Taking a Break

Blogging is taking away time from far more important pursuits in my life, notably prayer and a book project I’m working on. I plan to post once more tomorrow, on the Feast of the Transfiguration. Then I’m going to take an indefinite hiatus. If and when I come back, I hope I will have struck more of a balance.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading, following, and responding to my posts. Please pray for me, and I will (try to) remember to pray for you.

Blog Pseudonym Saint Day: St. Olaf, Martyr and Eternal King of Norway

271The 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

St. James, Our Lady, and America

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

Humility Appeals to Pride

If you performed at work as poorly as you perform as a self-professed Catholic, would your boss keep you around? Yet you call Christ your Lord.

If you expended as little effort at mastering your school subjects as you expend at mastering yourself, would your teachers and professors give you a passing grade? Yet you call Christ your Master.

If you disregarded your parents the way you disregard God, would your parents admit that you were their son? Yet you call God your Father.

Yet More Drafts from the Driftless

Seems like I haven’t been able to get in any decent writing recently, not even on this, my summer vacation. Lest I forget, here are some jottings that I hope to develop into posts later:

–the meaning of perfidis in the traditional Good Friday Prayer for the Jews; how this term relates to 1.) a covenantal understanding of Christ’s Passion, 2.) the spiritual blindness mentioned in the same prayer, and 3.) our own identity as the Chosen People of the New Testament

–how to integrate our understanding of Christ’s Passion as both a martyrdom undertaken in defense of truth and as a propitiatory sacrifice; “the medium is the message”

–Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli as apostle of the Driftless Area; missions to the Indians, Frenchmen, Irish immigrants, and Anglo-American converts; temperance movement

–God’s “inscrutable will” (per Fr. Mazzuchelli), Pope Francis on the “God of Surprises,” and Fr. Feeney on divine surprises

–thoughts on the so-called debitum peccati, which is the speculative account of how exactly Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception relates to the Adam’s sin, if at all; the role of Christ’s Cross and the Immaculate Conception as the ultimate victory of the Cross; debitum Redemptoris or debitum Crucis as an alternative explanation; we inherit Original Sin for lack of the application of redemptive grace Continue reading

If Today You Hear His Voice, Harden Not Your Heart

I write to provide a personal story of struggle and redemption. Consider my purpose one of thanksgiving and of praise to God, Who is merciful to me. First, allow me to say that I am a liturgical traditionalist, but a very unmotivated one. I could go to the Traditional Latin Mass every Sunday, a Mass offered by a very well-known (as these things go) priest-blogger. It is the most liturgically informed, if you will, Mass that you could attend, short of attending a parish or oratory staffed by a traditionalist order.  If I could motivate myself to get up ca. 6:15 on Sunday mornings to get to Mass at 7:30.

Which I am not motivated to do. I often end up going to a parish in the next town over, where the priest offers a very traditional Novus Ordo. The Mass is offered ad orientem, with no altar girls, no extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and with good music (organ, chant, traditional hymns, etc.). You have the ready option to receive Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue. The priest is very manful, and promotes masculine devotion. If I provided his name, you could easily find him at blogs for manly, hair-on-their-chest Catholic-with-a-capital-C Catholics. That Mass is at 10:30 (formerly at 11:00), and I am often late for it.

Then there is the actual Mass in the town where I live, offered at 11:00 A.M. Continue reading

Oyster Stew on Christmas Eve: An American Catholic Tradition

Here in the Driftless Area, it’s still Dec. 24, so a Christmas Eve post is in order. Prior to the calendar reforms of Pope Pius XII (I think; maybe St. John XXIII?), the Christmas Vigil was a day of abstinence from meat, just like Fridays and Lenten weekdays. In America at least, it became traditional to eat oyster stew on Christmas Eve. Just like Friday fish fries, Christmas Eve oyster stew seems to have spread beyond Catholic circles to the culture at large. I remember eating oyster stew on Christmas Eve when I was a child. My mother and I had oyster stew tonight.

oyster-stew Continue reading

St. Nicholas’ Day

Today (Dec. 6, regardless of what appears above) is the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra, Bishop and Confessor. When my maternal grandmother was a girl, children received gifts from St. Nicholas on the morning of his feast day. The children set out their shoes on the night before. I think they filled the shoes with hay for St. Nicholas’ horses. In the morning, they found the shoes filled with oranges, apples, and nuts. That’s how St. Nicholas was celebrated in one German-American Catholic family in the Driftless Area, 40-50 years before Vatican II.

This Old World Catholic tradition was remembered in Wisconsin through the year 2000 at least. When I was a freshman at Marquette, the Residence Assistant in our dorm set small gifts of candy from our parents outside our doors on the morning of St. Nicholas’ Day. We were in the midst of finals and looking forward to Christmas break. It’s a fond memory. Continue reading

Patronal Feast Day of St. Andrew the Apostle

Today, November 30, is the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle. St. Andrew is the patron saint of the church of the town where I live. This is fitting, as the town was founded by a Scotsman and St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. Here are two photographs of the statue of St. Andrew outside of the local church:

st-andrew-statue

The nave of the church is fittingly shaped like a ship (“nave” means “ship”); St. Andrew was a fisherman and is a patron saint of fishermen. Here’s a close up of the coat-of-arms beneath the statue:
Continue reading

St. Sebastian: Bastion of Catholic Identity

This post is inspired by a homily that the parish priest at my home parish in Illinois* preached about a month ago. The Rio Olympics were in full swing, and the priest commented on American gymnast Simone Biles. He related that Biles, a Catholic, had a devotion to St. Sebastian and lit candles to him. I subsequently found out that St. Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes and of Rio de Janeiro, where the Olympics were held. The full name of Rio de Janeiro is São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, which in Portuguese means St. Sebastian of the River January (the Portuguese first landed there in January). This got me thinking about St. Sebastian’s role as an icon and bastion of Catholic identity.

Here are the basics of St. Sebastian’s story. He was a Roman soldier who was martyred during one of the persecutions inflicted on the Church by the Roman Emperors. He was sentenced to be tied to a tree and shot through with arrows. He miraculously survived the arrows, so he was clubbed to death. The Christians buried him in catacombs outside the city of Rome that have been called St. Sebastian’s Catacombs ever since. Now a basilica in St. Sebastian’s honor stands over the catacombs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Sebastiano_fuori_le_mura). Here’s a photo I took of St. Sebastian’s martyrdom as depicted on the ceiling (!) of the nave of the Basilica of St. Sebastian’s Outside the Walls:

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St. Sebastian became very popular in the Middle Ages for a number of reasons**. Here, I’ll focus on just one: the all-out awesomeness of his martyrdom. I think in many Catholics’ mind, the martyrdom of St. Sebastian is the template for their own perseverance in the face of persecution and temptation. If you think of it, his martyrdom is very reminiscent of Our Lord’s Crucifixion. He was bound to a tree, with his face to his persecutors, as they pierced his flesh. He is the patron saint of grit-your-teeth-and-take-it.

Continue reading