St. Joseph’s Altar: The Lenten Feast?

Every year in my school, the classes would take a bus to a nearby banquet hall in our town of Opelousas, where we’d be able to eat some of the great food prepared for the St. Joseph’s Altar, a practice especially popular in Catholic southern Louisiana. That “altar” was really just a few tables adorned with flowers, breads, desserts, and meatless meals to commemorate the Solemnity of St. Joseph.Since the Solemnity falls during Lent most years and is not technically a Feast Day, the rules of th … [Read more...]

I took a crash course in Gregorian chant. Literally.

When the email circulated that there would be a traditional Latin Mass at our parish for the Feast of the Assumption on August 15, I immediately and foolishly wrote back that I wanted to be in the Schola Cantorum, the chant choir.The extent of my Gregorian chant experience at this point was one weekend at the Abbey of Gethsemani five years prior, a year of Latin in college, and a CD of hymns by Beth Nielsen Chapman in heavy rotation in my house every Christmas. I’d been to exactly one Latin M … [Read more...]

I have a Problem with Mary…and Possibly Women in General.

I wear a rosary around my neck and not for a fashion statement. My best friend bought it for me at the Vatican, where the Pope blesses the rosaries. Every time I visit a basilica or cathedral, I dip the beads into the Holy Water.  I glued my Pope Francis pilgrim medal from the papal mass in Philadelphia to the cross that binds the beads together.But I rarely pray the rosary. I have some pretty deep conflicts about Marian devotion. As a former Protestant, referring to Mary as the Blessed M … [Read more...]

Popular Piety: An Interview with a Traiteur

(With this post, we're kicking off a series called Popular Piety, exploring the physicality and magic of traditional, cultural Catholicism.) Gerald Boullion is a traiteur, a Catholic faith healer popular within the Cajun culture of southern Louisiana for hundreds of years. Like the Native Americans, the Protestant Christians of the Appalachians, and countless other remote populations for whom doctors were scarce or nonexistent, the Cajuns used their faith as medicine.Like so many of the m … [Read more...]

Bringing Catholic Magic Back

An article in The Atlantic grabbed our attention last week--about young Jews embracing the more traditional practices their parents had rejected. We completely identified. The return to traditional faith practices--what the Catholic Church refers to as "popular piety"-- played a significant role in both of our returns to Catholicism, the religion our parents had abandoned.Our families had been Catholic for generations. Jess's parents were old school cultural Catholics from New Orleans--they w … [Read more...]