Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Awake, Awake, My Valentine

We all know the story of Saint Valentine, don't we? And that there might have been more than one, and that he was removed in the 1969 reformed Roman calendar, as his account was not historically reliable by the standards set in later centuries. Well, if you don't know all that, click here. Or even here.

And while you're at it, listen to this.

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Awake, awake oh northern wind
Blow on my garden fair
Let my lover come to me
And tell me of his care
For now the winter it is past
Likewise the drops of rain
Come lie in the valley of lilies
Midst the roses of the plain

He took me to a garden fair
And there he laid me down
His left hand lay beneath my head
His right did me surround
His eyes were palms by water brooks
His fingers rods of gold
His head upon my breast did lie
His love did me enfold

Her hair is like a flock of goats
Across the mountain side
Her breasts are like the grapes upon
The vine where I shall bide
Her mouth is sweeter far than vine
And warm to my embrace
No mountain side can hide my love
No veil conceal her face

My lover's hand was on the door
My belly stirred within
My fingers wet with myrrh
I pulled the bolt to let him in
With my own hands I opened
But I found I was alone
My soul failed for my lover had
Withdrawn himself and gone

I'll get me to a mount of myrrh
And there I'll lay me down
For waters cannot quench my love
In floods it cannot drown
My love is clear as the sun
She's fair as the moon
Oh stir not up nor waken love
Lest it should come to soon

Awake, awake oh northern wind
Blow on my garden fair
Let my lover come to me
And tell me of his care
For now the winter it is past
Likewise the drops of rain
Come lie in the valley of lilies
Midst the roses of the plain

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Steeleye Span is an English folk rock band formed in 1969, partially from ex-members of Fairport Convention. They do English ballads, to a greater or lesser degree with an electric twist. Storm Force Ten was their tenth album, released in 1977. It is somewhat of a departure in that the fiddler John Kirkpatrick used the accordion instead for the whole thing. It is the only album up to that time that ever used a piano accordion.

And so it goes.
 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Scouting at 107

On this day in 1910, at the exact time of this posting, the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated in Washington DC. It stands today as one of the largest youth programs in the United States, and the second largest national scout association in the world (as Indonesia's remains the largest). Much has happened with the BSA since the 1910 centennial year, including some controversial decisions in the area of membership policy. Those are not the subject of today's entry, but rather, a view of two entries from our archives that talk about what scouting has done for yours truly.

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WHERE BUFFALOS ROAM (February 2010)

It might be rather pathetic to make much out of it, but I'm not going to lie about it either. My childhood was, for the most part, not a very happy one. My years in Scouting didn't change that. But of all the experiences I had growing up, it was Scouting that gave me the venue to rise above the fray.

Obviously, it didn't happen overnight.

I actually joined the Scouting movement in the fall of 1963, with Pack 128, sponsored by the Milford United Methodist Church in Milford, Ohio. I was in Cubbing for two years. It wasn't much of an experience, really. Even my dad, who was active in the pack as a volunteer, wasn't impressed with Cubbing as a program. I don't remember why. Two years later, as I approached my eleventh birthday, we decided I wouldn't re-register.

But the following year, in February of 1966, I joined Troop 120, sponsored by Victor Stier American Legion Post 450, also in Milford, Ohio. There were some older boys whom I wanted to emulate, but they mysteriously left en masse after about a year, leaving us with a re-organization that eliminated the Eagle Patrol, of which I was about to be made Patrol Leader. I wouldn't get close to the "green bars" again for several years.

My dad became Scoutmaster after the mass exodus, in the spring of 1967. He had little in the way of outdoor experience, but was a consummate administrator. Our "patrol leaders training" classes were run like adult business seminars, and it was only later that I discovered that they were even supposed to be held outdoor. One night, a young man in his mid-twenties walked in, wearing cowboy boots. Hey, this guy is really cool, I thought. And with that, Phil Rumsey became our Assistant Scoutmaster, and Dad's other half.

One of the problems I've always had with how troop organization is handled in Scouting, is with the "staff" positions, those which are not in charge of people but of things. Jobs like Troop Quartermaster, Troop Scribe, and Troop Librarian. I had those three jobs in that order. Advancing from the rank of Tenderfoot to Life Scout (the one before Eagle) took me only three years. I would spend another three years as a Life Scout, and in the meaningless position of Troop Librarian.

It was a dead end. I knew it, and the idiot grown-ups on the Troop Committee knew it. No one had any ideas, but if Ritalin had been around back then, they probably would have begged my parents to have me put on it.

Finally, someone -- I don't remember who -- suggested I become a Den Chief. That's a Boy Scout who helps a Den Mother or Den Leader in managing a Cub Den, sort of like a support mentor. My pack never had such things, because our affiliate troop was rather insular. But this was with the other Cub Pack in town, the one that went with the program. And, it was a "Webelos" Den, which consisted of ten-year-old boys who would be eligible for Boy Scouting in a year. They were fun kids, if several years younger, and I got along with them well enough. But it was the Den Leader, one Mr Bailey, who first taught me the lessons of leadership.

When the ten-year-olds became eleven-year-olds, most of them actually joined Boy Scouting, my Troop in particular. As remarkable as this was -- there is a high attrition rate from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts -- no one wanted them, so they stuck them in a patrol that was about to be phased out. And, of course, being desperate as they were, they made me the patrol leader. I can tell you their expectations for these guys wasn't very high.

By this time, I had read everything I could get my hands on regarding patrol leadership; program ideas, team-building exercises, the works. We went on activities as a group by ourselves, without the rest of the troop, something you only read about in the Boy Scout magazines, but never saw in real life. We had a patrol flag, and actually had our own patrol meetings. We all got together and built our own sled, and kicked ass in the competition at the district's winter "Klondike Derby" campout. The weather was near zero that night, and I spent most of it awake, keeping the fire going, and my young charges from freezing to death by sleeping close by.

When I sat before the Eagle Board of Review, in December of that year, one of the panelists said that "Dave started out as being a problem, but he ended up being the solution." I tried to start an Explorer Post (which now would be called a Venturing Crew -- long story) specializing in canoeing and camping. I actually had a few of my friends interested, but couldn't get enough adult support, so the idea tanked. But I passed the Board of Review. I stayed with the troop for another year, passing on a unanimous vote to be made Senior Patrol Leader, opting instead to be a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, a position common to Eagle Scouts who remain. Sadly, the unit was already going downhill due to poor adult leadership (my Dad was already out of the picture, another long story), and lack of support from the American Legion post (essentially a group of aging drunks).

With graduation from high school, I left Scouting behind -- reluctantly, as with so many institutions of my childhood, they didn't seem to know what to do with someone no longer a boy, but not quite a man. I was getting a part-time job after school, and making plans for college. Barely a year after joining the ranks of eagles, it was all so far away.

My son never got to be in Scouting, mostly due to the lack of cooperation from his mother. I think a few years of it would have done him a world of good, but it's all academic now. With nearly six years back in uniform, I have yet to truly find my niche.

But for a brief episode, it was mine for the taking. The image you see there is of the Buffalo Patrol of Milford Troop 120, in January or February of 1971, as I will always remember them: from left to right, Seth Wallace (whose dad was an architect, and gave me the idea to be one too), Mark Bittner (my faithful, if quiet, assistant), Eric Strathman (who later went on to become "Senior Patrol Leader," the top youth position in a troop), myself, ???? Bollman (whose dad thought he was crazy for being in Scouting when he could be playing football), and Tim Ring (one of my guitar students).

I'm breaking with convention here, by listing names of non-relatives, in the hope that the result is a fitting tribute, to one of the few high points in my childhood, and the colleagues who made it possible. What I wouldn't give to know where they are today, and how they are doing.

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I BLAME THE BOY SCOUTS (November 2010)

Scouting has been the whipping-boy for a number of "enlightened" people these days, as the people who were too cool for it got older, and more obnoxious. Then there's Boyd Matson, a contributing editor and host of National Geographic Weekend on radio.

On this, my third climb up Kilimanjaro, I already know what to expect: six nights sleeping on the ground, no bath for a week, cold wind, thin air, and maybe mild altitude sickness. I keep asking myself, “Why am I doing this, again?” Finally I come up with an answer. I blame the Boy Scouts of America. That organization stole my soul when I was a kid and planted it in the wilderness. I was too young to resist their clever sales pitch built around hiking and camping trips. And their system of rewarding accomplishments with higher ranks and colorful merit badges meant, in effect, there was always one more goal to reach, one more mountain to climb ...

It was the summer of 2003. After a bout with rehab, and from there deciding he wanted me back in his life, I took Paul with me to Seattle. I've described his escapades there in other accounts, but there was what seemed to be a climactic one. We visited a friend of mine who had a little place by the lake there in town -- of course, Seattle is surrounded by lakes and inlets, so that isn't hard -- and she had two kayaks. I hadn't been on one in twenty years, but I tried it, and it was just like riding a bike. Then, of course, Paul just had to try it. He had NEVER been in a kayak before, and when he tried it, it was like riding a bike for him too. When he got to the middle of the lake (right in the middle of potential motor traffic), he just sat there, for about ten minutes, and looked around. We were yelling at him to come back before the Harbor Police showed up, but I don't believe he knew we were there.

He never said later what it was that possessed him, but from a distance, I could swear he was having an epiphany. It was as if the events leading up to that day were coalescing into a sign, a message of where to go next.

Had he ever been in Scouting, he would have had a lot of those. I did.

(H/T to Tom Turba.)

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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Candlemas Day (or, why Punxatawney Phil is a Catholic)

“When the days
were completed
for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus
up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written
in the law of the Lord,
Every male that
opens the womb
shall be consecrated
to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice
of a pair of turtledoves
or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.”

(Luke 2:22-24)


Today, both the Eastern and Western churches observe the Feast of the Purification of Mary (known as "Candlemas" in the West), exactly forty days after Christmas. In the Catholic tradition, the Christmas Cycle officially ends with this day, and preparation for Lent can begin, which includes the "Carnival" season in much of South America. But today, and throughout the world, the faithful will process in and around their churches bearing lighted candles, which are blessed for the coming year.

The origin of this feast is described in detail, in this excerpt from the classic work of Dom Prosper Guéranger, OSB, entitled The Liturgical 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.

In addition, Duncan Maxwell Anderson of HMS Blog provides guidance on customs of the season, as well as suggestions for family celebrations. Included are some fun facts about the real origins of Groundhog Day:

In Catholic Europe, they say that if Candlemas is clear and bright, there will be six more weeks of winter. In Germany, this idea became, "If the bear comes out and sees his shadow, he will grumpily go back into his cave, and winter will last another six weeks."

Then this feat of prediction was ascribed to German badgers.

And since badgers are not found in the eastern U.S., German immigrants to this country were obliged to depend for meteorological guidance on a species of marmot called by the Indians 'weejak' or woodchuck, also called ... the groundhog.

Today, if Punxatawney Phil sticks his nose out, you tell me if he isn't carrying a candle-holder. He's Catholic, you know.

You just can't argue with reasoning like that, don't you think?

Or don't you?
 

Friday, January 27, 2017

2017 “ProLifeCon” Twitcast and Transcript

Today it begins, our eighth annual “Twitcast” joining pro-life bloggers from near and far, who all had the good sense once again, to come in out of the cold during the annual March For Life, for this year's ProLifeCon, the “premiere conference for the online prolife community” hosted once again by the Family Research Council in Washington DC.

During the event, this video clip provides a live feed of the proceedings. With its conclusion, you are invited to view the full pre-recording (which begins at 8:37). You can learn more at the FRC website, follow the magic hashtag on Twitter: #prolifecon, or follow yours truly at: twitter.com/manwithblackhat.

The list of speakers announced two days prior to the event (not necessarily in order of appearance) are as follows:

Brandon Buell, Father of Jaxon "Strong" Buell, Co-Author, Don't Blink, and Co-Trustee for The Jaxon Strong Foundation
Rebekah Buell, Pro-Life Speaker & Abortion-Reversal Mother
Arina Grossu, Director, Center for Human Dignity, Family Research Council
Kelsey Harkness, Senior News Producer, The Daily Signal
Kristan Hawkins, President, Students for Life America
Anna Hoduski, Campaign Speaker & Runner, Project If Life
Rep Randy Hultgren (R-IL)
Bishop Vincent Mathews, Jr, President of the International Missions Department, The Church of God in Christ
Melissa Ohden, Author, “You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir”
Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
Brandi Swindell, Founder and President, The Stanton Project
Rep Claudia Tenney (R-NY)

A transcript of the Twitter feed will appear below once the event is completed. Items may be edited slightly for correction, especially when we have to look up some of the big words.

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"Good morning to our online viewers ..." #prolifecon
8:30 AM

Vice President Pence will be appearing at the Rally of the #MarchForLife. This is unprecedented. #prolifecon
8:31 AM

Kristan Hawkins, President, Students for Life America. #prolifecon
8:32 AM

Learned of her son's serious illness. "How can I make sure that [his] life is a fulfilled life?" #prolifecon
8:33 AM

"You live an extraordinary life when you live to serve others." #prolifecon
8:33 AM

"This is a crazy life we have as #ProLife activists ... we need a new generation of heroes ... you can be that hero online." #prolifecon
8:35 AM

"We are called to witness to the truth, that we don't need Planned Parenthood anymore." #prolifecon
8:38 AM

Lauren Merz, LiveAction. #prolifecon
8:43 AM

Despite playing it down, Planned Parenthood performs 30 percent of the abortions in America. "They *are* an abortion business." #prolifecon
8:45 AM

"We contacted Planned Parenthood locations in search of prenatal care here." #prolifecon
8:46 AM

"We contacted 97 locations. Only 5 offered prenatal care." #prolifecon
8:48 AM

Rebekah Buell, Pro-Life Speaker & Abortion-Reversal Mother. #prolifecon
8:49 AM

"I became pregnant at 17. I was scared and I was shocked. I lived in a Baptist home where we never talked about sex." #prolifecon
8:50 AM

"I needed to get out of an abusive relationship. And then I found out that I was pregnant again. I considered an abortion." #prolifecon
8:51 AM

"I visited a clinic close to my university (in Sacramento)." #prolifecon
8:52 AM

"I was told: 'We don't give the abortion pill on Fridays.'" #prolifecon
8:53 AM

Went to Planned Parenthood, who kept putting her off for a couple of weeks. Finally got the RU-486 pill. #prolifecon
8:55 AM

Was given an additional pill, was not told of its full effects, or that it was normally given while in labor. #prolifecon
8:56 AM

Had a change of heart, sought out a #ProLife doctor for a procedure of reversing the process. #prolifecon
8:57 AM

PP kept calling, told her that the reversal would create health risks. #prolifecon
8:58 AM

The second child was born, now one of an estimated 300 reversed procedures. #prolifecon
8:59 AM

Brandi Swindle, Founder and President, The Stanton Project. #prolifecon
9:00 AM

"Could we possibly replace Planned Parenthood?" #prolifecon
9:01 AM

Congress is seriously considering defunding Planned Parenthood. #prolifecon
9:02 AM

Cosmopolitan ("Cosmo") did a feature piece on the The Stanton Project. It was a wonderful piece. #prolifecon
9:03 AM

"We have bought property on each side of one Planned Parenthood location in Idaho. A church is being built on the other plot." #prolifecon
9:05 AM

"Planned Parenthood is suing us, in part for parking our mobile clinic in front of our own property, next door to them." #prolifecon
9:07 AM

The "March for Women" on the 21st tried to kick them out. They marched anyway. #prolifecon
9:08 AM

thestantonproject.org #prolifecon
9:11 AM

Congressman Randy Hultgren, Republican from Illinois. #prolifecon
9:15 AM

"Where I get so encouraged by the #MarchForLife, it's with the number of young people ..." #prolifecon
9:17 AM

Discussed a bill to ensure more transparency in how taxpayer funding will be used for health care services. #prolifecon
9:19 AM

President Trump will announce his next nominee for the Supreme Court at the upcoming National Prayer Breakfast. #prolifecon
9:24 AM

"We can have an impact [on doing the right thing] in the next four to six months, in the next four years." #prolifecon
9:27 AM

"I grew up in Wheaton, Illinois. Henry Hyde was my congressman. He was my hero." #prolifecon
9:31 AM

"We are now going now to the National Mall for a live report from Brent." #prolifecon
9:33 AM

Brandon Buell, Father of Jaxon "Strong" Buell, Co-Author, Don't Blink, and Co-Trustee for The Jaxon Strong Foundation. #prolifecon
9:34 AM

A short video clip of young Jaxon. #prolifecon
9:37 AM

"I come to you today as a father, because a *man* who stands up for these values is so rare." #prolifecon
9:39 AM

"Every day I strive to be a better husband, and a better father." #prolifecon
9:39 AM

There was so little information available on Jaxon's condition, many parents didn't make the decision to bring a child to term. #prolifecon
9:43 AM

facebook.com/WeAreJaxonStrong/ … #prolifecon
9:44 AM

jaxonstrong.com #prolifecon
9:44 AM

"We are called a hate group." ("Men will hate you because of me." - Jesus Christ) #prolifecon
9:52 AM

"I wanna talk for a second about my wife." #prolifecon
9:52 AM

Jaxon and Mom are introduced to the stage. #prolifecon
9:54 AM

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD." #prolifecon
9:55 AM

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, Republican from New York. #prolifecon
10:06 AM

The congresswoman is speaking by video stream from a bus en route to the #MarchforLife2017. "We're 20 minutes out." #prolifecon
10:08 AM

Melissa Ohden, Author, "You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir." #prolifecon
10:09 AM

Melissa is a survivor of a failed saline abortion. #prolifecon
10:10 AM

"We've got 109,000 views now (at #prolifecon)."
10:11 AM

Founder of the Abortion Survivors Network. #prolifecon
10:12 AM

"I would encourage you to continue to move beyond your comfort zone." #prolifecon
10:14 AM

CMP videos, defunding Planned Parenthood efforts and hearings, survivors testifying. #prolifecon
10:16 AM

"Post about where you are, add photos and video, as it's happening, tag others." #prolifecon
10:18 AM

"Videos and music make a strong impact and are shared frequently." #prolifecon
10:19 AM

"I often say the personal is political, the political is personal." #prolifecon
10:20 AM

"Live streaming of hearings and events such as FRC's lecture series popular with lots of initial viewers and shares." #prolifecon
10:21 AM

"Be relevant. Pick up what is happening or reflect upon a historical significance." #prolifecon
10:22 AM

"Be willing to go mainstream, look for opportunities. If you see a pro-life story, share it, comment on it, share information." #prolifecon
10:24 AM

"You Carried Me" is a book by Melissa Ohden. #prolifecon
10:25 AM

Kelsey Harkness, Senior News Producer, The Daily Signal. #prolifecon
10:28 AM

First, a video is shown featuring Kelsey talking about the March. #prolifecon
10:29 AM

"Organizers of the Women's March formed a very progressive platform" excluding some women's voices, including #prolife women. #prolifecon
10:32 AM

"We needed to get ahead of the narrative, so we had two days to produce that video." #prolifecon
10:34 AM

"The #prolife movement is far more diverse than I ever imagined growing up in Connecticut." #prolifecon
10:35 AM

Saw this clip. The reporter definitely got schooled! trib.al/y1bqz8s #prolifecon
10:37 AM

"Many people don't understand how far along in a pregnancy a woman can have an abortion." #prolifecon
10:47 AM

Congressman Jim Banks, Republican from Indiana. #prolifecon
10:48 AM

Thanks to @FRC as an important resource for freshman members of Congress. @prolifecon
10:49 AM

Governor Pence was the most #ProLife governors in Indiana history. #prolifecon
10:50 AM

Bishop Vincent Mathews, Jr, President of the International Missions Department, The Church of God in Christ. #prolifecon
10:52 AM

"There is a demonic spirit of deception about what the Bible teaches." #prolifecon
10:55 AM

"You’re going to have a lot of people coming on Friday.” #prolifecon
10:56 AM

"If you don't want these children, we will take them into our homes." #prolifecon
10:57 AM

"We [use mobile apps to] engage others in intercessory prayer. You can't hate someone you're praying for." #prolifecon
11:00 AM

familylifecampaign.org #prolifecon
11:01 AM

The notion of a "black church" and a "white church" is "oxymoronic." #prolifecon
11:03 AM

"It's up to the Church of Jesus Christ, not the government, to show the world what the real issues are." #prolifecon
11:06 AM

Catherine Szeltner, Host of EWTN ProLife Weekly. #prolifecon
11:08 AM

Communication is two way, not only in how a message is presented, but in how people can respond, as in a one-on-one encounter. #prolifecon
11:14 AM

"Be prepared to answer the question, why are you #ProLife?" #prolifecon
11:15 AM

Thomas Jacobson, Global Life Campaign, presents a summary of an "Abortion Worldwide Report." #prolifecon
11:19 AM

Anna Holduski, Campaign Speaker & Runner, Project If Life #prolifecon
11:27 AM

projectif.life #prolifecon
11:29 AM

"Thank you for joining and sharing your talents." #prolifecon
11:31 AM

.... and we're out! #prolifecon
11:31 AM

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This year's edition, as with those in the past, will be updated with additional content over the next 24 hours. While the general sentiment of this year's March is the most optimistic in many years, with the unqualified support of both President Trump and Vice President Pence, this year's ProLifeCon had a lower turnout than usual, which was most unfortunate. Not only that, but at least four of the speakers were not on the original schedule, which made it difficult to provide correct information for the Twitter feed in real time. And so, corrections to the original transcript have been made, and this writer's concerns were addressed to the management of the Family Research Council, which was most receptive. It is hoped that an updated list will be provided to participants prior to the event.
 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Agnus Dei

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Agnes, a virgin and martyr of the early persecutions.

She was put to death after refusing both a marriage proposal from a prominent Roman family (having already consecrated herself to God), and the offering of tribute to the pagan Gods. Her name is mentioned with the other great martyrs of Rome in the Roman Canon.

It is on this occasion that the Holy Father appears at the Church of Saint Agnes in Rome. There, he blesses two lambs, decorated in red (for martyrdom) and white (for purity), traditionally provided by the Trappists of the Tre Fontane Monastery. Then the lambs are taken to the Convent of Saint Cecilia, where the Sisters care for them. The wool sheared from them is used to weave the palliums worn by the Pope and the Archbishops, and which are conferred on new recipients on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on the 29th of June. (Information courtesy of Fisheaters.com. Image courtesy of Teresa Satola.)

The “Agnus Dei” (“Lamb of God”) is also the name of a popular traditional devotion, in the form of a small medallion, wherein is contained a small amount of wax taken from the previous year's Paschal Candle of the Church of Rome.

This practice has fallen into disuse in recent years. Perhaps now is a good time to revive it.
 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Plowing Through Monday

Today was the traditional start of the agricultural year in England, and so was known as “Plough Monday” or the day after “Plough Sunday” which was the Sunday following the traditional observance of Epiphany on the sixth of January. This was the Monday when everyone would end the Christmas revelry and get back to work.

John Brand, in his 1777 book Observations on Popular Antiquities, gives an account of the formalities:

The FOOL PLOUGH goes about: a pageant consisting of a number of sword dancers dragging a plough, with music; one, sometimes two, in very strange attire; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and the Fool, almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these characters, in which he is very assiduous, is to go about rattling a box amongst the spectators of the dance, in which he receives their little donations.

Well, maybe not directly back to work. Personally, I'd rather be molly dancing. What is that, you ask?

“Molly dancing” traditionally only appeared during the depths of winter and is regarded by many people as the East Anglian form of Morris dancing. It is characterized by blackened faces, heavy boots (usually hobnailed) and the presence of a "Lord" and a "Lady", two of the men specially attired respectively as a gentleman and his consort, who lead the dances. Blackening faces was a form of disguise, since the dancers could not afford to be recognised. Some of those people from whom they had demanded money with menaces would have been their employers. Molly dancing is by nature robust and, some would say, aggressive. These qualities are emphasised by the sound of the hobnailed boots worn by the dancers, which were the normal form of footwear for farm workers in the East of England right up until the second half of the twentieth century. (Information courtesy alexandersanders.)

On a promising note, and according to the Olde Farmer's Almanac: “In the evening, each farmer provided a Plough Monday supper for his workers, with plentiful beef and ale for all.

They could do worse.
 

Friday, January 06, 2017

Christus Mansionem Benedicat!

VIDEO: A 2008 performance of "March of the Kings" ("Marche Des Rois") by Nowell Sing We Clear (Tony Barrand, Fred Breunig, Andy Davis and John Roberts) at Latchis Theater, Brattleboro, Vermont.

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The Blessing of the Entrance to the House (“Chalking the Door”)

At the Mass for the Day, the faithful are given chalk that has been blessed by the priest, as well as special holy water known as "Epiphany water." The blessing for it, which takes place only for this occasion, is to be found in the traditional Rituale Romanum, and includes a prayer of exorcism. The blessed chalk and the holy water are then taken home, to be used that evening.

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We begin with the Sign of the Cross, and the words of Psalm 71(72) "Deus, judicium":

Give the King your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to the King's son;

That he may rule your people righteously
    and the poor with justice.

That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people,
    and the little hills bring righteousness.

He shall defend the needy among the people;
    he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure,
    from one generation to another.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown field,
    like showers that water the earth.

In his time shall the righteous flourish;
    there shall be abundance of peace
        till the moon shall be no more.

He shall rule from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.

His foes shall bow down before him,
    and his enemies lick the dust.

The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute,
    and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts.

All kings shall bow down before him,
    and all the nations do him service.

For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress,
    and the oppressed who has no helper.

He shall have pity on the lowly and poor;
    he shall preserve the lives of the needy.

He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence,
    and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

Long may he live!
    and may there be given to him gold from Arabia;
        may prayer be made for him always,
            and may they bless him all the day long.

May there be abundance of grain on the earth,
    growing thick even on the hilltops;
        may its fruit flourish like Lebanon,
            and its grain like grass upon the earth.

May his Name remain for ever
    and be established as long as the sun endures;
        may all the nations bless themselves in him
            and call him blessed.

Blessed be the Lord GOD, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous deeds!

And blessed be his glorious Name for ever!
    and may all the earth be filled with his glory.

Amen.

Then one who is the Officiant says the following prayer:

Lord God of Heaven and Earth, who hast revealed thine only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star: Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill them with the light of Christ, that their love for others may truly reflect thy love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

If necessary, the Officiant or another steps up onto a chair or stepladder, and with a piece of blessed chalk, writes over the entrance to the house.

“Christus ...” (“May Christ ...”)

          C

“Mansionem ...” (“this dwelling ...”)

          C      M

“Benedicat.” (“... bless.”)

          C      M      B

“In the coming year ...”

20      C      M      B

“... and in the years to come.”

20      C      M      B      17

“In the name of the Father ...”

20  +  C      M      B      17

“and of the Son ...”

20  +  C  +  M      B      17

“... and of the Holy Spirit.”

20  +  C  +  M  +  B      17

Everyone responds: “Amen.”

20  +  C  +  M  +  B  +  17

The doorway is sprinkled with Holy Water blessed for the Epiphany. The inscription is to be removed on the Feast of Pentecost.

+    +    +

For those who require "the short form," there is this one from the Church of Saint Mary in Clifton Heights, New York. On those nights when the weather is particularly inclement, one can simply read from the Gospel of John while inscribing over the door ...

In the beginning was the Word, (inscribe 2)

and the Word was with God, (inscribe 0)

and the Word was God. (inscribe +)

He was in the beginning with God. (inscribe C)

All things came to be through him, (inscribe +)

and without him nothing came to be. (inscribe M)

And the Word became flesh (inscribe +)

and made his dwelling among us, (inscribe B)

and we saw his glory, (inscribe +)

the glory as of the Father’s only Son, (inscribe 1)

full of grace and truth. (inscribe 7)

… then with the Holy Water, making the sign of the cross three times over the entrance, proclaiming “Christus ... Mansionem ... Benedicat” and calling it a night.

+    +    +

This day is remembered throughout the world by various names. In many parts of Europe, Epiphany retains its distinction as "Little Christmas." Among the Greek Orthodox, the waters of the harbor are blessed by the local priest. In Spanish-speaking countries, it is known as “Dia de los Tres Reyes” (“Day of the Three Kings”). There are parades on the main street, such as this one in Madrid, Spain.

Although we know the "kings" were not actually royalty at all, but scholars in astronomy and other sciences who came from Persia, tradition has associated Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar (their names as rendered in the apocryphal gospel accounts) as representing the Orient, Arabia, and Africa, the three great land masses of the known world in the first millennium.

As with the eve of Saint Nicholas Day in parts of western Europe, children in the Hispanic world are known to leave their shoes out and receive candy and other treats by the next morning. In Spain, children traditionally received presents on this day, rather than on Christmas, although recent years have seen both Christmas and Epiphany as a time for gift-giving.

I just love parades.
 

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Christ-Mass: Twelfth Night

When I was growing up back in Ohio, the village of Milford had their own way of disposing of old Christmas trees. They would be collected and taken to some field at the edge of town, stacked in a big pile, and "Twelfth Night" would be celebrated with the lighting of a bonfire dubbed the "yule log."

This is remarkable when you consider that Milford is a town first settled by (and more than two centuries later, is still more or less dominated by) Methodists and not "Catlickers." (Here we note that Protestants in the northern states did not celebrate Christmas until well into the 19th century. Indeed, it was outlawed by the northern colonies in the early years of European settlement. The southern states, on the other hand ...) Of course, my parents -- may God rest their souls -- didn't go for that sort of ribaldry, so I never actually saw it, but I would always read about it that week in the local rag known as The Milford Advertiser.

These days, I imagine people would have a hard time penciling it in between trips to soccer practice and PTA meetings. In fact, since leaving the Buckeye State to seek my fortune elsewhere, I learned that the town has yielded to other priorities, as in this little gem I read a few years ago, from the county's Office of Environmental Quality:

“Many recycled trees are sent through a wood chipper and are used as mulch.”

They have got to be kidding. That kills the holiday magic right there. Then again, why celebrate the glory of the season, when you can spend the rest of the year spreading it on your lawn and walking all over it?

Meanwhile, here at Chez Alexandre, we will celebrate Epiphany on the traditional day all along. Tomorrow the lights that are traditionally left on all during Christmastide, will finally be shut off in the evening and taken down. They will be put back in storage along with the decorations, waiting for the season to return.

Last of all, the dying tree is sent to its final resting place -- in the years that we actually have a live tree, which we didn't this year ... but that's another story.

Joy, health, love and peace
Be all here in this place
By your leave we will sing
Concerning our King.

Our King is well dressed
In silks of the best
In ribbons so rare
No King can compare.

We have traveled many miles
Over hedges and stiles
In search of our King
Unto you we bring.

We have powder and shot
To conquer the lot
We have cannon and ball
To conquer them all.

Old Christmas
    is past
Twelvetide
    is the last

And we bid
    you adieu
Great joy
    to the new.


(H/T to Steeleye Span.)
 

Christ-Mass: Day 12 (St Telesphorus/St John Neumann)

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming ...”

It is ironic that the last day of Christmastide should be anti-clamatic, if only for the day itself. The highlight comes later in the day. Meanwhile ...

The reformed Roman calendar honors Saint John Nepomucene Neumann, a native of Bohemia and Redemptorist priest who was appointed Bishop of Philadelphia in the mid-19th century, and who was a key figure in spreading the Faith to an ever-expanding United States of America.

In the traditional Roman calendar, Mother Church remembers Pope Saint Telesphorus, elected Bishop of Rome in 126, and martyred ten years later. It is said that the tradition of celebrating Mass on Christmas at Midnight, the celebration of Easter on Sundays, the keeping of a seven-week Lent before Easter, and the singing of the Gloria, all are attributed to his pontificate, but the historical accuracy of these claims are in doubt.

Tonight, a season ends, and tomorrow, a new one begins. Stay tuned ...
 

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Christ-Mass: Day 11 (St Elizabeth Ann Seton)

“On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping ...”

As the end of Christmastide draws near, life begins to turn to normal. The trees are taken down and are sitting on the curb, the usual workday routine begins again, and commercials for "holiday sales," having been extended just beyond the first day of the new year, are heard no longer. Meanwhile ...

Today is the feast of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph, the mother of the Nation's parochial school system, and patroness of Catholic schools. Canonized a saint by Pope Paul VI in 1975, she was the first native-born American to be raised to the altar.

From the original motherhouse in Emmitsburg, Maryland, a branch house was established out west, known today as the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, based at Mount Saint Joseph-on-the-Ohio, located on the city's once-predominantly Catholic west side. This order did much to build, not only the parochial school system in this part of the Midwest through their teaching apostolate, but the health care system as well, through the establishment of Good Samaritan Hospital in 1852.

Concerning the role of women Religious and the health care apostolate, much has changed in recent years, to say the least. In light of the current health care legislation signed into law in the United States, and the capitulation by "leaders" of women religious orders, in forcing others to cooperate in acts against the Gospel of Life, let us pause for a moment to consider the irony.

And the exception.