Vatican cardinal praises “Angels Alleluia” film on angels

AADVDCover“Angels Alleluia,” written and directed by Colleen Smith, currently is streaming from the website of Rocky Mountain PBS. The 30-minute documentary film looks at the nine orders of angels according to scriptures, saints, scholars and artists.
Cardinal J. Francis Stafford — former Archbishop of Denver who went on to serve in the Vatican in Rome, Italy — recently viewed the documentary film. Excerpts of the cardinals comments follow:

“Thank you for sharing the documentary film on the nine choirs of angels. It is of excellent quality… You brought that mystery of mysteries, God’s inner life, closer to us through your commentary and direction. PBS deserves also our thanks for supporting a project not only of high artistry but also of deep interiority.”

“…The windows were infinitely detailed in their abstraction. How to organize and explain such holy realities in a non-sacramental, increasingly imageless world? Your writing and leadership molded the raw matter with a form. The myriads of beings in the glass were brought to order. Form requires finality, purpose… Your words complemented the art work — its movement and inner vitality came alive for us through your work.”

“Life and form danced together in the stained glass. Your leadership made the choreography work. The process of making the glass with fire and breath was literally breathtaking. The blending of skilled and verbal commentators was just right… Now God’s reality seems nearer even in His distance. Our Lady of Loreto has offered the wider church and world another gift. Your film has allowed us a glance of the glory of God in the mirror of the celestial Hierarchy… It leads each of us to a greater purity of heart so that every thought of ours will be God and every breath will be God. The theme is so profound and complex in its beauty that the film needs to be watched again and again.”

Rocky Mountain PBS will stream the documentary until Sunday, April 12. We invite you to watch here.

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9 Quotes about the 9 Orders of Angels

St. Julia's, Weston MA


“Our Guardian Angels are our most faithful friends, because they are with us day and night, always and everywhere. We ought often to invoke them. The Angels take great pleasure in helping us with our enterprises, when they are in accordance with God’s will.”

St. Jean Vianney


“It is from God, through angels, that we have learned the most beautiful of our doctrines and the most holy sections of our laws.” — Josephus


“The vision of the angels

works softly and peaceably,

awakening joy and exultation.”

— Saint Athanasius


“It is characteristic

of God and His angels

that in their activity

they give true joy

and spiritual exultation,

while removing the sadness

and affliction

that the enemy excites.”

— Saint Ignatius of Loyola


“The first thing about the angels that we ought to imitate is their consciousness of the Presence of God.”

— St. Jean Vianney


“Seraphim* were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they hovered.

One cried out to the other:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!

All the earth is filled with his glory!’”

— Isaiah 6:2-3


“…the Lord Jesus himself,

leads them on

to the very fullness of truth

and eagerly unfolds before their gaze

the treasures of wisdom and knowledge

hoarded in the depths of His being.”

~ St. Bernard of Clairvoux on the Cherubim


“…through the ministry

of the angels

we have received

the opportunity

to ascend to the things on high.”

— Saint Hilary


“They place those

who are first in the last place

and the last first;

they pull down the mighty from their thrones

and exalt the lowly.

This is the source of their incentive to love.”

— St. Bernard of Clairvoux on the Principalities

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Grammy Museum is a High Note in LA

Grammy_ColorSketchI can’t read music, but I do write about it. Professionally.

Which is why the Grammy Awards send me spinning. As the rock blogger for The DenveR Post and a longtime regular contributor of concert reviews to the newspaper’s groovy and award-winning online music blog, I attend lots of concerts and tune in to music on a more than casual level.

This Sunday, January 26, the 56th Annual Grammy Awards will be staged in Los Angeles, one of the world’s musical centers.

But did you know there’s a Grammy Museum in Los Angeles? And that at the Grammy Museum, you can get a drum lesson from Ringo Starr?

Last October, while on assignment in Los Angeles, I had a free afternoon before jumping into a ten day multi-media project for a client based in the City of Angels. My client graciously put me up in The Hilton Checkers located in an elegant 1920s building in the Arts District, right next to the Los Angeles Central Public Library. Heavenly!

At the top of my list of cultural wishes was a visit to the Grammy Museum, so I headed directly to L.A. Live, the complex housing the museum. An enterprise of AEG Live, the media empire owned by Denver titan Phil Anschutz, the Grammy Museum entertained me for an entire afternoon.

As if establishing right away that the music world turns things upside down, the 30,000 square foot Grammy Museum begins on the fourth floor and winds downward toward the ground floor.

The Grammy Museum is not exclusively about the Grammys, but about music, in general.

Interactive music exhibits make the Grammy Museum educational and also irresistible for any music-lover. Knowing nobody knew me at the museum, I felt free to try my amateur hand at banging away at the trap set. In a recording booth, I laid down two wobbly vocal tracks to “Yellow Submarine.” I got down on guitars and tickled ivories of keyboards and took a taped drum lesson from Ringo Starr.

Exhibits also include musical timelines, genre descriptions and examples, bits of paper with lyrics scrawled, and other ephemera tracing the creative process of songwriting. When I visited, a collection of Michael Jackson’s glittery costumes were on display.

The Grammy Museum offers a peek into the technology of music-making, too. Exhibits track music-making machinery from the earliest days to the most current science of recording songs. I learned a lot experimenting with the mixing board, where visitors can play around and listen to various sounds.

A beautiful theatre hosts lectures. The day I visited, the Grammy Museum was preparing for a talk by opera star Placido Domingo.

The Grammy Museum celebrates all sorts of music and educates fans such as myself. I can’t help but believe the museum must serve as a source of inspiration for musicians.

In Los Angeles and in the world of music, the Grammy Museum is a high note. And the Grammy Museum’s gift shop rocks, too.

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Six early-season skiing truths and tips


Laid-Back Skier & Dr. Downhill

By Colleen Smith and Dr. Joel Cooperman

1)   You will be psyched. Alpine skiing warms one up to winter. We skiers risk life, limb, and credit lines for many reasons: to experience the exhilarating rhythm of piloting ourselves on snow as if superhero snowmen, the challenge of choosing our line, the sense-stirring beauty of forests and purple mountains’ majesty.

Ski tip: Remember, everybody else is psyched, too, but a bit rusty on the snow. In the early season, you’ll face a mix of tentative skiers/riders and over-eager bombers, plus challenges particular to early-season skiing.

2)   Your feet will resent your ski boots.  No matter how comfortable your boots are, they’re ski boots: heavy, clunky implements designed to transfer force from your body to your ski. Your boots help you get your skis to hook up, and there’s joy in the sensation of ski equipment responding.  But technology does not equate with utter comfort.

Ski tip: Unless you have hardwood or marble floors, wear your ski boots around the house before hitting the slopes for the first time this season. Your feet won’t suffer so much shock when you buckle your boots at the base of the mountain for your personal opening day. And you can reacquaint yourself with a confident but awkward skier’s heel-toe stride.

3)   You will fatigue. You can swim or run or cycle, lift weights, practice yoga, or do Pilates, but nothing precisely prepares your body for skiing. Yes, you can build strength and stamina with cross-training, but you can’t totally get ready for your first days of skiing each season. Sport-specific machines such as Skier’s Edge mimic the motions of skiing, but nothing duplicates the physics of what’s happening in an uncontrolled environment, i.e. unpredictable and ever-changing surfaces of alpine terrain.

Skiing requires working with the mountain and with your equipment. You can target general muscle groups, but you can’t train for the specifics of undulations, mountain faces, and snow conditions. The combination of taxing altitude and the first runs of your season add up to tired legs and lungs and potentials for physical system failures.

Ski tip: Pace yourself. Take breaks. Remember to stop before you are too tired. When you’re ready to get off the mountain, download! Especially during the early season, the lower runs tend to be more sparsely covered and icy. Tired legs often translate into less control. Catwalks can clog up with skiers and riders feeling cooked quads, yet in a hurry to get off. Plus, downloading allows you to experience the mountain and the resort from a different perspective as you descend from a dangling chairlift or gondola.

4)   You likely will find crowded runs. Early in the ski season, less open terrain means more skiers per cubic foot on the runs.

Ski tip: Early starts can help you avoid skier congestion. Get up and get out and get after it. The early bird gets the corduroy. Or the freshie turns, as the case may be.

5)   You’ll deal with variable coverage. Just because a resort is open does not mean the entire resort is open. And runs you carved up at the end of the season may not feel the same due to sparse coverage. Undulations you never knew were part of the terrain will present themselves.

Many resorts have limited snow-making capabilities and usually apply that to mid-mountain and lower runs. Artificial snow tends to be wetter and can get icier.  Man-made snow heightens variability on runs.

Ski tip: If you know the mountain does not yet have primo coverage, ride your rock skis—old skis that can take some scrapes without breaking your heart.

6)   You will be sore. Skiing demands that you step into the laws of gravity. The sport requires strength, balance, flexibility, endurance. Any time of the year, but perhaps more so in the early season, you can catch an edge or cross your tips or hit an icy mountain face and do a face-plant or have a yard sale.

Ski tip: Be sure to stretch before and after skiing. Stock up on Epsom salts, analgesic balm, and your favorite over-the-counter painkillers for your ski bag. Spend some après ski time in the hot tub. And trust that with some mileage on the mountain, you’ll soon find your sturdy ski legs again.

Next up on Laid-Back Skier & Dr. Downhill:

Healthful snacks for your ski jacket pocket

Colleen Smith is the author of “Laid-Back Skier: As In Skiing, So In Life.”

Dr. Joel Cooperman practices sports medicine at the Denver Osteopathic Center.

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What flowers say to your Valentine


On the eve of Valentine’s Day, I’m remembering my stints working for Lehrer’s, a Denver florist, and for Country Fair Gardens. In both establishments, Valentine’s Day was a big holiday. Flowers make beautiful gifts.

This Valentine’s Day, if you’re giving flowers to somebody you love, you might enjoy these four heartfelt posts on my page, where I serve as Denver Flower & Gardening Examiner.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and all those you love.

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Pope Benedict XVI, palms, and Ash Wednesday

Full Moon Over Los Angeles Palm

Photo by James Baca Photography

As a former communications officer for the Archdiocese of Denver, one of my duties included directing the production of an annual Catholic liturgical calendar. The calendar hinges on full moons, Spring Equinox, symbolic colors, and also plants—particularly palms.

Today, a collision of past occupations and current preoccupations occurs. My fresh post on my page, where I serve as Denver Flower and Garden Examiner, draws a circle encompassing a number of topics.

Why are palms so important in all of this?

This Mardis Gras, I recall the year I celebrated Fat Tuesday in New Orleans, which leads me to another article about a garden that a friend and I planted while doing Katrina relief work


The liturgical calendar serves as the framework for my first novel, “Glass Halo,” a Finalist for the Sante Fe Literary Prize.

Glass Halo by Friday Jones Publishing can  be found at these local retailers or  on Amazon.


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LAID-BACK SKIER: What’s in your ski jacket pocket?


By Colleen Smith

Does any sport require as much gear as alpine skiing? I doubt it.
In addition to the basic mantra—“skis, boots, poles”—the checklist
includes countless essentials and incidentals, depending on how hardcore
or laid-back your skiing style.
Most of us don’t have the liberty of jetting off to the Southern
Hemisphere for summer skiing, so it’s been months since we’ve clicked
into our skis. (Or board.) And as ski season opens, creature comforts that
keep a day on the mountain from going downhill tend to slip our mind.
Jog your skier’s memory with this list:

Pass or lift ticket: You can get on the mountain without any of the items
below, but without your pass or lift ticket, you’re not skiing resort runs.

Goggles/sunglasses: I keep my goggles strapped to my helmet. Yes, I
wear a brain bucket, and you should, too. A helmet won’t save you if you
get T-boned by another skier or rider or slam into a tree trunk, but a helmet
protects your noggin. Plus, ski helmets are warm, if not cool.

Lip balm: Your lips lack oil glands, and alpine altitudes have no mercy
when the sun’s blazing. Winds further dry out your kisser. Lip balm with
SPF 15 or better is best. If you’re a ski bunny concerned about how
you’ll look in your on-mountain shots, opt for a product with sunblock,
moisturizer, and a flirty tint of color. Mwah!

Eye drops: I wear contact lenses when I ski, but even if you don’t, the
combination of high, dry air, cold wind, and blinding snow turns eyeballs to
ice cubes. Eye drops in tiny, single-use tubes fit easily into a pocket. Pick
an inside pocket so liquid stays warm from body heat. To avoid dry-eye,
use drops at lunch or when you take a break.

Cell phone: Stash it in a handy pocket so you can whip it out to connect
with other members of your party on the mountain, or to shoot a photo of
that stunning light on the fresh powder and the first tracks you just carved.

Whistle: I don’t ski the hardcore back-country, but, because I was a
Girl Scout, I keep a whistle in my pocket. Just in case. A whistle does not
weigh much. On a similar note, if you ski the back-country, don’t run the
risk of making risky runs sans avalanche beacons and a small, fold-up shovel.

Tissues: Skier’s nose, a medical condition that involves a runny schnozz,
comes along with the ride, but there’s little more disgusting than snotsicles.
I keep a supply of tissues in my right hip pocket, and I keep that pocket
unzipped so I can quickly access tissues rather than wiping my drippy
nose on my ski mittens or neck gaiter.

Lens-cleaning cloth: Don’t use tissues on your goggles. The best
ski jackets come equipped with a lens-cleaning cloth attached to an
elastic strap that stores in a pocket. If your jacket lacks this feature, add
a microfiber cloth to your jacket. Don’t wipe the insides of your goggles,
though, or you might ruin the lenses.

Money: Remember that a burger on the mountain can easily set you
back $10, so if you’re bringing cash, bring plenty.

Medicine: Once, I got a migraine while skiing, and had to download on
the gondola. Ever since, I keep an anti-migraine tablet or two in a pocket.
Medication won’t take up much room and might be worth its weight in gold
if you need on-mountain relief for achy muscles or other maladies.

Neck gaiter: An acupuncturist taught me Chinese medicine’s theory that
pathogens enter the body via the small of the back or the back of the neck.
When I ski, I’m much warmer with a neck gaiter protecting not only my
neck, but preventing me from taking it on the chin. Plus, neck gaiters can
function as headbands.

Hand-warmers, toe-warmers: Some dismiss these as for sissies only.
Not I. I live by the “start warm; stay warm” theory. I don’t wait until my
fingers go numb: I crack open hand-warmers from the get-go. I use toe-
warmers on super cold days because I don’t have boot heaters. That’s
another discussion.

Glove liners: I prefer silk ones because they’re warm, but super light
and not too bulky to stuff in a pocket. But be careful when handling your
skis if wearing only silk liners. Your skis’ edges can slice the silk.

Ski cinches: While you can get by without a Velcro bands to lash your
skis together, this strap takes up little space, weighs almost nothing, and
makes life much easier. As you shoulder your skis, they won’t separate

Common sense: Granted, there’s no ski jacket pocket to hold common
sense, but when you’re on the mountain keep your wits about you. Know
the code; follow it. Ski safely; ski the whole season.

Colleen Smith—the author of “Laid-Back Skier: As In Skiing, So In Life”—skis Colorado and writes from Denver.

Interested in purchasing Laid-Back Skier?  Check out our previous blog post about local businesses who carry the book.  Not in Colorado?  No big deal!  Laid-Back Skier can be found on Amazon.



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