Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Local Flavors & Savors

July is a brutally 1570 sort of month, but August is a very 1910ish month, with the ferial office hardly appearing between the octaves of St. Lawrence and the Assumption as well as a number of very Roman double feasts. The General Roman Calendar created by the Consilium—nominally administered by Cardinal Lercarco, in fact run by the man Louis Bouyer described as the "despicable Bugnini", a "man as bereft of culture as he was basic honesty"—is quite modern and quite general, but in very few ways is it Roman.

August begins with the very Roman feast of St. Peter's Chains, which is also the name of an ancient Roman church that holds the reputed link of chain which held the Prince of the Apostles while he await execution. Peter went to Antioch, where the various Catholic and Orthodox descendants remember him in their own way, and then to Rome, where he acted as bishop before his inverted crucifixion. To Felix Roma was given the privilege of claiming the two greatest as its patrons and fathers in faith. Christians in Jerusalem held the holy places in high esteem and continued their devotion to them between the time of the Ascension and the edict of Milan, so much so that when St. Helen came to the holy city seeking relics she found consistent narratives of the Crucifixion's site and the True Cross. Roman Christians followed this instinct in venerating the ossuaries and objects associated with its saints, as did Christian of every church. Jerusalem's devotion effected the received practices of Holy Week, Rome's created the phenomena of local feasts and stational Masses. Throughout August, the old rite presents the feasts of St. Peter's Chains, the Dedication of Our Lady of Snows (St. Mary Major), the feast of St. Lawrence (with a vigil and octave of proper Mattins), and a unique date for St. Bartholomew's day. Notably all these feasts could supersede a Sunday Mass. Additionally, the Latin Church celebrated the Finding of St. Stephen, a Gallican feast imported as part of the medieval synthesis of the Frankish and first millennium Roman traditions. The significance granted to these feasts is remarkable by our post-Divino Afflatu standards, but hardly surprising to the Romans: they were feasts concerning the character and encounters with the Divine of the Roman Church. Every rite has Pascha, Theophany, and Epiphany; only the Latin rite has "St. John at the Latin Gate."

What came out of the Consilium's conference rooms and reserved trattoria seats reflects the view that the Roman rite is the rite of the Latin Church rather than a template for the Roman Church. St. Bartholomew is not celebrated on the Roman day (!), gone is St. Stephen, and while St. Lawrence and Our Lady of Snows remain, their festive rankings have been stripped such that they do not appear on Sundays, even if once every seven years. Above all, the feast of the Apostle of gone without a trace. The revised calendar's inorganic nature betrays the centralizing mindset of its creators, who must have known that they were creating ex nihilo a calendar for the entire Latin Church. Local additions, with regulatory approval, would be exceptions rather than the norm. Rome was not alone in having local feasts. Sarum's calendar is replete with saints whose names are almost forgotten after the Reformation: Edmund of Abindgon, Kenelm, Osmund of Salisbury to name a few; also, many particular devotions to the Holy Name and Five Wounds found their way into the English liturgy. The neo-Gallican French rites reflected similarly local saints like Genevieve as well as contemporary [and unhealthy] interest in St. Augustine. While the revised liturgy allows approved local additions, the locale implicit in the Roman rite lacks the gravitas of Romanitas. Our Lady of the Apparition type feasts carried over from before the reforms, but what of the Commemoration of St. Paul, St. Peter's Chair, or St. John at the Gate?

Interestingly, many local "dialects" of the Roman rite, Sarum among them, have those distinctly Roman feasts. Ancient and medieval churches sought to imitate Roman practices while allowing for their own saints and miracles, too, which proved that the Church was quite alive in those days. A medieval diet was about 3,000-4,000 calories daily depending on one's social class; the proliferation of holy men in diverse places aided in the multiplication of feasts which would "gladden the heart of man" (ps. 103). The revised calendar is more a novelty diet which allows a few "cheats" per year.

I, for one, would like to see the delicious return of some savory local feasts.


  1. First-Class Article, The Rad Trad.

    Many Thanks.

    1. Ahem, Double First Class article! It is nice to get a real, stark break in July after the Octavetide just ended last week and the August festal string to come.

  2. But not too stark: We have St. Mary Magdalene, which is a double but with the Credo, St. James, and St. Anne. Why no Credo for St. Anne? Her feast in the SLP Ordo is a double of the second class, and hers and St. Joachim’s both lack it, if one takes away the Octave of the Assumption.

  3. Wonderful post! A minor note: due to bissextile or leap years, days of the week repeat not every seven but rather every five, six or eleven years instead.