Today is the Optional Memorial of the Seven Founders of the Order of Servites, Religious (died 1310). Today is also Mardi Gras, the festive day before Ash Wednesday, which begins the penitential season of Lent.
Named the fifth mendicant order by Pope Martin V in 1249 (after the Orders of Franciscans, Carmelites, Dominicans, and Augustinians), the Order of Servites was founded in 1233 by Saint Alexis Falconieri (the last of the seven founders to die, on this date in 1310), Saint Bartholomew degli Amidei, Saint Benedict dell’Antella, Saint Buonfiglio Monaldi, Saint Gherardino Sostegni, Saint Hugh dei Lippi-Uguccioni, and Saint John Buonagiunta Monetti. On the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1240 the Founders received a vision of Our Lady. She held in her hand the black habit, and a nearby angel bore a scroll reading Servants of Mary. Mary told them, “You will found a new order, and you will be my witnesses throughout the world. This is your name: Servants of Mary. This is your rule: that of Saint Augustine. And here is your distinctive sign: the black scapular, in memory of my sufferings.” Official approval was obtained in 1249 and confirmed in 1256; the order was suppressed in 1276 and definitely approved in 1304. The order was so rapidly diffused that by 1285 there were 10,000 members with houses in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, and early in the 14th century it numbered 100 convents, besides missions in Crete and India. The Reformation reduced the order in Germany, but it flourished elsewhere. Again meeting with political reverses in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it nevertheless prospered, being established in England in 1867, and in America in 1870. The Servites take solemn vows and venerate in a special manner the Seven Dolors of Our Lady. They cultivate both the interior and the active life, giving missions and teaching. Today is also Mardi Gras, the festive day before Ash Wednesday, which begins the penitential season of Lent. Mardi gras is French for Fat Tuesday, referring to the practice of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season begins, The first more or less official celebration of Mardi Gras in the New World began in Mobile, Alabama in 1703; but it cannot be doubted that the preeminent celebration of Mardi Gras (both of the season, which begins January 6 and really kicks into high gear ten days before Fat Tuesday, and of the day itself) is found in New Orleans. It should be noted that while Bourbon Street in New Orleans does have a reputation of being a place where anything goes during Mardi Gras, there are many neighborhoods in Greater New Orleans where seeing and participating in the parades is a family activity and where any female rash enough to expose her bosom would be promptly arrested. And one does indeed participate in the parades; every Mardi Gras parade has floats, and every float has about 20 or 30 people on it, and every person on every float is throwing ‘throws’, usually beads, which the crowd tries to catch and collect. Spectators have traditionally shouted to the float riders, “Throw me something, mister!”, a phrase that is iconic in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras street argot. In many towns in SouthWestCentral Louisiana the Cajuns have the Courir de Mardi Gras, where Le Capitaine leads masked and costumed men (and in some areas, women) on horseback to gather ingredients for making the communal meal (usually a gumbo). Participants gather in traditional costume, drink to excess and more, and move from home to home in rural areas requesting ingredients for gumbo (donated chickens have to be chased and caught by the riders). Accompanying the riders are several trailers pulled by trucks or cars; these trailers contain those revelers, also in traditional costume, who do not have horses to ride. They usually have beads to throw to onlookers, and the better trailers are provided with ice chests full of beer and Port-a-Lets. The Courir eventually makes its way into town and heads to the designated building for the communal gumbo. The general idea, both in New Orleans and Cajun Country, is that one has a wonderful time before the austerities of Lent kick in.
Before I went to bed last night I took a photo of our Mardi Gras Wreath (made for us by our coworker Deborah) on the back of our front door. Richard reported later that Michelle and her friend Lazo had come by to work on their costumes for Mardi Gras.
I woke up half an hour early, and did my Bathroom Devotional Reading. I then posted to Facebook that it was Mardi Gras. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading, said the Ninth and Final Day of my Lenten Novena, and set up my pledge to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Rice Bowl. Once at the casino Richard and I signed the Early Out list, then ate breakfast in ADR. Today was a Paid Holiday, meaning that we got paid time and a half for working today. Richard started the day on Let It Ride, and later was the Relief Dealer for Mini Baccarat, Pai Gow, and the Shoe Blackjack game in our High Stakes area. I was the Relief Dealer for Mini Baccarat, Pai Gow, and the Shoe Blackjack game in our High Stakes area. I had a headache, and took some Tylenol, but decided that I could wait until later to take my migraine medication. I got out at 6:15 am, and waited in the break room for Richard; I waited a good long time, and he told me that if he did not get out that I should drive on home and let him catch a ride home with someone. He finally got out at 7:45 am, and we headed homeward, stopping at Wal-Mart for some supplies. Once home, at 8:30 am, I took my migraine meds and a nap.
I woke up at about 11:45 am, with my headache mostly gone, and ate toast and boudin while reading the morning paper. Richard and I then left the house at 12:30 pm; it was 39° and clear, with the wind out of the north at 12 mph. We parked fairly high up on the Chatagnier Road, and waited for the Courir. In due time the Capitaine and the riders came by. Then the trailers followed. I did not realize until the first trailer had passed that Michelle was on the back (on the right), and that the masked reveler who had successfully begged two dollars from Richard was Lazo. After the last of the trailers had passed, Richard and I made our way back home again, with a tidy pile of beads in the back of the truck. We collapsed all afternoon. At about 4:00 pm Richard went to Champagnes to get some chicken to barbecue for dinner, and at 4:30 pm we watched Jeopardy! I then got on the computer to work on today’s Daily Update, and at 6:30 we had barbequed chicken with canned sweet peas for dinner. I will now finish this Daily Update and take a hot bath (I have felt cold all afternoon) and eat the last of my chocolate. Our LSU Men’s Basketball team will be playing Texas A&M tonight in an away game; I will report the score of the game in tomorrow’s Daily Update.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, a day of fast and abstinence from meat. I will do my laundry and the Weekly Computer Maintenance, and either at 12:00 pm or 6:00 pm I will go to Mass to get my ashes. I will also start reading Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches
by George Weigel, which Liz Ellen had given me at Christmas. The New Moon will arrive tomorrow in the early evening, and our LSU Baseball team will play a home game against Nicholls. And Richard and I will end our day of fasting with boiled crawfish at D.I.’s in Basile.
This Mardi Gras evening brings us a Parting Quote from Kathryn Grayson, American actress and operatic soprano singer. Born as Zelma Kathryn Hedrick in 1922 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, her father was a building contractor. The family later moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she was discovered singing on the empty stage of the St. Louis Municipal Opera House by a janitor who introduced her to Frances Marshall of the Chicago Civic Opera, who gave the twelve-year-old girl voice lessons. In 1940 an MGM talent scout saw her performing at a music festival. Metro hoped to find a replacement for Deanna Durbin, who had left the studio for Universal Pictures. Not long after signing her MGM contract she was asked to make her operatic debut in Lucia at the Metropolitan Opera House, but Louis B. Mayer talked her out of it knowing it would damage her long-term image as a film star. For the next 18 months, she went through voice lessons, drama coaching, diction, diets and exercise; she took her stage name from her own middle name and her mother’s maiden name. Within a year Grayson had her first screen test; however, the studio executives were not satisfied, and she went through a further six months of lessons until she made her first film appearance in 1941′s Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary as the character’s secretary Kathryn Land. That same year she eloped with actor John Shelton to Las Vegas, Nevada, where they were married; the two had courted for 18 months, after meeting while making screen tests. She appeared in three films in 1942: The Vanishing Virginian, Rio Rita and Seven Sweethearts (this last film included Frances Raeburn and Michael Butler, Grayson’s older sister and brother). Also in 1942 her husband moved out into his own apartment. In 1943 Grayson appeared in the film Thousands Cheer (originally titled Private Miss Jones), along with Gene Kelly, Mickey Rooney, Eleanor Powell, June Allyson and others. The film was intended as a morale booster for American troops and their families. Grayson starred as the singing daughter of an Army commander. She did not appear in any films for nearly two years (from 1943 to 1945), but instead worked at entertaining troops during the war and performing on radio programs. Her return to films in Anchors Aweigh, a musical romantic-comedy set in Los Angeles and co-starring Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Anchors Aweigh was the fifth-highest grossing film of 1945, earning over $4.779 million. This was followed by Two Sisters from Boston and guest appearances in Ziegfeld Follies and Till the Clouds Roll By. Grayson’s performance in Till the Clouds Roll By was of a song from the musical Show Boat. In 1946 she and Shelton were divorced; the next year she married the actor and singer Johnnie Johnston. MGM unwisely re-paired Grayson and Sinatra for two movies in 1947 and 1948, It Happened in Brooklyn and The Kissing Bandit. Both films performed poorly at the box office, and audiences thought the plots absurd. Grayson was then partnered with tenor Mario Lanza in That Midnight Kiss in 1949. In 1950 Grayson divorced Johnston and was once again professionally partnered with Lanza as she portrayed an opera singer in The Toast of New Orleans, performing the Academy-Award-nominated song “Be My Love”. While shooting the Madama Butterfly scene in the film, Lanza kept attempting to french kiss Grayson, which she claimed was made even worse by the fact that he would constantly eat garlic before shooting. Grayson went to costume designer Helen Rose who sewed pieces of brass into Grayson’s gloves. Any time Lanza attempted to french kiss her after that, she hit him with the brass-filled glove. For the premiere of the film Grayson traveled to New Orleans and was a guest at an auction selling the film’s costumes. Grayson replaced June Allyson as the role of Ina Massine in 1951′s Grounds for Marriage, portraying an opera singer with laryngitis, alongside Van Johnson who played her doctor and love interest. This was also her first non-singing role at MGM; Grayson’s musical performances did appear in the film, but in the form of recordings. Grayson was next cast as Magnolia Hawkes in the 1951 remake of the 1927 Hammerstein and Kern musical Show Boat alongside Howard Keel and Judy Garland; however, Garland dropped out of production, and the role went to Ava Gardner. Show Boat was the third-highest grossing film of 1951, earning over $5.533 million. Grayson teamed again with Keel that year in the Technicolor musical Lovely to Look At, a remake of the 1935 Astaire and Rogers film Roberta. This would be her last film with MGM, as her contract ended in January 1953. She went on loan to Warner Bros. and quickly started work on The Desert Song alongside Gordon MacRae; she had been asked to perform La bohème at the Central City Opera House in Central City, Colorado, but due to her filming obligations for The Desert Song she had to turn down their offer. (I am fairly certain that it was her work in 1951′s Show Boat that made my mother decide to give me the first name of Kathryn when I was born in 1958.) Grayson appeared on stage in numerous productions including Show Boat, Rosalinda, Kiss Me, Kate, Naughty Marietta, and The Merry Widow, for which she was nominated for Chicago’s Sarah Siddons Award. Her casting in The Merry Widow led to her replacing Julie Andrews in 1962 as Queen Guinevere in Camelot. She then continued the role for over sixteen months in the national tour of the United States before leaving for health reasons. Grayson finally did fulfill her lifelong dream of being an opera star, and she appeared in a number of operas in the 1960s, such as La bohème, Madama Butterfly, Orpheus in the Underworld and La traviata. In the 1980s she guest starred in three episodes of Murder, She Wrote with Angela Lansbury. In the late 1990s and early 2000s she was in several Hollywood documentaries (died 2010): “I must be the oldest living child soprano.”