Friday, June 28, 2013


Sts. Peter and Paul-  El Greco

Today we celebrate  two great saints who are proof  that God can work through anybody. We have St. Peter, a brash, thick-headed fisherman, inclined to say whatever popped into his head without thinking, and St. Paul, that well educated Pharisee who persecuted  the Church, later becoming its great champion.

I would speculate it was quite hard for St. Peter to accept (at least at first) this "upstart" who was not one of the Twelve and had never known Jesus. Peter was present at all the events in which Jesus had just a few special persons with him. Peter was the one Jesus appointed to lead His new Church.

Yet Paul became one of the greatest of the Apostles and was very much given to mystic experiences. Paul claimed to have visited some “higher heavens,” and he articulated many of the more mystical aspects of Christology. Once Paul “saw the light,” he was one of the most ardent devotees of Jesus, traveling the so-called “known world” bringing the message of  Jesus to the Gentiles.

Today's feast, then, is a celebration of the Church's unity (and a good example to us in Community). Anyone who has read Acts or Galatians, will recall that Saints Peter and Paul did not always think or act in perfect harmony. They came from different backgrounds, they had different methods of evangelism, and they didn’t always get along, but they were vitally important to the emerging Christian Church.

M Djunisijevic- Serbia

Both helped to spread the faith of the early Church, following in the footsteps of Christ. That these two extremes could allow the Holy Spirit to work through them is certainly proof that God can work through each of us, as long as we are willing to answer “yes” to God’s call.

Aiden Hart
Church Unity

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


My hosts- Marsue, Susana & Ima
Andreas, Claudia, Luis Antonia
As always the best part of any trip, is meeting old friends and making new ones. This trip was "quieter" than the last, and we did not venture out as much, but this gave us the chance to "catch-up" with those we really came to see. The children, some now in their teens, have grown into lovely young people and are a joy to be with. Most speak English, Marsu and Andreas being the most fluent in conversation.  One of the "high-lights", tho not in a positive way, were the string of break-ins in the neighborhood where we were staying in Piura. There were four in the neighborhood within a week, all by the same men, who had a car and were armed. The 2nd was at Lucio and Elena's  while Judy and the housekeeper were upstairs. The men used a huge instrument, trying to break thru the thick wrought iron gates. Fortunately, a neighbor heard them and yelled. Police were called, and Lucio had the gate so reinforced the next day, it is now hard for anyone to open.

When Judy and I returned from Chaparri, the banditos had struck again across the street and there was an armed guard at the corner (not unusual in the more affluent neighborhoods). Of the four homes struck, in broad day, one was ransacked. Needless to say, all were on pins and needles!

Outdoor concert by students
The first week we were in Piura, was festivals galore. I was able to attend several concerts with the family, the best being by the college students themselves.  The Piurianas are famous for their music and it is so easy to get caught up in their rhythm.

Next came Corpus Christi  Mass and Processions. It was inspiring to see so many thousands praying. Students lined the walkways, wearing white gloves and holding candles or Star-War like wands that glowed.

Corpus Christi Procession
The next week was a grand festa at the girls school for Father's Day- almost a bigger celebration than in the USA.  Each class did a dance of a different country and in many cases the girls were as good as professionals.  The costumes were colorful, and the music wonderful.

Ima in her Spanish flaminco dress
30 flaminco dancers
One Sunday after Mass, and a Chinese dinner (this family's favorite) we went to the beach at Colon, about and hour's drive west of Piura. Needless to say, whenever I hit the ocean I am home! It is winter now in Peru so not many people at the seaside- which was nice for us!

Family at Colon

In the shade at Colon

Another highlight of the trip was a visit to a ranch which raises the PERVUVIAN PASO HORSE. The hacienda, Los Ficus, is south of Lima in the Lurin Valley. To get to this marvelous place, one travels through slums, rural villages, cultivated fields, and small towns.

Los Ficus

The Peruvian Paso is a breed of light pleasure saddle horse known for its smooth ride. It is distinguished by a natural, four-beat, lateral gait called the paso llano (a side walk). Instead of a trot, the Peruvian Paso performs an ambling four beat gait between the walk and the canter.

The hacienda

 It is a lateral gait, in that it has four equal beats and is performed laterally- left hind, left fore, right hind, right fore. Intrstingly enough, when performing they most often us the music from the area of Piura, as the beat of that music perfectly fits the gait of this horse. This characteristic gait was utilized for the purpose of covering long distances over a short period of time without tiring the horse or rider. The gait is natural and does not require extensive training. Peruvian Paso foals can be seen gaiting alongside their dams within a few hours of their birth.

A yearling on the lung line

We watched all stages of training
The gait supplies essentially none of the vertical bounce that is characteristic of the trot, and hence posting (moving up and down with each of the horse's footfalls) is unnecessary. It is also very stable, as the execution of the gait means there are always two, and sometimes three, feet on the ground. Because the rider feels no strain or jolt, gaited horses such as the Peruvian Paso are often popular with riders who have back trouble.

Smooth-gaited horses, generally known as Palfreys, existed in the Middle Ages. Peruvian Pasos trace their ancestry to these ambling Jennets, which contributed strength and stamina and to the glorious Andalusians which added style, conformation and action. Horses arrived in South America during the Spanish Conquest, beginning with the arrival of Pizarro in 1531.

These small, yet elegant, horses are bred for their gentle temperament and spirit and training starts before they are a year old.  We were able to see the stages of training, beginning at  eight months of age on a long line.  We spent a  lovely afternnoon at the hacienda, enjoying these beautiful creatures and a true Peruvian meal, Pisco sours included.

Dancer & horse

Not sure who is more beautiful

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Road to Cuspe - Cajamarca Provence
Another wonderful trip to Peru  and as always the two highlights were the people and the birds. We traveled again to the fab private preserve at Chaparri  where we spent 3 days- there were no other guests so the three of us were in Paradise. Our arana (Chilean taranchula) from the last trip was nowhere to be found, but our little fox came daily to watch us.

Chaparri- its beauty changes with the hour

Jeremy got me up at 4 A.M. one morning so we could hit the highway (dirt-rock road) up the mountain, in the dark. Owls and night-jars flew at us as we disturbed their feeding.  It was a three hour trek to where we were going. After two hours we stopped at a tiny hamlet where we had a break for the bano.  I was able to see the local sheep and dairy cows which were being led to milking.  One of the best conversations I had with a native who spoke no English, to my almost non- existent Spanish, was with Senora Nina.

Senora Nina
 It was really amazing as she told me about the milk and how it is sent to be processed. She could not believe that we have raw milk (she said they call it leche cruda)  and did we really drink it?  This, in a country that often does not have the most sanitary conditions, esp. in rural areas. This family, while poor in the eyes of a gringo, was actually quiet well off. Their fields were abundant with crops, their animals were numerous and healthy, they lived in an absolutely gorgeous valley between the mountains, and they certainly knew the meaning of hospitality..

As we climbed up the mountain on foot, with Fernando our driver following at a distance with the car, we encountered many children going to school: some walked, some on bikes or donkeys, and  a few on the handle bars of father's bike.  All seemed happy waving at us!  Of course I am sure I was a sight in my habit with binoculars. At 7 we had a wonderful tail-gate breakfast.

Children on the way to school

Tail-gate feast
The walking was gentle and slow on this mostly stone trail, which if you have an extra 10 hours will eventually take you to the city of Cajamarca.

 Some of the 30+ birds we spotted were rare hummingbirds, including the tiny little woodstar (the size of a bumble-bee), the long-billed starthroat, the fab green-tailed trainbearer, and the grey-chinned hermit. 
I love the names of these tiny jewels of the mountains, as if they are giants carrying more than just their colors!
Little woodstar

Grey-chinned hermit

Long-billed starthroat
Green-tailed trainbearer

Foliage-gleaners that I had missed on my last trip were there for us. Another gem in its splendor was the grey and gold warbler. We could hear the rarely spotted Ochre-bellied dove and the Ecuadorian trogon, but never got sightings.
Our guide Tomas with his son

 On this trip, half the length of the last trip to Peru, I added 32 new species to my life-list giving me a total of 246 species for Peru and 1349 total world-wide.  Next stop???? who knows!

Henna-hooded foliage-gleaner
Grey and gold warbler

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Daniel Bonnell- USA
June 24 we celebrate the birthday of St. John The Baptist. Christians have long interpreted the life of  ST. JOHN the BAPTIST as a preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. The circumstances of his birth, as recorded in the New Testament, are miraculous. John's pivotal place in the gospel is seen in the emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself- both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus.

At the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to inform her that she would conceive of the Holy Spirt, he also informed her that Elizabeth, her cousin, was already six months pregnant (Luke 1:36). Mary then journeyed to visit Elizabeth. Luke’s Gospel recounts that the baby “leapt” in Elizabeth’s womb at the greeting of Mary.

Brigid Marlin- USA

The sole biblical account of the birth of  St. John the Baptist comes from the Gospel of Luke. John’s parents, Zechariah or Zachary, a Jewish priest, and Elizabeth, were without children and both were beyond the age of child-bearing. During Zechariah's rotation to serve in the Temple in Jerusalem, he was chosen by lot to offer incense at the Golden Altar in the Holy Place. The Archangel Gabriel appeared to him and announced that he and his wife would give birth to a child, and that they should name him John. Due to Elizabeth's "old age" Zechariah did not believe the message of Gabriel and so was rendered speechless until the time of John's birth.

When the child was born, his relatives wanted to name the child after his father, but Zechariah wrote, "His name is John" . At this his mouth was opened and he could speak (Luke 1:5-25; 1:57-66). Following Zechariah's obedience to the command of God, he was given the gift of prophecy, and foretold the future ministry of John (Luke 1:67-79).

Birth of  St. John- Spanish 1525
Ordinarily the day of a saint's death is usually celebrated as his or her feast day, because that day marks their entrance into heaven. There are two notable exceptions: the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary and that of St. John the Baptist. Mary, already in the first moment of her existence, was free from original sin (Immaculate Conception), while John was cleansed of original sin in the womb of his mother. St. Augustine mentioned this belief as a general tradition in the ancient Church. He was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1, 15) and, therefore, born without original sin.

 St. John the Baptist is patron of tailors (because he made his own garments in the desert), of shepherds (because he spoke of the "Lamb of God"), and of masons. This patronage over masons is traced to his words:
    Make ready the way of the Lord, make straight all his paths. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, And the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth. (Luke 3, 4-6.)

Athanasios Clark

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Madonna of the Woods

CHARALAMBOS  EPAMINONDA was born in Paphos and raised in Stroumbi (Cyprus). He said he  watched the world, the people, and painted them.

He learned Byzantine art from Father Simeon Mavrovouniti. Later he studied with Father Simeon Peruvian, at Holy Mountain (Mountain Athos) and in the Athens School of Fine arts and the University of Thesalonika.

He wrote, illustrated, and published ten books of which two were honored with a state award for literature and illustration.
St. David

He lives with his family in Stroumbi where he has his workshop. Some consider him to be the greatest contemporary icon artist. I -love his works, not only for the colors but for the birds and floral patterns which appear in his works. Compared with most icons his work exudes warmth and humanity.

The Sower & the Seed

John Kohan (SACRED ART PILGRIM) wrote: he remains calm and centered, a man at peace with himself, and a paradigm, for me, of a spiritually-centered artist, indifferent to commercial success or critical acclaim... I asked Charalambos to paint a triptych, based on my three favorite parables from the Gospel of Luke, the Prodigal Son, the Sower and the Seed, and the Good Samaritan, giving him a free hand in the arrangement of the images. He came up with three separate paintings, united in composition and conception...

The Good Samaritan
The Prodigal Son

...Not only are humans reconciled one with another in these wonderful images, but the whole created order, animate and inanimate, water, plants, fish and birds are drawn toward the powerful central figure of Christ, the Sower of the Seed, the Renewer of Life.

This schema is repeated in a different color palette is his lovely little painting, Madonna of the Woods.

Friday, June 14, 2013


German (Beuron)
Devotion to the Sacred Heart can be seen as early as the second century with St. Justin Martyr and in the 7th century with Pope Gregory the Great. Writers throughout these centuries emphasized the pierced side of Christ as the inexhaustible source from which all graces flow upon mankind and the blood and water as symbols of the sacraments of the Church. With the coming of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and  St. Anselm in the 12th century, there was a sudden increase in direct reference to the love of the Sacred Heart for every person redeemed by His Passion and Death.

The widespread influence of Franciscan and Dominican Friars enkindled this devotion in the hearts of the faithful who heard their preaching. The focus on the Sacred Heart moved from being a symbol of the sacraments, to the symbol of Divine Love.

In the Middle Ages Saints Gertrude and Mechtild further this devotion. The editor of St. Gertrude’s writings, Revelations, (Dom Boutrais of Soesmes) stated: “Never before…has anything been written on the effect of the divine Heart and its relation to men, to saints, to the souls in Purgatory, such as we find in the writings of St. Gertrude and St. Mechtild´.

Odilon Redon (d. 1916)

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90) was the cloistered nun  who we think of when we mention a saint devoted to the Heart of Christ. She entered the Daughters of the Visitation, founded by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal, in 1671. Although devotion to the Heart of Jesus was already important to the order prior to St. Margaret Mary’s entrance, it would be through her that public devotion to the Sacred Heart would be practiced universally in the Catholic Church.

St. Margaret Mary- C. Giaquinto 1725

She had help to carry out the mission entrusted to her, with St. Claude la Columbiere, a Jesuit priest, who became  her Spiritual Director. He was the first to believe in the revelations of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary. Thanks to his support, her superior also believed, and wide spread propagation of the devotion to the Sacred Heart in the Universal Church began. From then on, the Jesuits became the chief propagators of the devotion to the Sacred Heart which flourished throughout the subsequent centuries.

My own Jesuit academic and spiritual adviser in College (Creighton U.) had a great devotion to the Sacred and wrote a very scholarly book entitled The Sacred Heart: A Commentary on  Hauraitis Aquas.  Thus Father Alban  Dachauer, S.J. enocuraged me in this devotion and today it remains one of my favorite feasts of  the year.

"He showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin into which Satan hurls such crowds of them, that made Him form the design of manifesting His Heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which it contains, in order that those who desire to render Him and procure for Him all the honor and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which this Heart is the source".

Br. Mickey McGrath

"He should be honored under the figure of this Heart of flesh, and its image should be exposed…He promised me that wherever this image should be exposed with a view to showing it special honor, He would pour forth His blessings and graces. This devotion was the last effort of His love that He would grant to men in these latter ages, in order to withdraw them from the empire of Satan which He desired to destroy, and thus to introduce them into the sweet liberty of the rule of His love, which He wished to restore in the hearts of all those who should embrace this devotion.”…. “The devotion is so pleasing to Him that He can refuse nothing to those who practice it.”
 -Revelations of Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

St. MM- Br. McGrath

The Devotion to the Divine Mercy, given to St. Faustina Kowalska in 1931, is a broadened devotion to the Sacred Heart. From this devotion our trust in God’s limitless love and mercy is rekindled. The incomprehensible treasures which we have in the sacraments are symbolized in the blood and water gushing forth from the Heart of Christ. The devotion to the Sacred Heart has flowered and has seemed to come full circle in the devotion to the Divine Mercy, particularly in its emphasis on the graces flowing from the Heart of Jesus, healing and forgiving souls, through the Sacraments of Mercy.