November is a month when many people like to reflect, pause and remember beloved family members and friends who have died. The month begins with the Feast of All Saints. It was instituted to honour all of the saints, both known and unknown, and, according to Pope Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful’s celebration of saints’ feasts during the year. The Feast of All the Saints of Ireland was instituted in 1921, by Pope Benedict XV.
The evening of June 23, St John’s Eve, is the eve of celebration before the Feast Day of St John the Baptist. The bible states that John was born about six months before Jesus, therefore the feast of John the Baptist was fixed on June 24, six months before Christmas. St John the Baptist, like Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, is one of very few persons to have the anniversary of the birth commemorated.
The Feast of St John coincides with the June solstice also referred to as Midsummer. The feast is celebrated in many countries throughout the Christian world. In Ireland this was the traditional night for the Bonfire. In this celebratory bonfire old bones were burned. In the Irish language the bonfire is called “Tine Cnáimh” which literally means fire of bones. Another name for the fire was “Tine Féil Eóin”.
Canon Sydney Alfred McEwan (19 October 1908 – 25 September 1991) was a famous Scottish priest who was gifted with an exceptional tenor singing voice, and who sang traditional Scottish and Irish songs. Probably his most famous recording is the Marian hymn ‘Bring flowers of the Rarest’ written by Mary E. Walsh. The hymn was first published as the “Crowning Hymn” in the Wreath of Mary 1871/1883 and later in St. Basil’s hymnal (1889). The hymn is synonymous with Marian processions and devotions in the month of May.
One in four people will experience mental ill health at some point in their lives, this is a stark reality and there is no doubt that as we get older, loneliness and isolation can feel a constant in our lives. Long winter nights, bad weather, ill health and/or poor mobility can prevent many people from leaving their homes and become the key elements to feelings of isolation and depression. As we grow old, we will have seen many of our close friends and family pass away and we may even find that we are the last surviving member of our generation or family, no doubt this brings with it a great sense of loss which can lead to bouts of anxiety and depression.