Tag Archives: Caesarea Philippi

Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Mass during the Day

Icon of Saints Peter and Paul“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Saint Peter on the Person on Christ, Matthew 16:16

Saints Peter and Paul are the founders of the Diocese of Rome. One was the Prince of the Apostles and the first Bishop of Rome, known as the office of the Papcy today, and the other was the majority author of the New Testament books and something of a travelling evangelical priest/bishop.

Catholic Culture wrote this short tidbit about these two great saints (more after the readings of course):

Veneration of the two great Apostles, Peter and Paul, has its roots in the very foundations of the Church. They are the solid rock on which the Church is built. They are at the origin of her faith and will forever remain her protectors and her guides. To them Rome owes her true greatness, for it was under God’s providential guidance that they were led to make the capital of the Empire, sanctified by their martyrdom, the center of the Christian world whence should radiate the preaching of the Gospel.

St. Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero, in A.D. 66 or 67. He was buried on the hill of the Vatican where recent excavations have revealed his tomb on the very site of the basilica of St. Peter’s. St. Paul was beheaded in the via Ostia on the spot where now stands the basilica bearing his name. Down the centuries Christian people in their thousands have gone on pilgrimage to the tombs of these Apostles. In the second and third centuries the Roman Church already stood pre-eminent by reason of her apostolicity, the infallible truth of her teaching and her two great figures, Sts. Peter and Paul.

A plenary indulgence may be gained today by anyone who makes devout use of a religious article blessed by a bishop and who also recites any approved profession of faith (e.g. the Apostles Creed), as long as the usual conditions are satisfied.

Catholic Culture prepared this special section during the Year of St. Paul.

via Catholic Culture | Liturgical Year


Read the Bible at Mass

First Reading: Acts 12:1-11

In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also. –It was the feast of Unleavened Bread.–  He had him taken into custody and put in prison under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. He intended to bring him before the people after Passover. Peter thus was being kept in prison, but prayer by the Church was fervently being made to God on his behalf.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists. The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first guard, then the second, and came to the iron gate leading out to the city, which opened for them by itself. They emerged and made their way down an alley, and suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter recovered his senses and said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”

Responsorial Psalm34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (5) The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.

R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.

Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.

R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.

The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.

R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.

Second Reading: 2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel Reading: Mt 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply:

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”


St. Peter

Peter’s original name was Simon. Christ Himself gave him the name Cephas or Peter when they first met and later confirmed it. This name change was meant to show both Peter’s rank as leader of the apostles and the outstanding trait of his character — Peter (in Hebrew Kephas) the Rock. Peter was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. Like his younger brother Andrew, he was a fisherman and dwelt at Capernaum. Peter’s house often became the scene of miracles, since the Master would stay there whenever He was teaching in that locality. Together with his brothers John and Andrew, Peter belonged to the first of Jesus’ disciples (John 1:40-50).

After the miraculous draught of fish on the Sea of Galilee, Peter received his definitive call and left wife, family, and occupation to take his place as leader of the Twelve. Thereafter we find him continually at Jesus’ side, whether it be as spokesman of the apostolic college (John 6:68; Matt. 16:16), or as one specially favored (e.g., at the restoration to life of Jairus’ daughter, at the transfiguration, during the agony in the garden). His sanguine temperament often led him into hasty, unpremeditated words and actions; his denial of Jesus during the passion was a salutary lesson. It accentuated a weakness in his character and made him humble.

After the ascension, Peter always took the leading role, exercising the office of chief shepherd that Christ had entrusted to him. He delivered the first sermon on Pentecost and received the first Gentiles into the Church (Cornelius; Acts 10:1). Paul went to Jerusalem “to see Peter.” After his miraculous deliverance from prison (Easter, 42 A.D.), Peter “went to a different place,” most probably to Rome. Details now become scanty; we hear of his presence at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1), and of his journey to Antioch (Gal. 2:11).

It is certain that Peter labored in Rome as an apostle, that he was the city’s first bishop, and that he died there as a martyr, bound to a cross (67 A.D.). According to tradition he also was the first bishop of Antioch. He is the author of two letters, the first Christian encyclicals. His burial place is Christendom’s most famous shrine, an edifice around whose dome are inscribed the words: Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam.

Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Patron: Against frenzy; bakers; bridge builders; butchers; clock makers; cobblers; Exeter College Oxford; feet problems; fever; fishermen; harvesters; locksmiths; longevity; masons; net makers; papacy; Popes; ship builders; shipwrights; shoemakers; stone masons; Universal Church; watch makers; Poznan, Poland; Rome; Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi; Diocese of Las Vegas, Nevada; Diocese of Marquette, Michigan; Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island; Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Symbols: Two keys saltire; pastoral staff and two large keys; inverted cross; inverted cross and two keys saltire; crowing cock; fish; two swords; patriarchal cross and two keys saltire; two keys and a scroll; sword.
Often portrayed as: Bald man, often with a fringe of hair on the sides and a tuft on top; book; keys; man crucified head downwards; man holding a key or keys; man robed as a pope and bearing keys and a double-barred cross.

via Catholic Culture | Liturgical Year


St. Paul

Paul, known as Saul (his Roman name) before his conversion, was born at Tarsus in the Roman province of Silicia about two or three years after the advent of the Redeemer. He was the son of Jewish parents who belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, was reared according to the strict religious-nationalistic party of the Pharisees, and enjoyed the high distinction of Roman citizenship.

As a youth he went to Jerusalem to become immersed in the Law and had as a teacher the celebrated Gamaliel. He acquired skill as a tent-maker, a work he continued even as an apostle. At the time of Jesus’ ministry he no longer was at Jerusalem; neither did he see the Lord during His earthly-life. Upon returning to the Holy City, Paul discovered a flourishing Christian community and at once became its bitter opponent. When Stephen impugned Law and temple, Paul was one of the first at his stoning; thereafter his fiery personality would lead the persecution. Breathing threats of slaughter against the disciples of Jesus, he was hurrying to Damascus when the grace of God effected his conversion (about the year 34 A.D.; see January 25, Conversion of St. Paul).

After receiving baptism and making some initial attempts at preaching, Paul withdrew into the Arabian desert (c. 34-37 A.D.), where he prepared himself for his future mission. During this retreat he was favored with special revelations, Christ appearing to him personally. Upon his return to Damascus he began to preach but was forced to leave when the Jews sought to kill him. Then he went to Jerusalem “to see Peter.” Barnabas introduced him to the Christian community, but the hatred of the Jews again obliged him to take secret flight. The following years (38-42 A.D.) he spent at Tarsus until Barnabas brought him to the newly founded Christian community at Antioch, where both worked a year for the cause of Christ; in the year 44 he made another journey to Jerusalem with the money collected for that famine stricken community.

The first major missionary journey (45-48) began upon his return as he and Barnabas brought the Gospel to Cyprus and Asia Minor (Acts 13-14). The Council of Jerusalem occasioned Paul’s reappearance in Jerusalem (50). Spurred on by the decisions of the Council, he began the second missionary journey (51-53), traveling through Asia Minor and then crossing over to Europe and founding churches at Philippi, Thessalonia (his favorite), Berea, Athens, Corinth. He remained almost two years at Corinth, establishing a very flourishing and important community. In 54 he returned to Jerusalem for the fourth time.

Paul’s third missionary journey (54-58) took him to Ephesus, where he labored three years with good success; after visiting his European communities, he returned to Jerusalem for a fifth time (Pentecost, 58). There he was seized by the Jews and accused of condemning the Law. After being held as a prisoner for two years at Caesarea, he appealed to Caesar and was sent by sea to Rome (60 A.D.). Shipwrecked and delayed on the island of Malta, he arrived at Rome in the spring of 61 and passed the next two years in easy confinement before being released. The last years of the saint’s life were devoted to missionary excursions, probably including Spain, and to revisiting his first foundations. In 66 he returned to Rome, was taken prisoner, and beheaded a year later. His fourteen letters are a precious legacy; they afford a deep insight into a great soul.

Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Patron: Against snakes; authors; Cursillo movement; evangelists; hailstorms; hospital public relations; journalists; lay people; missionary bishops; musicians; poisonous snakes; public relations personnel; public relations work; publishers; reporters; rope braiders; rope makers; saddlemakers; saddlers; snake bites; tent makers; writers; Malta; Rome; Poznan, Poland; newspaper editorial staff, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Diocese of Covington, Kentucky; Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama; Diocese of Las Vegas, Nevada; Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island; Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts.

Symbols: Book and sword, three fountains; two swords; scourge; serpent and a fire; armour of God; twelve scrolls with names of his Epistles; Phoenix; palm tree; shield of faith; sword; book.
Often portrayed as: Thin-faced elderly man with a high forehead, receding hairline and long pointed beard; man holding a sword and a book; man with 3 springs of water nearby;

Things to Do:

  • From the Directory on Popular Piety, this feast is important because “it is always useful to teach the faithful to realize the importance and significance of the feasts of those Saints who have had a particular mission in the history of Salvation, or a singular relationship with Christ such as St. John the Baptist (24 June), St. Joseph (19 March), Sts. Peter and Paul (29 June), the Apostles and Evangelists, St. Mary Magdalen (22 July), St. Martha (29 July) and St. Stephen (26 December).”
  • The Directory on Popular Piety also explains the devotion of the Christian Pilgrimage. During the Middle Ages in particular, “pilgrims came to Rome to venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul (ad Limina Apostolorum), the catacombs and basilicas, in recognition of the service rendered to the universal Church by the successor of Peter.”
  • Besides the recipes in our database, Cooking With the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf has seven recipes alone for the feast of St. Peter. This is a wonderful book, beautifully illustrated with art of the saints and the actual dishes. This would be a great addition to your liturgical year library.
  • Learn more about St. Paul, read Paul of Tarsus

via Catholic Culture | Liturgical Year

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Jesus, I Trust in You: Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist Mass During the Day

Jesus, I Trust in You: Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist Mass During the Day

trustinjesus:

"Saint John the Baptist" (c.1560) by...

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came to bear witness to the light, to prepare an upright people for the Lord.

— Entrance Antiphon, cf. John 1:6-7; Luke 1:17

Today the Church celebrates thenativity of Saint John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets (and patron saint ofPuerto Rico). The Catechism of the Catholic Church says of Saint John:

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”(Jn 1:6) John was “filled with the Holy Spiriteven from his mother’s womb”(Lk 1:15, 41) byChrist himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.(cf. Lk 1:68)

John is “Elijah (who) must come.”(Mt 17:10-13; cf. Lk 1:78) The fire of the Spirit dwells in him and makes him the forerunner of the coming Lord. In John, the precursor, the Holy Spirit completes the work of “(making) ready a people prepared for the Lord.”(Lk 1:17)

John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.”(Lk 7:26) In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah.(Cf. Mt 11:13-14) He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of theConsoler who is coming.(Jn 1:23; cf. Isa 40:1-3) As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.”(Jn 1:7; cf. Jn15:26; 5:35) In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels.(Cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12) “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God…. Behold, the Lamb of God.”(Jn 1:33-36)

Finally, with John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit begins the restoration to man of “the divine likeness,” prefiguring what he would achieve with and in Christ. John’s baptism was for repentance; baptism in water and the Spirit will be a new birth.(Cf. Jn 3:5) (Catechism of the Catholic Church 717-720)

However, like the Transformers, there is more to John than meets the eye. He and his mother Elizabeth are the first to receive Our Blessed Lord in a “Eucharistic procession” as Christ was carried by His Blessed Mother Mary – the Ark of the New Covenant, His first Tabernacle. It is John’s reaction to the presence of God near him that fills Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit allowing her to proclaim the Gospel truth as Peter did later at Caesarea Philippi (Cf. Mt 16:16):

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke (RSV) 1:39-45)

It is, in part, the witness of the unborn John that confirms the Church’s teaching on three dogmas:

  1. Jesus is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity Who is God. Jesus is God incarnate.
  2. Mary, ever-virgin and immaculately conceived, is the Mother of God Who is Jesus. When we see Mary, we see Christ. When we see Christ, we see God. It is her DNA alone that miraculously makes His incarnation.
  3. Human life begins at conception. For two unborn children to interact in such a manner is not only mind boggling with respect to mystery of Divinity but also because it occurs every day in every pregnant woman. Does a child not react to outside stimuli but most especially to familiar sounds such as the heartbeat of their mother, her voice or even their father’s voice and love?

Simply put, the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist is “Advent in ordinary times” (Catholic Culture).

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist Mass During the Day

"Saint John the Baptist" (c.1560) by...

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came to bear witness to the light, to prepare an upright people for the Lord.

— Entrance Antiphon, cf. John 1:6-7; Luke 1:17


Today the Church celebrates the nativity of Saint John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets (and patron saint of Puerto Rico). The Catechism of the Catholic Church says of Saint John:

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”(Jn 1:6) John was “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb”(Lk 1:15, 41) by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.(cf. Lk 1:68)

John is “Elijah (who) must come.”(Mt 17:10-13; cf. Lk 1:78) The fire of the Spirit dwells in him and makes him the forerunner of the coming Lord. In John, the precursor, the Holy Spirit completes the work of “(making) ready a people prepared for the Lord.”(Lk 1:17)

John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.”(Lk 7:26) In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah.(Cf. Mt 11:13-14) He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming.(Jn 1:23; cf. Isa 40:1-3) As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.”(Jn 1:7; cf. Jn 15:26; 5:35) In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels.(Cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12) “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God…. Behold, the Lamb of God.”(Jn 1:33-36)

Finally, with John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit begins the restoration to man of “the divine likeness,” prefiguring what he would achieve with and in Christ. John’s baptism was for repentance; baptism in water and the Spirit will be a new birth.(Cf. Jn 3:5) (Catechism of the Catholic Church 717-720)

However, like the Transformers, there is more to John than meets the eye. He and his mother Elizabeth are the first to receive Our Blessed Lord in a “Eucharistic procession” as Christ was carried by His Blessed Mother Mary – the Ark of the New Covenant, His first Tabernacle. It is John’s reaction to the presence of God near him that fills Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit allowing her to proclaim the Gospel truth as Peter did later at Caesarea Philippi (Cf. Mt 16:16):

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke (RSV) 1:39-45)

It is, in part, the witness of the unborn John that confirms the Church’s teaching on three dogmas:

  1. Jesus is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity Who is God. Jesus is God incarnate.
  2. Mary, ever-virgin and immaculately conceived, is the Mother of God Who is Jesus. When we see Mary, we see Christ. When we see Christ, we see God. It is her DNA alone that miraculously makes His incarnation.
  3. Human life begins at conception. For two unborn children to interact in such a manner is not only mind boggling with respect to mystery of Divinity but also because it occurs every day in every pregnant woman. Does a child not react to outside stimuli but most especially to familiar sounds such as the heartbeat of their mother, her voice or even their father’s voice and love?

Simply put, the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist is “Advent in ordinary times” (Catholic Culture).


Read the Bible at Mass

First Reading: Is 49:1-6

Hear me, O coastlands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Responsorial Psalm: 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15

R. (14) I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.

O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.

R. I praise you for I am wonderfully made.

Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works.

R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.

My soul also you knew full well;
nor was my frame unknown to you
When I was made in secret,
when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.

R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.

Second Reading: Acts 13:22-26

In those days, Paul said:

“God raised up David as king; of him God testified, I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish. From his man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’

“My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.”

Gospel Reading: Lk 1:57-66, 80

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.


 

About the Feast Day

This feast, a segment of Advent in the season of Ordinary Time, makes us aware of the wonderful inner relationship between the sacred mysteries; for we are still in the midst of one Church year and already a bridge is being erected to the coming year of grace.

Ordinarily the Church observes the day of a saint’s death as his feast, because that day marks his entrance into heaven. To this rule there are two notable exceptions, the birthdays of Blessed Mary and of St. John the Baptist. All other persons were stained with original sin at birth, hence, were displeasing to God. But Mary, already in the first moment of her existence, was free from original sin (for which reason even her very conception is commemorated by a special feast), and John was cleansed of original sin in the womb of his mother. This is the dogmatic justification for today’s feast. In the breviary St. Augustine explains the reason for today’s observance in the following words:

“Apart from the most holy solemnity commemorating our Savior’s birth, the Church keeps the birthday of no other person except that of John the Baptist. (The feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin had not yet been introduced.) In the case of other saints or of God’s chosen ones, the Church, as you know, solemnizes the day on which they were reborn to everlasting beatitude after ending the trials of this life and gloriously triumphing over the world.

“For all these the final day of their lives, the day on which they completed their earthly service is honored. But for John the day of his birth, the day on which he began this mortal life is likewise sacred. The reason for this is, of course, that the Lord willed to announce to men His own coming through the Baptist, lest if He appeared suddenly, they would fail to recognize Him. John represented the Old Covenant and the Law. Therefore he preceded the Redeemer, even as the Law preceded and heralded the new dispensation of grace.”

In other words, today’s feast anticipates the feast of Christmas. Taking an overall view, we keep during the course of the year only two mysteries, that of Christ’s Incarnation and that of His Redemption. The Redemption mystery is the greater of the two; the Incarnation touches the human heart more directly. To the Redemption mystery the entire Easter season is devoted, from Septuagesima until Pentecost; and likewise every Sunday of the year, because Sunday is Easter in miniature.

The Christmas season has for its object the mystery of God-become-Man, to which there is reference only now and then during the remaining part of the year, e.g., on Marian feasts, especially that of the Annunciation (March 25) and today’s feast in honor of the Baptist. In a sense, then, we are celebrating Christ’s incarnation today. The birth of Jesus is observed on December 25 at the time of the winter solstice, while the birth of His forerunner is observed six months earlier at the time of the summer solstice. Christmas is a “light” feast; the same is true today. The popular custom centering about “St. John’s Fire” stems from soundest Christian dogma and could well be given renewed attention. St. John’s Fire symbolizes Christ the Light; John was a lamp that burned and shone. We Christians should be the light of the world.

Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Patron: Baptism; bird dealers; converts; convulsions; convulsive children; cutters; epilepsy; epileptics; farriers; hail; hailstorms; Knights Hospitaller; Knights of Malta; lambs; Maltese Knights; lovers; monastic life; motorways; printers, spasms; tailors; Genoa, Italy; Quebec; Sassano, Italy; Diocese of Savannah, Georgia; Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina; Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas; Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey; Diocese of Portland, Maine.

Symbols: Lamb; lamb on a book of seven seals; locust; camel’s hair tunic; girdle; his head on a charger; scroll with words Ecce Agnus Dei or with Vox Clamantis in deserto; long, slender cross-tipped staff; open Bible; banner of victory.

Things to Do:

  • Read about the traditions connected with this feast, particularly the connection with bonfires.
  • The Liturgy of the Hours for the Evening Prayer (Vespers) of the Birth of St. John the Baptist has traditionally included the Gregorian chant Ut Queant Laxis. Tradition has ascribed the hymn to a Paul Warnefried (Paul the Deacon, 730-799). While preparing to sing the Exsultet at the Holy Saturday vigil, he found himself hoarse, and so prayed to St. John the Baptist, since his father lost his voice before John was born. Paul’s voice was restored and he wrote this hymn in honor of the saint. True or not, what makes this song memorable is that the Benedictine monk used this hymn as a pivotal reference for our musical scale. See Catholic Encyclopedia’s entry Ut Queant Laxis, more information on the hymn from Catholic Culture, a Beginner’s Guide to Modal Harmony, and Gregorian Chant Notation.
  • The Church year has two cycles. The more important cycle is the Temporal cycle (from the Latin tempus which means time or season). The life of Christ is relived in liturgical time, in both real time and Church’s memory. Throughout the year the Paschal Mystery (Christ’s work of redemption through His birth, life, passion, death, and resurrection and ascension) is relived, and broken down into the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Ordinary Time. Sundays are the usual means by which this cycle unfolds.

    At the same time with the temporal cycle, the Sanctoral cycle (from the Latinsanctus which means saint) progresses. The Church honors Mary, Mother of God “with a special love. She is inseparably linked with the saving work of her son” (CCC 1172). Then the memorials of martyrs and other saints are kept by the Church. They are held up to us as examples “who draw all men to the Father through Christ, and through their merits she begs for God’s favors” (CCC 1173).

    This is one of the few saint feast days that is connected with the temporal calendar, not the sanctoral calendar, because John the Baptist was intimately involved in Christ’s work of redemption. Charting or making your own liturgical calendar would be a great family project.

  • Read the excerpt from the Directory on Popular Piety on the cult of St. John the Baptist.
  • In Brazil, this day is known as Diário de Sáo Joáo (Saint John’s Day). The festivities are set off in the villages and countryside by the Fogueira de Sáo Joáo (bonfire) on St. John’s eve. Families and friends eat traditional foods around the fire while younger folks jump over the fire and firecrackers are exploded. The day is primarily a festival for children, who save up months in advance to purchase fireworks to set off for the day. In cities this is a day for parties and dances, with the urban dwellers dressing up in rural costumes.

    St. John is the protector of lovers, so for fun, young country girls in Brazil will roll up scraps of paper, each bearing a name of a single girl and place them into a bowl of water. The first one which unfolds indicates the girl who will marry first.

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