Today is the Optional Memorial Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, the Optional Memorial of Saint Wenceslaus, King and Martyr (died 929 or 935), the Optional Memorial of Saint Lawrence Ruiz, Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (died 1637), and the Remembrance of Servant of God John Paul I, Pope (died 1978). In other Catholic news, it is also the anniversary of my baptism into the Catholic Faith (as an infant) in 1958. Banned Books Week continues, and today is the birthday of my friend Annette in Virginia (1956) and of my friend Melissa in Virginia (1971).
Turning to our Saints and others, the concept of the Blessed Virgin Mary untying knots is derived from a work by St. Irenaeus of Lyons (died 202), Adversus haereses (Against Heresies). In Book III, Chapter 22, he presented a parallel between Eve and Mary, describing how “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.” Wolfgang Langenmantel (1586-1637) was on the verge of a separation from his wife Sophia Rentz (1590-1649) and therefore sought help from Jakob Rem, the Jesuit priest in Ingolstadt. Father Rem prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary and said: “In diesem religiösen Akt erhebe ich das Band der Ehe, löse alle Knoten und glätte es [In this religious act, I raise the bonds of matrimony, to untie all knots and smoothen them]”. Immediately peace was restored between the husband and wife, and the separation did not happen. In the memory of this event, their grandson Hieronymus Ambrosius Langenmantel (1641-1718) a canon of the Monastery of Saint Peter in Augsburg.commissioned the painting of the Untier of Knots in about 1700 and donated it to the Catholic pilgrimage church of St. Peter am Perlach, otherwise known as the Perlach church, in Augsburg,Bavaria. The painting, executed in the Baroque style by Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner (1625-1707), shows the Blessed Virgin Mary standing on the crescent moon (the usual way of depicting Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception), surrounded by angels and with the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove hovering above her circle of stars as she unties knots into a long strip and at the same time rests her foot on the head of a “knotted” snake. The serpent represents the devil, and her treatment of him fulfills the prophecy in Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” A young Argentine Jesuit student named Jorge Mario Bergoglio saw the painting in the 1980s and brought a postcard of the painting back to South America, where he promoted the devotion. The world-wide devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots has only increased since Bergoglio (later the Archbishop of Buenos Aires) became Pope Francis in 2013. Saint Wenceslaus was born in 907 at Prague, Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic), the son of Vratislav I, Duke of Bohemia, whose family had been converted by Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, and Drahomira, daughter of a pagan chief; she was baptized on her wedding day, but apparently never seriously took to the faith. In 921, when Wenceslaus was thirteen, his father died and he was brought up by his grandmother, Saint Ludmila, who raised him as a Christian; Drahomira went fully back to her pagan roots and had Ludmila strangled. In 924 or 925 Wenceslaus assumed government for himself and had Drahomíra exiled. In September of 935 (in older sources 929) a group of nobles allied with his younger brother, Boleslav (Boleslav I of Bohemia), in a plot to kill the prince. After Boleslav invited Wenceslaus to the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Stará Boleslav, three of Boleslav’s companions murdered him on his way to church. Boleslav thus succeeded him as the Duke of Bohemia. Good King Wenceslaus (of the Christmas song of the same name, written in 1853) is the Patron Saint of Bohemia, the Czech Republic, and of the city of Prague, and September 28th is Czech Statehood Day. We also honor Saint Lawrence Ruiz, Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (died 1637). Born about 1600 in Binondo, Manila, Philippines, he was the son of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother (both Roman Catholics), and learned both Chinese and Tagalog. After being educated by the Dominican Friars for a few years (and serving as an altar boy), he married and started a family. In 1636, while working as a clerk at the Binondo Church, Ruiz was accused of killing a Spaniard. He sought asylum on board a ship with three Dominican priests, a Japanese priest, and a leper; it was not until the ship sailed that Ruiz found that they were bound for Japan. The boat landed at Okinawa and the group was arrested and persecuted for their Christian religion. They were brought to Nagasaki on July 10, 1636. They were tortured through being hung by their feet, by being submerged in water until near death, and by water torture. Needles were also inserted in their finger nails, and they were beaten until unconscious. Finally, Ruiz and his companions were taken to the “Mountain of Martyrs”, where they were hung upside down into a pit known as horca y hoya, or tsurushi. This mode of torture was considered as the most painful way to die at the time because it involved the use of rocks to add weight to the person being punished. The individual being tortured suffocated quickly while being crushed by his own weight. Two days after this torture started, Ruiz died from hemorrhage and suffocation. His body was cremated and his ashes were thrown into the sea. He was canonized in 1987, making him the first Filipino saint and the first Filipino martyr. He is the Patron Saint of the poor, of separated families, of Chinese-Filipinos, of Tagalogs, of Filipino migrants and overseas workers, of the country of the Philippines, and of the Archdiocese of Manila in the Philippines. We also honor Servant of God John Paul I, Pope (died 1978). Born as Albino Luciani in 1912 in Canale d’Agordo, Italy, the son of a bricklayer, he entered the minor seminary of Feltre in 1923, where his teachers found him “too lively”, and later went on to the major seminary of Belluno. During his stay at Belluno he attempted to join the Jesuits but was denied by the seminary’s rector, Bishop Giosuè Cattarossi. Ordained a priest in 1935, he then served as a curate in his native Forno de Canale before becoming a professor and the vice-rector of the Belluno seminary in 1937. Among the different subjects, he taught dogmatic and moral theology, canon law, and sacred art. In 1941 he began to seek a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, which required at least one year’s attendance in Rome. However, the seminary’s superiors wanted him to continue teaching during his doctoral studies; the situation was resolved by a special dispensation of Pope Pius XII himself in 1941. His thesis (The origin of the human soul according to Antonio Rosmini) largely attacked Rosmini’s theology, and earned him his doctorate magna cum laude. In 1947 he was named vicar general to Bishop Girolamo Bortignon, OFM Cap, of Belluno. Two years later, in 1949, he was placed in charge of diocesan catechetics. In 1958 he was appointed Bishop of Vittorio Veneto by Pope John XXIII; as a bishop, he participated in all the sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). In 1969 he was appointed Patriarch of Venice by Pope Paul VI and took possession of the archdiocese on 3 February 1970. Pope Paul created Luciani Cardinal-Priest of S. Marco in the consistory of 1973. He was elected on the fourth ballot of the August 1978 papal conclave; after considering calling himself Pius XIII, he chose the regnal name of John Paul I, the first double name in the history of the papacy, explaining in his Angelus that he took it as a thankful honor to his two immediate predecessors: John XXIII, who had named him a bishop, and Paul VI, who had named him Patriarch of Venice and a cardinal. He was also the first (and so far only) pope to use “the first” in his regnal name. He was also the first pope to choose an “investiture” to commence his papacy rather than the traditional papal coronation. The first Pope born in the 20th century, in Italy he was known as Il Papa del Sorriso (The Smiling Pope) and Il Sorriso di Dio (God’s Smile). He died just 33 days into his Papacy; the Vatican reported that he had died of a heart attack, although in accordance with custom no autopsy was performed. In 2003 he was named a Servant of God, the first step towards Canonization; if you know of any miracles that can be attributed to his intercession, please contact the Vatican. In other Catholic notes, today is the anniversary of my baptism into the Catholic Faith as an infant in 1958. For some reason, my parents picked friends of theirs to be my godparents; we moved from the city of my birth when I was not quite five years old (I can just barely remember the old Latin mass), and so I essentially never knew my godparents. And Banned Books Week continues, so read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle today! And today is the birthday of my friend Annette in Virginia (1956) and of my friend Melissa in Virginia (1971).
By sleeping away the afternoon and into this morning, not only did I not do a book review (more anon) or my Daily Update, but I missed a call from Chris’ Designs that my earrings were ready.
I woke up at 9:00 am and did my Book Devotional Reading. I then ate my breakfast toast while reading the morning paper, then did my Book Review for this weblog and for my Goodreads and Facebook accounts for The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde. I then did my Daily Update for yesterday, Tuesday, September 27th, 2016; yesterday’s Daily Update was the first one that I did not do in a timely manner this month. (Drat.) I then started the Weekly Computer Maintenance.
Leaving the house at 12:30 pm, Richard and I ate Chinese for lunch at Peking. At the Valero I purchased my Powerball and Louisiana Lotto lottery tickets for tonight’s drawing (winning $4.00 from my previous batch of tickets). We then went by Chris’ Designs, where Richard picked up my earrings for me.
We arrived home at 1:15 pm; I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Seventh Day of my Novena to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. I finished the Weekly Computer Maintenance and started the Weekly Virus Scan, and continued reading Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen. I also started reading Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde, and the Weekly Virus Scan finished its run. After I watched Jeopardy! with Richard, I came to the computer again. I requested Trace by Patricia Cornwell from Overdrive. And I will now finish today’s Daily Update and take a bath and do some reading.
Tomorrow is the Feast of Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, and Saint Raphael, Archangels, and Banned Book Week continues. Tomorrow is also the birthday of Bob, the husband of Richard’s sister Bonnie in Texas (1934). I will get up early and do my laundry; I will then go to Lafayette (which I did not do today), and put in some comfy chair time at Barnes and Noble. I will also go to the store to get my salad supplies and make my lunch salads for Saturday and Sunday.
On this Wednesday evening we have a Parting Quote from Shimon Peres, Polish-born Israeli statesman. Born as Szymon Perski in 1923 in Wisznice, Poland (now Vishneva, Belarus), his father was a wealthy timber merchant, and his mother was a librarian; his grandfather was a rabbi, and he was a cousin of film star Lauren Bacall (whose last name was Persky), although he did not find this out until the 1950’s. The family spoke Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian at home, and Peres learned Polish at school. He then learned to speak English and French. His family was not Orthodox, and he learned Talmud from his grandfather. In 1932 Peres’ father immigrated to Mandatory Palestine and settled in Tel Aviv. The family followed him in 1934. (All of his family that remained in Poland died during the Holocaust, with many (including his grandfather) burned alive in the town’s synagogue.) Peres attended Geula Gymnasium (High School for Commerce), but at age fifteen he transferred to Ben Shemen agricultural school and lived on Kibbutz Geva for several years. Peres was one of the founders of Kibbutz Alumot. In 1941 he was elected Secretary of HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed, a Labor Zionist youth movement, and in 1944 returned to Alumot, where he had an agricultural training and worked as a farmer and a shepherd. At age twenty he was elected to the HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed national secretariat, where he was only one of two Mapai party supporters out of the twelve members. Three years later he took over the movement and won a majority. The head of Mapai, David Ben-Gurion, and Berl Katznelson began to take an interest in him, and appointed him to Mapai’s secretariat. In 1944 Peres led an illicit expedition into the Negev, then a closed military zone requiring a permit to enter. The expedition, consisting of a group of teenagers, along with a Palmach scout, a zoologist, and an archaeologist, had been funded by Ben-Gurion and planned by Palmach head Yitzhak Sadeh, as part of a plan for future Jewish settlement of the area so as to include it in the Jewish state. The group was arrested by a Bedouin camel patrol led by a British officer, taken to Beersheba (then a small Arab town) and incarcerated in the local jail. All of the participants were sentenced to two weeks in prison, and as the leader, Peres was also heavily fined. In 1945 Peres married Sonya Gelman, who preferred to remain outside the public eye. In 1946 Peres and Moshe Dayan were chosen as the two youth delegates in the Mapai delegation to the Zionist Congress in Basel. In 1947 Peres joined the Haganah, the predecessor of the Israel Defense Forces. Ben-Gurion made him responsible for personnel and arms purchases; he was appointed to head the naval service when Israel received independence in 1948. Peres was director of the Defense Ministry’s delegation in the United States in the early 1950s. While in the United States he studied English, economics, and philosophy at The New School and New York University, and studied advanced management at Harvard University. In 1952 he was appointed Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Defense, and the following year, he became Director-General. At age 29, he was the youngest person to hold this position. He was involved in arms purchases and establishing strategic alliances that were important for the State of Israel. He was instrumental in establishing close relations with France, securing massive amounts of quality arms that, in turn, helped to tip the balance of power in the region. Owing to Peres’ mediation, Israel acquired the advanced Dassault Mirage III French jet fighter, established the Dimona nuclear reactor, and entered into a tri-national agreement with France and the United Kingdom, positioning Israel in what would become the 1956 Suez Crisis. Peres continued as a primary intermediary in the close French-Israeli alliance from the mid-1950s. By early 1955 France was shipping large amounts of weapons to Israel. In April 1956, following another visit to Paris by Peres, France agreed to disregard the Tripartite Declaration and supply more weapons to Israel. During the same visit, Peres informed the French that Israel had decided upon war with Egypt in 1956. Throughout the 1950s an extraordinarily close relationship existed between France and Israel, characterised by unprecedented cooperation in the fields of defense and diplomacy. For his work as the architect of this relationship, Peres was awarded the highest medal of the French Legion of Honor. At Sèvres, Peres took part in planning alongside Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury, Christian Pineau and Chief of Staff of the French Armed Forces General Maurice Challe, and British Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd and his assistant Sir Patrick Dean. Britain and France enlisted Israeli support for an alliance against Egypt. The parties agreed that Israel would invade the Sinai. Britain and France would then intervene, purportedly to separate the warring Israeli and Egyptian forces, instructing both to withdraw to a distance of 16 kilometres from either side of the canal. The British and French would then argue, according to the plan, that Egypt’s control of such an important route was too tenuous, and that it needed be placed under Anglo-French management. The agreement at Sèvres was initially described by British Prime Minister Anthony Eden as the “highest form of statesmanship”. The three allies, especially Israel, were mainly successful in attaining their immediate military objectives. However, the extremely hostile reaction to the Suez Crisis from both the United States and the USSR forced them to withdraw, resulting in a failure of Britain and France’s political and strategic aims of controlling the Suez Canal. Peres was first elected to the Knesset in the 1959 elections, as a member of the Mapai party. He was given the role of Deputy Defense Minister, which he filled until 1965, the same year he published his first book, The Next Step. He held negotiations with United States President John F. Kennedy in 1963, which concluded with the sale of Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Israel, the first sale of United States military equipment to Israel. Peres and Dayan left Mapai with Ben-Gurion to form a new party, Rafi, which reconciled with Mapai and joined the Alignment (a left-wing alliance) in 1968. In 1969 Peres was appointed Minister of Immigrant Absorption and in 1970 he became Minister of Transportation and Communications. In 1974, after a period as Information Minister, he was appointed Minister of Defense in the Yitzhak Rabin government, having been Rabin’s chief rival for the post of Prime Minister after Golda Meir resigned in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. During this time, Peres continued to challenge Rabin for the chairmanship of the party, but in 1977, he again lost to Rabin in the party elections. Peres succeeded Rabin as party leader prior to the 1977 elections when Rabin stepped down in the wake of a foreign currency scandal involving his wife. As Rabin could not legally resign from the transition government, he officially remained Prime Minister, while Peres became the unofficial acting Prime Minister. Peres led the Alignment to its first ever electoral defeat, when Likud under Menachem Begin won sufficient seats to form a coalition that excluded the left. After only a month on top, Peres assumed the role of opposition leader. Turning back a comeback bid by Rabin in 1980, Peres led his party to another, narrower, loss in the 1981 elections. In the 1984 elections, the Alignment won more seats than any other party but failed to muster the majority of 61 mandates needed to form a left-wing coalition. Alignment and Likud agreed to an unusual “rotation” arrangement, or unity government, in which Peres would serve as Prime Minister and the Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir would be Foreign Minister, swapping positions mid-way through the term. A highlight of this time in office was a trip to Morocco to confer with King Hassan II. As part of the deal, after two years Peres and Shamir traded places, and in 1986 Peres became foreign minister. In 1988 the Alignment, led by Peres, suffered another narrow defeat. He agreed to renew the coalition with the Likud, this time conceding the premiership to Shamir for the entire term. In the national unity government of 1988–90, Peres served as Vice Premier and Minister of Finance. He and the Alignment finally left the government in 1990, after “the dirty trick” – a failed bid to form a narrow government based on a coalition of the Alignment, small leftist factions and ultra-orthodox parties. From 1990 Peres led the opposition in the Knesset until, in early 1992, he was defeated in the first primary elections of the new Israeli Labor Party (which had been formed by the consolidation of the Alignment into a single unitary party) by Rabin, whom he had replaced fifteen years earlier. Peres remained active in politics, however, serving as Rabin’s foreign minister from 1992. Secret negotiations with Yasser Arafat’s PLO organization led to the Oslo Accords, which won Peres, Rabin and Arafat the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. On October 26th, 1994, Jordan and Israel signed the Israel–Jordan peace treaty, which had been initiated by Prime Minister Rabin and Foreign Minister Peres. The ceremony was held in the Arava valley of Israel, north of Eilat and near the Jordanian border. Prime Minister Rabin and Prime Minister Abdelsalam al-Majali signed the treaty and the President of Israel Ezer Weizman shook hands with King Hussein. United States President Bill Clinton observed, accompanied by United States Secretary of State Warren Christopher. The treaty brought an end to 46 years of official war between Israel and Jordan. Peres wrote a memoir, Battling for Peace, in 1995. After Rabin’s assassination in 1995, Peres served as Acting Prime Minister and Acting Defense Minister for seven months until the 1996 elections, during which he attempted to maintain the momentum of the peace process. On April 11th, 1996, Prime Minister Peres initiated Operation Grapes of Wrath, which was triggered by Hezbollah Katyusha rockets fired into Israel in response to the killing of two Lebanese by an IDF missile. Israel conducted massive air raids and extensive shelling in southern Lebanon. 106 Lebanese civilians died in the shelling of Qana, when a UN compound was hit in an Israeli shelling. In 1996 he founded the Peres Center for Peace, which had the aim of “promot[ing] lasting peace and advancement in the Middle East by fostering tolerance, economic and technological development, cooperation and well-being.” During his term Peres promoted the use of the Internet in Israel and created the first website of an Israeli prime minister. However, he was narrowly defeated by Benjamin Netanyahu in the first direct elections for Prime Minister in 1996. In 1997 he did not seek re-election as Labor Party leader and was replaced by Ehud Barak. Barak rebuffed Peres’s attempt to secure the position of party president and upon forming a government in 1999 appointed Peres to the minor post of Minister of Regional Co-operation. In 2000 Peres ran for a seven-year term as Israel’s President, a ceremonial head of state position which usually authorizes the selection of Prime Minister. Had he won, as was expected, he would have been the first ex-Prime Minister to be elected President. However, he lost to Likud candidate Moshe Katsav. Katsav’s victory was attributed in part to evidence that Peres planned to use the position to support the increasingly unpopular peace processes of the government of Barak. Following Barak’s defeat by Ariel Sharon in the 2001 direct election for Prime Minister, Peres made yet another comeback. He led Labor into a national unity government with Sharon’s Likud and secured the post of Foreign Minister. The formal leadership of the party passed to Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and in 2002 to Haifa mayor Amram Mitzna. Peres was much criticized on the left for clinging to his position as Foreign Minister in a government that was not seen as advancing the peace process, despite his own dovish stance. He left office only when Labor resigned from the government in advance of the 2003 elections. After the party under the leadership of Mitzna suffered a crushing defeat, Peres again emerged as interim leader. He led the party into a coalition with Sharon once more at the end of 2004 when the latter’s support of “disengagement” from Gaza presented a diplomatic program Labor could support. Peres won the chairmanship of the Labor Party in 2005, in advance of the 2006 elections. As party leader, he favored pushing off the elections for as long as possible. He claimed that an early election would jeopardize both the September 2005 Gaza withdrawal plan and the standing of the party in a national unity government with Sharon. However, the majority pushed for an earlier date, as younger members of the party, among them Ophir Pines-Paz and Isaac Herzog, overtook established leaders such as Ben-Eliezer and Haim Ramon in the party ballot to divide up government portfolios. Peres continually led in the polls, defying predictions that rivals would overtake him. Peres lost the leadership election with 40% to Peretz’s 42.4%. On November 30th, 2005 Peres announced that he was leaving the Labor Party to support Sharon and his new Kadima party. In the immediate aftermath of Sharon’s debilitating stroke in January of 2006, there was speculation that Peres might take over as leader of the party; most senior Kadima leaders, however, were former members of Likud and indicated their support for Ehud Olmert as Sharon’s successor. Labor reportedly tried to woo Peres back to the fold. However, he announced that he supported Olmert and would remain with Kadima. Peres had previously announced his intention not to run in the March elections. Following Kadima’s win in the election, Peres was given the role of Vice Prime Minister and Minister for the Development of the Negev, Galilee and Regional Economy. On June 13th, 2007, Peres was elected President of the State of Israel by the Knesset. 58 of 120 members of the Knesset voted for him in the first round (whereas 38 voted for Reuven Rivlin, and 21 for Colette Avital). His opponents then backed Peres in the second round and 86 members of the Knesset voted in his favor, while 23 objected. He resigned from his role as a Member of the Knesset the same day, having been a member since November 1959 (except for a three-month period in early 2006), the longest serving in Israeli political history. Peres was sworn in as President on July 15th, 2007. In November 2008 Peres received an honorary knighthood, the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George, from Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace in London. His wife died in January of 2011. In June 2011 he was awarded the honorary title of sheikh by Bedouin dignitaries in Hura for his efforts to achieve Middle East peace. Also in 2011 he wrote his last book, Ben Gurion: A Political Life. In June of 2012 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from United States President Barack Obama. Peres announced in April 2013 that he would not seek to extend his tenure beyond 2014. On May 19th, 2014 the United States House of Representatives voted on H.R. 2939, a bill to award Peres the Congressional Gold Medal; the text of the bill noted that “Shimon Peres has honorably served Israel for over 70 years, during which he has significantly contributed to United States interests and has played a pivotal role in forging the strong and unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel.” The bill passed into law, and Peres was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on June 9th, 2014. His successor, Rivlin, was elected on June 10th, 2014 and took office on July 24th, 2014. On September 13th, 2016, Peres, aged 93, suffered a “massive stroke” and was hospitalized at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel. His condition stabilized, but on September 27th, 2016 it was reported that he had suffered irreversible brain damage and organ failure and was reportedly in terminal condition. Peres was described by The New York Times as having done “more than anyone to build up his country’s formidable military might, then [having] worked as hard to establish a lasting peace with Israel’s Arab neighbors” (died 2016): “Optimists and pessimists die the same way. They just live differently. I prefer to live as an optimist.”