or What Were the White Martyrs?
Q: I came across the title, "White
Martyrs." Who or what were they?
A: In the book How the Irish
Saved Civilization (Doubleday), Thomas Cahill talks about both green and white
martyrdom. According to Cahill, Ireland was unique in that Christianity was introduced
there without bloodshed (red martyrdom). No Irish martyrs emerged until the time of
Elizabeth I. Cahill states that this lack of martyrdom disturbed the Irish, so they
conceived first of a green martyrdom.
Green martyrs left behind the comforts and pleasures of ordinary human society to live
hermits' lives on mountaintops or lonely islands. As Cahill puts it, they went "to
one of the green noman's lands outside tribal jurisdiction." There they studied
Scripture and communed with God after the example of the anchorites in the Egyptian desert.
Ireland could not duplicate the barren terrain of the Egyptian desert; thus, this green
martyrdom gave way to the more social life of monasticism.
Against this background Cahill introduces Columcille ("Dove of God")—also
called Columba or Crimthaann. Born in 521, a prince with a title to kingship, he chose
to become a monk. By age 41 he had founded 41 monasteries. Because Columba was held responsible
for the Battle of Cuil Dremmed in which 3,000 men died, he became an exile. As penance
he set out to save the same number of people as died in the battle.
Columba, with 12 relatives, founded a monastery on Iona off the coast of Scotland that
became famous throughout Europe. Monks from Iona in turn set out for what they called
a white martyrdom: "[H]enceforth all who followed Columcille's lead were called
to the white martyrdom, they who sailed into the white sky of morning, into the unknown,
never to return."
I Forget My Husband's Abuse?
Q: I have a bully for
a husband. He is always putting me down and yelling. You have to forgive others—I do
forgive him over and over. We've already celebrated 50 years of marriage. What I really
can't get past is the flashbacks I have of what he did to me years back. How do you
forget the past? How do you forget when it keeps coming to your mind? If he found out
I wrote this, I would have hell to pay!
A: It would probably be idealistic
to suggest marital counseling or therapy after so many years of the status quo. But perhaps
talking to a professional counselor could help you deal with your own feelings of anger
and resentment. And if you are in a truly abusive situation, perhaps you can find help
through an organization like Women Helping Women.
With that said, it seems to me you have forgiven and continue to forgive the wrong your
husband has done you. You don't have to feel good about what he has done to you! And
if you've stayed with your husband more than 50 years, I presume there is some kind of
love for him and that you see some good in him.
To forgive does not mean you have to forget. Sometimes our hurt and pain have been so
great we can't just erase the memories of them. And we will very likely remember how
we have been wronged and try to avoid a repetition of it if we can.
Forgiveness means we rise above the hurt we feel and wish the wrongdoer well in the
Lord. We renounce hate and the desire for revenge. We love the one who has hurt us. That
doesn't mean we have to get all warm and emotional. It means we wish the other person
well despite the injuries and offensive conduct. It means we try to be decent and civil
despite the provocations.
Baptisms During Lent?
Q: Our son and daughter-in-law
just attended a pre-Baptism class in their parish in New Jersey. They were told they
could not baptize the baby during Lent.
The deacon could not give them a reason except that the pastor wished it so. He also
said that many parishes are doing it. I know it is not a directive of canon law, therefore,
it must be liturgical. Would you be kind enough to explain?
A: Canon 856 of the Code of
Canon Law says that, although Baptism may be celebrated on any day, it is commendable
to celebrate it ordinarily on Sunday or, if possible, at the Easter Vigil. The Code also
encourages Baptism during the celebration of the Eucharist so that the relationship between
Baptism and Eucharist will be clearly seen.
The Baptism ritual says much the same thing. And pastors are told that, in the case
of adult Baptisms, they should ordinarily arrange it so that the Rite of Election (enrollment
in the catechumenate) begins on the First Sunday of Lent and Baptism (and the other Sacraments
of Initiation) be celebrated at the Easter Vigil.
I believe that the pastor of your son and daughter-in-law—like other pastors—judges
that, if Lent has begun or is about to begin, it is close enough to Easter to baptize
only at the appropriate time of the Easter Vigil or in the Easter season. This is true
of healthy infants as much as of adults.
Q: Recently I asked one
of our parish priests why we no longer hold Benediction following the Stations of the
Cross. He explained that the practice was felt to be inappropriate (this came from the
chancery). Is this true for all parishes? When is Benediction appropriate? I truly miss
this eucharistic devotion.
A: I know of no rule for all
parishes that Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is not to follow making the Stations
of the Cross. However, Benediction presupposes a period of prayer and exposition before
it takes place.
The Roman Ritual (The Rites of the Catholic Church, Published by Authority of Pope
Paul VI, Pueblo) says in the section on exposition of the holy Eucharist (#89): "Exposition
which is held exclusively for the giving of Benediction is prohibited."
The Instruction on Certain Norms Concerning the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery (from
the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, April 3, 1980) states
it must not be forgotten that "before the blessing with the Sacrament an appropriate
time should be devoted to readings of the Word of God, to songs and prayers and to some
In other words, Benediction should not be given as something like an afterthought to
other devotions or occasions of worship. The Blessed Sacrament is not to be taken out
of the tabernacle for a few brief moments just to give Benediction with it. Whenever
Benediction takes place, it should be preceded by some period of prayer, readings, homilies
and/or silent worship with due attention given to the Blessed Sacrament itself.
Finally, it may be that the chancery officials think putting the Way of the Cross together
with Benediction is something like celebrating Christmas and Easter on the same day.
Each mystery deserves some special reflection and attention.
Q: I am looking for information
on the bishop's miter. Can you help me?
A: Signs and Symbols in
Christian Art, by George Ferguson (Oxford University Press), describes the miter
as "a tall headdress worn by cardinals, archbishops, bishops and some abbots.
It is a liturgical hat and has a plain and simple form, as well as a more ornate and
precious form with emand stones." The Dictionary of the Liturgy, by Jovian
Lang, O.F.M. (Catholic Book Publishing Co.), describes the miter this way: "The
front and back are stiff, shaped like inverted shields ending in a peak which are pressed
apart when the miter is on the head. These two pieces are sewn together at the lower
part, but a cleft separates them on the top....Two wide lappets hang down from the
back over the shoulders."
The miter is a sign of authority. When worn at Mass, it is taken off for the eucharistic
prayer. The "horns" of the miter are reminders of the rays of light that came
from the head of Moses when he received the Ten Commandments and are also symbolic of
the Old and New Testaments. According to Lang, the use of the miter originated in Rome
in the 11th century.
There a Saint for My Name?
Q: At birth, I was named
Cynthia by my parents. I haven't heard or been able to find out anything about a St.
Cynthia. Is there a saint for my name? Do I have a patron?
A: According to Father Albert
J. Nevins, M.M., in the girls' volume of A Saint for Your Name (Our Sunday Visitor,
Inc.), Cynthia is the feminine form of Synesius. In Greek the name means "understanding."
The very short biography says that Synesius was a Roman martyr beheaded in 279 under
Emperor Aurelian. December 12 is assigned as Synesius's feast day.
Nevins also says that St. Diana is also known as Cynthia. A worldly young woman, she
was converted by a sermon she heard. She became a Dominican sister after overcoming strong
opposition from her family. She died in 1236. Her feast is June 9.
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