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May 5, 2009

2:37 PM

Angels and Demons and Death Threats - Oh My!

Source: The Huffington Post

There is nothing humorous about violence in the name of religion, whether it is threatened or actualized. Neither is there anything upbeat about religious intolerance -- on either side of the question.Continued at Huffington Post
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March 18, 2009

2:27 AM

DEMORI... An unpublished outtake from the Book of Love...

Some years ago while in Cathar country, I encountered an astonishingly beautiful man in Montsegur. It was summer, and so hot, and he was shirtless as he climbed. He had the letters D E M O R I tattooed across his back, from shoulder to shoulder, in letters about 5 inches high. At the summit, I encountered him again, and discovered he spoke very reasonable English - far better than my pigeon French - and I was able to ask him what the word meant.

That encounter translated into a scene from The Book of Love, which unfortunately ended up on the cutting room floor. But here is how Roland originally explained its meaning to Maureen:

“During the persecutions of the Cathars, Demori became the survival cry of our people. It means roughly, ‘I remain’ or some say ‘I remain over death’. It is based on the idea that as long as one of us is alive who can tell the truth, then the truth does not die. Following the massacres, the people used to carve it in the rocks and on the walls to let the oppressors know that they had not eliminated us completely. Over the centuries most of those monuments were destroyed by operatives working for the Church. So it became part of the coming of age ceremony of the survivors, to take the vows to continue the work while having Demori tattooed somewhere on the body as a permanent reminder, and the practice has endured for centuries. It was one thing we could control that the Church could not destroy – what was on our bodies. So we created our own monuments in the flesh. I did this with my father when I was eighteen. It used to be just the men, but a number of women are now taking up the tradition as well."

The man challenged me to "take the Demori" - which means to take a particular pledge while having the word tattooed on your body. While I have yet to commit to the ink, I have certainly committed to the cause. But in the mood I'm in today with the energies of the Montsegur anniversary pummeling me from all sides.. you never know!

DEMORI !  Listen to a sample of the song, The Cathars, by Peter & I which is part of a CD of music titled, Music of The Expected One. The CD will be available very soon.

Please sign up at Kathleen's website to receive an update when the CD becomes available.  Scroll to the bottom of the index page to sign the mailing list.

Thank you!!

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January 19, 2009

6:03 PM

Don't Our Teenagers Deserve Better Role Models & Representation?

As an author and a mother, I am both concerned and discouraged by the book, film and television projects of the last year that reinforce and even celebrate lack of self esteem, promiscuity and shallowness. Are there no teenage heroes and heroines anymore that possess real spirit?

The premiere of Steven Spielberg's new TV show "United States of Tara" depressed me last night, with yet another sassy teenage girl character who is sex-obsessed at 15 and greets her boyfriend with phrases like "Hey, sex robot". Her storyline was mostly concerned with purchasing the "morning after pill" and shopping with credit cards stolen from her father. Welcome to a media dominated by Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton and MTV reality contestants as role models, a universe where even the Disney teen idols are taking their clothes off for the internet (and Vanity Fair).

Hasn't this run its course yet? Does anyone else think this isn't entertaining? And  at least a bit disturbing?

I'm not saying that we need to recreate "The Waltons" and "Father Knows Best" for the 21st century, but our children have minds, hearts and souls that need to be nourished. They need to see that it is cool and desirable to be intelligent, confident and have a conscience. Why does this seem to be impossible in the current climate of entertainment, and how do we change that? Why are there no teen characters on TV who volunteer at retirement homes, help out at food drives, march for AIDS awareness and care about the world that they live in? And don't tell me it's because real kids don't act that way, because my kids do all of those things, as do many of the teenagers I know. They're not striving to be like the Gossip Girls or the Tool Academy guys. They want to live authentic, rich lives - and incidentally, I live just over the hill from Hollywood.

My concern spirals to the "Twilight" series of books, where another teenage girl with little-to-no personality finds her identity through falling in love with the most gorgeous boy in town and his family of super-model-pretty vampires, who are soooo fabulously beautiful - because they are "undead". Wow, let's just stop and think about that message for a minute. I have been talking to teenage girls ad nauseum about the popularity of this series, and they are across the board 'in love" with the vampire boy, Edward Cullen. But the theme here is that Edward loves the teen girl, Bella, with absolute obsession. OK, fair enough. Obsessive love stories are a huge part of human history and I understand that part of the appeal. But why can't we create stories where the teenage girl has strength, integrity, intelligence and personality - and finds a boy who loves her with that kind of power BECAUSE of those qualities? Why can't we create stories where the high school girl doesn't have to ABANDON HER HUMANITY (while also risking the life of her mother, among other things) in order to be loved by the super-human (or sub-human) Romeo? By the age of 18, the "heroine" of the Twilight series has abandoned her parents and her humanity, become a vampire and had an inhuman baby. Really, is this what we want for our daughters?

Don't get me wrong, I believe in free will and I am horrified by censorship in the arts, and would never support that in any manner.  What this really all all adds up to is PARENTING. I believe that if your daughters are reading the Twilight series, so should you. Read it and discuss it with them find out what it is that they are responding to. Pay attention, be involved - and help them to find art that inspires them in a more constructive way.

But most of all I am asking myself of late, WHY are these projects continuing to be so plentiful and WHY aren't there more projects with real spirit out there for our kids to attach to? Do they exist but simply aren't getting noticed? Or do we need to make a concerted effort to begin creating such projects? If a book series, film or television program with real depth and social value had the same marketing as "Tara" or "Twilight" I have no doubt that it would have the same success.

Steven Spielberg has six children and a social conscience. I wonder if he has ever looked at his art form from this perspective. Because it's time that somebody did.

We are at risk of creating a generation of shallow, self-absorbed consumers, who have lost the understanding that love and sex are sacred. They deserve better. Thus, I throw the gauntlet down to all of my artistic friends in Hollywood and elsewhere: let's start creating and promoting work that is really entertaining for our kids, but also inspirational.

Their future, perhaps, depends on it.

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July 22, 2007

12:17 PM

Today, on the feast day of Mary Magdalene...

Dear Mary,

How do I thank you for all that you have given us? For all that you endured so that we might have the purest example of love and faith and courage that this world has ever seen?

There are no words that will ever do justice to what you have done for all of us. The only thing that I, as your student and faithful
follower, can do is to renew my annual pledge to share your story and your love with as many people in the world who will open their hearts and listen to it.

Last year on this date, I traveled through your own steps in France with my family and closest friends. I prayed in the locations where you lived and taught the beauty of The Way of Love, and later that day we prayed in locations where your children and descendents were murdered and tortured for carrying on those same teachings. There
are times when the history of your children is too much to bear. But we must bear it, for in doing so we will continue the teachings and
work with all our hearts to ensure that such intolerance never occurs
in our world again.

And so, beautiful Magdalena, I give you all that I know how to give - my love, my loyalty, my dedication and my best efforts as a flawed human being to carry on your story and your teachings to the world.  I won't always get it right, and I will hope to learn and grow from those moments when I stumble. I invite everyone who reads this to
join me as my brother and sister in absolute equality to move forward in the teachings of The Way, and to take these vows along with me:

Today, I will celebrate you and Easa and how your unconditional love for each other is the greatest inspiration of union that humans have ever been given. I will celebrate my own love for God, and I will endeavor to love my neighbor as myself, even when it is very
difficult, while recognizing that everyone is my neighbor. I will work to both love and forgive, myself and others, and to live as an expression of that love and forgiveness as often as my imperfect humanity will allow. I will become a force for good in the world by
finding appropriate outlets to be of service to humankind, the animal kingdom, and the Planet. I will always be aware of the needs of
children and vow to protect them and nurture them so that they may become the beautiful future that is still in our power to create.

Most of all, I will live in the gratitude that I am alive in this place and this time, to do whatever it is that you need of me.

I am, have always been and will always be, your servant.

- Kathleen

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June 1, 2007

2:00 AM

Lessons from Sainte Baume, or how Mary Magdalene continues to teach me about the power of love and forgiveness


This is a long post, but I think an important one, so I hope you will bear with me and read on…


There is a place of extraordinary beauty in Provence that Mary Magdalene fans have known about for centuries.  It’s called the Grotto of Sainte Baume, and local tradition indicates that our Mary lived their following the crucifixion.  There are many versions of this legend, and is often the case with someone who was forced into hiding, many of them are contradictory or otherwise obscured in mystery.  Some say she came there immediately following her exile from the Holy Land before moving on to preach throughout Provence and the Languedoc (this is my preferred version), some say she lived here a short time, some say for 40 years, others say she died here.   There is even a legend that she was born aloft daily by angels from the top pf the mountain where she was kept alive solely by divine love and the periodic communion wafer.  

Whichever version of the legend works for you, there is one constant factor that is absolutely undeniable:  Mary Magdalene was here, in this place, and her grace and beauty and faith and strength infuse every inch of the area.   Many of you know that I am outspoken in my opinions about the biblical “authorities” who love to claim that there is no “proof” that Mary Magdalene was ever in France.   As I have said many times before, there is plenty of proof for those who choose to leave the comforting shelter of their academic libraries and go in search of it - but this sometimes means climbing a few mountains and getting dirt on your loafers.   Heaven forbid.  What would the Dean say?

The climb to the cave system at Sainte Baume is either rigorous or excruciating, depending on your level of fitness.   As we near the summit, I always tell those who are climbing with me “you may hate me at this moment, but you will love me when we reach the top.”   And it is always true.  For the reward at the top is an extraordinary and unique place where the love of Notre Dame is there for all to feel and understand.  I have seen many a self-proclaimed “stable and rational” human turn to jelly in this place.  It is difficult to describe the potential emotional responses to it as it affects everyone differently, depending on their own spiritual frame of reference.

Yet as powerful as this pilgrimage is, I know a number of devoted Magdalene fans who will not go to this place at all, despite the fact that they are very clear that she lived here and that the entire region is suffused with her energy and spirit.  Why?  Because since 1296 it has been run by the Dominicans.

Dominicans, you say?  The so-called “Dogs of God” who led the Inquisition(s)?  The same order that called our people heretics and subsequently tortured and massacred the Cathars by the hundreds of thousands in a tragically successful attempt at ethnic cleansing?  Yes, the same.

For some of my friends, it is unbearable to think that a place which is so sacred to Our Lady can be in the hands of those who destroyed her children.  They simply cannot endure the Dominican presence, both here in Sainte Baume, but also in the neighboring town of Saint Maximin, where Mary’s relics are housed in “their” basilica.   It feels like a hostile occupation, and indeed it may have been exactly that in the earlier stages of Christianity.  I don’t think it is an accident that the Dominicans “claimed” this place as their own within 50 years of the final Cathar persecutions.   

Like many of my friends in France and elsewhere,  I have always had a strong reaction to Dominican presence in what I feel is one of her most sacred places.  While I did not allow it to stop me from going there, it  has always been a shadow on a place that was otherwise full of light.  Further, while I would love to stay in those mountains for a prolonged period of meditation and prayer, I have refused to do so when the opportunity presented itself because the hostel there is run by the Dominican nuns.  These women were an imposing presence in their full habits, and also a sharp reminder to me of where I felt the church had misrepresented the true teachings of Jesus - and of his wife and successor, Mary Magdalene.

But last week, my friend Isobel changed all of that on a beach in Southern France.

Let me digress to tell you about Isobel.  She is a remarkable, inspirational woman, someone I consider a great friend, sister and extremely wise teacher.  She lives part of the year in Southern France, where she teaches travelers about the true nature of the Cathars and their desire to create a Church of Love.  She lives part of the year in Bosnia, where she works with the women who survived the horrific, nearly unimaginable, genocide of Srebinca in July of 1995 where 8,000 men were slaughtered in the worst act of mass murder since the Holocaust.  One of the many things that Isobel has taught me is that these circumstances are not different - the campaign against the Cathars and the campaign against the Bosniaks.  Genocide in all of its forms is the greatest of horrors, and caused by hate.  We look at the torture of the Middle Ages and we like to think that we have progressed as human beings over 800 years.  But the events in Bosnia in 1995 and in Darfur today show us that we are still capable of unspeakable crimes against our human brothers and sisters, and we will  be until we can conquer the hate with forgiveness.  

I once asked Isobel what the women in Bosnia wanted in terms of assistance.  Financial aid?  Political support?  What would help?  And her answer floored me then as it does now.  The response, when asked, was simply this:  “We want people to live their lives with more tolerance and more forgiveness.  That is the only thing that will change the world.  The rest is useless without those two things first.”  And this from women who often live in the same neighborhoods with the men who murdered their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers.   But I shall quote these women again: “We know what hate can do.  Now let’s see what love can do.”

And so it was that I was sitting on the shores of the Mediterranean with Isobel, where we meet annually to celebrate the arrival of Mary Magdalene here 2000 years ago.  She had just returned from the Dominican convent at Sainte Baume.  “How can you stay in that place?” I asked with disdain, nearly spitting out my sangria.  “How can you not stay there?” was her reply.  In her gentle but firm way, she then went on to explain that resisting the Dominican presence in Sainte Baume was not only useless, but counter-productive.  She told me that she looks forward to it, that she speaks with the nuns and learns from them and that they are really quite lovely and didn’t I need to get myself back there asap and try to approach all of this differently?  What would happen if I went into this place with a feeling of love and forgiveness, rather than one of anger and bitterness?   After all, the nuns who are running the hostel today didn’t burn anyone at the stake.  It isn’t exactly fair to blame them for the sins of their forefathers, is it?  And what was it that I always tried to ask myself?  What would Mary Magdalene do?

And so I agreed to give it a try and went to Sainte Baume the next day.  I fortified myself by making the climb first, before venturing into the chapel and hostel that is run by the nuns.  The chapel itself is very special, covered with marvelous murals of our Magdalene’s life, my favorite of which is one that shows her standing tall and firm on a rock, preaching to the fishermen of Marseille.  Wait a minute, if the Dominicans commissioned a mural of Mary Magdalene preaching in Marseille, didn’t that indicate that they were respectful of her as an apostle in her own right?  The murals in this chapel, painted in the early 1900s, depict none of the negative stereotypes that have haunted Our Lady for 2000 years.  Instead, they show her in her power and grace!  Hmmm… it was already starting to make me think…

There were several nuns in meditation in the chapel and I didn’t want to disturb them, so I went into the lobby where there is a small gift shop.  In the window was the most exquisite little statue of Magdalene I have ever seen (and I’ve seen quite a few).  She is beautiful, wearing a crown and carrying her jar, with one foot placed lightly on a book.   I wanted to see it closer, but this meant actually having to address one of the fearsome Dominican nuns whom I have spent so many years avoiding.  Well, here was the test.  I asked her in my broken French if I could see it, and… she smiled at me.  Then she went to retrieve the statue, and as she brought it down she looked at it with the most beautiful reverence.  “She is magnificent,” she said, as she handed the statue to me.  And in that moment, the two of us from entirely different worlds came crashing together.  For a few seconds we were holding Mary Magdalene between us, and we both welled up with tears.  It hit me then that this woman loved Magdalene every bit as much as I did, and perhaps more.  She had devoted an entire life to the memory of her legacy here at Sainte Baume.  And I had no right - no one does - to judge how she chose to express that love in her lifetime.   But most of all, I realized that there was no separation between us, there was only love - the love for this extraordinary, inspirational heroine who has inspired so many of us for so long.

The wonderful post-script to this story is that in finding my forgiveness and operating through love, I also discovered that these Dominicans have more information on the history of Magdalene in France than arguably anyone in the world!  And, they’re happy to share it with anyone who asks.  In fact, the lobby of the hostel itself is full of historical information that is displayed openly on the walls in a celebration of her presence here.  Some of it is borderline heretical, yet I think there is more value on the walls of Sainte Baume then in all of the history books I have ever waded through.  It was subsequently in this convent at Sainte Baume that I found crucial, nearly priceless evidence to back up something I am writing about in my next book.   While the feeling of love and well-being that I now experience at Sainte Baume is reward enough, I am most grateful for the additional blessings that were bestowed upon me in my research.

Viva Magdalena!

With LOVE,

- Kathleen






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January 24, 2007

3:47 PM

Would you rather give the world a hug, or...

  • Mood: Excited!

 

 

Welcome to the inaugural post of my new blog!  Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you will find fodder here for your heart, your mind and your spirit. 

 

My constant challenge as a human is to live each day with as much love as I can.  Some days, that’s very easy to do.  Others… not so much.  As a deeply flawed inhabitant of this planet, I struggle with a lot of issues.  My big one is anger.  You too?  It’s one of the 7 deadlies for a reason.   But I found inspiration recently, in a most unlikely place, which has helped me work with it.

 

While doing a little inspirational research on philanthropy, I came across an interview with acerbic Irish rock star and mega-humanitarian Bob Geldof.  Now, I happen to revere the man and all that he has accomplished for the betterment of humanity.  This is a person of extraordinary character, whose work and commitment is an enormous inspiration for people all over the world.  But from a personality perspective... Mother Theresa he’s not.  Bob Geldof is angry, and he admits it.

 

In the aforementioned interview, Geldof discussed the difference between himself and his friend Bono, another Irish rocker who has dedicated extraordinary time and effort towards changing the world for the better.  Geldof said, “Bono, as we all know, is in love with the world.  He's enamoured by it.  I'm enraged by it. He wants to give the world a great big hug; I want to punch its lights out."

  

Genius.

 

When I first came across this quote, I read it to Peter, my Irish husband.  We both laughed about it at first – didn’t this beautifully represent two aspects of the Irish character?  But then I started really thinking about it and came to this conclusion: Geldof’s quote was pure genius because it represents two aspects of the human character, regardless of ethnic or cultural origin.

 

And it illustrates my own personal conundrum.  I am, at turns, both enamored of the world and enraged by it.  Most of the time, I really want to give the world a big hug, but sometimes… I definitely want to punch its lights out.  And it angers me even more during those times when well-meaning New Agey friends tell me that I’m not allowed to be angry and I need to control my wrath and I need to not speak out about the injustices in the world unless I can do so in a “spiritual” way, whatever that means.  Then, the anger turns into guilt and shame and all of those negative emotions and it’s pretty much a downward spiral from there.

 

Proposition: How do those of us who are trying to embrace a philosophy of love deal with our anger over the injustices that drive us to the brink?

 

 I’m willing to bet that a lot of you reading this can completely relate.  Because I think this isn’t just my conundrum, it’s a human conundrum.  We all wrestle with our anger over various issues in our own lives as well as out there in the world.

 

But the lesson I am taking from looking at Geldof’s example is this: anger is a powerful emotion, and when anger is channeled properly, it can be an irresistible force used to positive affect.  Rather than simply ranting at the world – or worse, allowing the anger to eat you up inside by suppressing it – find a way to utilize it and work for change.  Bob Geldof motivated the entire entertainment industry, and ultimately millions of global citizens, not only to care but to take action about the plight of suffering human beings.  He did this by using his anger - and making it work in a dynamic way.   

 

Resolved:  Anger can be channeled into a powerful force for positive change.

 

You don’t have to be an activist to apply this idea (although it’s a nice thing to be and the world needs more of them, so maybe you should consider it if such a thing appeals to you).  But the theory applies to our basic day-to-day stuff just as much as it applies to world crises.  Something pisses you off?  How can you channel that anger into some kind of positive energy to make changes in your life - or the world?   Think about how much adrenaline builds inside of you when you are angry about something.  What if you can take that same energy and re-route it, use it towards a personal goal that you may have?

 

Now, in keeping with my desire to live “The Nazarene Way” – which (for those of you who are new here) I believe is the pure form of spirituality as taught by Jesus and Mary before dogma and politics muddied it all up – I have to ask myself this question: What happens when we look to Jesus for examples on anger?  Did he always turn the other cheek?  Maybe not.  What emotion was Jesus displaying when he turned over the moneylender’s and merchant’s tables in the Temple?  In his time, it was seen as violent, as an act of vandalism.  Can’t we make a strong argument that Jesus may have been angry when he did this?

 

Is it possible that the Prince of Peace sometimes wanted to punch the world’s lights out, too?  I believe it is.  I believe that Jesus tried to give us his humanity so that we could relate to him that much more.  So if even Jesus lost his temper at times, perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves over our imperfections when we feel an emotion that is decidedly unspiritual.  For me, and I would bet for many people, anger is a most difficult demon to tame.  But in the interest of living with more love, I am going to really try to channel it into a force for justice, charity and truth.  And I hope to do some of that right here on this site.

 

I invite you to join me in these blog sessions as often as you see fit.  And while I sincerely hope that what I write will make you want to give me a big hug, I apologize in advance if it sometimes makes you want to punch my lights out.

 

With LOVE,

 

- KDM


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