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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Calendar Girl

When I was a little school girl, I had a terrible time with math. There is something about even talking about numbers that makes my brain shut off. I'm sure men know this feeling. It's the feeling they get when woman talk about shoes.

Or handbags.

It's an oddly painful sort of shut down, the kind that makes you want to cry if that math talk continues. Worse, you are being asked to do something about the math talk, to come up with some sort of answer or conclusion.

At least men only have to nod about the shoes.

I know, for example, that how we figure out when Lent starts and what on what day Easter will fall is not rocket science. It's just that as soon as someone starts in with, "It's the the first blah, blah after the second blah blah in the blah blah blah....." and the word 'equinox' is in there, my brain is outta there. I just look at the calender, the end.

So you can imagine my chagrin when I got this question (and thank you for today's opportunity to suffer):

Since we are now in Lent, could you explain "Ember Days"? I have never heard of them!

Hear that big click? That was my brain.

I was giving a talk a few years ago and someone in the audience asked me, "Sister, what are Rogation Days and Ember Days?"


I answered, "Rogation Days are the days we set aside to pray that our hair grows back."

That's not really the answer.

Ember days were days of fasting that happened four times a year. In the old pagan days, there were three times set aside for some kind of idol worshiping prayers to the gods for a good harvest, a good grape crop and a good seed planting. The early Church grabbed up all the pagan holidays they could to make them relevant to a life in Christ and made these times into days of fasting. They added a four set somewhere in there and voila, there are your ember days.

If figuring out exactly when they are makes you want to cry, like it does me, don't worry about it. Ember days were made optional at the discretion of the bishop after Vatican II. Just another reason I am a fan of many of the changes of Vatican II, which puts me at odds with lots of Catholics.

But just for the sake of knowledge and information and so that we don't go the way of the Oxford Junior Dictionary here is a rundown of when the Ember Days would have landed from the Old Farmer's Almanac:

Definition: The Almanac traditionally marks the four periods formerly observed by the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches for prayer, fasting, and the ordination of clergy. These Ember Days are the Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays that follow in succession after (1) the First Sunday in Lent; (2) Whitsunday–Pentecost; (3) the Feast of the Holy Cross, September 14; and (4) the Feast of St. Lucia, December 13. The word ember is perhaps a corruption of the Latin quatuor tempora, "four times." Folklore has it that the weather on each of the three days foretells the weather for three successive months; that is, for September’s Ember Days, Wednesday forecasts weather for October, Friday for November, and Saturday for December.

So today would have been your Ember Day, if you had known about it. Clearly, your bishop is an Ember Day dropper. At any rate, you would fast, which would mean only one full meal today. It's not too late, if you want to get on the band wagon, if you had a light breakfast and a light lunch or skipped breakfast or had a full lunch....you can still get it in there.

Rogation days are also movable. Hooray for calendars and the people who make them. They were completely dropped after Vatican II, but were completely revived again in 1988. They also have to do with prayers for a good harvest.

Here's the Wikipedia explanation

Major Rogation

The first Rogation, the Greater Litanies, was introduced as a Christian substitute for a Roman pagan celebration , which was a special celebration to pray for crops. This day is observed on April 25. If Easter falls on this day, the latest possible, the Rogations are transferred to Tuesday, April 27.

Minor Rogations

The second set of Rogation days, the Lesser Litanies or Rogations, introduced about ad 470 by Bishop Mamertus of Vienne and eventually adopted elsewhere, are the three days (Rogation Monday, Rogation Tuesday and Rogation Wednesday) immediately before Ascension Thursday in the liturgical calendar.

The word "Rogation" comes from the Latin verb rogare, meaning "to ask," and was applied to this time of the liturgy because the Gospel reading for the previous Sunday included the passage "Ask and ye shall receive" (Gospel of John 16:24). The Sunday itself was often called Rogation Sunday as a result, and marked the start of a three-week period (ending on Trinity Sunday), when Roman Catholic and Anglican clergy did not solemnize marriages (two other such periods of marital prohibition also formerly existed, one beginning on the first Sunday in Advent and continuing through the Octave of Epiphany, or 13 January, and the other running from Septuagesima until the Octave of Easter, the Sunday after Easter).

Excuse me while I wipe the tears from my eyes.


Chunks of Reality said...

Just reading the explanation of the days really did my head in. I can't read it all, I'm sorry, Sister!

I am not Catholic (not sure what I am), but the Catholic faith is quite interesting! Thanks for always sharing the knowledge. I love to learn about it. :)

Anonymous said...

I hear you, Sister Mary Martha.. I did quite well in math, until 8th grade, when I was confronted with algebra. What made it worse was our teacher, Mr. Crane... a shallow, vain man, who flirted with female students, selecting a favorite to massage his shoulders. Crane also wore madras blazers, drove a dusty pink MG, and instead of a photo of his wife on his desk (he did have one, we'd see her at school dances) he had one of his sheepdog, Lance, framed.

Mr. Crane burbled off algebra facts, and rarely if ever wrote examples of algebra formulas on the board. I stopped asking questions, as I began to feel like an idiot, it was my first time failing a class. I repeated the course, and failed again.

When my daughter started junior high, I noticed she had difficulty, and ended up getting her a very good tutor. He carefully showed her how to understand algebra, and as he was a retired teacher, he had some insight into the reasons why some students had problems with such things, he realized that she was a visual learner, while talking with him, I realized that what he'd described applied to me as well. I finally learned how to do algebra in my early 40s. :)

Anonymous said...

Now, that I have stopped laughing.....
Praying for a good crop was important, still is if you realize where that stuff in the cans and frozen food section comes from and you are on a budget and can't afford a $5.00 bag of veggies, or fruit.

My children hate math too. And I have heard the "click" many times. Luckily, or maybe not, I know when they have clicked out and either stop for the day or give them a short break. Can't do that in a regular class room.

Claudia said...

With that lengthly explaination, I can honestly say "my brain hurts."

Anonymous said...

SMM, whoever the patron Saint of finding great, funny, appropriate pictures on the Internet is... you must pray to him daily!

Sister Mary Martha said...

I need an aspirin:

Anonymous said...

Sister, wouldn't Wednesday, Friday & Saturday be the Ember Days this season? ("So today would have been your Ember Day..." but today is [and your blog is dated for] Monday.) ??

Janelle said...

Way to suffer for the team, Sister. I saw a female math Ph.D. today, and neither of us knew that there was a mathematical holiday tomorrow! :)

Feisty Irish Wench said...

Did you hear that rattling? That was my marble rolling in my skull. I was born post Vatican II, so a lot of this is just plain "news to me". My dad is way pre-Vatican II and never mentioned any of this to me.

Anonymous said...

I have a saint matching question for you. A friend of mine's daughter was diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago. Her husband was just recently diagnosed with cancer. She is highly religious but even she has had about all she can take. Who would be a good patron saint for her?

Thanks for all your words of wisdom. I always enjoy reading what you have to say.

-- Jennifer

Anonymous said...

The thing to remember is to plant your potatoes on Good Friday.
If you're on a budget grow your own veggies. Many can even be grown in containers on decks of apartments.
Veggies frozen at the peak of freshness are better than 'fresh' that have sat out. Canned is too much sodium. Name brands are the best of the crop and the second rate of the crop goes to the store brands, so buy name brands if possible.
Just thought I'd write about something that makes sense trying to stop my head from spinning after reading this post. Whoa.

Anonymous said...

Sister, this doesn't sound like math, so much as it sounds like the rules to a very complicated board game. I have a few of them sitting in a closet--they have a thick book of rules, and I'd need to spend a day reading them before I even play the game!l


Anonymous said...

Dear Sister,

I've been reading your blog for some time now and I really, really love it!

I have few questions about gossip:

1) How does one differentiate between gossip and 'sharing concern'?

2) If someone starts gossiping to me about another person and I just listen, am I gossiping too?

3) If some is gossiping to me about another person, should I walk away? Should I call the person on his/her gossip? Should I defend the gossipee?

I've always learned that people who gossip about others will surely at one point or another gossip about me. How can I stay away from gossipers? How can I ensure not to gossip myself?

Any tips or pointers would surely be appreciated.

Thanks much,


Janelle said...

Happy Square Root Day, Sister! What do you suppose they called March 3rd three years ago?

Anonymous said...

OK, that was hard. I hate math, and I also hate complicated directions. I am very impressed with your explanation!! I'll just stick to daily mass, and if it's an important day, I am sure the priest will mention something.

I have a question for you. On several Christian (NOT Catholic) blogs I read, they keep talking about all these "signs" that the Rapture (??) is coming, and saying we need to get ourselves out of debt and read the book of Revelation. What are they talking about? I am guessing something about how the world is going to end?

What is the Catholic take on all of this? I have noticed, in the last couple of days the priests have been talking more about Judgement Day because of the reading we just had about separating the sheep from the goats. Do we think the world is coming to an end, too??

(I know this probably sounds like some wacky question, but I am actually really serious about trying to figure this out!!)

Anonymous said...

My Mom was a hospital nurse in the 1930's, and told us of being able to write the date, 1-2-34 in the hospital daybook.

Years later I wrote the date, 5-6-78 in the records book of business I was an owner of. It was kinda neat.

Anonymous said...

I hear more than a click. I get those giant iron doors like on 'Get Smart' when he walks down the hallway and door after door shuts behind him.

Just to complicate things further though, Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers said a few years back that the 2 small meals and one large is an old wives tale and there are really no specific guidelines for fasting.

I'm one of those 'five small meals/day' types, so the 'rules' always made me crazy anyway. I've never seen a conversion chart for the meals, but I'm sure it would work up into a nice algebraic formula. Anybody out there want to take it on?

Anonymous said...

For each one of us the end of the world could come any day. The day I die will be the end of the world for me. It is with that knowledge that I listen to any reminder in scripture to repent and live right.
Barbara from Indiana

Anonymous said...

For those of us who struggle with the math, we can joyfully celebrate National Grammar Day today instead! http://nationalgrammarday.com/

Unknown said...

OK, now I've got me some Roger Rabbit eyes. That's. Just. Great.:>)

Unknown said...

PS. Thanks for your comment over my way on my post about my questions on Lent. I will take you up on your suggestion to review your Lenten posts. Did the search already and Holy Moley:>) Got a little distracted by the pictures of a Boston Cream Pie and the ever-lovely Audrey Hepburn. I'll read them tonight when I can actually utilize both sides of my brain. thank you again.

Granny Annie said...

I understood the dog eating the homework part then you lost me.

Sarah - Kala said...

Kristie - the rapture is a purely evengelical/protestant belief that the pure of heart will be sucked into Heaven w/out warning; the rest of us will be stuck here and get a second chance if all the dern plagues and pestulences etc. don't do us in first; the antichirst will have his thousand days or something and then those who don't get the mark of the beast etc. will get to reign on earth with Christ. Here's the thing: the rapture makes zero sense when you understand the Catholic perspective. PLEASE don't let that stuff "get to you". Read Scott Hahn's Marriage Supper of the Lamb to understand Revelation. Essentially: Revelation is the Mass. Scott Hahn is a worthy read.

Maureen said...

Thank you for that explanation - it's terribly complicated, isn't it! However, I have recently come to place much greater value on the liturgical seasons, since I live in a part of the world where seasonal change means hot or hotter, with perhaps a little less hot thrown in for a day or two if we are lucky!
Since I have fled, with great relief, back to the Latin Mass of my pre-Vatican 2 upbringing, I think you are right, and the bishop must have revived these Ember Days, because I have no memory of them from my childhood.