10 December 2008

St. Nicholas Day

My big rush to get back to Ružomberok on Monday was so that I could see the St. Nicholas Day program at 11:30am. All I knew beforehand was that many of my students were performing in this theatrical extravaganza, and that it was about St. Catherine. Earlier, I had hypothesized about which St. Catherine it might be -- would it be St. Catherine of Siena and the drama of schism, or St. Catherine of Alexandria with a rather gory martyrdom? In fact, it was the story St. Catherine Labouré and the beginnings of the Miraculous Medal! -- which fits in nicely with the St. Vincent de Paul theme and the fact that this play took place on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

A very short summary of the play, which I found out today was written by the mother of one of my students:

The play opens with St. Nicholas' (one of the chaplains) entry, and he watched the show from the seat. The dialogue included discussion of his mitre. Above, after the first part introducing St. Nicholas, the play begins as St. Catherine's sister Zoë is born, and her mother dies, I think in childbirth if I understood correctly.

One of the many times St. Catherine asks her father to be allowed to go to the convent, and he says no. She is sent to Paris to live with her brother, who realizes how depressed she is and helps her convince their father to let her go be a nun.

Saint Catherine praying. I wish there was a photo of the appearance of Mary and the giving of the Miraculous Medal. When that happened, Amazing VP began to giggle a bit because of how dramatically the situation was presented considering the significant limitations of the staging, and her giggle was transferred to me because she's got such a joyfully contagious laugh, even though the appearance of the Mother of God surrounded by angels and the Miraculous Medal is a kind of serious thing. I was also laughing to myself thinking of my dad's story of how when he was a boy, he had the Miraculous Medal pinned on one shoulder, and a corno pinned on the other. His mother's reasoning: either way, he'd be protected.

St. Catherine and other Daughters of Charity helping injured people during the Revolution of 1848 or 1870 -- I'm not sure which and she was alive and in the community during both of them. At one point, a solider comes in, and the kid was dressed as a Roman centurion -- a costume used for Stations of the Cross later on in the school and liturgical year. Later, while joking with Amazing VP, we decided this was one of the postmodern aspects of the play. The ending was pretty dramatic, as St. Catherine died on 31 December, and on her deathbed, surrounded by sisters, she says, "I will not live to see the new year" and then she dies.

While talking later with Amazing VP, I half-seriously said that hopefully the kids acting out the lives of the saints would cause them to act more saintly, and she was like, "yah, I hope so too! lolz!" Then, as is the case so often when I say something cheeky like that, I foreshadow. Today, when asking one of my students (who was in the play) to please calm down, be quiet and pay attention, she said to me, "Ale som svätá -- but I'm a saint!" Keep reminding yourself of that, kiddo.

It may be of interest that some of my colleagues were like, "Do you have St. Nicholas Day in America? No, you don't, right?" and I was like, "of course we do!!!" And they were genuinely surprised -- because we often joke about things that we have and don't have in America (real bryndza cheese, homemade sauerkraut, namedays, pirohi, the stupid triedna knihas, etc). Sunday, when I got to Ružomberok, there were some chocolates and an orange, banana and lemon (that was a new one for me) from 'St. Nicholas' in my room... So I went downstairs to where my Sisterperson who makes sure I'm fed was watching TV and said "ďakujem -- thanks" and she smiled and said, "bol Mikulaš -- it was Nicholas" and I smiled and said, "yah, ďakujem."

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