Archive for feast days

San José

Barcelona San Jose

An image of fatherhood for St. Joseph’s day. I picked up this card on a visit to Barcelona. The prayer on the back, which strongly echos the Lord’s Prayer, goes something like this:

“Our Father, I pray thee for my children, your children, that you have given me. Make me sanctify them with my life, my work, my counsel. Let your peace, your love, and your blessing rule in their hearts. May your will be done for them, and not mine, if my will is not as yours.

Help me earn bread for their bodies, teach me to give your nourishment to their souls.

May they love and forgive each other so that you will forgive their weaknesses. Deliver them from all evil, especially from that which they neither see nor fear.

Our Father: let me be a good father.”

Barcelona San Jose reverse

Hammer and Tongs: St. Dunstan and the Devil

Illustration copyright Wallace Tripp from A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me

Illustration copyright Wallace Tripp
from A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me


St. Dunstan, as the story goes,
Once pulled the devil by the nose
With red hot tongs, which made him roar,
That could be heard ten miles or more.


Today is the feast day of St. Dunstan. If you’re not familiar with the life and legends of St. Dunstan, they’re well-worth a bit of your time. Dunstan (909-988) was educated at Glastonbury Abbey as a child. He became a skilled musician, scribe, sculptor, and metalworker. At least one of his works survives. A devout and intellectual man, he served as abbot and bishop, and eventually became Archbishop of Canterbury.

Some of the most popular stories of Dunstan involve his encounters with the devil. The one illustrated above is said to have taken place in Glastonbury during the time the saint was living as a hermit.

While he was in his cell, Dunstan was visited by a shape-changing devil who appeared first as an old man asking him to make a chalice, then a young boy, and then a seductive woman.

As Eleanor Parker relates in her most excellent blog, A Clerk of Oxford:

Dunstan realised that his guest was a devil; but, pretending not to notice, he went on with his task. He took up the tongs from among his tools and laid them in the fire, waiting until they were red-hot. Then, pulling them out of the fire, he turned round and seized the devil by the nose with the tongs. The devil struggled and screamed, but Dunstan held on until at last he felt he had triumphed. Then he threw the devil out of his cell and it fled, running down the street and crying “Woe is me! What has that bald devil done to me? Look at me, a poor wretch, look how he has tortured me!” 


Dunstan was one of the vigorous saints–going after the devil hammer and tongs. There’s even a story that he shod the devil’s cloven hoof; that tale is said to be the origin of the lucky horseshoe you see nailed over doorways. Because he was known for his metalwork at Glastonbury, Dunstan is the patron saint of goldsmiths, silversmiths, blacksmiths, armorers, and jewelers.


Dunstan shoeing the Devil's hoof illustrated by George Cruikshank Image: WIkimedia Commons

Dunstan shoes the Devil’s hoof
illus. by George Cruikshank
Image: Wikimedia Commons



My Way, my Truth, my Life

The Call
George Herbert

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
such a way as gives us breath,
such a truth as ends all strife,
such a life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
such a light as shows a feast,
such a feast as mends in length,
such a strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
such a joy as none can move,
such a love as none can part,
such a heart as joys in love.

Inspired by Pope Francis’s call for Catholics to take to the streets in sharing the Gospel, Blackfriar Films hit New York City for this project. Scenes were filmed at the Brooklyn Bridge, Our Lady of Good Counsel parish, Grand Central Station, Columbus Circle, and the Staten Island ferry.

Vocals by Austin Litke, O.P.
Piano by Robert Koopmann, O.S.B.
Violin by Leah Sedlacek
Musical arrangement by Edward A. David

The video was shot by Blackfriar Films, which is the media division of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph. The crew is composed of graduates of the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU: Joshua Vargas, John Fisher, and Michael Crommett.

For the feast of Christ the King

36 Righteous Saints

I don’t remember All Saints Day being part of my growing up. I don’t think I even knew it existed until I was an adult. My Protestant heritage has a complicated relationship with the whole idea of sainthood after that unpleasantry in the 16th century. For many folks, as soon as you put “St.” in front of someone’s name, you’re bringing up issues of sanctification, and access to God, and idolatry. Really, it’s best to just keep the “s” lower case.

So, on this Feast of All Saints I think I’ll keep things complicated and look to the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97b; Sukkah 45b).

There’s a Jewish legend that at all times and in each generation there are 36 righteous people, the Lamed Vav Tzadikim (from lamed, Hebrew for 30, and vav which is 6), without whom the world would cease to exist. These holy people are Hidden Ones, who do not themselves know that they are among the 36. They exemplify humility. Some say they justify humanity’s continued existence to God, like the righteous in Sodom for whom Abraham pleaded.

Since no one, not even the lamedvavniks know who belongs to the 36, then everyone should treat others and live their own life as if they might be one. A lamedvavnik is holy and humble, full of compassion, always praying for others, and always ready to greet the Divine. They live lives that glorify God and not themselves–which is one of the reasons you just never know.


Christ the King

King of Kings, c.1600
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The feast of Christ the King is celebrated the last Sunday of the liturgical year by Anglicans, Catholics, and many mainline Protestant denominations. It seems like every denomination has some aspect of the faith that they express better than the others, and to my mind, you can’t beat the Anglicans and Episcopalians for understanding the idea of kingship in Christianity. A sense of majesty and sovereignty permeate the language, music, and architecture. With a little imagination, even we democratically-minded Americans can worship the King without wishing for our independence.

Here for Christ the King Sunday is St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast.  Presented by BBC Songs of Praise.


Feast day of St. Luke


St. Luke window
University of Virginia chapel

Detail from St. Luke window
University of Virginia chapel



One of the four evangelists, Luke is said to be the first icon painter and the artist who painted pictures of Mary and the infant Jesus.  His symbol is the ox, an image taken from the vision of the four living creatures who draw God’s chariot in Ezekiel 1 and Rev. 4: 6b-11. You can see a portrait of the Virgin Mary in his arms here, and the image of the ox. Luke was also a physician, and the caduceus appears on the right side of the window.