Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Padre Pio's Coming (and I'm going!)

The day Padre Pio died 
was also the first time I ever heard about him. We had walked home from school that afternoon--about half a mile--and had just gotten to the doorstep when Mom opened the door, sorrow written on her face. "Padre Pio died," she said with deep emotion. (Who was that? Some relative I had never heard of?) out that Mom was referring to an Italian priest who was known around the Catholic world: A Franciscan whose hands and feet bled as if he were crucified, who had been seen in two different places at the same time (documented incidents of bilocation), and who was said to be able to read the souls of those who came to him for confession, reminding people of sins they had forgotten to confess (or that they had deliberately withheld). He was also known to be quite severe at times, especially when dealing with the dishonest, while with people who were genuinely struggling to keep the Ten Commandments he was as tender as the father of the Prodigal Son. Suffering intensely from the mystical (but very real) wounds in his hands, feet, and side, he had a heart for the sick and used his growing fame to fund a "house for the relief of suffering" for the town near his Franciscan friary which had no hospital. (A state of the art hospital was inaugurated in 1956. Even the UN contributed toward its construction.) was a controversial figure during his life and still is. In 1923, the Holy Office could not confirm the supernatural origin of his stigmata, and ordered the faithful to "conform to this declaration." He was forbidden to write letters in answer to those who wrote for spiritual guidance. He was ordered to celebrate Mass in private without so much as an altar server, a restriction that stayed in place for ten years. When Pope John Paul was preparing to canonize him, I heard a venerable Franciscan comment with real outrage, "Padre Pio should not be canonized! I am not free to say why, but there are good reasons!" Here in Boston, more than one parish priest refused to inform parishioners about the upcoming three day "visit" by a major relic of Padre Pio. It's so...gauche.
Children's "chapter book" on St Pio.
As for me, though I'm not a big relic chaser (even though I have four first class relics in my office!),  but Padre Pio's heart is being brought to Boston this week and I have the possibility of participating, so I'm in. Why not do something out of the ordinary for one of the less-than-ordinary saints of my time? I already wrote out a list of prayer intentions (in 4 point handwriting), both sides. (Page two is coming soon.) So send me your intentions as well, and (God willing) on Thursday I will personally deliver them to Padre Pio (or at least to his heart). I will also be bringing with me the special intentions people have sent in with their donations for the generator that we need here at the motherhouse: they include loved ones on active duty in Afghanistan, medical emergencies or mysteries, family away from the sacraments... There's no end of things to pray about, and that's exactly what the saints want to do on our behalf!

If you are in the Boston area and hoping to join the fellowship, be sure to stop by the book table staffed by Sister Susan James and stocked with Padre Pio material for all ages--in English, Spanish and Portuguese. If you are not anywhere near, but interested in Padre Pio, you can still get a book or two: including a bio of Padre Pio for kids that's also available in e-book.

Not much of a Padre Pio fan? You'll enjoy John Allen's comments about what St Pio's canonization reveals about the Catholic not-as-top-down-as-people-think Church and the power of the people.

Post your prayer intentions in the comments, and if you don't want them actually "posted" in public, put "for your eyes only" in the first line. I will deliver them all on Thursday. (In 4 pt type.)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Heads Up for Advent or (more likely) Lent

I've had Advent on my mind lately because I am working on an Advent series of articles for our Discover Hope Newsletter (don't subscribe yet?). And now I have news that could make a difference for your Advent. Or (given the general busyness of December) Lent.

When I was stationed in Chicago, we made great use of the wonderful group Bible study programs from Ascension Press, starting from their 20-week overview program The Great Adventure: The Bible Timeline (complete with color-coded bookmarks and bracelets). Saturday after Saturday, a group of about 30 came to our bookstore for the video series by Jeff Cavins. The year after that, they came for the 20-week program on the Gospel of Matthew, and after that, programs on the Acts of the Apostles, the Book of Revelation and the Book of Psalms.
This summer I received a review copy of a new program from Ascension Press that follows the same format, but in a more compact way. Follow Me: Meeting Jesus in the Gospel ofJohn is an eight-session DVD series led by Dr Edward Sri. Each of the video lectures considers a section of the Gospel of John, and focuses on one person with whom Jesus enters into conversation. The words Jesus speaks with his interlocutors in the Gospel are also meant for us, and Dr Sri's warm approach allows us to hear them that way.

The 30-minute talks by Dr Sri presume no academic background in Scripture study. (The Leader's Guide contains information like “How do I find a Scripture Reference in my Bible?” and “Why are Catholic and Protestant Bibles different?”) Practical suggestions for conducting a group study are also included, and in detail. The Leader's Guide offers well-formulated content related to some of the study questions, and also suggests a variety of approaches for a study group's prayer: vocal prayers, imaginative prayer, hymns... As with the other programs from Ascension Press, there is also a participants' workbook with outlines, summaries, discussion and reflection questions, life application suggestions and ample room for notes.

Blessed James Alberione would have loved the approach: not simply “informational” but a real invitation to discipleship, to a relationship with Jesus through his Word. The inclusion of well-chosen full-color artwork in the handbooks adds the dimension of beauty, which is so pivotal for a fully human appreciation of Truth that includes the imagination. The eight-session structure means that this series can easily be used as a parish program for Lent (just start about two weeks early so you finish before Holy Week).

While I highly recommend that you bring this program to the attention of your pastor and parish adult faith coordinator, why not form your own study circle with a group from your neighborhood and extended family? Just so you know: These lectures are so good, I used them in chapel as part of my prayer. Maybe you will, too.

I received a free copy of the program mentioned above in view of my posting a review. I am committed to giving as honest a review as possible, as part of my community's mission of putting media at the service of the truth. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, September 16, 2016

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Buy a Nun a Book Day!

Yes, tomorrow is the feast of St Hildegard of Bingen, Benedictine nun and author, a Renaissance woman centuries before the Renaissance... and the annual observance beloved of consecrated women everywhere, Buy a Nun a Book Day.

Last Year, you generously revamped the Liturgy section of our novitiate library: THANKS!!!!!! The novices still need a few titles, especially for the Scripture shelf, in case you are so inclined. And, indeed, I myself have quite a lengthy "wish list" of books

But, as much as we love books, what we really need is a generator. Not your back-yard-in-case-the-lights-go-out kind of generator, but an industrial scale behemoth to replace the ancient one that gave up the ghost (along with some carbon monoxide) last winter. Naturally, we shut it down as soon as we figured out what that triple-beep alarm meant, but that means that when the power goes out (as it did very briefly this past Sunday) we have no backup power for the emergency lights, the Infirmary elevator and oxygen system, the walk-in freezer and refrigerator, and the server room. (You can read more about this on our newsletter.)

It's really not a good situation to be in. And generators that size are not cheap. We will be devoting our annual fund-raiser to this project, but I thought Why not give people an opportunity to turn a book into a generator this year, and donate toward the generator what they would have spent on a book for the sisters?

So if you were wondering about Buy a Nun a Book Day, and wishing you could buy a book for ALL your favorite media nuns, this might be one way to do it. Then when the new generator powers on those emergency lights during the next power failure, we can

If you still really, really want to send a book, ship to the novices' library at:

Daughters of St Paul
Novices Library
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

(That's my address, too, but I'm not hinting!!!)

Thursday, September 08, 2016

St Teresa of Calcutta: the Light is Shining Now!

I'm still reflecting on the great event that the Church celebrated on Sunday. The canonization of Mother Teresa has made it clear once again that we are living in an age of saints, great saints who depict the Gospel for us. No one enlightened the 20th century to the degree that this one stooped and wrinkled woman did, not even the brilliant and equally saintly John Paul II.  Mother Teresa's light shone brightest for those who find John Paul's writings (and even premises) impenetrable.  Seeing these saints in their variety helps us perceive "what the Spirit is saying to the Churches" of our day. I've been especially taken by a connection between two great Teresas of the modern era. Mother Teresa and St Therese are both saints of darkness, and they offer a gentle, nonthreatening light to the darkness in our time.

The Absinthe Drinkers
by Edgar Degas - Google Art Project
We don't usually associate the "Little Flower" with spiritual darkness, but the transcript of her Last Conversations shows that she underwent a torturous dark night of the soul that apparently lasted up to the moment of her death. Considering how short Therese's life was compared with that of Mother Teresa, it may even be that Therese's darkness lasted proportionately as long as the saint of Calcutta's. So in a way, the 20th century was bracketed by saints who walked in the darkness of sheer faith; two women who may be able to speak to our own faithless generation (growing more faithless by the day as younger and younger people turn away from religious teachings as if from magic and make-believe). These women did not experience a God of sweet fairy tales, but a consuming fire that burned away all natural light and left his presence completely imperceptible. Like Abraham, they had to "hope against hope" that God was really God, and that God was really there despite all evidence to the contrary.

In a way, Therese is the saint of urbane (or at least urban) darkness of the kind illustrated by Degas, while Teresa was called by Jesus to "be My light" in the dark hovels of material poverty and destitution.

That invitation of Jesus to the then-Loretto sister Teresa has an interesting quality. He called to her, "Come, be My light." Not "Go to the poor and be My light for them," but "Come" as if to say, "Come to Me where I am, in the dark hovels of the poor and you be My light." It is very similar to the invitation Blessed James Alberione received in "a time of particular darkness": "From here [the Tabernacle] I want to enlighten" in the sense that "I am your light, and I want to use you to enlighten others."
From our new comic book on St Teresa.

There is something very profound in this call to "be light." To "be light" is to be Jesus for the people we are with. I think this gives an answer to those pitiful critics who accuse Mother Teresa of betraying souls by not seeking the deathbed conversions of those she and her sisters cared for. (Yes, there really are people who think that Mother Teresa was effectively dispatching people to hell.) This is mistaking words for deeds, like the fundamentalists who buttonhole strangers to ask "Are you saved?" and are satisfied if their targets recite the sinner's prayer. Maybe Mother Teresa and her sisters know something that the anxious soul-savers do not know: that "whatever you do for the least, you do for Me" (Mt 25:40) is real, and that just as the Missionary of Charity serves Jesus in the poor, the poor are able to see Jesus in them: Jesus who is "in your midst as one who serves" (Lk 22:27). (If the poor are "meeting Jesus" are they not being evangelized?)

Mother Teresa is becoming for me a sign of what God can do with a single person who places herself fully at God's disposition. God can do the same amount of good in us, even if it is hidden from us and everyone else. Don't know how to place yourself at God's disposition? The Morning Offering is one place to start, and then there's always Offer it up!: practically a secret code for this mysterious grace that can expand and transform the world when just one person gives God free access to their life. 

Are you ready to be His light in the world?

Friday, September 02, 2016

Mother Teresa: Words to a Pauline

It was in the mid-1980s when a young Daughter of St Paul wrote to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Sr Margaret and the other sisters in her Cincinnati community were working day after day in a bookstore or going on the road bringing books to migrant camps (occasionally facing the unfriendly end of a farmer's gun), while the people they met or others just a mile away struggled to maintain a semblance of human dignity under inhuman conditions of poverty.

Appalachian poverty was very different from the poverty of the Calcutta slums, but it still called out to an apostolic heart. Impressed by the holy nun's total dedication to the desperately poor, and aware of the deep poverty in the nearby Appalachian region as well as in Ohio's many migrant camps, Sister Margaret found herself wondering if the Pauline mission of media evangelization still made sense. When the letter went out in the mail, she felt she had at least done what she could to sort things out.

Then the letter came from India: "...reach out to the spiritually poor to satisfy their hunger for God, their thirst for peace, so they in turn try to relieve the hunger and homelessness of the poor and needy of your place." Of course, no one knew at the time that Mother Teresa herself felt spiritually poor, hungry for a God who seemed completely hidden, despite her fervent prayers and unceasing care for the poorest of the poor.  How many others there were in the world, the future saint seemed to say, whose poverty is not visible, but no less tragic.

The saint's letter renewed Sister Margaret in her Pauline vocation. In Mother Teresa's words, she recognized the vision Blessed James Alberione had: "To provide the bread of the spirit, sharing it abundantly and adapting it to the needs" not just to one sector of society, but according to "the moral and spiritual condition of all kinds of people." And these, well nourished with the bread of God's word, would become the hands of God's mercy reaching out to transform society in every aspect.

Listen on Saturday as Sister Margaret tells her story of meeting Mother Teresa! (10 am Central on the Oklahoma Catholic Broadcasting Network; 4 pm Eastern on the Breadbox Media App.)

My community has just released a graphic novel (I still call them "comic books") about Mother Teresa; here's a sneak preview!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Living with affliction

There are only two things that pierce the human heart.
One is beauty. The other is affliction.
Simone Weil

Today's Gospel tells us of Peter's mother-in-law, "afflicted with a severe fever," and of the others in Capernaum who were suffering the ravages of sickness and possession. (Sometimes today we tend to identify biblical possession with mental illness, but that is probably reductionist.) A religious community can sometimes look like Peter's doorstep that day, crowded with afflicted souls desperately seeking comfort from Jesus. Sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming.

A few days ago I left the refectory (dining room) and heard a loud and desperate "Can you please give me something to eat?" As I rounded the bend I saw 92-year-old Sister M A hunched over her walker. The nurse at her side said (patiently but loudly), "That is where we are going now." Sister lost her hearing long ago, and her short-term memory is all but gone, leaving her open to frustration and bewilderment all day long.

Last week it was a different one of our senior sisters whose affliction could not be restrained. Sister C was a missionary who left her native Sicily for Canada where she became fluent in French and English, but Parkinson's has robbed her of not only her physical independence, but also the gift of speech. In the middle of morning prayers one day she burst into a plaintive wail. It wasn't long or drawn-out; it just escaped. Today as I returned to my pew after my turn as lector, I saw her sitting in her usual place. Right beside her was another of the seniors, her arm around Sister C's shoulders.

As we left chapel this morning, I noticed Sister M P walking with great difficulty. At 88, she is a spirited soul (usually high spirits), ready to burst into song at a moment's notice. Today just making the next step required all of her energy and concentration. "My feet really hurt today," she commented. And to the chaplain (quoting an old song?), "I'm getting ready for the last roundup!"

Right now I am experiencing these things in the shadow of the news from yesterday about the thousands of mass graves dotting Iraq and Syria: innocent family men (almost always it was the men, since women and girls have other uses in time of war), executed by the hundreds by terrorist "soldiers." Affliction inflicted on the innocent.

Today's Gospel, with Jesus leaving the crowds of Capernaum who had tracked him down in his place of prayer to go and "proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom" to other afflicted souls. St Paul's words reminded me, "Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more." It takes faith to hold on to that assurance that whatever evils we see or learn about, God's grace can, does and will more than fill up: "Where affliction abounds, love promises to abound all the more."

Friday, August 26, 2016

Notes from the Studio

This is where I am spending my days...
We're in the middle of a recording project right now (last week it was Christmas concert prep!), so--in spite of my expressed intention to post occasionally over these weeks, I haven't had much time for much of anything online. I keep the phone out of the studio, not entirely trusting that "do not disturb" setting. (All we need is a rogue "bzzz" as we aim for that one delicate note...)

Me, aiming a note at Sr Julia.
In preparing for our concerts, Sister Margaret Timothy also created an Amazon "wish list" of concert supplies. We go through a lot of batteries and gaffer tape in a concert season and "Concert Angels" have already begun helping us stock up! (For some bizarre reason, you have to be logged in to Amazon to see the list, though.)

I saw that the US bishops are calling for a special collection on Sunday to help with the Louisiana recovery.  While I was on retreat, the flood waters found their way into my youngest sister's house. The flooding in her neighborhood was not catastrophic (only three feet of water overall, and about 6 inches in my sister's house), but (as with Hurricane Katrina) that still requires pulling up floors, tossing upholstery and other furnishings that bathed in that muddy stew and cutting out drywall up to three feet past the flood line. For the first few nights, my sister and her husband waded through a hip-deep lake of flood water to a hotel about a mile from their house (where luckier locals delivered gumbo and barbecue for the flood victims) and are now in a rental. (To give you a hint of what things are like, just yesterday we siblings learned that one of my sister's cats is suffering from stress-related cystitis.) People in the flood zones have not only lost their homes (or the use of them): compounding the loss is the fact that local businesses were damaged or destroyed too, putting many flood victims out of work. Sis is a social worker. She has plenty of work these days, processing food stamp requests for thousands more households than the state could have anticipated.

And in our studio, we keep singing Christmas songs. We added a prayer for peace to our Christmas lineup this year, strongly suspecting that by the first week of December people will be feeling that need for "peace that surpasses understanding." (Yesterday's news about the murder of two religious sisters in Mississippi only confirms the need for an unceasing prayer for peace.) Please join us in that prayer.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Terrorism and Communications: An Invitation to Pauline Reparation

This Saturday we celebrate the 102nd anniversary of the Founding of the Pauline Family. It's always a significant day for us, and this year our Superior General has invited us to make it even more deeply significant. 
As Paulines, we not only "use" communications technologies, we are called to consecrate the world of communications, and to offer reparation for the sins that are committed because of the misuse of communications. It is easy to think of the more explicit ways in which human dignity is threatened or undermined through exploitative media. But in her letter, Sister Anna Maria reminded us that " Experts have said that 'a specific feature of terrorism is that it is a communications phenomenon'."
Somehow that reality never hit me in my Pauline gut before. The ideological corruption of  minds and the physical destruction of lives, property and social structures that we have witnessed in an increasing number of events this year call for a supernatural intervention. We are called to make specific reparation for communications that (in the words of a Pauline prayer) "warp the minds, the hearts and the activities of men and women," as well as for all the death, destruction and displacement that has been "spread throughout the world by the misuse of the media."

I am sharing a part of our Superior General's anniversary letter in order to invite you to share this August 20 day of prayer with us: seems that in these days more and more space is being given to every kind of violence, to frequent and sudden terrorist attacks, to the mass migration of peoples: phenomena to which we cannot and must not remain indifferent…. It is truly a challenging time–one that can be compared to the period of “serious upheaval” (Alberione's memoirs) during which, with extraordinary faith, our Founder laid the foundations for what would become the Pauline Family. The date was August 1914, the eve of a horrendous world war.
But for the Pauline Congregations, tragic moments such as this have also been occasions for growth in faith, in reciprocal communion, in a spirit of atonement, in a more conscious apostolic participation “in the many sufferings of the world” (Mother Thecla).
Today too, the response to the darkness that surrounds us is faith and a reinvigorated witness to communion. Let us ask ourselves: “How can we, all together, try to conquer evil with good? How can we make our voice heard in this time in which millions of our brothers and sisters are suffering?” The Pope reminded us that “our response to a world at war has a name: its name is fraternity, its name is brotherhood, its name is communion, its name is family.”
 We have a tremendous responsibility to pray that communications will offer people increased opportunities to meet one another and manifest solidarity in our divided and war-torn world. And since our
230 communities extend from the Far East to the Far West, from Australia and Papua New Guinea to Hawaii, we are assured of 24 hours of uninterrupted prayer before Jesus in the Eucharist. Let us spend the day in active and heartfelt mercy toward one another, putting into practice the invitation of the Apostle Paul:
Let no offensive talk pass your lips, only what is good and helpful to the occasion, so that it brings a blessing to those who hear it. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, for that Spirit is the seal with which you were marked for the day of final liberation. Have done with all spite and bad temper, with rage, insults and slander, with evil of any kind. Be generous to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:29ff.).

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Greetings before I go into the Silence

I've been at our retreat house (between historic Lexington and Concord) for almost a week now, not for retreat but for our annual updating session. Retreat begins tonight and with it eight days of silence (including Internet silence--which may be why our Wi-Fi is not working?). Feel free to send me your prayer intentions before 7:30 Eastern time. (Use the comment feature, but indicate whether you want them posted everyone else to see and pray for, or if you mean them for my eyes only.)

Today was more than a clean-the-retreat-house day for us, though it was that, too: at Mass this morning on the Feast of the Transfuguration six of our junior sisters renewed their vows (the seventh had renewed her vows in January). I was really glad to be able to witness that sign of blessing, and to hear six times "I vow to live chaste, poor and obedient...I trust in the prayers of the sisters of the congregation." (There would be photos except for that Wi-Fi situation. Check my Twitter posts from this morning for a few scene!)

I hope you will pray for these young women, too, as they (and our novices, as well) make their annual retreat. (If you would, spare a prayer for the Nunblogger!)

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Summer Reading: Avenue of Spies

In keeping with my summer reading theme (World War II non-fiction), I accepted a review copy of Alex Kershaw's book, subtitled "A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris."

The subtitle alone reminded me that almost none of the World War II history I have read has been centered on France. I have read about the Russian Jewish resistance, the efforts of Germans to overthrow the Third Reich from the inside, the Norwegian resistance and the squads of double agents who sent Nazi secrets to England on a regular basis, in addition to books about ordinary people caught in or delivered from the Nazi scourge (The Zookeeper's Wife and The Nazi Officer's Wife are among the more recent titles in this vein that I have read). Of course, that's without mentioning (again!) all the books that look at specifically Catholic efforts at rescue and subterfuge. In all those books, the only glimpses of wartime France came through the English double agents. I have read nothing about the French themselves.

Even this book is not so much about the French, as it is about one family: an American surgeon, his Swiss-born wife and their only child. Approached by members of the French resistance, the couple agreed to turn their house on Paris' elegant Avenue Foch (the "Avenue" of the title whose mansions had almost all been requisitioned for the Germans' operations ) into a communications hub.

Actually, the family's quiet rebellion against the newly-arrived occupiers had already begun in the American Hospital in Paris. Before the US entered the war, the American Hospital was neutral territory, and friends in diplomatic circles kept the Germans from taking it over. Dr. Sumner Jackson worked long hours in surgery, trying to save the life and limbs of Allied POWs from a nearby camp. To the extent possible, he not only healed their wounds, but got them out of France entirely. (In some cases, the soldier's "death certificate" was delivered to the camp in lieu of his strangely vibrant corpse, which was already far from Paris...)

War was not new to Dr Jackson. He had been a volunteer in the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War I (defying US neutrality even then), a strange destiny for a man who had been raised in poverty in the back woods of Maine, and who had worked his way through medical school on his own. His wife "Toquette" could not bear living in the States, and so they had moved to France where her family had property and connections and Dr. Jackson's private practice catered to the "stars" of high society (many of whom gracefully transitioned into Nazi collaborators when the City of Lights fell so quietly that summer of 1940).

Perhaps one reason I have read so little about the French resistance is because it was so effectively dismantled by the Gestapo. Whereas all the double agents in the employ of England and Germany seem to have been working for the Allies, among the French it was not so. The Gestapo was able to monitor a great deal of resistance communications, even using French radio codes to summon unsuspecting agents from England to France, where they were arrested, tortured for yet more information and executed. (One of the most remarkable of the French agents who was betrayed into German hands was an unbreakable woman whose last, defiant word was "Liberté.")

It was the German's penetration of resistance communication (and the inexplicable failure of the Jackson's group to assign them an alias) that led to the entire Jackson family's capture. Toquette ended up in the Ravensbruck concentration camp, from which she was eventually transported to freedom in Sweden; her husband and son were interned together in Neuengamme. After Hitler's death, the men of Neuengamme were loaded onto prison ships, bait for incoming British bombers. Philip Jackson, age 17, was one of the few to survive and became the source of much of the information in the book (with 41 pages of end notes that are not to be missed and an index 14 pages long).

I would not say that Avenue of Spies was a page-turner in the same way as, say Church of Spies (do I sense a trend in those titles?), but it definitely kept my interest and gave me a beginner's sense of what happened in and with France as the Nazis swept through.

The author goes nowhere near this final matter, but I cannot help but suspect that part of France's embarrassingly tepid response to Nazi activity is in part the result of the French Revolution and the remaking of France ("the eldest daughter of the Church") into a rigorously secular nation and society.
The Reign of Terror had efficiently dismantled the religious houses and institutions that in other nations served as safe houses for the rescue of Jews and conduits of clandestine communication.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free review copy of the book mentioned above with the expectation that I would mention it on my blog. I am committed to giving as honest a review as possible as part of my community's mission of putting media at the service of the truth. In addition, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”