Saturday, December 28, 2002

Boy Bishops
In the medieval period, the Feast of the Holy Innocents was frequently marked in cathedrals and abbeys with the appointment of a young boy as "bishop" or "abbot" for the day. The custom is related to the appointment of a Lord of Misrule in noble and royal households. It is an inversion ritual, derived from the old Roman Saturnalia, and Christianized. It is one of the many Christmas rituals involving inversion of the social order. Normally, of course, the bishop or abbot was top dog in the diocese or abbey. But for one day, the lowly were ritually elevated over their heads. The poor demanding the best food and drink from the wealthy in the form of wassailing was another inversion ritual. On southern plantations, Negro slaves sometimes wore the clothes of their masters for a day at Christmas.

For an interesting discussion of the boy bishop custom, read Ronald Hutton's The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year 1400--1700, pages 10-12, and 53-53. Stephen Nissenbaum discusses inversion rituals thoughout The Battle For Christmas, which I have already suggested a few times this month.

Of course the boy bishops or boy abbots had no real authority, even for that day. They could not change policy, or say Mass. They were just allowed to preside, while the real bishop and his priests took the roles played normally by the boys. And the boy bishop ritual was not universally observed on Holy Innocents' Day. Sometimes it took place on St. Nicholas' Day. Sometimes, it was part of the Feast of Fools on January 1st. Some places, in the age before mass communications and easy travel, did not observe this custom at all.

Inversion retains a role in some of our Christmas customs, to some extent, even today. On Christmas Day in many British regiments, it is the custom for officers to wait on the other ranks in the mess.

The Holy Innocents
December 28th is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, those young boys of Bethlehem martyred by Herod in his effort to kill the Christ. Church historians believe that about 20 innocent children were murdered at this time.

Of course this tragedy in Bethlehem is dwarfed by the ongoing slaughter of innocents through abortion and infanticide (known as partial-birth abortion) daily in the West. Millions are sacrificed to the "convenience" of their mothers annually.

I would suggest today invoking the Blessed Mother and the Holy Innocents to petition the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts and minds of mothers contemplating murdering their babies. This Fourth Day of Christmas is a good opportunity, while celebrating the birth of our Saviour, to send a small donation to a pro-life group in your area. With unwavering persistence and unceasing prayer, perhaps the scourge of abortion can be lessened, and finally eliminated.

Friday, December 27, 2002

What A Lot of Politically Motivated Nonsense!
The Boston Globe today offers excuses why female clergy sex abuse victims allegedly don't come forward. The Globe alleges that women victims just are not coming forward because they have a greater sense of shame over what was done to them than male victims do. I really don't think that the shame is greater for one sex or the other, or that men are better at coming forward about it later. If anything, I think women are more inclined than men to open up about their sense of past shames. Look at the audience for Oprah or Gerry Springer. How many openly homosexual actors can you name? I can think of two openly lesbian actresses/media personalities without much effort: Ellen DeGeneris and Rosie O'Donnell.

Of course the Globe's article is an effort to carry water for the homosexual movement by making the preposterous claim that pervert priests are not predominately homosexual in inclination, that boys are not the targets of "chicken-hawking" rogue homosexual priests, that homosexuality in the priesthood is not a huge, preponderant part of the problem. Everything is just fine with homosexuality in the priesthood. Let us not deny our gay brothers a career in the Church (and access to lots of young boys). Let's point the finger instead at "Catholic culture" or priestly celibacy (the Episcopalians, I seem to remember, have married ministers, and plenty of homosexual abuse of boys), or the hierarchical nature of the Church or anything but homosexuality. Those are the explanations of someone with an agenda they are desperate to push regardless of the real situation.

Ninety-five percent of the plaintiffs are male, because Boston in particular allowed a homosexual subculture to flourish in its priesthood from the 1950s on. Cardinal Cushing wanted more, and more: more parishes, more schools, more priests, more nuns, etc. He was willing to turn a blind eye to homosexuals in the seminary and in the priesthood to get the numbers he wanted. He started the trend of sweeping these instances of homosexual assault under the carpet and just transferring the priest to another part of the Archdiocese to offend again.

We fell hook, line, and sinker for the attractive Bing Crosby/Spencer Tracy role model of priests as social workers helping troubled boys and forgot to stress that priests are supposed to be dedicated to preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments. When the priesthood is seen as social work, it attracts men who are more open to the effeminate side of their natures. And if the pool of candidates for priesthood are more open to the effeminate sides of their natures, they tend to be more homosexual. And if they are more homosexual than the population at large (if 1/3 of Catholic priests are homosexual they are vastly over-represented) then they will be disproportionately attracted to young boys. And I think we can see clearly enough now where that leads.

The Dallas Morning News team that reported in June that 2/3 of all bishops have played musical chairs with pervert priests also tabulated the reported instances of abuse to find that 85% are homosexual in nature. No, the key word in that sentence is not "reported." It is true for both genders that there is more abuse that has occurred than has been reported. But if all instances of priestly sex abuse that ever happened were reported, the proportions would stay the same. Likewise, if we report all the sex abuse by nuns, the victim population would be overwhelmingly girls.

And it is not about unequal access to boys. Any priest who wanted to in the last 50 years could have had access to young girls whenever he wanted, just by virtue of his office, especially if he had been seen as trustworthy in the past. Boys were pervert priests' target of choice because pervert priests are overwhelmingly homosexual (so much so that when I say "pervert priest" I sometimes don't even bother to differentiate between homosexual priests, sexually abusive homosexual priests, or priests abusing young girls, though I wouldn't call a 30 year-old priest having sex with 17 year-old girls a pervert, just a sinner who deserves an undisturbed half hour with the girls' fathers, brothers, and uncles for some informal justice).

Also, the Globe tries to slip this one by us. Priests most often offend against adult and late-teen women. In other words, there are more heterosexual priests who break the vow of chastity than homosexual priests. That may even be true, but is that sex abuse? The bishops' policy says nothing about priests who are known to have had homosexual relations with post-age-of-consent-males. Apparently, homosexual relations with fellow seminarians, priests, parishioners, or other adult men is not considered sex abuse. You don't see among the plaintiffs men who, as adults, had homosexual relationships with priests, unless those relationships started when they were underage. Why should the same thing with post-age-of-consent females be considered abuse then?

Now I agree that any sexual relationship involving a priest is wrong. When a former top aide to Cardinal O'Connor had to step down this year in the wake of revelations that he had several liasons with adult women, I applauded it as just. It is a violation of the vow of celibacy, as well as fornication, and maybe even adultery, depending on the marital status of the other party. It is also an "abuse" of the priestly office, unless the priest somehow managed to hide the fact that he was a priest (a relationship with a woman in a distant city, perhaps). But a middle-aged priest with a middle-aged mistress (or a twenty-something mistress for that matter) is not an instance of sex abuse, unless the woman is mentally impaired, or coerced. It is scandalous and sinful, but it is not sex abuse.

Use the Globe to get information. Though take the information it offers, even in news stories, with a grain of salt. Balance it with the Herald and other sources. But when it comes to analysis, the Globe is hopelessly mired in the role of stalking horse for a "progressive" agenda, perhaps more so than any other paper in the country (even its parent, the New York Times). Recognize that fact, and you won't be misled.

Saint John the Evangelist
Today is the feast of Saint John, perhaps the author of the fourth Gospel and the Book of Revelation, and the apostle, "whom Jesus loved," if they are all the same person (and there is debate on that point). What we know about John comes mostly from the Gospels. He was a fisherman by trade. He was the brother of James the Greater, son of Zebedee and Salome. He may have been the youngest of the apostles.

John's name comes up frequently in the Gospel, much more so than that of some other apostles. He was a disciple of John the Baptist, who was told by John to follow Jesus. John was leaning on Christ's shoulder during the Last Supper. It was to him that Jesus entrusted the care of the Blessed Mother. He raced to the empty tomb with Peter on Easter morning. He was the first to recognize the risen Lord on the shore of Lake Tiberias.

But he was also, along with James, the one who asked to be seated at the Lord's right hand in Heaven, much to the consternation of the other apostles. He reported that another man was seen casting out demons in Christ's name, though not part of the apostolic college or even, apparently, a disciple, and that they had ordered him not to do so. He earned a rebuke on that occasion.

John and Peter were imprisoned together, and later went to Samaria to preach together. He may have spent time in exile on Patmos. He was reportedly bishop of Ephesus at the turn of the second century and died an old man.

The Third Day of Christmas
The numbering of the days of Christmas always seemed problematical to me. Do you count Christmas Day? Do you count Epiphany? If you count both, you get 13 days. If you count neither, you get eleven. Reverend Ken Collins, a protestant minister, has as good an explanation as you are likely to find:

In the Church, as in the synagogue, the day technically begins at sunset. Therefore, Christmas begins at sundown on 24 December, which we very appropriately call ‘Christmas Eve.’ The Christmas Season, which begins with Christmas Eve, ends on the eve of Epiphany, which is sundown on 5 January. Therefore, Christmas lasts twelve days, and the period from sundown on 24 December to sundown on 5 January is called the Twelve Days of Christmas.

By this reckoning, Epiphany begins on the twelfth night after Christmas, so Epiphany was called Twelfthnight in England.

That makes today the third day of Christmas.

Continue to enjoy Christmas. Even if one or both adults have to work outside the home, make all of the days of Christmas different in some way from the rest of the year. Do something to help the less fortunate. Mull the leftover bottle of red wine tonight. Burn some of those candles you recieved. If you are lucky enough to have a working fireplace, burn some wood in it. Keep the creche, the tree, and the other decorations up (until Plough Monday, which is the Monday after Epiphany: January 13). Make dinner special tonight, even if it is just leftovers. Make family time. Keep the kids (yes, even the teenagers) home (let them invite friends over to share the days of Christmas with your family, rather than hanging out somewhere else, being influenced by Lord knows what). Play some Christmas CDs with songs minus references to Santa Claus, Rudolph, and winter wonderlands. Maybe even exchange little trinkets (a paperback, a cigar, some coffee, a pass for a matinee, a handful of toy soldiers, dice or cards, a box of tea, a discounted movie in VHS format, some candy, etc.) as gifts on each of the 12 days of Christmas

I can't help but think that "holiday depression" is, in part, caused by the rush society has to push Christmas out the door. One looks forward to Christmas the whole year. There are women who spend the whole year doing craft work for Christmas. Then, it is gone in 24 hours. Yesterday morning, there was a Christmas tree already strewn on the sidewalk in front of our building. That sight always galls me before New Year's Day. If society learned again to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, modestly but joyfully, I think some of those who suffer depression with the end of Christmas, might not. And if making Christmas last longer helps some of those who suffer, is it not worth it?

You have to be somewhat counter-cultural to try something like this, but as Christians we should be used to that. Who cares if know-nothings say, "Don't you know Christmas is over?" Since we seem to be being driven back to the catacombs by society anyway, why not go with our creches, holly and ivy, trees, candles in the window, precious family times, special foods, and devotional practice for 12 days rather than 1?

Happy Third Day of Christmas!

Thursday, December 26, 2002

BC Wins Bowl
OK, it was just the Motor City Bowl, a got-up excuse for another corporate college "playoff". Going to bowls like this just isn't the same as playing on New Year's Day, as we did in 1984, when I was an undergraduate. But I suppose it is better than not going to a bowl at all. And this makes 4 consecutive "bowl games" BC has played in.

Our Christmas Day
Christmas Day was very pleasant in the Fitzpatrick household.

We went to the 4:00 family Mass on Christmas Eve. That is something we won't do again, even if it fits our plans best, as it did this year. A pageant was used in place of the Gospel. Is that kosher? I don't mind a pageant, but shouldn't it be in place of the homily? The liberal nun who runs the children's/young adult choir was given free rein. She changed the responsorial psalm, altered some of the carols (so that verses like, "Nails, spear shall pierce him through/ The cross be born for me for you." were skipped) and tried (mostly unsuccessfully, I am happy to add) to get the congregation to make ridiculous hand gestures in the direction of a shiny globe held up at the front of the church. Worst of all, liturgical dance was introduced after Communion, with an under-clad female dancer gesturing around the front of the sanctuary using the same shiny globe. Father Flaherty defended the practice, said he liked it, and we might see more of it. Aaaaaagggggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When company men like our generally good pastor start to do things like that, it is a strong argument for a Bruskewitz to be appointed to the see of Boston quickly (very quickly). I sense that there may be a feeling of the cat being away and the mice playing since Law's resignation. It had to happen, and I don't regret pushing for that resignation one bit. But the Vatican should hurry up a tough-as-nails appointment to put the priests back in place (I don't sense that Bishop Lennon will be doing much of that).

Well, even though we had to grit our teeth through a good part of the Mass, at least our Christmas obligation was met (though much more like that, and we'll be trekking into Boston for the Indult Tridentine Mass).

After Mass, we made our traditional Christmas Eve dinner (beef tenderloin roast, Yorkshire pudding, mashed spuds/champ, spicy gravy, shrimp with cocktail sauce, biscuits, cranberry sauce, pickled watermelon rind, a light, but dry beaujolais, with mince pie for dessert). With Christmas CDs playing, we then read the St. Luke's second chapter, put the Christ child in the cribs of our nativity sets, hung our stockings, opened a Christmas Eve gift each, and listened to a CD of Orson Welles' 1930s Campbell Soups production of A Christmas Carol(too many American voices). Mrs. Fitzpatrick succumbed to exhaustion and fell asleep while listening to same. This is becoming a tradition. A glass of eggnog (eggs, spiced rum, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, heavy cream, sugar), and listening to Christmas music in a room lit only by the tree and the candles in the windows and the light from the creche beguiled most of the evening. Santa stuffed the stockings with candy and retired for the night.

Christmas morning started with the gift exchange. Lots of books, CDs, movies, calendars, clothes, and other things. We planned a dinner of pork loin with apples, twice baked potatoes, wine gelatine with custard sauce, cinnamon carrots, spinach with butter/lemon sauce, cranberry sauce, biscuits, and plum pudding and hard sauce, but decided to put it off until today. Putting off Christmas dinner until St. Stephen's Day (at the earliest) is also becoming a tradition. We had no guests, and needed a quiet, low stress day. So after disposing of the piles of wrapping paper and boxes, we opted for a quiet day of games and music and trying on or trying out gifts. We'll do the pork roast tonight, thus giving ourselves a rest yesterday, and making more of St. Stephen's Day.

In a one hour+ telephone call, Mrs. Fitzpatrick managed to talk to 6 of her brothers, two nephews, and a sister-in-law. Good planning, that.

Today, after I'm done with work we'll go back to games, won't touch the TV set (we only watch our videotapes anyway, and watched the last Christmas movie Monday evening), and won't leave the house until tomorrow. The roads and sidewalks are bad after last night's storm, and who wants to deal with the stores today? We'll use some movie passes Friday to see Lord Of the Rings: The Two Towers.

White Christmas
Officially, it was a white Christmas, our first since 1997. While most of what fell during the afternoon here in Salem was sleet or freezing rain, it turned to snow just before nightfall. It is just winding down now. We ended up with a few inches of snow (though snow on top of ice, which makes for nasty walking).

Wren Boys
Some Christmas customs give offense to modern sensibilities. PETA would be particularly appalled at the Wren Boys custom of Ireland. Early on Saint Stephen's Day, groups of young boys go out into woodlands and hunt down wrens. They tie the dead bird to a pole, and decorate the body with ribbons. Then, after blacking their faces, go from house to house making noise and singing for gifts of food, drink, or money. The typical song starts like this:

The wren, the wren,
The king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's Day
Got caught in the furze.
So it's up with the kettle
And down with the pan.
Won't you give us a penny
To bury the wren?


The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
Although he is little, his family is great,
I pray you, good landlady, give us a treat.

My box would speak, if it had but a tongue,
And two or three shillings, would do it not wrong,
Sing holly, sing ivy--sing ivy, sing holly,
A drop just to drink, it would drown melancholy.

And if you draw it of the best,
I hope in heaven your soul will rest;
But if you draw it of the small,
It won't agree with these wren boys at all.

This was wassailing, visiting from house to house and offering the token of song in exchange for food or drink. At a symbolic level, it is offering good will and wishes for a happy new year (it is a New Year's ritual) in exchange for hospitality. It is also semi-threatening, like the trick or treat Halloween ritual. "it won't agree with these wren boys at all" is like the "trick" option on Halloween. Stephen Nissenbaum, in The Battle For Christmas, describes an incident in Salem Village in 1679 when three young men entered an older man's house on Christmas Night, and sang, demanding perry (hard pear cider) in return for their song. When refused, they pelted his house with stones for a half hour. In fact, the last stanza of the second wren boys' song above is almost identical to the penultimate stanza of the Gloucestershire Wassail:

Come butler, come give us
A bowl of the best,
And we hope that your soul
In Heaven may rest.
But if you should give us
A bowl of the small,
Then down will go
Butler, bowl and all.

Wassailling, carolling, wren boys, trick or treat, and souling are all variations on the same ritual. Recall that Halloween was New Year's for Celtic peoples, and you see that the custom of "luck visiting" is a New Year's custom. Because Christmas falls so close to New Year's, and is now the more important holiday, there is a blending of customs, so that New Year's luck visits take place mostly around Christmas.

Today, in the US, what one mostly sees is carolling. It has lost wassailling's hard edge. Children or adults go from house to house or shop to shop and sing carols. It is no longer common to give food or drink in exchange for the song, because many people on either side of the ritual don't understand its origins. It is not as common as it once was, though commercial carolling is still done in downtown business districts like Salem's and Marblehead's, though it is done Thanksgiving weekend to spur holiday shopping, rather than closer to Christmas. Last year, we were treated to a very good group from one of the local colleges in decent Victorian costume singing traditional carols (but it was a weird 70 degrees that day in early December). Mrs. Fitzpatrick was part of a medieval/renaissance madrigal group that carolled at local hospitals and nursing homes throughout the twelve days of Christmas.

But no one wassails here. And if boys went about killing wrens and parading the bodies from house to house, the local animal control officer would be sicked on them by some busy-body. One wonders if wrenning could be domesticated and made acceptable to modern sensibilities, while still keeping the essense of the custom.

Boxing Day
In the UK and its former colonies, today is a day off work known as Boxing Day.

No. No. The title has nothing to do with getting rid of the empty boxes littering the parlor floor, or with hauling boxes back to the stores for refunds or exchanges. It has even less to do with watching or participating in boxing matches, even though certain family members might be very tempting objects for pummelling by now.

Traditionally, enamel boxes filled with coins or cash, rather like small piggy banks, were given out to those who served people during the year. The paper carrier, the milkman, the dustman, the postman, the cleaning lady, and household servants would receive Christmas gifts of these boxes on Saint Stephen's Day. As I suggested in the post below, it is a day to remember those below us who serve us. Saint Stephen's Day is an opportunity to put into practice what we profess to believe about Christian charity.

Also churches maintained boxes for almsgiving. These boxes were opened on Christmas Day and distributed to the needy on the day after Christmas Day.

Because of the association with gifts to those who wait on our needs and wants, it is naturally a day off work for everyone except public safety and retail workers.

Saint Stephen's Day
Saint Stephen's Day, in its various incarnations throughout Christendom, continues the Christmas holy days. Traditionally the inhabitants of the British Isles continue the custom of wassailing (which has transformed itself into the modern incarnation known as carolling), and many businesses are closed (it is called a bank holiday, which means that if you don't work in retail or public safety or transportation, you have the day off).

It is a day to be entertained, to match a magic show, a pantomime, or a farce. Many people take the opportunity to tour areas decorated for Christmas. Family time. without the excitement of the gift exchange (or with a smaller version of it with relatives unable to join in on Christmas Day) is also common. It is a day for games and merriment.

Those who stay home traditionally have a cold table today, in recognition of all the work the family cook put in leading up to Christmas Day. A ham or a cold roast beef is appropriate, along with various pickled vegetables and fruits (onions, cucumbers, and brandied peaches).

And Christmas music continues. You all know that carols proclaiming the birth of Christ remain fully appropriate until after Epiphany. Of course "Santa songs" fall by the wayside after Christmas Day. But even fairly secular songs like the Gloucestershire Wassail ("Wassail, Wassail/ All over the town/ Our toast it is white/ And our ale it is brown.") remain fully appropriate.

It is also a wonderful opportunity for charitable giving. Remember Scrooge springing his surprise on Bob Crachit on St. Stephen's Day. In the carol, Good King Wenceslaus brought beef and wine and pine logs to a peasant on St. Stephen's day. Many charities are having a hard time of it this year. Food pantries are still seeing high demand. And they will have depleted a good deal of their stores in order to provide for Christmas Day's needs. They can use a donation now, either in cash or in kind.

Saint Stephen
Saint Stephen was the first martyr of the Church. Most likely, he was a Hellenized Jew, whose ancestors had not returned to the Holy Land immediately after the Babylonian Captivity. The Acts of the Apostles records that he preached Christ and Him crucified effectively. Enemies among the Jewish priestly elite accused him of much the same crimes they had accused Christ of. He was brought before the Sanhedrin and questioned. He defended himself in a long speech recorded in Acts, in which he affirmatively declared Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah and that His doctrine ought to be followed. Apparently, while making this speech, he had a vision of the opening of Heaven, and a view of the Lord. He proclaimed as much to the council, which quickly condemned him for blasphemy and took him outside the city to stone him. Stephen forgave his persecutors and died while praying.

Christmas Food Rituals
Christmas Day's Boston Globe had this interesting article on Christmas food traditions. I may blog more on this subject later today, but wanted to get the link to you while it was still available.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

The Only Christmas Story That Counts
From the Douay-Rheims Bible on Line:

1 And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled.
2 This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria.
3 And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David,
5 To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child.
6 And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock.
9 And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear.
10 And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people:
11 For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
14 Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
15 And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us.
16 And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.
17 And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child.
18 And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

And may all who read this experience God's love in the miracle of the birth of a Child in Bethlehem more than 2000 years.

Merry Christmas to all!

Defending Santa Claus
Dennis Prager, in his column carried at TownHall.com defends the use of Santa Claus by parents.

I would add the reason that Santa Claus is a uniquely American concept, essentially re-created by Americans in the early Republic in order to aid in the domestication of Christmas celebrations, centering them in the home, and around children, rather than in drinking, whoring, gambling, and public disturbance, which was how most people celebrated Christmas before the Santa Claus ritual came into wide use (and why the Puritans hated it so much that they banned it by law in Massachusetts in the 17th century). The result was a kinder gentler Christmas, suited for our Republic, good for American business, wonderful for the family, and endearing to the mind and the heart. It is pretty near unpatriotic to not participate in the Santa Claus ritual.

This is not to say that the Santa Claus ritual should be the be-all-and-end-all of Christmas. By no means. Santa's origins as Saint Nicholas should be emphasized. Prayer and faith and the story of the Nativity should have first place in the observance of Christmas. Every Christian home should have and use a creche and an advent wreath, as well as a tree (and remember the tree is symbolic of the Tree of Life, as well as the tree which produced the wood of the Cross). The fear that children will grow materialistic because of the presents Santa brings can be diminished by stressing that the gifts Santa brings are merely symbolic of the gift of the Incarnation, and the gifts of the Magi.

Church attendance on or near Christmas should be a high priority for every family. For Catholics, of course, it is a Holy Day of Obligation, but some protestant churches observe it on the nearest Sunday.

Giving to those less fortunate can remind children of the true message of Christ, and is especially appropriate at this time of the year, because as Dickens had one of his characters in A Christmas Carol say, it is the time of year "when want is keenly felt and abundance rejoices." Children can be brought to understand that Santa Calus is a small part of Christmas by, in some small but meaningful way, observing each of the twelve days of Christmas (about which I intend to blog more on Saint Stephen's Day) which persist long after Santa has gone back to the North Pole. That way they grow to understand that Christmas is so much more than a midnight slide down the chimney with the reindeer-propelled sleigh parked on the roof.

Allow children to innocently enjoy a visit from Saint Nicholas at Christmas. There is no harm in it. It enhances a special family time. Its mystery increases children's love for Christmas, a love that they will hopefully carry with them all their lives. Properly used, Santa Claus can enhance and re-inforce Christian faith. He is a tool to be used by Christian parents. If used properly, Santa Claus is a wonderful part of Christmas.

Ignore the ACLU Scrooges and Grinches, and Worship He Who Was Born On The First Christmas Day
Joseph Duome, in a signed editorial in today's Washington Times calls on all Christians to openly celebrate Christ's birth this Christmas, and not let the ACLU's anti-Christian bias interfere or make our celebration in the least bit furtive.

Bringing Christ To Those Who Have Not Heard of Him
Today's Washington Times profiles the difficulties facing American missionaries. Some 2.1 billion people living today have never heard of Christ, let alone His message.

Music For Christmas
From the Vatican's Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. You can listen by clicking on the underlined links.

Monday, December 23, 2002

It's Official
Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) will be the next Senate Majority Leader, after being duly elected by a conference call vote of the Senate's Republicans. Good luck Senator Frist, and may your tactics be more imaginative and more fruitful than those of your predecessor as Republican leader.

A Grinch At Work In Somerville
Some thief or thieves have stolen various parts of an outdoor nativity display at a Somerville, MA nursing home run the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Pretty low, if you ask me.

Italian Royal Family Has Audience With Pope
The Savoys, led by Prince Victor Emmanuel, the legitimate heir to the Italian throne, returned to Italy for a Christmas audience with the Holy Father. A constitiutional ban that had exiled the family's male members from Italian soil since 1948 was lifted recently. The Savoys have been living in exile in Switzerland. Given the fact that the Italian monarchy was never strong, or in any position to resist Mussolini's dictatorship, the exile has always seemed to me rather ridiculous. Prince Victor Emmanuel plans to come back in February.

Welcome back to your own country, Your Majesties.

A White Christmas?
The forecasters are calling for a storm on Christmas Day here in Boston. We are just not sure yet whether it will produce snow, or sleet, or rain. The odds of a white Christmas here in coastal Massachusetts are not good. If you just mean snow on the ground on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (even if the snow fell a week before), the chances are 1 in 4. But if you mean snow actually falling on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the odds are 1 in 10. We have enjoyed a number of consecutive mild winters. Our last white Christmas was 1997, when a major storm dumped more than ten inches on us a few days before Christmas. This winter has been colder than the last few, so far, but not particularly snowy.

Bishop Lennon Has A List Of Properties To Sell
WBZ Radio is reporting that the chancery and the Archbishop's palace are not on the list.

Merry Christmas
Mrs. Fitzpatrick, Gaspar the Wonder Cat, and I wish all of Verus Ratio's readers the heartiest of Merry Christmases. May this feast of the Incarnation bring you the gift of a deeper understanding of its mystery. May God's love for you be manifest this Christmas season. May those in need of solace find it in the miracle of the Child, born as both fully God and fully man, and in His sacrifice on Calvary. May the poor find comfort and joy in the unforced generosity of those better off. May the Heavenly Host sing in our hearts and bring peace and harmony to our relations with our friends and families. May this Christmas be a safe and happy one for all of us, our Church, and our country. God bless us, every one.

O Emmanuel
O Emmanuel,
Rex et legifer noster,
expectatio gentium,
et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos,
Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel,
the one awaited by the gentiles,
and their Savior:
come to save us,
Lord our God.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

LaSalette Shrine Lights Up
Thanks to Amy Welborn for the link.

O Rex Gentium
O Rex Gentium,
et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis,
qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the Nations,
and the one they desired,
who makes both peoples one,
come and save mankind,
whom you shaped from the mud.

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