Tuesday, April 7, 2020


MARY SALOME is the young woman dressed in green, and supporting the Virgin Mary with her hands. Rogier paints her face as almost identical to that of the Virgin Mary, perhaps to show they are related by blood? Tradition tells us she is the sister of the Virgin Mary.  Mary Salomé’s head and part of her body are covered by heavy, olive-green velvet.  Her outfit is not as austere as her older sister's,  perhaps to denote some wealth? She  is also painted as much younger.  Interesting to note that both the Virgin Mary and her "older sister", Mary Clopas, have their hair covered, but Mary Salome  has lovely tresses showing.

St. Mary Salome was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of the apostles John and James the Greater. Known as the “Sons of Thunder”, these two great men were among the first to be chosen by Jesus to follow Him. 

She would be one of the “three Marys” to follow Jesus and minister to Him and His disciples. Thought to be the financial source for their travels, Mary Salome, along with Mary Magdalene and others, would give all they had to further the works of Jesus and His followers.

Mary Salome was a witness to the crucifixion, entombment and was mentioned by St Mark as one of the women who went to anoint the Lord’s body, finding Him to be resurrected. In the Gospel, Mary Salome asks what place her sons will have in the Kingdom. Jesus tells her that it is the Father who decides and that they will have to follow His example and earn their place in paradise.

Her grief seems more subdued  than that of Mary Clopas, though no less  piercing. One wonders what these holy women, His "aunts" were experiencing? To have walked with Him, perhaps His whole life, thinking He was the Savior of His people, and to have it all end so tragically! 

Sunday, April 5, 2020


During Holy Week, I want to concentrate on the women who followed Jesus to the end, by looking at the painting of Rogier van der Weyden, who is called the “Master of Passions”.

Rogier's genius was portraying emotion in a contained state reflective of his northern temperament, a gift recognized within his own lifetime.  He was a master,  unsurpassed in his ability to combine color and light, shapes and  arrangement of composition, giving us a dramatic sense of being one with the characters in his art.  
Descent from the Cross
Born in Tournai, Holland in 1400, Rogier van der Weyden trained under the most important painter of that city, Robert Campin.  By 1435 Rogier had moved to Brussels, where he was named official city painter, a position created for him that he would hold for the rest of his life.  He died in 1464 and yet today, over six centuries later, his dramatic style holds our attention.

“His religious figures suffer, mourn, bear witness or simply exist with dignified pathos, their controlled and restrained yet eminently expressive sentiments made real through subtle facial expressions, the dramatic twisting of hands and fingers, even the rhythmic torment of the folds of a garment”. (Scott Walker art historian living in Paris)

His Descent from the Cross or Deposition (1435)  is perhaps his most famous work.  We see Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea having removed the body of Christ from the cross and lowering it carefully to the ground on a white shroud. Mary His Mother falls into a faint, supported by St John and a holy woman.  In its compact composition, purity of color and intensity of emotion, Rogier’s Descent From the Cross  is often said to be one of the greatest religious paintings in the history of Western art.

The woman to the far left of the painting is  MARY CLOPAS, said to be a half sister to the Blessed Virgin.  “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas...”  (John 19:25)

How clear are we today, as to the true identity of this Mary?  By examining and comparing the Crucifixion scene as described by the different Gospel writers, most biblical historians have concluded that the Mary of Clopas found in John’s Gospel was likely the same as “Mary, the mother of James and Joseph” found in Matthew’s Crucifixion narration as well as “Mary, the mother of the younger James and of Joses” found in Mark’s version. Mark further explains that Mary of Clopas was one of the women from Galilee who had often accompanied Jesus during his mission and assisted him in his works.

 We must also remember that in the Biblical sense any relative was called sister or brother, when in fact they were often cousins. So this Mary could have been a cousin to the Virgin Mary or even a sister-in-law, on either side.  Whoever she was, Rogier certainly gives her a memorable place in this masterpiece, as she copiously weeps into her veil.

After Jesus’ death we read that Mary of Clopas and her sisters from Galilee wanted to anoint His body with spices. However, the Sabbath was rapidly approaching, so the women put off the anointing until very early Sunday morning and only then did they go to the tomb to tend to the chore. 

As Mary of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, and Salome approached the tomb, they were startled to see that the stone used for closing the burial location had been moved. As they entered the tomb, they were further amazed to see an angel of God sitting at the tomb (two angels according to Luke and John). This angel told the women that Jesus had been raised and instructed them to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020


Georges Rouault

People today find it hard to be alone. We are used to being surrounded by others in the workplace, at school, extended family, shopping, etc.  Yet with this pandemic which has taken away so much of our daily freedoms, there is  a loneliness epidemic. We are not allowed to visit elderly parents, to be with loved ones as they die, or even bury the dead. Strangely, in a time when we are more connected than ever through the media, there is a terrible feeling of isolation. Not having loved ones around who can share a vulnerable conversation can make people feel even lonelier.

This is the time for us to find friendship in Christ, who has given Himself to us as the greatest friend we can have.  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15: 12-15) 

The cross proved to us, Jesus' love for us.  
He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He loves us more deeply than anyone else ever could. We are closer to His heart than any earthly friend we could ever have.

Rouault- Jesus with His Apostles
Jesus chose us as friends, He died for us as friends and He will remain our friend  for all eternity. The hymn*  “ What a friend we have in Jesus” could never be more true!

The Catholic Church has also given us the example of the saints, who are also our friends.  Find one that can be with you as we all  experience this imposed isolation

* "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" is a Christian hymn originally written by preacher Joseph M. Scriven as a poem in 1855 to comfort his mother, who was living in Ireland while he was in Canada. He originally published the poem anonymously, and only received full credit for it in the 1880s.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020


Pope Francis prayed Tuesday for all those who do not have homes to go to during the coronavirus pandemic, that people may be aware of this reality and that the Church will welcome them.

Homeless -  George Rossidis
“Let us pray today for those who are homeless, at this moment when we are asked to be inside the house, so that society will become aware of this reality and help, and the Church welcome them.”

In other parts of the world Bishops are stepping in to alleviate the suffering of the poor. 

 “I have decided to open up our seminary for the homeless while our seminarians are gone due to the Corona restrictions,” said Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki. “We want to offer warm meals and access to restrooms and showers to those who have nobody to turn to these days in Cologne.”

Those who live on the streets or in shelters are at  a high risk of catching any disease, especially one as virulent as the coronavirus.

Bishop Terence Drainey of Middlesbrough, England, calls on Catholics “to keep the poor, vulnerable, and isolated members of our community at the forefront of our minds at this difficult time”.

He offers concrete guidelines and advice about how to care for neighbors and those in need during the pandemic. 

Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, of  the Archdiocese of Sao Paulo,,  has offered the city a community center, House of Prayer, to lodge homeless who get the coronavirus.

The House of Prayer "is already used for activities with the city's homeless population and also provide meals. "It is not a hospital, so it needs to be adapted, with beds, etc., but it is a viable place to put those who have nowhere to go," he added. Church officials said the home would be able to accommodate 50 hospital beds.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the need to help  the homeless and poor is increasing, and Catholic charities are working overtime. Their work is an example to the world of how we can put the Gospel into action as missionaries. 

People ask us how they can help us, but we are not in need here in our  small isolated paradise.  I tell them find a way to help those who are desperate.  Call your local Catholic charity and make a donation- no matter how small.  It will buy  food and shelter for those in greatest need.

Homeless - Rosanne Gartner
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  James  2:15-16

Monday, March 30, 2020


Our friend, TOMIE  de PAOLA, children’s author, died today at age 85.
He was badly injured in a fall last week and died of complications following surgery.

He worked on over 270 books in more than half a century of publishing. Nearly 25 million copies have been sold worldwide and his books have been translated into more than 20 languages.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu issued a statement, praising Tomie as “a man who brought a smile to thousands of Granite State children who read his books, cherishing them for their brilliant illustrations.”

At age 4, Tomie knew he was going to be an artist and author and  told people so. He received a lot of encouragement from his family. “They gave me half of the attic for my ‘studio.’ Now, how neat is that?” he said.

His family, in turn, became central characters in a number of his autobiographical books, such as “26 Fairmont Avenue,” about growing up in Connecticut during the Great Depression, and “The Art Lesson,” about reaching a compromise with his art teacher on drawing in class. Tomie wrote about doodling on his bedsheets and on his math work in second grade, telling his teacher he wasn’t going to be an “arithmetic-er.”

Tomie worked in his 200-year-old barn in New London (NH), which houses his studio and library. It includes wall niches displaying folk art and a corner with a chair facing a small altar, where he meditated. Native American, Mexican and early American folk art decorated his nearby home.

He loved receiving letters from children with questions about his life and books, often taking the time to chat with them at book signings and other events. It was always important to him to keep that voice active.

“I just keep the inner critic,” he said in an interview. “Don’t let the little 4-year-old get jaded. I listen to him. He stands beside me and says, ‘No, I don’t like that.

In 2000 he received a Newberry Honor Award  and in 2011 a lifetime achievement award from the American Library Association. The Pratt Institute  (from which he graduated) honored him with an honorary doctorate in 2009 and the New Hampshire Institute of Art honored him with an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts in 2018.

Holy Twins

While “Strega Nona” is perhaps his most famous book, my favorite is “Holy Twins”  about St. Benedict and his sister St. Scholastica.

At the time of his death he was working on a mural for a new building at our Abbey in CT. He will be sorely missed by children and nuns!


Karoly Roka (d. 1999)

When I was a small child I hated naps, and yet each day my younger brother and I were relegated to our rooms for “quiet  time”.  For me it was a special time to talk to my animals and to dream. While I certainly was not aware of it as a young child, it was preparing me for a love of silence and a place to tap into my interior life. It was a time to be alone with myself and not fear that aloneness.

In this time of imposed exile from the world it can be a time for children, who are so used to a “go-go” life, to be exposed to some quiet. Certainly any parent can appreciate the need to spend an hour or so in silence in the middle of the day.

This is a time for children – as well as adults- to learn to be comfortable in silence.  It is also a time for parents to  allow children to just be children and not mini adults!  It is important to remember that the routine of a child needs much more room for play than most adults realize. 

It is the time for play- as the child likes it- not as the parent thinks it should be. Play is when the child grows, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. Therefore it is up to the parents to give structure for the child. The child plays while the adult works, but the child also learns how to be like the adult. 

Karoly Roka
As the days, weeks and even months loom ahead with an unknown time limit, parents need to rethink how  they can re structure  their children's lives, in a creative spiritual way.

Saturday, March 28, 2020


From the Holy Father’s UBI  ET ORBI  March 27, 2020
            (Only time ever given outside of Easter and Christmas

Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).

The miraculous crucifix at which Pope Francis prayed Sunday for an end to the coronavirus has been taken down from its altar and transported to St. Peter's Square, so it can be present on Friday during the pontiff's benediction "Urbi et Orbi."

The crucifix was removed from the Church of San Marcello al Corso by Vatican personnel Wednesday evening, and is expected to be installed temporarily at St. Peter’s Square on Thursday, according to Vatican journalist Francesco Antonio Grana.

The crucifix was venerated as miraculous by Romans after it was the only religious image to survive unscathed from a fire that completely gutted the church on May 23, 1519.

Less than three years later, Rome was devastated by the "black plague."

Upon the request of Rome’s Catholics, the crucifix was taken in procession from the convent of the Servants of Mary in Via del Corso to St. Peter’s Square, stopping in each quarter of Rome.

The procession continued 16 days, from August 4th to the 20th, 1522. When the crucifix was returned to St. Marcellus, the plague had disappeared from Rome.

The crucifix has since processed to St. Peter’s Square every Roman Holy Year - around every 50 years- and the crucifix has engraved on its back the names of each pope to have witnessed those processions. The last name engraved is that of Pope St. John Paul II, who embraced the crucifix during the “Day of Forgiveness,” during the Jubilee Year 2000.