Sunday, May 1, 2016


P. Maurus, OSB

The month of May is dedicated to Our Blessed Lady, QUEEN of the MAY. It is the time specially given to her in tribute of faith and love. During this month we offer up to Mary fervent and loving homage of prayer and veneration. In this month, too, the benefits of God's Mercy come down to us from her throne in greater abundance" (Paul VI: Encyclical on the Month of May).

This custom of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin arose at the end of the 13th century. In this way, the Church was able to Christianize the secular feasts which took place at that time.

The practice became especially popular among the members of the Jesuit Order and by 1700 it took hold among their students at the Roman College and a bit later it was publicly practiced in the Gesu Church in Rome. From there it spread to the whole Church.

Paul VI wrote a short encyclical in 1965 using the Month of Mary devotion as a means of obtaining prayers for peace. He urged the faithful to make use of this practice which is "gladdening and consoling" and by which the Blessed Virgin Mary is honored and the Christian people are enriched with spiritual gifts". 

Mary is the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church and our Mother.  Let us this month pray for hope in our world, for peace in the hearts of all, and a deeper love of her Son.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


I often tell lay people that we are all called to sanctity. So many people feel that they have to have a vocation to the religious life in order to be a saint. But the Church- the world- needs holy lay people as examples to us all.  One lay woman will soon be beatified.  And she was a Benedictine Oblate.

ITALA MELA (1904-57) was an Italian Roman Catholic who was a lapsed Christian until a sudden conversion of faith in the 1920s and as a Benedictine oblate assumed the name of "Maria della Trinità".

Mela became one of the well-known mystics of the Church during her life and following her death. She also penned a range of theological writings that focused on the Trinity, which she deemed was integral to the Christian faith.

She was proclaimed to be Venerable on 12 June 2014 after Pope Francis approved her life of heroic virtue. The Holy Father also approved a miracle attributed to her which allows for her beatification this year- date is to be announced.

Both of Itala's parents were atheist teachers. She spent her childhood in the care of her maternal grandparents from 1905 to 1915 as her parents worked and her grandparents prepared Mela for her First Communion and Confirmation (thank God for grandparents!).

The death of her brother Enrico at the age of nine in 1920 challenged Mela's faith. She wrote of her feelings to the loss: "After his death, nothing". As a result she eschewed her Christian faith and slipped into atheism. However,  on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (8 Dec. 1922), she had a sudden reawakening of her faith. She then took the motto: "Lord, I shall follow You unto the darkness, unto death".

Mela became a member of the Italian Catholic Federation of University Students in 1923 where she met future pope Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini) and Blessed Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, OSB (1880-1954), a Benedictine monk who later became Cardinal and Archbishop of Milan during World War II.  At such meetings were Monsignor Montini and the politician Aldo Moro (a  leader of Christian Democracy, he was considered an intellectual and a patient mediator, especially in the internal life of his party. He was kidnapped on March 16, 1978, by the Red Brigades, a Marxist–Leninist urban guerilla organization, and killed after 55 days of captivity). These men and others served as major influences in her life.

She passed her studies in 1922 with recognition of being a brilliant student and was enrolled at the University of Genoa on the following November where she later received a degree in letters and classical studies in 1928.

Itala experienced her first vision of God on 3 August 1928 as a beam of light in the tabernacle in a church of a seminary at Pontremoli, beginning a long stream of visions in her life. She departed for Milan at this time, and chose as her confessor Adriano Bernareggi. She felt a call to religious life but suffered with health problems so in 1933 she became a Benedictine Oblate of the Abbey of Saint Paul outside the Walls in Rome.

As a sign of her new life, Itala took  the name of "Maria della Trinità".  She not only promised the three Benedictine vows of Conversatio, Obedience and Stability, she also made a fourth vow of consecration to the Holy Trinity which she considered as the center of her life and mission in the Church.

She returned to her hometown in 1933 and from 1936 she received ecstasies and visions.

Itala presented an idea for a memorial to Pope Pius XII in 1941, and the pope accepted the Memorial of Mary of the Trinity. In 1946 she composed a series of spiritual exercises for the benefit of the faithful which were well-received.

Itala died on 29 April 1957; her remains were transferred to the La Spezia Cathedral in 1983. While not all  holy people are deemed mystics, or have visions, all Christians are called to be followers of Christ  true to their calling.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


 We never know who the Lord will let us cross paths with, but I am sure that this woman was meant to be in my life.  Some people when you meet, you feel as if you have known them most of your life. And that meeting is just a picking up where you left off.  And while I have no interests in fiber arts (I just raise the fiber) we found we had many passions in common, starting with Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I almost feel guilty trying to do a Blog on her as she is so multi-talented.
While we had not met, I knew of her work, as we both appeared in Wild Fibers Magazine in 2008.  There was a very lengthy article about Our Lady of the Rock and after that article was a sock (yep,socks) pattern done by a local (San Juan Island) woman. Yours truly even modeled the socks!  It would take another eight years for us to meet.

CAT (yes, this is her real name) BORDHI is funny, gentle, and very dedicated to her profession, which includes generously helping others. Her website is very informative so I will use a lot of her own words:

            I never know how to answer the question, “What do you do?” 
                    Once on an airplane I replied, “I’m an archaelogical forensic topologist.”
           The two men sitting beside me suddenly sat up straighter. “So you’re a medical examiner?”                                         one asked. "No, I’m a knitter,” I replied.
"And I wasn’t fibbing or even exaggerating. Knitting is indeed topology (the study of knots and pathways) and I am filled with immense curiosity about how it’s been done and how else it might be done, which is forensics. As for archaeology, my passion for Perú and its textile traditions have been leading me in that direction as well... But most of all I am a person who loves the innocent, unfettered intelligence and sense of wonder that rises in knitters as we explore this sensuous world of pulling loops through loops and rearranging them to create beauty."

Moebius cowl

“I absolutely love to teach, and it is natural to me to perceive each student as their best self. This, and my passion for teaching, make each workshop whole and fresh.”

 One of her workshop participants wrote:
“Cat Bordhi is that quirky, fun and inventive teacher that you loved in high school. The one that made you want to come to class and do your best. And you always listened to everything spoken in class, lest you miss even a bit of wonderful information. Cat is full of tips and tricks, and the skills she teaches in this class take you far beyond moebius knitting. But of course, knitting a moebius is so fun that it may be a while before you apply   her great tips to other knitting. Cat is a natural born teacher. She loves to share what she has discovered with others. Her enthusiasm and humor shine through and the camera loves her. She’s completely relaxed and you feel like she’s sitting next to you, sharing her latest discovery that came to her in the middle of the night.”

Cat has a “partner in crime” who often travels with her. Unfortunately, when they came with a knitting group on retreat to visit our lambs and farm, I did not get to spend much time with him. But I can tell by the twinkle in his eye he is as much fun as Cat (and merits a Blog on his own). Jim “Pecos” Petkiewicz of Community Links International (a nonprofit that responds directly to the complex realities of marginalized humans, communities and environments in many parts of the Americas) co-leads groups to Peru and other fab places (Ireland and the Aran Islands, Iceland, and in the future, Cuba) with Cat.  

Cat & Pecos

Pecos and I have a brother-sister relationship and our work together is fluid and inspired. Pecos and his wife Mags lived and worked in Bolivia, Peru, and Mexico for many years, and raised their two children, now    grown, in Oaxaca, Mexico. Pecos’ knowledge and love of Spanish and Latin America is a rich resource that allows all of us to experience the  beauty of this land and people directly and spontaneously.”

Cat and Jim “Pecos” have a passion for bringing out the best in others. People call them “travel whisperers” who help them have their own spontaneous, magical experiences.

"We recognize that service without the attempt at developing profound relationship produces debilitating charity, while service with deep relationship can lead to lasting and productive solidarity. We invite you to join us in these deep relationships."

Cat is the author of one novel and the artisan publisher of eight knitting books, as well as a number of single patterns.  Go to her website for lots more information. And if you knit, she is the gal for you!

Saturday, April 23, 2016


For Good Shepherd Sunday I posted an image by an artist whose work I think merits recognition because of its uniqueness, spirituality and timelessness.  I emailed him and asked him if I could do a Blog on him and his art, to which he graciously replied, yes. It was hard to choose a few images from his vast array of work,  but I present a few of my favorites.

Theotokos (Mother of God)
NIKOLA SARIC, born 1985, comes from Bajina Bašta, Serbia. In 2000, he moved to Belgrade to study at the Tehno Art School. In 2005, he began studying at the Academy of Applied Arts in art restoration and conservation. One year later, in 2006, he moved to study at the Academy of Serbian Orthodox Church for Arts and Conservation in the art fresco painting, where he graduated in 2014.
Nurtured in the practice of church art, his artistic expression is deriving from sacred Greco-Roman art and generally speaking the art of the classical antiquity and the medieval period.
St. M Magdalene 
"In his works, through the immediacy and simplicity of visual elements. he is trying to convey the intuition of a “transfigured world” and its everlasting glow, harmony and beauty. Using different techniques and materials, Nikola is trying to describe this unimaginable world. His interpretations reflect the personal spiritual experience as well as the tradition that breathes and evolves within the concepts of contemporaries." (from his web-site)
He breaks some of the traditional “rules” to create images which feel both ancient and contemporary.  “Art plays a significant role, not just in religious practice, but represents a time document about persons, events and ideas that had and will continue to have impact on people.”

I love how many of his saints have their heads bent to the side as if listening only to the Word, which is Jesus Christ.

Besides working as an independent artist, he holds mosaic courses in adult education. He also does sculpture, calligraphy, and design.  Since 2011 Nikola lives in Hannover, Germany.

One of his most powerful pieces is his Holy Martyrs of Libya. In this work 21 Christians are lined up on their knees before hooded ISIS terrorists with  drawn knives. In the middle stands Christ welcoming them into His kingdom. The men are depicted with their eyes looking to Christ, except for one who looks at us. The Coptic Orthodox church acknowledged them as new martyrs.

This icon is displayed in the exhibition at Brenkhausen Monastery in Höxter, Germany. This Medieval monastery was obtained in 1994 by the Coptic Church, and is now the monastery of the Virgin St. Mary, and is the Coptic bishop seat.
On this beautiful icon, the New Liturgical Movement wrote: Notice 
how the waves of the sea stained with the martyrs’ blood are shown around the edge of the image; Matthew Arayiga, from Ghana, who was not himself a Copt, but on witnessing the martyrs’ courage in choosing death over denial of their Christian faith, joined them in confessing Christ, and professing their faith as his own, saying “Their God is my God”, is distinct among the group on the top right. The men were killed wearing orange prisoners’ jumpsuits.  

It all started with seeing media reports about (the martyrs) which struck me immediately. Out of that grief, something creative came up. I was thinking about them, empathy and love towards them grew, and that became a corner stone of the project”, Nikloa has said..

...I think that in any tragedy there is no sense in it, but I also think that we can overcome a tragedy and see beyond the harsh reality, with another perspective or with spiritual eyes, as I would like to say. That is what I try to do in my work and in my life.”
When Nikloa looked at those men on the beach facing execution because they chose to hold to their faith, he saw the unseen. “In their minds they were with God. They prayed. Faith changed their captivity into freedom, death into life.”
Nikola saw Christ as reaching down to comfort the martyrs, even as ISIS soldiers grab each man by the hair. Every prisoner but one looks to heaven. The last prisoner looks us squarely in the eyes. Is he testing our own sorrow for such brutality? Or is he telling us not to worry as today he is with Christ?

St. Anthony of the Desert
St. Ignatius of Antioch

Thursday, April 21, 2016


I always like to present people who are generous to us and this woman is no exception.  A few weeks ago we had a knitting retreat here for the morning from San Juan Island. They came to see the lambs, do a bit of work and  buy wool.  A week later I heard from EVELYN CLARK who asked if she could donate some of her work to us for sale.  Being clueless in the fiber arts (I only raise the sheep), I had no idea who she was and when I mentioned it to Cat who led the retreat (more on her in next Blog) she told me to look up Evelyn’s site. You can do the same.  If you are a knitter I would advise you to see her patterns. Her work is absolutely lovely and we will save some of the pieces for our own use. 

Evelyn is a Pacific Northwest native who learned to knit and crochet from her grandmothers. After leaving a corporate career in marketing for a simpler life, she was inspired to pick up her needles again by Elizabeth Zimmermann's empowering approach to knitting. Along the way, she discovered a passion for lace knitting and enjoys sharing this addiction with others.

Spinning is her new obsession, inspired by a Cheryl Oberle Knitaway in Taos and Spinning the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts. Now handspun yarns are influencing her designs.

Evelyn was the winner of the first Wild Fibers Magazine and Buffalo Goldcontest. Her designs have been published by Fiber Trends and Leisure Arts, as well as knitting magazines and yarn companies. Knitting Lace Triangles, her first book, was published by Fiber Trends in July 2007. Her limited teaching schedule is on the Home page.

Thanks Evelyn for your generosity and new friendship and for staying in a long tradition!

15 C. Master Bertram of Minden

Saturday, April 16, 2016


David Popiashvili (Dem. Republic of Georgia)

Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays of the year. I am always reminded what it is to be shepherdess to the sheep entrusted to me.

As I get older, I still love my sheep, but must entrust their care to the interns who come to help with daily chores. Fortunately, the past two years the "neo- shepherds" have been wonderful. This year's lambs follow them around like dogs.  And while I educate the interns and other helpers in the fine art of shepherding, I no longer am able to daily go down to the field and handle the lambs and ewes.  The more the lambs are handled the easier is their care when they get older, so this daily contact is important. 

In days not too long ago, even in our own country, a shepherd would lead his sheep to the best pastures that he could find, while he kept close watch over them to protect them. 

The good shepherds loved their flocks so much that they would put their lives in danger for their sheep, especially when one went astray. 

Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, gave His life for us and watches over us especially in these modern times so filled with danger. He laid down His life for us and now He leads us to spiritual nourishment which we daily receive in the Eucharist.  

Lost Sheep -Nikola Saric- Serbia
Now Christ, our Paschal Lamb, is slain
the Lamb of God that knows no stain,
the true Oblation offered here,
our own unleavened Bread sincere….

We pray Thee, King with glory decked,
in this our Paschal joy, protect
from all that death would fain effect
Thy ransomed flock, Thine own elect.
          Hymn of Easter Vespers

  Let us rejoice in our GOOD SHEPHERD!.

Monday, April 11, 2016



SERVANT of GOD JOSEPH DUTTON could be another new England saint one day.
He was born Ira Barnes Dutton in Stowe, Vermont, son of Ezra Dutton and Abigail Barnes.
He carried out his studies at Old Academy and Milton Academy, Wisconsin and in 1861 enlisted in 13th Wisconsin Infantry under Colonel Maurice Malooney. He served in the 13th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War.
He had been raised Protestant and was for a time married. The marriage did not last as his wife (whom he never mentioned by name) was unfaithful and Ira developed problems with alcohol. He quit drinking in 1876,  experiencing a spiritual reformation.
He converted to Roman Catholicism in 1883 taking the name of Joseph, his favorite saint. He later spent 20 months at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani.
Meeting Fr. Damien- A. Girard- Stowe
He concluded that his life should be one of penitent action rather than contemplation. He remained lifelong friends with the monks, even remembering them in his will.
In 1886 Joseph went to Moloka'i to aid the dying Father Damien. “ The work attracted me wonderfully… the labor, penitential life, and seclusion.”
At Moloka’i he served as administrator, carpenter, repairman, baseball coach, as well as care of the lepers, bandaging their sores and encouraging them on.
On Moloka’I he found peace and joy, never leaving again till his final illness, when he was sent to Honolulu for treatment.  Before his death Father Damien said of him: I can die now. Brother Joseph will take care of my orphans.
After Father Damien's death he founded the Baldwin Home for men and boys with financial assistance from Henry Perrine Baldwin.
Joseph was a member of the Secular Franciscan Order. He spent 45 years on Moloka’i, dying in Honolulu in 1931 and later buried at St. Philomena Catholic Church Cemetery, Kalaupapa. Like St. Damien and St, Marianne Cope, he was much loved by his people.