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:

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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:
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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.

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The Decollation of St. John the Baptist

Today we honor the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, the Forerunner of Our Lord. According to Fr. Zuhlsdorf*, the feast began as the feast of the translation of St. John’s head to the Basilica of San Silvestro in Capite** (St. Sylvester “in the Head”) in Rome. This basilica was the occasion of a serendipitous event when I was studying Latin with Fr. Reginald “Reggie” Foster, O.C.D., in Rome during the summer of 2007.

I was wandering around the Eternal City a few weeks into the class. Having already visited all of the main pilgrim churches (St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, Santa Maria Maggiore, etc.), I muttered to myself, “I’m surprised I haven’t run into a head of St. John the Baptist. There’s supposed to be one in Rome.” I then looked up and saw a basilica I’d never noticed before, and said, “Really, *another* basilica? How many of these are there? Oh, well, ‘when in Rome.'” Upon entering, I discovered the shrine where they preserve what is purported to be the relic of St. John’s head (definitive proof is lacking).
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Hail the All-Powerful in Christ!

I’ve been quite busy at work lately, so I’ve had to defer some of the more involved posts I’ve planned. Lest too long a gap fall between posts, I shamelessly borrow today’s theme from New Liturgical Movement. To wit, today is the feast of the Roman martyr St. Pancratius, who is also known in English-speaking countries as Pancras. Pancratius has one of those awesome martyr-names, like Perpetua and Felicity. His name comes from the Greek for “all-powerful.” When the Roman authorities put him to death at the age of fourteen, I’m sure he didn’t seem all-powerful. But such is the paradox of martyrdom.

I have a few personal anecdotes regarding St. Pancratius. Continue reading

St. Joseph the Worker

As a traditionalist-leaning (post-trad?) Catholic, I admit I “have issues” with today’s* Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. You can consult other blogs to see reasons why, which are reducible to three:

1.) It’s an imposition on the calendar, having evicted the Apostles Philip and James the Lesser from their traditional feast day. This ad hoc feast was whipped up from scratch in the 1950s.

2.) It smacks of political pandering. The Communists celebrated May 1 as May Day, so the Church in the most transparent manner possible tried to “baptize” this modern celebration. Also, it seems untraditional to cast a saint in such modern, Marxist terms; Joseph the Worker as opposed to carpenter, etc. When else has the Church ever celebrated a saint as patron of an entire social class, the modern undifferentiated proletariat?**

3.) I’ve read that the Latin texts for the feast are inferior. I really don’t know.

So, there’s that. Like I said, you can find any number of trad cranks and critics (the two categories don’t necessarily overlap, but they often do . . .) pointing this out. And I allow that there’s a lot to their arguments.

But in God’s Providence, such things as the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker do arise, and God can use them to His purposes. I know this from personal experience. Here’s my story: Continue reading