24 June 2011

24 June - Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Weather:  If it rains on St. John's Day, nuts will go bad and wicked women will thrive [that takes care of three-quarters of the population.  What about the rest of us?], however, apples, pears and plums will not be hurt.

Midsummer rain spoils hay and grain.

If it rains on St. John's Day, we may expect a wet harvest

"Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist;"  Matthew 11:11

"Birth of St. John the Baptist", Turin-Milan Hours, c1385, Museo Civico, Turin

Today is the Solemnity of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist, the Precursor, the Voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Make straight in the desert a highway for our God!"

"... and thou shalt call his name John: and thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice in his nativity.  For he shall be great before the Lord; and shall drink no wine nor strong drink: and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.  And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias; that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people."  Luke 1:13-17.

Most saints are celebrated on their death-day, their "birthday" into heaven.  John the Baptist is celebrated both on the day of his martyrdom (August 29) and today, the day of his physical birth, six months before the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.  The reason for this signal honor is that he, unlike the rest of us poor sinners, was filled with the Holy Ghost in his mother's womb. He started out 'full of grace'.

"And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways:
     To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins: Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us:
     To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace."
And the child grew, and was strengthened in spirit; and was in the deserts until the day of his manifestation to Israel.   Luke 1:76-80

For a fuller explanation, please see The Catholic Encyclopedia: St. John the BaptistCatholic Culture: June 24 has more information and several activities and recipes for celebrating this feast.   Fisheaters beautifully ties together the story of John and the customs surrounding his day, including a blessing for St. John's Bonfire.

He is the patron of tailors, perhaps because all he could afford was a suit of camel hair (which he sewed himself).

He is also the patron of the dumb, in reference to his father being struck dumb at the announcement of John's conception.

For an extensive list of his patronages, please see his entry at Saints.SQPN.com.

Superstitions of Saint John's Day:

If you wish to find out how long before you are married, make a wreath of nine different kinds of flowers.  Walking backwards, endeavor to throw the garland on a tree limb.  The number of times it falls to the ground are the number of years you will remain unwed.
This requires the use of one of your hairs, a wedding ring, a glass of water, and a clock which strikes the hour.  At noon, tie the ring to the strand of hair and suspend it in the glass of water.  Count the number of times that the ring tinkles against the glass before the clock finishes striking twelve.  That is the number of years before you will marry.

If you lop a tree on St. John's day, it will wither.

For protection against afflictions in cows, give it a drink of Holy Water on Midsummer day and sing the Athanasian Creed in Latin over it [or see the vet].