Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Christmas Pictures

Here are some pictures from the 10 AM Mass on Christmas Day 2004. I'd love to have pictures for you from Christmas Eve, but unfortunately I didn't have the camera with me (not that I could have taken pictures while serving as crucifer anyway).

At the conclusion of the 10 AM service, Father Smith led stragglers in a round of Happy Birthday to You in honor of Woody, who turned 90 years old on Christmas Day. Congratulations, Woody!

Unfortunately, my digital camera is old enough that it's not really up to the challenge of taking really good photos of the interior of St. Michael's. It's just too big and too dark to show up well. However, I'm sure I saw someone else's flash go off over Christmas. If anyone has any better pictures of any of the Christmas services, I'll be delighted to post them. Please email me at mavarin @ -- Karen

Thursday, December 09, 2004

A Message from St. Nicholas

Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, has had plenty of magic attributed to him, but earlier in his career, such deeds were called "miracles." In the song below, Nicholas tells a small part of the story of his life.

snagged from stnicholascenter.orgThe Bishop of Myra has something to say
About celebrations of each Christmas Day:
"It's not about me,
But rather for He
Who preserves all our souls, and o'er Heaven holds sway.

"You know me as Santa, and sometimes St. Nick,
Father Christmas, Kris legends grow thick.
But in my mortal life,
I ne'er had a wife,
Nor reindeer--and those are not names I would pick.

"In Patara, in Asia in the third century,
I was orphaned while young, and yet blessed, as you'll see.
They left me with wealth,
And my very good health,
And the chance to indulge generosity.

"It was my great joy to look after the poor,
For Earth's treasures mean little; Heaven's treasures I store.
I gave wealth away,
And to this very day,
I've a penchant for gifts children still thank me for.

"When in Myra, Lycia, they could not decidesame source
On a bishop, replacing the one who had died,
A dream said, 'Watch for
Morning's first through that door,
That worshiper will next in Myra abide.'

"As you may have guessed, I rose early that morn,
Ignorant of the station for which I was born.
'What's your name, lad?' they cried.
'Nicholas,' I replied.
Soon a bishop's tall miter my head would adorn.

"I've averted a famine, and calmed storms at sea,
Resurrections of children they credit to me,
I'm patron to poor,
Children, poets and more,
Professions and churches and lands like Sicily.

"At Nicea a council was held, and I went,
From all the known world, other clergy were sent.
I slapped one who denied
God in Three doth abide.
The creed called "Nicene" our group soon would invent.

"The things I did then, in my time on the Earth,
All came about because of our dear Lord's birth.
Once a baby, he grew,
And conquered death, too,
Reconciled us to God, and gave all our souls worth."

KFB, 12/9/04

My semi-original melody was similar to the Johann M. Haydn melody for the hymn How Firm a Foundation. Mine wasn't as good, so let's adopt the Haydn.
MIDI borrowed from

Monday, December 06, 2004

Fiction for the Feast of St. Nicholas

In honor of the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th (which is today as I write this), here is a short story I wrote about three years ago. I hope you like it. - Karen

by Karen Funk Blocher

snagged from:
The archbishop of Myra returned to his prayers with satisfaction, wonder, and guilt. Satisfaction, because the girl had awakened at the sound of the bag of gold hitting the dirt floor, and received it joyfully. The dowry meant that she would marry, and have a good life instead of one of degradation. Wonder, because only the Almighty knew the source of the gold. Guilt, because he had accidentally seen the girl unclothed. What if that was not what the Lord had wanted him to do?

Nicholas prayed for an hour or more, and went back to bed. Dawn would come soon, and with it morning vespers. In his dreams he was no longer a clergyman, but a toymaker. He had a wife, but no children except the world's children. He wore strange red and white garments to keep out the cold, for he lived in a place of snow and ice. He drove a chariot without wheels, pulled by strange deer never seen in Asia, and gave toys, not gold, to children who called him by dozens of names.

When he awoke, he wondered: was this a prophetic dream, a nightmare, or both? He got up, pulled on his cassock and slippers, and stepped outside for the short walk to the church. The dawn air was still and warm, and the stars were fading into the growing daylight. Nicholas heard a jingling bell that was not a church bell. A single snowflake fell from heaven into the bishop's hand.

St. Nicholas: Discovering the Truth About Santa Claus

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Communicating With the Dead

Adapted from my personal blog

As I stood in the sacristy at St. Michael's Sunday morning, October 31st, chatting about blogs, something happened that really delighted me. Our organist and choir director, Jane Haman, started playing her chosen prelude for the October 31st (22nd Sunday After Pentecost) 10 AM Mass: Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor! You know this piece, whether or not you recognize the name. It's the quintessential spooky organ music, and probably my favorite classical piece of all time. I stood there grinning, listening. Nor was I the only one delighted by Jane's choice. Everyone was listening, and enjoying. After Mass, Jane said, "I've never played it before in my five and a half years here. It was about time." This was the same piece I asked another church organist to play at my wedding, back in 1979. He wouldn't do it (it's kind of long, and not at all appropriate), but he did play it for me in private in an empty church.

In his Halloween sermon, Father Douglas talked about communicating with the dead. (I'll be posting his sermon in the next day or so on the sermons page.) He told a story of a family Back East who wanted to bring a medium in at the local churchyard, to extract financial advice from some ancestor. The then-youthful Fr. Douglas refused the request. However, he pointed out in the sermon that in going to churches decades old, partaking in liturgies centuries old, reading texts by saints and patriarchs who died millenia ago, we are communicating with the dead. We are paying attention to words and traditions our long-dead forbears considered important, and trying to learn from them.

The same, I suppose, can be said of many activities, even in the information age. Every time we carve a jack-o-lantern or put on a Halloween costume, every time we read Shakespeare, listen to Bach, learn about Newton and Einstein, or research a family tree, we are communicating with the dead. No mediums (although there may be media), no mumbo jumbo, no time machines required. We partake of the past through what the people of the past left behind.

my mom's father - probably. He died in 1950. Somewhere in my house is a white folder from Adair Funeral Home. I looked all week for it and didn't find it, just as I looked all week in vain for a box of missing Halloween stuff. In that folder is a funeral preplanning questionnaire, filled out by me and my mom at Villa Campana in 2002, perhaps four months before her death. If I could find that, I would probably know more about my mom than I do now.

You would think that I'd know pretty much everything about a woman I lived with for eighteen years, visited many times after that, took to lunch almost every Sunday for at least six years, and visited nearly every night as her health failed toward the end. Nope. There are many things I never know or have forgotten, many questions I could have asked and didn't. I asked about some things, but overall I didn't want to seem to be too obviously pumping her for information in preparation for her death.

But I found an envelopeFlora M Johnson and Flora DuFour Johnson Ballantine--I think! full of genealogy my brother sent her years ago, and dug out three reference books in which she's listed, including an old edition of Who's Who of American Women. I've entered the info I found onto her tribute page and the family Find A Grave pages, except for things I know to be inaccurate. I've found and posted old pictures, even though I'm not sure who some of the people are in my mom's collection of prized wallet photos, plus one sepia portrait that's probably of my grandfather. I've looked through some of the files of plays Mom wrote in Florida, stuff I've never read or seen performed.

I'll continue to go through papers, but I'm sure there will still be gaps. Where did Mom work in San Bernardino, and where in Brevard County, before her stint at Barry University? My grandmother. Can someone identify this uniform for me?Exactly how many plays did she write or co-write, and in what years? Where in New York City did my mom teach English in the 1940s? Was my grandmother a WAC or a WAVE, in WW II or Korea or neither? My mother's been dead two years, but there's still a lot I want her and other dead family members to communicate to me, the ordinary, historical way, through physical evidence.

I'm at an earlier stage of the same situation with my dad. He's 81, still active and generally healthy, but I know he won't last forever. He doesn't like to reminisce. He's much more interested in talking about the present and the future. He was uninterested when I mentioned finding only one online reference (other than mine) to his many years as Assistant Dean and then Dean of University College at Syracuse University. He'd be even less pleased if I pumped him for information about his childhood, his experience in Stalag 1, how his plane got shot down, or even what years he was at Lehigh University or what he did for Voice of America there. So I have to piece it together from my memories of what Mom said, and what my brother knows. Tricky. However, my brother tells me he's got family tree stuff for dad already posted on his web site, some of it researched by my cousin, Ed Oliveri. To get to the info, though, I'd have to subscribe to In other words, I'd have to pay. Not today, thanks.

Earlier in this posting I mentioned Find A Grave ( This web site has supposedly millions of grave listings, contributed by a hundred thousand registered users. Some people have traveled around with a camper and a camera, cataloging entire cemeteries. The idea is to build a database of all the nation's graves, plus listings for people whose ashes her interred, scattered, or stored. The result is a good, free resource for people researching family trees, biographies or history, and a nice way to commomorate someone's life. Naturally, I thought first of cataloging part of East Lawn Palms, where my mom's grave is. It also occured to me that it would be nice to upload listings for the St. Michael's memorial garden. Father Smith has given me permission to do this, but I also want your input. If you have a loved one interred at St. Michael's, I'd like to hear from you. Is it all right for me to post the information? Is there something in particular you want included in the listing, whether it's a biographical detail or a favorite photo? Please email me at mavarin @, and let me know your wishes on the subject.

And please, everyone - this blog is not meant to be Karen talking to an empty virtual room. Please contribute your poetry, prayers, essays, photos, and parables to this page. Thanks!


Sunday, October 24, 2004


The Altar of Repose during the English Faire

(Note: I wrote this on Good Friday, 2004, for my personal AOL Journal. Rather than move it awkwardly to the past tense, I'm leaving it pretty much as I wrote it then. - KFB)

At midnight on April 9th, 2004, my friend Kevin and I spent half an hour reading and praying at the altar of Repose in the back of St. Michael's & All Angels Church. The Eucharist lies hidden away there for nearly 24 hours each year, from the end of Maundy Thursday mass until the beginning of the Good Friday service. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, with its institution of Holy Communion, otherwise known as Holy Eucharist, the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. Maundy Thursday also commemorates Gethsemane, with its sleepy apostles, the sweating of blood, and the arrest of Jesus. Good Friday commemorates his death and burial.

Some of the Eucharist consecrated on Thursday is set aside for Friday, which has no Eucharistic Prayer of its own. While it's there at the Altar of Repose, parishioners and clergy keep vigil in half hour shifts, usually two at a time, all night and all day. In effect, we are waiting up with Jesus on the anniversary of the Passion, staying awake as Peter, James and John did not.

At St. Michael's, all this takes place in an area between the last pew, the ushers' table and the church's heavy wooden doors. The Altar itself is in an alcove on the right. Behind it is a painting of Jesus, attended by angels as he suffers. In front of it are two large candles, which I long to straighten--they both list to the right. To the left is a bank of votive candles, which may be burned for 25 cents each. Accommodations for the faithful include a rickety kneeler with attached rail, a couple of folding chairs, and the usual books: the Book of Common Prayer, the Eucharistic Lectionary and the Hymnal, not that we would sing through this. Some years there are laminated printouts of suggested prayers. Not this year. We're on our own.

This year at the Altar of Repose I did pretty much what I always do on this occasion. Part of it I spent in prayer, of course. This consisted mostly of a rather self-absorbed monologue in which I attempted to make a connection, intellectually and emotionally, with Jesus: who he is, why he did what he did, and what he wants now. The rest of the time I read a couple of psalms, two chapters of Acts and two of John, and the Maundy Thursday readings I'd missed in favor of a four hour class about the equity method and the purchase method of accounting for business combinations.

At the end, just before Father Smith and his daughter Annie arrived for the next half hour slot, I found myself wondering: did I get anything out of this? Am I supposed to get anything out of this? Or am I supposed to be giving something to it? If the latter, did I manage to do so?

I don't know, but I tried.

Karen Funk Blocher

Good Friday, 2004

What God Looks Like

Fifteen, and smallish for his age, with hands
As fair and delicate as are a girl's,
A look that says he doesn't understand,
Nor wants to, where the world is being hurled.
A golden ascot underneath a mane
Of golden silk (if such can be endured),
A giggle as he makes a gravy stain
On any piece of clothing so adored.
A void between his lips and in his eyes,
That sucks men down in bottommost seduction.
To look at him is called a Paradise,
To lose yourself in him severe reduction.
His name is Idic, and a thousand years
Men come to him, until he disappears.

by Kevin Harrington

Just a Little Poem to Get Things Started

the path
Travel virtually with me
Through time and space and memory
And worlds of our design.
We'll ponder reason, ethics, love,
What's below and what's above,
And what may be divine.


Welcome to the St. Michael's Arts Page

This blog is for creative endeavors by the parishioners of St. Michael & All Angels Episocopal Church in Tucson, Arizona. We're looking for poetry, essays, meditations, prayers, (very) short stories, photos and art, preferably with a religious or spiritual theme. To see your work here, email it to Karen at Regular contributors will be given access to post directly on this page. Remember, this is for the many creative people at St. Michael's, including you! So do contribute something, won't you?

Ground rules:

1. No profanity or coarse language.
2. This is a church-run blog. Your work should be compatible with this.
3. No personal attacks.
4. The pastor and webmaster reserve the right to remove inappropriate material.

Beyond that, feel free to be yourself. I look forward to seeing what we all come up with.