The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Friday, February 10, 2006

SAINTS AND SEATS: February 22nd is Washington’s Birthday, and a great day for all Americans, but for those of us of the Papist persuasion the day is also the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, which may or may not mean anything to you, largely because it doesn’t mean all that much to us, either. Every day of the year has some saint associated with it, and usually more than one, with some days pulling triple and even quadruple duty, and you couldn’t possibly remember who goes with what day even if you tried. Some days are fairly definitive, of course; March 17th is always Saint Patrick’s Day whether or not any of the other saints associated with the day like it or not, and October 15th is always the feast of Crispin and his brother Crispianus, simply because Henry V fought the battle of Agincourt on this day in 1415, and one of the greatest of Shakespearean speeches mentions the two martyrs over and over again (“…and Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by from this day until the ending of the world but we in it shall be remembered..."), and now they shall be remembered, even if Crispin and Crispian were already long dead when the English and the French had at it on their feast day and they had nothing to do with the fighting one way or the other. The English won, of course, which is why Shakespeare wrote such a flag-waving play about the whole thing.

The Church makes things a little easier for the clueless Catholic by publishing calendars that tell whose feast day it is on any particular day, but even the Church does a fair bit of editing. Today, for example, is the feast of Saint Scholastica, the sister of Saint Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine Order of monks and the man who probably did more to save the literature of the classical world than anyone else. He did all this neat stuff at his monastery atop Monte Cassino, a mountain on the road to Rome, and the site of a major battle during World War II. There is film footage of the United States Army Air Forces bombing the place to kingdom come in 1944, which I always enjoy seeing on the History Channel. I realize that the horror of this largely unnecessary bombing (the Germans hadn’t actually occupied the monastery before the American bombardment; they moved into the ruins afterwards) should appall me both as a human being and as a Roman Catholic, but it doesn’t, really; I’ve always thought Monte Cassino blew apart nicely for a monastery—you don’t usually associate monasteries with air strikes, and so watching the Army Air Force violate the sanctity of this holy place with five hundred pound bombs packed with high explosives was nicely ironical, if I mean ironical in this case and not paradoxical or even oxymoronic. In any case, watching the monastery blow apart is fun to watch, or at least I think so, but then I am easily entertained, I suppose.

The important point, however, is that February 10th, the feast day of Saint Scholastica, is also the feast day of Saint Trumwin of Whitby, amongst others, and why shouldn’t Trumwin’s name be up there on the calendar as well? He is a saint too, assuming he is a he and not a she, and I was not aware that there was a star system when it came to sainthood, with a select few getting all the choice dates and the others trying to get the faithful to notice them. The competition is especially fierce in countries with Eastern Orthodox majorities, since children in those countries regard their name day, the feast day of the saints they are named for, as more important than their birthdays, and saints line up trying to get the attention of prospective parents, with some saints offering a cut rate on the parents’ mortgages and others offering to pay off those outstanding student loans for only pennies on the dollar. I’m always surprised that some enterprising saint hasn’t started advertising on television like the lawyers or the telephone companies do, letting the faithful know that the saints are already in heaven and have a personal line to the Almighty that you too can use for only $15.95 a month and no overage charges, and family and friends can talk free.

Saints should not have to do this sort of thing and frankly, this is why I find the Church’s dedicating feast days to furniture more than a little troubling. I should say here that I have nothing against St. Peter having a chair of his own, preferably a nice Barcalounger or a La-Z-Boy so he can put his feet up and give the sports pages a quick check as the masses of souls stand outside the Pearly Gates waiting for him to find their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life, but the idea that there should be a day honoring his chair seems a more than little odd to me. Using the same logic, Muslims could demand that everyone honor the Prophet’s ottoman and Buddhists could insist that society honor the Buddha’s floor mat. The possibilities are more or less endless, when you think about it; if you’re going to demand the sanctification of furniture then you can demand all sorts of silly things, like a feast day honoring Saint Valentine’s love seat, the sanctification of Saint Lawrence’s waffle iron, although that’s more of a household appliance than a piece of furniture, now that I think about it, or the reliquary devoted to St. Patrick’s stool down at the corner in Kelly’s Bar & Grill, wherein the faithful can see a piece of the original phony leather from that blessed stool, where St. Patrick sat and devoted many of the best Friday nights of his ministry preaching the Gospel to the heathen, baptizing a people lost in darkness into the light of the Truth, and talking with his brothers and sisters in the Lord about how the Dodgers will never leave Brooklyn, not in a million years.

It’s just wrong, I think, and will inevitably lead the blessed filling the many mansions in Our Father’s house with furniture covered with those awful plastic slipcovers. You know the kind I mean, the kind that your persnickety Aunt Tillie insisted on putting on her “good” furniture so the nieces and nephews wouldn’t get grass or food stains all over it when they came to visit. She’d never take the damn plastic off ever, not when those slip covers had gone yellow with age and were literally falling apart at the seams, and you couldn’t sit on them on a hot summer’s day for any length of time because you’d wind up sitting there in a pool of your own sweat and worrying about the sharp end of the cracked plastic slicing through your pants and into your backside. This is always massively uncomfortable and leads inevitably to the horrors of selling life insurance and Anabaptism, which we should all scrupulously avoid for the sake of our immortal souls.


  • At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    St. Patrick has some good promoters. That might be a good business... all you'd need is a connection to the great beyond and some good Saint Day marketing strategies.



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