Posted by: fvbcdm | May 7, 2012

Feast of Saint Rose Venerini (7 May 2012)

The first reading at Mass today sometimes brings smiles to those of us who are from New Orleans because in it, Saints Paul and Barnabas are preaching the gospel in Lystra, a town in what is now central Turkey, not far from Saint Paul’s home town of Tarsus.  The two apostles heal a man crippled from birth, and the local people presume that they are gods, so they call St. Barnabas “Zeus,” who was the king of the Greek gods, and Saint Paul “Hermes,” the messenger of the gods because he was an eloquent preacher. The two Christian apostles are horrified that these pagans are trying to turn THEM into pagan gods, and they insist, “We are only men, human like you!”  

The reason this is amusing to us New Orleanians is that during our carnival season each year, we have a carnival organization called “Hermes” which has a parade and a ball, and by now, there is probably a “Zeus” too, since the carnival organizations proliferate out into the suburbs of the city and need new gods and goddesses to be named for.  It is interesting that when we want to name organizations dedicated to fun, games, and foolishness, we choose the names of pagan gods. When we want to name groups or entities for serious purposes, we give them the names of the Persons of God or the REAL saints.  Here we see the difference between truth and fiction; the sacred and the absurd; the sublime and the ridiculous.  One of the ways that the success of a given carnival can be gauged in New Orleans is the amount of trash generated in the streets of the city during the carnival time.  The beer cans, the paper trash from hot dogs, hamburgers, fried chicken, soft drinks, and the flimsy beads and other trinkets thrown by the maskers on the floats and young people on the trucks that follow the Rex parade on Mardi Gras day—all of this measures how much fun the city had.

The carnival parades pay mock honor to pagan gods.  The parades that we find in Catholic cities like the ones in southern Spain during Holy Week, and cities in Italy at Corpus Christi pay fervent devotion to Our Lord, his blessed Mother, and the saints who are very real, and are our big brothers and sisters in the Mystical Body of Christ.  A great difference!  One, just foolish fun; the other, deep faith expressing itself in public and celebrating the truths revealed to us by Divine Revelation.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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