Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Feast of St. George






Very, very little is known about St. George, but that hasn't stopped his being venerated widely and having a great effect on history. His cultus began in Palestine, and 4th century churches that are now in ruins attest to his having been venerated very early on in the Middle East, from Syria to Egypt.

Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend tells us that he was a knight in Cappadocia, Turkey, and that he went to Libya, to a city called Silene. It continues:

And by this city was a stagne or a pond like a sea, wherein was a dragon which envenomed all the country. And on a time the people were assembled for to slay him, and when they saw him they fled. And when he came nigh the city he venomed the people with his breath, and therefore the people of the city gave to him every day two sheep for to feed him, because he should do no harm to the people, and when the sheep failed there was taken a man and a sheep. Then was an ordinance made in the town that there should be taken the children and young people of them of the town by lot, and every each one as it fell, were he gentle or poor, should be delivered when the lot fell on him or her. So it happed that many of them of the town were then delivered, insomuch that the lot fell upon the king's daughter, whereof the king was sorry, and said unto the people: For the love of the gods take gold and silver and all that I have, and let me have my daughter. They said: How sir! ye have made and ordained the law, and our children be now dead, and ye would do the contrary. Your daughter shall be given, or else we shall burn you and your house.

When the king saw he might no more do, he began to weep, and said to his daughter: Now shall I never see thine espousals. Then returned he to the people and demanded eight days' respite, and they granted it to him. And when the eight days were passed they came to him and said: Thou seest that the city perisheth: Then did the king do array his daughter like as she should be wedded, and embraced her, kissed her and gave her hls benediction, and after, led her to the place where the dragon was.

When she was there S. George passed by, and when he saw the lady he demanded the lady what she made there and she said: Go ye your way fair young man, that ye perish not also. Then said he: Tell to me what have ye and why weep ye, and doubt ye of nothing. When she saw that he would know, she said to him how she was delivered to the dragon.

Then said S. George: Fair daughter, doubt ye no thing hereof for I shall help thee in the name of Jesu Christ.

She said: For God's sake, good knight, go your way, and abide not with me, for ye may not deliver me.

Thus as they spake together the dragon appeared and came running to them, and S. George was upon his horse, and drew out his sword and garnished him with the sign of the cross, and rode hardily against the dragon which came towards him, and smote him with his spear and hurt him sore and threw him to the ground.

And after said to the maid: Deliver to me your girdle, and bind it about the neck of the dragon and be not afeard.

When she had done so the dragon followed her as it had been a meek beast and debonair. Then she led him into the city, and the people fled by mountains and valleys, and said: Alas! alas! we shall be all dead.

Then S. George said to them: Ne doubt ye no thing, without more, believe ye in God, Jesu Christ, and do ye to be baptized and I shall slay the dragon. Then the king was baptized and all his people, and S. George slew the dragon and smote off his head, and commanded that he should be thrown in the fields, and they took four carts with oxen that drew him out of the city.


He was later martyred, by beheading, in Palestine.

Because of this fantastical tale of the dragon, St. George is almost always depicted in art slaying the monster. What this dragon was, whether it was a literal beast or a metaphor for sin, we don't know, but his reputation for valor has made St. George a favorite for warriors. His intercession has been attributed as the proximate cause of many Christian victories in battle. In 1096, King Pedro I of Aragon attributed to St. George his victory at the battle of Alcoraz, when the King re-took the city of Huesca. St. George was also seen helping the Franks at the Battle of Antioch in 1098, and Crusaders rallied under his banner. One old French battle song begging for St. George's intercession:



Fier chevalier, l'éclat de ton armure,
Comme un soleil, attire tous les yeux.
Ta loyauté, ton âme toute pure
Nous ont conquis, et nous voici joyeux.
 
Saint Georges, guide-nous
Sur la route claire et belle
Saint Georges, guide-nous,
Rends-nous fermes et prêts à tout.
 
Garde à nos yeux le charme d’un sourire
Quand nous souffrons au plein de notre effort;
Et dussions-nous subir un long martyre,
Tiens nos cœurs droits quand faibliront nos corps.
 
Saint Georges, guide-nous
Sur la route claire et belle
Saint Georges, guide-nous,
Rends-nous fermes et prêts à tout.

Ô grand vainqueur, de ton séjour de gloire
Assiste-nous, quand ici nous luttons.
Conduis nos pas aux routes de victoire,
Jusqu’à la mort s’il faut, nous te suivrons.
 
Saint Georges, guide-nous
Sur la route claire et belle
Saint Georges, guide-nous,
Rends-nous fermes et prêts à tout.

  
Proud knight, the sparkle of your armor
Just like a Sun, it attracts all eyes to you.
Your loyalty, your soul so pure
have conquered us, and we here are joyous.

St. George, guide us
Along the clear, beautiful road
St. George, guide us
Make us firm and ready for anything.

Keep in our eyes the charm of a smile
When we are suffering in carrying out our efforts
And if we must submit to a long martyrdom,
Hold our hearts straight if our bodies fail.

St. George, guide us
Along the clear, beautiful road
St. George, guide us
Make us firm and ready for anything.

O, great victor, from your glorious sojourn,
Help us when we fight here.
Guide us on the road to victory,
To death, if necessary, we will follow you.

St. George, guide us
Along the clear, beautiful road
St. George, guide us
Make us firm and ready for anything.

His symbol -- a great red cross (see below) became a part of the uniforms of soldiers and sailors in England in the 14th century, and he's
also the patron Saint of the Order of the Garter established in 1348 by King Edward III. The Order of the Garter is a chivalric order whose members -- only 24 at at time --  are appointed solely by the British monarch. Their mother church is the (now Anglican, sadly) St. George's Chapel in Windsor, where Queen Elizabeth II, her parents, and her husband are interred.

St. George is also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers invoked during the Black Plague that devastated Europe in the 14th c.




Customs

Some Catholics anticipate St. George's Day by praying a novena to St. George starting on April 14 and ending on April 22, the eve of the feast.

Because of the aforementioned victory in 1096, St. George is also the patron Saint of the former Kingdom of Aragon, now simply "Aragon," in northwest Spain; April 23 there is known as "El Día de Aragón," and is a legal holiday. He is patron as well of Ethiopia, Palestine, and Georgia. All over the world, his feast day is remembered in various ways (in the Bavarian parts of Germany, horses and their wagons are decorated and paraded in an event called Georgiritt --"George's Ride").

But it's England that is most associated with St. George. When the West was still Christendom, St. George's Day was a very, very big event in England -- almost as big as Christmas. St. George is the patron Saint of the country, just as St. Andrew is the patron of Scotland, St. David is the patron of Wales, and St. Patrick is the patron of Ireland. His symbol is a red T-shaped cross (the crosses of George, Andrew, and Patrick together form the design of the Union Jack), and you'll see his flag quite a bit on this day in Old Blighty.



While his day isn't celebrated as grandly as in the past in England, it is still celebrated -- and becoming more widely so in recent years. In fact, in England, if his feast day falls too close to Easter, it might be moved so that celebrations can be had without detracting from celebrating the Resurrection. The city of Salisbury, in Wiltshire in the southwest of England, has an especially great St. George's Day pageant that dates all the way back to the 13th century. The celebrations involve parades, Morris dancers with their bells and handkerchiefs, puppet shows that recount the story of St. George, etc.

Generally, if you're English, have English ancestry, or are just an Anglophile, today is the day to do things the English way: eat English food (perhaps have a tea), sing English songs, watch a good old "Punch and Judy" show, and other jolly good things. 1 Two songs for the day are "Jerusalem," with words by William Blake, and music by Hubert Parry, and "God Save the King":



And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold:
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green and pleasant Land
    


God save our gracious King!
Long live our noble King!
God save the King!
Send him victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the King.

Thy choicest gifts in store
On him be pleased to pour,
Long may he reign.
May he defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the King.



As to foods, roast beef, horseradish sauce, Yorkshire pudding, and an English Trifle are English classics:

Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding
5 pounds beef roast
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 sprigs rosemary leaves, chopped

For the Yorkshire Pudding:
1 1/4 cups milk
4 eggs
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon of the beef drippings (or vegetable oil)

Heat your oven to 475F. Rub the beef with the olive oil and chopped rosemary. Place into the hot oven and cook for 15 minutes and then turn the heat down to 350F. Cook for about 15 minutes per pound (about 1 hour and 15 minutes). Remove from the oven and let rest, covered, for about 15 minutes before slicing.

To make the Yorkshire Pudding, turn the oven down to 450F. Mix the milk, eggs, and salt, and add pepper, beating all well together. Let these ingredient stand for 15 minutes and then whisk in the flour. Meanwhile, add the drippings a 9X13 pan and put it in the oven to heat for about 10 minutes. After the pan is really hot, pour in the batter and cook for 20 minutes, or until well puffed and golden.


Horseradish Sauce

2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup prepared horseradish
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together.


English Trifle

6 cups pound cake in 1/4" chunks
1 cup simple syrup (2 parts water, 1 part sugar brought to a boil and allowed to cool to room temperature)
1/4 cup sherry or Cointreau
2 pints strawberries, cut up + 1/4 of cup sugar
1/2 cup nuts + 1/2 cup sugar

Pastry Cream:
2 cups milk
1/2 vanilla bean split lengthwise (or 1 tsp vanilla)
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Brown Sugar Whipped Cream:
2 cups chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Mix the simple syrup and sherry, and toss together with the pound cake pieces in a bowl and set aside.

Mix strawberries and sugar, let macerate until nice and juicy, and set aside.

Grind nuts and 1/2 c. sugar together and set aside.

Pastry Cream: Bring the milk and vanilla bean to a boil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and set aside to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. If you're using liquid vanilla instead of a bean, boil the milk, take off heat, and stir vanilla in and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Separately, whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the yolks until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap so the plastic touches the surface of the cream, and chill at least two hours.

Whip the chilled heavy cream and brown sugar until stiff.

Now layer the ingredients in the following order (in a trifle bowl if you have one. Otherwise, any large, preferably clear glass bowl would do, or you can assemble these in individual parfait glasses): cake, pastry cream, brown sugar whipped cream, nuts and strawberries, repeating until the container is full, ending with whipped cream as the top layer.


St. George is also the patron of the once wonderful institution of Scouting (may it be restored!), begun in 1908 by Robert Baden-Powell, a Lieutenant General in the British Army. The Scouting laws are laws every boy should honor. They can be summarized with the sentence: "A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent." Teach your children about the cardinal virtues that St. George exemplified!




Readings

From a sermon by Saint Peter Damian, bishop
(Sermon 3, De sancto Georgio)

Dear brothers, our joy in today’s feast is heightened by our joy in the glory of Easter, just as the splendor of a precious jewel enhances the beauty of its gold setting.

Saint George was a man who abandoned one army for another: he gave up the rank of tribune to enlist as a soldier for Christ.  Eager to encounter the enemy, he first stripped away his worldly wealth by giving all he had to the poor.  Then, free and unencumbered, bearing the shield of faith, he plunged into the thick of the battle, an ardent soldier for Christ.

Clearly what he did serves to teach us a valuable lesson: if we are afraid to strip ourselves of our worldly possessions, then we are unfit to make a strong defense of the faith.

As for Saint George, he was consumed with the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Armed with the invincible standard of the cross, he did battle with an evil king and acquitted himself so well that, in vanquishing the king, he overcame the prince of all wicked spirits, and encouraged other soldiers of Christ to perform brave deeds in his cause.

Of course, the supreme invisible arbiter was there, who sometimes permits evil men to prevail so that his will may be accomplished.  And although he surrendered the body of his martyr into the hands of murderers, yet he continued to take care of his soul, which was supported by the unshakable defense of its faith.

Dear brothers, let us not only admire the courage of this fighter in heaven’s army but follow his example.  Let us be inspired to strive for the reward of heavenly glory, keeping in mind his example, so that we will not be swayed from our path, though the world seduce us with its smiles or try to terrify us with naked threats of its trials and tribulations.

We must now cleanse ourselves, as Saint Paul tells us, from all defilement of body and spirit, so that one day we too may deserve to enter that temple of blessedness to which we now aspire.

Anyone who wishes to offer himself to God in the tent of Christ, which is the Church, must first bathe in the spring of holy baptism; then he must put on the various garments of the virtues.  As it says in the Scriptures, Let your priests be clothed in justice.  He who is reborn in baptism is a new man.  He may no longer wear the things that signify mortality.  He has discarded the old self and must put on the new.  He must live continually renewed in his commitment to a holy sojourn in this world.

Truly we must be cleansed of the stains of our past sins and be resplendent in the virtue of our new way of life.  Then we can be confident of celebrating Easter worthily and of truly following the example of the blessed martyrs.



Footnotes:

1 If you're not English (or Italian) and and know nothing about Punch and Judy, I encourage you to look into the history and cuture of that form of puppetry. It's fascinating! It's violent (if done properly and not politically corrected into the usual modern nonsense), but in a Three Stooges sort of way. And children love a good Punch and Judy show (there's a definite art to it -- and to do a real Punch, you have to have a swazzle and all that). You can find many Punch and Judy shows on Youtube -- and after you and your children know what it's all about and are familiar with the standard characters and general scheme of a Punch and Judy entertainment, you can make your own puppets and put on your own show.




Back to Seasonal Customs
Back to Being Catholic
Index