Daily Update: Saturday, January 21st, 2017

Agnes and Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2017

Today is the Memorial of  Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr (died c. 304). Today is the Fourth Day of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; the Theme for 2017 is “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us” (2 Corinthians 5:14-20), and today our meditation is “Everything Old Has Passed Away” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Born about 291, according to legend the Prefect Sempronius wished today’s Saint (who was 12 or 13) to marry his son; she did not want to marry but wanted to have God in her life, and on Agnes’ refusal he condemned her to death. As Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, Sempronius had a naked Agnes dragged through the streets to a brothel. As she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind. When led out to die she was tied to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn, whereupon the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and beheaded her, or, in some other texts, stabbed her in the throat. It is also said that the blood of Agnes poured to the stadium floor where other Christians soaked up the blood with cloths. Her story was well known in ancient Christianity; an early account of her death, stressing her steadfastness and virginity, but not stressing the legendary features of the tradition, was given by Saint Ambrose (died 397). In modern times, on this feast day two lambs are brought from the Trappist abbey of Tre Fontane in Rome to the Pope to be blessed. On Holy Thursday these lambs will be shorn, and from their wool will be woven the pallium which the pope gives to a newly consecrated metropolitan archbishop as a sign of his jurisdiction and his union with the pope. Agnes is the Patron Saint of girls, betrothed couples, gardeners, crops, and virgins; her aide is invoked by rape victims, and she is the Patron of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York. Today is the Fourth Day of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; for today, we meditate on “Everything Old Has Passed Away” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and we pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today and for ever. Heal the wounds of our past, bless our pilgrimage towards unity today and guide us into your future, when you will be all in all, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Last night our New Orleans Pelicans lost their NBA game to the Brooklyn Nets by the score of 114 to 143; our New Orleans Pelicans (17-27, 1-6) will next play a Home NBA game with the Cleveland Cavaliers (30-11, 3-5) on Monday, January 23rd, 2017.

From about 11:30 pm, my phone was blowing up with thunderstorm and tornado warnings for our locality. When I woke up to get ready for work I did my Book Devotional Reading; I could not bring in the flag I had put out yesterday for Inauguration Day, as it was raining, and there was our usual drip — drip —- drip leak in the utility room. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading; we did not meet with any bad weather on our way to the casino. (We did have five call-ins, possibly due to the weather, and one of our dealers who comes from Church Point said she almost could not make it up to US 190 in our town because of flooding.) After the Pre-Shift Meeting, Richard was on Pai Gow all day. I was the Relief Dealer for Mini Baccarat, Macau Mini Baccarat, and Pai Gow, and when they closed the Macau Mini Baccarat game I was the Relief Dealer for Mini Baccarat and Pai Gow, adding the second Three Card Poker table to my string at the end of our shift.

When we got home I brought in the flag and set up my medications for next week (I have one prescription to renew on Monday, and one over the counter vitamin that I need to get at the store). I then read the morning paper, then I left for the Adoration Chapel. During my Weekly Hour of Eucharistic Adoration I finished reading the January 2nd, 2017 issue of my Jesuit America magazine. I then went to McDonald’s, where I ate my late lunch and continued reading Silence by Shūsaku Endō, Translated by William Johnston. I then went to the Church to attend the 4:00 pm Mass for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.

I arrived home shortly after 5:00 pm, and got busy with today’s Daily Update; Richard just went to bed, and when I finish this Daily Update I will join him and Little Black in bed. Our LSU Tigers (9-8, 1-5) will be playing an Away College Basketball game with the Arkansas Razorbacks (14-4, 3-3)tonight, and I will post the score of the game in tomorrow’s Daily Update.

Tomorrow is the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time and the Optional Memorial of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade (died 1850). Tomorrow is also the Fifth Day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; the Theme for 2017 is “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us” (2 Corinthians 5:14-20), and our meditation will be on “Everything Has Become New” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Tomorrow is the anniversary of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court Decision ruling that women in the United States have a constitutional right to undergo abortions; normally, on that account tomorrow would be the annual Day of Prayer and Penance for Life, but since tomorrow is Sunday, the annual Day of Prayer and Penance for Life will be on Monday. We will go to work for the last day of the two-week pay period and work our eight hours, and on my breaks I will continue reading Silence by Shūsaku Endō, Translated by William Johnston. In the afternoon our LSU Lady Tigers (14-5, 3-3) will be playing an Away College Basketball game with the Texas A&M Lady Aggies (14-5, 4-2); I will post the score of that game in Monday’s Daily Update.

Our Parting Quote upon this Saturday afternoon comes to us from Bill Johnson, American skier. Born as William Johnson in 1960 in Los Angeles, California, he moved with his family to Boise, Idaho, when he was seven. He learned to ski at Bogus Basin in the late 1960s. Two years later the family moved to Brightwood, Oregon, near Mount Hood, and Johnson later attended high school in Sandy. He was a troubled youth who began competitive skiing on nearby Mount Hood as a means of harnessing his energy. After a run-in with the law at age seventeen, the juvenile defendant was given the choice between six months in jail or attending the Mission Ridge ski academy in central Washington state, and he chose the latter. His talent in the downhill event eventually landed him a spot on the U.S. Ski Team. Johnson made his World Cup debut in February 1983 and finished sixth in the downhill at St. Anton, Austria. In 1984 at age 23, Johnson challenged the long-established European domination of downhill ski racing. Even some of his teammates considered the 23-year-old Johnson a brash upstart, as he reveled in his image as the bad boy of skiing. and he was called Billy the Kid. Johnson’s stated personal motto (tattooed on his arm) was “Ski To Die.” After mostly undistinguished finishes, his unexpected victory on January 15th, on the storied Lauberhorn course at Wengen, Switzerland, was the first for an American male in World Cup downhill competition. A month later at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (now Bosnia), he had promising downhill training runs on a course that favored his gliding style. He boldly predicted his Olympic victory, evoking comparisons to Joe Namath and Muhammad Ali, and irking his European competitors. His gold medal win at Bjelašnica in a time of 1:45.59 edged out silver medalist Peter Müller of Switzerland by 0.27 seconds. Soon after his Olympic win, Johnson openly voiced his strong opinions about amateurism in ski racing and the U.S. Ski Team’s handling of his finances. After two more World Cup downhill victories in Aspen and Whistler in March 1984, Johnson was at the top of his sport. With four downhill wins in just two months, he was an Olympic champion and finished third in the downhill season standings. But after the 1984 season, his best results were two 7th-place finishes: at Wengen in January 1985 and at Whistler in March 1986. He attempted to start a professional circuit of downhill racing in 1985 to compete with the World Cup, but it failed to gain momentum. His brashness made him unpopular with the European fans and competitors. Three days late to a training camp, his financial support was withdrawn in May 1985, but he returned to the team several months later. Johnson’s Olympic career was the subject of a 1985 TV movie called Going for the Gold: The Bill Johnson Story, featuring future ER actor Anthony Edwards in the title role. It first aired in May and also included Dennis Weaver and Sarah Jessica Parker. Due to injuries to his left knee in December 1986 and back which required surgery, and more significantly, sagging results, Johnson was left off the U.S. team for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, unable to defend his gold medal. A month later he was suspended from the team and missed the final events of the 1988 season. It was later disclosed he had a locker room scuffle with an assistant coach in November 1987. By the end of the decade, he was done as a serious competitor; he retired after the 1990 season. Johnson’s personal life suffered as well, when his 13-month-old son, Ryan, drowned in a hot tub in 1992. At age 40, his marriage ended in divorce, and he was bankrupt and living in his class A motorhome when he mounted an improbable comeback bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The comeback ended abruptly on March 22nd, 2001, when Johnson crashed during a training run prior to the downhill race of the 2001 U.S. Alpine Championships, held at The Big Mountain near Whitefish, Montana. He sustained serious injury to the left side of his brain, nearly bit off his tongue, and was comatose for three weeks. Johnson suffered a series of mini-strokes over the course of the next ten years. In 2010 Johnson lived in Zigzag, near Mount Hood, and remained brain-damaged and in need of constant care, mostly from his mother. He became slightly more functional, though his speech and memory were permanently impaired. Later in 2010, he fell victim to a massive stroke and was moved to a long-term care facility in Gresham. Due to the stroke, Johnson lost the ability to sit up unassisted and could no longer use his right hand. He also lost sight in his left eye and further lost the ability to speak above a whisper. He also suffered great pain when swallowing, which made feeding him difficult. In June 2013, Johnson contracted an infection that nearly took his life. He was placed on life support while doctors worked to fight the infection. Johnson elected in July to remove himself from life support and refuse further treatment. Following a return to long-term care in February 2014, he was said to be free of infection, able to move one side of his body, eat and smoke with assistance, and communicate using a letter board. However, Johnson later experienced worsening health (died 2016): “Basically, any downhill skier is a daredevil, and I’m no exception. I like to drive cars faster than 100 [miles per hour]. I like to go over bumps in my car and get airborne. I like to drink. I chase girls full time, but I only drink part time.”

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