Category : Religion

All Saints Day

All Saints — that means the roughly 10000 men and women who’ve been canonized over the centuries.

I’ve picked a few to celebrate All Saints Day, November 1.

Saints Christopher, Eustace, and Erasmus (Three Helper Saints) Artist: Tilman Riemenschneider (German, 1460–1531) Date: ca. 1500–1505 Geography: Made in Würzburg, Germany Culture: German Medium: Limewood Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1961

St. Christopher (left) — patron saint of travelers and of children. Legend has it that he was carrying an unknown child across a river when the child became heavier and heavier. Long story short, it was the Christ Child. His feast day is July 25, though he’s no longer recognized by the Catholic Church. I’ll bet you or someone you know had a St. Christopher medal or statue for safe travels. I wonder how many tossed the icon when we found out he wasn’t “real.” hmm.

St. Eustace (center)He was second abbot of the Irish monastery of Luxeuil in France. With his disciples did much to spread the Gospel over Central and Southern Europe.

St. Erasmus (right) — also known as St. Elmo, patron saint of sailors and abdominal pain. Strange combination? Maybe has to do with seasickness.

And two more:

Scenes from the life of Joan of Arc Manufactory: Hartmann et Fils Designer: Designed by Charles Abraham Chasselat (French, Paris 1782–1843 Paris) , Paris Date: 1817 Culture: French, Munster Medium: Cotton Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 191, Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection

St. Joan of Arc — Nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans,” considered a heroine of France for her role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War, and was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint.

Saint Anthony of Padua Artist: Maso di Banco (Italian, Florence, active 1320–46) Date: ca. 1340 Medium: Tempera on wood, gold ground Credit Line: Maitland F. Griggs Collection, Bequest of Maitland F. Griggs, 1943, Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection

St. Anthony of Padua — born Fernando Martins de Bulhões, was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. He was born and raised by a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal, and died in Padua, Italy. He is known as the patron saint of lost articles and of the church where I grew up in Revere, Massachusetts (so how could I leave him off this list?).

Who’s your favorite saint?

Holy April

Novices and postulants, c. 1961

Here are a few of the religious celebrations this month:

  • 4 April. Rama Navami
  • 9 April. Mahavir Jayanti
  • 9 April. Palm Sunday
  • 10 – 18 April. Passover
  • 13 April. Maundy Thursday
  • 14 April. Good Friday
  • 14 April. Vaisakhi
  • 16 April. Easter Day

My best wishes for a Happy Holiday!

(If none of these applies to you, you can celebrate the arrival of the first Pony Express in Sacramento on April 13, 1860!)

Spring morning

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a meditation for Holy Week: a painting by Childe Hassam.

Spring Morning in the Heart of the City

The 12 Days of Christmas

Never mind what the retail scene tells you — The Twelve Days of Christmas actually start on Christmas Day, December 25th. The twelfth day ends at midnight on January 5th of each year, followed by the feast of the Epiphany, January 6.

Here’s the symbolism of the 12 days.

The first day of Christmas - My True Love, the Partridge in a Pear Tree. In ancient times a partridge was often used as symbol of a divine and sacred king (“my true love”).

The second day of Christmas – Two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The doves symbolize peace.

The third day of Christmas – The three French Hens are Faith, Hope and Love. These are the three gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The fourth day of Christmas – The four calling birds are the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The fifth day of Christmas – The five golden rings represent the first five books of the Old Testament.

The sixth day of Christmas - The six geese a-laying stand for the first six days of creation.

The seventh day of Christmas - The seven swans a-swimming represent the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

The eighth day of Christmas – The eight maids a-milking are the eight Beatitudes.

The ninth day of Christmas – Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The tenth day of Christmas – The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.

The eleventh day of Christmas – The eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful apostles.

The twelfth day of Christmas - The twelve drummers drumming represent the twelve points of belief in The Apostles’ Creed.

The good news: you’re to leave your ornaments up until after January 6!

Merry Christmas

This year’s Christmas card. Even Sacred Scripture acknowledges the work of the USPS.

You are our letter, written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

2 Corinthians 3:3

Sister Whodunit

I’m getting ready to launch a “whodunit” featuring a nun detective on Kindle. A nun detective is nothing new, I guess, but Sister Francesca is MY nun :)

To lay the groundwork, I’m repurposing an earlier blog on nuns. What do you think?

Can you tell which one is me?

Maybe it was that “Nuns Having Fun” calendar a friend sent me. Or a dumb-nun joke someone told me last week. In any case, I’m moved to write about nuns.

First, a fact: Nuns aren’t cute. Little kids can be cute and, I suppose, small animals, though I’ve never seen the attraction.

Nuns are adults, usually well-educated and/or experienced at a significant skill like teaching, nursing, or praying.

So, why are nuns so often pictured as silly women, giggling at who knows what, sliding down a snowy hill as if they were fifth graders? Maybe real nuns posed for these photos, maybe for a good cause, like feeding pagan babies. But seeing them pedaling tricycles, using a swing set, or riding a carousel, their veils blowing in the breeze, makes me embarrassed for them.

It could be about sex, i.e., that nuns seem childish because they’re celibate. So, is having sex the only thing that makes us mature? Maybe it’s about the habit. But lots of people wear uniforms, from medical professionals to airline employees. They’re not generally ridiculed or made to look infantile.

The first nuns I met, the ones who inspired me to enter their order were college teachers. They taught physics, math, English lit. I watched them in chapel, in the lab, in the library. Never at an amusement park.

They had great faith and a great spirit of generosity. They were smart, and if they ever played hopscotch, it was out of camera range.

Recently I reconnected with a Sister I hadn’t seen in nearly 40 years. (Sister, by the way, is the more accurate term for the religious I’m talking about—those who have a mission that deals with lay people. Technically, only cloistered orders, who live a life of prayer without outside contact, are nuns.)

Sister MJ and I were in the same entering “band,” as we called it, and went our separate ways after final vows (well, final for her; for me, a step on my journey).

Sister MJ’s current mission is running a shelter for trafficked women. Along the way she has worked in Rome, learned to cut and style hair to service those who can’t afford regular salons, picked up social services and medical knowledge, and ministered to countless patients around the world. She deserves respect for what she has accomplished. I hope I never see her pictured on a rocking horse.

A language problem?

Could it be the language that sets Sisters up for a comic role? The fact that they invoke the saints instead of saying “f*&^ you?” That they’re more likely to say, “God be praised,” instead of “Damn, that was lucky.”

I have to admit there’s a language barrier for me when I visit women who are still in the order I once belonged to. They say “God bless you” the way most of us say “Have a nice day,” or “Take care, Dude.” And their offers of prayers leave me stymied.

Can a few Our Fathers really make my plane leave on time or my flu go away? Who knows? But I’m always grateful for the thought.