On Non-Caucasian Hobbits

Let’s assume that you want to create such a thing; and let’s assume that you’re not an idiot Hollywood producer who wants to use LOTR as toilet paper.

The halfling tribes that migrated into the Shire are known as the Harfoots, the Fallohides, and the Stoors, and they were led by the brothers Marcho and Blancho.

This is a JOKE, or a historical/linguistic reference (if you prefer) on the Germanic tribes that migrated to Britain and turned it into England. The Fallohides are a joke on the fairhaired Angles, and the Harfoots and Stoors are probably the Saxons and Jutes. Marcho and Blanco are both words meaning “horse,” and they reference the Saxon brothers Hengest and Horsa (two names also meaning “horse”).

The Jutes (aka the Eotas, Eudoses, Juti, or Jotar) may have included some Celtic Cimbri in their ancestry, but they were mostly from the Gutones (proto-Goths), Teutones (Celtic Germans – a different branch of Celt from the Irish and Scots), and Harudes (Germanic guys). The Angles we don’t know about much, but they were another Germanic tribe. The Saxons ditto, although we know they did a ton of sea raiding, to the point that their tribe name became a synonym for this kind of activity in late Classical times/the early Middle Ages.

So basically we are talking about TOTALLY CAUCASIAN PEOPLE. But mostly these are Caucasian people who would have come off the steppes into Europe within the last thousand years before the Romans came to Germany and told us about them, or which had come off the steppes somewhere in the Bronze Age.

They migrated to England as part of the disorder during the early Middle Ages, and especially because there was crowding and famine in their bit of Germany/Scandinavia, as the Roman Warm Period was over and the growing season in northern latitudes was a lot shorter.

Similarly, the Hobbit tribes apparently came off the steppes of Rhun at some point in the Third Age, and moved into the valleys of the Anduin. Some were still there, just in time for Smeagol’s cousin Deagol to find the One Ring (in about year 2463 of the Third Age) which had been lost by Isildur (in the 2nd year of the Third Age).

But by that time, the three tribes had already crossed the Misty Mountains and gotten permission to settle the Shire, in 1601 of the Third Age, from King Argeleb II of Arnor. (Unlike Hengest and Horsa with King Vortigern of Britain, they did not go on to take over the whole Kingdom of Arnor, or use a daughter for court intrigue.)

So for values of this joke, the “valleys of the Anduin” equals “forests and river valleys of Germany,” basically.

Now that we have explained a joke that used (what used to be) common historical knowledge for every American and UK schoolchild….

Clearly there are some Hobbits who dislike water and fear the Sea, but others (like Frodo and Gollum) who like swimming and boats. If the Saxons could become sailors and sea raiders, then theoretically some of the Anduin river tribes of halflings could also have done it.

If they were roaming around the world killing people with their deadly slings (a Hobbit specialty), and stealing their stuff, they were probably stealing people, too. So sure, they could theoretically have stolen a bunch of short proto-Maori and proto-Arab and prehistoric African girls and boys, using them and/or selling them for slaves and concubines, just like the Saxons and the Irish raiders and the Norse vikings did.

So if you are willing to accept that all those hippie Harfoots of color on the new Rings of Power show are actually the (fairly recent, since this is the SECOND Age) descendants of pirate Hobbits and pirate slave humans… okay. Fine.

Must be drenched in blood and villainy. Must have been marooned by the other pirate Hobbits, probably for being worse than them.

Or maybe they’re escaped slave Hobbit kids, wandering the world because they don’t want to go back to the sea-raiders.

Alternately… some halfling tribesmen could have served as Numenorean auxiliaries, particularly as slingers. This could have allowed them to meet and marry short human women of various heritages, and then bring them back to the tribe at the end of their hitch.

Or they could have been halfling tribespeople kidnapped and enslaved, taken to Far Rhun by the slavers along the prehistoric silk road, who met and married other Far Rhun slaves of various colors, and then got out of Far Rhun, headed for their ancestral home, found that the halflings had been pushed out, and kept going until they got off the steppes and into western lands.

Whatever way you picture it, there is no reason to believe that non-Caucasian halflings would ever have come to the Shire, because there’s no evidence of non-Caucasian halflings in Bilbo and Frodo’s time. Given the obsession of Hobbits with genealogy, and the topic of discussing the odd habits and appearance of Hobbits outside Hobbiton, we surely would have heard of Hobbits with different skin colors and hair textures.

OTOH, Middle Earth is wide, and any tribe of halflings could have ended up anywhere. This would provide much more story possibility than trying to shoehorn invisible, forgotten POC Hobbits into the history of the Shire.


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“Be Thou My Vision”

Apponius has a nice bit about Songs 2:9-10, where he talks about the Lord looking through the soul’s windows as being a reference to lending His eyesight to us, so that we can see things as He sees them.

So I wondered if that had anything to do with “Be Thou My Vision,” since Apponius was available in Ireland through monastic copies of his book.

Nope. The Old Irish poem (“Rop tu mo bhoile”) is talking about an actual prophetic vision, which of course was also what Irish poets were expected to have occasionally, as part of their relationship with God. (It could also mean a poetic “frenzy,” when the poet was possessed by a not-so-holy poetic spirit to the point of not being in control of himself.)

So the poet is saying, “Lord, I don’t want my art to be about myself, or anything else but You.”

“Coimdiu cride” literally means “lord of the heart” or “master of the heart,” but it’s got that “assume the reference is to body parts of the person talking” thing going on. (And in the poem, “Coimdiu” is in the vocative form.)

The second couplet of the original poem is practically an adaptation of Psalm 1:2. There’s tons of psalm imagery throughout the poem, but it also does seem to call back to Song of Songs. Just not that particular line.

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Heat Wave and Cooking

So I got up early on my day off, and got a lot of things done, because the next week or so is going to be ridiculously hot.

A lot of people apparently had the same idea, given what was missing from the grocery store shelves when I went. I’ve never seen their freezer completely empty of ice cream pints before!

I also cooked a nice bunch of pork chops that were on sale, so that I can eat them over the next few days. Basically it was a low effort foil dinner — I smeared the pork chops with some olive oil and a generic “Italian seasoning” spice rub — but it came out pretty nicely.

If you have a crockpot, the next week or so will be a good time to use it. No point heating up the kitchen by turning on the oven or the stove, unless you like getting up early and cooking when it’s cool.

My boss forgot to schedule anybody to close on one of my days off, so he asked me to change around my second day off to another day. Sorta annoying, but I don’t really mind.

I got two more pairs of Wrangler’s new moisture wicking summer jeans. They are pretty darned nice, but I wish they were labeled inside as being the moisture wicking ones. I have a lot of pairs of jeans.

The name of the line is “Five Star Premium.” It’s in the Men’s Department at Wal-Mart. If you are built like me, you will want “Athletic Fit” (with extra room in the thighs) and not “Slim Straight.”

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Peak Irish-American Catholic

How to make a St. Brigid’s Cross with green chenille pipecleaners.

I mean, it’s a great idea. Around Kildare, they have lots of reeds and they make St. Brigid’s Cross from green reeds, which dry into the shape they’re folded to be.

In the US (and other parts of Ireland), not so much, so it’s usually straw. But green pipecleaners are definitely more like green reeds in appearance.

But it’s so American, because pipecleaner crafts are a big thing when you’re a kid. No scissors or glue needed. So I love it!

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St. Chanel?

Yup. St. Peter Chanel.

He was a member of the Society of Mary (ie, the Marists, not the Marianists) and was sent to serve in the missions on the South Pacific island of Futuna (an independent kingdom then, but part of a French overseas territory today). He ended up being clubbed to death by a new convert’s brother-in-law, under orders from the convert’s disapproving pagan dad, on April 28, 1841.

Before that, though, he lived a fairly eventful life, and helped the island people rebuild after a cyclone had leveled every home and building on the whole island. He became known as “the man with a kind heart.”

After Chanel’s death, pretty much everybody on the island eventually converted to Catholicism, over the next 40 years. His killer also converted. Initially his remains were slowly returned home to France; but at the end of the 20th century, they were returned to Futuna.

His day is April 28.

Of course, a lot of people will think of Coco Chanel, the designer (and Nazi-collaborator….). But there you go.

Apparently there are also a fair number of girls out there with their name spelled as Chenille or Chanielle, but with it pronounced as Chanel.

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This Is Not a Description of Pregnancy

Vita Sanctae Brigidae I, by an unknown author.

London, British Library, MS Additional 34124

ยง105, f 111v:

Alio autem die Sancta Brigita per potentissimam fortitudinem fidei aliquam feminam post uotum integritatis lapsam . et habentem pregnantem ac tumescentem uuluam benedixit : et decrescens in uulua conceptus sine partu et dolore eam sanam ad penitentiam restituit : illa sanata est et gratias Deo egit :

“And on another day, St Brigid, through the most powerful fortitude of faith, blessed a certain woman who had slipped after a vow of integrity [physical virginity], and had a swollen [“praegnantem”] and even ready to burst [“tumescentem”] vaginal opening; and the gathered-together thing [“conceptus”] in the vaginal opening having dwindled, without anything brought forth [“partu”], without pain, she restored her to healthy penitence. That woman was healed and gave thanks to God.”

This is not a story about abortion or even miscarriage. It’s a story about an STD being healed. And the wording is purposefully using sexual imagery for a rather yucky consequence of vowbreaking. The words are being used in an unusual way that is just barely inside literary usage.

The difficulty is that (as far as I know, anyway) there isn’t any early medieval STD like that. It sounds more like a tumor, edema, or cyst.

But there are plenty of early Christian and early medieval stories of male desert monks or Irish monks suffering from various bodily illnesses, which are seen as having been given them or allowed to happen to them as an object lesson. There are also stories about how certain bad things couldn’t happen to one, if one took precautions or acted properly. (For example, St. Gregory the Great’s Dialogues, with numerous stories showing that demonic possession doesn’t happen to people who earnestly say grace before meals.)

We’re supposed to get the moral of the story, then. This woman broke her vow of virginity. The word used, “integritas,” also can mean physical wholeness in the sense of a healthy, uninjured body, as well as physical virginity. So her vowbreaking was being punished by her health breaking; and the saint’s prayers did not just heal her body, but helped her become healthily penitent about her actions.

It’s also not clear that this woman was a nun; she could have been a laywoman. Girls and boys taking private vows of virginity before entering official religious life, or in lieu of being allowed to enter religious life, seem to have been pretty common throughout the early Christian and medieval world.

The interesting thing about St. Brigid folklore is that it echoes a lot of desert monk and Greek monk stories, not Celtic stories. For example, hanging your cloak on a sunbeam as a sign of purity and focus, as well as Eden-like powers over nature, is found in Greek monk stories.So it would be interesting to find out if this is another outside-of-Ireland monk motif.

That said… of course the presence of common story motifs does not mean that the event did not happen. Humans love to recount events in the style of their cultures or literatures, with the cultural moral of the story pointed out, or with a reversal of the culture’s usual point. And more to the point, God seems to like to echo specific motifs (BIblical or otherwise), as a way of explaining the miracle as a sign to humans, and making them think about the connections made by the motifs.

Article by David Howlett about the really strange, poetically nerdy way that the Vita Sanctae Brigidae I was written. His ideas about this passage are not the same as mine, but they don’t conflict with my interpretation in a way that would prove me wrong.

The Vita Sanctae Brigidae II, by Cogitosus, uses this same miracle story with very similar wording, but without the weird nerdy counting, and prose poem sentence structures, and rhetorical features. Migne leaves this specific story out, but the full Cogitosus text is on the internet. (In Latin, but not in the facing English translation, which is kinda annoying. I give my own translation, as with the translation above.) Here we go:

[12]  Potentissima enim et ineffabili fidei fortitudine aliquam feminam post votum integritatis fragilitate humana in iuvenili voluptatis desiderio lapsam et habentem iam praegnantem ac tumescentem uterum fideliter benedixit. Et evanescente in vulva conceptu sine partu et sine dolore eam sanam ad paenitentiam restituit. Et secundum quod omnia possibilia sunt credentibus, sine ulla impossibilitate innumera quotidie miracula operabatur.

“For with the most powerful and ineffable fortitude of faith, she faithfully blessed a certain woman who had slipped into juvenile desire of pleasure with human weakness, after a vow of integrity [physical virginity], and had now a swollen [“praegnantem”] and even ready to burst [“tumescentem”] belly [“uterum”: womb or abdomen/belly]. And after the gathered-together thing [“conceptu”] in the vaginal opening having vanished without anything brought forth [“partu”] and even without pain, she restored her to healthy penitence. And according to how ‘All things are possible to those who believe,’ (Mk. 9:22/23, VL) she was working innumerable miracles every day, without any impossibility.”

This is Chapter II, section 12 of the Vita Sanctae Brigidae II. It seems a little easier to mistake this one for a real pregnancy instead of a disease, because “uterus” is usually used for “womb” in a Christian context. But the adjectives still seem really to be pointing at an unnatural situation.

That said, you can see that it’s weird that everybody in the academic world just assumed that it was a pregnant nun story. I don’t want to say “prurient tropes” or “anti-Catholic tropes,” but….

OTOH, it may be as simple as that both stories were translated and discussed by the same academic person, S. Connolly, in articles published in 1987 and 1989; and it’s normal for one person to have the same opinion without examining alternate explanations, over the short term. (Unless you’re me, and you change your mind a lot in the middle of the night when the evidence suddenly looks different.) Everybody else is just copying Connolly on how to interpret, even when you have Howlett taking the structure of Vita Sanctae Brigidae I radically differently. And honestly, the 1980’s were not a high point of Latin study among academics, so maybe it just slid past any classics or medieval Latin experts that might have objected. (And usually academics are arguing about whether I or II is the older Life.)

There is only one other use of “tumescentem” that I found on a Google Books search that refers to a woman’s ladyparts at all — and this one talks about “uterum.” It’s in Seneca’s essay “Consolatio ad Helviam matrem,” 16, 3. This is a letter that he wrote to his own mother, Helvia, to console her for having heard that Seneca had been sentenced to exile, not long after one of Seneca’s children had died.

Medieval people respected and read lots of Seneca’s philosophy, and thought that he might have almost become a Christian. (There is even an early Christian epistolary fanfic consisting of letters between Seneca and St. Paul.) So it is very likely that Cogitosus’ wording is a deliberate reference.

In section 16, Seneca says that his mom should be strong enough to face grief with proper Stoicism, because she has no “womanish vices.” Specifically, he says that  “impudicitia,” shamelessness, “the greatest evil of the age,” has not been her problem, and:

“You have never been ashamed of your fecundity as though it were a reproach to your youth. You never hid your swelling belly [“tumescentem uterum”] as though it were an indecent burden, nor did you ever tear up [“elisisti”] your conceived [“conceptas”] hope of children within your womb [“viscera”] after the custom of many other women, all whose esteem is to be found in their beauty (“formam”).”

Probably I am reinventing the academic wheel here, but Seneca is a very “moral of the story” kind of guy to quote. And he was saying IN THIS VERY PASSAGE that abortion was wrong, so one assumes that Cogitosus was under no illusions that abortion by a saint could be right. It was probably another indication that it was a disease being healed, not a baby being eliminated. It’s also possible that this is proof that Cogitosus wrote first, and that the Vita I was written for different goals and thus left out more of the references. (But not all of them, in that case.)

Anyway, I’m discussing this story because it came up on Reason and Theology’s YouTube video, “Has the Catholic Church Ever Accepted Abortion?” (starting about 25 minutes in) as well as a highlight video about St. Brigid. It’s a very good video about the tricks that anti-Catholic writers use to fool people, or themselves, and how we can see through them.

I haven’t read these two articles that get quoted by everybody, and which are where the usual translations come from; but here’s the citations for them —

S. Connolly and J.-M. Picard, “Cogitosus’ Life of St. Brigid: Content and Value,” Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 117 (1987), 16.

S. Connolly, ‘Vita Prima Sanctae Brigitae: Background and Historical Value,’ Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 119 (1989), 45.

The article linked in the Reason and Theology video does mention other Irish saints with similar stories, but where the literary “game” with extra meanings has been turned into something flatter and more problematic. There are two lives of St. Ciaran collected in Plummer’s Bethada Naem nErenn, both of which deal with the Bruinnech abduction story, and flatly say that she was forced, and that she is torrach, pregnant.

I think the point here is the king’s disregard for Ciaran’s mother’s obligations as a fosterer, and his disregard for God’s power, and his assumption that an equally royal girl will be his low legal status concubine and that nobody can stop him. It might even be connected to war, because the girl was from Munster and the king was from Meath. But this sort of thing needs study, not assumptions.

What is clear is that Ciaran in the story just makes the Sign of the Cross over the girl, which would not generally be considered an aggressive act. He is turning the situation over to God. So what happens next is a reassertion of God’s order in human society. We are not told whether the child is dead, taken to Heaven, time traveled out of existence, never really there, or what.

The second Ciaran life gives no moral to the story. But the first one has Ciaran say to the king, “You have no power here. The God of Heaven is between us, and my weal or woe is not in your power.” So maybe it’s about getting away from this guy, given that the woman in the case spontaneously dies to get away from him when she sees him again.

UPDATE: So anyway, with the Seneca reference in the Brigid story, and with a probable reference to Hosea 9:11 with “sine partu,” maybe it is about pregnancy? But maybe it’s more about a covenant curse consequence, and thus a judgment come upon her? I’m confused, frankly. But whatever it’s about, obviously it’s full of disapproval of abortion, given the anti-abortion references; so it can’t be an abortion story of any kind.

So… new theory. There’s a natural condition called “fetus resorption” or “embryo loss,” where a baby just dies and is reabsorbed by the mother’s body. It’s very common with rabbit mothers under stress, but it does happen to human pregnancies as well. (Usually because of an infection or disease. So there’s still maybe a disease reference.) No miscarriage takes place, per se, and there’s usually no external signs or pain or internal scarring. It doesn’t normally happen at a point when a pregnancy would be showing, but theoretically it could happen.

So maybe we’re also supposed to understand this story as Brigid submitting the woman to God’s providence or judgment?


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Mustard Plasters and Poultices

Just in case you’ve always wondered how they work.

Making a Mustard Plaster (modern)

Colonial Classroom: Making a Poultice (living history folks)

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St. Anthony’s Treehouse

In the last days of his life, St. Anthony of Padua went on retreat to Campo San Pietro, a few miles from Padua, where there was a little Franciscan friary. It was right next to an estate that was owned by Lord Tisone, a member of the Third Order Franciscans.

The estate had a huge and beautiful walnut tree with six huge main branches radiating from its trunk. On seeing it, St. Anthony must have said something about wishing that he could climb that tree.

So Lord Tisone, himself, built three little treehouse “cells” on the branches of the tree — one for St. Anthony, and two for the guys taking care of him, Brother Luke and Brother Roger. He put little mats around them for comfort and safety, and I guess he helped the friars with ladders. (Probably used for harvesting the nuts.) St. Anthony prayed, meditated, and even wrote up there, in his treehouse. He went back to the friary for meals and singing the Hours.

(UPDATE! You can visit the place where the treehouse was! It’s a little chapel called “Santuario del noce,” or “Sanctuary of the Nut Tree.” Apparently it’s a nice place to visit by bike. The town is known today as Camposampiero, all one word. Here’s the official website of the chapel; and the tab “Tela d’abside” will show you a post-medieval artist’s impression of St. Anthony preaching to the local folks, from a perch in a tree.)

After a few days, Anthony fell ill while eating at the friary. He decided to go home, and the friars got him a carriage and sent him back to Padua. They met a monk named Vinoto on the way, who had been coming to visit Anthony at Campo San Pietro. He must have been alarmed, because he advised Anthony to stop a little way ahead, outside of Padua’s walls, at the convent of the Poor Clares in Arcella. They took him in.

He went to Confession, sang “O Gloriosa Domina” (his favorite Marian hymn in times of trouble), and then focused his eyes as if seeing something. His friends asked him what he was looking at, and he told them, “I see my Lord Jesus Christ.” They gave him Extreme Unction and sang the penitential psalms with him. He died on June 13, 1231, in the evening. He was only 36.

After his death but on the same day, he appeared to one of his old professors in Vercelli. He told the abbot that he had left Padua and was “going to his own country,” and then touched his throat and healed an injury there, before vanishing. Since Anthony was known to travel around a lot, the poor professor originally thought Anthony was just stopping by, on his way back to Lisbon. Everybody was very astonished when the professor kept looking around for Anthony, whom nobody else had seen. But later they learned of Anthony’s death, and understood what had happened.

Back in Padua, the Poor Clares and the friars were hesitant to announce Anthony’s death, because they knew it would make a big scene. But while they were wondering what to do, various children throughout the city simultaneously began to weep, and to yell out, “Anthony is dead! The holy father is dead, the great preacher is dead!”

So yeah… that’s an odd one.

The next couple of days in Padua were super-crazy, because everyone in the neighborhood closest to Arcella wanted to keep the body there, and were prepared to fight… and the rest of Padua wanted the body in the Franciscan church, St. Mary’s; or in the Cathedral. And they were also prepared to fight. Finally they got everybody to agree to abide by the decision of the bishop, who passed it onto the Franciscan superior, who passed it onto the voting of the friars, who basically inquired in prayer after the will of God. And the friars passed back their decision — that the body should go to St. Mary’s, with the other friars — to the bishop of Padua.

(But you know, the Middle Ages was all about centralized authoritarian rule by oppressors.)

So St. Anthony was entombed in St. Mary’s, in a nice sepulcher, and immediately the miracles started. Anything and everything got healed, everything else asked for was done. It was just an outpouring of God’s grace. And everybody who had been involved in the neighborhood wars went to the tomb and begged forgiveness from God.

And this is why St. Anthony of Padua was canonized within a year of his death, on Pentecost in May on 1232. There was one cardinal who wanted the canonization to be delayed for at least another six months, to make things a tad more normal… and he had a vision that changed his mind. The next day, he had barely left his house before he ran into a bunch of Paduans come to plead with him — and before they could start, he told them that he was already on board.

So yeah, sometimes “santo subito” is not just a good idea, it’s God’s idea!

Miracles are signs of God’s will and His love for us. The love is there, whether miracles are easily visible or not. But sometimes, we need that sign. And sometimes, God gives us signs in abundance.

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St. Anthony of Padua’s Forensics

St. Anthony of Padua was called that because he died there. He was born in Lisbon, and his original name was Fernando Martins de Bulhoes (or de Bouillon), because his dad’s name was Vicente Martin de Bulhoes, or originally, de Bouillon. (His mom’s name was Teresa Pais Taveira.)

One of the lesser-known stories about his life is that his parents lived near two feuding families. One of the family members killed a member of the other family, and then panicked. He snuck the body into the garden of Vicente’s house and buried it as well as he could, to hide it.

Well, of course if somebody goes missing, there’s going to be a search of the area. And if a dead body is found in somebody’s garden, it looks like the garden owner must have been the murderer… so Vicente was arrested. The rest of the family was also arrested, on the grounds that they must have known, and abetted the murder.

At this point, God told St. Anthony that his dad was in trouble, and that he was supposed to go to Lisbon and save his dad. So St. Anthony went to his superior at the Franciscans in Padua, asked for permission to leave, got permission, packed up and left…

And got picked up by an angel. And suddenly found himself in Lisbon, 1500 miles away.

Apparently he just checked in with the Franciscans in Lisbon, no big deal.

So the next morning, he headed over to see the judge of the case, protesting that his dad was innocent, and so was the rest of the family. The judge was apparently not impressed that a saint was talking to him, and told him that his family was guilty as sin. So Anthony asked to see the coarpse of the murdered man.

The judge went with Anthony to see the corpse, to prevent any funny business.

Anthony addressed the body, and asked the man to tell them whether Vicente, or any member of the de Bouillon family, had killed him.

The corpse sat up, said that he hadn’t been killed by any de Bouillons, and then went back to being dead. (He didn’t reveal who did kill him.)

The judge was convinced by this and let the whole family go home. St. Anthony hung out with them for the rest of the day, told the other Franciscans he was leaving Lisbon, and… got carried back to Padua by another angel.

Angel Express. Quicker than the Concorde.

There’s also a story that St. Anthony briefly bilocated to Lisbon to vindicate his father from charges of malfeasance, since apparently the dad thought honor was sufficient proof and that you didn’t need receipts. Apparently having an angry saint bilocate into court is a move worthy of Perry Mason, because the dad’s accusers instantly confessed. (But next time, get receipts.)

St. Anthony also performed miracles that vindicated the honesty of unjustly accused women, and rebuked their jealous, abusive husbands. The remarkable thing is that these miracles also turned the hearts of the husbands, and permanently made them into gentle people.

In general, his preaching, miracles, and examples seem to have been remarkable for changing stubborn people’s minds, and getting bad people to become good.

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St. Anthony’s Sermon to the Fish

St. Anthony of Padua famously is said to have preached to fish, when humans wouldn’t listen to him. But that’s not the whole story.

What happened was that he was in Rimini, which was having a lot of trouble with various medieval heresies. Anthony was already famous, and he had some success in Rimini with his preaching. But a lot of people just listened and went away again, or refused to come. So he went around preaching in various places in the city, making himself hard to avoid.

So one day, he decided that he’d go down to the riverside, close to the sea, to preach. He called out to the people working there, and got some attention. And then he made a rhetorical flourish, and called out, “Come, o you fish of the sea and the river, to hear the Divine Word which faithless and treacherous men refuse to hear.”

And the fish all popped their heads out, and listened. And apparently they even hung out in groups of separate species, making it really obvious that it was all the different kinds of fish that lived in the area. (Medieval people really liked organization, and it does make it really obvious that this was a miracle.) Also, they didn’t die up on the surface, which is pretty miraculous in itself.

St. Anthony stopped waiting on the human audience to increase, and preached to the fish.

Apparently he gave them a full Scholastic type of sermon, preaching on the various benefits given to them by God, from the way water is a great environment for life, to the various Biblical starring roles of fish. He ended his sermon by telling the fish that they should always remain thankful for these gifts.

Apparently the fish received this well, bowing their heads prayerfully and thankfully, and then waited around until St. Anthony blessed them and dismissed them. Then they swam away, perfectly fine.

All this happened in full view of hundreds of Rimini people. His mission success improved a lot after this.

(This story cracks me up. Obviously St. Francis preached to birds, but he was more a five minute sermon kind of guy. The material St. Anthony used — it must have been twenty or thirty minutes, at least.)


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Saints Everybody Heard in Their Own Language

There’s dispute about St. Francis Xavier. Fine.

But apparently a huge crowd of pilgrims who were in Rome for Easter, did in fact hear St. Anthony of Padua preaching miraculously in their own tongues, when he was preaching in only one language, to everyone simultaneously. There was sworn testimony to this effect presented for his canonization, which included the eyewitness testimony of the pope and a ton of other Church hierarchy folks. So that seems pretty definite!

The book about St. Anthony where I read this did mention in passing that St. Bernardino of Siena did this too, at the Council of Florence. I’ve never heard this before, and will have to look into this.

He also mentions St. Ludovic Bertrand (who?) and St. Francis Solano in South America.

St. Luis Beltran, aka Lluis Bertran or Louis Bertrand, was a missionary in the Americas; but he was a Dominican. He’s one of the patron saints of Colombia. He was related to St. Vincent Ferrer on his dad’s side, and apparently took after his cousin in the working of miracles.

For a guy in the Order of Preachers… he basically had no natural talent for preaching. His voice is described as “raucous,” and his memory was unreliable (which basically meant you were seen as stupid, since the art of memory was the foundation of scholarship and rhetoric). He also had no sense of humor that anybody could detect, which was weird for a medieval guy.

But because he was so darned earnest and fervent, and because he was the kind of person who was happy to tend plague victims up close and personal, somehow he managed to put across his preaching, to the point that the churches couldn’t hold all the people who came to listen. St. Teresa of Avila consulted him about reforming her Carmelite order.

But he asked to go to the Americas as a missionary, and his superiors didn’t refuse him. He defended the rights of natives, while convincing them to willingly convert by the thousands. (And yes, it’s documented that they heard and understood his Spanish/Catalan preaching in their own languages.) He recorded every baptism with his own hand, and many of these baptismal registers still survive. He baptized at least 32,000 people during the seven years of his mission, mostly in Colombia and Panama.

He was sent back as a sabbatical, pleaded for the rights of the Indians at the Spanish court, and then pleaded to be sent back to work. His order decided against it, and used him in Spain for the rest of his life. He fell ill while preaching at Valencia Cathedral, had to be carried down the stairs from the pulpit, and died on October 9, 1581.


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The Crusade of Padua

Pope Innocent IV actually called a (small) crusade to liberate Padua, not long after St. Anthony’s canonization. The Holy Roman Empire ruled the city through a guy named Ezzelino, who was a PITA to several other cities as well. One of the leaders of Padua’s part of the struggle was that same Lord Tisone who had built St. Anthony his own treehouse.

When Ezzelino was driven out of Padua, he also got driven out of Milan, Monza, and Trezzo.

Apparently he was one of those guys who was nice before he got power, but became a giant jerk afterward. St. Anthony warned him several times, which Ezzelino took penitently while the guy was there. But as soon as Anthony left, he went back to his old ways.

Anyway… the reason a crusade could be called was that he was a heretic, burned down tons of churches, and maimed and killed tons of priests and friars, including 60 Franciscans. He also imprisoned and starved to death a lot of people, including his own family. Lovely man.

So the papal legate and all the surrounding cities went crusading, and Ezzelino not only got beaten in war, he also got captured. He wasn’t killed; he actually managed to kill himself through neglecting his own health.

So yes, there were crusades against heretics as well as Muslims, and yes, there was at least one in Italy.


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St Irenaeus’ Day!!

He’s a Doctor of the Church, now, so he gets a different Mass said. Pretty cool!

His book Against Heresies was the first really long piece of the Fathers that I read, back when I was doing my Maria Lectrix podcast. So I’m very fond of him, as having been one of my teachers. I could tell that he was helping me from Heaven, to understand and learn, and I was very grateful for his prayers.

Since his book came out before a lot of things were defined by the Church, he’s in kind of a weird position. He possibly believed in some form of “chiliasm,” a material thousand-year reign of Christ before the end of the world and the new heavens and new Earth, and he had some very oddly written passages about the age of Christ. These things get brought up a lot online, mostly in a weird attempt to discredit the guy’s comments about the faithful continuity of the bishops of Rome. (Something that would seem to be beside the point… like attacking somebody’s comments on poker because he’s got a weird way of looking at chess.)

But he didn’t teach false doctrine. If you pay attention to him and his faithfulness to the Church, you will get the important gists without anything hurting you, because he is very clear on what you really need to know. And of course, no book by a saint in Heaven is a book that you read alone, without help — especially if you ask the author for his prayers.

Another interesting thing about him is that his Scriptural citations tend to go along with the Syriac (ie, Aramaic) versions of Scripture verses, as opposed to the Greek Septuagint, even when he is writing in Greek. He knows the Scriptures by heart, as he learned them from his bishop, St. John the Evangelist, who spoke Aramaic and (probably) Hebrew.

St. Irenaeus came from Asia Minor to Lyons (Lugdunum of Gallia Lugdunensis) , to a church where all the most notable people had been martyred, and became bishop only to be martyred himself. But his work goes on, a blessing to the world, as did the work of the amazing Martyrs of Lyons.

St. Irenaeus, pray for us!

O Doctor optime,

Ecclesiae Sanctae lumen,

Beate Irenaee,

Divinae legis amator,

Deprecare pro nobis

Filium Dei. Alleluia!

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Nazis and Commies Love to Burn Things

For example, this church built by an oppressed immigrant minority group in 1878.

St. Colman Catholic Church in Shady Spring, West Virginia. Burned to the ground, apparently by arson. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Services were no longer held there, but there is an associated cemetery.

The local fire department and sheriff would really like to talk to anybody who knows anything, at crimestopperswv.com.

There are several St. Colmans.

St. Colman of Cloyne (Cluain Uamha, Cork) was a pagan fileadh or poet, who was the son of Lenan; his father was also a poet. He was born about AD 522 and was brought up and worked at the court of the kings of Cashel. The kings during his life were Catholic, but Colman remained pagan.

His job as a royal poet was to represent the needs of the people and land and the demands of the law, whenever the king needed reminding; to counsel the king and remind him of history and legend; to be the king’s best friend, eating at his table, entertaining his guests with talk, and even sleeping in the same bed at times; to prophesy what would happen in battle; to maintain historical records and genealogies; to know what was going on with other kings; and to compose any kind of formal poem needed, while his followers recited the poem and provided music.

In the year 570, when Colman was about 48 years old, there was a succession dispute between Aodh Dubh (apparently the same guy as Coirbre Cromm, the crooked) and Aodh Caomh, two king candidates. St. Brendan of Clonfert was called in, and apparently ended up spending a lot of time encouraging Colman to convert. During the deliberations/lobbying for votes, the people providentially discovered the lost relics of St. Ailbe of Emly — and Colman was one of those who did the finding. St. Brendan was much impressed by this, and decided it was a sign that Colman should not just convert (to keep the hands that had touched a holy thing undefiled from now on), but become a priest. Colman must have had some kind of conversion experience, because he finally agreed.

Colman was not his original name, but his baptismal name. It is Col(u)m, dove, + -an, one. So “dove guy” or “Holy Spirit guy.” Or even “Jonah guy,” since Jonah also means dove.

At a fairly advanced age, then, Colman went back to school and learned Christian scholarship from St. Iarlaith of Tuam (aka Jarlath). Afterwards he came back as a priest, and started preaching and teaching. Colman baptized the future St. Declan at this time.

As a Christian, St. Colman continued to write poetry in Irish, and his surviving poetry is some of the earliest Christian Irish literature that we have. He wrote a praise poem about St. Brendan, a metrical life of St. Senan, and all kinds of other stuff.

He founded a monastery at Cluain Uamha, a piece of land given to him by King Coirbre Cromm, and he was buried there. His feast is November 24, and he died in AD 600.

His remains were exhumed and thrown into the sea in the 1700’s by the Anglican bishop of Cloyne, Charles Crowe, in order to prevent the continuation of pilgrimages to his grave.

The other famous St. Colman was St. Colman of Dromore, in Northern Ireland. He was a disciple of St. Coelan, and the teacher of St. Finnian of Moville. He was born about AD 514, so it’s likely that Colman of Cloyne took his name because he was a fan of this earlier Colman. His feast is on June 7.

There’s another famous poet Colman too: Colman nepos Cracavist, who wrote a lot of poems preserved at the Irish monastery at Bobbio, in Switzerland. He wrote the earliest known poem we have about St. Brigid.

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