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Odds and ends from the staff of The Lamp.


✥ For the third year in a row, THE LAMP is sponsoring a Christmas ghost story competition in the spirit of Dickens and M.R. James. When we say “in the spirit of,” we do not have in mind wan pseudo-Edwardian pastiches of James and others; we mean stories that “succeed in causing their readers to feel pleasantly uncomfortable when walking along a solitary road at nightfall, or sitting over a dying fire in the small hours,” stories with contemporary or near-contemporary settings that achieve effects similar to those sought by the genre’s masters.

The winner of this year’s competition will receive one thousand dollars, and his or her story will appear in the Christmas number of the magazine. At least two runners-up will receive three hundred dollars each and have their stories published online during Christmastide.

The rules are as follows:

i. The contest is open to all writers aged eighteen and older. With the exception of The Lamp’s editor, any judges involved will not be aware of the identities of the authors before assessing their work; they will examine entries “blind,” without regard for previous publications, background, etc.

ii. The prize is for stories no longer than ten thousand words. There is no minimum length.

iii. Stories, while obviously intended to be frightening, must not contain obscene or indecent material.

iv. Stories must involve the supernatural, however sensitively portrayed or faintly suggested.

v. Stories must be written in English.

vi. Stories must be original, which is to say, they must not have been published previously, either in print or in any public online forum.

vii. “Simultaneous submissions” are not permitted.

viii. Only one story per entrant is allowed.

ix. Entries may be submitted by email to (.doc, .docx, or .rtf only: .PDF attachments will not be read). Biographical information limited to a single sentence should be contained in a separate document.

x. Entries should be formatted in Times New Roman with single line spacing. Do not include tab stops, indents, headers, footers, page numbers, or illustrations original or otherwise. A title will suffice. Epigraphs are also permitted.

xi. Submissions must be sent by midnight Eastern Time on October 31, 2023 in order to be eligible.

xii. Both the winner and at least two runners-up will be notified at a date to be announced later. No other editorial correspondence related to the contest will take place. The decision of the judges is final.

✥ And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, First you need to make an appointment with Barb, our parish outreach coordinator. Then, we have a few surveys for you to fill out.

✥ Callista Gingrich, in a recent column, offered this biographical gloss of Sister Jean, the centenarian, basketball-coaching nun:

After teaching briefly in Chicago, Sister Jean taught at Catholic schools in southern California where she would encourage and challenge young people to grow, flourish, and thrive. One of her eighth-grade students was Cardinal Roger Mahony who later became the archbishop of Los Angeles.

We can only hope that the former Ambassador of the United States to the Holy See does not consider Cardinal Mahony’s governance of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles an example of the “lives of purpose and service” which she says Sister Jean inspired in her pupils.

✥ In May, Jeanette Taylor, the alderman of Chicago’s twentieth ward, sent a letter to Blase Cardinal Cupich expressing concerns that the restoration a local landmark, the Shrine of Christ the King, was imperiled as a result of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s implementation of the motu proprio Traditionis custodes. “I have been deeply concerned by your administration’s decision to suppress the Institute’s ability to operate at the Shrine,” she wrote in reference to the fact that public Masses have been suspended since last August. “The Institute and the ever-growing congregation of Shrine faithful have been an integral part of the 20th Ward since they first arrived at the prior Cardinal’s invitation in 2003.” Taylor added that although many congregants at the Shrine do not live in the twentieth ward, they are “a vital part of our community,” not the least because their commitment to the church and its physical restoration “demonstrated a remarkable capacity to attract both people and resources into an area with a very small Catholic population.”

Shrine faithful bring welcome dollars to our local coffee shops, restaurants, and small businesses. In addition, the restoration of the Shrine itself has attracted a significant amount of resources to a part of our City which, as you know, is sorely underserved. It has been inspiring for my constituents to see that both individual donors and prestigious organizations like the National Fund for Sacred Places consider their neighborhood worth investing in rather than divesting from. I know they share my concern that the instability introduced into the Institute’s position at the Shrine by your administration’s decision last summer will deter donors in the future and cut the Shrine off from the further millions it needs to be a fully functional and operational building up to City of Chicago code.

Taylor concluded with a request that, for the sake of the neighborhood, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest be allowed “to operate according to the terms of your original agreement with them.”

✥ From Tobias Smollett’s observations on the shortcomings of the ancient Roman religion:

I cannot help observing, that the antient Romans were still more superstitious than the modern Italians; and that the number of their religious feasts, sacrifices, fasts, and holidays, was even greater than those of the Christian church of Rome. They had their festi and profesti, their feriae stativae, and conceptivae, their fixed and moveable feasts; their esuriales, or fasting days, and their precidaneae, or vigils. The agonales were celebrated in January; the carmentales, in January and February; the lupercales and matronales, in March; the megalesia in April; the floralia, in May; and the matralia in June. They had their saturnalia, robigalia, venalia, vertumnalia, fornacalia, palilia, and laralia, their latinae, their paganales, their sementinae, their compitales, and their imperativae; such as the novemdalia, instituted by the senate, on account of a supposed shower of stones. Besides, every private family had a number of feriae, kept either by way of rejoicing for some benefit, or mourning for some calamity. Every time it thundered, the day was kept holy. Every ninth day was a holiday, thence called nundinae quasi novendinae. There was the dies denominalis, which was the fourth of the kalends; nones and ides of every month, over and above the anniversary of every great defeat which the republic had sustained, particularly the dies alliensis, or fifteenth of the kalends of December, on which the Romans were totally defeated by the Gauls and Veientes; as Lucan says—et damnata diu Romanis allia fastis, and Allia in Rome’s Calendar condemn’d. The vast variety of their deities, said to amount to thirty thousand, with their respective rites of adoration, could not fail to introduce such a number of ceremonies, shews, sacrifices, lustrations, and public processions, as must have employed the people almost constantly from one end of the year to the other. This continual dissipation must have been a great enemy to industry; and the people must have been idle and effeminate. I think it would be no difficult matter to prove, that there is very little difference, in point of character, between the antient and modern inhabitants of Rome; and that the great figure which this empire made of old, was not so much owing to the intrinsic virtue of its citizens, as to the barbarism, ignorance, and imbecility of the nations they subdued. Instances of public and private virtue I find as frequent and as striking in the history of other nations, as in the annals of antient Rome; and now that the kingdoms and states of Europe are pretty equally enlightened, and ballanced in the scale of political power, I am of opinion, that if the most fortunate generals of the Roman commonwealth were again placed at the head of the very armies they once commanded, instead of extending their conquests over all Europe and Asia, they would hardly be able to subdue, and retain under their dominion, all the petty republics that subsist in Italy.

✥ The Sisters of Notre Dame cut ties with the college in Ohio that bears their name, explaining that the aging members of the order were no longer able to keep up their duties. Eighty-seven percent of the nuns are seventy or older, and the median age of the order is seventy-eight. (Novices are hard to come by these days.) School administrators, although they expressed sorrow at the decision, noted in a message sent around campus that not much would change. Anyway, the majority of the student body isn’t even Catholic.

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