Wednesday 31 December 2008

Celebrating the feast of St. Sylvester in Sweden

Today is the feast of Saint Sylvester I, who was Pope from 314 to 335, for 22 years, making him the eighth longest reigning Pope. He was the first Pope to use the title Pope meaning father. His reign coincided with the reign of the Emperor Constantinus so the Latern Basilica and Old Saint Peter's Basilica (the Constantinian Basilica) were built during his reign.

December 31st is the day of the burial of St. Sylvester in the Catacomb of Priscilla. Since it is also the last night of the secular year, the night of St. Sylvester (Sylvesternacht in German) is also celebrated in Catholic Countries.

In Lutheran Sweden, today is celebrated, among other things, as the birthday of cats. This seems like mockery or silliness but, in fact, like many Swedish celebrations, it has its roots firmly planted in Sweden's Catholic past. In Latin the term for a cat is Felis Sylvestris so the obvious day to celebrate the birthday of cats is the feast of their Saint, Sylvester. In a funny way, the Swedish celebration of the birthday of cats keeps alive in our National culture the feast of this holy Pope.

Saturday 27 December 2008

Remember The Holy Innocents!

"Herod the King, in his raging, charged he hath this day,
His men of might, in his own sight, all young children to slay."

Let us pray to the Martyrs of Christmas for the Holy Innocents of our own day!

Saturday 20 December 2008

St. Evin of Monasterevin

St. Abban is said to have preceded St. Evin in this locality, and to have established a church, if not also a monastic house in it. St. Evin-sometimes styled Emin-an, i.e., "Little Evin," and sometimes Beccan, which means "Little"-of the royal blood of Munster, brother to St. Cormac and two other saints, (1) - if he did not himself found the monastery, at least he colonized it by bringing thither a large number of monks from his native province. Hence the place, the previous name of which was Ros-glas ("the green wood"), came to be called Ros-glas-na-Moimneach, or "Ros-glas of the Munstermen."

Colgan thus writes of this saint:-"St Emin, who is also corruptly called Evinus, betook himself to Leinster, and at the bank of the river Barrow, . . . he raised a noble monastery, called in that age, Rosglas, and which, from the number of monks who followed the man of God from his own country of Munster, who were most holily governed by him there, began to be called Rosglas na-miamhneach, i.e., of the Momonians, and in process of time grew up into a large and formerly flourishing town. There the holy man was famous for many and great miracles, and that monastery, on account of the reverence paid to its first founder, stood in so great a veneration with posterity, that it was held a most safe sanctuary, and nobody presumed to offer violence or injury to the holy place who did not soon suffer the severity of the Divine vengeance. For the holy man is said to have obtained from God that none of the Lagenians, who should, with violent audacity, taste meat or drink in his sanctuary, or offer any other violence, would live beyond the ninth day afterwards. It was also said that after his death there was a bell belonging to this saint, which was called Bearnan Emhin, and was held in so great veneration that posterity, especially those sprung from the seed of Eugenius, his father, were accustomed to swear on it as a kind of inviolable oath, and conclude controversies by the virtue of the oath. It was in defence of this town that the famous battle of Bealach-Mughna (Ballymoon), in the plain of the country of Hy-drona, commonly called Maghailbhe, was fought, in which the Momonian invaders suffered great disaster, their King, Cormac-mac-Culenan, being slain."

In the Life of St. Clonfert Molua we read of that Saint visiting the Abbot St. Evin in his monastery, not far from the Barrow, which the most holy old man, Abban, had founded:-"S. Molua visitavit S. Evinum abbatem non longe a flumine Berbha in monasterio quod sanctissimus senex Abbanus fundavit, habitantem." The following passage from the Book of Ballymote, 270, a, (kindly translated from the Irish, by Mr. W.M. Hennessy) refers to this monastery:-

Emin-an, son of Eoghan, son of Murchadh, son of Muiredach, son of Diarmait, son of Eoghan, son of Ailill Flann-beg. Ros-glaise, moreover, was his foundation-place. On the brink of the Barrow the church is. And it was he that left [word] with the Lagenians, that he would not preserve for a moment alive the laic who would taste meat or butter or cold milk in his church-i.e. in Ros-glaise of the Munstermen.

And it is contending for this place the battle of Ballaghmoon, in Moy-ailbhe in Idrone, was given [fought]; and in it was slain Cormac MacCuilennan. Of which Cormac said:-

"About Ros-glaisne we shall give
The battle, since we cannot help it.
By Fiach (2) shall fall a King, on account of the ‘Ros.’
'Twill be sad, be true, be manifest."

The "swearing relic" of the Race of Eoghan is the Bernan Emin; and it is a miraculous breo, ("flame".)

The year of St. Evin’s death has not been recorded; Colgan, in Trias Thaum., states that it took place during the reign of Brandubh, King of Leinster, who was killed in the battle of Slaibhre, in A.D. 601 (or 604, according to the Annals of Ulster), after a reign of 30 years. O’ Curry and other reliable authorities, however, assign reasons for believing that our saint flourished at an earlier period, that he was a contemporary of St. Patrick, though only as a youth, and that his death occurred very early in the sixth century. We may justly conclude that he died on the 22nd of December, as our calendars mark his feast on that day. The Martyrology of Tallaght at that date has the entry: "Emini Rois glaissi," i.e., Emhin, or Evin of Rosglas; and the Mart. Donegal, at same date, has "Emin, Bishop of Rosglas, in Leinster, to the west of Cill-dara, on the brink of the Bearbha. Jamhnat, daughter of Sinell, was his mother. Eimhin was the son of Eoghan, etc. He was the brother of Cormac, son of Eoghan, as stated in the Life of the same Cormac." St. Evin was the author of the Life of St. Patrick called the Tripartite, published by Colgan, from which Joceline, who wrote a Life of our Apostle early in the twelfth century, acknowledges that he derived much help. This work is written partly in Latin and partly in Irish. Of this Life, Dr. Lanigan says that it contains a much greater variety of details concerning the Saint’s proceedings during his mission in Ireland than any other of his Lives. St. Evin also wrote the Life of St. Congall, the famous Abbot and Founder of the Monastery of Bangor, out of which Colgan cites some particular passages. (Harris’s Ware.)

Toimdenach, brother of St. Abban, was Abbot of Rosglas (Leabhar Breac), and Dubhan, another brother is said to have been a member of the same community; the feast of the former was celebrated on the 12th of June, and that of the latter on the11th of November.

Itharnaise is another saint whom we find connected with St. Evin and his monastery, and whose memory was celebrated on the same day, the 22nd of December. The Feilire of Aengus, at that day, has the invocation:- "May (Ultan) the Silent’s prayer protect us! Itharnaisc who spoke not, who was with pure Emine from the brink of the dumb Barrow." These two saints, Ultan and Itharnaisc, were chiefly identified with Clane, County of Kildare; they were brothers of St. Maighend, Abbot of Kilmainham, and sons of Aed, son of Colcan, King of Oirghallia. Aed himself became a monk, and died in 606.

A St. Cronan, whose feast is calendared at the 10th of Feb., is also identified with this monastery. The Feilire of Aengus thus refers to him:-"Fair star, offspring of victory, glowing mass-gold, bright pillar, Cronan holy, without reproach, white sun of Glais-Mar!" To which the scholiast in the Leabhar Breac adds:- "Cronan the chaste, without reproach, i.e., in Ros Glaise," etc.

A manuscript volume in the Irish language, preserved in the Royal Irish Academy, - MSS. 23, P.3,-contains a most interesting prose tract entitled the Cain Emine (Emine’s Tribute or Rule), and also a poem, which may be called The Lay of the Bell of St. Emine. O’ Curry, in his descriptive catalogue, states his opinion that the prose tract is certainly as old as the year 800; but that the poem was not written till long after.

From the entry on the Parish of Monasterevin in Most Rev. Dr. Comerford's History of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin (1883).

St. Evin of Monasterevin, pray for us that we may be granted all the graces of Christmas and Christmastide!

Sunday 14 December 2008

Third Monthly Mass in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin

The third monthly Latin Mass in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin took place this afternoon at 1 p.m. with Fr. Brendan Gerard, F.S.S.P., as celebrant.

While the attendance was not as large as on the two previous occasions, the congregation of almost two dozen witnessed three innovations. First, the addition of a maniple was most welcome. Second, a collection was taken up from the congregation for the first time. Third, the number of local people, while it may not be growing in real terms, has grown in percentage terms and today constituted a majority of those present.

Indeed, since nine members of St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association were present, we almost constituted a majority by ourselves. Once again, apologies for the quality of the pictures. The lighting in the Church is almost entirely non-natural and does not favour photography from a respectful distance.

Saturday 13 December 2008

The Swedish celebration of St. Lucy

St. Lucy (283-304 AD) from Syracuse, is the patroness of the blind, having plucked her own eyes out. She also protects prostitutes regretting their unfortunate choice of career, this because she herself was condemned to work in a brothel.

Her name is derived from the word lux or lucis meaning light. She was an early Christian martyr. She consecrated her virginity to God, and would not marry the man her parents had promised her to. She did, however, send him her own eyes, after having removed them herself, which is why she is often depicted with a pair of eyes on a plate. Our Lady then gave her a new pair of eyes, even more beautiful than the ones she'd had before.

It is said that before her death she was attacked in the most horrifying of ways; she was drenched in burning oil, but was not hurt; she had a sword thrust through her neck, but survived just until recieving the Last Rites.

St. Lucy is one of the few saints celebrated in lutheran Sweden. The night of her feast day, the 13th of December - roughly half way through advent - was, during the middle ages, according to the Julian calendar, the winter solstice - the longest night of the year. This changed, however, with the conversion to the Gregorian calendar in 1753.

On the evening of the 12th, a popular custom is to have a Lussevaka - Lucy wake - staying up all night and preparing for the feast of St. Lucy. At dawn on the 13th, groups of young people, dressed in white and carrying candles, used to go from door to door singing, and, for this, getting treats or money. Nowadays, this tradition is kept alive in schools and universities by early morning choir performances, and by children singing to their parents, and bringing them breakfast. This is what goes on in the picture here to the left, painted by Carl Larsson, Sweden's most famous painter.

Treats may include lussekatter - Lucy cats - a kind of saffron bun made especially for St. Lucy's day, but often enjoyed throughout Advent, along with ginger bread and coffee or mulled wine. The bun comes in many different shapes, the one to the right here being the most popular. A more luxurious kind is stuffed with marzipan.

The celebration of St. Lucy in Sweden is very much a part of the preparation for Christmas and many of the songs sung during the celebrations are, indeed, Christmas carols. Often, little children will dress up as little house gnomes or ginger bread men while taking part in the celebrations.

In the video below is a girls' choir, dressed up in the customary St. Lucy dresses, and singing the St. Lucy song. There are several versions of the lyrics to this song, but they all describe how St. Lucy brings light into the dark and prepares us for Christmas.

The girl with the candles in her hair is the one representing St. Lucy. Being chosen for this is an honour and there are usually elections and preparations months in advance to get the perfect Lucy.

Another Saint often mentioned during the St. Lucy celebrations is St. Stephen, who even has his own song sung during the St. Lucy festivities. He is rarely mentioned here in Sweden, though, on his proper feast day - the 26th of December.

St. Stephen is sometimes referred to as the protomartyr, since he was the first Christian to be martyred. He was stoned to death in 35 AD. In Swedish tradition he is very closely connected with horses, like a stable boy, and this is also the theme of the St. Stephen's song; "Staffan var en stalledräng, vattnade sina fålar fem, för den ljusa stjärna" - "Stephen was a stable boy, he watered his five horses, for the bright shining star."

Why the tradition of celebrating St. Lucy's day has survived for so long in lutheran Sweden, where so many other Saints and religious practices are now, by most, forgotten, is not easy to say. Some will explain it as the longing for light during the dark season in a dark country. Others say that the St. Lucy celebrations are a Christian excuse to celebrate the winter solstice, a somewhat more pagan tradition.

Advent II

In his magistral work, L'Année liturgique, Dom Prosper Guéranger notes the commencement of the Great Antiphons of Advent on December 17 thus:

"The Church enters to-day on the seven days which precede the Vigil of Christmas, and which are known in the liturgy under the name of the Greater Ferias. The ordinary of the Advent Office becomes more solemn; the antiphons of the psalms, both for Lauds and the Hours of the day, are proper, and allude expressly to the great coming. Every day, at Vespers, is sung a solemn antiphon, consisting of a fervent prayer to the Messias, whom it addresses by one of the titles given Him in the sacred Scriptures.

In the Roman Church, there are seven of these antiphons, one for each of the greater ferias. They are commonly called the O's of Advent, because they all begin with that interjection."

In this video we hear the well-known metrical setting of the seven 'O Antiphons', known as 'Veni, Veni Emmanuel', although there are only five in this version. When we sing this well-known Advent hymn, we can help to recapture the true spirit of Advent by singing all seven verses and by relating each verse to the relevant 'O Antiphon'.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

We'll miss Your Eminence!

His Eminence, Francis, Cardinal Arinze was born on 1st November, 1932, in Oraukwu, Anambra State, Nigeria. He was baptised on his ninth birthday by Blessed Cyprian Michael Tansi. He was ordained to the Pristhood on 23rd November, 1958, and to the Episcopate on 29th August, 1965. He was raised to the purple in 1985 and had previously served as President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Cardinal Arinze was succeeded as head of the Vatican's Department with responsibility for the Sacred Liturgy, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, yesterday by His Eminence, Antonio, Cardinal Cañizares Llovera.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

New Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship

The Holy See has today announced the retirement of His Eminence, Francis, Cardinal Arinze from the post of Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and, by the same act, has announced the appointment to that post of His Eminence, Antonio, Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, who was, until now, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain.

His Eminence, the new Cardinal Prefect takes charge of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which is the amalgamation of functions formerly belonging to the Congregation of Rites and the Congregation of the Sacraments. This is the Vatican Department with responsibility for the Sacred Liturgy.

His Eminence was born on 10th October, 1945, and was ordained a Priest on 21st June, 1970. Having deen Episcopal Delegate for Caetchesis in the Archdiocese of Valencia and Professor of Catechetical Theology at the Pontifical University of Salamanca, His Eminence was the founding President of the Spanish Association of Catechists.

The images contained in this post show His Eminence, the new Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments ordaining two Priests for the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, in the Gregorian Rite, at their Seminary at Gricigliano, near Florence in Italy, in 2007.

Ad Multos Annos, Your Eminence!

Monday 8 December 2008

Immaculata Mater Dei, ora pro nobis!

The Immaculate Conception by Rubens

O pura et immaculata, eademque benedicta Virgo, magni Filii tui universorum Domini Mater inculpata, integra et sacrosanctissima, desperantium atque reorum spes, te collaudamus. Tibi ut gratia plenissimae benedicimus, quae Christum genuisti Deum et Hominem: omnes coram te prosternimur: omnes te invocamus et auxilium tuum imploramus. Eripe nos, o Virgo sancta atque intemerata, a quaecumque ingruente necessitate et a cunctis tentationibus diaboli.

Nostra conciliatrix et advocata in hora mortis atque iudicii esto: nosque a futuro inexstinguibili igne et a tenebris exterioribus libera: et Filii tui nos gloria dignare, o Virgo et Mater dulcissima ac clementissima. Tu siquidem unica spes nostra es securissima et sanctissima apud Deum, cui gloria et honor, decus atque imperium in sempiterna saecula saeculorum. Amen.

St. Ephrem the Syrian (306-373)

Saturday 6 December 2008

Advent I

The music of Christmas dominates our thoughts during December - and it assaults our ears too as Christmas (or the Winter Sales Season) 'begins' earlier and earlier. Advent - preparation, as opposed to instant gratification - runs counter to the ideas of the modern mind. What modern minds forget is that, just as there is no CHRISTmas without Christ, there is no Christmas without Advent.

With the loss of the sense of Advent, the music of Advent has been lost too. Maybe we can restore the sense of Advent by restoring the music of Advent. Here is one example, 'Rorate Caeli', the great refrain of Advent. It's not difficult to learn and, once learnt, it's even harder to forget.

Friday 5 December 2008

God bless the Grand Duke of Luxembourg!

Der Spiegel reports that H.R.H. the Grand Duke of Luxembourg has declared that he will refuse to sign into law an Act legalising euthanasia. The official site of the Grand Duchy declares: "If the Grand Ducal Family have retained their legitimate role in Luxemburgois society it is in large part because they have won their confidence in the moments of greatest difficulty". Grand Duke Henri's mother is the sister of his late Majesty, Baudouin I, King of the Belgians.

The Prime Minister of Luxembourg is reported to be considering stripping the Grand Duke of his legislative powers.

May God bless and preserve the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and confirm him in devotion to the Law of God! May God save the people of Luxembourg!

De Wilhelmus - The Grand Ducal Anthem