Our O Antiphon for today is ”O Oriens,” “O Morning Star.” Today is the Optional Memorial of Saint Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor (died 1597). Today is also the date of the Winter Solstice (in my time zone), so that today is either the First Day of Winter or Midwinter, depending on one’s point of view.
In Latin the O Antiphon for today is “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis,” which translates to “O Morning Star, splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied (Isaiah 9:2): “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.” Turning to Saint Peter Canisius, he was born in 1521 in Nijmegen, Netherlands (then part of the Holy Roman Empire, under the Habsburgs); his father was a wealthy burgomeister, and he was educated in Cologne, Germany, studying art, civil law and theology. He was an excellent student, and received a master’s degree by age 19; his closest friends at university were monks and clerics. After attending a retreat conducted by Saint Peter Faber, he joined the Jesuits in 1543; he then taught at the University of Cologne, and helped found the first Jesuit house in the city. Ordained a priest in 1546, he became the theologian of Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg, Bishop of Augsburg, in 1547. He traveled and worked with Saint Ignatius of Loyola who was his spiritual director in Rome. He became a Doctor of Theology in 1549, and began teaching theology and preaching at Ingolstadt, Germany in 1549, becoming Rector of the university in 1550. In 1552 he began teaching theology, preaching in the Cathedral of Saint Stephen in Vienna, Austria; as the royal court confessor, he continued to worked in hospitals and prisons, and during Lent in 1553 he traveled to preach in abandoned parishes in Lower Austria. During Mass one day he received a vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and ever after offered his work to the Sacred Heart. He led the Counter-Reformation in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Switzerland, and his work led to the return of Catholicism to Germany. His catechism went through 200 editions during his life, and was translated into twelve languages; in some places catechisms were referred to as “Canisi”. Everywhere he worked he became a noted preacher, and often worked with children, teaching them and hearing their confessions. While in Fribourg, Switzerland, he received a message from the city’s patron saint, Nicholas of Myra, that he should stop traveling; Canisius spent the rest of his life there. He taught, preached, edited books, and worked to support the Catholic press and printers in many cities; his advice was sought by Saint Francis de Sales and by his friend Saint Charles Borromeo. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, and is the Patron Saint of the Catholic Press and of Germany. Turning finally to astronomy, the winter solstice occurs exactly when the axial tilt of a planet’s polar hemisphere is farthest away from the star that it orbits. Earth’s maximum axial tilt to our star, the Sun, during a solstice is 23° 26′. More evidently from high latitudes, a hemisphere’s winter solstice occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun’s daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest. Since the winter solstice lasts only a moment in time, other terms are often used for the day on which it occurs, such as midwinter, the longest night, or the first day of winter. Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.
Last night I started reading the November – December 2016 issue of The Bible Today; I also downloaded a PDF of the 2014 Pontifical Biblical Commission document, “The Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture”, that I will read on my tablet at leisure.
The Winter Solstice arrived at my location and latitude (at not much above 30°, we are so far south in SouthWestCentral Louisiana that a proper sundial has a gnomon that lies almost flat) at 4:44 am. Some hours later, I posted to Facebook that today was the Winter Solstice, and got out of bed at about 8:15 am. I started the Weekly Computer Maintenance and did my Book Devotional Reading. Liz Ellen’s asthma had kicked up (probably from the smoke of the fire in the fire pit last night), and she had dosed herself, and was not feeling 100%. I read the morning paper and ate my breakfast toast, then did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Sixth Day of my Christmas Novena and the First Day of my Holy Family Novena. When I came back to the computer, the Weekly Computer Maintenance had finished, and I started the Weekly Virus Scan, did my Weekly Maintenance chores on my phone, and called the lady whose husband runs the satsuma orchard west of town and arranged to pick up three sacks of satsumas on Friday morning.
Liz Ellen did not feel up to going to Baton Rouge; when we left the house, we went to the Sacred Heart Shrine by the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church north of town; they had a few Christmas wrapped packages marked “please take”, and we took one, figuring from what we could feel that it would be a print of the Sacred Heart. At Cash Magic I actually won $12.25, then I purchased my Powerball and Louisiana Lotto lottery tickets for tonight’s drawing. We then drove to the Ave Maria Shrine in Prairie Ronde. Next, we went to the Wal-Mart in Opelousas; I asked Liz Ellen what was in the Christmas package from the Sacred Heart Shrine, and she unwrapped it. To our surprise, it is a very good quality art print of a butterfly with the word “Hope”. At the Wal-Mart we got some Blue Ice for Liz Ellen, a travel litter box for Widget, and a Jewelry Repair kit (with a tiny set of pliers) for me. We ate lunch at Prejean’s; the stuffed mushroom appetizer was excellent, but my crab cake and Liz Ellen’s gumbo were good, but nowhere near as good as at Fezzo’s in Crowley. (Next time we go to Prejean’s, we will just make a meal out of the stuffed mushrooms.) We then drove to the Wal-Mart in Crowley, where Liz Ellen got some groceries. (She was also in search of some yarn she had gotten a few days ago from our local Wal-Mart; she could not find it at the other Wal-Marts, and it was cleaned out from our local Wal-Mart the last time she looked.)
We arrived home at 4:15 pm; Richard was sleeping in his chair, and he moved to the bed and went back to sleep. Liz Ellen and I watched Jeopardy! (Cindy Stowell’s winning streak ended, and Alex Trebek made an announcement after the show that she had died on December 5th, before her episodes aired), then we lit the Advent Candles. Michelle came by; she was trying to figure out how to get a bed from my sympathera, and we offered to get it in the truck and follow her back home, but her roommate Katie texted to say that they could use Katie’s stepfather’s truck, so Michelle left again. And I will now finish this Daily Update and take a bath and do some reading (unless Michelle comes back and needs us to do the truck stuff). Our LSU Lady Tigers (9-2, 0-0) are playing a home College Basketball game with the Little Rock Lady Trojans (6-5, 0-0), and our New Orleans Pelicans (10-20, 0-6) are playing a home NBA game with the Oklahoma City Thunder (16-12, 2-2); I will record the scores of both games in tomorrow’s Daily Update.
Tomorrow we have no Saints; our O Antiphon is “O Rex Gentium…”, and tomorrow is the birthday of my Internet friend Rosa in Arkansas (1965). Liz Ellen and I will be heading to Baton Rouge, and Richard will be going to the store to get whatever we need for Christmas Dinner on Sunday. Our LSU Tigers (8-2, 0-0) will be playing an away College Basketball game with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-3, 0-0).
Our Parting Quote this Wednesday evening comes to us from Jane Bown, English photographer. Born in 1925 in Eastnor, Herefordshire, she was raised by her aunts. At the age of twelve she found out that one of her “aunts” was her mother, and that her birth was illegitimate; her relationship with her mother deteriorated from that point. She first worked as a chart corrector with the Women’s Royal Naval Service, which included a role in plotting the D-Day invasion, and this employment entitled her to an education grant. She then studied photography at Guildford College under Ifor Thomas. Bown began her career as a wedding portrait photographer until 1951, when Thomas put her in touch with Mechthild Nawiasky, a picture editor at The Observer. Nawiasky showed her portfolio to editor David Astor who was impressed and immediately commissioned her to photograph the philosopher Bertrand Russell. In 1954 Bown married the fashion retail executive Martin Moss. Bown worked primarily in black-and-white and preferred to use available light. Until the early 1960s, she worked primarily with a Rolleiflex camera. Subsequently Bown used a 35mm Pentax SLR, before settling on the Olympus OM-1 camera, often using an 85mm lens. She photographed hundreds of subjects, including Orson Welles, Samuel Beckett, Sir John Betjeman, Woody Allen, Cilla Black, Quentin Crisp, P. J. Harvey, John Lennon, Truman Capote, John Peel, the gangster Charlie Richardson, Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer, Jarvis Cocker, Björk, Jayne Mansfield, Diana Dors, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold, Evelyn Waugh, Brassai and Margaret Thatcher. She took Queen Elizabeth II’s eightieth birthday portrait. Bown’s extensive photojournalism output included series on Hop Pickers, the evictions at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, the Butlin’s chain of holiday resorts, the British Seaside, and, in 2002, the Glastonbury festival. In 1985 she was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE), and in 1995 was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE). She was granted an Honorary Fellowship in the Royal Photographic Society in 2000. Her social documentary and photojournalism was mostly unseen before the release of her book Unknown Bown 1947–1967 in 2007. That same year her work from Greenham Common was selected by Val Williams and Susan Bright as part of How We Are: Photographing Britain, the first major survey of photography to be held at Tate Britain. In 2014 directors Luke Dodd and Michael Whyte released a documentary about Bown, Looking For Light, featuring conversations with Bown about her life and interviews with those she photographed and worked with, including Edna O’Brien, Lynn Barber and Richard Ashcroft. In June 2014 she was awarded an honorary degree from the University for the Creative Arts (died 2014): “I spent my whole life worrying about time and light.”