Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Calvin and Hobbes: The “Lost” Comic

Today, the reformed Roman calendar celebrates the feast of St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Father and Doctor of the Western Church. Known in particular as “Doctor Angelicus” (“the Angelic Doctor”), and as the father of the philosophical-theological methodology known as "Thomism," is the pre-eminent architect of Western theology, whose work was for centuries (and should be today, for that matter) required study for seminarians. Traditionally, the good Doctor was commemorated on March 7, the day of his death, as is the norm. However, in the calendar reforms of 1969, his feast was moved to the date of the transfer of his relics to Toulouse, to avoid its being overshadowed by the Lenten season. (In the traditional Roman calendar, he is still remembered on March 7.)

Growing up in Ohio, and unbeknownst to us at the time, we essentially learned Thomism at the dinner table. “Man is a reasoning animal.” “Everything you do in life is either a plus or a minus.” ... and so on. This writer only discovered later, while studying the Doctor's works in a Sunday night class at the Dominican House of Studies in the late 1980s, that he was a Thomist all along. For reasons betrayed in this classic Calvin and Hobbes comic, the life and work of this Saint is worthy of attention, now more than ever, don't you think?

Or don't you?
 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

2015 “ProLifeCon” Twitcast and Transcript

Today it begins, our sixth annual “Twitcast” joining pro-life bloggers from near and far, who all had the good sense once again, to come in out of the cold during the annual March For Life, for this year's ProLifeCon, the “premiere conference for the online prolife community” hosted once again by the Family Research Council in Washington DC.

During the event, this video clip provided a live feed of the proceedings. With its conclusion, you are now invited to view the pre-recording thereof. You can learn more at the FRC website, follow the magic hashtag on Twitter: #prolifecon, or follow yours truly at: twitter.com/manwithblackhat.

Below is the transcript of the Twitter feed sent out this morning. Items may be edited slightly for correction, especially when we had to look up some of the big words.

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We're ready to rock for this year's #prolifecon! We start in less than 10 minutes. Stay tuned …
8:23am

Welcome to #prolifecon! Our first speaker is Arina Grossu, Director, Center for Human Dignity, Family Research Council.
8:31am

"Boy, do we have a star-studded lineup today!" #prolifecon
8:31am

"When we started ten years ago, Twitter didn't exist, and Facebook and YouTube were both one year old." #prolifecon
8:32am

"We now have pro-life majorities on both the House and the Senate." #prolifecon
8:33am

"We also have more pro-life women in Congress, despite claims of a 'war on women.'" #prolifecon
8:34am

"We find that the 18 to 29 year age group is the most pro-life of all age groups in the USA today." #prolifecon
8:35am

"Technology is on our side, including ultrasound. It's hard to say, 'That's not a baby.'" #prolifecon
8:36am

obamacareabortion.com #prolifecon
8:37am

"And so, we have technology and the truth on our side." #prolifecon
8:38am

Star Parker, President, Center for Urban Renewal and Education. #prolifecon
8:39am

"Prior to my conversion, I believed in the lies of the left. Then I realized there was something wrong with taking a life of a child." #prolifecon
8:40am

"I was in a little dark hole, but Christ found me." #prolifecon
8:41am

"In addition to running CURE, I write a nationally syndicated column." #prolifecon
8:43am

blackcommunitynews.com #prolifecon
8:43am

"We want the black community to know that God is with them, and has a plan for them." #prolifecon
8:45am

"We want the govt out of the welfare state, out of people's lives." #prolifecon
8:45am

"We want penalties in the Born Alive Infant Protection Act." #prolifecon
8:47am

Parker tells horrible stories of #Gosnell destroying babies out of the womb as they struggled for life. #prolifecon
8:50am

"My time is up. We must stop this holocaust!" #prolifecon
8:50am

Maria Cahill, Miss Delaware 2011. #prolifecon
8:51am

"During competition for Miss America, I was told to remain silence on my views." #prolifecon
8:52am

"I was praying to God, asking for a sign, to go to the March For Life as Miss Delaware. My being here is that sign." #prolifecon
8:53am

"There are people of all ages in the pro-life movement on social media." #prolifecon
8:55am

"Illuminate the truth. Illuminate the hope for today. Many believe we cannot eliminate abortion, but we eliminated slavery." #prolifecon
9:08am

Jenna Gassew & Dan Haley, Prayers for Shane. #prolifecon
9:10am

"Our area of concern is a birth defect known as anencephaly. We carried him, knowing that he would not make it." #prolifecon
9:12am

anencephaly.info #prolifecon
9:14am

"We created a bucket list of things to do with Shane in the time he had left. We created a Facebook page 'Prayers For Shane.'" #prolifecon
9:15am

"We met parents all over the country who had children with this condition." #prolifecon
9:16am

A video from a smartphone was shown of Shane's birth, and what was said to be the first and only time he cried. #prolifecon
9:18am

"We cannot imagine not being able to hold and meet our child." #prolifecon
9:19am

"Nine out of ten children born with this condition are aborted." #prolifecon
9:20am

(Former) Senator Rick Santorum, Patriot Voices. #prolifecon
9:21am

"Karen and I have a little girl called Bella with Trisomy 18, and we wrote a book about her." #prolifecon
9:26am

"The truth may not win, maybe not initially, but it will always have its voice heard." #prolifecon
9:27am

"Before Bella, we thought we had the perfect family. That's not the way it works." #prolifecon
9:29am

Speaking to recent adverse decisions in the House: "You want to craft a bill that can actually pass. Yes, it's unfortunate." #prolifecon
9:32am

(The reference here is to a bill that would have banned abortions after twenty weeks into term. According to Brian Burch of CatholicVote: House Republicans decided at the last minute to postpone the vote. They say they need to work out some of the language in the bill. They want more time to resolve differences over reporting requirements for victims of rape. But the fact is, they should have worked out these problems weeks, even months ago. Americans did not elect the GOP to control both houses of Congress for mishaps like this." Another bill, the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act, was expected to be passed by the House later today, and sent over to the Senate.)

Josh Duggar, Executive Director, Family Research Council Action, live via video feed at the National Mall. #prolifecon
9:35am

Senator Lindsey Graham, (R-South Carolina). #prolifecon
9:37am

"Happy New Year. Let it be said that this will be an important year for discussion and debate, which is important for America." #prolifecon
9:38am

"I welcome the opportunity to have a debate about the future of America in 2015." #prolifecon
9:39am

"All of us as human beings come into the world the same way. At 20 weeks, there are 6 countries that allow abortion on demand." #prolifecon
9:40am

"We're having a debate in 2015, about a decision made in 1973, with all the medical advances since then." #prolifecon
9:41am

"At 20 weeks, a doctor is required to use anesthesia to operate on the unborn child, since the child would feel pain." #prolifecon
9:42am

"If the word extreme is going to be used, aborting a child at 20 weeks is extreme. We have some soul searching to do." #prolifecon
9:45am

"I've always made exceptions for the health of the mother, rape, and incest. Some disagree, including the Pope." #prolifecon
9:46am

"Is America now in the right spot on this issue?" #prolifecon
9:47am

"I want to debate Sen Blumenthal's bill, that would ban state protections for the unborn. We're gonna have this debate." #prolifecon
9:48am

"If a Republican is pro-choice, we'll talk about something else. A pro-life Democrat will get the heck beat out of him." #prolifecon
9:50am

INTERMISSION #prolifecon
9:52am

Aaaaaaaand … we're back! #prolifecon
10:07am

Ann McElhinney, documentary film director & producer, Ann and Phelim Media LLC. #prolifecon
10:07am

Coming to us via Skype. #prolifecon
10:08am

"Kickstarter wouldn't allow us to use words like 'murder' so we went to …" indiegogo.com/projects/gosnell-movie #gosnell #prolifecon
10:10am

"We want to make #Gosnell a household name, as the greatest mass murderer in American history." #prolifecon
10:12am

facebook.com/gosnellmovie #prolifecon
10:13am

"One baby treated by #Gosnell was actually born alive. That testimony was applauded by the jury at his trial." #prolifecon
10:16am

Susan Gallucci, Maternity Home & Programs Director, The Northwest Center. #prolifecon
10:17am

A story is told of a young girl in a family way, who was forced out of her mother's home because she wouldn't have an abortion. #prolifecon
10:19am

After the child was born, the girl's mother became a proud grandmother, and the healing began after that. #prolifecon
10:20am

"She may have had nowhere else to go with her pregnancy, but she found the Northwest Center." #prolifecon
10:22am

Chelsea Patterson, Social Media Activist & Adoption Advocate. #prolifecon
10:25am

Chelsea is a blogger on the Patheos evangelical channel. #prolifecon
10:25am

"Why are you pro-life? Wouldn't it be easier if you were not?" #prolifecon
10:26am

A story was told of communist-era Romania, under a regime that encouraged large families. There were many abandoned children. #prolifecon
10:28am

"I grew up in a home where adoption is the norm, and being pro-life is the norm." #prolifecon
10:29am

"I am pro-life because I am a Christian because God is pro-life, and because it saved my life in Romania." #prolifecon
10:30am

"In New York City today, more black babies are aborted than are born alive. What of the mother, the brother, who lose them?" #prolifecon
10:32am

Returning now to the National Mall with Josh Duggar, Executive Director, Family Research Council Action. Quite the crowd by now. #prolifecon
10:35am

Interviewing two women who were conceived from rape, about the hard choices that are made. #prolifecon
10:36am

In spite of a bad web stream, "don't be afraid to use digital media." #prolifecon
10:38am

Charmaine Yoest, President & CEO of Americans United for Life, author of the book entitled "The Mother in the Middle." #prolifecon
10:39am

Ms Yoest appears via pre-recorded video, describing federal subsidies for abortion, 70% of Planned Parenthood's budget. #prolifecon
10:40am

"Planned Parenthood is Abortion, Inc." #prolifecon
10:40am

Ms Youst now appears live at the podium. #prolifecon
10:42am

A message for those who were discouraged by the current political climate, and of last night's State of the Union address. #prolifecon
10:43am

"You may be discouraged but our long term strategy is winning. While 'they' worry about millennials, we march with them." #prolifecon
10:45am

"Abortion clinics are closing because they fail to meet the most basic health and medical requirements. They cry foul." #prolifecon
10:46am

"From the time of the last national election, our role in social media has grown tremendously by now." #prolifecon
10:48am

"Get that information out there. You have the tools. PP has cut cancer screening in half, but their abortions are on the rise." #prolifecon
10:49am

"Social media is the perfect place to get stories out there. Numbers do not necessarily change hearts." #prolifecon
10:50am

"Abortion kills a baby and damages the mother, and we need to get that story out there, and destroy the myths about us." #prolifecon
10:51am

Roland Warren, President and CEO, CareNet. #prolifecon
10:52am

"Men need to be affirming and supportive to make the right decisions and choose life. The church is an instrument to that end." #prolifecon
10:54am

"I'm more about the social than the media. I'm more about the content than the container." #prolifecon
10:56am

"We have to be about the content. It's not only about saving the baby, but about raising the child." #prolifecon
10:57am

"85% of women having babies are unmarried. What does that say to us?" #prolifecon
10:58am

"The church cannot outsource saving the child and the family to the crisis pregnancy centers." #prolifecon
11:00am

"Christ had abundant life, and promises abundant life to us all." #prolifecon
11:00am

Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council. #prolifecon
11:00am

Talking about "the devil in the details." #prolifecon
11:03am

"America is one of a handful of nations that allows abortion through the entire nine months of pregnancy." #prolifecon
11:04am

"We must work to take American taxpayers out of the abortion funding business." #prolifecon
11:05am

IMAGE: Jill Stanek receives the Digital Pro Life Pioneer Award from FRC President Tony Perkins.

"I am honored to present an award to a pioneer in online pro-life activism, Jill Stanek." #prolifecon
11:06am

"Stanek witnessed unborn babies aborted and left to die in the hospital. She went public, and lost her job over it." #prolifecon
11:07am

Jill Stanek, JillStanek.com & StanekReport.com: "I am honored that FRC would give me this award as a pioneer." #prolifecon
11:09am

"Our online movement is one reason why the polls are trending in favor of being pro-life, especially since 2009." #prolifecon
11:11am

"On behalf of the little baby that I held, I accept this award." #prolifecon
11:12am

obamacareabortion.com #prolifecon
11:13am

Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma). #prolifecon
11:13am

"It all comes back to one thing: is this a child or not?" #prolifecon
11:16am

"In high school, I saw a chicken in an egg, and a child in the womb, and I could see that they were the same." #prolifecon
11:18am

"Encourage the next generation of volunteers to step in." #prolifecon
11:19am

"Walk along beside them. Help in that journey, that process." #prolifecon
11:20am

Chris Matthews to Lankford: "You're a very articulate spokesperson for your point of view." #prolifecon
11:22am

(Lankford later adds that it was over a year before Matthews invited him back on the show.)

Lankford tells the story of Hobby Lobby, of being forced to violate their convictions by providing insurance for abortion. #prolifecon
11:24am

"Keep pushing, keep telling stories. We need the help." #prolifecon
11:26am

Ms Grossu: "Pray that the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Bill will pass. We are going to fight for those children." #prolifecon
11:31am

And with that, the annual #prolifecon comes to an end. Now it's on to the #marchforlife2015! Aaaaaaaand … we're out!!!
11:32am

+    +    +

Afterwords, this writer spoke to Dan Haley, the father of little Shane, about the many young parents who experience similar challenges with infants born with birth defects. A young lady recognized yours truly from the Solemn Christmas Midnight Mass at St John the Beloved, in the usual role of Master of Ceremonies. And there was also an opportunity to speak with blogger Chelsea Patterson, who admitted to actually having read man with black hat. That was a high point in itself, and not just because she's really, REALLY cute!

But she is, though, don't you think?

Or don't you?
 

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Agnus Dei

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Agnes, a virgin and martyr of the early persecutions.

She was put to death after refusing both a marriage proposal from a prominent Roman family (having already consecrated herself to God), and the offering of tribute to the pagan Gods. Her name is mentioned with the other great martyrs of Rome in the Roman Canon.

It is on this occasion that the Holy Father appears at the Church of Saint Agnes in Rome. There, he blesses two lambs, decorated in red (for martyrdom) and white (for purity), traditionally provided by the Trappists of the Tre Fontane Monastery. Then the lambs are taken to the Convent of Saint Cecilia, where the Sisters care for them. The wool sheared from them is used to weave the palliums worn by the Pope and the Archbishops, and which are conferred on new recipients on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on the 29th of June. (Image and information courtesy of Fisheaters.com.)

The “Agnus Dei” (“Lamb of God”) is also the name of a popular traditional devotion, in the form of a small medallion, wherein is contained a small amount of wax taken from the previous year's Paschal Candle of the Church of Rome.

This practice has fallen into disuse in recent years. Perhaps now is a good time to revive it.
 

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Plowing Through Monday

Today was the traditional start of the agricultural year in England, and so was known as “Plough Monday” or the day after “Plough Sunday” which was the Sunday following Epiphany. This was when everyone would end the Christmas revelry and get back to work. John Brand, in his 1777 book Observations on Popular Antiquities, gives an account of the formalities:

The FOOL PLOUGH goes about: a pageant consisting of a number of sword dancers dragging a plough, with music; one, sometimes two, in very strange attire; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and the Fool, almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these characters, in which he is very assiduous, is to go about rattling a box amongst the spectators of the dance, in which he receives their little donations.

Well, maybe not directly back to work. Personally, I'd rather be molly dancing. What is that, you ask?

“Molly dancing” traditionally only appeared during the depths of winter and is regarded by many people as the East Anglian form of Morris dancing. It is characterized by blackened faces, heavy boots (usually hobnailed) and the presence of a "Lord" and a "Lady", two of the men specially attired respectively as a gentleman and his consort, who lead the dances. Blackening faces was a form of disguise, since the dancers could not afford to be recognised. Some of those people from whom they had demanded money with menaces would have been their employers. Molly dancing is by nature robust and, some would say, aggressive. These qualities are emphasised by the sound of the hobnailed boots worn by the dancers, which were the normal form of footwear for farm workers in the East of England right up until the second half of the twentieth century. (Information courtesy alexandersanders.)

On a promising note, and according to the Olde Farmer's Almanac: “In the evening, each farmer provided a Plough Monday supper for his workers, with plentiful beef and ale for all.

They could do worse.
 

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Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Christus Mansionem Benedicat!

VIDEO: A 2008 performance of "March of the Kings" ("Marche Des Rois") by Nowell Sing We Clear (Tony Barrand, Fred Breunig, Andy Davis and John Roberts) at Latchis Theater, Brattleboro, Vermont.

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The Blessing of the Entrance to the House (“Chalking the Door”)

At the Mass for the Day, the faithful are given chalk that has been blessed by the priest, as well as special holy water known as "Epiphany water." The blessing for it, which takes place only for this occasion, is to be found in the traditional Rituale Romanum, and includes a prayer of exorcism. The blessed chalk and the holy water are then taken home, to be used that evening.

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We begin with the Sign of the Cross, and the words of Psalm 71(72) "Deus, judicium":

Give the King your justice, O God, *
    and your righteousness to the King's son;

That he may rule your people righteously *
    and the poor with justice.

That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *
    and the little hills bring righteousness.

He shall defend the needy among the people; *
    he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, *
    from one generation to another.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, *
    like showers that water the earth.

In his time shall the righteous flourish; *
    there shall be abundance of peace
        till the moon shall be no more.

He shall rule from sea to sea, *
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.

His foes shall bow down before him, *
    and his enemies lick the dust.

The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute, *
    and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts.

All kings shall bow down before him, *
    and all the nations do him service.

For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, *
    and the oppressed who has no helper.

He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; *
    he shall preserve the lives of the needy.

He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, *
    and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

Long may he live!
    and may there be given to him gold from Arabia; *
        may prayer be made for him always,
            and may they bless him all the day long.

May there be abundance of grain on the earth,
    growing thick even on the hilltops; *
        may its fruit flourish like Lebanon,
            and its grain like grass upon the earth.

May his Name remain for ever
    and be established as long as the sun endures; *
        may all the nations bless themselves in him
            and call him blessed.

Blessed be the Lord GOD, the God of Israel, *
    who alone does wondrous deeds!

And blessed be his glorious Name for ever! *
    and may all the earth be filled with his glory.

Amen.

Then one who is the Officiant says the following prayer:

Lord God of Heaven and Earth, who hast revealed thine only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star: Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill them with the light of Christ, that their love for others may truly reflect thy love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

If necessary, the Officiant or another steps up onto a chair or stepladder, and with a piece of blessed chalk, writes over the entrance to the house.

“Christus ...” (“May Christ ...”)

          C

“Mansionem ...” (“this dwelling ...”)

          C      M

“Benedicat.” (“... bless.”)

          C      M      B

“Throughout the coming year ...”

20      C      M      B

“... and the many years to come.”

20      C      M      B      15

“In the name of the Father ...”

20  +  C      M      B      15

“and of the Son ...”

20  +  C  +  M      B      15

“... and of the Holy Spirit.”

20  +  C  +  M  +  B      15

Everyone responds: “Amen.”

20  +  C  +  M  +  B  +  15

The doorway is sprinkled with Holy Water blessed for the Epiphany. The inscription is to be removed on the Feast of Pentecost.

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For those who require "the short form," there is this one from the Church of Saint Mary in Rensselaer, New York. On those nights when the weather is particularly inclement, one can simply read from the Gospel of John while inscribing over the door ...

In the beginning was the Word, (inscribe 2)

and the Word was with God, (inscribe 0)

and the Word was God. (inscribe +)

He was in the beginning with God. (inscribe C)

All things came to be through him, (inscribe +)

and without him nothing came to be. (inscribe M)

And the Word became flesh (inscribe +)

and made his dwelling among us, (inscribe B)

and we saw his glory, (inscribe +)

the glory as of the Father’s only Son, (inscribe 1)

full of grace and truth. (inscribe 5)

… then with the Holy Water, making the sign of the cross three times over the entrance, proclaiming “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” and calling it a night.

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Meanwhile, the day is remembered throughout the world by various names. In many parts of Europe, Epiphany retains its distinction as "Little Christmas." Among the Greek Orthodox, the waters of the harbor are blessed by the local priest. In Spanish-speaking countries, it is known as “Dia de los Tres Reyes” (“Day of the Three Kings”). There are parades on the main street, such as this one last year at this time in Madrid, Spain.

Although we know the "kings" were not actually royalty at all, but scholars in astronomy and other sciences who came from Persia, tradition has associated Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar (their names as rendered in the apocryphal gospel accounts) as representing the Orient, Arabia, and Africa, the three great land masses of the known world in the first millennium.

As with the eve of Saint Nicholas Day in parts of western Europe, children in the Hispanic world are known to leave their shoes out and receive candy and other treats by the next morning. In Spain, children traditionally received presents on this day, rather than on Christmas, although recent years have seen both Christmas and Epiphany as a time for gift-giving.

I just love parades.
 

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Monday, January 05, 2015

Christ-Mass: Twelfth Night

Joy, health, love and peace
Be all here in this place
By your leave we will sing
Concerning our King.

Our King is well dressed
In silks of the best
In ribbons so rare
No King can compare.

We have traveled many miles
Over hedges and stiles
In search of our King
Unto you we bring.

We have powder and shot
To conquer the lot
We have cannon and ball
To conquer them all.

Old Christmas
    is past
Twelfth Night
    is the last

And we bid
    you adieu
Praise joy
    to the new.


(H/T to Steeleye Span.)
 

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Christ-Mass: Day 12 (St Telesphorus/St John Neumann)

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming ...”

The reformed Roman calendar honors Saint John Nepomucene Neumann, a native of Bohemia and Redemptorist priest who was appointed Bishop of Philadelphia in the mid-19th century, and who was a key figure in spreading the Faith to an ever-expanding United States of America.

In the traditional Roman calendar, Mother Church remembers Pope Saint Telesphorus, elected Bishop of Rome in 126, and martyred ten years later.

It is said that the tradition of Christmas Midnight Masses, the celebration of Easter on Sundays, the keeping of a seven-week Lent before Easter, and the singing of the Gloria, all are attributed to his pontificate, but the historical accuracy of this claim is in doubt.

Tomorrow night at Chez Alexandre, we will step out on to the porch and face the entrance. With a piece of chalk, the following will be inscribed over the door ...

20  +  C  +  M  +  B  +  15

...while saying these words out loud: "Christus Mansionem Benedicat! ... May Christ this dwelling bless!" The initials also stand for the names which tradition ascribes to the three wise men -- Caspar, Melchoir, and Balthasar.

Details tomorrow. Until then, stay tuned ...
 

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Christ-Mass: Day 11 (Not Epiphany)

“On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping ...”

Today, as mentioned earlier, the traditional Roman calendar observes the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus*, while the reformed Roman calendar observes either (universally) the Second Sunday After Christmas, or (in the Dioceses of the USA and elsewhere) the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

Why the latter, you ask?

This is a judgment by a competent territorial body of bishops. In this instance, the term "competent" is used guardedly. You see, they think you are entirely too lazy to celebrate anything on a weekday. So they make it convenient for you. They would probably provide drive-thru confessions, and probably had to ignore the advice of an army of lawyers and "risk assessment specialists" to pass on the idea. Perhaps once we succeed in converting the culture for Christ, they'll move Christmas to a Sunday as well, to coordinate our schedules with the department stores. Almost seems worth it, right?

We can say all we want about "the reason for the season" and "keeping Christ in Christmas" and all that. But such festivity presumes a priority attached to, and a meaning for, the value of sacred time. We can assure ourselves that "our bishops know what they're doing." But how can something be sacred if we can bend it and twist it to suit our convenience?

And that's when we beg the question, as to whether they really know what they're doing.

When I was growing up back in Ohio, the village of Milford had a unique way of disposing of old Christmas trees. They would be collected and taken to some field at the edge of town, stacked in a big pile, and "Twelfth Night" would be celebrated with the lighting of a bonfire dubbed the "yule log." Of course, my parents didn't go for that sort of ribaldry, so I never actually saw it happen, but I would always read about it later that week in The Milford Advertiser. These days, I imagine people would have a hard time penciling it in between trips to soccer practice and PTA meetings. In fact, since leaving the Buckeye State to seek my fortune elsewhere, I have learned that the town has yielded to other priorities, courtesy of the county's Office of Environmental Quality: "Many recycled trees are sent through a wood chipper and are used as mulch."

Now that kills the holiday magic right there. Then again, why celebrate the glory of the season, when you can spend the rest of the year spreading it on your lawn or walking all over it?

Meanwhile, here at Chez Alexandre, we have celebrated Epiphany on the traditional day all along. Still, there is a great temptation to take down the lights already, to put the decorations back in storage until the season returns, and to send the dying tree to its final resting place.

But before that happens, we go back to work on Monday, and life continues to slowly return to normal.

Meanwhile, the fourth of January is when the Church remembers Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821), a wealthy New York socialite, who some years after the death of her husband, sacrificed her place in respectable circles upon her conversion to the Catholic Faith, and went on to found the first congregation of women religious in the United States, the Sisters of Charity. Originally based in Emmitsburg, Maryland, four of the sisters established a branch of the order in Cincinnati in 1829, as the Sisters of Charity of Mount Saint Joseph (later the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati), where they founded Good Samaritan Hospital, and were essential in building the parochial school system in that part of the Buckeye State.

"Mother Seton," as she was affectionately known, was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

* At one time combined with the Feast of the Circumcision on January 1, before the 1913 calendar reforms of Pope Pius X, thus the revisionist conspiracy is even worse than many are led to believe. And for those who think they know it all, the controversial liturgist Annabale Bugnini was only born the previous year, calling his own part in said conspiracy into question.
 

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Christ-Mass: Day 10 (St Genevieve)

“On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, ten lords a-leaping ...”

By now, the holiday hoopla has died down. The banks have reopened, the post office is delivering the mail again (along with the bills for those once-a-year expenses incurred in the past month), and everybody has schlepped back to work. Life is returning to what passes for normal.

And yet, the true Christmas is not yet complete.

Meanwhile, both the Eastern and Western churches remember the French shepherd girl Saint Genevieve, who lived in the mid- and late- fifth century. Her sanctity was noted at a very early age by Saint Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, who consecrated her to God at the age of seven. Genevieve is patroness of the city of Paris, which has been saved through her intercession more than once, the first time from her contemporary, Attila the Hun.

Not too shabby.

POSTSCRIPT: For some reason, this particular commemoration has been shown to be rather popular in this venue during past years. Don't ask me why.
 

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Friday, January 02, 2015

Christ-Mass: Day 9 (The Holy Name of Jesus)

“On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing ...”

The traditional Roman calendar associates this day with the Holy Name of Jesus -- that is, unless on a Sunday that fell on the second, third, fourth, or fifth of the month, don't ask me why. (NOTE: This year the feast is on a Sunday, the fourth of the month, but we have something special planned for that. Stay tuned ...)

Historically, the observance of this feast has been all over the place until nearly one hundred years ago. The circumcision of a newborn male under Jewish law must take place eight days after the child's birth, at which time he is given his name. Small wonder, then, that the Gospel readings for both feasts in the traditional Roman calendar are the same. Some Western traditions, such as Anglican and Lutheran, celebrate both on the first of January, as did the Roman for quite some time -- you know, being the eighth day and all.

And speaking of names ...

Once I heard a comedian pose this important theological question: “If Jesus was Jewish, why did He have an Hispanic name?” That occasion aside, it gives us an occasion of our own, to consider that the name "Jesus" was not an uncommon one in His day. Brian Palmer writes for Slate:

Many people shared the name. Christ's given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee. (Jesus comes from the transliteration of Yeshua into Greek and then English.) Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas from the period of Jesus' death. The name also appears 30 times in the Old Testament in reference to four separate characters -- including a descendant of Aaron who helped to distribute offerings of grain (2 Chronicles 31:15) and a man who accompanied former captives of Nebuchadnezzar back to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:2) ...

How would Christ have been addressed by those around him? Well, certainly not as "Mister Christ." In fact, "Christ" was not a name, but a title, from the Greek Khristós for "anointed one." The Hebrew word was Moshiach or "Messiah." He would have been known by His given name, and the name of His father -- Yeshua bar Yehosef or "Jesus Son of Joseph." In later centuries (or in present-day Iceland), we might easily surmise His having been addressed as "Jesus Josephson."

We also know that He eventually left Nazareth of Galilee, the town of His childhood, for other parts of that country, as well as Samaria and Judea. In those places, He would have been just as likely addressed as Yeshua Nasraya or "Jesus of Nazareth." We know from Scripture that such was the inscription on the Cross, which gave both His name and His offense, in three languages: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (actually, "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum" in Latin, "Ihsoûs ó Nazoraîos ó Basileùs tôn ’Ioudaìov" in Greek, and "Yeshua HaNazarei v Melech HaYehudim" in Hebrew). After all, a guy from a hick town like that would have been rather conspicuous in a high-falutin' place like Jerusalem, especially outside of the High Holydays.

The Scriptures also record him being addressed as "Jesus Son of David." A man would also have been known for his extended family; that is, his tribe or house, as in Yeshua ben David or "Jesus of the House of David." Or so I've read. But even though family lineage was everything in Jewish society, such an address was not as common in everyday use.

Or so I've read.

Devotion to the Holy Name has also been the inspiration for the National Association of the Holy Name Society. HNS chapters have been the basis for men's clubs in Catholic parishes for generations.
 

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Thursday, January 01, 2015

Christ-Mass: Day 8 (Circumcision/St Basil)

“On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eight maids a-milking ...”

The world knows it as New Year's Day. Our holy Mother Church knows it by many names.

First and foremost, it is the “Octave-day” or eighth day of Christmastide. Such was its name in the earliest liturgical books, thus remembered as the day of Circumcision, when a son of Israel was marked according to the Law. (It hurts just thinking about it.) In both forms of the Roman Rite, the brief account from Luke is proclaimed:

At that time, after eight days were accomplished, that the Child should be circumcised: His Name was called Jesus, which was called by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. (2:21)

In the reformed Missal, the day is primarily known as the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. While appearing as a break in tradition, it is a reminder of the Marian emphasis of the Feast, as found even in the orations of the pre-conciliar Missal. It was the tradition in Rome, that the Pope would go to one of the many churches in the city, whichever was the "Station" for that particular feast -- in the case of this one, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.

But wait, there is one more...

In the East, today is known not only for the Circumcision, but as the Feast of Saint Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century, and one of the great Fathers of the Eastern Church. Today is when the Greeks would traditionally exchange gifts. For many years, when I couldn't meet with Paul for Christmas (and as he was raised in the Byzantine Rite of his mother), I would make an occasion of this day.

With all that arcane information, you still have to admit that four names for one day is a lot. And to think the year is just getting started.
 

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