Statue of St. George slaying the dragon. Photograph by LS Wagen, November 2016,
at the Church of the Dormition, Jerusalem, Israel
at the Church of the Dormition, Jerusalem, Israel
On November 1st, the feast day of “All Saints” our parish feast day, and the Church’s Holy Day, we had a parade of saints; the children of the parish all dressed up as saints.
They sat ahead of me in the reserved seats, and paraded in in front of the priest during the entrance procession.
St. George was dressed in his plastic suit of plate armor with a plastic helmet and plastic sword. With his family in tow, he sat in front of me in the pew.
Just because the sword was plastic didn’t mean it wasn’t dangerous. The 6 year old St. George decided to wave that thing around and point it at people during mass while his Aunt and godmother tried to pull it out of his hand. After the tug of war, she finally succeeded. Since it was now 7:30 pm and probably passed his bedtime, St. George decided that he was tired, took off his plate armor, and then took a nap on the pew. A pew that looked like real wood, but like the armor was only plastic, so as to save money on the new church.
Worn out from fighting that dragon, he couldn’t stay awake for the rest of the mass. But he couldn’t resist picking up the sword one more time, while he blessed himself with it, waving that sword widely around in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Swish, swish, swish, slicing the air, while he moved about. He almost poked me as well as everyone else with it! Even though it was plastic, it had a sharp point to it.
At the end of the mass, Father invited the children up on the altar and asked each one which saint they were. We had saints from all over the world, and from all time periods. We had King David who looked very kingly, Father said. We also had 1 St. Nicholas, 2 St Francises, 1 St. Bernadette, 1 St. Charles Borremo, 1 St. Lucia or better known as St. Lucy in America who was dressed in a white dress with a pink sash, and of course, as patron saint of the blind, she also had a wreath with a candle on it worn on her head, 2 St. Georges, and 1 Mary, Mother of God, complete with a baby doll.
Mary, an 8 year old was a very white, fair complexioned child; baby Jesus was black. Nothing wrong with that mind you, just looked a little strange. Mary’s mother called baby Jesus a very, very dark Mediterranean olive skinned baby from the Middle East. The only doll she could find on short notice.
Proving once again as the song goes, “Red, yellow, black or white we are all beautiful in His sight. God loves the little children of the world.”
By the way, we had 2 St. Georges who were fighting the very same dragon. One in plastic plate armor, the other dressed in plastic mail armor wearing a hauberk, a shirt of mail.
One young girl undoubtedly taught by her parents not to talk too loudly in church whispered who she was in Father’s ear. Don’t ask me who she was?
And we had one young lad who when asked who he was said that he didn’t know, but he thought he was St. Henry VIII. Lots of giggles ensued. If you don’t get it, you don’t know your world history. Let’s just say the Henry VIII would never be canonized by the Catholic Church in this century or any other century.
Of course, Father had to use all this confusion over the saints as a learning opportunity and remarked that even though you don’t know which saint you are, at the parish of All Saints, we can all be saints in the making! (Technically, you have to be dead to be a saint, so none of us sitting the in the plastic pews were qualified for that designation quite yet.)
Later on at the parish reception while we were eating our “treats,” I asked Sister which saint was “King Henry” supposed to be portraying? Turned out Sister Catherine, Director of Religious Education for the parish, who had assigned the children the names, said the saint was St. Henry II, who was also called Emperor, the Good, of the Holy Roman Empire, and who also had lived many centuries before King Henry VIII.
She remarked that the child was doing a world history classroom report on King Henry VIII at the same time that he was preparing his costume for the parade of saints. He just got the roman numerals mixed up; that was all. At least that’s what we think?
I wonder what St. Thomas More who was beheaded and martyred by King Henry the eighth, thinks about this one. Rolling over in his grave, I’m sure.
At the reception after the feast day mass, I also asked one of the St. Georges who was dressed in the mail armor just how big was the dragon that he was trying to slay? The child was driving his plastic sword into the floor exclaiming that he was killing the imaginary dragon.
The answer was 3,333.33 miles tall. The child must have just learned about decimals in school!
No information on how big St. George’s dragon really was since it is just a legend anyway.
And for those of you who don’t know your world history “All Hallow’s Eve” is the evening before All Saints Day, a feast day celebrating our “Hallowed” predecessors, when traditionally children dressed up as saints in costumes. This ancient custom is one of our precursors to our modern day Halloween, where children dress up in costumes and go trick or treating. The word Halloween comes from the word Hallowe'en which dates back to the 1700’s and is of Christian origin. The word "Hallowe'en" means "hallowed evening" or "holy evening". It comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows' Eve (the evening before All Hallows' Day, or All Saints’ Day, which also precedes All Souls’ Day, a day where all of our loved ones who have passed on are commemorated, and honored, and which follows All Saints Day). All Hallow’s Eve Christianized the ancient pagan Gaelic festival of Samhain, when it was believed that the walls between our material world and the spiritual world, became thin enough to allow ghosts to come through and damage the Autumn crops.
Now, this is a retirement community, and the Catholic Church is bleeding the next generation of saints, so there wasn’t a whole lot of young saints; however, the feast day still had all and all a great All Saints' Day parade of saints!!
Everyone had a great time hanging out with all of our “saints,” including myself, and I know that Father thought the whole evening was amusing.