St. John Neumann: From Manhattan to Buffalo NY to Philadelphia PA


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Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral 1811, Manhattan, NYC

St. John Neumann was ordained in June 1836 at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC.

Father Neumann celebrated his First Mass on Sunday, June 26. He wrote home, “Now, my dearest Jesus, I have obtained that for which my soul yearned. What I have always believed so far away, You have now given me.”

Neumann chapel 1833The Neumann Chapel, Buffalo NY.

Just 16 days after his arrival in Manhattan, John was ordained a priest and sent to rural Buffalo.

Father John established himself in a small log parish house. He hardly ever lit a fire and often lived on only bread and water.

st peter and paul williamsville ny
Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church, Williamsville NY. (today)

While in Williamsville New York, Father Neumann started the parish of Sts. Peter and Paul, which is in existence today (above). He also taught school four hours a day and used his knowledge of botany to make medicines from local herbs.

Village of Williamsville NY (Buffalo) today, where John Neumann was a priest.

He was assigned to the Buffalo, New York region which was a boomtown in the mid and late 1830s with commerce on the Erie Canal and stagecoach routes.

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Creek in Williamsville NY that John Neumann would have surely saw.

The Sisters of Mercy were instrumental in working with Father Neumann while in the Williamsville New York region.

Glenn Falls Creek today, by Michael Frank Jr.

Father Neumann made rounds to attend to the sacramental life of about 400 families. A journal entry shows John’s concern for the German immigrants: “They have not received any schooling. They speak German poorly, and English just as poorly. The will soon have to work, and there will be no thought of religious instruction.” This thinking was the start of the Catholic Parochial school system.

IMG_2305Redemptorist seal at The National Shrine of St. John Neumann, located at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Father John joined the Redemptorist order and continued his missionary work until he was elected bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. Bishop Neumann was in attendance for Pope Pius IX’s proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

DSC_0183Saint John Nepomucene Neumann.

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Cross at St. John the Evangelist Church, Philadelphia,

Bishop Neumann took up residence at St. John the Evangelist parish in downtown Philadelphia.

Also in the 1850’s a young Katharine Drexel received First Holy Communion at St. Johns the Evangelist Church. She later became founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, and a saint, St. Katharine Drexel!

DSC_0212Parish of St. Peter the Apostle in Philadelphia. The upper church is where St. John worshiped in Philadelphia.

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Pulpit where St. John Neumann preached. Parish of St. Peter the Apostle in Philadelphia.

DSC_0142Lower church is the National Shrine of Saint John Neumann.

Under the altar are the remains of St. John Neumann in a glass reliquary.

DSC_0158St. John Neumann body incorrupt, (face with mask).

Bishop Neumann passed away in Philadelphia while doing errands on January 5, 1860. St. John collapsed and died due to a stroke, a few blocks from Logan Street, where he was building the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul, the regional Church that stands today. He is a patron of immigrants and of sick children.

Memorial of St. John Neumann, Bishop is January 5.

A man must always be ready, for death comes when and where God wills it.

– Saint John Neumann

The Word Became Flesh – God’s Message in the Gospel of John


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jesus climbing mountain
Jesus climbing mountain.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” –  John 1:1-4

the word became fleshJesus on mountain from Gospel of John, Lumo Project.

“All things came to be through Him, and without Him, nothing came to be.”

jesus face eyes closedJesus eyes closed from Gospel of John, Lumo Project.

“What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the the light of the human race.”

Jerusalem Skyline Photo

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

In the Beginning was the Word, excerpt from Gospel of John movie, Lumo Project.

Above verse: John 1:1-18
Verse in Lumo video: John 1:1-18@lumoproject

John the Baptist with Jesus at the Jordan River, from The Lumo Project


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john the baptist in waterJohn 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  and JesusJohn 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.

Excerpt from Gospel of John by the Lumo Project.

Looking forward to the next movie in this series, which is the Gospel of Luke, being released in 2016 (Easter).

Video credit – @TheLumoProject

Video Bible verse –  John 1:6-34

6 Insights in Designing a Spiritual Website


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designing a spiriutal website pablo

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.list-of-fastest-hosting-companies

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.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s Connection with Pope Francis


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Age24 thereseSt. Thérèse of Lisieux (Jan 2, 1873 – Sept 30, 1897) Feast day is October 1, 2015.

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.”

therese before deathThérèse of Lisieux, a Professed Discalced Carmelite Nun at the Monastery of Lisieux.

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.”

Martin familyLois Martin, a watchmaker, Zelie Martin a lacemaker and St. Therese in middle.

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.

theresa parents reliquaryThe Martin Family Reliquary at The Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Carmelite Monastery in Philadelphia. Photo credit: Fluer Nabert.

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.”

monstary wall
The walled Philadelphia Carmel Monastery with the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in the background. St. Thérèse lived in a similar Carmelite Monastery in Lisieux France.

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!”

mary with Jesus and scapular final
Blessed Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus.
Carmelite Monastery, Philadelphia Carmel in Pennsylvania.

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

best view of chapel
Chapel of the Holy Spirit after Our Lady of Mount Carmel Feast Day Mass in 2014.

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.”

partitionShe is with us still.

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.

St. Thomas of Villanova: Augustinian, Educator and Carer of the Poor


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St. Thomas of Villanova Church on the campus of Villanova University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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St. Thomas of Villanova:

Charity is not just giving, rather removing the need of those who receive charity and liberating them from it when possible.

thomas in front of bild 2

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.

st. thomas of villa statue detail

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

nova 3
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.

DSC_0032 copy
He was a great preacher and Emperor Charles V, upon hearing him preach, exclaimed, “This monsignor can move even the stones!”


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.

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Villanova University’s crest reflects the school’s Catholic roots and symbolically commemorates the seal of St. Augustine, whose order founded Villanova in 1842.

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.


7. Fide of the University: On the official university seal, the outer rim states in Latin “Villanova University in the State of Pennsylvania.”


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.
rita at villa
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.

4 Tools for a Spiritual Social Media Campaign


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a spiritual social media campaign1

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

schedule social media campaign 1
Example of a manual 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.

give us this day calendar2
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

ignatius 2 power post
Creating a post in the 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.

three postd part 2
ManageFlitter simplified example of pending posts ready for auto- release.

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.

Other popular social media scheduling tools are: Buffer and HootSuite.

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.

anayltics twitter generic

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.

Other analytics tools are: SumAll, Buffer and HootSuite.

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.

johna pablo
Pablo allows more than 140 characters on photo overlay, so the actual tweet can be a shortened reference to the photo.

Other image design tools are: Canva a simplified PhotoShop tool and PicMonkey, a free on-line photo editor.


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.”

Norbertines “Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom” for World Meeting of Families 2015


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Norbertine bells at Daylesford Abbey, Paoli, Pennsylvania.

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.

Liberty Bell in Philadelphia PA (1751)

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.

Saint John Paul II hands of prayer. (From upcoming Franklin Institute exhibit Vatican Splendors.)

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.

Holy Family with two Angels, Bologna Italy, 16th century.

This painting and the bronze cast of Saint John Paul II hands are from the upcoming Franklin Institute exhibit Vatican Splendors on display September 2015 to February 2016, direct from the Vatican.

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.

wmf2015 painting
Holy Family icon for WMF2015 by Neilson Carlin of Kennett Square, PA

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.

wedding at cana icon
The Wedding at Cana.

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.

Eucharist stained glass window behind altarIn the line, “To be fed by love incarnate”, the hymn references the Eucharist.
Photo: Old St. Joseph’s Church, Philadelphia PA.

Hymn credits:
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 twitter detailPope 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

Influencer: Mary, Undoer of Knots
. This is the baroque painting by Johann Schmidtner from 1700, housed at St. Peter am Perlach, in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany.

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.

gianna center
Influencer: St. Gianna Molla
(Oct 14, 1922, – April 28, 1962). Eating lunch with her children in Magenta, Italy.

St. Gianna Molla is Patron Saint of WMF2015. St. Gianna once said:

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.

Influencer: Saint John Paul II, also a Patron Saint for WMF2015.

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.

Holy Spirit in blue
“… in the Spirit make us one.” Quote from closing line of the WMF2015 hymn, Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom.

Bach’s Easter Oratorio, BWV 249 by Gardiner


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Johann Sebastian Bach: Easter Oratorio, BWV 249

1 Sinfonia
2 Adagio
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
1. Sinfonia 1.Sinfonia
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.
Denn allein
Mit Lorbeerkranze prangen,
Stillt dein ängstliches Verlangen.
4. Aria S
O soul, your spices
need no longer be myrrh.
For only
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.
10. Chor
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!
10. Chorus
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!
Possibly Picander
Translation by Pamela Dellal

The Gospel of John (2014): A Groundbreaking Movie on Netflix


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gospel of john 2
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.

static from filmCity streets of Jerusalem.

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. through a catacomb.

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.” of the high priests in a debate.

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.

lumo project 1Jesus on the right, in dialogue with Peter.

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.

The New Evangelization Enabler: Social Media – Sharing the Joy and Beauty of God


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“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” – Matthew 10:16
Journey of the Magi by James Tissot.

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

Pope with Dove
Pope Francis with dove in Assisi, Italy

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

send the message out
Christ sending out the Seventy Disciples by James Tissot.

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

POPE FRANCIS MEETS PIACENZA PILGRIMSPope Francis with youth posing for a selfie in St. Peter’s Square.

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

ARCHBISHOP EAMON MARTINArchbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Ireland. An unlikely technology leader.

“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

instagram example all saints day martin
Fr. James Martin SJ, connecting Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to get the message out.

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

pope francis twitter acct pageThe official Twitter page of Pope Francis. Over 4.5 million followers.

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.
@shrinetower (Twitter)

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