Greatest Meme This Year

Okay, you have to see it. It’s inside baseball for both Catholics and Eighties kids… but just read it out in the relevant voiceover, and sing along with the theme music.

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Seal Cylinders Are Gorgeous!

“Rolling Stones” is a lecture about the Mesopotamian seal cylinder collection at the Morgan Library, and all kinds of interesting things about seals.

You will also learn about the connotations of Bible verses, griffins, ostriches, a cyclops, and so very much more.

But the really amazing thing is how gorgeous the cylinders themselves are. Chops and signet rings are nice, but the precious stones and cut stones carved into seal cylinders are just on another level. They were considered valuable amulets all by themselves, and you can see why.

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Today I Learned, UK Edition

Today I learned that UK schools have a “reception year.” Which means that they want every kid to go to school during the calendar year that they turn five… even if they are actually only four.

I mean, geez, I didn’t enjoy going to preschool for a few months in spring when I was four, and that was only a few hours a day with naptime. I was one of the smaller kids in my kindergarten class when I was five, because my birthday was right before the limit of entry. It was kind of a relief when the tornado knocked down the building where the preschool had been, because it meant that I didn’t have to spend the day with strangers anymore.

I cannot imagine being simultaneously a four-year-old in a classroom of five-year-olds, and already able to read short chapter books. It sounds like a freaking dystopian nightmare.

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St. Itzel?

Okay, this one is a weirdie, because (as with Gaelic or Germanic names) the people giving their kids this name “Itzel” do not necessarily care about its actual meaning. They are giving the name out of ethnic pride, or because it’s a family name, or because it’s an “old” name or a “cool” name. And there’s nothing wrong with that. OTOH, there’s a big Mayan language resurgence, among people of Mayan descent and people who just like Maya stuff. So you could run into someone who could give you a dissertation on the name.

“Itzel” means “star” in Nahualá K’iche’, a Guatemalan dialect of Quiche Maya. So it’s the exact equivalent of names like “Esther,” “Stella,” “Estrella,” “Aster,” “Zvezda,” and so on. It’s pronounced with the “ts” in English “mats.”

It may be related to the Mayan word “itz,” meaning dew or nectar. The ancient Mayan tablets record a title, itz’at, which means something like “scholar” or “learned man.” So it’s possible that this title is also a cognate. (Yeah, you can tell I don’t know bupkis about Mayan languages/dialects, and this is just me looking stuff up on the Internet. If you are serious about learning Mayan glyphs and language, famsi.org has a huge printable study guide.)

There are also close “false friend” cognates which don’t mean the same thing. “Itzehl” is the name of a moon goddess among the Huastecan and Poqom, in southern Mexico. “Itsehl” is a Yucatecan and Quichean name, also in southern Mexico, and people think of it as meaning “rainbow.” Both are names descended from the old Mayan goddess named Ixchel (pronounced “Ishchel,” and meaning something like “Lady Rainbow” or “Female Rainbow,” but her name was also written in Mayan glyphs as “Chak Chel” or “big rainbow”) who was the goddess of the moon, midwifery, etc., was a jaguar, and had the rabbit in the moon as an attribute.

On the old Mayan tablets, a woman holding an office has her office preceded by the prefix “ix-“, meaning “woman.” So anyone titled kalomte’ was a very high status king, but an ixkalomte’ was a very high status woman ruler. (So maybe there were other gods holding the title of Rainbow, at some point, but Ixchel was the female rainbow, or rainbow-ess.) However, it was also used as a generic female name prefix, where the male prefix was ah-. (Unless those “names” were actually titles also.)

Anyhoo, they say that Itzel was an uncommon name in Guatemala, but it’s now a common name among Americans of Guatemalan, Mexican, or Mayan heritage, or those who wish to identify with Mayan heritage. So is Ixchel and its modern-day versions, Itzehl and Itsehl.

Obviously Ixchel can be a sticky Catholic baptismal name if somebody were actually worshipping pagan goddesses or trying to do so. But Christians have a right to give names that have been well-established among local Christians, just like you meet Catholics named Diana.

And like I said, the name Itzel is analogous to Esther in the Bible. So no problem there. The Bible associates stars with angels, and obviously there’s the Christmas star.

St. Esther’s Day is July 1. Her feast is often forgotten because it’s also the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus, but she’s got one.

There are twenty-one Maya languages just in Guatemala, so the Guatemalan government standardized the Latin alphabet used to write them down, in 1987. Resources from before this standardization will employ different spellings.

K’iche’-English Dictionary, by Allen Christenson, which includes a pronunciation guide, and reversed English-K’iche’ Dictionary. In this K’iche language, which is spoken in Momostenango and Totonicapan, “ch’umil” means star — and “itzel” means bad or evil, with “itz” meaning a demon or the devil, and “itzij” meaning to bewitch someone. So you can see there’s a lot of differences between vocabulary in closely related languages! OTOH, “Ix Motz” (female star-cluster) is the name of the Pleiades.

Combined Dictionary/Concordance of the Yucatecan Maya Language, linked to the “itz” page. “Itz” is a sap, resin, or liquid. “Itz caan” is dew, ie, sky-liquid, as explained by a legend about the king/god Itzamat-ul. “Idzat” as a verb is to learn an art, and an “idzat” is either a learned, wise man or artist, or the apprentice of such a person. “Idzil” is something annoying that makes you angry.

Ancient Mayan glyphs for “star”. I think it’s a very pretty glyph; and very suitable for drawing, if you’re looking for kids’ activities. (Of course, since I’m not good at drawing anything complicated, I love simple and pretty things!) Anyway, yet another word – ek’. Presumably the “star” meaning of “itzel” is derived from this, somehow.

The morning star (ie, Venus seen in the morning) was associated in ancient Mayan materials with the reborn/deified One Hunahpu, the slain father of the hero twins, who became the morning star, One Ixim. (If I understand this correctly.) Apparently this was reenacted by a lot of Mayan kings in rituals. The day name “Lamat” was supposedly referring to Venus as the star in question.

Dictionary of the Chuj (Mayan) Language. Star is k’anal, from k’an, yellow.

Obviously this is a big topic!

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Yeah, Biden’s So Catholic.

To be fair, we all know that Biden has dementia. He announced today that he was elected fifteen months ago. So it’s possible that if he had his full brainpower, his administration wouldn’t be quite as anti-Catholic as his current administration and handlers.

But probably not. He agreed with them before he lost it.

Anyhow, during June, the US embassy to the Holy See is displaying the “Mock the Noahic Covenant” flag, in celebration of the entire alphabet. Because flouting Catholic doctrine is how America does Vatican diplomacy under a Catholic president.

On the bright side, the new canon law code put teeth back into provisions against both pedophilia and women’s ordination, crimes which have both been advocated by the same people in times past. So that’s a nice move from the Vatican to defend the rights of normal Catholics.

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Boris Johnson’s Catholic Wedding, and Current Canon Law

Okay, apparently the UK Catholic canon law rota is going back to the older theories of what happens if a Catholic marries outside the Church, without the marriage “taking place in the presence of lawful ecclesiastical authority,” and without a dispensation for marrying anywhere but in a church or chapel.

The older theory was that the marriage didn’t count for bupkis, because it was invalid. It could be convalidated at any time, if both participants asked a priest to do it, but without convalidation it was non-existent in the eyes of God. (It’s somewhat different if baptized Catholics marry baptized Catholics outside the Church, because that’s more inside baseball and concerns the powers of Catholic laypeople to Do Stuff.)

So in the UK, such marriages (unless convalidated, in which case they become right and tight) “do not require a formal annulment procedure,” because they never even claimed to be valid Catholic marriages. They just document that it was a totally invalid marriage, and go on from there. And I suspect it’s this way in the US also.

Well. On the one hand, this means a lot of people are living in sin who think they are married validly but illegitimately. Whoops. OTOH, a lot of people who were never validly married in the first place can now go forward with their lives a lot more easily.

I also suspect that a lot of “How did they get their annulment so easily and quickly!?” is actually a case like this, where Bob and Katy got married without a priest or deacon, without a Catholic place to get married, and without Catholic spouses.

Anyhoo… it hasn’t been on the news much in the US, but Boris Johnson got quietly married to a Catholic woman this week, in Westminster Cathedral, but without pomp and circumstance.

Boris was originally a Catholic, but converted to Anglicanism while at school. This didn’t affect his marriage status, because he was already a baptized Catholic and can’t really stop being one.

Boris first “married” Allegra Mostyn-Owen, who used to be a glamorous covergirl but now looks like your mom or grandma. (She has gotten over this by teaching art to Muslim ladies at a mosque, and marrying a much younger guy from Pakistan and becoming a Muslim.) She was apparently some flavor of Protestant, and she and Boris got married at her dad’s house while barefoot. She and Boris both worked as journalists, but their marriage broke up through overwork and Boris cheating on her with a childhood friend. There were no children. So, invalid marriage #1.

Boris next “married” Marina Claire Wheeler, QC. Her dad was a Royal Marine and WWII intel guy who worked for the BBC, and he wasn’t Catholic; and her mom was an Indian/Punjabi Sikh born in what is now Pakistan, whose family had to flee to India. They married after Boris’ divorce came through, when she was already with child, and they had four kids who rejoice (or don’t) in these names: Lara Lettice, Milo Arthur, Cassia Peaches, and Theodore Apollo. They separated sometime in 2017/2018, and finalized their divorce in late 2020. But she wasn’t Catholic and they apparently didn’t marry in a Catholic church at any point. Invalid marriage #2.

At some point during this time, Boris cheated on Wheeler… okay, apparently he continuously cheated on Wheeler with various media women or with models, and had at least one illegitimate child. (What an idiot. Also, obviously a lot of stupid women out there too.)

(I do question how people even have time for all these shenanigans. Most of us are kinda busy as we get older, which is why sins of omission are more a problem than sins of commission.)

But this time it was with a particular woman from the media world, Carrie Symonds, the daughter of one of the founders of the newspaper The Independent, and a lawyer working for the newspaper. Their families were political mavens and BBC newspeople. She worked as a PR person for the Conservative Party, combining the same worlds that Johnson lived in. However, Symonds was Catholic, at least by virtue of baptism. And even though she had a pretty extensive history of running around and living with guys, she had never civilly or religiously married anybody.

When Johnson became PM, he notoriously moved her into 10 Downing Street as his first lady while she was just his mistress, which was something not even the crazy 1700’s guys would have done. However, it turned out that she was pregnant with his kid, so there was some kind of security reason. Their son was born several months before the divorce came through, poor kid, but he’s alive and healthy and got baptized as a Catholic early on; so that’s good. He was named Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas, which is… um… a bit hard on the kid, but not as bad as being named Peaches.

Obviously the Church does not support people openly living in sin, or especially those being notorious public sinners. But apparently Johnson and Symonds did manage to roll around to their parish church and attend Sunday Mass regularly (if virtually) enough to count as parishioners despite COVID, which shows willingness to change. I haven’t found any information about Johnson reconciling with the Church; but her Catholic practice would be enough for him to be eligible for getting married with her in a church. Obviously it would be a good thing for him to make her an honest woman and himself an honest man. Getting married under COVID number restrictions was probably a good idea, given how torqued off people are; and getting married in the Lady Chapel is a nod to that.

And so, Boris and Carrie got married on May 29, 2021, and in the eyes of the Catholic Church it’s Boris’ first and only valid marriage. (Carrie’s too, of course.) So I hope they stick with it. If you repent and change your ways, any day can be the first day of a new life. It would be nice if they would both become faithful Catholics, or at least bad Catholics trying to set a good example for their son.

Other than that, it’s not really our business. Mercy is the scandal of Christ.

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I Find It Disturbing

That Elisabeth Waters has not been arrested for being Marion Zimmer Bradley’s accomplice. At least her accomplice. Possibly also a rapist of children. She could certainly be charged with assault and sexual assault on minors, abuse of foster kids, and the like. Let’s not even mention the parts when she lied to the court while on oath.

At any rate, she shouldn’t be appearing in anthologies or being able to sell novels, because she’s a dangerous unindicted criminal, and the sf/f field shouldn’t be overlooking that.

Elisabeth Waters, when given full financial powers over Bradley’s money, and over the money of the convicted pedophile, Walter Breen, did her level best to keep any of their child victims from getting any kind of settlement or legal closure.

And even with Breen and Bradley safely dead, and in a world where it’s financial death to espouse the wrong views, an actual violent criminal is walking around free.

Yay for us. So empowering.

But since she’s not in jail, let’s take a look at how her career is going…

RECENT PUBLICATIONS BY ELISABETH WATERS:

  • Valdemar short story anthologies from 2009-2020, as a contributor. Edited by Mercedes Lackey, published by DAW.
  • Elemental Masters short story anthologies from 2012 and 2013, as a contributor. Edited by Mercedes Lackey, published by DAW.
  • Sword and Sorceress anthologies from 2007-2019. Edited by Waters, contains stories by her, published by Norilana Books and by the MZB Literary Trust.
  • Chapbooks with Lackey in 2010 and 2011, published by the MZB Literary Trust.
  • Mending Fate. YA novel published by the MZB Literary Trust.
  • Magic in Suburbia. Short story collection published by the MZB Literary Trust.

It looks like Mercedes Lackey and DAW either bought a lot of stories from her at some early point, or have taken undeserved pity upon her. Otherwise, she’s self-publishing, because she runs the MZB Literary Trust.

So even the sf/f field has some sense of self-preservation, despite having claimed not to believe Stephen Goldin, Mary Mason, or Moira Grayson’s allegations. Sales don’t lie.

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Pentecost/Whitsun Customs

In England, it used to be popular for the town to make beer or ale, and then raise money for the poor by selling the beer on Pentecost, as part of the various festivities. So people would sit around and drink at these “Whitsun Ales.” This went along nicely with other events, such as dancing in the churchyard, playing bowls, shooting at the village archery range, and so on. Often these events would also take place on Whitsun Monday, aka Whit Monday.

Apparently there used to be a famous custom of running down some big hill at Greenwich, on Whitmonday. Hone’s Every-Day Book talks about it. I’m surprised there’s no race there.

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Ascension Thursday Customs

Apparently the snarky anti-Catholic author of “The Popish Kingdom,” a satirical poem about stuff Catholics do, went into a suspiciously exact amount of detail about pre-Reformation English Catholic customs for various holidays. The first volume of Hone’s Every-Day Book quotes this.

And apparently it used to be a thing to:

  1. Eat some kind of fowl on Ascension Thursday, after Mass, because of the general sky/heavens theme of the day.
  2. Make an effigy of Satan, throw him down from a height after setting him on fire, and then beat him up with sticks, as part of the post-Mass fun in the churchyard or at home. (This goes with the idea that Satan was bound and his Eden mischief reversed, by all of Christ’s actions during His earthly life.) Then pass out cookies.
  3. Tie bags of water to the rafters of your house, with quick-release strings so that you can douse whomever you feel like. (Water games are traditional throughout Europe, and were justified on holy days during the heat of the summer by claiming that they “reminded people of their Baptism.” Yeah, that’s a good excuse, and we’ll take that.)

The poem says, “With laughter great are all things done.” Well, we can’t have THAT.

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“Beware of Chicken”

A Xianxia webnovel like none other. Beware of Chicken, by Casualfarmer, is the isekai story of a modern Earthman whose soul travels into that of a cultivator of chi in a martial arts magic world — and who turns his back on that silliness in order to become a cultivator of rice.

Contains strong language and agricultural violence.

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Plantain = Slan Lus??

So I’m watching random videos, and they had this Irish herb garden lady… and she casually drops the info that “slan lus,” healing herb, which shows up in a lot of stories, is what we call plantain.

Mind. Blown.

What the Irish have as plantain, by the look of it, is not exactly the same species as we have here, but it must be really really close. And everything she described was stuff I’ve heard about US plantain. (It does grow in the US in many places, and is often called “buckhorn plantain.”)

But yeah, it’s apparently getting a lot of use from her, because you can make plantain leaf tea pretty easily. I mean, it’s a weed. Unless somebody’s using pesticide on it, you can get it everywhere temperate and use it most of the year, fresh. The kind of plantain we get around here never gets as big, but contrariwise, the leaves are always tender enough to be edible (although the taste is better when they’re small and young). They have a lot of vitamins too.

Plantain is usually used here (by those who use it) as just kind of a wild salad herb, honestly, although Chinese and Korean teas use plantains a fair bit. You see more about it in survival books than in herb books. It’s called Plantago major, Greater plantain, but it’s a lot smaller than that Irish kind of plantain.

The other amusing thing was that the Irish lady was sort of rubbing the little bitty flower things off the big plantain flower crowned stalk, and using them for extra salad roughage! Ha! Plantain seeds are kind of oily, and gooey when wet, so birds like to eat them. (The psyllium plants that are used for roughage are actually related to plantains, too.)

The important news is that plantain tea is supposed to be very good for respiratory issues and for sinus problems. So don’t say those weeds are totally useless!

Here’s another fan of plantains, who has both Greater and Buckhorn accessible around the place. The idea that “they want to be used” is based on how readily they grow back when browsed upon by animals, stepped on, ripped up, mowed, and what have you. They’re as happy in a city vacant lot as in the country. This person highlights the plantain as an impromptu bandage and as a drawing poultice for splinters, as well as the old-fashioned use of leaf fibers as a replacement for thread. The Irish lady says “spit poultices” of plantain are great for insect bites, and for drawing out pimples and boils.

But if you’re down by a stream and see this plantain, don’t mess with it! It’s the rare and possibly endangered heart-leaved plantain (Plantago cordata). Nothing dangerous, but it’s struggling to survive, because it likes pristine natural water.

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Peter J. Floriani Is a Writing Machine

Holy cow! I just stopped over at Amazon to check on Mr. Floriani, and he is up to Book 18 in his amazing epic of Catholic/boys’ adventure literature, De Bellis Stellarum. He’s also tossed off about five zillion other nonfiction science/philosophy/religion works in the last year or so.

He is a really good author and thinker, and reading him is an experience. Check him out.

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May Day!

This is the ancient feast of Ss. Philip and James the Less, apostles. They’re associated with red spring flowers: the tulip for St. Philip (so you know it’s not that old a tradition), and red bachelor’s buttons or campion for St. James the Less.

St. James the Less is the guy who was known for his camel knees (ie, he prayed so much that his knees got messed up), and who was murdered at the Temple in AD 62. Even a lot of Jewish people who didn’t like Christians were sure that James was a holy man, so this was a controversial move.

St. Philip was martyred in Phrygia.

This was the day when the English “fetched home the May” from the woods. Literally, a may tree is a kind of hawthorn that blossoms white in the spring. May was also a guy, and his bride was Flora (hence “the Floral Dance”). May was also sometimes the Maypole itself, although other towns kept a good Maypole all year round. (Obviously the right kind of tree might not be easy to find.) Dancing around the Maypole followed the fun of bringing back the May. The whole day was a holiday, so a lot of young couples spent the day together. You also brought home flowers from the woods, so leaving flowers or May Day baskets at the houses of older people was a thing.

May Day was also associated with “May games,” which were generally elaborate pageants s that might include skits, dances, sports, athletic contests, and games. They were often associated with Morris dancing, hobby horse dancing, and retelling of legends of Robin Hood and Maid Marian (who often presided over the whole thing). In other places, maskers in May outfits go to people’s houses to dance and sing.

Many Maypoles were destroyed or burned as “idols” by anti-Catholic or anti-dancing Protestants or Puritans, although some survived in rural places. In 1644, all maypoles were outlawed in the British Isles. But when King Charles II came in, maypoles returned, and they put up one 134 feet high in the Strand in London.

In a lot of places after Charles II, May celebrations were overseen by the Anglican clergy, to prevent Mayers being messed with. There were also versions of May songs which deflected criticism by adding LOTS AND LOTS of Christian content. (But not Catholic content! No!)

For example, here’s “The Mayer’s Song” from Hitchin, Hertfordshire, from Hone’s Every-Day Book.

Remember us poor Mayers all, and thus we do begin

To live our lives in righteousness, or else we die in sin.

We have been rambling all this night, and almost all this day,

And now return-ed back again, we bring you a branch of may.

A branch of may we have brought you, and at your door it stands,

It is but a sprout, but it’s well-budded out by the work of Our Lord’s hands.

The hedges and trees, they are so green, as green as any leek,

Our Heavenly Father, He watered them with His heavenly dew so sweet.

The heavenly gates are open wide, our paths are beaten plain,

And if a man be not too far gone, he may return again.

The life of man is but a span, it flourishes like a flower,

We are here today and gone tomorrow, and we are dead in an hour.

The Moon shines bright, and the stars give a light, a little before it is day,

So God bless you all, both great and small, and send you a joyful May!

There are a lot of May carol variants on this, and here’s one on Youtube.

In more recent times, May Day was taken over by the Communists in some countries, which led to Pope Pius XII making a feast of St. Joseph the Worker and moving it onto May 1, with Philip and James getting moved to May 3.

Of course May is also one of Mary’s big months, so you find people doing May Crowning of statues of Mary during this month. This year, Pope Francis has called for even more May rosary devotions than normal, so I’m sure that will be a thing. (Probably because we’re all worried about schism in Germany.)

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English Language Source for Korean Saint Stories

CBCK is a site for all kinds of information about the Catholic Church in South Korea, and its history. It’s got a ton of info on the Korean martyrs, many of whom are very inspiring.

I have to admit that my favorite is St. Agatha Kim A-gi, who was very devout and determined, but who also had so much trouble memorizing and understanding things that she not only couldn’t learn her catechism, but couldn’t even learn the basic prayers. All she could do was repeat the names of Jesus and Mary.

But when she was arrested and questioned, and could only explain her faith by saying Jesus and Mary, she still refused to renounce it.

“Is it true you believe in the Catholic Church?”

“I don’t know about anything but Jesus and Mary.”

“If you can save your life by rejecting Jesus and Mary, wouldn’t you reject them?”

“I would rather die than reject them.”

She was tortured, but stayed stubborn, and eventually was taken to prison and the company of other Catholics. “Agatha who only knows Jesus and Mary” was a great inspiration to everyone. She hadn’t been baptized before because she had had such trouble learning the faith; but at that point, it became obvious that her heart-knowledge was that of a confessor, and she was baptized in prison. This gave her new strength, which was good because she was targeted for tons of torture and punishment before she was martyred.

Something I didn’t know that this site told me: she was a woman from a pagan family who married into a pagan family, but her older sister became Catholic and then basically nagged Agatha into belief. (To be fair, this sort of thing is an older sibling’s job in Korean culture!)

St. Lucia Pak Hui-sun is another great example. Even as a teenaged pagan/Confucian, she was outstandingly virtuous, serving as the queen’s lady in waiting and resisting the advances of the king. She was also as learned as she was beautiful, studying deeply in Chinese as well as in Korean. But she was unsatisfied, and at age 30 she began to study the forbidden — Catholicism. She escaped the court by feigning illness, and persisted despite family disapproval, living in poverty rather than going back to normal court lady life. Her sister came and lived with her, and both ended up converting to Catholicism.

When the police came to arrest them, St. Lucia came outside to greet them, inviting them to share food and wine as welcome guests. She said that since their coming was permitted by God’s will, it was good to receive them willingly.

In prison, St. Lucia acted as a catechist and evangelist, teaching everyone. (But not doing so well with St. Agatha, who apparently already knew all she needed to know!) Since she had the standing of a court lady, she received worse treatment than most of the others. (Because her conversion was seen as a betrayal of the Korean court and Korean law.)

As with a few of the women in prison together, she was tortured in open court and clearly was wounded savagely, as well as having her leg broken. But their wounds repeatedly healed in the course of a day or a few days, so that they could appear in court without wounds. This caused their judges and torturers both fear and an increase in fury. The miraculous healings were attributed to evil magic.

St. Lucia admonished her executioner not to hold back, but to execute her with a single stroke of the sword. She was beheaded on May 24, 1839, along with St. Agatha Kim A-gi, St. Petrus Kwon Tug-in, and several other martyrs of various walks of life.

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