Thursday, February 24, 2011

continuing mural restoration

Haiti’s Scars, and Its Soul, Find Healing on Walls - NYTimes

It is good to know that the work on the murals is continuing.  The Smithsonian is working with the Episcopal Church in Haiti to preserve them.  I was interested to note that, when the restoration is complete, they will likely be free standing in a sort of memorial garden; meanwhile, they are being stabilized and taken somewhere safe for the needed work.  I wonder how they will protect them once they are back outside so that the weather does not harm them, especially given the hurricanes that pass through periodically.  I suppose if anyone can make that happen, it will be the people from the Smithsonian.

For those who have not seen photos of the murals, there are a number of them in earlier posts under the label Holy Trinity Cathedral and Schools.  The most recent may be found at

Monday, February 21, 2011

blog wordle

Fun with word art thanks to - and an interesting way to see what these blog posts have emphasized.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

problematic green pebbles

A friend of mine posted this on her blog (  She says, "This is from a different era, but funny none the less.  Stick with it through the dull first bit. She's much more fun than he is."  Watching it made me smile and reminded me of something that helped push me towards the religious life.  Or pull me, as the case may be. 

I really wanted to pray.  And I kept being too busy.  Or I'd take some time and then feel guilty that I wasn't grading that stack of quizzes and essays waiting for me back in my classroom.  Or I'd finally get to the chapel, where I really loved to be when it was dark and quiet, and someone would be practicing the piano and I'd just go back to my work.  Or I'd just get busy, and it would get too late, and either I'd try to pray and fall asleep, or I'd say, "Well, tomorrow. Tomorrow I will find the time." 

So one of the first things I  sought and then relished about our community schedule was that our prayer was built right into our schedule.  Instead of running to my classroom when the bell rang (or starting class, etc.), I'd drop what I was doing and head for chapel.  It helped me - and still does, of course! - get to where I wanted to go.  Put the big rocks in first.

Now that I've been here ten years, I find this is still pertinent.  Yes, chapel is scheduled, thanks be to God, so I can't miss it. And I am so grateful to have that outer push.  I really admire those solitary religious who can do it all on their own; I will confess that I am just not that organized. 

Now, God being my helper, I want to learn again how to do this with the rest of my day now that I have so much more responsibility than I did as a postulant and novice.  After ten years, if I am not careful, I still find those little green pebbles getting in the way.  There are the twin temptations of "Just one more thing..." and "I can quickly check this off my to-do list."  Without mindfulness, I can easily slip into running from one task to the next (lots of little green pebbles!) without thinking about what is really important; conversely, I can also fall into what one Novice Mistress of days of yore used to call "the lust to finish."

When this happens, of course, my relationship with God and my relationships with sisters, friends and family are neglected. 

Never mind getting enough sleep.

Perhaps what I need to do is watch this video regularly alongside the other reminders of a more clearly spiritual nature.  And plan accordingly, putting the big rocks in first - and by the grace of God leaving them there instead of rearranging.  

I will, with God's help. 

Monday, February 14, 2011


So... we're moving.  If you saw the earlier post with the letter about putting the convent on the market, you know that. But now the Boston Globe has done an article on us, so many more people do.  I'm sad - I love my home (especially the chapels), I'll miss living on Fort Hill in Roxbury, and moving to Duxbury full time will mean none of us has a completely quiet "away from work" place to go.  But it was a unanimous decision and a very good one, and there will be plenty of opportunities for ministry both at and from that location, too.  Several sisters will rent an apartment in Boston to continue prison ministry and work with programs for children, among other things.  Of course, since I hope to move to Haiti, I don't expect to be in either location, or not for long.  But we shall see... Nothing of any of these plans and hopes is written in stone; we need to go where the Spirit leads and remain open.  The best part of it all is that this move will not only be good financially and environmentally (we need a building that is much more "green"), but also it will permit us to focus more intensively the resources we do have on Haiti.
Boston Chapel, Sisters of St. Margaret

Here is the link to the original article:

However, as those links do not last as long as they might, I'll post some of the article below and the rest in the comments section so that it doesn't take up an outrageous amount of space.

Meanwhile, keep us in prayer. It will be a very busy year, as this is a massive undertaking for us.  And keep the neighborhood and potential buyers in your prayers as well, that the best possible match might be made for all concerned.  

* * *
Since the late 19th century, the Society of St. Margaret, an order of Episcopal nuns, has maintained a quiet but steady presence in Boston, nursing the sick, caring for the poor, and welcoming travelers in need of a quiet place to stay, all while keeping a rigorous schedule of prayer and silent contemplation.

For more than 100 years, the nuns lived in four brownstones in Beacon Hill’s Louisburg Square, worshiping at the nearby Church of the Advent and the Church of St. John the Evangelist. In 1992, they sold their quarters — one of the buildings is now home to Senator John F. Kerry — and converted a nursing home they had previously run on Fort Hill in Roxbury into their convent.

But in recent years, the sprawling 35,000-square-foot convent has become too expensive and difficult to maintain for the 17 women who live there, many of them elderly, and the order has decided it is time to move again — to a retreat center the sisters operate in Duxbury.

Selling the convent, said Sister Carolyn Darr, the superior, would allow the sisters to devote more money and energy to their charitable and spiritual work — in particular, their small mission in Haiti, which the order has run since the 1920s and which suffered severe damage in last year’s earthquake.

“We had been talking about it because [the building] is simply more than we can manage,’’ Darr said in an interview in the convent’s sunlit chapel. “Then when the earthquake came, of course, that is our vital ministry, and we wanted to put our money behind the mission.’’

Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, a monk who is a member of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge and the leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, said the move makes sense. “Religious communities are like families in many ways, and I think families go through changes,’’ he said. “They’re going through some changes now, and refocusing in terms of what exactly their community is, and trying to be responsible as their finances are concerned, and having green buildings — and it just doesn’t work in Roxbury.’’

St. Margaret’s is one of three Episcopal religious orders in the Boston area, and one of 16 nationally. Although relatively rare in the Anglican Communion — they were suppressed in England after the Protestant Reformation — religious orders experienced a modest revival in the mid-19th century, in response to a movement to restore some Catholic traditions to the Church of England, and also in an effort to address urban poverty after the Industrial Revolution. Members take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and most lead lives that blend prayer and work.

St. Margaret’s was established in 1855 as a nursing order in Sussex, England, according to the society; the order came to Boston in the early 1870s to run Children’s Hospital. But the nuns soon delved into other fields, and these days, each sister does whatever she feels called by God to do — one is a jail chaplain; another works with a children’s program run by Episcopal churches; three are priests. 
(Continued in comments)

Friday, February 11, 2011

video appeal for the Holy Trinity cathedral complex

The link below is to a video from the coordinator of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti's rebuilding project for the Holy Trinity complex in Port-au-Prince, which includes the cathedral, the pre-K through middle school, the music school and the convent.  The photos are screen-captures from that video.  Most of the footage was shot from within the ruins of the cathedral itself, with close-ups of what is left of the murals, now with scaffolding as they try to protect and restore the pieces that remain. 

I kept trying to peer past him through the trees to see if I could catch a glimpse of the convent, but no luck.  I think the wall is still standing, though I know the building is down by now.  I wish I could see it...  But I will just have to wait.  Maybe only six months, though! 

 I appreciated seeing the Holy Trinity music students having a string instrument lesson, and I look forward to the day when I hear them play in person.  

If I have my bearings, I think the class is being held in the temporary pavilion they built to shelter the ongoing worship of the cathedral community.  It's in what was the parking lot between the cathedral and the convent.  I think the wall behind the students is the outer wall of the building still standing to the right of the trees in the photo above.  If anyone reading can confirm this, I'd be interested!  And I'm also noticing the tile or linoleum they've put down between the pews.  Very nice!
  The photos also made me think of my friend Jeanne Pocius, who teaches trumpet there now.  I thought I had already written a post about her and her book, Shaken, Not Stirred, which tells the story of how she got to Haiti and what happened during the earthquake and in the following days; however, it appears that it is still only a draft, so count on a post soon!   (All proceeds from the book go to music education in Haiti.  Go look it up on Amazon!)

An appeal from the Rev. Joseph Constant, Special Coordinator for Haiti, to help rebuild the once beautiful, now destroyed Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown Port-Au-Prince.

So pray for Haiti. Or keep praying, as the case may be.  It's still not entirely calm as they deal with the elections and the surrounding issues.  Earthquake, hurricane, cholera, disputed elections, Baby Doc back, and Aristide given a passport... I heard this evening that a reporter was shot half a block from our Foyer Notre Dame (a home for elderly women with no one to care for them).  What can be next?!   

But life goes on.  The resilience is astounding, as is the faith - but no one should have to go through all that.  It's quite enough now, thank you, Lord.  Quite enough.  Time for something better.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

'Songs,' a Haiti benefit

The following is from the Gloucester Times 2-10-11.  The church hosting the concert is one I have visited and one whose vestry has come on an annual retreat to our Boston convent for years now.  They are a great group of people, and we certainly appreciate what they are doing to raise money for Haiti.  So if you are not occupied Sunday and live in eastern MA, there are now not one but two opportunities for wonderful music to benefit Haiti (see earlier blog entry for more information: ).

* * *
St. John's Episcopal Church of Gloucester is hosting a music concert, "Songs of Love and Peace," on Sunday, Feb. 13, at 4 p.m. to raise money for two local charities that provide assistance to the people of Haiti.

The concert features a Gloucester soprano Sarah Wetzel, alto Sue Lupo, and Kathleen Forgac on piano. They will present a program of English and Irish folk songs, Mendelssohn duets, and art songs of Ravel, Ives, Rorem, Barber, Vaughan Williams and Ricky Ian Gordon

All money raised will be donated to Haiti Relief programs, organized by another Gloucester resident Sarah Hackett, who has been working in Haiti for decades. This Valentine's concert, organized by the church's outreach committee, will benefit Haiti Projects Inc. and the Society of St. Margaret's convent in Haiti.

"We need to put back on the radar the suffering that the people of Haiti continue to experience more than a year later," said Charles Curti, a member of the St. John's Vestry.

Haiti Projects Inc. is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help the people of Haiti help themselves. It operates in Fond des Blancs, a poor, mountainous area 75 miles west of Port-au-Prince where most of the inhabitants live on less than $1 a day. For details, visit .

The Sisters of St. Margaret are an Episcopal religious order who established a convent in Port-au-Prince in 1927. Although their convent was destroyed in last year's earthquake, the sisters continue to provide social services and direct a home for the elderly.

The church is located at 48 Middle St. in Gloucester. Suggested donation is $15 at the door. For more information, call 978-283-1708. Parking also available at the adjacent lot off Washington St.

* * *
Article above from

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

message from the sisters

 Society of St. Margaret - Boston convent

I have some news to share.  I am sure there will be more later; meanwhile, I am posting the letter below from our community website (

* * *

From time to time life presents us all with the need to make a decision. We are writing to let you know that we have put our Boston convent on the market. The simple fact is that the convent is too large for us and we cannot afford to remain here, especially at a time when we are focusing our limited resources on our mission in Haiti, as well as Boston, Duxbury and New York City. The Sisters in Haiti have been carrying on valiantly, caring for those whose lives were impacted by the earthquake. We are committed to supporting and strengthening our ministry in Haiti, whose people continue to suffer. We sense an urgent need to re-configure our ministries, to reshape the way we live, so that our limited resources will be as productive as possible.

We plan on relocating our center of operations to Duxbury, a property that the Society of St. Margaret has owned since 1903. We will continue to have a presence in Boston. Several Sisters will live in a small residence in the city in order to maintain the important urban ministry with which we are involved.

Obviously this decision brings us to a time of transition, one which will affect our guest ministry in Boston. In order to prepare for our move from the convent, it will be necessary for us to close the guest house, effective March 10, 2011. No new reservations are being accepted for either the Boston Convent or the Duxbury buildings. For the latest news from the Sisters, including when Duxbury will reopen to guests, please sign-up for our e-mail list at the bottom of any page on our website.

The following events have been canceled: The Vocations Weekend, The Lenten Day of Prayer, and St. Margaret's Day. Holy Week services will be held at the Boston Convent and are open to the public, but we will not be having any overnight guests. The schedule for those services will be announced at a later date.

We will keep you updated as developments proceed. In the meantime we ask for your prayers and assure you of ours.

Carolyn H. Darr, SSM

Adele Marie Ryan, SSM
Asst. Superior

Monday, February 7, 2011

on being a princess

There is an interesting article posted on NPR this week about little girls who suddenly must be princesses: Saving Our Daughters From An Army of Princesses. This mother is considering whether her daughter is choosing to be a princess or being railroaded into it... I suppose it's appropriate to use the term railroaded because when this child went to nursery school the first day in her favorite train engineer outfit, carrying her Thomas the Tank Engine lunch box, a little boy yelled, "Girls don't like trains."  Not long afterward, she wouldn't even wear pants to school. 

I find this disturbing.

Now, I don't believe that dressing up as a princess is a bad thing.  I dressed up as a princess for Halloween at least once, and I remember that at 5 I loved to draw princesses with ball gowns with big puffy sleeves.  I even had a Cinderella watch.

I also have to say that I am quite sure that playing princess is not impossible to combine with a little more rough-and-tumble activity.  One of my goddaughters, who has three older brothers, loves her pink and sparkles and princess outfits.  Or she did; I think she may be getting a bit old for that now.  But she could (can?!) also play in the mud with the best of them.   I have a picture of her dressed in a pink princess outfit and sitting on a toy motorcycle. That's my goddaughter, all right.  And I love it.

I've always been, however, a bit more for the unusual princesses in children's books.  I have always loved, for example, The Paper Bag Princess, in which the princess rescues the prince from a dragon with great creativity.  I enjoy The Ordinary Princess, though it is not as far from a typical, traditional princess story.  I also seem to remember a fantasy book of my sister's in which the princess hasn't much use for being married off to the first prince her parents can find and so goes off to be the librarian for a local dragon for a while.  When princes come to rescue her, she usually manages to get rid of them, since at least at first they seem to be no one any self-respecting young woman would care to marry.  I believe she learns to be a wizard and otherwise take care of herself as well, but I don't remember the details.

And then there is the musical Once Upon a Mattress, which, when I was in the high school orchestra playing for the show, made me laugh all the way through it from the beginning of rehearsals to the end of the performances.  (Good lines included, from the princess, "Does your mother ever say anything other than 'You swam the moat?!'?" and, from the prince, the song "I'm in love with a girl named Fred.")

Perhaps I like the humor in all of them.  Perhaps I like the unfussiness of these princesses and their can-do, independent attitude.  I assume most real princesses are much more like this than like Disney or fairy-tale princesses.

Just think Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movies (minus the appalling scenes with Jabba the Hut, which I prefer to forget for so very many reasons) rather than Disney's version of Sleeping Beauty.

And in all honesty, I can say that if I had it to do over, I would still get up in the middle of the night to watch Princess Di marrying Prince Charles, even as badly as it turned out.

So what's the problem?  I guess, following ten years teaching in a boarding school for girls, that I am concerned that this separation between boys and girls so early on is not only trying on identity and having fun with dressing up, but also limiting in options.  As long as our girls can dress up as princesses AND dress up as train engineers without being made fun of, I'm happy.  I am just sad that it doesn't seem to be as automatic as one might think.  And pity the poor boy who is being made fun of for stepping out of assigned gender roles (just google Princess Boy if you don't believe me).  I was pleased - I think - to note that at least  Disney World's Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique has packages for boys.  I wonder what they'd do if a boy wanted to be a princess or a girl wanted to be a knight. Hm.

I am also wary because the need to be a princess is much more culturally important among little American girls than it used to be thanks to the ever-present marketing of Walt Disney.  There was a recent article about this in the NYTimes, I think, but I can't find it.  However,  How Disney Princess Works is rather enlightening. But these little girls seem to be enjoying a Perfectly Princess Tea at Disney World: Be a princess for a day at Disney World.  And they say you can go to another place to be a pirate.  I bet they do let girls be pirates, at least!  I think I would have enjoyed all three costumes, to be perfectly honest, with or without marketing. I just don't remember anyone talking about being a princess when I was little (back when the earth was cooling, you know, just before the era in which princesses and knights fought dinosaurs instead of dragons).
Of course, I'm not a mother.  And neither was the author of the article above which sparked this post when she first developed her opinions.  As she put it, "Oh, how the mighty fall."  It's easy to have opinions when you don't have children...  And then when you do, they have their own personalities and opinions, right from the start.  It rather reminds me of the old comic strip "Cathy" when Cathy's feminist friend Andrea has a daughter who chooses a Bride of Rambo Halloween costume.

You mothers of girls out there, reading this, I'd be interested in hearing your take on this. Comments from experience?

Bach in Boston for Haiti

Sunday, February 13, 7-9PM
Cathedral Church of St. Paul, 138 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02111

Proceeds will support the excellent work of Partners in Health in Haiti.  And who could resist such an opportunity to hear Bach?  The cathedral is that building with columns directly across the street from the Park Street T stop.  Yes, it looks like a bank, but it's the Episcopal cathedral.  God shows up anyway.  And in this case, with the help of fine music and fine doctors for the best of causes.

from PIH's website:

L'Ensemble Médical, an oratorio ensemble from Munich, Germany, will be performing Bach's B Minor Mass at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston as part of their US Tour, which also includes concerts at New York's Carnegie Hall and Washington DC.
Choir and orchestra consist largely of medical students and doctors from Munich University, all of whom have extensive musical training, as well as professional musicians.

Tickets are $20 
($10 for students and seniors) 
advanced ticket sales through

UPDATE 2/8:  I actually get to go!  YEA! 

Is not this the fast that I choose?

The first reading from Morning Prayer today is powerful.  Imagine for a moment what it would be like if each one of us was to live this out from the heart, enacting these words from the Lord? What would our lives look like? What would our nation look like? What would the world look like?  My prayer today is that all of us might live into this a bit more each day, and that God might reign in justice, compassion and love in our hearts and in our lives.
* * * * * * *

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.  Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.  "Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?" Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.  Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.  Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?  

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.  Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. 

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,  if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.  The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.  Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. 
-- Isaiah 58:1-12

Saturday, February 5, 2011

ordination, finally!

Finally, after thirty years of discernment and prayer and work!  And finally, as in I have finally gotten around to making time to post a few photos!  What an incredible joy this is.  I hope at some point I can also make time to share some of this, especially my continued amazement and gratitude and sense of God's presence as I celebrate the Eucharist with my sisters and friends. And lest I forget (or, more likely, do not find the time), I just want to say officially how much it meant to me to have my family and friends and two of my three goddaughters there to join us.  Thank you, thank you, thank you - God and sisters and family and friends and so many people to whom I will never be able to express my gratitude.

(NB: photo date is in European format)
And there was much rejoicing. Yea!

Haitian Art Calendar 2011, take 2

Back in November when I was planning to write a blog entry about the Haitian Art Calendar 2011 that Mallory Holding had put together to benefit work being done in Haiti through the Episcopal Church, I asked if she had anything she wanted to contribute.  And she sent me something.  And it got buried in my inbox. So here, at long last, is what she wrote.  And I just know some of you out there have not gotten calendars for every need you have, and certainly not one with such beautiful art and which supports such a good cause.

Here is the link to the original post:  Haitian Art Calendar 2011 - blog post 12/9/10

And here is hers:

Last year, in September, I moved to Haiti and I went kicking and screaming. Although I was supposed to spend a year living and working there, with the Episcopal Young Adult Service Corps, I spent the entire drive to the airport thinking of ways I could shorten my time there.

I remember those first couple weeks in Haiti as an incredible time of transition from resisting and almost hating Haiti, to feeling like it was home. I think back to my Thanksgiving in Haiti last year. I sat around my kitchen table surrounded by new friends, Haitian and American who had become like family. It was in that moment that I knew I loved Haiti and that I would forever be connected to that place, and to those people at my Thanksgiving Table.

The earthquake in Haiti abruptly ended my time there. It was painful leaving and I have struggled to find ways to continue to be involved in Haiti relief and rebuilding efforts. This in part was because I loved being in Haiti and I miss my life there but more importantly it has been to do something that would help my friends and their families.

It was in this struggle to be involved that the idea came for a Haitian Art Calendar. I liked the idea of the Calendar because in Haiti’s art you can see the country’s beauty. You can see its strength, its perseverance and its hope. These are the things I think of when I hear about Haiti, and this is what I hoped to share with others who care about Haiti.

I hope you will consider purchasing a calendar. You can go to and search Haitian Art 2011. They are available for $22. The profits from the Calendar sales will go to the National Church’s Haiti fundraising campaign and supports the rebuilding of the Cathedral Complex in Port au Prince including the schools which used to be on the property.

I hope you will purchase a calendar, and share it with others and catch a glimpse of the beauty and strength of Haiti.

* * * * *
You can read more about Mallory's time in Haiti and her reflections since then on her blog Holding Haiti

Friday, February 4, 2011


Bishop and Missionary to Denmark and Sweden (d. 865)


I love Anskar.  I love the fact that Anskar made the Episcopal Church calendar, Lesser Feasts and Fasts.  And I really love Anskar because he gives me hope.  Or, rather, he reminds me that hope is not about success and that God's ways of looking at people are not ours.  It's a bit the way I feel about the apostle Peter, who kept putting his foot in his mouth and otherwise acting impulsively and who even betrayed Jesus. But he came back, and look what God was able to do with him.  There was something of Peter in Anskar, I think.

Anskar, you see, was not a roaring success.  In fact, if you only look at the numbers, he was almost a downright failure in some areas of his work.  What Anskar did was trust and keep going instead of giving up.  He hoped and persevered instead of getting discouraged.  No matter what happened – and a lot did – he just kept on going.  I'm not sure if he was more like the Energizer Bunny or like the tortoise who beat the hare, but he certainly wasn't Chicken Little. 

Perhaps – and I'm dating myself here – Anskar is like a Weeble. Those of you of a certain age will remember that Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down.  Or, depending on how you look at it, they pop back up.  I've actually prayed with a Weeble, thanks to my sister, at times when I have needed to remember that every time I have thought I was down for the count, God has popped me back on my feet. 

There are times all of us need someone like this to consider.  Anskar, Peter, a Weeble… and even Jesus, who ended up a failure by the world's standards, abandoned by his disciples and executed as a criminal.  Yet through him death turned to life and bondage to freedom and the world was never the same again. 

So next time you feel hopeless or discouraged, consider Anskar.

Almighty and everlasting God, who sent your servant Anskar as an apostle to the people of Scandinavia, and enabled him to lay a firm foundation for their conversion, though he did not see the results of his labors: Keep your Church from discouragement in the day of small things, knowing that when you have begun a good work you will bring it to a faithful conclusion; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

And for your further edification or entertainment, depending on your view of it, I offer you an excerpt from the biography (hagiography, no doubt) by his successor.
* * *
Excerpts from chapters IX and X of the Life of Anskar by Rimbert

Meanwhile [i.e. in 829] it happened that Swedish ambassadors had come to the Emperor Ludovic, and, amongst other matters… they informed him that there were many belonging to their nation who desired to embrace the Christian religionSo it came about that his serene majesty began once again to discuss the matter with your abbot… Thus it was that Anskar was summoned by royal command to the palace, and was told that he should not even stop to shave himself before coming into the royal presence. The man of God, who knew clearly beforehand for what purpose he was being summoned, burned with fervour and with love towards God and esteemed it a special joy if he might be allowed to press forward in the work of winning souls... If in a journey of this kind any harm or misfortune should befall him, he was resolved to bear it patiently for Christ's sake; and he had no hesitation in undertaking this task, as he was comforted by the heavenly vision which he had previously seen…
How great and serious were the calamities which he suffered while engaged in this mission, father Witmar, who himself shared them, can best tell. It may suffice for me to say that while they were in the midst of their journey they fell into the hands of pirates. The merchants with whom they were travelling, defended themselves vigorously and for a time successfully, but eventually they were conquered and overcome by the pirates, who took from them their ships and all that they possessed, whilst they themselves barely escaped on foot to land. They lost here the royal gifts which they should have delivered there, together with all their other possessions, save only what they were able to take and carry with them as they left the ship. They were plundered, moreover, of nearly forty books which they had accumulated for the service of God. When this happened some were disposed to turn and go back, but no argument could divert God's servant from the journey which he had undertaken. On the contrary, he submitted everything that might happen to him to God's will, and was by no means disposed to return till, by God's help, he could ascertain whether he would be allowed to preach the gospel in those parts.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


February 1 we celebrate St. Brigid of Kildare.  There are plenty of interesting tales about her, some of which are due to a connection made with a Celtic goddess of the same name and with female druids who had lived in the spot where her monastery eventually was located.  She had a reputation as a spiritual guide and friend and is best known as the abbess of that monastery, which included both women and men.  The book noted below says, "She is known for many leadership traits: patience, prayerfulness, inclusivity, and most of all, compassion.  The latter quality was the basis of her spiritual power and of her ministry as a soul friend" (69-70).  That is the kind of leadership I would like to learn and to which we all should aspire.

Brigid is also noted for giving things away to the poor, whether or not those things were hers to give, which rather reminds me of stories of our own Sr. Rosemary, who once gave away sisters' boots to people in need and sold Sr. Mary Eleanor's knitting project, still in process, while she wasn't around.  The daughter of a slave, Brigid once nearly got sold for giving away her father's sword to a beggar; fortunately Sr. Rosemary was in no such danger.

Brigid is said to be the patron saint of farm animals, healers, midwives, smiths, and probably quite a number of other things as well. My Facebook friends posted a picture of her holding a beer stein with the information that she was the patron saint of ale, which was conveniently left out of most of the books in our convent library, to my amusement.  She is often pictured with a flame in her hands because her nuns kept burning an eternal flame, a sort of holy fire, and because many stories about her involve flames.

While doing my noon reading, I found the most wonderful set of little stories about her, from which some of the information above is taken, and I'd like to share my favorite with you.

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Brigit of Kildare:  Brigit is Ordained a Bishop

Brigit and certain virgins went to take the veil from Bishop Mel.  He was very happy to see them.  Because of her humility, Brigit held back so that she might be the last to whom a veil should be given.  A fiery pillar rose from her head to the roof of the church.  Bishop Mel said to her: "Come, holy Brigit, that a veil may be placed on your head before the other virgins." Then, it happened that, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, the form of ordaining a bishop was read over Brigit.  Mac Caille, Bishop Mel's assistant, said that a bishop's rank should not be conferred on a woman.  Bishop Mel replied: "But I do not have any power in this matter.  That dignity has been given by God to Brigit, beyond every other woman." Therefore the people of Ireland from that time to this give episcopal honor to Brigit's successor." 

Wisdom of the Celtic Saints 
Edward C. Sellner
Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN, 1993
p. 71-72

Information from the first part may be found on p. 69-75.

(collage by Jan Richardson)