St. Teresa of Avila

Today is the birthday of Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), a Spanish nun, theologian, mystic, writer of such spiritual classics as Interior Castle and Way of Perfection, one of only two female Doctors of the Church, and founder of the order of Discalced Carmelites. The term ‘discalced’ means without shoes and was chosen by Teresa to signify their poverty. She first joined a Carmelite convent at the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila but was disappointed with their spiritual lassitude and worldly ways, so she established the reformed Discalced order. She went on to found seventeen houses of the order for women throughout Spain, often facing severe opposition. Continue reading

Hildegard’s Veriditas

On this day of the green, St. Patrick’s Day, I’m thinking of Saint Hildegard of Bingen’s idiosyncratic theological usage of ‘veriditas’ or greening. Hildegard was an amazing woman, read more about her here.

Hildegard von Bingen self-portrait, manuscript illumination.

Hildegard von Bingen self-portrait, manuscript illumination.


Here’s some of her music and  a link to an article about her use of this term.


Healing at Bethesda

Christ Healing the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo 1670, Oil on canvas 237 cm x 261 cm, National Gallery, London.

Christ Healing the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo 1670, Oil on canvas 237 cm x 261 cm, National Gallery, London.

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
“It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
He answered them, “The man who made me well told me,
‘Take up your mat and walk.’“
They asked him,
“Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.
John 5:1-16

Continue reading


Arguably the most popular verse in the Bible is John 3:16, which is included in today’s Gospel reading.

Nicodemus, Henry O. Tanner, 1899, oil on canvas 85.6 x 100.3 cm., Pennsylvania  Academy of the Fine Arts.

Nicodemus, Henry O. Tanner, 1899, oil on canvas 85.6 x 100.3 cm., Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.


Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Continue reading

Sorrowful Mysteries

If you ever pray the Rosary, and like me you have difficulty meditating on the mysteries without a visual image to focus on, here are some examples you might consider for the Sorrowful Mysteries. Praying the beads as you ponder the events of the crucifixion is recommended by Pope Francis as a spiritual practice during Lent. I’m including these paintings with relevant scripture but without commentary so that your focus is the image itself, rather than the written word. The captions provide basic information about the paintings. For instructions on how to pray the Rosary, see here. Remember you can click on each image for a larger version, and some can be enlarged further with another click if a plus sign appears as your cursor. Continue reading

The Hands of the Father

As I’ve written on the About page, The Return of the Prodigal Son, a book by Henri Nouwen in which he writes his profound extended meditation on the painting of that name by Rembrandt, was the inspiration for the creation of this blog. So imagine my excitement and trepidation when I saw that this Saturday’s Gospel reading is that very parable! Excitement because, obviously, I love both the painting and the parable. Trepidation because nothing I could possibly write would come near to the eloquence and profundity of Nouwen’s words. So my solution is simple: I’ll include the words of Henri Nouwen that speak so deeply to my own heart. I hope they’ll speak to yours as well, as they have to millions of others. First things first though. Here is the scriptural passage that is the basis for the painting, from the Gospel of Luke: Continue reading

Queen Esther

My Lord, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand. Be mindful of me, O Lord. Give me courage. Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion, and help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord.

This powerful prayer might have been spoken by Queen Esther, the Jewish bride of the Persian king Ahasuerus, also known as Xerxes. She had learned that an evil member of court, Haman, had concocted a plot to have the king hang her uncle Mordecai and kill all the Jews in the land. The date for the massacre was determined by casting lots, or pur, hence the Jewish name for this festival is Purim. Esther was persuaded by  Mordecai to try appealing to the king to save her people, though she could lose her own  life in the process when it was revealed that she, too, was a Jew. Continue reading