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Why Americans should celebrate the Immaculate Conception as their national holiday

If Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England can celebrate their patron saints, so can the USA

Almost everyone – American or not – across the globe knows about our annual feast of self-congratulation: Independence Day. On 4 July we commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence with the fireworks, bonfires, barbecues, banquets, church services, parades, and speeches with which our colonial forebears celebrated the King’s Birthday; not knowing any other means to celebrate a national holiday, we nicked these for the purpose, and they have done an admirable job ever since.

Indeed, the Fourth is the keystone of a whole system of what’s often called the “American Civil Religion.” And it’s complete with its own theology, in which the United States are not merely a nation but an idea – and idea of freedom (whatever that may mean) for the whole world – whose peoples in turn have value to the degree that they resemble us and our liberty-loving ways.

Ours is a Salvation history, with an Old Covenant sworn by the Pilgrim Fathers and commemorated in Thanksgiving, and a New Covenant granted to the Founding Fathers and sealed by the Revolution and the Constitution; this latter document was brought by the Holy Spirit. Regalia of the cultus include the flag, the Liberty Bell, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, the Pledge of Allegiance, and all the rest of it. It has also holy shrines, ranging from the overtly religious ones, such as Washington’s National Cathedral and Church of the Presidents, to Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields such as Valley Forge and Gettsyburg, colonial sites like Plymouth Rock and Jamestown, and the network of Presidential Homes and Libraries.

This Faith was quite consciously invented in the early days of the republic by such as Noah Webster, who coincidentally invented our unique American spelling in order to make British books a little harder to read (a principle later followed by the Soviet and Chinese Communist authorities in revising their alphabets, and Kemal Ataturk in shifting Turkish from the Arabic alphabet to a Latin derivative). It was intended to replace devotion to the Monarchy as a unifying principle in an otherwise incredibly diverse new nation – even as a moral consensus shared by all faiths took the place of an established church. This unique arrangement lasted for almost two centuries, and provided a centre of patriotism religiously imbibed even by such marginal folk as Catholics and Jews – who, in return, and together with blacks, provided much of the popular entertainment in song and on stage that created the largest part of our national self-image.

But the moral consensus shattered in the 1960s, and the American popular religion itself is being consumed in an orgy of iconoclasm, as statues are attacked and places renamed in pursuit of a reparation that can never be defined, let alone satisfied. The America of my childhood, the land of Norman Rockwell and Irving Berlin, is gone beyond recall; the patriotism I was taught, based upon a dying ideology, is fact vanishing.

So if we are not the shining city upon the hill, the last best hope of mankind, what then are we? On the one hand, we are a country that has created some wonderful things, from the cocktail to the Broadway musical; generations who were here already or migrated hence from all over the world worked hard, and created a place that is still pleasant to live in. All of this was done in sight of some of the most magnificent scenery in the world. It is also a country whose Catholics, from their first arrival in Florida in 1598 to the present, have done precious little to convert their neighbours to what remains the One True Church.

So I offer a first step, in the spirit of Fr Aidan Nichols’ The Realm, although we have nothing like the cultural background here that our British co-religionists. The Irish keep St. Patrick’s Day so well in this country that most Americans claim a drop of Irish blood on that day to justify drowning in Guinness and Jameson’s. The Scots attachment to St Andrew’s Day is legendary, as is the Welsh to St David’s; the English are regaining their love of St George, and even the Cornish are trotting out St Piran. Now, a majority of none of these folk could be remotely considered practising Catholics today. So as the meaning (such as it was) behind the Fourth of July fades away, let us Catholic Americans celebrate the patron saint of this land also, and offer it to our fellow citizens as a true national day – if not to pray, then to revel in and celebrate what our country really is.

Who is that patron? Patroness, really – Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, named as such by our bishops eight years before that dogma was defined in 1854. She has a history here, too, before that: Carlos III, King of Spain, who founded California (and most importantly, Los Angeles) was ruler of Florida, Louisiana, and the Southwest – as well as all Latin America save Brazil, and the Philippines too. He was so dedicated to the Immaculate Conception that he ordered all his bureaucrats in his many realms to swear an oath to defend this doctrine to the death – and prevailed upon the Pope to permit the wearing of blue vestments on Marian feasts, and particularly on the 8th December. This connection to the Blessed Virgin is why our great church in Washington is the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

So when the 8th December rolls around again, let us celebrate it as our true national day – not just at Mass, but with barbecues, fireworks, and all the rest, and invite our non-Catholic neighbours to join in the festivities. (These sorts of things are more appropriate to cold weather anyway. After all, look at Bonfire Night in England.) Let the civic rites that once celebrated the birth of King George III now be offered to the Queen of Heaven for her blessing upon and protection of our beloved country. Who knows? A century hence, American bars in London and Edinburgh, Cardiff and Dublin will be crammed with once-a-year Yanks tossing back oceans of cold Budweiser and American rye whisky!

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Why Americans should celebrate the Immaculate Conception as their national holiday

If Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England can celebrate their patron saints, so can the USA

Almost everyone – American or not – across the globe knows about our annual feast of self-congratulation: Independence Day. On 4 July we commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence with the fireworks, bonfires, barbecues, banquets, church services, parades, and speeches with which our colonial forebears celebrated the King’s Birthday; not knowing any other means to celebrate a national holiday, we nicked these for the purpose, and they have done an admirable job ever since.

Indeed, the Fourth is the keystone of a whole system of what’s often called the “American Civil Religion.” And it’s complete with its own theology, in which the United States are not merely a nation but an idea – and idea of freedom (whatever that may mean) for the whole world – whose peoples in turn have value to the degree that they resemble us and our liberty-loving ways.

Ours is a Salvation history, with an Old Covenant sworn by the Pilgrim Fathers and commemorated in Thanksgiving, and a New Covenant granted to the Founding Fathers and sealed by the Revolution and the Constitution; this latter document was brought by the Holy Spirit. Regalia of the cultus include the flag, the Liberty Bell, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, the Pledge of Allegiance, and all the rest of it. It has also holy shrines, ranging from the overtly religious ones, such as Washington’s National Cathedral and Church of the Presidents, to Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields such as Valley Forge and Gettsyburg, colonial sites like Plymouth Rock and Jamestown, and the network of Presidential Homes and Libraries.

This Faith was quite consciously invented in the early days of the republic by such as Noah Webster, who coincidentally invented our unique American spelling in order to make British books a little harder to read (a principle later followed by the Soviet and Chinese Communist authorities in revising their alphabets, and Kemal Ataturk in shifting Turkish from the Arabic alphabet to a Latin derivative). It was intended to replace devotion to the Monarchy as a unifying principle in an otherwise incredibly diverse new nation – even as a moral consensus shared by all faiths took the place of an established church. This unique arrangement lasted for almost two centuries, and provided a centre of patriotism religiously imbibed even by such marginal folk as Catholics and Jews – who, in return, and together with blacks, provided much of the popular entertainment in song and on stage that created the largest part of our national self-image.

But the moral consensus shattered in the 1960s, and the American popular religion itself is being consumed in an orgy of iconoclasm, as statues are attacked and places renamed in pursuit of a reparation that can never be defined, let alone satisfied. The America of my childhood, the land of Norman Rockwell and Irving Berlin, is gone beyond recall; the patriotism I was taught, based upon a dying ideology, is fact vanishing.

So if we are not the shining city upon the hill, the last best hope of mankind, what then are we? On the one hand, we are a country that has created some wonderful things, from the cocktail to the Broadway musical; generations who were here already or migrated hence from all over the world worked hard, and created a place that is still pleasant to live in. All of this was done in sight of some of the most magnificent scenery in the world. It is also a country whose Catholics, from their first arrival in Florida in 1598 to the present, have done precious little to convert their neighbours to what remains the One True Church.

So I offer a first step, in the spirit of Fr Aidan Nichols’ The Realm, although we have nothing like the cultural background here that our British co-religionists. The Irish keep St. Patrick’s Day so well in this country that most Americans claim a drop of Irish blood on that day to justify drowning in Guinness and Jameson’s. The Scots attachment to St Andrew’s Day is legendary, as is the Welsh to St David’s; the English are regaining their love of St George, and even the Cornish are trotting out St Piran. Now, a majority of none of these folk could be remotely considered practising Catholics today. So as the meaning (such as it was) behind the Fourth of July fades away, let us Catholic Americans celebrate the patron saint of this land also, and offer it to our fellow citizens as a true national day – if not to pray, then to revel in and celebrate what our country really is.

Who is that patron? Patroness, really – Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, named as such by our bishops eight years before that dogma was defined in 1854. She has a history here, too, before that: Carlos III, King of Spain, who founded California (and most importantly, Los Angeles) was ruler of Florida, Louisiana, and the Southwest – as well as all Latin America save Brazil, and the Philippines too. He was so dedicated to the Immaculate Conception that he ordered all his bureaucrats in his many realms to swear an oath to defend this doctrine to the death – and prevailed upon the Pope to permit the wearing of blue vestments on Marian feasts, and particularly on the 8th December. This connection to the Blessed Virgin is why our great church in Washington is the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

So when the 8th December rolls around again, let us celebrate it as our true national day – not just at Mass, but with barbecues, fireworks, and all the rest, and invite our non-Catholic neighbours to join in the festivities. (These sorts of things are more appropriate to cold weather anyway. After all, look at Bonfire Night in England.) Let the civic rites that once celebrated the birth of King George III now be offered to the Queen of Heaven for her blessing upon and protection of our beloved country. Who knows? A century hence, American bars in London and Edinburgh, Cardiff and Dublin will be crammed with once-a-year Yanks tossing back oceans of cold Budweiser and American rye whisky!

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The Roman papacy as an antidote to the lures of neo-Constantinianism

The differing worldviews of Pope Francis and US President Donald Trump are clashing once again – this time over Jerusalem. Over the past several days – December 6 and December 10 – the Holy See has appealed “for wisdom and prudence to prevail over Jerusalem”, thus distancing itself from the …

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Pope Francis: Health care is part of the Church’s mission

Just as Jesus healed people during his earthly mission, care for the sick is a mission the entire Church is called to take part in, Pope Francis said in a message published Monday for the World Day of the Sick. “Jesus bestowed upon the Church his healing power…The Church’s mission is a response to …

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Pope Francis enquires about victims of Ockhi cyclone

It was under these circumstances, Pope Francis on Sunday remembered and prayed for the victims of the cyclone, he said. During his speech, the Archbishop said it was a grave negligence on the part of authorities, whoever they may be, not to take seriously information passed by central agencies on …

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Breitbart writer: Pope Francis supports the Paris climate agreement “because of his dislike of the …

TOM WILLIAMS: He is, Steve, and he just, I don’t know, I’ve never seen, obviously, a pope this excited about a big lefty cause like this. And he even went so far in this latest shoutout to this new press summit that they’re having this week, a little kind of reigniting of the Paris accord. He was saying, yeah …

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Pope reminds Church of her “maternal vocation” to the needy and sick

Pope Francis is urging Catholics worldwide to bring to the sick and needy “the Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion,” reminding the Church of her “maternal vocation” to them. The exhortation came in his message for next year’s World Day of the Sick of the Catholic Church that is …

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Pope renews appeal for wisdom and prudence over Jerusalem

Mail This Article. (For more than one recipient, type addresses separated by commas). Global Pulse Print; Global Pulse More. Jerusalem / Walkerssk / Pixabay / CC0. Leaders of nations with a stake in Middle East peace should “do everything to avert a new spiral of violence", Pope Francis urged on …

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Advent is time of purification, Pope Francis says during Angelus address

Advent is time of purification, Pope Francis says during Angelus address. December 11, 2017. » Continue to this story on Vatican Press Office. CWN Editor’s Note: Reflecting on Isaiah 40, Pope Francis described Advent as “a time for recognizing the voids to fill in our life, to smooth out the roughness of …

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Pope at Mass: have courage to let go of grudges and complaints

(Vatican Radio) At his morning Mass at Santa Marta on Monday, Pope Francis said we must learn to let ourselves be consoled by the Lord, leaving behind our grudges and complaints. Reflecting on the day’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah, he said the Lord has come to console us. Just as the first …

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Pope Francis appoints new Bishop of Galway in Ireland

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appointed as the new bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh, Ireland, Bishop Brendan Kelly, who presently serves as Bishop of Achrony. Bishop Kelly was born 20 May 1946 and ordained priest on 20 June 1971. He spent many of his early years of priesthood teaching in …

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Pope Francis has appointed Brendan Kelly as Bishop of Galway

Pope Francis has appointed Brendan Kelly as Bishop of Galway. Monday, December 11, 2017 – 10:59 am. Brendan Kelly has been appointed Bishop of Galway. He is currently serving as Bishop of Achonry. Bishop Brendan is a native of Galway and was ordained in 1971. His appointment by Pope …

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Pope Francis appoints Bishop Brendan Kelly as Bishop of Galway

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has this morning appointed the Most Reverend Brendan Kelly, Bishop of Achonry, as the new Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora. It is planned that Bishop Brendan’s installation will take place in the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint …

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Largest Christian Music Fest Founder Charged With Child Molestation

The founder of Creation Festival—the nation’s largest Christian music festival—has been "indefinitely suspended" from the ministry and his position as pastor of his New Jersey church after he was arrested on charges of child molestation.

Harry L. Thomas, 74, was charged Wednesday (Dec. 6) with sexually assaulting four minors "over a lengthy period of time ending two years ago," according to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office. The charges include one count of aggravated sexual assault, three counts of sexual assault and four counts of endangering the welfare of children.

Those alleged assaults occurred over a 16-year period between 1999 and 2015 in Medford Township, N.J., where Thomas lives, according to the prosecutor’s office. His church—Come Alive New Testament Church, which has been described as charismatic—also is in Medford Township.

The prosecutor’s office did not name the victims or detail the assaults, but Come Alive said the allegations are "unrelated" to the pastor’s roles at the church or its ministries, including Creation Festival, according to a post on its website. Its leadership is "actively cooperating" with authorities, it said.

A similar message was posted Friday on the Creation Festival website and Facebook page.

Thomas was criticized previously at a 2014 congressional hearing for his advocacy on behalf of a couple from his church who were accused of starving four foster children, according to New Jersey’s Courier Post.

The former disc jockey-turned-pastor founded Creation Festival in 1979 after he had a vision of "thousands of kids on a hillside," he told RNS as the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary. It grew from attracting 5,000 people to a park in Lancaster, Pa., that first year, to annual, multi-day events in both Pennsylvania and Washington state.

The two festivals, Creation Northeast and Creation Northwest, draw up to 100,000 attendees a year, according to Christianity Today. Creation Northeast brought more than 75 Christian speakers and musical artists to central Pennsylvania in June 2017, including popular musicians Crowder, Casting Crowns, Relient K, Sho Baraka, TobyMac and For King and Country. {eoa}

© 2017 Religion News Service. All rights reserved.

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Secret time capsule found in 18th-century crucifix

Inside was an account of life in 1777, from a Spanish priest.

While in the midst of a routine restoration of an 18th-century crucifix, a team of Spanish restorers found a hidden compartment behind the body of Christ, where the corpus connected to the cross. Inside they found two pieces of paper, yellowed and curled from time, and covered in the handwriting of a Catholic chaplain, Joaquín Mínguez.

The sculpture, called “Cristo del Miserere,” belongs to the Church of Santa Águeda in Sotillo de la Ribera, Spain, where it has hung since shortly after its creation in 1777. Mínguez wrote about the sculptor who created the work, Manuel Bal, and described him as “natural scholar of San Bernardo de Yagüe and neighbor in Campillo, both of this Bishopric of Osma.”

Gizmodo has more from the handwritten account:

Mínguez also cites various events of the time, and names the Aldermen of King Charles III (who reigned from 1759-1788). He makes mention of crops that were cultivated in the region, including harvests of wheat, rye, barley, and oats. He made a special reference to wine from the Aranda region, saying “its harvest is very numerous for many years, so much that in this time it has been seen, for not taking in the cellars, spilling much wine.” The chaplain describes common blights of the time, namely malaria and typhoid fever, while describing popular forms of entertainment, such “cards, ball, bald, bar and other puerile [i.e. silly] games.”

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Secret time capsule found in 18th-century crucifix

Inside was an account of life in 1777, from a Spanish priest.

While in the midst of a routine restoration of an 18th-century crucifix, a team of Spanish restorers found a hidden compartment behind the body of Christ, where the corpus connected to the cross. Inside they found two pieces of paper, yellowed and curled from time, and covered in the handwriting of a Catholic chaplain, Joaquín Mínguez.

The sculpture, called “Cristo del Miserere,” belongs to the Church of Santa Águeda in Sotillo de la Ribera, Spain, where it has hung since shortly after its creation in 1777. Mínguez wrote about the sculptor who created the work, Manuel Bal, and described him as “natural scholar of San Bernardo de Yagüe and neighbor in Campillo, both of this Bishopric of Osma.”

Gizmodo has more from the handwritten account:

Mínguez also cites various events of the time, and names the Aldermen of King Charles III (who reigned from 1759-1788). He makes mention of crops that were cultivated in the region, including harvests of wheat, rye, barley, and oats. He made a special reference to wine from the Aranda region, saying “its harvest is very numerous for many years, so much that in this time it has been seen, for not taking in the cellars, spilling much wine.” The chaplain describes common blights of the time, namely malaria and typhoid fever, while describing popular forms of entertainment, such “cards, ball, bald, bar and other puerile [i.e. silly] games.”

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God does not lead us into temptation, Satan does, pope says

The Italian bishops’ television channel, TV2000, has been broadcasting a series of conversations between the pope and a Catholic prison chaplain looking at the Lord’s Prayer line by line.

The episode broadcast Dec. 6 focused on the line, “Lead us not into temptation.”

Father Marco Pozza told the pope that friends have asked him, “Can God really lead us into temptation?”

“This is not a good translation,” the pope said.

The standard versions of the prayer are translated from the Latin, which was translated from the New Testament in Greek.

While he said nothing about ordering a new translation, Francis noted how the French bishops had decided that beginning Dec. 3, the first Sunday of Advent, French Catholics would change the line to the equivalent of “do not let us enter into temptation.”

French-speaking Catholics in Benin and Belgium began using the new translation at Pentecost last June. The common Spanish translation already is “no nos dejes caer en la tentacion” or “do not let us fall into temptation.”

The Italian bishops’ conference in 2008 adopted a new translation of the Bible; for the Lord’s Prayer both in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, they chose “do not abandon us in temptation,” although they did not order the change in liturgical use. The New American Bible, revised edition, is the basis for the Lectionary used at English-language Masses in the United States; the petition from the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew and Luke is translated as: “do not subject us to the final test.”

Francis told Father Pozza, “I’m the one who falls. But it’s not (God) who pushes me into temptation to see how I fall. No, a father does not do this. A father helps us up immediately.”

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