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From the Franciscan Minims

Mexico • Vergel ----- July • August 2004 ----- No. 7–8


St. Gemma Galgani was readying a table for a meal
in the Giannini household, when the crucifix on the wall seemed to come alive.

The Crucifix of St. Gemma Galgani (1878–1903)

GEMMA’S mother, Aurelia Landi Galgani, was a devout Catholic; her father, Enrico Galgani, an apothecary, was a member of the family of St. John Leonardi. Seven children joined the Galgani family of which Gemma and her brother Gino, who wanted to become a priest, were the most outstanding.

After her mother’s death at the age of 39, Gemma became the little mistress of the household, teaching her young siblings and performing the household chores. Her eldest brother, at the process of her beatification, declared that Gemma "was careful in household matters, being fond of needlework and genuinely womanlike in all her ways, except in one respect: her indifference to dress and all personal adornment, which had been great, but which during this period of her life turned into actual severity of rule, supernatural reason accounting for it."

In fact, for the greater part of her life Gemma wore a perfectly plain black dress, with no collar or lace of any kind, and a black cloak and a straw hat for going out. It is said that such severity of dress was the more striking in her, "because she had a beautiful face and a graceful figure."

As the result of extending too much credit, her father lost his business and died soon after in November of 1897. Gemma and her siblings were left destitute, but somehow managed to survive.

Soon after, Gemma was struck with a terrible illness that settled in her back. Some have said it was meningitis, others claim it was tuberculosis of the spine. After suffering a long time from the disease and many complications, and after enduring a number of operations without anesthetic, Gemma was miraculously cured, after making a novena to St. Gabriel Possenti and St. Margaret Mary. (continued on page 20).



Longing for Paradise

"Somewhere over the rainbow, Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow, Why, then, oh why can’t I?"

"And I said: Who will give me wings like a dove,
and I will fly and be at rest?" – Psalm 54, 7

NEARLY all persons have a desire for happiness, for joy, and they express their desire in a thousand different ways. Whether they are seeking love, friendship, power or money, they are all seeking happiness, or what they think will make them happy. If people make so many mistakes (in the moral sphere) it is usually because they do not know where true happiness can be found.

To fly and be at rest

This desire for happiness is expressed in popular songs, such as the one quoted above, and also in plays, movies, novels and fairy stories. The emerald city of the American fairy tale, a city in which one’s petitions are answered and one’s desires fulfilled, is the creation of an artist, it is only a fantasy. But it has its counterpart in a city that really exists: "And I, John, saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God." (Apoc. 21, 2).

Seeking the Heavenly City

"All these (the just of the Old Testament) died according to faith, not having received the promises, but beholding them afar off, and saluting them and confessing that they are pilgrims and strangers on the earth. For they that say these things do signify that they seek a country. But now they desire a better, that is to say, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God. For he hath prepared for them a city." (Hebrews 11, 13-16)

From these verses it is clear that our life on earth is a pilgrimage, and that our real home is in heaven, the abode of the blessed souls of paradise, the elect, the saints. Only those who have been taught about the glory of paradise can attain any real happiness. Since now so many people are in darkness, the legion of victim souls is necessary. Words alone are not sufficient to teach people about Paradise. They need grace to understand about it, and they can only receive the grace, if someone offers himself or herself to obtain this grace for them. God is seeking generous souls who will offer themselves to obtain graces for others.

Value of exterior actions and of kissing the floor

Every day the Franciscan Minim sisters and brothers kiss the floor before their prayers and other community exercises. The purpose of this action is to ask the Virgin Mary to bless their actions. Another purpose is to offer God exterior reverence, worship, thanksgiving and adoration. Many things can be expressed by this exterior action of kissing the floor, such as obedience and subjection to God, honor, reverence, love, adoration, contrition, and so forth. These sentiments are interior and within the soul, but sometimes it helps to express them with exterior actions.

Kissing the floor is a small action, but it is very pleasing to God when done with a good intention. We ask our subscribers to do this action when you are able, and if you do it with a good and fervent intention, it will help to make up for so much sin. All sin is disobedience. It is a refusal to do what God wants us to do. So the action of kissing the floor helps to expiate all kinds of sins, because it is an exterior act of obedience. It is like saying: "We honor you and we want to subject ourselves to you, both body and soul."

Final Triumph – Little Actions

At Fatima Mary told us that her Immaculate Heart would triumph in the end. Most of us cannot perform great actions, but God asks us only to perform small actions with great purity of intention. In that way even little things can help to make us holy and to make up for our own sins and for the sins of the whole world. Any soul of good will can cooperate in the legion of victim souls, and that is what makes life exciting in this period of history. To participate in a battle between good and evil is exciting, and the world is now engaged in such a battle. It seems as if evil is triumphing almost everywhere, but the time of evil is limited. The empire of this world will come to an end, God’s kingdom will last forever, and it begins here upon earth. So we ask all of you to please participate in this battle as much as possible, even if your participation consists in little actions performed in secret. God sees them, and every little action is like a preparation for the final triumph.

How happy they will be who are on the good side, and who will live to witness the triumph.

The just shall see, and shall rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop its mouth." --- (Psalm 106).

May it be for the glory of God

The Vergel of the Immaculate Virgin of Guadalupe

June 24, 2004 • Feast of St. John Baptist

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"All those who yield themselves to My way of the cross and suffering, will be blessed for all eternity."
-- April 23, 1969
"For I have come to call sinners..." (Matt. 9, 13).


"I Despise Your Feast Days"

THE Bethel temple audience, many of them drunk and maudlin, gave Amos jeers and hoots. They were more amused than aroused, until he uttered a sentence against the king, Jeroboam II. Amaziah, priest of Bethel, sent a report to the king that a wild-eyed Judean had loosed treason in the midst of the sanctuary. And to the herdsman-prophet himself the priest said:

"O you seer! Go back to Judah whence you came! There eat your bread and do your talking. No more prophecy here, for this is the king’s holy place, a royal house!"

And Amos answered: "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was a herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel. –Now, therefore hear you the word of the Lord:

"You say, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not your word against the house of Isaac. Therefore thus says the Lord. Your wife shall be a harlot in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided by lines, and you shall die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity, forth of his land."

Having delivered his full terrible say, Amos went back to his Judean hills, there to write down his oracles. Meanwhile he troubled Israel no more with his presence, though he was to be remembered again when a succeeding prophet, Hosea, of Israel itself, one of the most farseeing of inspired men, echoed the unheeded warning of the Tekoan herdsman. With unflattering clarity he predicted the decline and fall of Israel. But he also reiterated that the love of God would never fail.

The end of Israel was being foreshadowed, and no one could say the people had not been warned.

Nevertheless, among other civic works, Jeroboam II was refortifying Samaria so that it might stand impregnable. It never seemed to occur to this king, nor to many of his predecessors, that military fortifications and preparation alone is no security. Not once does he seem to have reflected that the secret lies in changing the heart, the mind, the attitude, the pattern of behavior—nor that loving God as a father and all men as brothers may be, as God has so often instructed, an indispensable approach to security.

Not so in the brain of Jeroboam II. He went right on with his defense program. A double wall was built around his capital. At the estimated weakest point of assault it was thirty-three feet wide. Put to the test later on, it proved so strong a defense that it was to take Assyria, with all its men and engines, three years to conquer Samaria. Small wonder, then, that the people of Israel were lulled into feeling safe, and when Hosea, their own native prophet, lifted his warning voice in forecast of coming doom, a repetition of what Amos had told them, they gave him a deaf ear also.

Unlike Amos, however, the new prophet preached not only the justice of the Lord but His everlasting love, that longed to enfold mankind. While Hosea rebuked his nation severely for its sins, its persistent moral and religious blindness, he grieved over it with a tender heart, more personal in feeling than any exhibited by Amos. Only natural, perhaps, for Amos was Judean and had no close ties in Israel.

Hosea picked up the symbolism of Amos. He used himself as the figure of one married to an incorrigible prostitute, an imaginary woman called Gomer. Gomer could be thought of as the land of Israel, apostate, licentious, and deceiving. Aware of her faithlessness, he would forgive her repeatedly and restore her to his side. This tolerance went on and on. Yes, the Lord God was like that husband, and Israel was like Gomer, the unfaithful wife—Hosea thereby greatly shocked respectable people.

The Lord married to a harlot nation, indeed! Hosea must be raving mad. Either that or a poet whose figures of speech must never be taken literally.

Unperturbed, Hosea went on to pour gourds of scorn on the golden-calf worship still be to be seen in Israel, the choice of materialism instead of spirituality. Again and again he stressed his argument that knowledge of God was more desirable than all the burnt offerings ever made. To the lack of that knowledge, to the confusion of letter with spirit, were due all the present abominations of murder, thievery, false swearing, and drunkenness.

Retribution was inevitable. Hosea, too, foresaw the coming of a conqueror who would scatter Israel like chaff, for the Lord now must act in His long-restrained vengeance:

"The days of visitation are come! The days of recompense are come. Israel shall know it!"

Yet love, as preached by Hosea, endured all things, forgave endlessly, and never ceased to hope. So even in his direst predictions there was the ground-note of universal love for all people:

"And I will sow her unto Me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not My people, You are My people, and they shall say, you are my God."

Not as unmovably stern as Amos had been, Hosea was convinced that God would succeed in His purposes for the salvation of the whoredom of Israel at last—and always because of the great quality of His love, the hope He still held for the reality of His dream of creation.

Spiritual as he was in his vision, Hosea was not indifferent to mundane matters. Constantly he warned the nation against the folly of foreign alliances that were shortsighted and contrary to the will of God.

Through the reigns of four kings and including part of Jeroboam’s Hosea spoke of God’s wonderful love and the need for repentance. But his voice carried little weight. However, when written down for future generations to read, his warnings are like torches for the darkness. He spoke to his own time and got the ear of the ages.

The Fall of the Northern Kingdom

The day came when the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold, and all Israel, the ten tribes of the northern kingdom, fell to his power.
(To be continued)

Following His Footsteps

by Anselmo del Álamo

Chapter 8. Crosses

13. When we are united to the wood of the holy Cross, we will not suffer shipwreck, but we will arrive safely to the port of salvation. --- St. Paul of the Cross

14. One of the most precious gifts that God grants to holy souls is sickness, because in that there are occasions of practicing many virtues. --- St. Paul of the Cross

15. In sickness, when the body is more mortified and cast down, the spirit is more apt to fly to God. --- St. Paul of the Cross

16. To take up one’s cross is to support and receive patiently all the things that are suffered because of Me. --- St. Augustine

17. The religious life is a cross, and he who wants to live in it with perfection should be crucified. St. Paul of the Cross

18. Believe me, even if all hearts were united into one, in this life the could not enjoy the smallest reward that they will enjoy in the eternal and blessed fatherland of heaven, in recompense for the smallest cross that for my love they will have carried in this life. --- Our Lord to Blessed Henry Suso

19. Each sick person believes that his illness is the most grave, and the thirsty person believes that no one is more unfortunate than he is. If I had afflicted you in a different way, you would say the same thing that you say now. Rest, therefore in my arms, and resign yourself lovingly in me, in any adversity that I want you to suffer, without excluding any trial. --- Our Lord to Blessed Henry Suso

A Magazine for the Latter Times

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the Reflections. We are all so much in need for enlightenment, as this is what shines through from its holy pages. Thank you again. May Jesus, Mary and Joseph protect you. Respectfully, M.C., Canada

The Passion of Mel Gibson

Why evangelicals are cheering a movie
with profoundly Catholic sensibilities

by David Neff | posted 02/20/04
from Christianity Today, March 2004

In the history of modern evangelical enthusiasms, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ seems to be joining WWJD bracelets and Promise Keepers' conferences as cultural markers. At first it seemed like it might just be a quirky art film: a film about Jesus' passion using only Aramaic and Latin—and with no subtitles.

But what started out as news of the weird has turned into a powerful and popular film that is likely to be a major milestone in cinematic history. Gibson has filmed The Passion with his trade-mark force—and for those whose ancient language skills are a bit rusty, he has added subtitles. In January, Gibson told Christianity Today that the film had already been scheduled to open on close to 3,500 screens—that places it squarely between Finding Nemo and Return of the King at their peak distribution last year. When the film opened on February 25, it was showing on 4,643 screens in 3,006 theaters.

Promoters have produced a Passion lapel pin and witnessing card. Endorsements have poured in from evangelical leaders like Focus on the Family president Donald Hodel and Harvest Crusades evangelist Greg Laurie. Public figures as diverse as Willow Creek Community Church's pastor Bill Hybels and bluegrass musician Ricky Skaggs have hosted special screenings for pastors. Moving responses from ordinary believers and Christian celebrities have circulated widely on the Internet, urging believers to see the movie. And Tyndale House has reinforced the movie's influence by publishing The Passion, a coffee table book that integrates still photos from the filming with a harmony of the Passion accounts drawn from the New Living Translation.

This evangelical enthusiasm for The Passion of the Christ may seem a little surprising, in that the movie was shaped from start to finish by a devout Roman Catholic and by an almost medieval Catholic vision. But evangelicals have not found that a problem because, overall, the theology of the film articulates very powerful themes, that have been important to all classical Christians.

The vision thing

Mel Gibson is in many ways a pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic. He prefers the Tridentine Latin Mass and calls Mary co-redemptrix. Early in the filming of The Passion, he gave a long interview to Raymond Arroyo on the conservative Catholic network EWTN. In that interview, Gibson told how actor Jim Caviezel, the film's Jesus, insisted on beginning each day of filming with the celebration of the Mass on the set. He also recounted a series of divine coincidences that led him to read the works of Anne Catherine Emmerich, a late-18th, early-19th-century Westphalian nun who had visions of the events of the Passion. Many of the details needed to fill out the Gospel accounts he drew from her book, Dolorous Passion of Our Lord.

Here is one such detail from Emmerich:

"After the flagellation, I saw Claudia Procles, the wife of Pilate, send some large pieces of linen to the Mother of God. I know not whether she thought that Jesus would be set free, and that his Mother would then require linen to dress his wounds, or whether this compassionate lady was aware of the use which would be made of her present. … I soon after saw Mary and Magdalen approach the pillar where Jesus had been scourged; … they knelt down on the ground near the pillar, and wiped up the sacred blood with the linen which Claudia Procles had sent."

Gibson does not follow Dolorous Passion slavishly, and at many points he chooses details that conflict with Emmerich's account. But the sight of Pilate's wife handing a stack of linen cloths to Jesus' mother allows Gibson to capture a moment of sympathy and compassion between the two women, and the act of the two Marys wiping up Jesus' blood gives Gibson the opportunity to pull back for a dramatic shot of the bloody pavement.

Evil unmasked

Another detail picked up from Dolorous Passion is just as dramatically powerful, but much more significant theologically. Emmerich writes that during Jesus' agony in the garden, Satan presented Jesus with a vision of all the sins of the human race. "Satan brought forward innumerable temptations, as he had formerly done in the desert, even daring to adduce various accusations against him." Satan, writes Emmerich, addressed Jesus "in words such as these: 'Takest thou even this sin upon thyself? Art thou willing to bear its penalty? Art thou prepared to satisfy for all these sins?'"

Gibson shows Jesus being tempted by a pale, hooded female figure, who whispers to him just such words, suggesting that bearing the sins of the world is too much for Jesus, that he should turn back. And from under the tempter's robe there slithers a snake. In a moment of metaphorical violence drawn straight from Genesis 3:15, Jesus crushes the serpent's head beneath his sandaled heel.

These details from the film's opening sequence announce Gibson's acute consciousness of the cosmic battle between good and evil—between God and the devil—that is played out behind earthly scenes of violence against the innocent Jesus. Gibson's approach to evil impressed at least one expert: The Washington Post reported last July that The Exorcist author William Peter Blatty called the movie "a tremendous depiction of evil."

At the January pastors' screening at Willow Creek in Illinois, Gibson explained why he used this veiled female figure to portray evil. Evil "takes on the form of beauty," Gibson said. "It is almost beautiful. It is the great aper of God. But the mask is askew; there is always something wrong. Evil masquerades, but if your antennae are up, you'll detect it."

The Apostle Paul hinted at this fact in 2 Corinthians where he wrote that "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." Paul said we shouldn't be surprised then "if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness." C. S. Lewis had a similar insight, expressed in a letter to Arthur Greeves: "Evil usually contains or imitates some good, which accounts for its potency."

After the screening, I asked Gibson about his belief in spiritual warfare. "That's the big picture, isn't it?" Gibson replied. "The big realms are slugging it out. We're just the meat in the sandwich. And for some reason, we're worth it. I don't know why, but we are."

Gibson sensed spiritual battle on the set, as well. "Complications happened to block certain things," he said. "And the closer you are to a breakthrough point, the more vigorous it gets, so that you know when the opposition is at its greatest, you're close and you have to keep pressing on."

"That happened a number of times [in production], and it's happened a number of times since.… Production was tough. Post-production has been brutal. You name it, it's happened.… Whoa, the world goes into revolt!"

Getting personal

The world in revolt? That is, of course, the premise of the entire biblical story. Mel Gibson belongs to that group of Christians who believe we each need to personalize that fact. Not only is the world in revolt, but every human being—including Mel Gibson and David Neff—resists God and good. The visionary Emmerich wrote: "Among the sins of the world which Jesus took upon himself, I saw also my own; and a stream, in which I distinctly beheld each of my faults, appeared to flow towards me from out of the temptations with which he was encircled."

When Gibson is accused of making an anti-Semitic film (see Michael Medved's "The Passion and Prejudice"), he stresses that each of us is responsible for Christ's crucifixion. "For culpability," Gibson told a group of Chicago religious leaders last July, "look to yourself. I look to myself."

That response hasn't mollified certain Jewish critics, but it does reveal a lot about Gibson. In an action deeply symbolic of his sense of culpability, Mel Gibson the director grabbed the mallet and spikes from the actor who was supposed to be nailing Jesus to the cross. The cameras kept rolling as Gibson wielded the hammer to show how he wanted the nails driven. The close-up cameo of Gibson's hands became part of The Passion.

Gibson also has a strong sense of personal salvation. He has a focused feeling, such as John Wesley possessed when he wrote in 1738 that "an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

One reason for Gibson's personal sense of salvation is the way this project rescued him from himself. In his foreword to the Tyndale House book The Passion, Gibson says the film "had its genesis during a time in which [he] found [him]self trapped with feelings of terrible, isolated emptiness." He told the pastors at Willow Creek of his "emptiness … regret, despair, pain." At the time, a little over a decade ago, he had been neglecting his faith since he was 17—a hiatus of about 18 years. Gibson said that he had "always believed," but that he had only prayed when he found himself "in trouble." When you neglect prayer, he said, "you fall into chaos." And so he turned once again to God in prayer.

Contemplating God's wounds

When Protestants talk about prayer, they usually mean talking to God about what is on their heart and asking him to deal with life's difficulties. When Catholics talk about prayer, they mean those same things, but they tend to include as well certain practices of contemplation and meditation.

In "The Fountain Fill'd with Blood," Historian Chris Armstrong describes the medieval origins of Cross-centered devotion, which invited the believer to meditate on each separate event of Jesus' passion and each individual wound on his body. Long before evangelicals like Richard Foster began to experiment with guided imagery in prayer, those devotional practices also invited believers to place themselves in their imaginations into the biblical stories. These practices became the foundation for such widely practiced traditions as meditating on the Five Sorrowful Mysteries when saying the Rosary. The structure of Gibson's film conforms exactly to the list of the Five Sorrowful Mysteries: The Agony of Jesus in the Garden, the Scourging of Jesus at the Pillar, the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying the Cross, and the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus. And it reveals the way that this film is for Gibson a kind of prayer.

In the foreword to The Passion, he writes that the film "is not meant as a historical documentary. … I think of it as contemplative in the sense that one is compelled to remember … in a spiritual way, which cannot be articulated, only experienced." This contemplative devotion has been intensified during the filming of The Passion of the Christ. "This work has turned up the heat" on his prayer life, Gibson told the pastors at Willow Creek. "The past three years forced me to focus heavily on the Passion."

"I went to the wounds of Christ in order to cure my wounds," he told Today’s Christian Woman, a CT sister publication, by e-mail. "And when I did that, through reading and studying and meditating and praying, I began to see in my own mind what he really went through. It was like giving birth: the story, the way I envisioned the suffering of Christ, got inside me and started to grow, and it reached a point where I just had to tell it, to get it out."

At the Willow Creek event, Hybels asked Gibson why so many religious films are, by comparison, not very good. "I didn't try to make a religious film," Gibson said by way of response. "I tried to make something that was real to me."

All of this—the sense of one's own sins being responsible for the Crucifixion, the sense of the enormous weight of the world's sins on the Savior's shoulders, the horror of the suffering that Christ endured, the way the story grew inside Gibson—accounts in part for the film's bruising bloodiness. The extremes of brutality are not simply a translation of Gibson's secular visual vocabulary from Lethal Weapon and We Were Soldiers into the sacred sphere.

"The enormity of blood sacrifice," as he put it, is important to Gibson. Unlike liberal Christians (both Catholic and Protestant) who deny the importance of the shedding of blood in the Atonement, Gibson grasps firmly the sacred symbol of blood and spatters the audience's sensibilities with it. Never one to run from a compelling symbol, Gibson presents the truth of Leviticus 17:11 in all its power: "The life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life."

Some will feel simply overwhelmed by the display, but many traditional Christians (both Catholic and Protestant) will see this film and feel Gibson has sprinkled them with the saving blood, just as the Israelite priests sprinkled the atoning blood on the altar. For, as Gibson puts it, "In the Old Covenant, blood was required. In the New Covenant, blood was required. Jesus could have pricked his finger, but he didn't; he went all the way."

What impresses Mel Gibson is the total surrender of Jesus to the Father's will, in order to be an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the human race. What rewards Mel Gibson is the silence, the introspection, the realization, and the remembering that people do. (Gibson pointed out that the Greek word for truth literally means "un-forgetting.") After seeing the movie, one person simply said, "I'm sorry. I forgot."

David Neff is editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY and editorial vice president of Christianity Today International.

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Behind the Scenes of The Passion

On the set with Holly McClure

by Holly McClure | posted 02/23/04

Day 1: How I ended up being a surprise "consultant" on this remarkable film.

When I was summoned to Mel Gibson's office in August of 2002, little did I dream how significant that meeting would be, and how much it would change my life in the year and a half to come.

I've been a movie critic, radio talk show host and media personality for over ten years, and had gained some recognition in both the secular and Christian entertainment industry. When Gibson decided to make The Passion of The Christ, he asked a mutual friend, David Rose, who might advise him on the film's potential appeal for Christians. My name was recommended.

So, I found myself seated at a huge conference table at the Icon office that summer afternoon, listening to Mel—yes, we're on first-name terms now—describe his story, acting out several scenes with a zealous animation that is unmistakably "Mel." I had to pinch myself as I watched my favorite actor describe his pet project, that was affectionately called, "Mel's labor of love."

Dressed in jeans, a white T-shirt and a blue denim shirt worn open, Mel described the opening scene with zealous details: "There's a full moon over the garden and we see Jesus praying, then he goes to the disciples to ask them to stay awake but they can't, so he returns to pray …" Mel continued describing his movie, a script he'd been working on for almost a decade.

I was caught off guard when Mel offered me the script and asked for my impressions. I blushed as I took it and said, "You're an Oscar winning director of Braveheart. What suggestions could I possibly offer you?" In his usual "aw shucks" humility, Mel replied, "No, seriously, I want your opinion."

Two weeks later Mel called me, and asked me what I thought. I told him it was brilliant, and that Christians would love it. He asked if I had any suggestions. And I did.

Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene

I saw a potential problem with Mary Magdalene. Mel had her in every scene with Mary (Jesus' mother) and John, but there was no scene to connect this woman to Jesus. I asked, "Is she his sister? His wife? A lover? You have to pretend like no one knows this story. You have to ask why this woman would follow Jesus so faithfully."

After a pause, Mel said, "You're right. I need a flashback to connect her relationship to him. I've been working on this script for almost nine years, and no one has ever pointed that out to me."

I smiled and said, "Well maybe it takes a woman to see that Mary needs an introduction—and so people don't get the wrong idea. Maybe you could add a scene like the one where men are going to stone a woman and …" Mel jumped in excitedly and said, "Yeah, Jesus steps in and saves her, and I'll show the guys dropping the stones one by one, and Mary looks up at Jesus!"

It was a conversation I'll never forget. And it ended up contributing to the movie in a positive way. It's a special scene—intimate, precious, touching, and certainly one that will connect with women. Mel directed the scene brilliantly. You'd never know it, but that's Mel's foot in the scene, where Mary Magdalene's precious hand reaches out to touch the foot of the man who saved her from being stoned.

Day 2: A practical joker on the set, humble Mel is a veritable Rembrandt when directing his masterpiece.

Mel Gibson is a man of integrity and class, devoted to his family and faith. He's also a very shy man who hates to be interviewed. If you saw his recent appearance on ABC's Primetime with Diane Sawyer, you could see his nervous fidgeting.

Mel doesn't act like a star. He cracks corny jokes, and makes strangers feel comfortable, with his wonderful sense of humor and friendly demeanor.

He's so "normal," it's easy to forget he's a big-time actor and director. But his passion for his work and the art of fine filmmaking is crystal clear. For me, that became especially evident when I visited the Italian set of The Passion in December of 2002.

I was in awe as I drove through the historic sites of Rome, past the ancient ruins of the baths of Caracalla, past the Christian catacombs and through the Italian countryside to the legendary Cinecitta studios. I was moved by the irony of a movie about the Crucifixion being filmed in Rome, the hub of the Roman Empire which occupied Palestine when those events took place 2000 years ago.

I marveled at what I saw as I passed through the gates of the studio and drove to the back of the lot. Standing next to the leftover decaying sets of Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York was Gibson's Jerusalem. A breathtaking 2˝-acre spectacle of biblical proportions, the life-sized city included giant columns, flights of stoned steps, massive wooden temple doors and Pilate's palace—where Jesus would be judged and beaten.

One of the detailed sets for The Passion

My first night on the set, the massive Jewish temple was bathed in golden lights with the evening stars overhead. Mel, standing in the temple courtyard, was wearing a red rubber clown nose while smoking a cigarette and discussing directions with his crew. I laughed as he took off the nose and came over to greet me. That's Mel Gibson the director.

He creates a relaxed atmosphere by telling jokes, talking with the crew, wearing his red clown nose and occasionally making burping noises through his bullhorn. At 48, Gibson has more energy than many teens, almost to the point of being hyperactive. But it's just indicative of his enthusiasm for his work.

One cold night between scenes, Mel and a couple of guys had producer Steve McEveety drop a tamed rat (a runaway from the set of Gangs of New York) into the pocket of Aramaic coach Evelina Meghangi. The poor woman screamed as she pulled the rat out of her pocket, and dropped what she thought was a rubber mouse onto the ground. We all had a big laugh at her expense.

For several weeks, I watched Gibson create his biblical masterpiece, pouring all of his heart into each and every scene. He's a brilliant director, combining instincts as an actor with his knowledge behind the camera. It's almost like watching Rembrandt paint his canvas.

Day 3: Why Mel didn't cast himself in the lead role—and why he loves his hand-picked cast.

On several occasions, I sat with Mel in his trailer and had wonderful discussions about his career. We talked about politics and how he does love a good conspiracy; I told him he's sometimes just like the character he played in Conspiracy Theory. We talked about his family, the film, the media, you name it.

I ate meals with Mel and his crew, attended Latin Masses conducted by a priest Mel brought to the set, met his family and friends who visited on the set, and thrilled at watching the dailies (scenes filmed the day before) with Mel, Director of Photography Caleb Deschanel, and Producer Steve McEveety.

Jim Caviezel

When asked why he didn't take on the role of directing and starring in his movie, Mel laughed at the question and exclaimed with both hands in the air, "That should be obvious! Jim (Caviezel) was perfect for the role. It required an actor who was less recognizable to the general public, but one who could handle everything I was going to put him through. It's not an easy role, what with the extreme physical demands, learning Aramaic and everything else. Jim took on a difficult task, but he's given me an incredible performance.

"Jim and I created a Jesus on film that is true to what we imagined he is. You know, many times when you see Jesus in movies, he's kind of a wimp, but that's not what we've got here. We've got a Jesus who is masculine, strong and tough. He takes a lot upon himself, and suffers with tremendous courage and great dignity."

Mel is clearly proud of his cast and what they've done with their roles. After bragging on Caviezel, he went on to laud the performances of Maia Morgenstern, a Jewish Romanian who plays Mary, mother of Jesus, and Monica Bellucci, an Italian in the role of Mary Magdalene.

Maia Morgenstern

Mel found Maia through a casting director in Romania. The petite actress literally "grew" on the set, and was almost six months pregnant at the end of filming (it's concealed by her long robe). Despite the wind and cold and long days, Maia never complained. She even came in on her days off, and always had a smile on her face.

Monica was beautiful no matter what Mel did. He told her, "I can't make you dirty or ugly; the camera loves you too much!" He constantly put dirt on her face, but her beauty still came through. Monica said that when she heard that Mel was making this film, she called her agent right away and said, "I've got to play this part." She met with Mel and got the job.

(In one ironic twist regarding the cast, the man who plays Judas, Luca Lionello, has a real-life son named Jesus!)

One interesting role is Mel's unusual casting of Satan—a striking Italian actress named Rosalinda Celentano. Mel asked her to shave her head and eyebrows to achieve a dark and evil look as she stalks Jesus throughout his ordeal—including a chilling appearance in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Mel hand-picked each cast member for their personalities and looks—even the Roman guards. "Man," says Mel, "the guards are very scary, a little too real almost. There's not a bad performance in my cast. It's truly amazing."

Tomorrow: Realistic violence is Gibson's way of showing "the extent of the sacrifice willingly taken by Jesus."

To be continued


I just received this email from a good Christian friend of mine who received it from one of the prayer warriors she knows who received it from missionaries in Qatar. Gives much food for thought and for prayer.

Dear Friends 4-1-04

A public disclaimer hangs above the ticket window in Cairo Concerning the movie, "The Passion." "This movie reflects only the views of its creator." In Arabic there are no capital letters so the sign is quite funny - and true! The following words are reported from Christian workers in the Arab Gulf.

"Today very possibly was the most significant day we have seen in nearly 12 years of living in the Middle East. To everyone's shock and surprise, "The Passion" was released today here in Qatar. You have to realize that until now we have only been able to show the Jesus film in Arabic to a handful of Qataris in the secret of a home setting. In the coming weeks, potentially 10's of thousands of Arab Muslims will see this powerful portrayal of Christ's suffering and death.

Today at 4:30pm, our entire team went to see the film in a theatre which was FULL of Gulf Arab Muslims - both men and women. In two short hours, more Qataris heard the Gospel than I have been able to reach in nearly 5 years of living here. The Arabic subtitles were completely accurate -they didn't water ANYTHING down or change any language that Muslims would not agree with. All of us watched the film in absolute amazement in what God had done. The Muslims sitting around us were being moved - gasping, crying and reacting with disgust to the brutality that Jesus faced. Arab Muslims would want to see the film because they 'heard' it was anti-Jewish and since they hate the Jews, they want to see it. The message to LOVE YOUR ENEMIES, and Jesus praying for them to be forgiven while on the Cross hits the Muslim theatre-goer in a powerful way. Muslims go to see this film because of their hatred and in the end, the message they hear is to LOVE."

Let us pray with our sister living in the Gulf there would be many to disciple those who walk away with questions and heavy hearts. "The Passion" has been released basically uncensored in the countries of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. In so doing, these nations have overlooked almost every standard for censorship that their countries commonly practice.

Arab censors deny that they treated "The Passion of the Christ'' differently. The Islamic Research Council stated that "it would be inappropriate to interfere with a movie that concerns the Christian faith." "We cannot confiscate others' beliefs," an official stated. "We didn't review this movie because it does not concern Muslims." (THIS is radical for Islam!)

As a result, "(The movie) has broken all records," stated the distribution manager for the film. The film is so popular in Qatar that they have been canceling the other films to show "The Passion" in all the theatres at a Cinema complex. One report we saw said that in the cinema of Qatar the film was being shown 7 times a day in 4 theatres!

Let's all pray that believers will boldly explain the significance of this movie to their Muslim neighbors. May they understand and agree with the views of the Creator! AMEN!!! --- Mary

Fascinated with The Passion

Gibson film draws big Muslim crowds.
By Deann Alford | posted 05/27/2004

By Holy Week, The Passion of the Christ had become one of the highest-grossing movies ever to hit American cinemas. The film's greatest impact, however, may be via pirated DVDs in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia; and crowded theaters in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Oman, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates.

"This film is generating so much interest in Jesus and the Scriptures," one missionary in the region said. "Every Christian we are talking to seems to have a story or two."

The film's undeserved reputation as anti-Semitic propaganda has piqued Muslim interest, according to Khaled Abdelrahman, an Iraqi former Muslim who directs a Christian apologetics website for Muslims. "Because [many Muslims] hate the Jews, they want to see the movie," Abdelrahman told CT.

The film depicts Jesus' crucifixion, which the Qur'an denies happened to Jesus. Islam regards Christ as a great prophet but not as the Son of God.

Abdelrahman and Fuller Theological Seminary professor of Islamic studies Dudley Woodberry doubt the film will incite further violence against Jews. "The movie will only 'confirm' their views, but they will also get the message of forgiveness from a prophet that they highly respect," Woodberry said. The movie's graphic portrayal of Jesus' crucifixion and forgiveness, Woodberry said, "is far more compelling than arguments over whether Jesus was crucified, especially for people not as exposed to television and movies as Westerners."

"It has beaten all records," Johnny Masri, general manager of Prime Pictures, the movie's Middle East distributor, told the Christian Science Monitor. "It's more popular than Titanic and the James Bond films. We completely underestimated the huge success this movie would have."

Woodberry, who lives part of the year in Afghanistan, said the movie is also available in Kabul markets. According to the Christian Science Monitor, it is banned in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

Muslim audiences are receptive to the film's use of Aramaic, a language that shares some words with Arabic. Abdelrahman said an Arabic-speaker would understand at least 10 percent of the film's Aramaic.

Our Cover: Saint Gemma Galgani -- (continued)

Her first vision of Our Lord took place on Holy Thursday, 1899. Many such visitations followed, as did those of the Blessed Mother and Gemma’s guardian angel, who was her constant companion and comforter. She conversed with him in a low, sweet voice, and he revealed to her the deepest mysteries of the Faith. During that same year, on June 8, 1899, which was then the eve of the Sacred Heart feastday, she received the stigmata, the marks of Our Lord’s five wounds. From then on, she began to suffer and bleed from the wounds every week from Thursday night to Friday afternoon. At her confessor’s command she asked Our Lord to remove the visible marks of these wounds. He did so, but the sufferings remained. For a time she suffered the most furious assaults of the devil, because of prayers she recited for the salvation of hardened sinners.

During the month of September, 1900, Gemma began living with a devout family in Lucca named Giannini. Here she would often come in contact with the priests of the Passionist Order, since the Giannini household had rooms at their disposal. In this house she became a useful member of the family, an elder sister to the young children, and a good hand at household chores.

In the dining room of this house was a long table, simple furnishings, and on the wall a full-size crucifix that was highly venerated by the whole family. During the day Gemma would pause for a visit and sometimes, when Gemma was overwhelmed by a burning wish to kiss the wound on Christ’s side, she found herself miraculously raised from the floor. With her arms around the crucifix, she pressed her lips against the sacred wound of Our Lord’s side. During the month of September 1901, while preparing the table for a meal, she turned to contemplate the holy crucifix. Suddenly Gemma was raised up. As the figure of Jesus became animated, He detached His right arm from the cross and embraced her, and with a loving gaze he invited Gemma to embrace Him in turn. During the entire time of this loving communion, Gemma was elevated, without support, several feet above the floor.

Gemma lived in the Giannini home for almost four years. It seems unbelievable to read in an Italian biography of the saint that the wonderful gifts Gemma experienced were little known in the family, and that those who knew of them almost completely ignored them. Only one person seems to have taken an interest, her confidant, a woman of the household whom Gemma called Aunt Cecilia.

Gemma had always wanted to join a religious community, especially the Order of the Passionists. Unable for various reasons to become a member, she once said that since they would not have her in life, they would have her in death. The prophecy was realized. First buried in the public cemetery, her relics now rest in the chapel of the Passionist Sisters in Lucca. Her tomb bears the following inscription:

Gemma Galgani from Lucca, most pure virgin, being in her twenty-fifth year, died of consumption but was more consumed by the fire of divine love than by her wasting disease. On the eleventh of April, 1903, the vigil of Easter, her soul took its flight to the bosom of her celestial Spouse. Oh! Beautiful soul! In the company of the angels.

In time, the Giannini house was turned into a sanctuary. The miraculous crucifix still hangs in the dining room, where thousands of pilgrims bend the knee and meditate on the sufferings of the Divine Redeemer and on the sufferings endured by the little mystic. Gemma Galgani was canonized by Pope Pius XII in May, 1940.

The Souls in Purgatory—the Angels

Taken from

The Life of the Anne Catharine Emmerich

By Very Reverend Carl E. Schmoger, C.Ss.R. ---

ONE day, after a conversation with her on the relations existing between the survivors and the deceased, the Pilgrim wrote down the following, which embodies the most salient points of their discourse: --"All that man thinks, says, or does, has in it a living principle for good or evil. He who sins should hasten to efface his faults by the Sacrament of Penance, otherwise he will not be able to prevent the full or partial consequence of his crime. I have often seen such consequences even in the physical sickness and sufferings of many individuals and in the curse attached to certain places. I am always told that a crime unpardoned, unexpiated, entails an infinity of evils. I have seen such chastisements extending to posterity as a natural and necessary consequence; for instance, the curse attached to ill-gotten goods, and I have felt involuntary horror in places where great crimes were once perpetrated. This is as natural, as necessary as that a benediction should bless and what is holy, sanctify. I have always had an intuitive perception of what is sacred and of what is profane, of what is holy and what unholy; the former attracts me, the latter repels, disquiets, and terrifies me, forcing me to resist it by faith and prayer. This impression is especially keen near human remains, nay more, near the smallest atoms of a body once animated by a soul. The feeling is so strong that I have always thought there exists a certain relation between the soul and body even after death, for I have felt the most opposite emotions near graves and tombs. Near some I have had a sensation of light, of superabundant benediction and salvation; by others a sentiment of poverty and indigence, and I felt that the dead implored prayers, fasts, and alms; by many others I have been struck with dread and horror. When I had to pray at night in the cemetery, I have felt that there brooded around such graves as the last named a darkness, deeper, blacker than night itself, just as a hole in black cloth makes the blackness still deeper. Over them I sometimes saw a black vapor rising which made me shudder. It also happened sometimes that when my desire to render assistance urged me to penetrate into the darkness, I felt something repulsing my proffered aid. The lively conviction of God’s most holy justice was then for me like an angel leading me out from the horrors of such a grave. Over some, I saw a column of gray vapor, brighter or darker; over others, one of light more or less brilliant; and over many others, I beheld nothing at all. These last made me very sad, for I had an interior conviction that the vapor, more or less brilliant, issuing from the grave, was the means by which the poor souls made known their needs, and that they who could give no sign were in the lowest part of purgatory, forgotten by everybody, deprived of all power of acting or communicating with the body of the Church. When I knelt in prayer over such graves, I often heard a hollow, smothered voice, as if calling to me from a deep abyss: "Help me out!" and I felt most keenly in my own soul the anguish of the helpless sufferer. I pray for these abandoned, forgotten ones with greater ardor and perseverance than for the others. I have often seen a gray vapor slowly rising over their empty, silent tombs which by the help of continued prayer grew brighter and brighter. The graves over which I saw columns of vapor more or less bright, were shown me as those of such as are not entirely forgotten, nor entirely bound, who by their own expiatory sufferings, or the help of their friends, are more or less consoled. They have still the power to give a sign of their participation in the Communion of Saints, they are increasing in light and beatitude, and what we do for them they offer to Our Lord Jesus Christ for us. They remind me of poor prisoners who can still excite the pity of their fellow-men by a cry, a petition, an outstretched hand. A cemetery, such as I have described, with its apparitions, its different degrees of light and darkness, always seemed to me like a garden, all parts of which are not equally cultivated, but some allowed to run to waste.

Has the Passion Caused Miracles?

By Jeannette Walls with Ashley Pearson

March 25, 2004. Some fans of "The Passion of the Christ" claim that the Mel Gibson movie has caused miracles — and now a documentary is in the works to prove it.

Makers of "Changed Lives: Miracles of the Passion" have been interviewing people who say their lives were turned around after they watched the movie. An online solicitation sent to would-be subjects of the film gives examples of the sort of "miracles" the film-makers are looking for: "a marriage being rescued, an addict who was set free, a Jew who now accepts Jesus as Messiah, someone who experienced physical or emotional healing, and so on."

A Web site describing the documentary suggests recording video testimony this way: "Looking right into the camera the entire time, begin speaking as if you’re telling your story to a good friend who does not know Jesus and you REALLY want him or her to see the film and be changed like you!"

"We have gone to Web sites where there are in excess of 70,000 stories about how people were touched by this film, so we have plenty to choose from," Executive Producer Jody Eldred tells The Scoop. The documentary isn’t affiliated with Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions, says Eldred, but he has been working closely with Icon. "They’ve seen the trailer. They think it’s a cool thing. We have their blessings."

To Spread The Passion of the Christ

Materials for spreading Gibson’s movie, including "Passion Outreach, Passion Downloads," etc., are available at these websites.


Passion nun set for sainthood

Paris, May 30 (Reuters): The 19th century German nun whose blood-soaked visions of Jesus’ death inspired Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of The Christ will soon be put on the path to sainthood, Catholic Church officials have said.

Anne Catherine Emmerich, a sickly mystic who lived from 1774 to 1824, has already reached near cult status among traditionalist Roman Catholics for her book that gave Gibson the grisly details the Gospels did not provide. The Vatican says Pope John Paul II will beatify Emmerich for her virtuous life, not her best-selling book, but the October 3 ceremony will further publicize her Passion accounts that some critics denounce as medieval and anti-Semitic.

"Beatification will almost certainly be interpreted as approval of them," Father John ’Malley, a church historian, wrote disapprovingly in the US Jesuit weekly America.

Bishop Reinhard Lettmann announced the beatification date last week in his Muenster diocese in western Germany where Emmerich lived. Beatification is the last step before sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

Lettmann stressed how the nun had strengthened others in their faith despite her own frailty, a theme dear to John Paul who struggles on at 84 despite Parkinson’s disease.

Although Gibson said his blockbuster was true to the Gospels, he clearly turned to Emmerich’s The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ for some striking scenes. The episode where Mary mops up her son’s blood after his sadistic scourging is pure Emmerich. No Gospel mentions a hooded devil inciting Jews to demand Christ’s crucifixion or following him as he carried his cross.

"Amazing images — she supplied me with stuff I never would have thought of," Gibson told an interviewer earlier this year.

"What you see in her text is a very visceral Christianity," said Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, art professor at Georgetown University in Washington. "It is very raw and well-suited to a modern culture with a high level of violence," she said. "It’s not something you want to read to your children before putting them to bed."

The Passionate Perspective

By Dennis Peacocke

Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ, already has become a phenomenon, discussed far and wide from multiple angles. People I know in Hollywood, on the "inside" of the filmmaking establishment, say unequivocally that it has changed the industry forever in terms of breaking outside of the system. It not only reveals a massive audience for spiritual things other than Buffy the Vampire Slayer or New Age feel-good-about-yourself trivia, it shows how Gibson's $25 million dollar personal investment busted the industry's financial hold on theatre exposure of independently-made films.

Beyond that, it absorbed more primetime media exposure on news and talk shows than any film in history. However, once the liberal media realized that their "controversy" was actually helping the film, they went virtually silent except to acknowledge begrudgingly that the film was headed towards a phenomenal $600 to $800 million gross worldwide. Poor Hollywood and poor anti-Christ media! And no anti-Semitic response to boot!

The subject of the film, however—Christ's commitment to and experience of the crucifixion—makes any and all other aspects of a mere film discussion seem meaningless and grotesquely absurd. The visualization of what He endured, coupled with a biblical understanding of why He endured it, actually is much more compatible with long periods of silence than long periods of speaking. My own reaction to the film has been more wonderment at the scope and depth of God's commitment to man than to discuss anything man has to say about films, culture, himself, or any opinions he holds about anything.

The cross of Christ has to be the defining moment of any and all things pertaining to man, his history, and his future. It looms so large in the cosmic scheme of things that everything else not only pales in significance, everything else actually must struggle to mean anything at all.

Perspective is everything, the higher or deeper one goes in measuring the meaningful things of life. By that standard of reality, the shadow cast by Christ's selfless heroism at and around Calvary swallows and absorbs all other human good that the sum total of the human race collectively can offer. Indeed, in pondering its value and meaning, God's Spirit Himself must encourage us to go on daily in this life filled with trivialities, lest we simply "shut down" out of the apparent absurdity of what our lives really can add to anything in light of His cross. Yet it is His very cross that gives energy and meaning to whatever value flows out of our feeble lives and stumbling efforts.

The film should help us all in our journey to see the reality of the endless, measureless gap between our Creator and ourselves. However, in an act of cosmic paradox authored and worthy only of our God, Christ's cross both reveals the chasm between us and Himself, and eternally closes it at the same time. Indeed, that's what it's all about.

Mel Gibson's 'Passion' sets gold record!

Sydney | April 16, 2004 3:37:55 PM IST

The soundtrack of Mel Gibson's controversial film 'The Passion of The Christ' has earned a gold record by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling 500,000 copies in February.

Nielsen SoundScan has reported that the soundtrack has been the best-selling album for six weeks on Billboard's contemporary Christian chart.

According to The Herald Sun, the movie soundtrack features vocals and chants provided by Shannon Kingsbury, the Transylvania State Philharmonic Choir and Gibson. (ANI)

Previous Issues of Reflections: --- Julian of Norwich

Former issues of Reflections are available here, including the one about Julian of Norwich and the Bermuda Triangle. http://avalon44.tripod.com

New Edition of Penitential Rosary

We printed a new, larger, easy-to-read edition of the Penitential Rosary. The price is the same as before: $1.00. If you order 10 or more, there is a discount: 0.75 each. For 20 or more, 0.50 .

Notice: The banks in Mexico no longer accept pounds sterling, nor will they receive money orders. When sending donations or orders for books, please send only US or Canadian dollars in cash (wrapped in carbon paper for safety), or ordinary checks in US dollars. If you live in Europe, please send checks or cash only in Euros. For the time being, we cannot accept Mass intentions.


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IMPORTANT NOTICE: The book "Faith is Greater than Obedience," by Rev. A. Drexel, is now available in FRENCH. For more information, please contact: Johan Distler, 2107–2165 Tupper, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3H 2N2 "La Foi est plus importante que L’Obéissance."

"Heaven's Last Call to Humanity," Vol. I and ii. $10.00 + 1.50 postage. The "United Hearts" of Jesus and Mary are calling us to enter this refuge of these last days. Send order (postage paid) to: J.K. Ogden, 82 E. Crafton Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15205-2902. Or phone: 1 (412) 921-6773.

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Traditional Catholic Address Labels for sale to use on your envelopes. Various saints, pictures of Our Lady, Jesus, and also secular pictures (such as flowers, Christmas, etc.) are available. Some labels available in "medium" size only and not small. Please send $2.00 for small color catalog of some available labels. If you are looking for something, please ask. Please make U.S. funds to: Miss Julie Arreguin, 309 E. Starr Ave., Apt. F, Nacogdoches, TX 75961. Note: Reasonable prices too! Discount for first orders if you order catalog. Free listing of saints available with no pictures!

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