Saturday, December 12, 2020

Fri 12 Feb - Fri 26 Feb 2021 - Walter Mason teaches a 3-week course on The Great Hollywood Costume Designers, at WEA Sydney

The Great Hollywood Costume Designers


Fri 12 Feb - Fri 26 Feb 2021 

11am - 1pm each Friday, 3 sessions, 6 hours total

At WEA Sydney

Join Walter Mason, author of Destination Saigon, as we look at three of the best Hollywood Costume Designers of the Golden Years: Edith Head, Adrian and Jean Louis

We will look at their films, at their creations and how their looks have continued to echo down through the years.


There are still COVID restrictions on the number of students allowed in this face-to-face course, and we are very close to selling out, so if you think it sounds fun do book your place now! 

Friday, January 4, 2019

St Martin de Porres - a beloved saint in Vietnam

Image of St. Martin de Porres inside a small neighbourhood Catholic church in Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City

If you start visiting the Catholic churches in and around Ho Chi Minh City you will begin to notice an unexpected saint. St Martin de Porres, native of Lima, Peru, is one of the most beloved saints of the Saigonese Catholics, and his image pops up everywhere.

Now, given Vietnam's French colonial past you might expect to see French saints better represented. People like St. Catherine Laboure (hardly found at all) or Bernadette of Lourdes (seen in churches occasionally). But no - apart from the Vietnamese martyrs and Our Lady of La Vang, the most commonly encountered figure is from the Hispanic world: St. Martin de Porres.

Well, one reason for it might be that Spanish missionaries got to Vietnam well before French ones. They established missions in the North of Vietnam that were never particularly successful. It was the French Jesuits, especially in the wake of Alexandre de Rhodes, who would make the greatest religious impact on the country.

But the real reason for the popularity of the levitating, biracial Peruvian saint is much more recent. By the 20th century St. Martin de Porres had come to be an important figure in the post-colonial Church. His in-between status had seen his popularity grow beyond Latin America. By the 1960s he was revered in the Philippines, and was seen as representing the spirit of the Church outside of the Western world.

It was Filipino missionaries and young Vietnamese priests trained in the Philippines who really ramped up the devotion to St. Martin de Porres, installing images of him in churches around the war-torn city of Saigon. He seems to have struck a nerve with Vietnamese worshippers as well, and soon his cult, which is still well and truly alive today in Vietnam, was well established among Catholics in the South.

Probably the most famous shrine to Thanh Martino (as he is known in Vietnam) is quite close to my house in Phu Nhuan district. The famous Nha Tho Ba Chuong is a large and beautiful church in a Vietnamese architectural style on the impossibly busy Le Van Sy street. It is well worth a visit to see its funky 60s Vietnam style and, of course, say a prayer at its famous shrine to St. Martin de Porres. You can also buy a statue or image of St. Martin at the gift shop outside (that is where mine comes from).

The shrine to St. Martin de Porres at Nha Tho Ba Chuong, Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City

The church is always open (though the gift shop closes for the lunchtime siesta between 12 and 2, making of one of the last places in the City to keep these once-ubiquitous hours) and the image of the Saint was sent from the Philippines in the early 60s and has since became a focus of many prayers and miracles.

Statue of St. Martin de Porres outside Nha Tho Ba Chuong, Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City

There is also a small but often-visited shrine to him at the colourful Tan Dinh church in District 3, but in recent years this church has closed itself off to visitors (why on earth they would do such a thing I have no idea) and you will probably be shooed away if you try to get inside to say a prayer.

Who was St. Martin de Porres? (1579 - 1639)

A Dominican lay-brother of mixed race, St. Martin de Porres exhibited a sophisticated and profound spirituality from an early age. He was the illegitimate child of a Spanish colonial, and his outsider status is an essential part of his story, and of his popularity across the Church in this modern age.

As a young servant he would beg his employer for candle stubs so that he could spend his nights in rapturous prayer and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary

He was famous for his saintliness, and once let a beggar covered in ulcers to sleep in his own bed so that he might find some comfort.

He is something of an all-purpose Saint, and people pray to him for all kinds of reasons, but particularly for help in times of financial distress and to help the poor in all parts of the world.

He is the patron saint of people of mixed race, and of innkeepers, barbers, public health workers and more, with a feast day on November 3.

The Special Prayer to St. Martin de Porres reads: 

Most humble Martin de Porres, whose burning charity embraced not only thy needy brethren, but also the very animals of the field, splendid example of charity, we hail and invoke thee!  

From that high throne which thou dost occupy, deign to listen to the supplications of thy needy brethren that, by imitating thy virtues, we may live contented in that state in which God has placed us, and, carrying our cross with strength and courage, we may follow in the footsteps of our Blessed Redeemer and His most afflicted Mother, to reach at last the Kingdom of Heaven through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ.  



 Walter Mason is leading a tour to Vietnam in April 2019. With a special focus on writing and creativity, this tour is a precious opportunity for writers to see a country with a fellow writer who is passionate about the place and whose enthusiastic love for Vietnamese culture, literature, cuisine and life is unbounded.

More details about the Better Read Literary Tours Vietnam tour with Walter Mason


Monday, May 28, 2018

Walter Mason will talk on Martin Chuzzlewit and the lure of America at the NSW Dickens Society on Saturday June 2, 2018

Walter is the Vice-President of the NSW Dickens Society, a professional speaker, author and tour guide. Dickens’ final exploration of the picaresque form in The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit has always been one of his least-discussed books, but in this talk, Walter Mason makes the case for it being one of his best. Dickens made a decision to switch the scene to America partway through the novel, and Walter also looks at Dickens’ relationship to America and the ways in which it was portrayed by his peers in English literature.

This talk is hosted by the NSW Dickens Society.
Non-members are always welcome.
Entry for non-members is $10.
Meetings are held at 10.30 at the Sydney Room, City Tattersalls Club, 194 – 204 Pitt Street (near Market Street), Sydney. No bookings required. $5 entry fee for NSW Dickens Society members. $10 for non-members.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Walter Mason will talk on The Zen of Jane at the Jane Austen Society of Australia in Sydney, Saturday June 16, 2018

“Zen of Jane” talk at Jane Austen Society of Australia  - Sydney  – 16 June, 2018 

Sydney meetings are held at the Uniting Church Hall, 7 Lord Street, Roseville NSW

They start at 2pm, and it's a good idea to get there a little early because they can fill up.

“The Zen of Jane: Buddhist Lessons from the Books of Jane Austen” - Walter Mason

A novel and enlightening look at Jane Austen as Zen master. How do we look at literature through new filters, and what does a nineteenth century writer who probably never thought about Buddhism have to teach us about matters of mindfulness? Walter Mason, author and spiritual tourist, looks at how far Buddhist thought had entered Austen’s era and how reading her might prove thoughtful lessons in wisdom, quietness and loving kindness. 
When: Sat June 16 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
My talk only goes for about an hour, but there are other items on the program, and a delicious afternoon tea. 
Non-members are always welcome!!!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Thang Ngo — Blogging Your Interests Tuesday, 13 February 2018, 12:30pm at the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts - FREE!

My own wonderful life partner Thang Ngo is giving a talk at the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts in February that should interest all who want to document their travels.

Thang Ngo — Blogging Your Interests

We all have something we’re passionate about. Our interests can be as diverse as politics, food, fashion, music, gardening and more.

Blogging is a way of sharing your passion with the world and engaging with others who share your interests.

Well-known food blogger Thang Ngo will reveal how to use your passion to build an engaged community through blogging.

Learn tips, tricks and tactics for starting a successful blog and finding your niche, in addition to strategies for maintaining your motivation and building readership. Find out how blogging helps your career by developing your understanding of digital writing and social media.
FREE — Everyone Welcome

No Bookings Required


About Thang Ngo

Thang started blogging over 17 years ago as a local government Councillor in Fairfield to engage with constituents. In 2009, he started a food blog to celebrate the rich and flavoursome food of migrant eateries in his neighbourhood. Today, Noodlies is one of Australia’s most popular food blogs and is credited with helping fuel the popularity of Asian street food, such as Vietnamese pork rolls.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Come hear Walter Mason chat with the fascinating psychic and author Debbie Malone, Thursday December 7, 6.30pm

Please help me spread the word! 

This Thursday the 7th of December, I am at Ashfield Library chatting with the fascinating Sydney psychic author Debbie Malone.

Psychic and author Debbie Malone

I have known Debbie for many years, and have always been impressed with her down-to-earth spirit and her sincerity and unpretentiousness. Debbie is everything an Aussie psychic should be.

Debbie has recently written a book about the crime cases she has volunteered to work on in the capacity of psychic detective (it's a fantastic book which I gave a rave review to in New Dawn magazine). We'll be talking about this really interesting work, as well as getting down to some of the nuts and bolts about psychic development, as well as her work with angels which has inspired her exquisite oracle cards.

So if you are at all inquisitive about matters esoteric, do come along! I would love the support, and the more people who come to events like these the more libraries will be encouraged to hold them in the future.

What's more, it's totally free - you just have to show up. Though the library would love it if you could book in advance at this link on Eventbrite.


Dec. 07, 2017, 6.30pm
Ashfield Library - Free, but bookings essential

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Mindful Writer on again at NSW Writers' Centre in 2017

My course on Mindful Writing is always popular, and it's on again this year for the first time at the NSW Writers' Centre.

Places are still available, but it would act pretty quickly, because it tends to book out.

It is an amazing time of quietness, reflection and creative growth, over the course of four Tuesday evenings in the beautiful and atmospheric setting of the NSW Writers' Centre in Callan Park.

Full details and online booking.

Hope to see you there.

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