Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

St. Expeditus Don't Get No Respect

Yes, I've heard the crate story. In enough versions that I don't believe it anymore. So it wasn't too surprising to find out that St. Expeditus appeared in a 5th century martyrology (though one notorious for having enough misspellings to drive Nihil Obstat around the bend); he was one of a group of martyrs killed in Melitene, on April 19th in the year 303. Devotion to St. Expeditus seems to have begun in the Middle Ages thanks to his punning name ("Expeditus" means a kind of Roman footsoldier marching unimpeded by baggage, as well as "fast"). The usual iconography shows a Roman soldier holding a cross marked "Hodie" (Today) stepping on a raven crawing "Cras!" (Tomorrow). Devotion originally centered in Sicily and Italy and seems to have spread out from there, especially in seafaring towns.

Devotion to saints can sometimes be a scandal to non-Catholics, and things like the crate story don't help. It also doesn't help that childlike faith can sometimes sound a lot like belief in magic. (And if you're not careful, it can go that way literally, as with all that voodoo syncretism.) So it's easy to point and laugh and not look farther -- much easier than trying to understand a tradition that is helpful to many people around the world.

But I'll stick my neck out. There is something nice about people in urgent need being able to turn to a brother from the early Church. History may not even have gotten his name right, but God can turn even a typo into a help and encouragement for his people. I'm sure Expeditus doesn't mind being known as God's footsoldier. I'm not ashamed to know him, either.

As the Wall Street Journal noted in this week heading up to his festival, St. Expeditus seems to be getting very popular in Brazil.

The interesting thing to notice here is that the usual urban legend about the crates resurfaces, but this time it's supposed to be in Paris instead of Sao Paulo, New Orleans, or Haiti. Usually everybody
seems to be convinced that the crate stamped "Expedite" showed up _in their city_, which is a sure sign that it prolly ain't true.

A nice webpage full of good info, taking St. Expeditus' popularity back into medieval times. Additional info in Italian, if you want to use the Fish. Also, an archive of iconography -- in the form of Word documents, for some bizarre reason! Anyway, the Italian site not only quotes the actual martyrology lists, but also theorizes that the iconography comes from an artistic representation of how the soul should not put off following Christ, but instead do it "hodie".In this interp, the raven is either a devil or the soul's own annoying procrastination. This makes good sense to me.

This Argentinean site has a lot of nice things, including a list of churches.

San Expedito's Church in Renaca, Chile includes some very nice pictures and a local hymn to St. Expeditus. If you stay on long enough, you can hear it!

A rough translation:

Patron Saint Expedito,
You clear up the fog on the sea
So that in the firmament
The sunlight will shine more brightly
And so your contented village
Can sing to Love and Peace: (ie, God)

"Long live our protector,
St. Expedito.
Warrior martyr of Christ,
We thank your Lord.
Long live our protector,
St. Expedito,
Loyal and blessed shield,
You call on the Lord "today"!"

Strong and straightforward patron,
With Our Mother you are
United to all your children
Before this temple of peace.
And so Renaca is witness
Like the sun, it shines brighter.


The site also includes the cutest folk prayer yet: "San Expedito, San Expedito, concedemelo altirito!"

A page full of images courtesy of the "Republic of Molossia", which is some guy out in Nevada. Nice page, even though it's a joke.

Catholic Forum's page is short and sweet.

Saints Preserved claims St. Expedite's patronage for computer programmers. Heh. Also note yet _another_ version of the urban legend.

A nice explanation of the Sicily connection.

Check out Dr Bob's rather cute image of St. Expeditus bookin' it! He replaces the raven with a gator.... ;) OTOH, I'm not impressed with the domain rates. There's also an express package company in the UK named Expeditus after the saint.

St. Expeditus in the Philippines.

Czech church with a St. Expeditus painting from 1760 (not shown).

An overview of New Orleans voodoo tours, which mentions the Church of Our Lady of Guadelupe and its famous statue of St. Expedite. What isn't said here, but I read on a Catholic blog, is that there's also a statue of St. Jude on the other side of church. So SOP is to tell St. Jude about your impossible problem, then go over to the
other side and ask St. Expedite to see about getting it done fast. No wonder the police and fire departments use this parish as their own, having lots of emergencies and hopeless cases to deal with....

A novena to St. Expeditus.

Google has a cached entertainment column from Malaya - The National Newspaper
, which includes a prayer to St. Expeditus as "the bearer of money". In order to thank the saint, you're supposed to give alms to the elderly or a pregnant woman. This is the kind of devotion that sounds kinda iffy...but I guess it's no worse than the Jabez prayer.

Another folk prayer to St. Expeditus.

This Argentinean site includes more folk prayers: "San Expedito, San Expedito, dame lo que necesito" and "Confio en ti, San Expedito, que cubras con tu mano bienhechora todo lo que necesito". ("St. Expedito, St. Expedito, give me what is needed" and "I trust in you, St. Expedito, that you will cover with your benefactory hand all that is needed". ("Good-doing" just doesn't work in English, does it?) There's also another hymn to St. Expeditus:

"A thousand hymns to glorious Expedito
Who shed his blood in Armenia
Your name is written in heaven
And you won the martyr's laurel."

(The skywritten name on the other Argentinean site is probably a reference to this hymn.)

This Argentinean site even includes a litany of St. Expeditus, as well as pictures of a procession through the website's hometown and a prayer card to print out.

The Detroit Free Press suggests celebrating St. Expeditus' Day by sending checks to all those charities you've been meaning to get around to.

Happy St. Expeditus' Day, fellow procrastinators! May St. Expeditus pray for us, that like him, we may find at our deaths that we have traveled to heaven most expeditiously!

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Basic Motivations of Tolkien's LOTR Characters

There are two main groups here, although some chars (like Aragorn and Arwen) are a blend of both groups. Older characters are people with power who are busy using it. They've already figured out what they want to do with life; the only question is how to achieve their goals. (These chars are largely misrepresented in the movies, because Hollywood only lets villains have long term plans. So Elrond and Denethor become even more semi-villainous, while everyone else is made planless.) Younger characters are people with some or no power who want to do something with their lives but aren't sure just what. They want adventure, power, parental and community respect, experience of the world, and members of the opposite sex. (These chars are largely misrepresented in the movies, because "reckless, hyper, and imperfectly clued" is consistently replaced by "stupid".)

Frodo: do something with his life as cool as his uncle/fosterfather did, get away from annoying people, get rid of this stupid ring, see the world, and move out of his own basement.

Sam: stick with Frodo, get out of father's basement, see the world and elves! Also, do something to impress Rosie (and Rosie's dad).

Pippin: stick with Frodo, see the world and be a hero!

Merry: stick with Frodo, see the world and find a father who cares.

Gandalf: get the job done and clean up Saruman's and Sauron's mess. Do a little Machiavellian powermongering as a hobby on the side.

Tom Bombadil: Machiavellian powermonger with plans so long term even the Valar can't figure 'em out.

Goldberry: Machiavellian powermonger.

Aragorn: Machiavellian powermonger with longterm plan coming to fruition, who fully intends to get the kingdom and the girl. He must impress her father (his fosterfather and ever-so-many-greats-granduncle) to get her.

Arwen: Machiavellian powermonger with longterm plan coming to fruition which will allow her to get the boy and move out of her father's basement.

Elrond: Machiavellian powermonger who just wants to see his wife again, and has to either see his daughter Queen of Gondor or Aragorn definitely a loser before he can leave Middle Earth. Also, needs to defend his kingdom against major orc and troll offensive and clean up Sauron's mess. Loves, respects and funds his fosterson Aragorn and his Machiavellian plans.

Galadriel: Machiavellian powermonger who has trained Arwen and Aragorn well, and whose really long term plans of finessing the Valar are coming to fruition. Also, needs to defend her kingdom against major Mordor offensive and clean up Sauron's mess.

Saruman: Machiavellian powermonger who knows better than anyone and thinks it's time for progress and for academics to rule the world. Well, one academic, anyway. Getting rid of the Valar is a soluble problem.

Legolas: See the world, do something fun and exciting, and get out of his father's cavernous basement.

Gimli: See the world and get out of his dad's cousin's basement. Impress Galadriel.

Boromir: Be a hero! Also, semi-Machiavellian powermonger who finds out he may not get the kingdom after all, which might make getting girls harder.

Denethor: Machiavellian powermonger who's losing the kingdom and lost the girl long ago. Win, dammit! And if winning is impossible, then nobody can have Gondor or his son! Especially not Aragorn, who was annoyingly good at impressing the kingdom and the girls back in the day. Really wishes Faramir didn't remind him of Aragorn, as it makes him wonder. (J/K! But seriously, the whole goodlooking scholar/bard/warrior thing apparently sets Denethor off something fierce.)

Faramir: Non-Machiavellian powermonger who doesn't want the kingdom or expect any girls. Just wants his father's love and respect. (This the movie kept, though without most other char parallels.) A really nice guy who is heap psychic used to fighting off temptations to grasp at his brother's power, and thus can fight off the Ring just like Aragorn. (This the movie dumped.)

Theoden: Non-Machiavellian powermonger who thinks losing the kingdom's inevitable. Protect the kingdom and his sister's kids. Avenge himself on Saruman and keep the faith with Gondor.

Wormtongue: Machiavellian powermonger who's out to steal the kingdom and seduce the girl. (Him the movie just made stupider; the motivations they kept.)

Eomer: Get his uncle/fosterfather's respect. Die well. Protect Eowyn and Theoden, his only family left alive, and defend the kingdom.

Eowyn: Get people to take her seriously. Die well because life sucks. Get the guy she wants, or die well so he'll be sorry. Figure out something to do with her life when suicide-by-orc fails her.

Ioreth: Say "I told you so" with gusto.

Write Your Own Caption!

Mike Peters had a very nasty and logic-deficient cartoon up today in the Dayton Daily News. (Lengthy and annoying registration required.) Far be it from me to fool with Mr. Peters' copyright, so, a summary.

Picture: a bishop standing with his hands folded.
"If you're a pro-choice Catholic, you can't ever receive Communion."

Picture: bishop smirking behind his hand.
"...but if you're a pedophile priest, we'll just move you to another parish."

So basically, he's saying that two wrongs mean nothing can ever again be wrong. This is particularly unfair as Archbishop O'Malley (to whose pronouncement he is referring) has been one of the good guys helping to get rid of the pedophiles and bind the wounds of the pedophiles' victims. But let's not let truth get in the way of a good distortion.

So I would like to present a challenge to my readers. Let's recaption Mr. Peters' speech balloons!

Bishops That Mike Peters Might Like Better Than O'Malley:

"Being Catholic means respecting life."
"...For felons, I mean, not fetuses."

"If we're in a state of grace, Communion gives us life."
"But if we're in the state of Massachusetts, it's more important to give babies death!"

"Because of the pedophile scandal, we can never again make a moral judgement."
"...Permanent vacation!"

For Folks Who Think O'Malley Said Too Little:

"Rape kids -- zero tolerance. Kill kids -- zero communion."
"...But we'll let your nonexistent conscience enforce that last one."

What If Archbishop O'Malley Was Really Strict?

"We'll support Mr. Kerry's position on the separation of church and state..."
"...if he'll promise to separate from this Church and this state!"

The "Books That Changed Your Life" Meme

If Terry Teachout and my friend Az are doing it, I suppose I shall have to do likewise. I'm only sorry I can't be as revealing.

1. Flip by Wesley Dennis. It's a great book. It's a beautiful book. However, it's cruel to give a colt wings and then reveal that it was only a dream, even if there's more story after that and a happy ending. If I ever ever write a story that was only a dream, you'll know that I have cruelly betrayed my inner two-year-old fangirl. But this was also the book which showed me that I really liked fantasy, so I can't hate it too much.

2. The Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. I loved the fantasy series, and I was delighted when I finally figured out Aslan's secret identity at seven or so. My love for story arcs, high medieval and classical folklore, and my stubborn counterculturalism were all fed by this novel. But it's the eschatological vision that has stayed with me.

3. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I'd read The Hobbit when I was younger, of course, but I kept bouncing off the scariness after Bilbo's party. When I was six or seven, I finally girded up my loins and fled past the Black Riders. I read all three over a weekend or so, and was caught for the rest of my life. I majored in linguistics because of Tolkien. Unfortunately, nobody told me that Tolkien had watched his beloved philology die and be replaced by linguistics. Sigh.

4. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. When I was 15, nobody else was telling me that I didn't have to feel what other people thought appropriate. Dorothy L. Sayers stood up for me. She very likely saved my life.

5. Larousse's Mythology, in one of the older editions with the Robert Graves introduction. Back when I was a big fan of Mighty Isis (isis isis isis) on TV, my parents bought me Larousse at the Dayton/Montgomery County book sale. I learned all about all kinds of gods, some neat and some repulsive. I learned all kinds of things about philology and archaeology and anthropology...and unlike Az, I felt no inclination whatsoever to become a pagan. I just loved the stories and pictures. (Though I did feel kind of embarrassed by all the nekkid Greek statues.) Possibly this is because I was so disappointed in the real Mighty Isis (isis isis isis), although the whole saga of sewing Osiris back together had its moments. But it gave me a real window into worlds full of stories and poetry, which most people today have trouble referencing.

6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Meg was another one who saved my life and taught me a lot about my religion. Also the book that made me realize I was a science fiction fan.

7. Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl. The book that eventually made me a Star Trek fan, and definitely the book that made me want to be a writer. It was amazingly impressive to a fourth-grader, and it still holds up as a darned good book. I have three copies on my shelf, thank you very much. Meeting the author online was an amazing experience for me. (She happened to join the same mailing list I was on. I saw her name and couldn't help asking if she was in any way related to that Engdahl...about five minutes ahead of all her other fans on the list....) Her return to the world of publishing has been a delight to my soul. I only wish she'd get the urge to write some new fiction.

8. The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust. The novel that opened up all those glorious 19th century novels to me. I thought I'd read Dumas...but I hadn't. I thought I'd read Austen...but I was wrong. Even my beloved Sabatini came to new life after reading Brust's loving tribute. I only wish I'd bought the darned book in hardcover.

9. The Story of a Soul by St. Therese de Lisieux. Insofar as I have ever been a mystic or know anything about theology, I got there by following Therese. Knox's translation is a lot better than what I read in school, so try that.

10. Le Ton Beau de Marot by Douglas Hofstadter. Got me off my butt and doing translations. A dazzling and heartbreaking read.

Fanfic Through the Grinder

Facing the truth can be mighty uncomfortable. I'm sad to say that, when I put my fanfic through, it came up as almost 30% written in the passive voice. Just like the previous sentence.

All are becoming dead. Oh, the embarrassment.