Daily Update: Friday, November 18th, 2016

Dedication of the Basilicas of Peter and Paul, Apostles, and Rose Philippine Duchesne

Today is the Optional Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Peter and Paul, Apostles, and the Optional Memorial of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, Virgin (died 1852). And today is the annual Leonid Meteor Shower (in the predawn sky to the south), and the birthday of Will, one of the former Assembled (1986).

One of the holiest sites of Christendom in the Catholic Tradition, the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter is traditionally the burial site of Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to Catholic Tradition, also the first Bishop of Antioch and later first Bishop of Rome, the first Pope. Although the New Testament does not mention Peter’s martyrdom in Rome, Catholic tradition holds that his tomb is below the baldachin and altar; for this reason, many Popes, starting with the first ones, have been buried there. Construction on the current basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on April 18th, 1506. At length on November 18th, 1626, Pope Urban VIII solemnly dedicated the church. Saint Peter’s Basilica is neither the Pope’s official seat nor first in rank among the Major Basilicas of Rome. This honor is held by the Pope’s cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. However, it is most certainly the Pope’s principal church, as most Papal ceremonies take place at St. Peter’s due to its size, proximity to the Papal residence, and location within the Vatican City walls. The Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls was built over the site of the Apostle Paul’s burial. The original building, with additions and modifications throughout the ages, was destroyed by a fire in 1823, but the Church was reopened in 1840 and re-consecrated in 1855. In the old basilica each Pope had his portrait in a frieze extending above the columns separating the four aisles and naves; a 19th century version of the frieze of popes is now in the new basilica. The interior of the walls of the nave were also redecorated with scenes from the life of Saint Paul in two series of mosaics. We also honor Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, Virgin (died 1852). Born in 1769 at Grenoble, France, her family had wealth and political connections, as her father was a lawyer, businessman, and prominent civic leader in Grenoble, and her mother was a member of a leading family from the Dauphine region. From age eight she had a desire to evangelize in the Americas, sparked by hearing a Jesuit missionary speak of his work there. She received a basic education at home from tutors, and religious education from her mother. Educated from age twelve at the convent of the Visitation nuns in Grenoble, she joined them in 1788 at age nineteen without the permission or knowledge of her family. Initially they were violently opposed to her choice, but finally gave in. Religious communities were outlawed during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution, and her convent was closed in 1792. She spent the next ten years living as a laywoman again, but still managed to act like a good member of her Order. She established a school for poor children, provided care for the sick, and hid priests from Revolutionaries. When the Terror ended, she reclaimed her convent and tried to reestablish it with a group of sisters she had maintained in Grenoble. However, most were long gone, and in 1804 the group was incorporated into the Society of the Sacred Heart under Saint Madeline Sophie Barat. They then reopened the convent of Sainte-Marie-d’en-Haut as the second house of Sacred Heart nuns. Rose became a postulant in December 1804, and made her final vows in 1805. In 1815 Mother Duchesne was assigned to found a Sacred Heart convent in Paris. On March 14th, 1818 at age 49 she and four sisters were sent as missionaries to the Louisiana Territory to establish the Society’s presence in America. Diseases contracted during the trip to America nearly killed her, and after she recovered in New Orleans, the trip up the Mississippi nearly killed her again. She established her first mission at Saint Charles, Missouri, a log cabin that was the first free school west of the Mississippi River. She eventually six other houses in America which included schools and orphanages. She ran into some opposition as her teaching methods were based on French models, and her English was terrible; her students, however, received a good education, and her intentions were obviously for their best. She was ever concerned about the plight of Native Americans, and much of her work was devoted to educating them, caring for their sick, and working against alcohol abuse. Finally able to retire from her administrative duties, Mother Duchesne evangelized the Pottowatomies in Kansas at age 71, and taught young girls of the tribe. This work, however, lasted but a year as she was unable to master the Pottowatomi language. She was known to the tribe as “Woman-Who-Prays-Always”. She wished to go to the Rocky Mountains to continue her work, but instead spent her last ten years in retirement in a tiny shack at the convent in Saint Charles, Missouri where she lived austerely and in constant prayer. She is the Patron Saint of perseverance amid adversity, and of the Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The Leonid Meteor Shower is today, best seen in the southern predawn sky, weather and moonlight permitting. Finally, today is the birthday of one of my kids’ friends, Will, one of the former Assembled (1986).

I woke up at 9:00 am (so too late to see any Leonid Meteors). I did my Book Devotional Reading, then ate my breakfast toast while reading the morning paper. I then did my Internet Devotional Reading, and said the Eighth Day of my Novena to Christ the King. I then made my labels for my Christmas Card Photos, and put the labels on back of the photos (putting one of the photos on our refrigerator). We then watched an MST3K episode via YouTube on TV (from Richard’s phone).

Richard and I left the house at 12:45 pm, and I mailed Liz Ellen’s package at the Post Office and sent her an Email letting her know that I had done so. We ate Chinese for lunch at Peking, and then we went to the Superette so that Richard could get steak and supplies (more anon).

Once home at 2:00 pm, I did Advance Daily Update Drafts for this weblog through November 30th. Richard took a nap at 4:30 pm, and I watched Jeopardy!, then worked on my January 2017 photos for my weblog. My friend and co-worker Deborah sent me a text that her operation on her foot took three hours, and she did not get home until about 5:00 pm (she is doing well). I then started watching an MST3K episode via YouTube on TV, this time from my phone; Richard woke up at about 7:30 pm, and came out and watched it with me. He then left to get himself some chicken for his dinner (I was not hungry), and got on the computer to do today’s Daily Update. Our LSU Tigers won their College Basketball game with the North Florida Ospreys by the score of 78 to 70; our Tigers will next play an Away College Basketball game with the Wichita State Shockers on Wednesday, November 23rd. And our New Orleans Pelicans won their NBA game with the Portland Trailblazers by the score of 113 to 101. And I will head for bed once I finish this Daily Update.

Tomorrow we have no Saints to honor, but tomorrow is the anniversary of the day in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication ceremony for the military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I will start addressing Christmas cards, and at 12:00 pm we will eat steak while we watch our #16 LSU Tigers (6-3, 4-2) play a home game with the #21 Florida Gators (7-2, 5-3). I will also put a new Black Ice screen protector on my phone. And our New Orleans Pelicans (4-9, 0-2) will play a home NBA game against the  Charlotte Hornets (8-3, 2-1).

Our Friday Evening Parting Quote comes to us from Brian G. Marsden, British astronomer. Born in 1937 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, the son of a mathematics professor, he became interested in astronomy after returning home from primary school one day to find his mother watching a solar eclipse. What fascinated him was not that the eclipse could be seen but that it had been predicted in advance. By the time he arrived at the Perse School, Cambridge, he was developing primitive methods for calculating the positions of the planets. He co-founded the school’s Astronomical Society and, at the age of 16, began attending meetings of the British Astronomical Association in London. He would often return home to Cambridge lugging a massive table of seven-figure logarithms and a bulky mechanical calculator to make astronomical predictions.  He persuaded the Association to lend him a computational machine so that he could continue this work while studying Mathematics at New College, Oxford. By the time he graduated he had acquired an international reputation for the computation of the orbits of comets, including new discoveries. After Oxford Marsden took up an invitation to work at the Yale University Observatory. He had originally planned to spend a year there carrying out research on celestial mechanics, but as the university’s computer facilities were so much better than those available in Britain he decided to stay. He married in 1964 and after completing a doctorate on The Motions of the Galilean Satellites of Jupiter in 1965 he joined the staff of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Marsden was particularly fascinated by a family of comets known as the Kreutz group and undertook a detailed examination of how individuals in the group might have evolved from each other, publishing a paper on the Kreutz comets in 1967, He became director of the IAU’s Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams in 1968 and director of the Minor Planet Center in 1978. Marsden specialized in celestial mechanics and astrometry, collecting data on the positions of asteroids and comets and computing their orbits, often from minimal observational information and providing their future positions on International Astronomical Union (IAU) circulars. He correctly predicted that Comet Swift-Tuttle, which had been discovered in 1862 and was generally assumed to be planning a reappearance around 1981, was actually a comet which had been seen in 1737 and would thus reappear again in late 1992. As Swift-Tuttle approached in that year, he warned that there was a “small but not negligible chance” of one in 10,000 that the comet could collide with the Earth next time round on August 14, 2126, producing a cataclysmic impact more powerful than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. A few months later Marsden decided to “call off the alarm”, admitting that the earlier warning had been a wake-up call to astronomers to get them to make observations of the comet. In 1996 he identified a group of comets with similar orbits which are now known as the Marsden group. Unlike the Kreutz comets, which have orbital periods of several centuries, the Marsden comets have orbital periods of only five or six years. In 1998 he predicted that the asteroid 1997 XF11 could collide with Earth in 2028. Again, as a result of further observations being sent in, he confirmed that there would be no collision with 1997 XF11 during the foreseeable future. In 2006 a vote by members of the International Astronomical Union in Prague created a new category of “dwarf planets,” and Pluto was designated minor planet 134340. Marsden stepped down as director of the Minor Planet Center at the same meeting and enjoyed the thought that both he and Pluto had been retired on the same day. Marsden won many awards for his work, including the Dirk Brouwer Award of the American Astronomical Society, and served on many international astronomical committees (died 2010): “We have to beef up our searches, which are now pretty dismal, so we can find out about these things before we get hit. … It takes a dramatic event to get people’s attention, and we thought the comet crash with Jupiter might have done the job. … we tend to ignore an extraterrestrial hazard that could reduce the planet to rubble. … What we really need is a good scare.”

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