Daily Update: Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Jerome Emiliani and Josephine Bahikta

Today is the Optional Memorial of Saint Jerome Emiliani, Priest (died 1537) and the Optional Memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (died 1947).

Born in 1481 in Venice, Italy, the son of wealthy parents, the father of Saint Jerome Emiliani died when he was a teenager, and he ran away from home at the age of fifteen, becoming a dissolute youth. At the age of twenty-six in 1506 he became a Venetian soldier, and commanded the League of Cambrai forces at the fortress of Castelnuovo in the mountains near Treviso. Captured by Venetian forces on August 27th, 1511, he was chained in a dungeon; he prayed to Our Lady for help, was miraculously freed by an apparition, and hung his chains on a church wall as an offering. He then began studying for the priesthood, serving as Mayor of Treviso in the meantime. He was ordained in 1518, while a virulent spotted-fever plague was in Venice; he cared for the sick, and housed orphans in his own home. At night he roamed the streets, burying those who had collapsed and died unattended. He contracted the fever himself, but survived. During his later career he founded six orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes, and a hospital. He founded the Order of Somaschi (Company of Servants of the Poor, or Somascan Fathers, or Regular Clergy of Somasca) in about 1532, a congregation of clerks regular vowed to the care of orphans, named after the town of Somasca where they started and where they founded a seminary; the society was given approval by Pope Paul III in 1540, and continues their work today in a dozen countries. He is believed to have developed the question-and-answer catechism technique for teaching children religion. He was declared the patron of orphans and abandoned children in 1928 by Pope Pius XI. We also honor Saint Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (died 1947). Born about 1869 in Oglasa, Darfur, Sudan to a wealthy Sudanese family, she was kidnapped by slave-traders at about age nine, branded, and given the name Bakhita by them. Sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, she was finally purchased in 1883 by her final owner, an Italian diplomat, Callisto Legnani. He and his friend, Augusto Michieli, brought her to Italy in 1885, and she became nanny to the Michieli’s daughter, Mimmina. In 1888 or 1889 Mimmina was left in the custody of the Canossian Sisters in Venice while the Michielis moved to the Red Sea on business, and Bahkita (as her nanny) lived with her. Bakhita became attracted to Christianity, and in 1890 was baptized by the Sisters as an adult. When the Michielis returned to collect her and their daughter, Bakhita did not want to leave. Signora Michieli tried to force the issue, but the superior of the Canossian Sisters in Venice complained to the authorities. An Italian court ruled that since Sudan had outlawed slavery before her birth, and since in any case Italian law did not recognize slavery, Bakhita had never in fact been a slave since being brought to Italy in 1885. She had now reached the age of maturity, and she found herself in control of her own destiny for the first time in her life. She chose to remain with the Canossians. She entered the Institute of the Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice, Italy in 1893, taking her vows in 1896 in Verona, and serving as a Canossian Sister for the next fifty years. Her gentle presence, her warm, amiable voice, and her willingness to help with any menial task were a comfort to the poor and suffering people who came to the door of the Institute. After a biography of her was published in 1930, she became a noted and sought after speaker, raising funds to support missions. She was canonized in 2000, and is thought to be the only Saint originally from the Sudan, of which country she is the Patron Saint.

I did not wake up until 9:00 am. I started my laundry, started the Weekly Computer Maintenance, and did my Book Devotional Reading. I then read the morning paper, then did my Internet Devotional Reading. I finished the Weekly Computer Maintenance, and did the Weekly Virus Scan. Richard took a nap at 12:00 pm.

At 1:00 pm I headed out into town; at Peking I ate Chinese for lunch while continuing my reading of What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe via Kindle on my tablet. I then got my hair cut before my hair decided to strangle me in my sleep (or turn me into the scary girl from The Ring, who looks like Cousin Itt’s girlfriend), then got some more hair headbands from Wal-Mart.

Arriving home at 2:30 pm, I called the nurse at the clinic; after apologizing for not returning her calls sooner (having a granddaughter visiting is a great excuse), she set me up to see the Renal Physician at the Clinic at 11:00 am on Thursday, February 16th, with me having blood drawn for lab work at 11:00 am on Friday, February 10th. I then called the Pharmacy; my prescription that they said could not be renewed until February 8th will be ready for me to pick up on Friday, and the prescription from my psychiatrist’s office that was not with my prescriptions filled on Monday will be ready for me to pick up on Friday. Richard woke up, and we watched Jeopardy!, then I came to the computer to work on my weblog. Richard gathered up the trash and wheeled the trash bin out to the curb. At 6:15 pm we went to D.C.’s Sports Bar and Steakhouse for dinner (I had the oyster platter; every few months I crave fried oysters), and we arrived back home at 7:15 pm. Our New Orleans Pelicans (20-32, 2-6) are playing a Home NBA game with the Utah Jazz (33-19, 5-4); as I am finishing up this Daily Update before taking a bath and doing some reading, I will post the score of the game in tomorrow’s Daily Update.

We have no Saints to honor tomorrow, so we will instead note that tomorrow is the anniversary of the day in 1950 when Senator Joseph McCarthy accused the United States Department of State of being filled with Communists. (It’s a good thing we do not have any wild-eyed demagogues in government today – oh, snap.) I will be finishing my laundry and ironing my Casino pants, apron, and shirts, and I will go to the grocery for my salad supplies, and making my lunch salads for Saturday and Sunday. I will also do the taxes. Our LSU Lady Tigers (16-7, 5-5) will be playing an Away College Basketball game with the Ole Miss Lady Rebels (14-8, 3-6), and I will record the score of the game in Friday’s Daily Update.

Our Parting Quote this Wednesday evening comes to us from Margaret Forster, English author. Born in 1938 in Carlisle, Cumbria, in the Raffles council estate (suburb), her father was a mechanic or factory fitter, and her mother had worked as a secretary and clerk before her marriage. Forster met Hunter Davies (later a writer, journalist and broadcaster) in Carlisle, where they both lived, as a teenager. She won an Open Scholarship to read history at Somerville College, Oxford, graduating in 1960, at which time she married Davies. Her first job was teaching English at Barnsbury Girls’ School in Islington, north London, for two years from 1961 to 1963. During this time she started to write, but her first draft novel was rejected. Forster’s first published novel, Dames’ Delight, loosely based on her experiences in Oxford, came out in 1964, and launched her writing career. Her second novel, published in 1965, was a bestseller; Georgy Girl described the choices open to a young working-class woman in London during the Swinging Sixties. It was adapted into a successful 1966 film starring Lynn Redgrave as Georgy, with Charlotte Rampling, Alan Bates and James Mason; Forster co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Nichols. The film features a song by The Seekers which was a contemporary hit, and later featured in the top fifty of Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Pop Songs of all time”. The book was also adapted for a short-lived Broadway musical, Georgy, in 1970. Forster wrote prolifically during the 1960s and 1970s, while bringing up three young children, but she later criticised many of her early novels as “skittery”. Her early novels were predominantly light and humorous, and driven by a strong plot. An exception was The Travels of Maudie Tipstaff (1967), which focused on the difference in values between generations in a Glaswegian family. She felt that she had not found her voice until her 1974 novel The Seduction of Mrs Pendlebury. Forster had breast cancer in the 1970s and had two mastectomies. Memoirs of a Victorian Gentleman: William Makepeace Thackeray, a fictional biography, was published in 1978. Forster was a member of the BBC Advisory Committee on the Social Effects of Television (1975 to 1977) and the Arts Council Literary Panel (1978 to 1981). She served as a Booker Prize judge in 1980. She was the main non-fiction reviewer for the Evening Standard (1977–80). The theme of family relationships became a prominent one in her later novels. Mother, Can You Hear Me? (1979) and Private Papers (1986) were much darker in tone. She tackled subjects such as single mothers and young offenders. The Grassroots of Active Feminism 1839–1939 (1984) chronicled the beginning of the feminist movement through the lives of eight pioneering British and American women: Caroline Norton, Elizabeth Blackwell, Florence Nightingale, Emily Davies, Josephine Butler, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Sanger and Emma Goldman. In Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A Biography (1988), Forster drew on recently discovered letters and papers that shed light on the poet’s life before she met and eloped with Robert Browning, and rewrote the myth of the invalid poet guarded by an ogre-like father, to give a more-nuanced picture of an active, difficult woman who was complicit in her own virtual imprisonment. The book won the Heinemann Award of the Royal Society of Literature. Her novel Have the Men Had Enough? (1989) examined care of the elderly and the problem of Alzheimer’s disease, inspired by her mother-in-law’s deterioration and death from the disease. The publisher Carmen Callil considered Lady’s Maid (1990), a historical novel about Elizabeth Barrett Browning seen through the eyes of her maid, to be Forster’s best work. In 1991 she and her husband contributed to the BBC2 First Sight episode, “When Love Isn’t Enough”, which described the story of actress Marion Davies (William Randolph Hearst’s mistress); Forster sharply criticised government policies on care for the elderly. Daphne du Maurier: The Secret Life of the Renowned Storyteller (1993) was a groundbreaking exploration of the author’s sexuality and her association with actress Gertrude Lawrence. The book won the Writers’ Guild Award for Best Non-Fiction, and was filmed by the BBC as Daphne in 2007. Significant Sisters:  She was interviewed by Sue Lawley for Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in 1994. She wrote two memoirs based on her family background, Hidden Lives: A Family Memoir (1995; based on the life of her grandmother, a servant who had a secret illegitimate daughter) and Precious Lives (1998, which tackled the subject of Forster’s father, whom she reportedly disliked; the book won the J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography). Her historical writings included Rich Desserts and Captain’s Thin: A Family and Their Times 1831–1931 (1997), an account of the Carr’s biscuit factory in Carlisle, which won the Lex Prize of The Global Business Book Award. Her novel The Memory Box was published in 1999. Good Wives?: Mary, Fanny, Jennie & Me 1845–2001 (2001) was an exploration of contemporary and historical women married to famous men, including Mary Livingstone, Fanny Stevenson, Jennie Lee and herself. Diary of an Ordinary Woman (2003), narrated in the format of a diary of a fictional woman who lived through the major events of the 20th century, was so realistic that many readers believed it to be an authentic diary. Her novel Is There Anything You Want? was published in 2005. Keeping the World Away (2006) was a novel, centered upon a picture by Welsh artist Gwen John, A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris, which began with the story of John herself and then followed stories of fictional women who subsequently owned the picture and responded to it. She was diagnosed with cancer again in 2007. By 2014 she had metastatic cancer, which spread to her back. The autobiographical work My Life in Houses was published in 2014Her final novel, How to Measure a Cow, was published in March 2016. She contributed frequently to programmes about literature on television and BBC Radio 4, as well as to newspapers and magazines. Forster published more than twenty-five novels, fourteen biographies, historical works, and memoirs.She led a relatively reclusive life, often refusing to participate in book signings and other publicity events (died 2016): “I write in the morning, I walk in the afternoon and I read in the evening. It’s a very easy, lovely life. ”

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