This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Friday, July 26, 2013

July 26 -- Feast of the Durham Martyrs (sort of...)

First, an acknowledgement: The feast of Saint John Boste was July 24, but I, in my sloth, ran a rerun. Today is the feast of Blessed George Swallowell and Blessed John Ingram.  All three were executed on their respective feasts in 1594, during the reign of Her Maj, Elizabeth Regina, Protectress from the Plots of Papists.

As I type this, I have been suffering a strained back for about twenty-five hours.  I was injured while laundering.  It hurts when I stand, when I twist, when I bend.  I am practicing picking things up with my toes.  I am afraid to shower, but I am also disgusted by the thought of not showering.  I mention all this as prelude to contemplation of the hardships endured by today's saint and beati.  I understand the hygienic facilities  for prisoners at at York, Newcastle, and Durham were subpar, the laundry facilities non-existent, and the rack on which these men were interrogated was somewhat tougher on the back than I hope to learn.  In fact, poor John Boste was crippled on the rack down at the Tower of London, and then they still dragged him all the way up north before his partial hanging and full quartering.  They quartered him on his feet, which had to have been messy.

The crime of these three men, of course, was unrepentant Catholicism, which was one of the qualifications of treason in Queen Bess' reign.  Father John Boste, who used to sneak around dressed as a messenger before vesting up and saying clandestine masses, was public enemy No. 1 in the northern counties.  Father John Ingram, who wrote Latin epigrams in addition to his secret priestly duties, was hanged, drawn, and quartered in Newcastle-on-Tyne.  George Swallowell, of whose name I am not making fun, was a Protestant minister and schoolteacher who converted to Catholicism.  Under the strain of torture, he reverted to the Church of England, but the encouragement of Father John Boste brought him back to Roman Catholicism.  No doubt Father Boste's public absolution of George Swallowell (still not taking the cheap jokes) -- in court, no less -- made it just a little harder on both of them.  Blessed George was executed in Darlington.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

July 25 -- Blessed Rerun

I saw that Univision was the top rated network within the 18-49 demographic for the most recent round of Nielsen ratings.  It topped CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and all the rest.  Of course, it is doing entirely new programming this season rather than slipping into the summer rerun season as networks traditionally do.

As with all news, I asked myself, what are the implications for me?  Sure, I should probably be writing this in Spanish instead of English, but that's what the google translate button at the bottom of the page is for.  And sure, I should probably be writing new content instead of re-running posts, but I grew up in an age when shows weren't available on demand and reruns of Gilligan's Island, Hogan's Heroes, and McHale's Navy (why were there always possessives in show titles?) never went out of fashion.  With that self-justification in mind, ladies and gentlemen, may I present...

Saint James the Greater


the Martyrs of Cuncolim

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 23 -- Feast of Saint Brigid of Sweden

Europe (as a single entity) has six patron saints, one of whom is Brigid.  Married at thirteen and the mother of eight (six surviving infancy), she was ill- placed at the Swedish royal court.  Born a princess, she lacked only the temperament for court life.  A visionary in both senses of the word, she founded a religious order (later called the Bridgettines), worked to aid unwed mothers in Sweden, and  campaigned for reforms in an increasingly corrupt Church.  Yet she also saw visions, which she recorded in detail.  These. Formed sort of a medieval best seller, greatly influencing artistic depictions of the life of Jesus.

Fun Fact:  Brigid learned through a vision that Jesus received 5480 blows on his body during the Passion.  She was instructed that to honor the suffering, one should daily pray fifteen Our Fathers, fifteen Hail Marys, and one each of the fifteen prayers on the Passion which were communicated directly to her.  15 x 365 = 5475, so to be safe, it's probably best to do this in a leap year.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

July 21 -- Feast of Ezekiel the Prophet

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Dem bones gonna walk around.

You probably know the song, which didn't help you much on your anatomy and physiology exam.  If it's not familiar, you can watch the Delta Rhythm Boys singing it here.   Since I have already referenced the Prophet Ezekiel's "wheels within wheels" in another post, I figure his feast (Lutheran Calendar) is a good day to talk about dem bones.

Ezekiel was born in the Kingdom of Judah, but died and was buried in Mesopotamia - al-Kifl, Iraq, to be specific.  Judah had only recently been freed from the domination of the Assyrians when it fell under the shadow of Babylon's imperialism.  Rebelling against domination from the east, Judah was invaded and conquered.   The Judeans were forced to migrate into Mesopotamia in three  waves; Ezekiel was taken in the first wave.

His book describes a vision (or perhaps a series of visions) from The Lord.  These were intended to bolster the faith of the Judeans who must have been under tremendous pressure to abandon their monolatrism in favor of the many gods of Mesopotamia.  Indeed, it would be hard to stay loyal to a god that could not protect you from exile and enslavement.  If another god offered advancement, why not sidle up to that one instead?

Ezekiel gives rich descriptions of the power and majesty of The Lord, but perhaps is most compelling when he describes his vision of the resurrection.   In Chapter 37, The Lord shows Ezekiel a valley full of dry bones and asks him if the bones can live.  Cagily, Ezekiel answers that God alone knows.  God tells him to preach to the bones, ordering them to reanimate, in the parlance of Hollywood sci-fi.  They do, of course, and the Kingdom of Israel is restored.   Is the prophecy metaphoric or literal?

I don't have an answer to that question.  A Bible scholar whose acquaintance I have been privileged to make has said that the resurrection was literal and the promise of a heavenly afterlife is non-Biblical invention.  He has read more of this stuff, and more about this stuff, than I ever will.  But faith in his scholarship is different from faith in The Lord.  He plainly believes in a temporal, material world, one which not only has been created but which comes to an end.  If the world ends (and empirically, we know it will), then we will end with it and the promise of life everlasting is not true.  I come back to the problem of picking and choosing what's figurative and what's literal, and my knowledgeable friend has not clarified anything.

Perhaps we, like the Judeans, must focus our energy on fidelity and gratitude, irrespective of what the payoff is.  We know that life can be all milk and honey, which is nice unless you're a lactose-intolerant diabetic.  We know that bad things happen to good people.  We don't know what comes after death.  We feel (well, many of us feel) an impulse to believe in something.  For my part, today, I will be glad of a Creator who has given me a world to enjoy.  I will be grateful for the position I have in it, one of tremendous advantages.  I will thank The Lord for all that I have and set aside the question of what I can earn if I continue to worship him.

Friday, July 19, 2013

July 19 -- Feast of Pope Saint Symmachus

It is regrettable that the most detailed aspect of Symmachus' papacy is his struggle to stay in office.  Much ought to have been made of his support (financial, I guess) for the North African churches that were besieged by the Arian kings.  Symmachus himself was born a pagan in Sardinia while it was under Vandal control and lived in Ostrogothic Italy -- the relationships among Christian heterodoxies and ethnic groups (including, of course, the Greeks in Constantinople, who had not entirely lost interest in Italy yet) are complex and fascinating.

Sadly, though, Rome seemed to have bogged down in domestic struggles, albeit with outside influences contending.  Symmachus was elected to succeed Anastasius II in 498.  He had served as archdeacon to his predecessor so his election seemed natural enough.  However, the archpriest of Rome's Basilica of Santa Prassede, a chap named Laurentius, was also elected by a dissident group that met at Saint Mary's.

Emperor Anastasius (not to be confused with the late pope) backed Laurentius, but agreed to abide by the decision of King Theodoric, the Gothic ruler of Italy.  Teddy looked into it and decided that Symmachus was duly elected by the majority, and that his election had been earlier in the day.  He was, therefore, the rightful successor to Saint Peter.  Pope Symmachus appointed Laurentius to be the bishop of Nuceria in Campagna, a gesture that might have seemed generous (or at least appeasing), but which Laurentius preferred to view as exile.

This ought to have been an end to it, but a rumor that Symmachus or his pals had handed out 400 golden solidi to secure a favorable judgment kept Laurentius' hopes alive.  An influential senator named Festus complained that Symmachus was an adulterer who misused church property and celebrated Easter on the wrong day.  Ted summoned him on the Easter charge, but when Symmachus showed up and learned of the other charges against him, he bolted.

Nothing looks quite as guilty as a man on the lam.  Bishops and priests pulled their support for the Pope; Theodoric appointed a visiting bishop to run the Holy See until a synod could depose Symmachus properly.  When it finally met, however, the synod proved indecisive.  Symmachus fought back with every legal objection in the book and added a few of his own.  The group sent word to Theodoric that it was deadlocked; he sent word back that they had to keep at it until they reached a resolution.  He also sent word that the decision had already been made and they only needed to ratify it.

To be fair, if an emperor is nice enough to give you the right answer, how hard can it be to confirm his wisdom.  One doesn't need to understand the decision; one is only required to approve it.  While the synodeers (synodians?  synodistas?) weren't in a mood to overthrow the Pope, some of them were in a mood to fight about it.  They attacked Symmachus' entourage as they were trying to reach St. Mary's Basilica and killed several people, including the priests Gordianus and Dignissimus.

Sidenote:  Why aren't Gordianus and Dignissimus accorded sainthood as martyrs?  So let it be acknowledged, here if no where else.

Again the synodantes sent word that they should be allowed to go home since they were deadlocked.  Again, Theodoric sent word that they could go home as soon as they reached a decision.  So, they voted to declare Symmachus the true and rightful pope, and that anyone not in communion with him was a schismatic.  Being a schismatic is worse than it sounds -- it's a really bad thing to call somebody.

Laurentius was willing to be called a schismatic, and so was Senator Festus.  They kept control of a bunch of churches in Rome for their faction, even though Pope Symmachus held the Vatican.  Mobs supporting each side brawled; legal arguments were invented based on forged canon judgments.  Eventually, a couple of practical deacons named Ennodius and Dioscurus managed to wear Theodoric down to the point where he accepted Symmachus' papacy.  This was in 506, eight years after the Pope was first elected.  He died in 514, eight years after the King ended the schism.  How much more might have been accomplished if they did not waste eight years debating who had been elected?  Papal reform may not have come far enough or fast enough to suit some folks, but at least we know who the Pope is.  [Sorry, all you schismatics out there -- we do know, and I mean know, that it is Francis.}

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July 16 -- Feast of the Martyrs of Brasil

I might not have mentioned Father Andre de Soveral, Father Ambrosio Francisco Ferro, Mateus Moreiras, and the other Portuguese missionaries who were murdered by Dutch Calvinist missionaries in Brasil.  It is true that Butler's Lives mentions Blessed Mateus' heart being torn out through his back, and I usually enjoy such details as that.  The knee-jerk rejection of missionaries as tools of imperialism rings especially false in the case of Jesuits in Latin America, for they were critical of the slavery being both imposed on native and imported from Africa.   Moreover, the folks doing the murdering here were not natives struggling to maintain their culture but rather Dutch imperialists seeking to drive out Portuguese imperialists, Calvinists trying to eradicate Catholics.

But as I say, I might not have mentioned it, even after coming across a second set of Martyrs of Brasil, celebrated tomorrow (or yesterday, depending on the source).    Inácio de Azevedo de Ataíde e Abreu Malafaia was a Jesuit priest who had returned to Rome to ask for more support for his mission in Brasil.  The Order's Superior General, Saint Francis Borgia, encouraged him to recruit the folks he needed.  He had a boatload headed back with him to Brasil when they were overtaken by the French Huguenot (Calvinists, again) pirate, Jacques de Sores.  This was probably as much about French vs. Portuguese as it was about Calvinist vs. Catholic, just as the other was Dutch vs. Portuguese.  Nonetheless, the crew members who survived the attack were taken prisoner but the priests were all murdered and thrown into the ocean.  

For a third time, let me say that I might not have mentioned this.  It does not do my soul much good to reflect on the inter-Christian murders, nor even the inter-religious murders, nor even the murders that are in some way related to faith.  Perhaps I am inspired by Father de Soveral, who continued to say Mass as his attacks approached the altar and murdered him.  Perhaps I can even find some inspiration in the example of Father Inacio de Azevedo, who held up a portrait of the BVM during the battle with the pirates.  Okay, it is a ludicrous image, but no doubt it was a sincere contribution to the battle by a man of great faith.

But none of this is what I want to focus on.  Instead, I think it is important to note that World Youth Day begins tomorrow in Rio.  [World Youth Day is a misnomer, since it is a week-long celebration.]  Global Catholicism will be showcased in Brasil, and the relics of Pope John Paul II, the founder of World Youth Day, have already arrived to enhance the festival.   Perhaps it is inconsistent with the spirit of ecumenism that I enjoy picturing old John Calvin's face as he observed the veneration of a vial of the Pope's blood on display in Rio next week.

I don't often offer a direct prayer on this blog but today is a good opportunity for an exception.  "Help me not to gloat as I read of the successes of World Youth Day.  Help me to be humble when my house is triumphant.  Help me to contemplate the injustices of the past without anger or resentment, recognizing that all humanity, with its faults and weaknesses, is the author of its own fratricidal discord.  No matter which of us kills another in the name of God, it is a collective sin that we must oppose.  Help me to remember this, to be tolerant and kind, generous and humble.

Monday, July 15, 2013

July 15 -- Feast of Saint Donald of Ogilvy

Sainct Donwald was a seely bloak;
His doghtres dwelt in a holwe oak.

Perhaps that's not a very nice way to start a post about today's saint.  It is hard to know if he really was a silly bloke, or even seely in the sense of frail, weak, and pitiable.  It seems to be true that he had nine daughters and no sons, which would certainly be pitiable for most of the days of yore.  It is also true that after his wife died (more's the pity), he and his daughters lived in a self-contained religious community.  Then he died, but it seems hard to believe that his nine daughters lived in a hollow oak.  I don't care how big trees grew back then -- you'd be hard-pressed to have one person living in a hollow oak, let alone nine.  

It seems more likely that they moved to the monastery at Abernathy which had been founded by Saint Brigid and Saint Darlugdach.  Their feast is on July 18, but as they don't have a separate verse to make fun of them, they'll just have to get rolled in here with their seely old dad.  Apparently lots of geographic features in Scotland are named for them.  Any time there are nine of something -- wells, stones, trees, hills -- that happen to be apart from everything else, they get called the Nine Maidens.  If you have just bought a farm, you might consider putting nine fruit trees in a clearing away from everything else and calling them the Nine Maidens.  I'd like to think they would be bountiful, but maybe I am just being seely.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

July 14 -- Feast of Saint Deusdedit of Canterbury

Archbishop Deusdedit got a nod in the post about Saint Theodore of Canterbury, but not much was said about him except that his death created the vacancy that brought Ted to England.  Then again, there's not much more to say about him on his own feast day.

     Rule Britannia -- Deusdedit was a homegrown primate!

He was a priest from Wessex, originally named Frithona, and he was consecrated by Ithamar, Bishop of Rochester.  The big deal is probably that he was the first English Archbishop of Canterbury.  All the others had come from Rome, as did Deusdedit's successor, Theodore.  Ted's successor, however, was another native, Berhtwald.  After Berht, the natives have the run of the place until Billy the Tanner's Bastard takes over the island in 1066.  The one exception may be Oda (Archbishop from 941 to 958), who might have been the son of a Danish invader.

The balance between native talent and expert leadership is a tough thing.  The USA is approaching a point where Catholics might expect to see foreign-born bishops appointed, simply because the priesthood is increasingly unattractive in the USA.  Maybe I am overstating it, but one-third of the ordinations of priests in the USA were of foreign-born seminarians, according to    On the positive side, it's easier to remember the global family when you're listening to someone from away.  On the negative side, when that fella from away is telling you something you don't want to hear, especially when it is a criticism of your own way of doing things, it can rankle a lot more.  General Rafael Trujillo didn't much like criticism from anyone, but he really didn't like it from Archbishop Ricardo Pittini (who came from Italy) and Bishop Thomas Reilly (who came from Boston, Massachusetts).  Americans might not be quite as volatile as General Trujillo (yet), but they have a hard time receiving criticism from foreigners.  Still, if they don't like it, they'll either have to pressure the Church to make the priesthood more appealing to native-born Americans or rely more heavily on deacons who can administer some of the duties of priests with only some of the restrictions.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

July 13 -- Feast of Saint Mary-Golinduc

Golinduc was the wife of a court magician who served King Khosrau I of Persia.  This places the story in the sixth century.

She was blessed with a vision of Heaven, perhaps because she meditated to find Truth after becoming disillusioned with Zoroastrianism, the prevalent religion in Persia before (and even after) the Muslim conquest.  Golinduc found some Christians, received instructions, and was baptized as Mary.  Abandoning her influential husband might have seemed a normal consequence of salvation to her, but he took it badly and complained to his boss.  Although Khosrau has a broad reputation for wisdom and tolerance, he didn't take kindly to his chief magician's wife deserting him for adherents to the Roman religion.  After all, Sassanid Persia and Byzantine Rome were mortal enemies.

G-Mary was arrested, and when she refused to re-apostatize (repostize?), she was exiled to a fortress called Oblivion.  She spent eighteen years there, but the harsh conditions seemed to strengthen her faith.

Khosrau I was succeeded by his son, Hormizd IV.  Although history is generally not kind to H4, he favored toleration of the Christians.  This may have led to conflicts with Sassanid nobility, which always winds up in executions, confiscations, and tears, but the legends of the saints sometimes portray him favorably.  He permitted a Byzantine ambassador named Aristobalus to visit G-Mary in prison.  She learned the Psalms from him, which gave her something to sing while she was languishing since "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," had not yet been written.

H4 also has a reputation for being imperious, petty, and cruel.  For example, he sent for G-Mary and tried to torture all the Christianity out of her.  The legend records that she was shielded from all this, including being made invisible when first she was condemned to a brothel and then to the executioner.  I'm not so sure about the invisibility thing, but I can imagine that a woman had lived on a near-starvation diet in a place called Oblivion wasn't going to rate in the top ten escorts at the Ctesiphon House of Pleasure.  As for the executioner, there are all sorts of reasons why the axe didn't fall, the most likely being H4's mercurial character.

According to the legend, G-Mary protested her escape from the chopping-block, noting that she wanted martyrdom.  An angel was promptly dispatched to assure her that given the eighteen years in prison, including six months in a snake pit which was supposed to have been fatal, her martyrdom was secured.  In the remaining years of her life, she made pilgrimages and testified for The Lord, which was a productive use of the time.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

July 12 -- Feast of Saint Nathan Söderblom

One of the reasons this blog has been a little more reliable lately is that I have banked posts.  A few days ago, I spent a couple hours on this post, but then encountered one of the more frustrating limitations of the iPad and lost (or scrapped, I guess) the entire thing.  It is probably for the best, since  I had written a series of the Swedish Church going back to King Gustaf V had the final say on who got to be Archbishop of Uppsala and thereby the Primate of Sweden.

Sidenote:  My son was commenting some weeks ago on the comic image evoked by the title Primate. Although he is not notably religious these days (one may hope for the future), he said that he would consider leading a sect if it allowed him to call himself the Primate of North America.

Second Sidenote:  Since the Church of Sweden was disestablished in 2000, I am not sure that His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden (may God's blessing be upon him) has the same authority over the See of Uppsala.

The list of nominees for the archbishop of Uppsala was formed from the top three choices among the sixteen ecclesiastical-electoral districts.  By tradition, the king selected (confirmed) really the top voter-getter.  The two senior bishops presented to Gustav V had eighty-two percent of the votes between them, but His Majesty skipped them to the third choice, a language and theology prof.

Actually, Lars Olof Jonathan Söderblom -- Nathan was short for Jonathan -- was a little more than that. He was the leading proponent of ecumenicalism, the movement of free unity among the various Christian denominations.  Several of the reformed Protestant church leaders joined him in this.  His movement gained some traction with Anglican clergy, though the Archbishop of Canterbury was skeptical.  Rome would take a couple decades to come around, and the Eastern Orthodox had other worries in the 1920s and 1930s.  But all in all, it was a powerful idea which continues to grow and blossom.  

Archbishop Söderblom was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930, a choice that might seem odd in our age.  Then again, with priests and nuns directly executed regularly from Russia to Spain to Mexico, with rising rising religious persecution throughout Europe, with the KKK resurgence focusing on Catholics and Jews as well as African-Americans in the US, and of course with the unending Troubles in Ireland, a bright spot in the religious world might have seem quite a tonic.  

Third Sidenote:  Although Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896, had no hand in Söderblom's selection for the prize, it is one of fortune's nice touches that the good archbishop had served as his parish priest for a a few years early in his career.  Or perhaps the old man's emphasis on peace and progress in some way contributed to the young man's formation.  Either way, the prize has probably never had such a personal impact as it did that year.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

July 11 -- Feast of Pope Saint Pius I

First, a vocab lesson.  DEMIURGE --  The term is from Platonic thought, referring to a craftsman or artisan.  The Gnostics (heterodox Christians) used the term to distinguish between God the Creator, a malevolent figure who imprisoned souls in a material world and smites them for failing to keep his law, and God the Father, an entirely different being from whom Jesus brought the secrets of salvation.

Now, Pope Saint Pius I.

He was the tenth pope, presiding over the Church during the reigns of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius.  Marcus Aurelius brought the persecution back, so there's some support for the general assertion that Pope Pius was a martyr.  I say some support because there's not much to go on.

In truth, there's not much to go on at all.  Pope Pius MAY have been the brother of Hermas, the author of the nearly-canonical text, The Shepherd.  Hermas identified himself as a freedman, so if Pius was his brother, Pius too MIGHT have been a slave at one time.  Pius MIGHT have set the date for the Feast of the Resurrection (Easter) as the first Sunday after the March full moon.  Then again, that might have been someone else.

It is certain that Pius strove against the Marcionite heresy, an outgrowth of the Gnostic movement.  (I say heresy here because that's how he saw it and why he strove against it.)   With the trinitarian monotheism taking shape, there was no room for the dismissal of Yahweh as a demiurge, and thus no room for Marcionites.  Of course, from Marcus Aurelius' perspective, there was no room for Pope Pius, either.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 10 -- Feast of Saint William the Silent

First, let me affirm how pleased I am that the Holy Father is making plans for the full canonization of both Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.  The former was expected, though eight years is a breakneck pace by Vatican standards.  The latter not only jumped the usual track to sainthood, but celebrates modern Catholicism's most notable -- some would say notorious -- liberal reformers.

Second, let me acknowledge my ingratitude by asking for more.  William the Silent, Prince of Orange, is acknowledged as a saint by the Dutch Reformed Church, which he defended, but not by the Roman Catholics, from whom he was defending it.  With the current evolving understanding of pluralism and ecumenicalism, I think it is time to promote the Cause of William, who would have been just as adamant about defending Catholics if the threat had been reversed.  

William was a wealthy Dutch nobleman, through whom the Houses of Orange and Nassau were united.  He had been born to to Lutheran parents, but at age eleven he began a Catholic education to satisfy the conditions under which he became the Prince of Orange.  He was a favorite of Emperor Charles V, but less enthusiastic about the imperial administration of Emperor Philip II, King of Spain.  Even a loyal and pragmatic vassal of the Hapsburgs had to be a little put out by the number of Spaniards sent to administer things in the Netherlands, and the zeal with which they were suppressing the Protestant Reformation.  A Catholic himself, William's increasing opposition to Spanish policies was not motivated by religious doctrine as much as by a sense of justice and a general concern for the welfare of his people.  

William skillfully worked the machine as long as he could.  A spasm of Protestant iconoclasm known as the Beeldenstorm shook things up enough for a Confederacy of Noblemen to extract promises of toleration from Margaret of Parma, the royal governor.   When instead the Iron Duke of Alba was
sent to bring the hammer down, William resigned from the government.  The Iron Duke summoned William to the Council of Troubles, called the Council of Blood by the Dutch; the Prince of Orange was declared an outlaw when he failed to appear.  Instead, he facilitated the formation of a multinational Protestant alliance; eight decades of Christian fratricide followed.  

There is a long, unhappy tale of the Dutch struggle for independence, in which William plays a central role.  He was pivotal in the decision to renounce the Spanish monarchy, but his support for the Duke of Anjou as the replacement sovereign was misguided and unpopular.  Nonetheless, the good people of Zeeland and Holland hung tight, even promoting him as their sovereign.  In spite of William's emphasis on unity, the Netherlands continued to Balkanize.  

A French Catholic named Balthazar Gerard heard tell of the 25,0000-crown bounty that Philip had placed on William.  After ingratiating himself with the Prince of Orange, he bought a brace of pistols
and made William the first head of state anywhere in the world to be assassinated with a handgun.
Phil never had to pay the bounty as Balty never made it out of Delft.  The methods (sic) of his execution were elaborate and extensive, really sort of a landmark in the barbarity of capital punishment.  

In 1573, eleven years before his assassination, William became a Calvinist.  Even though his defense of religious toleration had led him to abandon the Catholic Church, he might have been surprised by the vigor with which his grandson, publicly denounced the religiously tolerant policies of his own uncle, King James II of England.  I would like to think that he would not have approved of the war that Billy3 (he of William and Mary fame) provoked in order to get Uncle Jimmy off the throne and himself on it.  (It's an even safer bet that Mary's dad, the deposed James II, did not approve, but he's not a saint like William of Orange the Elder.). 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 9 -- Feast of Blessed Adrian Fortescue

       An English Roman Catholic priest named Adrian Henry Timothy Knottesford Fortescue -- a polyglot, adventurer, author, archeo-liturgist, and triple doctor -- who lived from 1874 to 1923.  He'd be an Indiana Jones sort of guy, a college prof trekking through the Ottoman Empire on the trail of the holiest mysteries and even shooting some guy (a tantalizingly incomplete tale), except of course that former girlfriends like Karen Allen would not keep popping up.  For that to have happened, he would have to have been an Anglican priest like his dad.  But beatification is not among the many accomplishments of Dr. Adrian H.T.K Fortescue.  That recognition is accorded to his ancestor and namesake, Sir Adrian Fortescue.

     Sir Adrian Fortescue was a faithful subject of the Crown and occasional courtier of King Henry VIII.  He attended Henry VII's funeral, fought the English wars in France,  showed up in his best finery at the Field of the Cloth of Gold,  and was a Knight of the Bath.  He might have also been a member of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem (aka the Knights of Malta, the Knights Hospitaller).  The Catholic Encyclopedia declares his membership unambiguously, but at least one other source suggests that the Knights of Malta took up his cause for canonization in the eighteenth century on the uncertain belief that he might have been a member.

     The cause of his execution (officially a martyrdom) seems equally shadowy.  Frequent readers know that I am no big fan of Fat Hank Tudor, so it will come as no surprise that I incline toward the belief that Blessed Adrian was killed without cause.  He was named in a bill of attainder (legislative death warrant without judicial review) that included a bunch of unrepentant Catholics, but again, the scholar John Dillon asserted that his missal and Book of Hours show that he had conformed with Fat Hank's demands.  True, he was a second cousin of Anne Boleyn, but if Fat Hank had killed every second cousin of his ex-wives, he would have run out of aristocracy before The Royal Wedding: Part VI.

     Perhaps he was a crypto-Catholic who would not betray his faith when the Big Bust finally came.  Then again, perhaps he was a dutiful subject who got on someone's stercus-list and sent to the chopping block with some notable Papists like Cardinal Pole.  The Knights of Saint John were happy to push his Cause, believing him to be one of their own.  The Church too was happy to claim him as a martyr, and to reclaim his descendant, the brilliant-but-short-lived Triple Doctor.

Monday, July 8, 2013

July 8 -- Feast of Saints Aquila and Priscilla

     I recently re-read Live from Golgotha: The Gospel According to Gore Vidal, a work of great imagination, abundant irreverence, and unparalleled cynicism.  Vidal is never without an axe or two in need of grinding, but in this book, he spans the chasm from first century messianic religion to twentieth century corporate globalism.  Manipulative and self-serving media come in for a mega-dose of criticism.  And unfortunately, Saints Aquila and Priscilla are snared in Vidal's net and dragged through the mud.

     In Acts 18, we learn that Aquila was a tent-maker who moved from Rome (or at least Italy) to Corinth when Claudius ordered the expulsion of all Jews.  They hosted Saint Paul, also a tent-maker, when he stayed in Corinth for a year and a half.  They also traveled with him a little.  In 2 Timothy, Paul urges his protege to give Aquila and Priscilla his greetings, while he sends their greetings back home in his first epistle to the Corinthians.  And in his letter to the Romans, he also sends the greetings to Aquila and Priscilla, of whom he says, "They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them."  [Romans 16:4]   Apparently Claudius had eaten some of Agrippina's famous mushroom stew by then and her brat Nero was on the throne, making it safe (?!) for Aquila, Priscilla, and hundreds of other Jews (both Christian and non-Christian) to return to the City.  

     I may have been amused when Vidal turned Jesus into a cunning, corporate time-traveler, Paul into an over-sexed carnival song-and-dance preacher, and Timothy into an easy-going gigilo, but somehow picking on Aquila and Priscilla seems wrong.  For a less irrevent (but still comic) neo-Gospel, Christopher Moore's Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff is fun, and maybe even makes a point or two, despite the author's protests to the contrary.  For a neo-Gospel without humor, Norman Mailer's The Gospel According to the Son is all right, though he stayed pretty close to shore.  Since Mailer and Moore confine themselves to the timeframe of the Four Gospels, Aquila and Priscilla are not part of their novels, which is probably for the best. Their importance to Paul makes them attractive characters, and the scant information about them invites poetic license. In the hands of some other writers, they might be a pious, hard-working, perhaps childless couple, or perhaps an adventurous, avant-garde couple -- a Classical-era Nick and Nora hooked on Gospels instead of gin.  Vidal, though, takes them too far.  Saints like these invite us to speculate, perhaps even to create some identity to impose on them.  For now, to me, they are the William Powell and Myrna Loy of the Eastern Mediterranean.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

July 7 -- Feast of Blessed Peter ToRot

     In the New Guinea campaign in World War II, 216,000 soldiers from Japan, Australia, and the USA were killed.  Approximately 15,000 Papuans also lost their lives, though mostly due to being caught in the crossfire (or under the bombers).  Fifteen thousand may sound like modest losses when considering the scale of human deaths in World War II, and noting that it was 1.17% of New Guinea's population may not make it any more impressive.  Certainly, that percentage seems low when compared to Poland's 16% - 17%, the highest in the war.  But consider that British and American documentaries always note that every family knew someone who had been killed and no one in those countries remained untouched by the wars.  The United Kingdom lost 0.94% of its population to the War; the USA lost 0.32%.  But today's feast is not a collective celebration of the Martyrs of New Guinea.  Rather, it marks the loss of one man's life.

      Peter ToRot was the son of the mayor of Rakunai, a town on the northern end of New Britain Island.  Peter's parents had converted to Roman Catholicism and raised him in that faith.  The priest in his area, Father Karl Lauffer, recognized exceptional faith in Peter and inquired about the possibility of priesthood.  Peter's father said that no one of their generation should be ordained, but suggested that Peter could become a lay catechist.  By the time the Japanese invaded in World War II, Peter was a leader in the regional church as well as a husband and father.

     During the Japanese occupation of New Guinea, the suppression of foreign religion became more heavily enforced.  At first, the internment of foreign priests including Father Lauffer increased the responsibilities on Peter.  He organized the collection of food for the prisoners and brought it to the internment camp.  While there, he took consecrated bread from the priests and brought it back to the Catholic converts in Rakunai.  As the only link to the church at liberty, Peter essentially became the surrogate priest.  Eventually, he ran afoul of the Japanese in this role.

     The Japanese decided to promote a deWesternization campaign in New Guinea, including fostering a return to polygamy.  Of course, as they had done in so many other places, Japanese soldiers also recruited some local girls to serve as prostitutes.  [I have no idea how coercive the soldiers in New Guinea were.  The systematic rape of women by Japanese soldiers in China and Korea has been well-documented.]  To counter these Japanese policies, Peter encouraged betrothals among Christian Papuans.  His message was more or less that fathers should lock their daughters down with some nice young man before the Japanese soldiers turned her into a whore or some polytheistic collaborator added her to his harem.  When Peter thwarted a collaborator's efforts to jack another man's wife, the collaborator (ToMetapa) watched for an opportunity to get even.  He discovered that Peter had been administering Communion in secret and had performed a Christian marriage.  When this was reported, Peter was arrested and imprisoned.  Certain that the Japanese would kill him while he was imprisoned, he told his uncle he was prepared to die for having done God's work.  He also instructed a friend to hide all his religious books and papers without his family knowing where they were -- he did not want the Japanese to get these things, but neither did he want his wife in the firing line.

     His prediction to his uncle was correct.  Peter ToRot was poisoned and then suffocated by Japanese soldiers in 1945.  There were a couple hundred thousand deaths in New Guinea, and massive destruction, dislocation, and suffering.  Yet amidst all that misery, the death of this one man occasioned great sorrow.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

July 6 -- Feast of Saint Moninna

Naomh Morinna (Saint Morinna in Gaelic, if Google Translate can be trusted) is among those early Irish saints whose work can get overshadowed by the Big Three (Patrick, Brigid, Columba).  Consider the fact that Aer Lingus, which names its planes after Irish saints, has a Brigit, a Patrick, and a Columba, but has no Moninna.  It has more than 50 planes in the air, but could not christen one of them for the fifth century nun who made three pilgrimages to Rome and organized convents in Mercia and Scotland as well as in Ulster.  For a fifth century Irish girl, she was a floggin' globetrotter, but still, there's not a plane in the fleet with her name.

Of course, it can be tricky how one honors saints.  Her name appears on the crest of the Killeavy Gaelic Athletic Association, a club whose sports include Gaelic football (men's and ladies'), hurling, and camogie (ladies' hurling).  Since she founded her last convent in Killeavy, and she is buried there, it seems a fitting honor.  And yet...

Moninna had been founding a number of convents throughout the British Isles.  While she was living in Faughart, County Louth, she and some of the sisters were disturbed by the raucous noises some neighbors were making.  Upon investigation, they learned that the local families were enjoying a wedding celebration.  We all know that the only thing more raucous than an Irish wedding is an Irish funeral, right?   Well, Moninna was a little put out with the festivities. She and the sisters (some anyway) packed up and set out for the next place to establish an ascetic, contemplative community.  They settled in Killeavy.

There's no doubt she was a holy and accomplished woman who deserves to be honored.  On July 6, folks pray at her grave before making the march up to her well (rediscovered in 1880) and then returning to her grave for one more prayer.  When Aer Lingus finally commissions a plane with her name, that too will be appropriate for such a peripatetic saint.  But the thought of 15,000 drunken fans singing about spilling the blood of Ballymacnab or Carrickcruppen is tough to reconcile with a saint who moved moved because her neighbors celebrated a wedding.

Friday, July 5, 2013

July 5 -- Feast of the Martyrs of Wexford

Dublin County on the East Coast of Ireland is called the Pale, especially when referring to it as the government zone, much as greater Washington DC is called the Beltway.  The Pale goes back to the Latin word palus meaning stake, or by extension, fence.  In the Tudor era, English control of Ireland had diminished considerably.  Much of the country was under Irish control, if you can imagine it.  Most of the rest was under Anglo-Irish lords whom Her Maj might or might not be able to rely on.  Only the Pale was under the direct control of Elizabeth Regina.  Whether as literal as the Berlin Wall or merely as figurative as the Iron Curtain, a line of pali separated the Virgin Queen's Ireland from the hazards that lay beyond the pale.

Wexford is a good bit south of the Pale, and it was there that James Eustace, 3rd Viscount Baltinglass led a revolt against Queen Bess.  The Earl of Desmond was already in the field, but the two forces did not coordinate their strategy and both insurrections were put down.  Forty-five of Baltinglass' men were captured and hanged, but they are not the martyrs of Wexford since they were taken in arms.  Baltinglass, who escaped with his chaplain, Rogert Rockford, and eventually made it to Spain.

The folks who helped the Viscount and Father Rockford were not so lucky.  Matthew Lambert was a baker who hid them until some sailors could smuggle them out to a ship bound for Spain.  Patrick Cavanaugh, Robert Meyler, Edward Cheevers, and a couple of guys whose names did not get written down were the hapless sailors who put them to see.  After a few days of enhanced interrogation, they were all hanged, drawn, and quartered on July 5, 1581.

They might have saved their lives if they had acknowledged Her Maj as the Head of the Church.  Of course, she might have saved their lives, and the lives of countless others, if she had demonstrated a little more religious toleration.  Had it been so, perhaps the Irish would still be counting pounds instead of euros, but alas, it was not to be.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4 -- Feast of Blessed Patrick Salmon

      The Boston Globe says that salmon and peas have been a Fourth of July favorite for centuries.  This apparently is because the salmon would be running the rivers just as the first harvest of peas would be ready, all coincident with Independence Day.  As the Globe correctly notes, I can now get salmon any time of the year, though my Atlantic salmon (most traditional) is not wild caught.  Peas too are a year-round delicacy, thanks to Clarence Birdseye's innovations.

     Grilled salmon is a treat, but mercifully, the English only hanged Patrick Salmon for the crime of harboring a priest in 1594.  It was still a tough rap, since it was actually his boss, Blessed Thomas Bosgrave, who was hiding Blessed Father John Cornelius.  Another servant, John Carey, also got gaffled and they all went to the scaffold together on July 4.

     So much for the salmon.  As for the peas on July 4, we have Peter of Luxembourg, Pedro Romero Espejo, Procopius,  Pier Giorgio Frassati, and of course Patrick Salmon himself - a heaping helping, I must say.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

July 3 -- Feast of Saint Anatolius of Alexandria

     A friend recently posed a rhetorical and light-hearted question about whether there is a difference between a Catholic and a Baptist.  I replied, trying to maintain the light humor, that he should ask a Baptist.  With just a little edge in his voice, he suggested that we should ask a critical thinker.  His implication was that all persons of faith are substantially similar to those who think for themselves.    Such is the fashionable bigotry of our age, that any faith is blind faith and any person of faith is benighted.

     Bishop Anatolius was accounted to be a brilliant mathematician and a man of great faith.  He weighed in early on the Paschal calendar controversy that would not be settled in the West until the Synod of Whitby and continues to distinguish they Latin and Orthodox rites.  He may not have been the first to have developed the nineteen-year calendar known as the Metonic Cycle, but his grasp of the astronomy and math that underlay it, as well as his application of it to the celebration of the Resurrection (Easter), is some damn fine thought.  His pal Eusebius might have said that Anatolius had not written much -- but enough to show his eloquence and manifold learning.  I think ten books on mathematics is probably ample evidence of manifold learning; as to the eloquence, I'll take his word for it.

     Anatolius was not just distinguished in math, astronomy, and calendars.  During the rebellion of Mussius Aemilianus in Egypt, Anatolius commanded the Alexandrian suburb of Brucheium.  Mussius was captured in 262, but the rebellion seems to have persisted.  One account had Anatolius defending the suburb on behalf of Queen Zenobia, but her invasion didn't occur until 269, and by that point, he had bolted Egypt and become the bishop of Laodicea, in Syria.  But about the rebellion...

     Anatolius understood that Brucheium would not hold out against the besieging Roman army.  Anyone who had read Caesar's Gallic Wars understands that the folks inside the ramparts always lose.  Unfortunately, the other leaders hadn't read De Bello Gallico, or much else, most likely.   So Anatolius came up with a plan.  He negotiated the departure of all the women, children, old folks and sick people.  The advantage to the Romans was a demonstration of their mercy, a kind but tactically disadvantageous act.  The advantage to the rebels was that their meager food stores would be divided among fewer mouths, theoretically extending their siege.  In fact, Anatolius got all the Christians (and anyone else who wanted to go) out during the ceasefire and exodus.  With so many folks gone, the rebellion collapsed.

     Nobody thanks the rebel who brought the insurgency to a quick, unsuccessful conclusion.  Anatolius moved to Palestine, got ordained, and was on his way to the Council of Antioch when the good folks of Laodicea persuaded him to succeed their recently deceased bishop.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 2 -- Saint Jacques Fermin

Monument on Isle La Motte, VT
It shouldn't be a great surprise to anyone that Vermont ranks as the least religious state in the Union, according to a 2012 Gallup poll.  If I remember correctly, that is a spot it has held for some time now.  In fact, going all the way back to the days of the reluctant republic, Ethan Allen authored a massive handbook for deists.  Of the top twelve least religious states in the Union, the six New England states are always included.  All of them, and Vermont leads the way.

So even though there is not much I can say about Father Jacques Fermin, a seventeenth century French Jesuit missionary who moved to Isle La Motte to evangelize the Mohawk, the Onodaga, and the Cayuhoga, I am glad to honor his feast today.  If the claim that he secured the conversion of 10,000 souls is true, perhaps he could lend a hand as Vermont's unofficial (except here, of course) patron.  After all, Our Lady of Grace , Vermont's only official patron, is the Queen of  the World, which is a lot to take care of.  And Vermont being what it is, it really could use the undivided attention of a patron.  Who better than a Jesuit who spent around forty years bringing the Gospel to the Green Mountains?  

Monday, July 1, 2013

July 1 -- Feast of Aaron the Patriarch

"Pardon your servant, Lord.  Please send someone else."
Where's Aaron?  

Then The Lord's anger burned against Moses and he said, "What about your brother, Aaron the Levite?  He is already on his way to meet you and he will be glad to see you.  You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and teach you what to do.  He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.  But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.”

That's from Exodus 4, where Moses sets the example for every tactful cleric tapped to be a bishop: make at least one pass at declaring that you are not worthy.  Of course, in Moses' case, it is obvious that he means it, and since he probably doesn't know his brother Aaron, he can hardly be comforted by the promise of support.  From that point on, Moses and Aaron are pretty much a team, though of course Moses gets all the credit.  Think of the film The Ten Commandments.  Was Moses "slow of speech and tongue?"  Picture the scene where he was haranguing Ramses.  Was this the inarticulate rube from Exodus 4 who needed his brother to do his talking?  [Quick quiz: who played Moses in Cecil B.  DeMille's The Ten Commandments?]. 

And when Pharaoh replied in the film, he said, in a voice suffused with weary patience, "Moses, Moses.  Are there no serpents in Egypt at you have come back to make serpents out of sticks or cause rabbits to appear?"  [Quick quiz part two: who played Pharaoh Ramses?]  In Exodus 5:4, Pharaoh answers them as a team, saying, "Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor?"  Awkward, perhaps, but so much more courteous.
Aaron?  No, it can't be. I'm sure I would remember.

Perhaps you knew that Charlton Heston played Moses and even that Yule Brynner played Ramses, but here's the quiz question that makes my point:  Who played Aaron?  Sure, I remembered that Vincent Price played Bacca the Overseer and that Edward G. Robinson out-creeped him as Dathan the assistant overseer, bur I couldn't come up with John Carradine as Aaron.  The casting was perfect!  They got a guy whose career spanned  60 years (Tol'able David in 1930 to Buried Alive in 1990), has 340 titles, including Grapes of Wrath and Stagecoach on his filmography, and I still didn't remember him.  That pretty much captures Aaron the Patriarch, doesn't it?  

The balance of Aaron's contributions to the Exodus aren't so good.  Sure he was Moses' mouthpiece, a necessary if not glamorous role.  But when big brother went back up the mountain for a conversation with God, little brother stayed down among the rebellious Hebrews and cast the Golden Calf.  That cost him -- and everyone else of his generation -- their shot at going home.   More desert wandering, drinking bitter waters, etc etc until Aaron's staff sprouted leaves when stuck in the ground.  Too bad for Moses and Whatsisname that they couldn't be there to enjoy the Sack of Jericho..