Friday, September 27, 2013


Angel of the Birds-F. Dvorak
Diane Salamon
September 29 is the feast of St. Michael and other Archangels and October 2 the feast of our Guardian Angels.

In the past few decades ANGELS  have gotten a “bad rap”  by  people who use them in all sort of weird contexts.  But perhaps no aspect of Catholic piety is as comforting to parents as the belief that there is an angel who protects their children from dangers real and imagined. Yet guardian angels are not only for children. Their role is to represent individuals before God, to watch over them always, to aid their prayer and to present their souls to God at death.

Most of us who grew up Catholic learned the simple prayer:
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here, ever this day, be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen

Bl. Pope John XXIII  gave us this Meditation for the Feast of the Guardian Angels - 2 October 1959:

            According to the teaching of the Roman catechism, we must remember how admirable was the intention of divine Providence in entrusting to the angels the mission of watching over all mankind, and over individual human beings, lest they should fall victims to the grave dangers which they encounter. In this earthly life, when children have to make their way along a path beset with obstacles and snares, their fathers take care to call upon the help of those who can look after them and come to their aid in adversity. 

Lauren Ford- Our favorite

In the same way our Father in heaven has charged his angels to come to our assistance during our earthly journey which leads us to our blessed fatherland, so that, protected by the angels' help and care, we may avoid the snares upon our path, subdue our passions and, under this angelic guidance, follow always the straight and sure road which leads to Paradise... Everyone of us is entrusted to the care of an angel.
That is why we must have a lively and profound devotion to our own Guardian Angel, and why we should often and trustfully repeat the dear prayer we were taught in the days of our childhood.

May we never fail in this devotion to the angels! During our earthly pilgrimage we may often run the risk of having to face the natural elements in turmoil, or the wrath of men who may seek to do us harm. But our Guardian Angel is always present. Let us never forget him and always remember to pray to him.

Marc Chagall- Mainz Germany

Angels are servants and messengers from God. "Angel" in Greek means messenger. In unseen ways the angels help us on our earthly pilgrimage by assisting us in work and study, helping us in temptation and protecting us from physical danger. The idea that each soul has assigned to it a personal guardian angel has been long accepted by the Church and is a truth of our faith.

The concept of an angel assigned to guide and nurture each human being is a development of Catholic doctrine and piety based on Scripture but not directly drawn from it. Jesus' words,  "see that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father."

Catholics set up altars in honor of guardian angels as early as the 4th century and  devotion to the angels began to develop with the birth of the monastic tradition in the 6th Century. St. Benedict gave it impetus as did St. Bernard of Clairvaux (the great 12th-century reformer), who was such an eloquent spokesman for the guardian angels that angelic devotion assumed its current form in his day.

Giuilanna Lazzarini

However, it was not placed in the General Roman Calendar until 1607 by Pope Paul V. The papal decree establishing the feast was cosigned by St.Robert Bellarmine, which has led some scholars to speculate that the feast was created under the influence of the Society of Jesus (The Jesuits).

When one of us dies in the monastery, or someone related to us, or perhaps someone we do not know directly, we sing the beautiful and haunting: 

"May the angels lead you into paradise;
may the martyrs come to welcome you
and take you to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem." (Rite for Christian Burial)

I love the window of Marc Chagall which shows an angel carrying the soul to heaven. I have often used this to show children death is nothing to fear.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


I am amazed when I look at art from other countries, how different it is from what I think of as great art.

A case in point, is a Polish woman, whose very simple, yet colorful paintings are considered national treasures of Poland. Her works look like those of a young child and yet in her naive simplicity she gets her message across. Her love of God is most evident in her art.

KATARZYNA GAWLOWA (1896-2002) was born in 1896 in the small village of Zielonki, close to Kracow, Poland. As a child she worked long and hard on her father's farm- working the fields, looking after the cows, and making trips to town to sell milk and vegetables. When she was inside of their humble thatched home, she would paint walls, filling every space with birds, flowers, saints, and angels. When her parents died, she moved to a neighboring house and continued her passion, painting holy figures on the walls. This practice continued for years and fed Katarzyna's spirit.

Jesus in the Garden

Jesus Entombed
In the early 1970's, a young artist from Krakow and Jacek Lodzinski, a collector, encouraged the now almost 80 year-old woman to do portable paintings. Though she was timid at first, she immediately loved the sensation of seeing her paintings framed. Before long, people visited her from Kracow, Warsaw, and countries whose language she did not understand. She was amazed that all of these people wanted to see her work.

Though much of  Katarzyna's work is religious in nature, she painted objects from her own environment and events from her childhood, such as wedding feasts, pilgrimages, and folk bands. Her religious work most often features the Virgin Mary decorated with flowers, birds and butterflies. Katarzyna was not wealthy so her supplies were limited. Much of her work is on hard cardboard and plywood. Because she was taught not to waste, she wasted no space on her paintings, filling in many figures and often adding poems and lyrics in any free space. Her colors are generally bright, pure and direct, creating a two-dimensional feeling.

St. Veronica
Sacred Heart

On December 28, 1977 Kracow's Ethnographic Museum held an exhibition of her paintings, and art lovers were able to experience first hand an authentic talent that had grown out of contemporary Polish Folk Art. Katarzyna died in the 1980's, leaving behind a wealth of work. She is surely one of Poland's treasures.

Adam & Eve

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


 It has been almost one year (October 7) since my patroness was canonized, so I thought I would do a short update for her feast.

Paraclete Press has put out a revised edition of  St. Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church: A Spiritual Reader.

"Meet the incomparable St. Hildegard: nourishing, challenging, and idea-bursting. This essential reader includes selections from her songs, theological texts, liturgical music, and letters and will stir and awaken your soul. Combined with an introduction to St.Hildegard’s life and era, a map of the saint's Germany, chronology, and a thorough bibliography/discography, St. Hildegard of Bingen provides the ideal introduction to the thought of this fascinating medieval mystic and the newest Doctor of the Church".

The author Carmen Acevedo Butcher has spent the last twenty years studying and teaching the women mystics of the Christian tradition to people of all backgrounds. She has written Incandescence: 365 Readings with Women MysticsHildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader, and Man of Blessing: A Life of Saint Benedict (Paraclete). She is Associate Professor of English at Shorter University in Rome, Georgia, having earned her doctorate in Medieval Studies from the University of Georgia.


Friday, September 13, 2013


When we attended the Orcas concert a few weeks ago (see blog  8/26 )  we passed one of our favorite places on the island, the Lambiel Museum (a blog on this later.)  We were entranced by the new fence in front of the museum and I decided to do a little check on the artist.

The artist is TODD SPALTI  of Orcas Island who originally hails from Pleasantville, Iowa. As long as he can remember, he has been drawing, carving, or painting. He entered design school at Iowa State in 1977, but not finding much inspiration there, left school and hit the road with his brother, driving west until they landed on  the Oregon coast. They settled in Corvallis, where they worked as carpenters and on a wildlife refuge.

In 1981, Todd got a job as a counselor at Camp Four Winds (Orcas). There he encountered the carvings of Ernest Norling and other Northwest influences, such as artist Bill Holm, carver and scholar Steve Brown, and artist/iron-worker Richard Serra.

In addition to being a woodworker, cabinetmaker, and metal smith, Todd is also an accomplished painter. But lately he has gravitated toward larger works such as 'Tribute' a 14 feet tall, 2,000-plus pounds sculpture in front of the Orcas Island Historical Museum.


The massive piece was inspired by a Salish carving he saw and a little-known creation myth. He was determined to combine Native and non-Native, ancient and modern, and the final work is truly unique. It's a tribute to Native American art and culture, to the beauty of our area, and to the many artists who inspired him.

Most of his work has been commissioned, which is reflected in a diversity of styles shown in his portfolio. Todd has works in collections from Orcas Island to Paris, France.

“My work has become more minimal over the years while it has also grown in scale," he said. "There is a power in old growth trees or in a dry canyon at dusk; in my work, I try to capture a small bit of the essence of this power.”

 The fence at the Lambiel Museum is titled “Tree”. It is made of stainless steel, mild steel, aluminum, copper, bronze, chrome.  The picture above (top) speaks of its beauty.  Like many metal pieces it comes alive as the light changes and the figures seem to dance.

"Whale" (another fence at Lambiel Museum)

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Anna's Hummingbird
Rufous HB
After doing crows and Steller's jays for their birding projects, the Shaw group has decided to do something a bit more "Community" minded, getting other islanders involved in their project.  For the next study they would like to target hummingbirds. More on their proposed plan at a later date.

HUMMINGBIRDS  comprise the family Trochilidae. They are among the smallest of birds, most species measuring in the 3–5 inch range. The smallest extant bird species is a hummingbird, the 5-cm Bee Hummingbird. Hummingbirds hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings 12–80 times per second (depending on the species). They are known as hummingbirds because of the humming sound created by their beating wings, which sometimes sounds like bees or other insects. 

To conserve energy while they sleep or when food is scarce, they have the ability to go into a hibernation-like state (torpor) where their metabolic rate is slowed to 1/15th of its normal rate. When the nights get colder, their body temperature can drop significantly, slowing down their heart and breathing rate, thus burning much less energy overnight. As the day heats up, the hummingbird’s body temperature will come back up and they resume their normal activity. Hummers are also the only group of birds with the ability to fly backward. They can fly at speeds exceeding 34 mph. Individuals from some species of hummingbirds weigh less than a penny.  

Hummingbirds are restricted to the Americas from southern Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, including the Caribbean. The majority of species occur in tropical and subtropical Central and South America. There are 328 species in the New World and only 20 grace the United States, most of them found in the Southwest.  
Green-tailed trainbearer- Peru
Of this vast number I have so far seen 52 species: 9 in the USA, 18 in Peru and 24 in Costa Rica.  For the most part one has to wait until they come to you. In CR  I was able to sit on a deck while a dozen or more species came to me all day long, then as the temperature dropped, I was able to watch them rest deep in trees or nestle in orchid greens where they spent the night.

Rainbow starfrontlet - Peru

In Washington state we have only two species west of the Cascade Mountains: the ever present Anna’s and the Rufous  which usually arrives by May and departs for warmer, flower-producing weather by October. Males arrive 2 to 3 weeks earlier than females. Most hummingbirds of the U.S. and Canada migrate south in fall to spend the winter in northern Mexico or Central America. 

Buff-bellied HB

At my brother's in California I have seen the gorgeous Costa's HB and in Texas in February I was able to see the Buff-bellied HB.

In Peru, it is hard to say which was my favorite. Most were found in the mountains or cloud forests. They were like tiny jewels as they flitted from plant to plant, sometimes as close as a few inches from our faces. Without my friend and guide I may not have been able to identify them.

In Costa Rica the very rare Snow-cap was daily under my window feeding on its favorite bush. One day a photographer came from afar to take pictures but alas my friend never showed up. The poor man left after two frustrating hours and no sooner had his car turned the corner then that bird appeared.  While in the north dry coast of CR, we happened upon a guide who showed us the Blue-tailed HB which is not native to CR and had only been sighted once before.

Costa's HB
The Rufous Hummingbird is one of several species that breed in North America and are wintering in increasing numbers in the warm subtropical southeastern United States, rather than in tropical Mexico. The Rufous Hummingbird nests farther north than any other species and must tolerate occasional temperatures below freezing on its breeding grounds. This cold hardiness enables it to survive brief temperatures below freezing, provided that adequate shelter and feeders are available.

The male's jewel-like throat feathers show brilliant, iridescent oranges, reds or violets when light strikes them just right. This throat patch is called a "gorget"  after a piece of medieval armor that protected the throat. Females lack the gorget and have mostly green backs and light bellies.

Green thorntail- Costa Rica
Like other birds, hummingbirds communicate via visual displays. Hummingbirds are very territorial and have been observed chasing each other and even larger birds such as hawks away from their territories.

The earth's changing temperatures due to climate change are affecting hummingbird migratory patterns, causing different species to be spotted in locations well outside their normal range, where it may be harder for them to find food. Also as more and more people feed the HB  they tend to stay year round, in warmer climes.

 HB are considered to be symbols of peace, love and happiness. Ancient peoples held them sacred for their tireless energy and anxiety.  In the Andes, the HB symbolizes the RESURRECTION, as it seems to die on cold nights, but comes back to life with the sunrise.
Fiery-throated HB- Costa Rica

In Native American culture, a hummingbird symbolizes timeless joy and the Nectar of Life. It's a symbol for accomplishing that which seems impossible and will teach you how to find the miracle of joyful living from your own life circumstances.

Everyone loves hummers. Anyone who has fed them on a regular basis knows they are unafraid to approach us and enter into relationship with us. These seemingly tiny and delicate birds are hardy and resilient, teaching us the miracles of God. One of the reasons I like to teach others about birds is summed up in the words of  the Senegalese environmentalist Baba Dioum:

            "In the end, we will conserve only what we love.
            We will love only what we understand.
            We will understand only what we are taught."

In April of next year I hope to add more HB to my list as I travel to the Mountains of SE Arizona with our Oblates. Think maybe these tiny jewels might be a good project for our Shaw 4- H kids next year?

Very rare Snowcap- CR
White-necked jacobin- CR
Another very rare- Blue-tailed HB- CR

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Pope Francis yesterday appointed a senior Vatican diplomat as his new Secretary of State, to replace Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The Secretary of State is considered the top political and diplomatic position in the Vatican and in some instances he can stand in for the pope.

His replacement for the "number two" position at the Vatican, is Italian ARCHBISHOP PIETRO PAROLIN. He is currently the Catholic Church's envoy to Venezuela. 

At 58, Archbishop Parolin is seen as relatively youthful for a top Vatican office. Some think he could help a process of renewal within the church, as well as making it more influential in the modern world.

"I feel the full weight of the responsibility placed upon me: this call entrusts to me a difficult and challenging mission," the Archbishop said in a statement.

Ordained in 1980, he was previously a Vatican envoy to Mexico, where he fought to gain legal recognition for the Catholic Church. His first foreign posting for the Vatican was in Nigeria where he became familiar with the problems in Christian-Muslim relations . He has worked on sensitive issues for the Church, including diplomatic relations with Israel and improving ties with communist China.  In 2009, he was appointed papal nuncio to Caracas.  He speaks Italian, English, French, and Spanish
In Vietnam

"I feel very strongly the grace of this call, which is yet another and the latest of God's surprises in my life," Archbishop Parolin said in a statement quoted by Vatican Radio.


Pope Francis on Sunday condemned the use of chemical weapons, calling for a negotiated settlement of the civil war in Syria.  He announced he would lead a worldwide day of fasting and prayer for peace there on September 7.

Speaking with anguish he said: "My heart is deeply wounded by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments... With utmost firmness, I condemn the use of chemical weapons. I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart".

Pope Francis reiterated previous appeals for all sides in the civil war to put down their arms and "listen to the voice of their conscience and with courage take up the way of negotiations."

With tens of thousands of people in the square applauding his words, the Holy Father delivered his strongest remarks yet to express his horror at the use of chemical weapons.

He wants people on both sides of the conflict to put down their weapons and “listen to the voice of their conscience and with courage take up the way of negotiations.”

King Abdullah & Pope Francis

During their August 29 meeting,  Pope Francis and King Abdullah of Jordan reaffirmed that dialogue among all Syrians, with international support: “is the only option to put an end to the conflict and to the violence that every day causes the loss of so many human lives, especially amongst the helpless civilian population.”

Pope Francis invited other Christians, members of other religions, and all "people of goodwill" to join the Catholic initiative in any way they see fit.