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We had the honor of playing for the Veteran’s day parade fundraiser recently.  They held a special ceremony remembering all the MIAs from all the wars we have had.  It was a touching presentation.  There was a table in the middle of the dance floor with empty plates and four chairs.  Four representatives of the Army, Navy, Airforce, and Marines approached and placed their military hat on the table.  It was a stark reminder of what all military do and the risks involved in serving.  Let’s pray for all our military especially in Iraq, that there may be an quick and peaceful end to the war.  God bless our troops.

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What is it with Franciscans and raRapperp music? You have probably heard of Fr. Stan Fortuna. He is a Franciscan from Brooklyn who has recorded several rap albums and works with inner city youth through rap music. Well rap is also big among Latinos in California so here is Fr. Masseo Gonzalez and his website El Padrecito.com called “Consejos for the Homies”. Fr. Gonzalez’s brother is the creator of those popular figurines known as Homies (also called “Mijitos/as”). His website contains a forum (some homies are pretty vulgar so be aware that it is a place for young people to feel free to share), a video homily, and a link to his rap project “Hiz Kidz Club”. Check it out, yo!

Recently Juan and I were honored to be asked to play a few songs at the velorio (wake service) for a gentleman who used to come to our performances with his wife.  His name was Mr. Flores.  It was the first for us to play at a funeral home.  We played traditional “funeral” songs (Te Vas Angel Mio, Un Dia a La Vez, Adios O Virgen) until his son came up and asked us to play the polka “Viva Seguin”.  He caught me by surprise, because I never expected to be playing a polkita at a velorio!  This gentleman loved to dance and would go to our gigs or to the flea markets to here Conjunto bands all the time until his death.  So to honor his memory and the request of his family nos arrancamos con la polka!  I could see tears along with smiles, some people tapping to the beat.   Even the deacon who was there for the rosary liked it!  It struck me that death, just like life, is a celebration; because death is our entrance into heaven.  Mr. Flores is alive! Our faith tells us that death is not the end.  Sure we are saddened by the loss of our loved one, but his memory lives on and I think that, by playing the polkita, it brought consolation to his family.  It was a privilege to see how Conjunto music was able to comfort his family.  I hope they play polkitas at my funeral – it is the best way to go!  I am sure Diosito has a section in heaven where the angels drop their harps and pick up a bajo sexto y acordeón!  That’s where I want to be – with Mr. Flores, my dad, my tios, abuelitos, and all my familia!  Que viva la fe, la familia, y la tradición!

There are a lot of “newness” around these days.  We have a new president of the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC), Dr. Arturo Chavez, a new seminary building was just dedicated, now there is a new director of the Pontifical Council for Culture.  Read the story below, the new director had some great comments which I have highlighted in bold. 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The new head of the Pontifical Council for Culture said he wants to help turn the duel between different cultures and religions into a harmonious duet of dialogue and understanding.
Msgr. Gianfranco Ravasi, a noted biblical scholar and former prefect of the Milan Archdiocese’s Ambrosian Library, was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI Sept. 3 to replace the long-serving council president, French Cardinal Paul Poupard. Msgr. Ravasi will be ordained an archbishop in late September.
The pope accepted the resignation of the 77-year-old cardinal, who was a leader of the council since its creation by Pope John Paul II in 1982.
Pope Benedict also appointed Archbishop-designate Ravasi, 64, president of the pontifical commissions for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and for Sacred Archeology. Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, who was appointed secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy in the spring, had headed both commissions.
Archbishop-designate Ravasi said he would continue the council’s work of using culture as a bridge for dialogue between people of other faiths and traditions.

The concept of a clash of civilizations has to be abandoned, he said in a Sept. 3 interview with the Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana.
Instead of cultures and religions engaging in a “duel,” they should be part of a “duet, like in music, when two voices remain different, but harmonious,” he said.

The great urgency today is to rediscover unity in a fragmented and sectarian world, he said. Just as one diamond has numerous faces, today that diamond has been “shattered, (and) everyone is looking at his fragment convinced of possessing the truth.”
 

 Archbishop-designate Ravasi said he also would like to boost dialogue through the use of the Internet.
He wants to put the council’s quarterly magazine, Cultures and Faith, online and revamp the council’s Web site “with blogs and other tools of this kind since I think that these are the modern tools” for getting people of different cultures and religions to meet and engage in dialogue.
A noted expert on Scripture recognized for his ability to make Christianity understandable in today’s world, Archbishop-designate Ravasi is a prolific writer and a longtime host of a religious program on a major national Italian television station. Pope Benedict chose him to write the 2007 Good Friday Way of the Cross meditations.