Mary of the Miraculous Medal, Shrine located at Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago.                       Taken in 2015 by your hostess.



This story is an event that happened before I converted. It is a simple introduction to the strange things that happen in real life.

I put this story to be somewhere around 2001-2002. I know for a fact that it happened on April 1. Because it happened at Hash Bash in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Yes, I was still a pagan back then.
Before you ask, no, I did not partake that day, nor at any time anywhere near. I may have had weed 3 times in my life.

At any rate it begins with an invitation.

Just before I left for work, an old friend called me and said he wanted to meet me. He was a former boyfriend, so it was somewhat unexpected, as things had ended ‘not well’.

We weren’t screaming at each other, but it was bad enough I didn’t expect to hear from  him for a while. Still, it had been a year, and I had been friends with him for years before that, so I had hopes it would work out Okay.

But he wanted to meet at Hash Bash.


             Creative Commons License: Wikimedia Commons.                                                                          Original Author:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Daisuke0kun

WHY? He said he wouldn’t get much time off because of his work,  and this was the only time he was free. So I gave him a reluctant Yes.

We had had fun just wandering around the madness one year when we were dating– again not actually taking weed.  Maybe we were attending ironically. My fevered plans  hoped to take him somewhere else were we could talk and ‘hash out’ where our friendship was, or if it was. A sober hashing, I hoped. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to say, and not wondering why it had to be this way.

The way the timing worked out, I didn’t have time to get dressed after work, and my job was in security. I was a security guard for a car company at the time, which required a rather constabulary looking uniform.  This had a tendency to upset the locals, especially the inhaling types. I was not amused, but figured I could slip on a tee-shirt and thus look  (mostly) harmless. Besides, the year I’d gone (several years before), it had been shockingly laid back.

But …It was incredibly crowded this year, with people wandering casually in the streets. Most of my usual places to park were completely taken up, so I put down some actual coin in one of the paid parking lots. I chose the old 20’s parking place that was built like the Alamo of car storage. It was white, swanky art deco, built of solid concrete. It was artistic like modern architecture isn’t, and had shwoopy on and off ramps. It was also impossible to get in save via your car, as the doors only opened from the outside. You had to use a building to get back to your car. This building had guards 24-7.

Turned out, I chose wisely.

As I walked through the crowds of people “hanging out” and stoned, I went past the large field where things tended to resemble a dead head convocation.  Instead, there were there was an angry mob of people carrying bottles beset by police officers. Nobody told me about the riots– and I’d listened to news radio from A2 all the way there.  I snuck past the field by blending with the spectators and more quiescent attendees. I managed to avoid the sweep.

I wasn’t sure my friend had heard about the riots, and he didn’t pick up his phone.  He may not have been carrying it, I reasoned, so I went to the meetup point anyway. I planned on telling him we should get out quickly and maybe meet another time.

Instead there was another group of angry people that looked about ready to start something. They were shouting. While this wasn’t much different than your average UofM football riot, I was still alarmed. I wove in and out of the place trying to find my friend.

Shocker, he wasn’t there. Instead  I found a group of angry people who pointed at me, screaming about pigs. Then they approached me, pushing other people out of the way to get at me. I turned and ran. This reminded me that I was still in my work uniform.

Instead of trying to outrun them, I dashed into an alley way, then into a head shop four doors down. Then I bought the most obnoxious looking tee they had, and swapped shirts. Oh and one of those massive knit caps that at least looked friendly. I took the back way out and paid the girl extra, thus emerging out of a different street.

This worked, mostly.

Then I looked back and realized that the sidewalk I had come to my meeting place was blocked off by the police. The whole road including the sidewalk was blocked by yellow barricades and flashing police cars.  I had to go around the block the long way on the other side and cut back to the parking structure, if it wasn’t completely barricaded off. I didn’t feel like taking the bus home– especially since I had stuff in the car that needed to go home with me.

So I cut around two blocks instead of one, vaguely aware that someone was following me. I tried the first block only to find about a dozen vandals with lead pipes and baseball bats destroying the landscaping and grounds of a local church that was right down town.

Fortunately for me, the church was towards the end of the block so I they couldn’t see me. I snuck past and went to the next block to cut over. Nobody followed– at least not yet. It looked safely empty and wide enough to cut through.

But after I committed to being down this cut through,  I noticed that this was not a street, but an alley way.

Then I noticed that six of those guys abusing church property thought I was more interesting than trashing something that couldn’t fight back. The third thing I noticed was that this alley was a dead end. My heart was pounding, and I had sweat through that teeshirt, even though it was 28 degrees out. They were catching up with me and made a disturbing roaring sound. It was fairly clear that they were not rational.

I aimed for the high hedge at the end of the alley way. It might at least afford enough protection that they would have a hard time getting to me.  I ran as fast as I could over the pot hole laden dirt road, tightly packed but still hosting icy patches. They were still catching up.

The hedge concealed a high iron fence made of pipes as thick as my arm. There were eight bars, including one fairly close to the ground.  But I dug around into the hedge anyway, hoping there was some give or purchase. As I got nearer the end, I could hear them shouting at me, something about a tasty morsel and having the munchies. I don’t think they were talking about brownies.  When I got to almost the end, I found a gap in the fence. I struggled through the dense foliage and found myself passing through, though the branches tore at my clothing and face. I didn’t care. It was better than being a victim in the alley behind me.

Then there was some give and I fell forward onto a beautifully manicured lawn. There was a lovely peaceful garden all around me.  I struggled to my feet and walked to the nearest patch of concrete. I was possessed by hyper vigilance. I could only see threats, not beauty.

What if they followed me in?

But I heard them digging around in the bushes, yelling and swearing. They even used their baseball bats on the fence but they did not find my little cut through. They swore and swore and eventually wandered off. I couldn’t relax until they left.

Then I could finally breathe and admire  my surroundings. There was the rich green grass, and the tall hedge and containers of flowers looking too full for the season. Granted the greens were mostly evergreens, but even the lawn was a deep rich green of mid summer instead of the pale fitful green from early April (in Michigan). It was much warmer inside this hedged in area than it was outside. But there was a lot of concrete tile walk way and big container pots with wonderful blooming plants. Couldn’t the concrete absorb the sun and conserve heat?  I figured that had to be the explanation.

I walked around to calm my pounding heart. In the very center of this refuge was a taller than life statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She stood on a platform, looking both brave and serene. She was sculpted of smooth creamy marble, her arms outstretched with blessings. There was a marble bench directly in front of her, so I went to at least give thanks for her protection in this alarming time. I felt nothing but peace.

I was an honorable pagan, I gave thanks to whom it was owed.

She said, You’ll be back.

I said, I doubt it.


Then I realized I had a new problem. How would I get out? Sure I was safe, and that was important… but I had to get to my car, eventually. I didn’t have any friends who lived down town at that time. The door into the church was locked, and there was no other exit. I went back to my corner and could not find where I had gone though to get in.

This was both intriguing and disturbing.

Then I tried the door again. Still locked.  So I decided to round the building and see if there was a gate by the front of the property next to the building… sometimes those have locks you can open from inside but not from outside. Instead, I found another bench, and a priest enjoying a cigarette in the shadow of the building. He looked disturbed that I had found him.

“Hi.” I said.

He gave me an unreadable expression, both perturbed, amused and startled.

After a pause he greeted me. “Hello, can I help you?”

“Yes. I appreciate your hospitality, but now I should go home. Do you know how I can get out?”

“Yes, I do.” He said with growing amusement, “But do you know how you got in?”

This question annoyed me greatly. I was there, wasn’t I?

“Um, yes, I got through the fence over there. In the corner. There’s a gap.”
He looked at me with something like wonder, but still highly amused.

“Really? There’s a gap?  Can you show it to me, please?”


So I led him to where the hedge corner that had saved my life.

We both looked at the fence. It was tall. It was sturdy. It was completely without a gap. Each unit, including the corner was WELDED together so there was no possible gap.

“I had this fence built because of the vandals had a tendency to trash this quiet place of meditation several times a year. We made double certain there was no way in. The vandalism fortunately stopped. Then we started getting a stranger problem. It is less burdensome but none the less perplexing. There is a homeless Vietnam vetran from the neighborhood who appears in here. I still don’t know how he does it, being in a wheel chair and all. But Mary lets him in.  So you must understand before you leave, that you are here because she let you in. I don’t have a say, one way or the other.”

I looked him in the eye. “I am not a Catholic. I am not even Christian. But I am not without honor. I thanked her for her space and her protection. I know I owe her something.”

He smiled.  “You’ll be back.”

I started. “That’s what she said.”

He laughed. “See you soon.” he said.

As a pagan, I was annoyed and unsettled by the whole exchange.  I knew for a fact I would never be Catholic… Except… Surprise.




Sunday Shrine– Sort of.

The Dome in St Barbara’s Chapel in St Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna

By Uoaei1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Uoaei1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 St Barbara is a warrior saint, who was beheaded by a sword to preserve her virginity. Like St. Michael, she protects policemen and firefighters, and soldiers, with a special love for heavy artillery. She withstood every kind of torture and isolation for her faith…  and in the end, her torturers were killed by strikes of lightening.

You need an arc light prayer, she’s the woman to call.  And they  say that Christianity is unfriendly to strong women!  Her feast day is December 4th.

St Stephen is the first Christian martyr, who was stoned to death for speaking the gospel in public.  He was a deacon, who took care of widows and the poor. He also spoke very well, and brought many to the faith.  His Feast Day is December 26.

NEW! Declan Finn’s Latest Marco and Amanda Book is OUT!


Ok, this is so new… I need to dig out my old review of this.

But I’m offering you a smack and a promise for the full review.

But this one is even better than the first. Read it and enjoy!

Until my full expose, I’ll give you my quickie Amazon Review, and

a link to where you can get the goods.

‘“Unwarranted?” Amanda asked. “Marco’s territory—my territory—had been invaded, and constantly under siege. Marco attacked any large gathering of less than savory vampires that might be in contact with Mikhail and his people.”’

This is the second chapter of the rip roaring saga of Marco and Amanda. The action starts literally the same minute the first book ended, and takes off from there. We go into the consequences of the first book, as well as looking at a sinister new villain who’s otherworldly charms are quite deadly, even for vampires.

But even beyond that, he is called to parts unknown and foggy, where the sun barely shines, even during the day. San Francisco is a great place to hunt, and lick your wounds. Too bad both Marco and the enemy know this…

We delve more deeply into the politics of New York as well as the wider world. For those of you who want to see more Merle Kraft, you won’t be disappointed. We get a little luck of the Irish a long the way, too. 😉 Marco continues his trajectory by training a group of San Franciscans to defend themselves against the denizens of the night… and gets more attention than he bargains for, in more ways than one. It tantalizes the mind and twists the heart, all the way to the very end.

A worthy sequel, and the continuation of a fantastic series. Highly recommended!


Upcoming Episodes; and Sunday Shrine



St Aubin Church in Treves. By Rensi at German Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Soon we are going to do something that we haven’t done in a long time…  A Margot’s Wino Night. Instead of babbling about wine I’ve had in the privacy of my own humble abode, I actually went to a Winery in that place that isn’t The Hamptons.  I went to a great place, with wines I both liked and didn’t.  Stay tuned…


St Aubin Church in Treves.

I’m also going to be reviewing the second in Declan Finn’s  “Codename” Series, Codename: Unsub.  But that might take me a week or so. I’m in the middle of other reading projects that are taking a lot longer than expected.

I also have a GF recipe that I want to try out… it partially comes from a mix, so we’ll see.   Hint: It’s a dessert, and it’s not pumpkin pie spice related. But it is a good representative of the essence of Fall, so be not afraid.  IT will be seasonal.

St Aubin Church in Treves.

St Aubin Church in Treves.

Today I cheated with the Sunday Shrine.  The pictures are from Nortre Dame church in St Aubin’s, or L’église Notre-Dame à Cunault. The Church dates from the 12th Century.  To put that in perspective, Thomas Aquinas might have known about this church.


St Aubin Church in Treves.

Also, I’m looking for suggestions. I figure I have about three people reading me at this point.  If there’s something you want to see here, please post.

Comments? Please? Hell, I wouldn’t mind tomatoes thrown at this point.

No canned tomatoes, however. I have to draw the line somewhere.


Sunday Shrine Delayed: St Patricks Cathedral, Chapel of the BVM

This is my favorite part of St Patrick’s. But first, a lovely pic of the cathedral I found on Wikimedia.[below]
Here’s another. They did much better at photographing the building in place. [below]

Here’s an image that shows you roughly where the chapel is. It’s on the right, where the blue light is flooding in.  It was far more vivid in real life. [below]

Here’s a closeup of those gorgeous windows. I like the arabesque tracery dominated by that gorgeous cobalt blue.
Here’s the main event– the chapel we’ve all been waiting for. [below]
Here’s a closeup of the chapel altar. It’s magnificent, as appropriate.
Seriously, look at this floor. Here’s a reason to be humble and stare at the floor during mass.
This wasn’t inside the Marian Chapel but was near by. So I leave you with the Pieta in honor of the day before All Saint’s Day.

Inspiration: Random

Random Art– Trees :: Random Thoughts– Hill Top Bakery

art_natura_ladislav_kopunec_univerzon_0086578_art_works_nature_20-08-2016This looks like a shot from an apple orchard.  It reminds me of the apple orchards near a town named Sparta, which is primarily comprised of apple orchards, and the Hill Top Bakery, run by a family with six kids, and who made the best bread in the world.

The house was a narrow green cape cod at the top of a hill, like the name.  There were toys in the yard, but not sloppy like, just to let you know there were kids around. The kids were always smiling and bouncing.

Theirs was better than my mom’s home made bread, and that’s saying something. Mom had the knack for making bread– yes, even whole grain. She could even make bran muffins kids wanted to eat, because she managed to turn “bran” into “carrot cake”.

She admitted defeat in this case, though, having lost fair and square. Their whole wheat was incredible. Wooly, light and nutty, with tooth but not too fibery or chewy. It had flavor, like toasted whole wheat, and buttery germ, not like whipped cardboard you get from the grocery.   Say nothing of the cinnamon swirl raisin bread, which was the last thing I enjoyed eating that had raisins at all. That was almost as rich as coffee cake, except it still managed to be bread, and sturdy enough for sandwich making. Most of the time,  warm, lightly toasted and a scrim of butter was more than enough.

They put such a light glaze on the exterior of the loaf you could see right through it. It delivered just enough sweetness without weighing the bread down. The crust managed to be crisp and the bread was properly soft, but with enough structure to carry the swirls into sandwich territory. The pieces hardly ever fell apart. It was the platonic ideal of cinnamon raisin bread.

Mom always timed it so we got the bread when it was still warm from the oven. The only issue was you had to leave the bags open to vent steam until they reached room temperature. The entire van filled with the smell of warm bread on the drive home.  These were not small loaves, and one would inevitably be eaten before we got back home to deliver the goods.  Trust me. On bread days, we were always welcome wherever we went.

Ha! Next time I’ll tell you about the way my brother and I turned unripened apples into war.

Sunday Shrine– St Patrick’s Cathedral

This place has so much beauty, it is difficult to decide what pictures to post.  On my delightful tour of Down Town NYC, the highlight of my  trip was seeing Dagger John’s gift to God, Man and posterity.


St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York Photo Credit: Margot St. Aubin :: I release this with a FDL.

After having shamelessly used other artist’s work for years on end, I present my own humble examples. Most of these are taken with my cell phone, so the quality isn’t quite up to my standard.

However, the subject matter is so wonderful I’m going to use it anyway.  If you don’t mind, I may use several Sundays to cover the best highlights. Remember, guys, the com box is there for a reason!

[above] The Cathedral is situated right downtown, next to office buildings and several malls– in the middle of everything.   Really should have brought the wide angled lens for this shot.



St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York Photo Credit: Margot St. Aubin :: I release this with a FDL.

[above] It’s not quite as integrated with the surrounding area as St Peter’s in Chicago. Then again, St Peters of the Loop is built into a slab like building along the row, so it would be hard to build a church to look more at home with a bunch of rectangular glass buildings.
Here, the surroundings have had to blend in to St Pat’s than the other way around. When St Patrick’s was first built, this was the outskirts of Town.


St Patrick’s Cathedral, Right Portcullis Door, New York Photo Credit: Margot St. Aubin :: I release this with a FDL.

[above] This is for scale. When I first saw the church in place, I thought it looked a bit on the small side… until I saw people in context with the building. Ah, yes, now THAT is a cathedral.





St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York Photo Credit: Margot St. Aubin :: I release this  FDL.


[left] Some exterior details, plus [ right] a wonderful floor mosaic with the  coat of arms of the first Archbishop of New York. Click on the image to see more detail.



St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York Photo Credit: Margot St. Aubin :: I release this  FDL.

[above] This is a view of the sanctuary from the front door, angled in favor of showing off the magnificent French High Gothic ceiling. The golden structure in the distance is the Holy of Holies, where the altar and tabernacle reside. The dark T shaped structure on the right is the ambo, an elevated shelter where the priest stands to give his homily. These were used in the days before microphones to project the priest’s voice so everybody in a large space could hear. Contrary to popular opinion, people cared about the congregation getting something out of the mass well before Vatican II came about.


St Patrick’s Cathedral, Sanctuary shot.New York Photo Credit: Margot St. Aubin :: I release this with a FDL.

[above] This is a clearer picture of the sanctuary itself. Clearly, mass is being said, which limits my options in terms of approach and angle.


Photo:: Declan Finn Released into Public Domain

[above] Here’s a closeup of the ambo.  The candelabra is really gorgeous, too.



Photo: Declan Finn License: PPD

[above] Here’s a side view of the altar. Green fabric, the gold framework, and the candles…  Also is a nice canopy shot. Look at the filigree in both the wood and the gold.  You can see how it ties into the Celtic knotwork in [#1b below], too.


Photo:: Declan Finn License:: Public Domain



Photo:: Declan Finn License:: Public Domain



Photo:: Declan Finn License:: Public Domain

[above, #3a]  Another view from the altar, to the rose window, where the organ is. The beautiful blue window cascaded blue light over us.

[above, #3b] Now we turn our attention to the floor. I wish I could have asked everyone else to leave so I could have better displayed how gorgeous the floors are in here. This is a sample near the altar. Uh, I think it was built by and for the Irish… but I’m not sure… 😛

[above, #3b] I found this in the photo compilation of my companion on our trip here. I don’t remember him taking this one, probably because I was “high on architecture.”  Yep, that is an official architecture rush.


Photo credit: Declan Finn ; License Public Domain


[above] The church was full of gorgeous detail to admire for those paying attention. Stuff like this doesn’t need to be there, but it certainly points to the devotion and artistry of those who designed and built this place.

There are a lot of beautiful churches that make a nice facade that otherwise are not reinforced by robust construction and layered attention to detail in their function.  This is a church that will be admired and looked to for thousands of years for “how you build a structure dedicated to a purpose.”

People keep telling me how elitist it is to have beautiful churches.

I say, “No. This was built for everyone, not the just the church. For most people throughout history, this was the only palatial structure that a person of any station could just walk into and take a rest, pray, and ask for a priest. Yes, even in the middle of the night.”  For hundreds if not thousands of years, the official position was that a church never locked it’s doors. Period.

And that is how it should be. Our hard and modern hearts make allowances for locks and whatnot today, but even in eras more dangerous than our own, it was the last refuge for the lost.


Ramon Casas i Carbó [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Shrine Bumped to Monday


Photo credit:: Declan Finn License: PPD :Margot Gawking…

This is a preview for the really awesome Sunday Shrine post that will be coming to you… tomorrow. Because it’s late, and I’m tired, and Sunday Shrine deserves to be done well.

Take a wild guess what site I’m going to post about.
Hint: Many of the photos I took live. Others were contributed by a fond admirer who is clearly a better shot than I am.

At any rate, I promise pretty pictures.

Soon. Very soon.

The Crucifix and the Cross: Questions Answered

Cristo_crucificadoThere have been a lot of articles about banning crosses lately. Bridging the differences between east and west, we see people on two continents strive to get rid of them. On pretty much every article in question, I see at least one Facebook comment, “People should note the difference between a cross and a crucifix.”

I am not certain if the problem lies in the fact that no reporter bothers to investigate the difference, or if that the commentariat wishes that the difference be expressed in the  banning.

I’m inclined to believe in the former. The latter is too depressing to think about.

Just in case, I aim at both ideas.

First, the crucifix depicts Christ on the cross. (see painting above) There are many styles, from the dramatic, bloody, and starving, where suffering is plainly evident. There are stylized crucifixes, which suggest a shadow of a body to an almost generic figure. Others show a more loving aspect to our Lord while pinned to the cross, thus speaking plainly the closeness of the Resurrection to his suffering and death. These are almost exclusively Catholic. There may still be high church Anglicans that carry the crucifix, but they are swimming cross the Tiber by the day, as their own church, drunk on letting it all hang out, lose their flock to the howling wilderness.

By Dmitry Ivanov (Own work) [Public domain or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dmitry Ivanov (Own work) [Public domain or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Orthodox among us have the twin cross which might carry the corpus. (That’s what a representation of Christ on a cross is actually called.)

Even they are a bit more temperate than those Catholics at showing off the corpus. Catholics seem almost mad over it.

A plain old cross is, just that. Two planks of wood tethered together, used to describe almost every other flavor of Christianity other than Catholicism. There are an almost infinite number of ways to describe two sticks tied together, two planks of a tree, two rods of iron that intersect, welded unbreakably together.

By Kehlmann Studio Archive (Kehlmann Studio Archive) [CC BY 1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Kehlmann Studio Archive (Kehlmann Studio Archive) [CC BY 1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

So I must point out…

If both the crucifix and the cross both refer to Christianity, you will never convince a Marxist that there is any difference. To a bourgeois, you could argue that a cross without a corpus is a kinder and gentler thing. If he already believes that Catholics are harmful but another sort of Christian is benign, he will sleepily go along with what you say. But never, ever will a Marxist or any form of communist see the difference. If it points to God, he will destroy it, no matter how kind or benign the object. He will destroy the Easter bunny rabbit, along with the empty tomb.

You must understand that the Marxist revels in that which shocks, that which marvels and that which makes one uncomfortable. Inhumanity to man is the mark of his faith. Man’s inhumanity to God might make God plausible, and that must be eradicated first of all.

For Christ’s crime was not that he was kind, not that he was a wise teacher, that he healed the sick, or that he banished demons, that he sang or ate on the Sabbath day. It was not even that he raised his friends from the dead, or broke us free from the bonds of sin. It is that he is God and we are not. That is the full stated crime of Christ Jesus. And for that He must suffer for all of our sins.

I argue that a crucifix speaks this truth more eloquently, but a cross points to the same truth with a more general sort of point. An empty cross is a stage, a sentence without an object. A crucifix points to the lengths God would go to love his children.

A cross states there is room on his Throne for everybody. Think carefully, and tell me again which message is more gentle.