Monthly Archives: April 2021

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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Crux Ignores Business Saints

It’s good that Crux is promoting the cause of an Argentine businessman, the Venerable Enrique Shaw.

But this is just not true:

“But if [his canonization] happens, this Argentine will become the first saint businessman since St. Homobonus, a 12th century Italian merchant who’s the patron of businesspeople, tailors, shoemakers, and cloth workers.”

Oh, come on. You don’t even have to think hard.

What about St. Zelie Guerin Martin, who ran a laceworking business employing many home laceworkers, or her husband, St. Louis Martin, who was a watchmaker, and later became his wife’s business manager?

What about St. Petrus Kwon Tug-in, who made and sold crucifixes and holy pictures, and was martyred for the faith in Seoul, Korea? When he was beheaded, there was a smile on his face even in death.

What about Bl. Bernadino de Feltre, the pious, miraculously healed Franciscan who organized a network of church-run pawnshops (monti di pieta or mons pietatis) to provide the poor with fair lending rates? (Well, okay, he’s not a saint yet.)

There’s many more examples, although of course it’s more common to hear about members of religious orders. Because religious orders have more time to push canonization causes.

But the Martins are pretty famous! Hard to forget them!

This is the sort of thing that happens with press releases. People are enthusiastic, but they’re not thinking or looking stuff up.

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SAINT MARGARET OF CASTELLO!!!!!

Hurray, hurray, hurray! Another equipollent canonization!

Since her shrine in the US is up in Columbus, Ohio, this is a really, really, really timely announcement.

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The Alamo’s Patron Saint

Yes, all you Texans probably know all this already. But the rest of us don’t….

The actual church name of the Alamo was “San Antonio de Valero.” But where is Valero, and who is this St. Anthony?

Valero is a town in Salamanca, in Castile, in Spain. (So we’re talking Isabella’s folks, not Ferdinand’s Aragonese.) Valero’s patron saint is St. Valerius, an early Christian bishop of Zaragoza, Spain. He’s not a Diocletian-times martyr, startlingly enough, but he was a confessor who was taken away from his see; he survived and was able to return home under Galerius’ Edict of Toleration. (The martyr St. Vincent of Zaragoza was his deacon.) He also was one of the Spanish bishops at the synod of Illiberis (later called Elvira). His feast day is January 22, and they have some kind of bullfight in his honor in Valero on January 29; celebrations continue until Candelaria on February 2.

The lands of Valero were under the Zuniga family, who at the time held the title of Marques of Valero. Baltasar Zuñiga y Guzman succeeded to the title when his brother died in the Battle of Buda. His brother Manuel Diego de Zuñiga Sotomayor y Mendoza was the Duke of Bejar, and the dukedom descended to his son; but Valero went to Baltasar.

Baltasar had an important career, and served as Spain’s viceroy in such important territories as the formerly independent kingdoms of Navarre, Spain; Sardinia, Italy; and Mexico. He was involved in rebuilding Florida’s defenses and in sending troops to Florida to defend it from the French. He also supported various Catholic groups in the places where he served, including founding a Capuchin convent in Mexico City (where his heart was eventually buried). For his service, he was eventually made the Duke of Arion by the Spanish monarchy. (Baltasar never married. His sister Manuela inherited his dukedom, so her husband became the next duke. His marquisate was inherited by Maria Leonor de Zuñiga y Zuñiga, who was his cousin.)

In 1718, during his stint as viceroy of Mexico, Baltasar founded the city of San Antonio de Bejar (which today is known as San Antonio, Texas). It was to be named after St. Anthony of Padua, so that he would be its patron saint; so it was founded on June 13th, which was St. Anthony of Padua’s feast day. But it was called “of Bejar” in honor of the Viceroy’s family. Similarly, he funded and founded various missions in Tamaulipas, one of which became known as San Francisco de Valero, after his title and lands.

But he also gave funds for the founding of a little mission in Texas, close to the city of San Antonio, and also named in honor of St. Anthony of Padua (although it was actually dedicated on May 1, 1718). And that’s why the Mision de San Antonio de Valero was called that — for differentiation from the city. The mission served the Xarames tribe.

However, later the mission lands suffered Apache raids that stole all their horses, which pretty much made farming impossible. In 1793, the lands were taken over by the secular government, abandoned, and then were used in 1803 by a military unit for a temporary housing/base area.

The unit was named the “Segunda Compañía Volante de San Carlos de Parras,” and they came from the Álamo de Parras in Coahuila de Zaragoza, Mexico. Texans just called them the “Compañia Álamo,” and so they nicknamed the old mission building “the Alamo.”

(An alamo is a white poplar, back in Spain; in Mexico, it’s a different kind of poplar, or what’s called an “Arizona sycamore.” They’re all part of the plane tree family.)

Anyhow… St. Anthony was and is a very popular saint, because he was a great Franciscan preacher and teacher, but also a great wonderworker. He was Portuguese, from Lisbon, but Spain owned Portugal at various points. So it’s not surprising that the Marquis of Valero would have had a devotion to him, especially since the Franciscans were running most of the Mexican missions.

And yes, Valero gas stations are named after the original name of the Alamo. The Valero gas company was founded in San Antonio, Texas, in 1980.

The dukes of Bejar are still going, in Spain; and the current title holder is Pedro de Alcantara Roca de Togores y Salinas, who was made honorary mayor of San Antonio as part of Texas’ outreach to the family. His son, also named Pedro Roca de Togores, was sent to the US to attend St. Mary’s University in San Antonio (he graduated in the class of 1993). His heir will be his only daughter, Cayetana Roca de Togores. The marquisate of Valero is currently vacant; the last marquis died in 2013. The same guy was duke of Arion, and there is a current duke who succeeded him, but I guess he didn’t take the marquisate, for some reason.

So there you go. St. Anthony, pray for us! St. Valerius, pray for us!

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Prudentius’ “Mary, Did You Know”

All right, this is funny.

One of the earliest Christmas hymns is Prudentius’ “Hymnus VIII. Kalendas Ianuarias” (ie, “Hymn for December 25th”). And the 14th stanza asks the musical/poetical question:

 

“Sentisne, virgo nobilis,

matura per fastidia,

pudorem intactus decus

honore partus crescere?”

 

But the trick here is that the question is, literally,

“O noble Virgin, do you understand,

During your delicate state come to its time, 

That your intact dignity of modesty is to increase

With the honor of your offspring’s birth?”

 

So in this case, the question is not, “Mary, did you know your Son would be the Savior?” but instead, it’s “Mary, did you know how impressive this was going to be, for you?”

The point is that, despite the weird squeamishness of some of today’s Catholics and other Christians about it, the miraculous birth of Jesus was always supposed to be just as miraculous as His virginal conception in Mary’s womb. Mary’s title of “Ever-Virgin” (Aeiparthenos in Greek) is ancient. So Prudentius, our early Christian poet, is of course going to be concerned with (rhetorically) asking Mary if she knew she would remain virgin during and after Jesus’ birth.

But he assumed she’d already gotten the picture on Jesus being the Savior, the Messiah, and God, because he assumed Mary had paid attention to Gabriel’s announcement. I guess today’s songwriters do not assume this.

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Praise and Worship Music

Not as bad as cruddy Seventies and Eighties “hymns,” but… ugh, I am so so tired of being forced to sing this stuff every week.

  1. Piano songs.
  2. Unison in weird ranges.
  3. Syrupy.
  4. Totally dedicated to personal, individual experience, making it all about ME instead of God.
  5. Encourages people to sing in a whispery way that creates vocal nodes and bad vocal habits.
  6. Always the same freaking song construction formulas, to the point that I can often tell how the song is going to sound before we get there.
  7. No, we haven’t all heard this song, nor does every parish subject people to it.
  8. No, the music is not all that popular with all the younger people. It’s popular with certain younger people whom you know, but the others either are neutral or don’t like it at all.

On the bright side, the doctrinal issues are usually not there — often because they are avoided in favor of a vague “God loves you, feel good about that” attitude. Nobody ever does anything really evil that they have to repent and amend; they just feel shame and are cheered up by God. Nobody is ever angry at God; they just didn’t know Him. And so on. The music pretends that the dark side of life and faith is dealt with, but it’s not even allowed to exist in the lyrics. All people are victims looking for comfort, and there is no place for villains looking to become saints.

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Book of Invasions Mod for Crusader Kings 3

I don’t even play Crusader Kings 3, but this is exciting! And geeky!

Basically, a mod team created an opportunity to follow Ireland’s mythic history (which might possibly have some connection to actual prehistory, but nobody knows what it is), in which many human groups with magical powers invade Ireland, until it finally sticks. And you get to attempt to conquer Ireland over the course of all that mythic history, as the leader of one of these invasive factions.

Now, in the actual Lebor Gabala Erenn, most of the settler groups all died tragically, but not in this game! Nope, they are still around and kicking.

The other trick is that, possibly, some of the invader names actually refer to various Celtic groups and their influence on Irish history. One of the most suspicious ones is the Fir Bolg, because maaaaaybe they refer to the Belgae, a Celtic tribe that managed to go everywhere you want to be. Including some expeditions to Greece. Others point to Pictish stuff.

So anyway… the Crusader Kings 3 mod is called Tales of Ireland, and it really looks beautiful.

OTOH, they did change a lot of stuff for game balance, and they went in for a lot of “de-Christianization” that seems to go way way way too far. (When you decide to have monastic round towers turn into some kind of Paleolithic or Bronze Age structures built by the Nemedians, you’ve definitely gone too far.) They also decided to add “the Celts” as a separate faction, when (as the video points out) the Children of Mil are the Celts, possibly with separate Celtic helpings among the Fir Bolg.

OTOH, a lot of this is for the sake of humor or fairy tale situations — if you hang around the Giants’ Causeway, you meet up with giants, not with basalt oceanic rock formations.

Anyway, it seems pretty full of flavor and interest.

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Steak-Umm Defending Logic on Twitter

Holy crud, somebody is finally handing it to that pompous, anti-historical, anti-logic, barely more scientific than even Bill Nye, arrogant know-it-all, and general uninformed arse, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

And it’s the Steak-Umm social media intern on Twitter.

God bless you and protect you, social media righteous hero.

Apparently somebody paid as much attention to science and logic classes as marketing ones, and I like it. Special props for using “epistemology” and “log off bro” in the same thread.

(And even though Steak-Umm marketing is vaguely blasphemous, I think the Lord will give them a pass for defending Truth in a dangerous time. And for trying to have a sense of humor, even if some of its manifestations are kinda dumb.)

(Also, they have a corporate spokesdog from home, who is obviously very mannerly, because he is not mauling the Steak-Umm box.)

Steak-Umms are really good. For those who are unaware, they are extremely thin-cut sheets of meat, which allow you to cook them very quickly in a pan. One then uses them to make delicious hot sandwiches, with or without cheese. I haven’t had any in years, but they are tasty; and now I want some.

In fact, Steak-Umm corporate, I fully intend to buy some. Because of your social media person. Give him/her a bonus.

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No, That’s Not What It Says.

Obviously I like the Book of Revelation, so I was happy when a (non-Catholic, but usually sensible) Biblical scholar announced that he was doing a podcast series on the Old Testament references in the Book of Revelation.

The problem is that he will say some sensible things, add some interesting info… and then jump right off a cliff into Stupid, or at least, into totally unsupported inferences. He then says things that boil down to, “I like what this scholar says, so it must be true,” or “I like this better than what other people say, and so I just feel that it’s correct.”

Argh. Argh. Argh.

For example. Rev. 2:4 — “But I have something against you: You have left your first love.”

He correctly points out that Jesus also says that the Ephesians are doing okey-dokey on works, and on doctrine and discernment, and on endurance of suffering. But then… based on another scholar, he decides that if they’re not loving Jesus/God like they did at first (cf. Jeremiah 2:2), it must mean that they’re not following His commands. And since Jesus doesn’t mention evangelism specifically as one of their works, he figures they’re too scared or angry to evangelize the pagans.

Honestly? Where is that in the text, or in the referred text? Why wouldn’t it be, “The Ephesians have a great intellectual faith and knowledge, and great deeds, but they need to work on personal heartfelt devotion and prayer life”? Especially since they’re Ephesians and have an entire letter about how the Father loved them, and how Christ’s love “surpasses all knowledge,” and how being “filled” with love means being filled with “the fullness of God”? (Eph. 3:19)

But I go on listening, and all of a sudden this guy (based on another scholar’s article) is talking about how “the doctrine of Balaam” and “the doctrine of the Nicolaites” must be the same thing… because they appear in the same paragraph, and because sex is involved in both.

We have a lot of historical commentary about the the Nicolaitans. And what we’re told is that there was a legend that one of the original seven deacons, Nicolas, went so far with holding everything in common that he tried to share his lovely wife. So because of this legend that might or might not be true, Nicolaitan Christian heretics shared their wives/husbands in common. (And possibly this was one of the sources for the pagan Roman idea that Christians had orgies at their agape feasts and Masses.)

Meanwhile, it’s also pretty easy to read in the Bible about Balaam and Balak and Baal-Peor, and how they tricked the Israelites into worshipping pagan gods, eating pagan sacrificial feasts, and fornicating at sacred pagan orgies. None of this had anything to do with Jewishness or holding things in common.

So although you could say that an error of Christian communism and an error of falling into paganism both involve unlawful sex, they are clearly not the same things at all.

So how can you take this kind of commentary seriously? It’s not more credible for having scholars advocate it; it just makes the scholars less credible for anything!

Argh argh argh. I will probably get through the rest of the episode by gritting my teeth, but sheesh. Maybe I can just skim a transcript, so that it will be over sooner.

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The 1991 Lord of the Rings

Channel 5 Russia (a government TV network) apparently was scrounging around in its backrooms for Soviet films made by its predecessor organization, and found the long-lost video of a two-part TV movie version of Lord of the Rings.

The name of the movie is Хранители (Khraniteli, which means “The Keepers” or “The Guardians”). The same title was used for the Russian release of Watchmen, so make sure you get the right one. It’s a “telespectacle,” which apparently meant a film adaptation of a stage play, with some outdoor scenes filmed. (Very similar to some opera adaptations.)

It was made in 1991, when glasnost was in effect and the Soviet Union was about to dissolve, and money seems to have been a little tight. For example, the Black Riders couldn’t find any black horses, as nobody dyed their coats or hooves; and the Riders are wearing jeans. Later on, the horses doubled as Tom Bombadil’s ponies. (And one pony gets fed part of a potato.)

OTOH, some of the cheesy special effects are typical of elaborately cheesy Soviet-era fairy tale productions, so you can’t blame money. There’s also a lot of Soviet/Russian “comic relief.”

However, the soundtrack is by a guy from the band Akvarium (Aquarium) which was a good listenable band, even if it was Soviet-approved, and which did a lot of fantasy songs.

The general idea seems to have been a last-ditch attempt to make an LOTR trilogy of films –while they could still take the Soviet approach of ignoring foreign copyrights, but while no censors were likely to stop them. (LOTR was only circulated in samizdat until 1988, because obviously the storyline was about free peoples fighting evil, God and angelic powers, and monarchy restoration.) The film was shown once on TV, but disappeared shortly thereafter, never to be seen again until it was posted on YouTube by Channel 5, on March 26.

There’s no English captioning, but you know the storyline. The Russian captioning seems good. The videos were publicized today in UK newspapers, so expect them to be taken down soon.

Khraniteli, Part 1. (Only gets to the Barrow Downs. Holy cow, must be a lot of Tom Bombadil.)

Khraniteli, Part 2. (From the barrow to the breaking of the Fellowship.)

There’s also a 1985 Soviet live action Hobbit, and a 1991 Soviet animated Hobbit series pilot, both available on YouTube.

Re: identity of the Hobbits: When Bilbo comes onstage at his party, 5 minutes in, he names and embraces Pippin, Merry, and Lobelia (named something else?). Gandalf shows up 7 minutes in. Frodo is the red-haired guy with the big polka dot neckcloth and the messy hair.

I like the Bilbo actor a lot, and the costuming for him is pretty good. The Gandalf is good, too, although his costume stinks.

Actors apparently do all love the Gandalf and Bilbo ring scene, because it just has a lot of inherent drama. But screenplay writers seem to have a lot of problems with it! Leave it alone, guys….

The Gollum backstory… um. Especially the “Gandalf questions Gollum by threatening him with fire” scene. I know it’s implied in the book, but that’s not a kid’s stage play!

Five minutes of Old Man Willow trippily messing with the Hobbits is five minutes too long. OTOH, it makes you really glad to see Tom Bombadil! Unfortunately, it just gets trippier. Still, I do like the “manly Bombadil” interpretation, even if I don’t like the size thing.

The laid out Hobbits are effective, but the barrow wight is… um… not exactly as described by Tolkien. Um.

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Jesus Wants You to Ask for Stuff

It’s okay to want to pray for things you need. It’s a sign of spiritual growth to be happy with what God gives you, or to ask for important things that are worthy of prayer; but the lives of the wonderworking saints tell us that a lot of things are worthy of prayer, according to God.

It’s a sign of spiritual trouble if you are ashamed to pray for what other people need or what you need, or think that prayer is useless. Jesus orders and encourages us on many occasions to ask the Father for stuff we need, to be persistent about it, and not to be afraid that the outcome will be bad. The Lord’s Prayer that He gave us is all about asking for essentials and for eternal life. He’s not a vending machine and the “prosperity gospel” is heresy; but He’s not stingy, either.

John records that Jesus spent a lot of the Last Supper leading up to telling the Apostles to ask the Father for stuff. He’s the true Vine, we’re the branches, and we dwell in Him if we keep His commands. If we keep His commands and dwell in Him and His words and His love, we will bear much fruit. If we keep His commands, we are His friends, and He will lay down His life for us.

John 15:16-17 – “Y’all did not choose me. But I chose y’all and I appointed (etheka: literally, placed, laid down – the same verb in “lay down his life for his friends”) y’all, so that you may go out and bear fruit and your fruit may dwell/remain — so that whatever y’all might ask the Father in My Name, He may give to y’all.

“I command these things so that y’all may love one another.”

John 16:24 – “Up until now, y’all have not asked for anything in My Name. Ask and you will receive, so that the joy of y’all may be filled up.”

So basically, Jesus did all this for us, and we bear fruit in response, so that we can have joy and eternal life, and so that the Father answers our prayers, and so that we love one another. That’s a lot of trouble for the Trinity to go to, if we never ask God for what we need; and it’s ignoring a direct commandment.

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Fr. Reginald Foster’s Funeral

A touching account of the famous Fr. Reggie’s funeral, back in January. As often happens with the weird and maybe-saintly, the funeral seems to have fit him, in his own way.

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“Thinking He’s the Gardener….”

So Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was the gardener — which is “kepouros” in Greek. It literally is “garden” (kepos) + “watcher, guard, keeper” (ouros).

The last time we saw somebody watching and guarding a garden, it was an angel with a flaming sword, keeping humans out of Paradise and away from the Tree of Life.

And then there was the leader of the Lord’s hosts, who talked to Joshua while bearing a flaming sword. He let Israel’s people into the garden of Israel, but they did not get the Tree of Life.

But He has not come as garden security, to keep her out. It’s Life Himself, alive after dying on a tree, alive after spending time in the cool of the evening in a garden.

And He calls her by name.

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“My Father Is the Farmer”

In John 15:1, Jesus says, “I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Farmer” (georgos).

“Georgos” literally means “land/earth” + “worker”, and thus “farmer.” It’s where we get the name George.

It’s usually translated as “vineworker” or “vinedresser” when it shows up in a vineyard context, especially since the Septuagint used it that way; but it really is just the generic word for “farmer.”

So yes, Jesus is in the construction trades like His Dad, and He’s a shepherd like His Dad; but the Father is a farmer too. So it’s not surprising, maybe, that Mary Magdalene would confuse Jesus with the gardener!

UPDATE: John 15:2 uses another surprising expression. It doesn’t warn us literally that branches not bearing fruit (me pheron carpon) will be cut off; it says that the Father “takes it away” (airei auto) in the sense of “picks up, pulls off, plucks, removes”; but also, that the Father “cleans up,” (kathairei) every branch that bears fruit, in the sense of “prunes.” And then Jesus adds, “Y’all are already clean (katharoi), by the Word that I have spoken to y’all.”

There’s a lot of “clean” and “pure” in John’s Gospel…. (As seen in my previous post.)

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