Happy Birthday, Mom

I had a annual ritual on my defunct blog about the Four Last Things of wishing my Mom a “Happy Birthday.” Today would have been her 102nd. The fact that she led and lived a full life doesn’t minimize her death. (“Well, Paul, she did live a long time.”)

Born January 20, 1916, she married my Dad on April 15, 1937 (before that became Income Tax Day here in the USA) and she passed away November 7, 2005. In between she served the Church in her capacity as a teacher’s aide and later secretary at the parish school. Oh, she also raised 5 kids. I was the fifth. Mom and Dad needed to practice on the first four before they got to having me.

Her death hit me rather hard, despite being expected. “Anticipatory grief” does not prepare you for the real thing. At least, it didn’t do so for me. Being treated like garbage by several members of my family (one in particular) did not help.

As usual, it is a day of melancholy for me. I miss her, but I also am grateful that my Catholic faith tells me that our relationship isn’t dead, just because she is gone from the world. I believe that she is in Heaven. Perhaps she is in Purgatory, but I feel she passed through quickly, as much as the passage of time has any meaning there. As a result, I feel as if I can still connect with her through prayer and the Mass. And I long for the day when we can be reunited. My usual disclaimer, I’m not being morbid or suicidal, I just long for the day when I can go Home.

Over the years I’ve tried to spiritually develop so that my yearnings for Heaven are proper, that is I desire to get to Heaven to be united with God and not just so that I am reunited with my lost loved ones and God just happens to be there, too. That takes God for granted and that Heaven is just a perpetual playground or wonderful endless happy family reunion with Christmas and Easter dinners and picnics all thrown together.

Yearn for the face of the beloved, and all else will fall into place, as well. Trust in God.

NOTE: This post was pieced together from several posts about my Mom’s birthday. Feelings of hurt and melancholy still remain.

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The development of an antagonist

This is one example of how a person may become an ‘antagonist’ in fiction. While it is easy to create bad people who are just evil, it is more realistic to show how root causes have driven them to be who they are. All of which could have been avoided. Perhaps they can be redeemed.

This is drawn from a personal trauma, although some elements in it are speculative or conjectural.

There are two people, Person A and B. PA also has accomplices or people sympathetic, but PA is the ringleader. PB is mostly alone.

PA and accomplices had screwed over PB to the point of driving him to consider suicide. PB is figuratively broken, bruised, bloodied and wounded and is left aside. He is left to wondering “Why?”

This had poured salt into a wound created years before when PA grievously harmed PB with unjust accusations. PB had been wondering “Why?” about that ever since; this new event just made things worse, hence the consideration of suicide. PB’s discovery through one of PA’s accomplices that PA doesn’t even remember this older event just adds salt to the wound.

The “Whys?” were never addressed. PB never gets answers. PA, et al., have moved on from the event and put it behind them; after all, they were the antagonists and know the “Whys?” (if there were any) and have dealt with whatever they need to. Not so with PB. For him, hurt and pain continue and become an integral part of existence. Without understanding the “Whys?” PB never fully recovers and is changed for the worse.

PB struggles with things and tries to relate best with the reality about him but feels alone as no one really stood up and defended him during the events; and afterward others are uncomfortable or indifferent; as such he trusts others little and presumes bad motives. He tried to defend himself during the horrors, but was out gunned and outnumbered. PB also had a weak and vulnerable base from which to defend himself, being faced with certain survival issues at the same time.

His obsession with PA and the others (his frequent dwelling on the “Whys?” and such, and wishing it never happened or fantasizing about vengeance or at least something happening to bring about justice, and knowing that it will probably never come to pass has lead PB to become something of an antagonist himself; while wanting to be “good,” he feels he cannot risk that and needs to put himself and his feelings first.

Meanwhile, PA and the others are to all appearances “good people,” and if they discuss the events at all, it is to the disparagement of PB. As PB isn’t around to defend himself and no one else is willing to defend him, his reputation suffers. Only one side of the story gets told.

So, a combination of time leading PB to become “bad” and PA, et al., to become “good” has only worsened things for PB. PB was the victim; he never deserved the treatment. But due to powerlessness and no healing because PB never learned “Why?” has stunted PB and left him emotionally back where everything took place. And thus PB is ‘bad,’ not ‘evil’ but due to the woundedness and lack of answers leading to justice and healing, PB’s actions are difficult.

PB is not a “whiner,” nor one who touts “victimhood.” He has difficulty in “getting over it” but is one who is truly wounded and has never gotten the needed healing or justice.

The only thing that can heal PB is justice and knowledge. He has to know why the treatment was meted out almost to the point of driving him to suicide. PA and accomplices have to make amends, both psychological and emotional. Material amends would be a bonus, but PB knows that will never happen. (PB perhaps suffered some material loss in income over PB’s inability to manage and cope for a while.) At any rate, PA and the others have to make certain sacrifices to undo the harm they caused.

So, that’s it. A person is a victim of unjust action which were never redressed. The hurt party is still wounded despite time and some attempts at healing, but lingering issues prevent full healing. Hence, the pain has transformed him into an ‘antagonist.’

(This may be added to the backstory of a character in a novel I’m working on.)

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Hometown radio station demise

This is an example of a Facebook rant that should have been a blogpost. After all, I have this blog for a reason, and it’s Facebook I turn to to rant about something. {{{SIGH}}} And so, here it is.

With the recent winter storm affecting the Northeast, (I think it was unofficially named “Winter Storm Stella”) I was curious about the folks back home were dealing with it and how bad it was there. And so I was perusing some Utica (where I went to college) and Oneida (my hometown) websites and found out that last year, my hometown’s only radio station (WMCR-AM1600/FM106.3) suffered a sale to a “Contemporary Christian” broadcaster who promptly shut down the AM station. I knew the station had ended a lot of its local programming a few years ago when they had joined some conservative talk network and ran nationwide talk shows (and some local, I think), but they still ran some local stuff, like high school sports. (My knowledge is a bit skewed as I left Oneida in 2007, and only have been back a few times, each visit getting a little dose of WMCR.)

Anyway, this is sad and very annoying. This is a trend that has been going on for decades on the larger cities, stations being purchased and running national programming and abandoning local talent and locally produced shows. But the rural areas had been somewhat spared, from what I can figure out.

As I said, this is sad. WMCR was a great little radio station. They had a very eclectic music mix (for example, back-to-back Norah Jones, then Miles Davis, followed by Bobby Vinton with the Beatles coming up next, then U2 or Culture Club and Frank Sinatra. Maybe toss in Neil Diamond and Hank Williams, SR!). Not a format easily defined, except “local radio,” not programmed by suits in NYC or LA.

Local High school sports! I loved listening to WMCR back in high school hearing Oneida beat VVS and Canastota. And during the school year, on winter mornings? Those magic words, “Oneida Public and Parochial schools closed” due to snow. There was a program called “Trading Post” where listeners would call in and offer items for sale. Like an on-the-air classified ads. Funky. And then there was the daily “Happy Birthday” chorus in the early morning to local person celebrating their birthday. The chorus was some local schoolchildren (I forget who) singing “Happy Birthday,” that recording was a morning staple for years; I wouldn’t be too surprised if the members are all in nursing homes by now.

Just consider the loss to local news coverage. No more “Open Line,” local call-in show. Oneida is just a little far away from Syracuse and Utica for them to be too concerned about issues of immediate interest to the Oneida area.

Even the local newspaper lost local ownership years ago.

This just sucks. Far-distant owners couldn’t care less about issues and matters of local concern. Just give them an increase to their broadcast empires so their profits could grow!

oneida >> A radio era ended in Oneida last week…

Source: WMCR talents lament the loss of hometown coverage, station

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Praying for the Church

This post is sort of about the State of the Church. I will not wade into a discussion about Pope Francis and anything he’s done as I’m not qualified. He appears to be one of those people you either really, really, like or dislike. “Polarizing” I think is the word.

What is safe to say is that the Church needs prayers. It always does in every century of Her existence for 21 centuries now. But nowadays people are thinking and talking in apocalyptic tones, even myself with my recent posts here and on Sober Catholic about 2017 and its “interestingness.” Divisions seem to getting more strident and people are forgetting charity.

I found a prayer card tucked into a prayer book and figured it would be online somewhere. It is a “Litany for the Church.” A friend of mine told me its original intent was for the restoration of the Latin Mass. Well, that worked out so it is effective! Here it is:


Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, Divine Founder of the Church, hear us.

Christ, Who didst warn of false prophets,
graciously hear us.

God, the Father of Heaven,
have mercy on us.

God, the Son, Redeemer of the World,
have mercy on us.

God, the Holy Ghost,
have mercy on us.

Holy Trinity, One God,
have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us.

St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church,
pray for us.

St. Michael, Defender in Battle,
pray for us.

St. Peter, the Rock upon which Christ built His Church,
pray for us.

St. Paul, Protector of the Faithful Remnant,
pray for us.

St. Francis of Assisi, Re-builder of the Church,
pray for us.

St. Anthony, Hammer of Heretics,
pray for us.

St. Pius V,
Restorer of the beauty of the Sacred Liturgy,
pray for us.

St. Pius X, Foe of Modernism,
pray for us.

All ye Holy Angels and Archangels,
pray that we may resist the snares of the Devil.

St. Catherine of Siena,
pray that Christ’s Vicar
may oppose the spirit of the world.

St. John Fisher,
pray that bishops may have
the courage to combat heresy and irreverence.

St, Francis Xavier,
pray that zeal for souls
may be re-enkindled in the clergy.

St. Charles Borromeo,
pray that seminaries
may be protected from false teachings.

St. Vincent de Paul,
pray that seminarians may return
to a life of prayer and meditation.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus,
pray that religious may rediscover
their vocation of love and sacrifice.

St. Thomas More,
pray that the laity
may not succumb to the Great Apostasy.

St. Francis de Sales,
pray that the Catholic press
may again become a vehicle of Truth.

St. John Bosco,
pray that our children may be protected
from immoral and heretical instruction.

St. Pascal,
pray that profound reverence
for the Most Blessed Sacrament may be restored.

St. Dominic,
pray that we may ever treasure the Holy Rosary.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
graciously hear us.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let Us Pray.

Jesus, our God,
in these dark hours when Thy Mystical Body
is undergoing its own Crucifixion,
and when it would almost seem to be abandoned
by God the Father,
have mercy, we beg of Thee,
on Thy suffering Church.
Send down upon us the Divine Consoler,
to enlighten our minds and strengthen our wills.

Thou, O Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity,
Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived,
have promised to be with Thy Church
until the end of time.
Give us a mighty Faith
that we may not falter;
help us to do Thy Holy Will always,
especially during these hours
of grief and uncertainty.
May Thy Most Sacred Heart
and the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart
of Thy Holy Mother be our sure refuge
in time and in eternity.


I found it here: Catholic Doors

Posted in Church, Prayer | 1 Comment

In Exile

“In Exile.”

Yes, I’ve renamed this blog. Again. Since this blog has near zero readers, I doubt it will be noticed, much less cared about. 😉 The title is similar to the “In the Land of My Exile I Praise Him” title from a few years back, only more manageable. 🙂

Why the change? A title other than “Paul Sofranko’s Blog” has the opportunity to bring a greater focus to whatever it is I’m doing here. “In Exile” fits as I do feel as if I am in exile, far from my true home which is Heaven. I hope to get there someday.

“In Exile” also fits a personal feeling or “self-identification” (to borrow an abused pop-psych term popular nowadays.) I never feel like I fit into any group I ever belong to. I alluded to that here. Whether it’s family, school, work or whatever, I always felt on the outside looking in. (Church has been an exception – Church in general, not parish.) Sometimes the feeling was so intense years ago that I felt that I was the only person really alive; everyone else was a product f my imagination (or God’s). There’s even a word for that, “solipsism.”

So, “In Exile” feeds off of that. It’s also dramatic and literary.

Posted in About this Blog, Blogging, Me, Personal | 3 Comments

Gratuitous year end post

Seriously, I have to blog more here…

Anyway, here’s a repost from my recovery blog, Sober Catholic:

“2016 is about to end. It’s easy to insult this past year, given the violence and chaos seemingly gripping the planet by the throat. I won’t even mention the presidential campaign in the USA. However, the bulk of the year was the Jubilee Year of Mercy, of which I took advantage of and am different as a result. Mainly from increased devotion to a few saints which has wrought a transformation within me, and greater appreciation of Divine Mercy and Providence.

2017 arrives in just a few hours. I feel it will offer “Something Interesting” but will refrain from explaining. 😉 It will be an important year in a number of ways, namely the 100th Anniversaries of the Marian Apparitions at Fatima and the founding of the Militia of the Immaculata by St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe. I will be blogging on both in 2017.

Happy New Year!”

Concerning the statements made in that post, I will also be blogging here on my membership in St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Militia, and perhaps on Fatima. Although not in an addiction recovery context. Not sure if I will explore what I think the “Something Interesting” is in 2017.

Later, dudes. Happy New Year!

Posted in Blogging, Fatima, Militia of the Immaculata, St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe | 1 Comment

St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, August 14, 1941

St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe was executed in the Nazi German concentration camp at Auschwitz seventy-five years ago today for being a Catholic priest.

He was a Conventual Franciscan friar and Guardian (leader, administrator) of Niepokalanow, then the world’s largest friary and a major Catholic media center. It is located some distance west of Warsaw, Poland.

He was canonized a saint by the Church in October 1982.

In late July 1941 a prisoner escaped and as was Nazi policy, ten men from that cell block were randomly selected to be sentenced to a starvation bunker until the escapee was found (dead or alive.) In reality, the ten condemned wouldn’t be released at all, regardless of the escapee’s status.

Death by starvation and dehydration is a very slow and very painful way to die. The ten were stripped naked and placed in a cell that measured three meters by three meters (that about 9 feet on a side.)

One of the ten was a Polish Army sergeant by the name of Franciszek Gajowniczek, who, upon being selected, wailed that he was a husband and father and bemoaned the fate of his family. Upon hearing this, Fr. Kolbe stepped out of line, went forward to the commander and offered to take the sergeant’s place.

The Nazi officer was duly astounded. Perhaps taken aback and confused by this act of selfless sacrifice, he accepted Kolbe’s offer and the Gajowniczek was excused. He survived the war.

Over the course of the next few weeks, the ten died, one-by-one. Every day an attendant would go into the cell to retrieve the dead.

Prison guards and camp survivors reported that while there would typically be sounds or rage and anger, of wailing and crying and begging, during the two weeks that Fr. Kolbe was imprisoned in the cell with the others, the sounds were quite different. Hymns were sung. Rosaries said. It was as if Fr. Kolbe had turned the bunker into a chapel. On August 14th, seeing that he was still alive, the Nazis got impatient that he wasn’t dying fast enough and had him injected with carbolic acid.

When he volunteered to take the sergeant’s place, the Nazi asked Fr. Kolbe who he was. His answer?

“I am a Catholic priest.”

This was his identity, it was who he was. He died for being a priest; he died being a priest, ministering to his fellow condemned.


(Image via MI Canada)

Being a priest was enough to have him targeted by the Nazis; however there was more to him than that. For nearly twenty years he published “Knight of the Immaculata,” a monthly magazine dedicated to being the voice of the Militia of the Immaculata movement he founded in 1917 (more on that, later.) This publishing venture, begun in 1922, gradually expanded over the 1920s and ‘30s to include other periodicals and a daily newspaper. Circulation was amongst the largest in pre-WW2 Poland (and significant amongst global circulations, too.) Fr. Kolbe had already launched a shortwave radio station, although it was limited at first to just being on the Amateur bands. He also had plans for a TV station. Expansion of the radio station to non-amateur broadcasting and the TV enterprise were halted by the Nazi and Soviet invasion of September 1939. Fr. Kolbe also had plans for a motion picture studio.

He was “New Evangelization” before anyone else thought of it. If you wish to get the gist of what he did and also what he planned, what Mother Angelica did in Alabama 50 years later is essentially that.

Here are some links:

Militia of the Immaculata in the USA
The global Militia
another official Niepokalanow site

Posted in Militia of the Immaculata, Saints, St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, Vocation, Works of Mercy | Comments Off on St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, August 14, 1941


Today I have been sober for 14 years. I’m not going to go any detail on that as I have a blog dedicated to all of that sobriety stuff. Right here: Sober Catholic.

#sobrietyhumoralert But some time ago the thought occurred to me that as a writer, (I am one as I do write stuff) I may be at odds with the stereotype of writers being drunken sots. Writing is a lonely profession; being solitary, one is apt to become depressed or otherwise feel a need to offset the lack of professional companionship. Thus writers develop a drinking habit to compensate for all that isolation. Despite the existence of social networks and thus connecting with others, it is still an isolated endeavor. Social networks can also distract you.

Or you drink to get inspiration. I think Hemingway said “Write drunk, edit sober.”

Nevertheless, I defy the stereotype. When I was attempting to become a writer #backintheday pre-Internet and computer, I didn’t drink. When I began drinking, I gave up the idea of writing. When I sobered up, I revisited the whole writing thing.

I can’t even do the “writer as a drunken sot” thing correctly. Just as well. I am a misfit.

On the subject of “misfits,” I did join AA when I sobered up. Again, not going into any detail as I’ve written extensively on it over at Sober Catholic, I never quite fit in there, either. A supposed “Fellowship” of like-minded people who are all united in keeping each other sober, I never quite got the hang of it. I attended zillions of meetings, adopted the language and worked the 12 Steps, did service work (make coffee, set up/clean up), participated in the “meeting before the meetings” and hung out afterwards. Never developed that wonderful “Fellowship” that is discussed so glowingly in the pages of AA literature. I tried, not being overbearing, of course (not my style), but still never saw people away from meetings, never got involved in their lives, nor they in mine. It was as if we didn’t exist outside of the rooms.

Oh, well. Leave it to me to be a misfit in a society of misfits.

Posted in Me, Writing | 6 Comments

Novena to St. Isidore

St. Isidore is the patron saint of farmers and rural people in the United States. Athough I am not a farmer, I am a rural person and I do some vegetable gardening.

There is a novena to St. Isidore and it starts tomorrow. Actually, there are several times throughout the year when you can pray this novena; the one tomorrow ends on his old, pre-Vatican II American feast day, March 22nd. This was the day he was canonized in 1622. Other dates are May 7-15 (to end on his Spanish feast day and current American one, which commemorates the day he died in 1170) and August 7-15 (ending on the Feast of the Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary, known also as the feast of Our Lady of the Fields.) Another time is the eight days preceeding the American Thanksgiving holiday.

He was married to a lady named Maria de la Cabeza; she is also a saint.

Quoting CatholicCulture.org, “St. Isidore, the Farmer, was born in Madrid, Spain, about the year 1110. He came from a poor and humble family. From childhood he worked as a farm hand on the De Vargas estate. He was very prayerful and particularly devoted to the Mass and the Holy Eucharist. He loved the good earth, he was honest in his work, and careful in his farming practices. It is said that domestic beasts and birds showed their attachment to him because he was gentle and kind to them. Master De Vargas watched Isidore at plowing and he saw two angels as his helpers. Hence, the saying arose, “St. Isidore plowing with angels does the work of three farmers.”

Isidore married a sweet and pious maid-servant by the name of Maria. They had only one son who died in youth. Both were most charitable and ever willing to help neighbors in distress and the poor in the city slums.


The novena can be found here, on the website of Catholic Rural Life: Novena to St. Isidore

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Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Today’s feast day on the Catholic liturgical calendar is important to me. It is the “Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle.”

Paul, originally called “Saul,” was a badass Jewish Pharisee dude who viewed the Way of Christ a serious enough threat to the Judaism of the time that he personally led a vicious persecution of the Church. He was directly or indirectly involved with the arrests and deaths of scores of Christians.

Until one day.

Acts of the Apostles 22:4-8 “I persecuted this Way, even unto death, binding and delivering into custody both men and women, just as the high priest and all those greater by birth bear witness to me.

Having received letters from them to the brothers, I journeyed to Damascus, so that I might lead them bound from there to Jerusalem, so that they might be punished.

But it happened that, as I was traveling and was approaching Damascus at midday, suddenly from heaven a great light shone around me.

And falling to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’

And I responded, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’

Popular tradition holds that he was knocked of his horse, there is however no scriptural evidence of that.

Why is this feast day of the Church important to me? I mean, apart from my being named after St. Paul?

The idea of conversion is central to my identity, especially after 2001. I am both an alcoholic in recovery and a revert to the Catholic Church.

I won’t discuss my alcoholism here, I have a blog devoted to that: Sober Catholic. My reversion to the faith is covered there, too, but not as much as my alcoholism recovery.

I was born and raised Catholic. Educated in a Catholic school from kindergarten through 8th grade. I was an altar boy (no girls allowed back then) at Mass and I had a fairly decent grasp of Catholic teachings.

Turned out my knowledge didn’t include the obvious need to apply it directly in daily living. Somehow I missed the lessons that we were to live out our Faith, not just pray, go to Mass on Sundays and whatnot. The actual, direct infusion into my life of Catholic living wasn’t really there. I mean, there were “daily living” things that I followed, such as no sex outside of marriage, but the Faith didn’t always form my decision-making.

Add that my knowledge of the Faith might have been broad, but it wasn’t deep.

And so I left the Church. It occurred during a rough period in my life when things weren’t going well and I prayed fervently for relief, but got none.

And so I decided that since “prayer didn’t work,” I’ll stop attending Mass. I wasn’t struck dead by lightening and this encouraged me to continue missing Mass.

I never became an atheist. The idea of “no God” is ludicrous. Created things need a creator. Made things need a maker. I instead just came to the conclusion that organized religion was a method of control over the masses.

Life continued, things got better in some ways. However these “better ways” lead to different problems which I won’t bother with here. Life happens, things occur and we adapt and cope or we do not.

I wandered about aimlessly spiritually for 15 years. I finally reverted to the Catholic Church at the same time I began my recovery from alcoholism. It just seemed to “make sense” now, and as AA introduced me to the notion of “applied spirituality,” I decided to explore what the Church actually said. Being confined to a couch for weeks on end because of early sobriety illness and watching the Daily Mass on EWTN also exposed me to a healthy dose of sound theology and doctrine.

Such things have a way of straightening out one’s mind. Truth does that.

I also learned that Catholicism isn’t just something that you do for an hour on Sundays, and off and on through the week when you pray (to get out of a jam? to get something?)

There isn’t much to this post apart from tying my reversion in to the feast day. Paul was hard-headed and stubborn and bent on destruction. So was I. I was hostile to the Church, as was he. (Although I wasn’t murderous with rage.)

After his conversion, he changed his life’s path and became a great Apostle, converting countless Gentiles. He did this by allowing Christ into his life.

And what an example of this!

Galatians 2: 20 I live; yet now, it is not I, but truly Christ, who lives in me. And though I live now in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and who delivered himself for me.”

And this “faith of the Son of God,” he received it:

Galatians 1:11-12 “For I would have you understand, brothers, that the Gospel which has been preached by me is not according to man.

And I did not receive it from man, nor did I learn it, except through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

And so Jesus Himself taught St. Paul His Gospel. (Next time someone says that they looked throughout the entire New Testament and declare that “Jesus never said anything about….” to defend their unholy lives, remember this. He might not have said anything on “whatever” Himself, but He did through St. Paul.)

My conversion wasn’t as complete or intense as Paul’s. Jesus “lives in me” as He does in all of His brothers and sisters, but Paul’s conversion was deep andd critical to the future of humanity.

Mine: it’s good enough to write a blog for Catholic ex-drunks and to perhaps write Catholic-themed fiction.

All Scripture passages via Sacred Bible: Catholic Public Domain Version

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