Friday, September 09, 2022

The Feast of the Holy Name of Mary

Casteels, Battle of Vienna, post 1683

If you are wondering why there is a feast honoring the name of the Holy Mother of God, recall the story about St. Francis of Assisi. When the saint compelled the Devil to admit what he was afraid of, he mentioned three things: the Holy Name of Jesus, the brown scapular, and the Holy Name of Mary.

The first feast of the Holy Name of Mary took place in 1513 on September 15, the octave day of her nativity; as faithful Jews, Saints Joachim and Anne would have named their daughter Mary eight days after her birth. Over time, the feast moved around to various dates, eventually landing on September 12, thanks to the Battle of Vienna in 1683. This battle pitted a beleaguered city, at the time the eastern outpost of Western Christendom, against a much larger and superior army of the Ottoman Empire led by the formidable strategist, Kara Mustapha. If Vienna had fallen, the Turks would have quite possibly taken the rest of Western Europe. However, the king of Poland, John Sobieski, staged a spectacular counterattack with a coalition of troops from various Catholic countries, thus saving Europe from Ottoman rule, essentially ending Ottoman aggression in the region and saving Europe from Muslim conquest. Pope Innocent XI extended the feast to the entire Roman Church as a yearly act of thanksgiving.
The Collect of the feast can be read as a subtle allusion to this historical context:
Concéde, quǽsumus, omnípotens Deus: ut fidéles tui, qui sub sanctíssimæ Vírginis Maríæ nómine et protectióne lætántur; ejus pia intercessióne, a cunctis malis liberéntur in terris et ad gáudia ætérna perveníre mereántur in cælis. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God: that Thy faithful, who rejoice to be under the name and protection of the most holy Virgin Mary, may through her pious intercession be delivered from all evils throughout the lands and deserve to attain eternal joys in Heaven. Through our Lord.
The main petition contains a classic juxtaposition of Heaven and earth but not a dualism: we wish for good things in this life and the next. But the Collect puts the word for earth (terra) in the plural, which suggests “lands” or “nations” as well. Hence, we pray not only for deliverance from personal woes such as sickness or poverty but from political evils such as invasion and, as the Breviary puts it, “the tyranny of the Turk.”

Anonymous, Jakub Ludwik Sobieski, ca. 1685
Cultural Effects
The victory of the Christians in 1683 did more than save Western Europe from Islamic conquest: it gave us a great breakfast. Both croissants and cappuccino are said to come from the Battle of Vienna. According to one legend, the Turks had tried to tunnel under the city’s walls in the early morning. A baker heard them and notified the Viennese troops, who staged a counterattack. After the battle, the baker was rewarded with a patent to produce a bread commemorating the victory over the Turks, whose flag bore a crescent, the symbol of Islam. The result: the croissant, which is French for crescent.
Croissant, June 17, 2014
 As for cappuccino, Blessed Marco D’Aviano was a Capuchin monk, a powerful preacher of repentance, and a priest whose blessings miraculously cured many sick and infirm. According to Pope Saint John Paul II, D’Aviano was also instrumental in promoting unity among the Catholic powers seeking to defend them themselves from Ottoman aggression in the seventeenth century. On the eve of the Battle of Vienna, he rallied Catholic and Protestant troops, boosting their morale and helping them gain victory the following day. But he is better remembered for what happened afterwards. According to legend, he found sacks of coffee beans that the Turkish forces had left behind in their haste. D’Aviano brewed himself a cup, but finding it too bitter for his taste he added milk and honey, thus turning the coffee brown. The grateful Viennese dubbed the drink, “little Capuchin,” or cappuccino, in honor of D’Aviano, whose Capuchin habit was the same color.
 A cappuccino at Amante Bar and Restaurant in Tong Cheung
Marco D’Aviano was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 27, 2003, the penultimate step to canonization. As one journalist quipped, however, he is “already a saint in the eyes of many.”

Finally, the Polish king who saved Vienna has been honored in a special way with a fine vodka named after him, as well as a stellar pattern. Scutum (Latin for shield) is a small constellation that is among the 88 defined in 1922 by the International Astronomical Union. It was first named Scutum Sobiescianum by Johannes Hevelius in 1684, one year after the Battle of Vienna. The name holds the distinction of being the only constellation named after a person living at the time, and the only constellation named after a real human being (as opposed to a figure from mythology). Although the name was later abridged to just “Scutum,” faithful Catholics can look to the heavens (just south of the celestial equator) and thank God for the diamond-shaped configuration that reminds them of a Catholic monarch bravely defeating the enemies of Christendom.

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