Friday, June 10, 2011


    I realize that it has been 3 months since my last news to this site.  Since then my family has come from California and Idaho and my brother Jeff has been laid to rest. The deep pain of loss has not abated but something has been put at peace and we are all moving forward with the legacy of many happy memories.
    In the time when I needed a focus beyond grief, I decided to do a study of SAINTS & BIRDS!  What is the connection you ask?  I have been an avid birder for some years now and  have seen some FAB birds in Australia and recently PERU. Our beautiful San Juan Islands are home to over 200 wonderful species, especially water fowl.
     Recently, I came across an interesting photo of a statue of St. Hildegard in front of her Abbey at Rudesheim, Germany. It is a gorgeous statue but atop her head sits a pigeon.  Then someone sent me a photo of a monument to St. Hildegard, somewhere  near Bingen (Germany). On the wall above the saint's face sits a sweet small sparrow.  Both photos a bit of comic relief- at least to my heart. Both got me wondering.....
    I then discovered that there are many saints associated with birds. Of course as Benedictines we know of St. Benedict's raven,  and his sister Scholastica's dove. St. Francis of Assisi actually preached to the birds.  St. Teresa of Avila is more often than not seen with a dove,  but the Little Therese never.  The Celts seemed to have a great "devotion" to birds and are often depicted with them, probably due to their living on islands.  Both St. Hilda & St. Werburg of Chester had their goose.  St. Milburga was said to have a mysterious power over birds. They avoided damaging the crops when she spoke to them.  (I could do many blogs on saints and birds- some stories fascinating...  but you get the point).
    Peoples of the East and desert regions are rarely depicted with birds.   In some cases birds are shown with a saint for no other reason than an artist's imagination. Then there are the birds who just happen around when someone has a camera!
    Some birds are used as religious symbols.
         The most common being the dove, which represents the Holy Spirit, and purity in some saints.
        The eagle is a symbol for many saints: John the Evangelist,
                  Cuthbert of Lindesfarne who was fed by an eagle,
                  Medard of Noyon who was sheltered from the weather by an eagle.
        The peacock, believed by the ancients to be incorruptible, represents immortality.
        The pelican,  feeding her young with the blood from her breast, symbolizes Christ
                  the Redeemer.
         The phoenix,  said to rise rejuvenated from its own ashes, is a type of resurrection
                 and eternity.
    Some famous Christian artists use birds in many of their works. One of my favorites is the Japanese artist Sadao Watanabe (1913-96). His prints depict biblical scenes in the folk tradition (mingel).  He felt that his prints should hang in the homes of ordinary people, because Jesus brought the gospel for the people.
Jesus and Mary-  S. Watanabe

St. Francis- Dr.Qi

       Another favorite is Dr. He Qi  of China, now residing in St. Paul, MN.  His vibrantly colored art often features a dove.
 I  recommend Googling these artists.
    Whatever your passion is I am sure you can find Saints who relate to it.
                   Happy Birding......

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