Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

President Obama Issues Proclamation, Declaring Memorial Day as a ‘Day of Prayer’

President Obama Issues Proclamation, Declaring Memorial Day as a ‘Day of Prayer’

By Isaiah Narciso (, May 22, 2015 08:26 PM EDT

President Barack Obama issued a proclamation on Friday, declaring Memorial Day, which will occur on Monday, as a “Day of Prayer.” He also saluted the service and sacrifice of those who have served in the U.S. military both past and present.

The proclamation, which was published by the White House Press office on, has set aside 11 a.m. in every time zone on Monday where “people may unite in prayer.” The president also asked Americans to “observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day.”

“On Memorial Day, the United States pauses to honor the fallen heroes who died in service to our Nation,” Obama wrote. “With heavy hearts and a sense of profound gratitude, we mourn these women and men — parents, children, loved ones, comrades-in-arms, friends, and all those known and unknown — who believed so deeply in what our country could be they were willing to give their lives to protect its promise.”

The president added that “their spirit gives us strength to continue their work of securing and renewing the liberties that all Americans cherish.”

“In solemn reflection, we gather — in small towns and big cities, on battlefields, in cemeteries, and at sacred places where blood has been shed for freedom’s cause — throughout our country and around the world to remember the unbroken chain of patriots who won independence, saved our Union, defeated fascism, and protected the Nation we love from emerging threats in a changing world,” Obama wrote.

The president noted that the nation’s sense of gratitude to those who made the ultimate sacrifice also extended to their families.

“As a Nation, we must uphold our obligations to these Gold Star families,” Obama wrote. “We have pledged to them that they will never walk alone — that their country will be there for them always — and we must work every day to make good on this promise.”

Obama stated that “the valor and distinction of the women and men who defend freedom, justice, and peace” would never be forgotten. He made several pledges in his proclamation.

“We rededicate ourselves to commitments equal to the caliber of those who have rendered the highest service: to support our troops with the resources they need to do their jobs; to never stop searching for those who have gone missing or are prisoners of war; to ensure all our veterans have access to the care and benefits they have earned and deserve; and to continue our constant work of building a Nation worthy of the heroes we honor today,” Obama wrote.

Obama added that he made the proclamation after Congress passed a joint resolution passed in 1950 stating that the president “issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.”

“I request the Governors of the United States and its Territories, and the appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff until noon on this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control,” Obama wrote. “I also request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.”

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Thoughts on 2015 Christopher Awards + Movie Review: Could “Where Hope Grows” cop a 2016 Christopher?

posted by John W. Kennedy


Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Awarding what matters. On Wednesday night I attended the 2015 Christopher Awards. First presented in 1949, the prizes are intended, as Christopher founder Father James Keller said, to honor people and media that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.” The importance of doing so really hit home to me when I was on my home from the event and passed a magazine stand. Featured prominently was the current issue of Entertainment Weekly with words “Meanest, Grittiest, Deadliest” emblazoned across a cover celebrating Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. Earlier in the day I also happened to catch sight of a poster promoting Fox’s upcoming fall TV entry Scream Queens which is yet another series about a serial killer, this one located on a college campus. The catchy slogan on the poster read “Pretty Evil. ” I bring this up because in a culture that are “mean” and “pretty evil,” it’s good to have some push back.

As usual, this year’s award recipients were divided into four categories including Books for Adults, Books for Young People, Feature Films and Television/Cable. There was also the James Keller Award which is given to an individual who exemplifies the Christopher motto that “It’s better to light one candle than curse the darkness.” Previous winners of that award have included the likes of Special Olympics founder Eunice Shriver. The night culminated in the presentation of the Christopher Spirit Award which is given for work of particular merit and excellence. With the exception of those latter two prizes, the recipients don’t give thank you speeches — making for a mercifully short presentation that ran about an hour and a half or so.

The event was hosted by veteran New York City anchorman Ernie Anastas. Presenters included CBS News producer Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson (60 Minutes), Newbery Medal-winning author Joan Baur, film producer Carolyn Jones (The American Nurse) and Fox News contributor/manager of SiriusXM’s Catholic Channel Father Jonathan Morris.

As usual Christophers Director of Communications Tony Rossi and his team selected very worthy nominees and put on a great presentation.

Here’s are some highlights of how it all went down, along with some of my thoughts. Click here to view trailers of the winning projects.

Father Jonathan introduced Ernie Anastas who noted that he has hosted these showcases for several years now. He said that what he like about the Christopher Awards is how they remind us that individuals do have the power to make a positive difference in the world.


Books for Adults winners (presented by Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson)

Fully Alive (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux): Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver reveals why people with intellectual disabilities have been his greatest teachers in life, giving him a more meaningful way of seeing the world.

Haatchi & Little B (St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books): Wendy Holden’s heartwarming story of A boy with a rare genetic disorder and a disabled Anatolian Shepherd puppy, who was abused and left for dead, transform each other’s lives.

The Invisible Front; Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War (Crown Publishers): Yochi Dreazen’s story of how combating the stigma of suicide and mental illness in both the Army and society becomes the primary mission for a decorated Army officer and his wife.

Jesus: A Pilgrimage (Harper One/Harper Collins Publishers): Jesuit priest James Martin chronicles his visit to the Holy Land and invites believers and non-believers to encounter the Christ of history and the Christ of faith.

A Long Way Home (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Group): Author Saroo Brierley shares a personal story of getting lost on a train in India at age five, living on the streets for a year, being adopted by an Australian couple, and finally reconnecting with his Indian family 25 years later with help from Google Earth.

Mercy in the City (Loyola Press): Kerry Weber documents her commitment to living out the Corporal Works of Mercy, which led her to volunteer at New York City homeless shelters and breadlines and visit inmates at California’s San Quentin State Prison.


Books for Young People winners (presented by Joan Bauer)

Bauer recalled some of the best advice she ever heard for storytellers: “Always aim at the heart when you tell a story. That’s the bull’s eye that you try to hit.”

I Forgive You (Preschool and up, Pauline Books and Media): Through fun rhymes and colorful illustrations, author Nicole Lataif and illustrator Katy Betz teach children to forgive others like God does and to channel their anger in a positive way.

Maddi’s Fridge (Kindergarten and up, Flashlight Press): When a young girl discovers that her friend’s family is struggling with hunger because they can’t afford food, she comes up with creative ways to rectify the situation. Written by Lois Brandt. Illustrated by Vin Vogel.

 Here’s Hank: Bookmarks Are People Too! (ages 6 and up, Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin): Lovable and comical second-grader Hank Zipzer affirms the intelligence and self-esteem of children struggling with dyslexia. By Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver.

Hope Springs (ages 8 and up, Tundra Books/Random House): Though an orphan boy in drought-stricken Kenya is denied water by villagers who fear there won’t be enough for their own families, his kindness and generosity leads him to find a solution for everyone. Written by Eric Walters. Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes.

Eliza Bing is (Not) a Big, Fat Quitter (Ages 10 and up, Holiday House): With a history of not following through on her commitments, Eliza Bing, who has ADHD, needs to muster up all the determination and inner strength she has to prove to herself and her parents that she can finish a martial arts class. Written by Carmella Van Vleet.

Comment: Note to producers, studios and networks seeking film/TV projects. You could do far worse than pulling from the above list. On the adult side, I personally think Along Way Home and Mercy in the City on the adult side lend themselves particularly well to film treatments. On on the kids’ side of the ledger, Maddie’s Fridge and Hope Springs would definitely seem to have film potential. I could also envision family-friendly TV series based on Here’s Hank and Eliza Bing. Just sayin’.


The James Keller Award (presented by Father Jonathan Morris)

Recipient: Patrick Donahue whose infant daughter’s brain injury led him to found the Sarah Jane Brain Project and its spinoff organization the International Academy of Hope (iHope), a New York City’s first school for children with brain injuries.

Donahue spoke movingly of his faith, including his prayers to Mother Teresa whose intercession he is praying for regarding what he hopes will one day be the complete healing of Sarah Jane. His own advice for dealing with adversity: “Things work out best for those who make the best of how thing work out.”

In his thank you speech, Donahue also cited the Christopher Prayer (aka The Prayer of St. Francis) as providing his guideposts for how to live a good life. The prayer, one of my favorites too, also provides some good insights for the sort of positive values that storytelling — at its best — can help promote.


Feature Films (presented by Joan Bauer)

The American Nurse (Carolyn Jones Productions): A moving, in-depth portrait of five nurses whose empathy and selflessness lead them to serve those dealing with miscarriage, aging, war, poverty, and prison life.

 Selma (Paramount Pictures/Harpo Films): Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. faces violence and blackmail while leading peaceful protests to secure voting rights for African Americans.

St. Vincent (The Weinstein Company): A curmudgeonly senior (Bill Murray) who smokes, drinks, curses, and cavorts with a prostitute may not seem like a candidate for sainthood, but 12-year-old Oliver makes a solid case for his neighbor’s goodness.


TV & Cable (presented by Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson)

48 Hours: The Whole Gritty City (CBS News): Documentary explores New Orleans music programs that channel students’ energies in a positive way so they don’t become participants in—or victims of—the violence that surrounds them in their neighborhoods.

The Flash: Pilot episode (The CW): Based on the DC Comics character, Barry Allen becomes the fastest man alive after a science experiment goes awry, allowing him to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a hero.

The Gabby Douglas Story (Lifetime): True story highlights the roles that faith, family, and perseverance played in the gold medal-winning gymnast’s journey to the 2012 Summer Olympics.

POV: When I Walk (PBS/WNET): Filmmaker Jason DaSilva chronicles his own debilitation after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 25 as the love of his wife Alice helps him endure.

Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler: Lourdes (PBS/WGBH): Documentary follows members of the military injured during wartime who seek physical, emotional, and spiritual healing in the renowned French Catholic shrine.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas (Hallmark Movies and Mysteries): From Martha Williamson, the creative producer/writer behind Touched by an Angel, comes the Christmas edition of her series about four heroic postal detectives who try to unite lost mail with their intended recipients. In this episode, they help answer a little girl’s letter to God while dealing with emotional wounds from their own pasts.

Comment: The television prizes were more eclectic this year than 2014 (which included impressive work but no scripted fare). This year’s winner included two scripted series — which are, hopefully, an indication that the door is opening a crack for mainstream television that tilts more toward idealistic, well-meaning protagonists. It’s unfortunate that the CW and the producer The Flash didn’t see fit to send a representative to receive the award. I, personally, like the show and, IMHO, a Christopher Award is better than an Emmy.

Michael Prupas and Joel S. Rice, two of the executive producers (along with series creator Martha Williamson) did show up though and I had a very good conversation with them. I had spoken with Rice before. It was during my days at the Catholic Channel when he was promoting his 2007 Hallmark Channel TV movie The Note. I was impressed by how the former social worker deliberately chose projects that uplift rather demeaned. As readers of this blog know, I’m a fan of Signed, Sealed, Delivered. The show, which began it life as a weekly Hallmark Channel drama, currently airs as a series of TV movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. The next film (Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From Paris with Love) is scheduled to air on Saturday, June 6th at 9:00 PM (ET). I’m looking forward to it — while also kind of hoping that it resumes weekly production at some point (which, of course, wouldn’t preclude occasional two-hour movie-length episodes). (You can read my previous interview with Martha Williamson here.)


The Christopher Spirit Award (presented by Carolyn Jones)

Recipient: The ABC documentary series NY Med.

Executive Producer Terry Wrong spoke on behalf of those involved with the production which focuses on the compassionate work done by the medical staffs at New York’s Presbyterian Hospital, Mt. Sinai Roosevelt Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital and Newark University Hospital. He said he hopes the program helps inspire kindness and leads other compassionate people to enter the medical profession.

Final comment: It was, overall, a great night that brought deserved attention to the sort of quality projects that often go ignored as the media (as opposed to the audience) drumbeats for every edgier fare. How about a Christopher Network featuring Christopher-endorsed fare. That’s a channel I’d watch.

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Meet the ever-growing network of mail artists.

Blog: Life in Letters – March 14, 2014

Reposted from –


Jennie Hinchcliff isn’t surprised to find tiny polar bears inside her P.O. Box. Affixed to a postcard from one of her friends, they create a stark but welcome contrast to the unremitting bills and promotions. For Jennie, checking her mail is like opening the door to a different art gallery every day. Jennie is a mail artist.

But we’re not talking about the occasional hand-drawn flourish on a letter to your grandma. In fact, pieces of mail art may not bear any additional content besides the recipient’s name and address. The packaging is the content.

It’s a growing movement, known as “Postal Modernism,” where people like Hinchcliff use the United States Postal Service® to share their artful creations. The USPS_PostalArt-102-closeup_0idea has roots in the mid-century New York art scene, where experimental artist Ray Johnson started the New York Correspondence School. By distributing his artwork in the form of postcards and envelopes, he successfully circumvented the norms of exhibition — on the cheap.

Today, groups like the International Union of Mail Artists, Snail Mail Joy, and Mail Me Art foster global networks for mail art connection and exchange. Besides being a passionate mail artist, Hinchcliff has co-authored the book Good Mail Day, and recently co-organized the San Francisco Ex Postal Facto conference — an event focused on Postal Modernism, correspondence art, and faux philatelics (the art of creating stamps, cancellations, and other postal markings for art’s sake). Here, she discusses mail art and how it’s bringing beauty to its proponents — and mailboxes — around the world.


When I was in fourth or fifth grade, I discovered a copy of Randy Harelson’s book SWAK: The Complete Book of Mail Fun for Kidsat the local library. I was mesmerized by page after page of things you could do through the U.S. Postal Service: Collect special postal cancellations, send away for celebrity autographs, create your own envelopes.

Toward the back of the book, I noticed a handful of pages devoted to artists with names like Anna Banana and The CrackerJack Kid, alongside artwork that was unlike anything I’d ever seen. I thought about those artists all summer long. It was a revelation.


The mail art genre is a loosely defined community of artists around the world who use their various postal systems to send and receive artwork to each other. Mail art is all about creating a personal network — a group of folks to correspond with. Those people, in turn, pass your name on to others, who write back and continue the chain. These groups of motivated, postally passionate people overlap, but they’re constantly expanding and picking up newcomers along the way.

In the spirit of mail art, individuals should create because they want to, and share because they’re inspired. This is what it means to be a “postal modern”: connected, creative, and cognizant. We believe that mail art matters, that sending a piece of creative correspondence can change your outlook as well as that of the receiver. Creating, sending, and receiving are all part of the greater act — it’s a participatory ritual.


I’d say my style is a mash-up of old stuff, left-behind items, and things people would never think to send through the mail. I love the beauty of small details.


I also seek out any sort of old-school rubber stamp related to the Post Office or office work; these particular imprints have a history attached to them, which creates a story for viewers to fill in the gaps. I’m always on the lookout for things that are older than I am, that speak of other eras. That could mean mixing ink to achieve a specific color, or using a certain paper because of the way it smells. I like making artwork that seems to have been buried in a time capsule.


I receive a lot of wacky things. One of the funniest things, however, came from correspondent James C., who mailed me an oversize plaid teddy bear wearing a black Halloween mask. The funny part wasn’t the bear itself; it was the fact that I walked home through San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district carrying a giant plaid teddy bear! It’s hard to get people to stare at you on Haight Street, but I managed to do it that day.

All mail art is made by Jennie Hinchcliff.