For the Feast of the Transfiguration, here are some photos from Gesu, which is the parish church at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I used to sit next to this stained glass window when I was an undergraduate. It shows Our Lord transfigured on Mt. Tabor. Moses is in the upper left corner with the tablets of the Law and “horns” of light coming out of his face. Elias (Elijah) is in the upper right coner. Sts. Peter, James, and John appear at the bottom of the window.
For me as a Norwegian-American, July 29 is first and foremost the feast of St. Olaf, patron saint of Norway.* When I opened my Baronius Press Missal, however, I wasn’t sure which saint would be listed today; in the Roman Calendar, the patron saint of remote Norway doesn’t rank particularly high. I was intrigued when I saw that today is the feast day of St. Martha. I immediately flipped back to July 22 and saw what I expected—the feast day of St. Mary Magdalen. Per a tradition in the Latin Church going back at least to Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Mary Magdalen is the same person as St. Mary of Bethany, sister of St. Martha. So St. Martha’s feast day falls on the octave of her sister’s feast.
The photo above shows the altar of St. Olaf in Rome. He is shown with his battle axe, triumphantly crushing under foot the dragon of paganism (or maybe, in the artist’s mind, Lutheran heresy?). My blog pseudonym is the Latin form of “Olaf from Wisconsin.” My family is from Wisconsin (though I wasn’t born or raised here), and I’m one-eighth Norwegian. When I was a child, my late father (who was insanely proud of his one-quarter Norwegianity—may he rest in peace) used to call me “Ole,” which is short for Olaf.
St. Olaf was the King of Norway who spearheaded the conversion of that country to the Roman Catholic Faith. For his efforts at converting the pagan Vikings, St. Olaf was martyred during the Battle of Stiklestad on July 29, 1030, which is why today is his feast day. St. Olaf is honored as the “eternal king” (Rex Perpetuus) of Norway. Unfortunately, Norway was annexed by Denmark during the Protestant Revolt, and the Danes imposed Lutheranism on the country.
When I was studying under Fr. Reginald Foster in Rome ten years ago, I visited many of the so-called National Churches in the city. These are the churches that each nation claims as “its church” in Rome. I figured that Norway, despite its official Lutheranism, must have at least a chapel somewhere. Catholics—good ones, anyway—are always trying to reclaim the lost sheep among the nations. One day by accident, I stumbled upon the Norwegian national chapel in the Basilica of San Carlo al Corso* (which is the National Church of the Lombards). That’s where I took the photo above. The Latin inscriptions on the edge of the painting read in part, “Norvegia Catholica; S. Olaus Martyr, Norvegiae Rex et Patronus.” Translated, that’s, “Catholic Norway; St. Olaf, Martyr, King and Patron of Norway.” Continue reading
I’m a day late in posting this, but yesterday (July 25) was the feast day of St. James the Greater. Along with St. John the Evangelist (St. James’ brother) and St. Peter, St. James was one of Our Lord’s inner circle, being present at the Transfiguration and during Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden. Here are some one-off notes in appreciation of St. James:
St. James’ Iconography: Apostle, Pilgrim, Moor-Killer, and Martyr
Over at the New Liturgical Movement, David Clayton has posted an article about St. James’ iconography.* One of the commenters, Thom Ryng, notes that St. James appears in art in three different ways: as Apostle, as pilgrim, and as the Moor-Killer (Santiago Matamoros).**
I’ve seen the apostle, pilgrim, and Moor-Killer (or martyr?) identities combined in iconography. Once upon a time, I used to attend Mass at St. James Parish in Trumansburg, New York. The canopy/reredos at St. James shows a bishop’s crosier and sword laid across each other. The crosier obviously shows that St. James was an Apostle, and hence a bishop. The sword likely refers to his martyrdom by beheading, but also possibly to his status as Santiago Matamoros, the scourge of the Moors during Spain’s Reconquista. I believe the canopy also shows the pilgrim’s scallop shell, which points to Santiago de Compostela and the Way of St. James. Continue reading
Ten years ago today, on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, I had the privilege of attending the Pallium Mass offered by Pope Benedict XVI (aka the Once and Future Pontifex) in St. Peter’s Basilica. The pallium is a woolen vestment that the Pope bestows on new metropolitan archbishops. The Pope blesses and bestows the pallium on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul as a sign of unity between the new archbishops and himself as Successor of St. Peter and Prince of the Apostles. Formerly (starting with Pope St. John Paul II and ending with Pope Francis) the Pope bestowed the pallium in person in Rome.
The first photo shows Pope Benedict walking up the nave of St. Peter’s toward the high altar at the beginning of the Mass.
Since this year Father’s Day (in the U.S.) coincides with Corpus Christi (transferred from Thursday to today, Sunday):
“And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him?” (St. Luke 11:11-13)
Some take the reference to asking the father for bread as a reference to the Eucharist. One version of the Our Father reads, “Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.” The fish might also be a reference to Christ, per the well-known acrostic symbolism of “ichthys.” I wouldn’t know what to make of the egg, though.
May is Our Lady’s month. I fondly recall May Crowning in my home parish—
“O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May!”
The month of May is named for the pagan goddess Maia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maia_(mythology))*, who was the mother of the Greek god Hermes (the Roman Mercury). Among other things, Hermes was the god of shepherds. When the Gentiles of the Roman Empire first converted to Christianity and began creating their own artwork, they used statues of Hermes Kriophoros (the “Ram-Bearer”) as a model for statues of Christ the Good Shepherd (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriophoros).
I don’t mean to lead us down some syncretistic rabbit hole. However, there were some strains in Gentile religion that pointed to the coming of Christ. If the pagans celebrated May as the month of the mother of Hermes the Ram-Bearer, how much more should we celebrate it as the month of the mother of the Good Shepherd.
*Warning: there’s at least one immodest image on this Wikipedia page
Last month, I attended the Pontifical Mass at the Throne that His Excellency, the Most Rev. Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madison, offered on the Solemnity of St. Joseph. The feast was deferred to March 20 because the Lenten Sunday took precedence. You can see photos here (https://www.latinmassmadison.org/photos-from-pontifical-mass-for-st-joseph/).
What interested me most was the Lesson (aka Epistle) for the Mass. I expected something that referenced the Old Testament patriarch Joseph. Instead, the Lesson is borrowed from the Mass of a Holy Abbot (Os justi . . .). It’s from the Book of Ecclesiasticus, 45.1-6. This passage honors Moses. Upon consideration, it occurred to me that Moses is in many ways a quite fitting Old Testament type of St. Joseph. Continue reading
Each day between today (Jan. 18th, regardless of the date stamp above) and next Wednesday (Jan. 25th), I encourage you all to pray the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. For each day’s prayers, I refer you here (http://acatholiclife.blogspot.com/2015/01/traditional-catholic-prayers-for-week.html). For some background on this prayer octave, I refer you here (http://church.atonementonline.com/wp-content/uploads/Octave-of-Prayer-for-Christian-Unity.pdf).
The octave lasts from the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome (Jan. 18th) until the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan. 25th). You can learn more about today’s feast here (http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2017/01/the-two-feasts-of-st-peters-chair.html#.WIAQSGciyM9). The first day’s prayer intention is for the return of the “other sheep” to the One Fold of Christ. In honor of today’s feast, here is a photo of the Altar of the Chair in the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica. As I understand it, the throne above the altar is a reliquary containing the relics of St. Peter’s cathedra (chair). Continue reading
Regardless of the date stamp above, it’s still Epiphany (Jan. 6) as I type this. The purpose of this post is to draw some parallels between Epiphany and Pentecost. Why? Three reasons:
a.) Hopefully to render the Church calendar a bit more intelligible. If you don’t know what the calendar is about, it’s easy to think we’re arbitrarily and superstitiously celebrating one random event after another. This way lies Protestantism and/or rationalism.
b.) Hopefully to provide some food for prayerful meditation.
c.) Perhaps goad you to share the good news of the Gospel with others. The Gospel that was first made known at Pentecost is a reiteration and reinterpretation (in light of Our Lord’s Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension) of those manifestations of Our Lord celebrated on the Feast of the Epiphany.
I’m not being original when I say that Epiphany is a sort of pre-Pentecost. Here are a few ways in which Epiphany anticipates Pentecost:
1.) They both close the preceding liturgical season. Pentecost closes Eastertide, and Epiphany closes Christmastide. A period of wearing white vestments yields to a period of wearing green vestments.
Think of it this way: Epiphany is to Christmas as Pentecost is to Easter. Christmas and Easter are the two major feasts of the Church year, celebrating Christ’s Birth and His Resurrection, which is a sort of Rebirth in Glory and certainly effects our own rebirth. Both feasts require a sort of pendant feast to close out their respective “afterglow” seasons. These parallel feasts are Epiphany and Pentecost. Continue reading