Saturday, November 16, 2013


Is it true that the number 13 brings bad luck?

It was a eulogy for the late Escolastica Tudela Cabrera of Saipan, a dear friend and cultural icon, that brought out the following associations with that number, frightful to many but NOT frightful to the Cabrera family.   For them, some happy things happened or are associated with the number 13, and some sad.

Esco's husband, Gregorio, was born on the 13th of January.

He also died on the 13th of November.

Esco herself was the 13th child conceived by her mother, when one counts even the children who died in miscarriage.

In addition, Esco and Gregorio had 13 children.

Esco's first procedure for her heart, in Hawaii, happened 13 years before her last one, which preceded her death.

After her last visit to Hawaii for medical care, she departed Hawaii for Saipan and arrived home on the 13th of October.

Nine days after returning to Saipan, she died.  Our custom is to have nine days/nights of rosary for the dead.

Which means, when we start her rosary for her 1st anniversary of death next year, it will commence on the 13th of October.

The children of the late Esco and her late husband Gregorio are so proud that there are 13 of them that they highlighted this fact on the envelope they gave me as a gift.


Scholars aren't sure. 

Some say it's because there were 13 people at the Last Supper, with the traitor, Judas, being number 13.  12 Apostles and Our Lord make 13. 

But how can this explain the fact that 13 was believed to be a bad number among non-Jewish and non-Christian people long before the time of Christ?  In the Code of Hammurabi, for example, there is no Law #13.  One goes from #12 to #14.

In some cultures, a year with 13 full moons is a bad omen.

And there are 13 menstrual cycles in one calendar year.  But since the solar calendar triumphed over the lunar, in many cultures (the masculine over the female), 13 became, for them, a bad number.


Colgate University was founded by 13 people, with $13 and 13 prayers and 13 articles.  Its address is 13 Oak Drive.  They consider 13 a good number.

And a baker's dozen includes a 13th baked good thrown in to reward a faithful customer or make a new one.

A 13th donut is never a bad thing!


Even in religion, thirteen is not necessarily a bad thing.

In Judaism, a Jewish male becomes an adult and a full member of the Covenant community at age 13.  That's when he has his Bar Mitzvah.

And when Our Lady appeared in Fatima, on May 13, she told the three children to return to see her every 13th of the month.

The Miracle of the Sun, pictured above, with some people kneeling, looking up at the sky in awe and admiration, occurred on October 13, 1917.  That was the last appearance of Our Lady there.


In some cultures, like in Asia, the number four is the bad one.  That's because the word for the number four sounds like the word for "death."

Friday, November 1, 2013


Church of the Gesù

Mother Church of the Jesuits throughout the world.  Finished in 1584.  Model for the Baroque style in church architecture.  It sits on the same site of an older church where Saint Ignatius of Loyola prayed before an image of Our Lady, still preserved in this newer church.  The cell (room) of Saint Ignatius still exists in the Jesuit residence to the right of the church and can be visited by the public.

The Baroque style, favored by the Jesuits (and others) during the Counter Reformation from around the year 1550 and after, tried to inspire people, and keep them Catholic, by filling their eyes and hearts with external beauty, reminding them of the splendor of God.

It is called the Gesù (Jesus, in Italian) but the more formal name is "The Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus."  Over the high altar is the monogram of the Holy Name - IHS.

Tomb of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Religion Defeats Hatred and Heresy

Notice the little image on the bottom left, tearing out pages from the writings of Zwingli!

Side Altar with the Arm Bone of Saint Francis Xavier

Pulpit of a "Preaching Church"

Part of the Counter Reformation, or the Church's efforts to stem the tide of Protestantism and win souls back to the Church, was a renewed emphasis on preaching.  Begun several centuries earlier by the Dominicans and Franciscans, pulpits were placed in a prominent part of the church and the naves of churches were freed from columns that would block the view of the pulpit.  This way, preachers could be seen and heard more easily by the congregation.  These churches, were sermons were emphasized, were called "preaching churches" and the Gesù was one of them.

Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Again, a richly ornate Baroque church.  This one is dedicated to the founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, though his body is buried in the Gesù.  The impetus for the building of this church was the canonization of Saint Ignatius in 1622 but it took many years before the church was open for public worship.  The Jesuit Roman College was very near and it had the students in mind when it was being built.

Above the high altar are the words Jesus spoke to Ignatius while he was on his way to Rome to offer his services, and that of his first companions, to the Pope.  While in prayer, the Lord appeared to Ignatius holding his cross and told him, "I will be favorable to you in Rome."  Sure enough, the Pope received the first Jesuits with approval and put them to work immediately.

The Illusion of the Dome

At a certain spot on the floor of the church, you look up and think you see a dome.  The dome does not exist.  The illusion was simply painted on the ceiling.  That is - if you look from this spot marked on the floor :

But if you move to any other part of the church and look up, the illusion becomes apparent :
Several Jesuit saints!
Tomb of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga
....and Saint Robert Bellarmine
...and Saint John Berchmans