As the world turns

Friday 29 August 2014 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Passion of John the Baptist

You know me, dear readers, I’m a firm believer in tradition. Consequently, I prefer to use the traditional Julian calendar rather than this new-fangled Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar wasn’t introduced until 1582. Great Britain delayed adopting it until 1712. We “Julians” who refused to change were mocked as “April Fools.” Turkey was the last country to join this passing craze, signing on as late as 1927. As always, I maintain a cautious “wait and see” attitude. I’m waiting until they work the bugs out. We don’t want to rush into these things.

Today in the Universal Church calendar is the obligatory memorial of the Passion of John the Baptizer. Why, pray tell, do we commemorate his death today? It is due to the words of John himself, “I must decrease so that He may increase.” The time of daylight is running out as rapidly as did the life of poor John. The world turns. But the hours of daylight will begin to increase again at about the time of the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas). Once the Light of the World is born in Bethlehem, the world becomes an ever-brighter place. 

The Julian calendar is based on the turning of the natural year in the northern hemisphere. Who cares what season it is in the southern hemisphere? Has anything good ever come from the southern hemisphere, with the possible exceptions of Pope Francis and Bishop Edgar da Cunha? Here, dear readers, my pretentious persona is using satire. 

This being the case, I keep my mind and heart attuned to the world of nature (in the northern hemisphere, of course). I take careful note of what is going on around me as the world turns and the seasons change. 

Here on Cape Cod, we pretend that we are still in high summer. This is not the case. We are in denial. It’s a fallacy wholeheartedly encouraged by local merchants in order to prolong the Cape’s summer tourist season. Those who use the Julian calendar, on the other hand, know full well that autumn began on Lammas Day, August 1. Julians are not standing around waiting for the astrological autumnal equinox at precisely 10:29 p.m. EDT on Monday 22 September. 

It has become a tradition here in Falmouth that, towards the end of August, our parish holds a “Farewell to Summer” dinner under a tent pitched on the church lawn. The church’s great hall is too small to accommodate the crowd. We want to say goodbye to “snowbirds” who will be heading south for the winter. We also want to honor parishioners who may be retiring from one parish position or another. A handful object to the name, “But it’s still summer until Thanksgiving,” they protest. These are obviously radical “Gregorians,” not Julians. 

A town tradition, the Falmouth Road Race, was pushed back a week this year to encourage larger crowds a little later in the season. Some 11,000 registered runners were expected. They ran from Woods Hole, along the shore route, finally finishing up at Falmouth Heights — not far from our St. Thomas the Apostle Chapel. The winner made it in about half an hour. So, if I ever need to run over to St. Joseph Chapel, Woods Hole, I know it would take me 30 minutes. Right.

With all the increased security these days, it was necessary to close the roads very early on Sunday morning. This meant that we could provide one Mass on Saturday night at the chapel, but none on Sunday. We just had to squeeze into the pews at the main church.

We held our “Blessing of Runners” at the Saturday Vigil Mass. You would be surprised at the number of people, young and old, who came forward to be blessed before the race. It’s great fun and it brings the faith to where the people are — “where the rubber meets the road,” you might say. Fortunately, the official Book of Blessings contains a “Blessing for Athletic Events.” 

After the race, the streets and byways were gridlocked with cars and runners. I didn’t attend the race myself, but, following the race, I did take the two greyhounds, Transit and Justin, out on the rectory lawn to watch the hordes of exhausted runners limping home. The greyhounds, being retired animal athletes, know from personal experience what competitive running is all about. These old dogs could once run at 40 miles per hour. Well, now the (running) shoe is on the other foot. These old greyhounds watched amusedly as the tired humans dragged themselves along. It was payback time.

Yes, the world has definitely turned. The days are still comfortably warm. The nights are cool enough to require a blanket. The stars sparkle crisply. In the mornings, the sun is taking its time in rising. For my early morning walk with the greyhounds, a light jacket is now required. 

We Julians notice. Did I mention, dear readers, that there are only 118 days until Christmas?

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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