Today is the Optional Memorial of Saint John of Ávila, Priest and Doctor (died 1569), and the Optional Memorial of Saint Damien Joseph de Veuster of Moloka’i, Priest (died 1889).
Today’s First Saint was born in 1499 in Almodóvar del Campo, in the Province of Ciudad Real, to a a wealthy and pious couple; his father was of Jewish Converso descent. At the age of fourteen, in 1513, he was sent to the University of Salamanca to study law; he withdrew in 1517, however, without receiving a degree. Returning home, John spent the next three years in the practice of austere piety. His sanctity impressed a Franciscan friar journeying through Almodóvar, on whose advice he resumed his studies by matriculating at the University of Alcalá de Henares (which was moved to the national capital in the 19th century and renamed the Complutense University of Madrid). There he undertook the study of philosophy and theology, in which he was fortunate to have as his teacher the noted Dominican friar Domingo de Soto. It appears that Ávila earned his bachelor’s degree during his years at Alcalá and then left without completing requirements for the licentiate degree. Both his parents died while John was still a student, and after his ordination in spring 1526, he celebrated his first Mass in the church where they were buried. He then sold the family property and gave the proceeds to the poor. He saw in the severing of natural ties a vocation to foreign missionary work and prepared to go to Mexico. He therefore traveled to Seville to await departure for the Indies in January 1527 with the Dominican friar, Julián Garcés, appointed the first Bishop of Tlaxcala. While waiting in Seville, his unusually great devotion in celebrating Mass, and his skills in catechesis and preaching, attracted the attention of Hernando de Contreras, a local priest, who mentioned him to the Archbishop of Seville and Inquisitor General, Alonso Manrique de Lara. The archbishop saw in the young cleric a powerful instrument to stir up the faith in Andalusia, and after considerable persuasion Juan was induced to abandon his journey to America. John seems to have lived in the initial years after 1526 in a small house in Seville with another priest, probably Contreras, and disciples gathered around him, in a loosely structured fraternal life. It was at the request of the younger sister of one of these disciples, Sancha Carrillo, that he began in 1527 to write the Audi, filia (Listen, Daughter), a work he continued expanding and editing until his death. John’s first sermon was preached on July 22nd, 1529, and immediately established his reputation. During his nine years of missionary work in Andalusia, crowds packed the churches at all his sermons. However, his strong pleas for reform and his denunciation of the behaviour of the aristocracy meant that he was denounced to the office of the Inquisition in Seville in 1531, and put in prison in the summer of 1532. He was charged with exaggerating the dangers of wealth and with closing the gates of heaven to the rich. The charges were refuted and he was declared innocent and released in July 1533. Around the end of 1534 or the beginning of 1535, John was incardinated into the Diocese of Córdoba, from which he received a small benefice. This city became his base for directing his disciples and moving around Andalusia, preaching and establishing schools and colleges in various neighbouring cities such as Granada, Baeza, Montilla and Zafra. It is thought that during this time John received the title of Master of Sacred Theology, probably in Granada around 1538.
Of special importance was the University of Baeza, established in 1538 by a papal bull of Pope Paul III. John served as its first rector, and it became a model for seminaries and for the schools of the Jesuits. He stayed in Granada from 1538 to 1539, where it appears some kind of community was taking shape. Likewise, during the years 1546 to 1555, John lived with about twenty disciples in Córdoba, making it seem that he intended to begin some kind of formal foundation of apostolic priests. However, the foundation and fast expansion of the Jesuits meant that these ideas never came to fruition; from early 1551, when John began to experience poor health, he began actively encouraging his disciples who so desired to join the Jesuits (around 30 in total seem to have joined). From early 1551 John was in constant ill-health. He spent the last years of his life in semi-retirement in the town of Montilla, in the Province of Córdoba. He died there on May 10th, 1569, and in accordance with his wishes was buried in that city, in the Jesuit Church of the Incarnation, which now serves as the sanctuary to his memory. John was declared Venerable by Pope Clement XIII on February 8th, 1759 and beatified by Pope Leo XIII on November 15th, 1893. On May 31st, 1970 he was canonized by Pope Paul VI. Pope Benedict XVI named him a Doctor of the Church on October 7th, 2012, the Feast of the Holy Rosary. He is the Patron Saint of Spain, of Andalusia,and of Spanish secular clergy. Our Second Saint was born in 1840 in Tremelo, Belgium as Joseph de Veuster, the son of a small farmer. After studies at the college at Braine-le-Comte, Belgium, he joined the Picpus Fathers in 1860 (following in the footsteps of his brother), taking the name Damien. He volunteered for missionary work while still in the seminary in Paris, and was sent to Hawaii in place of his brother, whose health was poor. He arrived in Honolulu in March 1864, and was ordained as a priest two months later; the next year, he was assigned to the Catholic Mission in North Kohala on the island of Hawaiʻi. In 1865, fearful of the spread of leprosy (Hansen’s disease), the Hawaii Legislature passed and King Kamehameha V approved the “Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy” which quarantined the lepers of the kingdom and moved them to settlement colonies known as Kalaupapa and Kalawao at the east end of the Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokaʻi. Kalawao County, where the village is situated, is divided from the rest of the island by a steep mountain ridge, and even today the only land access is by a mule track. The Royal Board of Health provided the quarantined people with supplies and food but did not yet have the resources to offer proper healthcare. According to documents from the time, the Kingdom of Hawaii did not plan the settlement to be in disarray but did not provide sufficient resources and medical help. They planned on the inhabiting sufferers to grow their own crops, but because of the nature of the environment and their sickness, doing so was nearly impossible. While Bishop Louis Desiré Maigret, vicar apostolic, believed that the lepers at the very least needed a priest to minister to their needs, he realized that this assignment could potentially be a death sentence, and thus did not want to send any one person “in the name of obedience”. After prayerful thought, four priests volunteered. The bishop’s plan was for the volunteers to take turns assisting the distressed. Father Damien was the first to volunteer and on May 10th, 1873, Father Damien arrived at the secluded settlement at Kalaupapa, where Bishop Maigret presented him to the 816 lepers living there. Damien’s first course of action was to build a church and establish the Parish of Saint Philomena. His role was not limited to being a priest: he dressed ulcers, built homes and beds, built coffins and dug graves. Damien’s arrival was seen by some as a turning point for the community. Under his leadership, basic laws were enforced, shacks became painted houses, working farms were organized and schools were erected. At his own request, and that of the lepers, Father Damien remained on Molokaʻi. In 1884 he contracted Hansen’s Disease (which, in retrospect, was very difficult to do); his response was to work vigorously to build as many homes as he could and plan for the continuation of the programs he created after he was gone. Upon his death five years later, he was laid to rest in the cemetery at the colony. In January 1936, at the request of the Belgian government, Damien’s body was returned to his native land and now rests in Leuven, an historic university city close to the village where Damien was born. After his beatification in June 1995 the remains of his right hand were returned to Hawaii and re-interred in his original grave on Molokaʻi. He is a very recent Saint (having been canonized in October of 2009), and he is the Patron Saint of those afflicted with Hansen’s Disease.
Last night I finished reading 50 Ideas You Really Need to Know: Religion by Peter Stanford. Our #11 LSU Tigers lost their Home College Baseball game with the South Alabama Jaguars by the score of 6 to 7; our #11 LSU Tigers (32-17, 15-9) will next begin a home College Baseball series with the #14 Auburn Tigers (32-18, 14-10) on Friday, May 12th.
Richard left for Baton Rouge and Lafayette before I woke up at 9:00 am. I started the Weekly Computer Maintenance, finished the Weekly Computer Maintenance, and did my Book Devotional Reading. After starting the Weekly Virus Scan I then addressed and mailed the Birthday Card to my granddaughter, got on Amazon to order a portable child’s trampoline (off of Matthew’s Wish List for my granddaughter) to send to her for her birthday, addressed and mailed my Mother’s Day card to Callie, and addressed and mailed a Birthday Card to Butch. I then did my Book Review for this weblog and for my Goodreads and Facebook accounts for 50 Ideas You Really Need to Know: Religion by Peter Stanford. By this time it was past 1:00 pm, and I read the morning paper. Our mail brought me my order of contact lenses from 1-800-Contacts. Richard called at 2:45 pm to let me know he was on his way home.
I left the house at 3:00 pm and went to Fantastic Sam’s, where I got my much-overdue haircut. I arrived home at 3:45 pm and finished my laundry.The computer had turned off, so I turned it back on and started the Weekly Virus Scan over again (more anon). Richard arrived home at 4:00 pm, and I ironed my casino pants, apron, and shirts while he put poison on the fire ant mounds in the front and back yards. At 4:30 pm we watched Jeopardy!. We then watched MST3K Episode 1006 Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues (The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II), which mostly was a very calming nature documentary. The Full Moon arrived at 5:44 pm. We then watched MST3K Episode 1009 Hamlet (Hamlet, Prinz von Dänemark), which was a 1961 German made-for-TV production that was heavy on dank austere atmosphere. I then came to the computer to do today’s Daily Update, and when I finish this Update I will do some reading and go to bed. Our #19 LSU Lady Tigers (38-17, 12-12) are still playing the Missouri Lady Tigers (29-24, 7-16) at the SEC College Softball Tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Tomorrow is the Remembrance of Servant of God Matteo Ricci, Priest (died 1610). Michelle had told me last week that she would be hanging out at the house tomorrow and Friday. At some point I will go to the store and get my salad supplies and make my lunch salads for Friday and Sunday. If our #19 LSU Lady Tigers win against the Missouri Lady Tigers, they will advance in the SEC College Softball Tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee and play the Tennessee Lady Volunteers.
Our Parting Quote on this Wednesday evening comes to us from William T. Cooper, Australian artist. Born in 1934 in Newcastle, New South Wales, his father taught him about life in the bush country, and his mother encouraged his interests in bird books and drawing. As a teenager he became a qualified taxidermist. The first book for which Cooper supplied the pictures was Portfolio of Australian Birds, written by Keith Hindwood in 1967. Later, he illustrated Parrots of the World (1973), The Birds of Paradise and Bower Birds (1977), Australian Parrots (2nd Edition, 1981), Kingfishers and Related Birds (1983–1994), Cockatoos: A Portfolio of All Species (2001), and Turacos: A Natural History of the Musophagidae (2002) all authored by Joseph Forshaw. The hard-won knowledge of his subjects which Cooper acquired was evident in his paintings, which displayed extreme precision, and he usually insisted on painting the birds in their distinct natural environments, down to the exact foods they ate. Preferring to draw from life, rather than depending on photographs as the main source of material for his work, he would often venture into wild, untamed parts of the world to capture the exact display of the birds he painted. He lived with his wife, Wendy Cooper, a self-taught botanist who had authored two substantial books, in north Queensland where his studio was surrounded by tropical rainforest. In 1992 the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, presented Cooper with its gold medal for “artistic endeavors and life’s work which have contributed to mankind’s better understanding and appreciation of living things”. He was the first Australian recipient in the academy’s 190-year history. Sir David Attenborough described Cooper as “Australia’s greatest living scientific painter of birds; he is possibly the best in the world”. In 1993 Sir David made a film about Cooper, called Portrait Painter to the Birds. Then, in 1994, Cooper was awarded the Order of Australia (AO) for his contribution to art and natural history. Cooper’s work is held in many collections and institutions around the world, including the National Library of Australia. Papua New Guinea’s government purchased entire collections of his published works and commissioned from him two sets of postage stamps. He also illustrated Visions of a Rainforest: A Year in Australia’s Tropical Rainforest (1993) by Stanley Breeden and Fruits of the Rainforest (1994) by Wendy Cooper. In 2011 he wrote and illustrated Capturing the Essence, a book that illustrated and describes techniques for artists. A biography, titled An Eye For Nature — The Life and Art of William T. Cooper, written by Penny Olsen and published by The National Library of Australia, was launched in February 2014 (died 2015): “The relationship with the bill, to the eye, to the head size, they all go to give that bird the right look. If you can catch the expression of the bird, then you’ve got the gist.”