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Thursday, December 17, 2009


ONE OF THE THREE "EULOGIES" at last week's funeral for Fr. Dan Schneider included an enthusiastic exegesis of the familiar "secular" song "The Twelve Days of Christmas". According to the speaker, this song was, in fact, a clandestine catechism created by persecuted Catholics in Elizabethan England, some 400 years ago.

Decoding the symbols, the Partridge in a Pair Tree symbolized none other than Jesus himself. The two French hens were the Old & New Testaments yadda, yadda. You get the picture. Literally. So impressed were many of the congregants that the speaker later passed out xeroxed copies of this story at the funeral luncheon.

Alas, there is no historical basis for this pious tale, although it seems to have gotten wide currency in recent years, apparently by overzealous Christians not about to let facts or the truth get in the way of a good story. (And no, they don't write for MARYKNOLL magazine.) [Meow!]

With my analytical mind cultivated by Core Theology and my inquisitive mind
keenly honed at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, holes appeared in this story even before I Googled it. Check it out for yourself: (Is there anyone who doubts the veracity of "The Google"?)

First of all, there was nothing particularly Catholic in the song that Protestants themselves don't believe. No Pope. No Virgin Mary. No Eucharist. From the Three Evangelical Councils to the Five "Golden Rings" of the Torah to the Twelve Points of Faith in the Apostles Creed (Are there 12? Who knew?), there is nothing in the so-called hidden catechism that Protestants would protest, much less persecute.

Fr. Mike Zuno pointed out over breakfast that, while there was indeed persecution of Catholics in England during those years, there was also a suppression of Christmas itself as being unbiblical. Indeed, that's where we get all those inane songs about Yuletide, holly and donning gay apparel [self censorship in progress].

That being said, you have to admire the missionary zeal of this woman to get up in front of a churchful of strangers and spread this story. More's the pity that it isn't true. Yet why can't we, as missioners, recharge our batteries with renewed enthusiasm to spread the true story of what God really has done for us?

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