Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Our Lady of China

Icon, Our Lady of China, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

Lately, I have been watching a series on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network from the States) on the history of the Church in China.  It has been bloody and gory much like the history of the early Church during the Roman persecutions.  Sadly, the Church in China has not yet reached a point of detente with the State so the persecutions continue -- although not as bloody as in the past.

Before I continue, let me just make a few comments on the icon above.  I made a few significant changes in my version of this icon from the original.  For example, I have the Christ Child making the traditional blessing with his right hand and I also added the cross in his left hand.  As well, I wanted to put some sort of significant pattern on Our Lady's robe so I searched until I found the Chinese characters for the four seasons of the year.  So even though most of us can't read the script, take my word for it, the designs read "winter, summer, spring and fall".  Then, finally, I added the traditional Greek abbreviations for Christ Jesus and Mother of God found on almost all icons.

Now for the icon of Our Lady of China.  There are actually a number of different images with that title and even with a particular image, there are sometimes several different versions.  For example, there is the one I have drawn shown at the 

Icon, Our Lady of China, drawing
by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

beginning of this post and here is another version -- a variation of the same drawing.

In drawing both of them, I added Christian symbols that are not present on the originals.  In the one to the left, I added crosses to the top of the pagoda-like structure as well as the abbreviations for Christ Jesus and Mother of God.

There are three other well-known images that bear the title of Our Lady of China.  I have included them in this post just in case you come across them in your own reading or travel and wonder which one is the real thing!  I guess they all are.

An image known as
Our Lady of China and occasionally
 as Our Lady of Donglu
The image immediately above and the following two images are all sometimes referred to as Our Lady of China, particularly the beautiful drawing above where Mother and Child are both dressed in intricately designed silk tunics of a soft yellow shade.  This image is also known as Our Lady of Donglu.
Our Lady of She-Shan
also known as
Our Lady of China

Our Lady of She-Shan is the proper title for the image to the left, but it, too, is often referred to as Our Lady of China.

This image, by the way, is especially well known for it is the image of Our Lady that was referred to by our current Holy Father.  On May 24, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he had composed a special prayer for Our Lady of Shes-han.  For the text of that prayer, see the link below.

Our Lady of China
based on the
apparition of Our
Lady at Donglu
Then there is the much venerated statue of Our Lady which is said to be based on an apparition of the Blessed Mother at Donglu which was seen by many during the terrible persecutions of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.  This version is considered to be the more traditional one rather than the figures in the yellow tunics shown above.

We are told that the image appeared in the sky and the Boxers were so terrified that they tried to shoot what was obviously not matter as we know it.  When their bullets did nothing, they turned and ran in fear.  Sadly, it did not convert them on the spot!

Finally,there is simply no way for us to know how many Chinese Catholics and Orthodox have died for their Faith since Christianity first came to the Middle Kingdom 500 years ago now.  In spite of the most brutal tortures imaginable, we know that hundreds of thousands refused to apostatize and deny their Faith.  During the Boxer Rebellion, we know that one completely Catholic village of 3,000 individuals was completely destroyed and all the inhabitants were put to death.

Even today, we know that there are still martyrs to the Faith in China.  While they may not be publicly tortured and slowly and agonizingly put to death, they do suffer the slow death of being imprisoned year after year for refusing to accept the State-supported version of the Catholic Church whose State-appointed Bishops are not in union with our Holy Father and the Magisterium.

I feel a great burden for China and ask that we all pray for that day to come when the Church there will finally be free and fully part of the universal Church.  Here is a prayer to Our Lady of China which you may want to include as part of your own prayers.

Hail, Holy Mary, Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
Mother of all nations and all people.
You are the special heavenly Mother of the Chinese people.
Teach us your way of total obedience to God's will.
Help us to live our lives true to our faith.
Fill our hearts with burning love for God and each other.
Stir up in our youth an unconditional giving of self to the service of God.
We call on your powerful intercession for peace, reconciliation
and unity among believers and the conversion of the
unbelievers in China and throughout the world,
for God's mercy is our only hope.
Our Lady of China, Mother of Jesus,
hear our petitions and pray for us.  Amen.



Some cats can sleep anywhere!
Well, Suki is sound asleep.  The cleaning lady came today instead of Wednesday and thus Suki was totally unprepared.  This somehow seemed to make the trauma of the vacuum cleaner, etc. that much worse. 

The really sad part about this is that there is no way I can warn her about the upcoming fire alarm test this afternoon.  She is sleeping so deeply that I know she will be jolted awake and be really confused for a few moments.  Hopefully I will be close by so I can shepherd her into the back of the closet where the noise is not quite so terrible.

Actually, I would also like to settle down for a nap about now, but am refraining from it since I do not want to be awakened by that awful sound. 

I am still recovering from all the sedation I was given yesterday when I had the colonoscopy!  The news is good by the way -- no indication of any problems at all.  Thus I have determined that I will never go through this prep and procedure again -- it is just too difficult -- especially the fasting part.  I had nothing but clear liquids from midnight Saturday until after the test was over and I finally woke up in recovery at about 11:30 -- almost 36 hours with only water, Gatorade and jello.

Well, it is over and all the discomfort and fasting fit in perfectly with my Lenten observance.  Now, however, I find I am hungry all the time!

Well, amazingly, Suki just awakened and is now trying to lick my face which means she really wants to be fed.  I guess I should go and feed the both of us.

May Our Lady of China pray for us and may the peace of Almighty God be with us all.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Erythrina x bidwillii

Erythrina xbidwillii (camdeni), drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

Warning:  x-rated information follows.  If your children are peering over your shoulder as you read this, you should cover their eyes before reading any further.  Now, you can continue reading about the off-spring of male and female flowers!  (Sorry, I couldn't resist a bit of foolishness -- it must be the mood I am in today.)  Anyway, here are the scientific facts regarding the Coral Bean Tree.

Erythrina ×bidwillii is the scientific name for two different hybrids (cultivars) produced from hybridizing Erythrina species at Camden Park Estate, New South Wales, Australia, in the early 1840s. The two different cultivars resulted from two separate crossings of Erythrina herbacea L. (female) with Erythrina crista-galli L. (male):

Erythrina ×bidwillii 'Camdeni' (tree)
Erythrina ×bidwillii 'Blakei' (shrub)

Erythrina bidwillii in garden
Although the flowers of both cultivars are similar, the form of the plants is different - one is a small tree (Camdeni), while the other is a shrub (Blakei). The tree form, when protected from frost, can obtain the height of 20 feet. The genus name Erythrina comes from the Greek erythros meaning red, both the flower and seed are bright red. They are members of the Fabaceae (legume) family.  There are over 100 species of Erythrina that grow in warm, frost-free regions of the world.

Erythrina or
 The wood is strong and light weight with the buoyancy of balsa wood. The wood has been used for canoe out-rigging, fish net floats and surfboards. In Africa the tree is considered a royal tree and planted on the graves of Zulu chiefs. When the tree began to flower, farmers knew it was time to plant crops. Medicinal use suggests that species have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects (it is rumoured to have narcotic effects!). The seed is said to be a lucky charm.



Many of you already know of my love for trees.  I have shared my own poetry and prose with you in the past which reveals how deeply I can be moved by the sight of a beautiful tree under a sunlit sky or dark against the falling dusk.  One of the best know poem about trees, however, is the one by the poet, Joyce Kilmer.

Joyce Kilmer was born in the U.S. and died in France at the 2nd Battle of the Marne at the age of 31in 1918.  At the time of his death, he was considered to be a leading Catholic poet and lecturer, a contemporary of Chesterton and Belloc.  Although the poem, Trees, seems now to many to be a bit of doggerel, it does have beauty.  For me, it has helped in the expression of what I want to say about trees.  In case you have never read the entire poem, here it is:

(For Mrs. Henry Mills Alden)
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
~ Joyce Kilmer

Here are a few photographic examples of the truth spoken in his poem.

Tree full of light

Tree in the fog

Solitary Tree

Tree of Life

The beauty of age

Africa, Africa



Suki celebrating her victory

Shower Bench for
Well, Suki is at it again ...  When she first came to live with me two years ago, she immediately discovered that the drain for my big shower stall was loose and that with a bit of prompting from her, it would come off.  This left a big black hole with all sorts of strange smells coming from it for her to investigate!  "Yuck", said I.
Full 2 L container
of liquid soap

At that time, I was able to discourage her interest by making certain that one leg of my shower bench was always placed securely on top of the drain plate.  After she discovered that she could no longer easily remove the plate, she ignored it, turning her attention to things more easily accessible.

Well, recently, for some reason, she decided to investigate the shower plate again.  This time she discovered that if she worked at it very diligently, the could move the shower bench just enough to pull the plate off very satisfactorily!  I discovered rather quickly what she was up to since it is a somewhat noisy procedure and my hearing is excellent.  As soon as she heard me coming, she would run and hide which indicated to me that she remembered my raised voice two years previously when she had done this.

Each time, I would place the bench leg back in place very carefully and while this made it more difficult for her to accomplish her task, I think the challenge only made the process more interesting for her!  Finally, after she had done her little "trick" twice in one day, I decided to try a new tactic.  I took a full liquid soap bottle containing 2 L of the stuff and placed it directly over the drain cover.  Since doing this, I have discovered that Suki finds it impossible to remove the bottle and so it seems I have won the current battle.  However, as we all know, cats don't like to lose.  So, I expect I will be reporting further on this matter some time in the months ahead.  Woe is me!

As for me, I am doing very well -- all things considered.  Sadly, I have to interrupt my comfortable life style by having a colonoscopy on Monday morning.  Thank goodness they sedate you for the procedure so I will neither have to be aware of the process nor listen to the comments of the doctor and nurse.  Afterwards, my friend, Sharon, will accompany me home as they tell me that I will be rather dopey.  I am sure I would be fine on my own, but these people do get rather irritated when you don't follow the rules.  So, thank goodness for a dear friend like Sharon who so freely gives of her time.

Otherwise, all appears to be well.  I haven't fallen since the beginning of January now -- I have come close a couple of times but it was usually when I started feeling that "space-y" feeling and tried to ignore it and just keep doing whatever task I had set for myself.  As long as I stop whatever I am doing and go and take a "cat nap", I am OK.  So, while Miss Suki is a real mischief maker, she is also a good teacher when it comes to teaching me how to sleep when I need to sleep and not feeling guilty for doing so! 
A friend of mine has just been diagnosed with cancer and will be having surgery soon.  I think the prognosis is considered to be good, at the same time, this is not a diagnosis anyone wants to hear.  If you feel so inclined, please join with me in asking St. Peregrine to pray for her -- and for anyone you know who is suffering with cancer at this time.

O great St. Peregrine, you have been called "The Mighty", "The Wonder Worker" because of the numerous miracles which you obtained from God for those who have turned to you in their need. For so many years, you bore in your own flesh this cancerous disease that destroys the very fibre of our being. You turned to God when the power of human beings could do no more, and you were favoured with the vision of Jesus coming down from His cross to heal your affliction. I now ask God to heal this sick person whom I entrust to you. Aided by your powerful intercession, I shall sing with Mary a hymn of gratitude to God for His great goodness and mercy. Amen.
May the peace of God be with us all.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Job, the Long-Suffering One

Icon, Job, the Long-Suffering One, drawn by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
Job lived in Arabia almost 2000 years before Christ. According to the Book of Job, he lived in the land of Uz (whose location is unknown). He was an extremely wealthy man for his time. As well, he was righteous, prosperous, and had a large family. The story goes that God permitted Satan to take away all of Job's wealth, family and health to see if Job would still maintain his trust in God or if he would turn from God in anger.

The story of Job is an early biblical introduction to one of the basic tenents of what I call the Catholic "theology" of suffering (something I have spoken about previously):  that all people suffer regardless of how righteous, rich, humble or holy they are.  What Job could not know and what we know now is that this inevitable suffering, joined to the sufferings of Christ, has value for us and for all those who are dear to us, living and deceased.

In his many long days and weeks of trial -- as his wife tells him to curse God and die and as his three friends (see the 3 figures in the icon) tell him over and over again that he must be suffering because he, Job, has sinned and that if he will only repent, God will bless him again -- Job never deviates from his belief that he is not suffering because of something he has done or failed to do.  As we know, he is right. His story teaches us that even the righteous suffer and that no matter how severe our sufferings may be, God does not owe us an explanation -- even though most of us think, for some reason, that God has to explain His permissive will to us!

                   ORTHODOX HYMN ABOUT JOB (original in Serbian)



Well today is Clean Monday, tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday and then we have Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  I have been looking forward to this week for some time now as the Lenten Season is my favourite season of the Church Year.  I am a bit weird that way -- it is similar to liking to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary more than the other three sets of Mysteries.  I am not a morbid person nor do I enjoy suffering.  I think it has more to do with the way my life experiences seem to enable me to identify more clearly with the Passion of Christ than with any other part of His experience.  Whatever the case may be, let's forget all that for now while I talk a bit about these 3 days.

Spiritual Housecleaning
A task for Clean Monday
Clean Monday is the first day of Great Lent, as Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox refer to the Lenten season. For Eastern Catholics, it falls two days before the Western date of Ash Wednesday.  Clean Monday is a reminder that we should begin Lent with good intentions and a desire to clean our spiritual house. It is a day of strict fasting for Eastern Catholics, including abstinence not only from meat but from eggs and dairy products as well.  On Clean Monday and throughout Great Lent, Eastern Catholics frequently pray the Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian:
O Lord and Master of my life, keep from me the spirit of indifference and discouragement, lust of power and idle chatter. [kneel/prostration]
Instead, grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humble-mindedness, patience, and love. [kneel/prostration]
O Lord and King, grant me the grace to be aware of my sins and not to judge my brother or sister; for You are blessed now and ever and forever. Amen. [kneel/prostration]
Shrove Tuesday, as the name suggests, is the day for people to be shriven.

Paczki (Polish)

To be shriven means to have confessed your sins and received absolution, which is a very good way to begin Lent. Most Eastern Europeans celebrate Shrove Tuesday, known as Pancake Tuesday or Mardi Gras in the States and Canada, with special foods. In the old days, meat, dairy and eggs were abstained from during the entire Lenten period (Orthodox Christians still do this). So ingenious cooks rid their pantries of temptations the week before Ash Wednesday with a climax on Shrove Tuesday of rich, fat-laden feasts that included thick and thin pancakes, deep-fried doughnuts and pastries. While the fasting is usually less rigorous these days, the food traditions survive. The only one of these traditions that I have ever indulged in was paczki. These jam-filled,  doughnut-type treats are so rich and delicious that after two of them you are seriously suffering a sugar high! After eating like this, you really need to go to Confession and confess committing the sin of gluttony!

"Remember that you
are dust and unto dust
you shall return."

In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the season of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.   During Mass, the ashes which give Ash Wednesday its name are distributed. The ashes are made by burning the blessed palms that were distributed the previous year on Palm Sunday; many churches ask their parishioners to return any palms that they took home so that they can be burned.  After the priest blesses the ashes and sprinkles them with holy water, the faithful come forward to receive them. The priest dips his right thumb in the ashes and, making the Sign of the Cross on each person's forehead, says, "Remember, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return" (or a variation on those words).  The distribution of ashes reminds us of our own mortality and calls us to repentance. In the early Church, Ash Wednesday was the day on which those who had sinned, and who wished to be readmitted to the Church, would begin their public penance. The ashes that we receive are a reminder of our own sinfulness, and many Catholics leave them on their foreheads all day as a sign of humility.



Suki contemplating
the idea of giving up
something for Lent!
 Of course, the one major task for each of us as we approach Lent is to decide exactly what we, personally, will be sacrificing for our Lenten Offering to God.
I have been speaking to Suki about this, but so far she has shown little interest in making a decision.  I suggested she consider doing a bit of fasting (since she is overweight it couldn't hurt); however, she gave that idea an absolute thumbs down (or paws down as the case may be).  I have pointed out that Wednesday is just two days away, but so far she refuses to discuss the matter further! 

As for myself, I have decided that I will donate a certain amount of money each time I speak in a certain way.  This is something I have an ongoing problem with and so it is quite possible that I will have collected a goodly sum by the time Easter arrives!  I will also try to do the normal fasting and abstinence of the Lenten Season. Of course, this depends on how my health is during these next 40 days, but I am determined to do what I can to stay mindful of Our Lord's Passion, suffering and death and to spend extra time in prayer.

I asked Suki if she wanted to go to Mass with me on Wednesday and get ashes.  She pointed out that since she is black already, the ashes wouldn't really show up at all.  Thus, no one would be impressed by seeing this sign of her piety so she is just going to stay at home and sleep!  I tried to explain to her that the purpose of the ashes is not to impress other people but to remind ourselves of our mortality and the need to prepare ourselves for eternity.  This is one more topic which she is refusing to discuss any further -- she says all this talking is interrupting her sleep!  What a cat!!

I wish you all a blessed Ash Wednesday and a holy Lenten Season.  May the peace of God be with us all.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Calla Lilies and Orchids

White Calla Lilies, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

Every time I post another drawing of Calla Lilies, I think to myself "well, this is the last time".  Each time I feel as though I will somehow be able to discipline myself sufficiently so that I refrain from doing anymore drawings of these lilies which are not real lilies at all.  But, then I see a new photograph somewhere of these beautiful flowers and my fingers get itchy, wanting to try to draw what I see.  What can I do?  I think I must be an addict.  If I am, this means that you, my dear followers, will have to either patiently endure more drawings of Calla lilies or do without any postings at all during the time I am in rehab! -- I wonder if there really could be a facility for people addicted to flowers?!!

Orchid miltoniopsis, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

And here is another Orchid.  What did I say about these flowers last time I posted a drawing of an orchid?  In case you have forgotten, I wrote:  "I really don't know why I am trying to draw Orchids again.  I have never been very successful as Orchids really need to be painted and not drawn in order to show something of their intricate beauty.  The way I have to draw and colour on the computer is just too heavy handed, I find, to create the complex loveliness of Orchids.  Yet, for some reason, I keep trying."

So, here you have it folks... two new drawings of two of my favourite flowers which I continue drawing even though I keep telling myself that I shouldn't.  I wonder what this says about me!  Maybe I don't want to know.  Whatever the case, I hope you don't mind looking at new drawings of Calla Lilies and Orchids just one more time.  Honest!



I have heard reports that in some places on the earth this winter, people are having too much snow and cold.  Here in Toronto, we have had too little snow (so the children are saying) and very mild temperatures.  So, when a friend sent me a pps full of photos of cats in the snow, I thought it would be fun to share some of these delightful photos.  If you are glad not to have snow this winter, you can enjoy looking at the photos and being thankful; if, on the other hand, you really wish we were having a regular winter, you can look at the photos and imagine that all that snow is here!  Whatever your choice, enjoy.

"Uh, oh, should have worn my boots like my mom said."

"Here comes the Winter Princess -- what a beauty I am!"

"Actually, this stuff tastes pretty good!"

"I am convinced that I am perfectly hidden, just waiting to pounce!
No one can see me, I am certain of it!"

"He jumps, he hits the ball into the basket, HE SCORES!
Super Cat has won the game for the Cat Team once again,
beating the Dog Team 174 to 170!"

"This snow bath is kind of fun!  Why don't you
come on in and join me?"


Well, while Suki is sleeping the morning away, I am waiting for the arrival for a dear friend of mine who now
Suki wanted her photo taken in the snow but
since we have no snow, I had to fake it!
lives in the U.S. of A.  I haven't seen her for some months and so I am really looking forward to our upcoming visit.

She hasn't seen me since my last fall and I wish I could be more improved than I am.  My face remains a lovely shade of blue/ gray which does not seem to be fading very much these days.  As well, I am still having to wear a hat all the time when I am with other people so that they won't have to look at my head wound from two months ago.  I never knew these things could take so long to heal.

At any rate, once we sit down and start visiting, none of this will matter anymore -- we will just be too busy catching up on each other's news.  Suki may or may not deign to join us.  She is very cat-like in this respect.  With some of my visitors, as soon as she hears their voices, she comes to investigate.  With others, she may raise her head when they first enter the apartment, but after that she just goes right back to sleep.  I would think it might have something to do with how she is feeling on a particular day except she behaves this way consistently with the same people over time.  I do wonder what goes on in that little head of hers!

I will have my first ever stress test tomorrow.  Since I can't walk or run on a treadmill for very long, I understand that they will be inducing the stress somehow.  I have puzzled over how this will be done and have had visions of their putting me in the same room with a punk rock or rap group during a practice session.  This would certainly get my stress levels up in a big hurry!  But, somehow, I think they are much more sophisticated than that which is why they are sending me to nuclear medicine instead of to the gym!  I will let you know what they do and how it worked in my next posting.

Meanwhile, I had better go and finish getting organized for my visitor.

May the peace of God be with us all.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko

Icon, Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko, drawn by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

Poster from Polish Film Festival, 2009
 I recall first hearning about Fr.  Jerzy Popiełuszko some years ago when a dear Polish friend of mine took me to see a documentary about him at a Polish film festival.  The story of his life was so inspiring, showing how he became a martyr for the Faith in the late 20th century when Poland was still under Communist oppression.  I was deeply moved as it is an unforgetable story.  Since then, an actual feature-length film has come out and was shown at the Polish Film Festival held here in Toronto/Mississauga in 2009 (see poster above). 

I was delighted when I heard the news of his forthcoming beatification back in late 2009.  I was pretty certain that he was already in Heaven prior to that announcement, but since that time I have been able to ask him to pray for me and with me with the certain knowledge that he now definitely has direct access to the "Throne Room"!  I have been wanting to do an icon of him for some time and kept praying about it until God's grace inspired me to do so.

Since you may not have heard of him, let me briefly tell you his story.

Jerzy Popiełuszko (September 14, 1947 – October 19, 1984) was a Roman Catholic priest from Poland associated with the Solidarity union. He was murdered by three agents of the Polish communist internal intelligence agency, the Służba Bezpieczeństwa, (English: Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs) who were shortly thereafter tried and convicted of the murder. He has been recognized as a martyr by the Church.

Jerzy Popiełuszko was a charismatic priest who was first sent to strikers in the Warsaw Steelworks. Thereafter he was associated with workers and trade unionists from the Solidarity movement who opposed the Communist regime in Poland. Popiełuszko's sermons were routinely broadcast by Radio Free Europe, and thus became famous throughout Poland for their uncom-promising stance against the regime.

The Służba Bezpieczeństwa tried to silence or intimidate him. When their techniques did not work, they fabricated evidence against him; he was arrested in 1983, but soon released on intervention of the clergy and pardoned by an amnesty.  A car accident was set up to kill Jerzy Popiełuszko on October 13, 1984, but he escaped it. The alternative plan was to kidnap him, and this plan was carried out on October 19, 1984. The priest was beaten and murdered by three Security Police officers under the direction of a superior. Then his body was dumped into the Vistula Water Reservoir near Włocławek from where it was recovered on October 30, 1984.

News of the political murder caused an uproar throughout Poland, and the murderers and one of their superiors were convicted of the crime. More than 250,000 people, including Lech Wałęsa, attended his funeral on November 3, 1984. Despite the murder and its repercussions, the Communist regime remained in power until 1989. Popiełuszko's murderers were jailed but released later as part of an amnesty.

Marianna Popiełuszko
attending the beatification
of her son, 2010
In 1997, the Roman Catholic Church started the process of his beatification. On December 19, 2009, it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI had approved the decree of beatification of Father Popiełuszko. He was beatified on June 6, 2010 in Warsaw's Piłsudski Square. His mother, Marianna Popiełuszko, who had reached 100 years of age a few days earlier, was present at the event.


Unusual Art Forms

I am always on the look out for unusual types of art, especially folk art.  Just this week I received emails about two such types of art in my inbox.  The first pps showed the work of a Russian artist who creates creatures from cedar wood chips.  These are lasting works which people want to purchase, but which he will not sell.  The second pps showed temporary works of "art" created from fruits, veggies, nuts and grains in the form of giant floats.  These floats are entries in a parade which takes place in the Netherlands, using creations built entirely of edible products.  (I do hope they have a big vegetarian cook-out once the parade is finished!).  I hope you find the following of interest -- apologies if you have also seen one or both of these pps productions.

Owl made from cedar wood chips by Sergey Bobkov

Other creatures made from cedar wood chips by Sergey Bobkov
(artist in background)

Dragon from parade in the Netherlands
Everything used in the creation is from some sort of
fruit, vegetables, nuts or grains.
Friendly dragon from parade in the Netherlands
Everything used in the creation is from some sort of
fruit, vegetables, nuts or grains.
Owl from parade in the Netherlands
Everything used in the creation is from some sort of
fruit, vegetables, nuts or grains.


Suki and Sallie

What kind of mischief
can I get into next? 
(NOT when she is
Have I told you about my discovery that it is a very good thing for me to have company?  Yes, and not only company, but noisy company!  Let me explain. 

Over time, I have noticed that the louder the company, the more stressed Suki becomes (this might be because we normally live in a profoundly silent home).  Normally, I wouldn't think that stressing out my cat would be a good thing, but it turns out to be the case with Suki.  Why?  because after getting all stressed out, she will get into her "crow's nest" bed and sleep deeply for hours.  No matter what I do, she rarely awakens which means that I don't have to watch out for the "cat between the legs almost tripping me" problem.  Nor is there any sandbox cleaning to be done.  In fact, I often have to awaken her to tell her that it is time to eat "din-din".

Today, for example, I had three visitors in the late morning.  They were from St. Michael's Cathedral and had come to bring me Holy Communion (alleluia!).  One of the three is a bit louder than the rest of us so with her voice combined with the other two plus me, Suki was quite "stressed" by the time they left after being here for about 30 minutes .  She crawled into her bed and has been deeply asleep ever since.  Normally, I wouldn't be able to see the clock reach 1 p.m. without having to deal with Suki begging for her lunch -- but not so today.  She is sound asleep.  I feel a bit like I think young mothers must feel when the baby takes an unexpectedly long nap giving them a bit of a breather.  Of course, mothers have to be a bit concerned if the nap lasts for too long, but I can just enjoy every quiet moment.

As for me, I am doing well today.  I didn't feel well enough to try to go out on such a cold day, but I have had a pleasant day at home, especially since the Lord came to visit me in Holy Communion.  What a blessing is the service to shut-ins.  I am so grateful for the generosity of the parishioners who are willing to go to all the extra effort to bring Holy Communion  (plus a bit of a visit) to all those members who are unable to get to Mass for one reason or another -- especially on a cold day like this one.  Truly, I feel doubly blessed.

I am asking Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko to intercede for all of you who read this blog, for myself and for all those who look to us for prayer.  May one of us, if God so wills, be the means by which Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko is deemed by the Church to be St. Jerzy Popiełuszko!

May the peace of God be with us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Sweet Calabash (Passiflora maliformis)

Passiflora maliformis -- Sweet Calabash, drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
 I really don't know why I am so attracted to Passion Flowers since they are almost borderline grotesque.  I imagine that it is partly because they are so extremely colourful, but I think that it is also partly because the "flowers" are so completely ridiculous -- almost as though God threw a bunch of colours, designs and patterns up in the air and just let everything stay the way it fell.

Another factor might be that they are almost impossible for me to draw on the computer.  There are just too many patterns -- the kinds of patterns that require the artist to do something like the "spatter painting" that we used to do in elementary school art classes.  Since I can't create the many complex designs involved, I have to find some other way to give an impression of design and pattern which often leads to the discovery of new artistic techniques on the computer.  Anyway, enough rambling, let me tell you a bit about "Sweet Calabash".

Passiflora maliformis (family, Passifloraceae) or Sweet Calabash is cultivated for its beautiful fragrant flowers and delicious fruit. The name maliformis name means “apple-shaped” referring to the fruit.

This species is native and common in the wild in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Barbados and Trinidad; also Venezuela, Colombia and northern Ecuador. It is cultivated in Jamaica, Brazil and Ecuador for its fruits.

The fruits ripen from September to December, are light-yellow with a very hard shell, difficult to open but the seedy pulp is much enjoyed. Yellow-orange pulp is aromatically scented and flavoured. In Jamaica, it is scooped from the shell and served with wine and sugar. The strained juice is excellent for making cold drinks. Snuff boxes have been made of the shell of the hard type. This species is noted for its resistance to pests and diseases that affect its relatives.

All in all, a fascinating plant.  Be advised, there are still a number of other Passion Flowers I haven't tried drawing yet, so...

Recently I came across some photographs taken of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Martin in Beuron Germany. I want to show you examples of the particular type of art work was developed there and, as well, I want to tell you about the patron of the abbey, St. Martin. 

Beuron Archabbey (in German Erzabtei Beuron,
 otherwise Erzabtei St. Martin) is a major house of
the Benedictine Order located at Beuron in the
upper Danube valley in Baden-Württemberg
in Germany.
First let me tell you about their patron saint.  St. Martin was born in 316 of parents who worshipped the old Roman gods. However, as the story below indicates, by his teen years he was thinking of becoming a Christian, but remained undecided. He had become a catechumen (he was studying the faith in the local church) but by age 18 had not yet taken the final step of asking to be baptised. It was at this time when he had an experience which changed his life forever.

For those of you not familiar with St. Martin of Tours, let me quickly tell you the story about the event for which St. Martin has been most frequently portrayed artistically and for which he is best known.

As reported by his biographer, Sulpicius Severus, a contemporary of his, Martin was already a tribune at the time of this event. It happened when he was on garrison duty at Amiens. On a bitterly cold winter day, the young tribune Martin rode through the gates, probably dressed in the regalia of his unit -- gleaming, flexible armor, ridged helmet, and a beautiful white cloak whose upper section was lined with lambswool. As he approached the gates he saw a beggar, with clothes so ragged that he was practically naked. The beggar must have been shaking and blue from the cold but no one reached out to help him. Martin, overcome with compassion, took off his mantle. In one quick stroke he slashed the lovely mantle in two with his sword, handed half to the freezing man and wrapped the remainder on his own shoulders. Many in the crowd thought this was so ridiculous a sight that they laughed and jeered but some realized that they were seeing Christian goodness. That night Martin dreamed that he saw Jesus wearing the half mantle he had given the beggar. Jesus said to the angels and saints that surrounded him, "See! this is the mantle that Martin, yet a catechumen, gave me." When he woke, it was the "yet a catechumen" that spurred the 18-year-old Martin on and he went immediately to be baptized.

Here we see the beggar and St. Martin handing him half his cloak.
The Latin reads: "Saint Martin, pray for us"

A central dome, side chapel, with an icon of Our Lady and the Child
The Latin 'Mater Dei' reads: "Mother of God"  The art work
found in the monastery, known as the Beuronese School of Art,
saw the important role of geometry in proportions.  "Geometrical
proportions determine ideal forms, and the result is an innate harmony
comparable to the mathematical relationships in musical composition."

The saving act of our redemption appears to form the trunk
of a tree with the hart and the lambs feeding at the
edge of the stream.  It reminds me of the verse from Psalm 1:3
"They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield
their fruit in due season and their leaves do not wither." (side chapel aspe)

This icon, from the cloister, shows very clearly
not only the desire for geometrical perfection in the art
but also shows the strong influence of Egyptian art which
had a profound effect on those who founded the Beuronese School.
This icon is entitled 'Sedes sapietiae' or "Seat of Wisdom"
This link gives you a selection of Beuronese works if you are interested.

Suki and Sallie

 Well, the preceding section got me into rather an Egyptian mode so I decided to use this drawing of the Egyptian cat god.  I will not be showing this to Suki for fear that if she knew that at one time the Egyptians worshipped black cats, she would truly become impossible to live with!

Actually, she has been doing much better of late.  She seems to realize that I am not going to get up now in the middle of the night just because she is hungry.  I only get up now if there is something that I need to do and I feel awake enough to be safe.  Only occasionally do I get that rather scary feeling which lets me know that a fall could be imminent.  I try to stay alert for that feeling and if it comes, then I quickly get myself back to bed.

Each day that passes without my falling is just another day to be so very grateful. 

I don't know if I have mentioned it or not, but in not too many more months there will be a new baby in my family.  This baby has been long desired and we are all waiting joyfully for the great day to arrive.  I am working on a couple of special drawings -- one for the mother-to-be and one for the new baby.  And, should you feel so inclined, I would really appreciate prayers for the safe delivery of "Baby" (don't know if it is a boy or girl yet) and the continued good health of the mother-and-father-to-be.  This is their first child!  Thanks.

May St. Martin of Tours pray for us all and may the peace of God be with us today and always.