Daily Update: Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Vincent Ferrer

Today is the Optional Memorial of Saint Vincent Ferrer, Priest (died 1419).

Today’s Saint was born in 1350 in Valencia (part of modern Spain He was the fourth child of the Anglo-Scottish nobleman William Stewart Ferrer and his Spanish wife, Constantia Miguel; his father is reported to have had a dream in which he was told that his son would be a world famous Dominican friar. Vincent joined the Dominicans in 1367, at the age of seventeen, and received his doctorate of theology from the University of Lleida. He became a priest and missionary, and taught theology, while being advisor to the King of Aragon. The Western Schism (1378-1418) divided Roman Catholicism between two, then eventually three, popes. Clement VII lived at Avignon in France, and Urban VI in Rome. Vincent was convinced that the election of Urban was invalid, although Catherine of Siena was just as devoted a supporter of the Roman pope. In the service of Cardinal Pedro de Luna, Vincent worked to persuade Spaniards to follow Clement. When Clement died in 1394, Cardinal de Luna was elected to the Avignon papacy (promising to resign at the first opportunity, so as to end the Schism) and took the name Benedict XIII. Vincent was loyal to Benedict XIII, commonly known as “Papa Luna” in Castile and Aragon; he worked for Benedict XIII as apostolic penitentiary and Master of the Sacred Palace. During a severe fever in 1398 he had a vision of Christ, Saint Dominic de Guzman and Saint Francis of Assisi. It was a life changing experience; Vincent received supernatural gifts and believed that he was a messenger of penance, an “angel of the apocalypse” sent to prepare humankind for the Judgement of Christ. As such, he was a great preacher who converted thousands in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, and Ireland; he was reported to have the gift of tongues, for while he only spoke Spanish, all listeners understood him. He was invited to preach in Muslim Granada. He traveled through Spain, France, Switzerland, and Italy, working to end the Western Schism. Benedict XIII did not resign as intended at either the Council of Pisa (1409) or the Council of Constance (1414-1418). Because of this he lost the support of the French king and nearly all of his cardinals, and was excommunicated as a schismatic in 1417. After an extended period of receiving empty promises, Vincent encouraged King Ferdinand of Castile to withdraw his support from Benedict XIII (who died in 1423, still insisting to the two or three cardinals left to him that he was the one true Pope). Vincent later claimed that the Western Schism had such a depressing effect on his mind that it caused him to be seriously ill at the age of forty. He habitually slept on the floor, lived in an endless fast, celebrated Mass daily, and was known as a miracle worker; he was reported to have brought a murdered man back to life to prove the power of Christianity to the onlookers, and reportedly could heal people throughout a hospital just by praying in front of it. Less positively, as a man of his age he used harsh methods to convert Jews in Spain, with his methods fomenting anti-Semitism. He is the Patron Saint of builders, construction workers, plumbers, fishermen (in Brittany) and orphanages (in Spain).

I did my Book Devotional Reading, and on our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading. Once at the Casino we signed the Early Out list. When we clocked in, Richard was on Let It Ride, and I was on Mini Baccarat; we got out at 3:15 am, having worked fifteen minutes. On our way home we stopped at Wal-Mart so that Richard could get some cold medication. We arrived home at 4:00 am, and I went back to bed.

When I woke up at 9:15 am, I started my laundry, then read the morning paper.I then spent the rest of my day, except for watching Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm, on doing Advance Daily Update Drafts for this weblog. Our New Orleans Pelicans lost their Pro Basketball game with the Philadelphia 76ers by the score of 93 to 107. And I plan to head to bed in a few minutes; our LSU Tigers are playing a home single Baseball game with Southern University, and I will record the score of the game in tomorrow’s Daily Update.

Tomorrow we have no Saints to honor, but on tomorrow’s date in 1327, the poet Petrarch first saw his idealized love, Laura, in the church of Saint Clare in Avignon. I will finish my laundry and otherwise keep myself occupied tomorrow.

Our Parting Quote on this Tuesday evening comes to us from Peter Matthiessen, American author. Born in 1927 in New York City, New York, the son of an architect, he joined the Navy during World War II and helped design gunnery training devices. He graduated from Yale University in 1950, having spent his junior year at the Sorbonne. His major was English; he published short stories (one of which won the prestigious Atlantic Prize), and studied zoology. Marrying and resolving to undertake a writer’s career, he soon moved back to Paris, where he associated with other expatriate American writers such as William Styron, James Baldwin and Irwin Shaw. There, in 1953, he became one of the founders, along with Harold L. Humes, Thomas Guinzburg, Donald Hall,and George Plimpton (a childhood friend of Matthiessen’s), of the literary magazine The Paris Review. At the time he was working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), using the Review as his cover. He completed his novel Partisans while employed by the CIA. He returned to the United States in 1954, leaving Plimpton in charge of the Review. Matthiessen divorced in 1956 and began traveling extensively. In 1959 he published the first edition of Wildlife in America, a history of the extinction and endangerment of animal and bird species as a consequence of human settlement, throughout North American history, and of the human effort to protect endangered species. His early story “Travelin’ Man” was made into the film The Young One (1960) by Luis Buñuel. He married writer Deborah Low in 1963; she died of cancer in 1972. In 1965 Matthiessen published At Play in the Fields of the Lord, a novel about a group of American missionaries and their encounter with a South American indigenous tribe. The book was adapted into the film of the same name in 1991. In 1968 he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War. His 1971 work on oceanographic research, Blue Meridian: The Search for the Great White Shark, with photographer Peter A. Lake, documented the making of the film Blue Water, White Death (1971), directed by Peter Gimbel and Jim Lipscomb. Late in 1973 Matthiessen joined field biologist George Schaller on an expedition in the Himalaya Mountains, which was the basis for The Snow Leopard (1978); the book uniquely won the 1979 National Book Award, Contemporary Thought and the 1980 National Book Award, General Non-Fiction (paperback). Matthiessen later became a Buddhist priest of the White Plum Asanga. Interested in the Wounded Knee Incident and the 1976 trial and conviction of Leonard Peltier, an American Indian Movement activist, Matthiessen wrote a non-fiction account, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983). Shortly after the publication of In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Matthiessen and his publisher Viking Penguin were sued for libel by David Price, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, and William J. Janklow, the former South Dakota governor. The plaintiffs sought over $49 million in damages; Janklow also sued to have all copies of the book withdrawn from bookstores. After four years of litigation, Federal District Court Judge Diana E. Murphy dismissed Price’s lawsuit, upholding Matthiessen’s right “to publish an entirely one-sided view of people and events.” In the Janklow case, a South Dakota court also ruled for Matthiessen. Both cases were appealed. In 1990, the Supreme Court refused to hear Price’s arguments, effectively ending his appeal. The South Dakota Supreme Court dismissed Janklow’s case the same year. With the lawsuits concluded, the paperback edition of the book was finally published in 1992. Meanwhile, Matthiessen wrote a trilogy of Florida novels: Killing Mr. Watson (1990), Lost Man’s River (1997) and Bone by Bone (1999), inspired by the frontier years of South Florida and the death of plantation owner Edgar J. Watson shortly after the Southwest Florida Hurricane of 1910. From 1995 through 1997 he was designated the State Author of New York. He won the 6th annual Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities in 2000. In 2008 he revised and edited the three Florida Trilogy novels, which had originated as one 1,500-page manuscript, and which eventually yielded the single-volume Shadow Country. This work won him the 2008 National Book Award, Fiction, and the 2010 William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2010 he won the Spiros Vergos Prize for Freedom of Expression (died 2014): “In fiction, you have a rough idea what’s coming next – sometimes you even make a little outline – but in fact you don’t know. Each day is a whole new – and for me, a very invigorating – experience. In nonfiction, you have that limitation, that constraint, of telling the truth.”

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