Sunday, April 11, 2021

Where Have You Gone, Quasimodo?

Today is known on the western Christian calendar by at least six names.

In the traditional Missale Romanum, it is referred to as “Dominica in albis octava Paschae” -- Sunday in White Within the Paschal Octave, when the robes of the neophytes were removed eight days after their initiation into the Sacraments during the Paschal Vigil. It is also known as “The Octave Day of Easter” or more colloquially as “Low Sunday.” It has also been popularly known as “Quasimodo Sunday” (my personal favorite, hence the title), after the first words of the Entrance Antiphon, or Introit: “Quasi modo geniti infantes, alleluia ...” (“Like newborn infants, alleluia ...”) In the churches of the East, it is known as “Thomas Sunday” as the same gospel is read as in the West, that of our Lord showing himself to the doubting apostle Thomas.

Since 2000, by decree of the late Pope Saint John Paul II, it is also known in the universal Roman calendar as Divine Mercy Sunday, "the culmination of the novena to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, a devotion given to St Faustina (Mary Faustina Kowalska) and is based upon an entry in her diary stating that anyone who participates in the Mass and receives the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist on this day is assured by Jesus of full remission of their sins." (from Wikipedia)

(I thought the Sacrament of Confession did that regardless of the time of year. This is what I get for using Wikipedia for an explanation.)

This brings up an issue which has concerned traditional Catholics in recent years, one that is presented in a 2010 issue of New Oxford Review by Robert Allard: "Is Divine Mercy Sunday Liturgically Correct?"

It is interesting to note that in the Tridentine Latin Mass, the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the epistle reading, 1 John 5:4-10, includes the mention of the blood and water as portrayed in the Divine Mercy image, not just once but three times each. This is important to note because the Feast of Mercy was established for the entire Church universal, not just for the ordinary form of the Mass.

There's also that part about Our Lord breathing on the apostles, giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins. There's a bit of mercy for the rest of us right there. Not to mention that this devotion is mandated in its timing, on the basis of a private revelation, which in and of itself is not binding on the faithful.

Such devotions, to the extent that they would coexist with the liturgical year, must harmonize with it if they are to truly edify the faithful. This requires sufficient deference to the history of salvation as played out during the year, beginning with the incarnation, and continuing with the life, passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord, followed by his ascension into Glory, and the establishment of His Church on Earth through the work of the Holy Spirit.

That said, there is an aspect of this devotion that may appear problematic, one that has less to do with the Feast itself, than with the novena which precedes it, one that begins on Holy Thursday, and extends throughout the Octave of Easter.

Q. My pastor will allow us to pray the Divine Mercy Novena, but not on Good Friday or Holy Saturday. He says it interferes with the Holy Triduum, which are the holiest days of the year.

A. The Paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) ushers in Easter Sunday and constitutes the most holy period of the Church year. The Divine Mercy Novena does not supersede the Triduum, but extends the Solemn General Intercessions of the Good Friday observance of Our Lord's Passion and Death throughout the whole octave of Easter, building up to the day of thanksgiving for Our Lord's Divine Mercy.

This response contradicts itself. It claims that the timing of the Novena doesn't "supersede" the Triduum, and then goes on to ignore its culmination. That makes no sense. Superseding is exactly what it does.

For nearly two millennia, the Easter season, including the Octave, has been devoted to the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the traditional requirement to abstain from meat does not apply on the Friday of this octave (which is why yours truly had a Rueben sandwich for lunch today), such is the magnitude of the occasion. The Fathers of the Church have told us, we have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast. Yet the novena is devoted to chanting thus: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

Granted, at every Mass offered on any given day, we remember the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ -- the whole nine yards. But that comparison ends in the context of the liturgical seasons, the purpose of which is to shed a spotlight on a particular aspect of salvation history at the liturgical year progresses. There is sufficient reason to doubt that the emphasis made by this novena, given its timing, sheds that spotlight appropriately, even if we reduce it to a mere devotion (as opposed to the official prayer of the Church through her liturgical life).

If we read the history of the development of this Feast that is the Sunday within the Octave of Easter, if we understand what the readings and the orations are trying to tell us, we might consider the possibility that Our Lord was telling Sister Faustina something of Himself, which He has been trying to say to His Bride, our Mother the Church, all along. At the same time, She has long admonished us to be prudent with respect to the messages of private revelations. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 65-67).

While accepting the judgment of the Apostolic See in this matter of the Sunday commemoration itself, we may wish to re-examine this devotion in relation to the whole of the liturgical year. Even if the novena is not a liturgical act in the official sense, its use in parishes during the octave of the Resurrection misses the big picture, which is ...

“We have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast.”

... for eight days, if not forty, and if you don't mind.

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To learn more about the devotion to the Divine Mercy, visit the website of the Apostles of Divine Mercy at DivineMercySunday.com, or that of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at TheDivineMercy.org. For a guide to praying the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, go to the appropriate page at EWTN.com.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Christus resurrexit! Sicut dixit, Alleluia!

It was on an Easter Sunday,
    and all in the morning,
Our Savior arose,
    and our heavenly King.
The sun and the moon,
    they both did rise
        with him,
And sweet Jesus
    we’ll call him by name.


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An Easter Homily of Saint John Chrysostom

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Friday, April 02, 2021

Good Friday

It was on a good Friday,
    and all in the morning,
They crucified our Savior,
    and our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing
And sweet Jesus,
    we’ll call him by name.


From "the third hour" until "the sixth hour." From sext to none. From noon until three in the afternoon. Scripture tells us that our Lord was dying on the cross at this time, culminating in the words “Consummatum Est” (“It is finished”).

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When we were kids, growing up in Ohio, we would either go to church for Stations of the Cross or some related devotion, or if we were at home, Mom would turn the radio off, and we were told to be quieter than usual. Thus did we mark the consummation of the ultimate act of sacrificial Love, that of the Bridegroom for His bride.

PHOTO: Gail Deibler Finke

Elsewhere in Cincinnati, a venerable custom of more than a century and a half still takes place on this day.

In December 1860, a Catholic church was completed on a bluff atop Mount Adams, overlooking the central city from the east, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Since the hill was too steep for a horse-and-buggy, there were a series of wooden steps built as well, leading from St Gregory Street near the river, all the way to the church entrance. The following spring saw the start of the War Between The States, and Immaculata Church became the site of devout Catholics praying the rosary for peace while climbing the steps to its entrance.

Even today, the tradition continues, as every year on Good Friday (a day when it invariably rains), an estimated ten thousand pilgrims climb the 85 steps -- the wooden ones having since been replaced by concrete -- leading to the entrance. The procession begins at midnight, with the parish priest's blessing of the steps, and continues for twenty-four hours.

The Passionist Historical Archives elaborates on the legacy of “St Mary’s of the Steps”, as does the parish website.

Our meditation for Good Friday is a photo montage with the imagery of the cross by Terri Rogers.

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This morning I will go to church and pray the Lauds of Tenebrae for Good Friday. Then at noon, Saint Rita's will have the Presanctified Liturgy of Good Friday for those devoted to the "extraordinary form." I will go again for a third time to pray the Matins of Holy Saturday.

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And finally, for what it's worth, the New York Stock exchange closes on this day. Even in the heart of Mammon, some things are still sacred, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Maundy Thursday

It was on a
    maundy Thursday,
        and all in the morning,
They planted
    a crown of thorns
        on our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus
    we'll call him by name.


Today begins the Sacred Triduum. For many years, I have taken this day and the next off from work. I made an exception of today this year, but I still plan to sneak away for a bit.

Last night I went to church (where I'm safer than in a supermarket), to pray the Matins of Tenebrae for Thursday of Holy Week. This morning I will go again to pray the Lauds for Thursday of Holy Week, then in the evening, the Matins for the following day.

The above notwithstanding, for a Catholic, as much as some try to deny it, the next three days are not business as usual. The whole of human history -- before, during, after -- turns on the events we remember this week. Our meditation is from a poem by Jalaludin Rumi. It is translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne, with music by David Wilcox and Nance Pettit, and is produced by Bob Carlton.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Spy Wednesday

It was on a Holy Wednesday,
    and all in the morning
When Judas betrayed
    our dear heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus,
    we'll call him by name.


This day in Holy Week is known among Western Christians by the above title (or among Christians in the East, Μεγάλη Τετάρτη), as tradition commemorates this day for when Judas Iscariot conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Our Lord, in exchange for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).

Was that a lot of money in those days?

The term in the original language, "arguria," simply means "silver coins." Historians disagree as to what form of currency is described. They could have been either staters from Antioch, tetradrachms from Ptolemy, or shekels from Tyre. (Nothing about Greek drachmas, which were either bronze, copper, or iron. Just so we're clear on that.)

Closer to the present, it is also when we here at man with black hat (more or less) interrupt our usual blogcasting (such as it is) in order to focus on the Main Event for the several days that follow. Stay tuned ...

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Hosanna Filio David!

Let us go together to meet Christ on the Mount of Olives.

Today he returns from Bethany and proceeds of his own free will toward his holy and blessed passion, to consummate the mystery of our salvation. He who came down from heaven to raise us from the depths of sin, to raise us with himself, we are told in Scripture, above every sovereignty, authority and power, and every other name that can be named, now comes of his own free will to make his journey to Jerusalem. He comes without pomp or ostentation. As the psalmist says: He will not dispute or raise his voice to make it heard in the streets. He will be meek and humble, and he will make his entry in simplicity.

Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at his coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us.

In his humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself. And even though we are told that he has now ascended above the highest heavens – the proof, surely, of his power and godhead – his love for man will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory, and made it one with his own in heaven.

So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel.

-- From a sermon by Saint Andrew of Crete, bishop. Photos depicting highlights of Palm Sunday 2009, at St John the Beloved Church, McLean, Virginia, courtesy of Miss Sarah Campbell.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

My Annual Über-Celtic Moment

Today the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Patrick (387-493), the patron saint of Ireland. It is on the Emerald Isle that today is both a national and religious holiday. At one time, the bars would close and the churches would be full out of obligation. Only in recent years has the feast seen a more rebellious spirit, complete with parades and green beer (not to mention green hair). Naturally (if ironically), they have the Americans to thank for this.

Growing up in a postwar Catholic environment, those of us who attended the parish schools in the United States, were taught that there were two kinds of people; those who were Irish, and those who wish they were. My own family appeared to fall into neither category. There were the Irish nuns who favored the Irish kids, including the unforgettable Sister Mary Mel (yes, her real name), who wasn't above calling some miscreant a "jackass." But at least she was colorful. The rest of all things that were allegedly Irish were just so much blarney. I came to dismiss the whole notion of St Paddy's Day -- indeed, the whole notion of being Irish -- as a license for certain people to be more arrogant and obnoxious than they already were.

"Hail glorious Saint Patrick dear saint of our isle
On us thy poor children look down with a smile —"
But I'm not singing hymns and I'm not saying prayers
No, I'm gritting my teeth as I walk down the stairs
And into the street with these louts fiercely drinking
And screeching and lurching, and here's what I'm thinking —
They're using a stereotype, a narrow example,
A fraction, not even a marketing sample
To imitate Ireland, from which they don't come!
So unless that's just stupid, unless it's plain dumb,
All these kids from New Jersey and the five boroughs
And hundreds of cities, all drowning their sorrows,
With bottles and glasses and heads getting broken
(Believe me, just ask the mayor of Hoboken)
All that mindlessness, shouting and getting plain stocious —
That isn't Irish, that's simply atrocious.
I've another word too for it, this one's more stinging
I call it "racism." See, just 'cause you're singing
Some drunken old ballad on Saint Patrick's Day
Does that make you Irish? Oh, no — no way.
Nor does a tee-shirt that asks you to kiss them —
If they never come back I surely won't miss them
Or their beer cans and badges and wild maudlin bawling
And hammered and out of it, bodies all sprawling.

They're not of Joyce or of Yeats, Wilde, or Shaw.
How many Nobel Laureates does Dublin have? Four!
Think of this as you wince through Saint Patrick's guano —
Not every Italian is Tony Soprano.

Eventually I went to college, where I discovered Irish music. I mean the real thing, not the over-romanticized "Christmas-in-Killarney-on-St-Patrick's-in-June" that passed itself off as genuine the whole time. I simply couldn't get enough of it. I used to watch the Saint Patrick's Day parade in Cincinnati, which included the carrying of the statue of the Saint, which the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians would "steal" in the middle of night, from what was once the German parish in Mount Adams. (Long story.) There was also the local Irish dance school, with boys and girls who never imagined that, three decades later, they could do it for fame and fortune in shows like "Riverdance."

Who knew?

By the end of the 1970s I spent Sunday evenings working at a coffeehouse, and I helped broker a deal that brought Clannad to Cincinnati on their first American tour. I even gave harpist/vocalist Máire Brennan (pronounced MOY-uh) a ride back to where she was staying. Otherwise shy and aloof, I got her to laugh at my jokes. That seemed to matter at the time.

I saw Máire again in 1987, in a music video on VH1, for a song entitled "Something to Believe In." She was also the haunting voice in the Volkswagen commercials. Naturally she's world-famous now, and probably wouldn't return my calls, although she did write me a long and possibly heartfelt note when she autographed my copy of their album. I say "possibly" because it was in Gaelic, so I'll never know for sure, especially since it was among my collection that was stolen from my apartment in Georgetown back in 1994. (Bob, if you're reading this, tell your rich white trash buddies that I'd really like to have it back. And before you get your boxers in a bunch, the neighbors all thought YOU did it!) Máire also came out with a book in 2001 entitled "The Other Side of the Rainbow." She continues to tour and so on, but I knew her when.

(Sigh ...) Anyway, back to the '70s. While the whole world (including my now-beloved Celia on the other side of it) was going bananas over disco, the feast became an annual ritual, of spending most of the accompanying weekend hanging out at Hap's Irish Pub in the Hyde Park section of Cincinnati, or at Arnold's Bar and Grill downtown. Even when I moved to Washington in 1980, I learned Irish dancing (if not quite what appears in the above video), Irish folk tales, and the like. But the upscale bars in the Nation's capital weren't as quaint as the neighborhood pubs in my old hometown. I was under no illusions that this heritage was one that I could claim for my own.

In 1982, that claim became even more elusive. I married a girl whose grandparents came over from Slovakia, and who grew up hearing Slovak around the house. This pretty much killed any enthusiasm for all things Irish around our house.

You see, I learned a piece of American Catholic history that the mostly Irish-American church historians didn't exactly wear on their sleeves. By the time eastern Europeans came to America in the late 19th and early 20th century, the Irish were already the big fish in the little blue-collar pond, and didn't mind letting the "Hunkies" in the coal towns and factory neighborhoods know it. Going up the food chain, it got worse. Catholics of Eastern Rites -- with customs and liturgy similar to the Orthodox, but in communion with Rome -- had married priests. The mostly-Irish bishops assumed they were either schismatics, or worse. Their wives couldn't be treated in Catholic hospitals, and their children were barred from Catholic schools. Confused as these bishops were, they concluded that the faithful would be even more confused by the presence of married Catholic priests. Thus, by the 1920s, The (Irish-)American bishops pressured Rome to bar the (legitimately) married priests from coming to America, let alone ministering.

It has been shown that most of the growth of Eastern Orthodoxy in North America can be attributed to the damned ignorance of the (Irish-)American bishops of the time. (Hey, guys, nice work!)

This latency towards all things Irish got a reprieve when the marriage tanked in 1990. Then one night -- it was about 1998, as I remember -- I was interviewed for a writing job by a priest who edited a major Catholic periodical. A native of Dublin, he reminded me of what really mattered:

“Patrick was not Irish, and on his Feast Day, we do not celebrate being Irish; we celebrate being Catholic.”

I knew that the Alexanders came from a small town near Verdun, in the Lorraine province of northeastern France. But in recent years we learned that, before the 18th century, the Alexandre line was expatriated from Scotland, a result of the Rebellion when England overtook them. I was also to learn that the man known by the Roman name of Maganus Sucatus (Maewyn Succat in Gaelic) was of a Roman family, born in Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in that part of Great Britain that is now Scotland. Sooooo ... if not being Irish were not enough, Patricius (in modern English, Patrick) -- as he was known in later years, being of the Roman "patrician" class, and a "patriarch" to his spiritual charges -- might just as easily be claimed by the Scots as one of their own.
For years, one highlight of the day would be the Annual Irish Poetry Reading. That was when I'd call my folks in Ohio on this day every year, and with their speakerphone on, recite the following piece by Benjamin Hapgood Burt in a very bad Irish brogue:

One evening in October, when I was one-third sober,
    An' taking home a "load" with manly pride;
My poor feet began to stutter, so I lay down in the gutter,
    And a pig came up an' lay down by my side;
Then we sang "It's all fair weather when good fellows get together,"
    Till a lady passing by was heard to say:
"You can tell a man who 'boozes' by the company he chooses"
    And the pig got up and slowly walked away.


Since then, both have entered into eternity, most likely with better things to do.

Today, those who are Irish, who wish they were, or who don't give a rat's arse either way, will dine on Irish lamb stew. When I can ever find it amidst my stuff, I use this occasion to wear a button with the words of William Butler Yeats: “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.” Usually, I listen to Celtic music the entire day, and at an opportune time and place, I dine on corned beef and cabbage. This is admittedly an American innovation for the Irish, as poor immigrants from the "auld sod" found corned beef (a substitute used by their Jewish neighbors in place of bacon) to be much cheaper than lamb.

Beginning this year, I got lucky, because right down the street from me, they opened an Irish pub. It seems that three Thai restaurant within a half mile of each other was one too many, and the one closest to me was replaced with the watering hole of my dreams. The Celtic House is situated on the corner of Columbia Pike and South Barton Street, right at the end of the latter street, which would be my street, a mere ten-minute walk away. Sometime today I'm making a point of being there, as if my fond memories of discovering real Irish culture have come full circle. True, it's not as small and crowded as Hap's, not nearly as weather-beaten as Arnold's, and they won't be selling raffle tickets for NORAID under the table, but I can ignore that long enough to enjoy a lamb stew.

I'll also probably watch Mel Gibson in Braveheart later tonight, while enjoying a Guiness float (which is like a root beer float, only ... well, you know). Who cares if William Wallace was Scottish? No one cares if Patrick isn't Irish, do they? After all, "The Apostle of Ireland" is properly claimed by Catholics everywhere, whether a bun ch of micks care to admit it or not.

“Agus fagaimid siud mar ata se.”

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Transfiguration

He said, write down the vision that you had,
and I wrote what I saw.

I saw the world kissing its own darkness.

It happened thus: I rose to meet the sunrise
and suddenly over the hill a horde appeared dragging a huge tarpaulin.
They covered unwary land and hapless city and all sweet water and fields.
And there was no sunrise.

I strained my eyes for a path and there was no path.
I bumped into trees and the bushes hissed at me,
and the long-armed brambles cried in a strident voice: never through here!
But I struggled on, fumbling my beads of no.

I came to a dark city where nobody knew that there was darkness.
And strange! though there was no light I still could see
what I did not want to see:
people who moved to the loveless embrace of folly.
They ate her gourmet foods; they drank her wine,
danced to her music that was crazed with rhythm,
were themselves discord though they knew it not,
or if they knew, cared less.

Outside the city wall, I stood in thought,
parried a moment with a frightening urge to court the darkness;
but I held back, fearing the face of love.

Crossing a field I wandered through a desert
when suddenly behind a rock I found
a little sagebrush where a fire was burning, shining and dancing.
After my first amazed worship of silence I was loud with praise.

I watched with fear the darkness circling it.
lunging against it, swirling a black cloak to suffocate the light,
until the shades broke loose and one by one in terror fled.

The flame burned on, innocent, unimperiled.
There was no darkness that could put it out.

-- Jessica Powers, aka Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, OCD

Thursday, February 25, 2021

“Say you want a revolution, well, you know ...”

The Manila Bulletin headline of Aquino's assassination on August 21, 1983

My beloved Celia was never one to brag about it, but thirty-five years ago today, she helped to overthrow a government.

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By 1972, the Philippines was ruled under martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos. As time went on, his regime was the catalyst for organized corruption, and even assassination of his rivals. By 1986, the nation was on the brink of civil war. That was when the Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin, called for a peaceful protest against the regime.

Our Lady of EDSA, built in 1989 to commemorate the 1986 Revolution.

First, His Eminence contacted two orders of cloistered nuns, directing them to forgo their usual routine, and pray continuously before the Blessed Sacrament, until he told them otherwise. Then he got on Radio Veritas, and called upon his countrymen to take to the streets, to meet the soldiers guarding Malacañang (the presidential palace), and plead with them to lay down their arms. The tanks rolling down Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) were stopped in their tracks by devout Catholics on their knees, praying the rosary and singing hymns. Celia was among those who went to the soldiers' encampment, with armloads of pastries and other homemade baked goods, to win their hearts through their stomachs.

But then, there is what can be termed "the rest of the story." It has been said that the Blessed Mother herself personally interceded to stop the tanks from firing on the protesters. As the people at the front of the march watched in amazement, the men climbed out of their tanks and asked the people for rosaries, as a beautiful lady had appeared before them, commanding that they refrain from the massacre of their "kababayans" (fellow countrymen). It was then that, together, they marched on the palace. (The story itself appears on the video at 0:40.)

The rest, as they say, is history.

It became known as the “People Power Revolution” or the “EDSA Revolution” (for the avenue where events culminated, and where they did again for another overthrow in 2001). In nearly twenty years that I have known her, she has not repeated such anarchic tendencies.

Not yet, anyway.

Celia Lazaro Lauchengco Catindig, the unsung “Bayani ng Bayan” (Heroine of the Nation).

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Random Thoughts from the Desert

“Invocabit me, et ego exaudiam cum: eripiam cum, et glorificabo cum: longitude die rum adimplebo cum.”

“He shall cry to me, and I will hear him: I will deliver him, and I will glorify him: I will fill him with length of days.”

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For this Sunday today, the First Sunday of Lent, we heard the Gospel account of Our Lord heading out into the desert for forty days. The traditional form of the Mass for that day begins with the Introit citing a verse from Psalm 90(91), and the Tract between the readings elaborates upon the same. In its verses, we are reminded to trust in God.

During the First World War, the American soldiers of the 91st Infantry Brigade were given the text of this Psalm by their commander to recite before going into battle. They fought at Chateau Thierry, at Belle Wood, at the Argonne. Other units suffered casualties of up to ninety percent, but they suffered not one!

There are other accounts of the power of this Psalm, and other conflicts where it was used; by the British at Dunkirk during the Second World War, and by the Allied forces in Korea. Peggy Joyce Ruth writes:

Note that this verse in Psalm 91:4 declares God's faithfulness to us as both a shield and a bulwark in a double-layered analogy. The passage uses two military symbols of fortification and protection. God is our bulwark, our tower -- our wall of protection in a collective sense -- and He is also our shield -- a very individualized defense. This verse indicates double protection.

Man, by his very nature, is not a solitary creature. He is nurtured by the presence, the company of others. Left alone in solitude for too long, he will either prepare himself to be tormented by his own personal demons, or he will give in to their exploiting his weaknesses.

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I remember the years after my divorce, a period of roughly a decade (from about 1993 to 2003) that I have always referred to, as would Dorothy Day in her biography, as "The Long Loneliness." My day job was a tense environment in those days, as the old status quo in a dysfunctional government agency resisted the challenge of a younger and racially diverse generation of middle managers. The one who led our staff was a decorated war veteran, with a penchant for alcohol as self-medication, and behavior towards employees that would be most aptly considered sadist and sociopathic. He could be very charming, especially toward women. Most alcoholics learn to pull that off. It's how they get by.

I'm afraid I got the worst of it. I would be ridiculed throughout the day, every day. The staff, moral weaklings that all of them were, would be cowed into joining him. I would be handed extra assignments a few days before a vacation. I was physically ill from a gastrointestinal condition for several years during that time. At its zenith, I was prescribed Seroquel, a potent antipsychotic medication. In small doses, it treats those with the hiccups; in larger ones, those who hear voices. I was somewhere in between.

On a good day, this psychopath never spoke to me at all. For that matter, neither did anyone else. Except for matters strictly professional, I would go for days, for weeks, maybe longer, without speaking to anyone. Then I would go home to an empty basement studio apartment, with no local friends to call (or at least none who returned calls). When I wasn't going home to Cincinnati six times a year, I would call my friends from there every night. I'd run up two hundred dollars in long distance calls, in the days before direct dialing with cell phones was anywhere near as common as today.

There was no recourse. The employees union could not accept a change to its narrative, that a white employee was subject to mistreatment by a black supervisor. (None dare call this "systemic racism.") They would often take his side in what was obviously against regulations in the federal workplace. Upper management was indifferent to the point of being clueless, such was the level of incompetence at the time.

Eventually, the nightmare ended. The man became enough of an embarrassment to other managers -- those poseurs were even more afraid of him than I was -- and I saw an opportunity to call them all on it. (The 25th of November, 1998. I have marked the day, and remember it to this day.) The man was removed from his position over our staff, and his fellows wasted no time pretending it never happened. Life became easier after that, both on the job and at home. I found a way off that island of isolation, and I was able to make a home, to bloom where I was planted, albeit five hundred miles from the place I once called home. It took that long and took that trial, the facing of demons, the wrestling with ghosts from the past.

I eventually got off Seroquel, but there are other medications I have to take, possibly for the rest of my life.

“Then the Devil left Him: and behold angels came, and ministered to Him.” (Matt:4:11)

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Christ Himself was surely so clad in armor, as he fled to the desert to be tempted by the Evil One. Even as He was the Son of God, He possessed a human nature, one that bore witness to us in its being tested.

I could write a book about that episode in my career. Someday it will be written, but not at present. The demons that all of us face, even as "no man is an island," we must face them alone, but not really alone. The One who faced them for us has shown us how. He trusted in the Father, and so must we. That bulwark, that tower, that shield, one that is there all along.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

“I’m (still) on a mission from God!” (or, Why I Am Not Giving Up Blogging For Lent)

“Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.”

There was a time, when blogging was more the realm of the common aspirant, and before the Catholic media giants took over, that any number of participants in the Catholic blogosphere would announce, with some measure of fanfare, that they were giving up blogging and other forms of social media for Lent (or, in one case, announcing giving up blogging, and then spending more time on social media, and you know who you were, Skippy!). We were supposed to admire them. I remember many of them. They did us all a big favor. And then they came back.

And so, at a place well outside the Celebrity Convert Circuit, what follows is why I'm not giving up blogging for Lent. In addition, while not a complete treatise on the subject, this piece will serve to clear up some heretofore little-known aspects of the season.

The Christian calendar has traditionally had numerous periods of fasting in anticipation of great feasts. In some parts of Europe, the "Saint Martin's Fast" would begin on the 11th of November ("Martinmas"), and continue until Christmas. Officially, however, the Roman (Latin) tradition would not begin the penitential season until the four Sundays before Christmas, the time of which is known as "Advent," or "the Coming." There were also the "Ember Days," three days of penance each occurring on a quarterly basis throughout the year. But it was the season of Lent which is known as "The Great Fast" of the Year of Grace.

People assume that Lent is the only time for giving up something, when it isn't. People also assume that giving up something involves making a big to-do about it, when it shouldn't. Attending daily Mass is a popular exercise, and in most major cities where there are urban parishes near a business district, there's an extra scheduled weekday Mass -- and extra time for confessions -- during the season. These things don't always call attention to themselves. They shouldn't.

But don't take MY word for it.

At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

And speaking of the season, it doesn't necessarily start right away. The traditional Roman calendar precedes Lent with three Sundays collectively known as "Septuagesima" (literally "seventy days" but actually "within the octave of seventy days"). They were termed "Septuagesima Sunday," "Sexagesima Sunday," and "Quinquagesima Sunday," respectively. As with Lent, the priest wears violet vestments, the Gloria is not sung, and the Tract replaces the Alleluia before the Gospel. But unlike Lent, the musical accompaniment is not restricted, and flowers and other suitable decor can be placed on the reredos behind the altar, as normally done during the year.

This is also the inspiration for the pre-Lenten celebration known as “Carnival” (from the Latin for “farewell to meat”).

Meanwhile, on the eastern side of the tracks, the Byzantine Rite has five special Sundays preceding their "Great Fast": "Zacchaeus Sunday" (if only in the Slavic churches), "The Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee," "The Sunday of the Prodigal Son," "Meatfare Sunday" (or "The Sunday of the Last Judgment," when the faithful begin abstaining from meat), and "Cheesefare Sunday" (when the faithful begin abstaining from dairy products, which for them would include eggs, don't ask me why). The following day is when the the Fast begins in the East, and is generally known as "Clean Monday."

There was also a time when weddings were not permitted during Advent or Lent, unless there was a serious reason. And if one was allowed, the altar and sanctuary could not be decorated as it could otherwise be for the occasion. (Try that today, and see a young lady get in touch with her inner Bridezilla. I've seen it. It's not pretty.)

So right now you're saying, “Pray tell us, O Black Hatted One, as you are a veritable fountain of arcane and useless knowledge, how does it explain why you're not giving up blogging for Lent?”

Well, my little minions, there is much, much more to Lent than giving up things, never mind making a big-@$$ whoop-dee-do out of it. There is a significance in the marking of sacred time, something lost on a people whose solemnities all get moved to the nearest Sunday. But you wouldn't know all that if there was no one to tell you along the way, now, would you? Duh, guess not! Besides, I had to work in all that arcane and useless knowledge somehow.

To the extent that man with black hat identifies itself as "Catholic," its author is engaged in what could be considered a propagation of the Faith. And in case it isn't obvious by now, you don't give up an apostolate for Lent, you big dummy!

But still, you must be wondering if yours truly is actually giving up anything for Lent. Well, yes, and it's something really important.

And I'm not tellin.'

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

“C’mon, take me to the Mardi Gras ...”

“... where the people sing and play / Where the dancing is elite / And there's music in the street / Both night and day.”

There goes "Rhymin' Simon," in a live recording of his 1973 hit on Columbia Records. Meanwhile, this being the last day of merriment before the Great Fast (aka Lent), I am reminded of another Mardi Gras from so many years ago ...

Babes in Boyland

... and so it goes.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

A Contrarian Valentine



A lone young shepherd lived in pain
withdrawn from pleasure and contentment,
his thoughts fixed on a shepherd-girl
his heart an open wound with love.

He weeps, but not from the wound of love,
there is no pain in such affliction,
even though the heart is pierced;
he weeps in knowing he's been forgotten.

That one thought: his shining one
has forgotten him, is such great pain
that he bows to brutal handling in a foreign land,
his heart an open wound with love.

The shepherd says: I pity the one
who draws herself back from my love,
and does not seek the joy of my presence,
though my heart is an open wound with love for her.

After a long time he climbed a tree,
and spread his shining arms,
and hung by them, and died,
his heart an open wound with love.


-- Saint John of the Cross (1542-91)

Friday, February 12, 2021

“Kung hei faht choi!”



That's what they were saying in China, in the Philippines, as well as in any country with a large Chinese population, not to mention Chinatowns all over the world. Today begins the lunar new year in China -- to be more exact, “The Year of the Ox.”

Valentine's Day is this Sunday. Celia and I will be wearing a lot of red all this weekend.

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I took Paul to his first "dragon festival" in DC's Chinatown back in 1987, when he was two years old. He fit right in with his bright red snowsuit. Such is the culmination of a fifteen-day celebration that begins today (or yesterday, depending on your side of the planet).

Meanwhile, the video clip above was taken at the National Building Museum back in 2007 with a phone camera. That was the Year of the Pig, but at least a dragon showed up. Obviously camera phones have come a long way in thirteen years, don't you think?

Or don't you?

NOTE: As my beloved is one-eighth Cantonese, the above title is the traditional greeting in Cantonese, as opposed to the more common Mandarin. Meanwhile, learn more than you could possibly want to know about the occasion on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Candlemas Day (or, why Punxatawney Phil is a Catholic)

“When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated
to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.”
(Luke 2:22-24)


Today, both the Eastern and Western churches observe the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (known as "Candlemas" in the West), and traditionally cited as the fortieth day of Christmas. (Yes, I counted them the other day, and with Christmas itself as Day 1, this is Day 40.) In the Catholic tradition, the Christmas Cycle officially ends with this day, and preparation for Lent can begin, which includes the "Carnival" season in much of South America. But today, and throughout the world, the faithful will process in and around their churches bearing lighted candles, which are blessed for the coming year.

The origin of this feast is described in detail, in this excerpt from the classic work of Dom Prosper Guéranger, OSB, entitled The Liturgical Year.

The mystery of today's ceremony has frequently been explained by liturgists, dating from the 7th century. According to Ivo of Chartres, the wax, which is formed from the juice of flowers by the bee, always considered as the emblem of virginity, signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant, who diminished not, either by His conception or His birth, the spotless purity of His Blessed Mother. The same holy bishop would have us see, in the flame of our Candle, a symbol of Jesus who came to enlighten our darkness. St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on the same mystery, bids us consider three things in the blessed Candle: the wax, the wick, and the flame. The wax, he says, which is the production of the virginal bee, is the Flesh of our Lord; the wick, which is within, is His Soul; the flame, which burns on top, is His divinity.

This year's formality, in excruciating detail, is provided courtesy of CBS News.

In Catholic Europe, especially in Germany where the practice originated, this feat of prediction was ascribed to German badgers. But since badgers are not found in the eastern United States, German immigrants to this country were obliged to depend for meteorological guidance on a species of marmot called by the Indians 'weejak' or woodchuck, also known as ... the groundhog.

Finally, we end with the appropriate carol. Yes, there is a carol for ending Christmastide, with lyrics by Robert Herrick (1591-1674), employing a Basque melody adapted by Edgar Pittman (1865-1943). This recording is courtesy of John Roberts and Tony Barrand, two of the foursome known as "Nowell Sing We Clear."

And with that, on to Carnival!
 

Friday, January 29, 2021

ProLifeCon 2021: Twitcast and Transcript

Today it begins, our eleventh 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 (such as it is this year), for this year's ProLifeCon, the “premiere conference for the online prolife community” hosted once again by the Family Research Council in Washington DC.

Unfortunately, the embed code for the video of this year's event was not available, so we are providing you with last year's here. You can watch this year's event (both live and later pre-recorded) at the ProLifeCon website. You can also follow the #prolifecon hashtag on Twitter, or following yours truly at twitter.com/manwithblackhat.

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Our annual #prolifecon "twitcast" is about to begin.
9:49 AM

The #prolifecon begins ... if virtually!
10:02 AM

This week marks the 48th anniversary of the March For Life. #prolifecon
10:02 AM

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Jeanne Mancini is President of the March For Life. She talks about the "virtual" plan for the "March" starting at noon. #prolifecon
10:03 AM

There will be a small group of select pro-life leaders marching to the Supreme Court to leave a bouquet of roses at its steps. #prolifecon
10:04 AM

"Unity is the topic of the day." But everyone should be united in the right to life, and building a culture of life. #prolifecon
10:05 AM

"We all bring something different to the table." #prolifecon
10:06 AM

"We should all do something all year long, keep marching symbolically, responding to the call that God has for us." #prolifecon
10:07 AM

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Stephanie Gray is the author of "Love Unleashes Life." #prolifecon
10:09 AM

"Often there is resistance to the pro-life perspective" because of the emotional draw of pain in the circumstances at the time, and the need for showing them compassion and aid. #prolifecon
10:10 AM

"Show that we love [the mother], not just the unborn child." #prolifecon
10:10 AM

"The more someone shares, the more they can feel safe." #prolifecon
10:11 AM

"So many involved in the pro-choice movement, are involved from a viewpoint of pain, of suffering." #prolifecon
10:13 AM

Persuasion through the posing of questions, less of changing minds than of changing direction. #prolifecon
10:13 AM

"We need to be able to listen to people with hearts that are filled with love." #prolifecon
10:15 AM

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Suzanne Geist is a Nebraska State Senator who fought against a dismemberment bill in the state legislature. #prolifecon
10:17 AM

"What we were talking about in the bill was the second trimester, 12 to 24 weeks." #prolifecon
10:18 AM

Because the bill did not outlaw abortion entirely in Nebraska, the attorney general of the state was persuaded that the bill would not be unconstitutional. #prolifecon
10:19 AM

Ms Geist receives the Samuel Adams State Legislator of the Year Award. #prolifecon
10:19 AM

frc.org/prolifemaps #prolifecon
10:20 AM

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Robert Davi and Nick Loeb, actor and producer-director, respectively, for the movie "Roe v Wade: The Untold Story." #prolifecon
10:21 AM

youtu.be/izCgBtGF-hc #prolifecon
10:23 AM

Davi plays Justice Brennan in the movie, the one who came up with the "right to privacy" aspect of the Court's decision. #prolifecon
10:24 AM

"The courage that [Loeb] had to put this film together" to show "how the sausage was made." #prolifecon
10:26 AM

Among the actors who asked to play roles in the film were Jon Voight. #prolifecon
10:26 AM

This movie "is not your Marvel Comic," which makes it unique, along with a look inside proceedings of the Supreme Court. #prolifecon
10:28 AM

The takeaway from this film? "Hopefully people will recognize that life begins at conception." #prolifecon
10:30 AM

For more information on its April 2 release: roevwademovie.com #prolifecon
10:31 AM

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Claire Culwell is an author and an abortion survivor, who talks about forgiving her birth mother. #prolifecon
10:32 AM

"I was adopted by a wonderful Christian couple." #prolifecon
10:32 AM

"I wanted to point people to the direction of redemption that Christ offers to them, but I had to do the same for myself." #prolifecon
10:33 AM

There is also a need for mothers and fathers of the aborted to forgive themselves. #prolifecon
10:34 AM

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Kyle Mann is editor in chief of The Babylon Bee, a satirical site, who discusses the issues of censorship in social media. #prolifecon
10:38 AM

"Government is using Big Tech as a cudgel" to censor content that they don't like. #prolifecon
10:39 AM

babylonbee.com #prolifecon
10:40 AM

"We are being fact-checked because our jokes are false." #prolifecon
10:40 AM

"The culture warriors that control Big Tech obviously do not like the pro-life movement. When they can censor the President of the United States, who can't they censor?" #prolifecon
10:42 AM

The message to those who are discouraged, is it worth it to continue on social media if they are silenced? Be contrarian and continue to share it anyway. #prolifecon
10:43 AM

"They want to isolate us, but we are not alone." #prolifecon
10:44 AM

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The discussion of censorship continues with John-Henry Westen, co-founder and editor-in-chief of LifeSiteNews. #prolifecon
10:46 AM

lifesitenews.com #prolifecon
10:47 AM

"We are currently de-platformed on YouTube and Twitter. Most of our articles on Facebook are marked as false information. Google is censoring us as well." #prolifecon
10:48 AM

Moving our platforms to Telegram (Telegraph?) and Gab. #prolifecon
10:50 AM

LifeSiteNews.com "Please hit the 'Subscribe' button." #prolifecon
10:53 AM

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Ryan and Bethany Bomberger are founders of The Radiance Foundation. #prolifecon
10:54 AM

http://theradiancefoundation.org #prolifecon
10:54 AM

Every life has purpose. Ryan himself is the product of rape. #prolifecon
10:55 AM

"If a woman who survived an abortion is pro-choice, this is so ironic. If only she learned the truth as a child." #prolifecon
10:57 AM

"Our own children were 'born for such a time as this.'" #prolifecon
10:57 AM

"Life Has Purpose." #prolifecon
10:57 AM

"Abort Roe." #prolifecon
10:58 AM

"Adoption Releases Purpose." #prolifecon
10:58 AM

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Tony Perkins, President of #FRC, sits down with Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Senator Steve Daines (R-MT). #prolifecon
11:00 AM

"We anticipated this [pro-choice agenda] with the election of Joe Biden as President." #prolifecon
11:01 AM

"We must preserve the filibuster" [in the Senate] so that Biden can't have his way with everything. #prolifecon
11:03 AM

There have been efforts to eliminate the Hyde Amendment before, during the Clinton and Obama administrations. "Miraculously" it has been preserved. "Henry Hyde was the greatest leader imaginable" for the value of life. #prolifecon
11:05 AM

Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, was even against pre-natal care for poor women, according to Congressman Smith. #prolifecon
11:08 AM

Senator Daines wants us to put pressure on our own senators, in an effort to prevent a pro-choice super-majority. "41 is the magic number." #prolifecon
11:11 AM

"We know that the Biden administration is going to reverse the Mexico City policy" which means that Planned Parenthood could get "a blank check." #prolifecon
11:12 AM

"We need this help [of #FRC] on The Hill more than ever." #prolifecon
11:14 AM

Montana may soon have a "Baby Born Alive" bill signed by its governor. #prolifecon
11:15 AM

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Lauren Boebert (R-CO) is the first woman and first mom to represent Colorado's 3rd Congressional District. #prolifecon
11:17 AM

"I had my first son at eighteen years old." #prolifecon
11:17 AM

Boebert discusses the devastation of loss of a child through miscarriage. #prolifecon
11:20 AM

"I teach my [four boys] about the consequences of their actions" in showing them what abortion involves. "I want to invite men into this conversation." #prolifecon
11:23 AM

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Josh Craddock is an affiliate scholar for the James Wilson Institute for Natural Rights and the American Founding. #prolifecon
11:27 AM

The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court has already shown promise. #prolifecon
11:28 AM

States should feel empowered to pass pro-life legislation at their level. #prolifecon
11:29 AM

"We are seeing lower courts uphold pro-life laws," including in cases of unborn children with Down syndrome. #prolifecon
11:29 AM

The unborn are protected under the Constitution, according to scholars who examine the 14th Amendment without preconceptions. #prolifecon
11:30 AM

Centuries of case law and common practice reinforces the idea of the unborn as persons. Such is the original meaning of the text, to protect all persons, as opposed to what happened before with slavery. #prolifecon
11:32 AM

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Emily Berning is President of Let Them Live. #prolifecon
11:34 AM

A pro-life non-profit, dedicating to the aid of women with "crisis pregnancies," those who consider abortion for financial reasons. #prolifecon
11:35 AM

"You can post on Facebook and reach people to support you financially." #prolifecon
11:37 AM

"Women don't need to have abortions to get out of poverty. One hundred percent of them are preventable." #prolifecon
11:38 AM

"We are currently supporting a ton of moms." letthemlive.org #prolifecon
11:41 AM

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"We'll see you next year at #prolifecon."
11:42 AM

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And ... we're out. On to the March (if you can find one.) #prolifecon
11:42 AM

Thanks and High Fives go out to the Family Research Council (#frc) for their support of this unique event, and their assistance in getting on board. #prolifecon
11:44 AM

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Feast of Santo Niño

Our exploration of the continued remembrance of Christmastide as a forty-day feast, in some form or another, shall continue, and in ways that, in turn, continue to surprise many of us.

Most practicing Catholics in North America (we can only hope) are familiar with the image of the "Infant of Prague." While the devotion to the Child Jesus originated in Spain in the 16th century, it soon made its way to the Czech region of Bohemia, the historic capital city of which is Prague, hence the popular reference. But in much of the Spanish world, including the Philippines, he is known as "Santo Niño" and the feast commemorating the Christ Child (as he is referred to from infancy to the age of twelve) is celebrated on the third Sunday of January.

Rehearsal in Qatar, 2013.

All throughout South America and other parts of the Hispanic world, celebrations that are akin to our own Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday," the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent) take place. Among the greatest are the various celebrations of Santo Niño throughout the Philippihes, not only in the capital city of Manila, but especially in Cebu, the major city of the central region of Visayas, and the epicenter of the national celebration.

Sinulog Dance 2012 by Tribu Sugbu Dancers, Rockville MD, 2012.




In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan came to Cebú and gave the image as a present to Humamay, chief consort of the local monarch, Raja Humabon, when she, together with her husband and a number of his subjects, were baptized into the Catholic faith. Tradition holds that Humamay -- who received the Christian name Juana after Joan of Castile -- danced for joy upon receiving the Santo Niño, providing a legendary origin for the fervent religious dancing during the Sinulog held in honor of the Christ Child. (from Wikipedia)

Sinulog in Singapore 2017 Rehearsals, choreographed by Edynne Baclay.

While remembered primarily as a religious holiday, the celebration, or Sinulog, is known for its street festivals, as the young woman who is crowned queen of the festival leads the parade, dancing and carrying the image of the Christ Child in honor of him. The name "sinulog" comes from the Cebuano (Visayan) word "sulog," which translates roughly as "water current movement," a reference to the backward/forward movement of the Sinulog dance in which festival goers participate. The dance itself, performed as a group, is relatively simple, but various cities and dance troupes will invariably cultivate elaborately choreographed versions of the same. As they do, they sing the popular folk song "Viva Pit Senyor" which translates as "Long Live the Lord" (or more popularly as "Long Live the Christ Child"). The dancers will usually carry images of the Holy Child, holding them over their heads as they move together, praising the young Christ Jesus in song.


Jesus teach me how to pray
Suffer not my thought to stray
Send destruction far away
Sweet Holy Child

Let me not be rude or wild
Make me humble meek and mild
Pure as angels undefiled
Sweet Holy Child

When I work or when I pray
Be thou with me through the day
Teach me what to do and say
Sweet Holy Child

Make me love thy mother's blest
Safe beneath they care to rest
As a bird within its nest
Sweet Holy Child.

The climax of the event takes place at the Pilgrim Center of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niõ de Cebu, as in these two clips from the previous year (from the cheap seats, and near the sanctuary). Just when you thought Catholics didn't know how to party, you learn that they do in the "Land of the Morning."

More information about the main event can be found at the Sinulog website for the annual celebration in Cebu.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Plowing Through Monday

Today is the traditional start of the agricultural year in England, and so is known as Plough Monday, or, the day after Plough Sunday (you remember from yesterday, right?) which was the Sunday following the traditional observance of Epiphany on the sixth of January. This was the Monday when everyone would end the Christmas revelry and get back to work.

In his 1777 book Observations on Popular Antiquities, the English antiquarian and clergyman John Brand (1744–1806) 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, okay, maybe not directly ending and getting back to work. Personally, I'd rather be molly dancing. What is that, you ask?

VIDEO: A 2016 performance of "Black Sheet" by the Ouse Washes Molly Dancers. Following a bit of narrative, the dancing actually starts at 2:07.

“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 recognized. 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 emphasized 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.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Plowing Through Sunday

The forty days associated with Christmas and Epiphany continue. The coming of the Savior in the course of the liturgical year is further made manifest. So too is the relationship between the sacred and the secular.

The Sunday after Epiphany, that which falls between the 7th and the 13th of January, is commemorated in England as Plough Sunday, when the beginning of the agricultural year is celebrated. Farmers will arrive at the parish church in their tractors, which are blessed along with the seeds for planting, as found in the official worship book of the Church of England. The day is also remembered by Morris dancing after church services, where a homily for the occasion is often proclaimed.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

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

The one who is the Officiant begins with the Sign of the Cross, as the others respond ...

Pax + huic dómui.
(Peace + be unto this house.)

Et ómnibus habitántibus in ea.
(And to all who dwell therein.)

...and then continue with 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 forever!
and may all the earth be filled with his glory.


Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit,

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.

Then the Officiant says the following prayer:

Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
(O Lord, hear my prayer.)

Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
(And let my cry come unto you.)


Oremus ...
(Let us pray ...)

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.

The Officiant or another takes a piece of blessed chalk and, stepping up on a chair or ladder if necessary, writes over the entrance to the house.

“Christus ...” (“May Christ ...”)

          C

“Mansionem ...” (“this dwelling ...”)

          C      M

“Benedicat.” (“... bless.”)

          C      M      B

“In the coming year ...”

20      C      M      B

“... and in the years to come.”

20      C      M      B      21

“In the name of the Father ...”

20  +  C      M      B      21

“and of the Son ...”

20  +  C  +  M      B      21

“... and of the Holy Spirit.”

20  +  C  +  M  +  B      21

Everyone responds: “Amen.”

20  +  C  +  M  +  B  +  21

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 Clifton Heights, 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 2)

full of grace and truth. (inscribe 1)

… 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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This 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 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 various apocryphal gospel accounts -- as representing the Orient, Europe, 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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This day is also the occasion for the solemn pronouncement of movable feasts for the coming year, using the chant from the Pontificale Romanum. Other resources can be found at reginamag.com.