Monday, February 19, 2018

Washington's Birthday


George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart, +1828AD.

Today, in the State of Georgia, is the holiday of Washington's Birthday, in honor of George Washington of Virginia (22 February 1732 [N.S.]; 11 February 1731 [O.S.]* -14 December 1799AD), first President of the United States. Credited as the "father of his country," he was pivotal in the independence movement and revolution of the colonies that formed the United States, not only in his role as military commander, but as the President who set all of the precedents. His approach was one of prudence and steadiness, and his contributions are most certainly a great part of the longevity and stability of this Republic.

*-N.S.: New Style, or Gregorian date; O.S.: Old Style, or Julian date

President Washington would received high praise, indeed, when a century later Pope Leo XIII wrote to the American Church, in his letter Longinqua of 1895: "Precisely at the epoch when the American colonies, having, with Catholic aid, achieved liberty and independence, coalesced into a constitutional Republic the ecclesiastical hierarchy was happily established amongst you; and at the very time when the popular suffrage placed the great Washington at the helm of the Republic, the first bishop was set by apostolic authority over the American Church. The well-known friendship and familiar intercourse which subsisted between these two men seems to be an evidence that the United States ought to be conjoined in concord and amity with the Catholic Church. And not without cause; for without morality the State cannot endure-a truth which that illustrious citizen of yours, whom We have just mentioned, with a keenness of insight worthy of his genius and statesmanship perceived and proclaimed. "  Pope Leo XIII, Longinqua, 1895


George Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, at what is now a National Park Service site: George Washington Birthplace National Monument

His home at Mount Vernon in Fairfax County, Virginia, near Washington, DC is worth visiting if you find yourself in the area -- it is here that he is buried: Mount Vernon Official Site
Interestingly, his home was named in honor of British Admiral Vernon, under whom Washington's older brother, Lawrence, had served during the War of Jenkins' Ear and at the Battle of Cartegena.

We can leave aside, on this day to honor him, a discussion of his slaveholding, Freemasonry, church attendance habits, and his role in a revolution against his sovereign.

As a side note, George Washington DID say this: "A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent on others, for essential, particularly for military supplies." That in his first address to Congress, on 8 January 1790. cf., Yale Avalon Project: First Address to Congress. Spurious versions of this statement are prevalent about now!

Undoubtedly, folks will refer to today as "Presidents' Day," which it might be in some places, but not in Georgia, for one.

In the Governor's proclamation of state holidays, we find that today, 19 February, is listed as "Washington's Birthday."  Georgia State Holidays, 2018.
Interestingly, the actual observance of the day by state offices comes on 24 December this year.

In Washington's own home state of Virginia, the day is celebrated as "George Washington Day."

Even in United States Code, this day is known as "Washington's Birthday" -- with no hint of "Presidents' Day" in the title.  Here is the US Code itself:

"The following are legal public holidays:
...
Washington’s Birthday, the third Monday in February."
cf., US Code at Cornell Law

So, no Presidents' Day in Georgia or Virginia, and even looking to the code of this Federal Republic!

Is it actually Presidents' Day in your state?

Live well!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday: Lent Begins

File:Santa Sabina inside.JPG
The Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome -- this is the station Church for Ash Wednesday, where the Supreme Roman Pontiff traditionally presides over the Ash Wednesday Mass.

On this day we open the great penitential season of Lent.  Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.  Remember man that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return! (Gen 3:19)

Ashes have, from time immemorial, symbolized "grief, mourning, or repentance."  How fitting that, on this day, we put on ashes to outwardly manifest our interior repentance -- ashes made from burning the blessed palms of the previous Holy Week.

The liturgies and prayers of this day are sublime:
"Almighty and everlasting God, spare the penitent...bless these ashes, that they may be a remedy to all who invoke Thy Name...O God, who desirest not the death but the conversion of sinners, look in kindness upon our human frailty...and bless those ashes, so that we, who know ourselves to be but ashes...and the we must return to dust, may deserve to obtain pardon and the rewards offered to the penitent."

My favorite, after the imposition of the ashes is this prayer:
"Grant us, Lord, the grace to begin the Christian's war of defense with holy fasts; that, as we do battle with the spirits of evil, we may be protected by the help of self-denial."

Today we begin the Lenten season in preparation for Easter.  Traditionally, in the Latin Church, today marks a period of forty days of fasting (Sundays excluded).  While the minimum may be lowered to merely Ash Wednesday and Good Friday in the Dioceses of the United States, surely our appreciation for the value of fasting and penance, and reverence for tradition, spurs us on to mortify our appetites in this way!

For more on this splendid, if somber, Feast, you might note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Ash Wednesday

Customs of Ash Wednesday (Fisheaters)

Catholic Culture: Ash Wednesday

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Lent

Customs of Lent (Fisheaters)

Catholic Culture: Lent

Here is a link that goes into more detail about the ashes of this day:
Catholic Culture: Why Ashes?

The Code of Canon Law, 1983, lays down for us several points about this penitential season (emphasis mine):
"Can. 1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.


Can. 1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.


Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.


Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.


Can. 1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast."
(cf., Code of Canon Law)


Custom gives us more detail on what is meant by Abstinence and Fasting: Abstinence entails not eating meat or meat products derived from warm blooded animals (mammals and birds), though there are interesting local exceptions.  All cold-blooded animals can be eaten on days of abstinence.


For the purposes of Canonical fasting, provided above, those fasting may take only one full meal. Two smaller meals are permitted as necessary to maintain strength according to one’s needs, but eating solid foods between meals is not permitted.


Each day in Lent has a "station Church" in Rome, which is typically or historically the focus of devotion in the city that day.  Here is a link with a little information about today's station Church in Rome -- Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill, a Dominican Basilica: Roman Church Wiki: Santa Sabina

Here is a splendid explanation of the role of Santa Sabina by the Dominicans themselves: Order of Preachers: Why does Lent start on the Aventine Hill?

Finally, a splendid motet by the Englishman William Byrd, setting to music one of the liturgical texts of Ash Wednesday:



Here is the text, with a translation:
Emendemus in melius quae ignoranter peccavimus; 
ne subito praeoccupati die mortis, 
quaeramus spatium poenitentiae, 
et invenire non possimus. 

Attende, Domine, et miserere; 
quia peccavimus tibi. 

Adjuva nos, 
Deus salutaris noster, 
et propter honorem nominis tui libera nos. 

Let us amend for the better in those things in which we have sinned through ignorance;
lest suddenly overtaken by the day of death,
we seek space for repentance,
and be not able to find it.

Hearken, O Lord, and have mercy:
for we have sinned against thee.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
and for the honour of thy name deliver us.

(English translation by William Mahrt)

(Ps. 78:9; Distribution of Ashes, Ash Wednesday; First Sunday of Lent, Matins Responsory; cf. Esther 13, Joel 2)

Live well!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Shrove Tuesday & Carnival

File:Pieter Bruegel the Elder- The Fight between Carnival and Lent detail 3.jpg
The Fight between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559AD.

Today is Shrove Tuesday -- and a fine day to be shriven, indeed.

File:Lingelbach Karneval in Rom 001c.jpg
Carnival in Rome by Johannes Lingelbach, 1650AD.

While parts of the Christian world call today "Mardi Gras" or "Carnival," the English custom is to give it the more pious and penitential epitaph of Shrove Tuesday -- recalling the importance of going to Confession to prepare for the season of Lent which is upon us.  This quote from the year 1000AD gives us some insight into the orgin of the name: "In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then may hear by his deeds what he is to do [in the way of penance]." [From the article on Shrovetide in the Old Catholic Encyclopedia, link below.]

Indeed, Ash Wednesday is on the morrow!  Traditionally, the arrival of Ash Wednesday and Lent means the beginning of a period of Fast (excluding Sundays) until the Easter Vigil.  While the canonical minimum today is for Fasting on but Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, along with abstinence from blood meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent, surely it is a wholesome thing to retain the ancient custom of fasting through the entirety of Lent.  The custom of eating pancakes on this day, too, betrays the character of a fast that excluded not only the "sweets," but of even meat and eggs.  "The English custom of eating pancakes was undoubtedly suggested by the need of using up the eggs and fat which were, originally at least, prohibited articles of diet during the forty days of Lent," notes the old Catholic Encyclopedia in the article below.

Here is a link with some history into Shrovetide or Carnival:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Shrovetide

This link provides some insight into customs associated with this day:
Fisheaters: Shrovetide

Live well!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Ave Regina Caelorum

File:Raffael 027.jpg
Madonna, by Raphael.

It is with that great feast of Candlemas (2 February) that the Marian Anthem chanted at the end of Compline, shifts from the Alma Redemptoris Mater, which we have said since the start of Advent and through the Christmas season, to the Ave Regina Caelorum.  It is customary to say or sing the Ave Regina Caelorum through Lent and until the Holy Triduum and the start of the Easter Season.

The Ave Regina Caelorum, like the  Alma Redemptoris Mater, was written by Hermann Contractus, who died in 1054AD.  For a bit more: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Ave Regina

The text reads:

Ave, Regina Caelorum. 
Ave Domina Angelorum!
Salve Radix, salve porta,
Ex qua mundo lux est orta.

Gaude Virgo gloriosa,
Super omnes speciosa.

Vale, o valde decora.
Et pro nobis Christum exora.

In English:
Welcome, O Queen of Heaven. 
Welcome, O Lady of Angels
Hail! thou root, hail! thou gate
From whom unto the world, a light has arisen:

Rejoice, O glorious Virgin, 
Lovely beyond all others, 
Farewell, most beautiful maiden, 
And pray for us to Christ.


A more poetic English translation:
Hail, O Queen of heaven enthroned!
Hail, by Angels mistress own'd!
Root of Jesse, gate of morn,
Whence the world's true Light was born.

Loveliest whom in Heaven they see,
Fairest thou where all are fair!
Plead with Christ our sins to spare.

[From my Baronius Press hand missal, pg. 120]

This is the original Gregorian Chant setting of the Ave Regina Caelorum:



Here is a setting of the Anthem by the master composer Palestrina (+1594AD):

This is another setting, this by the great Lassus (+1594AD):


Finally, a setting by the lesser known-German Composer, Johann Kaspar Kerll (+1693):



Live well!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Candlemas: The Purification & Presentation


An icon of the Meeting of the Lord from Belarus, 1731AD.

Today, standing some forty days after Christmas day, we have the Feast of Candlemas -- the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, and the Purification of Our Lady.

This feast is considered one of the more ancient of Our Lady, though in more recent times has emphasized the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple.  Of course, this is a commemoration of what we read in the Gospel of St. Luke, 2:22-38:
"22 And when the time had come for purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him before the Lord there. 23 It is written in God’s law, that whatever male offspring opens the womb is to be reckoned sacred to the Lord;[4]24 and so they must offer in sacrifice for him, as God’s law commanded, a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons.[5] 25 At this time there was a man named Simeon living in Jerusalem, an upright man of careful observance, who waited patiently for comfort to be brought to Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him; 26 and by the Holy Spirit it had been revealed to him that he was not to meet death, until he had seen that Christ whom the Lord had anointed. 27 He now came, led by the Spirit, into the temple; and when the child Jesus was brought in by his parents, to perform the custom which the law enjoined concerning him, 28 Simeon too was able to take him in his arms. And he said, blessing God: 29 Ruler of all, now dost thou let thy servant go in peace, according to thy word; 30 for my own eyes have seen that saving power of thine 31 which thou hast prepared in the sight of all nations. 32 This is the light which shall give revelation to the Gentiles, this is the glory of thy people Israel.33 The father and mother of the child were still wondering over all that was said of him, 34 when Simeon blessed them, and said to his mother Mary, Behold, this child is destined to bring about the fall of many and the rise of many in Israel; to be a sign which men will refuse to acknowledge; 35 and so the thoughts of many hearts shall be made manifest; as for thy own soul, it shall have a sword to pierce it. 36 There was besides a prophetess named Anna, daughter to one Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser (a woman greatly advanced in age, since she had lived with a husband for seven years after her maidenhood,37 and had now been eighty-four years a widow) who abode continually in the temple night and day, serving God with fasting and prayer. 38 She too, at that very hour, came near to give God thanks, and spoke of the child to all that patiently waited for the deliverance of Israel."

The meeting of Our Lord with the aged and just Simeon, his magnificent Nunc Dimittis which we say every night at Compline, and the prophecy to Our Lady of the sword that shall piece her heart, and the prophetess Anna are all notable and memorable.  How striking, too, that she who was without sin submits to be purified according to the Mosaic Law!  May our humility and obedience ever reflect that we see in the characters present at this great Presentation and Purification.

It is also fitting that we, in the Northern Hemisphere, observe this Feast when we do: the light that came into the world at Christmas in the stable of Bethlehem, at the time of the darkness of the Winter Solstice, is now growing brighter and more public with this presentation in the Temple of Jerusalem.  The nights remain longer than the days, but the light grows yet stronger, and brighter, and we know that the chill of February will soon give way to the warmth of Spring.

Dom Gueranger notes in his Litugical Year: "The mystery of today's ceremony has frequently been explained by liturgists, dating from the 7th century. According to Ivo of Chartres, the wax, which is formed from the juice of flowers by the bee, always considered as the emblem of virginity, signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant, who diminished not, either by His conception or His birth, the spotless purity of His Blessed Mother. The same holy bishop would have us see, in the flame of our Candle, a symbol of Jesus who came to enlighten our darkness. St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on the same mystery, bids us consider three things in the blessed Candle: the wax, the wick, and the flame. The wax, he says, which is the production of the virginal bee, is the Flesh of our Lord; the wick, which is within, is His Soul; the flame, which burns on top, is His divinity."

Today candles are traditionally blessed and an integral part of the liturgies of the day -- hence the name of Candlemas.

Lumen ad revelationem gentium: et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.  A light to the revelation of the Gentiles: and for the glory of Thy people Israel.  (Luke 2:32)

Today we process with that light, which we know will, in the end, overcome the darkness.

For more, here are a couple splendid sources, the first concerned more with the history, and the second with the customs of this beautiful feast:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Candlemas

Customs of Candlemas (Fisheaters)

Today, too is the last day when it is customary to sing the Marian Antiphon, Alma Redemptoris Mater.  So, I close with a setting of that antiphon by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina:





Live well!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Traditional Feast of St. Francis de Sales

[Saint Francis de Sales]

Today is traditionally the feast of the great Doctor of the Church, St. Francis de Sales.  His feast in the revised calendar fell last week, on 24 January.

St. Francis was the Count of Sales, Bishop of Geneva, and, with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, founder of the Order of the Visitation.  He died in 1622AD.  He was canonized in 1665 by Pope Alexander VII, and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Blessed Pius IX in 1877.

Indeed, here is the Apostolic Letter, Dives in misericodia Deus, of Pius IX, making him a Doctor of the Church: Blessed Pius IX, Dives in misericodia Deus, Full Text

Here is the good Bishop's entry on the Catholic Hierarchy site:
Catholic Hierarchy: Bishop St. Francois de Sales

St. Francis de Sales is rightly noted as patron saint of Catholic writers, for his works are filled with such sound spiritual advice that is both gentle and challenging.  Indeed, one could hardly recommend a better Catholic writer for those seeking to grow in virtue and love of God!

For more, note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Francis de Sales

Catholic Saints Info: St. Francis de Sales

Here is another biography of the Saint: Lives of Saints (at EWTN): St. Francis de Sales

His master work, arguably, is the Introduction to the Devout Life.  You can find the text here:
Introduction to the Devout Life Full Text

This blogger has the privilege of being a parishioner, and of receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony, at a parish under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales, that of Mableton, Georgia, served by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) in the Archdiocese of Atlanta: St. Francis de Sales Parish Official Site

Live well!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

St. Thomas Aquinas, OP: Angelic Doctor

File:Thomas Aquinas by Fra Bartolommeo.jpg
St. Thomas Aquinas by Fra Bartolomeo (+1517AD)

On this day in 1369AD, the relics of St. Thomas Aquinas, Dominican and Doctor of the Church, were solemnly transferred, or translated, to Toulouse, by order of Pope Blessed Urban V.  The Angelic Doctor, as he is known, is the patron saint of Catholic Schools and Scholars.

St. Thomas Aquinas was born at Rocca secca, 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:
Thomas Aquinas: A Doctor for the Ages by Romanus Cessario, OP

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

On this day, members of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, which is under the patronage of St. Thomas Aquinas, can gain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditionsAW Confraternity Official Site

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

File:Saint Thomas Aquinas Diego Velázquez.jpg
St. Thomas Aquinas by Diego Velazquez (+1660)

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!