Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Vernal Equinox: first day of Spring

Illumination of the Earth from the Sun at the Vernal (Spring) Equinox: the ecliptic crosses the celestial equator! [Image: By I, Dennis Nilsson, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3262268]

Today, at precisely 12:15PM Eastern Daylight Time, we mark the Vernal Equinox.  At that moment, the Sun crossed the celestial equator on its path along the ecliptic.  Of course, this date is critical in determining the date of Easter -- Easter is the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after today's Vernal Equinox.

If the Earth sat directly upright on its axis, the Sun would always be directly overhead at noon on the equator, it would appear to move through the stars along the celestial equator, days would always remain the same length, and every day would be like the two equinox days in Spring and Fall -- every day like today. As it happens, the Earth is tilted at about 23.5 degrees on its axis. Thus, the sun appears to diverge as much as 23.5 degrees from the celestial equator in its apparent path through the stars (the ecliptic), and ends up being directly overhead up to 23.5 degrees north or south of the equator (the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn) on the two solstice days. This is the reason, of course, for our seasons.

So, if we start at the vernal equinox in March, today, the sun is directly overhead at the equator at noon, and night and day are the same length. [Of course, thanks to Daylight savings time, this happens at approximately 1PM, and not Noon.  DST is a fictional time in which we pretend to live in the next time zone to the east.] From the Vernal equinox until the summer solstice, the Sun appears to move slowly to the north both in the sky, setting a bit further north of west each day, and in its apparent path through the constellations of the zodiac. This continues until the Sun reaches the solstice, where it stops, being directly overhead at 23.5 degrees north latitude (the Tropic of Cancer) at noon, and sitting about 23.5 degrees north of the celestial equator. From that point, the sun drifts back south until reaching the equator once more at the autumnal equinox in September, on this day, going all the way to 23.5 degrees south at the Winter Solstice.

File:Analemma Earth.png
This chart show the analemma for Earth, showing the relative locations of the Sun at noon at the Greenwich Observatory in England. Notice the change in both altitude and azimuth at the different points of the year.

The reason for all of this is that as the Earth orbits the Sun the two hemispheres of the Earth take turns being tilted toward the Sun. The following diagrams might help to illustrate what I am trying to articulate:

File:Ecliptic path.jpg
In this diagram, the sun appears to move against the background of the stars along the red line, the ecliptic, while the white line marks the celestial equator -- the imaginary line through space that is merely the extension of the Earth's equator. The two points where the red and white lines are at greatest divergence are the solstices, while the two points where the red and white lines cross are the two equinoxes. The yellow line shows what the sun would appear to be in front of from the Earth, the Constellation Pisces, at the vernal equinox.

File:North season.jpg
This diagram shows the positions of the Earth in relation to the sun at those four points -- the Summer solstice on the left, with the Northern Hemisphere tilted toward the Sun, and the Winter solstice on the right, with the Southern Hemisphere facing the Sun more directly, with the two equinoxes between, with the Hemispheres equally oriented to the Sun.

So today, at the Vernal Equinox, the sun shines directly overhead at the equator, and both hemispheres are equally lit!  Welcome to astronomical Spring!

Live well!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Feast of St. Joseph

File:Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni, c 1635.jpg
St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus, by Guido Reni, ca. 1635.

Today, 19 March, is the Feast of the foster father of our Divine Lord, and patron of the Universal Church: St. Joseph!

On this Feast of St. Joseph, let us recall this great saint who example is one of silent witness.  He is the one that the Gospels call "a just man" who protected and provided for the Holy Family.  Indeed, Scripture notes that Our Divine Lord "was subject to them," referring to Mary and Joseph.  Of what a family was St. Joseph the head!

St. Jospeh is a splendid example of manhood, of willingness to do the Will of God, and, considering who was, by tradition, there in his last moments, a patron of a happy death.

You might note this encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII on devotion to St. Joseph:
Encyclical Letter of Leo XIII on St. Joseph

Here is the Old Catholic Encyclopedia article on this great saint:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Joseph

Finally, from Catholic saints info:
Catholic Saints Info: St. Joseph

I close with a traditional hymn to St. Joseph:

TE, Ioseph, celebrent agmina caelitum,
te cuncti resonent Christiadum chori,
qui, clarus meritis, iunctus es inclitae,
casto foedere Virgini.
Almo cum tumidam germine coniugem
admirans dubio tangeris anxius,
afflatu superi Flaminis, Angelus
conceptum puerum docet.
Tu natum Dominum stringis, ad exteras
Aegypti profugum tu sequeris plagas;
amissum Solymis quaeris et invenis,
miscens gaudia fletibus.
Electos reliquos mors pia consecrat1
palmamque emeritos gloria suscipit;
tu vivens, Superis par, frueris Deo,
mira sorte beatior.
Nobis, summa Trias, parce precantibus;
da Ioseph meritis sidera scandere,
ut tandem liceat nos tibi perpetim
gratum promere canticum.

Live well!

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Today, the 5th Sunday of Lent, begins what is traditionally the period of Passiontide, and the final two weeks of Lent -- with this coming 5th week of Lent known as Passion Week, followed by Holy Week itself for the 6th week.

Here are a couple articles on this season within the season of Lent:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Passiontide

Fisheaters: Passiontide

It is ancient custom to veil sacred images and statues beginning on this Sunday, only to reveal them once again during the course of the Triduum.  The custom fits well with the end of the traditional Gospel passage of the day -- from the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 8, when, at His claim of divinity, the Jews: "took up stones therefore to cast at Him: but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple."

So it is that our sacred images are veiled.

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has a good explanation of the symbolism of that custom, and the idea of this season:

"In the 1962 Missale Romanum, the Extraordinary Use of the Roman Rite, this is First Passion Sunday. In the Novus Ordo we also call Palm Sunday “Passion” Sunday. Today is the beginning of “Passiontide”. It is known as Iudica Sunday, from the first word of the Introit of Mass, from Ps 42 (41).

We lose things during Lent. We are being pruned through the liturgy. Holy Church experiences liturgical death before the feast of the Resurrection. The Alleluia goes on Septuagesima. Music and flowers go on Ash Wednesday. Today, statues and images are draped in purple. That is why today is sometimes called Repus Sunday, from repositus analogous to absconditus or “hidden”, because this is the day when Crosses and other images in churches are veiled. The universal Church’s Ordo published by the Holy See has an indication that images can be veiled from this Sunday, the 5th of Lent. Traditionally Crosses may be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and images, such as statues may be covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil. At my home parish of St. Agnes in St. Paul, MN, the large statue of the Pietà is appropriately unveiled at the Good Friday service.

Also, as part of the pruning, as of today in the older form of Mass, the “Iudica” psalm in prayers at the foot of the altar and the Gloria Patri at the end of certain prayers was no longer said.

The pruning cuts more deeply as we march into the Triduum. After the Mass on Holy Thursday the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the main altar, which itself is stripped and bells are replaced with wooden noise makers. On Good Friday there isn’t even a Mass. At the beginning of the Vigil we are deprived of light itself! It is as if the Church herself were completely dead with the Lord in His tomb. This liturgical death of the Church reveals how Christ emptied Himself of His glory in order to save us from our sins and to teach us who we are.

The Church then gloriously springs to life again at the Vigil of Easter. In ancient times, the Vigil was celebrated in the depth of night. In the darkness a single spark would be struck from flint and spread into the flames. The flames spread through the whole Church.
If we can connect ourselves in heart and mind with the Church’s liturgy in which these sacred mysteries are re-presented, then by our active receptivity we become participants in the saving mysteries of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. To begin this active receptivity we must be baptized members of the Church and be in the state of grace."
cf., Fr. Z's Blog: Passiontide veils

The sanctuary of this blogger's home parish, St. Francis de Sales, Mableton, Georgia, Passiontide 2017.

Live well!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

St. Patrick's Day

Saint Patrick

Today is St. Patrick's Day, which, in the dioceses of the United States is a commemoration during this Fourth Week of Lent.  In Ireland today is a solemnity (first class feast) and a Holy Day of Obligation.  St. Patrick is, of course, Apostle and Patron of Ireland, and the first Archbishop of Armagh, and Primate of Ireland.  He is also the Patron Saint of Nigeria.

St. Patrick was born in Britain around 389, visited Ireland during his youth in unfortunate circumstances, was ordained in the continent of Europe, and returned to the Emerald Isle as a Missionary, sent by Pope St. Celestine I .  He founded the Archdiocese of Armagh in 445AD (Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Armagh).  Writing his Confessio, and probably the Lorica, he was personally responsible for converting most of the people of Ireland at the time.  He died between 461 and 464AD in Ireland.

For more, you might note:
Catholic Saints Info: St. Patrick

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Patrick

Fisheaters (customs): St. Patrick

For the sake of curiosity, here is the website of the Archdiocese founded by St. Patrick -- which is actually in the United Kingdom: Diocese of Armagh, Ireland

Here is a link to the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of New York City, named for the great Apostle of Ireland: St. Patrick's Cathedral

So, even if in your neck of the woods, St. Patrick is only celebrated with a commemoration, and the day is more focused on Lent, it is certainly worth recalling the great contribution of St. Patrick, seeking his intercession, and praying for Ireland!

Live well!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Laetare Sunday

Laetare Sunday at the Birmingham Oratory. [cf., Birmingham Oratory official site]

Today, the fourth Sunday of Lent, is known as Laetare Sunday for the opening word of the Introit of the Mass on this day, which quote the prophet Isaiah:

"Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae."

"Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation."

Here is that text in its Gregorian Chant setting:

On this day, then, Lenten observances are eased a bit as we look to Easter, having now completed half of Lent, and rose vestments are used.  Laetare is, then, the Lenten companion of Gaudete Sunday in Advent.  The Old Catholic Encyclopedia notes on this day:

"Strictly speaking, the Thursday before Laetare Sunday is the middle day of Lent, and it was at one time observed as such, but afterwards the special signs of joy permitted on this day, intended to encourage the faithful in their course through the season of penance, were transferred to the Sunday following. They consist of (like those ofGaudete Sunday in Advent) in the use of flowers on the altar, and of the organ at Mass and Vespers; rose-coloured vestments also allowed instead of purple, and the deacon and subdeacon wear dalmatics, instead of folded chasubles as on the other Sundays of Lent. The contrast between Laetare and the other Sundays is thus emphasized, and is emblematical of the joys of this life, restrained rejoicing mingled with a certain amount of sadness. The station at Rome was on this day made at the church of S. Croce in Gerusalemme, one of the seven chief basilicas; the Golden Rose, sent by the popes to Catholic sovereigns, used to be blessed at this time, and for this reason the day was sometimes called 'Dominica de Rosa'."

For more on Laetare Sunday, you might visit:
Old Catholic Enyclopedia: Laetare Sunday

Fisheaters: Laetare Sunday

On this Fourth Sunday of Lent: Laetare!

Live well!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Feast of St. Frances of Rome

From the life of St. Frances of Rome by Antoniazzo Romano. 15th Century.

Today is the Feast of the great noble lady, mother, widow, and religious, St. Frances of Rome (+1440AD).  She is the patron saint of drivers -- much venerated in Rome!

She was born in the neighborhood of Trastevere in Rome in 1384AD, and she would be married at a young age, at her family's insistence, to one Lorenzo Ponziano.  Though married, she went to confession weekly, as she did Holy Communion, and was often seen helping at the hospital of Santo Spirito.  She became mistress of the family house at the time of her first child's birth in 1400.  She would have several more children in what was a turbulent time in Rome -- not only were there political struggles in the kingdom of Naples to the south, but the trials of the Great Western Schism.  She would fall victim to the plague in 1414, but recovered.  Her husband's health did not, and he allowed her to dedicate herself more to charity in Rome.  She organized a community of women affiliated with the Benedictines, who shared a life in common, but did not take vows.  This group of Oblates was approved by Pope Eugene IV in 1433.  St. Frances joined them herself at the death of her husband in 1436.  She would finally died in 1440AD.  St. Frances of Rome was canonized by Pope Paul V in 1608AD.

One of my favorite stories of St. Frances of Rome is as follows: "Whilst she was at her prayers or other exercises, if called away by her husband, or the meanest person of her family, she laid all aside to obey without delay, saying, 'A married woman must, when called upon, quit her devotions to God at the altar to find him in her household affairs.' God was pleased to show her the merit of this her obedience; for the authors of her life relate, that being called away four times in beginning the same verse of a psalm in our Lady's office, returning the fifth time, she found that verse written in golden letters." (cf., EWTN: St. Frances of Rome)

For more:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Frances of Rome

Catholic Saints Info: St. Frances of Rome

This blogger had the opportunity to visit the tomb of St. Frances of Rome in the Roman Basilica of Santa Francesca Romana.  She is pictured below in a photo by this blogger:

A reminder of the Catholic practice of Holy Relics: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Relics

Live well!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Traditional Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas by Andrea di Bonaiuto (1366AD)

Today is the traditional feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, Dominican and Doctor of the Church -- he died on this day in 1274AD.  The Angelic Doctor, as he is known, is the patron saint of Catholic Schools and Scholars.

St. Thomas Aquinas was born at Roccasecca, a town in Italy located between Rome and Naples, son of the Count of Aquino.  He was educated early on by the Benedictine Monks of Monte Cassino, from 1230-1239.  He would be a student at the University of Naples from 1239-1244, there coming into contact with members of the new Order of Preachers.  He would join the order in 1244, much to the dismay of his family, who wished a more exalted position in the Church for their son.  Indeed, he was detained and confined by his own family for a year, finally released in 1245AD when it became clear that his determination to be a Dominican could not be swayed.

From 1245-1248, St. Thomas would be a student of fellow Dominican St. Albert the Great at the University of Paris, and acts as both student and assistant from 1248-1252 at the University of Cologne.  St. Thomas Aquinas was ordained a priest around 1250-1251, and received his Master of Theology in 1256.

He would be a regent Master at Paris from 1256-1259, and then resident in Italy from 1259-1268.  It was during that time, in 1264, that he composed the liturgy for the new Feast of Corpus Christi.  He would return to Paris for a short time, 1268-1272, ending his career in Naples.  St. Thomas Aquinas would die on his way to the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyon, summoned by Pope Blessed Gregory X in 1274.  He died on 7 March 1274AD.

He was canonized in 1323 by Pope John XXII, and named a Doctor of the Church in 1567AD by Pope St. Pius V.

In 1923, Pope Pius XI wrote an entire encyclical letter on the subject of St. Thomas Aquinas, Studiorum Ducem, which you can find here: Pius XI: Studiorum Ducem

For more details, you might note these sites:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Thomas Aquinas

Catholic Saints Info: St. Thomas Aquinas

Butler's Lives of the Saints: St. Thomas Aquinas

Here is a site with information on the Church where he is buried in Toulouse: Toulouse: Church of Les Jacobins

Have you read some St. Thomas Aquinas lately? The Successors of St. Peter have been rather direct in their recommendation of the Angelic Doctor. You can find the full text of his splendid Summa Theologiae here: Summa Theologiae: Full Text

Also worthy of note, especially in a world of Gentiles, is the Summa Contra Gentiles of St. Thomas, which is concerned with presenting arguments that would be comprehensible for those not Christian: Summa Contra Gentiles: Full Text

St. Thomas Aquinas, from the Carafa Chapel of the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome, 
by Filippino Lippi, ca. 1490.

Here are a few notable quotations on St. Thomas from recent Popes:

POPE LEO XIII – Aeterni Patris (1879)
17…With his spirit at once humble and swift, his memory ready and tenacious, his life spotless throughout, a lover of truth for its own sake, richly endowed with human and divine science, like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching. Philosophy has no part which he did not touch finely at once and thoroughly; on the laws of reasoning, on God and incorporeal substances, on man and other sensible things, on human actions and their principles, he reasoned in such a manner that in him there is wanting neither a full array of questions, nor an apt disposal of the various parts, nor the best method of proceeding, nor soundness of principles or strength of argument, nor clearness and elegance of style, nor a facility for explaining what is abstruse.

18.…Again, clearly distinguishing, as is fitting, reason from faith, while happily associating the one with the other, he both preserved the rights and had regard for the dignity of each; so much so, indeed, that reason, borne on the wings of Thomas to its human height, can scarcely rise higher, while faith could scarcely expect more or stronger aids from reason than those which she has already obtained through Thomas.

21.…while to these judgments of great Pontiffs on Thomas Aquinas comes the crowning testimony of Innocent VI: "His teaching above that of others, the canonical writings alone excepted, enjoys such a precision of language, an order of matters, a truth of conclusions, that those who hold to it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and he who dare assail it will always be suspected of error."

22.…But the chief and special glory of Thomas, one which he has shared with none of the Catholic Doctors, is that the Fathers of Trent made it part of the order of conclave to lay upon the altar, together with sacred Scripture and the decrees of the supreme Pontiffs, the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, whence to seek counsel, reason, and inspiration.

POPE PIUS XI – Studiorum Ducem (1923)
27. Again, if we are to avoid the errors which are the source and fountain-head of all the miseries of our time, the teaching of Aquinas must be adhered to more religiously than ever. For Thomas refutes the theories propounded by Modernists in every sphere, in philosophy, by protecting, as We have reminded you, the force and power of the human mind and by demonstrating the existence of God by the most cogent arguments

28. Accordingly, just as it was said to the Egyptians of old in time of famine: "Go to Joseph," so that they should receive a supply of corn from him to nourish their bodies, so We now say to all such as are desirous of the truth: "Go to Thomas," and ask him to give you from his ample store the food of substantial doctrine wherewith to nourish your souls unto eternal life.

POPE JOHN PAUL II – Fides et Ratio (1998)
43. A quite special place in this long development belongs to Saint Thomas, not only because of what he taught but also because of the dialogue which he undertook with the Arab and Jewish thought of his time. In an age when Christian thinkers were rediscovering the treasures of ancient philosophy, and more particularly of Aristotle, Thomas had the great merit of giving pride of place to the harmony which exists between faith and reason. Both the light of reason and the light of faith come from God, he argued; hence there can be no contradiction between them.

Live well...and Go to Thomas!