Monthly Archives: August 2015

Mary the Unknotter – Papal Edition!

I’ve written here before about the growing devotion to Our Lady as “the Untier of Knots” or “Mary the Unknotter”. Here’s the Pope sitting with his copy, over at the Vatican.

Here’s a post about how the devotion started in Augsburg, Germany; and here’s another about the patristic roots (ie, St. Irenaeus) of the devotional image.

Pope Francis is one of the many South Americans who are devoted to Mary as “La Desatadora.” He has often praised her under this title, too.

So Philadelphia’s cathedral is setting up an art exhibit in honor of Our Lady, which is a nice idea. But unfortunately the sculpture is of nothing but ugly knots and a loom of people’s written problems, rather than of Mary’s intercession and God’s power helping to untie them for us and make things right. But it’s not the ugliest modern art installation ever, and it’s at least trying to be reverent. Here’s the Philadelphia folks from the Presbyterian Church’s blogpost about it. Here’s the Mercy and Justice Committee page about it, which includes one of the Untier of Knots devotional prayers.

(Some news reports said that people were being invited to burn their knots and their sins, but apparently this was incorrect. Which I’m glad to hear, because the whole “burning sins” thing has been associated in the US with Catholics being told they don’t have to go to Confession if they go to a sin-burning session.)

Also, we have a nice example of urban hagiography legends, as the newspaper tells us that young Fr. Jorge Bergoglio was the first guy to bring the devotion to Argentina and Brazil! Seriously??? Please check your timelines, my friends.

The devotion to Our Lady under this title actually was around for quite a while, and was even suppressed for a bit for being done in a weird and occultish way. He was one of the younger priests who favored bringing it back in a good way, so of course he is now getting a lot of the credit. (Heh, I remember seeing absolutely nothing about some guy named Bergoglio on Desatadora websites, and a lot of stuff about how you shouldn’t be confused by the weird occultish people’s weirdness. Now the Pope is everywhere, and the sketchy part of the history is forgotten. So you can’t really blame the newspapers for getting caught up in it.)

Father Bergoglio did commission a painting of Mary for the Universidad de Salvador chapel, which in 1986 was given to the parish church of San Jose del Talar. It was based on a nice postcard brought back by Bergoglio from visiting her painting in Augsburg. The parish is now Argentina’s national shrine for “Our Lady who unties the knots;” and there are special devotions at 6 AM on the eighth of every month (because this is a title related to Mary as the Immaculate Conception and the New Eve, and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is December 8).

Here’s a gallery of photos of the parish. (I like the big Christ statue.) The parish also features Confession being available all the time the church is open, and other prayer-friendly features. Naturally they are very proud of Pope Francis!

(It all looks very likeable. The only thing I don’t like is that it’s creepy to put the presiders’ chairs on the top steps of the old altar against the wall. I don’t think they meant to put people’s butts up there where the worship used to be, but it just looks bad.)

Here’s a chapel also dedicated to Our Lady Untier of Knots, at a drug addiction treatment center. There’s a picture of Archbishop Bergoglio.

The article says:

Cardinal Bergoglio explained that the devotion to Our Lady, Untier of Knots, arose around the year AD 1700, promoted for a marriage that was in permanent conflict of spouses.

“It occurred to this gentleman to ask the Virgin to fix the situation. As he was a very Christian man, he found a phrase written by St. Irenaeus of Lyons in the year 200, which says, “The knots which were tied by Eve’s disobedience and lack of faith, were untied by the obedience and faith of Mary.” All the knots that arm us with our failings, problems, infidelities — like a good mother, she is going to untie them. This is the meaning of this image,” he defined.

“This here cannot be called a construction company’s enterprise. The boys have made this church with their own hands, day by day, under the direction of Father Alejandro. The children make a house for their Mother, because she unties the knots for us. We all have knots in our hearts. We all have failings, and we all go through difficulties in life,” added Cardinal Bergoglio.

Here’s a remixed South American version of the traditional German iconography.

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If You Haven’t Been Able to Post Here

Please let me know if you haven’t been allowed to post comments under your usual handle and email address. MobiusWolf and Brickmuppet both fell afoul of the anti-spam system here at WordPress, and I still don’t know why (or why they initially didn’t show up in the spam pile). I have put their comments back up.

So yeah, please let me know. I really want to hear from you folks who bother to read my blog!


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St. Zelie? St. Azelie? St. Zeely?

It’s only a couple months until Louis Martin and Zélie Martin (née Guérin), the parents of St. Therese and a whole family of blesseds and venerables and Servants of God, are themselves canonized. So it’s more than time to talk about the Baptismal name Zelie, since a lot of folks are choosing it for their girls!

First, “Zélie” was Madame Martin’s nickname. Her full name was Azélie-Marie. [Corrected according to comment below!]

Second, “Azélie” doesn’t have anything to do with azaleas, which were given that scientific name in 1753 by the Dutch biologist Linnaeus. (“Azalea” comes from the Greek word “azaleos,” dry. The French spelling of “azalea” is “azalée.”)

“Azelie” is also not etymologically related to “Asella,” even though St. Asella’s feastday has sometimes been used as a nameday for girls named Azelie and Azeline. (St. Asella was a ten year old girl in ancient Rome who became a vowed virgin, and then became a house hermit at age 12. Forty years later, she was part of St. Jerome’s circle of women Bible students and friends. Her feastday is December 6. Her family name would have been Asellus, which means “little donkey.”)

“Azelie” is also not related to “Celia” (from Latin “coelia,” heavenly, or from the Etruscan-derived name of the Caelius family of ancient Rome), although the little girl who was healed as the Martin’s canonization miracle was named “Celia” as a Spanish approximation or functional equivalent of Zelie.

(And since that sort of thing is super-common in Irish naming, I’m sure not going to quibble about whether somebody’s name can be Cornelius and mean Conal.)

So what does the name “Azélie” mean?

Actually, it seems to be either part of a group of early medieval Frankish or Gallo-Roman names taken from the Latin word “solemnia” or “solennia” (“solemn, solemnity”) such as “Solinus” and “Solange”;

Or it is related to early medieval Frankish names like the male names “Adso,” “Atzel” and “Ascelin,” and the female names “Aza,” “Azala,” and “Azelina.” If this latter is the case (which seems more likely), the stem is rather mysterious, as “At-” stems can be related either to “Athal-, Atta-” (“father”), or “Cat-, Chad-, Had-, Hath-“.] Azélie may mean the same thing as Adélie (“noble, highborn”), where the root just went another direction phonetically.

So it’s a Christian name, and it’s been a Christian name for a long time, but there hasn’t been a clear saint’s name involved until now. That’s just how it goes with some old names – they’re more hallowed by use by Christians than anything else!

Traditionally, Azélie and Zélie seem to be names found mostly in Northern France. (Which is where our new saint is from.) Now it is found all over France, and all around the world. But it’s not very common, and even many French people have never heard of it. (This is obviously about to change.)

There was also an 1817 historical novel set during the French Revolution, and written by the historian and authoress Melanie de Boileau, called Azélie, ou Les Vicissitudes de Fortune. Since the saint’s sister was nicknamed Elise, and the author also wrote a novel called Elisa, ou Les Trois Chasseurs, it leads one to wonder about novel-readers in the Guerin family.

(The preface to the novel says sternly that it’s not about ghosts and old castles, but is a “simple and natural” story, showing how Azélie, a girl of aristocratic birth, develops a great and noble character through facing adversity in a troubled time. The conversations and travels of the characters are also advertised as educational without being boring, so that the Guerins may have felt it to be an edifying work.)

Here’s where you can read Azélie ou Les Vicissitudes de Fortune: Volume One. Volume Two. Volume Three.

The American form of Zelie is “Zeely,” probably best known from its use in Virginia Hamilton’s children’s novel, Zeely. The eponymous Zeely is not the main character, but rather a neighbor woman of great dignity whom the girl protagonist (Geeder) is interested in learning more about. (I remember the book being very interesting and haunting, although part of that is Hamilton’s habit of always seeming to be just about to reveal that you’re reading a fantasy novel. But it’s not.)


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The Patron Saint of Bacon

St. Anthony the Abbot, the Egyptian Early Christian and founder of most organized monasticism, is generally depicted with the attribute of a pig, because he once saw the devil in the form of a pig.

(He got bugged by lots of demons, but generally paid them no mind. He compared demons to mosquitos – always around, always annoying, but not a real danger.)

In the usual humorous style of picking patrons, the presence of the pig attribute led to St. Anthony (who ate no meat as part of his ascetic practices) becoming the patron saint of pigs, butchers, and bacon curing, as well as all livestock and animals.

St. Athanasius wrote an extremely popular biography of St. Anthony the Abbot. You can read it here, or in this version with footnotes.

Other patron saints of butchers include St. Adrian (a Roman soldier who got butchered during his martyrdom) and whatever saint was patron of the local butchers’ guild parish. 🙂

But of course the patron saint of cooks, and specifically grill cooking, is St. Lawrence, the Roman deacon who was executed on a grill. He famously quipped, “This side is done. Turn me over and then you can eat!”


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SPQR’s Comment

“In #HugoAwards the #SadPuppies set the bait, painted the word “BAIT” on it; the SJWs bit and are now celebrating being hooked.”


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Compare and Contrast.

Two days ago, three American friends traveling on a train in France saw a murderous man with an AK chasing a man down the aisle. They tackled him and beat him unconscious. Airman First Class Spencer Stone proceeded to treat the wounds of a fourth man, despite the fact that his own thumb was partially cut away from his hand.

Last night, grown people decided that it was an awesome idea to announce to the world that some of the best writers and professionals of the science fiction field deserved no Hugo Award, rather than “risk” wrongpeople winning. This corresponded exactly to the “scorched earth” strategy of the Rabid Puppies and Sad Puppies group, who had said from the beginning that any No Award result would prove their point about the politicization of the Awards by a small group of bloc voters. And indeed, now it can be seen that some people feel happy and righteous when they tell the world that science fiction is all crap, just like the proverbial nasty English teacher would have said. (I feel sorry for all those fans in the Hugo Awards audience who were trapped among idiots, and then admonished for booing such a beclowning disgrace. The disregard shown by presenters for the feelings of really long-time colleagues was particularly disgraceful. There are ways to act like adults in an uncomfortable situation, and there are ways to make it worse; they chose the latter.)

So here is the contrast. This week, two different groups left their mark on history and displayed their character.

Three men responded to danger by doing the right thing.

26% of Worldcon voters responded to a manifesto by embarrassing the whole field, and thereby proving the manifesto right.


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“Why I Left Crimea”

A sad story by an ethnically Russian guy living in Ukraine.

He also includes these words of wisdom about why any real and vibrant culture of democracy will include some unpleasant people saying unpleasant things:

“Do I find any Ukrainian politicians likable?

“I like the fact they exist and they are at each other’s throats. As long as there is a real political struggle, adversarial decision-making, there is a chance things will develop.

“Imagine: people shit every day. Do I find the asshole likable because it does this? No, but I’m really glad it exists.”

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