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Thursday, August 24, was the Feast day for St. Bartholomew. (“Bart,” a.k.a. Bartholomew the Apostle.) The next major Feast Day – not counting Labor Day – is Holy Cross Day, on September 14.* On that next Thursday – coming up some two weeks from now – I’ll be in Lyon, in France, getting ready for a 15-day 150-mile hike on the GR 70. (The Robert Louis Stevenson Trail.)
But before leaving I wanted to say something about Bartholomew, and massacres, in his day and ours. And something about how they haven’t gone away, they’ve just changed form.*
Unfortunately, St. Bartholomew is best known for a massacre on his feast day in 1572:
The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre … in 1572 was a targeted group of assassinations and a wave of Catholic mob violence, directed against the Huguenots… Though by no means unique, it “was the worst of the century’s religious massacres.” Throughout Europe, it “printed on Protestant minds the indelible conviction that Catholicism was a bloody and treacherous religion.”
But of course there’s more to his story than that. For one thing he was also “famous” – if you want to call it that – for being flayed alive. “In artistic depictions, Bartholomew is most commonly depicted holding his flayed skin and the knife with which he was skinned.” Which is why I didn’t include any images of that martyrdom here. We get enough gore just reading the news…
Which brings up Man’s Inhumanity to Man Mean. Neither that nor massacres have gone away. That inhumanity has merely “changed form.” Or as the poet Robert Burns wrote, Man was made to Mourn. (Where the term “man’s inhumanity to man” first came from.)
Which is another way of saying we have problems of our own to deal with these days. Like the fact that such massacres as the one in 1572 haven’t gone away. For example, in my 2019 post On Gun Nuts and bulls goring I addressed a problem still with us, four years later. (And “even more so.”) The post started off talking about St. Bartholomew and “his” massacre, then morphed into the rising tide of mass shootings today. The post also talked about one conservative politician who said we don’t need responsible gun laws because “when Cain killed Abel, God didn’t blame the rock.” That argument didn’t make sense then, and still doesn’t. In response to that claim – “mass shootings are the price of freedom” – I cited Exodus 21:28-29:
If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death… But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death.
So it’s true that God didn’t “blame the rock” for killing Abel. But He does blame the owner of a goring bull when that owner doesn’t stop more bull-gorings from happening.
According to Exodus 21:28-29, the owner of a bull who keeps killing can’t just say, “Don’t blame me! Blame the bull!” The Bible says that the owner is responsible if he doesn’t keep a second death from happening. (“Or the third, or the 3,788th.”) And to me that principle applies to America today, as when it knows the danger of repeated, ongoing mass-killing-by-firearm but does nothing to stop it. Or even cut down the number of murders a bit.
And the problem has gotten worse since 2019. See for example United States tops 400 mass shootings in 2023 | CNN Politics. Dated July 24, 2023 – just about a month ago – it said as of that date the U.S. had 400 mass shootings, “setting the stage for a record-breaking year in gun violence without any significant federal firearm legislation on the horizon.”
America reached the grim figure on Saturday, July 22, “the earliest in a year 400 shootings have been recorded since at least 2013… In 2019, it took 356 days – nearly the entire year – to hit 400 mass shootings. This year and in 2021, however, the United States reached that marker in just seven months.”
There’s more on St. Bart in the notes, but as for “his” 1572 massacre, someone finally took responsibility. Here’s what Pope John Paul II said, in 1997 in Paris, site of the massacre:
On the eve of Aug. 24, we cannot forget the sad massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day… Christians did things which the Gospel condemns. I am convinced that only forgiveness, offered and received, leads little by little to a fruitful dialogue… Belonging to different religious traditions must not constitute today a source of opposition and tension. On the contrary, our common love for Christ impels us to seek tirelessly the path of full unity.
On that note, here’s hoping that some day we too in America may begin a “fruitful dialogue.” Like a dialog on how we can stop – or at least cut down – the great number of mass shootings that presently plague our nation. Which brings up the New Testament reading for Sunday, August 27. (Proper 16.) It’s from Romans 12, but the key passage that hit me was Romans 12:2. In the NLT it reads, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”
Which is pretty much the point I tried to make in “Love one another.” (And thereby get Transformed, like Jesus got Transfigured.) Maybe, eventually, with God’s help, we can finally transform ourselves into a new country. A better country where we no longer think that putting up with so many mass-shooting massacres is “the price of freedom.” Maybe, if we can transform enough, we can have both freedom and an end to so many needless killings…
Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait that 425 years* this time…
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The upper image is courtesy of Mass Shooting – Image Results. I borrowed the image from 2019’s On Gun Nuts and bulls goring. (Together with the caption.) Unfortunately it’s still relevant today, if not even more so. The 2019 post also included this:
The photo accompanies an article, “Stop blaming the mentally ill for mass shootings.” With a comment by conservative author Ann Coulter:“Guns don’t kill people, the mentally ill do.” The article noted less than 5 percent of the “120,000 gun-related killings in the U.S. between 2001 and 2010 were committed by people diagnosed with mental illness.” Instead, people with mental illness were more likely to be victims. “You’re more likely to be attacked by other people, more likely to be shot,” one professor said. “You’re odd. You’re a target.” Also, mass shootings are most often attributed to things like disgruntled workers or family disputes. “It’s loss of control by people who are extremely angry.” Finally the article said efforts to link mental illness and violence are “a political strategy to turn attention away from more serious efforts to restrict access to the means of violence – which is guns.”
The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.
Holy Cross Day is preceded in the Daily Office by readings for the Eve of Holy Cross: Psalms 46, 87, 1 Kings 8:22-30; Ephesians 2:11-22. See also On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel,” from October 2018. “Holy Cross Day is one of several Feasts of the Cross, all of which ‘commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus:’”
In English, it is called The Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the official translation of the Roman Missal, while the 1973 translation called it The Triumph of the Cross. In some parts of the Anglican Communion the feast is called Holy Cross Day…
“Just changed form.” A restatement of the First law of thermodynamics, which I first mentioned back in 2014’s On Ascension Day. I said then that Law was “proof positive that the human soul – a definite form of energy – is neither ‘created nor destroyed, but simply changes form.’”
On God not punishing the rock, see Top NC Republican on Mass Shootings: “Cain Killed Abel.” (To which the writer responded, “It’s so weird how gun violence has nothing to do with guns.”)
On recent mass shootings, see also List of mass shootings in the United States in 2023 – Wikipedia.
For this post I borrowed from 2017’s On St. Bartholomew – and “his” Massacre, from 2019’s On Gun Nuts and bulls goring. I also borrowed from 2018’s On Jesus “cracking wise,” and from an earlier On Jesus “cracking wise”, from 2015. See also Nathanael (follower of Jesus) – Wikipedia, and also Meet Nathanael – The Apostle Believed to Be Bartholomew. From which came this:
[T]he name “Bartholomaios” means “son of Talmai” (or Tholmai), but that little else is known about him. “Many scholars, however, identify him with Nathaniel…” John 1:45-51: “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about… And so our August 24 “St. Bart” is generally identified as the famous Nathanael who Jesus saw – in the first chapter of the John’s Gospel – sitting under the fig tree. [Or] see Bartholomew the Apostle – Wikipedia. It noted a number of traditions … including that he went on missionary journeys to India, or in the alternative to “Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia, and and Lycaonia.”
Re: 425. From 1572 to 1997, the Massacre to the Pope’s apology.
The lower image is courtesy of Mass Shootings 2023 Image – Image Results.
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As to the cause of such “massacres,” see Why number of US mass shootings has risen sharply – BBC News. Among the reasons: 1) Americans have more guns now than they did before. 2) “People are afraid, and they want to quell that fear by buying a gun.” 3) A rise in life stressors, both in general and as a result of the pandemic, especially hardships related to finances, employment or family and relationships. (“93% of assailants had dealt with a personal issue prior to their attack, whether it be divorce, health problems, or issues at school or work.”) 4) “Toxic masculinity” – nearly all mass shooters (around 98%) are male.” And 5) Easy access to firearms.
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