Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

The day being what it is, I thought sharing a bit of a prayer called St. Patrick’s Breastplate might be in order.

“…Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left…..”
(St. Patrick’s Breastplate, a Todd & Stokes edit and translation (1964-1888), via Wikipedia)

Seems that the prayer, it’s a long one, comes from a complete copy written in the 11th century. And maybe dating from the ninth century. Or maybe the eighth. So maybe it’s not from St. Patrick. But ‘Saint Patrick’s Breastplate’ is what we’ve been calling it.

Today, of course, being Saint Patrick’s Day. A feast day no longer on the official liturgical calendar, but remembered nonetheless.

And, as up to now this has been a somewhat serious day for me — which did not restrain me from wearing green, I will have you know ‐ I’ll close with a ‘Happy Saint Patrick’s Day’ to you.

And, as seems inevitable, a link too:

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COVID-19, Mass and Marriage: It’s Not All About Me

I’ll be discussing face masks and the COVID-19 pandemic, and why I’m not indignant that the Catholic Church hasn’t redefined the Mass or marriage.

That second item is my response to Mass and marriage headlines. The items aren’t “news” in the “unexpected,” “surprising” or “novel” sense.

But first, here’s how I see face masks, vaccines and dealing with limits.


Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic

I’m still following Minnesota’s mask and distance rules when I go out.

That hasn’t been a problem with me: partly because I don’t get out much. And partly because talking with folks who are also wearing masks doesn’t bother me. Much.

But talking with someone the other day helped me understand some of the sound and fury I’ve been seeing in my social media feeds.

I’m not exactly an introvert. But a little social interaction goes a long way for me.

The someone I talked with is close to another end of humanity’s sociability spectrum. And he had, apparently, long since reached his load limit for masks and melodrama.

I see his point. Points.

A Blocked Channel

Me, at my desk, where I almost never wear a face mask. (January 23, 2021)Masks and casual conversation do not mix well. Pandemic and political stress aside, face masks hide a great many facial expressions.

I haven’t seen a study on it, but I’m pretty sure that between two thirds and 95% of our non-verbal facial communication happens below the nose. That leaves our eyebrows to do conversation’s non-verbal heavy lifting.

Having a critical communication channel blocked doesn’t bother me all that much.

Masked or not, having a casual face-to-face chat with someone means I’m paying close attention to their posture, movements, vocal inflections, where their eyes are pointed — and what they’re doing with their lower face.

Take away that last item, and I’ve still got enough data to work with. I’ve learned that most folks aren’t like me. For which we should all be grateful, and that’s another topic.

But someone who would, normally, perceive and process facial expressions effortlessly? (As I gather most folks do.)

Living in a masked society could be more than awkward.

The Fear Factor

Visualization of the COVID-19 coronavirus, from the CDC. (2019)The COVID-19 coronavirus disease has been front-page news since December of 2019.

The World Health Organization, WHO, made it an official pandemic on March 11, 2020, not quite year and a week ago today.

Depending on who you listen to, WHO should have said it was a pandemic before that. Or not scared the masses by calling it a pandemic. Or not have existed in the first place.

I figure some folks are still saying that COVID-19 pandemic isn’t happening. Or that it’s part of a conspiracy.

What’s been in my social media feed suggests that ‘COVID-19 isn’t real’ has been supplanted by ‘they’re controlling our minds with face masks’ and ‘beware vaccinations.’

I’m not trying to make conspiracy theorists look good.

But I’ll grant that fear is a powerful motivator. And it’s likely that the frenzied hysteria I see online mirrors what’s happening in face-to-face conversations.

Talking with someone who’s apparently convinced that ‘they’ are part of a conspiracy, or that anyone who’s okay with vaccinations is a second columnist?

Yeah. That could be stressful.

Me? I’m still willing to wait my turn for COVID-19 vaccinations. And I’m concerned about ethical issues. (December 5, 2020)

I’m in at least two ‘at risk’ groups. But the way I live doesn’t give me many opportunities for getting sick, and I’m quite sure there are folks who need vaccinations more than I do. which is why I’m willing to wait.

I don’t know why so many folks seem so fearful of COVID-19.

Or are so zealous in their declarations — and fervent in their denunciation of folks who don’t agree with them.

The pandemic happening during an America election year didn’t, I think, help. Politics and reason seldom mix. and that’s yet another topic.

Second-Hand Stress

scientificanimations.com's coronavirus structure illustration.Two more things about COVID-19 vaccines.

First, our parish priest made a “Coronavirus Vaccines | A Catholic Perspective” handout available on March 3. I’ll probably be talking about that sometime. But not today, apart from noting that he included a three-tier list.

Second, and this is the point I was headed for, I’m pretty sure that many of us are suffering from second-hand stress. Encountering folks who are dancing on the edge of panic is not, I’m quite sure, a serene experience.


Update March 17, 2021

I got these responses to social media promotion of this post:

“Face mask:
NEW EVIL IN THIS WORLD!!
CONTROL!!!”
([name redacted])

“We must stop being weak and stand up for our rights!!!!!!”
([name redacted])

Five and six exclamation marks, respectively. The folks seem quite sincere. And fervent.

But I’ll continue wearing a face mask in public. As a low-impact public health measure, it strikes me as reasonable.


We Celebrate


(Our Lady of the Angels polka Mass, Dale Dahmen & The Polka Beats.)

Once a year, we have a polka Mass at Our Lady of the Angels, here in Sauk Centre.

I like it. I’d like it more if the oompahs had more oomph. But I like it. A lot.

Some folks apparently don’t. I can see their point. And might even agree, if our polka Mass happened during Easter’s Holy Week. Which it doesn’t.

But if the bishop said ‘no more polka Mass,’ I’d be okay with that.

Happy, no. Okay, yes.

Good grief, I live in a community that put our Divine Mercy devotion on hold until a pope who could read Polish came along. And that’s yet again another topic.

Then there’s reaction to new rules about ‘just me’ Masses at St. Peter’s in Rome.

News and Views

Why the Vatican is restricting private Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica
Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter (March 16, 2021)

“…A new instruction from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State has banned the practice of individual Masses inside St. Peter’s Basilica and places strict limits on the use of the Latin rite….

“…’The intent is to restore the notion of participation in liturgy and private Masses just don’t do it, said Msgr. Kevin Irwin, the longtime chairman of liturgical studies at the Catholic University of America and author of Pope Francis and the Liturgy: The Call to Holiness and Mission.

“The directives go on to note that Masses are still permitted in the chapels of the grotto of the basilica for pilgrim groups accompanied by a priest or bishop and that the use of the extraordinary (Latin) rite are limited to certain times in the Clementine Chapel in the Vatican grottos.

“Viatorian Fr. Mark Francis, who served on the International Commission on English in the Liturgy and is retired president of Catholic Theological Union, told NCR that the new decree makes clear that ‘individual priests are at the service of the church and not vice versa.’

“The Eucharist is a communal celebration,’ he said. ‘To have a private Mass is a sort of an oxymoron.’…”

National Catholic Reporter is far from the most rigidly old-school Catholic news outlet around. But the folks quoted make sense to me.

Besides, it’s not just the NatComRep.

More News and Views

St. Peter’s Basilica to end private Masses, restrict Masses in extraordinary form
Andrea Gagliarducci, Catholic News Agency (CNA) (March 12, 2021)

“…Until now, the 45 altars and 11 chapels in St. Peter’s Basilica have been used every morning by priests to celebrate their daily Mass. Many of them are Vatican officials who begin their day with the celebration.

“Not all of the Masses are crowded – in some cases, in fact, the priest celebrates Mass alone, with no faithful participating.

“The individual Masses were in addition to the general daily Mass schedule in St. Peter’s Basilica. According to that schedule, there is one Mass per hour from 9 a.m. to noon, in Italian, at the Altar of the Chair. There is another Mass in Italian at 8.30 a.m. at the altar of the Most Holy Sacrament, while every day at 5 p.m., there is a Mass in Latin….

“..These anomalies have prompted some speculation that the letter may have been forged. However, two Vatican officials who asked for anonymity confirmed to CNA that the document is real.”

I’m not affected by this letter. Not directly, at any rate.

And I don’t see a problem with a rule that says ‘just me’ Masses aren’t okay in St. Peter’s, Rome. That’s partly because I’m a Catholic, and have read the Catechism.

The Mass is, or should be, a community thing.

“…The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the Church.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1329)


Sex and Feelings, Marriage and Me — Briefly

I’m not political. This blog isn’t political.

Not in the ‘everyone I don’t like is a commie/fascist’ sense.

But sometimes I talk about issues with a political angle.

After Vatican says same-sex unions cannot be blessed, White House reaffirms Biden’s support for them
Catholic News Agency (CNA) (March 15, 2021)

“While the White House on Monday would not respond to the Vatican’s statement on marriage, press secretary Jen Psaki said that President Biden supports same-sex unions.

“On Monday, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a response to a question on the Church’s power to bless same-sex unions. The CDF said that the Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions or any relations ‘that involve sexual activity outside of marriage.’…”

Since I want to wrap this up while today is still “today,” I’ll be terse. Terse by my standards, that is.

First, what the CDF said isn’t — or shouldn’t be — a surprise. Marriage is, or should be, a sacrament uniting a man and a woman. (Catechism, 16011658)

Second, I don’t see this affirmation of what marriage is as an excuse to lambast folks who aren’t just like me. If I did, my priority would be weeding out that impulse. Make that should be my priority.

A little background.

I’m human.

Emotions are part of the package. By themselves, they’re not good or bad. What matters is what I decide to do about my feelings. (Catechism, 17621770)

Thinking is part of being human, too. But because I have free will, thinking is an option: not a requirement. I figure, based on experience, that I’m better off if I think before I act. (Catechism, 1730, 1778, 1804, 2339)

Let’s say I’m angry about what the American president’s spokesperson said. Which, at some levels, I am.

Okay, so I’m angry. Now what?

Emotion Happens, Thought is an Option

Basically, I’m trying to turn that anger into an awareness of a current issue. And not cherish the emotion.

Deliberately staying angry, letting that emotional impulse turn into hate or despair? That would be wrong. (Catechism, 1501, 2091)

Now, about same-sex attraction.

It happens. So do other glitches. Including ones that I struggle with.

And impulses happen. Feeling the impulse isn’t what’s sinful. It’s just feeling an impulse. Deciding to cooperate with the impulse, or deciding to go with the flow? That’s where trouble starts. (Catechism, 23572359)

I’m expected to recognize the action as a sin, and remember that folks deserve “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” (Catechism, 2358)

There’s a great deal more to say, but there’s also no time left.

So I’ll recap what I’ve said before, about what I believe and how I should act.

I should love God, and my neighbor. And see everyone as my neighbor. Everyone. No exceptions. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Luke 10:2537; Catechism, 1706, 1776, 1825, 18491851, 1955)

Sin is what happens when I don’t do that. It’s is an offense against reason, truth and God. (Catechism, 18491850)

It’s simple. And almost incredibly hard to do.

More of pretty much the same thing:

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St. Patrick’s Day: Prickly Problems, Shamrocks and Saints

March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day.

It’s a public holiday in Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Chicago plumbers celebrate by turning the city’s river green. It’s a day when folks wear something green, and I’ve heard that some even drink green beer. Why anyone would think green beer is a good idea is beyond me, and that’s another topic.

March 17 is also the date when, in 455, Petronius Maximus became Rome’s new Emperor. He insulted the Vandal’s king, who promptly sent a fleet toward Rome. Two and a half months later, someone tossed P. Max.’s body in the Tiber.

In Suffolk County, Massachusetts, March 17 is Evacuation Day; commemorating the Siege of Boston’s end. Oddly enough, Boston has had St. Patrick’s Day parades since 1876. But Evacuation Day wasn’t an official holiday until 1901.1

Global merriment, however, has its critics.


Pick a Peck of Prickly Problems

St. Patrick’s Day has been denounced as causing drunk and disorderly conduct.

And because it’s dreadfully commercialized. According, I suspect, to some folks who remember that it’s a Saint’s feast day; and maybe have lucre scruples. Or maybe chrometophobia accounts for commerce-avoidant complaints. Or absurdly good taste.

Others, addressing a more trendy set, chastise the celebrants’ cultural appropriation. They’ve got a point. Folks who are as Irish as I’m Lakota wear green.

Then there’s the leprechaun issue. Seems that today’s leprechaun looks like 19th century anti-Irish stereotypes. Maybe so. Then again, maybe not. Either way, I see no point in being upset when folks enjoy ‘being Irish’ for a day.

TDKR Chicago 101's Chicago River dyed green for the St. Patrick's Day parade, used w/o permission. (March 17, 2018)Opposing “plastic paddyness” isn’t a prospecting protestor’s only option.

The Chicago River turns green on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, or on the day itself, when it falls on Saturday.

It’s been a Chicago tradition since 1962.

It started back in the early 1960s, when folks used fluorescein dye to trace illegal pollution leaks in Chicago.

The stuff turned parts of the river green.

Doing so intentionally for St. Patrick’s Day seemed like a good idea at the time.

The EPA told Chicago to stop using fluorescein in 1966. The stuff’s not, apparently, environmentally friendly.

The Chicago river still turns green each year. But now the city’s plumbers use a secret mix of vegetable dyes. The EPA’s okay with that.

At least one advocacy group isn’t.

Again, as with the ‘cultural appropriation’ protestors, I see their point. A bright green river has an artificial look.2 But making Chicago’s waterway look natural while the city’s still there isn’t going to happen. Festive green or no festive green.

Previous Prickly Problems

Branford Clarke's cartoon, from page 21 of Alma White's 'Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty;' Zarephath, New Jersey. (1926)
(From Branford Clarke, Alma White; via Wikimedia Commons; used w/o permission.)
(Alma White’s “Guardians of Liberty” defending their country from people like me. (1926))

Before talking about the “Saint Patrick” part of St. Patrick’s Day, maybe a clarification is in order. Or maybe not. Either way, here it is.

Today’s America isn’t simple.

Neither was yesteryear’s.

I could take that 1854 “No Irish need apply” want ad and Boston’s 1876 St. Patrick’s Day parade, assume a straight-line progression into the 20th century: and express shocked horror that A. White — I’m not making that name up — published “Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty” in 1926.

I could, but I won’t.

Or I could take the “Saint Patrick’s Day in America — 1926” cartoon as proof that Christianity in general and American Christians in particular have no place in today’s world.

But that doesn’t strike me as reasonable.

A. White, her Pillar of Fire Church and the KKK’s second iteration were not mainstream in 1926. Times changed and so did the PFC.

To her credit, A White struggled long and hard in her efforts to defend America. I’ll assume that she sincerely saw Catholicism, Pentecostalism, the Irish, Jews and foreigners in general as threats to her native land.

I’ll also assume that A. White wasn’t your typical 1920s American. Or typical Protestant American, which isn’t quite the same thing.

Some of us were making speakeasies profitable and fueling her “anti-prohibition” concerns. Quite a few, judging from what I know of Minnesota 13.3 And that’s another topic.

Basically, I see people as anything but simple. America’s growing crazy quilt of people, backgrounds and beliefs? That’s even less so.


“…I am a Sinner” — St. Patrick, Shamrocks and All That

Copy of St. Patrick's Confessio, in Cotton MS Nero E I/1, British Library.
(From the British Library, used w/o permission.)
(First lines of St. Patrick’s Confessio, in a Medieval collection. (ca. 1100))

“My name is Patrick…
“I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many….”
(St. Patrick’s Confessio, English translation at confessio.ie)

Many scholars agree that St. Patrick wrote his Confessio and Epistola, Declaration and the Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus.

He calls himself as Pātricius in those documents. Which figures, since that’s a Latin version of Pátraic (Old Irish), Pàdraig (Scottish Gaelic), Padrig (Welsh) and Petroc (Cornish).

Or, in my language, Patrick.

Evidence in what Pātricius wrote says he lived in the 400s. Give or take a bit.

Pātricius may have been, by today’s ethnic standards, Roman, Welsh, Cornish, or Celtic. Or some combination thereof.

What’s more certain is that he was born somewhere in Britannia: an imperial borderland abandoned — or liberated — when Roman generals pulled out.

Documentation for that era is sketchy. Hardly surprising, given that folks were adjusting to life without Rome’s laws and commerce. But adjust they did. And by the seventh century, Pātricius was venerated as the patron Saint of Ireland.

There’s considerable debate over St. Patrick’s chronology.

But not, apparently, over whether or not someone named Pātricius was kidnapped, sold as a slave and then became a missionary. One scholar even said there were two Patricks.

Another debatable, and debated, point is whether Pātricius was the first Christian missionary in Ireland.

There’s a story about Saint Ciarán of Saigir that makes him the first. By a few years. Maybe that’s so, maybe not. What’s more certain is that St. Ciarán of Saigir was born in Ireland, which makes him the first Saint born in Éire.4

Shamrocks

A flowering Shamock. Photo by Accruss. (2015)St. Patrick and the shamrock are very closely linked. Even folks who aren’t Catholic know how he used the plant as a visual aid when explaining the Trinity.

It’s a good story, and may be true. But verifying it would be tricky, since its first written version pops up in 1727.

That’s when Caleb Threlkeld, a botanist and dissenting cleric, said that the shamrock is a particular sort of clover.

“…This plant is worn by the people in their hats upon the 17. Day of March yearly, (which is called St. Patrick’s Day.) It being a current tradition, that by this Three Leafed Grass, he emblematically set forth to them the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. However that be, when they wet their Seamar-oge, they often commit excess in liquor, which is not a right keeping of a day to the Lord; error generally leading to debauchery….”
(“Synopsis Stirpium Hibernicarum…,” p. 168, Caleb Threlkeld (1727))

I’m not sure what Threlkeld was dissenting from.

I’m also not sure how long Threlkeld’s “current tradition” about St. Patrick’s shamrock had been around. For all I know, it’s an oral tradition that goes back to folks who saw St. Patrick pick a three-leafed plant while talking about the Trinity.

Over the last several centuries, the shamrock’s been positively identified5 as:

  • Black medick
  • Lesser clover
  • Purple field clover
  • Red clover
  • Suckling clover
  • White clover
  • Wood sorrel

I figure it’s one of those. Or some other plant with three-lobed leaves.

Or maybe the legend of St. Patrick and the shamrock is one of those tales that could have been true, but isn’t. Not literally, at any rate.

Legends and a Forbidden Pit

Thomas Carve's 'Map of Station Island,' including Caverna Purgatory. (1666)St. Patrick’s driving snakes out of Ireland has a ring of truth to it, since Ireland has no native snakes.

The legend is more than a bit dubious, though, since we’ve been learning that there never were snakes in Ireland. Not since the most recent glaciers melted.

Another story has St. Patrick comparing Christianity and Ireland’s pre-Christian beliefs with Caílte mac Rónáin and Oisín, a couple of Irishmen from Fionn mac Cumhaill’s outfit.

On the face of it, it’s plausible.

But I gather that it’d be a bit like Billy Graham having a chat with Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen. The ancient Irish heroes had been dead for some time when Pātricius was born. Besides; the Pat, Caílte and Oisín story doesn’t show up until the 12th century.

Still another story says that St. Patrick had the habit of pushing his walking stick into the ground wherever he stopped to talk to folks. The locals in one place took so long, catching on to what St. Patrick was saying, that his ash walking stick took root and became a tree.

Literally true, or hyperbole? I’m guessing the latter.

Another story isn’t so much a story as a place.

Ever since St. Patrick’s time, Lough Derg’s Station Island, in County Donegal, has been a pilgrimage destination. They go to be near a cave, pit, well or maybe sweat lodge where St. Patrick stayed for what we’d call a retreat.

The earliest record we have of the legend connected with “St. Patrick’s Purgatory” dates to the 12th century. We’re quite sure, though, that folks were making pilgrimages to the site, starting in the 5th century.

The cave’s been closed since 1632, by order of the English government. But we know where “St. Patrick’s Purgatory” is, and pilgrims still go there.6


Saints

Saint Edmund Arrowsmith; from The Arrowsmith House, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission. (1628)Some Saints, like Sts. Patrick of Ireland and Francis of Assisi, are so famous that folks who aren’t Catholic know about them.

Others, like St. Edmund Arrowsmith, are off the radar for almost everyone.

And some, like St. Christopher, are famous but not well-documented.

Which is why his feast day is still celebrated, but hasn’t been on the official calendar since 1970. That, plus our having accumulated a great many saints over the last couple millennia and our mandate to keep liturgy focused on Jesus.

Some Saints, like Edmund Arrowsmith, had messy deaths. He was convicted of being a Roman Catholic priest in 1628; then promptly hung, drawn and quartered.

Others, like Pātricius and Francesco, kept living until accident, disease or old age caught up with them.

What makes Saints special is their “heroic virtue,” and how they “lived in fidelity to God’s grace….” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 828)

Like I said, martyrdom is Sainthood’s fast track. But folks who lived exceptional lives but died of natural causes were venerated as Saints at least by the fourth century.

Our process for recognizing Saints — canonization — has changed considerably. By the fifth century, public veneration of a Saint needed approval from diocese’s bishop. That worked pretty well for a half-millennium.

But by the 12th century at least a few bishops and archbishops were getting sloppy, approving veneration in at least one case for someone who died in an accident caused by the Medieval equivalent of DUI.

Authority for signing off on veneration shifted to the Pope.7

Which reminds me. About St. Patrick’s Day, beer and celebrating.

Drinking, in moderation, isn’t evil. Getting drunk is a bad idea and I shouldn’t do it. (Catechism, 2290)

Due Process

Dogbert's 'miracle of the peanut butter.' (1992)Today’s canonization process includes two miracles. Verifiable miracles. Not the oddities spoofed 1992 “Dilbert” comic strips.

The process starts with someone asking an archbishop to start looking into a possible Saint’s eligibility.

All three major steps — “Venerable,” “Blessed” and “Saint” — involve extensive background checks.8 It’s complicated, and can be frustrating. But I think due process is a good idea in general. And a really good idea in this case.


New and Improved Folklore

Triple spiral, based on prehistoric motifs found at Newgrange, Ireland.I very strongly suspect that St. Patrick’s folklore is still growing.

According to informal posts I’ve found on academic websites, his name isn’t Pātricius, it’s Maewyn Succat. It’s apparently one of those ‘well-known facts:’ so well-known that its source isn’t worth citing.

When, where and how someone dug up Patrick’s ‘true name’ — that, I don’t know.

Maybe Pātricius was Maewyn Succat in his home town, taking a more widely-acceptable name for his career. Sort of like someone I knew whose name was Bogdan: but since he was in sales, his business name was “Bob.”

A less likely, but far more juicy, story popped up in 2011. Maybe earlier.

Apparently Pātricius couldn’t have been enslaved, because he couldn’t have escaped. That almost makes sense, since going over the fence in a foreign country would be tricky, at best.

One version of the ‘no escape’ scenario casts Pātricius as a Roman slave trader!9

But nobody, as far as I can tell, has said that Pātricius wrote plays, hiding the scripts in London, where they were discovered by Christopher Marlowe. Who translated and published them as William Shakespeare.

As I’ve said before, some things may be too weird even for today’s academia:

There’s more to say about Saints, veneration and the ‘treasury of the Church,’ which isn’t cash or other material assents. But that’ll wait for another day.

Vaguely-related posts, and some that are not so much:


1 March 17:

2 Global merriment’s (alleged) dark lining:

3 The Irish menace, a perceived peril:

4 Saint Patrick and his era:

5 Regarding shamrocks:

6 Legends:

7 Recognizing heroic virtue:

8 Verifying Saints:

  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

9 Folklore and/or tall tales:

Posted in discursive detours | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pope Francis in Iraq: Peace, Prayer and a Sign of Hope

I’ve been listening to Vatican News coverage of the Pope’s trip to Iraq.

Watching, too. All 53 minutes and 42 seconds of that video.

I’d have preferred seeing more of the medal presented to Iraqi authorities.

And the speeches were pretty much what I expected: reviews of past events, current situations and future hopes.

That drama deficit is probably why I haven’t seen much about the current papal visit in American news. Which isn’t, I think, an altogether bad thing. And that’s another topic.

About the medal: I gather that it celebrated Abram/Abraham, and his roots in territory we’re currently calling Iraq.

And I think it’s a smart diplomatic move.

Abraham, Ur and Options

We know about Sumerian Urim, AKA Akkadian Uru and Arabic ūr.

It was a coastal city back in its prime. That was four millennia back now, give or take a few centuries.

These days, it’s an archaeological site, some 155 miles, 250 kilometers, inland. The city didn’t move, but the coastline has.

The last I checked, archaeologists and historians haven’t decided where, when and what “Ur of the Chaldeans” was.

It could be our Urim/Uru/Ur. But if that’s so, we’d need explanations for why Abram/Abraham’s home town got connected with folks who weren’t there in his day.

Letting that upset me is an option, but not a reasonable one. Getting a positive ID on Abraham’s Ur would be nice. But considering how much has happened since he moved out, I’m impressed that we know as much as we do.

In any case, Pope Leo XIII had a good idea:

“…God, the Creator and Ruler of all things, is also the Author of the Scriptures — and that therefore nothing can be proved either by physical science or archaeology which can really contradict the Scriptures. … Even if the difficulty is after all not cleared up and the discrepancy seems to remain, the contest must not be abandoned; truth cannot contradict truth….”
(“Providentissimus Deus,” Pope Leo XIII (November 18, 1893) [emphasis mine])

“…A Sign of Promise and Hope….”

The 'Chagall Window,' United Nations Headquarters; a memorial to Dag Hammarskjöld, second UN Secretary-General. (1964)This is the 33rd international apostolic trip for Pope Francis. And his first to Iraq. Maybe the first of any pope to Iraq. I’d have to check on that.

Pope Francis, along with other folks in that video, has been talking about peace. Which I think is a good idea.

“…Today we, Jews, Christians and Muslims, together with our brothers and sisters of other religions, honour our father Abraham by doing as he did: we look up to heaven and we journey on earth.
“We look up to heaven. Thousands of years later, as we look up to the same sky, those same stars appear….
“…By his fidelity to God, Abraham became a blessing for all peoples … God loves every people, every one of his daughters and sons! Let us never tire of looking up to heaven, of looking up to those same stars that, in his day, our father Abraham contemplated….”
(Apostolic Journey to the Republic of Iraq: Interreligious meeting at the Plain of Ur; Pope Francis (March 6, 2021))

“…This evening I want to thank you for your efforts to be peacemakers, within your communities and with believers of other religious traditions, sowing seeds of reconciliation and fraternal coexistence that can lead to a rebirth of hope for everyone.
“Here I think especially of the young. Young people everywhere are a sign of promise and hope, but particularly in this country. Here you have not only priceless archeological treasures, but also inestimable treasure for the future: the young!…”
(Apostolic Journey to the Republic of Iraq: Meeting with Bishops, Priests, Religious, Consecrated Persons, Seminarians, Catechists; Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation; Baghdad; Pope Francis (March 5, 2021))

Masks and Miscellanea

Me, wearing a face mask. At my desk, which isn't at all usual. (January 23, 2021)I don’t know why Pope Francis and others weren’t wearing face mask.

Or why a cameraman’s nose wasn’t covered, while another person was wearing a face mask correctly.

Correctly by CDC standards, that is.

I’ll assume that everyone there had good reasons for wearing or not wearing face masks. Which is no virtue on my part. I wear a face mask on my rare outings because it’s a rule here in Minnesota, and because for me it’s an easy way to cooperate.

Wrapping this up, folks at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops asked “…all the faithful and people of good will in the United States to pray for the success and safety of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Iraq March 5-8….”

Eugeniusz Kazimirowski's 'Divine Mercy.' (1934)That made sense to me, so I added a rosary to my usual routine today.

My usual routine includes two Divine Mercy chaplets.

But not, oddly enough, a rosary. I had to look up a ‘how-2’ for that very ‘Catholic’ prayer:

I’ve talked about peace, prayer, and acting as if ‘love my neighbor’ mattered before. Often:

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