Monthly Archives: October 2009

Seibo

Apparently, the most common title used for Mary in Japan is “Seibo”, which means “Holy Mother”.

“Sei” uses the same kanji (Chinese character) as is used for saint and holy in other Catholic contexts. “-bo” is the usual kanji for mother.

(Most kanji can be pronounced different ways, depending on whether you are using it as part of a compound (which usually means a Chinese-derived word) or just by itself. Sometimes you’re just supposed to know which formality level of vocab word is being used, thanks to context and modifiers. There are several different Japanese words for mother, for instance.)

(Also, kanji aren’t really exactly the same as Chinese characters anymore. But that’s where they came from, and there’s still more overlap than not.)

Anyway, the interesting thing is that, in the same context where we’d write “Our Lady of X”, Japanese Catholics say “X no Seibo”, Holy Mother of X. The reason is pretty obvious, if you consider the Japanese situation. They actually live in a culture where there are tons of lady goddesses, many associated with places, so they really do have to worry about not giving the impression of Mary-worship. (In Christian countries, it would be insulting to people’s intelligence to do likewise. And of course, any title for Mary is unacceptable to the real Mary-haters.)

Mary’s name in Japan is usually “Maria” or “Maria-sama”, because Japan was evangelized by Portuguese/Spanish missionaries.

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There’s No Vocation Crisis There, But They Don’t Talk about It.

I had no idea that there are two Trappist monasteries in Japan, and five of female Trappists (Trappistines).

It makes a lot of sense, given Japanese cultural fondness for monks and for doing spiritually strenuous things. But with all the sad resigned things some orders say about how Catholic Japan is sooooo uninfluential, and there’s such a vocation crisis, and really nobody is interested in religion in modern Japan so we have to approach them in other ways, you would think that this TINY LITTLE FACT would get mentioned.

Japan is not all that big a country. Seven frickin’ super-silent monasteries they’ve got. Is this not of interest??? Is this not sufficiently hardcore???

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Earth’s Desert Fathers vs. Vulcan’s Masters of Gol

Early Christianity, like Proverbs, the Stoics, and the Greek philosophers, was sure that the wise and virtuous person (man or woman) didn’t let himself get too worked up about stuff. Being a geek, I immediately thought about the Vulcans. :) And indeed, there’s been some interesting food for thought in comparing the Christian concept with the science fictional one.

But now, an even more direct counterpoise!

Via the Anchoress, a quote from the sayings of the Desert Fathers in By Way of the Desert:

John the Dwarf asked God to mitigate his passions. He became calm and imperturbable. He told a hermit, “I now rest in peace. There is no struggle between my flesh and my spirit.”

The hermit replied, “Pray that the Lord will start a new war in you. Struggle is good for the soul.”

When the old conflicts returned John did not pray that God would take them away. Instead, he prayed, “Lord, give me the strength to survive this battle.”

So clearly, the Desert Fathers didn’t mean for people to do a Christian version of kolinahr and totally disconnect their emotions and passions and desires. The goal is to have continual spiritual challenge. (Which goes along with their concept of monasticism as a spiritual training camp for spiritual athletes.)

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Eyeshield 21: Catholics in Anime

Apparently, the main antagonist team (always presented as honorable antagonists and models of sportsmanship) in this anime is the Ojo White Knights. They’ve got plenty of good players and know what they’re doing.

In episode 4, we visit their high school. But it’s not some big city high school, and it’s not just another private school for rich Japanese kids. Noooo, it’s a private Catholic high school!

In Japanese pop culture, Catholic high schools have a cachet to them. One gathers that when they were originally allowed to be founded, they quickly got a lot of rich non-Catholic students because they taught Western knowledge. Often, graduates were influential. Often, their families go to the same school for generations.

But usually, in anime, Catholic high schools are only used for their look or a touch of exoticism and haut ton. When you add in the uniquely Japanese bits of Catholic school culture to the anime writers’ imaginations (sometimes pretty fevered, when it comes to Catholic schoolgirls), a US Catholic doesn’t usually see anything too recognizable. I mean, did you have a lot of random stained glass windows in your parochial school? Heck, no.

However, the Ojo White Knights apparently think they are Notre Dame. Heck, Ojo Private Senior High School was apparently designed to look like it’s a certain campus in South Bend. (Which could happen, especially in Japan.) They wear Irish circle-crosses on their workout gear. They have a big banner on the wall that says “Glory on the Kingdom”, which sounds like the anime writers are trying to do AMDG in a way non-Catholic Japanese would understand. So the ridiculously huge number of stained glass windows, I’m ready to overlook. :)

So far, there’s no indication whether the characters are Catholics or not (or at least, none recognizable to me as a non-Japanese!). If there’s more Catholic culture in it, I’ll let you know. But given how weirdly that Christian stuff can get mutated by non-Christian Japanese, it’s probably just as well if we don’t see any attempt at depicting a pre-game Mass. ;)

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Iyashikei

Apparently, the Japanese fans have a word for it, whatever it is in anime. And the word for the subgenre of “slice of life” anime that is designed to soothe the jangled nerve and cheer the depressed is “iyashi-kei”, which means “healing”.

I was particularly charmed to read in this paper that indeed, these series are purposefully low on conflict. Why? Because you don’t want any conflict in a show that you watch late at night, right before going to sleep. Life is hard enough. Why make characters suffer and fight, when you can watch them have fun and make small happy discoveries?

Classic examples of this kind of show: Aria (the gondoliers on Mars show), Binchou-tan, etc.

There are other shows that have elements of this, like Someday’s Dreamers and Haibane Renmei, but which also have a lot of wrenching drama and hilarious comedy in them. If you’re really depressed, you might not be able to face this kind of stuff — which is probably why iyashikei shows were developed.

A lot of these shows are aimed at businessmen and male students, although their gentle approach makes them nice viewing for anyone. But I have to admit that this year’s iyashi-kei series, Miracle Train, takes a different approach. How different? Well, if Touched by an Angel was Touched by a Personified Subway Station, and said incredibly clean stations were personified as good-looking Japanese guys in suits who materialize solely to aid damsels in distress, that would be Miracle Train. I like it a lot.

Of course, if I were cynical, I’d say that all that casual sexual harassment by male passengers has caused Tokyo women to quit riding the commuter trains, and that the Tokyo subway system is sponsoring this series is not about “education” but about keeping the better half of their ridership. But of course, I have no proof of that, so it would be wrong to be cynical. ;)

Anyway, it’s a very heartwarming show, despite the obvious plays for popularity and marketing revealed in it; and it’s on Crunchyroll for you to view.

I gather that the cat show Chii’s Sweet Home (also available on Crunchyroll) is also iyashikei. Kittens don’t live a very conflicted life. :) Sketchbook: Full Color S is another, being a chronicle of a high school art club and its eccentric members. Lovely art.

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Eyeshield 21

If you’ve ever thought that what the world really needs is a Japanese high school football anime, there is in fact such a thing. Eyeshield 21 is one of those immensely long, game-filled shonen sports manga (a series targeted toward boys); it lasted for seven years. The anime is over a hundred episodes long, so if you like this sort of thing, there’s plenty to love.

The concept is pretty charming. The protagonist is a short, slight boy who doesn’t do terribly well in school and is used as a fetch-and-carry minion by the school plug-uglies. He passes the exams and makes it into a good high school by the skin of his teeth and a lot of tutoring. But it seems as if history will repeat itself — until he is saved by a member of the American football school club. This new friend gives him the courage to resist and evade the newest crop of bullies. Also, he finds himself recruited onto the football team as a running back.

Which puts the total number of football players on the high school team at… um… three. That means they have to recruit 8 more players if they even want to play against other schools. But these guys are dreaming of winning the national high school championship at Christmastime. This being anime, they might just make it….

It’s pretty cool to see a show where an American game is the exotic, trendy new sport. Sometimes I even know the football quiz answers. :)

Crunchyroll has this show in subtitled form for you to watch, free and legal. They have 125 episodes.

(I guess a few episodes dubbed into English were on the Cartoon Network’s Toonami on-demand site for a while in 2008, but I could never get that site to work.)

You can also watch the long-running high school basketball anime, Slam Dunk, at Crunchyroll. In which a Japanese high school boy joins the basketball team in the hope of impressing girls, and finds himself in the middle of some kind of basketball epic. They’ve only got 101 episodes of that up.

Oh, and in case any of you parental types are wondering — shonen sports series aimed at middle-schoolers, like this one, usually keep it pretty clean. Violence is more of a concern, but it’s usually either not very violent or simply cartoon violence. You’re much more likely to lose your mind from seeing games dragged out over two or three episodes, a la all the tournament shows inspired by Dragonball Z.

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Our Lady of Good Delivery

Our Lady of Good Delivery
October 7, 2009 by marialectrix

“Nuestra Senora de Buen Parto” or “La Virgen de Buen Parto” is mostly known in this country through Our Lady of La Leche y Buen Parto’s statue, down in St. Augustine, Florida. She’s the patroness of the breastfeeding organization, the La Leche League, so we think of her as a patroness of ladies with breastfeeding problems.

But in Valencia, Spain and elsewhere, her patronage of pregnant women and women in labor is very important.

So in honor of Heather Price and her passenger Elizabeth, a prayer from Valencia (translated).

Our God and Father, who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary to be a fitting dwelling, for Your Son, conceived through the work of the Holy Spirit —

Through Mary’s virginal delivery, convert the pains of women who believe in You into joy. Through our Redeemer’s birth, present the good things of salvation to humanity.

Look with favor upon this daughter of Yours, to whom has also been given the gift of motherhood; and through the intercession of the mother of Your Son, grant that the fruit which she has conceived may develop in good health, have a happy emergence into the light, employ her whole life in Your holy service, and attain the Kingdom of Heaven along with all her family.

Amen.

Our Lady of Good Delivery, Mission Nombre de Dios, St. Augustine FL.

UPDATE: Links will be fixed later today… I accidentally posted this on the podcast blog.

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“Dream of the Rood” a Pagan Poem?!

I’ve been looking around on the Web lately, and a number of the usual sources (Wikipedia, term papers you can pay for, etc.) are convinced that “Dream of the Rood” is less Christian than pagan. Or that the pagan elements overshadow the Christian ones. Or that the poet’s POV at the beginning of the story is that of a pagan. Etc. A lot of these writers aren’t Christian, of course, so it’s possible for them to misunderstand enough to believe this. But then, this sort of thing actually leads some Christian people to think it’s a poem of tree idolatry. (Because obviously any Christian Saxon must have really still been pagan, especially if not a member of the reader’s non-denominational church established yesterday.)

On the other hand, you find a lot of the non-usual suspects loving this poem. Whatever they may think of the Catholic Church, these people understand things like evangelism, imagination, and the hard work of teasing out which strands are just another culture and which are inextricable with another religion.

I did see it pointed out elsewhere that, only a hundred years after this poem was written, St. Boniface and half his royal Saxon family were mucking about in Germany, establishing convents to be centers of Christian life, traveling trackless forests all year while evangelizing real tree- and pagan god-worshipping pagans, cutting down oaks that were objects of worship, and (in Boniface’s case) getting martyred by said folks. It is highly offensive to claim that such people, on the front lines of Christianity, were somehow not Christian enough and were really tree-worshippers.

There were probably still a good few pagans around in England when the poem was written, but unless it was VERY early, the real power of paganism in England was gone. (At least until the Danes moved in, and that was a slightly different denomination.) :) King Penda, the last pagan king (who had no objection to missionaries if in the right mood) died in 655. St. Boniface died in 754. The Ruthwell Cross, upon which some lines of the poem are written, is from about the same time Penda died.

To my mind, the “Dream of the Rood” is not something written by a brand new convert. Such a person would usually tend to be allergic to anything too close to his old pagan ways, eager to learn the new stuff. An experienced Christian wrote this thing, I think, someone able to play around a bit without fear. The dreamer’s POV is not that of a pagan, but of a Christian being further evangelized about stuff he knows. And the Rood’s POV is not that of a tree demanding worship, but one itself worshipping God. The Rood is acting as a friend toward the dreamer, not as a god. It’s not asking for the dreamer to slaughter any horses or cows for it, and the dreamer isn’t saying that he will. The whole thing is no more pagan than Ben Hur, being part of the long tradition of imagining the events of the Gospels in your own way.

And if anyone can’t see past the charming literary devices to the majesty of Jesus Christ depicted therein — well. That goes beyond “can’t see the forest for the trees”. It’s more like “totally blind and deaf to meaning and poetry”. Very sad.

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Wulfstan Sermon Podcast!

I forgot to post earlier that Wormtalk and Slugspeak/Anglo-Saxon Aloud guy is currently podcasting the sermons of Bishop Wulfstan, from the late 900′s-early 1000′s. (Anglo-Saxon Aloud is dedicating to recording the entire corpus of Old English literature.)

He’s up to Sermon 20, so there’s plenty for you to hear.

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The Annual Mantilla Discussion.

While the lay female Catholic blogosphere begins to spiral into the annual discussion of whether or not one should wear head coverings in church, I answer, “Of course, if one has a cute winter hat like mine. You can wear it at work also, and everywhere else outside the home. Spread the cuteness!”

And as we begin the new offshoot discussion of whether or not one should wear head coverings at home to pray (mostly because the Anchoress does it, though I’m sure there’s plenty others), I say that this is obviously a valid but non-standard way to go about Christian prayer as a woman. In both the Eastern and Western traditions, you don’t wear hats and head coverings at home, unless you are expecting guests for dinner or your house is really cold inside. My apartment generally has adequate central heating, so I don’t wear a nightcap when I sleep or a hat when I’m inside. If I wore a hat all the time, I’d wear it when praying, too. But I don’t.

I’m not really a romantic at heart, you see. Not really. I’ve worn a headrail and two layers of dress 16/7 during the height of summer and in the chill of night in the mountains, and that teaches you to think of such things as functional sun-guards and head-warmers, and secondly as fashion semantics statements. They do not keep you from being distracted. (Well, maybe they do you, but not me!) They do not wrap you up like a precious gift. They do not veil you like a monstrance. They are clothes.

(And I’m really glad I was in a medieval recreation group from before lace, because lace not only snags instantly when I touch it, but gives me hives if it’s made of nylon. We will say no more, because there were lacemakers and people who did tatting in my family and they will kill me for disrespecting their craft. Fear the crafters!)

The ancient tradition was to wear head coverings in church to maintain certain formality levels, so that we don’t presume too much on the fact that it’s the family house of our clan, the clan of God. We wear them for the sake of the non-adopted people in the house — and our family friends and bodyguards, the angels — instead of going bareheaded like a woman in her own home with nobody but family. We don’t wear our pjs and fuzzy slippers to church, either.

Everything else is a happy pious thought. And of course, it’s not bad to have happy pious thoughts, or individual prayer techniques and devotional practices. Half of the coolest stuff we have started as happy pious thoughts. And not everybody thinks that you wear a linen headrail in summer mostly because linen is incredibly slow to dry, especially after you dunk it in that nice cool Pennsylvania crick in back of the woods campgrounds and make your head happy.

But I just can’t see substituting “this is the way I think of it” for “actually, this is what it says in scripture and tradition”. (Also, no creepy stuff about angels falling for the children of men because of their hair. The Byzantines only thought this way because they had eunuchs and creepy stereotypes about them.)

Y’all do what you want, of course.

What is freaky is that we women actually tend to care what other people think about this stuff. Parenting posts get very strange when mothers actually worry about what Mrs. Q down the street says she does with her little Johnny and that they aren’t being good mothers because they don’t do the same. Unless I paint myself blue and show up to cantor, I’m fairly sure nobody in my parish cares what I wear on my head. Only on the Internet do people make comments about this stuff.

(Okay, maybe a giant bandage would get comments. Or something super-cute, like my new winter hat. But other than that, no.)

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My New Cute Winter Hat

Mwahahaha! I forgot to say that I found a nice winter hat this weekend. It’s basically a sort of woolly (acrylic) knitted beret or snood, except that… it has a visor brim like a fisherman’s cap!

I don’t actually think this would work for _deep_ winter, but for early and late winter, it should do fine. Also, it actually threatens to approach fashionability and cuteness, which are good for shock value when found on me. :)

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Really Alternative Lifestyles: Relics of St. Therese Edition

Via Intentional Disciples, a hilarious/saddening link to a column decrying St. Therese’s relics.

It would be a lot better for UK people like this columnist if they’d just admit to themselves, “Why, yes, deep down I’m a little bit anti-Catholic, as I was programmed by the Elizabethan and later propagandists to be. Whenever this sort of thing comes up, I’m bound to be a little irrational about it, because I’ve been taught to get the heebie-jeebies about it.” Admitting such biases up front is a columnist’s bread-and-butter, even.

Instead, the columnist is clearly helpless to understand why, after being exposed to countless religious scams promising miracles for money while doing a documentary on such things, she would be most offended by a bunch of old bones in a box which anyone can approach, for free. No prerequisites except waiting in line. No demands that people do anything in response. If this thing is really not holy or unholy, there’s absolutely nothing to worry you about it. It would be no more meaningful than visiting bones in the British Museum. So why does she worry?

Then she admits that what put her totally up in arms is that this free thing is being brought, for free, to criminals in a prison. Horrors. Prisoners, who don’t have all that much to do, and for whom anything odd and new would clearly be a godsend. Even to atheist prisoners, this is something to talk about and rip on, so there’s something for everybody. But she’s horrified.

Not horrified by Muslim terrorists or Christian cultists “sharing” their twisted version of faith. Not horrified by all the rough stuff that goes on in prison, or by people caged like animals.

Disgusted and terrified by harmless old bones in a gold box.

Yeahhhhhhh. This is all about rationality. Surrrre.

So once again, we see that the way to truly shock and offend people, and to live a counterculture lifestyle that freaks the mundanes, is to do normal Catholic stuff in public or private. Heh.

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The Massacre at the River Raisin, by Mr. James Nicoll, Gentleman.

This cracked me up no end. It was part of a discussion on rec.arts.sf.written, which turned into one about what people had and hadn’t learned in school about the War of 1812. Nicoll is from Canada; Watt-Evans is from the US. As a veteran of a lot of Usenet War of 1812 discussions, I find this one biased but accurate. :)

For those young’uns unfamiliar with the nested pattern of old style Usenet quoting conventions:

James Nicoll wrote:

>>> I’m guessing Lundy’s Lane didn’t get mentioned much, despite
>>>it being peculiarly representative of the Attempted Land Grab Instigated
>>>by Southern Warhawks Safely Insulated from the Effects of the War by
>>>the Long-Suffering People of New England: it was a bloody battle and
>>>neither side agrees who actually won it.

More stuff is said, and Nicoll adds in another post:

>> And at least one history class presented it as a Canadian
>>victory, which it was only in the negative sense (For Canada to
>>exist, the US has to not decisively win in Upper Canada).

Lawrence Watt-Evans (the fantasy writer) replies:

>In fact, I’d never heard of it before; the entire northern land
>campaign of the War of 1812 was dismissed with a sentence or so along
>the lines of, “An attempted invasion of Canada failed.”

>What we learned about from that war was the siege of Baltimore, the
>burning of Washington, the surprising ability of the U.S. Navy to put
>up a respectable fight, and Andy Jackson making his rep in Louisiana;
>anything close to home was quietly ignored.

Nicoll then says (my bolding, spelling unchanged):

We got told about Detroit, Queenston Heights, Lundy’s Lane,
Ogdensberg, Washington, the Battle at the Thames River, the burning
of York and such but the massacre at the River Raisen* was completely
left out even though it is what touched off the custom of winning hearts
and minds in Upper Canada by burning down people’s homes
.

In fact, I think the exact timing of Isaac Brock’s death
at Queenston Heights re the rest of the Warhawk’s War might have
been passed by quickly, in order to better ignore the dismal performance
of his successors (Prevost, Sheaffe and Proctor). By dying in battle,
he did get to join other Canadian martyrs like Wolfe and Montcalm.

*Following the battle about 70 American combatants died
spontaneously of a hemoragic swamp fever whose symptoms
coincidentally happened to resemble hatchet wounds.

The same British officer blamed for the supposed Indian massacre at
the River Raisen, Henry Proctor, was also in charge at Fort Miami,
where around 40 Americans caught the same disease. He was known for
his talent at advancing towards the rear
, leading Tecumseh to praise
his thusly:

“a fat animal which slinks away, its tail between its legs”.

After the Battle of the Thames, which saw one volley from the British
before they fled and the death of Tecunseh at the hands of the barbaric
Americans, Proctor was court martialed, effectively ending his
career.

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Br. Guy Consolmagno: His POV on the Pope/Meteorite Story

Via Bill Higgins, you can read something nice about it over on Brother Guy Consolmagno’s LJ.

Yes, this is really late late-breaking news…. Sorry, folks. Me no pay attention.

You can also listen to him podcast about the Vatican Observatory, as part of a many-person, yearlong project for the International Year of Astronomy. That’s a little newer! Of course, it relates to his book on astronomy and the Vatican that was published back in June, The Heavens Proclaim. Here’s a podcast interview about it.

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