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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Pope, His Brother, and Traditional Music

Pope Benedict XVI has called for a greater "continuity with tradition" when it comes to the music we hear at Mass.

Do you think it's just a coincidence that his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, is a retired choir director?

Feast of St. Stephen


The apostles decided they needed help, and so they ordained seven deacons, of whom St. Stephen was one. He was eventually arrested and stoned to death, becoming the Church's first martyr.

Weirdly, he is the patron saint of stonemasons.

Today is also the day (according to song) that good King Wencelas looked out - where the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
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Peace on Earth?

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Shiite tribal leaders attend Christmas mass at an Assyrian orthodox church in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2007. The church, which is located next to a Shiite mosque, hosted their neighbors for Christmas mass as a gesture of friendship.
(AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Basilica of St. Anastasia

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The Associated Press reports:

"Italian archaeologists last month unveiled an underground grotto that they believe ancient Romans revered as the place where a wolf nursed Rome's legendary founder Romulus and his twin brother Remus.

A few feet from the grotto, or "Lupercale," the Emperor Constantine built the Basilica of St. Anastasia, where some believe Christmas was first celebrated on Dec. 25."

We talked in class about how Catholics co-opted some pagan festivals. In this case, it was the festival of the sun god - remember, the winter solstice is when days start to lengthen. Light comes to the world...sounds like as good a time as any to celebrate the birth of Christ.

But as Sister Mary Martha points out, Christmas wasn't really that big of a deal to Catholics (even though it's been a Holy Day of Obligation since the 5th Century). It was (and is) EASTER that's the big deal. St. Augustine wrote, "We are Easter people, and alleluia our song." Why? Because without the resurrection, Christ's birth means much less.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Snowball Fight!

Don't send a lame Holiday eCard. Try JibJab Sendables!

Christmas PIg in Heaven


This is what happens to the "soul" of your Christmas ham...
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If you knew exactly what I was talking about when you saw the title, you'll laugh at this link from the archives of the blog, Ask Sister Mary Martha.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

St. Mary of the Mountains


St. Mary of the Mountains will be restored to its original splendor for a low, low $1.9 million, $500 thousand coming from the federal government (that is to say, taxpayers). Why does it need refurbishing?

"An interior fire ravaged the church in 1875, though it was rebuilt in 1877. When the Comstock-era ended, the church changed caretakers' hands until a group of monks agreed to manage it in 1957.

The "mad monk" era was the church's low point as it was stripped of its ornate interiors, much of which had been designed by Europe's elite master craftsmen.

"When the church was first built, there was that much money going into it - it was that ornately done.

"But when the monks came in, they thought it was much too worldly - and spent a year tearing it apart. As a result, the church started to fall inward."

"The Mad Monk Era? I don't know what it means, but I like it...
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Friday, December 14, 2007

St. Lucy is Watching You TWICE!

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Saint Lucy, by Domenico Beccafum

Instead of class next Sunday...

we're going to do this.

Feast of St. Lucy (December 13)

While not much is known of St. Lucy, she is still a very popular saint. Lucy means "light" and her feast used to be celebrated on the winter equinox until the Gregorian calendar came into use. Lucy was born in Syracuse around 284 AD. She was a devote Catholic, but her mother arranged for her to be married to a pagan. Instead, Lucy gave away her dowry to the poor and refused to marry. The pagan ratted her out to to the magistrate Paschasius who had her arrested. She was jailed and condemned to a brothel, but when the guards came for her she could not be moved...they even hooked up an ox to drag her! Later they tried to burn her and that didn't work, either. So they stabbed her through the throat.

Lucy is often pictured holding a tray with two eyeballs on it. One story is that her persecutors pulled them out; another story says she herself plucked them and sent them to a guy who thought they were beautiful. Either way, St. Lucy is the patron saint of the blind.

St. Lucy is particularly revered in Scandinavian countries, which had been Catholic until the Reformation. The festival of St Lucy lives on, as you can see in the video. The girl with the candles on her head is portraying St. Lucy (remember, her name means "light"). The song is weird - it's a song about the beauty of the Santa Lucia area around Naples, Italy. The lyrics are changed so that they celebrate St. Lucy's victory over darkness.

By the way, she still could see after her eyes were taken away...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

As of Today, I Am a Fan of Inter Milan

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"A Turkish lawyer who's an expert on European law, Baris Kaska, is asking Uefa to cancel the three points Inter earned in their win against Fenerbahce in the recent Champions League match.

The Nerazzurri had beaten the Turkish champions 3-0 at home to qualify for the next round of the Champions League.

The reason for the appeal is unusual: the celebratory shirt for Inter's centenary worn by the team that night, and on several other occasions this season, offended many people in Turkey.

The shirt's scheme saw a big red cross on a white background, a symbol of the city of Milan, and reminded many of an emblem of the order of the Templars, which is considered offensive in Islamic culture."

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe


We already talked about this feast day in class. In honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, you may want to consider dressing up as Juan Diego next Halloween. No? How about St. Bridget of Ireland?
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So You Think You're Going to Heaven?

From the blog at

Mother Teresa died and went to heaven. God greeted her at the pearly gates.

“Be thou hungry, Mother Teresa?” asked God.

“I could eat,” Mother Teresa humbly replied.

So God opened a can of tuna and reached for a chunk of rye bread and they began to share it. While eating this simple meal, Mother Teresa looked down into hell and saw the inhabitants devouring huge steaks, lobsters, pheasants, and pastries. Curious, but deeply trusting, she kept quiet.

The next day God again invited her to join Him for a meal. Again, it was tuna and rye bread. Once again, Mother Teresa could see the denizens of hell enjoying lamb, turkey, venison, and delicious desserts. Still she said nothing.

The following day, mealtime arrived and another can of tuna was opened. She couldn’t contain herself any longer. Meekly, she asked, “God, I am grateful to be in heaven with you as a reward for the pious, obedient life I led. But here in heaven all I get to eat is tuna and a piece of rye bread, and in the other place they eat like emperors and kings! I just don’t understand it . . .”

God sighed. “Let’s be honest Teresa,” He said. “For just two people, it doesn’t pay to cook.”

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"Do You Give Up So Easily on Jesus?"

A story of conversion.

Feast of St. Nicholas


Happy Feast Day, you right jolly old elf!
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Feast of St. Francis Xavier (December 3)


St. Francis Xavier was the original X-Man. Born in the Kingdom of Navarre in 1506, he was educated in Paris where he was a roommate of St. Ignasius Loyola. They became two of the first Jesuits when the order was founded in 1540.

Xavier was a missionary. His travels took him to Mozambique and then to India, where he preached in Goa. From Goa, it was off to Sri Lanka, then Indonesia, then Japan and China - converting people along the way. It is said he converted more people to Catholicism than anyone except St. Paul. Xavier died on an island off the coast of China in 1552 at the age of 46. He was buried there, but a year later was dug up and moved to Malacca; from there his body went to Goa. The body is incorrupt - that is, has not decayed. In 1614, his right arm was cut off - you know, the one used to bless people - and shipped off to Rome where it is displayed at the main Jesuit church, Il Jesu.

His body in Goa is at the Basilica of Bom Jesus (bom is Portugese for "good") and is exposed every ten years. That is, they lift the lid of the glass covered coffin. The last time he was exposed was 2003.

St. Francis Xavier is the Patron Saint of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Borneo, and cities in Japan, India, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Bangladesh.

Oh...and Green Bay, Wisconsin. And Indianapolis. And Joliet.
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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Feast of St. Andrew (November 30)


St. Andrew was a fisherman who was a disciple of John the Baptist until John pointed at Jesus and said, "Behold the Lamb of God!" He then became a disciple of Christ and convinced his brother, Simon Peter to join him. Peter, of course, ended up being chosen as "The Rock" on which Christ built his Church - the first Pope.

It must have been like teaching your brother to play basketball and then not being able to beat him in a game of one-on-one.

After Christ died, St. Andrew went to Greece to preach the Gospel. He was crucified on a "decussate" cross - tied, not nailed. St. Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland and Russia.

Speaking of brothers, this is for my brother James:

The Pope released his second encyclical yesterday, called "Spe Salvi". In it, he says that Jesus was not a political liberator "like Spartacus". Too bad, I say.

Image of St Andrew, Hours of Bona Sforza, Gerard or Lucas Horenbout, Ghent, circa 1517-1521, 130 x 95 mm, Add. MS 34294, f. 189
Copyright © The British Library Board
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