Thursday, March 29, 2012

Art, Literature, Poetry and Mariology


A twentieth-century American writer of poetry and prose, Cornelia Otis Skinner, appears to have had a craving for a deeper knowledge and understanding of Mary of Nazareth. After a visit to Italy she wrote these poignant lines;


  Mary, most serenely fair,
  Hear an unbeliever's prayer.
  Nurtured in an austere creed,
  Sweetest Lady, she has need
  Of the solace of thy grace;
  See the tears that stain her face
  As she kneels to beg your love,
  You whom no one told her of.

There is a a belief that human devotion to Mary, when practised neither as an end in itself nor in a bid to replace the worship of Christ, but for the greater good of growing closer to God, can actually serve to enhance spiritual faith and religious fervour.

For centuries the arts have shown the beneficial effects of a healthy devotion to Mary of Nazareth. Art and literature, particularly poetry, might prove casualties if Mariology were to be destroyed, since the Virgin Birth of Christ the Saviour and the role played by the Blessed Mary in the life of Christ have proved to be a source of inspiration for some of the best works produced by generations of painters, sculptors and writers alike.

The majority of great artists have at one time or another during their careers paid homage to the mother of the Redeemer through the medium of sculpture or canvas, while generations of poets have sung the Blessed Mary's praises in print through the centuries. hence not Christians alone but the entire world of art and letters would be the poorer for an end to Marian devotion.

*Picture is of cross stitch art 'Mother of Innocence', done by Rev. Catherine.  Please do not reuse this picture, as the cross stitch art is from a kit. If you wish to make Christian works of art for places of worship such as decorated altar linen, robes & stoles for ministers, you can order and stitch/paint them. The above kit was ordered and received from You can also make wonderful cross stitch paintings for framing in your house. They can be used as a focal point for family prayer, or as a quiet reminder of Mary of Nazareth and the beautiful Child, the Prince of Peace, she gifted to humanity through the gracious acceptance of God's request to her.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Lyric and the Reed


The twentieth-century variety of the lyric is explained by Graham Hough (In Bradbury 1976:320) in the following way:

To write a series of lyrics is... like keeping a spiritual diary ... It has little resemblance to the organisation of a large-scale literary work, with formal requirements outside the author's personal development. Much twentieth-century criticism has played down the biographical connection between the poet and his poems, and regards the work as an artefact, floating free from its creator. But this cannot disguise the fact that poetry which takes the lyric as its primary model will always tend to follow the contours of individual experience.

Free verse is described by D H Lawrence the poet (In Pinto 1877:184) as

direct utterance from the instant, whole man. It is the soul and the mind and body surging at once, nothing left out. They speak all together. There is some confusion, some discord. But the confusion and the discord only belong to the reality as noise belongs to the plunge of water.

Therefore it is clear that Lawrence sees free verse as being primarily a set of connotations consisting of a series of mental flashes which spark off one another involuntarily, thus illuminating heart and mind and producing a powerful emotional impact, while striking a sense of kinship between poet and reader; as the poet informs the reader by the message of his/her poetry that explanations are dross when two minds meet in the instant rapport which is created between writer and reader in literature. Such writing demands strong participation from the reader in the process of literary communication.

As Riana Scheepers (1997:11) puts it:
It is expected from the post-modern reader that he will enter the dynamic process of literary  communication pro-actively. (my translation)

Sister Maris Stella CSJ goes beyond the concept of Lawrence by ascribing the authorship of her poetry to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in her sonnet: It is the Reed (In Noyes 1946:347)

     I did not cut myself this hollow reed
     I did not seek it in the shallows growing
     In all my life I paid but little heed
     To burnished reeds in the bright shallows blowing.
     And this that now is thrust into my hand
     Mysteriously cut and tuned for singing
     Was gathered in a strange and distant land
     And has immortal airs about it clinging
     An unseen piper tuned its ghostly note.
     O who would dare to touch it - who would dare?
     From out the fearful hollow of its throat
     Such music pours as I am unaware
     How to devise. I did not think these things.
     It is the reed. It is the reed that sings.

The poet does not appropriate credit for her poetic talents which are God-given. She refers all credit for the beauty of the poetry to the One who inspired it; the Holy Spirit of God. The repetition in the final line gives this poem an elusive musical refrain of great poignancy, causing the reader while searching for its significance to pause before the realisation dawns that the "reed" is a metaphor for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit's inspiration enables Sr. M. Stella to write such "music" (12) as to astonish its composer as much as it will later astound the reader.

Caryll Houselander (1901-1944) describes Mary of Nazareth as a "reed of God" (In Therese 1947:258). Mary is so at one with God that the wind through the flute is the centre of her being. After conceiving Jesus, the Son of God, Mary responded by singing the Magnificat, a glorious oration in honour of God. For over two thousand years since, poets have sung their praise  to Mary in celebration of the fact that God in His infinite wisdom deemed it fit to make her the most blessed of all women.

From the differences we see between the tone of much of the poetry written by religious seekers in the earlier twentieth century before 1960 and that of some of the Marian poetry during the remainder of the century, it seems clear that among some of them a number of the perceptions they harboured in relation to the life of the religious seeker underwent a radical change during and after the years of 1959-1967. In the years prior to 1959, the religious seeker poet had, as evidenced in her poetic utterance, reached a height of meditation which gave rise to the twofold anchorage of total identification with the moral and ethical excellence of Mary the Mother of Jesus and a gift of expression which, while frequently marked by brevity, gives evidence of the fruits of a meditation seldom experienced by poets during the centuries which separated the medieval Marian lyric from the twentieth century, if we exclude the work of a few outstanding exponents of the genre of Marian praise poetry such as Robert Southwell (1561-1595) and the Victorian priest Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889).

Catherine Nicolette;
Reading the above blog made me smile. Last week I was walking along a beautiful woodland and lake area in Dublin, Ireland. The scenery about me was breathtaking, and I was contentedly taking photographs. I heard a rustle, the flute of the wind through the trees and the triplet song of a bird pouring pure through the atmosphere. It was as if nature was playing its orchestra in the spring which is gracing Ireland, and as I turned towards the sound of the wind as the last sighs of the breathy music began to die down, I hit my finger on the button on the camera without taking a sighting or planning the photograph. The photo that came out was of a reed in the shape of a flute floating on the water between two banks, one with fresh green stems, and the far bank graced with brown autumnal stems. 'How odd,' I thought to myself,' That long reed looks very like the long flute I learned to play long ago from the Sister who taught me music at school.'

How apt this photo turned out to be. Maris Stella's reed of God floated symbolically for me before the brown burnished reeds on the far bank blowing in the gentle music of the wind I heard in the bright shallows of the cool Irish water. It was mysteriously cut (probably by nature and the wind...) and lay on the water, a quiet image to me of days gone by when I played flute in Welkom tutored by the dedicated  missionary who was an incredible musician and teacher, and lived inspired by the Grace of God.

What a beautiful image Maris Stella and Caryll Houselander placed before us. God the Creator played the music of His redemption, Jesus Christ, through the reed flute of Mary of Nazareth. The sounds of His message made possible through her still resounds throughout the world.

*Photograph was taken in Dublin, Ireland, by Rev. Catherine. Please feel free to use copyright free for any educational or spiritual purpose.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy Holi - Festival of Colour

Happy Holi from Lumiere Charity to all who celebrate this wonderful Festival today!

Holi Celebrations began early this morning in India and worldwide. Holi is the sacred Festival symbolising the victory of good over evil. It is a spring festival, and the spring harvest refills the stores of households. The beautiful mixture of mango blossoms and sandalwood paste is often used in places of worship, filling the air with its fragrance. Time is spent in prayer in places of worship; special prayers and mantras* are chanted. The Festival of Colours is enjoyed with much merriment as revellers join in the custom of throwing colour at each other in the spirit of joy and laughter.

Colours fill the air as people throw dry powdered colours and coloured water at each other. All share happiness and mirth in the arrival of the spring festival. Colours include red, pink, yellow, magenta, green,purple, black, gold and silver. Spring songs and music are enjoyed. The words 'Happy Holi' are called out to each other.

People make peace on Holi and forget their worries. Family and friends are visited, and sweets, gifts and greetings are exchanged. Social ties are thus strengthened. Beautiful meals are made, and traditional Holi recipes include Puren Poli, Gujia, Papri, Malpua and Saffron and Almond Milk.

In the spirit of Holi, why not  do something lovely for someone else today? Bake them a coloured cake; or give a colourful card. Clean their car, or visit someone who is ill. Cheer your loved one with a gift of fragrance, or buy a pot of beautifully scented flowers and give them to a loved one or friend. Find some way to celebrate the goodness that is in our world and our society; there are so many people who quietly do lovely things for other people, acts which often go unnoticed.

Doctors and nurses save lives; those in the healing professions assist others, cheer up the lonely, care for the sick, help those in difficulties, assist the downhearted. Mothers and fathers care for children, often at personal sacrifice. Grandparents step in to babysit and help their families. Teachers educate and give people opportunity for a better life. You will be able to number many other people who do good things. Let us look at the good and the noble in our society as do all in India and worldwide who celebrate the marvellous Festival of Holi .

Let us celebrate life; with colour, imagination, dedication, caring and love.

Why not send this blog as an e-card to someone with a thank you note for something they did for you which you appreciated.

Happy Holi!

* Prayerful phrases; sacred utterances
* Photograph taken by Catherine. Please feel free to use copyright free for any educational or spiritual purpose

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Medjugorje - Mary's Message of Peace

Catherine Nicolette;
Medjugorje is a town located in western Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is a centre of Marian praise and site of religious pilgrimage to many. Six children reported seeing Mary of Nazareth speaking with her.

The main message the children spoke of is that
- Mary of Nazareth is the Queen of Peace
- She brings an urgent and prophetic message for humanity at this time
- Mary of Nazareth's message to us is of peace through reconciliation   
  with God, faith, prayer and avoiding excess in food/drink
- Mary consels humanity to seek reconciliation with God and with
  each other
- She wishes to inspire peace in our world

David Parkes, the international singer, witnesses to his healing experience in Medjugorje. His website may be visited at

Wish to read more about Medjurgorje? Visit website

David Parkes in Concert


Interested in music? Why not attend Medjugorje Night of Prayer through Song with international singer David Parkes in association with Marian Pilgrimages.

Renew our spirit of love - forgiveness - and peace through attending this wonderful event.
Three local school choirs will also be singing; Scoil Aengusa Junior & Senior and Scoil Iosa
VENUE; St. Aengus' Church, Balrothery, Tallaght, Dublin, Ireland
DATE; 8th March 2012
TICKETS; Available at the Parish Office at website

International singer David Parkes was diagnosed with severe Crohn's disease, and underwent a spiritual and physical healing at Medjugorje. Read his inspiring story at website

Music by this inspired singer may be ordered through the above website. Beautiful CD's include
'You are always close to Me'
'Songs of Love and Inspiration'
'Let me Live'
'In His Time'
'My Father's Chair'
'We Stand for God'

Top songs and albums by David Parkes can be downloaded
from iTunes Stores. Enjoy!

*Photo taken in beautiful Ireland by Rev. Catherine. Please feel free to use copyright free for any educational or spiritual purpose

Thursday, March 1, 2012

From a Woman's Life

Mary drew water from the well
Here is another poem researched from Sr. Maura SSND

What Mary knew was just
enough for the usual day:
pull water, flint fire, bake
bread, smile, pray

The dark orations, sleep, wake,
wait. When pain honed a nerve
when birth or dying clotted
an hour, she leaned to the curve

of living, resilient to fear,
laughter, suffering.
Partings are a little death,
Each one's journey is a thing

wholly without precedent.
She looked at the sky
for compass. None. She, too,
created a road to travel by.

Catherine Nicolette
Here is another beautiful poem from Sr. Maura. Any girl or woman can relate to this poem. Often, we need to do the daily chores which keep each family going, as do single fathers. We all have used water, heat for cooking, made food and cleaned. My mother researched and loved this poem precisely because she, as daughter, wife and mother, had experienced all that Maura so ably expresses in her reflection on Mary's life.

The lot of  woman is to care; love and bear life at personal risk. We also experience partings from those we love - notably from children when we are parents, and from our loved ones when they need to move on, and our husbands when they leave us widows. No easy thing. Maura rightly calls each parting a little death. Anyone who has undergone a parting knows the painful truth of those words.

Women who give birth experience pain. The gift of life to our planet does not come easily, and yet each life can be a gift that changes the world as we know it. And the gift of Jesus Christ - the gift of Mary to our world - has been the joy and inspiration of the great and honourable Jewish prophets down the ages as they spoke of the impending coming of the Messiah. Mary's gift of her Son to us has been our joy and inspiration too, down the centuries and today.

Underneath the simple patina of the words Maura used to paint her poem-picture, runs a deep river of feeling. She contrasts darkness of oration with the light of the day in which Mary went to the well, struck and built fire, and made food for her loved ones. Mary looked at the sky (symbolising God) for compass, for an answer as  to how she was to lead her life and bring up her Son Who was God made human. What a daunting task she and Joseph faced, which encompassed all their human creativity. Jesus as God was made human, with the Divine Link to the Father. Yet He was a fully human boy in a human body and mind which needed to grow to accept His Call as Messiah to us all. There was no book written with instructions how to train and discipline and care for such a Child. Yet Joseph and Mary did it, and how well they accomplished the task.

Maura, with her reflective understanding born of much prayer and spiritual meditation in her dedicated life understood this. And she simply declared that Mary received no instructions as to how to proceed in her life. Mary thus had to create her own road, as we each do. Each of us, declares Maura in the poem, has a completely unique life  journey without precedent.

Maura turned to Mary and her life for inspiration how to create her own road of life. The dedication, loving nature and realism of Mary as she made her own way of life can be an inspiration to each of us, too, as we daily and nightly move on with the task of developing our lives and personalities on the road we travel.

The question implicity underlying Maura's poem for me would be; are we creating a road to travel by that will inspire others to travel along the same kind of road? Are we, indeed, true to ourselves as Mary was...

*Poem 'FROM A WOMAN'S LIFE' by Sr. Maura SSND
 Sign. May 1982, Used with permission
*Photograph was taken by Rev. Catherine in beautiful India