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NATAL


709


NATCHEZ


Natal Day. — Both the form nalalis (sc. dies) and naialicium were used by the Romans to denote what we call a birthdaj', i. e. the anniversary of the day when a man was born. Also the Greek words 7tf^(no and yev^S'Kios were similarly employed. But in both Greek and Latin a certain e.xtension of this prim- itive use seems to have taken place even in pre- Christian times. In Latin natalis apparently came, at least sometimes, to mean little more than "anni- versary" and it was used of the accession day of the emperor as well as of his birthday. Moreover we know that the games celebrated on an emperor's birthday during his life, were often continued after his apotheosis upon the anniversary of his birthday as if he were still living. In Greek yeviaui came to be frequently used in connexion with the annual com- memoration of a dead person by sacrifices and other rites (cf. Herodotus IV, 26). This commemoration is said to have taken place not upon the anniversary of the day of death but upon the actual birthday of the defunct person (C. I. G. 3417, and Rhode, "Psyche", 4th ed., I, 235). When, therefore, the Christians of Smyrna about 150 A. D. write to describe how they took up the bones of St. Poly- carp "which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suit- able place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom" (iinTeKetv ttjv tou ^aprvpiov aurou rip^pav yevidXtov)^ it is not easy to say how far they were influenced by pre-existing pagan usages. This phrase "the birth- day of his martyrdom" certainly seems to indicate the commemoration of the day on which he died, and all the subsequent history of the Church confirms the practice of keeping this as the usual feast of any saint or martyr. None the less, knowing as we do that the Greeks also commonly celebrated what they called i'€Ki><na., (commemorative sacrifices), on the an- niversary of the death of parents, it would seem that the faithful of the early Church did little more than christianize a pagan custom. This they accom- plished, first by offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass in honour of their deceased brethren instead of the blood or flesh of animal victims, and secondly by giving to this commemoration of a true believer 's pas- sage to another life the name 7ci'^eXioi, or in Latin natalis, rather than to the day upon which he had been born into this world.

One cannot ho%ve\-er entirely eliminate the doubt whether at the introduction of Christianity yei'46\ios and nalalis had not already come to mean little more than " anniversary " or " commemoration rite " . Ter- tuUian says "oblationes pro defunctis pro nataliciis annua die facimus" (De Corona, cap. 3), which .seems to mean "we offer Mas.ses for the dead on their an- niversary as a commemoration rite". Similarly the Chronographer of 354 notes in his calendar against 22 February, "VIII Kal. Martias Natale Petri de cathedra"; where natale clearly signifies anniversary rather than birthday. Indeed where we find the Fathers emphasizing the etymology of the word, their language rather suggests that they expected the pri- mary meaning of "birthday" to pass unnoticed. In any case the sense of anniversary alone fits a wide range of phrases which meet us in the calendars and other documents of the fifth, sixth, and seventh cen- turies. Avitus of Vienne (d. 518) and Eligius of Noyon (d. c. 650) both refer to Maundy Thursday under the name " natahs calicis" (the commemoration of the chalice) , a reference, of course, to t he inst it ut ion of the Blessed Sacrament at the Last Supper, and the feast appears under the same name in the calendar of Polemius Silvius of 448. Again in the Leonian Sacra- mentary we have the phrase "in natali episcoporum", which the context shows to mean the anniversary of a bishop's consecration (cf. Probost, "Die attest en


rom. Sacramentarien", 124 and 247, and Paulinus of Nola, "Ep. 20"), while the Gelasian Sacramen- tary uses such expressions as "natale consecrationis diaconi", etc. So also in the Hieronymian Martyr- ologium (c. 590), besides the constantly recurring natale applied to the festivals of martyrs we have, e. g. on 2 Aug., "In Antiochia natalis reliquiarum Stephani protomartyris et diac." None the less a certain stress was often laid in Christian sermons and in mor- tuary inscriptions upon the idea that the day of a man's death was his birthday to a new life. Thus St. Ambrose (Serm. 57, de Depos. St. Eusebii) declares that "the day of our burial is called our birthday (natalis), because, being set free from the prison of our crimes, we are born to the liberty of the Saviour", and he goes on "wherefore this day is observed as a great celebration, for it is in truth a festival of the highest order to be dead to our vices and to live to righteousness alone." And we find such inscriptions as the following

PARENTE FILIG MEECnKIO FECE

RUNT QUI VIXIT ANN V ET MENSES VIII

NATUS IN PACE ID FEBR

Where "natus in pace" clearly refers to eternal rest. So again Origen had evidently some similar thought before him when he insists that "of all the holy people ir. the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world below" (Origen, "in Levit.", "Hom. VIII", in Migne P. G., XII, 495). Naturally a cer- tain amount of confusion resulted from this use of the same word natalis sometimes to signify natural birth, sometimes the passage to a better life. The former was consequently often distinguished as "natale genu- inum", "natale de nativitate", the latter as "natale passionis" or "de passione", sometimes abbreviated as N. P.

Krieg in Kratts, Realencyklopddie; Kellner, Heortology (Eng. tr. London, 1907); Probst, Kirch. Disciplin in den drei ersten Christ. Jahrhunderten (Tubingen, 1873).

Herbert Thurston. Natalis Alexander. See Alrxander, Natalis.

Natchez, Diocese of (Natchesiensis) estab- lished 28 July, 1837, comprises the State of Missis- sippi. Catholic missionary work in this territory began with the expeditions of Marquette, La Salle, and Iberville. Iberville planted a colony in the home of the Natchez tribe, and erected there Fort Rosalie, on a site within the present city of Natchez. Capuchin, .lesuit, and secular priests laboured in this field, having missions at Biloxi, Natchez, and Yazoo. Early in the history of the missions. Fathers St. Cosme and Foucault, seculars, were martyred by the Indians, as were the Jesuits Du Poisson, Souart, and Senat. In 1787 three priests from Salamanca, Fathers McKenna, White, and Savage, settled at Natchez and erected promising missions there and in the vicinity. When the territory passed from Spain to the United States, these missions were practically abandoned. Much valuable property was lost to the Church, and the efforts made to recover it were in vain. For many years the CathoUcs of Natchez de- pended upon chance visits of priests.

The first Bishop of Natchez, John Mary Joseph Chanche, was b. 4 Oct., 1795, at Baltimore, whither his parents had fled from San Domingo. He joined the Sulpicians, and was president of Mount St. Mary's when appointed bishop. He was consecrated 14 March, 1841. Arriving at Natchez, he met there the only priest in the state, Father Brogard, who waa there but temporarily. Taking up the role of a simple missionary, he began to collect the Catholics and or- ganize a diocese. In 1842 he laid the corner stone of the present beautiful cathedral, and opened an acad-