A Nativity Story

As I write this, it’s still the Octave of Christmas where I live. I have a Christmas story to share, one that spans several generations of a family. It’s a story about a Nativity set.

My family was friends with an elderly Catholic lady who passed away a few years ago. My mother drove this lady to Mass every weekend. She had two daughters, one who remained Catholic and one who became a Jehovah’s Witness. The Jehovah’s Witnesses famously reject Christmas as a pagan invention. The JW daughter had a daughter and a son, who was my best friend in high school.

On Christmas Day this year, I attended Mass at my home parish. The priest celebrant was a native son of the parish who was visiting home. He mentioned how happy he was to see the parish’s Nativity scene again. After Mass I saw the daughter of our deceased family friend, the daughter who remained Catholic. I asked her what became of her mother’s Nativity set, which occupied half a room when set up. And I am very happy I asked. Continue reading

Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

Happy feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of Mexico, Empress and Patroness of the Americas! Fun fact: the treaty that ended the Mexican-American War in 1848 is known as the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo because it was signed at the high altar of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, located in Villa Hidalgo (now part of Mexico City). The treaty was signed on February 2, 1848, the feast of the Purification of Our Lady (celebrated in the Novus Ordo as the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple). I assume that the tilma (miraculous image) of Our Lady was enthroned above the high altar at the time. Thus the Hispanic Southwest (California, Nevada, Utah, Texas, most of Arizona and New Mexico, half of Colorado, and parts of Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma) passed into the hands of the Americans under Our Lady’s watchful eyes.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for Mexico and the United States!

“Our tainted nature’s solitary boast”

Note: Here in the Driftless Area where I’m writing this, it’s still the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

In honor of today’s feast, here is William Wordsworth’s poem “The Virgin”:

“Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied.
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature’s solitary boast;
Purer than foam on central ocean tost;
Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn
With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon
Before her wane begins on heaven’s blue coast;
Thy image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween,
Not unforgiven the suppliant knee might bend,
As to a visible Power, in which did blend
All that was mixed and reconciled in thee
Of mother’s love with maiden purity,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene!”

The line “Thy image falls to earth” refers to Protestant iconoclasts smashing images of the Blessed Virgin.

Terrible As an Army Set in Array

“Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” Canticles of Canticles 6:9

The United States declared war on the Empire of Japan on December 8, 1941. It was the feast day of the Immaculate Conception, the title under which the Blessed Virgin Mary is patroness of the United States. Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945 (August 14 in the United States, on the other side of the International Date Line). August 15 is the feast day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. I have read that the Catholics of Nagasaki were praying a novena in preparation for the Assumption, offering themselves as a sacrifice for the end of the war. And it seems that God accepted their sacrifice because the atomic bombing of Nagasaki (which I do not at all condone) led directly to the end of the war. Besides leading the free world during the Cold War, the Allied victory in World War II is probably America’s greatest contribution to world history. And America’s participation in the war was framed by two feast days of the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of the United States.

Happy Martinmas!

Happy Martinmas! Today is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. St. Martin was a Roman soldier who saw a beggar by the roadside. Drawing his sword, he cut his cloak in two and gave half to the beggar. That night, Christ appeared to him wearing the other half of his cloak; the beggar was Christ. St. Martin later became a monk, a hermit, and the bishop of Tours, France.

His feast day, Nov. 11, was traditionally celebrated as something close to the American Thanksgiving, with goose in place of turkey. During the Third Republic, he became the de facto patron of France. In 1918, during World War I, many French Catholics regarded it as a divine sign when the Germans agreed to an armistice on the feast day of St. Martin, veteran and French patron. Continue reading

Christmas on the Palatine

In my previous post, I discussed the commemoration of the martyr St. Anastasia at the Mass at dawn on Christmas Day. I focused on St. Anastasia’s name, which recalls the Resurrection of Our Lord. In this post, I will discuss the location of the station church for the Christmas Mass at dawn, namely the Basilica of Sant’Anastasia al Palatino. This basilica is located on the Palatine Hill in Rome. I will argue that this location is especially fitting for a celebration of Christ’s Birth in the Grotto of Bethlehem.

Circumstances of Our Lord’s Birth

To begin with, let’s consider some circumstances of Our Lord’s Birth. Our Lord was born in a cave or grotto in the countryside outside of Bethlehem. Despite the humble trappings of His Birth, Our Lord was the King of Israel and the Son of God. He was miraculously conceived of the Virgin Mary, and was born without damage to Her virginity. Our Lady laid the Infant in a manger; the cave was used as a sheepfold, and shepherds came to pay Him homage. Fearing that Our Lord would seize his throne, Herod the Great sought to kill Him, and did in fact massacre the other male infants of Bethlehem. As a result, the Holy Family fled into exile.

Romulus, Remus, and the Palatine

Many of the circumstances of Our Lord’s Birth find a parallel, or a pointed contrast, in the legend of the birth of Romulus and Remus, the twin founders of Rome.* Continue reading

Commemorating the Resurrection on Christmas

(This is the first of two posts about the Solemnity of Christmas. While I had intended to post these on Christmas Day, at least I am doing so within the Octave.)

If you pay attention to the liturgy, then you might be aware that we honor a string of martyrs immediately after Christmas: St. Stephen the Protomartyr on Dec. 26, the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28, and St. Thomas Becket on Dec. 30. The joy of Christmas is tied to the witness of the martyrs; the Incarnation of Our Lord calls forth this witness on our part. That is the Providence of celebrating these martyrs within the Octave of Christmas.

In this post, I’ll focus on a martyr of the Christmas Octave who is often overlooked: St. Anastasia. I’ll also explore the significance of her name, which means “Resurrection.” Continue reading

The God of Faithful Dependability

And now I get to be a cranky trad. Pope Francis recently said that Easter reveals God as a “God of Surprises.” On the one hand, our redemption by means of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection truly is surprising. On the other hand, Our Lord explicitly told His disciples that He would die and rise again before He did it (St. Luke 24:6-8):

(6) He is not here, but is risen. Remember how he spoke unto you, when he was in Galilee, (7) Saying: The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. (9) And they remembered his words.
Continue reading

Easter Vigil and Cranky Trads

The Easter Vigil, celebrated at the proper time since 1955 (i.e. in the evening, not the morning, of Holy Saturday), seems to cause otherwise astute people to say nonsensical things. These folks seem to think that all liturgical reforms during the 20th century were wrong, therefore the Easter Vigil Mass should be offered in the morning. Here’s an example of their reasoning:

“Evelyn Waugh had some pungent complaints about this, noting, quite reasonably, that the evening service is not really compatible with the orientation toward the dawn of Easter.”*

Think about that. An “orientation toward the dawn of Easter” better suits a Mass said on the morning *of Holy Saturday* instead of a Mass said during the night that ends *with the dawn of Easter.* Why didn’t the Church just abolish Holy Saturday altogether and up and anticipate Easter Sunday on Holy Saturday and have done with it?

*https://semiduplex.com/2018/04/02/a-question-about-holy-saturday/

Ascent and Descent in the Mass of the Holy Family

Lately, I’ve written twice* about the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. I’ve approached this event as the fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. It also provides the Gospel (St. Luke 2:42-52) read on the Feast of the Holy Family, which we celebrated at the beginning of this month. I noticed something striking about the Offertory and Communion readings for the Mass, at least in the Traditional Latin Mass (English translation from the Baronius Press Missal):

Offertory: The parents of Jesus carried Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord. (St. Luke 2:22) Continue reading