St. Teresa who was 27 years his junior.
It is right that you pray for all those, living and dead, who have helped us. – St. Teresa of Jesus (Foundations 25:9)
Teresa was born in Avila, Spain, on 28th March 1515 and entered the Carmel of the Incarnation there in 1536. She lived there for about 20 years until she felt that God was asking something more of her. After many tribulations and heart-searching Teresa, left the Incarnation on 24th August 1562 to found St. Joseph’s, a new monastery in which she planned and hoped that the original Rule of Carmel would be kept faithfully. There was a great deal of opposition to the new Carmel and it was sometime before she was able to live there in peace. Many condemned her as a woman deceived by her experiences in prayer.
Eventually the hostility died down and Teresa was asked to found more of these houses of prayer in other cities of Spain. Over a period of twenty years she founded 15 more houses for the nuns and, in association with St John of the Cross, at least two for the friars. Teresa introduced a fresh orientation into Carmelite life combining silence and solitude with community living and giving the life of prayer a specific apostolic role in the Church and the world.
Prayer was to be the great outreach to others, the one and only work of her nuns. Her energy, resolution and sense of humor were unfailing, animated as they were by her immense desire to serve the Lord as lovingly as she could. She died at Alba de Tormes on 4th October 1582. She was sixty seven years old. When the bells of Avila tolled for her the local citizens said: “The Saint has gone to heaven.” Her feast day is kept on 15th October. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region
St. Teresa’s writings on the four states of mental prayer. In the first stage, believers learn to pray. In the second, they experience the supernatural aspect of prayer. In the third, the soul is bathed in the pleasure of God’s presence, and in the fourth, senses are abandoned in a sort of out-of-body experience where the soul feels only divine union. – from The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus of the Order of Our Lady of Carmel (Autobiography)
Teresa entered a Carmelite convent when she was eighteen, and later earned a reputation as a mystic, reformer, and writer who experienced divine visions. She wrote the book The Way of Perfection for her nuns. Other important books by her include her Autobiography and The Interior Castle.
The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini, Basilica of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome. 1652. St. Teresa’s life has inspired great works of art. This marble sculpture was finished 30 years after her canonization.
As St. Teresa of Avila’s friend and confidant, St John of the Cross remarked, ‘At the end of the day, it is by the quality of our loving that we shall be judged.’
In 1571 Teresa wrote to her sister about John, “The people take him for a saint; in my opinion he is one, and has been all his life.”
X. In Closing
Christ Has No Body
by Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Inserted into the cornerstone of the Holy Spirit Chapel dated April 15, 1915:
Praise and thanksgiving forever to the Triune God!
Philadelphia Carmelite Monastery
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia – Facebook
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia – website
The Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia (Booklet)
Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region website
Croatian Carmel Province
Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Friends of Carmel Pinterest
Opening poem – I followed John of the Cross… – ShrineTower 2014
Opening prayer – Love and honor to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel . . . – From the cornerstone of the Holy Spirit Chapel dated April 15, 1915.
The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God. – Pope Francis
I. The New Evangelization Movement: Get the Message Out
Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone. – Pope Francis
May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful “neighbors” to those wounded and left on the side of the road. Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world. – Pope Francis
Social media is like sending out seventy disciples multiplied by seventy thousand. With technology enabled tools that create and integrate multiple platforms, a sincere unified message can be sent out.
The Internet in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God. – Pope Francis
The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people. . . . Christian witness, thanks to the internet, can thereby reach the peripheries of human existence. – Pope Francis
The New Evangelization is the most important movement in the Church today. First, because it concerns evangelization, the Church’s most basic task. – Brandon Vogt
… the Church has barely tapped its potential. Imagine telling St. Paul, St. Augustine or St. Thomas that in less than a second you could beam a message to millions of people around the world — and do it for free. Those guys would have given their right arms for such a tool. – Brandon Vogt
II. Social Media: Where People Congregate, Connect and are Active
“Our challenge as evangelisers has always been to reach out and encounter people where they are at, and nowadays, more and more that means online!” If only to be able to reach our young people and an increasing percentage of people of all ages, we need to be present in this new age. – Archbishop Eamon Martin
The Internet has become like the nervous system of our culture, in which more and more people are expressing and exploring their identity, picking up and discarding their values and attitudes, expressing their feelings and prejudices, befriending and unfriending each other, measuring each other’s status and importance, relevance and appearance. If our young people are living in this gigantic network, then we, as people of faith need to be in there, dialogging with the inhabitants of this world, with the men and women who dwell in the web! – Archbishop Eamon Martin
I quote from the Pope’s Message: ‘The digital highway is … a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope. By means of the Internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)’.
III. Social Media Services – The Gift Giveaway
Everything we have received is a gift from God. We respond to his love by giving it away, by showing it in a way of serving. – David Fleming S.J.
Social Media services provided upon request.
Credits – Message of Pope Francis for the 48th World Communications Day [(6/1/14)
Credits – Brandon Vogt interview.
Credits – Archbishop Eamon Martin (Ireland) ‘The New media and the work of Evangelisation