Thursday, 27 December 2012

Feast Days of Christmas

Icon, "The Stoning of St. Stephen", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer
 The 12 days of Christmas, beginning on the 25th of December and taking us up to the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, are filled with saints' feast days as well.  So these 12 days are truly a time for rejoicing and celebrating.

On the 26th of December, the Church celebrated the Feast of St. Stephen (the proto- (or first) martyr).  I know for a fact that I have told you my St. Stephen story before, but just in case you have forgotten, here it is again. 

When I was in the Holy Land for the second time, I was determined to visit the Church of St. Stephen on one of the days that the tour group had a few free hours. Everyone else seemed to want to rest or shop, but I knew where I wanted to go and so using my trusty pilgrim's map, I made my way to the Church of St. Stephen.  It is supposedly built on the spot where he was stoned to death.

After spending some time praying in the church, I went out onto the grounds around the church. I was actually looking for shade as it was a very hot day in April. Suddenly I saw a lovely stone lying on a pile of stones and I went over to pick it up. My plan was to take the stone as a souvenir. As I picked it up, I was cut on my finger by another rock with sharp edges that was lying just under the one I wanted. The cut was small but deep and begin to bleed profusely. I stood there watching my blood stain the rocks around me and actually felt blessed. I was shedding a little of my blood right where St. Stephen had bled to death from deep cuts made by the sharp rocks that had been thrown at him. Ever since then, I have felt a real sense of friendship with the first martyr of the Christian Church.

Icon "The Beloved Disciple, St. John", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer

Today, the 27th of December, is the Feast of St. John the Beloved Disciple.  The only icons I have ever done that include St. John are mostly group drawings of the apostles except for this one.  I was drawn to draw this one after meditating for some time on the wonderful fact that St. John, while leaning on the chest of Christ Jesus at the Last Supper, would have been able to hear His Sacred Heart beating as He talked to the apostles about what was to come and what it all meant.  Although none of them seemed to understand it at the time, I really believe that it was this experience that gave St. John the grace he needed to stay with Jesus and His blessed mother until the very end. 

Just a note to let you know that preparing for this posting has given me the desire to actually do an icon of St. John.

Icon "Blessed Rachel Weeping", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer

Then, tomorrow is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  The Church has always taught that these precious children (2 years and under) who were slaughtered by King Herod in an attempt to destroy Jesus, were the first to die for their Saviour.

I have never felt drawn to begin working on this particular icon as it is such a tragic event.  These days, as you may be aware, this feast is especially meaningful to those in the Pro-Life movement and the relationship is easily seen with just a bit of reflection.

In the readings for tomorrow, the Gospel is from Matthew 2:13-18.  In reading about the aftermath of the killing of the innocent children in Bethlehem, we find this passage:
"Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:  a voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled because they were no more."
And so, the Church (and Rachel) are still weeping even today over the continued slaughter of innocent, vulnerable babies.

Icon "The Boy Jesus memorizing the Prophecy of Isaiah", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer
 Saturday, as is true of every Saturday is a day for remembering Our Lady in a special way. 

There is also an optional feast on the 29th for the martyr St. Thomas à Becket.  I remember what an impact the movie, "Becket" had on me back in the 60s -- especially as this was during the time I was trying to keep from becoming a Catholic myself!  That movie really made me suffer...

Icon "Holy Family, Sweet Tenderness", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer

Then on Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family -- such an important concept in this day and age when the family is under constant attack.
Above you see my favourite icon of the Holy Family.  It has a subtitle of "sweet tenderness" simply because of the loving looks on the faces of Mary and Joseph. 

On New Year's Eve, the 31st, there is no big feast scheduled; however, there is an optional feast for St. Sylvester, a pope in the early 300s.  A little known saint these days, he was once important enough for the Polish people to use his name as part of their language.  How do you say "new year's eve" in Polish? -- the answer:  Sylvester!



Corpus Christi continues to use my icons as part of their Advent and Christmas celebrations.  They have been able to get really excellent printing results even with such large size posters.  I am really excited to know that such printing is possible.

Below you can see the 4 icons that they had printed to use starting on Christmas Day.  You should recognize them as two were used in my Rosary book, one was last year's Christmas card icon while the other is the one for this year.

Corpus Christi Church decorated for Christmas using 4 of my icons

Close up of two of the four icons

Close up of the other two icons with silver decorations hanging in front of them


MORE BRADEN:  A morality tale about Christmas Spirits!

BRADEN:  "Hey, this Christmas celebrating stuff is lots of fun!  I get lots of attention from the ladies!!  Plus there is lots of good food and plenty to drink.  Hey, Pal, fix me another bottle, will ya?  Thanks."

FRIEND:  "Hey, Braden, are you sure you are OK to be driving home?  You've been drinking a lot of milk!"
BRADEN:  Hey, Pal... No problem.  I'm in great shape!

BRADEN:  "Well, perhaps I not in such great shape after all.  How about I stay here for the night?"
FRIEND:  Good idea, Braden.  The sofa is a great place to sleep!  It's all yours, Buddy.



My "Coming Home" Story

NOTE: Some portions of this story have been changed or combined or even partly fabricated in an effort to tell the story in a way that makes sense and, particularly, to refrain from attempting to explain those events in the spiritual life which are simply unexplainable.

Sallie, first year of university
(continued from previous posting)
I wish I could say that it was that simple and that I was able to keep the promise I made that day to the Lord, but as we all know, life is never simple.

The powerful resistance of my family and friends combined with my own lack of courage made me start to back away from following what I now believed to be a call from the Truth, Himself.  Plus my own inclination toward the things of this world seemed to become even stronger than ever before. I could blame these things for my failure to keep my word, but the truth is I simply did not trust God enough to walk in faith, accepting the rejection threatened by family and friends, following Him where I knew He wanted to lead me.

So, all these things combined eventually prevented my keeping that promise until 15 more years had passed. Like so many people, I even tried to comprise with God – I became a high-Church Episcopalian (Anglican)* but I always felt as though I was a phony because deep down I truly believed that God had called me into the Catholic Church, not some substitute. I did go and read the 6th chapter of St. John’s Gospel – many times -- and then tried to convince myself that the Anglican Eucharist was truly the body and blood of Jesus.  Sadly, I have never had that same experience of the reality of God's presence anywhere other than before the Tabernacle in a Catholic Church.

Nothing really worked and although I tried my very best to make it work, I finally drifted away and started making up my own religious doctrine that fit the lifestyle I wanted to live. Through everything, however, I was never able to forgot that day in St. Paul's Co-Cathedral with Loretta and the absolute sense of the reality of Christ’s presence.

In fact, that event has remained so real for me that even during the times since becoming a Catholic when it has seemed so difficult to follow the teachings of Christ -- or when I would be angry with God for what He was asking me to accept -- I would always be brought back to repentance if I allowed myself to spend some time in prayer before Our Lord Jesus Christ, truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar.  Kneeling there before the Tabernacle with the red light flickering above, I would once again hear Jesus speaking my name, telling me that He loved me no matter what I had or hadn't done.  How could I help but feel my heart brought to true sorrow and repentance.

Why would spending time in prayer before a metal box and a burning candle bring me back to repentance and acceptance? What is really going on here?

(to be continued)
*I pray that my comments will not offend Anglicans as I am simply describing my feelings and beliefs; not the reality of the Anglican Christian tradition.  I know many Anglicans (Episcopalians) who are people of deep faith and whose lives, I am sure, are pleasing to God.  Please remember that I am describing my own spiritual journey only.



Suki with a lovely, young friend who came to visit us
during Christmas. As usual, Suki looks a bit
unhappy about having her photo taken!

 Suki has had a lot of company over Christmas and, in spite of how she looks in this photo, she has enjoyed herself because they have given her lots of attention.

In the photo at the left, Suki had just been getting her head scratched by my young friend -- the stopping of which may be the cause of the sour look on Suki's face!

I have even watched in amazement as Suki has allowed herself to be tugged on by a young child!  I would never have guessed that she could be patient with children, but she is.  Of course, if a child or anyone hurt her while playing, I cannot imagine that she would not react badly, but, hopefully, this will never occur.  I always try to stay very aware of what is happening when children are playing around her, but thus far she has proven to be a very patient cat!

At the moment, she is finally soundly asleep in her favourite chair.  Although she had a good breakfast, she started begging me for food about 9:30 and kept it up until I finally fed her about noon.  Just another one of those strange behaviours that keep occurring.  Thankfully, she is apparently finally full of food and sound asleep.  It is very difficult to work on my blog posting when there is a cat trying to sit on my keyboard!!

As for me, I am doing about the same although I continue to feel more positive about things now that I know the surgery will be happening in the near future.  The difficulties and discomfort continue unabated; however, it is quite amazing how a wee bit of hope can change your entire outlook. 

This is a situation in which my last of trust has been made evident.  Throughout this entire experience I have received one reassurance after another from God that He was caring for me and that everything would be OK.  But it wasn't until I saw the surgeon last week that I really let myself believe in His promises.  Truly, experiences such as this remind me clearly of how totally dependent I am on the grace of God if I want to accomplish anything that is really good.  How grateful I am for His mercy and patience.

And as we all need prayer, especially the intercession of the saints, let us ask for their prayers as we pray:

Blessed Mary, pray for us.
St. Stephen, pray for us.
St. John the Apostle, pray for us
Holy Innocents, pray for us.
St. Thomas à Becket, pray for us.
Holy Family, pray for us.
St. Pope Sylvester, pray for us.

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