Saturday, 30 April 2011

Irreconcilable differences / Relics of the first rank

Relics of the first rank are the body or parts of the body of a Saint. If anyone sells such a relic they are guilty of simony and are subject to immediate excommunication under Canon law 1190 (1983).

Today, May 1 is Labour Day. In the Church it is also called Low Sunday being the octave day of Easter and for this particular day, the moment of beatification for Pope John Paul II at a ceremony in Rome celebrated by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI and witnessed by a million pilgrims. The irreconcilable differences in the title are between the secular world and the world of sacred as expressed in its magisterium or accepted churchly teachings of historical record as opposed to its practice.

World Workers, whatever may bind ye,
This day let your work be undone:
Cast the clouds of the winter behind ye,
And come forth and be glad in the sun.
Now again while the green earth rejoices
In the bud and the blossom of May
Lift your hearts up again, and your voices,
And keep merry the World's Labour Day.
These are the first two stanzas of a poem written By Walter Crane in 1894 rejoicing in the Labour Day festivities. The first May Day celebration for workers was a work stoppage by 200,000 people around the United States in 1886 adopted as a protest to obtain an anticipated eight hour working day. The International Workers Congress held in Paris on July 14, 1889 decided on this date as a celebration for workers around the world and it has been an annual event. Also July 14th is Bastille Day in France and the birth date of my twin daughters so I guess that they’ll be little revolutionaries. Today the movement is on the defensive and the last embers of collective bargaining are being stuffed out in America and perhaps in Canada under the tutelage of Stephen Harper by the conservative attacks of right wing politicians and their corporate backers. According to ctblogger on the leftnutmeg blog this is evidenced even in historically union friendly Massachusetts yesterday:

“House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly last night to strip police officers, teachers, and other municipal employees of most of their rights to bargain over health care, saying the change would save millions of dollars for financially strapped cities and towns.

The 111-to-42 vote followed tougher measures to broadly eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in Ohio, Wisconsin, and other states. But unlike those efforts, the push in Massachusetts was led by Democrats who have traditionally stood with labour to oppose any reduction in workers' rights. “

The present mainstream ideology in North America is neo Liberalism and the laissez faire doctrines of the past have been replaced by more technical sounding terminology such as the efficient market hypothesis. Old wine in new bottles! Economists are the new theologians of the market place and presume that economics are eternal and external laws like gravity instead of the consequences of human decisions and behaviour. Although these propositions and paradigms have taken a beating in the last recession they remain in vogue with the chattering classes.  A thousand right wing think tanks churn out new aphorisms such as tax burden implying that taxes have no tangible value and infer that the interests of the employees are aligned with those of the employer in spite of economic statistics which prove the contrary. Class warfare is so yesterday. A corporate mass media reformulates the struggles of the majority of the population within consensus positions and discourse boundaries defined by those who benefit from the current situation and disseminated by their appointed augurs on national television.

Low Sunday is the octave or eighth day of Easter. It is called Low because it is considered part of the great Easter feast but of lower degree. The liturgical name is Dominica in albis depositis(Lt) because the newly baptized on Easter Day or neophytes lay down their white robes for the first time signifying their transition to full members of the congregation and the end of Easter. Some denominations call it Pascha clausum (Lt) or the close of Passover. In the Roman Catholic church it is referred to as Quasimodo Sunday from the first two words in Latin of the introit, short for Antiphona ad Introitum or response to the entrance of the clergy, at mass “Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite (As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile) and makes a general allusion to renewal through the resurrection of Jesus. Traditionally this Sunday had been known as the feast day of Saint Joseph the worker implying the solidarity of the Church with the common man but the day has been observed since 2000 in the Roman Church as “Divine Mercy Sunday” an association with a 20th century Polish nun, St. Faustina Kowalska, who was a visionary and mystic to whom the beatified John Paul II had a strong personal devotion.

Finally today is the day on which the beatification of Pope John Paul II takes place in Rome. His papacy lasted 27 years and he died inflicted with Parkinson’s disease on 2 April, 2005. At his death his mourners insisted “Santo subito! – Sainthood now.”  His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, waived the typical five-year waiting period before the process of beatification could begin, but insisted that the investigation into John Paul's life be thorough although the final conclusion was for all intents and purposes preordained.  This waving of the usual waiting period was based on “imposing fame for holiness” and “the common canonical dispositions were integrally observed.” As far as I can see this was based on his recorded saintly life – good intentions and daily self flagellation based on books published since his death.  This corporal mortification or abusing one’s body to identify with Christ’s suffering is a method to resist temptation and develop in spirituality. This is the fastest beatification ever recorded, six years after his death and beating Mother Teresa's beatification in 2003 by a few days. Beatification, the first step towards sainthood, requires one miracle usually healing which is complete, instantaneous and durable (lasting). The said miracle occurred  when a 49-year-old French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease in 2001 was cured after her order prayed to John Paul II and she wrote the Pope’s name on a piece of paper before bed. On waking in the morning she was healed. This was thoroughly investigated by the appropriate councils of the church hierarchy and found to be medically inexplicable and to meet the predefined canonical conditions of a miracle.

At this stage, he can be called “Blessed.”  Before he can be a Saint, another miracle must be documented.  This would provide the proof that John Paul II is in heaven and capable of interceding for those requesting his help. Some dissenters have suggested that the excessive haste in the process is due to the political and doctrinaire aspirations of his successors in the church hierarchy.  They are certainly in the conservative and reactive camp of the late pope especially since most of them were appointed during his long pontificate. The change in this Sunday liturgical identification from the feast of St Joseph the worker to Divine Mercy Sunday is reflective of a transition in the church from identification with the common people to a more pious ethereal reflection which was increasingly entertained by John Paul II over the span of his papacy.


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