Saturday, September 30, 2017


All summer long, whenever the season's hateful heat would come up in conversation, my standard response has been, "Every morning I wake up and pray for October." (Once upon a time, before Global Warming, maybe it would have sufficed to pray for September!)
As its name indicates, October was originally the 8th month in the Roman calendar, before Julius Caesar made it the 10th month, which it is still. In the Northern hemisphere, October brings the Harvest Moon on October 5. That Full Moon, of course, corresponds to the middle of the 7th month of Jewish calendar (Tishri) and hence the start of the third of the three Old Testament pilgrimage festivals, Sukkot, usually thought to have been the biggest of the festivals in Jesus' time.

October 12, the anniversary of Christopher Columbus' first landing at San Salvador was traditionally observed as Columbus Day, until that holiday was devalued (like so many other civic holidays) by being moved to Monday (this year, October 9). Columbus Day is traditionally when we Italian-Americans get to celebrate our heritage. (In fact, the entire month is now officially "Italian Heritage Month"). When I was stationed in New York, I often attended the annual Italian Columbus Day Mass at Saint Patrick's Cathedral. The Columbus Day Parade in New York is essentially an Italian-heritage parade, and in that sense has as much or as little to do with Columbus as the Saint Patrick's Day parade has to do with Saint Patrick. Of course, Columbus himself sailed in service of the Spain's Reyes catolicos, and his heirs became Spanish nobility. So the day is also celebrated as El Dia de la Hispanidad. (In New York, the Hispanic parade is held on Sunday, the day before.)

In the Church, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (originally Our Lady of Victory) occurs on October 7, and October is observed as the month of the Holy Rosary. October 7 is, of course, the anniversary of the great naval victory at Lepanto in 1571. Referencing that famous victory and the feast, in 1883, Pope Leo XIII officially dedicated the entire month of October to the Rosary and prescribed its recitation in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament daily during the month, a a once widely common practice that survived until the 1960s.

In the 20th century, October received an added social significance with the introduction of World Mission Sunday by Pope Pius XI in 1927 in order to emphasize universal solidarity in sharing in our common responsibility for evangelizing the world. (World Mission Sunday this year will be Sunday, October 22.) The same pope had already in 1925 instituted the feast of Christ the Ling on the last Sunday in October (the Sunday before All Saints Day) to highlight Christ's rule over all peoples and nations. (Since 1969, the feast is now observed on the last Sunday before Advent.)

All in all, unless cliamte change keeps the temperatures high, October is a month to look forward to!

(Photo: October, with the Louvre palace in the backgournd, from the famous Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, an early 15th-century prayer book, which is generally considered perhaps the best surviving example of medieval French Gothic manuscript illumination)

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