Tag Archives: Art

9 January: Praying with Pope Francis: Educators.

Brocagh School, Leitrim, 1969

This January Pope Francis asks us to pray for Educators

We pray that educators may be credible witnesses, 
teaching fraternity rather than competition  
and helping the youngest and most vulnerable above all. 

I shared this picture on the Pelicans Website in 2011. It shows the children of Brocagh School, Co. Leitrim in 1969, with their educators, head teacher Mrs McCormack, to the right, and her assistant teacher, then, I think, called Miss Byrne, but wearing an engagement ring.

Sometime after this, in 1970-72 the little local 2 classroom schools were all closed down and a new central school built in Glenfarne village. We students at nearby Saint Augustine's College visited the little schools to deliver an RE lesson each Wednesday morning.

It was Mrs McCormack who gave me a valuable lesson, in the qualities Pope Francis proclaims. This was thanks to Joe McHugh, down there in the front row wearing a green jacket. During the time after Easter we had John's story of the barbecue by the lake after the miraculous catch of fish, and Peter's final declaration of faith. 

I think the lesson went well. The children drew some remarkable pictures, but Mrs McCormack drew my attention to Joe's in particular: come here now, Joe, what's this in the corner? - It's Saint Peter's lorry, Miss, come to carry away the fish. I'd missed the lorry completely; I'd not interpreted the shapes he'd drawn in 20th Century terms.

What Mrs McCormack knew, but I did not, was that Joe's family had recently acquired a lorry which was Joe's pride and joy, so of course St Peter would have had his lorry ready to take the fish to market. The story made sense to Joe, and had always made more sense to me as a consequence; thank you Joe, wherever you are. And thank you to Mrs McCormack, that credible witness!You used Joe's lorry to teach him and me that fraternity between the generations means allowing the child to teach himself, and his (or her) teachers.

Olivia O'Dolan and other local people managed to identify many of the children whose names appear on the Pelicans Website.
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December 26: How should we know?

Deus Absconditus*

Behind each mystery a greater lies,
The kind soul looks upon us through kind eyes,
Yet both are mysteries;
And once, beneath the silver of a star,
There knelt three Travellers who came from far,
And humbly laid great gifts upon the sod,
Before a human Babe Who yet was God.

How should we know our God if He should come?
Where seek Him if He made this earth His home?
The angels knew, the prophets greatly guessed,
He should be found among the lowliest;
And lo, in stable straw He maketh nest.

Father Andrew

Is Father Andrew writing about the hidden God or the revealed God? Both, surely. This is a time to remember the revelation that is Jesus, the kind soul that looks upon us with love, as human babes do to this day.

Here is the Holy Family, hidden away in Egypt, Joseph working away, Mary home-schooling Jesus, who is concentrating hard on the text he is learning. Joseph’s income enables this to happen. How many children today miss out on education because parents cannot afford the fees or other expenses?

Let us keep our eyes and ears open for news of the hidden God, who wants to be found, in the Scriptures, in nature and in other people. The next two posts look at God, hidden but revealed in people at the margins of society.

* The hidden God

Window at The Sacred Heart and Saint William, Saddleworth.


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23 December: Cracking the Cathedral Code!

Stop there for a moment! Look at what’s in front of you. This is the quire or choir altar in Canterbury Cathedral.

  • It’s decked in purple, code for repentance and waiting. We’ve been waiting for Christmas, we’ve been repenting, trying to change our ways to be ready to meet Jesus.
  • There are four Greek letters, embroidered in gold. Gold for a King. It was one of the gifts brought by the wise men.
  • Ά and ω are the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet. Code for Jesus is before all and comes after all.
  • The two other letters, ϗ and ρ, or Chi and Ro tend to get mixed together in different geometrical ways. This is because they represent the first two letters of Kristos, Greek for Christ. Artistic licence turns the chi into different shaped crosses, to represent the Cross of Christ.
  • (Sometimes we see ICXC, where the ‘I’ is a Greek ‘J’; ‘C’, is ‘S’; ‘X’ is ‘K’ or ‘Ch’; the early Christians liked this sort of code)
  • So the altar frontal tells us to wait for Jesus the king, the first and last.
  • On the altar are a crucifix and candles. Christ, risen from death, is the light of the world.
  • and there is a Christmas tree. Remember how God called to Moses from the burning bush? You stand on Holy Ground, Moses was told. And so do we.
  • At the back, behind the altar, is the chair of Saint Augustine on which Archbishops are seated on their appointment. We stand on Holy Ground. The chair is code for the Communion of Saints, the faith handed down by the shepherds since 597 when Augustine came to Canterbury.

So, call it praying or thinking or day-dreaming, I had a few good minutes in the Cathedral that morning!

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More about Fr Tom Herbst’s funeral rites.

56Pentecost'86 (519x640)

For Father Tom, the dividing wall is broken down!

We can now share more details of Fr Tom’s funeral arrangements, thanks to the indefatigable Rob Meredith.

Just to confirm, Fr Tom will be brought into church on Friday 25th at 18.00, Helen has kindly agreed to play some music. The Mass will be at 12.00 on 26th to be followed by the celebration of Tom’s life. It will be held in the Kentish barn in Canterbury Cathedral lodge directly after the service, about an 8 minute walk. There will be a condolence book in church. Please feel free to put your thoughts down, we will send this to the mission in San Luis Re afterwards. Finally, regarding flowers. Fr Ton asked that donations in lieu of flowers be sent to Oxfam.

The Mass will be live streamed. Follow this link: https://stthomasofcanterbury.com/livestream/

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Later, in California:

A funeral Mass will be celebrated for Fr Tom by the Provincial on Saturday December 3rd at 10.30 a.m. at Old Mission San Luis Re, 4050 Mission Avenue, Oceanside CA. His ashes will be inurned with his family at San Luis Re Cemetery following the Mass. A reception will be held at the San Luis Re Pavilion after the inurnment.

Here is another reflection by Fr Tom in Agnellus Mirror. This one comes from Pentecost, 15 May, 2016. You can find more at Agnellusmirror.wordpress.com then search for Herbst. But read and enjoy this one!

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Many years ago, in my hometown, I had a powerful experience while riding on a bus. I don’t know why I was taking the bus that day, as at that time I drove a motorcycle, nor do I recall where I was going…but, really, all of that is beside the point. The experience I had, while staring aimlessly out the window, remains fresh in my memory, even decades later.

Now, please, don’t misunderstand what I am about to write – as if it were a claim to some privileged mystical experience. Rather, it came in the form of a daydream; a sparkling thought, caught up with an image, all in an instant…that made me blink then smile and begin the first of many re-plays. What occurred was a kind of visualisation that I have come to call the ‘breakthrough’; a great, shattering, re-arranging, expansive, irresistible, all-encompassing force pulsing through a billion shards of what seemed like brightly coloured stained glass, all rushing forward and constantly re-configured in near-endless patterns of dazzling complexity and creative expression. It was also immediately apparent that the thrusting force was purposeful, even rational, and, above all…exuberant.

I reckoned right away that it must have been a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Over the years I have remembered and cherished that image, tried (with varying degrees of success) to represent it in art, and have also discerned it in some others’ experience as well. As I have done so, many different dynamic aspects of the fundamental breakthrough have emerged. The first is scriptural and that is of a Triune God on the move; nearly peripatetic, even mendicant. This has always been obvious in terms of the Second Person of the Trinity, first in terms of the explosive creative agency of the Word and then through the itinerant ministry of the Incarnate Word; preaching and working miracles on the many byroads of Palestine- the foxes have holes and the birds build nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. But what of the other Trinitarian Persons? The Holy Spirit blows like the wind, wherever he wills, defying all of our attempts to place God within perceptible perimeters or even (God forbid!) a box. He also dances and flickers like tongues of flame; dead, static religion has no place in that raucous Kingdom. What of the Father? Moving, always moving with his desert people in the great covenantal Ark; a mendicant God for a pilgrim people, sparkling with the guiding light of shekinah even in the dark nights of weakness and despair.

And like Siva in a very different religious tradition, that Spirit of wind and fire, ever moving – siempre adelante – can unmake as well as make. But God being God is necessarily all in all and utterly good. When Love unmakes it is only to pave the way for the exhilaration of renewed freedom. Thus, St. Paul in Ephesians 2:14, For he himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall… I have seen many a wall tumble and, when it is the work of Christ attested by the Holy Spirit, people invariably look up, rubbing weary eyes in wonder at undreamed of promise…fulfilled.

TJH

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22 August, Saint Edmund III: A Story from a Cross.

Sometimes a pause in our pilgrims’ or tourists’ way can be enlightening; sometimes a photograph yields a more than passing thought when looked at anew in the armchair. Here is a processional Cross in Saint Edmundsbury Cathedral which we did not follow in procession; however, a closer, leisurely look tells a story.

The arrows that killed Edmund, King of the English, surround the Cross on which Jesus, the King of the Jews, the King of Glory, was killed. The Cross itself seems alive, aflame, reminding us that Jesus made the one sacrifice on Calvary, burning away sin, leading us to heaven.

Edmund’s arrows are subordinate to the Cross. This does not belittle his martyr’s sacrifice, but  puts it into the context of Saint Paul’s bold assertion in Colossians 1:24: in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

The Church itself is represented by the diocesan coat of arms, including the triple crown of Edmund’s kingdom of East Anglia. This Cross is not just a decorative object but also a statement of faith at both a local and universal level.

What emblem would you choose to symbolise yourself and your life after your death? What would you choose for a loved one? Here is one example I really like.

We adore you, O Christ and we praise you, for by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

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Honouring Mary at Westminster Abbey

A tapestry in the chapel of Minster Abbey, with three saints of the Community, Mildred, Domneva, and Eadburga.

Source: Conference of Religious

An annual service of devotion to ‘Our Lady of Pew’ takes place at Westminster Abbey today. The Chapel of ‘Our Lady of Pew’ features a beautiful statue created by a Benedictine nun of Minster Abbey in Kent.

Sister Concordia Scott OSB sculpted the fine alabaster statue of the Virgin and Child in the niche of the Chapel. It took 14 months to complete and was placed there in May 1971.

The original statue that was there disappeared centuries ago. The design of the 20th-century piece was inspired by a 15th century English alabaster Madonna at Westminster Cathedral.

Sister Concordia Scott (1924 – 2014) was Prioress of the Minster Abbey community from 1984-1999.

Read the full story here, as found in today’s Independent Catholic News. Minster Abbey is home to our contributor, Sister Johanna Caton.

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3 July: Leaf from leaf.

All Saints, Godshill, Isle of Wight.

This Lily Crucifix is striking. The figure of Christ is bleeding yet not broken; indeed he looks vigorous. The cross, too, is not dead wood but a lily of the field, full of sap and flowering. It’s not a canna – the one we usually call an Easter Lily – but an Easter Lily for all that. Christ, the wounded Christ, is risen! Immediately below the lily cross the church has placed the tabernacle or aumbry, housing the wafer that Christians recognise as the body of Christ.

Scattered across the wall are five-petalled pink flowers, surely wild roses like the one below. Or are they stars, their numbers counted by Him alone? Earth’s astronomers keep on counting more and more of them as their instruments look ever further, but they seem to have given up on names, instead allotting numbers to the innumerable golden grains they perceive and whose vastness they measure from light years away. They know they will never reach the end of the numbers but they trust that their work is valuable. It is valuable, for it is awe inspiring.

Here is Christina Rossetti, saying all this and more, with greater eloquence than your correspondent!

Leaf from leaf Christ knows; Himself the Lily and the Rose

Leaf from leaf Christ knows;
Himself the Lily and the Rose:

Sheep from sheep Christ tells;
Himself the Shepherd, no one else:

Star and star He names,
Himself outblazing all their flames:

Dove by dove, He calls
To set each on the golden walls:

Drop by drop, He counts
The flood of ocean as it mounts:

Grain by grain, His hand
Numbers the innumerable sand.

Lord, I lift to Thee
In peace what is and what shall be:

Lord, in peace I trust
To Thee all spirits and all dust.

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27 June. My vocation today XVII: Gwen John, artist.

Mere Marie Poussepin by Gwen John, 1876-1939.

Gwen John was from Pembrokeshire in West Wales. Her more famous brother, Augustus, was also an artist. Gwen studied art in London and in Paris, becoming the lover of the much older sculptor Rodin; hardly a woman with a vocation, you might feel. Yet as her passionate affair with him came to an end, she was received into the Catholic Church and lived a quite solitary life with her cats, which she often painted.

She began writing meditations and prayers; she wanted to be a saint and God’s little artist: ‘My religion and my art, they are my life’, she is quoted as saying by Tenby Museum and gallery.

About 1913, to oblige the Dominican Sisters of Charity at Meudon, she began a series of painted portraits of their founder Mere Marie Poussepin, based on a prayer card.

In Meudon she lived in solitude, except for her cats. In an undated letter she wrote, “I should like to go and live somewhere where I met nobody I know till I am so strong that people and things could not effect me beyond reason.” She wished also to avoid family ties (“I think the family has had its day. We don’t go to Heaven in families now but one by one”) and her decision to live in France after 1903 may have been partly to escape the overpowering personality of her famous brother.

Art was her vocation, and perhaps something of an obsession; or should we say she was single-minded? Previous generations would have revered her as a repentant sinner, a term most likely to be used of a woman who had abandoned promiscuous ways. It was not so cut and dried as that. Just look at this self portrait, and it appears that her vocation was to question, to seek. to record what she saw, and to go back and begin her search again.

‘My religion and my art, they are my life’.

self portrait.

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10 June, 1867: On this day.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson by Julia Margaret Cameron

We can take a photograph on a mobile phone, adjust and enhance it on the same device, print it, and send it all around the world in seconds. All this without setting up a heavy camera with expensive film or glass plates, and only later using poisonous chemicals in a darkroom to develop, print and fix an image that might be blurred if the sitter could not keep still.

Personal photographs were keep-sakes, and portraits. Poor people might be hard-pressed to afford them. The better off were not always keen, perhaps not liking what they saw. Among the pioneers who became famous for their artistic images was Mrs Julia Margaret Cameron, a well-connected woman whose work is still appreciated today. On this day in 1867 William Allingham met her on a train in Hampshire.

Field-path to station, red campions and king-cups. Down train comes in with Mrs Cameron, queenly in a carriage by herself, surrounded by photographs. We go to Lymington together, she talking all the time. ‘I want to do a large photograph of Tennyson, and he objects! Says I make bags under his eyes — and Carlyle refuses to give me a sitting, says it’s a kind of Inferno! The greatest men of the age’ (with strong emphasis), ‘Sir John Herschel, Henry Taylor, Watts, say I have immortalised them — and these other men object !! What is one to do ——- Hm?’

This is a kind of interrogative interjection she often uses, but seldom waits for a reply.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 1Corinthians 13:11-13

Perhaps the bags under his eyes were more difficult to ignore when Tennyson looked at himself in this needle-sharp portrait. Already seeing himself face to face, wrinkles, bags under the eyes, receding hairline, mortal. May I accept myself, imperfect image of God — and indeed of my own true self.

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19 May: Saint Dunstan

Dunstan’s self-portrait, kneeling before the risen Lord.

Here is Canon Anthony Charlton’s reflection on Saint Dunstan; Canon Anthony is parish priest of Saint Thomas’, Canterbury. The artist, Mother Concordia, was Abbess at Minster Abbey, home of Sister Johanna.

The small Catholic Church at Hersden a few miles from Canterbury is dedicated to St Dunstan whose feast day we keep today. On the left of the altar is a fine relief of St Dunstan created by Mother Concordia, a Benedictine nun from Minster Abbey on the Isle of Thanet. What strikes you immediately is that he is holding a harp. Geoffrey Handley in his history of Anglo Saxons says that Dunstan “was renowned as a singer and musician and seemed to have exploited the effect of the aeolian harp ( the sounds caused by the wind blowing through the strings of a free-standing instrument). He was a scholar and gifted artist as well.

Dunstan was born in 909 and was made Abbot at Glastonbury by King Edmund. “It was from this moment, probably 940 may be dated the rebirth of Medieval English monasticism which was to last undisturbed until the reformation.”

He reformed Glastonbury Abbey and was made Bishop of Worcester and then London before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury in 960. He reorganised the church by promoting monastic bishops, and took a large part in the creation of a united England

Until Thomas Becket’s fame overshadowed Dunstan’s, he was the favourite saint of the English people. Dunstan had been buried in his cathedral at Canterbury; and when that building was destroyed by a fire in 1174, his relics were translated by Archbishop Lanfranc to a tomb on the south side of the high altar in the rebuilt Canterbury Cathedral.

He was a true shepherd to his people and his interests and skills tended to the crafts of the ordinary as well as the cultured. “The appreciation of these arts shows Dunstan’s passion for the creators work and for the talents he gives to us. Contemplation of the beauty of scared art and music allows us to glimpse and, perhaps, understand a little of God’s creative power.”

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