Speaking of Friday the 13th…

National Geographic gives the day a deeper look:

Friday the 13th Superstitions Rooted in Bible and More.

They date back to at least ancient Roman times, but Friday the 13th superstitions won’t be getting much of a workout this year. Luckily for triskaidekaphobia sufferers, 2011—like 2010 before it—has only one Friday the 13th.

By contrast, 2009 boasted three Friday the 13ths—the maximum possible in a year, at least as long as we continue to mark time with the Gregorian calendar, which Pope Gregory XIII ordered the Catholic Church to adopt in 1582.

“You can’t have any [years] with none, and you can’t have any with four, because of our funny calendar,” said Underwood Dudley, a professor emeritus of mathematics at DePauw University in Indiana, and author of Numerology: Or, What Pythagoras Wrought.

The calendar works just as its predecessor, the Julian calendar, did, with a leap year every four years. But the Gregorian calendar skips leap years on century years except those divisible by 400. For example, there was no leap year in 1900, but there was one in 2000. This trick keeps the calendar in tune with the seasons.

The result is an ordering of days and dates that repeats itself every 400 years, Dudley noted. As time marches through the order, some years appear with three Friday the 13ths. Other years have two or, like 2011, one.

Curious Calendar Encourages Friday the 13th Superstitions

“It’s just that curious way our calendar is constructed, with 28 days in February and all those 30s and 31s,” Dudley said.

When the 400-year order is laid out, another revelation occurs: The 13th falls on Friday more often than any other day of the week. “It’s just a funny coincidence,” Dudley said.

Richard Beveridge, a mathematics instructor at Clatsop Community College in Oregon, authored a 2003 paper in the journal Mathematical Connections on the mathematics of Friday the 13th.

He noted the 400-year cycle is further broken down into periods of either 28 or 40 years.

“At the end of every cycle you get a year with three Friday the 13ths the year before the last year in the cycle … and you also get one on the tenth year of all the cycles,” he said.

2009, for example, was the tenth year of the cycle that started in 2000.

Friday the 13th Superstitions Linked to Triskaidekaphobia

Friday the 13th superstitions are rooted in ancient bad-luck associations with the number 13 and the day Friday, said Donald Dossey, a folklore historian and author of Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun.

The two unlucky entities ultimately combined to make one superunlucky day.

Dossey traces the fear of the number 13—aka, triskaidekaphobia—to a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, Norse mythology’s heaven. In walked the uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous god Loki. Once there, Loki arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.

“Balder died, and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day,” Dossey said.

There is also a biblical reference to the unlucky number 13. Judas, the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to the Last Supper.

As for Friday, it’s well known among Christians as the day Jesus was crucified. Also, some biblical scholars believe Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on Friday. Perhaps most significant is a belief that Abel was slain by his brother Cain on Friday the 13th.

Meanwhile, in ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12. The 13th was believed to be the devil…

More here.


Now Twitter Down Too?!

No sooner having reported on Google’s Blogger outage, and I can’t access my Twitter account:

The Twitter fail whale is making a Friday the 13th appearance to some users today as the microblogging site is reporting having problems.

“We are currently experiencing site stability issues,” the company said on its Twitter status blog at about 10:15 a.m. PT. “There may be intermittent issues loading and Twitter clients. We’re working to fix it as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, Google was able to get Blogger back online this morning after a more than 20-hour outage.

Must be Friday the 13th indeed!


Embarassment for Google: Blogger Down

Okay, I think I’ll stick with WordPress:

Google’s Blogger platform has suffered serious disruption for over 24 hours after a scheduled piece of maintenance went badly wrong, wiping posts and leaving customers unable to publish to the blogging service.

The embarrassing turn of events began at around 6am BST on Thursday when Blogger went into read-only mode for a routine piece of maintenance.

Google then posted the following message on its status page: “To get Blogger back to normal, all posts since 7:37am PDT on Weds, 5/11 have been temporarily removed.”

The company has remained tight-lipped over the possible cause of the disruption, merely updating customers via the service disruption update page and its Twitter account, and the extent of the problem remains unclear.

“Again, we apologise that this happened and our engineers are working hard to return Blogger to normal and restore your posts and comments,” said a post on the service disruption page. “We will post a report once this work is complete.”

At the time of writing, Google said that it is in the process of restoring all posts that were temporarily removed and that the service will be back to normal “soon”…

Read more here.

A few Blogger blogging friends have been really upset about the outage. One has even started a WordPress blog out of sheer desperation. Not nice when all you want to do is blog.


Marriage: The Core of Every Civilization

So write Archbishop Timothy Dolan:

It was one of the more uncomfortable moments in my life.

Outside of St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Milwaukee, where I, as archbishop, was celebrating Sunday Mass on an otherwise magnificent Wisconsin autumn day, were a couple dozen very vocal protestors, representing some off-brand denomination, shouting vicious chants and holding hateful signs with words I thought had gone the way of burning-crosses and white hoods.

This frenzied group, taunting the people as they left Mass, were rabid in criticizing the Catholic Church, especially her bishops, for our teaching that homosexuals deserve dignity and respect.

To be more precise, this group was yelling at us because, they objected, the Catholic Church was so friendly, welcoming, and defensive of gay (they used other foul words) people.  They waved placards explicitly quoting and condemning #2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which affirms the dignity of those with same-sex attraction, and warns against any form of prejudice, hatred, or unjust discrimination against them, and insists that homosexual acts, not persons, are not in conformity with God’s design.

Never have I faced such a vitriolic crowd, blasting the Church for simply following the teaching of Jesus by loving and respecting people regardless of anything, including their sexual orientation.

When a reporter asked me for a comment, I replied, “They’re right:  we do love and respect homosexual people.  These protestors understand Church teaching very well.”

I’ve been recalling that episode often of late, because now I hear Catholics, — and, I am quick to add, Jews, other Christians, Muslims, and men and women of no faith at all — who have thoughtfully expressed grave disapproval of the current rush to redefine marriage, branded as bigots and bullies who hate gays.

Nonsense!  We are not anti anybody; we are pro-marriage.  The definition of marriage is a given:  it is a lifelong union of love and fidelity leading, please God, to children, between one man and one woman.

History, Natural Law, the Bible (if you’re so inclined), the religions of the world, human experience, and just plain gumption tell us this is so.  The definition of marriage is hardwired into our human reason.

To uphold that traditional definition, to strengthen it, and to defend it is not a posture of bigotry or bullying.  Nor is it a denial of the “right” of anybody.  As the philosophers remind us, in a civilized, moral society, we have the right to do what we ought, not to do whatever we want.  Not every desire is a right…

Read on here.


Seve Ballesteros’s Funeral

The Catholic Herald reports:

Unlike a lot of clergy, I do not have any particular interest in golf, but I do take an interest in funerals, and was intrigued by certain aspects of the funeral of the late Seve Ballesteros, the famous golfer, which took place on Wednesday. You can see a short video of the funeral here.

There were several very positive elements to this celebration (as the liturgy correctly designates it) which I would like to highlight. It took place in the local parish church of the deceased, and a Mass was celebrated: I note with approval that celebrants were vested in purple. There was obviously a very large turnout, not just from the luminaries of the international golf world, but also from the ordinary people of the town. Their attendance conveys respect for the deceased and solidarity with his survivors and is much to be commended. Perhaps these people did not know the late Mr Ballesteros very well, but their being there, either in church or outside it, was a very powerful gesture of community cohesion. How I wish we saw more of this in England!

The introduction to “the Green Book”, which is the newish and very comprehensive Order of Christian Funerals, says that every funeral should reflect the life of the deceased. This was present on Wednesday with the attendance of the members of the local rowing club and the placing of golf clubs and a photo next to the urn containing the ashes. Likewise, in the eulogies given by family members.

A lot of priests do not like eulogies, but I have to say that I do. People do not have to have them, but when they do, they often find them a huge comfort. They do add that personal touch, and avoid the impression that this funeral is a production line event. A funeral is a special occasion, as much as a wedding is. The eulogy is not part of the Mass, coming after the post-communion prayer, and it can be delivered, if desired, at the crematorium or the graveside; but the fact that the eulogy is secular does not detract from the sacred rites that precede it, in my opinion.

One thing that will strike people is that Mr Ballesteros’s body had been privately cremated before the Mass. This is not often done, but I would highly recommend it, and it is perfectly acceptable from a liturgical point of view. It means, of course, that one does not have to have a hearse and undertakers present at the Mass, and that the family can carry the ashes and bury them themselves. I have nothing against undertakers, but it is much nicer to have a funeral without them. Incidentally, while on the subject of ashes, these are meant to be treated exactly as a coffin is treated; the contents are to be reverently buried, not scattered. This burial can include burial at sea.

The remains of Seve Ballesteros are now buried under a magnolia tree in his garden, as he wished. May he rest in peace.

The above mentioned video is here:


Belief in God is Part of Human Nature

That’s according to an Oxford University study:

Humans are naturally predisposed to believe in gods and life after death, according to a major three-year international study.

Led by two academics at Oxford University, the £1.9 million study found that human thought processes were “rooted” to religious concepts.

But people living in cities in highly developed countries were less likely to hold religious beliefs than those living a more rural way of life, the researchers found.

The project involved 57 academics in 20 countries around the world, and spanned disciplines including anthropology, psychology, and philosophy.

It set out to establish whether belief in divine beings and an afterlife were ideas simply learned from society or integral to human nature.

One of the studies, from Oxford, concluded that children below the age of five found it easier to believe in some “superhuman” properties than to understand human limitations.

Children were asked whether their mother would know the contents of a closed box. Three-year-olds believed that their mother and God would always know the contents, but by the age of four, children start to understand that their mothers were not omniscient.

Separate research from China suggested that people across different cultures instinctively believed that some part of their mind, soul or spirit lived on after death.

The co-director of the project, Professor Roger Trigg, from the University of Oxford, said the research showed that religion was “not just something for a peculiar few to do on Sundays instead of playing golf”.

“We have gathered a body of evidence that suggests that religion is a common fact of human nature across different societies,” he said.

“This suggests that attempts to suppress religion are likely to be short-lived as human thought seems to be rooted to religious concepts, such as the existence of supernatural agents or gods, and the possibility of an afterlife or pre-life.”

Dr Justin Barrett, from the University of Oxford’s Centre for Anthropology and Mind, who directed the project, said faith may persist in diverse cultures across the world because people who share the bonds of religion “might be more likely to cooperate as societies”.

“Interestingly, we found that religion is less likely to thrive in populations living in cities in developed nations where there is already a strong social support network.


Media Silent About Burning of Hundreds of Churches in 2011

The mainstream media are failing to report an unprecedented number of attacks against Christian churches around the world in 2011. The media may report an attack occasionally as if it were a one-off but no journalist is setting the attacks in the wider international context. Why is that?

Here is a summary of the burning of churches around the world in 2011:

Egypt – Since al Queda and its militant allies spread the incendiary lie that two Christian women who had converted to Islam were being held against their wills by Copts as many as six Christian churches have been attacked this year. Last week a Christian caretaker of a Cairo church was beaten to death by a mob.

Pakistan – A mob of Muslim militants in Punjab attacked and burnt down Christian homes and churches after false rumours that Christians had burnt a copy of Koran.

Ethiopia – Mobs of Muslim militants burnt down 69 Christian in March after false rumours were spread that Christians had flushed copies of the Koran down the toilet and using pages as toilet paper.

Nigeria – After the Christian candidate for president defeated the Islamic candidate  in April 2011 hundreds of Christian churches have been burnt down and an unknown number of Christians killed.

Protect the Pope comment: Imagine if there were sustained attacks around the world on Muslim Mosques or Jewish Synagogues! Rightly so, there would be outrage and condemnation in the media. There would be Panorama and Cutting Edge documentaries. Sharp questions would be put to the Foreign Office Ministers on Radio 4 Today show and Newsnight. Journalists would be asking who is behind these international attacks on Mosques or Synagogues? What can be done to stop them?

But in the face of hundreds of Christian churches being burnt down around the world in 2011, what is the media response? Nothing, absolutely nothing. And when they do report the odd, isolated case of attacks against a Christian minority in a Muslim majority country journalists at the BBC or SKY or CNN go out of their way to talk about ‘sectarian conflict, as if both sides were equally matched and equally to blame for the attacks on Christian churches. As one Copt put it last week, if just one Mosque was burnt down in Egypt all the Christians would be massacred.

The above was here.