St. Expedite

26 05 2011

More on the saint via the Lonely Goth blog:

“In the same family, you can find a Chinese Taoist, an Indian Muslim, a metropolitan Catholic, an African witch doctor and a Tamil Hindu,” I was told by a Tamil Catholic priest. “It all makes a lot of work for the priesthood: we are continually having to explain to our parishioners what is and is not Christianity.”…

In 1931 a box of sacred relics arrived from the Vatican. Somewhere in transit the label detailing the saint’s name had been lost, and the only indication as to its contents was a stamp on the side reading, in Italian, “ESPEDITO” (expedited). So began the cult of St Expedit, whose popularity grew year by year, until what had started as a clerical error ended with St Expedit becoming Réunion’s unofficial patron saint, a saint whose unwritten biography has come to crystallise the most profound hopes and fears of the island’s multiple ethnicities.

There are now about 350 shrines on Réunion dedicated to St Expedit. They sit beside every road junction, crown every hilltop, lie deep in the bottom of the island’s wildest ravines.

The local Catholic Church has given the saint the trappings of an early Christian martyr, with a silver breastplate and a red tunic. Hindus treat St Expedit as an unofficial incarnation of Vishnu; those wanting children come to his shrine and tie saffron cloths to the grilles.

More exotic still, some of the island’s sorcerers have given the cult a slightly sinister aspect by decapitating the saint’s image, either to neutralise his power or to use the head in their own incantations. According to Loulou, the sorcerer at Ilet des Trois Salazes had a small oratory in which he kept several heads of St Expedit.

“He used them to cast spells,” said Loulou. “We were all terrified of him: everyone believed he had very strong powers. But in the end the people kicked him out because he began to demand bribes not to cast spells on us all.”

“Weren’t you frightened that he would take revenge on you?”

“We took precautions,” replied Loulou. “We used stronger magic. We sent someone to the grave of La Sitarane in Saint-Pierre. It is the most powerful grave on the island. With La Sitarane on your side, no one can harm you at all.”





Old school syncretism

27 10 2010

See link here. (“Copyright issues”, apparently)





On canonizations – official and otherwise

5 10 2010

Of late I have slowed down my investigations into “folk Catholicism”. My conclusion is gradually becoming one of not seeing much difference between these unapproved practices and “official” ones. The roots of both are usually the same, and their flavors are remarkably similar. And for many people, they can exist side by side without much anxiety as to how they “fit together”.

In some of the most “folk Catholic” places, particularly in Latino communal settings, it is very common to see statues of John Paul II and Mother Teresa a few feet from Santa Muerte love soaps or las Siete Potencias Africanas candles. Being the Internet-literate Catholic that I am, I was thus a little fascinated by the whole idea of beatifying Cardinal Newman. I suppose I have to reveal my ex-Lefebvrist bias, and state that theologically I don’t trust canonizations in the last forty years. The streamlining of the process and the elimination of the devil’s advocate makes me feel that canonizations in the Church have become far too political (Escriva de Balaguer, I am looking in your direction.) But that distrust is a complicated one, for I know that there are a ton of traditional saints, like my beloved Saint Barbara or St. Expedite, who wouldn’t pass the test of a devil’s advocate today.
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A good Catholic on “bad Catholics”

4 08 2010

image source

People often say, “It is better to be a good Protestant than a bad Catholic.” That is not true! That would mean that one could be saved without the true faith. No. A bad Catholic remains a child of the family, although a prodigal, and however great a sinner he may be, he still has a right to mercy. Through his faith, a bad Catholic is nearer to God than a Protestant, for he is a member of the household, whereas the heretic is not. And how hard it is to make him become one!

-St. Peter Eymard, found here

When I was a teenager, I used money spent working in apricot orchards to buy the books of St. Peter Eymard for devotional use. So it is interesting that I re-encountered him again so many years later in the form of this quote.

I am no longer all that interested in the issue of who gets saved outside the Church, since it is hard enough to get saved within it. The more pressing issue for me when presented with this quote is the idea of who belongs to the Church. St. Peter sees the Church as a family, and even “bad members” are still members. In other words, he sees it still almost as a matter of blood or kinship. Now, we tend to see it as a matter of “commitment”. The person closer to Jesus is the one who looks like a “commited Christian”, regardless of actual affiliation. There is a certain Pelagianism at work here, one that exalts civic virtue (those which are useful for post-industrial modernity) over supernatural virtue (which can be at odds with it).





Corrido de San Judas

31 07 2010




Some First Things stuff

29 07 2010

First, a political post I can finally get fully behind:

I too have a fervor—a fever, in fact—for political inactivity. I want to be part of a movement that makes electoral politics so boring that rather than having term limits, we’ll need laws requiring politicians to serve their full term. I want to join a party that make politics and government work so dull that political journalists and elected officials dream of leaving their fields for the exciting worlds of actuarial science and telemarketing.

I want to thrown in my lot with others who want to throw a wet blanket over politics and whose desire is to dampen the enthusiasm for all forms of political activity. I want to consort with citizens who are willing to arrest the ardor, dash the devotion, sap the spirit, and zap the zeal from anything that remotely resembles political enthusiasm. I want to create a new party, dedicated to the mastery of the art of anti-propaganda and committed to the conscientious devotion of alert inactivity.

I consider myself to be profoundly a-political, yet with sensibility of a European-style social democrat. As an ex-Trotskyist, I am well aware of the tendency of my fellow ex-Trotskyists (Burnham, Irving Kristol, etc.), to become right-wing hacks after leaving the movement. I have sought to avoid being an apologist for the capitalist leviathan without being under any illusions that the international working class shall be the human race. I still sing the Internationale to myself sometimes. I think it’s pretty catchy, especially if you can sing it in three languages.

I suppose now I am a Platonic republican.

Also, I found this post that I put in my “gangsters need God too” file regarding the Calabrian mafia:

According to a report in Britain’s Telegraph, Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini of the Calabrian Diocese of Locri-Gerace has written an open letter to the bosses of the ’Ndrangheta—the Calabrian Mafia—“imploring them to stop using holy shrines for their initiation ceremonies.” The bishop, says the Telegraph, decided to speak out “after more than 300 alleged mobsters—including the 80-year-old ‘Godfather’ Domenico Oppedisano—were arrested in a police blitz earlier this month.” The Telegraph article is accompanied by a screen capture from an Italian police surveillance film showing Oppedisano “being ‘sworn in’ under a statue of the Virgin Mary at Polsi near Reggio Calabria.”

I think one difference between Italy and Latin America is that Italy was more “clericalized” in its Catholicism than Latin America. On the one hand, the clergy had more supervision over what the people did, so the symbols that people employ even in expressing their “folk Catholicism” are the same as those of “clerical Catholicism”. On the other hand, people will employ those symbols in the exact same way that the Latin American, “un-clerical” Catholic does. In this case, while mobsters in Mexico will pray to Jesus Malverde or Santa Muerte for success in their criminal endeavors, the Italian mobster will use an image of the Virgin Mary for the same purpose. Also, even such figures as St. Jude or St. Dismas will also be used for these less than Christian purposes. So the whole idea of a “folk saint” may itself be a construction, for even “approved” saints will be used for unapproved intentions.





Patron saint against huffing

10 07 2010

image credit

A great article and video from the New York Times concerning the cult of street youths in Mexico City to St. Jude via TitusOneNine





Your daily dose of syncretism

28 04 2010

This time from Cuba.

Somewhat related to my latest article for Inside Catholic





St. Joseph’s Altars – New Orleans, 2010

20 03 2010

From St. Dominic’s Church down the street from our New Orleans home, where we found a charming comment to a St. Joseph’s prayer (once posted on this blog):

Say for nine mornings for anything you may desire. It has never been known to fail, so be sure you really want what you ask.

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Super flumina Babylonis

2 03 2010

image credit

Encima de las corrientes
que en Babilonia hallava
allí me senté llorando
allí la tierra regava
acordándome de ti
¡o Sión! a quien amava
era dulce tu memoria,
y con ella más llorava.
Dexé los traxes de fiesta
los de trabaxo tomava
y colgué en los verdes sauzes
la música que llevaba
puniéndola en esperança
de aquello que en ti esperava.
Allí me hyrió el amor
y el coraçón me sacava.
Díxele que me matase
pues de tal suerte llagava
yo me metía en su fuego
sabiendo que me abrasava
desculpando el avezica
que en el fuego se acababa
estávame en mí muriendo
y en ti solo respirava
en mí por ti me moría
y por ti resucitava
que la memoria de ti
daba vida y la quitava.
Gozábanse los estraños
entre quien cautivo estava.
Preguntávanme cantares
de lo que en Sión cantava
—Canta de Sión un hynno
veamos cómo sonava.
—Dezid, ¿cómo en tierra ajena
donde por Sión llorava
cantaré yo la alegría
que en Sión se me quedava?
Echaríala en olbido
si en la ajena me gozava.
Con mi paladar se junte
la lengua con que hablava
si de ti yo me olbidare
en la tierra do morava.
Sión por los verdes ramos
que Babilonia me dava
de mí se olbide mi diestra
que es lo que en ti más amava
si de ti no me acordare
en lo que más me gozava
y si yo tuviere fiesta
y sin ti la festejava.
¡O hija de Babilonia
mísera y desventurada!
Bienaventurado era
aquel en quien confiava
que te a de dar el castigo
que de tu mano llevava
y juntará sus pequeños
y a mí, porque en ti esperava
a la piedra que era Christo
por el qual yo te dexaba.

Debetur soli gloria vera Deo

-San Juan de la Cruz