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Faith

St Patricius joins the menology

Tuesday, 14 March, 2017 0 Comments

“These saints did their service in the Western countries. St Patricius, the enlightener of Ireland who is more commonly known as St Patrick is one of them.” So spoke Dr Vladimir Legoida, head of communications for the Russian Orthodox synod, on Friday in Moscow. The occasion was the decision by the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to enlarge its menology with the names of some 15 saints, “who bore with witness of Christian faith in the West European and Central European lands before the split of the united Christian Church in 1054” in what became known as the Great Schism.

St Patricius

Dr Legoida told Pravmir that there was evidence Patricius had been venerated by the Russian Orthodox faithful. Critically, given Russian sensitivities, a key question was the role the saints might have played in polemics between Catholics and the Orthodox. “We took account the immaculateness of devotion of each saint, the circumstances in which their worship took shape, and the absence of the saints’ names in the polemic works on struggle against the Eastern Christian Church or its rite,” Dr Legoida said.

When it came to engaging in polemics or ridding Ireland of its snakes, St Patricius decided to concentrate on removing the reptiles. And, lo, his chosen land has been blessed since. “Russians to invade Trump’s luxury Irish golf resort” crowed the Sunday Business Post at the weekend, adding that “Up to 100 wealthy Russians will visit Doonbeg, Co Clare, to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.” What a saint!


Ash Wednesday

Wednesday, 1 March, 2017 0 Comments

“In Young Mother, the ash is used to portray anonymous woman, her humble and demur demeanour is reminiscent of depictions of the Madonna.” — Zhang Huan

A founding member of Beijing’s conceptual artists movement in the 1990s, Zhang Huan moved to New York in 1998 and developed a unique style that mixed East and West. Upon returning to China a decade later, he had an epiphany, which he described as the “magic” of prayer and the power of the incense ashes. For him, ash has a metaphoric connection to memory, the soul and the spiritual. “Everything we are, everything we believe and want are within these ashes,” says Zhang Huan.

Your mother


A cold coming we had of it

Friday, 6 January, 2017 0 Comments

Was it the birth of a new world (Christianity) or the death of an old one (polytheism) that caused his crisis in belief? The speaker in The Journey Of The Magi says that since returning home following their visit to see the infant Christ, he and his companions have felt uneasy among their compatriots, who now seem to be “an alien people clutching their gods” (in contrast to the believers in the newly arrived Jesus, who worship one god only).

T. S. Eliot converted to Christianity in 1927, the same year he wrote Journey of the Magi in a single day, one Sunday morning. “I had been thinking about it in church,” Eliot told his wife Valerie years later, “and when I got home I opened a half-bottle of Booth’s Gin, poured myself a drink, and began to write. By lunchtime, the poem, and the half-bottle of gin, were both finished.” This is for the Feast of the Epiphany.

The Journey Of The Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

T. S. Eliot (26 September 1888 — 4 January 1965)

A cold coming


The day of immaculate things

Thursday, 8 December, 2016 1 Comment

For my mother and her mother’s mother, 8 December was the day Christmas really began. And it began with Mass to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with its intricate web of religious relationships that were as real to my mother as if the people involved regularly walked the road in front of our house. She’d patiently instruct a later generation, ignorant of most things spiritual, that today does not refer to the conception of Jesus. Rather, it marks the conception of his mother, Mary. “Wouldn’t the date tell you something?” she’d ask, and point out that the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March marks the conception of Jesus, nine months before Christmas Day. And she’d add, for good measure, “Mary’s birthday is the 8th of September. Put that in your book.”

After Mass, the first great round of Christmas shopping took place and most of the essentials, and some treats, would be purchased. Home again, the bags of “messages” would be unpacked, the apron donned and “tidying” would begin in earnest.

The 8th of December was traditionally the last day of the year for outdoor painting, which meant whitewashing. Weather permitting, families cleaned and then whitewashed the walls around their farmyards to “tress them up” and symbolically purify them for the coming of the saviour. Only when that was done, could the indoor decoration, with berried holly and glittering tinsel, begin.

Everything had to be immaculate, and everything was done on this day, devotedly, devoutly, to ensure that this was so.

Home


The silence of the Jesuits in Edu Japan

Friday, 25 November, 2016 0 Comments

“Two trees, made into the form of a cross, were set at the water’s edge. Ichizo and Mokichi were fastened to them. When it was night and the tide came in, their bodies would be immersed in the sea up to the chin. They would not die at once, but after two or even three days of utter physical and mental exhaustion they would cease to breathe.” Silence, Shusaku Endo

In his 1966 novel, Silence, Shusaku Endo explored the many intricate, terrible torments feudal Japan devised to kill Jesuits arriving to spread the word of God. The plight of those “hidden Christians” (隠れキリシタン Kakure Kirishitan) convinced Martin Scorsese to turn the book into his latest film, which will have its premiere next week in front of a very critical audience at the Vatican.

“It’s called the pit. You’ve probably heard about it. They bind you in such a way that you can move neither hands nor feet; and then they hang you upside down in a pit,” so writes Endo describing a popular torture venue above which Christians were hung upside down and bound. They were then cut slightly behind both ears, just enough so that blood trickled out, leading to a lengthy, painful death.

Andrew Garfield, who plays Father Sebastião Rodrigues in Silence, told Fandango he spent a year preparing for the role: “I got to spend a lot of time with Marty and with Jesuit priests; one in particular being Father James Martin, who’s become a real mentor to me and a spiritual director for me, basically. Teaching me about all things Jesuit in a visceral way, not just an intellectual way. In a ‘lived’ way. I just fell in love with the whole process of what it is to be a Jesuit priest.”


The faithful departed

Wednesday, 2 November, 2016 1 Comment

There is a Mexican saying that we die three times: the first at the moment of death, the second when we are lowered into the earth and the third when our loved ones forget us. Día de los Muertos, which corresponds with today’s All Souls’ Day, is dedicated to ensuring that those who loved us will not be forgotten.

This morning, at 7 am in the Theatinerkirche in Munich, a special memorial mass was celebrated for the souls of Kit Fitzgerald ( 6 September 2015) and Mick Fitzgerald ( 2 April 2011) of Ballylanders, County Limerick; and Mary Walsh ( 27 December 2004) and Tom Walsh ( 12 June 2012) of Mullingar, County Westmeath. May they rest in peace.

Mammy praying on the road to Knock

“People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad.” — Marcel Proust


Those whose business has to do with fish

Friday, 28 October, 2016 0 Comments

It’s Friday, which means fish for dinner, as was tradition in our home as was the observation of the Angelus, which begins “The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary…”

The general belief is that when T.S. Eliot was composing The Four Quartets and wrote “Lady, whose shrine stands on the promontory,” the church he had in mind was Notre Dame de la Garde, overlooking the Mediterranean at Marseilles. Another school of thought suggests he was thinking of the Church of Our Lady of Good Voyage, which watches over Gloucester Harbor in Massachusetts. A noteworthy feature of this church, and relevant to Eliot’s poem, is its statue of the Virgin Mary. It stands between two spires and she cradles in her arms not the infant Jesus, but a sailing ship.

This excerpt is from the section titled “The Dry Salvages” — apparently les trois sauvages, which is a small group of rocks off the North East coast of Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Note: Salvages is pronounced to rhyme with assuages.

Lady, whose shrine stands on the promontory,
Pray for all those who are in ships, those
Whose business has to do with fish, and
Those concerned with every lawful traffic
And those who conduct them.

Repeat a prayer also on behalf of
Women who have seen their sons or husbands
Setting forth, and not returning:
Figlia del tuo figlio,
Queen of Heaven.

Also pray for those who were in ships, and
Ended their voyage on the sand, in the sea’s lips
Or in the dark throat which will not reject them
Or wherever cannot reach them the sound of the sea bell’s
Perpetual angelus.


Homo homini lupus

Sunday, 4 September, 2016 0 Comments

The Latin proverb Homo homini lupus, or in its complete form Homo homini lupus est, means “A man is a wolf to another man,” or more concisely: “Man is wolf to man.”

“What is a saint supposed to do, if not convert wolves?” asked Umberto Eco in How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays, and when Pope Francis canonises Mother Teresa today in St Peter’s Square in Rome, he will be making a saint a woman who epitomises his desire for a Church dedicated to the poor and acting as a shelter for the weak who are at the mercy of homo lupus. Cormac McCarthy described the human wolf thus in The Crossing: “that malignant lesser god come pale and naked and alien to slaughter all his clan and kin and rout them from their house. A god insatiable whom no ceding could appease nor any measure of blood.”

The company of wolves

“Wolves are not ruled by law. They are ruled by the alpha wolf’s policy. Individual wolves can do anything not prohibited by the alpha wolf. They can do anything they can get away with doing. To the wolf — breaking sheep law or the alpha wolf’s policy only becomes serious if caught.” The Wolf and the Sheep


The Pattern Day

Monday, 15 August, 2016 0 Comments

In 1810, the Irish antiquary Thomas Crofton-Croker recorded that up to 15,000 people had attended the “pattern” of St. Declan in Ardmore in Waterford. The event is held annually on the 24th of July and central to the occasion is a visit to St. Declan’s Well. In her thesis submitted in 1988 to the Free University of Amsterdam for a master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology, Siobhán Lincoln noted that, “Various cures have been attributed to it, and the Saint is reputed to have quenched his thirst there en route to Cashel.”

Ireland has thousands of “holy” or “blessed” wells. These ancient water sources were attributed mystical powers in pagan times and the related customs were incorporated by Christianity when it arrived on the island 1,600 years ago. Christianity then assigned a “patron saint” to each well and thus began the custom of the “pattern day” (from the pronunciation of pátrún or patron). The “pattern day”, in other words, is the feast day of a parish’s patron saint and entails a pilgrimage to the well and the saying of specific prayers in a certain sequence. The wells are too small for bathing in and, anyway, the water is cold so bottles are filled with the “miraculous” liquid, which is often applied to wounds or sprinkled on children, travellers and animals for their well-being.

Ethnologists describe patterns as “community generated festivals” or as “the dramatisation and sacralisation of rural Ireland’s own social structure”. This tradition of religious practice and the carnivalesque will be continued in Ballylanders today, the Feast of the Assumption. Our thoughts are with all those doing the “rounds of the Well.”

The rounds of the Well


Pilgrims

Thursday, 28 July, 2016 0 Comments

Justin Gomez says: “This is a video of a couple friends and I walking the Camino de Santiago during the month of August… We started in France and walked about 800 km to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.” Talking of pilgrims, more than one million are now in Kraków to join Pope Francis at the 2016 World Youth Day.


The Feast of Saint James the Great

Monday, 25 July, 2016 0 Comments

Today is the Feast of Saint James, patron of pilgrims. His symbol is the scallop shell, which marks a network of pilgrimage routes that leads to the Romanesque cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, where his remains are said to buried. Saint James’ Day is a public holiday in the autonomous communities of the Basque Country and Galicia, and the feast day is celebrated in the Canary Islands, Castile-Leon, La Rioja and Navarre.

This magnificent scallop-shell door handle was spied last week by a pilgrim in the Benedictine Abbey in Schäftlarn, which is 2,208 km from Santiago de Compostela.

The pilgrim door