Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Michaelmas after all

Mondays are usually my day off, and I try hard not to go into the office or do any work on my day off. (Well, work I get paid for.) As it happens, Michaelmas fell on Monday this year. I thought about offering mass on Michaelmas, but seeing as it was Monday, I assumed someone somewhere was offering mass.

For my liturgically handicapped readers, Michaelmas is the feast day of St. Michael and All Angels. If you think you have heard of it, you may have come across the name in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Scrooge uses it in the beginning, ironically, when he is ordering his clerk, Bob Cratchit, to go and collect money from a man named Poppegill who has "owed me money since Michaelmas." Bob meekly protests, as apparently Poppegill's wife has been ill. Scrooge then tells Bob to forget it, as "Nevermind, he's probably closed up for Christmas like all these other fools."

In any event, Michaelmas (pronouced Micklemas) traditional was a major feast day in the middle ages to St. Michael the archangel and subsequently all angels. The Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say about it:
"His feast (29 September) in the Middle Ages was celebrated as a holy day of obligation, but along with several other feasts it was gradually abolished since the eighteenth century (see FEASTS). Michaelmas Day, in England and other countries, is one of the regular quarter-days for settling rents and accounts; but it is no longer remarkable for the hospitality with which it was formerly celebrated. Stubble-geese being esteemed in perfection about this time, most families had one dressed on Michaelmas Day. In some parishes (Isle of Skye) they had a procession on this day and baked a cake, called St. Michael's bannock."


Maybe I live in a backward world, but at least in my formative years, Michaelmas was still viewed as holy day of obligation. At St Paul's, where I interned as seminarian, there was a shrine to St. Michael and mass on St. Michael's feast day. I remember there was a procession and banquet at the church I went to in England for Michaelmas, as well as the fall seminary term was referred to as the Michaelmas Term (both at Seabury and Westcott House). Needless to day, I am quite fond of Michaelmas.

I was somewhat horrified to learn yesterday that there was not a single church in Lincoln, Nebraska, that was doing anything for Michaelmas. I was not surprised that the Episcopal churches were not celebrating it, but as conservative a Roman Catholic diocese as Lincoln is, I was quite surprised that none of the RC churches were doing anything either. Even the Tridentine Latin church around the corner wasn't.

Luckily, St Mark's has a Tuesday noon mass, and the presider decided to use the Michaelmas readings and propers, so I got my Michaelmas fix anything.

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