Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Sunday, December 29, 2019


People who know me, know that as a child psychologist, I am deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of our children today.  This latest survey is distressing, and I think shows why our youth today are in such bad straits!

For decades, the share of U.S. children living with a single parent has been rising, accompanied by a decline in marriage rates and a rise in births outside of marriage. A new Pew Research Center study of 130 countries and territories shows that the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households.

Almost a quarter of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults (23%), more than three times the share of children around the world who do so (7%).

The study, which analyzed how people’s living arrangements differ by religion, also found that U.S. children from Christian and religiously unaffiliated families are about equally likely to live in this type of arrangement.

In comparison, 3% of children in China, 4% of children in Nigeria and 5% of children in India live in single-parent households. In neighboring Canada, the share is 15%.

While U.S. children are more likely than children elsewhere to live in single-parent households, they’re much less likely to live in extended families. In the U.S., 8% of children live with relatives such as aunts and grandparents, compared with 38% of children globally.

When we consider that the family (not preschool) is the place where children develop into what they will become, especially in the spiritual sense. It is where we are equipped to become what God created us to be. Children come to know who God is through their parents. In the so-called developed world, the family is increasingly an artifact of convenience at best.

In this Christmas season, we need to look to the Holy Family for inspiration and pray for guidance- which is not gotten from books or TV or the internet.

Saturday, December 28, 2019


In the midst of the joys of Christmas, today we celebrate the slaughter of the HOLY INNOCENTS, those male infants killed by Herod.  His morbid obsession that another king could take his place, threw him into a raging panic. Thus thousands of  babies  under the age of two, who lived in and around Bethlehem, were slaughtered.

And while this event happened over two thousand years ago, it continues in our own day and age. Children who are killed and abused through the fear and selfishness of powerful adults. It happens in every culture and every nation.

Rachel weeps for them all.  Rachel, who today represents our Church, weeps for the innocent so easily counted as nothing by those in authority.   It is ours  to mourn in the hope that the Lord will soften the hearts of the powerful, even of us, in our own, at times, play for power!

Thursday, December 26, 2019


Ernst Barlach

ERNST BARLACH  was a German Expressionist sculptor, printmaker, and writer. Early in his career, he trained under French artists and produced Art Nouveau-styled sculpture and works on paper, but was initially unable to find success. This led to a formative trip to Russia where the artist began creating figurative sculptures inspired by early Gothic art, carving spiritual and emotional themes from hard woods and bronze casts. 

Achieving widespread critical acclaim in his native Germany before the First World War, Ernst , once a supporter of German militarization, enlisted as an infantry solder. He served until 1916, when the harsh realities of war quickly transformed his perspective.

Thereafter, Barlach was compelled to produce art in staunch opposition to war and the subsequent rise of Nazi power. His allegorical and pacifist art earned him the label of degenerate, and his work fell out of favor. Born on January 2, 1870, he died in Rostock, Mecklenburg in Germany on October 24, 1938.

I emulated his work when I studied sculpture in Koln, Germany, especially his pieces in wood.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019


Nikola Sarić, Serbian artist now living in Hannover, Germany.
One of my favorite modern religious artists.




Sunday, December 22, 2019


One would almost think that this last Sunday in Advent should have the emphasis on joy- instead it is peace- but that is not our theme this year so we carry to the end this idea of joy- everlasting joy. If we find true joy in Jesus, who comes to redeem us, then that joy is  with us always.

Note, Isaiah  speaks of  rejoicing with songs, which leads me to a pet-peeve.  We celebrate Advent in our country  with Christmas songs from after Thanksgiving to Dec 25 and then it is all over. Those few of us who celebrate many days  after His birth, if we’re lucky we’ll get some religious songs like "Away in a Manger", "O Little Town of Bethlehem" or "Silent Night" which sing  of His birth.

There are so many songs- so much beautiful music- that prepares us for the birth of our Savior, yet we often only hear Jingle Bells or Rudolph the red nose or dashing through snow..........

“Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” from Handel’s Messiah is a great example as is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, and my favorite “O Holy Night”. Lesser known but still beautiful “On Jordan’s Bank” and  “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns”, a song of joy. It has a contemporary setting but is a very old text. 

These songs are about the first coming or the second coming of Christ and they certainly do more to spiritually prepare us than the secular ones about reindeer and sleigh rides!. 

This last Sunday before Christmas we move closer to the day on which we celebrate Christ’s birth, amidst the hustle of preparation and shopping and baking, the rhythm that Advent brings helps us remember the gifts of this season: hope, peace, joy and love. The journey of Advent to Christmas reminds us of God’s gift to us in sending His Son.

At Christmas we celebrate the life of Christ; a life that was itself an expression of love. Our response to God’s gift is to live a life that is an expression of His love. We celebrate that, through Jesus, God made His love visible. One of our main ways we all celebrate this season is through song.  May they reflect the holiness of the time.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


DAME WERBURG WELCH  was born Grace Eileen Welch on 17 May 1894 in Cheltenham.   Her father was raised Protestant, but converted to Catholicism after reading Cardinal  (St.) John Newman's works.  Eileen studied at Southampton School of Art and then at the Bristol Art School, when the family settled in Bristol.

In 1913, Eileen entered the Convent of the Religious of the Cross as a postulant, before becoming a novice at Stanbrook Abbey (Benedictine) in Worcestershire in 1915.

On 30 November 1919 she took her solemn vows and became Dame Werburg. She intended to give up art, but was persuaded to continue extending her scope to vestment designs and wood-engravings for the Stanbrook Abbey Press. She studied under Desmond Chute and Eric Gill from whom she derived her angular style.

After her paintings, vestment designs and wood-carvings received favorable reviews at exhibitions of the Guild of Catholic Artists and Craftsmen in the 1930s and 1940s, commissions came in from churches and private individuals all over the country. Her illustrations appeared in contemporary Catholic magazines.

Like a true Benedictine nun, her art had to be fitted in with attendance at the Divine Office, as well as the manual work of the community. Over the years she served as chantress, portress, and assistant sacristan, as well as being subprioress from 1956 to 1968. 

During the war she volunteered to take charge of the orchards and was still climbing ladders in her 80s. She suffered a severe stroke in November 1989 and died the following February at the age of 95.

The National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum has an information file on the work of Dame Werburg Welch, containing a brief biographical outline and a collection of wood-engravings and linocuts, with some contemporary photographs of carvings and paintings. Photocopies of working drawings are included. Another collection of her wood engravings and other prints forms part of the Stanbrook Abbey Press.

Monday, December 16, 2019


No this is not a photo from a calendar  but shot last week on Shaw Island, in front of Blind Bay by our ex intern Marijke, just days before she went home to the Netherlands.

This past weekend was the Christmas Bird Count and the good news is we had many ducks  and more passerines then in past few years.  I am not sure this GREAT HORNED OWL will make the list, but he is an awesome sight, especially for all who saw him.

Great Horned Owls vary in color tone across their range: birds from the Pacific Northwest tend to be dark sooty while those across the Southwest are paler and grayer. While Great Horned Owls are nocturnal this fellow did not seem to mind being caught in the open. You may see them at dusk sitting on fence posts or tree limbs at the edges of open areas, or flying across roads or fields with stiff, deep beats of their rounded wings.

This huge owl is found  throughout North America and much of South America.. Aggressive and powerful in its hunting (sometimes known by nicknames such as "tiger owl"), it takes prey as varied as rabbits, hawks, snakes, and even skunks, and will even attack porcupines, often with fatal results for both prey and predator. Great Horned Owls begin nesting very early in the north, and their deep hoots may be heard rolling across the forest on mid-winter nights.

Great Horned Owls have a large repertoire of sounds, ranging from deep booming hoots to shrill shrieks. The male's resonant territorial call "hoo-hoo hoooooo hoo-hoo" can be heard over a mile during a still night. Both sexes hoot, but males have a lower-pitched voice than females. Most calling occurs from dusk to about midnight and then again just before dawn.

Females are larger than males weighing in at about 3.3 pounds to the male’s 2.9 lbs. The wingspan of the female is 56.2 inches to the male’s 52.7 inches.

Be it Advent or summer this rarely seen owl is a welcome visitor to our small island!

Saturday, December 14, 2019


They shall obtain joy and gladness,
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.  (Is. 35:10)

At last we come to that Sunday in Advent known as Gaudete (Joy). On this Sunday, pink as a symbol of our joy, is worn at Mass and the candle in the Advent wreath that is pink, is lit as well.  We read in the Old and New Testaments about the joy of our salvation in Jesus Christ.

The peoples of the Old Testament had joy because they anticipated a time when the promised Messiah would come and “those who have been ransomed by the Lord...will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness”. 

Today, our joy is anchored in the knowledge that God fulfilled His promise of a Savior- the One who came to free us from the shackles of  original sin.

At this time of year, in the depth of deep darkness- it is dark here by 4:30 P.M.-  we will celebrate the winter Solstice- the longest day of the year. It can be a reminder  of the joy that seems to be lacking in our world at large. There is no room for hope, no possible way to feel anything but misery.  But this is not the thinking of one who understands the true meaning of Advent- of why the Child is born in us, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, and will continue to be born until the end of time.

We as Christians  should be a people full of joy, and Catholics more so because the “cause of our joy” is ever with us in the Eucharist.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


ANGEL ZARRAGA  was born  in 1886 the son of the physician Dr. Fernando Zárraga and his wife Guadalupe Argüelles in the Barrio de Analco of Durango, Mexico. While attending the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria in Mexico City, he made his first contacts with the prevailing artistic and intellectual scene, and later studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes.

Following his studies and with the support of his family he left for France where he would remain for over thirty years. While in France he painted murals in the Castle of Vert Coeur and, in 1927, decorated the Mexican Legation in Paris.

He visited and exhibited in  Spain, France and Italy.  He also visited courses at the Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium.

In 1906 he exhibited some of his pictures in the Museo del Prado, and in 1907 in an exhibition of the ENBA. He participated in the 1909 Biennale di Venezia and exhibited in the Salon at the Piazzale Donatello, Florence. In 1911 he moved to France for good, and he only returned to Mexico once at the outbreak of World War II for a short time.


From 1914 Zárraga painted in a Cubist style but after 1921 his work was influenced by Cézanne and Giotto.  Zárraga breaks from representational painting by identifying spheres and cones of light rather than two dimensional planes. The formal composition is further enhanced by the use of bright blues, greens, yellows, and reds. Each field of color thus represents a separate plane. 

As a result of the collapse of the international art market he lost his sponsors and became depressed. During World War II he returned to his home country in 1941, where he painted murals at the Club de Banqueros and in Monterrey Cathedral.

Assumption  of the  Virgin Mary
He died of pneumonia in 1946. A museum of contemporary art in Durango is named after him. One of his paintings sold for almost a million dollars in 1998.   I could find nothing about his personal life, his family, or his religious practices, but from the art works I would say he new a bit Advent.

Saturday, December 7, 2019


Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then the lame shall leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the dumb sing.   (Is. 35:5-6)

Laughter and shouts of joy are signs of coming restoration, so sings the Psalmist. It is an important reminder in the Advent season as we prepare for the Birth of our Savior. He is the cause of our joy. If we are excited about Christ, that excitement is contagious, it will spread. 

Joy has all but disappeared from modern society, and so often people, especially our youth, try to find what they think will being them joy or relief from boredom, from delusion, or suffering.  Yet any sane person knows that drug or alcohol use, a dissipation of one's gifts, and  taking refuge in all sorts of sinful pursuits          does not bring joy, but rather takes one further away from that true cause of joy leading to despair.

As we are overwhelmed with the demands of the season to buy gifts, send cards, attend too many parties, we may feel conflicted by the need to pause and evaluate what this season is all about.

A long time ago I read sorrow can take care of itself but joy must be shared!
Joy  (Christ) is meant to be shared. Let  our gratitude  for His coming extend to family, friends, neighbors, all whom we come in contact with. Hopefully our gratitude can multiply bringing joy (Christ) to our world so in need, especially those nearest to us suffering from spiritual maladies of all sorts.

Pope Francis reminds us of this in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) that “the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus… With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


During the weeks of Advent I thought it might be fun to check out some Catholic artists who were well known in their day and perhaps not so much today, but who knew the spirit of Advent - of expectation.

Sketch for Annunciation

The first is a favorite of Mother Dilecta, having discovered him through "Magnificat" magazine. At  the age of 15 MAURICE DENIS wrote in his journal: “I have to be a Christian painter and celebrate all the miracles of Christianity, I feel that it has to be so.”

In 1890 he declared that painting is “basically a flat surface covered with colors disposed in a certain order,” a credo taken up by later Modernists. Maurice would later adopt a more “classical” style after a sojourn in Italy, always believing art should “express the mysteries of the Faith clearly in the play of forms and colors.”

The Annunciation  at Fiesole

 A devout Roman Catholic, he was single-minded in his effort to renew French church art, which had degenerated in the 19th century into what was dismissively called the “Saint-Sulpice style,” after the Paris quarter, specializing in kitsch plaster saints and devotional items. 

Together with Painter Georges Desvallieres, he founded Ateliers d’Art Sacre in 1919 to teach young artists to create works “that serve God, the teachings of the truth and the decoration of places of worship.” Maurice himself, made canvas paintings and wall murals for over 15 churches across France.

The  Catholic Sacrament

A devoted husband and father, the artist often used his beloved first wife, Marthe, and their six children as models, placing sacred figures in settings from his daily life in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the Breton seacoast, where the family spent their summers, or an Italian villa they had visited in Fiesole, near Florence. Maurice was especially drawn to maternal images of the Virgin Mary, making paintings and prints of the Annunciation and the Madonna and Child in multiple variations.

French Dominican Friar Marie-Alain Couturier, a onetime Ateliers student and leading proponent of Modernist sacred art, said that Maurice  was the painter of “the sweet presence of God in our life.”