Daily Update: Sunday, August 30th, 2015

Jeanne Jugan

Today is the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time and the Optional Memorial of Saint Jeanne Jugan, Virgin (died 1879).

Born in 1792 in Cancale in Brittany, France, today’s Saint was the sixth of eight children; her father. a fisherman, was lost at sea when she was very young, and her mother raised the family alone. When Jeanne was 16 she took a job as the kitchen maid of the Viscountess de la Choue. The viscountess, a devout Christian, had Jeanne accompany her when she visited the sick and the poor. Nine years later Jeanne began working in the town hospital of Saint-Servan. She worked hard at this physically demanding job but after six years, she left the hospital and went to work for an elderly woman. In the course of Jeanne’s duties, the two women recognized a similar Catholic spirituality and began to teach catechism to youngsters and care for the poor and other unfortunates, until Jeanne’s friend died. In 1837 Jeanne and a 72-year old woman (Françoise Aubert) rented part of a small cottage and were joined by Virginie Tredaniel, a 17-year old orphan. These three women then formed a Catholic community of prayer, devoted to teaching the catechism and assisting the poor. Two years later Jeanne brought a blind widow (Anne Chauvin) to their home and even allowed the woman to sleep in her own bed. From this act of charity, with the approval of her colleagues, Jeanne then focused her attention upon the mission of assisting abandoned elderly women, and from this beginning arose a community called The Little Sisters of the Poor. Abbé Le Pailleur, a chaplain, prevented Jeanne’s reelection as superior in 1843. Jeanne (now known as Mother Marie of the Cross) wrote a simple rule for this new community of women, and they daily went door-to-door requesting food, clothing and money for the women in their care. This was Jeanne’s life work, and she performed this mission for the next four decades. In 1847 at the request of Leo Dupont (known as the Holy Man of Tours) she established a house in Tours. She was much sought after when ever problems arose and worked with religious and civil authorities to seek help for the poor. In 1852 Abbé Le Pailleur had her assigned to duties within the congregation, but would not allow her to be recognized as its founder. By 1879 the community Jeanne founded had 2,400 Little Sisters and had spread across Europe and to North America. That same year Pope Leo XIII approved the constitutions for the Little Sisters of the Poor. Jeanne died that year and was buried in the graveyard at the motherhouse at Saint-Pern. In September 1885, the congregation arrived in South America and made a first foundation in Valparaíso, Chile, from which it expanded later on. She was beatified in Rome by Pope John Paul II on October 3, 1982, and canonized on October 11, 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI. Today, pilgrims can visit the house where she was born (Cancale), the House of the Cross at Saint-Servan and the motherhouse where she lived her last 23 years at La Tour Saint Joseph in Saint-Pern. She is the Patron Saint of the destitute elderly.

I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, and on our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading. Once we clocked in Richard was on Macau Mini Baccarat (when his table went dead, they changed it to a regular Mini Baccarat table), and I was on Mini Baccarat. When they closed my table, I was on a Blackjack table, and at 8:35 am I was sent to Pai Gow.

On our way home we got gas for the truck, and once home I read the Sunday papers and ate my lunch salad. I then got on the computer and continued my Music Conversion Project of changing my Wma files to Mp3 files; I finished with artists / groups beginning with the letter M, and completed my conversion for artists / groups beginning with the letters N and P (not having any artists / groups starting with the letter O). Meanwhile, the Preseason Pro Football Game between the Houston Texans and the New Orleans Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome began at 3:00 pm. I then did today’s Daily Update, and when I finish, I will head for bed, and give the score of the game in tomorrow’s Daily Update. What was once Tropical Storm Erika is raining on the Florida Keys, and Tropical Storm Fred is in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Cape Verde islands.

We have no Saints to honor; instead, we will note that tomorrow is the anniversary of when the country of Trinidad and Tobago became independent from Britain in 1962. We will be working our eight hours at the casino; after we clock out at 11:00 am I have an appointment with my Health Coach at the Clinic. In the afternoon I will once again work at my Music Conversion Project.

Our Parting Quote this Sunday afternoon comes to us from Oliver Sacks, English neurologist and writer. Born in 1933 in Willesden, London, he was the youngest of four children in a Jewish family; his father was a physician and his mother was one of the first female surgeons in England. In 1939, when he was six, he and his brother were evacuated from London to escape the Blitz, retreating to a boarding school in the Midlands where he remained until 1943. Unknown to his family, at the school, he and his brother subsisted on meagre rations of turnips and beetroot and suffered cruel punishments at the hands of a sadistic headmaster. He attended St Paul’s School in London. During his youth he was a keen amateur chemist. He also learned to share his parents’ enthusiasm for medicine and entered The Queen’s College, Oxford, in 1951, from which he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in physiology and biology in 1954. At the same institution he went on to earn a Master of Arts degree and then a Medical degree in 1958. Sacks left England for Canada, then made his way from there to the United States. He completed a residency in Neurology at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco, and fellowships in Neurology and Psychiatry at UCLA. During his time at UCLA he lived in Topanga Canyon and experimented with various recreational drugs. After converting his British qualifications to American recognition (i.e., an MD as opposed to BM BCh), Sacks moved to New York, where he lived and practiced neurology beginning in 1965. He began consulting at chronic care facility Beth Abraham Hospital (now Beth Abraham Health Services, a member of CenterLight Health System) in the Bronx, in 1966. At Beth Abraham, Sacks worked with a group of survivors of the 1920s sleepy sickness, encephalitis lethargica, who had been unable to move on their own for decades. His work at Beth Abraham helped provide the foundation on which the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF) was built; Sacks was an honorary medical advisor. In 1966 Sacks became a neurological consultant to various New York City nursing homes run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, and from 1966 to 1991 was a consulting neurologist at Bronx Psychiatric Center. His first book, Migraine, was written in 1970 (one of the few books of his that I have never read), and in 1973 he wrote Awakenings, about his experience with the sleepy sickness patients at Beth Abraham (the book was the subject of the first documentary made for the British television series Discovery in 1974, and adapted into the Academy Award-nominated film Awakenings in 1990 starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro). He served as an instructor and later clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine from 1966 to 2007, and also held an appointment at the New York University School of Medicine from 1992 to 2007.  After a mountaineering accident, in which he (temporarily) lost awareness of one of his legs, he wrote his 1984 book A Leg to Stand OnThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985) was the first of his books that I read, and the title story was the subject of a 1986 opera by Michael Nyman. He continued his writing career with Seeing Voices: A Journey Into the World of the Deaf (1989), An Anthropologist on Mars (1995), about Temple Grandin, now a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, best-selling author, autism activist and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior – and a livelong autistic, and The Island of the Colorblind (1997), about an island where many people have achromatopsia (total colourblindness, very low visual acuity and high photophobia), and also a description of the Chamorro people of Guam, who have a high incidence of a neurodegenerative disease known as Lytico-Bodig disease (a devastating combination of ALS, dementia, and parkinsonism). Along with Paul Alan Cox, Sacks published papers suggesting a possible environmental cause for the cluster, namely the toxin beta-methylamino L-alanine (BMAA) from the cycad nut accumulating by biomagnification in the flying fox bat. He became a very popular medical writer, although he was criticized for allegedly exploiting his subjects for his books. In 1996 Sacks became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (Literature). He was named a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences in 1999. Also in 1999, he became an Honorary Fellow at The Queen’s College, Oxford. The Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF) honoured Sacks in 2000 with its first Music Has Power Award. He was awarded the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science by Rockefeller University in 2001. That same year he wrote the autobiographical book Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood. In 2002 he became Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Class IV—Humanities and Arts, Section 4—Literature) and wrote Oaxaca Journal, his account of a ten-day foray after rare ferns in southern Mexico. The minor planet 84928 Oliversacks, discovered in 2003, was named in his honor. The IMNF again bestowed a Music Has Power Award on Sacks in 2006 to commemorate “his 40 years at Beth Abraham and honor his outstanding contributions in support of music therapy and the effect of music on the human brain and mind”. In July 2007 he joined the faculty of Columbia University Medical Center as a professor of neurology and psychiatry. At the same time, he was appointed Columbia University’s first “Columbia University Artist” at the University’s Morningside Heights campus, recognising the role of his work in bridging the arts and sciences; this position allowed him to gain unrestricted access to the entire University, regardless of department or discipline. Also in 2007 he wrote Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. Sacks was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Queen’s Birthday Honours. He had undergone radiation therapy in 2001 for an ocular melanoma in his right eye. He discussed his loss of stereoscopic vision, caused by the treatment, in a 2010 article, then expanded on it in his book The Mind’s Eye later that year. In February 2010 he was named as one of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Honorary Board of distinguished achievers. He waged a lifelong battle with prosopagnosia, known popularly as “face blindness”, which he discussed at length in a 2010 New Yorker piece. Sacks returned to New York University School of Medicine in 2012, serving as both a professor of neurology and consulting neurologist in the center’s epilepsy center. In November 2012 he released his book Hallucinations. In this work Sacks took a look into why ordinary people can sometimes experience hallucinations and removed the stigma placed behind the word. He maintained a practice in New York City, and served on the boards of The Neurosciences Institute and the New York Botanical Garden. He swam almost every day for decades, especially when he lived in the City Island section of the Bronx. Sacks was awarded honorary doctorates from Georgetown University, College of Staten Island, Tufts University, New York Medical College, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Bard College, Queen’s University (Ontario), Gallaudet University, University of Oxford, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In January 2015, metastases from the 2001 ocular tumor were discovered in his liver and brain; he was given just months to live, and he set his affairs in order. In his 2015 autobiography On the Move: A Life, he discussed his lifelong celibacy, not entering into any relationships until 2008 due to severe shyness (died 2015): “The sense of the brain’s remarkable plasticity, its capacity for the most striking adaptations, not least in the special (and often desperate) circumstances of neural or sensory mishap, has come to dominate my own perception of my patients and their lives.”

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