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Cradle Catholic with a lot of questions; such as, why am I just figuring this stuff out now?

March 30, 2011

Why is Easter So Late This Year?

Easter is a movable holiday so the date in which it is celebrated changes every year. This can be confusing, especially if you don’t know the rules for calculating the date. It was the First Council of Nicaea (325) that agreed Christians should at least have a consistent way to determine the holiday, but it took several more centuries to arrive at our current means of calculating the date using a lunisolar calender cycle. Officially, Easter falls on the first Sunday following the the 14th day of the lunar month (which is essentially a full moon) occurring after the spring equinox. It always falls sometime within the range of March 22nd and April 25th.

What’s an equinox - An equinox is a day of the year when day and night are approximately the same length in time. This occurs twice a year on the first day of spring and fall. In the northern hemisphere, the spring equinox technically occurs on either March 20 or 21st, however the Church recognizes the 21st as the official spring equinox.

Why it’s late this year - This year, the full moon in March fell on March 19th, just two days before the spring equinox. The next full moon does not occur until Monday April 18th. The next Sunday following that is on April 24th, otherwise known as Easter 2011.

March 22, 2011

Which Popes Were Also Beatified?

Beatification is one of the final steps in the sainthood process. All beatified individuals are awarded the title of “Blessed" and a church feast day. In order to be considered for beatification, at least since the 1983 Catholic Church reforms, there must be at least one documented miracle that is directly attributed to the candidate. Miracles are expected to be instantaneous, complete and unexpected. Within the last thousand years eight men have achieved the office of Pope while alive and beatification following their death. And on May 1, 2011, Pope John Paul II will become the ninth Pope to achieve this designation. This is a very big deal. He will be the first Pope in over 300 years to receive this honor, and the ceremony is expected to draw record numbers to Rome.

Beatified Pope/Years in Office/Feast Day
Victor III (1086-1087) - September 16
Urban II (1088-1099) - July 29
Eugene III (1145-1153) - July 8
Gregory X (1271-1276) - January 9
Innocent V (1276) - June 22
Benedict (1303-1304) - July 7
Urban V (1362-1370) - December 19
Innocent XI (1676-1689) - August 12

Of course, far more Popes have been canonized. In fact, 78 Popes in total are saints. This  includes a lot of the early Popes during the first thousand years of the Roman Catholic church. However, only 3 of the 78 lived past the year 1085. The last Pope canonized was Pope Pius X, who served as Pope from 1903-1914.

Chronicle of the Popes by P.G. Maxwell-Stuart

March 21, 2011

What is the Meaning of the Word “Pope”?

In the language of the ancient Greeks the word Pope means father - but more in a child’s term of endearment sort of way, which would actually make it more equivalent to the word daddy.The Latin language later adapted the term as a sort of honorary title. Both eastern and western Christians began applying the term to heads of church, priests and bishops alike. Over time, Latin-based Christians began gradually limiting their use of the title. This did not happen within the Eastern Orthodox Church - priests are still called Pope in Greece, Russia and Serbia. At the start of the 5th century, the title Pope was beginning to be applied primarily to the bishop of Rome. By the 8th century, it was nearly exclusively applied to the bishop of Rome.

Chronicle of the Popes by P.G. Maxwell-Stuart

March 14, 2011

What are the gospels?

The word “gospel" is from the Greek word euangélion, which is also also translated as "glad tidings." It commonly refers to the gospels of Matthew, Luke, Mark and John, which focus on the message of Jesus, the final days leading to the crucifixion and the resurrection. While they do contain information about history and the biography of Jesus, they are neither intended as a historical account or a biography. In fact, it is difficult to construct a total and accurate history of Jesus from the gospels since they lack a lot of information about the birth and life of Jesus prior to the final years of his life. At least 40 years had passed between the resurrection and the writing of the first gospel. Much of the material in the gospels was passed on by oral tradition. Many scholars believe that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source. John, the gospel written last, was dependent on the the first three. The gospels were written from the point of view from the faithful evanglists of early Christianity to the masses.

The Birth of Christianity by John Doominic

March 8, 2011

Why Do We Eat Pancakes on Fat Tuesday?

Today is Fat Tuesday here in the US and, of course, in France. Fat Tuesday officially kicks off Mardi Gras festivities. The term “Fat Tuesday" refers to the practice of eating fatty foods on the night before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of the 40-day Lenten season. Ritual fasting has traditionally been associated with Lent. Today is also called “Shrove Tuesday” throughout English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia New Zealand, and to a more limited degree the US. The term “Shrove Tuesday” gets its name from the ritual of shriving, which means to gain absolution for sins via confession and penance, which is sought right before the start of the Lent season. Historically during the lent period, the faithful were forbidden from eating meat, butter, eggs and milk. Families would have to consume any remaining portions of this type of food before lent, since it would most certainly spoil otherwise. The solution for many was to combine butter, eggs and milk - along with a few other ingredients - to make tasty pancakes. In the UK Shrove Tuesday is sometimes referred to as simply Pancake Day. On Pancake Day, pancake races are held across the United Kingdom. Participants race through the streets while tossing pancakes in the air and catching them in a pan. So whether you’re racing through the streets or not, take some time to enjoy some pancakes today. Happy Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Pancake Day!

March 4, 2011

Jesus's Best Friend

The Gospel of John mentions a “Beloved Disciple” five times, which actually sounds a lot more significant than a best friend, but I guess that’s what we would call it these days. Only the gospel of John uses this term to refer to anyone and his true identity is debated to this day. Who this person is, if he existed, and why his identity is never revealed have been speculated for a long time. In fact, it is the topic of many well-respected books, theses, and lectures. Here are the basics.

The following gospel reading specifically mention this mystery person:

John 13:23-25: One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.
John 19:26-27: When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
John 20:1-10: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
John 21:1-15: The Beloved disciple is among the fisherman present when 153 fish were caught. The gospel states that Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.

Possible Identities:
There’s a lot of speculation and no clear answer. But here are three of the more accepted possibilities:

  • The Apostle John, son of Zebedee’s, aka the author or the author or inspiration for the Gospel of John. Christian art has depicted the last supper with John pictured close to Christ. According to art history professor Heidi Hornik, John is…[sleeping] with his head on the table. John is shown without a beard suggesting he is younger than the others. In the painting, “The Last Supper" by Jacopo Bassano Christ embraces or lays his left hand over the shoulder and back of the sleeping disciple, suggesting a friendly intimacy. In addition John 21:20-24, also seems to back up this claim. “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
  • James, the Lord’s brother - If John 19:26 is taken literally, this makes sense. James went on to be a leader within the modern church.
  • No one - just a symbol. He is never given a name, or referred to in other gospels where stories are retold, so it has been suggested that he did not really exist. The level of intimacy is meant for each one of us as followers of Christ to put ourselves in the place of the beloved one.