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The original image of Divine Mercy

The Divine Mercy

The Divine Mercy image is well-known and can be seen in many churches. What is less well-known is that the one we are familiar with was not the original version. The first painting was made in Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, under the supervision of St Faustina Kowalska and her confessor, Fr Sopoćko. She gave the artist instructions about the appearance of the image, which she said she had received from Jesus Christ in a vision. The final painting satisfied neither Fr Sopocko nor Faustina, but she later wrote that Jesus told her it was not that important for the picture to be beautiful since true beauty would be the blessing that he would bestow upon people by means of the painting. 

After its completion in 1934, the painting hung in the Bernardine Sisters’ convent in Vilnius, but Faustina wrote that Jesus told her to inform her confessor that the proper place for the painting was in a church. So the first public exposition of the painting was in April 1935, at the Church of the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, and then in 1937 it was put on display beside the main altar in the large St. Michael’s Church. 

In 1948, the Soviet authorities, who then occupied Lithuania, closed St. Michael’s Church, but the painting remained in the disused church building until 1951, when two local women bought the canvas from a guard and concealed it in an attic for several years. 

Later, they gave it to the parish priest at the Church of the Holy Spirit for safekeeping, but he chose not to display it in the church. Fr Sopocko, now living in Poland, expressed concern about it to a friend, who obtained the painting and moved it to his own parish church in Nova Ruda, in Belarus. There, it was displayed and venerated by the local parishioners. In 1970, the Soviets closed that church and used it as a storage warehouse but left the painting hanging in the disused church, where people continued to venerate it in secret. 

In 1986, the painting was replaced by a copy and the original secretly transported back to the Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius. There it underwent a restoration and was displayed. Finally, after the fall of Communism, in 2003 the painting, which had deteriorated because of exposure, attempts at cleaning, and the previous restoration, was professionally restored to its original look. Finally in 2005, it was moved to its current location, above the main altar in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Vilnius. So, four locations in Vilnius, then to Belarus and eventually back home to Vilnius.

New Vicar General, New Dean

Today, the First Sunday of Advent, sees a new year in the life of the Church, and in the life of our own local Church in Cardiff we see some significant new appointments. Our new Vicar General in the diocese is Fr Brian Gray, formerly Dean of Cardiff, who now replaces Mgr Can Joe Boardman of Penarth, while our new Dean is Canon John Griffiths. Fr Gray is parish priest of St Cadoc’s, St John Lloyd’s and Blessed Sacrament on the east side of the city, but parishioners of St Brigid’s and St Paul’s may remember him as assistant to Canon Dunne and acting parish priest for a few years up to 2004. Canon Griffiths is parish priest in our neighbouring parish of St Teilo’s with Our Lady of Lourdes.

Our diocese is divided into four deaneries, and each Dean has a coordinating role, among the clergy and parishes in his area, and between his area and the Archbishop. In each diocese the diocesan bishop must appoint a vicar general who is to assist the bishop or archbishop in the governance of the whole diocese. It is a personal appointment by the bishop. Church law states that he is “to be a priest not less than thirty years old, a doctor or licensed in canon law or theology or at least truly expert in these disciplines, and recommended by sound doctrine, integrity, prudence, and experience in handling matters.” A bishop can delegate a lot of actions to him, but communication between them is very important.

I remember being told in my church law studies back in the 80s in Canada that although the job of “V.G” might be seen as high profile, it is also potentially very difficult, because of one little phrase in the small section in the law devoted to the role. This states that a Vicar General is “never to act contrary to the intention and mind of the diocesan bishop. In other words, if he has his own ideas any different to those of the bishop, he is to be “of one mind”. Hmm, tough call, especially in the modern church where we are more encouraged to share our thoughts and opinions! Good luck lads!

Fr Matthew

One of our local saints – Illtud

The earliest mention of Illtud is in the Vita Sancti Sampsoni, written in Brittany, about 600 AD. According to this account, Illtud was the disciple of Bishop Germanus of Auxerre in north-central France.

It says he was the most accomplished of all the Britons, and was well versed in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as well as every type of philosophy, including geometry, rhetoric, grammar, and arithmetic. He was also “gifted with the power of foretelling future events”.

According to Life of St Illtud written circa 1140, Illtud was the son of a Breton prince and a cousin of King Arthur. Illtud’s parents intended him for service in the church, but he chose to pursue a military career, married and became a soldier, in service first to King Arthur.

He is sometimes called Illtud the Knight. Later it was the Abbot St Cadoc, based at nearby Llancarfan who told him to give up his selfish ways and go back to his religious upbringing. Inspired, Illtud gave up his wife, and became a hermit in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Illtud helped pioneer the monastic life of Wales by founding a monastery in what is now Llantwit Major. This became the first major Welsh monastic school, and was a hub of Celtic Christianity in post-Roman Britain.

Illtud’s own pupils are reckoned to have included sons of British princes, and scholars such as Saint Patrick, Paul Aurelian, Taliesin, Gildas and Samson of Dol. St David is also believed to have spent some time there. It is a must-visit for anyone interested in the Catholic past in our area.

Again according to legend, Illtud was maybe buried west of Brecon, in the church of Llanilltud, on a tract of moorland known as Mynydd Illtud. His feast day and commemoration is celebrated on 6 November.

There is no formal evidence for a devotion to Illtud surviving from before the 11 century. However, in Celtic countries it is the names of places that tell us most about the existence and veneration of the saints during the oldest times.

The town of Llanilltud Fawr (Llantwit Major) where Illtud’s college is located is of course named for him, and was the chief centre of the cult of St Illtud.

Many other places and or churches in Glamorgan are dedicated to him, such as Llantrithyd, Llantwit Fardre, Newcastle in Bridgend, several in the Gower and near Neath. Llantrisant’s three saints were Illtud, Gwynno and Tyfodwg.

A 13 century church on Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire, is dedicated to Illtud. In North Wales, there is a Llanelltyd near Dolgellau, and even in Brittany there are many places dedicated to him. And, of course, there is my old school – St Illtyd’s!

Fr Matthew from sources.

St Teresa’s Bookmark

Some of my favourite saints have their feast in October. Among them is St Teresa of Avila (1515 – 1582), the great Spanish Carmelite mystic, writer, founder, reformer and Doctor (i.e. teacher) of the Church.  

This famous prayer or thought was found after St. Teresa’s death on a prayer card in her breviary (prayer-book). As one commentator said, it is “perfect in times of distress or anxiety. It puts into perspective life’s meaning: that we are here for God, and that this life and its sufferings will pass.  St. Teresa’s message is clear: Do not distress. Do not be afraid. Do not lose hope. God is always with you, and He alone will satisfy you.”

Nada te turbe,  
nada te espante,
todo se pasa;  
Dios no se muda.
La paciencia
todo lo alcanza;
Quien a Dios tiene,  
nada le falta;
Solo Dios basta.

rough modern translation:

Let nothing disturb you, nothing surprise you,
all things pass;  God does not change.
Patience wins everything;
whoever holds onto God  lacks nothing;
God alone is enough.

a more poetic & old-fashioned translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Let nothing disturb thee, Nothing affright thee;
All things are passing;  God never changeth;
Patient endurance   Attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth  In nothing is wanting;
Alone God sufficeth.

14th September – The Feast of the Cross

Thursday is the Feast of the Triumph or Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This is not the commemoration of Our Lord’s suffering upon the Cross – that is Good Friday. Rather it is an invitation to honour the Cross itself, the altar as it were where Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us. There are many versions of what happened to the True Cross, here we mention the most popular tradition in Western Christianity.

“According to Christian tradition, the True Cross was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem. The great Church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine. The church was dedicated nine years later, with a portion of the cross. One-third remained in Jerusalem, one-third was brought to Rome and deposited in the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem), also known as the Sessorian basilica, and one-third was taken to Constantinople to make the city impregnable. (

14th September, the date of the feast, marks the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335. This was a two-day festival: although the actual consecration of the church was on 13 September, the cross itself was brought outside the church on 14 September so that the clergy and faithful could pray before the True Cross, and all could come forward to venerate it.

Historically in Western Christianity, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the calendar week after the one in which the feast day occurs are designated as one of each year’s four sets of Ember days. Until 1969, these ember days were a part of the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. Organization of these celebrations in the ordinary form is now left to the decision of episcopal conferences in view of local conditions and customs. The ember days are no longer part of our Latin Rite, but are still observed in the calendar of the Roman Rite’s Extraordinary Form, the Anglican Ordinariate, and Western Orthodoxy.”

Fr Matthew, with acknowledgements to Wikipedia.

Clergy summer moves

The Archbishop announces clergy moves for September:

Cathedral and University: Fr Robert James moves from the Cathedral to Mountain Ash/ Hirwaun/ Aberdare. Fr Michael Doyle moves to the Cathedral from Newport as Parish Priest and Vocations Director. He will also be Diocesan Coordinator for the Jubilee Year in 2025. Fr Elliot Hanson also moves to the Cathedral from Newport, as Assistant, as Chaplain to the University, and Vocations Promoter in the Archdiocese. Fr Nicholas Williams moves to St Albans Royal College, (the English College pre-seminary) Valladolid as a member of the Formation Staff. The Archbishop points out that although we are stretched for priests in our Dioceses, it is important for us to be generous to the wider needs of the Church, too.

Newport: The Nigerian Province of the Dominicans assume the overall oversight of All Saints, Newport – Fr Stephen Ogbe OP moves from mid-Wales to become Parish Priest and Fr Richard Odok OP, who recently arrived from Nigeria, joins him. A third Dominican will join them next year.  Within Newport, the Ordinariate assume pastoral responsibility for Ss Basil and Gwladys Church, Rogerstone. Fr Bernard Sixtus takes up priestly ministry there and in Usk, alongside his work for our Schools as Director of Religious Education. The Syro-Malabar Eparchy have agreed to assume pastoral oversight of St David’s Church, Maesglas in Newport, where Fr Mathew Palarakarottu moves as Priest-in-Charge.

Canons: Canon Paul Millar moves from Leominster to Pontypool/ Blaenavon. Belmont Abbey assume oversight of Leominster/ Bromyard. Canon Mike Evans has recently moved from St Patrick’s Grangetown to Barry. Canon Eddie O’Connell has resigned from Ecclesiastical Office.  We give thanks for his generous priestly ministry and wish him well in this next phase of priestly service.

Also: Fr Valentine Mobuogwu has moved to St Patrick’s as Priest-in-Charge. He will be joined there shortly by Fr Malachy Orjiebele and Fr Solomon Ugwummadu, from the Diocese of Issele-Uku, Nigeria. Fr Lawrence Agyepong remains in residence at Tredegar for this period of orientation. Fr Denis Opoku will arrive from Accra, Ghana, during the summer and will spend some months of orientation with other priests before taking up an appointment.

We keep all concerned in our prayers.