Today is the First Friday of the month, dedicated to devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Today is also the Optional Memorial of Saint Erasmus (or Elmo) of Formia, Bishop and Martyr (died 303), the Optional Memorial of Saint Marcellinus and Saint Peter, Martyrs (died 304), and the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Protection from Storms. And since today is the first Friday in June, today is National Doughnut Day.
The First Friday of each month is dedicated to devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Saint Erasmus of Formia, also known as Saint Elmo (born third century), according to the Golden Legend (1260), was Bishop of Formia, Italy. During the persecution against Christians under the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian Hercules (284-305), he left his diocese and went to Mount Libanus, where he hid for seven years. However, an angel is said to have appeared to him, and counseled him to return to his city. On the way, he encountered some soldiers who questioned him. Erasmus admitted that he was a Christian and they brought him to trial at Antioch before the emperor Diocletian. After suffering terrible tortures, he was bound with chains and thrown into prison, but an angel appeared and helped him escape. He passed through Lycia, where he raised up the son of an illustrious citizen. This resulted in a number of baptisms, which drew the attention of the Western Roman Emperor Maximian who, according to the Golden Legend, was “much worse than was Diocletian.” Maximian ordered his arrest and Erasmus continued to confess his faith. They forced him to go to a temple of the idol, but along the saint’s route all the idols fell and were destroyed, and from the temple there came fire which fell upon many of the pagans. That made the emperor so angry he had Erasmus enclosed in a barrel full of protruding spikes, and the barrel was rolled down a hill. But an angel healed him. Further tortures ensued. When he was recaptured, he was brought before the emperor and beaten and whipped, then coated with pitch and set alight (as Christians had been in Nero’s games), and still he survived. Thrown into prison with the intention of letting him die of starvation, Erasmus managed to escape. He was recaptured and tortured some more in the Roman province of Illyricum, after boldly preaching and converting numerous pagans to Christianity. Finally, according to this version of his death, his stomach was slit open and his intestines wound around a windlass. (It should be noted that virtually none of this hagiography can be backed up by history; his story confuses him with a Syrian bishop Erasmus of Antioch.) Pope Saint Gregory the Great recorded in the 6th century that the relics of Erasmus were preserved in the cathedral of Formia. When the old Formiae was razed by the Saracens in 842, the cult of Erasmus was moved to Gaeta. There is an altar to Erasmus in the north transept of St Peter’s Basilica, where a copy of Nicolas Poussin’s Martyrdom of St Erasmus serves as the altarpiece. Erasmus is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and he is the patron of Gaeta, Santeramo in Colle and Formia (all in Italy), and of mariners (he is said to have continued preaching even after a thunderbolt struck the ground beside him. This prompted sailors, who were in danger from sudden storms and lightning, to claim his prayers. The electrical discharges at the mastheads of ships were read as a sign of his protection and came to be called “Saint Elmo’s Fire”), and his aid is invoked against colic in children, abdominal pain, intestinal ailments and diseases, cramps and the pain of women in labour, as well as cattle pests. Very little is known about the lives of Saint Marcellinus and Saint Peter. Marcellinus, a priest, and Peter, an exorcist (one of the minor orders leading up to becoming a priest, which were, in order, porter, lector, exorcist, and acolyte), died in the year 304, during the persecution of Diocletian. Pope Damasus I (died 384) gave the earliest account of their deaths, and claimed that he heard the story of these two martyrs from their executioner who became a Christian after their deaths. He further stated that they were killed at an out-of-the-way spot by the magistrate Severus (or Serenus), so that other Christians would not have a chance to bury and venerate their bodies. The two saints happily cleared the spot chosen for their death themselves, in a thicket overgrown with thorns, brambles, and briers three miles from Rome. They were beheaded and buried in that spot. Two women, Lucilla and Firmina, assisted by divine revelation, found the bodies, however, and had them properly buried near the body of Saint Tiburtius on the Via Labicana in what became known as the Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter. The martyrs were venerated by the early Christian church. Their sepulcher is mentioned in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum (late 6th century), which gives their feast day as June 2nd, and from the seventh century onwards, their sepulcher became a site of pilgrimage, and their feast day is recorded in local liturgies and hagiographies. The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated Friday, June 2nd, 2017 as a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Protection from Storms. We thus note the following prayer, which is appropriate to say during this Hurricane Season:
Prayer for Protection against Storms and Hurricanes
O God, Master of this passing world, hear the humble voices of your children. The Sea of Galilee obeyed your order and returned to its former quietude; you are still the Master of land and sea. We live in the shadow of a danger over which we have no control. The Gulf, like a provoked and angry giant, can awake from its seeming lethargy, overstep its conventional boundaries, invade our land and spread chaos and disaster. During this hurricane season, we turn to You, O loving Father. Spare us from past tragedies whose memories are still so vivid and whose wounds seem to refuse to heal with the passing of time. O Virgin, Star of the Sea, Our Beloved Mother, we ask you to plead with your Son in our behalf, so that spared from the calamities common to this area and animated with a true spirit of gratitude, we will walk in the footsteps of your Divine Son to reach the heavenly Jerusalem where a storm-less eternity awaits us. Amen.
Most Rev. Maurice Schexnayder (1895 – 1981) Second Bishop of Lafayette
Finally, as this is the first Friday in June, today is National Doughnut Day. This holiday started in 1938 as a fund raiser for The Salvation Army in Chicago; their goal was to help those in need during the Great Depression, and to honor The Salvation Army “Lassies” of World War I, who had served doughnuts to soldiers. Soon after the United States entrance into World War I in 1917, the Salvation Army sent a fact-finding mission to France. The mission concluded that the needs of United States enlisted men could be met by canteens / social centers termed “huts” that could serve baked goods, provide writing supplies and stamps, and provide a clothes-mending service. Typically, six staff members per hut would include four female volunteers who could “mother” the boys. About 250 Salvation Army volunteers went to France to establish huts near army training centers. Because of the difficulties of providing freshly baked goods from huts established in abandoned buildings near to the front lines, two Salvation Army volunteers (Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance) came up with the idea of providing doughnuts. These are reported to have been an “instant hit”, and “soon many soldiers were visiting The Salvation Army huts”. Margaret Sheldon wrote of one busy day: “Today I made 22 pies, 300 doughnuts, 700 cups of coffee.” Soon, the women who did this work became known by the servicemen as “Doughnut Dollies”. A misapprehension has taken hold that the provision of doughnuts to the United States enlisted men in World War I is the origin of the term “doughboy” to describe United States infantry, but the term was in use as early as the Mexican-American War of 1846–1847. In the Second World War, Red Cross Volunteers also distributed doughnuts, and it became routine to refer to the Red Cross girls as Doughnut Dollies as well. During the Vietnam War, prisoners of war at the Son Tay prison camp in 1969 tricked their captors into giving out doughnuts for the birthday of the United States Marine Corps on November 1oth by convincing them that the holiday thus honored was National Doughnut Day. In Chicago, National Doughnut Day is still a fundraiser for The Salvation Army.
When I woke up to get ready for work today, I posted to Facebook that today was National Doughnut Day, and did my Book Devotional Reading. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Eighth Day of my Pentecost Novena. I also requested our next Third Tuesday Book Club book, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and Abraham Verghese, from Lafayette Public Library and Overdrive. I also called the Pharmacy and renewed a prescription. When we called in, Richard was at first on Four Card Poker, closed that table, was on the Second Mississippi Stud table, closed that table, and was on Mississippi Stud until they moved him to Pai Gow Poker, where he spent the rest of the shift. I was on Mini Baccarat all day; two of my regular players left at 5:00 am, and for the rest of the shift I dealt to the remaining player, who went from having $2,000 in front of him,to having about $100 in front of him, to having $3,000 in front of him, then to having nothing in front of him. (He never tipped us, either.)
After we clocked out I went to the Pharmacy and picked up two prescriptions. On our way home we stopped at Lele’s to pick up some leftover gumbo and to visit for a bit; when we got home I read the morning paper and ate my lunch salad. I then watched MST3K Episode 301 Cave Dwellers (The Blade Master) (In the first sequel to Ator, the Fighting Eagle, Ator helps a warrior woman rescue her father from an evil overlord). And now I am doing today’s Daily Update, as I am tired and will turn in early. At the NCAA College Baseball Regional in Baton Rouge our #3 (#1 Seed) LSU Tigers (39-17) are playing the (#4 Seed) Texas Southern Tigers (20-32). And at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, our #19 LSU Lady Tigers (42-18) will play a College Softball game with the #2 Florida Lady Gators (50-6).
Tomorrow is the First Saturday of the month, dedicated to devotions to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tomorrow is also the Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga (died 1886) and Companions, Martyrs (died 1885 – 1887), and tomorrow will be the last weekday of the Easter season. It is also Jefferson Davis’s Birthday (1808), the Celebration of Confederate Memorial Day in the State of Louisiana, and Billie Joe McAllister Day. We will work our eight hours at the casino, and in the early afternoon I will do my Weekly Hour of Eucharistic Adoration at the Adoration Chapel. At the NCAA College Baseball Regional in Baton Rouge our LSU Tigers will play either the Southeastern Louisiana Lions or the Rice Owls.
Our Parting Quote on this First Friday afternoon comes to us from Irwin Rose, American biologist. Born in 1926 in Brooklyn, New York into a secular Jewish family, his father owned a flooring store. For a time he attended Hebrew school. When he was thirteen his family was advised to move to “a high and dry climate” for the benefit of his brother, who had rheumatic fever. With his father remaining behind to tend to his business, the rest of the family moved to Spokane, Washington, where his mother’s sister took them in. His mother worked at a Navy supply depot, and the children went to public schools. Rose attended Washington State University for one year prior to serving in the Navy during World War II. Upon returning from the war he received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1948 and his PhD in biochemistry in 1952, both from the University of Chicago. Rose served on the faculty of Yale School of Medicine’s department of biochemistry from 1954 to 1963. Rose became fascinated with the problem of protein disposal in the 1950s, when few biochemists shared his enthusiasm. Scientific inquiry was focused then on how things were created: how cells read the blueprints encoded in DNA and use the information to manufacture proteins. He then joined the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1963. He joined the University of Pennsylvania during the 1970s and served as a Professor of Physical Biochemistry. In 1975, other scientists discovered a small protein that was present in numerous tissues and organisms — so many places that it was named ubiquitin. But they had no idea what the protein did. To pursue the answer, starting in the late 1970s, Rose collaborated with Avram Hershko of the Technion institute of technology in Israel and Aaron Ciechanover, a graduate student of Dr. Hershko’s. In 1979, their work took them to Fox Chase’s Institute for Cancer Research, where its director at the time, Dr. Alfred G. Knudson Jr., proposed that they extend their stay to a year. The experiments showed that ubiquitin served as an inventory control tag — or, as some called it, a “kiss of death” — that is attached to a protein that had outlived its usefulness. The tagged protein is then taken to one of many barrel-shaped chambers called proteasomes, where it is sliced into bits to be recycled into new proteins. An understanding of this process helped researchers understand diseases, like cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s and many types of cancer, that occur when the process goes awry. The team’s research led directly to the development of the drug Velcade, Dr. Chernoff said. Velcade, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2003, is used to treat multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, by disrupting the protein disposal system. The pileup of protein produced by growing cancer cells then kills them. Rose remained at Fox Chase until 1995. He trained several postdoctoral research fellows while at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, including Art Haas, the first to see Ubiquitin chains, Keith Wilkinson, the one to first identify APF-1 as Ubiquitin, and Cecile Pickart, a world class enzymologist in many parts of the Ub system. After his retirement from Fox Chase he moved to Laguna Hills, California with his wife, and soon showed up at the office of his friend Ralph Bradshaw, who then worked as a physiology and biophysicist professor at University of California, Irvine, asking for laboratory space to conduct some research; Bradshaw cheerfully let him have some of his space, and the university soon appointed Rose to a research position. He was thus a distinguished professor-in-residence in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine at the time he, with Ciechanover and Hershko, was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation (died 2015): “I don’t have any hobbies. You know, I’m very embarrassed when people ask me what are my hobbies; I don’t have any hobbies. I mean, it’s just enough to keep up with the things I’m trying to solve.”