Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kera Kardiotissa ~ Virgin Mary of the Heart

HERE IS A PICTURE of the chapel of the Kera Kardiotissa convent on Crete, part of the Greek archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. Kera Kardiotissa translates beautifully Virgin Mary of the Heart. Maybe it is the monastery's feast day celebration: Mary's Nativity ~ September 8.

The monastery dates from the 10th century and housed the Kera Kardiotissa icon until the 15th century when the it was stolen and taken to Rome where it resides today. "Wherever there are human beings there is sin," an Italian nun told me.  If I were pope for a day, I'd give the icon back to the nuns who would love and venerate it with  their prayers in the  ancient chapel.

But what does the title mean: of the heart? When Pope John Paul II went to Kazakhstan after the fall of the Soviet Union, he spoke with a large group of the nation's dispirited young people. He said:

"Who am I? What is the meaning of my life? What is my destiny? My answer is very simple but it has tremendous implications. Listen, you are one of God's thoughts! You are one of his heartbeats! To say this, implies that, in a certain sense, your  life has infinite value and your irreplaceable individuality is what is most precious in God's sight."

We come from God's heart ~ Kardiotissa. All six billion of us! And Mary calls us to the awareness of this wonderful reality. Additionally she shows us how to respond in generosity, confident-joy and love to the God who created us out of the Divine Heart. 

Imagine that Pope Francis has sent us to Crete to be his ambassadors in returning the Kardiotissa  icon to the convent: we explain who we are to the nun who comes to the gate, she invites us in and we present the returned gift to the assembled community. The sisters insist we stay for prayers before the lovely image while bells are rung. There are flowers and incense! "May we offer our prayer of thanks and intercession for the world?"

Your presence, Kera Kardiotissa,
from the Aegean mountain monastery
a message of heart ~
Britomartis, Rhea and Europa

Your maphorian of gold and rose, Kera Kardiotissa,
covering our turbulent planet,
the animals and plants,
all the children
and mothers who carry two souls.

Your eyes, Kera Kardiotissa,
holding the races and religions,
war zones, mine fields and
dividing walls,
even Bethlehem knows no peace.

Your smile, Kera Kardiotissa,
breaking over the littlest,
the inconvenient,
the fearful ~ 
the common good.

Your hands, Kera Kardiotissa,
holding God's exhausted children,
preferably out of sight ~
let the government take care.

Your Child, Kera Kardiotissa,
flowered and sparked
in a robe of light ~
climbing over folly 
to find us.


  1. A ray of sunshine penetrated my darkened heart when I read this. A beacon of hope offered by your words to the Kardiotissa.

  2. Thank you for Pope John Paul ll talk to the dispirited young people of Russia. For sure they are all around us today. I will make copies to give out at work, where I encounter many discouraged young people. I think it will bring comfort to them.
    There is so much to see and absorb in the Kardiotissa icon. Grateful to you.

  3. Michelle HernandezFebruary 7, 2018 at 7:14 PM

    When I lay in bed at night, I can look down upon myself and feel my place in this world. I know it is strange to say this, but if you are open to it, and you clear your mind, you can truly feel the presence of God and will know without question that you are part of something much larger and greater than this place.

  4. Absolutely! Some folks go through their whole lives never having had an experience of God.

  5. When I see a gathering of people like this at a holy place, I get a sense of hope. People coming together, believing in something together, making their personal pilgrimages. It helps to solidify my faith in people out there, that if they haven't given up, then I shouldn't either.

    1. How insightful. We might all feel that as we make our pilgrimage to Mass this coming weekend.