Thursday, August 03, 2006

Today Would Have Been My Mother's 83rd Birthday

O God, Who hast commanded us to honour our father and our mother, in Thy mercy have pity on the souls of my father and mother, and forgive them their trespasses, and make me to see them again in the joy of everlasting light. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.

V. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord,
R. And may perpetual light shine upon her.
V. May she rest in peace.
R. Amen.

1. An Irish boy was leaving,
Leaving his native home,
Crossing the broad Atlantic,
Once more he wished to roam,
And as he was leaving his mother,
Who was standing on the quay,
She threw her arms around his waist,
And this to him did say,

A mother's love's a blessing,
No matter where you roam,
Keep her while she's living,
You'll miss her when she's gone,
Love her as in childhood,
Though feeble, old and grey,
For you'll never miss a mother's love,
Till she's buried beneath the clay.

2. And as the years go onwards,
I'll settle down in life,
And choose a nice young colleen,
And take her for my wife,
And as the babes grow older,
And climb around my knee,
I'll teach them the very same lesson,
That my mother taught to me.

A mother's love's a blessing,
No matter where you roam,
Keep her while she's living,
You'll miss her when she's gone,
Love her as in childhood,
Though feeble, old and grey,
For you'll never miss a mother's love,
Till she's buried beneath the clay.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Saint Peter Ad Vincula and Lammas

Today is the feast of Saint Peter Ad Vincula. In Europe, it was celebrated as the first fruits of the harvest. "Lammas" probably comes from "Loaf Mass", and a ritual blessing of loaves of bread made from the first grain harvested was part of the Lammas rite. Harvest queens would be crowned in villages, and harvest suppers would be held.

The Feast of Saint Peter Ad Vincula is the Feast of Peter's Chains. Saint Peter, having been arrested, was held in custody, but miraculously was permitted to escape. Two links said to be from the chain that he was confined in are venerated at the church of Saint Peter Ad Vincula at Rome.

The Feast of Saint Peter's Chains was superimposed over the pre-Christian start of the harvest festivals (but with less success than with Christmas, Easter, and All Saints' Day). Though Lammas has lost much of its significance in the last hundred years, it has more cultural resonance than Saint Peter's Chains.

In Western Europe, the harvest is about 3 weeks earlier, on average, than in New England. We think of harvest time as September and October. But even in our own suburban gardens, aren't the first tomatoes ready about now? Raspberries and blackberries are a few days away. Sweet corn is about ready here. Apples will start ripening in a few weeks. Six weeks to fresh sweet cider!

Just because we are no longer an agricultural society does not mean that we need to lose touch with the traditional seasonal tempo of life.

This was also the beginning of the Autumn fair season. One still hears an Irish folk song called "The Oulde Lammas Faire." Think about it--there are 7 or 8 weeks to the Topsfield Fair and other fairs start before that. King Richard's Medieval Faire starts Labor Day weekend. Many towns on the North Shore have their August festivals, probably the equivalent of the medieval fair near Lammas. Salem has its Heritage Days in August, a week-long festival of street fair, parade, and fireworks, along with ice cream "Scooper Bowls and Chowderfests. Beverly has Homecoming Week, and Newburyport has Yankee Homecoming this month.

Many towns in medieval and early modern Europe held large fairs on or near Lammas that brought people from far and near to the closest thing Europe then had to a mall. In medieval Europe, those fairs took on a much greater commercial significance than their descendants do today. The fairs were mobile, spending a few days in a given location (like a modern carnival).

Lammas is the only resting point we have until the Feast of the Assumption in two weeks. It is our chance to assess how the summer is going, whether it will be an early autumn, or whether the heat will persist past Labor Day.

You don't need to be Haydn Pearson (The Countryman essayist in The New York Times 50 years ago) to notice that Autumn is on the way. Some sickly trees will start to change by the end of the month. may and June have been so wet this year that there does not seem to be a threat of a drought, at least in New England. The last three days have been unbearably hot. It may still be hot now and then. The "Dog Days," which began July 25th or so, may hold sway until the middle of the month. But the cooler days will start to be noticed more, especially after the fifteenth. By mid-month the growing shortness of the days will be evident.

With regard to the Dog Days, a reader very helpfully sent this in for our edification (thank you very much!):

2) These Transitus days give us an extra bonus for feasting days of saints we love. St. Swithin's Feast is July 2, but "St. Swithin's Day" is July 15, his Transitus; and it is on the latter date that the weather depends. In France the weather saint is St. Medard (June 8), and the farmers know that "Quand it pleut a la saint-Medard, it pleut pour quarante jours plus tard."

3) In the USA, July 3 marks the beginning of Dog Days, and if it rains on this day, you'll have plenty of rain for the forty-day period of Dog Days. Plus the usual phenomena of dogs getting irritable and snakes biting more frequently, with especially powerful venom. My grandmother used to keep a dish filled with water in the yard for the dogs during Dog Days.

Autumn-themed decor started showing up in stores a few weeks ago. There were back-to-school displays (stacks of binders) in Walmart in June, a few days after school ended!

Unfortunately, I and my fellow ragweed allergy sufferers will start to be miserable in about 10 days, and will stay that way until the first hard frost in October. It has not bothered me as much in Salem or in Boston. Not much ragweed nearby to trouble me.

May the Lord bless this harvest and provide ample food for all His people. As a practical matter, your local food pantry does not want you to bake a loaf of bread for them. But today, as we celebrate the harvest, it would be great to write a $10.00 check to them, so they can buy bread for ten families for the week.

Breads For Lammas

Since this is the day to celebrate first fruits of the wheat harvest, why not share a few recipes for bread? After all, grains are the staff of life, and are basic to our culture, indeed to all human survival. And the Bible is full of references to bread and its liturgical significance.

Our Lord decided upon bread as the form His Body would take for us.

The liturgical readings at Mass at this time of year focus on grain, wheat, bread, and the harvest.

And I must admit a terrific fondess for breads. Indeed, you might say that my body has never met a carbohydrate it did not take a serious liking to, and invite to stick around for life in a pleasant spot around my middle.

I'll give three recipes for bread today, all of which I am fond of. All are for a 11/2 pound bread machine, which I use for most of my breads. Bread machine recipes typically offer choices for 1, 11/2, and 2 pound loaves. I'll give the proportions for the 11/2 pound loaf.

Anadama Bread
1 cup warm water
2 Tblspns molasses
11/2 Tblspns vegetable oil
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
11/2 tspns salt
21/2 cups bread flour (regular flour does just fine)
2 tspns active dry yeast or bread machine yeast

Use the Basic setting. I'd suggest a Medium or Light crust. It will take 3 hours for your bread machine to prepare this loaf. Pumpkin butter, a staple in my home, is great on this bread. Orange honey butter is also good on it.

Sally Lunn Bread
The name Sally Lunn has been the subject of much speculation. It may be that a lady named Sally Lunn sold this bread in the form of biscuits at Bath in the 18th Century. It may be that the name derives from the light-on-the-bottom, dark- on-top color of the biscuits, and is a derivative of the French words for sun and moon.

Whatever the derivation, the bread is delicious.

The very best Sally Lunn I have ever had was at Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria, VA (on a re-enactment weekend). With Game Pie and Virginia Scuppernong Punch, it was, perhaps, the tastiest meal I have ever had. And the droll fellow in the guise of a strolling minstrel and bard who "entertained" us there by singing The Old Soldiers of the King was a hoot. He pretended to be much perplexed at our appearance, since the Tavern is set for the period 1790, and and we were fully dressed in the uniform of 1775, and there would not be many British soldiers casually strolling into a tavern in Virginia 9+ years after Yorktown.

3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg
11/2 Tblspns butter
3 Tblspns sugar
1 tspn salt
31/3 cups bread flour (regular flour works fine)
21/4 tspns active dry yeast or bread machine yeast

Use the Sweet cycle, and a Medium crust setting. Buttered and served with either sweet hot Earl Grey, or mint iced tea (in hotter weather), this is a snack to look forward to.

Cheddar Onion Bread
This one has a vaguely Alsatian hint to it. It is, I think, the combination of onion and cheese, which is typical of Alsatian cooking. Cheddar, though, is Anglo-American.

1 cup + 2 Tblspns Whole Milk
11/2 Tblspns vegetable oil
1/4 cup grated onion
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
11/2 Tblspns sugar
11/2 tspns salt
1/4 tspn garlic salt
31/3 cups bread flour (regular flour is fine)
21/4 tspns active dry yeast or bread machine yeast

Use the Sweet cycle and a Medium crust setting. Great with soup. Makes a great sandwich with roasted turkey and a tart mayo, like Cain's.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Founder of the Redemptorists, and Doctor of the Church. His feast was formerly celebrated on August 2nd.

A short biography of Saint Alphonus can be read here.

I have become very familiar with Saint Alphonsus during the last two years. His version of the Stations of the Cross I find to be superior to all others. During May of last year, I read The Glories of Mary as my monthly lectio. His Visits To the Blessed Sacrament and To the Blessed Virgin Mary I have tried to incorporate into my own holy hour practice.

He is the patron of confessors and theologians. He is also the patron of those suffering from arthritis. As I age, and my two trick knees ache when a low pressure area is nearing, I can tell that I will have much need of his patronage in the future.


Brockagh, Co. Donegal, site of a traditional Lammas Fair
Important feasts celebrated during August include:
1st St. Peter Ad Vincula (Lammas) and St. Alphonsus Liguori (formerly August 2nd)
4th St. John Vianney (formerly August 8th)
6th The Transfiguration
8th St. Dominic de Guzman (formerly August 4th)
9th St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
10th St. Lawrence
11th St. Clare of Assisi (formerly August 12th)
15th Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
16th St. Stephen of Hungary
18th St. Jane Frances de Chantal
19th St. John Eudes
20th St. Bernard
22th Queenship of Mary
23rd St. Rose of Lima (formerly August 30th)
24th St. Bartholomew
25th St. Louis of France
27th St. Monica
28th St. Augustine of Hippo
29th Martyrdom of John the Baptist

The monthly dedication for August is to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Since August is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart, and the Feast of the Assumption (a holy day of obligation) falls on August 15th, it would be appropriate to make a novena to the Immaculate Heart beginning August 5th, and ending on the vigil of the Assumption.

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI's published prayer intentions for the month of August, 2006:

General: That orphans may not lack the care necessary for their human and Christian formation.

Missionary: That the Christian faithful may be aware of their own missionary vocation in every environment and circumstance.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Let's Just Say

Sunday was not a good day for the Red Sox.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Founder of the Society of Jesus

My 1959 St. Joseph's Daily Missal decribes St. ignatius thus:
"After being ordained a priest, he founded the Society of Jesus to fight the forces of Satan as represented by pagans, Mohammedans, Protestants, Jansenists, etc."

Which reminds me of a joke I read a year or so ago.

Two young men at a Catholic college are considering the priesthood, and looking at orders to decide which they might be called to.

"Now take the Dominicans and the Jesuits," says one. "They were both founded by Spaniards, both dedicated to learning and education, and both founded in order to fight heresy, the Dominicans to fight Albigensianism, and the Jesuits to fight protestantism."

"So what is the difference between them?"

"When was the last time you saw an Albigensian walking the streets?"

Sunday, July 30, 2006

War Brings A Discreditable Plague Of Anti-Jewish Sentiment

The Mel Gibson DUI arrest and the vile anti-Jewish comments he appears to have made in the course of it highlights a major problem that has carried over from old traditionalism to younger adherents. It seems that there is an hostility to the Jewish faith, the Jewish people, the Jewish state that is just below the surface in many people who embrace traditionalism. It is as if, instead of being converted in heart to the radical love that our Lord calls us all to, they took in with the mother's milk of the Latin Mass the poison of Jew-hating.

The number of instances has piled up enormously since Israel started to fight the Moslem terrorist in Lebanon. One "traditionalist" blog took the opportunity to run a photo of some injured civilian and proclaim it the fruits of Zionism. The knee-jerk piling on against Israel is unbecoming, and puts people who do that on the side of the most wacky left-wing kooks in the West. Pat Buchanan has skirted close enough in his measured public comments over the last 20+ years to anti-Semitism that Bill Buckley has said he crossed the line (see WFB's In Search Of Anti-Semitism). There is Robert Sungenis, and Gibson's father, who denies that the Holocaust took place.

These folks all profess love for the Latin Mass and traditional devotions, but they have no love in their hearts for our brothers of the Jewish faith. To them, the by-words of our great-grandfathers, that Jews are "Christ-killers," hypocrites, whited sepulchers, and so on, the one set of attitudes that really ought to have been abandoned, buried, and forgotten in the Vatican II reforms, are alive and well. But they ought not to be.

As traditionalists, we must divorce ourselves from such discreditable notions that conflict with the basic tenet of Catholic Christendom, as expressed in our Holy Father's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. If you take out the one phrase in the Good Friday service of Veneration of the Cross in which we pray for the "perfidious Jews" there is nothing in the official liturgy of the Church that justifies this view. And eliminating that phrase was one thing that the people who brought us Vatican II can look upon with pride. Rabid, even latent, anti-Semitism has no place in Catholic traditionalism. It is something we are well shot of.

What is a proper American (or western) traditionalist attitude towards Jewish people, the Jewish faith, Israel, and its current conflict?

You have to start with the words of our Lord on the Cross. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." He did not say, "Father, forgive the Roman auxiliaries and the unknowing passersby." He said, "forgive them." That "them" embraces not just the apostles and disciples who failed to stand by Him, or the Roman soldiers who were following orders, or Pilate, or the unknowing jeering passersby, but the Jewish Temple Guards who beat and mocked him, the Jewish people of Jerusalem who had cheered Him six days earlier and called for His crucifixion that Good Friday morning, the Jews who bore false witness against Him before the Sanhedrin hours before, the scribes and Pharisees, Saducees and elders and doctors of the law who sought or agreed to his crucifixion, and the Jewish people as a whole. And if our Lord forgave them from the Cross, what more can we have to say about the matter?

Once that forgiveness is applied, we must treat and think of our Jewish brethern just as we think of our Christian brethern, and all men: with the same radical love of neighbor that our Lord called us to. So a bitter anger or hostility boiling under the surface is not in any sense appropriate. Let that anger go, and it won't come up when stressed or impaired, as it did with Gibson.

And what of the Jewish faith? While we treat the Jewish faith with greater respect, as it is the Old Covenant between the One True God and mankind, we recognize that Jews, just like Moslems, or Hindus or Buddhists, pagans, Wiccans, or protestant Christians, for that matter, are proper subjects of conversion. When our Lord said "Make disciples of all nations" the Jewish people were first and foremeost in His mind among the nations that need conversion. So individual and collective efforts to convert Jewish people to the Roman Catholic Church are highly appropriate. But here in modern western civilization, we must be able to work with sincerely religious Jews and their organizations to bring about common goals. The plain fact is that conservative and traditionalist Roman Catholics have more in common politically with orthodox Jews than they have with liberal protestants and Catholics. We have a common moral agenda (banning abortion, eliminating pornography, gay "marriage" and related gay lifestyle issues, feminism, and so on), and in a pluralistic society, we can't get what we want in this society without their help. And since they want the same thing for the same reason, we ought to work together in amity to achieve those goals.

And what of the Jewish state of Israel? First and foremost, it is the one reliable ally the West has in the Middle East. Its Moslem enemies hate and despise it as a "Crusader Kingdom," a non-Islamic smear on the map of what they think ought to be entirely dar al-Islam. Israel has the same enemies as the west in general: the Islamofacist movements in the Moslem world. The enemy of our enemy is our friend as far as common purposes go. The largely-European Israeli citizenry is made up of people who come out of the same cultural cauldron as we do. They are subject to the same influences, the same context that we are. They are people we can do business with.

Its enemies are not.

The fact is that the Christian faiths are largely satisfied and get what they want from the state of Israel with regard to custody of and access to our holy places. Are civil rights for Christians living in Israel all that they ought to be? No. And that is something we ought to work with Israel on quietly. Allow the Moslem enemies of Israel to overwhelm it, and see how well Christians there will fare. See how much respect our holy places get and how Christian pilgrims are treated by a Palestinian Taliban. I for one don't think it is too much of a stretch to imagine the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher being dynamited by a Hamas/Hezbollah government, just as the Afghan Taliban did to statues of Buddha.

What of the moral claims of the Jewish people to that portion of the world? In my view, prior to the 1940s, the autonomous peoples in that region were not separable religiously, culturally, ethnically, or in any other way from their Moslem neighbors in Jordan, southern Lebanon, Syria, or Gaza. They did not then, and do not now make up an individual nation deserving of a seperate homeland. There is no overwhelming justification for any sort of "Palestinian state." The people who lived there could easily blend into the neighboring Moslem Jordanians, Egyptians, Syrians, and Lebanese. But the facade of Palestinian nationality has been maintained by Saudi Arabia and other wealthy and influential Moslem Arab states because they are affronted by a non-Moslem blot on the map of dar al-Islam.

Beyond that, the Jewish people have historical and biblical claims to the Holy Land that are undeniable. Add to those claims that justice required by the Holocaust, which proved the need for a Jewish state, and I am satisfied that Israel ought to exist.

Once that is established, and the fact that Israel is our ally is accepted, we have a context for viewign the relationship between Israel and its neighbors. Israel is a small state surrounded by larger and more populous Moslem enemies. The fact that most of the surrounding states, mainly Jordan and Egypt have accepted de facto peace with Israel does not change the fact that these Moslem states are, in the long term, hostile towards Israel, and harbor irredentist dreams of the day they can carve it up and redeem it to dar al Islam.

It is in our interest that Israel exist. It is in our interest that it be as strong as it can be against its hostile neighbors, who in fact are our long-term enemies as well (especially Syria and Iran). It is in our interest that the radical Moslem groups that Israel is now fighting, especially Hamas and Hezbollah, plus Islamic Jihad and others, are wiped out. Is it in our interest that Israel do that. They are trying to do that.

There are unfortunate casualties among civilians, and the Moslem terrorists they are fighting have a marked tendency to fire missiles and rockets from the surviving Christian enclaves in Lebanon, so that Israeli retaliation falls on those enclaves. Aside from extremely local circumstances, the accidents of war, and the heat of the moment, Israel has done nothing in this fight with Moslem terrorists that can be called an atrocity.

If Israel does, as an act of policy, do something that justifies criticism, we should be ready to bring measured criticism to bear. It is not "our ally, right or wrong." We must give Israel the same latitude that we give Spain vis-avis the Basques, Britain regarding Northern Ireland, or Canada regarding Quebec. Israel has proven itself over 50 years a responsible international citizen and good ally. It deserves the benefit of the doubt now.

The current conflict was not sought by Israel, or started by it. The Moslem Palestinians made it inevitable when they elected a terrorist Hamas government. Hamas and Hezbollah started the conflict by ambushing Israeli soldiers, kidnapping them, and firing rockets into Israeli civilian areas. Israel is doing unto its Moslem enemies just as right-thinking Americans would want the US to do unto its Moslem enemies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

So why are we so hypercritical of Israel for doing just what we would do: responding to terrorism with the overwhelming force of a righteously angered modern nation? When a nation with a decent military force responds to terrorism, it is not a pretty sight. It leads to disturbing images on television and the net. But those images blown out of their context do not change the reality.

Nothing Israel has done so far is not justified by the acts of terrorism perpetrated against it. No one ever likes war, but what Israel is doing in Lebanon and Gaza is justified by the circumstances. So the proper view of the current conflict is detached sympathy towards Israel, with a willingness to speak up if Israel crosses moral boundaries it ought not. They have not done so yet, and so their actions ought to enjoy our measured support.

Time, Gentlemen, Time

Dan Mitsui over at The Lion and the Cardinal has started a series on Great Clocks Of Christendom, and his links lead the way to this great evil trad image from the clock of Strasbourg Cathedral.

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