A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
Diwali (Deepawali, Narak Chaturdashi). On this day of Diwali, one of the most celebrated Hindu festivals of the year, the most important part of the festival takes place. Diyas (clay oil lamps) are lit and puja ritual worship of the Goddess of wealth Lakshmi may be performed in the temples or at home by placing a red cloth on a puja chowki worship table, putting Her idol on it and then offering flowers, fruit including water chestnuts, pomegranate, quince and coconut, and sweets such as kesari bhaat semolina pudding with saffron, nuts and sugar to Her, then prostrating oneself in front of the idol and joining one’s palms in prayer. For Lakshmi worship, a pandit (पण्डित, पंडित, teacher) may perform the ceremony whilst family members participate in the rituals and offerings, followed by the distribution of sweets and prasad (food). On this day of Diwali, families normally meet to exchange gifts and have a large meal, many people wearing their best clothes and wishing each other Shubh Deepavali (Happy Diwali). As Lakshmi Puja (लक्ष्मी पूजा) falls on the Amavasya new moon day celebrating Lord Krishna’s triumph over the ferocious demon Narakasur, it considered inauspicious by some as the night when the evil spirits are the strongest. For this reason, in West Bengal the night is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva as destroyers of the evil spirits or the shadow of evil, some believers celebrating with rice and fish and others fasting for their wishes to come true and to seek forgiveness for all their sins. People keep their houses clean, use fragrant oils and flowers to lift their spirits and normally complete the artistic patterns of rangolis made from a mixture of rice flour and water at the threshold of each house. A diya is normally placed in each room and to the rear of the house throughout the night, as at Diwali Lord Rama and his wife Sita finally returned home from exile and were welcomed by a glittering row of lights (Deepavali) shining from every house. Businesspeople perform Chopda Pujan on this day by starting their new account books at the beginning of the Indian financial year, when starting a new business venture is seen as auspicious. Although this year Diwali celebrations are mainly via Zoom, it has a special significance for Jains, as it is the day in 527 BCE that Mahavira (महावीर, Vardhamana, the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankara (Jina, Victor, saviour who has succeeded in crossing over life’s stream of rebirths and has made a path for others to follow, gave his last teachings and at midnight attained ultimate liberation (nirvana, निर्वाण). Temples and shrines are decorated, often with toys and images of animals, and Jains meditate on the teachings that Mahavira gave that day, the Uttaradhyayan Sutra (Vipak Sutra). Many devout followers do penance, fasting for two days during Diwali, following the example of Mahavira and generously caring for all living beings. Clay lamps are lit and children are given sweets by their parents, but the normal songs, dances and noise of Hindu celebrations are not common in Jain communities. Jain businesspeople traditionally start their accounting year from Veer Samvat, the day after Diwali. Sikhs celebrate Diwali on 4 November and in Kerala Deepavali is observed on this day, with the Tamil communities in Kerala beginning their celebrations early in the morning with a ritual oil bath. The celebrations normally include wearing festive garments, distributing special sweets, letting off firecrackers and watching colourful fireworks lighting up the sky. Homes are lit by clay oil lamps and the sparkling lights dazzle every neighbourhood during Deepavali. Image: thequint.com.
Prayer May we not associate wealth only with material possessions, as Lakshmi also represents the abundance of internal wealth, compassion, generosity, forgiveness and perseverance. The more of this wealth we spend on others, the more we acquire and so may we be blessed with abundance in order to share with others. May we never feel afraid to give out of our abundance as we spend a very happy and auspicious Diwali. Hari Om
St Augustine of Hippo (Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis, St Austin, Blessed Augustine, Doctor of Grace, Doctor Gratiae) (354-430). Assyrian Church Feast Day for the heavily-Romanised North African Berber son of St Monica. Augustine was born in present-day Souk Ahras, Algeria and was: one of the thirty-three Doctors of the Church; a theologian who helped formulate the doctrine of original sin; a philosopher; a man of powerful intellect; a stirring orator who despised gossip; and Bishop in Hippo Regius in Roman North Africa. Before becoming one of the most important Church Fathers of the Latin Church in the Patristic Period between the First and Eighth Centuries, he went to Milan in 384 and uttered his famously insincere prayer: “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” In 386, he decided to convert to Catholicism and, with his son Adeodatus, was baptised by St Ambrose at 33, before they returned to Africa in 387. At 37, he was ordained priest in Hippo Regius (Annaba) and he became the full Bishop of Hippo from 396 until his death, leading a monastic life in the episcopal residence, giving the church his property and working tirelessly to convince the people of Hippo to convert to Christianity. Shortly before his death, the Arian Vandals invaded Roman North Africa and besieged Hippo. Augustine died in Annaba in present-day Algeria on 28 August 430. A year after his death, the Vandals lifted the siege, destroying all but Augustine’s cathedral and library. Venerated in all Christian denominations that venerate saints. Major shrine San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro, Pavia, Italy. A miracle in Hippo was attributed to Augustine for the healing of a sick man. Feast Day 15 June in Eastern Christianity, 28 August in Latin Church, Western Christianity. Patron of brewers, printers, sore eyes, theologians. Image: oca.org.
Bl Martha Le Bouteiller (Marthe, Aimée-Adèle Le Bouteiller) (1816-83). Feast Day for the poor French Roman Catholic born in Normandy who became a professed religious in the Sisters of the Christian Schools of Mercy of Saint Julie Postel. As a young woman, Aimée-Adèle found time from working on the family farm to volunteer at her parish school and made pilgrimages with the children, including an annual ten-mile parish pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Chappelle-sur-Vire. In 1841, on a fifty-mile pilgrimage, she paid a visit to the ruined Abbey of Saint Sauveur le Vicomte, where Marie-Madeleine Postel (Sainte Julie Postel) had in 1832 founded a religious congregation, the School of Sisters of Mercy. After her visit, Aimée-Adèle resolved to enter the convent there and, as a sister noted for her work for the congregation in many capacities, took the name Martha, a name associated with hard work, and she worked very hard, her assignments including working on the Abbey farm, in the gardens and helping with the laundry. Eventually, she was assigned to the cellar where cider was made and proved so skilled at this work that she became known as Sister Cider to her friends. During the Franco-Prussian War, French troops were quartered in the Abbey and Martha provided significant care for the soldiers, particularly ensuring that every soldier was fed and had wine. She also formed a special bond with the Abbey’s superior, Mother Placide Viel. a friendship that has come to exemplify the bond of sisterhood and friendship that commonly forms between those who live a vocation of service. Sister Martha died in Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, Normandy on 18 March 1883 and was given the epithet of Bouteiller after the title given in the Middle Ages to the cupbearer responsible for the royal wine. Image: catholicsaints.info.