It is the Tenth day of Christmas, and the last day of Christmas for those using the metric system. The rest of us get 2 more. It is also known as Ten Lords a-Leaping Day. As a child I could never understand what lords would be doing leaping. Now that I know about the British Parliament and its House of Lords, I realize I was absolutely right.
January 3 saw the excommunication of Martin Luther in 1521 and Fidel Castro in 1962. Sadly there is no record of the excommunication of the inventor of oleomargarine, which was patented on this day in 1871.
In the eastern church today we celebrate the Venerable Genevieve of Paris (419/422–502/512), who is that city’s patron saint, despite being born in Nanterre. I was unable to determine if Nanterre has a patron saint; perhaps if it asks nicely, Paris will share. Genevieve wanted all her life to be a nun, or at least from the age of seven, but sadly there were no women’s monasteries in the area. When her parents died she packed her religious veil and went to live with her godmother in Paris. Authorities bicker about who made her a nun and when, but there’s no use in our getting embroiled in their fight. In Paris she lived a life of such piety that her neighbors were sure she must have something wrong with her (the visions and prophecies thing probably didn’t help her here), and conspired to kill her. They were talked out of this by a visiting bishop, however; indeed, none other than the great St. Germanus of Auxerre, who had many adventures in Britain fighting Saxons and Pelagians or both, either figuratively or literally or both. Reports vary.
451 was a dangerous time to be living in Gaul, and I’m not just referring to the water. The rightly infamous Atilla the Hun was on the loose, destroying cities in an ugly swath, and by June, Paris was next on his punch card. The citoyens prepared to flee, but Genevieve encouraged them to stay and pray for God’s forgiveness. Sure enough, the Huns thought better of Paris, and turned aside to lay siege to Orléans, which they also failed to destroy. Genevieve played important roles in other fights both military and political, more than once winning clemency for people who were about to be unclemenced, in a manner of speaking.
After her death, Genevieve was buried in a church that she had helped found, primarily in the role of bishop pesterer rather than brick plasterer. Many miracles are associated with her relics, including saving the city from ergot poisoning (not to be confused with argot poisoning, which is the infesting of a language with annoying jargon words) in 1129. Most of her relics were destroyed in the French Revolution, although at least one “large relic,” on a road trip to Oise at the time, was saved. What exactly that large relic is, my sources thankfully do not say.
Today the west celebrates the Most Holy Name of Jesus. This is roughly analogous to the Feast of the Circumcision (see January 1) as celebrated in the Christian east. Indeed, depending on your religious order, location, century, and perhaps birth sign, the Most Holy Name is, will, or has been celebrated on: January 1, 8, 14, 15, and 31, August 7, the Sunday after Epiphany, and — in a brilliant display of calendric imagination — the Sunday between January 2 and 5 inclusive if such exists and January 2 if not. It fell out of the General Roman Calendar (named after General Roman Calendar, the great military strategist) in 1969, and was reinstated in 2002. Let’s face it, this feast has been around the block. Compassionate Roman Catholics worldwide are hoping it will settle in for a spell and cool its blistered feet.
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