St. Aelred of Rievaulx

Feast day: January 12

Patron of bladder stone sufferers

1110 – 1167

St. Aelred of Rievaulx (1109-1167) early showed signs of promise. The son of Eilaf, a Saxon priest, Aelred was educated at Roxburgh,

the ancient Scottish capital, where he was known for his intellectual talents. The DNB notes that as a child, Aelred prophesied the death of a bad archbishop of York; the DNB notes also that scholars doubt this since Thomas, the archbishop at that time, was not bad. When Aelred finished his schooling, he became the steward to King David of Scotland. He left his job c. 1133 to join the Cistercian community at Rievaulx.

He was the first abbot of Rievaulx’s daughterhouse in Revesby, Lincolnshire, but he returned to Rievaulx in 1147 to be abbot. During the last ten years of his life, his health deteriorated, and he suffered from gout and a bad cough. St. Aelred wrote his most famous work, The Mirror of Charity, at the request of Bernard of Clairvaux.

On Spiritual Friendship is a Christianized version of Cicero’s De amicitia. Aelred also penned lives of St. Ninian and of Edward the Confessor, in addition to a rule for recluses and a genealogy of the kings of England. His correspondence and his work on St. Cuthbert have been lost.  from Catholic Online

Ruins of Rievaulx Abbey – North Yorkshire UK

The Five Sisters Window


 The Five Sisters Window

The north wall of the North Transept is filled with the imposing mixture of stone and glass that forms the Five Sisters Window. It is the oldest complete window in York Minster and dates from around the year 1260. In comparison to other windows in the building the Five Sister can appear quite dark and confusing. This is, in part, due to the excessive amount of repair leads which confuse the image, and the protective outer glazing that cuts down the amount of light entering the building from the north.

 The Five Sisters is made of “grisaille” glass fashionable in the thirteenth century England. Grisaille or Cistercian glass was typically formed by painting complex foliage patterns on pieces of white or silvery grey glass. The pieces were then formed into strong geometric patterns with the skilful use of the lead cames that hold the pieces together, the lead being as integral a part of the design as the glass. Each of the magnificent lancets stands 16.3m tall and is 1.55m wide. In total the window contains over 100,000 individual pieces of glass

– Dean & Chapter of York 2006


peggy I gave Peggy’s money to the girl with orange hair. She held up a bucket with a sign “cure cancer.” “Are you sure?” She was shocked at the three bills; clearly, generosity exceeded her expectations. I didn’t compound her confusion by telling her the truth; the folded paper was intended for a dog and a man who live in the street. Peggy is a black Whippet. Salt and pepper sprinkle her elegant snout. Her Dad, Keith, told me they lost their shelter when the fellow they lived with died. While my discernment of homeless economics is primitive, I suspect that put them in the street was more complicated.

Neither he nor Peggy was malnourished, but autumn in York advanced toward All Hallows’ and Whippets have only fur veneer. She shivered, and he held her, arms wrapped around his best girl giving her more blanket than he could spare. I dropped a few pounds in his hand. “Get you and Peggy something to eat.”. I saw them last where Stonegate meets Saint Helen’s Square. Peggy, wearing a coat like a fashion model, was mighty sporty. “I got her a coat,” Keith grinned. He has a good smile, and only the missing upper front tooth reminds me life is hard. I set aside some pound notes for them.


At twilight, Evensong sung, a solitary high C floated; releasing stacked overtones that whispered down the sound chamber of the Nave.

“Lighten our darkness,we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer – Collect for Protection)

I came out the South Transept down Stonegate searching. The Shops mostly closed, patrons gone, leave shop-keepers to turn the key and turn toward home. Medieval buildings, like eccentric neighbors, leaned out, beckoning across the cobbles, straining to learn the gossip of the day’s trade past. The people lying in the gate alone seem less so in anonymous dark than when ignored by the crowds. I stopped and inquired if they had seen a man and his dog. None had. Full Night fell, and I turned back.

Some would think it odd that a man in the street would have a mouth to feed not his own. They are ignorant. Remember poor ignored sore Lazarus? Was he not comforted in the gate by the dogs. A burden to some, an extravagance to most is all Keith has. He admitted as much when he stroked her elegant neck and whispered, “she’s eight almost an old lady.”

Determined to honor them, that last day I went round again looking but found no “Peg o’ My Heart“. Time ran out. I caught the train to the plane in Manchester. Reluctantly, I gave Peggy’s money to the girl with the orange hair.

October 2013
York, United Kingdom


Saint Gregory Minster

Today I saw one of the oldest church building in Great Britain. St Gregory’s Minster is an Anglo-Saxon church with a rare sundial, in Kirkdale near Kirkbymoorside, Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire, England. The minster was built c. 1060 on the site of an earlier church from perhaps the 600s.


The Minster is surrounded on every side by tombs. Clearly people wanted their remains to lie awaiting resurrection on that great day of The Lord. At Kirkdale on that great day the crowd will likely be large, diverse and congenial.

The Rumors of Bad English Food are Greatly Exaggerated!

Food Festival in York - Amazing!

Food Festival in York – Amazing!


Reputations have a long shelf-life.  As I prepared to come to England people warned me that the food is not that good and encouraged to go to France for food. Well, the foodies came to town this week and set up camp in the city centre.  This weekend is the end of The York Food Festival. IMG_0481

The photos speak for themselves.  I’m no photographer but I think I got enough for you to see there is no danger of bad “vittles” in these parts.  York leads the country in organic, sustainable agriculture.  Many of the people in the booths grew what they sell or at least know the people who grew what is in the booth.


As one man explained to me (yes, I’m still talking to people) that when the hoof & mouth epidemic broke years ago people cast about to find what else they could do to sustain the farms. The products you see in these photos are the results of that tragedy.


The smells of roasting meat in the air people walking about with their children and their dogs amidst tents and booths looks a little like the Grove in Oxford might this weekend. No marching bands but the street musicians do what they can to keep the party going.

Nowhere in Britain is far from the sea. Scotland is as far from York as Kentucky is Memphis.

Nowhere in Britain is far from the sea. Scotland is as far from York as Kentucky is Memphis.

This young man told me that the fish in front of him was swimming of the coast of Scotland last Wednesday.



One cannot live simply by bread.  No danger of that in York this weekend.

One cannot live simply by bread. No danger of that in York this weekend.


James’ company supplies people who sign up for fresh vegetables to be delivered in season. This sounds very similar to what Woodson Farms of Oxford, Mississippi delivered at Saint John’s this past growing season.


A few flowers for the table and off you go with amazing food. All that was lacking was an Alka Seltzer booth in the middle. I'm just saying. JWS

A few flowers for the table and off you go with amazing food. All that was lacking was an Alka Seltzer booth in the middle. I’m just saying. JWS

In the end he is its sole object

Sir Ralph Spencer , Last Supper

Sir Ralph Spencer , Last Supper

 After Pentecost the followers of Jesus began working to make sense of what had happened to them, the only holy text was what we call the Old Testament. They then began to read the Hebrew text looking for Jesus. They found him on almost every page. Some followers of Jesus have ignored, discounted or almost abandoned the Old Testament seeing it redundant. This of course is not the case at all. As Cardinal de Lubac (post before this one) puts it, “Everything in it (Scripture) is related to him (Jesus). In the end he is its sole object.”

This thinking has exploded my notion of how Holy Writ. It is all organically connected as living things always are if they are truly living. We will encounter the Holy One of God in all sorts of places if we look, thus the deliverance of the Children through the waters of the Red Sea from slavery in Egypt points toward and is fulfilled (filled full) those who believe saved from bondage of sin through the waters of baptism. This is called type and antitype.

 I begin vacation next week for the month of August. In September 1st I begin a three month sabbatical. During this time I will continue to post as I think out loud about faith and practice. I will also chronicle my trip to the north of England from September 3rd until October 18th. If you have questions send them my way.


Saint Elizabeth the New Martyr



Elisabeth Hesse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Saint Elizabeth the New Martyr

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov was murdered by the communists 95 years ago today.

Elizabeth, full of grace, pray for us.