Friday, February 03, 2017
Here is what The Golden Legend has to say about St. Blaise, whose patronage is particularly efficacious for those suffering from disorders of the throat.
St. Blaise, please pray for us!
Thursday, February 02, 2017
by Robert Herrick
Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
Till sunset let it burn;
Which quench'd then lay it up again
Till Christmas next return.
Part must be kept wherewith to tend
The Christmas log next year;
And where 'tis safely kept, the fiend
Can do no mischief there.
This poem describes the custom of taking down the last of the Christmas holly on Candlemas, and burning it. It should certainly be dry enough by now.
However, an alternate custom was to reserve the last of the holly and use it as kindling for the fire for the Shrove Tuesday pancakes. Some years, that would mean keeping the dried-out holly around almost another 4 weeks.
This is the feast of the Purification of the Virgin, which, under Jewish Law comes 40 days after childbirth. And Candlemas is 40 days after Christmas. The Church also (rather oddly, I think) adds the Feast of the Presentation. Odd, because under Jewish Law, the baby Jesus would have been presented and circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, or the Octave of Christmas. So, there were two Temple-related events after the Nativity, the Presentation on January 1st, and the Purification or Churching of Mary, on February 2nd. The Holy Family must have remained in Bethlehem (though they probably moved out of the stable, as the Magi story speaks of a "house") to be close to Jerusalem and the Temple for these two events. It can only be after this that the Flight to Egypt and the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents took place.
How did Candlemas get its name? Today was the day to bring to church for blessing the year's supply of candles, especially candles with a semi-sacramental nature, like the candles placed in the window on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years, and Epiphany in Irish homes, candles for the Advent wreath, candles for the home sick visit kit, or candles used in home shrines.
One of the European superstitions connected with Candlemas was that a fair, clear Candlemas meant a longer winter, where a cloudy Candlemas would mean the end of winter was at hand. In Europe, the end of February is often quite spring-like, where here in the US (especially here in New England), it tends to be more wintery, as our seasons run about 3 weeks behind the European seasons.
Here is a German saying:
When it storms and snows on Candlemas Day,
Spring is not far away;
if it's bright and clear,
Spring is not yet near.
This gave rise to the legend that if the groundhog sees his shadow on February 2nd (now better known as Groundhog Day) it means 6 more weeks of winter (as opposed to only 4 more weeks if he does not see it).
Check out our friends at Fish Eaters for more on Candlemas customs.
Also, see The Golden Legend on the Purification of Our Blessed Lady.
Wednesday, February 01, 2017
Here is a website on the beloved patroness of Ireland.
Included on a page, are 3 different methods for making a St. Brigid's Cross. I notice that the website has been moved since the last year, and the link for the directions on how to make the cross are now either not working accidentally, or deliberately omitted to get people to buy a book with the directions. I always wanted to try making this type of cross, but I doubt my skills at that sort of thing are equal to the task.
Interestingly. on another page of the site (scroll down, but take the time to peruse the entire page of seasonal customs, much of the information derived from the excellent The Year In Ireland by Kevin Danaher), there is yet another Luck Visit custom associated with St. Brigid's Eve.
In my various researches, I have come across numerous luck visit rituals (mostly) from the British Isles, and mostly associated with what we now call "the holidays," the period from Halloween through Candlemas. To jog the memory, I have discussed here Soulling, Trick-or-Treat, A Penny For the Guy, Something For Thanksgiving (apparently entirely American, though derived from British precedents), wassailling, carolling, John Canoe (again American, and particular to the slave population on Southern plantations), and the Plough Monday Ritual and play.
Irish folk used to go about with an effigy of Saint Brigid dressed in white, and offer this song in exchange for a gift of food, drink, or coin:
Something for poor Biddy!
Her clothes are torn
Her shoes are worn
Something for poor Biddy!
Here is Brigid dressed in white,
Give her a penny for her night
She is deaf, she is dumb
She cannot talk without a tongue.
Here comes Brigid dressed in white
Give her something for the night
She is deaf, she is dumb
For Gods sake give her some.
Note that among the Celts, and in Europe generally, February 1st is considered the beginning of Spring, where here in the Northeastern US, it is very much a cold, snowy winter month, with the first real hope for nice weather at least 6 weeks off, often longer.
So we can celebrate our Irishness with our patroness today!
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Read here Catholic Tradition's page on this saint.
Saint John Bosco, please pray for us!
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Here is a brief biography of this great saint of the Counter Reformation and Doctor of the Church.
His An Introduction To the Devout Life, which I read for the first time last year, is a Catholic classic. Here it is in e-text.
You don't really need that St. John's Wort.
One of the principle effects of holy abandonment in God is evenness of spirits in the various accidents of this life, which is certainly a point of great perfection, and very pleasing to God. The way to maintain it is in imitation of the pilots, to look continually at the Pole Star, that is, the Divine Will, in order to be constantly in conformity with it. For it is this will which, with infinite wisdom rightly distributes prosperity and adversity, health and sickness, riches and poverty, honor and contempt, knowledge and ignorance, and all that happens in this life. On the other hand, if we regard creatures without this relation to God, we cannot prevent our feelings and disposition from changing, according to the variety of accidents which occur.