Daily Update: Thursday, November 24th, 2016

Andrew Dung-Lac and Thanksgiving

Today is the Optional Memorial of Saint Andrew Dũng-Lạc, Priest and Martyr (died 1839) and Companions, Martyrs (died 1745 – 1862). And today is Thanksgiving Day, and the birthday of my kids’ friend Mitch, one of the Assembled (1986).

Today’s Saint was born c. 1795 in Bac-Ninh, Vietnam as Trần An Dũng, into a family that was poor and pagan. When he was twelve the family had to move to Hà-Nôi (Hanoi) where his parents could find work. There he met a catechist and got food and shelter from him. He also got education in Christian faith for three years, and was baptized in Vinh-Tri with the Christian name Andrew. After learning Chinese and Latin he became a catechist, and thereafter taught catechists in the country. He was chosen to study theology, and was ordained a priest in 1823. As a parish priest in Ke-Dâm he was tireless in his preaching; he often fasted and lived a simple and moral life, he was a good example for the people, and many people were baptized. In 1835 he was imprisoned under emperor Minh-Mang’s persecutions, but his freedom was purchased by donations from members of the congregation he served. To avoid persecutions he changed his name to Lạc and moved to another prefecture to continue his work. But in 1839 he was again arrested, this time with Peter Thi, another Vietnamese priest whom he was visiting so that he might go to confession. Once again Andrew was liberated, along with Peter Thi, in exchange for money. Their freedom was brief; they were soon re-arrested and taken to Hà-Nôi (Hanoi), where both suffered dreadful torture before being beheaded. Saint Andrew Dũng-Lạc is representative of the 117 Vietnamese Saints who died under persecutions of Christians that lasted from 1745 to 1862 and cost about 130.000 lives. Among the 117 were 96 Vietnamese and 21 foreign missionaries. Of the Vietnamese group were 37 priests and 59 lay people, among whom were catechists and tertiaries. One of them was a woman, the mother of six children. Of the missionaries 11 were Spaniards, 6 bishops and 5 priests (all Dominicans), and 10 were French, 2 bishops and 8 priests from the Société des Missions Etrangères in Paris. 76 were beheaded, 21 suffocated, 6 burnt alive, 5 mutilated and 9 died in prison as a result of torture. They were all canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988, and are the Patron Saints of Vietnam. Turning to our secular holiday, the precise historical origin of the holiday of Thanksgiving is disputed; although Americans commonly believe that the first Thanksgiving happened in 1621 at Plymouth, Massachusetts, there is some evidence for an earlier harvest celebration by Spanish explorers in Florida during 1565. There was also a celebration two years before Plymouth (in 1619) in Virginia. There was a Thanksgiving of sorts in Newfoundland in 1578 but it was to celebrate a homecoming instead of the harvest. In the middle of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale, proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863. Lincoln’s successors as president followed his example of annually declaring the final Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving. But in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke with this tradition. November had five Thursdays that year (instead of the more-common four), and Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving rather than the fifth one. Although many popular histories state otherwise, he made clear that his plan was to establish the holiday on the next-to-last Thursday in the month instead of the last one. With the country still in the midst of The Great Depression, Roosevelt thought an earlier Thanksgiving would give merchants a longer period to sell goods before Christmas. Increasing profits and spending during this period, Roosevelt hoped, would help bring the country out of the Depression. At the time, advertising goods for Christmas before Thanksgiving was considered inappropriate. Fred Lazarus, Jr., founder of the Federated Department Stores (later Macy’s), is credited with convincing Roosevelt to push Thanksgiving to a week earlier to expand the shopping season, and within two years the change passed through Congress into law. Republicans decried the change, calling it an affront to the memory of Lincoln. People began referring to November 30th as the “Republican Thanksgiving” and November 23rd as the “Democratic Thanksgiving” or “Franksgiving”. Regardless of the politics, many localities had made a tradition of celebrating on the last Thursday, and many football teams had a tradition of playing their final games of the season on Thanksgiving; with their schedules set well in advance, they could not change. Since a presidential declaration of Thanksgiving Day was not legally binding, Roosevelt’s change was widely disregarded. Twenty-three states went along with Roosevelt’s recommendation, twenty-tw0 did not, and some, like Texas, could not decide and took both days as government holidays. In 1940 and 1941, years in which November had four Thursdays, Roosevelt declared the third one as Thanksgiving. As in 1939, some states went along with the change while others retained the traditional last-Thursday date. On October 6th, 1941, both houses of the United States Congress passed a joint resolution fixing the traditional last-Thursday date for the holiday beginning in 1942. However, in December of that year the Senate passed an amendment to the resolution that split the difference by requiring that Thanksgiving be observed annually on the fourth Thursday of November, which was usually the last Thursday and sometimes (two years out of seven, on average) the next to last. The amendment also passed the House, and on December 26th, 1941, President Roosevelt signed this bill, for the first time making the date of Thanksgiving a matter of federal law and fixing the day as the fourth Thursday of November. The holiday is commonly celebrated with a large dinner featuring roast turkey, celebrated with one’s family and extended family. And today is also the birthday of my kids’ friend Mitch, one of the Assembled (1986).

Last night our New Orleans Pelicans won their NBA game with the Minnesota Timberwolves by the score of 117 to 96.

At some point before I woke up Richard gathered up the trash and put the trash bin out on the curb. I woke up at 10:00 am, did my Book devotional Reading, put out the flag in honor of Thanksgiving, read the Thursday papers, and posted to Facebook that today was Thanksgiving. Michelle arrived at about 11:30 am, and at 12:15 pm Richard, Michelle, and I ate Thanksgiving Dinner, featuring roast turkey, real mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing, sweet peas, green bean casserole, Crescent rolls, and (for me) jellied cranberry sauce. We then relaxed for the rest of the day; Richard took a nap at 3:30 pm, and Michelle left at 4:00 pm. Our LSU Lady Tigers won their College Basketball game at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands with the Utep Lady Miners by the score of 78 to 45. I watched Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm, then made my lunch salads for Friday and Sunday. Richard woke up at 5:00 pm. I am now going to finish this Daily Update; at 6:30 pm our #25 ranked LSU Tigers (6-4, 4-3) will play their last Regular Season College Football game at #22 ranked Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3), and at 8:30 pm our LSU Tigers (3-1, 0-0) will play a College Basketball game at Paradise Island in the Bahamas with the Old Dominion Monarchs (2-1, 0-0); I will record the score of both games in tomorrow’s Daily Update.

Tomorrow is the Optional Memorial of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (died c. 305). Tomorrow is als0 Acadian Day and Native American Heritage Day. Richard and I will return to the casino for the first time since November 1st, and on my breaks I plan to read magazines. In sports, our LSU Tigers will play a College Basketball Game at Paradise Island in the Bahamas with either St. Johns or VCU, our LSU Lady Tigers will play a College Basketball game in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands with the Kansas State Lady Wildcats, and our New Orleans Pelicans (6-10, 0-2) will play an Away NBA game with the Portland Trailblazers (8-9, 3-0).

On this Thursday Afternoon Parting Quote comes to us from Cecil H. Underwood, American politician. Born in 1922 in Josephs Mills, West Virginia, he labored on farms during The Great Depression. After graduation from high school in 1939, he became an Army reservist during World War II before enrolling in Salem College, West Virginia. He graduated in 1943, where he had been elected president of the student body. After college, he instructed high school students as a biology teacher in St. Marys, West Virginia from 1943 to 1946. Between 1946 and 1950, he taught at Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio, and married his wife Hovah; he served as President of Salem College from 1950 to 1956. From 1944 through 1956 he won six terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates as a Republican. His 1956 election as Governor of West Virginia marked the first election of a Republican to the office since 1928; at the age of 33 he was the youngest person ever to be elected Governor of West Virginia. Underwood continued the desegregation of West Virginia schools without violent confrontation at all levels and was a supporter of civil rights legislation. He advocated an organized civil service and retirement pension system, and provided temporary employment relief for low-income families. Underwood was also instrumental in the creation of the West Virginia Mental Health Department, oversaw creation of the interstate highway in the state, and oversaw the last three executions in the state, all taking place in 1959. Because West Virginia’s state Constitution prohibited governors from serving consecutive terms at that time, Underwood ran for the United States Senate in 1960, but was defeated by incumbent Democrat Jennings Randolph. During the 1960s he was named temporary chairman of the Republican National Convention and was once considered for the office of Vice President under Richard Nixon. Two weeks after losing the senate race in 1960, Underwood went to work for the Island Creek Coal Company and Monsanto Chemical Company as well as forming his own land development company. He was nominated again for governor in 1964 but was defeated again. He received a master’s degree from West Virginia University in 1965, and then lost the Republican primary for governor to Arch Moore in 1968. He was nominated again for governor in 1976, losing to Democrat Jay Rockefeller by 250,000, which would become his largest defeat. He continued his academic career by serving as President of Bethany College and instructor of political science at Marshall University. He also served as president of the National Association of State Councils on Vocational Education. Underwood was elected again to the office of Governor of West Virginia in 1996; at the age of 73 he was the oldest person ever to be elected Governor of West Virginia. During his governorship, he enabled the Governor’s Commission of Fair Taxation, which was a thorough review of the state’s tax structure. He also streamlined administrative costs from education and other government sectors. In 1999 Underwood was selected by the Governors of the Appalachian states to serve as West Virginia’s co-chairman for the Appalachian Regional Commission for 2000. He was the only sitting Republican governor defeated for re-election in 2000, narrowly losing to Democrat Bob Wise. His wife died in 2004; when he died, his body was donated to Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine (died 2008): “I have learned that you cannot mandate economic growth. You cannot develop an economy simply by talking about it. You cannot practice the politics of envy and class warfare and encourage business investment. You cannot have jobs without employers. These are economic truths, and they bear repeating.”

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