Daily Update: Monday, May 29th, 2017

Memorial Day

We have no Saints to honor today, but since today is the Last Monday in May, it is also the date when (since 1971) we celebrate Memorial Day, remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Because today is also the last Monday in May, we observe Memorial Day today. The holiday was held on May 30th from 1868 to 1971. On June 28th, 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30th date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971. After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply, all fifty states adopted Congress’ change of date within a few years. Many people observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Since 2000, a National Moment of Remembrance takes place at 3:00 pm local time; during this Moment, two hundred Amtrak trains blast their whistles, approximately 500,000 Major League Baseball fans are joined in silence, and countless other participants make a vow to remember those who died in defence of our country. Another tradition is to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff from dawn until noon local time. Volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at National Cemeteries. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars take donations for poppies in the days leading up to Memorial Day; the poppy’s significance to Memorial Day is the result of the John McCrae poem “In Flanders Fields.” In addition to remembrance, Memorial Day is also used as a time for picnics, barbecues, family gatherings, and sporting events. Some Americans view Memorial Day as the unofficial beginning of summer and Labor Day as the unofficial end of the season, and if you are part of the Shoe Police, you know that one can only wear white shoes between Memorial Day and Labor Day. (In SouthWestCentral Louisiana, it makes more sense to deem that summer begins with the occurrence of Daylight Savings Time on the second Sunday of March, and ends when Daylight Savings Time ends on the first Sunday in November, but that does not seem to extend White Shoe Season.)

On waking up to get ready for work today I saw that LSU will be the host of one of the NCAA College Baseball Tournament Regionals. I posted to Facebook that today was Memorial Day (Observed). (In my posting I wished my Facebook friends a Happy Memorial Day (Observed); there was an article in today’s paper noting that wish a “happy” Memorial Day is jarring to those who have indeed lost family and friends in war.  I lost an uncle in World War II, and one of my mother’s first cousins, and I personally do not have a problem with wishing a Happy Memorial Day, so long as everyone knows it is more about the fallen than about barbeque.) I then put in for August 18th through August 22nd on the Casino Scheduling software for both Richard and me, did my Book Devotional Reading, and put on my patriotic T-shirt. We gathered up the trash, and Richard wheeled the trash bin out to the curb while I put out the flag in honor of Memorial Day. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Fourth Day of my Pentecost Novena. On our way to work there were thunderstorms in the area, and we did go through a bit of weather. Once in ADR we ate the Free Meal offered by ADR (hamburgers and baked beans, among other options), and I called the Pharmacy and renewed a prescription, which I will pick up on Friday. Today was the Third Day of the Three-Day Heavy Business Volume period for Memorial Day; it was also a Paid Holiday, so we got paid time and a half for our eight hours worked today. When we clocked in, Richard was on Macau Mini Baccarat; once he closed that table he went to a Blackjack table in one of our Overflow pits, and when he closed that table he went to Three Card Blackjack. I spent the day on Mini Baccarat, with no players from about 5:30 am until about 8:30 am.

On our way home Richard stopped at Wal-Mart, then at the Maple Avenue Pharmacy, looking for a cane for Butch (he could not find the kind he wanted, one of the ones with four little feets, at either venue); while he did that I found that at the NCAA College Baseball Tournament in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, our #6 LSU Tigers (39-17) will play the #4 Texas Southern Tigers (20-32) on Friday, June 2nd. When we got home from work I read the morning paper and ate my lunch salad. I then did some work on my weblog, then watched MST3K Episode 207 Wild Rebels (a race car driver is talked by the police into become the getaway driver for a quartet of motorcycle gang members who commit armed robberies). Richard went to bed, and I then watched MST3K Episode 208 Lost Continent, where a military / scientific group (which included Cesar Romero (later the Joker on the Batman television show) and Hugh Beaumont  (later Ward Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver) searching for a lost rocket find a lost world of dinosaurs on top of a very high mountain (most of the movie seems to consist of long tedious scenes of the men climbing said mountain). I then watched Jeopardy!, then came to the computer to do today’s Daily Update; and when I finish this Daily Update I will go to bed.

Tomorrow is the Optional Memorial of Saint Joan of Arc, Virgin and Martyr (died 1431). Tomorrow is also the traditional date of Memorial Day. I will set the clock for half an hour early, and Richard and I will drive ourselves separately to work to sign the Early Out list. Richard will be going to Baton Rouge to take Butch to an 11:00 am appointment, while I stay home, do my laundry, and watch MST3K movies. And tomorrow at sunset begins the Jewish feast of Shavuot.

Our Parting Quote on this Monday afternoon comes to us from Andrew Greeley, American Roman Catholic priest, sociologist, journalist and popular novelist. Born in 1928 in Oak Park, Illinois, he grew up in a large Irish Catholic family during the Great Depression in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood; by the second grade he knew that he wanted to be a priest. After studying at Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago, Greeley received an AB degree from St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Chicago in 1950, a Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) in 1952, and a Licentiate of Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) in 1954, when he was ordained for the Archdiocese of Chicago. From 1954 to 1964 Greeley served as an assistant pastor at Christ the King parish in Chicago, during which time he studied sociology at the University of Chicago. His first book, The Church in the Suburbs (1958), was drawn from notes a sociology professor had encouraged him to take describing his experiences. He received a Master of Arts in 1961 and a PhD in 1962. His doctoral dissertation dealt with the influence of religion on the career plans of 1961 college graduates. As a sociologist, he published a large number of influential academic works during the 1960s and 1970s, including Unsecular Man: The Persistence of Religion (1972) and The American Catholic: A Social Portrait (1977). Over the course of his career, he authored more than 70 scholarly books, largely focusing on the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. His early work challenged the widespread assumption that Catholics had low college attendance rates, showing that white Catholics were in fact more successful than other whites in obtaining college undergraduate and graduate degrees, which he attributed to what he called the high-quality education Catholics received in parochial schools. He also studied how religion influenced the political behavior of ethnic Catholics, and he was one of the first scholars to document the sociological effects of the Second Vatican Council’s reforms on American Catholics. At various times, Greeley was a professor at the University of Arizona, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago. He was denied tenure by the University of Chicago in 1973, despite having been a faculty member there for a decade and having published dozens of books; he attributed the denial to anti-Catholic prejudice, although a colleague said his cantankerous temperament was more to blame. He would eventually be granted tenure by the university. In the early 1970s the U.S. bishops commissioned him to write a profile of the American priesthood. He completed a two-year survey in 1972, reporting that dissatisfaction among the priests was widespread; but the bishops rejected his findings. Greeley’s sociological work was also viewed with suspicion by some of his fellow clerics, and his Archbishop (later Cardinal), John Cody, denied Greeley’s request for a parish ministry. Greeley criticized Cody, calling him a “madcap tyrant,” when Cody closed a number of inner-city schools. As described by John L. Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, Greeley became fascinated with what has been called the Catholic “analogical imagination,” the idea that “visible, tangible things in the created order serve as metaphors for the divine, as opposed to the more textual and literal religious sensibility of Protestants and others.” Greeley believed that it was this viewpoint that had led the Church to be a pre-eminent patron of the arts through the centuries, allowing it to communicate through artistic imagery spiritual concepts that doctrinal texts alone could not. His appreciation for the spiritual power of art inspired him to begin writing works of fiction. Greeley’s literary output was such it was said that he “never had an unpublished thought.” He published his first novel, The Magic Cup, in 1975, a fantasy tale about a young king who would lead Ireland from paganism to Christianity. In 1978 he wrote a non-fiction work, The Making of the Popes. A second novel, Death in April, was published in 1980. His third novel, The Cardinal Sins (1981), was his first work of fiction to become a major commercial success (and the only one of his books that I have read). As one reviewer put it, The Cardinal Sins “did for the Catholic Church what The Godfather did for the mafia.” The novel’s principal characters were both priests, one a writer-sociologist (like Greeley), and the other a cardinal who had broken the vow of celibacy. At the time of the book’s release, Chicago’s cardinal, John Cody, was the subject of allegations of having diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Church to a mistress. Church officials accused Greeley of using the novel to attack Cardinal Cody, although Greeley denied the charges. The Cardinal Sins was followed by the Passover trilogy: Thy Brother’s Wife (1982), Ascent into Hell (1983), and Lord of the Dance (1984). Thereafter, he wrote a minimum of two novels per year on average. In 1987 alone he produced four novels and two works of non-fiction. The explicit treatment of sexuality in Greeley’s novels was a source of controversy for some. At the height of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal, Greeley wrote The Priestly Sins (2004), a novel about a young priest who is exiled to an insane asylum and then to an academic life because he reports abuse that he has witnessed. His book The Making of the Pope (2005) (a followup to his 1978 book The Making of the Popes) was a first-hand account of the coalition-building process by which the conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ascended to the papacy as Benedict XVI. Greeley also dabbled in science fiction, writing the novels God Game (1986) and The Final Planet (1987). Politically, Greeley was an outspoken critic of the George W. Bush administration and the Iraq War, and a strong supporter of immigration rights. His book entitled A Stupid, Unjust, and Criminal War: Iraq 2001–2007 (2007) (his last sociological work) was critical of the rush by the Bush administration to start the Iraq War and the consequences of that war for the United States. Greeley was probably the best-selling priest in history, with an estimated 250,000 readers who would buy almost every novel he published, probably generating at least $110 million in gross income by 1999. He was able to live comfortably in Chicago’s John Hancock Center, but he donated most of his earnings to the Church and other charities. Greeley’s column on political, church and social issues appeared each Friday in the Chicago Sun-Times and each Sunday in the Daily Southtown, a southwest suburban Chicago newspaper published by the Sun-Times Media Group. In 1984 he contributed $1 million to endow a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. In 1986 he established a $1 million private educational fund for scholarships and financial support to inner-city schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50%. He had originally offered the donation to the Archdiocese, but the Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, had declined the gift without ever publicly offering an explanation. In 2003 the Archdiocese accepted the $420,000 that still remained in the fund to bolster a newly established Catholic Schools Endowment Fund, providing scholarships for low-income students and for raising teachers’ salaries in the Archdiocese’s schools. Greeley also funded an annual lecture series, “The Church in Society”, at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, where he had earned his S.T.L. in 1954. In 2008 he donated several thousand dollars to the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama, who was then serving as a U.S. Senator representing Illinois, although Greeley predicted that racism would lead to Obama’s defeat. He was awarded honorary degrees from the University of Arizona, Bard College (New York State) and the National University of Ireland, Galway. Greeley suffered skull fractures in a fall in 2008 when his clothing got caught on the door of a taxi as it pulled away; he was hospitalized in critical condition. He remained in poor health for the rest of his life; his last novel, Home for Christmas, was published in 2009, and he kept up his newspaper articles until his death (died 2013): “I’m a priest, pure and simple…. The other things I do — sociological research, my newspaper columns, the novels I write — are just my way of being a priest. I decided I wanted to be one when I was a kid growing up on the West Side. I’ve never wavered or wanted to be anything but.”

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