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Archive for July, 2010

Papa

In Lutheran theology, all believers are saints, but the Lutheran calendar does occasionally give a nod to particular believers throughout the year. After listing the names, the calendar will give a designation: “renewer of the Church”, martyr, confessor, apostle, etc. to indicate why the special nod to these particular believers. For today, one Lutheran calendar reads: Johann Sebastian Bach, 1750; Heinrich Schutz , 1672; and George Frideric Handel,1759, musicians. Another notes “Johann Sebastian Bach, Kantor.” As you can see, Lutherans favor understatement.

G.F.

There’s no point saying anything about Bach and Handel. As far more knowledgeable people than I have pontificated at great length on these two extraordinary musicians and their even more extraordinary oeuvres. And why should I waste time with words, when you can listen to their music?

Say it with your best Col. Klink accent: Schutz!

Schutz is less well known today, even though he was the most influential German composer of the 17th century and the first internationally known German composer, having studied in Italy under Gabrielle and holding a post in Danish court. His work was almost exclusively sacred in nature and is still performed even by run of the mill churches. I can say that because I’ve sung Schutz and you don’t get more run of the mill than I.

Properly I should have a huge bakeoff with an assortment of German, English, and Italian treats, because Bach and Handel at least were notable eaters. But time being as it is, I have only a coffee cloud pie to offer up to Sts. Johann Sebastian, Heinrich, and George Frideric, Why this selection? Coffee was crazily popular in Europe when Bach and Handel were composing. It was such a craze that Bach even wrote a cantata about it—which he put on in his local coffee house—showing that the best saints are fully in touch with both God and man.

Should you wish to know a bit more about the extraordinary man who was Johan Sebastian Bach and his music I recommend a delightful book, An Evening in the Palace of Reason.

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Always Beautiful Anne: July 26

All Annes are beautiful.
-Old proverb

My personal experience with Annes confirms this saying. They’ve all been beautiful in more ways than one.

St. Anne must have been something herself. Anne and her first husband Joachim are popularly reputed to be the parents of the Virgin Mary. Popularly, because there is no mention of them in the Bible. References to them in legendary literature, however, inspired veneration in the Middle East, veneration that the Crusaders brought back with them to Europe.

Devotion to Anne spread throughout Europe and even into the New World. She is the Patroness of Brittany and Canada, and the patroness of married women, childless couples, and women looking to be married. After all, Anne was reputedly married three times, and thus was thought to have a special interest in matching couples. Young women implored her:

I beg you, holy mother Anne,
Send me a good and loving man.

So popular was the devotion to Anne that many areas in Europe celebrated her day as “a festival of all Annas,” a festival of all beautiful girls. On St. Anne’s Eve, debutantes were received into the society and balls and festivals were held on the day, Both Johann Strauss 1 and II wrote Anna polkas for the occasion.

Because she was so identified with fertility, she also was considered the patron on rain. In Italy they say that “rain is Saint Anne’s gift.” Germans called July rain “Saint Anne’s dowry.”

It is through the rain that St. Anne made another influential contribution to the Western world. In July of 1505, a young German law student was caught in a terrible thunderstorm. Terrified, the law student cried out, “Save me, St. Anna, and I shall become a monk!” Having survived the storm, the student went against his parents’ wishes and honored his vow, entering an Augustinian monastery two weeks later.

The student’s name was Martin Luther.

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