PODCAzT 58: Ember Days; Chrysostom on St. Matthias; Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Today is Wednesday in the Octave of Pentecost, or at least it ought to be in in the Novus Ordo as it is in the older, Traditional Roman Calendar. 

This is the third PODCAzT for the Pentecost Octave.

Thanks to your feedback after yesterday’s I decided to do another.  And thanks also for the donations!  That helped.

Today we learn about what Ember Day’s are, these beautiful days which helped Catholics for may centuries regulate the rhythm of their lives in the consecration of the seasons of the year, and learn to use God’s creation with moderation. 

Then we hear from St. John Chrysostom (+407) on the choice of St. Matthias to replace Judas who had fallen away.  I have comments about bishops.

Finally, we hear a marvelous old prayer invoking the help of the Holy Spirit, appropriate in this Octave of Pentecost.

Again, your feedback will determine if I keep this up for the rest of the Octave.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. magdalen says:

    I just got an answer to “What is an ember day?”

    Ember Days

    Former (traditional) penitential observances known as “Ember Days” can be found on many traditional Catholic calendars, though sadly not on many diocesan ones. What
    are the “Ember Days”? They are/were for the special sanctification of the
    four seasons and for obtaining God’s blessing on the clergy. They are/were
    days of fast and abstinence. On Wednesday and Saturday the abstinence is only
    partial, meaning meat may be eaten at the main meal. Ember Fridays are just
    like Good Friday, fast and abstinence from all meat.

    The Ember Days occur during the third week of Advent, the first full week
    of Lent, the week after Pentecost (meaning tomorrow), and the third full
    week in September.
    On another point on today’s feast, did anyone notice how the lectionary has
    changed the scripture readings to ‘brothers and sisters’ and a room
    of ‘persons’ giving us a change in meaning and circumstance so as to
    coddle the feminist sensitivity. Do you suppose Rachel and Hannah were
    also in the running then? You know, I doubt it for in those early days certainly
    they were following the Jewish tradition and it was not men and women but
    men here.

    It is one of my pet peeves that some feel free to play fast and loose
    with translations of scripture to meet certain agendas. We no longer forgive
    7 x 70 times (infinite) but 77 times (finite) for example. I sure
    hope that more faithful translations will be forthcoming.

    Am I wrong about this, Fr. Z?

  2. Michael says:

    Father Z,

    It’s clear that you think that the Pentecost Octave should be observed in the Novus Ordo calender, along with Easter and Christmas. I’m wondering what you think about all the other Octaves which were suppressed by Pope Pius XII in 1955? Such Octaves would include the Epiphany, Corpus Christi (both of which were of “Privileged Octaves of the Second Order,” outranking even Christmas, which was of the Third Order), the Ascension, the Sacred Heart, plus six other “Common Octaves” and three other “Simple Octaves.” Do you think these should be reintroduced as well, or just Pentecost so we have the three that Pius XII decided to have?

    A complete list may be found on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octave_%28liturgical%29#From_Pius_V_to_Pius_XII

  3. magdalen: Sounds right, all except for that ridiculous changing of Scriptures to Peter saying “Brothers and sisters”, since no women were involved in that decision about the replacement for Judas.

  4. Jenny says:

    A columnist in Knoxville regularly reports when the Ember Days are. He says that the tradition is that brush cut back on an Ember Day will not grow back. Of course I had no idea there was any Catholic connection to it.


  5. Larry says:

    The podcast is great Fr. Z. I have only recently begun listening to them, under your threat of discontinuing them! Always wait until something is alomost and then you want it. At any rate it is good to learn and in some cases refresh one’s memory about these things. Since I am a humble catechist it provides a great deal of amunition to share with my 7th grade confirmandi. I am a child of Vatican II so I don’t think I’m terribly conservative. Recently I have begun to attend the TLM once a week. At first I was not impressed, felt no great surge of emotion of finding something I had “lost” yet over the months I have grown to appreciate this EXTRA-ORDINARY form more as shall I say the adult version of the Mass.

    That being said, and with too many words, I have a question. Today is the Commemoration of St. Boniface in the TC; but also the Wednesday in the Octave of Pentecost. Our priest added no prayer in commemoration. Is this correct and if so, why? This is the rite I grew up in; but, I am just now learning the intricacies. Thanks again o for the pod casts.

  6. Jason says:

    Yet another great podcaZt! Thanks and keep ’em coming Fr. Z!

  7. Thanks, Father Z, for letting us know of this wonderful prayer to the Holy Spirit. I was not previously familiar with it, but found it posted on-line in Latin and (pre-ICEL) English at


  8. Patrick Rothwell says:

    I, for one, strongly support the return of the Ember Days, if for no other reason, it is an occasion for public prayers for vocations.

  9. Toronto Seminarian says:

    Thank you, Fr Z, for the bit about Ember days. Even though I only get to attend Mass in the usus antiquior this Monday and Friday, I have been paying special attention to the older calendar this week, since I rather regret the loss of the Pentecost Octave. However, I have been wondering about Ember days. I haven’t yet had a chance to listen to this podcazt, but I am looking forward to listening to your explanation later today, which will no doubt be very edifying.

  10. Bruce says:

    Thank you Fr. Z for another great podcast. I love St. John Chrysostom’s homilies. Didn’t St. Thomas Aquinas say that he would give up all the books in Paris for St. John Chrysostom’s homilies. I really appreciate and have learned alot from these podcasts during the octave of Pentecost.Thank You!

  11. mike says:

    Keep up the podcazts!

  12. Lacrimarum Valle says:

    Please, please do continue! Dear Fr Z, your podcasts are an oasis of spiritual refreshment at the end of a hard secular day. (And your blog makes me laugh as well as it is VERY FUNNY).

    Could you perhaps mention the music you include in your podcasts please? Some if it is unfamiliar to me and it is very beautiful.

    Thanks, love and prayers for you.

  13. Darcy says:

    Although it takes me a few tries to listen to them with little kids around, I do enjoy the Podcazts and appreciate thinking “theologically” again as I did in my wild days (studying for an MTS while working for a parish). Added bonus: your voice and the chant/polyphony apparently soothe my 5-month old daughter. So, please. Keep going through the octave, and why not just keep on going after that? Daily Podcazts = cool. (You don’t need to have a life otherwise right?)

  14. Ubi Petrus Ibi Ecclesia says:

    Very good and very informative series of podcasts for the Octave of Pentecost. Please keep it up!

  15. Piers-the-Ploughman says:

    Thanks for the Podcazt, Fr Z

  16. Mother Wendy says:

    Dear Father,
    I am enjoying your PODCAzT so much. I am downloading them and listening to them several times over. I have recommended them to several friends. Your current series in this Octave of Pentecost with its Ember Days is so important. Please keep providing this most appreciated and needed instruction. Bless you!
    Mother Wendy

  17. Coletta says:

    Father Z, please continue the podcasts. We never hear much about the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity and the Divine Indwelling. Thank you for these prayerful teachings. I love St. John Chrysostom. I can’t stand the translations that change what it is supposed to say. I know you read Latin, but in English which Bible would you suggest for memorizing passages and psalms? p.s.Please pray for one of our Priests whose anniversary of ordination is tomorrow. (Fr.C) Also we have two Priests being ordained this Saturday.

  18. Mark M says:


    Please do consider keeping going. An Octave of Podcazts is so fitting!

  19. Father: This PODCAzT series could not come at a better time for me. I’ve had a tough 2 weeks at work (major deadline) and Relevant Radio (that I listen to while I’m working) is in their pledge drive (which makes me cranky-and no one wants that!). Bottom line: this series has filled a hole in my Catholic programming at a time when it’s badly needed.

    Thank you.

  20. Limbo says:


    So impressed and happy was I with the PODCAzt on ember days I hit the donate button !! I must learn to control myself !

  21. Anthony says:

    Greetings from Singapore! Father, please continue the special octave series. It’s been most enjoyable and enlightening. I grew up with the new calendar and have always felt a bit of an anti-climax after Pentecost. And now I know why!

  22. Other Paul says:

    Habemus sacerdotem.

  23. jacobus says:

    St. Mattias, another pointless and wacky calendar change. His feast has famously been leap day for many centuries. So much for that I guess.

    These are wonderful, Father.

  24. Reid Matthiessen says:

    Outstanding, Father. Your threats have paid off. In my case, anyway. The musical selections are just beautiful. Wonderful stuff. Continuez, donc!

  25. Michael: I certainly do think the Pentecost Octave should be restored to the Novus Ordo. And I think there would be merit to the restoration also of the Epiphany Octave.

    Epiphany was, of course, more important than Christmas for centuries.

  26. Ed Casey says:


    Another winner. I pray today that in this Octave of Pentacost the Spirit of the Most High will lighten the hearts, minds and human spirits of those in whom it is lacking; make way to open the eyes of the heart to the Lord; and recover, in a sense of continuity, our traditions and honorable, time-tested Catholic culture.

    May God the Spirit be with your every breath.

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