Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Barbara for the miners

@Stanislaus(Cleve.), @Sacred Heart
@Our Lady of Lourdes

@Barbara, @Holy Name

Saint Barbara was one of the virgin martyrs in the last wave of persecution in the roman empire. She was from Asia Minor. Barbara was the feminine greek form of foreigner (barbarian), but since she was from a family of some privilege, the name had to have become accepted and naturalised amongst the greeks.

Her legend is colorful. Her father, an ambitious pagan, had her as a commodity. She was sheltered in a tower [her iconography includes a three windowed tower for the Trinity]. She read, and somewhere, encountered christian works and converted. Her father wanted to successfully marry. She would not. He turned her in for being a christian. She was punished, but would not relent.

Her father took a sword and decapitated her. He was soon hit and killed by lightning. The attributes of the martyrdom often befit the iconic depictions. A palm frond is universally associated with martyrs. The instrument, here a sword, often is shown.

Saint Barbara, since she died without Viaticum (last Communion), became a patron for those dying without access to the Sacrament. She is sometimes shown with a chalice Host. Stanislaus Kostka received Communion from her during an illness whilst he was among lutherans.

The noisy blast of lightning brought her to the attention of the artillery. Especially, the early guns, exploded themselves, often killing or maiming their crew. She became their patron. There are military associations and medals named for her. The powder magazines of ships of the french, spanish, and italians were variants on santabarbara, sainte-barbe.

Powder and explosions also went off with miners. She was their patron too. Often in central europe, including Silesia (SW Poland, into Czechia and Germany), there were altars in mines, or chapels nearby dedicated to Barbara.

In the Cleveland diocese, several churches have images of Barbara (see supra). One of the churches to be suppressed is Saint Barbara. It is a polish parish overlooking the old steel mills, some of which is gone. Mills and mines are similar--they are dark, dirty and dangerous. Barbara was an apt patron for the area and the people. It is on top of Jennings Freeway, a couple mile connection between two other freeways. It took decades for the project to complete. The church survived demolition from it, survived the removal of parishioner homes, survived the industrial and demographic decay of the rustbelt. It is slated for extinction. It is battling and wounded.

Now this little essay is entitled 'Barbara for the miners'. Across the world in China, on Easter Sunday, 115 miners of 153 were rescued from a flooded mine. Huge mine disasters are not uncommon in China. There the communists and the capitalists are indistinguishable, and worker rights are not much in evidence. It is a betrayal for socialism, it is the approved standard for capitalism. This command socialism, which is communism, and capitalism are both forms of materialism. It is not surprising, that, both lack human concern.

About 3 o'clock Easter Monday an explosion killed more than two dozen miners in West Virginia, a tragic and horrible event, especially for the families. It was a scab mine owned by a scab company, Massey Energy Company. Last year, that mine, had 458 violations. They paid 18¾% of the amassed fines and constantly litigate against them and regulations. Don Blankenship runs Massey, he ran the union, United Mine Workers, nearly completely out of the three state region in which he has operations. He contributes heavily to Republican politics. He believes in production over all concerns within the operations.

The physical killer was a gas explosion. Underground mines need to be ventilated. The goal is to keep methane, natural gas, below 1 or 1½%. Explosions occur between 5 and 15%, with the most catastrophic at 9%. Ventilation costs time, money and equipment. That is not production. Production is profit. Profit is what matters. It is the purpose of capitalism. Blankenship was very good at procuring profit in a poor economy.

Mining was far deadlier in America a century ago. Even when one did not die in the mine, it did damage to the body. Some poignant songs came out of the tradition. A few years ago, a canadian group, the Cowboy Junkies, put out on their first album an old song:
Mining For Gold

We are miners, hard rock miners
To the shaft house we must go
Pour your bottles on our shoulders
We are marching to the stope

On the line boys, on the line boys
Drill your holes and stand in line
’til the shift boss comes to tell you
You must drill her out on top

Can’t you feel the rock dust in your lungs?
It’ll cut down a miner when he is still young
Two years and the silicosis takes hold
And I feel like I’m dying from mining for gold
Labor that kills you, needs a protector(ess) too. The US does not broadly celebrate and dedicate for such patrons, but when death can come without warning, and without care, perhaps a patroness will help. Barbara for miners.

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