Monday 1 March

Nineteen Day Fast (Feast of ‘Alá (Loftiness)). Start of Bahá’í 19-day ‘Alá last month of Bahá’í year to 19 March, during which members of the Baháʼí Faith fast during the day, making time for obligatory prayer, to bring their person closer to God, and meditation. A significant period in the Bahá’í 19-month year, beginning immediately after Ayyám-i-Há, the 24-28 February Intercalary Days, and ending at Naw-Rúz, the Baháʼí New Year on the Vernal Equinox (19, 20 or 21 March, depending on the year). During this month, Bahá’ís between the ages of 15 and 70 completely abstain from food, drink and smoking between sunrise and sunset. There are exemptions, including for those engaged in heavy labour, the ill or elderly, travellers, the pregnant or those nursing. In extremely high latitudes, as the duration of days and nights varies considerably, the times of the fast are fixed by the clock. The fast is one of the greatest obligations of a Baháʼí, its chief purpose being spiritual, to reinvigorate the soul. It was instituted by the Báb, the founder of the Bábí faith, in his Persian book the Bayán. He stated that the true significance of the Muslim practice was to profit mankind by abstaining from all except the love of the Messengers (Teachers) from God and that the continuation of the fast was contingent on the approval of a messianic figure, Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest. Baháʼu’lláh, the founder of the Baháʼí Faith, was that figure and restated the rules of the fast in his Kitáb-i-Aqdas book of laws. This Baháʼí fast resembles those of other religions: Lent or Great Lent for Christians; Yom Kippur and many holidays for Jews; and Ramadan for Muslims. It differs from Ramadan, as it is a fixed month, not a lunar month with Gregorian dates where the length of the days will vary from year to year.

Prayer May we perform every good work, not failing in the least scruple to be trustworthy and honest. If we fall short in our affairs, yet be trustworthy and honest, may our defects ultimately be righted, all injuries remedied and all infirmities healed. No God is there but Thee, the Almighty, the All-Wise.

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant (St David’s Day) (c500-89). Anglican and Catholic Church annual Welsh National Feast Day commemorating, since the 12th Century, the death of the aristocratic ascetic teacher, Bishop of Menevia and Patron Saint of Wales. He founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (The Vale of Roses), an important Christian shrine where St David’s Cathedral stands today, and helped found 11 others. His final words to the community of monks were: “Brothers be ye constant. The yoke which with single mind ye have taken, bear ye to the end; and whatsoever ye have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfil.” In both local and expatriate Welsh communities, traditional festivities include: flying his flag (Baner Dewi Sant), a yellow cross on a black field; wearing Welsh dress and daffodils and leeks, symbols of Wales and St David respectively; and eating Welsh food such as lamb, cawl (stew), Welsh cakes (pice ar y maen), Welsh tea bread loaf (bara brith) and Welsh rarebit. Happy St David’s Day is Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Haus.

Revd George Herbert (1593-1633). Lutheran Commemoration of death of wealthy Welsh Church of England metaphysical poet, priest, theologian, orator and hymnwriter He was author of The Temple, a collection of poems, The Country Parson, a guide to rural ministry, and Jacula Prudentum (Darts of the Wise), a collection of almost 1200 proverbs. As rector of Fugglestone St Peter with Bemerton, near Salisbury, he helped rebuild the latter church and adjacent rectory out of his own funds. Twice weekly, he attended services in Salisbury Cathedral and afterwards joined in musicmaking with the cathedral musicians. Having suffered for most of his life from poor health, he died of consumption in Bemerton only 3 years after taking holy orders.

Tuesday 2 March

The Reverends John Wesley (1703-91) and Charles Wesley (1707-88). Lutheran Commemoration, on the date of the death of the non-Calvinist cleric, theologian, evangelist and author John, of Lincolnshire brother Anglican/Methodist priests and renewers of the church. John was the Wesleyan-Arminianism President of the 1744 Methodist Conference and his societies are still dominant in the independent Methodist movement. When the brothers were High Church missionaries to the Native American people in Savannah, Georgia, they were influenced by the Moravian settlers’ deeply personal religion and on their return to England heard them reading the works of Martin Luther. The brothers decided to form a separate Methodist Society in England, starting with the 1739 trustee-run Bristol New Room chapel, where John was seen on horseback, and others in Kingswood and London. The brothers remained in the Church of England, the Methodist movement lying well within its tradition but, in the early ministry years to the neglected and needy, John was barred from preaching in many parish churches and the Methodists were persecuted. He thus travelled and preached outdoors to small groups in Great Britain and Ireland and appointed unordained local preachers to care for these groups. Methodists became leaders on many social issues of the day, including the abolition of slavery. John later became widely respected and was described as the best-loved man in England. In 2002, he was number 50 on the BBC’s list of the 100 Greatest Britons. The Church of England was disestablished in the American colonies after the American War of Independence and in 1784 John decided to ordain a superintendent of Methodists for what would become the Protestant Episcopal Church in America. During his lifetime, John travelled widely, some 250,000 miles on horseback, and preached 2 or 3 times a day with more than 40,000 sermons. As his health declined sharply towards the end of his life, he ceased preaching, leaving 135,000 members under 541 itinerant preachers and the name Methodist. His last words were: “The best of all is, God is with us.” He was entombed at his chapel on City Road in London.

Prayer We are no longer our own, but Thine. Put us to what Thou wilt. Put us to doing, put us to suffering. Let us be employed for Thee or laid aside for Thee, exalted for Thee or brought low for Thee. Let us be full, let us be empty. Freely, heartily we yield all things to Thy pleasure and disposal. Amen

St Chad of Mercia (c634-672). Feast Day commemorating death of famed Northumbrian monastic leader who studied at Lindisfarne and, whilst Finan and Colmán were bishops at Lindisfarne, travelled to Ireland as a monk before he was ordained as a priest. Shortly after the 664 Synod of Whitby, his elder brother Cedd died of the plague and was succeeded by Chad as Abbot at Lastingham. Chad was then invited to be Bishop of the Northumbrians and Bishop of the church in York to succeed Paulinus. When Chad retired and returned to Lastingham, Wilfrid became Bishop of the Northumbrians at York. Recalled from Lastingham, Chad was consecrated Bishop of the Mercians (frontier people) and of the Lindsey people (Lindisfaras). According to the Venerable Bede, Cedd and Chad introduced Christianity to the Mercian kingdom. Land was donated at Lichfield for Chad to build a monastery and the Diocese of Mercia ultimately became settled at Lichfield, close to the old Roman road of Watling Street, the main route across Mercia. Other land was donated at Barrow upon Humber (Ad Barwae) in Lindsey, where an Anglo-Saxon monastery was later founded. Until the end of his life, Chad was Abbot of Lastingham, as well as heading the communities at both Lichfield and Barrow. Bede says Chad governed the bishopric of the Mercians and of the people of Lindsey in the manner of the ancient fathers and in great perfection of life. Chad worked in Mercia and Lindsey for only 2½ years before he too died during a plague and was buried at the Church of Saint Mary, which later became part of the Cathedral of Lichfield. Chad was the centre of an important cult focussed on healing throughout the Middle Ages. During the Reformation, his shrine was dissolved about 1538, on the instructions of King Henry VIII, and Chad’s relics were eventually re-enshrined in 1837 in the new Birmingham St Chad’s Cathedral, which opened in 1841. In 1919, an Annual Mass and Solemn Outdoor Procession of the Relics was first held there. It continues on the Saturday nearest to his Feast Day. Venerated in Catholic, Celtic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, Anglican Communion. Shrines at Lichfield and Birmingham Cathedrals. Patron of Mercia, Lichfield.

Bl Charles the Good (1083-1127). Feast Day for son of St Knut, King of Denmark. Charles grew up to be a knight crusader to the Holy Land where he distinguished himself and on his return fought against the English. The people came to have a high regard for Charles’ wise and beneficent ways as well as his personal holiness. Charles ruled his people with wisdom, diligence and compassion, making sure that times of truce were respected and fighting black marketeers who hoarded food and then waited to sell it to people at astronomical prices. The black marketeers killed him when praying.

Wednesday 3 March

Hina Matsuri (Dolls’ Festival). Annual Shinto Japanese Girls’ or Peach Festival, March being when peach flowers bloom in Japan. Clay dolls of the Emperor and Empress are displayed in the home with offerings of peach blossom, rice-wine and rice-cakes. The dolls symbolise the family’s wish that their daughters will be healthy and happy and they carry away any illness that is afflicting the daughters of the house, for whom prayers are offered.

St Katharine Drexel (1858-1955), Feast Day commemorating death of Philadelphia 2nd American-born Catholic saint. A heiress who travelled across the USA and Europe, she became a brilliant educator. Having seen in 1884 the troubling and poor situation of Native Americans in the Western states, she wished to help them. In 1887, she toured Europe seeking missionaries for this and the Pope suggested that she become a missionary. In 1891, she made her first vows as a religious and dedicated herself and her inheritance to working for the American Indians and African-Americans in the Western USA. Katharine established a religious congregation, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored and published A Navaho-English Catechism of Christian Doctrine for the use of Navaho Children. By the time of her death, she had more than 500 Sisters teaching in 63 schools throughout the country and 50 missions for Native Americans in 16 different states. After a heart attack at 77, she was forced to retire and died at 96, being buried at her Order’s motherhouse. The Sisters continue to pursue Katharine’s mission with the African-Americans and Native Americans in 21 of the states and in Haiti. There have been 2 miraculous cures of deafness through Katharine’s intercession. Patron of racial justice and philanthropists.

Prayer Lord, thank you for the vaccines that help protect people from Covid-19. We pray for all those in countries who do not have access to them yet. Please provide for them and help us to be people of charity and hope in the waiting, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

St Winwaloc (Wonnow, Wynwallow, Gwenno) (d532). Feast Day for Anglo-Saxon Brittany-born Abbot-founder. At 15, he entered the Lauren Island monastery and some years later he and 11 monks founded, on donated land, Landevenne Monastery, Brest where he died. As churches in Cornwall are dedicated to him, it is possible that he had some local connections or that some of his relics were later translated there. Patron invoked for fertility.

Thursday 4 March

Św Kazimierz Polski (St Casimir Jagiellon of Poland, Kazimieras, Casimirus) (1458-84). Feast Day for pious Kraków prince of the Kingdom of Poland and of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a Confessor known for his devotion to God and generosity towards the poor and sick. His father tried to install him as King of Hungary, Poland amassing an army of 12,000 with Casimir participating in the campaign at 13 but, facing 16,000 men outside of Pest, the Polish army retreated. Casimir died of tuberculosis at 25, after a particularly hard fast, and was buried in the crypt of Vilnius Cathedral. The Daily, Daily Sing to Mary Hymn is attributed to him and a cult grew around him, which was not helpful to Protestant Reformation but saw a resurgence in the 17th Century. A 1518 miracle attributed to Casimir was his appearance before the Lithuanian army during the Siege of Polotsk to show a safe crossing of the Daugava River to relieve the city, which was besieged by the army of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Saint Casimir’s 1520 painting in Vilnius Cathedral is considered to be miraculous as, when the painter attempted to paint a new hand, the old hand reappeared. Casimir’s iconography usually follows the 3-handed painting. In Vilnius, the 1636 annual Kaziuko mugė (Saint Casimir’s Fair) is a large folk arts and crafts fair ending on the Sunday nearest to his Feast Day. Venerated in Roman Catholic Church. Major shrine 1636 Chapel of Saint Casimir, Vilnius Cathedral. His name was given to the 1785 San Casimiro in Venezuela and also the 1836 Saint-Casimir in Canada. Patron of Lithuania (Patronus principalis Lithuaniae,1636), Lithuanian youth (1948).

Prayer Daily, Daily Sing to Mary, sing our souls her praises due. All her glorious actions cherish, with our hearts’ devotion true. Lost in wonder, be her majesty confessed! Call her Mother, call her Virgin, Happy Mother, Virgin blest! Let our hearts be quick to offer love the heart alone can reach. Amen

St Adrian (d875). Feast Day for aristocratic Hungarian Bishop and missionary. He resigned his local bishopric to undertake a missionary project among the Scots and then retired to a monastery in the vicinity of the Firth of Forth. He and his fellow religious were murdered there by Danish Norse invaders.

St Owen (d680). Feast Day for Benedictine monk, once a steward in the household of St Etheldreda (Audrey), the East Anglian Anglo-Saxon princess and Fenland and Northumbrian Queen and Abbess of Ely. Owen entered Lastingham monastery under St Chad, whom he later followed to Lichfield.

Friday 5 March

St John Joseph of the Cross (Carlo Gaetano Calosinto OFM) (1654-1739). Feast Day commemorating death of Neapolitan priest and Master of Novices from the island of Ischia, a professed member of the Order of Friars Minor with a reputation for austerity and for the gift of miracles. Entering the Order at 15, he was in 1674 sent to found a convent for the order at Afila in Piedmont. Ordained to the priesthood very much against his will, he was appointed Vicar Provincial of the Alcantarine Reform in the Italian peninsula and ordered that no beggar should be dismissed from the convent gate without some form of relief, in times of need donating to them his own portions and at times those of the convent. When he trekked across the mainland as the Provincial, he would not make his elevated status known at the inns where he lodged because he disliked distinction and did not believe that this should be given to him. He desired those whom he restored to health to take some certain medicine so that the cure might be attributed to a mere natural source. With regard to his own prophecies, which were numerous, he affected to judge from analogies and experiences. Venerated in Roman Catholic Church. He died on Ischia, with a small chapel being consecrated to him at the Aragonese Castle (Il Castello Aragonese). Patron of Ischia.

St Ciarán of Saigir (St Kieran IPA, Ciarán mac Luaigne, Cieran, the Elder, Ciaranus Maior) (b4th Century-dc530). Feast Day for noble Christian Bishop of Saighir (Saighir Chiaráin) born on Cape Clear Island, where he built a church. One of St Patrick’s Twelve Apostles of Ireland and the 1st saint born in Ireland. Feast Day shared with his mother, St Liadán, whom the druids told he would be world-famous, and his disciple and successor St Carthach the Elder. After travelling to Rome, where he met St Patrick, Ciarán settled as a hermit caring for wildlife at pre-Christian Saighir. A large monastery grew up there, which became a centre for the preaching of the Gospel and a large industrial community noted for its wealth. It was the chosen burial place for the Kings of the Medieval Irish kingdom of Osraige (Ossory) and was superseded by the later monastic foundation of St Canice at nearby Aghaboe. St Liadán went to Saighir with a group of women who devoted their lives to the service of God and the members of her son’s community. Ciarán was a holy man wearing skins and dwelling in the wilderness, a Western John the Baptist and a forerunner to the British St Patrick, as John was to Christ. Venerated in England, Brittany, Wales, Scotland and Orthodox Catholic, Roman Catholic and certain Protestant churches. Major shrine Saighir. The 1782 St Kieran’s College is the oldest of all the Roman Catholic secondary schools in all Ireland. Patron of Kingdom of Ossory, St Kieran’s College.

Women’s World Day of Prayer. The service material for this 1887 annual international interdenominational prayer movement is produced by a different country each year. This year the theme was: “Building on a Strong Foundation”, with a Vanuatu worship service video and live virtual services available on YouTube or by telephone. This Day of Prayer was different from any previous one but was a global event and an important date in every local ecumenical calendar and for the Registered Charity of the National Committee of World Day of Prayer for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Prayer On this World Day of Prayer to build on a strong foundation, we pray for all the services happening around the world, for the weather, venues, those attending virtually or physically, for friendship, fellowship, most of all that the people of Vanuatu feel the wave of prayer washing over them. Amen

Saturday 6 March

Saturday of Souls (Soul Saturday). A day set aside for the commemoration of the dead within the liturgical year of the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches. Saturday is a traditional day of prayer for the dead, as Christ lay dead in the tomb on a Saturday. These days are devoted to prayer and hymns for departed relatives and others among the faithful not commemorated as saints. Koliva (wheatberry) is prepared and placed on the Panikhida (Memorial) Table for blessing and sharing. The 2nd Saturday before the 15 March start of Great Lent, it is the 1st Soul Saturday and for the Orthodox, Bulgarian, Slavic, Greek and Byzantine Catholics it is Meatfare Saturday. There are several Soul Saturdays throughout the year:

Prayer We pray for all those who, from ages past, have piously fallen asleep, in the hope of resurrection unto life eternal. Also, for the faithful Orthodox Christians who were the victims of the Terrorist Attack of 9/11, the Chornobyl Nuclear Disaster, abortion and the Coronavirus across the planet. Amen

Santa Coleta (St Colette of Corbie PCC, Nicole Boellet) (1381-1447). Feast Day commemorating death of poor Burgundian Abbess who joined the Third Order of St Francis and became a hermit by the abbey church of Corbie. After dreams and visions, she felt called to return the Franciscan Second Order to its original ideals of absolute poverty and austerity. In 1406, she was transferred to the Order of Poor Clares to found new monasteries and complete the reform of the Order. In 1410 she opened her first monastery at Besançon and her reform spread to Auxonne, Poligny Ghent Heidelberg, Amiens, Pont-à-Mousson and other communities of Poor Clares. During her lifetime, 18 reform monasteries were founded, practising extreme poverty, going barefoot and observing perpetual fasting and abstinence. In addition to the strict Rule of the Poor Clares, the Colettines follow their special 1434 Constitutions too. Colette also helped reform the Franciscan friars (Coletans) to form a unique branch of the Order of Friars Minor that never attained much importance, with only 13 friaries all attached to monasteries of the Colettine nuns that were merged into the wider Observant branch. After a number of miraculous events during her life, Colette died at Ghent and the miracles continued. The Colettine nuns are found in France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Norway, the Philippines, Spain, the UK and the USA. Venerated in Roman Catholicism (Franciscan Order, especially the Colettine Poor Clares). Major shrine Monastery of Bethlehem, Ghent. Patron of women seeking to conceive, and expectant mothers and sick children.

St Conon (Conon of Perga, Conon the gardener) (d250). Orthodox and Roman Catholic Feast Day for Nazarene Greek Christian martyr who was put to death in Perga, Turkey because of his refusal to sacrifice to the Roman pagan gods. His was executed by having spikes driven through his feet and then being made to run in front of his own chariot. He was the last known descendant (desposyni) of the family (οικογένεια) of Jesus Christ. During the Italian campaign against the Lombards, a stone with an incised cross stood over the Roman Porta Appia, with the names of St George and St Conon.

Sunday 7 March

Judgment Sunday (Meatfare Sunday). Greek and Russian Orthodox celebration of last day that meat can be eaten prior to the fast of Great Lent. The parables of the past 2 Sundays have presented God’s extreme goodness and love for man. But if one puts confidence in this alone, live carelessly, squandering upon sin the time given to work out salvation, and death suddenly comes, the most divine Fathers have appointed this day’s feast commemorating Christ’s impartial Second Coming, through which we bring to mind that God is not only the Friend of man, but also the most righteous Judge, Who recompenses to each according to their deeds. The Holy Fathers wish to rouse us to the work of virtue and to move us to love and compassion for our brethren. Next Sunday (Cheesefare) commemorates Adam’s exile from Paradise and today is the last of all feasts, because on the last day of judgment, truly, everything of this world will come to an end. All foods, except meat and meat products, are allowed during the coming week.

Prayer O God, when You come upon the earth in glory, the whole world will tremble. A river of fire will bring all before Your Judgment Seat and the books will be opened, everything secret will be public. Deliver us then from the fire that never dies and enable us to stand by Your right hand. Amen

Sts Perpetua and Felicity and Companions (Perpetua, Felicitas, Revocatus, Saturninus, Saturus et Secundulus) (dc203). Lutheran Commemoration and Catholic Feast Day for Christian martyrs at Carthage who lived during the early persecution of the Church in Africa. In 203, at 22 and recently-married, Vivia Perpetua, a well-educated pagan noblewoman mother with a baby son she was nursing, and her brother became Christians and prepared for baptism. Perpetua was separated from her baby and arrested with 4 other catechumens, including two slaves, Felicity and Revocatus, and Saturninus and Secundulus. Their instructor in the faith, Saturus, chose to share their punishment and was also imprisoned. Perpetua had been baptised before being taken to prison. She was known for her gift of the Lord’s speech and receiving messages from God, at the time of her baptism being told to pray for nothing but endurance in the face of her trials. The young slave Felicity was 8 months pregnant and could thus not be executed as this would kill her innocent child but she gave birth and the child was taken away. Deacons helped Perpetua’s mother and brother to visit with her baby. While she prayed, Perpetua ascended a golden ladder reaching up to heaven. Secundulus died in prison and the new Christians and their teacher went to the arena with joy and calm, Perpetua saying: “We came to die out of our own free will so we wouldn’t lose our freedom to worship our God. We gave you our lives so that we wouldn’t have to worship your gods.” The men were attacked by bears, leopards and wild boars. The women faced a rabid heifer but the crowd objected to this and they were put to face the gladiators. Perpetua and Felicity stood side by side to be killed by the sword at Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. Sts. Perpetua and Felicity are the patron saints of mothers and expectant mothers, ranchers and butchers.

St Paul the Simple (St Paul of Egypt) (c225-c339). Feast Day for Egyptian farmer, hermit and disciple of St Anthony the Great. Paul was a clear example for the rule and type of blessed simplicity. At 60, he left his unfaithful wife and told St Anthony he wished to become a monk. He was advised to be content with the life of being a thankful and pious labourer and to work on weaving a rope out of palm leaves, undoing what he had done, and doing it again. St Anthony thus tested Paul’s endurance and humility through hard work, severe fasting, with nightly vigils, constant singing of Psalms, and prostrations. He was impressed by Paul’s dedication and permitted him a separate cell some miles from his own. Eventually, Paul was able to cast out demons, whilst Anthony had not received that power. Venerated in Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, Anglican Communion.

Monday 8 March

Cheesefare Monday. Start of annual Orthodox Maslenitsa (Cheesefare Week, Butter Week, Crêpe week, Syropust, Kolodiya, Masnytsia, Масленіца, Мaсленица, Масниця, Fašengy) observed by Eastern Slavs, mostly in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, and the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian diaspora. Last week before Great Lent, the 8th week before the Eastern Orthodox Pascha (Easter). Dating from the 2nd Century and the oldest surviving Slavic holiday, it has its origins in a pagan sun-festival for the ancient god Volos to celebrate the end of winter. Similar to Western Christian Carnival(Mardi Gras)but celebrated by visits, sleigh rides, dressing up, bonfires, snowball fights and making blini (thin pancakes), and in Ukraine and Belarus varenyky (filled dumplings) with cottage cheese or sour cream. Meat is forbidden after the previous day and this is the last week during which eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products are permitted. Since Lent excludes parties, secular music, dancing and other distractions from spiritual life, this normally represents the last chance to join in social activities that are not appropriate during the more prayerful, sober and introspective Lenten season.

San Juan de Dios (St John of God OH, Joannes Dei, João Duarte Cidade) (1495-1550). Roman Catholic Feast Day for impoverished Portuguese soldier turned Spanish healthcare worker, one of the leading religious figures in the Iberian Peninsula. At 8, he was abducted to Toledo and worked as a shepherd before in his early 20s enlisting as a foot-soldier guarding an enormous amount of plunder. Much of this was ransacked and he was condemned to death, rescued from hanging and returned to shepherding for 4 years. He enlisted again for the next 18 years before returning to Spain and then travelling to the colony of Ceuta on the northern coast of Morocco to care for the destitute family of a friend. Franciscan friars advised him to return to Spain and in Andalusia he had a vision of the Infant Jesus directing him to go to Granada to peddle books and improve the life of the poor. He made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Extremadura where he experienced a vision of Mary who encouraged him to do charitable work with the poor of the city. He organised the 1572 Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God, a worldwide Catholic religious institute dedicated to the care of the poor, sick and those suffering from mental disorders. The Order maintains a presence in 53 countries, operating more than 300 hospitals, services, and centres serving a range of medical needs in addition to mental health and psychiatry. The Family of Saint John of God, as those who commit to his vision are called, is made up of more than 45,000 members, Brothers and Co-workers, and is supported by tens of thousands of benefactors and friends. The Order has been officially entrusted with the medical care of the Pope. John of God died in Granada  and he was buried in the church of the Minim friars. The Hospitaller Brothers had his relics moved to the church of their hospital and a church was erected in 1757 to house his remains, protected by the Knights of Saint John of God. Major shrine Basilica of St John of God, Granada. Alternative Feast Day 8 March and, in Byzantine Rite Ukrainian Lutheran Church, 26 November. Patron of hospitals, nurses, the physically sick, the mentally ill, the dying, booksellers.

Prayer John of God, we come before you on behalf of those suffering from diseases of the body and mind. We pray that they have the grace and strength to bear their sickness with patience and dignity and ask God to bless them with carers who are wise and can alleviate their suffering. Amen

Heilagur Jón Ögmundsson (St Jón Helgi Ögmundsson, Ioannes Ögmundi filius) (1052-1121). Feast Day for Bishop of Hólar (Hólar í Hjaltadal) one of the Apostles of Iceland. In 1106, this 2nd Icelandic diocese was created in the north and Jón was moved from the south to serve as its Bishop until his death. A religious purist, Jón made it his mission to attempt to uproot all remnants of paganism, including changing the names of the days of the week, Óðinsdagr (Day of Odin) becoming miðvikudagr (mid-week day) and the days of Týr and Thor becoming the third and fifth days. These names are still in use in Iceland but Jón did not manage to displace the memory of the heathen gods as more than a century after his death the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda preserved large amounts of pagan myth and poetry. A Latin vita about St. Jón was written in the early 13th  Century. Jón’s relics were translated to the cathedral of Hólar in 1200, thus making him a local Icelandic saint. Venerated primarily in Hólar and his birthplace of Breiðabólstaður í Fljótshlíð.

Tuesday 9 March

St Mary’s Jacobite Syrian Church. Commemoration of 409 Indian Jacobite Syrian Orthodox church, the first church built in Angamaly, Kerala and now known as St Mary’s Soonoro Cathedral. It is the seat of the Archdeacon, the local head of the Malankara Church and has hence held an important position in Malankara for many centuries. After the 52 arrival to preach the Gospel in India, in 345 about 400 Syrian families immigrated to Mahathevar Patnam to establish the first known Christian centre in India and, after local Jews became inhospitable, they took refuge in Ankamalee (Angamaly) and built a thatched wooden church near the palace of the local chieftain. Records show that 2 present parishes were administered there in 1069 during the Malayalam Era. The whole parish defied the decrees of the 1599 Synod of Diamper and resisted the Portuguese, local kings and petty chieftains, all 18 priests of the church abstaining from the Synod. The militant Portuguese bishop caused a schism and established a Roman Catholic presence in 24 of 69 churches, including the St George Church of St Mary’s Church in Ankamaly, the latter being one of the 45 churches that remained faithful to Syrian Orthodoxy. In 1808, an ancient Estrangelo Bible of the Persian Catholicate of the Syrian Orthodox Church, written in East Syriac and brought from the Holy See of Antioch to the Angamaly church, was presented to an Anglican missionary and is now in the archives of the Cambridge University library.

The Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebastia. Greek Orthodox commemoration of Lesser Armenian Christians, soldiers in the royal regiment of Sebastia  martyred c320 for remaining steadfast in their faith. Defying the judges, they were imprisoned and thrown at night into a lake near Sebastia to freeze to death. However, at dawn halos were seen encircling their heads, as they had miraculously been saved from freezing. They were later executed and the martyrs’ remains are buried in Sebastia, where subsequently a 40-domed Cathedral was built. The Cathedral of Sebastia stood for nearly 1,000 years, until the invasion of Tamerlane and the Mongols at the end of the 14th Century. However, the Forty Martyrs Cathedral name has survived to this day.

Prayer The Lord said to his disciples: “Beware of men who will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, to be brought before kings and governors for My name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony.” May we all keep our faith. Amen

Santa Francesca Romana (St Frances of Rome Obl OSB, Sāncta Francisca Rōmāna) (1384-1440). Feast Day commemorating death of wealthy, aristocratic Roman wife, mother, mystic and organiser of charitable services. At 11, she wanted to be a nun but at 12 she was forced to marry the wealthy commander of the papal troops in Rome, a happy marriage lasting for 40 years. With her sister-in-law, Frances visited the poor and took care of the sick, inspiring other wealthy women of the city to do the same. Soon after her marriage, Frances fell seriously ill and her husband called in a man who dabbled in magic, but Frances drove him away and later said that St Alexis had appeared to her and cured her. During a time of flood and famine, she turned part of her country estate into a hospital and distributed food and clothing to the poor, the corn and wine being miraculously replenished after she finished praying. During the wars between the Pope in Rome and various anti-popes in the Western Schism of the Catholic Church, her son was to be delivered as a hostage to the commander of the Neapolitan troops but his horse refused to move and the soldiers returned the boy to his mother. Her husband was wounded by Neapolitan forces and never fully recovered, Frances nursing him throughout the remaining 7 years of his life. They lost two children to the plague, various forces competed for power on the Italian peninsula and Rome was largely in ruins with wolves on the streets but Frances again opened her home as a hospital and drove her wagon through the countryside to collect wood for the fire and herbs for medicine. In 1425, on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, she founded the Olivetan Oblates of Mary, a confraternity of pious women, under the authority of the Olivetan monks of the Abbey of Santa Maria Nova in Rome but neither cloistered nor bound by formal vows, so they could follow her pattern of combining a life of prayer with answering the needs of their society. She founded the 1433 monastery at Tor de’Specchi to allow for a common life by members of the confraternity, this monastery remaining the only house of the Institute. The members received approval as a Benedictine religious congregation of oblates with private religious vows, later known as the Oblates of St Frances of Rome. When her husband died in 1436, she moved to the monastery as the Superior, dying and being buried in Santa Maria Nova, her body being incorrupt some months after her death. Her remains were reburied in the Church of Santa Maria Nova in 1649 and in 1869 were put on display in a glass coffin for the veneration of the faithful, the Church now being usually referred to as the Church of St Frances. She had the gift of healing and over 60 miraculous cases were attested. Venerated in Roman Catholic Church. Major shrine Church of Santa Francesca Romana, Rome. Patron of Benedictine oblates, car drivers, widows.

Wednesday 10 March

Melasti (Mekiyis, Melis). Traditional purification ritual held 3 days prior to the Hindu New Year Nyepi holy day, which is held in very high regard by Hindus in Indonesia and specifically those in Bali. The aim of the ceremony is to cleanse oneself and the world of negative bad karma and sin through acquiring the Tirta Amerta (Water of Life). It is held by the sea, as in Hinduism such sources of water are believed to be the source of life. Melasti is one of the rituals that the Balinese people observe to celebrate the coming of the Hari Raya Nyepi Bali Hindu New Year and it is performed near to the water at a pura (Hindu temple). Using sea water, the ritual purifies sacred objects including the Arca, Pratima and Pralingga sacred temple objects that concentrate the mind in order to come closer to the Balinese God Baruna. This year, the participants taking part in the annual procession are limited to 50, fireworks and firecrackers are prohibited, those who are sick or feel unwell cannot participate and all participants must follow strict health protocols.

Sojourner Truth (Isabella Baumfree) (c1797-1883). Lutheran Commemoration of New York Dutch-speaking escaped slave, renewer of society, abolitionist, author and human and women’s rights activist. She escaped with her infant daughter in 1826 and recovered her son in 1828, the 1st black woman to win such a court case against a white man. In 1843, having become a devout Methodist, she felt God calling her to leave the city and go into the countryside to testify the hope that was in her. She spoke in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, the speech becoming widely known during the Civil War by the title Ain’t I a Woman? Over the next 10 years, she spoke to many abolitionist, prison reform and women’s rights audiences. She helped recruit black troops for the Union Army in the 1861-65 American Civil War, and then unsuccessfully sought land grants from the federal government for formerly enslaved people (40 acres and a mule). Truth’s funeral at the Congregational-Presbyterian Church in Battle Creek had nearly 1,000 people attending the service and she was buried in the city’s Oak Hill Cemetery. In 2009, she was the first African American woman to have a statue in the Capitol building and, in 2014, Truth was included in Smithsonian magazine’s list of the 100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.

Prayer Almighty God, Who hast made Thy Church one body with many members and gifts, we thank Thee for the witness of Thy daughter, Sojourner Truth, and for her courage to preach the truth of Thy liberating love in the face of great injustice. Grant that we too may thus use all our talents. Amen

St John Ogilvie (1579-1615). Feast Day for noble Calvinist Scot who, impressed by the faith of the martyrs, became a Catholic at 17 and sought to become a Jesuit. Ordained at Paris in 1610, he went back to Scotland to ask Catholic nobles for support but, finding none, went to London and Paris before returning to Scotland. John’s work was successful in bringing back many people to the faith but he was betrayed by one posing as a Catholic. He was arrested and tortured in prison in an effort to get him to reveal the names of other Catholics, but he refused. After 3 trials, John was convicted of high treason because he converted Protestants to the Catholic faith as well as denying the king’s spiritual jurisdiction by upholding the Pope’s spiritual primacy and condemning the oaths of supremacy and allegiance. Sentenced to death, the courageous priest was finally hanged in Glasgow at only 36.

Thursday 11 March

Maha Shivratri (The Great Night of Shiva). Hindu Vedic fast for the night on which Lord Shiva is said to perform the Tandava Nritya cosmic dance of creation, preservation and destruction. Milk is poured on his symbol of divine generative energy, the lingam, and there are offerings of fruit, leaves and sweets. This is one of the most significant Hindu festivals, celebrating the convergence of Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti. All-night prayers focus on Shiva and his shrines and statues, with the chanting of mantras and prayers in praise of Lord Shiva. There is a Shivaratri in every luni-solar month of the Hindu calendar (Masik Shivaratri) but  Maha Shivaratri is celebrated only once a year in February or March before the arrival of Summer. In Kerala, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in the month of Kumbham with all-day fasts, the reciting of the Panchakshara mantra Om Namah Shivaya and the singing of hymns praising Lord Shiva at the ancient Hindu Aluta Mahadeva Temple dedicated to Shiva, where an idol emerges from the sand on the riverbank.

Lailat ul Isra Wal Mi Raj (The Prophet’s Night Journey and Ascent, Shab-e-Miraj, Isra Mi’raj, Miraaj nabi). Muslim celebration of the night journey of the Prophet Muhammad (مُحَمَّد) (peace be upon him) from Mecca to the Temple Mount where he was lifted up to heaven until he reached Paradise where he met all the prophets and saw the light of Allah. The command that Muslims should pray 5 times each day was given to the Prophet. The rock from which the Prophet ascended is now in Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. Muslims mark this night by reading the Qur’an and by saying additional prayers.

Fravardigan ancient festival to 20 March in Iran, at the end of the Zoroastrian old year, remembering the immortal souls and fravashis (departed ancestors’ guardian spirits, half man/half bird) that come to reside in the place of worship). With prayers, recital of the 5 Gathas (hymns), cleansing of houses, incense, flowers and daily sacred food sampling during ceremonies. Celebrated 7 July in Kadmi religious year and 6 August inShahenshai Parsi year. In the first week of the first month of new year, Fravardin, there are several significant days: Mah Fravardin Roj Hormuzd (New Year); Mah Fravardin Roj Ardibehesht (Day to consecrate Rapithwan); Mah Fravardin Roj Khordad (Khordad Sal and traditionally Asho Zarathushtra’s Birthday).

Prayer May this and all other households be happy, may there be blessing! May there be happiness among all the many people of all the religion of Zartosht! We beseech you, Lord, to grant to the present ruler, to all the community, and to all those of the Good Religion, health and fair repute. Amen

Friday 12 March

St Gregory the Great (Gregorius I, Pope Gregory I) (c540-604) Latin and Eastern Churches, Anglican Feast Day and Lutheran Commemoration on the anniversary of the death of Roman senator’s son, Prefect and Bishop of Rome at the time of the Barbarian attacks on Rome. Gregory cared for the poor and for refugees, making contact with the Barbarians and proving a capable shepherd. He also addressed many ecclesial and civil issues with a firm, steady resolve. He started the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome, the Gregorian Mission, to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxons in England to Christianity. Venerated in Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Anglicanism, Lutheranism. Patron of musicians, singers, students, teachers.

Prayer Father, You guide Your people with kindness and govern us with love. By the prayers of Saint Gregory, give the spirit of wisdom to those You have called to lead Your Church. May the growth of Your people in holiness be the eternal joy of Your shepherds. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Santa Seraphina (St Fina, Fina dei Ciardi) (1238-53). Feast Day for kind but infirm young Italian Christian noble born in San Gimignano who had a strong devotion to the Virgin Mary and only left her humble house to hear Mass. She always kept half of her food to give to those who were worse off than herself. She especially venerated St Gregory the Great and prayed that he would intercede with God that she might have patience with the paralytic illness that meant she had for 5 years to lie on a wooden pallet. 8 days before her death, as she lay alone and unattended, Gregory appeared to her and said: “Dear child on my festival God will give you rest”. All the town attended her funeral and many miracles were reported as having been wrought through her intercession. In particular, she is said as she lay dead to have raised her hand and to have clasped and healed the injured arm of a friend. St Fina is also celebrated in San Gimignano on the first Sunday in August, for stopping 1479 and 1631 plagues. On both Feast Days, her relics, kept in a 1468 chapel in the Collegiata di San Gimignano, are carried in procession to bless the town. A 1255 hospital (spedale) in San Gimignano that cared for the old, poor and pilgrims, one of the best in Tuscany, was named in her honour. There are paintings of her and St Gregory in the town. The 14th Century Fra’ Giovanni del Coppo Historia vita et morte di Sancta Fina da San Gimignano, with a 1575 translation, tells the full story of her short life.

St Mura McFeredach (Muran, Murames) (c550-645). Feast Day for Irish Catholic disciple of St Columba (Colmcille), who appointed him 1st Abbot of his monastery at Fahan (Othan Mór). A member of the O’Neill clan, Mura was a descendant of King Niall the Great, a friend of King Hugh of Ireland, spiritual teacher of St Laserian of Leighlin and author of works including a metrical biography of St Columba. Mura is remembered for a beautiful Irish cross, a national monument, that remains standing in the graveyard of the ruined church of St Mura at Fahan. This early-7th Century cross-slab is 6½ ft high and demonstrates a close connection with Scotland, where the shape is more common. The intertwined ribbon knotwork is thought to represent the Tree of Life and its 5 circles to symbolise fruit. The Tree of Life with its roots on the earth and its branches high in the air symbolises a connection between heaven and earth. The seasonal cycles of the tree link it with growth, death and rebirth. St Mura’s well is a holy well near the cross. Mura’s crosier (Bachall Mura, staff carried primarily by Bishops but also by Abbots as a symbol of their authority) is now in the Royal Irish Academy. His bell-shrine is in the Wallace Collection in London. After his death, the saint was called Fahan Mura. Patron of O’Neill clan, Inishowen peninsula and Fahan.

Saturday 13 March

Pengerupukan Day (Bhuta Yajna). This ancient ritual, on the day before Nyepi, is to purify the world before the beginning of the New Year and create a balance between mankind, nature and God. All the villages in Bali participate in the exorcism ceremony to rid their homes and lives of evil spirits. Normally, a parade of Ogoh Ogoh carnival statues that are burned in cemeteries takes place in the early evening and a large crowd banging pots and pans and carrying dried coconut leaf torches gathers at the main crossroads, the meeting place of demons. The aim is to appease Batara Kala, the god of the underworld, time and destruction in traditional Javanese and Balinese mythology, the creator of light and the earth who devours unlucky people.

Second Saturday of Souls. Greek Orthodox Cheesefare Saturday commemorating: All the Saints Who have Shone Forth in the Ascetic Life; St Pouplios the Martyr, 2nd Century Bishop of Athens; the virgin St Christina, the Martyr of Persia; and the translation to Constantinople of the relics of the pious St Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople, stout defender of the holy icons whose Feast Day is 2 June and who died 828 in exile in Prokonnis

St Gerald, Bishop of Mayo (d731). Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches Feast Day commemorating death of Northumbrian Anglo-Saxon prince. Gerald was one of 30 English Lindisfarne monks who accompanied Colmán to Iona after the 664 Synod of Whitby decided against the Irish calculation of the date for Easter. Colmán, an ardent supporter of Irish traditions, adopted the Roman computation after the Synod. The monks then went to Ireland to settle on Inishboffin, off County Mayo, in 668. The English monks were unhappy with the behaviour of the native monks, who left Inishboffin to preach around the rest of the country for the duration of the summer whilst the English monks were left to tend to the island. St Colmán resolved the dispute by founding the monastery at Mayo and then settling them there with St Gerald as the 1st Abbot. Gerald is reputed to have founded the abbeys of Tempul-Gerald and Teagh-na-Saxon and also a convent which he placed under the care of his sister. His brother Balin was also a saint.

Prayer God our Father, we thank You for the gifts of life, family and friends. Bless the work of our hands so that all that we do today may be fulfilling to us, helpful to humanity and according to Your Holy will and for the greater glory of Your name. Enlighten, protect, direct and govern us this day. Amen

Sunday 14 March

Nyepi Day. 1st day of the Balinese New Year. According to Hindu belief, Nyepi is a day of absolute silence and stillness in the physical and spiritual worlds. For the Hindus, Nyepi is a day spent in meditation, fasting and introspection, reflecting on the past year’s events and thinking of ways to improve during the new year. The law concerning Nyepi is Catur Brata Penyepian (the 4 ascetic practices), which are: Amati Geni (no fire, which is both literal and symbolic of mental and physical obstacles); Amati Karya (no activities, a precondition to meditation); Amati Lelungaan (fasting at home); and Amati Lelanguan (no entertainment). This Day of Silence is a tradition dating back to the earliest years in Balinese history, when it was thought that remaining silent would trick the evil spirits into thinking that the island was uninhabited and leave it alone since their ultimate goal is to torment humans.

Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday, Прощёное Воскресенье). Last day of Cheesefare Week when Orthodox Christians traditionally remember the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. It is the eve of Great Lent and the Sunday before the Sunday of Orthodoxy. As the culmination of the celebration, people gather round a Maslenitsa straw and rag effigy (из соломы) made on Cheesefare Monday, fixed to a pole and formerly known as Kostroma. They then Strip Lady Maslenitsa of her Finery, burning her on a bonfire to which leftover pancakes may added. Lady Maslenitsa’s ashes are buried in the snow to fertilise the crops. This is the last day on which dairy products may be consumed until Easter. Fish, wine and olive oil are also forbidden on most days of Great Lent. In the Rite of Forgiveness, the priest stands at the analogion (ναλόγιον, lectern) to hear petitions for forgiveness and to then bless the faithful. After they have received the priest’s blessing, the people bow to ask each other for forgiveness.

Prayer Master, teacher of wisdom, bestower of virtue, You have always taught the thoughtless and protected the poor. May You strengthen and enlighten our hearts. Word of the Father, let us not restrain our mouths from crying to You. Have mercy on we transgressors, O merciful Lord! Amen

Mother’s Day (Mothering Sunday, Simnel Sunday). Worldwide Christian celebration on the 4th Sunday of Lent, 3 weeks before Easter Sunday, honouring mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers and mothers-in-law on their special day. The date varies from country to country, 21 March in Lebanon or the 2nd Sunday in May where USA traditions are followed. It was originally a time when people returned to the church in which they were baptised or where they attended services when they were children. This meant that families were reunited by the children returning as adults to the towns and villages where they grew up. In time, it became customary for young people who were working as servants in large houses to be given a holiday. They could use this day to visit their own mother and often took her a gift of food or hand-me-down clothing from their employers. This became the modern tradition of people visiting and taking gifts to their mothers. Western Christians observing the Lenten fast may prepare a Simnel cake to eat with their family on this day. This is a light fruit cake with a sandwiched layer of marzipan, and marzipan topping decorated with 11 or 12 balls of marzipan, representing the 11 disciples and, sometimes, Jesus Christ. The cake was probably prepared around 1500 by Lambert Simnel, in Henry VII’s kitchens.

Monday 15 March

Clean Monday (Μεγάλη Τεσσαρακοστή, Great Lent, Great Fast, Great 40 Days). On this Orthodox Christian 1st day of Great Lent, people have confessed their sins and asked forgiveness to begin the Lenten Fast with a clear conscience. This is the most important fasting season in the church year in the Eastern Orthodox Church (including Byzantine Rite and Western Rite Orthodoxy), Byzantine Rite Lutheran Churches and the Eastern Catholic Churches, and it prepares Christians for the greatest feast of the church year, Pascha (Easter). Corresponds to Lent in Western Christianity and ends on the Friday before the 24 April Lazarus Saturday, with the Passion Week Fast continuing until after the Paschal Vigil early on the morning of Pascha.

Sainte Louise de Marillac (St Louise de Marillac DC, Louise Le Gras) (1591-1660). Commemoration of death of the illegitimate Picardy daughter of a French nobleman who was discouraged at 15 from becoming a nun, married at 22, was widowed and met St Vincent de Paul, to devote the rest of her life to working with him. She helped direct his Ladies of Charity in their work of caring for the sick, the poor and the neglected. Louise set up a training centre for those wishing to help, the Daughters of Charity, took her vows at 42, wrote a Rule for the community and became the Superior. By the time of her death in Paris, the Congregation had more than 40 houses in France and it has since spread all over the world. Her body was placed in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Paris, the motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity. Feast Day is 9 May. Patroness of Christian Social Workers.

Prayer St Louise felt that it was God who was teaching her and that, believing there is a God, she should not doubt the rest. May we abandon to God all that we love, abandon ourselves to all that He wills, take good care of the service of the poor and all live together in great union and cordiality. Amen

Bl William Hart (1558-83). Feast Day commemorating death of Roman Catholic priest and Martyr of England born in Wells and ordained in Rome at 23. William then worked on a ministry in Yorkshire, frequently visiting imprisoned Catholics to provide comfort and what assistance he was able. He escaped after the Mass at York Castle at which William Lacy was captured. Ministering to Catholic prisoners in York Prison, he was betrayed to English authorities on Christmas Day by an apostate from St Margaret Clitherow’s estate and manacled in an underground dungeon. After examination before the Dean of York and the Council of the North, he was arraigned at the Lent Assizes for: bringing papal writings, his certificate of ordination, into the realm; going to France and Rome without royal licence; and reconciling others to Catholicism. Found guilty, he was then hanged, drawn and quartered.

Tuesday 16 March

Jewish Massacre at Clifford’s Tower. Anniversary of one of the worst Medieval anti-Semitic massacres, which took place in York in 1190. After the Norman Conquest, Jews came to England from Rouen and lent money to the kings, money-lending by Christians being forbidden. Jews from Lincoln settled in York late in the 12th Century and 2 travelled to London to attend the 1189 coronation of Richard I, where there were anti-Semitic riots as well as in York and Lincoln. One of the travellers was murdered and the other, during looting, sought protection for the city’s entire Jewish community in the timber Clifford’s Tower of York Castle. They were trapped inside the Tower by an angry mob on Friday 16 March, the Shabbat Hagadol (Great Sabbath) before the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover).  This was the time of the crusades to the Holy Land and many Christians resented the presence of non-Christians in England, preaching at Easter that the Jews had connived in the death of Jesus and seeing the possibility of clearing themselves of debts to the Jews. Rather than waiting to be killed or forcibly baptised, most of the Jews decided to meet death together, the father of each of 20-40 families killing his wife and children before taking his own life, about 150 people dying. Any of the Jews who agreed to convert and left the tower, which was in flames, were immediately murdered. As a result, heavy fines were imposed on 59 leading Christian families in York, many of whom were involved in the massacre. A new Jewish community was quickly established in York and this lasted 100 years, until all Jews were expelled from the kingdom until the 17th Century. Daffodils, whose six-pointed shape echoes the Star of David, provide the annual memorial of this massacre.

Prayer We remember today Rabbi Yom Tov and the other Jews he advised to kill themselves rather than convert and then set alight the Tower so that the bodies could not be mutilated by the mob. Also the Jews who did not kill themselves but surrendered at daybreak and were killed by the mob. Amen

Frawardigan (Hamaspathmaidyem Gahambar, Feast of All Souls). Start of ancient Zoroastrian festival to 20 March, one of 6 Gahambars (proper season 5-day seasonal festivals of obligation) during the year, not seasonal but rather celebrating mankind and commemorating the souls of the dead at the end of the religious year. The festivals reflect the 6 primordial creations of Ahura Mazda, the highest divinity of the religion and are Amesha Spentas (immortal holy, bounteous and furthering the divine entities emanating from Ahura Mazda). They may be celebrated months in advance, depending on which of the Parsi calendars (Shenshai, Kadmi or Fasli) is used. Each Gahambar focusses on worship and those celebrating will perform only necessary work, the last day usually being observed. Worshippers celebrate with a Jashan ceremony, a Zoroastrian liturgy that can be performed outside the confines of a Fire Temple. Jashan is derived from the Avestan yasna and denotes a ceremony with offerings for the wellbeing of both the spiritual and physical worlds with the priestly exchange of flowers symbolising the passage of the soul (urvan) from one life to the next. Rich and poor worship and share communal food, new friendships are formed and old disputes resolved. The other gahambars are: Maidyozarem Gahambar (mid-spring feast) 30 April-4 May; Maidyoshahem Gahambar (mid-summer feast) 29 June-3 July; Paitishahem Gahambar (harvest festival) 12-16 September; Ayathrem Gahambar (bringing in the herds) 12-16 October; Maidyarem Gahambar (mid-year winter feast) 31 December-4 January.

Heiliger Heribert (St Heribert)(c970-1021) General Feast Day for German Roman Catholic prelate and Archbishop of Cologne who was born and educated in Worms. He also served as Chancellor for the Emperor Otto III and collaborated with the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II, with whom relations were strained although they strengthened over time. Heribert founded the Deutz convent on the Rhine and often sent alms to the poor or to priests to distribute to them. Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy. Feast Day in Cologne 30 August. Patron saint of Deutz, rain.

Wednesday 17 March

Naomh Pádraig (Patricius, Pátraic, Pàdraig, Padrig, Petroc Apostle of Ireland, St Patrick’s Day) (387-c493). Catholic Church Feast Day and Lutheran Commemoration of death of pagan Cumbrian Romano-British Christian missionary priest. At about 16, he left his British home to tend animals in Ireland for 6 years and, attempting to return to his family, was captured and briefly held captive in Tours. He had a vision of the Irish appealing to him to go and walk among them, converted to Christianity, studied in Auxerre and was ordained into the priesthood at Lérins Abbey. Following his vision, he returned home and went in 432 to northern and western Ireland on a papal mission to evangelise the Irish. Before leaving Cumbria he thrust into the ground his ash wood staff to grow at Aspatria (Ash of Patrick) but he did not banish snakes from Ireland on arrival, as post-glacial Ireland had none. Patrick was the founder of Christianity and monasticism in Ireland, converting a society practising a form of Celtic polytheism. In pagan Ireland, 3 was a significant number and there were many triple deities, so Patrick taught the doctrine of the Holy Trinity with the 3-leafed shamrock (young clover) to show that the Christian God is 3 persons in one. The first sanctuary dedicated by Patrick was at Saul and he baptised over 100,000 people, ordained priests in more than 300 churches to lead the new Christian communities, and converted wealthy women, some of whom became nuns in the face of family opposition. Patrick became the first Bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland. His Feast Day has been commemorated since the 17th Century and the originally religious celebration became a secular event too. There are two main types of cross associated with Patrick, the traditional flared cross pattée (Tatzenkreuz) and the 1783 diagonal red on white Saltire of the Order of St Patrick and 1800 UK Union Flag. It was formerly a common custom to wear a paper or ribbon cross on St Patrick’s Day but this has been replaced by a shamrock and secular celebrations normally include parades and cultural events within the Irish diaspora. Down Cathedral believes that Patrick was buried alongside St Brigid and St Columba and the National Museum of Ireland has a bell (Clog Pádraig, Bell of the Testament) encased in a bell shrine said to have been removed from his tomb 60 years after his death by St Columba. Saint Patrick’s Breastplate is a lorica (hymn) attributed to Patrick. As the founder and the first Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Patrick’s remains more probably lie within the Abbey grounds at the site of the Old Wattle Church, as he returned to his native land and was led by guidance from on high to Glastonbury to unite with the holy men living the life of hermits there, becoming their Superior. Within the grounds of the Abbey lies St Patrick’s Chapel, still a site of pilgrimage. Venerated in Catholic, Lutheran Churches, Anglican Communion, Episcopal Church (USA), Eastern Orthodox Church, where he is regarded as equal-to-the-apostles and Enlightener of Ireland. Major shrines are in Armagh, Northern Ireland, Glastonbury Abbey. Patron of Ireland with Brigid of Kildare and Columba, Nigeria, Montserrat, Archdiocese of New York, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, Boston, Rolla, Missouri, Loíza, Puerto Rico, Murcia, Clann Giolla Phádraig, engineers, paralegals, Archdiocese of Melbourne, invoked against snakes, sins. La Fhélle Pádraig sona dao ibh go léir (Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all) or Beannachtai na Feile Padraig oraibh (Happy St Patrick’s Day) is the greeting. 

Prayer God our Father, You sent Saint Patrick to preach Your glory to the people of Ireland. By the help of his prayers, may all Christians proclaim Your love to all men. Grant us this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen

His Holiness Baselious Marthoma Paulose II (b1946). Indian Orthodox Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church celebration of Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan. At 13 he was invited into the priesthood, being ordained as sub deacon at 26 and as deacon and priest the following year. In 1982, Fr Paulose was elected Metropolitan and in 1985 he became the 1st Bishop of the newly-formed Kunnamkulam diocese. He was elevated as Metropolitan in 1991 and, besides shepherding the Kunnamkulam dioceses, he serves as: president of the Orthodox Syrian Sunday School Association of the East (OSSAE); the vice president of Mar Gregorios Orthodox Christian Student Movement of India; and the manager of  MD College Pazhanji.

Our Lady of Ireland. Oliver Cromwell caused the Bishop of Clonfert to leave for Hungary in 1654, where he was kindly received by the Bishop of Gyer and later became Auxiliary Bishop of the diocese. As he was dying 10 years later, he gave to the Bishop of Gyer his only material treasure, the picture of the Madonna of Ireland, which was then hung on the wall of Gyer Cathedral. The image depicts Mary crowned as queen, Our Lady of Ireland, and before her, lying on several circular pillows, is the Infant, also crowned as the Little King, and covered with royal robes. In 1697, it is recorded that on the feast of Saint Patrick a bloody sweat was observed to come over the figure of the Blessed Lady, drops of blood falling onto the Infant Jesus for 3 hours. The mayor, councillors, the governor, Lutheran and Calvanist preachers and a Rabbi were amongst the over 100 eye-witnesses to the miracle. Since 1874, there has been a plenary indulgence on both the feasts of Saint Patrick and the Assumption, before which feasts public novenas are held.

Thursday 18 March

St Cyril of Jerusalem (Κύριλλος Α΄ εροσολύμων, Kýrillos A Ierosolýmon, Cyrillus Hierosolymitanus) (c314-386). Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church Feast Day for Syria Palaestina theologian and Doctor of the early Church, preacher, liturgist, confessor and Bishop who was ordained deacon in about 335 and priest 8 years later. In late 350, he succeeded to the bishopric in the See of Jerusalem and was exiled on more than one occasion due to the policies of various emperors and differences with the Arian Metropolitan of Caesarea as the influence of the Jerusalem See rose and it developed into the prime Christian holy place and a centre of pilgrimage. Cyril left important writings documenting the instruction of catechumens and the Order of the Liturgy in his day and he is highly respected in the Palestinian Christian community. Venerated in Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodoxy, Anglican Communion. Feast Day 7 May Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church, Paremhat 22 Coptic Christianity.

St Edward the Martyr (Eadweard) (c962-78). Feast Day commemorating death of English King of the House of Wessex, crowned by the archbishops Dunstan of Canterbury and Oswald of York. An anti-monastic reaction meant that the nobles took advantage of Edward’s weakness to dispossess the Benedictine reformed monasteries of lands and other properties they had been granted. Edward’s short reign was ended by his murder at Corfe Castle, hasty burial at Wareham, and 979 reburial at Shaftesbury Abbey. His cult as a murdered royal was promulgated by King Cnut and, during the 16th Century English Reformation, his remains were hidden to avoid desecration during King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. In 1931, they were recovered during an archaeological excavation and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia enshrined them in 1984 in a church in Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, where the St Edward Brotherhood of monks was established. The church is now named St Edward the Martyr Orthodox Church and it is under the jurisdiction of a traditionalist Greek Orthodox community. In the Orthodox Church, St Edward is ranked as a Passion-bearer, a type of saint who accepts death out of love for Christ, and he is also venerated in the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. The Orthodox Church commemorates him a 2nd time on 3 September and also commemorates the translation of his relics into Orthodox possession on 13 February.

Mahatma Gandhi (1915 Great Soul) (1869-1948). On this day in 1922, the Indian independence leader Mohandas K Gandhi was, after his first civil disobedience campaign against British rule in India, sentenced to 6 years in jail for sedition by a British colonial court after a protest march led to violence. The Gujarati lawyer Gandhi had emerged as the leader of India’s resistance to the Raj, Britain’s colonial government, shortly after World War I and, in 1919, Britain allowed the Raj to intern without trial Indians suspected of sedition. In protest, Gandhi declared a satyagraha (devotion to truth) against the Raj, beginning a non-violent movement of civil disobedience influenced primarily by Hinduism but also by elements of Jainism and Christianity. The Indian National Congress adopted Gandhi’s ideals and in 1920 launched a campaign of non-cooperation against the Raj. The satyagraha came to an end after a mass protest in a small market town turned violent when protesters fought back against British police, burning down the police station and killing 22 people. Gandhi, horrified by the violence that had been committed in his cause, called for an end to non-cooperation. After his 1924 release due to ailing health, he withdrew from political life but returned to the nationalist movement in 1930, leading the March to the Sea, a protest against the discriminatory British salt tax in which thousands of people symbolically made their own salt from seawater. The March launched a new grassroots effort to end colonial rule that lasted for almost 2 decades. Gandhi was again arrested in 1942 after demanding an end to British colonial rule, sparking widespread protests. He was released in 1944 and was involved in negotiations for independence, opposing the partitioning of India and Pakistan. He was assassinated by a man upset about his opposition to the British partition plan. As an idealistic cross between a saint and a ward politician, his legacy lives on and he remains an inspiration for those who practice non-violent campaigns to achieve social progress.

Prayer When mass protests as part of non-violent civil disobedience lead to violence, let us remember that the Mahatma saw prayer not as an asking but as a longing of the soul, a daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. Amen

Friday 19 March

Solemnity of St Joseph (St Joseph’s Day). Catholic, Anglican Churches’ principal Feast Day honouring spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Lutheran Lesser Festival for the guardian of our Lord. Although always falling during Lenten fasting and abstinence, the Solemnity overrides the Friday Catholic obligations. Celebrations include giving food to the needy, carrying blessed dried fava beans, wearing red-coloured clothing, assembling 3-tier home altars representing the Trinity and dedicated to St Joseph, and normally attending a Saint Joseph’s Day parade with church attendance at Mass or Divine Service. In Sicily, where St Joseph interceded to relieve a Medieval famine and drought, he is regarded by many as their patron saint, and in many Italian-American communities thanks are given to San Giuseppe. Maccu di San Giuseppe, an ancient traditional Sicilian dish, is prepared with fava beans and the 1840 Neapolitan pastry zeppola is eaten. Some villages like Avola used to burn thanksgiving logs on the eve of St Joseph. In Belmonte Mezzagno this is normally still performed with ritual invocations in the local Sicilian language, this being called A Vampa di San Giuseppe (The Saint Joseph’s Bonfire). In Malta, St Joseph’s Day (Jum San Ġużepp) has been a day of remembrance since the 10th Century and it can be moved if necessary to fit into the Lent and Easter seasons, normally with picnics, processions, music and fireworks at night. Rabat celebrates the traditional Maltese feast and Żejtun celebrates Jum il-Kunsill (Żejtun Council’s Day). In Spain, St Joseph’s Day is El Día del Padre (Father’s Day, Falles, Falla), as in Portugal and Italy, St Joseph being a good example of what a father figure should be. In Poland, Dzien Swietego Jozefa is celebrated as Imieniny (Namesday), the feast day for one’s patron saint, as in Canada, celebrated with red and white wine for Poland and St Joseph, a festive Lenten fast and hymns such as Duszo moja, O Jozefie Ukochany and Szczesliwy, Kto Sobie Patrona. In the Philippines, some families normally hold a banquet for the Holy Family with the Novena to St Joseph. In New Orleans,  there are normally parades similar to Mardi Gras and St Joseph’s Day is celebrated in other USA areas with high proportions of Italian residents. St Joseph’s Day is also regarded as the day swallows are traditionally believed to return to Mission San Juan Capistrano in California, after having flown south for the winter. An additional Feast of St Joseph the Worker is now celebrated on 1 May, to coincide with the International Workers’ Day (May Day) in many countries. 1 May was the Feast of the Apostles Sts Philip and James, but that has thus been moved to the next free day, 3 May. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates St Joseph on the Sunday after Christmas.

Prayer O Saint Joseph, do assist us by your powerful intercession and obtain for us from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings so that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, we may then offer our thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

St Alchmund of Derby (Alkmund of Lilleshall, Ealhmund) (c770-800). Feast Day for Northumbrian noble who, after over 20 years in exile, returned with an army. He was killed and his death was regarded as a martyrdom. Alkmund was buried at Derby, where miracles were reported at his tomb. In the early 10th Century, his remains were translated to Shrewsbury, probably by Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians. St Alkmund’s, Shrewsbury became the property of Lilleshall Abbey around 1145 and his body was translated back to Derby. When St Alkmund’s Church, Derby was demolished in 1968, traces of several earlier churches dating back to the 9th Century were revealed and his stone sarcophagus was found. Venerated in Catholic Church.

St Pancharius at Nicomedia (d303). Commemoration of The Holy Martyr Pancharius, who was born in Villach, Germany (now Austria). He was a high-ranking officer and captain of the royal guard who abandoned Christianity to become a pagan. His mother and sister reminded him of the words of Jesus Christ in St Matthew’ Gospel: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father Who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father Who is in heaven”. Pancharius repented his previous abandonment of his Christianity, openly confessed his faith before the Emperor, suffered torture for this in Rome and was then sent to Nicomedia, where he was beheaded.

Saturday 20 March

Spring Equinox (Ostara, equal night, aequus nox) or Vernal Equinox (Alban Eiler). Pagan and Druid celebration of the astronomical start of Spring as the renewed life of the Earth makes the powers of the gathering year equal to the darkness of winter and death. The God (Green Man) awakens during this season and some believers dedicate this time to Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility. As for Easter, symbols for Ostara include eggs, rabbits, flowers and seeds. At Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Mayans built a huge pyramid c1000 and for the ancient Spring Equinox celebrations the play of the Sun’s light on it signalled the beginning of the season, with the shadow of a huge snake slithering down the steps on this Day of the Return of the Sun Serpent. Shunbun no Hi (春分の日) is the 8th Century Japanese Vernal Equinox Day when sutras are recited and the graves of relatives visited. Higan  (彼岸) is a Buddhist memorial service for departed ancestors celebrated by Japanese sects over 7 days, from 3 before to 3 after the Equinox.

Prayer May we reach a world of enlightenment from a world of waver, through Rokuharamitsu-ji by Giving (布施, Fuse), Keeping rules (持戒, Zikai), Perseverance (忍辱, Ninniku), Sincerity Buddhism (精進, Shojin), Meditation (禅定, Zenjo) and Enthusiasm to attain enlightment (智慧. Chie). Svaha

Naw-Rúz. Bahá’í Vernal Equinox New Year’s Day at the end of the 19-day fast concluding the old year, an ancient Persian festival marking the beginning of spring and the start of a new year. It coincides with the Bahá’í Feast of Bahá (Splendour) on the 1st day of the 1st month of Bahá in 178 BE (Baha’i Era) in the Bahá’í calendar that dates from 1844 CE, when the Bab declared His mission and the Baha’i Faith began. The Persian Nowruz (نوروز‎, new day, New Year) has been celebrated for over 7,000 years by various ethno-linguistic groups in Western, Central and South Asia, the Caucasus, Black Sea Basin and Balkans. The Iranian Jamshedi No Ruz is celebrated by Iranians, Zoroastrians, some Muslims and many Parsis, a Zoroastrian feast of obligation for the resurgence of life and symbolic victory of light over darkness. Wearing new clothes, gifts and prayers are offered at the Fire Temple to seek blessings from Ahura Mazda, with a jashan thanksgiving ceremony that is normally followed by dancing and other revelries.

St Cuthbert (the Wonderworker, Cutimbetas, Stombast) (c634-687). Catholic Feast Day commemorating death of noble Anglo-Saxon early Christian Northumbrian hermit and monk born in Dunbar, 40 miles from the monastery of Melrose, a daughter-house of Lindisfarne today in Scotland. He decided to become a monk after seeing a 651 vision of St Aidan, the founder of Lindisfarne. Cuthbert became guest-master (praepositus hospitum) of the new monastery of Ripon but Wilfrid was given Ripon and Cuthbert returned to Melrose to become Prior in 662 and then in 665 Prior at Lindisfarne. The tension between Roman and Celtic Christianity was exacerbated by Wilfrid, an intransigent and quarrelsome supporter of Roman ways. Cuthbert was educated in the Celtic tradition but accepted the Roman forms without difficulty after the 664 Synod of Whitby. Many miracles were attributed to Cuthbert in his early life and he was indefatigable as a travelling priest spreading the Christian message to remote villages, royalty and the nobility. Unlike Wilfrid, his style of life was austere and he lived the life of a hermit, though still receiving many visitors. Cuthbert’s fame for piety, diligence and obedience grew and his generosity to the poor and gifts of healing and insight led many people to name him the Wonder Worker of Britain. He founded an oratory at Dull, with a large stone cross and a small cell for himself. Cuthbert retired in 676, moved by a desire for the contemplative life, and went to St Cuthbert’s Island near Lindisfarne and then to Inner Farne Island, 2 miles from Bamburgh, where he gave himself up to a life of great austerity. In 684, Cuthbert was elected Bishop of Hexham but he asked to be Bishop of Lindisfarne and was consecrated at York in 685. However, after Christmas 686 he returned to his cell on Inner Farne Island where he died after a painful illness. He was reburied at Lindisfarne in 698 but, to escape the Danes in 875, his remains were taken to Melrose. Cuthbert had wished to be buried in Durham and in 995 his wish was granted when a new stone church (the White Church) was built on the site of the present Cathedral. In 1104, the small St Cuthbert Gospel of John, an important artefact of which the original tooled red goatskin binding is the earliest surviving Western binding, was later recovered from his casket. Alfred the Great, the King of Wessex, was inspired and encouraged in his struggle against the Danes by a vision he had of Cuthbert. Cuthbert’s cult then appealed to the converted Danes in Northumbria and was also adopted by the Normans. As the most important Medieval saint of Northern England, his cult centred on his tomb at Durham Cathedral, which was a major Medieval pilgrimage site until stripped by Henry VIII’s commissioners in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, although his relics survived and are still interred at the site. St Cuthbert’s Society, an 1888 college of Durham University, celebrates St Cuthbert’s Day. Venerated in Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Anglicanism. Major shrine Durham Cathedral. Patron of Northumbria, Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, the Orthodox Community in Chesterfield. Feast Day 31 August Episcopal Church, 4 September Church in Wales and Catholic Ordinariates.

Sunday 21 March

Sunday of Orthodoxy ( Κυριακ τς ρθοδοξίας, Feast of Orthodoxy, Triumph of Orthodoxy). 1st Sunday of Great Lent, 6 Sundays before Pascha (Easter) in the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic Churches. On the 1st Sunday of Lent in 843, the final defeat of iconoclasm was celebrated with a triumphal procession to Hagia Sophia and the restoration of the icons to the church. This became the perpetual feast of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the character of the feast gradually coming to be the opposition to all heterodoxy. A procession with icons is still made, often around the church. The Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox churches celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy in slightly different ways.

Thomas Cranmer (The Most Reverend and Right Honourable) (1489-1556). Anglican Communion and Lutheran Commemoration of death of Nottinghamshire martyr, a leader of the English Reformation and Roman Catholic and Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I. Cranmer judged that Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was against the law of God, one of the causes of the separation of the English Church from union with the Holy See, and then validated Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, a secret one Cranmer did not learn of until 14 days after the ceremony. Along with chief minister Thomas Cromwell, Cranmer supported the principle of royal supremacy, in which the King was considered sovereign over the Church within his realm. Cranmer’s major reforms were under Edward and he wrote and compiled the first 2 editions of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. The 1563 Thirty-Nine Articles, an Anglican statement of faith, was controversially derived from his work. After the accession of the Catholic Mary I, Cranmer was put on trial in 1553 for treason and in 1555 for heresy, spending over 2 years in prison and recanting. The 2nd trial was under papal jurisdiction and Rome decided Cranmer’s fate by depriving him of the archbishopric and giving permission to the secular authorities to carry out the sentence. Cranmer submitted himself to the authority of the king and queen and recognised the Pope as head of the church. Mary was determined to make an example of Cranmer and pressed ahead with his execution. Cranmer then said: “And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy, and Antichrist with all his false doctrine,” and was burnt at the stake to die a heretic to Catholics and a martyr for the principles of the English Reformation, saying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit …; I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” Cranmer is best remembered for his contributions to language and culture, the Book of Common Prayer being a major contribution to English literature.

Prayer Blessed Lord, You have given us Your Holy Scriptures for our learning. May we hear, read, learn and take them to heart, so being strengthened and comforted by Your holy Word, we may all cling to the blessed hope of everlasting life, through Jesus Christ Your Son who reigns with You. Amen

St Enda of Aran (Éanna, Éinne, Endeus) (c450-c530). Catholic Feast Day for Meath Gaelic Ulster pagan warrior-king converted by his sister St Fanchea, an Abbess. Enda was the patriarch of Irish monasticism and Abbot of Aran, around 484 establishing the 1st Irish monastery at Killeaney on Inismór, which became an important pilgrimage destination and centre for evangelisation, and several others including one in the Boyne valley. Enda’s monks lived alone in stone cells, slept on the ground, ate together in silence and survived by farming and fishing, imitating the asceticism and simplicity of the earliest Egyptian desert hermits, with manual labour, prayer, fasting and the study of the Scriptures, assembling for their daily devotions in the church or oratory. They spun and wove their own garments from the undyed wool of their sheep, grew no fruit, took neither wine nor mead and ate no meat. St Enda died a natural death and his monasteries flourished until the times of the Norsemen. Much of their stone was ransacked by Cromwell’s men in the 1650s for fortifications so only scattered ruins remain as ruined coastal towers. Tobar Éinne near the west coast of Inis Oírr is a pilgrimage site for the Turas to the Well of Enda, which has healing powers and never runs dry. Venerated in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Monday 22 March

Massasoit Sachem (Great Sachem, Ousamequin) (c1581-1661). Celebration of anniversary of humane, honest and peaceful chieftain (sachem) of the Wampanoag confederacy negotiating a 1621 peace treaty with the Pilgrims in Plymouth. Massasoit’s people had been seriously weakened by a series of epidemics such as smallpox and were vulnerable to attacks by the neighbouring Narragansetts, so he formed an alliance with the colonies of New England at Plymouth Colony for defence against them. The Pokanokets and the colonists of Massachusetts Bay Colony maintained peace for nearly 40 years, until Massasoit’s death. It was through Massasoit’s assistance that the Plymouth Colony avoided starvation and attack by Massachusett warriors during the early years. At the time of the Pilgrims’ arrival in Plymouth, the realm of the Pokanokets included parts of Rhode Island and much of south-eastern Massachusetts. Massasoit lived in Sowams, a village at Pokanoket in Warren, Rhode Island and held the allegiance of a number of lesser Pokanoket sachems. The peace that Massasoit so assiduously maintained collapsed soon after his death and his successor was murdered by the Colonists, leading to the 1675-8 King Philip’s War between indigenous New England inhabitants and New England colonists and their native allies.

Prayer The Christian adventurers at Plymouth, so vigilant against moral contamination in other spheres, were blind to the rights of their indigenous neighbours. Too many of their heirs believed that Native Americans were made by God for them to destroy. May we understand better than this. Amen

Jonathan Edwards (1703-58). Lutheran Commemoration of death of Connecticut English American Colonial period Evangelical Reformed (Puritan) Revivalist Congregationalist Protestant preacher, philosopher, pastor, theologian and missionary. He was the son of a minister and slave-owner and his books inspired thousands of missionaries throughout the 19th Century, many Reformed Evangelicals still reading them today. From 1722, he was an unordained pastor in a small Presbyterian Church in New York City and in 1724 became a tutor at Yale in the absence of a rector who had defected to the Anglican Church. In 1727, Edwards was ordained minister and a scholar-pastor, marrying into a New England clerical family and in 1729 inheriting one of the largest and wealthiest congregations in the colony. Edwards owned as slaves several black children and adults during his lifetime and he defended enslaving people who were debtors, war captives or those who were born enslaved in North America but rejected the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Dismissed from the pastorate, he ministered to a tribe of Massachusetts Mohicans and was a missionary to the Housatonic Indians. He was installed as President of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1758 and, as a strong supporter of smallpox inoculations, he immediately decided to be inoculated himself, to encourage others to do the same but he died as a result of the inoculation. Edwards’ grave is located in Princeton Cemetery.

Santa Lea (Saint Lea of Rome) (d384). Feast Day for wealthy 4th Century young widow, a contemporary of St Jerome. Upon the death of her husband, she retired to a simple life in St Marcella’s Roman convent, giving away everything to become a woman of austerity, obedience and amazing penances. She supported the convent by working as a menial servant and later served as the group’s Superior as Prioress of the convent. She looked forward to her arrival in heaven in order to receive her recompense for the virtues that she had practised on earth. She was willing to be considered a fool on earth, as she refrained from seeking the favours of the world and renounced all that is carnal, knowing that it is impossible to follow both the world and Jesus and lived a life of renunciation, for our bodies will soon be dust and nothing else will last any longer. Venerated by the Roman Catholic Church.

Tuesday 23 March

St Turibius of Mongrovejo (Toribio Alfonso de Mogrovejo) (1538-1606). Feast Day commemorating death of noble and pious Habsburg Spanish humanities professor who had a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin and was a Grand Inquisitor with no previous government or judicial experience. Ordained to the priesthood in Granada in 1578, despite his protests he was consecrated as Archbishop of Lima in 1580 before setting off for Peru. Upon landing, he walked the 600 miles to Lima, baptising the local people. He traversed his entire archdiocese 3 times alone on foot, exposed to bad weather, wild beasts, tropical heat, fevers and threats from hostile tribes. He countered these, all the while baptising and confirming almost half million people, including Rose of Lima, Martin of Porres and Francis Solano, all of whom would be canonised. He was a staunch advocate of archdiocesan reform and set to work reforming the corrupt and scandalous diocesan priests. He was a noted and charismatic preacher whose favourite topic was: “Time is not our own and we must give a strict account of it”. He built roads and schoolhouses as well as chapels and hospitals, establishing convents and in 1591 founding the 1st seminary in the Western Hemisphere and mandating that learning indigenous languages was a prerequisite in their formation. He was seen as a champion of the rights of the indigenous peoples against their Spanish masters and for this he learned the local dialects. He predicted the exact date and hour of his death in Pacasmayo during a pastoral visit when he contracted a fever, continued labouring to the last and arrived at Zaña in a critical condition. He dragged himself to receive the Viaticum and died not long after this on Holy Thursday, his final words being those of Jesus Christ on the Cross: “Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit”. His was interred in the archdiocesan cathedral. Venerated in Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, Episcopal Church. He is honoured along with St Martin of Porres and St Rose of Lima with a liturgical feast of the Episcopal Church on 23 August. Patron of Peru, Lima, Valladolid, the Latin American Episcopal Council, Latin American bishops, native rights, Scouts.

St Ethelwald (Æthelwold of Farne, Oidilwald) (d699). Anniversary of death of Benedictine priest, a monk at Ripon Abbey. A disciple of St Cuthbert, Æthelwold sought solitude and succeeded to the tiny hermitage on Inner Farne Island after the latter’s death in 687, although he was obliged to make much needed repairs using a calfskin. The future Abbot Guthrid visited him on his island with two Lindisfarne monks and, on his journey home, was saved from shipwreck by Æthelwold’s prayers. Æthelwold was buried at Lindisfame with Cuthbert and both were later enshrined in Durham Cathedral.

Our Lady of Victory of Lepanto. The 1571 naval battle between the Catholic Holy League’s 212 ships, with no Protestant support, and the 278 of Ali Pasha’s Ottoman Empire navy saw Admiral Andrea Doria meet the Turks with an image of the Blessed Virgin prominently displayed in his flagship’s stateroom. The Ottoman commander had flayed the Venetian captain alive and hung his dead body from a spar on Mustafa’s flagship alongside the heads of all the Venetian commanders. The Ottoman Turks had not lost any significant naval engagements in the memory of any living man, yet they were defeated. It was widely recognised that the battle was won through the power of Mary, Our Lady of Victory. The Turks lost nearly 250 ships and 30,000 men whilst the Holy League lost only 17 galleys and 7,500 men. This Feast also celebrates another Christian victory in 1716 when Mary, Queen of Victory, was again chosen to protect her precious children in a battle between an Austrian army outnumbered 10 to 3 by the Turks at Peterwardein in Hungary, which was freed through the power of Mary Most Holy. That news filled the whole Christian world with joy, but nowhere more than in Rome.

Prayer Against the sinister errors of our time, we appeal to Mary as our guide, our Queen of Victories and of Peace. For her and for her blessed Son we struggle, and on her powerful intercession with the Prince of Peace we place our trust. Victory and peace must and will be ours if we believe. Amen

Wednesday 24 March

Thirunakkara Arattu. End of annual Thirunakkara Mahadeva Temple 10-day Kerala ritual festival with splendid elephant pageant dedicated to Shiva in celebration of his wedding to Parvati and the day Shiva performed the tandava divine dance. Normally, thousands of devotees visit the temple and offer their prayers and milk to Shiva. Led by the elephants and accompanied by drummers, Mayilattam peacock dancers, also with traditional and Kathakali dancers, Lord Shiva is taken around the town in a grand procession with a gold-plated palanquin (covered litter) and carried to the arattu (Holy Bath).

Naomh Mac Cairthinn (St Macartan of Clogher) (d506). Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Feast Day for one of the earliest Christian saints in Ireland, a missionary known in St Patrick’s declining years as his Threin Fhir (Strong Man) for his dedication and faithfulness to the fledgling Church. Macartan was from a noble Munster family and was converted to Christianity by Patrick in Drumlease and ordained to the role of presbyter (priest). After carrying Patrick over a river, an exhausted Macartan expressed a wish that he might be relieved from further travel and allowed settle down in charge of a church close by his beloved master where he could spend the evening of his life in peace. Patrick, full of sympathy for his faithful companion and friend, agreed that he should establish a monastery in Clogher and live out his life there. Thus one of Ireland’s oldest bishoprics was established, with Macartan as the first presiding Bishop of Clogher. To commemorate the occasion, Patrick gave Macartan his staff and a number of precious relics contained in a shrine known to tradition as the Domhnach Airgid (Silver Church), including a manuscript consisting of fragments of 39 sheets of the Gospels, written in the distinctively Irish lettering of the 8th or 9th Century. On the cover of the Domhnach Airgid is one of the earliest surviving metalwork images of St Patrick. Around 1350, the Abbot of Clones remodelled the Domhnach Airgid, which is now in the National Museum of Ireland.

San Óscar Romero (Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, Servant of God) (1917-80). Feast Day and Lutheran Commemoration of martyrdom of gold miner and El Salvadorian prelate who served as the 4th Archbishop of San Salvador. Ordained in Rome in 1941, his doctoral studies were interrupted at 26 when he was summoned back home and travelled via Spain and Cuba, where he was detained for several months for having come from Fascist Italy. He was taken ill and then sent to Mexico to travel overland to El Salvador. Romero was a parish priest for over 20 years, promoting various apostolic groups, starting an Alcoholics Anonymous group, helping in the construction of the San Miguel Cathedral and supporting devotion to Our Lady of Peace. In 1970, Romero was appointed an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of San Salvador, in 1974 Bishop of the poor, rural Santiago de María and in 1977 Archbishop of San Salvador. Romero was a strong advocate of the spiritual charisma of Opus Dei and spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. In 1979, the Revolutionary Government Junta came to power amidst a wave of human rights abuses by paramilitary right-wing groups and the government, in an escalation of violence that would become the Salvadoran Civil War. Romero met with Pope John Paul II and unsuccessfully attempted to obtain a Vatican condemnation of the regime for violations of human rights during that Civil War and of its support for death squads, expressing his frustration in working with clergy who cooperated with the government. Romero also denounced the persecution of members of the Catholic Church who had worked on behalf of the poor: In 1980, he criticised the USA for giving military aid to the new government and wrote to President Jimmy Carter. On 24 March, Romero celebrated evening Mass in a small chapel at the Hospital de la Divina Providencia (Divine Providence Hospital), a Church-run hospital specialising in oncology and the care of the terminally ill. Standing at the centre of the altar, he was shot through the heart by a gunman. No one was ever convicted for the crime, but investigations by the UN-created Truth Commission for El Salvador concluded that the extreme right-wing politician, founder of ARENA, and USA-backed death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson had given the order. Romero was buried in the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador (Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador), the Funeral Mass being attended by more than 250,000 mourners from all over the world. The personal delegate of Pope John Paul II eulogised Romero as: “A beloved, peace-making man of God whose blood will give fruit to brotherhood, love and peace.” However, a massacre on the streets near the cathedral left dozens dead. The Irish condemned his assassination and the Archbishop of Canterbury decried the murder. On 24 March 1990, 10,000 people marched in front of the White House to denounce the military aid that was still flowing to the El Salvadoran government. In 2014, El Salvador’s main international airport was named after Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero. A miracle concerning a pregnant woman was confirmed by theologians. Romero was the first Salvadoran saint and the first martyred Archbishop of the Americas and he is one of the 10 20th Century martyrs depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey. Venerated in Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, Lutheranism. Patron of El Salvador, The Americas, Archdiocese of San Salvador, Cainta, Rizal, Philippines Parish, Caritas International (co-patron), persecuted Christians and Christian communicators.

Prayer What we do may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are prophets of a future that is not our own. Amen

Thursday 25 March

Annunciation (Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Annunciation of the Lord, Annunciation of the Theotokos). Christian Feast, Solemnity and Lutheran Festival near to the northern Vernal Equinox 9 months before Christmas, the ceremonial birthday of Jesus. It celebrates the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus (YHWH is salvation), the Jewish messiah and Son of God, marking His Incarnation. It is one of Twelve Great Feasts in the Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, and Oriental Orthodox Churches and is among the 8 of them that are counted as Feasts of the Lord and thus have a vigil (vigilia, wakefulness, παννυχίς). The date is moved in the Catholic Church, Anglican and Lutheran liturgical calendars when it falls during Holy Week or Easter Week or on a Sunday. The Orthodox Churches do not move the Feast but have special combined liturgies for those years when the Annunciation coincides with another Feast, even Good Friday. Greek Independence Day is celebrated on the Feast of the Annunciation to celebrate the 1821 uprising against the Ottoman Empire’s occupation of Greece for nearly 400 years that culminated with the successful War of Independence. 25 March is a national holiday in Lebanon (عيد البشارة‎, La Fête de l’Annonciation). Along with Easter, March 25 was used as the New Year’s Day in many pre-modern Christian countries before being moved to 1 January in France in 1564. In England, it came to be known as Lady Day, a quarter day, and marked the beginning of the English new year until 1752.

Prayer With Lebanese Christians and Muslims, we venerate in time of pandemic the Virgin Mary together on the Marian Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, each in our home, praying together our prayer to the Virgin throughout our countries through the Aydan Foundation social networks. Amen

St Dismas. Catholic Feast Day for the Good Thief crucified with Christ and the other thief Gestas on Calvary. The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy that enjoyed great popularity in the West during the Middle Ages said 2 thieves held up the Holy Family on the way to Egypt. Dismas bought off Gestas with 40 drachmas to leave them unmolested. The Infant said they would be crucified with Him in Jerusalem, with Dismas accompanying Him to Paradise.

Our Lady of Walsingham. This Feast Day was celebrated on Lady Day until 2001, as the Feast of the Annunciation was the purpose of building the 1169 Walsingham replica of the House at Nazareth. For ecumenical reasons, the Feast Day was moved to 24 September, which had previously been the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom. King Henry VIII approved the burning in Chelsea of all the images of Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Wales that were used for common pilgrimage and, after the destruction of the Shrine, Walsingham was no longer a place of public pilgrimage. All devotion was done in secret until after the Catholic Emancipation in 1829, when public expressions and manifestations of the Catholic faith were once again allowed in England. In 1897, the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom made the first new public pilgrimage to Walsingham. In 1934, the Bishops of England and Wales, together with 10,000 pilgrims, declared Walsingham to be the National Shrine of Our Lady for Roman Catholics in England. In 1945, after Walsingham had been a restricted zone closed to visitors during the war, American Forces organised the 1st Mass since the Reformation (Protestant Revolution). This 1st Cross Carrying Pilgrimage for Peace, Penance and Prayer began a tradition that continues today. During Holy Week, pilgrims still walk to the Shrine, which is cared for by the Marist Fathers and Sisters who organise the ministry to the pilgrims. The feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, patroness of England and all English-speaking peoples, now celebrated in England on 24 September, is a Solemnity for all parishes in any part of the world named for Our Lady under this title. The original Shrine has no remnants, but its site was that of the marker noting The Abbey Grounds in the village.

Friday 26 March

Khordad Sal. Birthday of Prophet Zarathushtra celebrated on the 6th day following No Ruz by Iranian Zoroastrians and Parsis, a symbolic date as the actual date of his birth cannot be accurately identified. One of the most important days in the Zoroastrian and Parsi calendars, when it is customary to visit the Fire Temple to give thanks to Ahura Mazda, the one God, for giving humanity the ideal gift of the Prophet Zarathushtra, whose philosophy is both giving and fulfilling. His followers participate in a jashan thanksgiving ceremony, pray, listen to stories of his miraculous birth and life and then normally celebrate with a lavish community meal, drinking and dancing. On Khordad Sal, Parsis look at ways in which they can improve the lives of others and themselves, clean their houses, hang torans (decorative door hangings) of fresh flowers and create rangoli chalk designs on the floor. They wear new clothes, cook traditional dishes, exchange gifts and greet each other with Khordad Sal Mubarak! (Happy Khordad Sal!). Zarathustra’s ideas (monotheism tempered by belief in the Devil, and the struggle between Good and Evil with a final judgement) greatly influenced today’s major world religions, particularly Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i faith. Zoroastrianism has endured many hardships, the most significant being the invasion of Persia by Alexander and, later, the Arab conquest of Persia. Though greatly diminished in numbers, Zarathustra’s followers have continued to honour his revolutionary teachings for over 3,000 years. Due to calendar differences, the Kadmi Zoroastrian date is 22 July and Shenshai 21 August.

Prayer As the golden sun sets and the calendar turns, may the stars shine upon us all, may the flowers fill our hearts with beauty, may hope forever to wipe away our tears and, above all, may every moment of this wonderful Khordad Sal be enjoyed by all people across the world. Happy Khordad Sal!

St Margaret Clitherow (Pearl of York) (1556-86). Feast Day for Middleton Protestant mother of 3 who entered the Catholic Church at 18. She was first imprisoned in 1577 for failing to attend church, and two more incarcerations at York Castle followed. Her 3rd child was born in prison. Her zeal led her to harbour fugitive priests, for which she was arrested and imprisoned by hostile authorities but refused to deny her Faith. Finally, she was condemned to be pressed to death when pregnant with her 4th child by being stretched out on the ground with a sharp rock on her back and crushed under a door overladen with unbearable weights, causing her death within 15 minutes. The humanity and holiness of this servant of God can be readily glimpsed in her words to a friend when she learned of her condemnation: “The sheriffs have said that I am going to die this coming Friday; and I feel the weakness of my flesh which is troubled at this news, but my spirit rejoices greatly. For the love of God, pray for me and ask all good people to do likewise.” She is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, whose Roman Catholic Feast Day is 4 May in England and 25 October in Wales. She is also commemorated in England on 30 August, along with the martyrs Anne Line and Margaret Ward. Patroness of Catholic Women’s League and co-patroness of the Latin Mass Society who organise an annual pilgrimage to York in her honour. A group of parishes in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool are now united as a single community with St Margaret Clitherow as patron. There is a memorial window in Corpus Christi Parish Church.

St Govan (Gofan) (c500-586). Feast Day for Celtic Rite Irish hermit who lived in a cave in a fissure in a Pembrokeshire coastal cliff, where St Govan’s Chapel was built in the 14th Century on what is now known as St Govan’s Head. Govan had travelled to Wales late in life to seek the friends and family of the Abbot who had trained him, possibly St David. Govan was set upon by Irish pirates near Lundy Island but the cliff opened up and left a fissure for him to hide in until the pirates left. In gratitude, he decided to stay on the cliff, which may have been of monastic importance since the 5th Century. Govan caught fish and took water from two nearby springs, both now dry, the one lower down the cliff later becoming a holy well. To warn the local people of impending pirate attacks if they were to return, he kept a silver bell that was stolen by the pirates but angels took it back to him encased in a huge stone, the Bell Rock that is found at the water’s edge. Govan then rang the stone, which was 1,000 times louder than the bell. His body is buried under the chapel’s altar and his hermitage was once a popular place for making wishes. Venerated in Welsh Celtic Christianity, Orthodox Christianity.

Saturday 27 March

Passover (Pesach, פסח Pesaḥ, παρελευσεται). Eve of Passover on Hebrew Nisan 14. Lasting until 4 April, with restricted work permitted from 30 March to 2 April, the celebration is of the deliverance (Exodus) of the Children of Israel from slavery in Ancient Egypt as a result of the Ten Plagues. As one of the biblically ordained Three Pilgrimage Festivals, Passover is traditionally celebrated in Israel for 7 days but is celebrated for 8 days among many Jews in the diaspora, in line with the concept of yom tov sheni shel galuyot (the 2nd festival day in the diaspora). For their salvation, God passed over the houses of the Israelites during the last of the 10 plagues, as during the day of Nisan 14 they were required to slaughter the Paschal lamb (korban Pesach), using its blood to mark their lintels and door posts and before midnight on Nisan 15 to eat the meat. During the time of the Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem, the Paschal lamb was offered and eaten on Passover Eve, Nisan 14, and there was an offering of barley on the 2nd  day of the festival. Nowadays, in addition to the biblical prohibition of leavened foods for the duration of the holiday (the Feast of Unleavened Bread (matzo)), the Passover seder (retelling of the story and ritual evening feast) is one of the most widely observed rites in Judaism. Passover is a spring festival at the 1st full moon after the northern Vernal Equinox, or the 2nd in leap years. Originally, the lunar new year would not start until the barley was ripe, that being the test for the onset of spring, and an intercalary month (Adar II) might be added. Since at least the 4th Century, the intercalation has been fixed mathematically. The story of Passover, with its messages that slaves can go free and that the future can be better than the present, has inspired many religious prayers and songs, including spirituals within the African-American community. The Samaritans celebrate their own Passover holiday, based on the Samaritan Pentateuch, as they split into a distinct community after the time of Moses. Two of the Disciples, Peter and John, were sent by Christ to prepare the Passover and in Christianity the celebration of Good Friday has its roots in Passover, as Jesus was crucified as the Passover Lamb. In Sunni Islam, the August Ashurah (10Muharram) fast commemorates the day when Moses and his followers were saved from Pharaoh as God created a path for them through the Red Sea.The greeting is Chag Pesach kasher vesame’ach (Seder kosher and joyous Passover).

Prayer In this hour of calamity, may we visualise ourselves among those who went forth out of Egypt. May this stability and equilibrium help us to never lose our sense of perspective or be overwhelmed by confusion and despair, to be brought forth from bondage unto freedom, from sorrow to joy. Amen

Revd George Herbert (1593-1633). Church of England celebration of wealthy Welsh metaphysical poet, orator, theologian and priest, one of the foremost British devotional lyricists. In 1624, supported by his kinsman the 3rd Earl of Pembroke, Herbert served in Parliament and in 1629 took holy orders in the Church of England, spending the rest of his life as the rector of the rural parish of Fugglestone St Peter near Salisbury, with the 14th Century chapel of St Andrew at Bemerton. He was noted for unfailing care for his parishioners, bringing the sacraments to them when they were ill and providing food and clothing for those in need. While at Bemerton, Herbert revised and added to his collection of poems The Temple. He also wrote the guide to rural ministry A Priest to the Temple (The County Parson His Character and Rule of Holy Life), which still remains influential. Having married shortly before taking up his post, he and his wife gave a home to three orphaned nieces. Together with their servants, they crossed the lane for services in the small St Andrew’s church twice every day and twice a week Herbert made the short journey into Salisbury to attend services at the Cathedral, afterwards making music with cathedral musicians. Being of poor health, Herbert died of consumption only 3 years after taking holy orders.

San Leandro (St Leander of Seville) (c534-c600). Feast Day for illustrious Cartagenan who became a monk at Seville and then was Bishop of the See. He was instrumental in converting the 2 sons of the Arian Visigothic King Leovigild, which earned him the Kings’s wrath and exile to Constantinople, where Leander met the future Pope Gregory the Great. It was Leander who suggested that Gregory write the famous commentary on the Book of Job, the Moralia. Returning home, Leander began his life work of propagating Christian orthodoxy against the Arians in Spain. The 589 3rd local Council of Toledo, over which he presided, decreed the consubstantiality of the three Persons of the Trinity and brought about moral reforms. Leander’s unerring wisdom and unflagging dedication led the Visigoths and the Suevi back to the true Faith and obtained the gratitude of Gregory the Great. Leander was the first to introduce the Nicene Creed at Mass and he wrote an influential Rule for nuns. The Spanish Church honours Leander as Doctor of the Faith.

Sunday 28  March

Holi (Holika Dahan, Chhoti Holi.Hindu). First evening of vibrant Hindu Spring Festival, Festival of Colours and Festival of Love, celebrating the end of winter, the beginning of spring and the eternal and divine love of Radha and Krishna. Plumes of brightly coloured paint are normally used in celebrations across the world. The Holi Festival takes place on the full moon day in the month of Phalgun, the 12th month of the year in the Indian calendar. According to legend, the demon king Hiranyakashipu demanded that he should be worshipped as a god instead of Lord Vishnu but, as

Hiranyakashipu could not be killed by man or animal, he became over-confident and attempted to kill his son who was devoted to Lord Vishnu, whilst only managing to burn to death his faithful daughter (Holika Dahan), which event is normally commemorated as Little Holi with families meeting to sing, dance and light bonfires. During the day, there is normally live street music and then traditional food and drink are enjoyed by all in family gatherings.

Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday). The Sunday before Easter when, from the 4th Century and from the 8th Century in the West, many churches have blessed date palm leaves or those from locally available trees. It is the 1st day of Holy Week when Christians concentrate their thoughts on the Passion (suffering) of Jesus. In the West during the Middle Ages the blessing of the palms was elaborate, going between churches and with the chanting by 3 deacons of the account of the Passion of Christ from the Gospel of Matthew, but the ceremonies have been simplified to emphasise the suffering and death of Christ. The palms are taken home by the congregation as sacred signs of the sacraments and some are burnt the following year for the ashes of Ash Wednesday. The Roman Catholic Church removed Passiontide from the liturgical year but the day is observed in the Extraordinary Form mass and by the formerly Anglican Catholics of the Personal Ordinariates, Western Rite Orthodoxy, the Anglican Communion and Lutherans. In Scotland the day is known as Care (Carling) Sunday and carlin (dried grey field) peas are eaten. The Western Rite Orthodox Feast of the Entry into Jerusalem on Palm (Flowery/Willow) Sunday celebrates Jesus’ triumphal entry to the city on a donkey symbolising peace rather than that of a warlike king entering on a horse and the procession includes an icon that represents the events being commemorated. Some Protestant churches may limit the ritual to palms.

St Christopher of Lycia (Ἅγιος Χριστόφορος, Ágios Christóforos, Christ-Bearer ) (dc250). Coptic Church Feast Day for legendary martyr of the early church, one of the 14 Auxiliary Saints (Holy Helpers). His most famous legend is of carrying an unknown child across a river before the child revealed himself as Christ. Small images of him are worn or placed in vehicles by Christians. Churches and monasteries were named after him by the 7th Century. Venerated in Roman Catholicism, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Anglicanism. Eastern Feast Day 9 May, Latin 25 July. Patron of travellers, drivers, sailors, long journeys, athletics, bachelors, storms, Brunswick, St Kitts, Vilnius, Havana, gardeners, against epilepsy, toothache.

Prayer Grant O Lord, as we travel, steady hands and watchful eyes, that no one shall be hurt as we pass by. You gave life, we pray none of our acts may take ever away from us or mar that gift of Thine. Shelter those, dear Lord, who bear our company from the evils of fire and all calamity. Hosanna

Monday 29 March

Hola Mohalla. Important Sikh spring festival to 31 March, usually celebrated on the day following the Hindu Festival of Holi. Anandpur Sahib (City of Bliss) in the Indian state of Punjab is a Sikh pilgrimage site and one of the most sacred places in Sikhism, where the last two Sikh Gurus Guru Teg Bahadur Ji and Guru Gobind Singh Ji lived. It is normally the venue of the largest annual Sikh gathering and week-long festivities during Hola Mohalla, with a colourful Nihang (ਨਿਹੰਗ) procession of armed Sikh warriors (the immortals) and displays of traditional martial skills, horse riding and war sports, followed by poetry readings, a type of Sikh Olympics Sports. Langars (gurdwara voluntary community kitchens) serve traditional food to all present.

Prayer There is One God, the supreme truth, Creator without fear and without hate, the Omnipresent pervading the universe. He is not born, nor does He die to be born again, by His grace shall we worship Him. Before time itself there was truth, then He was the truth, as now He is Known. Waheguru

Saint Berthold de Malifaye (St Berthold of Calabria, the Westerner, Bertoldus Calabriensis) (d1195). Feast Day for Limoges Catholic priest, a brilliant student at the University of Paris considered to be the founder of the Carmelite Order. He joined his brother Aymeric of Malifaye, the Latin patriarch of Antioch, in Turkey on the Crusades and was in Antioch when it was besieged by the Saracens. Aymeric appointed Berthold the first Carmelite superior general, in which capacity he served for 45 years until his death. On Mount Carmel in 1185, Berthold discovered a group of hermits, joined them, built a small chapel and established a Rule to live as the prophet Elijah. Having had a vision of Christ denouncing the soldiers’ evil ways, Berthold then sought to reform the Christian soldiers in the patriarchy. He was introduced in Carmelite literature around the 15th Century as Saint Berthold of Mount Carmel.

Sant Gwladys ferch Brychan (St Gladys, Gladusa) (dc520). Feast Day for legendary Welsh wife of the violent King Gwynllyw and mother of Sts Cadoc, Bugu, Cynidr and Egwine. Gwynllyw later became a hermit and local saint, a vision leading him to found a hermitage with Gwladys on what is now Stow Hill, Newport. After fasting or following a vegetarian diet and bathing in the cold waters of the Usk, they moved apart to avoid temptation. Gwladys founded her own hermitage at Pencarn, now Pont Ebbw, where she bathed in the Ebbw River. The Lady’s Well at Tredegar was dedicated to her, as were the church and school in Bargoed. There are also significant sites at Pencarn and the nearby Coedkernew. Patron of Newport, Gelligaer.

Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides, Rambam, רמב״ם, ha’Nesher ha’Gadol, Abū ʿImrān Mūsā bin Maimūn bin ʿUbaidallāh al-Qurtabī (ابو عمران موسى بن ميمون بن عبيد الله القرطبي).S (1135-1204) Spanish Sephardic Jewish philosopher, astronomer, physician and rabbi in Morocco and Egypt who became one of the most prolific and influential Medieval Torah scholars. Maimonides also figures prominently in the history of Islamic and Arab sciences and is mentioned extensively in studies as a philosopher and polymath in both the Jewish and Islamic worlds. He went to Morocco and the Land of Israel, where he prayed on the Temple Mount before settling in Fatimid Caliphate-controlled Egypt around 1168. In Cairo, he studied in an educational yeshiva at a small synagogue, which now bears his name. Maimonides was instrumental in helping rescue Jews taken captive during the Christian siege of the south eastern Nile Delta town of Bilbeis. Around 1171, Maimonides was briefly the Nagid of the Egyptian Jewish community and struggled for reappointment in 1195. He was appointed court physician to the Grand Vizier and then to Sultan Saladin, after whose death he remained a physician to the Ayyubid dynasty. In 1173/4, Maimonides wrote his famous Epistle to Yemen. He died in Egypt, where he was the revered head of the Jewish community, and his body was later taken to Tiberias, his tomb on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee marking his grave. Maimonides is widely respected in Spain, with a statue near the Córdoba Synagogue. He may have been a descendant of King David, not a claim that he ever made.

Tuesday 30 March

San Pedro Regalado (St Peter Regulatus OFM, Regulatus) (1390-1456). Feast Day for noble Spanish Franciscan friar minor who, In the newly-founded convent at Aguilera found a life of solitude, prayer and poverty, in 1415 becoming Superior. As Abbot of the convent at Tribulos del Abroyo, he effected many important reforms in the discipline of Spanish monasteries. He observed nine Lents, fasting on bread and water, and was endowed with the gift of miracles and prophecy. In 1442, he was appointed head of all the Spanish Franciscans in his reform group and was known for his charity to the poor. For his zeal in adhering to the Rule of the community he was designated Regulatus. After his death, his grave became a place of pilgrimage and,when his body was exhumed 36 years later it was found incorrupt and was placed in a new tomb. Feast Day 13 May for the translation of his body.

San Ludovico da Casoria (St Ludovico of Casoria OFM) (1814-85). Feast Day for Neopolitan cabinet maker, teacher and Franciscan friar, a renowned social reformer who had a mystical experience in 1847, after which he embarked on a lifetime of establishing works to care for the poor and needy, and founding dispensaries and orphanages. About 1852, he opened a school for the education of African boys and girls redeemed from slavery. He also founded institutions for the deaf and mute and worked to provide care for the elderly members of his own Order. In addition to an infirmary for friars of his province, he began charitable institutes in Naples, Florence and Assisi. In 1859, he instituted a community of men as a religious congregation of the Franciscan Third Order Regular at San Pietro, who became known as the Gray Friars of Charity (Frati Bigi della Carità) on account of the traditional greyish colour of the Franciscan religious habit. 3 years later, he established a congregation of religious women, known as the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Elizabeth (Suore Elisabettiane Bigie), whom he placed under the protection of Elizabeth of Hungary, one of the first members of the Third Order of Saint Francis and its patron saint. The work of the friars spread to the USA, where they served the Italian American community in New Jersey. The Sisters currently serve in Italy, the USA, Ethiopia, India, Panama and the Philippines. Ludovico died in the Marino hospice of Posillipo after a long and painful illness, his spiritual testament beginning: “The Lord called me to Himself with a most tender love, and with an infinite charity He led and directed me along the path of life.” His restored body clad in the Franciscan habit is in the Basilica of Santa Chiara. Patron of Casoria, Sisters of Saint Elizabeth.
St John Climacus (ωάννης τς Κλίμακος, Ioannes Climacus), John of the Ladder, John Scholasticus, John Sinaites) (525-606). Feast Day for Syrian Christian, a hermit at 16 who lived for many years on Sinai before going to Thale and being elected Abbot (Igumen) of the monks of Mount Sinai. He wrote The Ladder of Perfection (Κλμαξ,Scala Paradisi) describing the raising of one’s soul and body to God through the acquisition of ascetic virtues. Climacus uses the analogy of Jacob’s Ladder as the framework for his spiritual teaching. Each chapter is referred to as a step and deals with a separate spiritual subject. The 30 Steps on the ladder correspond to the age of Jesus at his baptism and the beginning of his earthly ministry. The final rung of the ladder shows that beyond prayer (προσευχή), stillness (συχία) and even dispassion (πάθεια) is love (γάπη). John died on Sinai. Venerated in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic Churches. The Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches additionally commemorate Climacus on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent. Many churches are dedicated to him in Russia, including a church and belltower in the Moscow Kremlin.
Prayer Dweller of the desert and angel in the body, you were shown to be a wonder-worker, our God-bearing Father John. You received heavenly gifts through fasting, vigil and prayer, healing the sick and the souls of those drawn to you by faith. May you be our guiding star, showing us the way. Amen
Wednesday 31 March
Dalai Lama (ཏཱ་ལའི་བླ་མ་, Precious Conqueror, Tenzin Gyatso, བསྟན་འཛིན་རྒྱ་མཚོ་, Dainzin Gyaco, 丹增嘉措) (b1935). Anniversary of 1959 escape from Chinese-occupied Tibet to political asylum in exile in McLeod Ganj, India, of 1940 14th spiritual leader of the Gelug (Yellow Hat) school of Tibetan Buddhism, the newest classical school. There was a huge movement of Tibetan refugees into India, where they have opened many schools and Buddhist temples. The Dalai Lama (Mongolic dalai (big) and Tibetan laa-ma (master, guru) is considered the successor in a line of tulkus (trained reincarnations) of the mindstream of Avalokiteśvara (Padmapani), the Bodhisattva of Compassion embodying the compassion of all Buddhas. Since the 17th Century 5th Dalai Lama, his personage has been a symbol of Tibetan unification, representing Buddhist values and traditions. The Dalai Lamas became spiritual leaders in 25 surrounding countries, their literature giving religious, spiritual and philosophical inspiration to over 50 million people. The present Dalai Lama has worked to hold together disparate religious and regional groups and overcome sectarian divisions in the exiled community, becoming a symbol of Tibetan nationhood both in Tibet and in exile. In 2018, he said that Europe belongs to the Europeans and has a moral obligation to aid refugees whose lives are in peril, by receiving, helping and educating refugees to ultimately return to develop their home countries. In 2019, he said that after his death he is likely to be reincarnated in India and any Chinese interference would be invalid. The government of the People’s Republic of China has stated its intention to be the ultimate authority on the selection of the next Dalai Lama, who last year did not support Tibetan independence but preferred the concept of a republic in the People’s Republic of China, with ethnic minorities like Tibetans, Mongols, Manchus and Xinjiang Uyghurs living in harmony.
Prayer As long as sentient beings remain, may we remain and help dispel the misery of the world. Where the supreme, precious teaching has not spread or where it has spread but then declined, may we illumine that treasure of happiness and benefit with a mind moved by great empathy. Sādhu!
St. Benjamin (329-424). Roman Catholic Feast Day for Christian deacon in Persia, where a Christian Bishop burned the Temple of Fire, refused to rebuild it, saw all the churches demolished and was put to death in a general persecution that lasted 40 years. Benjamin was imprisoned for a year but released on condition that he would never speak about religion. He said it was his duty to preach about Christ and was again arrested, to suffer repeated tortures until he expired in the most terrible agony. Feast Day 13 October Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic Churches.
San Guy di Pomposa (St Guy of Pomposa, Guido) (d1046). Feast Day for Italian Benedictine hermit who gave everything to the poor. He was Abbot of the 874 Pomposa monastery in Codigoro, Ferrara, which originally dated back to 574, during the Lombard epoch of northern Italy, when the monks of the Irish missionary Columba arrived to found Benedictine abbeys. Codigoro became famous throughout northern Italy for the manuscripts preserved in its library and its Romanesque buildings. Guy became the Abbot of St Severus, Ravenna and, as a student of scripture, taught Bible studies. Many were attracted to his teaching, leadership and example of the Christian life. He periodically retreated to a hermitage near Ferrara to spend his days in prayer and fasting. Near the end of his life, he was unjustly persecuted by the Archbishop of Ravenna for personal reasons. Guy died of natural causes at Borgo San Donnino near Parma, on a trip to Piacenza to advise the Emperor on spiritual matters. Both Parma and Pomposa claimed his relics, but the Emperor had his body translated to the Church of Saint John the Evangelist at Speyer, Germany, later renamed Saint Guido-Stift. Patron of Speyer.