Monday, 11 June 2012

Saints of Ireland

Icon, St. Columba, by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
As many of you may be aware, the International Eucharistic Congress is presently underway in Ireland (Dublin).  I have been fortunate enough to be able to watch some of the proceedings on EWTN and Salt and Light TV -- the American and Canadian Catholic networks.  It has been quite beautiful, especially the music and drama.

One thing I did notice right away was that the Congress has its patron saints -- Irish ones, of course.  Three of the icons I have done this year thus far are of saints which are included among the patrons.  One I have shown you previously -- St. Patrick.  However, two others are new:  St. Columba and St. Brigid.  I think it was all the news about the upcoming Congress which gave me the desire to draw these wonderful saints who lived in the days when Ireland was a beacon of Christian light in what was then a very dark world.

So, let me tell you just a bit about both St. Columba and St. Brigid.

Before his birth an angel appeared to Colmuba's mother and showed her a great robe of wondrous colors showing all the flowers of the world indicating that the child she was to deliver would be a great leader of souls. Columba was a pious and devout youth and at an early age showed his spiritual depth and was soon enrolled as a monk. Eventually Columba became the founder of several churches and monasteries in his native land of Ireland. Tradition asserts that, sometime around 560, he became involved in a quarrel with Saint Finnian of Movilla Abbey over a psalter. Columba copied the manuscript at the scriptorium under Saint Finnian, intending to keep the copy. Saint Finnian disputed his right to keep the copy. The dispute eventually led to the pitched Battle of CĂșl Dreimhne in 561, during which many men were killed. A synod of clerics and scholars threatened to excommunicate him for these deaths, but St. Brendan of Birr spoke on his behalf with the result that he was allowed to go into exile instead. Columba suggested that he would work as a missionary in Scotland to help convert as many people as had been killed in the battle. He exiled himself from Ireland, to return only once, many years later. Columba and a small group of monks left Ireland and sailed to the Island of Iona where they built a monastery to serve as a base for the evangelization of Scotland. In the year 574 the Scottish King came to Iona to receive chrismation at Columba's hands. At the close of his life Columba knew his death was coming and prepared his monks for the event. On the day of his death, after attending Saturday Vespers he returned to his cell until the middle of the night when he suddenly returned to the Church. His monks gathered around him and he died there in the church.

Icon, St. Brigid, by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

St. Brigid's Cross, image taken from
 the Internet -- Origin unknown
 Second only to Saint Patrick as a patron of Ireland, Saint Brigid (St. Bride) has a cross woven from rushes ("St. Brigid's cross"), which was her custom to make when she was instructing the pagans, and which are hung anew in Irish homes each year on her feast day. In the other hand she holds a bowl of "Saint Brigid's fire," a miraculous fire which burned at her convent for centuries. Born in Ireland in the 5th Century, St. Brigid's parents were baptized by St. Patrick, with whom she developed a close friendship. Her father was Dubhthach, an Irish chieftain of Lienster, and her mother, Brocca, was a slave at his court. Even as a young girl she evinced an interest for a religious life and took the veil in her youth from St. Macaille at Croghan and probably was professed by St. Mel of Armagh, who is believed to have conferred abbatial authority on her. She settled with seven of her virgins at the foot of Croghan Hill for a time and about the year 468, followed Mel to Meath. About the year 470 she founded a double monastery at Cill-Dara (Kildare) and was Abbess of the convent, the first in Ireland. The foundation developed into a center of learning and spirituality, and around it grew up the Cathedral city of Kildare. She founded a school of art at Kildare and its illuminated manuscripts became famous, notably the Book of Kildare, which was praised as one of the finest of all illuminated Irish manuscripts before its disappearance three centuries ago. She died at Kildare on February 1. She is buried at Downpatrick with St. Columba and St. Patrick, with whom she is the patron of Ireland. Her name is sometimes Bridget and Bride. Her feast day is February 1. She is the patron of midwives and of Ireland .

Icon, St. Patrick, by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
If you have forgotten the details of the life of St. Patrick and would like to have your memory refreshed, please take a look at my posting for March 15, 2012 where I featured this icon.



I am sure you remember my recent correspondence with Fr. Mike in China who was asking to use my Stations of the Cross icons.  Well, during the various emails back and forth, Fr. Mike introduced me to a brilliant Chinese artist, self-taught, going by the English name of Gary.  You can take a look at his web site by going to    The site is in English and Chinese.
You have actually seen some of his work previously as I used one of his "Madonnas" as the pattern for drawing the icon "Our Lady of China".  Once you see his painting, you will see the vast difference between "the artist" and me!
Anyway, here goes.

Our Lady of China in Ming Dynasty Robes
by Chu KarKui (Gary)

 Here is the drawing I did using Gary's beautiful painting as my pattern.

Icon, "Our Lady of China" by
the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
from the painting of Chu KarKui

Mother and Child
 by Chu KarKui

 The painting entitled "Mother and Child" is one of the most beautiful of this series of Madonnas by Gary.  I don't know what medium he uses for his paintings, but whatever it is, he is able to create such beautiful silky tones, especially of the skin.  As well, the colours and designs in the "silk" material of the clothing are exquisite. 

Mary, Empress of China in Qing Dynasty Robes
by Chu KarKui

I first saw this final painting as part of the stage design of an EWTN set for an excellent show on the martyrs of China -- both Chinese and European.  I would assume that EWTN had purchased a print of this painting and it certainly made an effective backdrop for the presentation.  The detail on the clothing, the furniture and the carpets is simply outstandingly beautiful.
By all means, go to his web site and have a good look



Suki hears the sound of a
can being opened in the
kitchen!  Hope spring eternal...
Well, gradually Suki seems to be getting the message that I am simply not going to feed her as much or as often anymore.  As the days pass, I hear her crunching her munchies a bit more often than she used to.  She still only eats a few at a time -- just enough to keep her from feeling too hungry -- but at least she is eating a better balance now of both the dry and wet food.

Of course, don't think for a moment that she is making these changes without any complaints!  For example, she has found any number of different things she can do that will cause me to awaken instantly, such as scratching on the back of my new office-style chair for my computer desk!  The tight fabric makes a very satisfying popping noise as she sharpens her claws on it.  For me, it is a sound which penetrates even REM sleep and brings me up and shouting within a second or two.  She can tell from the shouting that I am not pleased; however, I guess she figures that if I am awake there is at least a possibility that she might get fed!  What a cat.

Then there are those times when she acts so sweet, rubbing against me while purring loudly.  If I am sitting, she will climb up on me and rub her silky fur against my chin.  I don't think she has realized this yet, but I am actually much more likely to give in and feed her when she does this than I am when she awakens me.  I am just an old softy, I guess.

As for me, I am continuing to go to the gym at least every other day for a good hour's workout.  Slowly, slowly I am gaining back all the ability I lost during the six months I did not attend the gym.  It will take a few more weeks, I think, before I am back to some place close to where I left off last December, but the effort is certainly worth it. 

I haven't had any new falling episodes -- thanks be to God.  Mostly I am working on various projects for people.  For example, I am preparing and framing a thank you message for a friend who wants to do something special for the group of people at the hotel who prepared everything for her 80th birthday party and made it such a success.  As well, I am continuing to prepare a mass mailing postcard for a local Toronto organization -- a drawing on one side and a message on the other.  I have also started thinking about doing a revised edition of my book on the Stations of the Cross now that all those icons have been updated.  All of which would seem to suggest that I must be feeling reasonably well -- and that is true.  Other than my usual chronic pains and aches, I seem to be more or less OK for the moment.  Thanks for all those prayers that help to keep me going.

So, as my thoughts return to the Irish saints and the Eucharistic Congress with which I began this posting, I pray that the Congress will be a huge success and will bless not only those who are attending the Congress, but also the entire Church, especially the Church in Ireland.  Let us all pray for them and ask the three holy patrons, St. Columba, St. Brigid and St. Patrick, to intercede for the Congress, for the Church and for Ireland.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding fill our hearts and minds this night and in the days ahead.  Amen.

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