Saturday, December 8, 2007

Immaculate Conception

Today is December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Today is the day that Catholics believe our Blessed Mother Mary was conceived without sin by St. Joachim and St. Ann. Mary's conception without sin means that she was born free of the original sin that remains with us until we are baptized. Therefore, Mary lived her entire life free from sin.

The Immaculate Conception is a major Catholic belief (dogma) and was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

Mary, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, is the patron saint of the United States of America. The largest Catholic Church in the United States, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, is located in Washington, D.C. and was built in her honor. The altar in the crypt church of the basilica was purchased by all of the women named Mary in the United states during the 1930s. Each woman contributed $1.00 and her name was then written on a piece of paper that was enclosed in the altar.

When I lived in Washington, D.C., I was a tour guide at the Basilica-- every American Catholic should make a pilgrimage there at least once in his or her lifetime because it is the focal point of our national Catholic heritage.

Today is usually a holy day of obligation throughout the world, meaning that Catholics should attend Mass in celebration. However, since it coincides with a Sunday and we have our weekly obligation to attend Mass, the obligation has been lifted for this year.

Even though we are not obliged to attend Mass today-- we should at least stop for a moment and say a "Hail Mary" in honor of our Blessed Mother.

Hail Mary! Full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy woumb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Great Santini Debate

Good taste? Bad taste? No taste at all? That's the debate going on in Italy right now over the trend of "santini"-- "little saints".

For years, Italians have been posting small images of patron saints in their car windshields, much like how American Catholics have a St. Christopher medal or a Guardian Angel medal in their cars.

Now the santini can be seen on telefonini.

"Telefonino" is the Italian word for cell phone. Italians can now pay their respective cell phone carriers or a website called "Santi Protettori" (Patron Saints) a small fee to purchase an image of a saint for their background or screensaver.

Some Italians are praising the initiative, calling it a way to bring the Catholic Church to younger generations since they are the ones who tend to use cell phones. Others claim it is poor taste to pay money for an image of a saint to be used in such a manner . However, if it is poor taste for the vade mecum of all Italians-- the cell phone-- to have a santino, what about the saint decals in Italian cars? Or the holy cards that Italian and non-Italian Catholics carry? Where do we draw the line between good and bad taste in the Catholic Church?

Personally, I feel that the santini are appropriate. As a dual citizen of Italy and the United States, I carry an Italian cell phone with TIM (Telecom Italia) and, yes, I have a santina-- St. Veronica, my confirmation saint (see the photo above). To me, the whole debate is similar to those who debate tattoos of Christ or the Virgin Mary. For some, it is blasphemous but for others it is a personal way to show their faith. As the Ancient Romans said, "de gustibus non disputandum est"-- there is no accounting for taste. As long as the image of a saint is not being used in a disrespectful manner-- such as a highly sexualized image of a saint-- and it is being used as an expression of one's faith, I really do not see a problem.
How do you feel about santini on cell phones? Are they appropriate or not? Tell me what you think by leaving a comment below.