St. Michael the Archangel honored today!

September 29th is Michaelmas Day, the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, when everyone with the moniker of Michael will feel the roots extending from our favorite saint.

Greeks often celebrate their name days, and September was a special time for us boys, as well as girls with the names of Michelle, Michaela and Michelena. Michael was a saint elevated by the early Christians, and may even have roots in other religions. He had defeated Lucifer and is depicted with either a sword or a spear in one hand and a scale of justice in the other.

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Patron saint of police and all of us veterans

Some say he will help at Judgment Day whenever that may occur, but most focus on the weapon in his right hand as he vanquished the most beautiful angel the Almighty ever created and set the heavens straight for humans in the lower realms with whom angels were designed to serve.

Michael is the patron saint of the sea and maritime lands, of ships and boatmen, of horses and horsemen as well members of the United States military and police officers. During the Middle Ages the Feast of St. Michael was celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation, but this tradition was abolished in the 18th century.

It was during Michaelmas Day that Francis of Assisi received the Stigmata, the markings of Christ on his hands and feet as well as on his side. An angel had appeared to him, a Seraphim, a  member of the highest order of angles with three pair of wings. St Francis, the patron saint of animals and the environment, died some two years later, never revealing to the public or his fellow monks the injuries he sustained.

Michael is the name of my very own Guardian Angel. I learned that after reading a book by Lorna Byrne –an Irish lass — who has seen and spoke with angels since she was a child. She suggests that you “suspend your disbelief” about angels and, ask them to give you a sign. My sign appeared in less than 24 hours after requesting the angelic ones to do their duty.

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You have to be open to the signs, however. Open your eyes, your ears and your heart. Your mind will follow, particularly on the Feast Day of St. Michael the Archangel.

 

Cats & Dogs would come first in a do-over

If I had my druthers, I think I would have made cats and dogs more like people and make people more like the other animals.

Yes, as God, I would have changed the book of Genesis and created the dog first and then taking a rib from the first one, I would have created his loving mate and good friend, the cat.

Just think how life would have progressed with those fine species running things down on Earth. Human beings would not have the chance to go to war or to ruin the planet. Cats and dogs would get together and make up after their minor spats. Cats would live much longer having kept their nine-lives that I had initially provided them. No one would ever talk about a “dog’s life” unless they were referring to a kingly type of existence when the canine ruled from Toledo to Timbuktu.

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And on the last day, God rested with his favorite creatures — Dogs and Cats!

Yes, dogs would rule the world and cats would grant all the  beauty and poetry earthlings long for and need each day. All creatures great and small would be provided for and there would be peace. When blessings fell from heaven, people would say it was “raining cats and dogs.”

Humans would be pets and do some of the things they’re doing now. Collecting poop after the dogs, digging scoops out of litter boxes for cats and providing food and shelter for the higher beings, their loving masters.

If I could just have that one do-over in life, I would do it right this time!

(Just Write group of Collegeville provided the prompt — “What would you do if you had a ‘Do-Over’?”)

’12 Angry Men’ helps presume innocence

Twelve Angry Men” influenced my decision to practice law more than any movie I can remember while growing up in a working class neighborhood of Philadelphia and being the first in my family to go to college. The movie has done more for understanding the workings of our criminal justice system than any books or school classes could possibly provide

I never liked lawyers. They reminded me of snakes. That is, something to avoid if you ever came across one. My father retained a blind lawyer to represent my oldest brother when he and others from Brewerytown broke into the Big Moose African American bar and stole cases of soda and beer. The attorney plea-bargained and got the judge to agree to let my brother choose between going into the army or going to jail. He went into the military, got his GED and made a 20-year career out of it.

But I became a lawyer to represent workers, union employees after serving a year as an organizer for The Newspaper Guild and getting a “D” in Labor Law while attending law school. I took the low grade as a message from God to change my “major” and I went into criminal law where I worked for another downtrodden group, the poor who could afford a spokesman when over-charged and sometimes charged erroneously for alleged criminal activities.

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Henry Fonda (center left) convinces jury to win over lone hold out in “12 Angry Men”

Trying a case to a jury was thrilling. You didn’t eat, sleep or function properly during the entire course of the trial as your mind and heart took on one single goal – defending the accused. Luckily, I won more than I lost and I always believed that it would only take one person on a jury to convince the others to vote not guilty. Just one person was all it took to use my arguments in court to sway the others due to questionable circumstantial evidence and/or the lack of any substantial evidence.

And just like a Henry Fonda, the hero of the movie, that lone juror would not quit on the accused. He or she would point out the weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case and remind each and every last member that it was burden of the state’s lawyer to prove guilt. The defense had no burden, and if the assistant district attorney could not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt then you had to acquit.

Find the defendant not guilty as in the movie after a rigorous and often loud argument about the facts or lack of the facts, which often proved fatal to the state’s case.

I never served on jury, but I envisioned what it would be like by watching “Twelve Angry Men.” It’s a movie that should be shown to all potential jurors but I’m afraid that prosecutors and judges may deny its presentation for fear of tilting the playing field in favor of an accused who some still believe should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.