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BROOKLYN, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Franciscan church in New York is trying to attract people by serving alcohol and hosting performances that have included an occult poet who has performed for the Satanic Temple.
Occult poet Janaka Stucky launched his Atlas Obscura tour for his book Ascend Ascend on May 11 in the Franciscan Church of San Damiano Mission in Brooklyn.
Amazon describes Ascend Ascend as being "written over the course of twenty days, coming in and out of trance states brought on by intermittent fasting and somatic rituals while secluded in the tower of a 100-year-old church."
The description explains that the poems are "rooted in the Jewish mystical tradition of merkabah literature, chronicling an ascent up the kabbalistic sefirot to witness the 'chariot of god'" and "documents the ecstatic destruction of the self."
The Boston Globe has described the work as "steeped in soil, rot, stardust, moonlight, the dissolution of the self, and 'heartblood pouring from a ram horn / On the pubic shadow of the earth.' Part prayer, part yowl, part spell, it's grounded in the ancient and the occult."
In a promotion for Ascend Ascend on Instagram, Stucky smears white make-up over his face and head and closes his eyes while wiping red paint from his upper lip to his chin while a poem is recited. Stucky then stares into the camera with a deadpan expression, and the camera snaps to a close-up of his mouth.
In 2017, Stucky was one of the performers for Bibliomancy, "a singular evening of literary spell-casting and exploration of the occult imagination," presented by the Satanic Temple in Salem, Massachusetts.
Brooklyn Bp. Nicholas DiMarzio invited Franciscans to take over the former Holy Family Slovak Catholic Church in February 2015.
The Church was renamed San Damiano Mission and is listed as a "club" on Resident Advisor (RA).
"We are committed to simply meeting the people of Williamsburg/Greenpoint 'where they're at' and serving them in both religious and spiritual formation," reads the church's entry on RA.
In a video titled "Brooklyn hipsters find religion when Franciscans open a mission in their neighborhood," Catholic News Service spoke with Br. Nicholas Spano and Fr. Raphael Zwolenkiewicz of San Damiano Mission in 2016.
"Part of our evangelization and outreach is just getting people into the Church," said Spano.
"Everybody has this vision that they're going to burst into flames; that's the number one thing I hear. I've never seen it happen to anybody," he continued.
The Franciscans paired with The Lot Radio (TLR), a neighboring business, to host concerts and events.
Francois Vaxelaire, the owner of TLR, said, "I had difficulty towards Catholicism. And since Pope Francis and since meeting our incredible neighbors [the Franciscans], I've really made peace with Catholicism."
"I think it is a mission field for evangelization. They're looking for something interesting. They're looking for something that speaks to them. And that can happen in the context of our rituals," said Spano.
Among their attempts to attract people, the Franciscans have hosted bands and served alcohol. "It just takes a little bit different angle, a little bit different of an approach, and a little bit more of an openness to what we're going to do and how we're going to adapt what we're doing," he added.
Commenting on a 2018 San Damiano event on Instagram, one attendee wrote, "A holy communion ― Last night's incredible experience of food wine and souls," noting that the picture had been "taken before the endless flow of vino had started!"
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