Today is Ash Wednesday, the penitential day of fast, abstinence, and repentance that ushers in the solemn and penitential season of Lent. Today is also the Memorial of Saint Scholastica, Virgin (died 543).
Lent is the penitential season of the Catholic Church year that lasts from now until Maundy Thursday; it is marked through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial, and is literally marked on Ash Wednesday by the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance, and by both fasting and abstinence from meat. The ashes used are gathered after the Palm Crosses from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned, and the ashes are mixed with the Oil of the Catechumens (one of the sacred oils used to anoint those about to be baptized). This ash paste is used by the minister who presides at the service to make the sign of the cross, first upon his or her own forehead and then on those of congregants. The minister recites the words: “Remember (O man) that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”, or “Repent, and believe the Gospel.” In the Roman Catholic Church, ashes, being sacramentals, may be given to anyone who wishes to receive them, as opposed to Catholic sacraments, which are generally reserved for church members, except in cases of grave necessity. My personal self-denial during Lent is from caffeine, which means no chocolate, no iced tea in restaurants (unless I am certain it is caffeine-free), and no Diet Coke (unless I am certain it is caffeine-free). And anyone who knows me at all knows that this is a true penance for me. I figure that I will save about two dollars a day by not buying products with caffeine, which I will donate to Catholic Relief Services via the CRS Ricebowl initiative. Today’s Saint was born about 480 in Nursia, Umbria, and she was the twin sister of Saint Benedict; their mother died in childbirth. She led a community of women at Plombariola near Montecassino. According to Saint Gregory the Great, “Scholastica, the sister of Saint Benedict, had been consecrated to God from her earliest years. She was accustomed to visiting her brother once a year. He would come down to meet her at a place on the monastery property, not far outside the gate. One day she came as usual and her saintly brother went with some of his disciples; they spent the whole day praising God and talking of sacred things. As night fell they had supper together. Their spiritual conversation went on and the hour grew late. The holy nun said to her brother, “Please do not leave me tonight; let us go on until morning talking about the delights of the spiritual life.” “Sister,” he replied, “What are you saying? I simply cannot stay outside my cell.” When she heard her brother refuse her request, the holy woman joined her hands on the table, laid her head on them and began to pray. As she raised her head from the table, there were such brilliant flashes of lightning, such great peals of thunder and such a heavy downpour of rain that neither Benedict nor his brethren could stir across the threshold of the place where they had been seated. Sadly, he began to complain. “May God forgive you, sister. What have you done?” “Well, she answered, “I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.” So it came about that they stayed awake the whole night, engrossed in their conversation about the spiritual life. Three days later, Benedict was in his cell. Looking up to the sky, he saw his sister’s soul leave her body in the form of a dove, and fly up to the secret places of heaven. Rejoicing in her great glory, he thanked almighty God with hymns and words of praise. He then sent his brethren to bring her body to the monastery and lay it in the tomb he had prepared for himself.” Scholastica is the Patron Saint of convulsive children and nuns, and her aid is invoked against storms and rain.
Last night while taking my bath I finished reading The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian.
I woke up today at 8:45 am, and did my Bathroom Devotional Reading. I set up my CRS Rice Bowl for 2016, into which I will put $2.00 per day through Holy Saturday. (There are traditionally 40 days of Lent, which includes the days from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday (46 days) less the six Sundays of Lent. One is not supposed to fast on the Sundays, but ever since I was a child (back when the Earth’s crust was still cooling), I was taught that one did not relax one’s penance on the Sundays. So, no Caffeine for me until Easter Sunday.) I started the Weekly Computer Maintenance, then read the morning paper. Richard sent a text to Callie, and confirmed that we could come by later in the morning. I did my Internet Devotional Reading, finished the Weekly Computer Maintenance, and started the Weekly Virus Scan.
We left the house at 10:45 am, and went over to Lisa’s. We saw Lisa, Callie, Amy, and my Kitten, had a very good visit, and said our goodbye’s, as Callie, Amy, and Kitten will be flying home to the frozen North tomorrow. (Our high temperature tomorrow will be 75°; theirs will be 28°.) We stopped at Popeyes and got fried shrimp lunches, which we brought home
Arriving home at 12:00 pm, I finished the Weekly Virus Scan, and ate my fried shrimp lunch from Popeyes. I then did my Book Review for this Weblog and for my Goodreads and Facebook accounts for The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian, started my laundry, and started reading The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick O’Brian. Richard took at nap at 3:15 pm. I watched Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm, and at 5:30 pm I went to the church, and attended the 6:00 pm Mass to get my ashes. I got home just after 7:00 pm, and Richard and I went to D.C.’s Sports Bar and Steakhouse, where I got five pounds of boiled crawfish (plus corn and potatoes), and Richard got the Seafood Platter. We then went to Wal-Mart, where Richard got some groceries and a new firm pillow for me, and at the Hit-n-Run I purchased my Powerball and Louisiana Lotto lottery tickets for tonight’s drawing. Our LSU Men’s Basketball team lost their away game with South Carolina by the score of 83 to 94; our Tigers will next play a home game with Texas A&M on February 13th. And our New Orleans Pelicans are now playing a home game with the Utah Jazz; as I am about to head to bed, I will record the score of the game in tomorrow’s Daily Update.
Tomorrow is the Optional Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. Callie, Amy, and Kitten will be heading back to Connecticut tomorrow (Callie and Kitten will be back down at the end of April). I will finish my laundry and do my ironing, and at some point I will get my salad supplies and make my lunch salads for Friday and Sunday. And our New Orleans Pelicans will be playing an away game with the Oklahoma City Thunder tomorrow evening.
Our Parting Quote this Wednesday evening comes to us from Shirley Temple Black, American actress and public servant. Born as Shirley Temple in 1928 in Santa Monica, California, her mother enrolled her in Meglin’s Dance School in Los Angeles in 1931, and began styling her daughter’s hair in ringlets similar to those of silent film star Mary Pickford. A casting director for Educational Pictures spotted her hiding behind the piano, and signed her to a contract; she was in several of their Baby Burlesks and Frolics of Youth short films before the studio went bankrupt. Signed by Fox Films, her breakout role was in Stand Up and Cheer! (1934). After the success of Little Miss Marker the same year, her salary was raised from $150 a week to $1000 a week; her mother’s salary as her hairdresser and personal coach was also raised. On December 28, 1934, Bright Eyes was released. It was the first feature film crafted specifically for Temple’s talents and the first in which her name appeared above the title. Her signature song, “On the Good Ship Lollipop”, was introduced in the film and sold 500,000 sheet music copies. The film demonstrated Temple’s ability to portray a multi-dimensional character and established a formula for her future roles as a lovable, parentless waif whose charm and sweetness mellow gruff older men. In February 1935 Temple became the first child star to be honored with a miniature Juvenile Oscar for her 1934 film accomplishments, and she added her foot- and handprints to the forecourt at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre a month later. For the next several years, Temple starred in several movies designed to showcase her talents; these movies were credited by no less an authority than President Franklin Roosevelt as making America feel better during the Depression. These films included The Little Colonel andThe Littlest Rebel (both 1935), Poor Little Rich Girl (1936), Heidi (1937), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938), and The Little Princess (1939). During this same period there was a enormous industry devoted to Shirley Temple toys and other materials. Convinced Temple would successfully move from child star to teenage actress, studio head Darryl F. Zanuck declined a substantial offer from MGM to star Temple as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and cast her instead in Susannah of the Mounties, her last money-maker for Twentieth Century-Fox. The film was successful, but because she made only two films in 1939 instead of the usual three or four, Temple dropped from number one box-office favorite in 1938 to number five in 1939. In 1939 Temple was the subject of the Salvador Dalí painting Shirley Temple, The Youngest, Most Sacred Monster of the Cinema in Her Time and she was animated with Donald Duck in The Autograph Hound. In 1940 Temple’s parents bought out her contract and sent her to an exclusive day school in Los Angeles. She signed with MGM, but her only film with them, Kathleen (1941) was not a success. In 1943 the 15-year-old Temple met John Agar, an Army Air Corps sergeant, physical training instructor, and a member of a Chicago meat-packing family. On September 19, 1945, when Temple was 17 years old, they were married before 500 guests in an Episcopal ceremony at Wilshire Methodist Church in Los Angeles. They had one daughter. Agar became a professional actor and the couple made two films together, Fort Apache (1948, RKO) and Adventure in Baltimore (1949, RKO). The marriage became troubled, and Temple divorced Agar on December 5, 1949. She received custody of their daughter and the restoration of her maiden name. The divorce was finalized on December 5, 1950. Meanwhile, in January 1950, Temple had met Charles Alden Black, a WWII United States Navy intelligence officer and Silver Star recipient who was Assistant to the President of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company. Conservative and patrician, he was the son of James B. Black, the president and later chairman of Pacific Gas and Electric, and reputedly one of the richest young men in California. Temple and Black were married in his parents’ Del Monte, California, home on December 16, 1950, before a small assembly of family and friends. That same year she announced her retirement from motion pictures. They had a daughter and a son, and Black became a homemaker. Between January and December 1958, Black hosted and narrated a successful NBC television anthology series of fairy tale adaptations called Shirley Temple’s Storybook. She acted in three of the sixteen hour-long episodes, and her son made his acting debut in the Christmas episode, “Mother Goose”. Black continued to work on television, making guest appearances on The Red Skelton Show, Sing Along with Mitch, and other shows. In January 1965 she portrayed a social worker in a sitcom pilot called Go Fight City Hall that was never released. Following her venture into television, Black became active in the Republican Party in California. In 1967 she ran unsuccessfully in a special election in California’s 11th congressional district to fill the seat left vacant by the death of eight-term Republican J. Arthur Younger from leukemia. She ran as a conservative and lost to law school professor Pete McCloskey, a liberal Republican who was a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War. Black got her start in foreign service after her failed run for Congress in 1967, when Henry Kissinger overheard her talking about Namibia at a party and was surprised that she knew anything about it. Black was in Prague in August 1968, as a representative of the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies, and was going to meet up with Czechoslovakian party leader Alexander Dubček on the very day that Soviet-backed forces invaded the country. Dubček fell out of favor with the Soviets after a series of reforms known as the Prague Spring. Temple, who was stranded at a hotel as the tanks rolled in, sought refuge on the roof of the hotel. It was from here she saw an unarmed woman on the street gunned down by Soviet forces, a sight which stayed with her for the rest of her life. She was appointed Representative to the 24th United Nations General Assembly by President Richard M. Nixon (September – December 1969). In 1972 Black was diagnosed with breast cancer. The tumor was removed and a modified radical mastectomy performed. Following the operation, she announced it to the world via radio, television, and a February 1973 article for the magazine McCall’s. In doing so, she became one of the first prominent women to speak openly about breast cancer. She was appointed United States Ambassador to Ghana (December 6, 1974 – July 13, 1976) by President Gerald R. Ford. She was appointed first female Chief of Protocol of the United States (July 1, 1976 – January 21, 1977), and was in charge of arrangements for President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration and inaugural ball. In 1988 she published her autobiography, Child Star. She served as the United States Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (August 23, 1989 – July 12, 1992), having been appointed by President George H. W. Bush. Black was the first and only female US ambassador to Czechoslovakia, and was present during the Velvet Revolution, which brought about the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia. She played a critical role in hastening the end of the Communist regime by openly sympathizing with anti-Communist dissidents and later establishing formal diplomatic relations with the newly elected government led by Václav Havel. She took the unusual step of personally accompanying Havel on his first official visit to Washington, riding along on the same plane. In 1999 she hosted the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Stars awards show on CBS, and, in 2001, served as a consultant on an ABC-TV production of her autobiography, Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story. On September 11, 2002, a life-size bronze statue of the child Temple by sculptor Nijel Binns was erected on the Fox Studio lot. Black was the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Kennedy Center Honors and a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. She ranks 18th on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest female American screen legends of all time (died 2014): “I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.”