The link comes from Our Catholic Prayers website (first established in 2006 by Christopher Castagnoli, the author of the material and a lay volunteer at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City).
It is a beautiful site that I discovered some time back, and it has a great wealth of prayers: prayers for all moments and occasions, reflections, daily readings, meditations, novenas, litanies, as well as podcasts and valuable links, blogs and a prayer request page too. I think there is something for everyone in this very rich site.
“Later, when Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in turn began to write the Gospels, the Blessed Virgin not only prayed for them, but also appeared to each and requested him not to mention her except when absolutely necessary (emphasis added). Only St. Luke received her permission to write somewhat more freely about her, and he drew much of his information from her direct inspiration. Even when St. John wrote his Gospel some years after Mary’s death, she appeared to him and told him that it was still not opportune for him to reveal the mysteries which he knew concerning her part in the plan of the Redemption, in order that many of the new Christians who had been idolaters should not make a goddess of the Holy Mother of their God (emphasis added).”…
“She also prayed regularly with the Apostles and disciples and gave them helpful instruction on mental prayer. Gradually they all realized that their departed Master had left them an ideal guide in His modest and holy Mother, and more and more they came to look upon Mary as their Mediatrix with Him and as the Consoler and Mother of His spiritual family, the Church.»
The page finishes with Mary’s assumption into heaven, when she pronounces:
«My Son and my Lord, Thou didst suffer death without being obliged to do so. It is proper therefore that as I have tried to follow Thee in life, so I follow Thee also in death» before she finally uttered AS SHE DIED OF LOVE, “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”
This is just part of the article written on The Hidden Mary — and I strongly recommend theOur Catholic Prayers websitefor true nourishment of the soul.
But before I go, I just wanted to include the hymn we used to sing at school and church in England during May. It’s calledBring flowers of the Rarest.(I also remember dear old Sister Carmela who used to nod off during our history class as she steadily munched her way through her McVitie’s digestives!).
Thank you for visiting. As usual, your comments are always welcome!
As it is Lent, I just wanted to share with you this painting I did a while ago on recycled wood. I used oil paints and have recently varnished it with a 50:50 % turps and linseed oil mix.
I copied William Holman Hunt’s original, entitledThe Light of the World. It depicts Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, and echoes the passage from Revelation 3:20: «Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me».
Notice that the door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing «the obstinately shut mind”.
And here is the man himself:
Hunt was an English painter and one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. His paintings were notable for their great attention to detail, vivid colour, and elaborate symbolism.
Well, To end this blog, I’m including a special prayer for Lent, for those who might be observing this special season of prayer, meditation, reflection, charity, fasting and abstinence, confession and the general preparation of the body, mind and spirit for conversion at Easter.
God, heavenly Father, look upon me and hear my prayer during this holy Season of Lent. By the good works You inspire, help me to discipline my body and to be renewed in spirit.
Without You I can do nothing. By Your Spirit help me to know what is right and to be eager in doing Your will. Teach me to find new life through penance. Keep me from sin, and help me live by Your commandment of love. God of love, bring me back to You. Send Your Spirit to make me strong in faith and active in good works. May my acts of penance bring me Your forgiveness, open my heart to Your love, and prepare me for the coming feast of the Resurrection of Jesus.
Lord, during this Lenten Season, nourish me with Your Word of life and make me one with You in love and prayer.
Fill my heart with Your love and keep me faithful to the Gospel of Christ. Give me the grace to rise above my human weakness. Give me new life by Your Sacraments, especially the Mass.
Father, our source of life, I reach out with joy to grasp Your hand; let me walk more readily in Your ways. Guide me in Your gentle mercy, for left to myself I cannot do Your Will.
Father of love, source of all blessings, help me to pass from my old life of sin to the new life of grace. Prepare me for the glory of Your Kingdom. I ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever.
Hi folks! I hope you are well, especially in these worrying times of unrest and division…
With Lent and Easter just a short way away, I wanted to share some classic Lent music that I found the other day, as well as some enlightening teachings and reflections on Divinity (taken from the Nag Hammadi Codices).
To listen to the music, you can click on the link here. It is a thirty-minute recording, but you can choose which song to listen to:
And here is some thought for food and reflection:
‘…Although He is clothed in eternal life, He humbled himself, even unto death…
‘He was both knowledge and perfection, proclaiming the things that are in the heart of the Father. In doing this, He became wisdom to those who would receive the teaching…
‘While His wisdom meditates on the Word, His teaching speaks it, and His knowledge reveals it. His patience and mercy are a crown upon it. His joy concurs with it and his glory exalts it. It has revealed His image. It has received His rest. Around it, His love manifested in bodily form. His faithfulness embraced it… It is the fruit of His heart and expression of His will…
‘Light spoke through His mouth, and His voice produced life. He gave them thought, understanding, mercy and salvation. And the Spirit of strength which came from the infinite sweetness of the Father… He was the discovery for those who were searching, and He was a support for those who were unsure. He was purity for those who were defiled…
‘Speak to those who seek concerning the Truth and speak knowledge to those who have committed sin in their error. Make firm and stable the feet of those who stumble. Give your hand to the sick. Feed the hungry. Give assurance to those who are troubled. Give rest to the weary. Encourage men to love. Awaken men and make those who sleep stand. For you are the understanding which draws them. If the strong follow this path they will become stronger.
‘The father is sweet and His will is good… If you are children of the Father you will be known by your fruits and you will have His scent because you were born from the grace of His countenance…
‘…They yearn for that unique and perfect One who is there for them. They do not descend to the place of the dead. They do not have envy or groaning, or death in them. But they rest in Him who is rest. They no longer weary themselves searching for the truth. But they are the truth because the Father is in them, and they are in the Father. The Father is completely good and they are perfected by Him and they will never leave Him. They lack for nothing, and they are given rest and are refreshed by the Spirit…’
«Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…«
— FromCorinthians 13: 4-8
Here is a little bit about the history of Saint(s) Valentin:
The Roman Martyrology lists not one, but two Valentines, for February 14th. The first reads thus: «On February 14th, on the Via Flaminia in Rome, St Valentine, priest and martyr, after performing various healing miracles, and known for his culture, was killed by decapitation under Claudius Caesar.» The second one states: «On February 14th, in Terni, after being severely beaten, St Valentine was imprisoned and since they (his captors) were unable to overcome his resistance, they secretly dragged him out of prison at midnight and beheaded him on the orders of Placidus, the prefect of Rome».
The Roman Priest
The story of Valentine, the Roman priest, dates back to around AD270, during the persecutions of the Emperor Claudius Gothicus. Valentine was well known for his sanctity and the Emperor, who was intrigued by his fame, invited him to the palace. He offered Valentine his friendship and said he should adore the gods. But Valentino stated courageously and firmly that it was a waste of time worshipping the gods since Jesus Christ had brought the only true hope and the promise of a better world. The Emperor was impressed by Valentine’s faith and entrusted him to a Roman nobleman named Asterius, whom he ordered to convert Valentine using «mellifluous arguments». Asterius had a daughter who had been blind since the age of two. Valentino prayed over her and the girl regained her sight. Faced with this miracle, Asterius converted to Christianity along with his whole family. When he heard about their conversion, the Emperor Claudius condemned Valentine to be beheaded. The execution took place on the Via Flaminia in Rome. He was buried nearby and soon a church was built there in his honour.
The Bishop of Terni
The story regarding the Bishop of Terni takes place about seventy years later: Valentine was invited to Rome by the rhetorician and philosopher Crato, a teacher of Greek and Latin. He had a son named Chaeremon who suffered from a physical deformity that forced him to keep his head between his knees. No doctor had managed to heal him. Crato promised Valentine half of his possessions if he healed his son. But during a long night-time conversation, Valentine explained that it would not be his useless wealth that would heal the boy, but his faith in the one true God. Valentine then prayed over the boy and he regained his health. Moved by this miracle, Crato and his whole family were baptized by the bishop, together with three Greek students, Proculus, Ephebus and Apollonius. Abbondius, another student and son of the Prefect of Rome, Furious Placidus, also embraced Christianity. We know that Placidus held office between 346-347AD, so this is the historical date we associate with Valentine’s martyrdom. Placidus was devastated by the conversion of his son. He had Valentine arrested and decapitated on the Via Flaminia in Rome. The execution was performed at night to avoid the reaction of the now numerous Christian component of the city. After a brief burial on the site of his martyrdom, Proculus, Ephebus and Apollonius carried the body of the martyr to Terni and buried him just outside the city. But in Terni, the Consul Lucentius, arrested all three of them and before the populace could free them, had them beheaded as well. When they found out about the execution, the people buried the new martyrs together with Valentine in his tomb.
Patron saint of lovers
There are too many connections between the stories of the Valentine of Rome and the Valentine of Terni, including their places of martyrdom and burial, for us not to think they are one and the same person. Both give heroic testimonies of faith, both perform a miraculous healing that causes conversions, and both are martyred by beheading on the Via Flaminia in Rome. It was the Benedictine Order that maintained the church of St Valentine in Terni during the Middle Ages and that spread the cult of Valentine’s Day in their monasteries in France and England. The tradition of his being patron saint of lovers finds its origin in an ancient English text by Geoffrey Chaucer, according to whom birds start mating on Valentine’s Day. In mid-February, in fact, nature begins to awaken from its winter lethargy, so Saint Valentine has become the saint who announces the coming spring – which is why he is sometimes represented holding the sun in his hand. (This history of Valentine has been taken from the Vatican News, section Saint of the Day.)
Thank you for visiting — I hope you have a nice day, and my best Valentine wishes go out to mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers… and other women and men who make special sacrifices in the name of true love. Take care xxx
This week has been the annual Week of Christian Unity. We have been asked to pray for this cause. I must admit that I found it a bit difficult at first, because the term ‘Christian Unity’ was rather abstract for me, and to pray properly, in a focused way, I needed more understanding and structure.
I prayed for guidance, and sure enough, the next day an answer was presented to me! It was in the form of day-to-day prayers, readings, reflections, questions and go-and-dos. I found this link when looking for something else in the newsletter of my former church, Our Lady Queen of Peace RC, where I used to attend when living in London (I have since been living in Cordova for the last 33 years). So I would just like to share the link of this day-to-day prayer pamphlet with you which you can access here — it really is worth a browse!
Another site mentioned in the text is the Ecumenical PrayerCycle. This is also interesting and eye-opening — one which “takes us through every region of the world over the course of a year.
Praying for each place on earth and its people at least once a year, we affirm our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing diverse problems and sharing diverse gifts. Pray with us!”— World Council of Churches.
Every week, prayer is dedicated to different countries in the world. This week (starting on the 23rd of January) the prayers are for Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. See here for the following weeks and countries. (Last week it was the turn of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.)
(As I am not using this blog for commercial purposes, I am not infringing any copyrights, but I did want to provide an example of the important and interesting work that the World Council of Churches are doing.)
the 2,000-year presence and witness of the church in Asia Minor (now Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece) – the region in which St Paul and other apostles first planted the seeds of the Christian faith – and for how Greek culture influenced the early church
the Church Fathers who came from this area, along with many men and women who were Christian martyrs, and where seven ecumenical councils were convened
the pioneering work of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in quest of Christian unity and for protection of the environment
those who have reached out to assist people who have fled to, and through, these lands.
We pray for:
the healing of memories and wounds inflicted by early 20th century genocides of Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian communities, and for current tensions in these lands
enhanced respect for all minority groups and their claims,
those who work for justice and reconciliation
the people who struggle because of economic and political crises in these countries
more stable democratic governments that further the good of all.
A morning prayer
Our spirit seeks you in the early dawn, O God, for your commandments are light. Teach us, O Master, your righteousness and make us worthy to follow your commandments with all our strength. Take away from our hearts every darkness. Grant to us the Sun of righteousness and protect our lives from any bad influence with the seal of your most Holy Spirit. Direct our steps to the way of peace and grant to us that this present morning may be peaceful so that we may send up the morning hymns to you the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the only God, who is more than without beginning and creator of all. Amen.
(Excerpt from a morning prayer to the Holy Trinity, St. Basil the Great, 4th century, from Let us pray to the Lord, p. 58, WCC Publications)
I just wanted to share with you this photo of the beautiful Passion Flower I photographed when I was in England; it was just gracefully hanging over the neighbour’s fence, and the decorative, orange fruits languidly dripped from the verdant, intertwining branches.
The symbolic meaning of this flower is interesting and goes something like this:
The Passion flower (Passiflora) was named by Roman Catholic missionary priests who encountered the flower while on their journey in South America in the late 1500’s. They named it after the Passion of Jesus Christ, believing that several parts of the plant symbolized features of His suffering and death.
The symbolic parts of the plant are:
the filaments that represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore before His crucifixion,
the three stigmas on the passion flower which represent the three nails that held Jesus to the cross
the ten “petals”, His ten faithful apostles, and
the five anthers symbolise the five wounds that Jesus suffered when he was crucified.
The passion flower started to become widely known, and many used the flower to teach about the crucifixion.
The flower can also be used for medicinal purposes to treat such cases as: anxiety, insomnia, stress, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for flavouring in foods.
To end this blog, here is a poem about the Passion Flower, written by Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo, a highly-acclaimed poet of Nigeria. He was also “a teacher, and librarian, who died fighting for the independence of Biafra. He is today widely acknowledged as an outstanding postcolonial English-language African poet and one of the major modernist writers of the 20th century… Despite his father’s devout Christianity (he was a teacher in Catholic missionary schools), Okigbo had an affinity, and came to believe later in his life, that in him was reincarnated the soul of his maternal grandfather, a priest of Idoto, (the water goddess of the Idoto River in his hometown), an Igbo deity (Igbo, the people of south-east Nigeria). — Wikipedia
Passion Flower — Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo (British Nigeria, 16 August 1932 – 1967)
And the flower weeps
For him who was silenced;
dumb bells1 in the dim light celebrate
with wine song;
Messiah2 will come again,
After the argument in heaven3;
Messiah will come again,
Fingers of penitence
to a palm grove5
fingers of chalk7.
Explanation of the poem:
1 — «dumb bell» referred to the practice in the Roman Catholic Church where bells are not rung between Maundy Thursday and the first Mass on Easter Sunday
2 — Messiah pointed at the expected King and Saviour (Jesus Christ).
3 —»after the argument in heaven» looks at the shaking of the powers of heaven referred to in The Gospel According to St. Luke, Chapter 21, verse 26, prior to the coming of the Son of Man, described in verse 27.
4 — “Lumen mundi”, the Light of the World (Jesus Christ)
5 — “Palm grove”, the place of sacrifice
6 — «vegetable offering», the fruits of the earth that are being sacrificed, that is, palm oil, kola nuts, alligator pepper and eggs of white hens
7 — «five fingers of chalk», the sacrificial chalk which is sold in «fingers».
Hello again everyone! Sorry for the break, but as I explained previously I’ve been rather busy translating lately and couldn’t spend more time with my eyes glues to the screen.
However, today I took advantage of the cooler (28 °C) windier weather to go for a long drive up to the local sierra of Hornachuelos to visit a convent, Nuestra Señora de la Sierra in the area of San Calixto, lying almost in the middle of nowhere.
It’s surrounded by vegetation that ranges from open fields, olive groves, shrubs such as wild cistus, pistacia mastic and terebinthus, as well as old holm oak trees and cork oaks that have recently been stripped of their bark. (For more about the vegetation of the Hornachuelos Nature Reserve and its haunted monastery you can see my previous blog.)
The story of this particular convent goes back to the 16th century. It is said to have been founded by two monks who, after wandering the Sierra looking for a suitable place to make their sanctuary, finally came to rest in a hilly area full of thistles (cardos), high above the flood zone of the Bembézar River. Knowledge of their fervorous, holy pursuit spread, and they were soon joined by other hermits.
For shelter, they made a hut out of rockrose branches where they placed their image of Saint Michael. Eventually, in 1543, they founded the Monastery of San Basilio del Tardón. (It is said that Tardon derives from Cardón, which was the name given to this area by the monks. It is a derivative of cardo, or ‘thistle’, and refers to the thistle-covered hill where they lived.)
The monastery was inhabited by monks until 1808. A few years later, Francisco Sánchez, a Knight of the Order of Charles III was granted permission to build a hamlet on all the surrounding (thistly) land of Cardón/Tardón. He named the areaSan Calixto. Over the years the hamlet grew in size, and by the mid-19th century its population rose to a hundred and fifty. The village now boasted its own town hall, prison, communal oven and a posada (an inn). (San Calixto lies at about eleven miles above Hornachuelos, passing the visitor centre, Huerta del Rey.)
However, bit by bit the area and monastery fell into abandonment, perhaps due to its isolated location. It was not until 1940 that the hamlet and all the surrounding areas were bought by the marquis. As a result, the desolated, spiritual ground was resuscitated. This time though, a convent was constructed over the ruins of the ancient monastery, and was baptised Convento de las Carmelitas Descalzas de Nuestra Señora de la Sierra(Convent of the Barefoot Carmelites of Our Lady of the Sierra—a bit of a mouthful!).
Today, the convent serves as a spiritual retreat and tourist attraction, alluring many visitors with its fascinating charm and beauty. Two important guests included the former Belgium monarchs, King Balduino y Queen Fabiola. (They were related to the marquises via Fabiola, who was originally a Madrid-born Spanish aristocrat). The royal couple spent their honeymoon there in 1960.
Additionally, another attraction of this convent is the handiwork products that you can purchase, which are made by the nuns. These ladies-of-the-cloth are extremely talented in needlework and other crafts, employing local materials such as cork from the indigenous alcornoque oak trees, as well as wool, fur and antlers from the animals that inhabit the land. They also grow their own vegetables.
(A little word of advice here: if you do ring at the door of this convent wanting to have a look at their products, don’t be surprised when you are answered by a thin, delicate voice that glides out from the holes in the iron-grate window; it greets the visitor while at the same time pays homage to the Virgin Mary, murmuring piously, ‘Ave María Purissima’, to which the knowledgeable visitor is expected to reply, ‘sin pecado concebida’, meaning ‘conceived without sin’. However, if you are not so well-versed in devotional greetings—like I wasn’t—then you might just reply with an irreverent ‘¡Buenos días!’ So be warned!)
Well, that’s all for now folks! Thanks for bearing with me and my fabulous photography (ha ha!).