Associate editor Ava Lalor shares the history of her favorite hymn, “O God Beyond All…
150 things you didn’t know were Catholic
There are some days where it feels like the whole world is against Catholicism. (Read our latest editorial.) And then there are days where I see Catholicism in everything — as I’ve written about on multiple occasions (here, here and here). Luckily, if you have the eyes to see, the latter are not very hard to come by. Yet, many of us simply don’t know where to look.
That’s where a newly released book from OSV comes in handy. The title says it all: “150 People, Places, and Things You Never Knew Were Catholic” ($24.95). From food and drink to science and history, idioms, sports, movies and books, author Jay Copp explores the Catholic connections in the most unlikely — or forgotten — places.
Some are more commonly known: how universities and hospitals have strong Catholic origins; that the calendar we use is named the Gregorian calendar, as it was created during the reign of — and at the request of — Pope Gregory XIII; how the Big Bang theory was first proposed by a Catholic priest. Others were unfamiliar to me: that the familiar “Do-Re-Mi” musical scale was crafted by a medieval monk; how bowling “began as a religious ceremony held in the cloisters of churches in Germany”; or that the creator of the “Barney” and “Wishbone” kids’ TV shows was Catholic.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Cheese: Like many other foods and drinks (beer and wine are the most notable), the history of cheese is connected to monasticism as different types of cheese can be linked to different monastic communities. In fact, munster comes from the Latin word monasterium.
- The autobiography: As Copp writes in the book, “The first true autobiography was St. Augustine’s masterpiece, the ‘Confessions.’ … Such a highly personal account was unknown in ancient times.”
- “Devil’s advocate”: This phrase is linked to the canonization process. In order to make sure nothing is ignored about a potential saint, the Vatican appoints an advocatus diaboli to argue against the person’s cause for sainthood.
- Shakespeare: In high school, I wrote an essay on the Catholic themes in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Now I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who thought there was something deeper in his plays. In fact, there is a strong reason to believe Shakespeare was secretly Catholic — secret because Catholics were still highly persecuted in Protestant England at the time. His mother was Catholic, and another relative was executed for hiding a priest. And while nothing can be proven this many years later, there is a good chance he was married by a Catholic priest.
- Vince Lombardi: My Packers background made me happy to hear that the legendary coach from Green Bay was a devout Catholic who attended daily Mass, went to confession more than once a week (wow!), and prayed the Rosary regularly. His players often joked about what mattered most to their coach: “winning the game or getting to heaven.” That’s someone I can get behind!
- Groundhog Day: This is probably my favorite connection in the book. The secular holiday stems from the feast of Candlemas, celebrated on Feb. 2, which honors the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The passage from Luke’s Gospel — where Simeon says that Jesus would be the “light for the revelation to the Gentiles” (Lk 2:32) — led to a belief that the weather on Feb. 2 had a “predictive value,” as Copp put it. Who would have thought?
These are only a handful of the many Catholic connections Copp explores in the book. If you are looking to see the world through a more Catholic mindset or simply want a way to start a fun conversation — it would make for a great coffee table book — this is a great read to add to your collection.
Note: Subscribers to Our Sunday Visitor News Now, or e-newsletter, get 25% off most OSV books. Sign up here.
Ava Lalor is associate editor for Our Sunday Visitor and editor for Radiant magazine.