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Quick Hits: St. Patrick's in the Caribbean, the formality of ancient liturgy, recovering holy friendship

By Thomas V. Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Mar 17, 2016

  • Did you know that on an island in the Caribbean, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated as a public holiday for a whole week? At the Register, Peter Jesserer Smith tells the story of how many of the Irish who were forced into indentured servitude under Cromwell were put to work in the British Caribbean, including the island of Montserrat. The Irish Catholics brought their faith to Monserrat and shared it, along with their blood and culture, with their fellow oppressed, the African slaves. While the faith was persecuted by the British for many years and priests had to say Mass in secret, there is a strong Catholic culture on the island to this day. Thus slaves evangelized slaves under the patronage of St. Patrick, who was himself a slave.

  • It is fairly well known that prior to the legalization of Christianity by Constantine in the early fourth century, Mass was celebrated in the homes of Christians. As a bare fact, this lends itself to the idea that the liturgy of early Christians was much less formal and more of a simple community meal than today's worship, and that Mass was then celebrated facing the people. As it turns out, based on the layouts of ancient house churches and the testimony of a third-century text, this is a primitivist misconception. The priests sat in a separate part of the house and faced east, in the same direction as the people. People sat and stood formally, men and women were seated separately, deacons maintained order and discipline, and there was even a "cry room"!

  • You may recall that last month, a BBC documentary discussed an intimate, decades-long friendship between Pope St. John Paul II and a female Polish philosopher. Naturally, the implication of the documentary and mainstream stories on the topic was that this was some kind of secret romantic relationship. As a recent article at the Theology of the Body Institute points out, however, this is based on a false assumption that friendship between men and women is inherently dangerous and sexual. The author, Bill Donaghy, musters evidence to the contrary: many great, celibate male saints had intimate and holy (and prudent) friendships with women, and vice versa. (St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal, for example.) The same age that sexualizes these chaste friendships also assumes that any intimate, fervent friendship between men must be a sign of homosexuality (as attempts to tar the reputation of Blessed John Henry Newman, among others, show). All this tells us that we need to recover the virtue of holy friendship.

Thomas V. Mirus is an administrative assistant and writer at CatholicCulture.org. A jazz pianist with a music degree, he often takes the lead in our commentary on the arts. See full bio.

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