One of the more ubiquitous and let’s face it, annoying phrases that has taken on several delineations through the years is, “When in Rome, do as the Romans.”

The phrase “When in Rome” actually has Catholic origins, dating to 387 with St. Ambrose. According to a proverb attributed to St. Ambrose, he vocalized the phrase in a recommendation to follow the cultures and ways of a region where one is either living or visiting.

As tradition tells it, St. Monica and her son, St. Augustine, learned that Saturday was observed as a fast day in Rome, where they were planning a visit. However, in Milan, where the future saints lived, it was not a fast day.

So they consulted St. Ambrose, who said, “When I am (in Milan) I do not fast on Saturday, when in Rome, I do fast on Saturday.” St. Ambrose also advised St. Monica and St. Augustine to follow the custom of whatever local church they might be attending, so as not to “give or receive scandal.”

However, it was not until the late 18th century when Pope Clement first published the saying in English, and it came about regarding Italy’s tradition of the afternoon siesta. In “The Interesting Letters of Pope Clement XIV” the pontiff wrote to Prior Dom Galliard regarding the question of the “siesto,: “If you had recollected, that when we are at Rome, we should do as the Romans so.”

Naturally, the phase has taken on a number of twists to accommodate a person’s or even a region’s tradition. Perhaps in this area, we can massage it to say, “When in Baton Rouge, do not wear red and white in the fall.”