Thursday, 12 December 2013


“Whenever you have truth it must be given with love, or the message and the messenger will be rejected.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Today is Mexico's Guadalupe Festival; The Feast Day of St Finian, and the Feast Day of St Spyridon.

It is also the anniversary of the birth of:
Henry Wells
, founder of American Express/Wells Fargo Co. (1805);
Gustave Flaubert
, French writer (1821);
Henri Becquerel
, Nobel laureate (1903) physicist (1852);
Edvard Munch
, artist (1863);
Frank Sinatra
, US actor/singer (1915);
Joe Williams
, singer (1918);
John Osborne
, playwright (1929);
Connie Francis
(Concetta Franconero), singer (1938);
Dionne Warwick
, singer (1941).

Coriander, Coriandrum sativum, is today’s birthday plant and in the language of flowers it symbolises hidden wealth and concealed merit.  Astrologers assign the plant to Saturn. Since ancient times, coriander has been enjoyed in many cultures for its culinary and medicinal values. Coriander is the most popular herb in the world and its use can be traced back to 5,000 BC where it was found in Egyptian tombs, making it one of the world’s oldest spices.

Considered a member of the carrot family coriander has a love hate relationship in some parts of the world. The herb is widely used in cooking in Latin American countries, the Caribbean, India and China, but not in Japan or Spain. Traditionally coriander is used to treat migraines and indigestion to help purify the blood and to relieve nausea, pain in joints and rheumatism. Researchers found that coriander can assist with clearing the body of lead, aluminum and mercury.

St Finian was a native of Leinster and was instructed in the elements of Christian virtue by the disciples of St. Patrick. He travelled to Wales but about the year 520 AD he returned into Ireland. To propagate the work of God, the Saint established several monasteries and schools. St. Finian was chosen and consecrated Bishop of Clonard. In the love of his flock and his zeal for their salvation he was infirm with the infirm, and wept with those that wept. He healed the souls, and often also the bodies, of those that applied to him. He died on the 12th of December in 552 AD and his feast day commemorates this.

St Finian is especially celebrated in the Highlands of Scotland and the islands.  It is very unlucky to go to bed without having supper on this night as anybody who does so will be spirited away over the housetops by fairies.  This was a good excuse for many a feast and a carousal where much whisky and delicacies were consumed well into the night.

St Spyridon was born in Askeia, in Cyprus. He worked as a shepherd and was known for his great piety. He married and had one daughter, Irene. Upon the death of his wife, Spyridon entered a monastery, and their daughter, a convent.

Spyridon eventually became Bishop of Trimythous, or Tremithous (today called Tremetousia), in the district of Larnaca (while the tradition of the Eastern Church does not allow the ordination of married men cohabiting with their living spouses as Bishops, the ordination of widowers is fairly common). He took part in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), where he was instrumental in countering the theological arguments of Arius and his followers.

He reportedly converted a pagan philosopher to Christianity by using a potsherd to illustrate how one single entity (a piece of pottery) could be composed of three unique entities (fire, water and clay); a metaphor for the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

As soon as Spyridon finished speaking, the shard is said to have miraculously burst into flame, water dripped on the ground, and only dust remained in his hand (other accounts of this event say that it was a brick he held in his hand).

After the council, Saint Spiridon returned to his diocese in Tremithous. He later fell into disfavour during the persecutions of the emperor Maximinus, but died peacefully in old age. His biography was recorded by the hagiographer Simeon Metaphrastes and the church historians, Sozomen and Socrates Scholasticus. St Spyridon is the Patron Saint of the Greek island of Corfu.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe, is a title of the Virgin Mary associated with a celebrated pictorial image housed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in México City. Official Catholic accounts state that on the morning of December 9, 1531, Juan Diego saw an apparition of a young girl at the Hill of Tepeyac, near Mexico City. Speaking to him in Nahuatl, the girl asked that a church be built at that site in her honour; from her words, Juan Diego recognised the girl as the Virgin Mary.

Diego told his story to the Spanish Archbishop of Mexico City, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, who instructed him to return to Tepeyac Hill, and ask the “lady” for a miraculous sign to prove her identity. The first sign was the Virgin healing Juan’s uncle. The Virgin told Juan Diego to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill. Although December was very late in the growing season for flowers to bloom, Juan Diego found Castilian roses, not native to Mexico, on the normally barren hilltop. The Virgin arranged these in his peasant cloak or tilma. When Juan Diego opened his cloak before Bishop Zumárraga on December 12, the flowers fell to the floor, and on the fabric was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Juan Diego was canonised in 2002, and his tilma is displayed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most visited Marian shrine in the world. The representation of the Virgin on the tilma is Mexico’s most popular religious and cultural image, and under this title the Virgin has been acclaimed as “Queen of Mexico”, “Patroness of the Americas”, “Empress of Latin America”, and “Protectress of Unborn Children” (the latter three given by Pope John Paul II in 1999). Under this title, she was also proclaimed “Heavenly Patroness of the Philippines” in 1935, a designation revised by Pope Pius XII in 1942.

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