Monday 30 November 2015

Happy Holidays!

I am, of course, referring to Saint Andrew's Day (today), Saint Nicholas' Day (usually December 6) and Saint Lucy's Day (usually December 13). Poor old Nick and Lucy have been bumped by the Second and Third Sundays of Advent, so B.A. and I are celebrating them on the Saturday evening before.

I spent some time yesterday scraping candle wax from the toes of Saint Joseph in the Great Parish Clean-up, and it gave me opportunity time to ponder the righteous anger of the Catholic blogs I read or write for.  I was rather shaken by the depths to which Roman Catholics could go when duking it out online. In fact, I was so disgusted by the occasion for sin that is Twitter that soon after I got home, I deactivated my account.

At Boston College I wrote a lot about righteous anger as a response to blasphemy because I was fascinated by the Mohammad Cartoon Crisis. As a university student, I was pretty tired of all the blasphemous images of Our Lord and Our Lady that appeared in undergrad newspapers (although not at BC), wink, elbow, snigger, and it blew my mind when such newspapers, with all other such non-family newspapers, categorically refused to republish the Mohammad Cartoons. The Boston Phoenix was at least honest about it. To paraphrase a lot of swearing, it said the staff was too scared of potential violence.

"Can we learn from the Muslims on this?" I read out from my paper in a Thomistic ethics seminar, and my classmates shifted uneasily. And no wonder. Not only was I acknowledging that a large enough number of Muslims get their way by screaming, committing arson and killing people, I seemed to be suggesting we do that too. Mutual mediation, bruv.

There was palpable relief when I concluded, despite St. Thomas Aquinas' heartening ruling that blasphemers should be executed, that as Christians we may not scream, commit arson or kill anybody as a response to blasphemy. We first should contact the person who has so badly offended us and give them the opportunity to apologize and pledge that he will strive not to do it again. I think my ultimate punishment was sanctions. "Stop doing X or we won't buy your product." Yeah, that sounds pretty weak when people are now so scared of Muslims that they tweet "I love my Muslim neighbours" before Islamist terrorists have even stopped firing.*

It's sad to think that the sure fire way to stop blasphemy against our Lord would be such brutal and sustained violence that world leaders united in their assurances that "This has nothing to do with belief in Christ" while arresting the blasphemers. But, guess what, I discovered that the only thing that got George IV to sign the Catholic Emancipation Act was the solemn assurance that if he didn't, all Catholic Ireland would rise up and slaughter all the Protestants. This was a big fat lie, but that's how Catholicism became mainstream in the UK again.

So yelling-and-screaming is pretty tempting stuff. Traditional blogs metaphorically yelled and screamed all through the Synod (and I helped) and cries to the Cardinals to WALK OUT OF THE SYNOD actually seemed to shake them up. Naturally if our grandparents and great-grandparents had literally yelled and screamed at their parish priests before said priests started smashing up altars with sledgehammers, traditionalists would not be metaphorically screaming so much now.

Meanwhile, I believe that there is a time for yelling and screaming. For example, this Indian bishop sexually coerced a young married woman in front of her English parish, and the very English response was to send her and her fuming husband home. If I had been there, I would have given that bishop a lecture he would take to his grave.

Father Blake's post is actually about worthy reception of the Eucharist, and all the comments except mine reflect that. But one thing that occurs to me is the Impassibility of God. God doesn't literally suffer. Jesus suffered on the cross, but does not literally suffer any more. Our Lady doesn't literally suffer. The Saints don't suffer. We will not suffer either when we attain (God willing) the Beatific Vision. Blasphemers can do terrible things to Eucharistic hosts, but "they can't hurt Jesus", in the words of a priest I know. Those who are hurt by blasphemy are the same people who are hurt when a bishop insists we lick the cake off his fingers: we ourselves. We can't literally hurt God, but we can certainly hurt each other in all kinds of ways: blasphemy, detraction, libel, quarrelsomeness, chambering...

Yes, there is a time to shout, but that time is not ALL the time. And that is why I am starting my own small campaign to keep Christ in Christmas by merely saying "Thank you" when anyone wishes me a "Happy Holidays."  I am going to keep my righteous anger to a minimum, particularly as the madness on Edinburgh's major shopping streets have almost nothing to do with Christian Christmas and everything to do with Secular Christmas. Secular Christmas is the post-Christians' big holiday, so they can keep it, I hope they are successful in their pursuit of fun, and I will go to their parties, if invited.  Christian Christmas begins--for Latin Catholics--on the evening of 24 December. A number of important holy days fall between the First Sunday of Advent and New Year's Day, so anyone who wishes anyone else "Happy Holidays" is not merely being friendly, they are also accurate.

*To be honest, though, I am more inclined to think that "I love you, complete strangers!" and "I'll ride with you" is more about white people comforting ourselves that we are still in charge, still keeping outsiders oppressed/contained, and it's up to Us Nice Ones to protect "minorities" from the Bad Ones among our White Demi-God, Climate-Changing Selves. In short, "I'll ride with you" is paternalist, patronizing and probably racist. It is most definitely about expressing power---in a very weird, counter-intuitive way.


  1. I just figure whoever's said something wishing me well is being kind, and I am happy to take it in the spirit intended. Plus there's no getting away from it entirely—holiday comes from holy day. When I don't know what someone celebrates, I sometimes use holiday as well.

    The story about the bishop is creepy, and I don't know if I would have yelled, but I feel pretty confident I would not lick a man's fingers. It's not only weirdly sexual, but also feels like a power play. Lick my fingers, take food from me—this is not the behavior between equal adults. *shudder*

    On a happier note, I'm going to bake some traditional St. Nicholas Day cookies this weekend... Sometimes I wish I were Eastern Rite, because they just add and add, none of this Sunday suppression stuff. :-) At any rate, delicious, devil-shaped cookies because that's what happens to devils hanging about when St. Nick blesses the house. ;-)

  2. Thank you Seraphic, for commenting to Fr Ray's blog that action should have been taken at the time about the bishop's grossly inappropriate actions. Action should still be taken now I feel, as the bishop clearly has 'issues' that will not just go away. I hope the people affected have not had their faith damaged too much.

    Fr Ray's post, and yours above, have been instructive for me, on the emotion we whip up in ourselves about scandals. I was going to post on Fr Ray's blog about the need for action on his visiting bishop, but felt I was too agitated about the bishop's actions. I read the rest of your post, and will now trust God to take care of the matter :)

    On the rest of your post, it seems to boil down to how do the laity interact with the clergy to have a voice without needing to scream and shout just to be heard. The synod on family was a classic example - there would only be a small minority in the Church globally wanting to overthrow existing teachings on communion for divorced & remarried, but the majority seem to have few ways of having their voice heard to counter the those wanting to change Church teachings. Still, we have God.. :)

    Southern Bloke.
    P.S. I'm conscious that as interesting as these posts are to discuss, your regular readers seem to be commenting less as eavesdroppers like me comment more. If you prefer, just say, and I'll back off commenting. Don't want to make an environment where your trad gals don't feel comfy reading & commenting.

    1. Don't worry! I think a lot of them have simply snuck off and gotten engaged. Ula, for example. (Her cousin told me; the Catholic world is really, really small.)

  3. Oh good! Engagements are one of the best reasons for absence :)

    The Catholic world is both small and large. I have a mate who is a Jehovah's Witness; we were both briefly at York U in Toronto to work with a brilliant scientist there (well above my league intellectually, but he was generous and kind - how very Canadian!). My friend simply booked accomodation in the home of strangers (to him) at the local JW church,and he was surprised we didn't do this in the Catholic church. I had to point out the logistical difficulties in running a home-hotel booking system for 1 billion people globally... our Church is not so small sometimes ;)

    Also glad to hear you're returning to dance; take PPS to meet KAD girl perhaps....



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