Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Today’s Roman Rite feast-day
St Clement, Pope and martyr
His epistles almost made it into the New Testament and before the canon was set were treated as scripture by some local churches
S. Clement, whose emblem is an anchor
Which is why I’ve got a little grey metal one on the outside of my door!

is the patron saint of anchor-smiths and blacksmiths, and his is also one of the several saints invoked by sailors. ... according to tradition he was martyred by drowning about A.D. 100... with an anchor tied to his neck.
After being sent to work in the salt mines. An old man when he became the bishop of Rome (whose see later adopted the title of Pope — papa, father — after the see of Alexandria first used it [and still does]), he knew the apostles who knew Jesus. He is in the list of martyrs in the Roman or Gregorian Canon, the consecration prayer that is the heart of the Roman Mass (and older than the two Byzantine Rite consecration prayers).

being thrown into the Black Sea
This holy Pope’s tentative connexion to the Ukraine, commemorated on some icons.

It was about November-tide
A long, long time ago
When good S. Clement testified
The faith that now we know
Right boldly then, he said his say
Before a furious king;
And therefore on S. Clement’s Day
We go a-Clementing.
What on earth, you might ask, is ‘going a-Clementing’? Glad you asked!
On his feast-day, smiths used to honour his memory... holding a feast at night which was known as the Clem Feast... At Woolwich until at least as late as the first half of the last century, blacksmiths’ apprentices in the dockyard chose one of their number to act as Old Clem...

A contemporary account... printed in 1826... describes how the company went round the town, ‘stopping and refreshing at nearly every public house...’ The evening ended with a jovial supper and, doubtless, a good deal of hard drinking at one of the local inns.

In another account there is mention of children and young people also going round Clementing in much the same way as they went Catterning two days later on S. Catherine’s Day. This visited the houses of the parish, singing songs that began ‘Clemency, clemency, year by year’ or ‘Clementsing, Clementsing, apples and pears’ and demanding the usual largesse of apples, beer and whatever else they could get. Sometimes the boys added colour to the proceeding by carrying lighted turnip lanterns of the Hallowtide pattern.
Another forerunner of American Halloween? Something a Catholic must remember when next confronted with the ‘Halloween is evil, EVIL I say!’ rubbish from the Prots.

So there’s a look at Catholic England, some of which survived long after the religious disaster in the 1500s. Today? Alas — November has got the anti-Catholic bonfire and firecracker fest Guy Fawkes Day (not celebrated on this blog) and Remembrance Sunday, which is right at the heart of what this blog is about.

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