Do, Re, Me and a Deacon’s Sore Throat

When the world and national situation gets too heavy, and one finds oneself wallowing in the negative, it is good to take a break and pick up the Gospels, or enjoy a good book, like Father Feeney’s Fish on Friday.  I have on my shelf another book with a Catholic Friday fare title.  It’s Michael Foley’s, Why Do Catholics Eat Fish On Friday ?

The book answers this question and just about everything else about the Catholic genealogies of the world we live in.  That is why the author subtitled it: The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything.  Did you know, for instance, that thirty-five craters on the moon are named after Jesuit astronomers? Or, the following bit of info, which I found particularly interesting.

The notes Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, are syllables taken from the first words in the stanzas of a Latin hymn composed to honor St. John the Baptist on his feast day, June 24th. The hymn, Ut queant laxis, found in the Divine Office, was used by an eleventh century Italian monk, Guido of Arezzo, to name each note of a diatonic scale of C. The first syllable of each verse of the hymn begins at one note higher than the first syllable of the prior verse. So, this is the hymn in Latin:

Ut queant laxis
Resonare fibris RE
Mira gestorum MI
Famuli tuorum, FA
Solve polluti SOL
Labii reatum, LA
Sancte Ioannes. TI
Do came later for the invocation of O Lord, Domine DO

The hymn is a petition to John the Baptist (whose father, Zachary, was struck dumb for doubting the message of the angel regarding his barren wife’s conception) to loosen the tongue of the composer of the hymn, Paul the Deacon, who had a sore throat the night before he was scheduled to sing the very difficult Exultet Sequence for the Easter Vigil Mass.

What I love about this book is how it shatters the myth of the so-called “Dark Ages.” The hundreds of astounding facts Foley has accumulated and commented upon will not only surprise readers, but make them proud to be Catholic. What a tremendous heritage is that of the Church!

The book is divided into five parts: La Dolce Vita, That’s Entertainment, The Tree of Knowledge, The Body Politic, and Our Mother Tongue, Words, Words, Words.  Beginning with time itself, and the entrance of the Word Incarnate into time, everything that measures it has a Catholic or Biblical origin.  Feasts, manners, food and drink, are all examined by the author as to their catholicity. The second part of the book does the same for the arts and even sports and games. The third part, my favorite, investigates the Church and science, forty-eight pages filled with unbelievable data covering every branch of the sciences, including health and medicine.  The fourth part deals with Catholic influence on the naming of American places, on national and international symbols, and on law. And, finally, for literary enthusiasts who love words and turns of phrase, the book ends with a study of the Catholic and Biblical origins of scores of English phrases and idioms.  A meticulously compiled index of footnotes and source information, with bibliography, are provided for easy verification of the plethora of amazing facts.

The book is published by Palgrave Macmillan NY, NY. You can buy it here.