Daily Update: Monday, June 13th, 2016

Shavuot 3 and Anthony

The Jewish pilgrimage feast of Shavuot continues, ending at sunset today. And today is the Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor (died 1231).

According to the Midrash, Mount Sinai suddenly blossomed with flowers in anticipation of the giving of the Torah on its summit. Greenery also figures in the story of the baby Moses being found among the bulrushes in a watertight cradle (Ex. 2:3) when he was three months old (Moses was born on 7 Adar and placed in the Nile River on 6 Sivan, the same day he later brought the Jewish nation to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah). For these reasons, many Jewish families traditionally decorate their homes and synagogues with plants, flowers and leafy branches in honor of Shavuot. Some synagogues decorate the bimah with a canopy of flowers and plants so that it resembles a chuppah, as Shavuot is mystically referred to as the day the matchmaker (Moses) brought the bride (the nation of Israel) to the chuppah (Mount Sinai) to marry the bridegroom (God); the ketubbah (marriage contract) was the Torah. Some Eastern Sephardi communities actually read out a ketubbah between God and Israel as part of the service. However, the Vilna Gaon (died 1797) canceled the tradition of decorating with trees because it too closely resembled the decorations that Christians used for their holidays. Today’s Saint was born as  Fernando Martins de Bulhões in 1195 in Lisbon, Portugal; his wealthy family wanted him to be a great nobleman, but against the wishes of his family he entered the Augustinian Abbey of St. Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon in 1211, when he was sixteen years old. The Canons Regular of St. Augustine, of which he was a member, were famous for their dedication to scholarly pursuits; while there, he studied Scripture and the Latin classics. He became a priest; after his ordination, he was placed in charge of hospitality in his abbey. In this role, in 1219, he came in contact with five Franciscans who were on their way to Morocco to preach to the Muslims there. He was strongly attracted to the simple Gospel lifestyle of the Franciscan friars; in February 1220, when news arrived that the five Franciscans had been martyred in Morocco, he was moved to leave his order, enter the Friars Minor (taking the name of Anthony), and leave for Morocco to evangelize. Shipwrecked on the coast of Sicily, he made his way to Assisi and sought admission into a monastery in Italy, but met with difficulty on account of his sickly appearance. He joined a rural hospice at San Paolo and was assigned to work in the kitchen; he would leave only to attend Mass and sweep the nearby monastery. One day when a misunderstanding arose as to who was to be the speaker at an ordination, the head of the rural hermitage selected Anthony as being the least unqualified to speak. He impressed them so much that he was thereafter constantly traveling, evangelizing, preaching, and teaching theology for the Order through Italy and France. A gifted speaker, he attracted crowds everywhere he went, speaking in multiple tongues; legend says that even the fish loved to listen. A miracle worker, and one of the most beloved of saints, his images and statues are found everywhere. He was canonized by Pope Gregory IX less than one year after his death (very nearly the fastest canonization in history) and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1946. He is the Patron Saint of Portugal and of Brazil, of American Indians, and of swineherds, those in the travel industry, and amputees; his aid is invoked against shipwreck, and his aid is invoked to find lost articles (for many years, I thought the Trinity was Jesus, Mary, and St. Anthony, as my mother was always calling upon his aid). He is also the Patron Saint of my own Catholic parish.

Last night at the College World Series Super Regional in Alex Box in Baton Rouge, our LSU Tigers lost their second game with Coastal Carolina by the score of 2 to 3. As they had lost the first game, and the format was best two-out-of-three, this means that Coastal Carolina moves on to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, and that our LSU Tigers have finished their season. Our guys finished 45 and 21 (19 and 11 in SEC play), and had a great year. Next year in Omaha, guys!

I did my Book Devotional Reading, then I gathered up the trash and Richard wheeled the trash bin out to the curb. I forgot my salad dressing at home (drats). On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading, and once at the casino Richard and I ate in ADR (I had two muffins). When we clocked in at 3:00 pm, we also started fasting (more anon). Richard was on Mini Baccarat, and I was on Pai Gow (except once when, at the request of our breaker, I gave an extra break to Mississippi Stud). On my breaks I continued reading Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King.

When we clocked out at 11:00 am, we went over to the Clinic. On the Pharmacy side I picked up my Sodium Bicarbonate, and on the Clinic side both Richard and I had blood drawn for Lab work ahead of our appointments with the Nurse Practitioner on Monday, June 20th. We then stopped at McDonald’s in Kinder for our lunch, and I continued reading on our way home until I reached a good stopping point. Once home I read the morning paper, then I came to the computer to do a couple of Advance Daily Update Drafts for this weblog before turning to completing today’s Daily Update. When I am finished with the computer I will read for a bit, then go to bed early.

With no Saints to honor tomorrow, we will note instead that tomorrow is Flag Day (and I encourage my Three or Four Loyal Readers and Army of Followers to put out their flags, assuming they are resident in these Fifty States). We will work our eight hours tomorrow, and on my breaks I will continue reading Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. After lunch I will take a nap, then catch up on some tasks I have let slide over the past week.

Our Parting Quote this Monday afternoon comes from Tim Russert, American television journalist and lawyer. Born as Timothy Russert in 1950 in Buffalo, New York, he was educated at a Jesuit high school, received his B.A. in 1972 from John Carroll University (he claimed to have gone to the Woodstock music festival in 1969 “in a Buffalo Bills jersey with a case of beer”) and received a Juris Doctor with Honors degree from the Cleveland State University, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1976. While in law school, an official from his undergraduate alma mater, John Carroll University, called Russert to ask if he could book some concerts for the school as he had done while a student. He agreed, but said he would need to be paid because he was running out of money to pay for law school. One concert that Russert booked was headlined by a then-unknown singer, Bruce Springsteen, who charged $2,500 for the concert appearance. Russert met journalist Maureen Orth at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. Upon graduation from law school he worked as a special counsel, and later as chief of staff, to U.S. Senator Daniel Moynihan, a Democrat from New York. In 1983 he became the counsel to New York Governor Mario Cuomo, also a Democrat, and married Orth in 1983 at the Basilica de San Miguel in Madrid, Spain. He was hired by NBC News’ Washington bureau the following year; in 1985 he made a promise to God to faithfully attend Sunday Mass if his son was born healthy (which he was). He became NBC New’s Washington bureau chief by 1989. Russert assumed the job of host of the Sunday morning program Meet the Press in 1991, and would become the longest serving host of the program. Its name was changed to Meet the Press with Tim Russert, and, at his suggestion, went to an hour-long format in 1992. The show also shifted to a greater focus on in-depth interviews with high profile guests, where Russert was known especially for his extensive preparatory research. One approach he developed was to find old quotes or video clips that were inconsistent with guests’ more recent statements, present them on-air to his guests and then ask them to clarify their positions. With Russert as host the show became increasingly popular, receiving more than four million viewers per week, and it was recognized as one of the most important sources of political news. Russert made a cameo appearance in 1995 on the critically acclaimed police dramaHomicide: Life on the Street. He played the cousin of fictional Baltimore homicide detective Megan Russert. He was mentioned by name again on the show in 1996, when it was said that he had introduced his “cousin” to a French diplomat, with whom she then went abroad. During NBC’s coverage of the 2000 presidential election, Russert calculated possible Electoral College outcomes using a whiteboard (now in the Smithsonian Institution) on the air and memorably summed up the outcome as dependent upon “Florida, Florida, Florida.” TV Guidedescribed the scene as “one of the 100 greatest moments in TV history.” Russert again accurately predicted the final battleground of the presidential elections of 2004: “Ohio, Ohio, Ohio.” Russert penned a best-selling autobiography, Big Russ and Me, in 2004, which chronicled his life growing up in the predominantly Irish American working-class neighborhood of South Buffalo and his education at Canisius High School. Russert’s father Timothy Joseph Russert, “Big Russ,” was a World War II veteran who held down two jobs after the war and emphasized the importance of maintaining strong family values, the reverence of faith, and never taking a short cut to reach a goal. Russert claimed to have received over 60,000 letters from people in response to the book, detailing their own experiences with their fathers. He released Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons in 2005, a collection of some of these letters. This book also became a best-seller. In the trial of Scooter Libby, the Chief of Staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, over the Valerie Plame scandal, Russert was questioned in 2004 by prosecutors for only 12 minutes, but underwent more than five hours of pointed cross-examination over two days from defense attorney Theodore Wells Jr. Russert told prosecutors that he could not have told Libby about Plame because he had not heard of her until she was publicly revealed by journalist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003 as being a covert CIA officer, four days after Russert spoke with Libby by phone. Russert testified again in 2007. According to multiple news accounts of the trial, Russert’s testimony was key to Libby’s conviction or acquittal; Libby was convicted of the five counts against him in 2007. On the MSNBC show Tucker Russert predicted the battleground states of the 2008 presidential election would be New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada. Time magazine named Russert one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2008, and Russert often moderated political campaign debates. A lifelong fan of the Buffalo Bills football team, he often closed Sunday broadcasts during the football season with a statement of encouragement for the franchise. In his writing and in his news reporting, Russert spoke openly and fondly of his Catholic school education and of the role of the Catholic Church in his life. Russert also contributed his time to numerous Catholic charities. He was particularly devoted and concerned for the welfare of street kids in the United States and children whose lives were lost to street violence. Shortly before his death he had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI during his trip to Italy (died 2008): “The best exercise for your heart is reaching out and helping somebody.”

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