29 August 2009

Death of St John the Baptist as told by a child in Dublin.

St John the Baptist, El Greco, c.1600

Back in the 1960s a teacher in an elementary school in a very poor part of Dublin recorded the children telling Bilbe and other faith stories in their own words. They spoke in their own Dublin dialect of English and their very accents tell Irish people that they are poor.

A few years ago the old reel-to-reel tapes of Miss Cunningham, the teacher who had died since, were found and put together as a very successful CD and tape under the title Give Up Yer Aul' Sins, a very Dublin way of saying 'Repent'.

More recently Brown Bag Films made an animated version of these stories, using the original recordings of the children. You can find the story of the death of St John the Baptist, which the Church commemorates today, here.

My parish priest at home in Dublin a few years ago sadly remarked that children there today probably wouldn't know any of these stories.

Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.

She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’ own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother,“What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”

The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Salome with the head of St John the Baptist, Carlo Dolci 1665-70

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