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Multi Faith Education Programme – a series of monthly studies of the Network’s diverse faiths

1 February Imbolc (Feast of Pan, Torches, Waxing Lights, Oimele). Pagan, Wiccan, Druid midwinter festival celebrating to 2 February the land’s awakening with the growing power of the sun, the coming of spring and the recovery of the Earth Goddess after giving birth to the Sun God at Yule. Celtic tradition meant to mark the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox in Neolithic Ireland and Scotland. One of several pre-Christian holidays highlighting some aspect of winter and sunlight to herald the change of seasons. For many traditions, a time for initiations, re-dedication and pledges for the coming year. One of the 4 Greater Sabbats. Activities might include candle making, poetry, stories.

St Brigid of Kildare (c451-525) (Bridget of Ireland, Bride, Brigida Naomh Bríd Chill Dara, Ffraid, Mary of the Gael) Feast forvirgin inspirational Abbess, Ireland’s most important female saint, patron along with Patrick and Columba. Early Christian nun and foundress of several monasteries of nuns, including that of Kildare c480 on the site of a pagan shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid. Brigid organised communal consecrated religious life for women in Ireland and founded a school of art. The Kildare scriptorium’s Book of Kildare disappeared during the Reformation. Brigid is celebrated for her generosity to the poor and miracles of healing. Venerated in Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic Churches, Anglican Communion. Patron of County Kildare, babies, blacksmiths, boatmen, brewers, cattle, chicken farmers, children of unmarried parents, children with abusive fathers, children born into abusive unions, Clan Douglas, dairymaids, dairy workers, Florida, fugitives, infants, Ireland, Leinster, Mac Brádaigh family, mariners, midwives, milkmaids, nuns, poets, the poor, poultry farmers, printing presses, sailors, scholars, travellers, watermen.

Prayer Come, ye faithful, from the north, south, east and from the sea; let us hasten to the radiant feast, glorifying the wise enlightener of the Irish land and praising her labours. Clapping our hands, let us cry aloud: Glory to Thee, O Christ our God, Who art wondrous in Thy saints! Amen

St Perpetua (dc203). Greek Orthodox Lesser Feast for 22-year-old Christian widow and nursing mother, her companions and several of her slaves including the pregnant Felicity, all catechumens preparing for baptism and who were imprisoned and martyred for their faith in Christ.

2 February Candlemas (Presentation of Jesus Christ, Purification of the Blessed Virgin, Holy Encounter). Christian Holy Day, in some churches ending Epiphany season, commemorating Jesus’ Temple presentation. Lutheran Lesser Festival, Church of England Principal Feast, Roman Catholic Feast and 4th Joyful Mystery of the Rosary since 5th Century, Eastern Orthodox Hypapante (Ὑπαπαντή) Great Feast, celebrated 15 February in Russian Orthodoxy. In Catholic and Lutheran Churches, Anglican Communion the once-prevalent custom was that of churching new mothers 40 days after a child’s birth, the presentation of Jesus in Jerusalem having marked His destiny as a firstborn to serve as a priest.

Prayer Lord Jesus Christ, the length, breadth, depth and height of Your love is beyond our understanding: grant that this love may so transform us through Your suffering as to make us reach out to the despairing and the desperate, to work for justice, reconciliation and peace for all. Amen.

Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (Virgen de Copacabana, Blessed Virgin of the Candelaria). Marian Feast of Our Lady of Candelaria (La Morenita, Our Lady of the Candles). Europeans arriving 1483 in Tenerife found a miraculous1400 unidentified wood 3½ ft statue of Our Lady, for 50 years the source of beautiful music with strange beings lighting candles around a God and a lovely fragrance. There were no bees for candle wax but in 1497 great quantities of pure wax were found, wax and wicks being believed by local people to come from heaven. A captured local boy returned from Spain 1520 speaking of Christianity and missionaries came to steal the statue to put on their altar with burning candles. After misfortunes, they tried to return it but found another in its place. Devotion to Our Lady of the Candles reached South America and the Philippines. Venerated in Bolivia, Minor Festival in Tenerife with Feast 14-15 August in Canaries. Patron of: Canary Islands, Cabildo de Tenerife, La Paz, Bolivia, Medellín, Colombia, Puno, Peru, Manatí, Puerto Rico, Western Visayas, Binangonan, Camarines Norte and Silang, Cavite Philippines.

Gabriel the New Martyr of Constantinople (Γαβριήλ Β΄) (d1659). Eastern Orthodox Celebration of Metropolitan of Prousa, Ganos and Chora, for 1 week Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. He was accused by the Jewish community of having baptised a Muslim who was in fact a Jew and charged with supporting the Russians at the time at war with the Ottoman Empire. The Grand Vizier Mehmed Koprulu imprisoned Gabriel and promised him freedom and honour in exchange for conversion to Islam. Gabriel II refused and was tortured and finally hanged on 3 December 1659. Revered as the New Hieromartyr Gabriel, Metropolitan of Prousa with Feast in the Eastern Orthodox Church 3 December.

3 February The Synaxis of the Holy and Righteous Symeon the God-Receiver and the Holy Prophetess Anna. Orthodox memorial of those at the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, Elder Symeon and Holy Anna. Symeon was a devout Jerusalem Jew, neither priest nor Pharisee who was promised by the Holy Spirit he would not die until he saw the Messiah. Live to 112, he hurried to the Temple to hold Christ in his arms and said: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation”, blessing God, Joseph and Mary. Anna spent, after the early death of her husband, her whole life in the Temple in hope of the coming of the Saviour. For her spiritual struggles and the purity of her life, the Holy Spirit gave her the gift of prophecy. At 84, she was deemed worthy to meet, along with Symeon, the Divine Infant at the temple. At the meeting, Anna approached, bowed to Christ, and after thanking and praising God, proclaimed that the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, had come, prophesying that: “This infant is the Lord who fixed the earth and the heaven. This is the Christ the prophets spoke of.” The relics of the holy and righteous Symeon were venerated at Constantinople in the 6th Century church of St James.

Prayer O Master, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, Who are long suffering toward our transgressions and has led us even to this hour in which You, hanging on the life-giving Tree, made the way for the entry into Paradise of the grateful thief and by death destroyed death, do cleanse us. Amen

St Blaise (Blasé, Blaise of Sebaste, Սուրբ Վլասի, Surb Vlasi, Άγιος Βλάσιος, Agios Vlasios, San Biagio, San Blas, São Brás, Heilege Blasius, Sveti Blaž) (d316). Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Feast Day for Armenian healer, hermit, Bishop of Sebastea, Hieromartyr and one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, martyred by being beaten, attacked with iron combs and beheaded. His remains rest at the Basilica of the town of Maratea. Venerated in Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, Anglican Communion. His feast in Dubrovnik begins at Candlemas, when white doves are released. Armenian Apostolic Feast Day January, Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic 11 February. Patron of Bradford, Maratea, Italy, Sicily, Dubrovnik, Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, Campanário, Madeira, Rubiera, São Brás, Goa, wild animals, builders, drapers, veterinarians, throats, infants, stonecutters, carvers, wool workers, Armenian Order of Saint Blaise, Bradford woollen industry, against choking.

St Nicholas (St Nicholas of Japan, Ivan Dmitrovich Kasatkin, Иван Дмитриевич Касаткин, Equal-to-the-Apostles) (1836-1912). Eastern Orthodox Feast Day for Russian Orthodox priest, monk, Bishop, Archbishop and Enlightener of Japan who introduced the Eastern Orthodox Church to Japan. Consecrated 1880 Bishop of Revel, elevated 1907 by Russian Orthodox Holy Synod to dignity of Archbishop of All Japan. He established a theological seminary, primary schools for boys and girls, a library, shelters and other agencies. His translations are still used in the liturgy of the Japanese Orthodox Church. He offered in 1869 the first accessible Russian integral study of Japanese Buddhism from the point of view of Christian Mission. 1st saint of the Japanese Orthodox Church. He was buried in Tokyo Metropolitan Yanaka Cemetery. Major shrine Tokyo Resurrection Cathedral. Russian and Japanese Orthodox Churches celebrate this feast nationwide on the old-style date of 16 February.

St Werburga of Mercia (St Werburg) (d783). Commemoration of Abbess of Bardney, wife of King of Mercia who lacked Christian piety and lost the respect of his subjects. However, he provided a shrine for the bones of his cousin, St Werburga of Chester, before he died blaspheming Christ and the heathen gods. After his death, Werburga of Mercia became a nun, cloistered day and night for 65 years. She died in the odour of sanctity on an unknown day and is therefore commemorated on the day of her more famous namesake and kinswoman, St Werburga of Chester.

Prayer Lord God, Your servant St Werburga of Mercia clearly chose Your love over that of this world’s royal life, goods and frivolities. Grant that we Your servants in these tumultuous times may also follow You on the narrow road to detachment. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen

4 February Sant’Agata (Agatha of Sicily, Santa Águeda) (c231-c251). Feast Day for rich and noble Sicilian Christian, one of several virgin martyrs commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass. At 15, she vowed virginity and a suitor denounced her as a Christian. She prayed: “Jesus Christ, Lord of all, You see my heart, You know my desires. I am your sheep: make me worthy to overcome the devil.” After a short refuge in Malta, she was imprisoned in Sicily, interrogated, tortured on a rack, torn with iron hooks, burned with torches, mutilated and whipped. Burning at the stake was interrupted by an earthquake and St Peter the Apostle appeared to heal her wounds before she died in prison. She is buried at the Badia di Sant’Agata, Catania. The year after her death, the stilling of an eruption of Mount Etna was attributed to her intercession. Two early churches were dedicated to her in Rome, including the c460 Church of Sant’Agata dei Goti (the Arian Saint Agatha of Goths), and several Church of England parish churches are dedicated to her. The major Festival of Saint Agatha in Catania is in the first 5 days of February and the Cattedrale di Sant’Agata is dedicated to her. Minne di Sant’Agata, a Sicilian sweet is found in many countries. Basques gather on Saint Agatha’s Eve (Santa Ageda bezpera) to sing of her life and pray for the deceased. Venerated in Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodoxy, Anglican Communion. Patron of Sicily, Catania, Palermo, Malta, San Marino, bellfounders, breast cancer, bakers, jewellers, martyrs, natural disasters, nurses, rape victims, single laywomen, sterility, torture victims, wet nurses, invoked against fires, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Prayer O Heavenly Father, Who raised Agatha to the dignity of Sainthood, we implore Your Divine Majesty by her intercession to give us health of mind, body and soul. Free us from those things that hold us bound to this earth, and let our spirit, like hers, rise to Your heavenly courts. Amen

San Giuseppe di Leonissa (St Joseph of Leonissa) (1556-1612). Catholic commemoration of death of energetic and virtuous Neapolitan who refused marriage to a nobleman’s daughter and at 17 joined the Naples Capuchins. He denied avoided hearty meals and comfort to prepare for ordination and a life of preaching. At 21, he went to Constantinople to care for the Christian galley slaves working for Turkish masters. Imprisoned for this work, he was warned on his release not to resume it. He did and was again imprisoned and then condemned to death. Miraculously freed, he returned to Italy where he preached to the poor and reconciled feuding families as well as warring cities which had been at odds for years.

Isidore of Pelusium (Ἰσίδωρος ὁ Πηλουσιώτης) (dc450). Feast Day for prominent Greek-speaking Egyptian. When the people of Alexandria and the bishops wanted to make him the Patriarch of Alexandria, he fled to Pelusium and became a monk in a monastery there in the tradition of the Desert Fathers. The only extant works of St Isidore are a considerable correspondence, comprising more than 2,000 of his 10,000 letters.

5 February Jacob, patriarch (יַעֲקֹב‎, يَعْقُوب‎, Ἰακώβ). Lutheran, Church of England commemoration of grandson of Abraham and son of Isaac and Rebekah, an important figure in Abrahamic religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Traditional ancestor of the People of Israel, which were his given name after he wrestled with an angel. He deceived Isaac to usurp the blessing that belonged to his twin brother Esau as the firstborn son and become the leader of their family, moving with his descendants, including his son Joseph, to Egypt where he died at 147. Jacob had a vision of a ladder reaching into heaven with angels going up and down (Jacob’s ladder) and the voice of God coming from the top of the ladder repeating many blessings upon him. This inspired Bath Abbey iconography and the naming of Cheddar Gorge steps. Jacob’s 12 sons by 4 women became the heads of their own family groups, known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Jacob displayed favouritism among his wives and children, preferring Rachel and her sons Joseph and Benjamin, which caused tension leading to the sale into slavery of Joseph by his brothers.

St Buo of Ireland (dc 900) Feast Day for eminent Irish missionary monk working in Iceland and the Faroes before 860, when the Norwegians discovered Irish bells, books and staffs left in the 7th and 8th Centuries. St Buo evangelised around Esinberg while he was still a very young man.

Sts Indract and Dominica of Glastonbury (dc710). Old English Commemoration of Irish Christian prince who, after a c854 pilgrimage from the mouth of the Tamar to Rome, was martyred with his sister Drusa and 9 Companions. On their return, they had decided to visit the Second Rome (Glastonbury) for its holy associations and were all killed at Shapwick by heathen Saxon royal officials who thought them wealthy merchants, not penniless Irish pilgrims. Thrown into a deep pit, a column of light disclosed their grave and they were enshrined in Glastonbury Abbey during the refounding by the West Saxon Christian King Ina. The Abbey also venerated Sts Patrick, Brigid and Benignus (Bennings), and was dedicated to Blessed Mary and St Patrick, being served by Irish monks as late as the 10th Century. Great cultus Feast Day of Sts Indract and Dominica 8 May.

Prayer We give thanks for all God’s goodness and for our wonderful heritage, for the majesty of our hills, for the beauty of our valleys, the warmth and brightness of our days and the calm and peace of our countryside, for the rich heritage of our people coming from many races. Amen

6 February St Ilyan of Homs (Julian, Elian, Martyr and Unmercenary of Emesa) (d284). Greek Orthodox Feast for a pagan Holy Unmercenary who took the Christian faith and hearing the parable of talents, decided to use his talents to benefit others, giving his riches to the poor and curing the diseases of both body and soul. Stirring up jealousy in pagan physicians at a time of the persecution of Christians, he was dragged behind his father’s horse, imprisoned and tortured whilst still preaching and healing the sick. Finally, his father drove 12 long nails into his head and he died in a cave, his body being taken by night to the church of the Apostles and St Barbara for burial at the East of the Altar. A church dedicated to St Ellien was built at the cave and many miracles attributed to his intercession have continued to this day. The 432 Church of Saint Elian (كنيسة مار اليان‎), Kaneesat Mar Elian) in Homs holds the annual Feast of St Elian on this day, normally attracting a large number of pilgrims from all around Syria. The church frescoes date to at least the 12th Century, probably the 6th Century, making them the oldest surviving church paintings in Syria.

Prayer O my Lord Jesus Christ, hear my prayer and accept my request on this hour. Give peace to whoever remembers me on the day of my martyrdom. Forgive their sins, protect them from their enemies’ snares and break the devil’s power. Defend all Your lambs against wolves! Amen

St Paul Miki (パウロ三木)(c1562-97). Catholic Feast Day for wealthy Japanese Jesuit seminarian, preacher and martyr who died in Nagasaki as one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan when the ruler of Japan began persecuting Catholics for fear of the Jesuits’ influence and intentions, and possibly that of European visitors. Miki was arrested and jailed with his fellow Catholics, who were later force-marched 966 km from Kyoto to Nagasaki, all the while singing the Te Deum. On arrival, today with the largest Catholic population in Japan, Miki had his chest pierced with a lance on 5 February, while tied to a cross, where he preached his last sermon, forgiving his executioners. Crucified alongside were 25 others.

St Dorothy (Dorothea, Dora, Santa Dorotea) (dc311). Medieval commemoration of virgin martyred at Caesarea Mazaca. She converted a pagan lawyer who her and he too was put to death. In the West she has been venerated since the 7th Century and her Medieval cult was widespread in Europe. In late medieval Sweden, she was considered to be the 15th member of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and with St Barbara, Catherine of Alexandria and Margaret of Antioch formed a quartet of female saints (De fyra huvudjungfrurna, Quattor Virgines Capitales, The Four Capital Virgins). On this day, trees are blessed in some parts. Patron of gardeners, brewers, brides, florists, midwives, newlyweds, Pescia, Italy.

7 February Feast of Dominion. The 1st day of the 18th month (Mulk, Dominion) in the Bahá’í year of 19 months of 19 days, with the Intercalary Days (Ayyám-i-Há), similar to leap year days but occurring annually and being 4 or 5 days falling at the end of February, between Mulk and ʻAláʼ. On the first day of every Bahá’í month, Bahá’ís in each locality gather for the Nineteen Day Feast. Non-Bahá’ís are also participants at these.

Prayer Almighty, All-wise You know that the greatest relationship that bindeth the world of being together lieth in the created things themselves and co-operation, mutual aid and reciprocity are the essential characteristics in the unified body of the world of being. No God is there but Thee.

St Richard, King of Wessex (The Pilgrim) (d720). Medieval Feast Day for Anglo-Saxon chieftain or a Brittonic Wessex under-king, father of the West Saxon saints Willibald, Winnibald and Walpurga. On pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he died and was buried at Lucca. Miracles at his tomb led to a cult venerating him. His identity as King of the English emerged in the 10th Century from the monastery of Heidenheim, the King of the West Saxons having been the Christian King Ina of Glastonbury Abbey fame. The one English church dedicated to him is St Ricarius Church, Aberford.

Luke of Mount Stirion (Luke of Steiris, Thaumaturgus, Hellas, the Younger, the Wonder-worker) (896-953). Greek Orthodox commemoration of poor Greek founder of the Monastery of Hosios Loukas (Venerable Luke) on Mount Helicon, between Delphi and Levadia. At 14, he lived as a mountain ascetic for 7 years. Visited in a dream by an angel, his fame spread after a number of miracles. Forced by a Bulgarian invasion to flee to a nearby island, at 21 he went to serve for 10 years as a stylite at Zemena. He built his own community, which drew so many followers that he retreated to the wilderness but a Magyar invasion made him return to the island and his solitary ascetic life, before being persuaded to return for the rest of his life in Hosios Loukas, where he founded his hermitage c946. Brethren gathered to him and a small monastery grew up, with a church dedicated to the Great Martyr Barbara. At the monastery, where his relics are preserved, many miracles healed the sick of soul and body.

8 February St Zechariah. Eastern Orthodox feast day for the 11th of the Twelve Minor Prophets of the Kingdom of Judah, like the prophet Ezekiel of priestly extraction. Prophecies began in 520 BCE, the 2nd year of Darius king of Persia, Zechariah’s great concern being building the Second Temple. Bahá’ís compare Zechariah’s prophecies to the Súriy-i-Haykal in the Summons of the Lord of Hosts collection of the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh. Armenian Apostolic Church Commemoration with the other Minor Prophets 31 July. Roman Catholic Feast Day 6 September.

St Josephine Margaret Bakhita (Bakhita Szent Jozefina FDCC) (c1869-1947). Feast Day for prosperous well-connected Daju Darfur-born Sudanese-Italian Canossian religious sister who lived in Italy for 45 years, after being a slave in The Sudan. At 8, she was seized by Arab slave traders and forced to walk barefoot nearly 1,000 km to El-Obeid, being bought and sold twice on the way and, over the next 12 years, 3 times more before being given away. Losing her name, she was given Bakhita (lucky, fortunate) by the slavers and forcibly converted to Islam. She was whipped, scarified and tattooed, 114 intricate patterns being cut into her. Bought in Khartoum by the Italian Vice Consul and taken to Genoa, she was given to a family west of Venice to become a nanny and left with her charge to the Canossian Sisters there to encounter Christianity for the first time. An Italian court ruled that the British had outlawed slavery in Sudan and Italian law had never recognised slavery, so she was free to remain with the Canossians, being baptised at 21 as Josephine Margaret Fortunata (from Bakhita). At 27, she started visiting Canossian communities in Italy to talk about her experiences and prepare young sisters for work in Africa. Her gentleness, calming voice and ever-present smile led to her being referred to as Sor Moretta (little brown sister) or Madre Moretta (black mother) and during the Second World War she was considered a saint who protected people by her mere presence. Se forgave her kidnappers but in the extremity of her last hours her mind was driven back to her years in chains, her last words being, however: “Yes, I am so happy: Our Lady … Our Lady!” For three days her body lay on display while thousands of people arrived to pay their respects. Her remains were transferred to the Church of the Holy Family of the Canossian convent of Schio in 1969. Venerated in Catholic Church, Anglican Communion. Patron of Sudan, South Sudan and human-trafficking survivors.

Prayer St Josephine Bakhita, you were sold into slavery as a child and endured untold hardship and suffering. Liberated from your physical enslavement, you found true redemption in your encounter with Christ and His Church. We pray that you will help those trapped in slavery. Amen

St Ælfflæd of Whitby (Elfleda, Elgiva) (d714). Feast Day for most holy Northumbrian princess, an important political figure, a nun and Abbess until her death of Streanæshalch (Whitby), kinswoman of St Hilda particularly known for her skills in surgery and her personal attention to patients. Hilda brought Ælfflæd up in Hartlepool Abbey and took her to Whitby Abbey, which she founded in the mid-7th Century. Ælfflaed was afflicted with a crippling disease cured by the gift of a linen girdle from St Cuthbert. A letter of Ælfflaed to Adolana, Abbess of Pfalzel, offers rare evidence for interaction between female religious leaders in the Early Medieval period and sheds light on Whitby’s Continental connections in the years after Hilda’s death. St Bede and Stephen of Ripon praised Ælfflæd’s piety and she showed great devotion as consoler of the whole kingdom and as best counsellor. Ælfflæd was buried at Whitby and 1920s excavations found an inscribed memorial stone recording her death.

9 February St Apollonia of Alexandria (Ϯⲁⲅⲓⲁ Ⲁⲡⲟⲗⲗⲟⲛⲓⲁ) (d249). Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches Feast Day for deaconess (parthénos Presbytis), who was one of a group of virgin martyrs suffering in Alexandria during the fury of the mob when one of their poets prophesied a calamity. The authorities made no effort to protect Christians against outrages and her torture included having all her teeth violently pulled out or shattered and being threatened with burning alive if she refused to blaspheme against Christ, at which she sprang quickly into the fire and was burned to death. Apollonia and a whole group of early martyrs did not await their threatened death but, either to preserve their chastity or as they were confronted with the alternative of renouncing their faith or suffering death, voluntarily embraced the death prepared for them. Apollonia was revered in the Alexandrian Church and her feast was also popular in the West. There was a church dedicated to her in Rome, near the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, but only the Piazza Sant’Apollonia remains. One of the principal railway stations in Lisbon is named for her and the island of Mauritius was originally named Santa Apolónia by Portuguese navigators in her honour. There are 52 known images of her in various English churches that survived the ravages of the 16th Century Commissioners, concentrated in Devon and East Anglia. Her image is the side support of the arms of the British Dental Association. Venerated in Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches and Oriental Orthodoxy. Feast Day Meshir 2 Coptic Orthodox Church. Patron of dentists, tooth problems, Catania, Elst, Belgium, Ariccia, Cuccaro Monferrato.

Prayer All-powerful and ever-living God, You chose the weak in this world to confound the powerful. When we celebrate the memory of Saint Apollonia, Virgin and Martyr of Alexandria and patron saint of dentists and against toothache, may we like her remain constant in our faith. Amen.

Meru Trayodashi. Jain Festival celebrated by visiting temples and also donating, listening to the fables of the past along with religious songs and stories. It is believed that all this will nullify the ill-deeds of the past and present and help attain peace and prosperity in the life of the devotee.

Our Lady of the Bells. Mary Salome and Mary Jacob with other disciples of Jesus Christ fled the Holy Land c45 and landed near the prehistoric holy place that became Saintes Maries de la Mer (Saint Marys of the Sea). Norman invaders twice burned the town during the 9th Century, Richard the Lionheart took refuge there against his father, and King Saint Louis IX defeated the English outside the town. The bells of the 12th Century Cathedral of Saint Peter, on the octave day of the Purification, rang out by themselves and several unknown men holding lighted tapers chanted hymns in honour of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of the Bells, who was venerated in a chapel there. The last of the men gave a lighted candle as proof of the miracle and, in remembrance of Our Lady of the Bells, it is preserved in the church. The severely damaged by Huguenots in 1568 and its bishopric ended in 1790 by the oppression of the French Revolution, the Cathedral is now reduced to an ancient monument.

10 February San José Sánchez Del Río (St José Luis Sánchez del Río, Joselito, Tarcisius, Hero for Christ the King) (1913-28). Roman Catholic Feast Day for adolescent Mexican martyr of 1926 La Cristiada (Cristero War), when the Mexican socialist government tried to eliminate Roman Catholic privileges. He Cristero rebel forces flagbearer, captured by government forces and imprisoned, refusing to renounce his faith in Christ. He prayed the rosary daily and was ready to fulfil the will of God and the Mother of God, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Bleeding from knife and machete wounds, he shouted in the cemetery: “I will never give in. Viva Cristo Rey y Santa Maria de Guadalupe!” (Long live Christ the King and St Mary of Guadalupe). He was shot behind the ear by an officer and died a martyr’s death at 14, his remains being enshrined in the Church of Saint James the Apostle in Sahuayo, his hometown. His heroic life quickly became exemplar across Mexico, The miracle attributed to him was the 2008 recovery of a baby that doctors had said had no hope of survival. Patron of persecuted Christians, children, adolescents and Sahuayo.

Prayer Let us imitate the virtues of this young saint: fortitude, valour, faith, holy audacity, hope and charity. Let us pray for the grace to have the same enthusiasm to defend the law and the rights of God that are under attack today, enduring all hardships for the greater glory of God. Amen Silas, Apostle (Silvanus, Σίλαςm Σιλουανός) (dc80). Lutheran Church Commemoration of 1st Century prophet, disciple, evangelist, missionary, Bishop and martyr, a leading member of the Early Christian community who accompanied Paul on parts of his 1st and 2nd missionary journeys. Silas and Judas Barsabbas (Judas) went with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch as prophets. On Paul’s 2nd journey, he and Silas were briefly imprisoned briefly in Philippi but an earthquake broke their chains and opened the prison door. Silas, Timothy travelled and Paul then met Jewish hostility in Thessalonica synagogues. Venerated in Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic Churches, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy, Anglicanism,  Lutheranism. Feast Day 30 July Eastern Orthodox Church, with the Apostles Silvanus, Crescens, Epenetus and Andronicus, 4 January with all the Apostles, 26 January with Timothy and Titus in American Evangelical Lutheran, Episcopal Churches, 13 July in Catholic, Syriac Calendars.

Nostra Signora delle Colombe (Our Lady of the Doves). 3 snow-white doves accompanied the Pilgrim Virgin statue across Europe and, when the pilgrimage reached Bologna Cathedral for the statue’s enthronement, they hovered over Our Lady, after the Ite Missa est (dismissal, απόλυσις, otpust), they vanished. Our Lady of the Doves, Mary, Queen of Peace and Mother of the Prince of Peace, thus has doves for insignia.

11 February St Paschal (Paschalis I) (d824). Feast Day for aristocratic Roman Abbot and Pope who was accused of blinding and murdering the nobles who were opposing him. This caused restrictions on papal judicial and police powers in Italy. Paschal gave refuge to the many Greek monks fleeing to Rome to escape persecution from the iconoclasts. He rebuilt and redecorated many churches in Rome, including 3 basilicas, using church-building to express the authority of the papacy as an independent state. When he died, the Roman Curia refused him the honour of burial within St Peter’s Basilica because of his harsh government of the Roman people and he was thus buried in the Basilica of Santa Prassede.

St Jonas (Jonas of Demeskenyanos, the Gardener) (d4th Century). Feast Day for pious Egyptian monk under St Pachomius at Demeskenyanos Monastery. He humbly worked for 85 years in the desert hermitage, during the day as a gardener and at night plaiting ropes, all whilst singing Psalms and repeating Canticles from the Holy Scriptures. His austerities were marvellous and it is recorded of him that, as penance for his fault in not cutting down a fig-tree when directed to do so, he abstained from eating fruit to the day of his death, living on raw vegetables and vinegar.

Our Lady of Lourdes (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception). Feast Day for 1863 statue in the rock cave at Massabielle in Lourdes, now a religious Grotto. 14-year old Bernadette Soubirous witnessed the Blessed Virgin Mary on 18 occasions from 11 February to 16 July 1858, first whilst gathering firewood with her sister Toinette and neighbour Jeanne Abadie. 2 gusts of wind (coups de vent) moved a wild rose in a niche in the cave and a smiling tiny maiden (uo petito damizelo) dressed in white was bathed in a dazzling light invited them to pray the rosary with her. On 18 February, the Lady promised happiness in the next world, on 24 February asking for prayer and penitence for the conversion of sinners. Bernadette was asked to dig in the ground and drink from a spring she found there that soon became a focal point for pilgrimages. On 25 March, Soubirous was told: “I am the Immaculate Conception” (Que soy era immaculada concepciou). On 16 July, Soubirous went for the last time to the Grotto. As word spread, the water effected miraculous cures and the image of Our Lady of Lourdes has been widely copied in shrines and homes and a large cult devotion developed, a sanctuary basilica domain being built over the site that has become a major site of Marian pilgrimage. The veracity of the apparitions of Lourdes is not an article of faith for Catholics but many Popes have visited the Marian shrine. Although never formally encouraged by the Church, Lourdes water has become a focus of devotion to the Virgin Mary at Lourdes.  And large numbers of sick pilgrims travel to Lourdes each year in the hope of physical healing or spiritual renewal. Our Lady of Lourdes in Milton is one of the 3 Roman Catholic parish churches in Weston-super-Mare, with the 1858 St Joseph Church in Camp Road and the larger Corpus Christi, with its School. Patron of Lourdes, Granada of Bacolod, Daegu, South Korea, Tennessee, Diocese of Lancaster, bodily ills, sick people, protection from disease.

Prayer Be blessed, O most pure Virgin, for having vouchsafed to manifest your shining with life, sweetness and beauty, in the Grotto of Lourdes. We thus come with the most unbounded confidence to implore your maternal intercession in obtaining for us the granting of our requests. Amen

12 February Chinese New Year (Spring Festival, Chūnjié, 春节). Week-long Confucian, Taoist, Buddhist main annual festival defined by the old Chinese calendar to 17 February, an extended 15-day celebration from New Year’s Eve culminating with the Lantern Festival. For at least 2,000 years it has normally been a time for all families to travel long distances to be together for luck and health. Red paper designs are displayed with the character fu for good fortune, and the traditional Lion and Dragon Dances are seen, with everyone on their best behaviour to set the tone for the year. There are normally fairs outside temples, small gifts, firecrackers and firework displays. The ancestors are given due reverence and gifts include red envelopes of lucky paper money (hóngbāo  lì xì). Happy New Year is gong xǐ fā cái. Fish and Jiaozi (dumplings) are eaten for luck, the character for fish (yu, 鱼) sounding like the character yu (余) for surplus or abundance. In Vietnam, Lunar New Year is Tết. In Tibet. the Buddhist New Year is Losar, celebrated for 15 days with house cleaning, flower decoration, feasting and dancing. In Nepal, Lhochhar is observed about 8 weeks earlier than the Tibetan Losar and is an ancient pre-Buddhist festival merging incense burning with harvest festival. Public celebrations in Bristol for the Year of the Ox to 30 January 2022 were limited, with an interactive online festival supported by Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, UoB, UWE, NIDA, Avon Chinese School, Bristol & Avon Chinese Women’s Group, Bristol & West of England China Bureau, Bristol Shaolin Wushu Academy, Bristol Wutan and South Gloucestershire Chinese Association. People born in a year of the Ox are honest and diligent.

Prayer Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You that in all cultures the New Year means a chance for a fresh start and a new beginning.  We pray especially for our Chinese brothers and sisters as they celebrate Chinese New Year that they will come into a deeper knowledge of You. Amen

Santa Eulàlia de Barcelona (St Eulalia of Barcelona, Aulaire, Aulazia, Olalla, Eulària) (c290-303). Feast Day for noble Hispanic Christian virgin martyred at 13 in Barcelona, near to the end of the prohibition of Christianity. She confronted the governor for his merciless persecution of Christians and was stripped, flagellated and tortured before crucifixion on an X-shaped cross, praying that God would take her to Heaven, She was interred in the church of Santa María de les Arenes, her remains being hidden in 713 during the Moorish invasion and recovered in 878 to be relocated in 1339 to the newly-built Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia. Eulalia is commemorated with statues and street names throughout Barcelona, Baixada de Santa Eulàlia (Saint Eulalia’s descent) reflecting a tradition that Eulalia was placed in a barrel with shards of glass and rolled down a street. The festival of St Eulalia is held in Barcelona for a week around her feast day. Venerated in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Major shrine is the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia, Barcelona. Orthodox Church Feast Day 22 August. Patron of Barcelona, sailors, against drought.

St Æthelwold (Ethelwald of Lindisfarne, Aethelwald, Ethelwold) (d740). Feast Day for disciple of St Cuthbert. He served as Prior and then Abbot of Old Melrose, Scotland and succeeded St Eadfrith at Lindisfarne, where he died. He took the manuscripts of the Lindisfarne Gospels Eadfrith had prepared and had Billfrith bind them so that they could be easily read. Ethelwald was the last Bishop of Lindisfarne to be revered as a saint.

13 February Sts Priscilla (Prisca, Πρίσκιλλα, Priskilla) and Aquila (Ἀκύλας, Akylas) Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox commemoration of 1st Century Christian married tentmaker missionary Apostles, martyred together in Rome, with Apollos (Ἀπολλώς). Aquila, a Jewish Christian from Pontus and a Bishop in Asia Minor, is listed among the Seventy Disciples and he and Priscilla, one of the earliest known Christian converts who lived in Rome and possibly a presbyter, lived, worked and travelled with Paul to strengthen the early Christian churches and instruct Apollos, a major 1st Century evangelist. Jesus valued women and men equally as being made in the image of God and Priscilla was not Aquila’s property, as was customary in Greco-Roman society, but his partner in ministry and marriage. As Jews expelled from Rome in 49, they went to Corinth. Paul lived with them over a year and took them to Ephesus on his way to Syria. Venerated in Lutheran, Catholic Churches, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy. Feast Day 8 July Catholic Church, 14 July other Orthodox Churches commemorating St Aquila alone as an Apostle. Patrons of love, marriage.

St Dyfnog. Old English commemoration of wealthy 6th or 7th Century early Welsh monk from North Britain who lived in isolation on bread and water. He built a small wooden church where the Church of St Dyfnog, Llanrhaeadr stands and miraculous cures of skin conditions, arthritis and rheumatism were owed to the water of Saint Dyfnog’s Well (Ffynnon Dyfnog). Donations funded a 16th Century Tree of Jesse window and stone bath. The early-18th Century chapel were neglected but the well remained a popular place for pilgrims and occasional baptisms. The site is a Grade II Listed Building and Lottery Heritage Funding was sought for a religious tourist attraction and centre for the environment and education.

Notre-Dame de Pellevoisin (Our Lady of Pellevoisin). In 1876, the servant Estelle Faguette, dying from tuberculosis at 33, laid a letter seeking a cure at a statue of the Virgin in Montbel, Pellevoisin. On 14 February, with hours left, she saw the Virgin Mary, who told her she must suffer for 5 days, after which she would die or be cured. On each of the following 4 nights, the Blessed Virgin again appeared and Estelle miraculously made a full recovery. The Blessed Virgin returned in September, drawing attention to a small scapular she was wearing with the red image of a heart. In November, Estelle made a replica with which the Virgin was pleased. The last of 15 visions was on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and Estelle’s bedroom became an oratory and place of pilgrimage, the shrine of Our Lady of Pellevoisin. Estelle made copies of the Scapular of the Sacred Heart and died in Pellevoisin just before her 87th birthday. There is an annual pilgrimage the last weekend in August.

Prayer You possess my heart, O Mother Most Merciful, to do all that depends on me for your glory and that of your Divine Son. Take under your protection those who are dear to me and grant that I will imitate your obedience so that one day in eternity I shall, with you, possess Jesus. Amen

14 February San Valentino (St Valentine, Martyr at Rome, Valentinus, Saint Valentin, Sv. Valentin, worthy, strong, powerful) (c226-269). Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran Feast Day for Italian presbyter and priest who ministered to persecuted Christians. Whilst Bishop of Termi and under house arrest, he restored the sight of the judge’s adopted daughter, writing a note to her signed “from your Valentine”, which inspired today’s romantic missives. Valentinus was again arrested, condemned to death in Rome, beaten with clubs, beheaded on 14 February and buried at a Christian cemetery north of Rome. A 3rd Century legend was that Valentine secretly performed Christian weddings for couples, giving them hearts cut from parchment and allowing the husbands to escape conscription into the pagan army. Lupercalia was a pre-Roman pastoral annual festival, observed in Rome on 15 February to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. 14 February has been observed as Saint Valentine’s Day since 496 and from the High Middle Ages was associated with a tradition of courtly love. Venerated in Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, Eastern Orthodoxy, Lutheranism. Eastern Orthodox Feast Day 6 July and for the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine, Bishop of Interamna 30 July. Patron of affianced couples, happy marriages, love, Lesvos (for Catholics), beekeepers, against fainting, epilepsy, plague.

Prayer Loving God, on this sacred Feast of Saint Valentine may our love for one another increasingly have the quality of the love Jesus has for us. Make us selfless and unconditional so that we may always freely love others because You first loved us and laid down your life for us. Amen

Άγιοι Κύριλλος και Μεθόδιος (Sts Cyril and Methodius, Свети Кирило и Методије). Lutheran Commemoration and Anglican Feast Day for Bishops who died 869 and 885, both missionaries to the Slavs, also Greek Orthodox Lesser Feast Day for St Cyril (Constantine, Equal-to-the-Apostles and Teacher of the Slavs). Cyril the Philosopher, a deacon and monk, and Methodius were Greek brothers honoured as Apostles to the southern Slavs and founders of Slavic literary culture. Methodius, the governor of a Slavic colony became a monk and was elected Abbot of a monastery in Constantinople. In 862, Cyril and Methodius went to teach the Moravians in their native language and Cyril invented an alphabet to transcribe the Slavo-Roman liturgical books, originating the Cyrillic alphabet. After German opposition, the brothers were ordained bishops and with the Slavonic liturgy was approved. Cyril died in Rome and was buried there. Methodius returned to Moravia as Metropolitan of Sirmium and continued to be harassed by German bishops, who ordered his imprisonment. He was recalled to Rome on charges of heresy but the Pope allowed him to return to Moravia and use Slavonic in the liturgy. Methodius completed a Slavonic translation of the Bible and of Byzantine ecclesiastical law, while continuing his missionary activities. His funeral, celebrated in Greek, Latin, and Slavonic, was attended by many people.

St Conran of Orkney (St Conran of Kirkwall, Heilagr Conran til Orkneyjar). Old English, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Feast Day for 7th Century Confessor and Bishop (Biskup) of Orkney. The faith was planted there by St Palladius and St Sylvester, the first pastor of the church, honoured on 5 February. The islands had many monasteries, the chief of which was Kirkwall on the largest island Mainland (Meginland, Pomonia) with the Bishop’s residence. Conran’s austerity, zeal and eminent sanctity were famed when Catholicism flourished there and he was compared with Sts Palladius and Kentigern. The 11th Century Orkney Cathedral was dedicated in by King St Magnus the Good (Magnús góði, Magnus den gode).

15 February Parinirvana Day (Nirvana Day). Mahayana Buddhist and Jain annual celebration of day when the Buddha achieved Parinirvana (complete Nirvana) upon the death of his physical body. Mahayana Buddhist holiday celebrated in East Asia by some on 8 February. In Bhutan, it is celebrated on the 15th day of the 4th month of the Bhutanese calendar. Passages from the recitations of Nibbana Sutta (Small vehicle, Hinayana) and Nirvana Sutra (Great vehicle, Mahayana) describing the Buddha’s last days of life are read on Parinirvana Day. Observances include meditation and visits to Buddhist temples and monasteries. The day is for thinking about one’s own future death and the deaths of loved ones. This thought process reflects the Buddhist teachings on impermanence. Some Western Buddhist groups also celebrate Parinirvana Day.

Prayer I prostrate to Amitabha, leader of humans and gods. Through compassion you see each reincarnation as your own child. Remembering you just once leaves the fear of the Lord of Death far behind. May your eminent activities for transmigrators be glorious and without end. Svaha

Clean Monday (Καθαρά Δευτέρα, Pure Monday, Ash Monday, Monday of Lent, Green Monday, Güdismontag). Eastern Christian annual 1st day of Great Lent, the 7th Monday 48 days before Pascha (Easter). In the West, Shrove (Carnival ) Monday. Clean Monday is for leaving behind sinful ways and non-fasting foods. Ash Monday is like Ash Wednesday, the day when the Western Lent begins, a few Eastern Catholics such as the Maronites practising the Imposition of Ashes as do Eastern Catholics. The Eve of Clean Monday begins Great Lent with Forgiveness Vespers and the Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness, where all present bow to one another and ask forgiveness. Thus the faithful begin Clean Week and Great Lent with a clean conscience, forgiveness and renewed Christian love. A special lagana (λαγάνα) azyme bread is baked, kites are flown and the spring season starts. Great Lent fasting is not with sadness, as one should not appear to men to be fasting but to God the Father, in secret.

Revd Dr Thomas Bray (Bray Day) (1656-1730).Church of England Feast Day for humble priest and missionary, Founder of 1698 educational and publishing SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge) charity and 1701 SPG (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts), the official overseas missionary body of the Church of England. In 1696, Bray was commissioned to report on the condition of the Church in the colony of Maryland and in 10 weeks radically re-organised and renewed the Church there. Both in Maryland and England, he wrote and preached in defence of the rights of enslaved Africans and of Indians deprived of their land. Bray scorned the English for benefiting from their colonial adventures without giving back and, in just 3 years, had recruited a significant number of clergy and built the capacity of the Church through endowment and investment in numerous Maryland schools and 39 lending libraries. The SPCK organised a huge investment in schools and education across the British Isles and, in just 5 years, 84 schools were founded, growing to 1,784 by 1721, including 148 in Ireland. Bray was deeply committed to a reasoned and undogmatic Christianity and urged High and Low, Tory and Whig, in the Church of England to aid his cause.

16 February Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras, Carnival). Annual Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and Roman Catholic Western Christian millennium-old celebration of last day of Shrovetide, the day before Ash Wednesday. Shrovetide was the ritual shriving (absolution) process of confessing and repenting sins, fasting and abstaining from luxuries during Lent. Observances normally include tolling churches’ Shriving Bells, consideration of life changes or spiritual growth needing God’s help, the ritual burning of the previous year’s Palm Sunday branches to use as the next day’s ashes and preparation of the Lenten sacrifice. The 16th Century Pancake Day (Pancake Tuesday, Máirt Inide, Fastnachtsdienstag, vastenavond, Güdeldienstag, Fetetirsdag, Sprengidagur, Užgavėnės, laskiainen, Kurentovanje, Húshagyókedd) tradition of eating pancakes, fasnachts (fried German doughnuts), pączki (fried filled Polish doughnuts), semla (Scandinavian sweet rolls), blini (Russian and Ukrainian thin pancakes) and other sweets, food that one might give up as a Lenten fasting sacrifice, is reflected in the French Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), a Carnival day for gorging on rich, fatty foods such as the butter, milk, eggs, sugar and fat that might be given up during the Lenten season. Lenten food should not give undue pleasure, meaning giving up meat, dairy products and eggs. In Poland, the related tłusty czwartek (Fat Thursday) is the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, with pączki or faworki (dough angel wings of sweet crisp pastry) eating contests, music and other Polish food. There are normally still traditional 12th Century Shrove Tuesday football games in Alnwick (Scoring the Hales), Ashbourne (Royal Shrovetide Football), Atherstone (the Atherstone Ball Game), St Columb Major (Hurling the Silver Ball) and Sedgefield (Sedgefield Ball Game). The 1445 tradition of 415-yard pancake races originated in Olney, contestants tossing the pancake throughout and wearing a scarf and apron and are also normally held in North Somercotes and between the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Fourth Estate (press and news media) to raise awareness of Rehab services for disabled people and others who are marginalised. Scarborough normally has a seafront skipping race.

Prayer Precious and crucified Lord, we all offer You this Lent, with total abandonment and trust, our prayers, sacrifices and our very lives. This day, do with us as You will. We pray that this Lent will be fruitful, a time through which Your mercy is poured in abundance into our souls. Amen

Saraswati Puja (सरस्वती पूजा, સરસ્વતી પૂજા, சரஸ்வதி பூஜை, సరస్వతి పూజ, സരസ്വതി പൂജ).Celebration of pure and enriching Hindu Water Goddess of knowledge, learning, wisdom and music, popular among students as the creator and donor of knowledge, giving the power of wisdom, learning, music and the arts. Saraswati Puja is celebrated twice a year throughout India on the January/February day of Vasant Panchami and during the Navaratri South India festival days in September/October. It is an auspicious day to worship Saraswati, make offerings and seek her blessing for young children starting their education or those beginning learning in any field. Saraswati created Sanskrit, the language of scriptures, scholars and Brahmins. Kamadeva, the lord of love, is worshipped, Brahmins are fed and there is a Pitru Tarpan offering of water to deceased ancestors’ souls (pitar). Yellow is of special significance and people normally dress in that colour and make yellow sweets. The Goddess herself is dressed in yellow and is offered sweets, fruits, roli (enlightening powder), moli (sacred thread) and yellow flowers. The day ends with cultural programmes.

Sts Philemon and Onesimus (νήσιμος, useful) (dc90). Lutheran Commemoration of Christian Philemon of Colossae and his slave The Holy Apostle Onesimus of Byzantium, also celebrated in some Eastern Orthodox churches. Onesimus stole from Philemon and fled to Paul to escape punishment, heard the Gospel and converted to Christianity. Paul had converted Philemon and to reconcile the two wrote a letter, the Epistle to Philemon. Philemon accepted Onesimus as a brother and freed him from slavery. Onesimus was consecrated Bishop of Ephesus by the Apostles, following the Apostle Timothy. During Christian persecution, Onesimus was imprisoned in Rome and martyred by stoning or beheading.

17 February Ash Wednesday. Annual Western Christian Roman Catholic and Protestant1st day of Lent, the sombre penitential 40 days leading up to Easter, when many Christians sacrifice ordinary pleasures to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice. Normally, there are special church services and the faithful have a cross of ashes marked on their foreheads as a sign of penitence and mortality. Most Christians abstain from meat on this day.

Prayer On this special day, Lord, may our sacrifices in fasting clear away all life’s clutter to see You more clearly. May our longing for meat and other food help us to focus our lives today more outside ourselves. Let us be aware of those who are in so much more suffering than we. Amen

St Finan of Iona and Lindisfarne (dc661). Old English and Medieval Feast for Abbot and Bishop who built Iona’s wooden church, continued St Aidan’s missionary campaign south of the Humber and baptised Penda, King of the Middle Angles, and Sigeberht, King of the East Saxons.

Janani Luwum, Martyr (c1922-77). Anglican Lesser Festival commemorating death of Northern Uganda Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, an influential leader of the modern church in Africa. He died, officially in a car crash but really murdered on the orders of then-President Idi Amin. Luwum, a teacher who converted to Christianity at 26, served in the Upper Nile and Mbale, in 1969 being consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Uganda and in 1964 the 2nd African Archbishop of the Metropolitan Province of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire. Criticising the 1971 Amin excesses, in 1977 he delivered a protest note to the dictator and with other leading churchmen was accused of treason as an agent of the exiled former president Milton Obote who was planning a coup d’état. The next day, he was shot in the mouth, his body riddled with bullets, leaving a widow and 9 children. His statue is on the front of Westminster Abbey. Since 2015, his Uganda public holiday is on 16 February.

18 February Spring Showers (Yǔshuǐ, 雨水). East Asian Chinese and Japanese start of 3rd Century calendar Jieqi fortnight to 5 March, 2nd of 24 ershisi jieqi solar terms with the Sun between celestial longitudes 330° and 345°. This Rain Water solar term is a guide for agricultural production and signals an increase in rainfall and rise in temperature. As a Year of The Ox Aquarius day, it is auspicious for sacrifice, prayers for good luck or pregnancy, Caesarean delivery, encoffining and funerals. The God of Joy is in the South, Happiness Southeast and Wealth Southwest.

Martin Luther OSA (1483-1546). Lutheran Commemoration of death of Saxon seminal Lutheran Reformation married father of 5, doctor, author, composer, professor of theology, Augustinian monk, Friar, priest, confessor and renewer of the church. He rejected teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church such as indulgences and pilgrimages, and was famous for his Ninety-five Theses, which he nailed to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, his Large and Small Catechisms, On the Freedom of a Christian, On the Bondage of the Will. Refusing to recant at the 1521 Diet of Worms resulted in excommunication for life and outlawing by the Holy Roman Emperor. His theology challenged the authority of the Pope and he considered all baptised Christians to be a Christian or Evangelical (Evangelisch) holy priesthood. His Vernacular German translation of the Bible influenced the English translation, the Tyndale Bible. The Latin Theses translated into German quickly reached France, England and Italy. His hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches and his marriage to a former nun set a model for Protestant clergy to marry. He was antagonistic towards Jews, Roman Catholics, Anabaptists and nontrinitarian Christians. After reading a Latin translation of the Qur’an, he criticised Islam (Mohammedanism, the Turk) as a tool of the devil, although he said it would destroy the Antichrist, the papacy and the Roman Church without a Holy War. Luther often suffered ill health and he died leaving a note: “We are beggars: this is true.”

Prayer Lord, let everything we do this day and in this season of Lent come from You, be inspired by You. We long to be closer to You. Help us to remember that nothing is important in our lives unless it glorifies You in some way. Help us to rely on You for help to reach true perfection. Amen

St Colman of Lindisfarne and Mayo (c605-76). Old English, Medieval Feast Day for noble Irish Iona educated Christian who succeeded Aidan and Finan as Bishop of Lindisfarne. Colman resigned the Bishopric in 664 after the Synod of Whitby decided to calculate Easter by the method of the First Ecumenical Council instead of his preferred Celtic method. He travelled back to Scotland to found several churches before returning to Iona. He sailed to Ireland with half the relics of Lindisfarne, including the bones of St Aidan and a part of the true cross, settling at Inis Bó Finne (Inishbofin), where he founded a monastery at Magh Eó (Plain of Yew Trees, the School of Mayo), where he died. The relics vanished during the 1537 Reformation. Venerated in Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic Churches, Anglican Communion with Feast Days 8 August, 13 November.

19 February St Philothei of Athens (Άγια Φιλοθέη η Αθηναία, Revoula Benizelou) (1522-89) Eastern Orthodox Feast Day for wealthy Greek Orthodox religious sister widowed at 17 and dedicated to charitable work. At 29, she established a women’s monastery under the patronage of St Andrew where young nuns taught handicrafts, weaving, housework and cooking. With many establishments in Athens and in the Aegean, she founded a secluded monastery at Patesia, built hospices, homes for the elderly and schools for the girls and boys of Athens. Buying the freedom of Greeks taken as slaves by the Ottoman Turks, especially women taken into the harems, she offered shelter to the young women, some pregnant. She asked the Venetian elders  to pay off her debts due to ransom money, duties, bribes and taxes she owed to the occupying Turks. Her monasteries and farms were frequently plundered by Ottoman mercenaries, 4 of whom broke into the monastery at Patesia and beat her so severely that she was bedridden until she died from her injuries. Her relics were interred in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens and the Filothei district of Athens is named after her. Along with Sts Hierotheus and Dionysius the Areopagite, patron of Athens, also women, charitable works.

Prayer The Faithful of Athens and all the world honour Saint Philothei the martyred nun and they rejoice in her holy relics. For she exchanged this passing life for the life that knows no end, through her struggle and martyrdom, and she now begs the Saviour to have mercy on us all. Amen

St Odhrán of Ireland (Oran, Otteranus). Old English and Medieval commemoration of County Meath descendant of Conall Gulban, a companion of St Columba on Iona and the first Christian to be buried there. Odhrán lived for over 40 years in Silvermines in Co Tipperary, building a 520 church there. He served as Abbot of Meath and founded Lattreagh. In 563, he was among the 12 who accompanied Columba to Iona. He asked to being buried alive beneath a chapel that Columba was attempting to build that would not stand until a living man was buried below the foundations. Being promised that his soul would be safe in heaven, Odhrán was consigned to the earth and the chapel was erected above him, Columba seeing devils and angels fight over Odhrán’s soul before it ascended into heaven. One day, Odhrán lifted his head out of the ground saying: “There is no Hell as you suppose, nor Heaven that people talk about.” An alarmed Columba had the body reburied in consecrated ground. The legend is one of the few instances of foundation sacrifice in Great Britain, similar to the Arthurian legend of the building of Dinas Emris, where Vortigern was counselled to find and sacrifice a child without a father, Merlin, to ensure that the fortress walls did not collapse. The oldest remaining church on Iona is dedicated to Saint Odhrán and the surrounding cemetery is called Reilig Odhráin in his memory. In 1096, he was chosen by the Norsemen as patron of the city of Waterford and later as patron of the diocese. An Aer Lingus Boeing 757 was named St Otteran-Odhrán. Venerated in Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and other Churches. Feast Day 27 October. Patron of Waterford, Silvermines parish.

San Álvaro de Córdoba (St Alvarez of Cordova) (1350-1430). Feast Day for ascetic, holy teacher, preacher who entered the Dominican convent at Cordova and was confessor and adviser of Queen Catherine, John of Gaunt’s daughter, and tutor of King John II. After reforming the court, he founded the Scala Caeli priory. There, his Escalaceli (ladder of heaven) was a centre of religious devotion. He spread the practice of the Way of the Cross through the West, led the opposition to antipope Benedict XII (Peter de Luna) and became famous throughout Spain with his 1741 cult.

20 February St Bolcan of Derken (Den hellige Bolcan av Derken, Olcanus) (dc840). Old English and Medieval Feast Day for Irish Bishop who had been baptised by St Patrick, who then sent him to study in Gaul. Patrick later consecrated Bolcan as the Bishop of Derkan in Northern Ireland. Bolcan’s school there was one of the best-equipped in the island. Bolcan died of natural causes and his relics are preserved at Kilmore.

Sts Francisco and Jacinta (São Francisco e Santa Jacinta Marto, videntes da Virgem de Fátima) (1908/10-1919/20). Feast Day for illiterate Portuguese shepherd siblings, among the youngest Catholic saints, Jacinta being the youngest saint not to die a martyr. With their cousin Lúcia dos Santos, they witnessed 3 1916 apparitions of the Angel of Peace and several of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Fátima, at Cova da Iria in 1917. The Sanctuary of Fátima became a major centre of world Christian pilgrimage. At the 1st apparition, Mary had asked the children to pray the Rosary and to make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and to return on the 13th for the next 6 months. The siblings were victims of the great 1918 European influenza epidemic, Jacinta being promised that Mary would take them to heaven soon, and both are buried at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima. Pope John Paul II was miraculously saved from an attempt on his life on the anniversary of the 1st vision at Fátima and another miracle was attributed to their intercession. Venerated in Roman Catholic Church. Major shrine Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Fátima. Patrons of Portuguese children, prisoners, captives, people ridiculed for their piety, sick people, against sickness and bodily ills.

Prayer Loving Creator, we are not asking You to overcome our weaknesses, but to use them in some way to glorify You. Let us be aware of the many ways You reach out to help the people of Your world today and let us all stand in awe of the power that You use in such loving ways. Amen

Sadok the Bishop and the 128 other Martyrs of Persia. Greek Orthodox commemoration of good and pious Northern Iraqi Shahdost (devotee of the king), Patriarch and Primate of the Church of the East and Bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon for 2 years in the mid-4th Century. Martyred during the great persecution, having pledged himself to die on behalf of his flock. He visited the Christians night and day to encourage them against the persecution but his rank was revealed and, 3 nights after he had seen in a dream a ladder with its foot on the earth and its head in heaven, was arrested by the magi, with 128 bishops, priests, deacons and other Christians. In prison for 5 months and tortured to embrace the religion of the magi and worship the sun, they remained firm in their faith. Sadoc said of the murder of his predecessor, the patriarch Shemʿon Bar Sabbaʿen: “The head of the Christians is the Most High God. It is he who gives them the head of his choice. The sea will never be drained dry, Christianity will never be destroyed. The more Christians you kill, the more they will multiply.” Sadoc and his companions, including Shemʿon’s two sisters, were killed. Among them were Miles al-Razi, his disciple Aborsam and several others. The faithful collected their bodies to bury in the church.

21 February Rohini Vrat. Observed by Jain women for a long, fulfilling life for their husbands and to wish a blessing on immediate family. Rohini Vrat begins when the Rohini Nakshatra (the one of the 12 Rohini annual Moon fasting days for the 4th of 27 lunar mansion small constellations of stars that the moon travels through as it orbits Earth) rises after sunrise. This happens every 27 days and it is an important fasting day in the Jain community. Devotees celebrate this Vrat to purge themselves of all types of sorrow, poverty and obstacles. Women should observe these days, considered as an easy spiritual discipline for learning patience, forbearance and harmony, over 3, 5 or 7 years, the ideal duration being 5 years and 5 months. In some families, all the members observe the Vrat to enhance the quality of life in the family and win the blessings of Vasupujya Bhagavan, the great warrior King who was compassionate and charitable, as was his benevolent Queen who inspired him in charitable activities.

St John Henry Newman (1801-90) Episcopal Church Feast Day for English theologian, poet, Anglican priest converted to Catholicism, founder of University College Dublin, who became a Cardinal. Important and controversial religious figure in 19th Century England, known nationally by the mid-1830s. The Cork Examiner said he went to his grave with the singular honour of being by all creeds and classes acknowledged as the just man made perfect. Feast Day 11 August Church of England, 9 October Catholic Church. Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Prayer Let us be angels of peace, preachers of truth in our own places, while not intending it if we do but keep His commandments. Therefore, we will trust Him, whatever we are we can never be thrown away. If we are in sickness, our sickness and our perplexity may serve Him. Amen

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee (Воскресенье мытаря и фарисея). Russian Orthodox start of 3-week pre-Great Lenten Season with the first use of the Lenten Triodion (Τριῴδιον κατανυκτικόν, Triodion katanyktikon, Eastern Orthodox liturgical book), although the next week is fast-free. Commemoration of parable of Jesus contrasting a self-righteous Pharisee with a tax collector who humbly asks God for mercy, showing Jesus’ teaching that justification can be given by the mercy of God irrespective of the receiver’s prior life and that conversely self-righteousness can prohibit being justified. The Pharisee was confident in his religiosity but asked God for nothing and thus received nothing. Publicans were despised Jews who collaborated with the Roman Empire, best known for collecting tolls or taxes (tax farming). The parable does not condemn the publican’s occupation and, coming to God in humility, he receives the mercy and reconciliation for which he asks, an example for Great Lent.

22 February Feast of the Chair of St Peter, Apostle (Γιορτή του Προέδρου του Αγίου Πέτρου, Απόστολος, Festa della Cattedra di San Pietro Apostolo, Fiesta de la Cátedra de San Pedro). This Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Antioch commemorates his foundation of that See and has also long been celebrated at Rome, each place where the Apostle presided at Mass having a chair (cathedra) venerated. The mission of teacher and pastor conferred by Christ on Peter has continued down to the present Pope. The Feasts celebrate the unity of the Church, founded upon the Apostle, and the primatial authority of St Peter extended both to truths that are solemnly defined ex cathedra and to all the acts of the ordinary Magisterium. The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Rome has been celebrated on 18 January from the early Christian days, in honour of the day when St Peter held his first service in Rome. As witness to one of the most renowned of the Apostolic Fathers, the Roman See has always held a unique place in the affection and obedience of Orthodox believers, for its ruling in love and service over all the Churches of God.

Prayer Grant, we pray, almighty God, that no tempests may disturb us, for You have set us all fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith. In the name our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen

Máel Brigte mac Tornáin (Mac Durnan) (d927). Christian Feast for Abbot of Iona and Armagh, scribe of the Irish minuscule script Mac Durnan Gospels (Book of Mac Durnan) illuminated with portraits of the Evangelists and kept in Lambeth Palace. The manuscript contains the text of the 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) of the Latin Vulgate and the animal symbols of the 4 Evangelists. An alliterative Latin inscription suggests that the book was dedicated to God by MacDurnani. It left the scriptorium of Armagh to pass into the possession of the 9th Century King Æthelstan of Kent and offers a unique glimpse on the Irish connections of Æthelstan’s court, which is known to have been attended by at least one Irish Abbot of Bangor, Dubinsi,. During the early 11th Century, 6 Anglo-Saxon charters were copied into the book, including writs and records of agreements. Related manuscripts associated with Armagh are the Echternach Gospels, the Máel Brigte Gospels and the Book of Armagh.

St Raynerius of Beaulieu (Raynier) (d967). Medieval and Eastern Orthodox Feast Day for French Beaulieu monk. His cult was brief but he was of great virtue to all. A crippled adolescent taken to his tomb miraculously ran to the St-Rainer church altar next to the monastery in Puy d’Arnac.

23 February St Polycarp the Holy Martyr and Bishop of Smyrna (Πολύκαρπος, Polycarpus, much fruit) (69-155). Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Medieval, Church of England, Lutheran Commemoration of death of holy disciple of John the Apostle, companion of Papias and one of 3 chief Apostolic Fathers, along with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, and part of the 2nd generation of Church leaders. Faced with heresy, he showed the candid face that Ignatius admired as imitating Jesus’ response to the Pharisees, Marcion the heretic being identified as the son of Satan. Polycarp forgave Christian disagreements such as the East celebrating the Passover as the Passion of Christ and the West celebrating Easter on the Sunday of the week following Passover. He was persecution as Christ had been, the mob demanding his blood, After Stephen, Polycarp is one of the earliest genuine accounts of a Christian martyrdom. Refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor on Pesach, he was burned at the stake and pierced with a spear when the fire failed to consume his body, saying: “I bless You, Father, for judging me worthy of this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ.” His relics are in the church Sant’ Ambrogio della Massima in Rome.

Prayer God of peace, St Polycarp the Holy Martyr gave his life to remain faithful to You until the very end. We pray we too may be worthy in lockdown life, whether surrounded by loved ones or craving company, so that we might find moments of peace to reconnect with You. Amen

St Boswell of Melrose (Boisil) (dc662). Greek Orthodox Commemoration of Northumbrian Abbot of Melrose, an Anglo-Saxon Northumbrian branch of Lindisfarne now in Scotland. Trained by St Aidan, he was one of the 1st generation of Melrose monks in the late 640s and his fame is due to his connection as Prior with his great pupil St Cuthbert. It was from the Prior that Cuthbert learned the sacred scriptures, pupil and teacher becoming great friends preaching to the local people. The sick and ailing were brought to Boisil to be cured by his herbal remedies and the healing properties of the two local springs. Boisil’s supernatural intuitions led to his foretelling 3 years before the great pestilence to which he fell victim. After his death, Boisil appeared twice in a vision to a monk he had known, advising concentration on existing monasteries rather than missionary activity on the Continent. St Boswells in Roxburghshire commemorates his name and his relics, like those of St Bede, were translated to Durham in the 11th Century. Venerated in Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion. Major shrine Melrose Abbey, destroyed. Orthodox Feast Day 24 February, Western Churches 7 July, with the translation on 8 June and Bollandist Feast Day 9 September.

Our Lady of Rocks (Nuestra Señora de Peña de Francia). In Salamanca, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peña de Francia (Rock of France) is the world’s highest Marian sanctuary at over 1,700m. In the 15th Century, a girl woke up in the middle of her funeral and announced that a statue of Our Lady would be discovered within the next few years. The statue was found in 1434 after both a dazzling light and the Virgin Mary were seen.

24 February St Matthias Apostle  (Μαθθίας, מַתִּתְיָהוּ, ⲙⲁⲑⲓⲁⲥ, Tolmai) (dc80). Lutheran Lesser Festival, Church of England alternative and Western Rite OrthodoxyFeast Day for 1st Century Judaean chosen by the Apostles to replace Judas Iscariot. Matthias’ calling as an Apostle is unique, as it was not made by Jesus, who had ascended into heaven, and was before the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. Matthias had been with Jesus from his baptism by John until his Ascension, after which Peter asked the 120 disciples to nominate 2 men to replace Judas. By lots, Matthias was numbered with the 11 Apostles and Greek tradition is that he planted the faith around Cappadocia and on the coasts of the Caspian Sea, whilst residing near the port of Issus. He preached the Gospel in Judaea, Ethiopia and Georgia, where he was stoned to death and buried in Adjara. His remains were taken to Italy by St Helena and partly interred in the Abbey of Santa Giustina, Padua, with the rest in the Abbey of St Matthias, Trier. Venerated in Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, Anglican Communion. Feast Day in leap years 25 February in Western Rite Orthodoxy, Anglican Communion, Episcopal and Lutheran Churches. 14 May Catholic Church and parts of Anglican Communion, 9 August Eastern Orthodox Church. Patron of alcoholics, carpenters, tailors, hope, tenacity, against smallpox.

Prayer Lent helps refocus on Christ and not the other things we rely on. Fasting and sacrifice can be a new form of liberation, as when Jesus experienced the solitude and temptation of 40 days in the wilderness. May we be able to lift our heads to the One on whom we so depend. Amen

Cumméne Find (Cumine the White, Cummeneus Albus) (d669). Greek Orthodox commemoration of death of 7th Abbot of Iona at time of Synod of Whitby. Cumméne toured Irish daughter houses in 663. The Northumbrian decision the next year against adopting the Gaelic dating of Easter at the Synod of Whitby resulted in a loss of control of the Ionan Gaelic church at Lindisfarne. It was during Cumméne’s abbacy that the Book of Durrow was first produced and he is known to have written a Vita of Columba De uirtutibus sancti Columbae (On the Virtues of Saint Columba), which text was later inserted in the Schaffhausen manuscript of Adomnán’s Vita Columbae in the early 8th Century. This was for political reasons.

The Procession of Pope St Gregory with Painting of Our Lady by St Luke. Marian Feast commemorating the ending of the 591 Plague in Rome after the humble and pious Pope led a procession with the painting by St Luke of Our Lady. The Gothic War between the Byzantine Empire and the Goths depopulated Italy and a Germanic pagan Arian tribe of Lombards established their own kingdom, not respecting Catholics, burning the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino and pillaging the land. The previous Roman Pontiff had died of the plague in 590 and St Gregory the Great met a dawn procession at the church of Saint Mary Major, after 80 people collapsed and died of the plague. He prayed and held aloft St Luke’s miraculous image of Our Lady and, as the procession moved to the Vatican all present saw St Michael the Archangel standing upon the cupola of Hadrian’s mausoleum as he sheathed his flaming sword. With this sign that the chastisement had come to an end, the heaviness in the air abated and it seemed to freshen and clear as the plague finally ended with the faithful rejoicing and signing their thanks to the Mother of God.

25 February Ayyám-i-Há (Feast of Dominion, Feast of Loftiness).First of the Intercalary Days from 24 to 28 February, 4 or 5 days when Bahá’ís and those who join them focus more than usual on hospitality, charity, giving gifts and preparing for the month of fasting. These days fall outside the 19 months of 19 days that make up the Bahá’í calendar, Baha’u’llah having written that they shall be the manifestations of the letter Ha and thus not been bounded by the limits of the year and its months. The Bahá’í month of fasting between sunrise and sunset, during which Bahá’ís from the age of 15, except those who are ill, elderly, traveling, pregnant or breastfeeding, abstain from food and drink will be from 2 to 20 March.

Prayer Our God, Fire and Light, in the days of Ayyám-i-Há we entreat Thee to grant that unto every soul may be assigned a place within the precincts of Thy court, and a seat at the revelation of the splendours of the light of Thy countenance as Thou, truly, art the Almighty. Bahá’u’lláh

St Wallburgha of Devon (Guibor , Heilige Walburga, Wealdburg, Valpurga, Walpurgis, Valborg) (710-c779). Old English, Medieval memorial of Heidenheim death of aristocratic Devonian Anglo-Saxon missionary to the Frankish Empire. The daughter of St Richard the Pilgrim, an underking of the West Saxons, and St Wuna of Wessex, at 11 she was put in the care of the Abbess of the double monastery at Wimborne Abbey. A year later, her father died at Lucca on pilgrimage to Rome. Walpurga had become skilled at copying and ornamenting manuscripts such as the Opus Anglicanum. Her fine needlework of gold and silver threads on rich velvet or linen and often decorated with jewels and pearls was in great demand across Europe and she spent 26 years as a member of the community. Walpurga then travelled with her brothers, St Willibald and St Winibald, to Württemberg and Franconia to assist St Boniface in evangelising the still-pagan Germans. With her rigorous training, she was able to write Winibald’s vita and an account in Latin of his travels in Palestine. She was thus the 1st female author of England and Germany and she became a nun in the double monastery of Heidenheim am Hahnenkamm, founded by Willibald, She succeeded him in 751 to become Abbess and, upon Winibald’s death in 760, she also succeeded him as superintendent of the Heidenheim monastery, where she was buried after her natural death. In  870 her remains were transferred to St Walburga’s Abbey in Eichstätt. In Finland, Sweden and Bavaria, her 1 May Feast Day celebrates that transfer and the day of her canonisation. Saint Walpurgis Night (Sankt Walpurgisnacht) was the eve of her feast day in the High Medieval period, coinciding with May Day. Although that feast is no longer celebrated, the name is still used for May Eve, celebrated with dancing in continental folklore. In Eichstätt, her bones exuded a miraculously therapeutic oil that drew pilgrims to her shrine and led to the 19th Century Cardinal Newman declaring the exuded oil to be a credible miracle. The Catholic Church of St Walburge in Preston has, at 309 ft (94 m), the tallest spire of any parish church in England, with only the spires of Salisbury and Norwich Cathedrals reaching higher. The St Walburg’s 220-bed hospital in southern Tanzania was built in 1959. Venerated in Catholic, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox Churches. Feast Day 1 May. Patron of Eichstätt, Weilburg, Antwerp, Arnhem, Zutphen and other towns. Invoked as special patroness against hydrophobia and storms, and by sailors.

Fast of Esther (Ta’anit Ester, תַּעֲנִית אֶסְתֵּר). Purim Eve Jewish fasting from dawn to nightfall Commemoration on the 13th day of Adar (the 11th day of Adar if Shabbat, as in 2024). It is the 1st of 3 days of fasting observed by the Jewish people in the story of Purim, one of 2 events in the Book of Esther before she approached the King of Persia in the Gaonic period when the Jews fought a battle against their enemies. When the year has two Adar months, it is observed only in the second Adar (Adar II). It is not one of the 4 public fasts ordained by the Prophets and pregnant women, nursing mothers and those who are weak are not required to observe it. The 13th of Adar itself is thought to have been a fast day for the warriors while going out to the battle, as it is believed to have been customary to fast during the battle in order to gain divine favour.

26 February Purim (Festival of Lots). Annual celebration, on 14th day of Hebrew month of Adar (Adar II in Hebrew leap years every 2-3 years), of 5th Century BCE rescue of the Jews from the Persian Haman, who was planning to kill them all during the reign of Queen Esther of Persia. A rabbinically decreed joyous survival festival related in the Book of Esther. Celebrated by dressing up and 4 mitzvot (obligations): exchanging food and drink (mishloach manot, sending of portions, שלח־מנות‎ , Purim basket); charity giving (mattanot la-evyonim); a special meal (se’udat Purim) with prune hamantaschen (oznei Haman, Haman’s ears or pockets, Hojuelas de Haman) triangular sweet pastry dough filled with poppy seeds, and wine; and public recital of the Scroll of Esther (kriat ha-megillah, reading of the megillah), usually in the synagogue. Kreplachקרעפּלעך( קרפלך‎) filled dumplings are served by Ashkenazi Jews and Arany galuska, a dessert of fried dough balls, is traditional in Hungary. Special breads are baked, in Morocco ojos de Haman (eyes of Haman). Medieval European Jews would eat nilish blintz (waffles). In Poland, there is koilitch, a raisin challah loaf topped with small, coloured candies. There are normally parties and parades (Adloyada) to commemorate Esther the Jewish Queen of Persia and Mordecai her cousin foiling Haman. Effigies of Haman were controversially burnt, with a spiel (play) comic piece that by the 18th Century had evolved into broader satires. Shushan Purim on Adar 15 is the Jerusalem celebration and local Purims celebrate other escapes: Purim Vinz in Frankfurt; the 5th day of Tamuz in Kraków; Window Purim (Purim Taka) on 14 Adar and The Purim of Ibrahim Pasha, both in Hebron; and others in Yemen, Italy, Vilna and other places. Hitler banned Purim and committed atrocities on the day. This year, the warning for London’s strictly Orthodox Jewish community was that it had one of the world’s highest Covid-19 past infection rates with about 15,000 having contracted the coronavirus, a rate of 64% and 9 times higher than the UK average. Overcrowded homes and deprivation were cited as likely causes and Jewish men are twice as likely as Christian men to die from Covid-19 in the UK, even after an adjustment for socio-economic factors.

Prayer Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, commanded us regarding the reading of the megillah, wrought miracles for our forefathers in those days, kept us alive, sustained us and brought us again to this season. Amen

Chinese Lantern Festival (Yuan-Xiao Che, 元宵节). Chinese Taoist 15th and last day, near full moon, of Chinese New Year festival to celebrate the birthday of Tianguan, a Taoist god of good fortune. Normally, complicated lanterns, often of lucky red paper, are lit for the ancestral spirits to return to their tombs after joining the family, and very long paper dragons parade the streets. Filled Tangyuan (湯圓, 汤圆, glutinous rice balls) or rolled yuanxiao and the vegetable taro are eaten and fir branches are placed above doors. The traditional lion dance was originally seen only at this festival but now is seen throughout the year. In the countryside it was believed that processions and firecrackers would move diseases away.

St Robert of Newminster (c1100-59). Medieval celebration of West Yorkshire priest, Benedictine Abbot and confessor, one of the monks who founded the 1132 Cistercian Fountains Abbey and who is named from the abbey he founded near Morpeth. Zealous about his vows of poverty, in 1138 he went to establish Newminster Abbey and during his 21 years as Abbot was favoured with the gifts of prophecy and miracles. 3 more new monasteries were founded by 1148, at Pipewell, Roche and Sawley. Newminster was one of the first to be dissolved by Henry VIII in 1535 but

Robert’s tomb in the church has become an object of pilgrimage. Venerated in Roman Catholic Church. Feast Day 7 June, the day of his death.

27 February Comte de Saint Germain (Count of Saint Germain, Sanctus Germanus, Holy Brother, Master Rákóczi, der Wundermann) (c1710-84). Legendary immortal spiritual master of ancient wisdom in various Theosophical and post-Theosophical teachings. Adept in rites of Freemasons, Rosicrucians, Knights Templars. In New Age movements, identified as the Avatar of the Age of Aquarius and considered to be an Ascended Master, one of history’s greatest spiritual teachers. As an alchemist, he worked in an abandoned Eckernförde factory where he died.

St Raphael of Brooklyn (قديس رافائيل من بروكلين‎), Rufāʾīl Hawāwīnī, رفائيل هواويني) Greek Orthodox Feast Day for Damascene (1860-1915) Syrian Antiochian Orthodox Russian Orthodox Church Bishop of Brooklyn who was born in Beirut, Ottoman Syria, and died in Brooklyn. Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn, vicar of the Northern-American diocese and head of the Antiochian Levantine Christian mission. He was in 1904 the first Orthodox Christian bishop consecrated on American soil. He had furthered his study of Christian theology at the Theological Academy in Kiev, in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine) and was sent to New York City in 1895 by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia to administer the local Orthodox Christian community that then included mainly Russian, Greek and Levantine immigrants. Raphael founded the present-day Cathedral of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, established 29 parishes and assisted in the founding of Tikhon’s Orthodox Monastery. He founded the 1905 Arabic official magazine of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, The Word (لكلمة). In 1989, his relics were translated to the Antiochian Village Camp in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, with several other bishops and clergy. Venerated in Eastern Orthodoxy. Patron of America.

St Anne Line (Alice Higham) (c1563-1601). Commemoration of death of Puritan English granddaughter of an MP. She was a martyr from Dunmow who in 1583 married Roger Line, who was imprisoned for being a Catholic and exiled to Flanders, dying in 1594. Anne stayed in England, where she hid Catholic priests in a London priest hole, which was illegal during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. During the 2 February Purification of Our Blessed Lady (Candlemas), Anne was arrested, with another gentlewoman, for the felony of assisting a seminary priest. From Newgate Prison, she was sent to Tyburn for hanging, at the scaffold repeating what she had said at her trial, declaring loudly to the bystanders: “I am sentenced to die for harbouring a Catholic priest, and so far I am from repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand.” Her Feast Day, along with all the other English Martyrs, is on 4 May. In the Roman Catholic dioceses of England, she shares a Feast Day on 30 August with her fellow female martyr saints Margaret Clitherow and Margaret Ward.

Prayer Dear Lord, help us to value the knowledge and experience of others. Help us to appreciate other people’s values, so that the breadth and depth of our talents, our knowledge and experience, our innocence and enthusiasm, may enrich our community and bring us closer to You. Amen

28 February St Hilary, Pope (Hilarius) (d468). Commemoration of Sardinian successor to Pope St Leo I, under whom he was an archdeacon. Hilary was the guardian of Church unity and had been a papal legate to the 449 Second Council of Ephesus (Latrocinium) named the Robber Council by Pope Leo I, a name repudiated in Oriental Orthodoxy. Hilary strengthened the Church in France, Spain and Africa, rebuilt many churches and erected the chapel of St John Lateran. His decree to Eastern bishops validated the decisions of the General Councils of Nicaea, Ephesus and Chalcedon. Hilarius died on 29 February and was buried in the Basilica of St Lawrence outside the Walls. Feast Day 17 November.

Sunday of  the Prodigal Son. Greek and Russian Orthodox 2nd Sunday of the 3-week period prior to the beginning of Great Lent, with hymns from the Triodion, as on the previous Sunday, with the focus on the parable of the Prodigal Son that leads Orthodox Christians to contemplate the necessity of repentance in their relationship with our Heavenly Father. The parable is of a man with two sons, the younger one squandering his inheritance on prodigal living in a distant country and working as a poor swineherd. Returning to his father to seek work as a servant, his father saw him in the distance, had compassion, ran to meet him and embraced him. The prodigal admitted his sinfulness and unworthiness to be called a son, but his father forgave him and treated him nobly. The brother refused to celebrate, saying he had been faithful to his father for many years but was never treated with a feast. In the words of our Lord, we learn of 3 things through this parable: the condition of the sinner; the rule of repentance; and the greatness of God’s compassion as He patiently and lovingly waits for our return from our sinful lives. In the week that follows the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, fasting is observed on Wednesday and Friday. This is the last week where meat is allowed on non-fasting days. The next Sunday is the Sunday of the Last Judgment (Meatfare Sunday) and the last day that meat can be eaten prior to the fast of Great Lent.

Prayer When we disobey Thy fatherly glory in ignorance, we waste in iniquities the riches that Thou gavest us. Wherefore, we cry to Thee with the voice of the prodigal son, saying we have sinned before Thee. Compassionate Father receive us repentant to make us Your servants. Amen

St Oswald (Oswald of Worcester) (d992). Feast Day for Danish Bishop of Worcester and Archbishop of York who worked to eliminate abuses as one of the leading promoters, together with Æthelwold, of St Dunstan’s work to purify the Church from secularism and revive monastic discipline along the precepts of the Rule of Saint Benedict. Oswald founded a number of monasteries, including Ramsey Abbey, and reformed 7, including Winchcombe, Pershore and Evesham. He often violently ejected secular clergy from churches and replaced them with monks. Oswald died on 29 February in the act of washing the feet of the poor at Worcester, as was his daily custom during Lent, and was buried in the Church of Saint Mary at Worcester. Almost immediately after his death, miracles were reported, both at his funeral and at his tomb. Venerated with both St Dunstan and St Æthelwold as one of the 3 saints who revived English monasticism. Feast Day 19 May in Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.