The Good Borgia Pope

Yup, there was one. Pope Callixtus III, aka Alfons de Borja. He was a nobleman who became a law professor and a clergyman, and then was asked to tutor King Alfonso V of Aragon’s illegitimate son, Ferrante. The king was so impressed that he had Fr. de Borja appointed bishop of Valencia; and then as a diplomat for Aragon, he impressed Pope Eugenius IV enough to be named a cardinal and asked to serve in Rome. He managed to reconcile his king and his pope, and participated in two papal conclaves, being elected the second time he did so.

He lived an austere and prayerful life, and was much concerned with defending Europe against the Turks, while also promoting spiritual life and the saints. He granted and ran Joan of Arc’s posthumous retrial and acquittal, canonized St. Vincent Ferrer, and called for churches to ring their bells at noon so that people would remember to pray for the crusaders defending Belgrade. After victory over the Turkish siege was achieved on August 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration, Pope Callixtus III declared that it was to be celebrated universally in the West, instead of just here and there in places.

He was a good pope. His worst mistake was naming his nephew a cardinal. It was Rodrigo de Borgia who would become the shady Pope Alexander VI, and whose kindred would make a great deal of trouble in Italy.

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The Deal with St. Francis Borgia

Finally I got some good gen on St. Francis Borgia, the good guy of the Borgia family. He’s an interesting figure, but a lot of Catholic books don’t really tell you much about him.

First thing: He was from the Borgia family (Borja in Spanish), and he was a great-grandson of Bad Pope Alexander VI. But frankly, the rest of his family on the Spanish side was no great shakes, either — illegitimate sons of kings getting appointed to be bishops of Zaragoza, getting quietly allowed to have pseudo-wives and tons of illegitimate kids in exchange for not messing with Spain and Portugal’s ridiculously tangled successions, and then having to get stuck into royal power as regents for legitimate heirs. (Yes, yes, they were in a big war against Muslims, but that’s no excuse.)

But Francis was a good kid, and the kings of Spain had finally decided it was more appropriate to give his family a dukedom than all these bishoprics. (His dad and mom may have come from bad homes, but they made a good one and set a good example.) So all he had to do was have a good career at court, marry a good woman, succeed to his father’s duchy of Gandia, and enjoy his nice Valencian town and his totally legitimate kids.

Step One worked out fine. He was well-regarded at the Spanish court. The empress regent, Isabella of Portugal, set him up in 1529 with her close friend and chief lady-in-waiting, Leonor de Castro Mello y Menezes, the daughter of the Portuguese King Manuel I’s captain-general of Africa. (He was nineteen, she was seventeen. She was known for being unpretentious, pious, and humble, despite her high birth; and like St. Catherine of Siena, she made it her practice to get her prayers done mentally during her work.)

The marriage was suggested by the queen, agreed to by Francis and Leonor, and then proposed by way of a letter from the king to the Duke of Gandia. But then it almost collapsed, because the Duke said he was looking for a Spanish princess for his boy, and he had reason. So the Duke got a lot of royal concessions, the barony of Llombay became a marquisate, the Spanish succession got a little less tangled, and young love ensued.

They had eight kids, and everything was great. Francis was made Chief Equerry to the Empress, and he got to use his famous horse knowledge and riding skills for his work.

He was also a pretty darned good amateur musician and composer, btw. In fact, he was so good that he could have been a professional; and he wrote a lot of sacred music that was well-regarded. Many of his motets, hymn tunes, and sequences are still around. He was also famed for falconry. (He found hunting to be a very philosophical and edifying pursuit, and he thought you could learn a lot about life from dogs and falcons.) Unlike most of the court, he sensibly refused to gamble, saying that he feared to lose four things: time, money, piety, and peace of mind.

He was strict but kind to his family and his servants and knights. He paid attention and gave praise when his kids did well. He took his marriage seriously, and his valet later testified that even before marriage, he wore a hairshirt any time that he thought he might be tempted at a party or other social occasion. (And boy, isn’t that a reflection on the Spanish court.)

He didn’t let anything slide in his household, and required daily prayer and Mass; and he always stopped to inspect the male servant quarters before going to bed, to make sure nobody was up to no good. (There’s another reflection on the Spanish court.) But he also paid well, minded his manners even to servants, and gave lots of bonuses for good service. People either left his service quickly or stayed for years. His wife and he both delighted in finding talented, trustworthy people without patrons, and getting them good posts; and in tactfully helping people in need, including those who had run into trouble through casual sex. He gave away a purse of alms every day. But he also found time to study higher math and military science, and to serve his lords in political matters. He displayed personal courage in war, as well as quick, correct, and decisive judgment.

Also, he was darned good-looking, rich, smart, popular, kindly, and had a happy marriage. What more could a man want from life?

During service in Africa when he was lent out to one of the princes of Portugal, Francis caught malaria and almost died. He used his many months of convalescence in the country to study the Bible and the saints. He went back to war in 1536 when Charles V invaded Provence, and again distinguished himself. But he also suffered the death of one of his best friends, the poet Garcilaso de la Vega, who died of concussion after leading an assault by siege ladder.

Not long after, Francis’ paternal grandmother died. She had joined the Poor Clares not long after Francis’ birth, where she lived unassumingly but did tons of penances and became a mystic, though her sisters mostly didn’t know this. She died in great sanctity after suffering a horrible fever, coming out of it with a perfectly clear mind, and giving true prophecies about her friends and family. Both the nuns and many of their visitors at the funeral heard angels singing from time to time, for days afterward.

(One of her daughters, Frances, was also a Poor Clare, and her granddaughter Dorotea (one of St. Francis’ kids) soon joined the order.)

On May 1, 1539, Isabella of Portugal died in Toledo at the age of 36. Francis Borgia organized and ran the procession that escorted her coffin to the royal tomb in Granada. Isabella was considered one of Europe’s most beautiful women (in an extended family that included some really unattractive and even deformed people). She was the grandchild of Ferdinand and Isabella, and niece to Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England, and Isabel of Asturias, Queen of Portugal (also her dad’s first wife – not kidding about that royal family).

According to Francis, the death of his wife’s friend (and his friend and benefactor at court) made a big change in him. He felt that her death was the occasion of his deepest conversion of heart, and he remembered and prayed for her every year in his diary “for what the Lord worked in me by her death.” He was saddened by seeing her face so decomposed at her burial that he could not really swear it was her beautiful self, and he told his diary that he could never again serve any lord who could die. (There are some famous historical paintings of this moment.)

But then Francis succeeded to the dukedom of Gandia while trying to negotiate a marriage between the Spanish and Portuguese courts, to unify the countries. Negotiations collapsed and he was blamed. He left court, occupied himself with his lands and family, and started to study religion more seriously on the side. He and his wife helped support the big Hieronymite monastery of San Jeroni de Cotalba near Gandia. They also took an interest in the Jesuits. He was a good duke to his subjects, and interested in developing his towns. He even put things in train to found a college in Gandia for his Jesuit friends.

And this is where things went slightly pearshaped.

In 1546, Leonor died while trying to rest and recover at Cotalba. Francis was heartbroken. He found new meaning in his love of God, and decided that it was time to turn his back on worldly things and start working harder for God. With royal permission, he gave his duchy to his sixteen-year-old son, and joined the Jesuits.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was still alive. He apparently knew or knew about Borgia, and he ended up meeting with him. Like the commander of any early modern army, he was delighted to grab a general- or colonel-level recruit for his company, already trained and ready to go. So obviously the thing to do was to process his paperwork and put him in charge of something.

Unfortunately this was not obvious to a lot of Jesuits. He was not trained by lots of boot camp time with us! How can he understand the spirit of the order if we don’t make him go through seven zillion years of training? Isn’t this favoritism? When the local university in Gandia granted their duke a doctorate of theology in three months, the whining increased. (Even though Borgia was known to be very learned, and had been studying for years on the side, as well as founding the college.)

Of course, he was an older man with a closer expiration date, and so it only made sense to Loyola to put him to work right away. As it was, he only gave the Jesuits 26 more years. And Loyola himself was very aware of having started out the Jesuits as the old guy, playing catch up. Why would he make life harder for someone in the same position?

There was more trouble. Various popes thought Borgia would make a great bishop or cardinal, as well as drawing the Jesuits into a traditional pattern of religious orders providing bishops. Loyola wanted to avoid that, and keep the Jesuits mobile. There was also a heretical book that came out in Spain under the duke’s now-trendy name, but which actually was by an unknown author who had grabbed a short essay by the duke and put a bunch of crazy stuff on top of it.

So for a while, Loyola had Borgia hiding out in a small Jesuit group in his own Basque stomping grounds. Borgia got a little bit hazed by doing scut work, and by being told to apologize for his clumsiness in playing waiter at the refectory. But Borgia put up with it cheerfully, and had probably had worse as a royal page or a young knight.

And then, just to make things crazier, Loyola appointed Borgia to be some kind of roaming troubleshooter, with authority separate from various Jesuit superiors. He didn’t tell the Jesuit superiors about this. So of course people were all whiny about him being disobedient or uppity, and about him having been assigned a separate staff full of other Jesuits.

In 1554, Borgia was made commissary-general in Spain for the Jesuits, and founded a dozen colleges to deal with Jesuit educational needs. In 1556, he was put in charge of the Jesuit missions in the East and West Indies, in his copious spare time.

Things eventually settled down a bit, and then he was elected the third superior general of the whole Society of Jesus in 1565, for the last seven years of his life. And he changed things, like giving people a general idea of how Jesuits should dress instead of having no particular habit. He didn’t actually impose a habit, mind you, but it still didn’t go over well. He also had Jesuits living in houses start saying the Office in the morning, but only if it didn’t interfere with other assignments. Since St. Ignatius de Loyola had deliberately not imposed the Office on his people, this caused bad feeling, even though it wasn’t mandatory and was in response to a papal request.

The other factor was that there was a big stink in the 1920’s when a German Jesuit wrote a hostile-ish biography of Borgia. His idea was that Borgia didn’t understand Loyola and the Society, and so that everything he had done was not really Jesuit, and that he had helped ruin everything. The bio came out at the same time that the Jesuits had a really strict superior general, and a big stink ensued which ended in the biographer leaving the Jesuits. He came back on his deathbed in 1976. This was also part of why some Jesuits were all about “Pedro Arrupe becoming superior general saved the order!” So this also damped some of the devotional enthusiasm to him that you would otherwise expect.

Nowadays, the way Loyola had Borgia avoid becoming a cardinal or bishop is bound to be a litte tad bit inconvenient… when we have a Jesuit bishop and cardinal who has become a Jesuit pope…. So yeah, there’s that too. But religious orders are allowed to change if they want; it’s not like Loyola was God Himself. The Franciscans and Dominicans got their members grabbed for bishops, too, and within the first couple “generations” of members. St. Albert the Great, for example.

(And if you really want to support a religious order that never has let its members become bishops or popes… well, that’s every female religious order, heh heh.)

St. Francis Borgia died at midnight on Sept. 30, 1572, and his feastday was originally on Sept. 30. But after Vatican II it was moved to October 10 — today!

So happy St. Borgia Day!

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St. Marmaduke?

Obviously I am still in turmoil about the revelations on the last post, so I’m going to write about something funny that came up.

One of the more puzzling English names is “Marmaduke.” It starts showing up in Northumberland in the 1400’s, and then we get several at once. It didn’t die out during the Protestant Reformation (although one Royalist family, with Marmadukes already in it, changed it to the baptismal name of “Duke,” as part of the fashion trend of naming Royalist kids things like Squire and Admiral). It sounds like it could be German, but it’s not German. Nope.

Give up? It’s Welsh. Specifically, it’s Mawr Madog, aka Big Madoc. There are a whole bunch of similar Welsh names (Cadoc, Gorbadoc, etc.), and the last syllable gets all different vowels at different times and places. So it’s not surprising that the English mangled it to their liking! “Madoc” means something like “lucky” or “having good fortune and being charitable.” (I don’t have good sources on this.)

St. Madoc was a son of the combative King Sawyl Penuchel (aka Samuel the Arrogant, who lost his kingdom to the Saxons, and who got his warband drowned in a marsh after attacking St. Cadoc’s monastery). He’s called Madog Ailither, meaning Madoc the Pilgrim, because he traveled to Ireland to visit all the famous monasteries, came back to Wales, and was eventually buried in Ireland.

St. Madoc’s brother was St. Santan, who also founded lots of churches and monasteries, and who wound up a bishop in Ireland.

The most famous Madoc is Prince Madoc, son of King Owain Gwynedd, who allegedly ran off to America with a bunch of settlers. There’s also the legendary Madoc ap Uthyr, brother of King Arthur, whose son Eliwlod could turn into an eagle and was one of the Three Goldentongued Knights of Britain.

But it’s possible that all these Northern English kids were being named for a specific historical Madog Mawr — Madog of Cilsant, who married Sioned/Jonet verch Gruffyd. (Cilsant/St. Clears doesn’t seem to have had a lot of Northumberland connections, though.) I also notice that a lot of early Marmadukes have Percy connections, and they had Welsh connections in their family.

But the earliest Marmaduke seems to be Marmaduke Darell of Sessay, Thirsk, whose son and grandson were named Marmaduke too. His wife’s name was Aseria, which could be some Welsh name, and her dad could have been the Madoc in question.

The surname Maddox, Maddocks, Maddock means something like “descended from Madoc.” You see a lot of Welsh surnames using this format: Evans, Reynolds, Jones, Philips, etc.

So Marmaduke the Great Dane is actually showing his allegiance to a Welsh saint.

If you like this name, you could always name your boy Madoc and then call him Marmaduke as a nickname. “Badi” was also a medieval nickname for Madoc.

Early Breton and Welsh names are similar, since a lot of Celtic Britons fled the island and settled in Brittany, “Little Britain.” So Madoc is a Breton boy’s name, and there’s also a Breton girl’s name, Madouc.

There’s also an Irish/Scottish group of names that sound similar. St. Aodh/Aedan/Aidan of Ferns was one of the many Irish saints who picked up possessives and diminutives from their friends, teachers, or devotees. So he could have been Mo-Aodh or Mo-Aidan, Maidan/Moidan, but they went further and spun out his name with -og (young, or just a noun diminutive). So he’s St. Maedog or Maedoc, which (depending on Gaelic dialect) is pronounced “Mogue.”

And a lot of the time, the functional equivalent name for Sassenach or baptismal fonts was Moses. So if you see a Moses in Ireland, he’s probably a Maedoc/Maedog. (But not a Madoc/Madog/Marmaduke.)

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Robin J. Nakkula ATEN’T DEAD YET!!!!!

UPDATE: I GOT BAD INFORMATION! ROBIN J. NAKKULA IS TOTALLY ALIVE! HURRAY!!!!! SEE COMMENTS BELOW!

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, SHE GETS TO SEE ALL THE NICE THINGS I WOULD SAY IN A EULOGY, WITHOUT THE INCONVENIENCE OF BEING DEAD!!!!

ROBIN IS AWESOME AND ALIVE!

Yesterday, one of my filk friends told me that the Columbus filker Robin Nakkula had passed away. Of your goodness, please pray for her soul.

Robin was a scientist by trade, and was a gifted lab technician and lab manager. She did medical and biological research at Ohio State and at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She is credited on a huge number of scientific papers. Other papers credited her internally for recordkeeping, “setting the standard for reproducible experiments,” “keeping the lab from being shut down,” “making the histones,” and generally keeping younger students on the straight and narrow.

She also had at least one published story, “State Road,” in Mike Resnick’s 1993 anthology Christmas Ghosts, which was co-written with her husband.

She loved lab rats, and had a long term personal project to breed natural colorations back into lab rat strains without losing their intelligence or other favorable qualities of white lab rats. She also trained and made clean, gentle pets of many generations of these lab rats in her own home.

She also participated in the Central Ohio group for Irish culture, the Shamrock Club of Columbus, and in her local neighborhood group.

She had a sharp sense of humor, sometimes mild and sometimes cutting. Many of her songs were about the lighter side of science, particularly biology. But she also tended to look out for younger filkers and help them, and she had a particular kind concern for people experiencing depression or alienation from fandom. I know she contacted me when she was worried about me, and I wish I could have done more for her. I saw her check in at NASFiC and sent her a shoutout, but we did not get to talk.

She was married for twenty-five years to Alan Dormire; their anniversary was just a few weeks back.

St. Gertrude of Nivelles, patron saint of rats, pray for her!

And may He Whose eye is on the sparrow’s fall be gentle with the soul of our friend.

“The Ethology Song (R and K Selective)”

Songs on Captain Wayne’s Mad Music Show: “The Android”, “Biotech Fantasy”, “Something Lingers in the Fridge”, and “You Never Seem to Listen to Me”.

I was always fond of her song “Asteroid Ore”, a spacemining ballad to the tune of “Red Iron Ore.” I gather that she wrote a Zenna Henderson song that I never got to hear.

UPDATE: ROBIN IS STILL ALIVE!

UPDATE: Now the bad news. Naomi Pardue, who wrote “My Thousand Closest Friends” and many other songs, did pass away, very suddenly. And that is a real kick in the pants, because she was a very sweet person. Also she was a librarian, which is practically holy.

We also lost Bob Laurent, the founder of Wail Songs, Interfilk, and Consonance, but he had been fighting brain cancer for a year.

So please pray for their souls instead. I know a lot of filkers will have remembered them on Rosh Hashana. And please remember them on All Souls Day when you’re trying for that partial or plenary indulgence. We are here to help one another and serve the Lord.

The current episode of FilkCast is dedicated to Naomi Pardue and Bob Laurent.

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St. Atreus?

No. Don’t do it. Don’t name your kid “Atreus.” Please. And there’s no saint. It’s an ill-omened name, and if you only know the name from the God of War games, you need to figure it out.

(And the only reason the hero of Dune is named Paul “Atreides” (ie, descendant of Atreus) is so that you will know right away that his entire family is going to be dysfunctional in the extreme.)

Pelops, the legendary founder/settler of the Peloponnese peninsula, started out life being a beautiful young man who was a grandson of Zeus, and a son of the human king Tantalos and the Titaness Dione. Tantalos had the gods over for dinner, and decided to prove that they were just as stupid as humans by killing and cooking his son Pelops and serving him up to them. (This may have been a power move, because making the gods break an important taboo would make them lose their power, and possibly allow that power to be usurped.)

As soon as the meat was served, the gods figured it out and refused to eat — except for Demeter, who was depressed about Persephone and not paying attention, and therefore chowed down on Pelops’ shoulder. Hermes (or Rhea) put all the pieces back in the cauldron, and then used his (or her) power to resurrect Pelops from the cookpot, and Hephaestus made an ivory shoulder prosthesis for him. All his descendants were then to have one discolored ivory shoulder, lighter than the rest of them. Tantalos was punished in Hades by never being allowed to eat but always having food dangling in his face.

(Interesting comparisons to both the Welsh cauldron-born and to the pickled boys resurrected by St. Nicholas.)

Anyhow, Pelops ended up getting out of Phrygia and settling the Pelopponese, and his sons Atreus and Thyestes got involved in a struggle for the throne with both their half-brother Chrysippus (either murdered by his brothers or by Pelops’ wife Hippodamia, or both) and with each other. Atreus married Aerope, who was in love with Thyestes. Thyestes and Aerope cheated on Atreus, and Aerope gave her husband’s kingship claim object to Thyestes. Atreus killed a bunch of Thyestes’ sons and successfully got Thyestes to eat them at a banquet, and Thyestes slept with one of his daughters to conceive a son who could depose Atreus. It was ugly.

So of course all their kids were cursed. Menelaus married Helen, which was nothing but trouble, and started the Trojan War; Agamemnon sacrificed his own daughter to get favorable winds for the war, stole Achilles’ woman and nearly lost the Trojan War, raped a Trojan princess who correctly prophesied his death and her own, and then got murdered by his wife for the whole sacrificing his daughter thing. And then Agamemnon’s son Orestes had to avenge him by killing his own mom, although this would have meant he would have to kill himself. The gods stepped in and saved Orestes, but there was lots of killin’.

Atreos means “not-shiver, not-tremble” which is probably what led the God of War people to think of linking Greek and Norse mythology, as well as Norse fairytales. The implication is “fearless,” but “not-fear” would be Aphobos (which is a Biblical and Gospel word and has good connotations all over the place!). “Not tremble” possibly implies also that one is not afraid of the gods or of doing things that are shameful or wicked, things that a sensible man would never do.

There’s a famous set of Norse fairytales about “the lad who could not shiver,” because he was both fearless and very literal, and possibly not all that bright. He finally learns to shiver by having his wife stick ice down his back, IIRC. These are connected to similar stories about Ashenlad, who can be depicted as stupid or as very wise and tricky, and with other seeking your fortune stories. Loki and Thor’s stories are very similar, so connecting Loki/Atreus to “the lad who could not shiver” is a nice tie-in.

(It doesn’t totally work, because actually, it turns out that most of Norse mythology seems to post-date Norse contact with the Roman Empire, and a lot of the Norse gods are actually deified late Roman historical figures from Burgundy and the Lombards, or various Germanic tribes. Which is freaky and weird, but there you go. And to be fair, deified founders or ancestors weren’t unusual in world religious history.)

Overall, the character in the God of War series is positive, but not everybody plays God of War; and everybody generally does know about the whole multiple-cannibalization-incest-and-kinslaying curse of the House of Atreus.

The ancient Greeks did not use Atreus as a given name. For good reason. The Christian Greeks didn’t name their kids Atreus either.

So please don’t name your kid Atreus. Especially not your Catholic kid.

(Oh, and btw, “Thyestes” means something like “sacrificer.” So his parents initially meant him to be pious and to appease the gods, but he wasn’t.)

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St. Blythe?

Yes!! Yes, it’s a real saint’s name! Hahahahahah! I am really delighted to find this out!

St. Blitha of Martham (also known as St. Blyth, Blythe, or Blida) was a laywoman in East Anglia. She was a kinswoman of the illfated King of the English, Aethelred the Unready, and of his son, King Edmund Ironside. She was married to a wealthy nobleman named Benedict. He had at least one son, St. Walstan, who moved to Taverham at the age of twelve and became an ordinary farm laborer, albeit a pious one.

Benedict and Blitha seem to have lived in either Blythburgh, Suffolk (which may have been her property, or may have changed its name in her honor) or in Bawburgh, Norfolk. But at the time of her death, after Benedict died, she was living in Martham, which is a lot further inland and somewhat closer to Taverham. A chapel was built in her honor in Martham.

The Old English word “blithe” or “blythe” meant friendly, agreeable, cheerful, kind, merciful, pleasing, gentle, pretty — basically, a lot of pleasant qualities. Its ultimate root means something like “shining.” It’s a great name — and now we know it’s a saint’s name! Great stuff!

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St. Denver?

Nope. Denver in Colorado was named after a politician with the last name Denver. His family was probably named after the town of Denver in Norfolk — “Dena faer” or Dane ford, Dane passage.

Another girls’ name that the Social Security Administration says is increasing in popularity. It’s not a bad name; it’s just not a saint’s name.

There is a Servant of God from Denver, Colorado, who is being submitted for the process of being named a Venerable. Julia Greeley was an ex-slave who moved west, worked as a housekeeper, and used her small wages to help others. She only had one eye, because it was whipped out by her ex-master, and she towed a little red wagon full of needful things like food, coal, and clothing, giving them out to anyone of any race who needed them. When she died, the bishop laid her in state in the cathedral, and thousands of people came to say goodbye to this saintly woman.

Servant of God Julia Greeley, pray for us!

Denver, Norfolk was a very small village until the fens were drained a bit, and it’s still pretty small. So there don’t seem to be any local saints.

There are tons of saints from the general Norfolk area, both missionaries (St. Felix the bishop from Burgundy, Ss. Fursa and Foillan from Ireland) and royal laypeople (Edmund, Etheldreda, and Sexburga). There are also martyrs killed by the Danes.

The most unusual saint was Walstan, a nobleman with royal kindred and wealthy parents (his mom was St. Blitha, aka St. Blythe), who decided he was called by God to become an ordinary farmhand. He left home at age twelve, moved inland from Blythburgh to Taverham, and got a job, vowing celibacy but otherwise living a normal life. He died in 1016, but the oxen drawing his body on a wagon took him to Bawburgh, and that’s where his shrine was built. His feastday is May 30. In the Middle Ages in the area, many farmers visited his shrine on his day.

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St. Navy?

“Navy” is an up and coming name for girls in the US, according to the Social Security Administration.

Um. Well. I don’t want to be too negative, because it’s certainly patriotic. But you do realize that there are certain traditional connotations about young women vs. young military men, right? If you are naming a girl after the color, maybe you should pick another shade of blue? (Indigo, Azure, stuff like that. But those probably make better middle names.)

There’s an Indian name, Anavi (“kind to people”), that has the nickname form “Navi.” Other names from India include Navya, Navita, and Navistha. Some of them refer to the Sanskrit for “new.”

There’s a Hebrew girls’ name, Navi, which apparently means something like “named.” I don’t know if it’s an allusion to the Name of God, but normally that would be Shem.

The Hebrew word for “prophet, seer, one who sees” is pronounced “Na-BEE” and usually spelled “nabi.” (So if that is the name you want for your kid, please spell it that way.)

The feminine form (“prophetess”) is “nebiah” (nuh-BE-ah) or “hannebiah” (HA-nuh-BE-ah).

That said, there is a traditional connection between the Church and St. Peter’s fishing boat, and hence with the Church as a ship or as Noah’s Ark. So yes, there was a St. Navida (martyred in Africa) and a St. Navigia (at St. Etienne d’Auxerre).

Nautica would be an okay name, although everybody who speaks English would call the girl “Naughty.” Also, it’s a clothing brand.

Nausicaa is a pretty name, if you want to go all classical. She was the (probably a fairy) princess who found Odysseus shipwrecked on the shore, and kindly helped him out. (Although what her name means is “burner of ships.”)

Other pretty names come from devotion to Our Lady of the Snows (Aug. 5), like “Nieves” (Spanish). There’s also the related names “Nova,” (Latin for “new”), “Novita,” and “Novella” (although that’s a literary form now, so probably not a good plan).

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St. Briar?

According to the Social Security Administration, this name is growing in popularity for girls in the United States. I think it’s a bad idea. I don’t know about the rest of the US, but in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia, “Briar” is a slur term for poor rural Appalachian people. So if you wouldn’t name your little girl “Hillbilly,” don’t name her “Briar,” either.

If it’s one of your family surnames… well, make it a middle name, that’s all I can say. Alternately, call the kid Briar-rose, like Sleeping Beauty. (But in that case, why not just call her Rose?)

It’s also not a good name, because it associates the kid with the bad effects of the Fall cursing the plants of the earth. You know, “and thorns infest the ground”? Briars are also associated biblically with the ‘crackling’ sound of fools talking, with abandoned settlements and fields, and with all sorts of dire prophecies against the wicked and the pagan nations being burned up. The only positive association is the Crown of Thorns, and that’s an awfully sad name for a kid; or the “lily among the thorns,” which is a comparison of the Beloved to other women. And your kid would be the “other women,” not the Beloved.

If you want a Bri- or Bree- name, there are tons of those.

That said, there is a St. Spinella (“thorn”), who was martyred in Rome with St. Felix and her seven brothers (feast: June 27), and a Bl. Spinela who was a Cistercian nun in Arouca, Portugal (Nov. 1).

I suppose you could go with Bruyere, the French version, if you really really wanted to inflict this name on your kid. It means “heather” and “moorland” as well as “briar,” so at least your munchkin will have some positive associations.

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Mattel, Say “Catholic.”

Just say it, Mattel. Say it. It’s not hard. CAAAAATH-LIC.

“Barbie® celebrates Dia De Muertos 2020 with a second collectible doll inspired by the time-honored holiday. Dia De Muertos is a two-day holiday in early November when families gather to celebrate the lives of their departed loved ones. This colorful and lively event is filled with music, food, sweets, offerings and flowers. The Barbie® Dia De Muertos series honors the traditions, symbols and rituals often seen throughout this time.”

So yeah, let’s totally avoid the words “Catholic” and “Mexican.” Let’s avoid the fact that it’s a religious holiday. And why do you think it’s only about “ancestors,” and not about all the dead, and especially the Poor Souls who have nobody to pray for them? And what exactly do you mean by “offerings,” Mattel? And what are the two days of the “two-day” holiday, Mattel? Why would you say “early November” and not give the dates????

Ugh, ugh, ugh. Two steps forward, two steps back.

It’s not about going to cemeteries to “celebrate the lives” of the beloved dead, although that happens. It’s about praying for the souls of the dead, and asking them to pray for us from Purgatory and Heaven. It’s about remembering that dead Christians are still part of the Communion of Saints, and hence present with us as a “cloud of witness” — which is why people have cemetery picnics and put up temporary prayer station. It’s about making reparation for the sins of those who died repentant but were sent to Purgatory to purify them for bliss in God’s presence, and for praying for the unbaptized or pagan dead to be under Christ’s mercy, also.

And of course it’s not just a Mexican holiday, although Mexico got the full benefit of the traditions of all the Hapsburg monarchs’ domains in Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands, all the way to eastern Europe and the Far Eastern missions, courtesy of many religious orders and settlers. Everywhere there are Catholics and decent weather on November 2, it’s a big deal.

And no, dressing up candy skulls and such are not a pagan Mexican thing, sorry. It’s a danse macabre, memento mori thing from medieval Europe. It got big in the 1400’s and stuck around through the 1600’s, but hung on in places like Spain and Italy up until the present, and it got to Mexico by way of the Spanish settlers. You don’t have to like the aesthetic, just like you don’t have to like hellfire and brimstone spirituality; but it’s Christian unless people are purposefully paganizing it.

If anything, it was meant to combat the Aztec spirituality where the gods were wearing people’s body parts, and the jaguar god idea where skulls and headhunts were used to enslave human souls, with the idea of honored relics and cheerful deathless skeleton pictures anticipating the full joy of blessed souls reunited with their resurrected glorified bodies.

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Forgotten Titles: Mary of the Pregnant Women, and Mary of the Slapped Face

I was browsing around some webpages about Old St. Peter’s in Rome, and found out that there used to be a big side altar, right next to the nave’s entrance doors, which was dedicated to S. Maria Praegnantium. (Handy if you were really big and needed to pray.)

The altar included an old picture of the Virgin Mary holding Barely Toddler Jesus. Mary has one arm curled protectively around her Son, Who is standing up and blessing the onlookers. With the other hand, she holds a gauze veil across His privates, while highlighting His bellybutton to prove that He was born of her. Otherwise, He’s a totally naked little boy, showing that He is true man as well as true God.

Today, there’s a whole chapel dedicated to her, under the name of the Madonna delle Partorienti (My Lady of the Women Giving Birth), and it’s in a place of honor. But here’s the catch: it’s downstairs in the crypt, under St. Peter’s. So maybe there’s an elevator now, but there didn’t use to be. For a shrine for pregnant women. (Facepalm. Men. Usually that’s not the problem, but here, it pretty clearly is.)

There’s also a chapel for another old medieval icon of Mary, which was also moved from Old St. Peter’s. S. Maria della Bocciata, or the Madonna della Bocciata (of the Slap, or of the Rejection) , was a wall fresco of Mary holding Baby Jesus, which was in the portico between the Ravenna Door and the Door of the Dead. Jesus is turned away from His mother and is blessing the onlooker below. But Mary has an odd-looking face, which some see as swollen, and her cheek has a dark spot that looks like a big bruise.

It’s a miraculous picture, because apparently it used to look normal, and it was painted in the 1200’s. It used to be called “S. Maria in columna,” Mary on the pillar. (Probably a picture of the Spanish apparition of Mary, “Our Lady of the Pillar,” which has Baby Jesus sit-standing against Mary’s shoulder. Her feast day is October 12, which is also Columbus Day from Columbus’ first landing in the Americas. Columba, Columna. Horrible pun.)

But one day in 1440, a drunken soldier, who had just lost a game of bowls, had a tantrum and threw one of the little balls or rocks that they were using for the game, and hit Mary’s picture right in the face. Drops of blood fell from her painted cheek and stained the floor; and ever since then, the picture has borne the bruise damage as a rebuke to those who disrespect the Blessed Mother. (And I’m sure we remember the similar thing that happened to the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa.)

So of course the picture was removed from the wall before the old basilica was demolished, and now it also has its own home, down in the crypt. The two bloodstained paving stones sit behind grates on either side of the picture, and you’re meant to reach through the grates and touch them.

Unfortunately, this is another shrine that used to be a lot easier to visit, back when it was in the portico! But in this case, people actually got more attached to “the Rejected Madonna” after it was moved several times during all the building and renovation. So you never know.

Here’s a PDF from the Knights of Columbus, who funded the restoration of various crypt chapels, including these two. There are nice photos of the two pictures.

Many fragments and reproductions of Old St. Peter’s stuff live in the crypts. On the right hand wall of the Rejected Madonna’s chapel is an old inscription from the “sacellum” or “oratory” of the saints, which was created by Pope St. Gregory III, and dedicated at the opening of an anti-iconoclast synod in Rome on November 1, 731. To make his point stronger, the pope changed the Roman date of All Saints’ Day from May 13th to November 1, thus creating Halloween.

So the first Halloween decoration ever is sitting under St. Peter’s, in the Chapel of the Madonna della Bocciata!! Being all holy and historical and stuff!*

A webpage for the Chapel of the Madonna della Bocciata. Includes some nice big pictures. The remains of Cardinal Peran are back in his country now.

A webpage for the Chapel of the Madonna delle Partorienti.

Today is Mary’s birthday (December 8, feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary). The eve of the feast was associated by St. Brigid of Sweden with a devotion to St. Anne and the Virgin Mary, praying for pregnant women by starting a simple novena of nine Hail Marys a day, or even nine Hail Marys per month of pregnancy (which she received in an vision from Mary). St. Anna Maria Emmerich received a similar vision, where Mary asked pregnant women to say nine Hail Marys at noon on September 8, and then to continue saying nine at noon for nine days.

(But any time during the day is fine – it’s noon somewhere. Noon was associated with saying the Angelus and hearing the Angelus bells ring, so Mary was trying to make it easy.)

*There are two known inscriptions. One is all about the guys who witnessed the synod and the pope being happy to praise the Lord (which is the one in the chapel), and the other is all “anathema” and “interdict” to violators of the synod’s teaching. Which would be Emperor Leo III.

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Achievement Unlocked

I got a meme post either removed or shadowbanned from a fairly orthodox Catholic subreddit.

(UPDATE BELOW: Nope, I didn’t.)

Apparently, it’s a bad deal to point out, in a meme or the comments, that:

a) Utilitarian arguments against the death penalty are not moral arguments

b) The “seamless garment theory” is not official teaching, and it’s prudential

c) The “seamless garment theory” was invented by Cardinal Bernardin, who was a Very Bad Man and facilitated tons of p*dophile activity

d) The “seamless garment theory” was invented to weaken and dissipate the pro-life movement against abortion and euthanasia, and eventually led to many pro-life Catholics on the left becoming only anti-death penalty for adults, not for babies

I mean, I know a lot of people were not old enough to live through this stuff, but it’s not exactly a secret.

Of course, there was also:

e) Pointing out that if utilitarian arguments against the death penalty are true, the Church always had the obligation to fight the death penalty by supporting more and better prisons, feeding the prisoners as its biggest alms, etc.

(I didn’t get a chance to point out that in fact, the Church generally opposed the existence of prisons, historically, because it was considered much crueller than death. It was very controversial when ecclesiastical figures with temporal powers started running prisons, instead of miraculously unlocking all the doors just by walking by, or getting the secular authorities to agree to free certain prisoners on certain days of the year.)

f) Pointing out that if utilitarian arguments against the death penalty are true, then God is really stingy by only providing evil souls and demons with Hell. Whereas in actual fact, Hell exists as a matter of justice.

So I don’t even know why my post disappeared. Heh, maybe someday I will find out.

UPDATE: It’s back. Apparently some setting got messed up accidentally, so actually I didn’t make the achievement! Well, good. I feel better about participating in discussion groups, if I’m not going to have to worry about some hot take being too hot.

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Annoying Character, Saint’s Name

There are a lot of annoying things about the new animated series, Star Trek: Lower Decks, but the Mary Sue antagonist character actually has a normal sort of name. I know they’re chasing the trend of giving women a “masculine” name, but the origin of the surname baptismal name thing (back in Early Modern times) was unisex. So who cares?

More to the point, “Beckett” is of course the last name of St. Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury and martyr. So even if Ensign Beckett Mariner is annoying and her overall name not euphonious together, her first name is good. And her nameday is December 29.

(Her family probably calls her Becky.)

This particular form of Becket was from Norman French, and meant either “little beak” (bec + -et) or “little stream, beck” (beck + -et). There’s also an English origin surname that means “bee cottage” (beo + kett).

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“My hands, the hands of Christ”

I’ve been chasing this quote a while, in this form, as well as “Christ has no hands but ours/yours” and “Christ has no hands but our hands.” It gets attributed to St. Francis, St. Teresa of Avila, and tons of other saints or religious people.

But apparently this is a version of a real quote from a real saint.

As noted in the post just below, St. Jean-Gabriel Perboyre was a Vincentian missionary in China. On Sept. 11, 1840, he was executed in Wuchang (now part of Wuhan, China) as a traitor in one of the typical ways: tied to a cross, and then strangled by a rope from behind, by the public executioner.

At some point, he had composed a prayer which was included in the 1889 “Vie du Bienheureux Jean-Gabriel Perboyre.” It gets quoted different ways. Here’s the original text, from his French Wikipedia page:

Seigneur, transforme moi 
Que mes mains soient tes mains. 
Que mes yeux soient tes yeux. 
Que ma langue soit ta langue. 
Que mes sens et mon corps ne servent qu'à te glorifier ! 

Mais surtout, transforme-moi 
Que ma mémoire, mon intelligence, mon cœur 
soient ta mémoire, ton intelligence, ton cœur. 
Que mes actions et mes sentiments 
soient semblables à tes actions et à tes sentiments. 

Amen!

Here’s a literal translation into English:

O Lord, transform me. 
May my hands be Your hands. 
May my eyes be Your eyes. 
May my tongue be Your tongue. 
May my mind and my body serve only to glorify You. 

But transform me even more: 
May my memory, my understanding, and my heart 
Be Your memory, Your understanding, and Your heart. 
May my actions and my feelings 
Be likenesses of Your actions and Your feelings. 

Amen!

There’s also a famous hymn/poem from 1919 by Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) called “The World’s Bible,” which seems to be the biggest source for this quote in English. She was disabled by arthritis while still young, but received consolation from her strong faith.

Christ has no hands but our hands
To do His work today;
He has no feet but our feet
To lead men in His way;
He has no tongues but our tongues
To tell men how He died;
He has no help but our help
To bring them to His side.
We are the only Bible
The careless world will read;
We are the sinner's Gospel,
We are the scoffer's creed;
We are the Lord's last message,
Given in deed and word;
What if the type is crooked?
What if the print is blurred?
What if our hands are busy
With work other than His?
What if our feet are walking
Where sin's allurement is?
What if our tongues are speaking
Of things His lips would spurn?
How can we hope to help Him
And hasten His return?

Before that, there were similar quotes from the Quaker speakers Sarah Eliza Rowntree and Mark Pearse, which seem to have come down through the social justice/liberal side of Christianity.

But those quotes date back to 1888 or so, as opposed to this 1889 quote of a guy who died in 1840.

Of course, the general idea of the Mystical Body comes from St. Paul, and from Jesus. But although we baptized Christians are Christ’s Body mystically, that doesn’t mean that Christ has no body in Heaven or in the Eucharist, or that Christ is powerless if we don’t act. Not only is He alive and active and all-powerful and incarnate. No, if we don’t do it, there’s nothing stopping God from making stones into children of Abraham, or the stones from taking the actions that we’re too lazy to do.

Needless to say, I didn’t find anything in Latin along the lines of “Christus manibus non habet.” The most you get is commentaries pointing out that when the Psalms talk about God’s hand or arm or feet or ears or eyes, the psalmists are not generally being literal. Only Christ is God incarnate, with body parts and clothes. So the idea that this quote is medieval or from the Fathers is just wrong.

But there’s nothing wrong with puttting on Christ and becoming Christ-like, and carrying our crosses like Him. The more we act as His Body and do His Will, the more we let His life come into us and make us eternally alive.

But His hands are our hands when they are wounded, and His Body is our body when we are on the Cross.

That’s the prayer of a martyr. Jesus took him up on it.

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