I’ve been home about 10 days.  The Pilgrimage to Fatima and Lourdes left me a lot to think about.  I went to so many old churches. There were so many things the guides referred to that I didn’t know anything about. I’ve been Googling my fingers to the bone!  As I traveled around, I just kept thinking… Geeze, another thing I know nothing about.  This blog is going to be kind of a” Pilgrimage to Spain and France Fun Facts” or “Trivial Pursuit for Miraculous Places” or “Pilgrimage for Dummies”. Let’s do it.

The Star of David in Catholic Churches? :  

The Cathedral in Burgos, Spain is really old. Construction was started in 1221.  The center hall of the Cathedral has a beautiful stained glass window. In the center of it is the Star of David. The guide explained it was built before the six pointed star was a Jewish symbol. What? Wasn’t it always a Jewish symbol? No it was not. Who knew?

From what I could get from Google, the exact dates are up for debate. It looks to me like the earliest references to this symbol being used as a Jewish symbol was somewhere between 1300-1500. So this Cathedral was already well under construction by then. It also seems like the Star of David did’t really become an official symbol until 1897.  It was used to frequently in Catholicism and even Pope Benedict often wore a mitre (Pope Hat)  displaying this symbol.

Santa Croce church in Florence. Started construction on 1300. Notice Starvof David at top. 
What’s with all the former Rabbi-Catholic Bishops in Spain? 

This one is way to long to go into detail with. There were a lot of Jews in Spain a long time ago. Starting way back in 300CE the government started making it dangerous and difficult to be Jewish in Spain. Basically the Jews were jerked around for hundreds of years by just about everyone that ruled Spain. Then in the 1300s the Spanish Inquisition came along. Everyone had to convert or leave. If you left you could not take any money or gold or anything worth much with you. Many people stayed, publicly converted and some worked their way into high positions in the Roman Catholic Church. Weird.

Why do we light those little candles everywhere ?

The ceremonial use of lights in the Christian Church probably has a double origin: as a symbol and in the adaptation of certain pagan and Jewish rites and customs.  I think we still do it because it feels good. There is something satisfying in lighting that little wooden stick and using it to start a new flameon your candle. Then the smell of blowing it out. I’ve used the modern electric candle machines some churches have. I felt nothing. No process, no flame, no smell, no magic. Candles give us light in the darkness and they just feel good. 
 Incense, It smells cool, but what’s that all about?

Pagans, Hindu, Christians and Jews. We all love the incense. The practice is thought to come from earlier traditions of Judaism . The smoke of burning incense is interpreted as a symbol of prayers rising up to heaven. It is mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. Frankincense was one of the gift brought by the Wise Men. Here’s what I think. We hold on to traditions that work for us.  Incense makes things feel special, it enhances our experience. Everyone knows that smell. The smell part of our brains easily triggers memories and emotions. It adds another level of experience to rituals. We like it. God knew what he was doing with this one.
Holy Water. It water. Its Holy.

WIKI: The use of holy water in the earliest days of Christianity is mentioned only in  later documents. Documents which go back to 400,AD. It is plausible that in earliest Christian times water was used for incurring divine favor or avoiding divine retribution  or purification purposes in a way analogous to its employment in Jewish Law. (Google Mikva)

My thoughts- It works for us. Water is cheap. We can all get some and with the appropriate blessings, make it Holy. We can carry around and use it easily.  Again, I think traditions that give us comfort or made us feel connected to our faith stick around. Traditions like sacrificing animals and burning them in your back yard or selling you daughters into slavery have faded away. (thank, God)


I went on a Catholic Pilgrimage. What’s with all the Jewish stuff?

    Well, I guess because Christians were just a subgroup of the Jewish community until 60CE. Because this subgroup started accepting Gentiles and getting away from traditional Jewish Law, the Jewish Christians were eventually separated out. When this group went out on their own, they took many of their Jewish traditions with them. 

My Dad used to say-

 Roses are Red

Violets are Bluish

If it weren’t for Jesus

We’d all be Jewish.