Today is the traditional date of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, known as Ascension Thursday. However, where I live we will be celebrating the Feast of the Ascension this coming Sunday. Today is the Optional Memorial of Saint Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor (died 735), the Optional Memorial of Saint Gregory VII, Pope (died 1085), and the Optional Memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin (died 1607). And among those who follow The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in whatever form (radio show, book, movie, what have you), today is Towel Day.
In many areas of the World (but not where I am located), today is Ascension Thursday, commemorating when the risen Jesus ascended to his Father forty days after Easter. The Roman Catholic Church in a number of countries has obtained permission from the Vatican to move observance of the Feast of the Ascension from the traditional Thursday to the following Sunday, the Sunday before Pentecost. This is in keeping with a trend to move Holy Days of Obligation from weekdays to Sunday, to encourage more Catholics to observe feasts considered important. Today, only the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and Omaha (the state of Nebraska) continue to celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord on Thursday. The faithful in those provinces (an ecclesiastical province is basically one large archdiocese and the dioceses that are historically associated with it) are required, under the Precepts of the Church, to attend Mass on Ascension Thursday. The rest of us in the United States will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension this next Sunday. Turning to our Saints, we honor Saint Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor (died 735). Born in 672 at Wearmouth, England, around the time that England was finally Christianized, he was raised from age seven in the abbey of Saints Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and lived there the rest of his life as a Benedictine monk and (after 702) as a priest. As a teacher and author, he wrote about history, rhetoric, mathematics, music, astronomy, poetry, grammar, philosophy, hagiography, homiletics, and Bible commentary. He was known as the most learned man of his day, and his writings started the idea of dating this era from the incarnation of Christ. The central theme of Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (731) was of the Church using the power of its spiritual, doctrinal, and cultural unity to stamp out violence and barbarism. Our knowledge of England before the 8th century is mainly the result of Bede’s writing. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1899 by Pope Leo XIII, and he is the Patron Saint of English writers and historians. We also honor Saint Gregory VII, Pope (died 1085). Born in 1020 in Soana (modern Sovana), Italy as Hildebrand, he was educated in Rome, became a Benedictine monk, and was the chaplain to Pope Gregory VI. A reformer and excellent administrator, he was the chief counselor to Pope Victor II, Pope Stephen IX, Pope Benedict X, and Pope Nicholas II, and in 1073 became the 157th pope. At the time of his ascension, simony and a corrupt clergy threatened to destroy faith in the Church. Gregory took the throne as a reformer, and Emperor Henry IV promised to support him. Gregory suspended all clerics who had purchased their position, and ordered the return of all purchased church property. The corrupt clergy rebelled; Henry IV broke his promise, and promoted the rebels. Gregory responded by excommunicating anyone involved in lay investiture, including the king, Henry did penance in the snow at Canossa (where Gregory was) in 1077, and Gregory lifted the excommunication. When Henry broke his promise about lay investiture once again, Gregory excommunicated him again in 1080, and summoned Henry to Rome, but the emperor’s supporters drove Gregory into exile. Henry installed the anti-pope Guibert of Ravenna, who was driven from Rome by Normans who supported Gregory and returned him to the city; the Normans were, themselves, so out of control that the people of Rome drove out them and Gregory as well. The Pope then retreated to Salerno, Italy where he spent the remainder of his papacy; the epitaph on Gregory VII’s sarcophagus in the city’s Cathedral says: “I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore, I die in exile.” We also honor Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin (died 1607). Born in 1566 at Florence, Italy as Catherine, she received a religious upbringing. She was initially sent to a convent at age fourteen, but was taken back home by her family who opposed her religious vocation and wanted her to marry well. They eventually gave in, and Catherine became a Carmelite of the Ancient Observance at sixteen, taking the name Sister Mary Magdalen. A mystic, she lived a hidden life of prayer and self-denial, praying particularly for the renewal of the Church and encouraging the sisters in holiness. Countless miracles followed her death, and she was canonized in 1669; she is the Patron Saint of the sick, and Co-Patron of Naples, and her aid is invoked against bodily ills and sexual temptation. Finally, today is Towel Day. Two weeks after the death of author Douglas Adams in 2001, fans of his work The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and all of its associated media creations proposed that each May 25th be Towel Day, as Chapter Three of the book notes, “A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.” The holiday is celebrated world- and universe-wide; in 2015 Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti read aloud a sample from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy from the International Space Station. (While the catch phrase of Towelie, the talking towel character on South Park, is “don’t forget to bring a towel,” there is no connection between him and Douglas Adams.)
Last night I continued reading The Mummy: A History of the Extraordinary Practices of Ancient Egypt by E. A. Wallis Budge. And after a rain delay at the SEC College Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, our #6 LSU Tigers beat the Missouri Tigers by the score of 10 to 3.
I woke up in our room at the Hampton Inn in Baton Rouge at 8:00 am, and posted to Facebook that today was Towel Day. I did my Book Devotional Reading, then we went down to eat breakfast, and I read the USA Today. We checked out at 9:15 am; while Richard was in Wal-Mart getting an entertainment stand for Butch’s TV, I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Seventh Day of my Ascension Novena. Richard then swung by Butch’s bank to deposit some checks. We arrived at Butch’s apartment at 9:45 am. We visited with Butch, Nita, and Bill; when the handymen arrived they put together the entertainment stand. (Richard told me that if he had realized that Butch had a set of tools in a toolbox at his apartment, he would have put up the entertainment center himself.) Bill and Nita left at 12:30 pm, and we got Butch’s new TV set up. Even after a call to Cox cable, we could not fix things so that Butch could use just one remote (Cox will have to come over and work it out). We left at 12:45 pm, and went to the Rehab Center so that Richard could pay one of Butch’s bills. We then left Baton Rouge, and across the river in Port Allen we got a late lunch via the drive through at McDonald’s.
We arrived home at 3:30 pm, and I promptly started my laundry. The New Moon arrived at 3:46 pm. I then asked Richard if he needed anything at the store, as I was going to go get my salad supplies, and he said he would go to Wal-Mart for me. I told him I needed two heads of lettuce, mushrooms, and tomatoes (my standard salad supply list), and he left the house. Not two minutes later, I realized I had forgotten to tell him I needed cheese as well; I tried calling him on the phone, but he did not pick up, and I sent him a text message as well. When he got home with my lettuce, mushrooms, and tomatoes, I asked him if he was not answering his phone; it turned out he had at some point put the phone on silent. He went back to the store and got me cheese; by the time he got home the second time I had made my lunch salads (except for the cheese), and I then finished my lunch salads for tomorrow and Sunday. We then watched Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm, and I read the Wednesday and Thursday papers. After Jeopardy! Richard went over to Lele’s to visit once more with Bill and Nita (who are leaving tomorrow before we get home from work), and I ironed my casino pants, aprons, and shirts. I then got on Amazon and ordered My Fellow Soldiers. General John Pershing and the Americans Who Helped Win the Great War by Andrew Carroll for Butch (Richard will take it to Baton Rouge to deliver to Butch on Tuesday). I then finished my laundry. And now, feeling like I have not done much of importance today, I am going to finish this Daily Update and read a bit in a cool bath before going to sleep. At the SEC College Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, our #6 LSU Tigers (40-17, 21-9) will be playing the #9 Kentucky Wildcats (39-18, 19-11); depending on how the game goes, our #6 LSU Tigers will play again on Saturday.
Tomorrow is the Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (died 1595). Richard and I will return to the casino for the start of our work week, and I will continue reading A World Without Smells by Lars Lundqvist via Kindle on my tablet. In the afternoon I will go through the Hurricane Supply Box to see if there is anything I need to get. (I have a battery tester in the box, and I test all of the batteries in the box that look old.) At the NCAA College Softball Super Regional in Tallahassee, Florida, our #19 LSU Lady Tigers will be playing the #4 Florida State Lady Seminoles.
Our Parting Quote on this afternoon of the Traditional Date of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, known as Ascension Thursday, comes to us from Mary Ellen Mark, American photographer. Born in 1940 in the unincorporated suburb of Elkins Park in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, she began photographing with a Box Brownie camera at the age of nine. At her high school she was head cheerleader and exhibited a knack for painting and drawing. Mark received a BFA degree in painting and art history from the University of Pennsylvania, in 1962. After graduating she worked briefly in the Philadelphia city planning department before returning for a master’s degree in photojournalism at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, which she received in 1964. The following year, Mark received a Fulbright Scholarship to photograph in Turkey for a year, from which she produced her first book, Passport (1974). While there, she also traveled to photograph England, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Spain. In 1966 or 1967 she moved to New York City, where over the next several years she photographed demonstrations in opposition to the Vietnam War, the women’s liberation movement, transvestite culture, and Times Square. Her photography went on to address such social issues as homelessness, loneliness, drug addiction, and prostitution. Mark was well known for establishing strong relationships with her subjects. Mark joined Magnum Photos in 1977. For Ward 81 (1979), she lived for six weeks with the patients in the women’s security ward of Oregon State Hospital and, for Falkland Road (1981), she spent three months befriending the prostitutes who worked on a single long street in Bombay. She left Magnum Photos in 1981, joining Archive Pictures; in 1988 she opened her own agency. She served as a guest juror for photography call for entries at The Center for Fine Art Photography and taught workshops at the International Center of Photography in New York, in Mexico and at the Center for Photography at Woodstock. Her project “Streets of the Lost” with writer Cheryl McCall, for Life magazine, produced her book Streetwise (1988) and was developed into the documentary film Streetwise, directed by her husband Martin Bell and with a soundtrack by Tom Waits. For Look magazine she photographed Federico Fellini shooting Satyricon (1969). Mark was also a unit photographer on movie sets, shooting production stills of more than 100 movies, including Arthur Penn’s Alice’s Restaurant (1969), Mike Nichols’ Catch-22 (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971) and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) through to Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008). Her major medium was film, using a wide range of cameras in various formats, from 35 mm, 120/220, 4×5-inch view camera, and a 20×24 Polaroid Land Camera, primarily in black and white using Kodak Tri-X film. She co-wrote, and was associate producer and still photographer, for the feature film American Heart (1992), starring Jeff Bridges and Edward Furlong, and directed by her husband; it depicted a gruff ex-convict who struggles to get his life back on track. In 2003 she won the Lucie Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Photography, and in 2014 she won the Lifetime Achievement in Photography Award from the George Eastman House and won the Outstanding Contribution Photography Award from the World Photography Organisation. She published eighteen books of photographs; contributed to publications including Life, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, the New York Times, and Vanity Fair, and her photographs were exhibited worldwide (died 2015): “I feel an affinity for people who haven’t had the best breaks in society. What I want to do more than anything is acknowledge their existence.”