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Ceremony and Celebration



The punctuation of American family and urban life is ceremonial and celebratory.

Anniversaries, whether public or personal, abound. Holidays and holy days. Parades! Weddings—I should know: my own two years ago and another this weekend. In this age of smart phones and selfies, there is little danger of any event passing without considerable public awareness. Every minor public appearance in the course of a political campaign is recorded, often at the candidate’s regret.

Agincourt’s sesquicentennial in 2007 was one such event—invented, of course—and 2015 offers its own. In May the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of RMS Lusitania went largely unnoticed (not by me, of course) and October 25th is the convergence of several events: first, it is Saint Crispin’s Day in the church kalendar; “Founders’ Day” in Agincourt itself (the celebration of the city’s founding in 1853 and incorporation four years later); and—drumroll—it is also the 600th anniversary of the actual Battle of Agincourt. Sorry if I harp on this too often. My point is simply that all of these and other similar events are opportunities for Janus-like reflection: moving forward with one eye in the rearview mirror.

A.F. & A.M.

“…[T]he stone has been proved and found to be ‘fair work and square work’ and fit to be laid as the foundation stone of this Holy Temple.” Anyone who’s attended a cornerstone ceremony conducted by the Masonic Lodge (A.F. & A.M., in longhand) may recall the formula for judging a stone suitably laid for the Ages. Images such as this ceremony from Independence, Iowa, however, would not have represented Masonic ritual for the laying of a cornerstone at St John-the-Evangelist Roman Catholic church—the lodge is a decidedly Protestant institution—but surely something similar must exist among the Knights of Columbus. [Frankly, K-of-C regalia is, if anything, even sillier than Masonic outfits and is borderline Monty Python.] With that caveat, the 1911 event at St John’s would have drawn a community-wide audience of every stripe; multiple clergy, reporters, and surely every politician within fifty miles. This was a photo op not to be missed. I suspect we can find considerable information about “Gilbert” the photographer.

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