Augustinian Order picks latest honorary member

Adobe Spark-16Neguri, Spain: The ecclesial community of Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen last week erupted into cheers and applause when one of their members was formally bestowed the honor of being a “son of the Augustinian Order” for his contributions to the mission of the Order of St. Augustine.

Luis Ignacio Sáez Amo, a long-time parishioner of Iglesia del Carmen, was chosen from a number of candidates submitted by the Augustinian community here to Fr. Alejandro Moral Antón, father general of the Order of St. Augustine. From Rome, Father Moral issued the decree on February 14, 2017, naming Señor Sáez a son of the Augustinian Order for his “solidarity, friendship and fidelity to our community,” for “his cheerful presence” and for lending his hands to the Order’s numerous activities around Bilbao, Spain. <<READ MORE>>

Rosalba Caffe: Old World Charm in an Italian Coffee Shop


Neguri, Spain: The town of Nutley in New Jersey is close enough to New York City that residents can drive to Manhattan in less than half an hour if traffic is light or take the train for less aggravation. But they need not travel that far to satisfy their discriminating palates as their town boasts some of the finest dining experiences in the New York metropolitan area.

Among the food establishments that stand out is Rosalba Caffe, which serves what is probably the most authentic espresso, cappuccino and caffé latte in town bar none. Situated along Franklin Avenue, the town’s main drag, the coffee shop is owned and operated by Rosalba Di Irio Tomasella, an amiable and bubbly Italian immigrant who first came to the United States in 1974. Her café is always full of locals who congregate around small tables, where they relish either their favorite beverage or a cone of home-made gelato, a piece of tiramisu and any of the other Italian pastries that Rosalba herself has baked.

Unlike other food establishments in the New York area which tend to limit the time their customers can stay, no one feels rushed to leave Rosalba Caffe. People feel at home there so that they linger to enjoy their orders and chat with friends for as long as they want. <<READ MORE…>>

Portrait of Dylan Thomas


Cover of El acantilado y otros poemas by Welsh poet and author Robert Edward Gurney.

New York, New York: Along with Robert Burns, Christopher Marlowe, Arthur Rimbaud, Edgar Allan Poe, Sergei Esenin and César Vallejo, Dylan Thomas led a life of nonchalance and poetic disdain for fame and glory. Like them, he died relatively young. And indeed like them, he wrote poetry that will outlive every single one of his detractors. As a literary titan, his works are bound to survive the test of time.

Dylan Thomas’ mastery of his craft is in full display in his use of sprung rhythm and unusual syntaxis that are distinctly his. Who can forget his exhortation to his blind father who was on the verge of dying? “Do not go gentle into that good night” is surely worth remembering even by a non-lover of poetry in a period of storm and stress. His poem “Fern Hill” abounds with earthy images and is guaranteed to sweep one off one’s feet. It is difficult to find inspiration in the artistic perfection of Dylan Thomas without being exposed as a fraud or a hacker with the rare exception of Robert Edward Gurney who succeeds in weaving magic with words in his own inimitable voice.

Robert Edward Gurney, a poet deeply influenced by Wales, has recently published El acantilado y otros poemas (Cambria Books: 2016),  a collection of twelve Spanish poems celebrating Dylan Thomas and according the literary icon with the proper respect he deservesAward-winning poet, fiction writer and lecturer in both Spanish and French, Robert Edward Gurney had studied in the Basque country, Salamanca, Uganda as well as the National University, Córdoba, Argentina. He is a bilingual poet, writing with equal proficiency in both Spanish and English<<READ MORE…>>

One Heart, One Mind Intent Upon God


Neguri, Spain: Last Thursday, October 20, the feast of Augustinian martyr Saint Magdalena of Nagasaki, Father Alejandro Moral Antón, the Father General of the Order of Saint Augustine, came to visit us his brother Augustinians detailed at Iglesia del Carmen. He was accompanied by the Order’s Assistant General and concurrent President of the Institute of Augustinian Spirituality, Madrid-born Father Luis Marín de San Martín. <<CONTINUE READING>>

A Sculptor’s Vision of Divina Pastora


Neguri, Spain: In the usually mild winter that characterizes parts of northern Spain, I took a trip to Cantabria last January, along with two of my closest Basque friends, avant garde poet Antonio Aguirre and celebrated sculptor Vicente Jáuregui. Near the end of a long day spent exploring various medieval towns and hamlets, we drove to Escalante, site of the Capuchin- run Monastery of San Sebastian de Hano, where we prayed in its chapel.

There, we met Fr. Valentín Martín, the prior of the monastery. When he learned that Vicente is a sculptor, he wanted to ask him to sculpt for him the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Divine Shepherdess, holding the Child Jesus with one lamb on one side and a pair on the other. For twenty years, Fr. Valentín had worked as a missionary in Venezuela, and is partial to artists because he himself is a writer.

Several months later and after a string of email exchanges between Vicente, Antonio and the Capuchin prior, the sculpture of the Divine Shepherdess (Divina Pastora) is set to be installed at the chapel of the Monastery of San Sebastian de Hano in less than two weeks. Fray Valentin has invited me to help him preside over the installation. I readily accepted the invitation, along with Antonio and Vicente who both collaborated to produce the sculpture in time for the August 2 deadline. Antonio helped Vicente look for the appropriate materials at the best prices for the latter’s latest masterpiece, including picking the crown that adorns its head.

Fray Valentin has lined up a number of religious and fundraising activities over several days culminating August 2, when the sculpture of the Divine Shepherdess will be installed. Vicente’s Divina Pastora will be at the head of a procession which will precede its installation. A street market, where people are encouraged to donate furniture, books and other items, will raise funds to help the poor people of Venezuela.

The formal installation coincides with the feast of Our Lady of Porciuncula because this particular cult was started by St. Francis himself near Assisi in Umbria in the 13th century. The Capuchins of Montehano, present-day caratekers of the medieval monastery and Spanish cultural treasure, owe their presence there to the Franciscans.

Founded in 1441 by Beltrán Ladrón de Guevara, the chapel was originally under the advocation of Our Lady of the Mountain and the monastery was inhabited by the Franciscan friars.  In 1808, the invading soldiers of Napoleon got their provisions from the friars and in 1835 the liberal Spanish minister Juan de Dios Álvarez Mendizabal, during his rule which opposed clericalism, confiscated the property. In 1879, Countess de la Puente, whose daughter Joquina de la Pezuela is interred in the chapel, donated the property, then under her possession, to the Bishop of Santander who in turn turned it over to the Capuchins in 1909.

The devotion to Divina Pastora, according to Wikipedia, was started in Seville, Spain by a “Capuchin friar, Isidore of Seville,” who “had a dream in which he saw an image of the Divina Pastora. Days later, he gave to the artist Alonso Miguel de Tovar, a detailed description of his vision, so that he could paint it. The painting of the virgin with pastoral hat, covered by a blue mantle, holding a boy in her left hand and a lamb in her right one, was called “Divina Pastora de Almas”. Later, the sculptor Francisco Antonio Ruiz Gijón, made a life-sized sculpture of the Divina Pastora, which was carried in its first procession in 1705.”