Catholic South Park

Matt and Trey once said they had converted to Catholicism. You can take that with a grain of salt. But because they said it and becuase they've depicted various aspect of Catholicism on South Park, including the presence of a nun at church and phone calls to the Vatican, I include information about the Church and the holidays it observes here. Enjoy.

Scandal in the Church

A plotline for an upcoming episode in South Park: Remaining at the top of current events, South Park also shines the spotlight on the Catholic Church's clergymen and their "affinity" for young boys.
The Church's hierarchy has for many years swept the problem of priestly pedophilia under the rug, usually by tranferring guilty priests from parish to parish, hoping those priests would find the error of their ways while those priests simply molested other kids. Some priests have risen through the ranks to become bishops and have unfortunately been the ones to protect their fellow priests from being accused of pedophilia or have sent the priests off to other parishes. You can follow the scandal in these papers:
New Times L.A. (no longer in existence) - Legacy of Shame, about Cardinal Roger Mahnoy's role in letting this scandal spin out of control (and even creating it) while he finishes up on the new cathedral known as the Roj Mahal or the Taj Mahony - fiddling with a mere building while the Church burns. It also covers the L.A. Times' failure to cover the scandal more aggresively (indeed, its role in keeping this out of the headlines), and Police Chief Steve Cooley's reluctance at going after the guilty priests and even after Mahony (anyone else would have been arrested and held in jail already, but the priests remain free while Cooley negotiates with Mahony).
The Boston Globe - Abuse in the Catholic Church, about Cardinal Bernard Law's role in this sexual scandal in the city where it broke first.
December 14, 2002 - Bernard Law has resigned from his post, and Pope John Paul II has accepted it. One cardinal gone, another one to follow. Law may yet be arrested for his part in this scandal.

Biblical teachings

Matthew 18:15-17 tells what Christians should do when a fellow Christians sins
  1. Talk to the Christian and get him to stop the sin. If he stops, you've turned him around.
  2. If he doesn't stop, get a few more Christians and talk to him. And keep an eye on him
  3. If he still doesn't stop, tell the congregation about his sin and have the congregation shun him.
If it's a priest or bishop who sins, it means no longer listening to any pronouncements he makes. If the cleric is serious about reforming himself, results will follow. In the scandal at hand, bishops simply shuffled the priests around, which removed our right as Christians to expose the priests for who they are, and the priests simply molested more children, which did not produce the desired results.
In the New Testament, both Jesus and Paul say that we should listen to local authorities and follow the laws of the land. In this case, the bishops didn't follow the laws concerning pedophilia. Instead of turning the guilty priests in, they just sent them elsewhere, as mentioned above. In Mahony's case, he's been stalling, and Cooley's been dropping the ball. I wouldn't be surprised if a few cardinals are arrested for obstruction of justice, if not for aiding and abetting known felons.
The Church, though, will survive this, as it has the Great Schism and the Protestant Reformation. Changed? Perhaps. Hopefully for the better. It will suffer, as it should, but it will survive.

After The Episode

The episode was supposed to be one the Catholic Church didn't want you to see; it was supposed to be one about pedophilia, but that's not where it went.
The first thing wrong was that the scandal isn't about pedophilia, it's about ephebophilia, or molesting teenagers. It's been suggested that because boys are asked to join the seminary before they turn 18, they don't develop sexually. Their sexual development remains at an adolescent level, so they're attracted to adolescents long after they've become adults.
The second thing wrong is that the focus moved from pedo-priests to the rules found in the code of canon law, especially those concerning priestly celibacy and legislative procedures. That's pretty dry stuff, and certainly removed from the controversy at hand. Now to the issues they did cover correctly.
Matt and Trey did get it right when they had the other priests try to find ways to keep victims quiet rather than to stop all the sexual misconduct in their ranks.
They also got it right in that it takes a long time for administrative changes to be made in a synod or council. Still, the local diocese or archdiocese has autonomy over much of Church law - the rules in effect in one diocese may not be in effect in other dioceses. But when a scandal sweeps acros the Church as the current scandal has, then a synod is held to address it and maybe make policy for the whole Church.
The Catholic League has weighed in on the episode with the following quote:
The promo is dishonest. The scandal in the Church is not about priests having sex with prepubescent boys. It is about priests having sex with postpubescent young men. The former is called pedophilia and the latter is called homosexuality. So if Stone and Parker really had guts, they would do a show on gay priests. But, of course, like so many other intellectually dishonest elites in our society, they will go to any length to protect homosexuals.
Actually, they probably WOULD do a show on gay priests. They've done one on gay bathhouses and one on NAMBLA - all they'd need to do is put priests there instead of lay men or NAMBLA members. Because they support gay rights, the priests would be shown as loving couples at odds with church teaching. They'd still protect homosexuals while protesting Church teaching on chastity. Simple to do, not cowardly at all.
And the issue isn't homosexuality either, unless the altar boys are willing partners. The issue is ephebophilia, which is sex with a teenager. Must exploits by priests are with boys who are entering puberty and don't really know what's going on till years later.

Easter

Pentecost - the Fifty Days

Fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead, the Holy Spirit swept into the Upper Room, where the apostles were gathered, soon after sunrise and transformed the apostles. This is considered the Church's birthday.

The Ascension

Forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, he rose up to heaven in plain view, so the Acts of the Apostles say, and an angel appeared next to the apostles and asked them why they were looking up at the sky.

Easter Sunday and the Easter Triduum

The Easter Triduum comprise Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, from sunset Thursday to sunset Sunday (more below). But this requires a short explanation of Christian views of Holy Week. Catholics hold that Jesus died on a Friday afternoon and rose sometime before Sunday morning, making his rest in the tomb a bit more than a day and a half. Other Christians hold that Jesus was buried right at sunset Wednesday and rose 72 hours later, just before sunset Sunday (seeing as how sunset gets later by one minuter per day at this time). But neither explains why Catholics observe the triduum from Thursday sunset to Sunday sunset. The Catholic answer is this: Sunday evening was the first evening since Jesus rose that he ate with the gathered Apostles. Three evening before was Thursday evening, the last evening Jesus ate with his apostles before dying. Thus, 72 hours passed between the Last Supper and the first supper after Jesus rose again. the three days in which Jesus died, went to sheol, and arose again.
Easter Sunday should rightly be called Passover Sunday or Paschal Sunday, for it was on the first day of the week (Sunday) after Passover (which Jesus celebrated with the Twelve, and from which the Mass arose) that his tomb was found empty. The Church's use of the word "Easter" in English while it uses forms of the word "Pesach" (Pascha, Pasqua, Pascuas, Pâques) in other languages is cause for many fundamentalist attacks on the customs the Church picked up from native cultures around that day. 'Course, this also means the Church should place this Sunday right on or after the true Passover.

The Paschal Triduum

Preparation Day - Wednesday night, Thursday

Jesus had his apostles prepare the upper room for the Passover meal. No leavened bread was to be found there, so this is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Passover.

First Day - Thusday night, Friday

This happened at the beginning of the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
The disciples gather and begin eating the Passover Meal. Jesus reveals that one of them was going to betray him.
Jesus breaks bread and shares the wind with his apostles. This marks the First Communion, the first instance of this sacrament.
A discussion follows as to which of the apostles is the greatest. Jesus settles the matter, saying that the greatest apostle is the one willing to serve the others. He promises them that they will eventually lead the Tribes of Israel, one apostle per tribe, and they will have their own thrones. He also tells them they must now be armed with a sword so they may preach with some defense.
They finished supper, sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives
Jesus tells them they will all abondon him, but that he will greet them again in Galilee after he rises from the dead. Peter vows that he will not abandon Jesus, but Jesus tells him he will, three times, by the time a rooster crows. Peter and the other apostles vow that won't happen.
The group travels to Gethsemane. Once they get there, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with him to a secluded place while the rest wait for them to return. Once the four are gone, Judas takes his leave.
Jesus then has Peter, James, and John keep watch while he walks on and anticipates the suffering he will undergo the following day. When he returns to the three, they're asleep. He wakes them, but then walks off to be sure if his Father wants him to go through with this. He returns again, only to find Peter, James, and John asleep. He wakes them a second time, but walks off a third time to see what God has to say. He returns, having received his answer, and rouses the three on to their feet. He tells them they must leave, as he sees the traitor coming.
Judas appears with a mob sent by the chief priests and rabbis, and indicates which of the four men to arrest by kissing Jesus on the cheek. Jesus is then arrested. One of the three apostles sliced off an ear of Caiaphas' slave. Jesus tells his apostles to take no further action, as things were happening as they should. Prophecies were being fulfilled. The apostles left him alone then, fulfilling what he said they would do just hours earlier.
Jesus is taken to Caiaphas, and Peter follows from a distance. Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin try Jesus, but find nothing to indict him on. Two men come forward to report Jesus' statement that he would tear down the Temple and raise it up again in three days. Jesus remains silent, so Caiaphas asks him if he is the Messiah. Jesus simply says, "if you say so," and then goes on to them him everyone will see the Son of Man sitting at God's side and coming down from heaven upon clouds. Caiaphas has had enough and asks the Sanhedrin if it has as well. He is charged with blasphemy and sentenced to death, blindfolded and taunted by Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin.
Outside, three different people recognize Peter as one of Jesus' followers, but he denies this each time. A rooster crows and Peter realizes he just did what Jesus said he'd do. He leaves Caiaphas' courtyard. Everyone turns in for the night
Early in the morning Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin send Jesus to Pilate. When Judas learns this he comes to the Sanhedrin and throws down the money they paid him to betray Jesus. He leaves and hangs himself. The priests collect the money and decide to buy a potter's field with it.
Pilate asks Jesus if he is the King of the Jews. Jesus answered as he did with Caiaphas: "if you say so," and says nothing more.
Pilate then brings him out to the crowd with another person marked for death and asks the crowd which one he should release. He goes inside as the crowd mulls over the choices. While inside, he gets word from his wife that he shouldn't have anything to do with Jesus, as he is innocent, and she had nightmares about his suffering.
Pilate lets the crowd decide the punishment. The crowd chooses Barabbas and calls for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate washes his hands to show that he indeed has nothing to do with the punishment Jesus was about to suffer, and that this was all on the crowd. The crowd gladly accepts responsibility. Pilate sets Barabbas free and has Jesus whipped and led away to the cross.
Pilate's soldiers take Jesus into custody and rough him up quite a bit. They fashioned a crown of thorns and placed it on Jesus. then beat him over the head with a stick. They harass him and then lead him to the cross.
On the way there, the soldiers come upon Simon of Cyrene and have him carry Jesus' crossbar, as Jesus is too weakened from the harassment earlier suffered at the soldiers' hands. Women would step forth from time to time to help Jesus. Among them are the wife of Zebedee, Mary of Migdal, and Mary, mother of James and Joseph. Jesus tells the women to cy for themselves and their children, not for him.
When they got to Golgotha they offered Jesus some bitter water, but Jesus tasted and then refused it.
They crucified him at 9 a.m., tore his clothes among them, watched him writhe, then crucified two bandits with him. The crowd, the soldiers, and even the two bandits all mocked Jesus. Some reminded him of his claim that he would tear down the Temple and build it back up in three days, and then of his incapacity to do this being crucified as he is. One of the bandits was remorseful, so Jesus promised him he'd be with Jesus in Paradise that afternoon, once both of them were dead.
At noon darkness came over the sky and lasted for three hours. Jesus cried out, asking God why he betrayed him. People thought he was calling out to Elijah to help him off the cross, and someone offered him a sponge soaked in cheap wine to see if this was so. It wasn't. At the end of the darkness Jesus died.
Upon his death, the earth shook and the Temple curtain was torn in two. The shaking was so strong that graves opened and gave up the souls of faithful Jews (their rolling stones just fell away from the grave entrances). The soldiers were awed by the earthquake and the torn curtain, and acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God
Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin who did believe Jesus was the Messiah, sees that Jesus had no tomb to be buried in and steps forth to offer his own future tomb. He goes to Pilate to get custody of the body. Pilate is surprised that Jesus had died so quickly, so he asks his guards to verify this. The guards return with verification, and Pilate permits Jospeh to take the body. Jesus is taken down from the cross. Joseph wraps Jesus up in a new sheet and buries him in the tomb. The two Marys mentioned earlier help in the burial and stay behind once the stone is rolled into place and Joseph leaves. Eventually, they leave to buy the ingredients needed to make the spices and perfumes they were going to apply to Jesus' body.

The Sabbath Day - Friday night, Saturday

Since this sabbath takes place during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, it is the High Sabbath
One can assume that the apostles got together for supper, the first one apart from Jesus, then rested for the Sabbath.
Pilate's soldiers remind him of Jesus' prediction of rising in three days and ask that the tomb be guarded so his followers wouldn't steal the corpse and then claim he rose again. Pilate sends soldiers there to secure it and seal it so no one can get near.

The Third Day - Saturday night, Sunday

One can assume that the apostles got together for supper again, the second one apart from Jesus.
The two Marys and the wife of Zebedee spent the evening preparing spices and perfumes for the body, then rested for the night
After Jesus rose again, the souls that were released from their tombs returned so that the living could see for themselves and believe.
Another earthquake struck. An angel appeared, rolled the tombstone away, and sat on the stone. The soldiers saw this, trembled, and passed out. The angel then went into the tomb and sat down.
At dawn the two Marys and Salome went to the tomb to check on it. They brought spices with them to anoint the body of Jesus. They found the stone rolled away and an angel waiting inside the tomb. They entered.
The angel told the women that Jesus had already risen and is now gone. He told them to tell the apostles that Jesus had risn and that he would meet them in Galilee, as said earlier. The women are frightened and run off without saying a word. They rush to find the apostles to tell them, but they run into Jesus first, and he reminds them to tell the apostles to go to Galilee. The women find the apostles and some others and tell them of their encounters with the angel and with Jesus, but they do not believe them.
The group breaks up to do their own things. Peter goes to the tomb to see for himself and then goes home. On the way home, he encounters fellow followers, who were in the group ealier, and tells them the women were right. These two followers went on to Emmaus, but encounter Jesus. He talks to them at length about what happened to Jesus, but they fail to recognize him until he breaks bread with them. They returned to Jerusalem to gather the apostles again and tell them what they encountered, telling them they had encountered Peter. The apostles remembered that Jesus wanted them in Galilee, so they get Peter and they all go there.
The soldiers recover and some of them go to the chief priests to tell them what happened overnight. The priests discuss this with the elders, then supply the soldiers with a large amount of money and an alibi: his apostles stole his body during the night. If Pilate were to get wind of this, the priests would vouch for the soldiers' innocence. The guards take the money and spread the report, "his apostles stole his body during the night," and that report was still making the rounds years later when Matthew was being written.
Once in Galilee, the apostles find a place to eat. Jesus finally appears to his apostles and chastises them for not believeing the women. He then asks for something to eat, showing them that he is indeed flesh and bone and not a ghost. Jesus now has full authority in heaven and earth, so he gives them their mandate: His disciples were to preach in his name, make as many people followers of Jesus as they could, have them repent and ask for forgiveness, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything he taught them. Whoever believes will be saved, whoever doesn't will not be. Believers will be given the power to perform miracles, exorcise demons, heal people, and speak in strange tongues. A few will be able to handle poisonous snakes or liquids and not be harmed.
After supper, Jesus takes his followers as far as Bethany, then leaves them to go to heaven. They walk the rest of the way to Jerusalem, joyful that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead.

Lent

The fact that English-speaking nations use pagan names (Lent, Easter) for Catholic feasts and fasts makes anti-Catholic attacks on the Church quite easy, and English-speaking peoples remain ignorant that the majority of the Church does not use these pagan names. The rest of the Church uses Quadragesima (Fortieth) and Pascha (Passover) instead.

The Forty Days

Lent is the period of 40 days preceding Jesus' Resurrection. It was created for the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert shortly before he began his ministry. Satan tempted Jesus on several occasions during that retreat, even offering him all the kingdoms of the world if only Jesus would pray to him. Jesus refused. This is the model of self-denial for the Catholic observance of Lent - one should give up something he or she really wants for the forty days Lent covers. That Lent lasts for 40 days shows that "Lent" is not the word used in other languages for that period of time. The word used is "Quadragesima" - Latin for 40th. And in other languages:
Quaresima - Italian
Cuaresma - Spanish
Carême - French

Good Friday and Fish Fridays

Good Friday was originally God Friday, for it was on that day that Jesus was crucified. Purists would point out that for Jesus to be risen by Sunday morning, he would need to have been buried by the evening three days before the first day of the week began, which on Jewish calendars is Saturday evening. Three nights before that is Wednesday evening, and Jesus would then have been crucified on Wednesday morning. This also takes into account the two Sabbaths purists point out - the High Passover Sabbath on Thursday (holidays are Sabbaths, too) and the regular Sabbath on Saturday So... Good Wednesday.
It's possible, though, for Jesus to have been crucified between Sabbaths, on Friday morning. Jesus would have been arrested Tuesday evening after the Last Supper and interrogated by Caiaphas that night. The Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate would interview him several times on Wednesday, convict him, and then discuss a sentence. They would then break for Passover Sabbath Wednesday evening and Thursday, returning Friday morning to carry out the sentence. Between 3 p.m. and sunset, Jesus' body was taken down (3 p.m.) and permission received from Pilate to bury it (3:10 - 3:15). Once the tomb was chosen (3:20 - 3:30), the women rushed home to prepare spices and such, and were ready to bury Jesus shortly before sunset (say, 5:30 p.m. - sunset).
Fish Fridays follows from Jesus' death on Good Friday and his representation as a fish in early Christianity. Also, fasting was the norm on Wednesdays and Fridays in the second century, so the three were combined - people fasted and stuck to eating fish on Friday, as a way to remember what Jesus did for us. This was a year-round custom in the Church until recently. Now fish Fridays are for Lent only.

Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday is holy because it was on that day that Jesus had his Last Supper, which was the Passover seder and the basis for the Mass. But following from the first paragraph above, it should be Holy Tuesday

Palm Sunday

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that day, and the crowds welcomed him with palm fronds and laid them at his donkey's feet. But he didn't enter Jerusalem to claim victory for anything, just to prepare for his death, for he felt he was destined to die there.

Stations of the Cross

This does not involve crucifying one of your friends, as the boys did to Cartman in "Spontaneous Combustion." It involves taking scenes from Jesus' path to his death on the cross and contemplating the events in the scenes before moving on to the next one. The Stations:
  1. Jesus is condemned to death (Kyle comdemns Cartman to death) Matthew 27:15-26, Mark 15:6-15, Luke 23:13-25, John 18:39-19:16
  2. Jesus bears his cross (Cartman carries his cross) John 19:17.
  3. Jesus falls the first time
  4. Jesus meets his mother (Cartman greets his mom after station 11)
  5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross (Stan and Kyle carry Cartman off after station 11) Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26.
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus A linen cloth said to have an image of Jesus' face imprinted on it has been around in Europe for centuries. It is said a woman approached Jesus to wipe the sweat and blood building up on his face as he went to Golgotha. When she took a good look at what she collected, it's said that she saw an image of Jesus' face there. That image is called the True Image, Vera Icon. The letters in that term were rearranged to provide a name to the woman who had that cloth: Veronica. If there was a woman who actually did approach Jesus and wipe his face, her real name is lost to us.
  7. Jesus falls a second time
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem Luke 23-27-28
  9. Jesus falls a third time
  10. Jesus is stripped of his garments (Cartman gets to keep his) Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:33
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross (Kyle ties Cartman to the cross) Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:33, John 19:18
  12. Jesus dies on the cross (after station 5, the boys hoist Cartman upright in a field and leave him there. The boys find Cartman still on the cross after three weeks, very thin, but alive.) Matthew 27:45-56, Mark 15:33-41, Luke 23:44-49, John 19:28-30
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross. (They don't take Cartman down) Matthew 27:57-59, Mark 15:42-46a, Luke 23:50-53a, John 19:38-40
  14. Jesus is placed in the tomb Matthew 27:60, Mark 15:46b, 23:53b, , John 19:41-42
  15. A fifteenth station has been observed in many churches: the empty tomb, the Resurrection. That shouldn't be observed until the Easter season arrives, from Easter Sunday to Pentecost.
Peter denying Jesus occurs long before Jesus is condemned.
In the Protestant mind, the Stations without Scriptural references are usually taken to mean the events mentioned in them didn't happen, since they are unrecorded in Scripture. In the Catholic mind, they might have happened. They might be all that heppened, or they might be just some of what happened, but their inclusion here doesn't really add or subtract from the events recorded in Scripture. What isn't recorded? Jesus meeting his mom while carrying his cross, Veronica wiping Jesus' face, and the three falls.
Stations 2 and 5: John has Jesus carrying his cross to Golgotha and doesn't mention Simon, but the Synoptic Gospels have Jesus being led to Golgotha while Simon is pressed into service. The Stations reconcile the contradiction by having Jesus carry his cross until he fell the first time, then having Simon carry the cross with him. That Simon was pressed into carrying Jesus' cross is a good indication that Jesus fell at least once, as he would be too weak to hold even himself up.
Only John mentions the chief priests opposing the way Pilate had worded his notice that Jesus was the King of the Jews.

Ash Wednesday

The first day of Lent, the time of year in which the days lengthen on either side of the vernal equinox. This period of time was slapped on the Catholic season of Quadragesima, the forty days of fasting and contemplation (not counting Sundays) before Easter Sunday. Quadragesima was set up to mirror Jesus' forty days in the desert before his ministry began. The actual Lent now last 37 and 3/4 days, ending on Holy Thursday's evening Mass, as that is basically the Lord's Supper, which was part of a full seder. The length of time between this supper and the one he had with his disciples the day he rose again: three days exact.
On Ash Wednesday we receive crosses of ash on our foreheads. On that day we are reminded of our mortality, to be mindful of it, as preparation for our self-denial. Mardi Gras

And what better way to prepare for self-denial than to party? :)


Christmas

The Reason behind the Twelve Days of Christmas

It's just a nice way to strengthen one's Christian faith during the Christmas season. There are reports that it was a way for Catholics to bolster their faith during the time of persecution in England from 1558 until 1829, but there's nothing uniquely Catholic about the meanings of the gifts, so that little history doesn't make sense.

There's just one more thing to say about the Christmas season, and that has to do with Groundhog Day.

February 2, Groundhog Day — Before this day became popular in America, there was another holiday, a minor Christian one celebrated on that day. We begin with December 24, the eve on which Jesus is born, and add forty days to it - December 64. Take away 31 for December and 31 for January, and we get 2, in February, so February 2. This day commemorated the day in which Jesus was brought to the Temple and Mary purified, as dictated in Leviticus 12:1-4 (7 days mensis + 33 days including mensis), 6-8 (the two turtledoves came from there). It used to be called Candlemas, for the candles used in a procession (and that seems to be based on a pagan procession that used candles), but now it's called the Presentation of the Lord (candles optional).

The King of Christmas:

For several years now I've felt that the holiday season began at Halloween and ended on the Day of Epiphany. The Book of Christmas has borne this out, only it has the holiday season going from Halloween to Candlemas (October 31 to February 2). And this time period was ruled by the King of Christmas, who was known as the King of the Bean or the Lord of Misrule in England, the Abbot of Unreason in Scotland, and l'Abbé de la Malgouvernée.(Abbot of Mismanagment) in France. He was the master of the Christmas revels, the author of Christmas pleasures. Sometimes, though, he only reigned during the Twelve Days of Christmas, and those days were a topsy-turvy time in days of old: Men would dress as women and women as men, servants would be masters and masters would be servants, and people would even dress as animals. Now the types of pleasures the King used to hold can be seen during Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnaval in Brazil.

Some notes on Santa: the Santa Claus we know today is based on the Germanic god Thor, who was associated with winter and the Yule log and rode on a chariot drawn by goats named Cracker and Gnasher (compare these goats with the eight reindeer Santa was seen with in "Twas The Night Before Christmas").

Here's a list of entities who used to deliver gifts (from the Book of Christmas, part of Time-Life's Enchanted World book series), and the days they delivered them on. All of them figure into the present Christmas celebrations.

December 6 -

St. Nicholas, based on Bishop Nicholas of Myra. His generosity lives on in Santa Claus (Holland and Germany - he rode on a horse and delivered shoe stuffers in exchange for hay and carrots for his horse. He had an assistant, Knecht Ruprecht, who doled out punishment with a switch. This version of St. Nick was based on Odin as well as Thor), and other figures included Father Christmas (Britain - replacing St. Nick), and the Christmas Man (other Protestant countries). St. Nick delivered gifts on this day in anticipation of Christmas, but the Catholic idea of saints and their feast days was quashed by the Protestants, and so the day of gift-giving was moved from the 6th to the 25th. And so did a newly-secular Santa.

December 24, Christmas Eve -

the Julnissen and Jultomten (Norway and Sweden - household elves who hid presents)
Christkindl (Germany - an angel who rode on a tiny deer and passed out sweets and toys). Kris Kringle is a corruption of Christkindl.
Kolyáda (Russia - a white-robed elf-maiden who rode a sleigh from house to house and passed out treats to carolers)

January 5, Epiphany Eve -

Befana (Italy, from Epifana - an old woman who rode on a broom and gave either presents or coal)

The Twelve Days of Christmas

January 6 — Epiphany of Jesus. The Wise Men finally showed up to pay homage to Jesus, whose star they saw in the East. They brought three presents: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Gold - the gift worthy of a King of Kings
Frankincense - the gift worthy of a High Priest
Myrrh - the gift worthy of the Suffering Servant
And who is my True Love? God the Father, for He does not fail me. I trust in Him, and He comes through as no human can. And as any father and child, we have our disagreements, but when I need Him, He's there.
It turns out that this day was the original day of Christmas, and is still Christmas in the Orthodox Churches. It was moved to December 25 in the Catholic Church to fight off the influence of Dies Natalis Solis Invictus - the Invincible Sun's birthday became the Invincible Son's birthday.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me

Twelve Drummers Drumming
The Twelve Points of belief in the Apostle's Creed - I believe
1. in God the Father Almighty Creator of Heaven and earth
2. in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;
3. that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
4. that He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried
5. that He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead
6. that He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty
7. that He shall return to judge the living and the dead
8. in the Holy Spirit
9. in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints
10. in the forgiveness of sins
11. in the resurrection of the body
12. in life everlasting
All of these points can be found in the Bible, though some people don't believe Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born. And Catholic means universal, which the Roman Catholic church is - it's everywhere. All churches, even the newest ones with their own interpretations, even the oldest ones that never were quite in communion with Rome, are still connected to the Catholic Church by way of faith in Jesus and His Word, the Scriptures. All the Reformers did was rewrite the Bible using the oldest sources they could find (which simply amounted to reinventing the wheel) and drop some of the books the Catholic Church still holds as inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The Catholic Church takes its name seriously - it's truly universal. It is present in heaven, on earth, and in a place where those who die in Christ wait for Jesus to return and gather them up (the Church calls this purgatory). It is unbroken, unhindered by death. A believer's prayer can be heard in all three places, and those three places are summed up in the communion of saints, the Catholic Church. Other churches believe in a catholic church, too, but doctrinal differences prevent them from communing with each other or with the Catholic Church.

January 5 —
On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me

Eleven Pipers Piping
The Eleven faithful disciples
Rather than name the faithful ones, it's the unfaithful one who deserves mention: Judas Iscariot. He betrayed Jesus because he himself felt betrayed. You see, the Jews expected, and still expect, the Messiah to usher in the Kingdom of God, a real kingdom here on earth, and Judas, being a Zealot, wanted to be at the front lines when the time came to create that Kingdom. But Jesus didn't come to create that kingdom yet, so Judas got frustrated and disappointed with Jesus - if Jesus wasn't gonna start the Kingdom, then Jesus was an impostor, and so a traitor to the cause. Jesus was going to Jerusalem to die, after all, not start a Kingdom.

January 4 —
On the Tenth Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me

Ten Lords a-Leaping
The Ten Commandments - I am the Lord your God. You shall:
1. not have other gods before Me
2. not have idols of anything under heaven
3. not take the Lord's name in vain
4. honor your parents
5. honor and rest on the sabbath
6. not murder
7. not commit adultery
8. not steal
9. not bear false witness against your neighbor
10. not covet your neighbor's spouse or belonigngs
Idols are basically sculptures. They were often made to represent the spirit of the item being sculpted, and those spirits were usually worshiped, which is why God didn't want any idols around Him. But sculpture did make it into Solomon's temple, and Jesus didn't seem to have any problem with sculpture, though being a faithful Jew, he didn't worship it. He knew that sculptures have no life in and of themselves. Catholics, in this regard, follow Jesus' example, knowing that statues of saints don't represent deities or spirits to be worshiped, nor have life in and of themselves, but do represent fellow Christians one can call upon for aid. Death is no barrier here. Other Christians do see death as a barrier, and so don't call upon the saints for aid, figuring that demons would answer instead of the saints.
The Catholic position thus makes the first two commandments one and the last commandment two. It also present three couplets
murder - bear false witness (both invlove hatred)
commit adultery - covet your neighbor's spouse (both involve lust and jealousy)
steal - covet your neighbor's belongings (both involve greed and envy)

January 3 —
On the Ninth Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me

Nine Ladies Dancing
The Nine Choirs of Angels: Seraphim Cherubim Thrones Dominations Virtues Powers Principalities Archangels Angels.
I'd have mentioned the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit, but there are actually 12 of those.

January 2 —
On the Eighth Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me

Eight Maids a-Milking
The Eight Beatitudes. Blessed are they who are:
1. spiritually poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven
2. mourning, for God will comfort them
3. meek, for they will inherit the land
4. yearn for righteousness, for they will be sated
5. merciful, for they shall see mercy
6. pure of heart, for they shall see God
7. peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God
8. persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven

January 1, New Year's Day, Kwanzaa: Imani (Faith)
On the Seventh Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me

Seven Swans a-Swimming
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.

December 31, New Year's Eve, Kwanzaa: Kuumba (Creativity)
On the Sixth Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me

Six Geese a-Laying
The Six Days of Creation.
Day 1: light, night, day
Day 2: sky, cloud cover (some say a water canopy that gave uniform temperatures around the globe)
Day 3: sea, earth, plants (odd that the plants should be made before the sun appears)
Day 4: sun, moon, stars
Day 5: sea animals, birds
Day 6: land animals, man
Some say that God created Adam and Eve on the eighth day, as their children had to marry other humans to propogate the species. And that the water canopy crashed down on the earth during Noah's Flood.

December 30, Kwanzaa: Nia (Purpose)
On the Fifth Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me

Five Golden Rings
The Five Books of Moses, the Pentateuch, describing man's fall from Grace (Genesis) and the arrival of the Law (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy).

December 29, Kwanzaa: Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
On the Fourth Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me

Four Calling Birds
The Four Callers, the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Or their Gospels.

December 28, Kwanzaa: Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
On the Third Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me

Three French Hens
The Three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love (and the greatest of these is Love - and the French know all about love, no?). But the kind of love we're talking here is charity, or selfless love.

December 27, Kwanzaa: Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
On the Second Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me

Two Turtledoves
The Two Testaments, Old and New - There's no authentic conflict between the two, though there may be disagreement.

December 26, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa: Umoja (Unity)
On the First Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me

a Partridege in a Pear Tree
Jesus is the Partridge - this first day is His day, after all. And the Pear Tree is the Tree of Life.

The Twelve Days of Christmas. Starting on Boxing Day, I'll present the gift for each day, and the meaning behind the gift. The "thirteenth" day of Christmas is the Day of Epiphany, January 6, observed as the day the Wise Men arrived at Jesus' manger and presented their gifts. The Christmas season ends on that day.

Advent

Willie Westwood

Advent didn't have a fixed period of time before Christmas, but it is a time for preparation not just for Jesus' birth, which is his forst coming, but also for Jesus' return, which will be his second coming. As time went on, though, four themes arose and were assigned to the four Sundays before Christmas. The themes are as follows:

First Sunday - The Prophecies

This Sunday recalls all the prophecies in the Old Testament about the Messiah, and about how Jesus fulfilled them all. This Sunday also covers the prophecies that Jesus has yet to fulfill, like those involving his second coming.

Second Sunday - Bethlehem

This Sunday recalls Micah 5:2, which states that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. In truth, Jesus' parents, Mary and Joseph, were headed to Bethlehem to be counted in a census ordered by Quirinius. Jesus was born before they got there, so he could be counted.

Third Sunday - The Shepherds

This Sunday recalls the first people to worship Jesus - the shepherds, who heard the angels announce His birth and went to look for Him.

Fourth Sunday - The Angels

This Sunday recalls all the angels involved in the story of the Nativity, especially Gabriel, who announced Jesus' conception to Mary, who subsequently conceived Him.

Catholic Sources

compiled by Willie Westwood

Catholic Answers - consider five new mysteries for the Rosary, the Luminous Mysteries
New Advent's Catholic Encyclopedia - same link to the Rosary here.
The Vatican
Eternal Word Television Network
Christ the King Church - my home parish. Check out the links page there.
Christian Bible Study and Games - a general Christian site, it offers short Bible studies and games. Some of this doesn't square with Catholic teaching, but it's a great resource nonetheless.