Daily Update: Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Pentecost and Isadore the Farmer and Edward Joseph Flanagan

Alleluia! Today we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost, which ends the Easter Season. Today is the Optional Memorial of Saint Isidore the Farmer (died 1130) and the Remembrance of Servant of God Edward Joseph Flanagan, Priest (died 1948). Today is also the day when one’s Louisiana Income Tax returns for 2015 would have been due, except that today is a Sunday (they are due tomorrow), and today is the birthday of my Internet friend Gail (1948).

The name of today’s Feast comes from the Greek word pentekostē, ”the fiftieth [day]“, as it is celebrated fifty days after Easter Sunday and closes out the Easter liturgical season, although there are still a few more Moveable Feasts (with their date of celebration dependent upon that of Easter) that we will celebrate in the next few weeks. (Ordinary Time, so called because the Sundays are numbered by ordinal numbers, resumes, and will continue until the Season of Advent.) Pentecost is one of the most prominent feasts in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ, as described in the New Testament Acts of the Apostles. It is called “the birthday of the Church”, as it was from this point that the Apostles began evangelizing. The Apostle Paul already in the first century noted the importance of this festival to the early Christian communities, and since the lifetime of some who may have been eye-witnesses to the original Pentecost, annual celebrations of the descent of the Holy Spirit have been observed. From the early days of Western Christianity Pentecost became one of the days set aside to celebrate Baptism. In Northern Europe Pentecost was preferred even over Easter for this rite, as the temperatures in late spring were might be supposed to be more conducive to the custom of outdoor immersion Baptisms. The terms Whitsun, Whitsunday, Whit Sunday, or Whitsuntide for this day (especially in the United Kingdom) derived from the custom of the newly baptized wearing white clothing as a symbol of their spiritual rebirth. Saint Isidore the Farmer was born about 1070 in Madrid, Castille (part of modern Spain), and became a hired hand plowing the fields. He and his wife had one son, who died young; they became convinced it was the will of God that they not have children, and they lived together chastely the rest of their lives, doing good works. When accused by fellow workers of shirking his duties by attending Mass each day and taking time out for prayers, Isidore claimed he had no choice but to follow the highest Master. One tale says that when his master came in the morning to chastise him for skipping work for church, he found angels plowing the fields in his place. Miracles and cures were reported at his grave, in which his body remained incorruptible. Charles II of Spain (died 1700) slept with one of his teeth under his pillow, and it was reported one of the ladies in the court of Isabella I of Castile (died 1504) bit off one of his toes. He is the Patron Saint of farmers and day laborers, of Madrid, Spain, and of the United States National Catholic Rural Life Conference. We also honor Servant of God Edward Joseph Flanagan, Priest (died 1948). Born in 1886 near Ballymoe, County Roscommon, Ireland, he attended Summerhill College, Sligo. He emigrated to the United States in 1904 and attended Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where in 1906 he received a bachelor of arts degree and a master of arts degree in 1908. Flanagan then studied at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York. He continued his studies in Italy and at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, where he was ordained a priest in 1912. His first parish was in O’Neill, Nebraska, where from 1912 he served as an assistant pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. He then moved to Omaha to serve as an assistant pastor at St. Patrick’s Church and later at St. Philomena’s Church. In 1917 he founded a home for homeless boys in Omaha. Bishop Jeremiah James Harty of the Diocese of Omaha had misgivings, but endorsed Flanagan’s experiment. Flanagan became a U.S. citizen in 1919. Because the downtown facilities were inadequate, Flanagan established Boys Town, ten miles west of Omaha, in 1921. Under Father Flanagan’s direction, Boys Town grew to be a large community with its own boy-mayor, schools, chapel, post office, cottages, gymnasium, and other facilities where boys between the ages of 10 and 16 could receive an education and learn a trade. The 1938 film Boys Town, starring Spencer Tracey and featuring Mickey Rooney as one of the boys, was based on the life of Father Flanagan; some scenes from the movie were filmed at Boys Town, and Father Flanagan reviewed the script prior to the filming. Tracy won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, and spent his entire Oscar acceptance speech talking about Father Flanagan. “If you have seen him through me, then I thank you.” An overzealous MGM publicity representative announced that Tracy was donating his Oscar to Flanagan. Tracy’s response was: “I earned the…thing. I want it.” The Academy quickly found another Oscar statue; the one for Boys Town is inscribed, “To Father Flanagan, whose great humanity, kindly simplicity, and inspiring courage were strong enough to shine through my humble effort. Spencer Tracy.” (When Tracy got his Oscar, it was inscribed “Best Actor – Dick Tracy.”) A sequel also starring Tracy, Men of Boys Town, was released in 1941. Father Flanagan received many awards for his work with the delinquent and homeless boys. He served on several committees and boards dealing with the welfare of children and was the author of articles on child welfare. Internationally known, Father Flanagan traveled to Japan and Korea in 1947 to study child welfare problems. He made a similar trip to Austria and Germany and, while in Germany, he died on May 15, 1948, of a heart attack. He was buried in the Dowd Chapel at Boys Town. In March 2012 the Archbishop of Omaha opened Father Flanagan’s canonization cause, so that Flanagan is now a Servant of God. If you know of any miracles that can be attributed to his intercession, please contact the Vatican. Today is also the day when one’s Louisiana Income Tax returns would have been due for the calendar year 2015, except that today is a Sunday (they are due tomorrow). And, finally, today is the birthday of my friend Gail in Georgia, whom I know only via the Internet (1948).

Yesterday our #11 ranked LSU Tigers won the second game of their three-game away College Baseball series with Tennessee by the score of 11 to 3.

I removed the polish from my toenails and did my Book Devotional Reading; I also trimmed my toenails. (Many, many years ago, my mother sent me a letter while I was in Baton Rouge telling me that she had cut the dog’s toenails. I promptly wrote back (addressing my letter, as I did all my letters home, to “Occupant”; I was scathingly brilliant back then) telling her, “What a coincidence! I just cut my toenails too!” I never heard again about the dog’s toenails, but I may be turning into my mother (Heaven help me) if I am telling my Four or Five Loyal Readers and Army of Followers for this weblog that I just cut my toenails.) On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading. Once we clocked in at the casino for the last day of the two-week pay period, Richard was on the $5.00 Minimum Bet Blackjack table. I was first on Three Card Blackjack, closed that table, became the Relief Dealer for Three Card Poker, the second Mississippi Stud table, and the Mississippi Stud table, and then became the dealer on Mini Baccarat. (It should be noted that everyone who was on the Early Out list today got out; it was busy when we came in, but the casino floor soon became quite dead.)

On our way home we stopped at Wal-Mart, and among other things I purchased a pack of four Goody’s Hairbands for about $4.00. At work I have been using bobby pins to hold my hair back (again) to keep it out of my eyes, and so I am going to try wearing a headband at work. At present my hair is almost too short in front for a headband, but I think the next time I have my hair cut I will have them leave my hair in front alone, to let it grow out. This assumes, of course, that my fellow co-workers do not have other suggestions for managing my hair. Once home I put my casino shirts in the washer, then put on my toenail polish, then read the Sunday papers while eating my lunch salad. And I think that I will finish my Daily Update early, and go ahead and go to bed early. Our #11 ranked LSU Tigers are now playing the third game of their three-game away College Baseball series with Tennessee, so I will record the score of the game in tomorrow’s Daily Update.

Tomorrow we have no Saints to honor, so tomorrow we will instead note the anniversary of the marriage of fourteen-year-old Habsburg Archduchess Maria Antonia (better known by the French form of her name, Marie Antoinette) with the Dauphin of France, fifteen-year-old Louis-Auguste de France, in 1770. (Louis-Auguste became King Louis XVI in 1774, and both he Marie Antoinette were guillotined in 1793, during the French Revolution.) And tomorrow is when one’s 2015 Tax Returns are due to the State of Louisiana. We will return to the casino for the first day of the two-week pay period, and on our breaks at work Richard will call our loan officer at the bank. We may stop at the bank after work, depending on what our loan officer tells Richard. And I have nothing planned for in the afternoon.

Our Parting Quote on this Pentecost (Alleluia!) afternoon comes from Elisabeth Bing, German born physical therapist. Born as Elisabeth Koenigsberger in 1914 in Berlin, Germany, hers was a home birth, and she was delivered before the doctor could arrive. Her family were of Jewish descent, but had converted to Protestantism years before her birth. Sensing danger to those considered to be Jewish with the rise of Nazi Germany, the family decided to leave the country, and Koenigsberger, the first of the family to leave, left Germany for England in September 1933. In England Koenigsberger trained as a physical therapist. At first she took a job as a student nurse, as physical therapy training was cheaper after one year of student nursing, and it was difficult to get money abroad from Germany at that time. However, she was forced to quit halfway through after falling ill and having to have surgery. After she moved to London, her family managed to get enough money to her to pay for her training. She trained for three years and became a member of the Chartered Society of Physical Therapy. Her interest in obstetrics began after working with new mothers in hospital. At the time, standard childbirth procedures involved giving mothers large amounts of medication, and keeping them in hospital for 10 days after they gave birth. Koenigsberger’s job was to give physical therapy to these postpartum mothers. After talking about her experiences at the hospital with one of her part-time private patients, she learned of Grantly Dick-Read’s book Natural Childbirth. She was unable to meet Read or other like-minded individuals because of the outbreak of World War II, so she taught herself as much as she could about obstetrics. In 1949 she moved to Jacksonville, Illinois, in the United States, at the invitation of her sister. It was here that she first got the chance to teach natural childbirth methods, after being invited by an obstetrician she met at a house party. She coached all of the obstetrician’s patients in natural childbirth, learning while she taught. After a year of this, she decided to go back to England. However, as she passed through New York, she met her future husband, Fred Max Bing, and decided to remain there. They married in 1951. Bing continued to teach natural childbirth methods in New York, and in 1951 she was invited by Dr. Alan Guttmacher to teach at Mount Sinai Hospital, which had just opened its first maternity ward. Bing gave birth herself at 40, going into a fast labor during which she was given spinal anesthesia and nitric oxide. At Mount Sinai she heard about the psychoprophylactic method of childbirth developed by Dr. Fernand Lamaze. Lamaze’s method incorporated breathing techniques as well as the natural childbirth techniques developed by Read. Mount Sinai Hospital could not afford to send Bing to France to learn the method from Lamaze, but she met Marjorie Karmel, who had published the book Thank You, Dr. Lamaze in 1959. Karmel had learned the method directly from Lamaze in Paris, and she in turn taught it to Bing. In 1960 the two went on to found the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics, now known as Lamaze International. Bing was an advocate the importance of mothers making informed childbirth decisions. As well as educating parents about childbirth, she worked with obstetricians to introduce them to natural childbirth methods. She also wrote articles; appeared on TV and radio shows, including shows hosted by Barbara Walters and Phil Donahue, and wrote several books, including Six Practical Lessons for an Easier Childbirth. She became known as the “mother” of Lamaze among the American public (died 2015): “This so-called fad has been proven not to be a fad.”

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