Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sunday Intercessions ~ Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

At the start of November we call to mind those who will celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries,/ and other days of remembrance this month./ We ask the blessings of peace,/ good-health and encouragement / We pray to the Lord.

We pray for Pope Francis who has undertaken the work of much needed reform in our Church./ We ask for a new out-pouring of the spirit-gifts of humility,/ courage and hope./ We pray to the Lord.

Civilians suffer terribly in wars/ not just soldiers./ And so we pray for the children and the elderly caught in armed conflicts./ For those whose lives are ruined and reduced to despair./ We pray to the Lord.

Early in November there is the remembrance of Kristallnacht: The Night of Broken Glass/ - the official start of the Holocaust./ We ask for antisemitism to be driven from the heart of every Christian./ We pray to the Lord.

We entrust to God's care the families of the world/ in all their forms:/ aware of the needs for healing,/ reconciliation,/ sustenance,/ peace and stability./ We pray to the Lord.

At the altar we stand in a prayerful solidarity with Christians far away where there is persecution and suffering./ We ask for the expansion of our hearts;/ that we would not lose compassion./ We pray to the Lord.

In November we pray for the dead./ We pray for those who have died suddenly with no time to prepare,/ those who die in wars,/ by accident or neglect./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Madonna del Soccorso ~ Intolerant of Evil

For those of us who are used to seeing Mary in blue and white, with hands folded in prayer, this might be a curious picture. Here, Mary wears a crown ~ she's the Queen-in-Charge. The ugly, charred figure on the right is a demon: the spoiler, the tempter, the trouble-maker.

Looking more deeply, we see a young girl praying on the left - but that's Mary's right: the safe side. Finding herself under the mantle, the girl's prayer might very well be gratitude for the rescue. Mary's left arm is barred, her sleeve rolled up, and her over-sized hand has got a toddler safely grasped. Perhaps there are lost clues in the faded background beyond the room's window. The window might suggest the contest is an interior one: Look into your own personal inner life.

Perhaps most strange of all,  Mary is wielding a weapon: a wooden club. Her son's cross was wood. She is called Madonna del Soccorso, which we might translate: Mother of Perpetual Help. But maybe better, Mother, Intolerant of Evil.

There is a mysterious and beautiful verse in the Song of Songs 6:10.

"Who is she that breaks forth like the dawn, as beautiful as the moon, as bright as the sun, as awesome as an army dressed in battle array?"

Who is she? Some say: a prefiguring of the Church, faith in our hearts or Solomon speaking about his daughter. Others say: She is Venus, Queen Elizabeth or a goddess. Still others say she refers to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Why not?

A New Age institute sent a catalog of their seminar and course offerings. Several were presentations about ancient warrior-goddesses. One course description said, "No humble, servant Mary for us." But billions of people over more than two thousand years have seen the one dressed in battle array, as Mary ~ Defender and Protector. Mary is  always Mother in the Gospels and Mothers can be wild in defense of their vulnerable children. 

So as we ponder this Mary-of-Might, who refuses to let go, we can gather up the children of the world and from our hearts present them in prayer:

Mother we pray:
For children in the womb ~ fragile and vulnerable,
for children abandoned,
for children whose parents have failed them,
for children raised for prostitution,
for children living in households of disorder.

For children who are violated,
for children out of school,
for children exposed to adult addiction,
for children caught in divorce,
for children waiting to be rescued from sadness.

For children not touched; not held,
for children wandering,
for children hiding from bombs,
for children whose lives are filled with terror,
for children ignored.

For children of squalor,
for children working in mines, factories and fields,
for children without playmates,
for children left to die,
for children un-consoled.

For children who no longer laugh,
For children unfed,
For children without health care,
For children given no faith,
For children who are orphans.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Who Is The Greatest?

THE DISCIPLES ASKED JESUS: "Who is the greatest...." Jesus usually answers a question by raising another question - perhaps to draw out the intentions of the questioner. Is this friend or foe?  But here Jesus answers plainly. In asking the computer Who is the greatest, hundreds upon hundreds of pictures came up: super athletes of every sport, dozens of five-o'clock shadow actors and augmented actresses, television personalities, warriors real and fictional, people who have made huge sums of money inventing or promoting things, a couple of politicians. There were a couple of pictures of Jesus, but they were advertisements for the film, "The Greatest Story Ever Told." So those don't count.

But this is how Jesus answers the question, 'Who is the greatest?" In this marvelous picture I count ten (maybe eleven) moms and twelve (maybe thirteen) babies. The mothers are. serious. They look like they need some help. But only indignation is coming from the men - Peter and the other apostles. They're all twisted up in anger because they're products of the ancient world's diminished view of children. The women know better - as does Jesus.

Years ago I remember seeing a bright painting, perhaps by Fra Angelico, titled something like The Reunion of Heaven. The lawn of heaven was spring-green and studded with jewel like flowers. Angels greeted the happy souls who'd made it, while other figures embraced each other as at a home-coming after many years apart. Two things struck me as silly. The first was that only men greeted men and women greeted women. And secondly, and perhaps more importantly - all the haloed ones were either popes, bishops, priests, deacons, monks, nuns or virgin-martyrs. Maybe there was a holy king or queen among them.

As a young priest, driving back to my rectory on a Christmas night, I passed the university hospital where I was chaplain. Looking up at the futuristic, glass-cylinder buildings I noticed one room with colored flashing Christmas lights and knew at once who was in that room. So I pulled off, parked the car and made my way up to the closed door on the 15th floor. Knocking lightly I walked into room which was lit only by the window lights. The husband didn't look up but kept his forehead pressed to his left arm resting on the metal bed railing, his right hand reaching across, holding  the lifeless hand of his dear comatose wife. Who's the greatest?

In that same hospital one night I was called to the Emergency Room where a motorcycle accident victim was being treated. The room was filled to the door with doctors, nurses, technicians, assistants, emergency personnel,  interns - a kind of liturgical circle with the high priests in the innermost place with the underlings fanning out in dense circles. I was pressed to the door, quietly reading the prayers for someone dying.

After some minutes the patient was pronounced dead and the room emptied. After speaking with the man's family in a waiting room, I left the hospital, passing again the room where all the action had taken place. The body had been removed, but the room was a disaster: blood on the floor, plastic tubing scattered around, gauze pads used to staunch bleeding, metal tools and equipment, paper. And I thought, "Who is the hidden person who is going to clean up this room?" 

The gospel question comes to mind, "Who is the greatest?"

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sunday Intercessions ~ Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We pray for those who terrorize and kill in God's name./ We pray for those whose disbelief in God leads them to hateful intolerance,/ and for Christians to live authentic lives in Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

The young people of the world are beset by dangers./ We pray for them wherever their lives,/ safety,/ well-being,/ peace and health are threatened./ We pray to the Lord.

An internationally staffed space station circles the earth./ We ask for the team's safety/ and a blessing on all efforts to promote God's Kingdom of peace./ We pray to the Lord.

In a world of terrible greed/ we ask for a new global heart,/ open to the needs and life-desires of all,/ not some./ We pray to the Lord.

At Mass/ water is mixed with wine./ We pray for those who suffer terrible thirst for lack of potable water,/ and for God to make us careful stewards of the many gifts the earth gives./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask to be healed of the passions which afflict us spiritually: violence,/ laziness,/ resentment,/ lust,/ indifference,/ blaming,/ superficiality./ We pray to the Lord.

And we pray for the sick and those who  care for them./ We intercede for those who have died/ to behold the face of Jesus our Savior-brother and friend./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In An Age Of Sex Trafficking - A Rosary Decade and the Raising of the Daughter of Jairus

Meditating is simply fixing one's mind. In offering us the Luminous Mysteries, Pope John Paul II suggested that we are not limited to the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries in our prayer and reflection. The little meditations below reflect upon the Raising of the Daughter of Lazarus in an age of Sex-Trafficking. The Gospel account is found in Mark 5:21-43; Matthew 9:18-26 and Luke 8: 40-56.

Our Father

Grieved parents send for Jesus, hoping he will come to their home and heal their sick daughter. Loving parents throughout the world grieve for the loss of their children to sex-trafficking. Sadly, other parents raise up their children, especially their infant girls, to hand them over to the sex industry as sources of family income. Heaven weeps!

Hail Mary!

The girl's father is named Jairus, which translates He will be awakened. The world needs men to be awakened to the threats raised up against children - to become the guardians and protectors of children in every place.

Hail Mary!

When Jesus arrived at Jairus' home he took the girl's parents and Peter, James and John (three of the twelve apostles) into the child's room. Only some people know about the new global slavery of sex- trafficking, but enough to tell the truth of what is happening. Pray that we would start to talk about what we know.

Hail Mary!

Along the way, servants arrive to tell Jesus "Don't bother, the girl has died, there's nothing to do." There are cynics everywhere whose response to the problems of the day are, "Too bad, that's just the way it is." A cynic is someone for whom everything pushes down. It is a spiritual affliction.

Hail Mary!

In the painting, the nameless girl is already partly shrouded and prepared for burial. We hear of children being primed for lives of the deepest darkness which will bury them in utter degradation, lonely sadness, ruin and even death.

Hail Mary!

The gospel tells us that Jesus grasped the young girl by the hand. Grasping, suggests that Jesus was essentially yanking her back - reclaiming her from death to life. More than 100,000 American children need to be grasped - yanked back - from the deep shadows of sex-trafficking.

Hail Mary!

Is the Face of Jesus the white-light-source which floods the girl and the space surrounding her? White is the color of fullness - Jesus grabs her hand to lift her up into the fullness of life. This is where children belong.

Hail Mary!

Do we notice that the artist has placed a wreath of flowers at the foot of the bed? Has someone left funeral flowers already? Perhaps. Or they might symbolize the innocent and delicate girlhood which Jesus restores.

Hail Mary!

The gospel tells us "the little  girl immediately got up and walked around." This is the global task: to get young girls and boys trapped in sex slavery back on their feet and walking again in  their own dignity.

Hail Mary!

Congresswoman Linda Smith went to Mumbai, India where she witnessed the filthy disorder of the prostitution district. When she came across a baby girl, the age of her granddaughter, she heard an inner voice say, 'Touch her." After the gospel-girl is raised up, Jesus gives the instruction, "Give her something to eat." He skips rituals and drama. Instead, he lifts her up and sees to it she's fed. Love is as practical as a touch - a meal.

Hail Mary

Glory be to the Father...

To become informed about the new global slavery of sex-trafficking, which is not just an Asian or South American problem but of the United States as well, see Shared Hope International online.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

There's More!

During the Seven decades of Soviet Rule the Russian Orthodox Church endured a persecution like that of believers in the first centuries of Christianity's existence. One of Josef Stalin's first directives was to silence the voice of the Church by pulling down and melting all of Russia's church bells. If churches weren't blown-up they were put to secular purposes - even installing toilets over the place where the altar had been.

In one night all of Ukraine's bishops were arrested, killed or exiled. Icons beyond counting were burned, priests and their families disappeared, monastic communities were dispersed. 

Yet after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 warehouses were opened containing thousands of neglected icons. The 2005 cleaning and restoration of one icon of the Mother of God proved to be of particular significance. The story of the discovery can be found online: Russia Peels the Veils from Antiquity and Gazes, Awed.

Above is the icon with its riza (decorative metal case) removed. Below is the icon fully restored. The Russian restorer likens the knowing smile of the Mother of God to that of the Mona Lisa with this one important difference: We don't know why the Mona Lisa smiles, but with her Son cradled in her left arm, we know why Mary does.

But what's to be learned from this discovery? The Virgin's smile is a knowing smile: God knows us as his children, even when we're soiled or fallen, sleepy, restless or even covered in recklessness and error.

But the wonder of this icon coming to us after seventy hidden years is in the getting to the underneath. We can live surfacey lives in this country: the talk shows and interviews, the commercials and sitcoms, roaming up and down aisles of things to buy. The icon with the charred and opaque surface seems to say, "There's more; get at the more."

Or sometimes disappointments overwhelm us and life can seem to be ruined and without purpose. Or we feel burned out, like the blackened board.  But the icon says, "Go deeper, peel away the surfaces. There's more." So many people are afflicted with bad cases of "What's the use?" But the icon, once cleaned and patched reveals yet again, "You can heal - you can dream again, there's more."  

There's radiance in every human person - it can be shelved, masked, forgotten, or stolen away,  but it's there waiting to be discovered and shared. This marvelous icon of bright joy - it's all of us! Ponder the icon in its transformation. But ultimately the peeling away and the discovery of the more is about each of us even more than it is about the icon. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When she saw the pictures and heard the story about the icon, my nine year old friend, Katie, wrote this dear poem, Lost and Forgotten. We can realize the poem as about ourselves as well and our churches, our nation, our communities, our families.

"Lost and Forgotten"

Veiled in darkness,
Lost and forgotten,
Falling apart, piece by piece.
A Mother and Son 
to be discovered
Restored back to
Heavenly glory.
Golden light, jewels, wondrous colors,
All together in one
Little Family of love.
Lost and Forgotten,
A Mother and Son
Now discovered
And crowned with
Eternal Glory.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sunday Intercessions ~ Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Christians suffer terribly in parts of Syria, Pakistan, India, China, North Korea, Uzbekistan and other countries./ We pray in solidarity with these believers, / asking for their consolation and the relief of their pain./ We pray to the Lord

In Respect Life Month we pray for prisoners all around the world./ We ask for their inner healing and the conversion of their hearts to the truth of God's love./ We pray to the Lord.

As we stand at the altar this Sunday,/ we pray for the parishes of our diocese and for parishes everywhere,/ asking for an increase of faith, hope and love among us./ We pray to the Lord.

Always we bring to Mass the concerns of the sick:/ praying for those who are unwell in body,/ mind or spirit./ For the healing of families who are not relating well/ and for those enslaved in addictions./ We pray to the Lord.

We stand in a prayerful solidarity with the children who suffer,/ the poor,/ the elderly,/ the baby in the womb,/ and refugees who have fled conflict and war./ We ask for the softening of human hearts./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the people who have helped or served us in any way this week,/ asking never to take anything for granted,/ but to have awake and grateful hearts./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally,/ we pray for those who have died,/ asking that they would behold the Lord Jesus in his Easter brightness./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Our Lady of Good Advice

THE DEVOTION OF OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL originated at Genazzano in Italy in 1467. A fresco of Our Lady, originally painted at Scutari in Albania, was miraculously transferred to the Augustinian church then in the course of construction. This church, in which is enshrined the miraculous picture, became a place of popular pilgrimage. 

The picture which is painted on plaster thinner than a business card or eggshell seems to be suspended in air - rather than in any way attached to the wall. More attention seems to be given to the image's miraculous origins than to the wondrous title, Our Lady of Good Counsel. I've thought for our needy times the icon's title might be better phrased, Our Lady of Good Advice.

We're surrounded by advice. There's no getting away from the advice advertisers offer round the clock. Friends, family and even people we don't know, offer loads of free advice. Some of the advice we receive is foolish, un-wanted, costly, immoral or illegal. But here it's an icon which proposes to offer us advice in dark days. The priest is not the one to tell us what the advice is that's offered in the image. We each discern that in the Word, our prayer and sustained gazing. But do we notice there is a kind of rainbow behind the Mother and Child? And rainbows are always symbolic of new beginnings.

Secondly as we ponder the image, we might consider this advice found in a 15th century icon painter's instruction book:

Expel from your heart all earthly thoughts, malice, wrath, hatred and desires of the flesh. Direct your eyes to tears and your whole being to heaven.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mother of God Ozeryanskaya

THE OZERYANSKYA ICON OF THE MOTHER OF GOD dates to the end of  the 17th century. A farmer was mowing a summer field with a scythe when he heard a human groan and found an icon of the Mother of God split in two on the ground. He took the halves to his home, lit a candle and prayed before the pieces which he had placed among his other icons. The next day, the icon having disappeared from his home, he returned to the field and found the icon spliced together with only a thin scar indicating where the cut had occurred. 

Soon the icon became notable as wonder-working and a chapel within a monastic complex was built to which people in need began to pilgrim. In 1930 the icon was destroyed by the Soviets and the monks dispersed who had become its custodians.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the monastic property has been returned to the Church and the Monastery of the Holy Cross is being revived. A new icon of the Mother of God Ozeryanskaya has been written (painted) and pilgrims are returning.  The Mother of Jesus is sought out as an intercessor of those with serious diseases, especially "where medicine is powerless." In the west we might say, hopeless cases. Many pray before the icon in hope of healing where there are serious injuries, bone breaks and fractures. 

In this icon the Mother of God is decorated very beautifully. Both she and her Son wear crowns - the gift of love from us. Halos indicate the illumination of their thoughts, knowledge and insights. Jesus sits as teaching-Lord, supported on the left arm of his Mother. In humility, with her right hand, she indicates Jesus. He blesses us and holds the little gospel book he hopes we will open.

We're told the Ozeryanskaya's specialty is broken bones. But as we come before the icon with physical complaints, perhaps all the more we should fly to her asking for the healing of broken hearts, broken trust, the healing of broken or fractured relationships - marriages, friendships and family unity. We might go to her where countries, parishes and local communities need healing, where we feel divided, hypocritical or at odds within ourselves - wherever we need help putting life back together. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sunday Intercessions ~ Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It is increasingly difficult to live a Christian life in much of the world./ We ask God to bless Christians with the gifts of spiritual stamina and fidelity./ We pray to the Lord.

As the days and nights grow colder/ We ask God to warm our hearts where perhaps we have grown cold in anger,/ fatigue or indifference./ We pray to the Lord.

The new world-slavery is sex trafficking,/ some form of which can be found in nearly every city./ We pray in solidarity with children and young people everywhere who are enslaved,/ exploited and abused in this industry./ We pray to the Lord.

The trees are dropping their leaves./ We pray to drop blaming,/ resentment and hurtful negativity./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for our families:/ asking for their safety,/ good health and healing where there is crisis./ We pray to the Lord.

We again pray boldly for a peaceful world,/ asking to understand our own role in creating that world through reconciliation and the healing of relationships./ We pray to the Lord.

We hold in our prayer those who struggle with sickness and chronic pain,/ depression and addiction./ We ask blessings for care-givers and helpers./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray that those who have died would rest in God's mercy,/ remembering loved ones and those who die prematurely/ with no time to prepare./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"I no longer believe in words..."

It's been reported that the bishop of the cathedral where Saint Francis stripped off his stylish clothing, renouncing inheritance and status, asked the pope to visit that cathedral while at Assisi and at least "Lead the people in the Our Father." The pope responded, "Lead the Our Father?! I want to teach the Church how to repeat the gesture and to undress itself." Then at Assisi the pope expressed a desire for the Church to strip itself of all worldliness - vanity, arrogance and pride. He called these a cancer in the world and an enemy of the Church.

I was hoping for a powerful papal gesture to that effect. The pope's team of eight cardinals accompanied him on the day-pilgrimage, and so I thought that might be a good time and place to begin this new gospel approach to life in the Church: the cardinals appearing with the pope - not naked - but surely without all the costume.

It's time for the Church to undress and be done with all the titles: Your Holiness, Your Eminence, Your Excellency, Monsignor, Your Grace, Your Lordship, Reverend, Very Reverend, Most Reverend. The highest title in the Church should be brother and sister. 

It's time to undress and put away the colored hats, caps and crowns, the jewelry, the piping, the colored sashes, capes and buttons. And the lace - Oh God, please make us brave and give up all the lace. 

In 1972, many of us watched the Zeffirelli film about the life of Saint Francis titled: Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Kind of sentimental, still there was the scene where in a snowy winter we see a barefoot Francis laying stone to repair the half ruined church of San Damiano. One of Francis' rakish friends, covered in jewelry and furs makes his way through the snow to see what's going on, having been told that Francis has "gone off". When the friend tells Francis that he'd like to join the saint's efforts, Francis says, "I no longer believe in words, only actions." Even if the historical Francis never said it - he could have.

Indeed, the Church needs to undress: stripping off the royal and antique world of fashionable aristocracy and court that keeps the Church striated and distracted. When depicting the crucified Jesus we almost always give him a little cloth to safeguard his modesty. The artist who created the crucifix here was more realistic. And Francis, in stripping off his high style outfit and the attendant privileges and insurances, modeled himself on this naked Savior.

It is indeed a savage world, the pope says. And the Church needs to be freed up in every way to stand more closely and believably in solidarity with that world of pain.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mother of God of the Two Veils

I'll name this Italianized, Byzantine Image: Mother of God of the Two Veils. Mary wears a white veil with a second of lapis-blue. 

Lapis is a stone mined for centuries in Afghanistan. In the Middle Ages it was exported to Europe, ground into powder and used as a paint pigment. Valued more than gold, it was used into the Renaissance as the color reserved for painting the clothing of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It has numerous symbolic meanings inside and outside of religion.

Mary of the two veils,
white bridal Mary,
in your ascent,
God delights in wedding himself
to our planet,
daily dressed in 
 scarlet sins
of exploitation and death.

Mary of the lapis veil,
heaven's bowl
and the divine mothering
rains a new
spiritual process,
the noble truth
of our conception in
the heart of God.

Mary covered in lapis,
the dome of your mind
filled with star-thoughts,
our mental malignancy
if we would ponder you.

Draw the evil out of
stubborn thinking,
Lapis Lady,
and by your bright
our frightening
ignorance to

Lady of the two veils,
in your bridal fullness,
Oh to realize our true nature,
beyond mud-men,
but to share the 
we've yet to perceive.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sunday Intercessions ~ Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The pope has likened the Church to a field hospital in the world which is a battlefield./ We ask God to show Christians the way to the healing of the world./ We pray to the Lord.

While the world is changing rapidly,/ we ask God to teach us how to remain steadfast in faith,/ hope and love./ We pray to the Lord.

In many parts of the world/ pregnancies are terminated when it is discovered that the child is female./ We ask God to forgive this terrible crime against creation/ and to show us how to welcome and provide for every child courageously./ We pray to the Lord.

October is the month of Mary's Rosary./  We ask to find our way in prayer/ and that we would grow in Mary's virtues of mothering-service and humility./ We pray to the Lord.

This past Friday/ the pope went to Assisi to celebrate the feast of St. Francis./ We pray to live the gospel mandate echoed in the life of Francis/ to be reconcilers and peacemakers./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray as well for the renewal of our planet where there is war,/exploitation,/terror and disaster./ We remember the sick and those who are most vulnerable./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally/ we pray for those who have died,/ asking for the forgiveness of their sins/and the healing and illuminating of their souls in Jesus-Risen./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

As the Feast of Francis Approaches

A FLEDGLING IS A BIRD that is in its first season of flying. This year's fledglings are approaching their first winter. Birds like the chickadee (shown here) don't fly south, but they tough out the winter up north.

If you stand patiently and quietly where chickadees gather, with an open palm of sunflower seeds, they'll land on your finger, very small and vulnerable, take a seed and then fly off. Seven out of ten chickadee fledglings die each winter. Jesus tells us that when a little bird dies and falls to the ground, God knows. And if God knows what happens to a tiny bird the size of a chickadee, how much more does God know about me. (Matthew 10:29-31)

My life matters! Many people don't believe that about themselves, and so they go through life sad, hateful, degraded, inwardly lonely, resigned to a sense of failure. But it doesn't have to be that way. 

Some people don't live very deep lives. We can stay on the surface of things, self-absorbed in trying to remain young, notable, sexy and comfortable. But Saint Francis wants nothing more for us than that we would know and love Jesus in the Gospels. And central to that Gospel is the teaching that God's got his eye on the little bird. This has got to be the most blessed assurance in all of religion!