Daily Update: Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Ember Days and Matt Talbot

Today is the first of three Ember Days for this season of the year, and today is the Remembrance of Venerable Matt Talbot (died 1925).

Today is the first of three Ember Days for this season of the year. Ember days (a corruption from the Latin Quatuor Tempora, four times) are the days at the beginning of the seasons ordered by the Church as days of fast and abstinence. They were definitely arranged and prescribed for the entire Church by Pope Gregory VII (1073 – 1085) for the consecutive Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after December 13th (the feast of Saint Lucy), after Ash Wednesday, after Whitsunday (Pentecost), and after September 14th (Exaltation of the Cross). The purpose of their introduction, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy. Matt Talbot was born in 1856 in Dublin, Ireland, the second eldest of twelve children in a poor family; his father was a heavy drinker, as later were most of his brothers. Talbot left school at the age of twelve and went to work in a wine merchant’s store, and soon began sampling their wares; he then went to the Port & Docks Board where he worked in the whiskey stores. Before long he was a confirmed alcoholic. He frequented pubs in the city with his brothers and friends, spending most or all of his wages and running up debts. On one occasion, he stole a fiddle from a street entertainer and sold it to buy drink. One evening in 1884 Talbot, who was penniless and out of credit, waited outside a pub in the hope that somebody would invite him in for a drink. After several friends had passed him without offering to treat him, he went home in disgust and announced to his mother that he was going to “take the pledge” (renounce drink). He went to Holy Cross College, Clonliffe where he took the pledge for three months. At the end of the three months, he took the pledge for six months, then for life. Having drunk excessively for sixteen years, Talbot maintained sobriety for the following forty years of his life. He found strength in prayer, began to attend daily mass, and read religious books and pamphlets. He repaid all his debts scrupulously; having searched for the fiddler whose instrument he had stolen, and failed to find him, he gave the money to the church to have mass said for him. From being an indifferent Catholic in his drinking days, Talbot became increasingly devout. He was guided for most of his life by Dr. Michael Hickey, Professor of Philosophy in Clonliffe College; under his guidance Talbot’s reading became wider. Dr. Hickey also gave him a chain to wear, as a form of penance. He became a Third Order Franciscan in 1890 and was a member of several other associations and sodalities. Talbot was a generous man; although poor himself, he gave unstintingly to neighbors and fellow workers, to charitable institutions and the church. He ate very little, and after his mother’s death in 1915 he lived in a small flat with very little furniture, sleeping on a plank bed with a piece of timber for a pillow. He rose at 5:00 am every day so as to attend mass before work. At work, whenever he had spare time, he found a quiet place to pray, and spent most of every evening on his knees. On Sundays he attended several masses; he walked quickly, with his head down, so that he appeared to be hurrying from one mass to another. Talbot was on his way to a Mass one Sunday when he collapsed and died of heart failure. Nobody at the scene was able to identify him, and his body was taken to the Jervis Street Hospital. When he was undressed, the extent of his austerities was revealed; a heavy chain had been wound around his waist, with more chains around an arm and a leg, and cords had been wound around the other arm and leg. The wearing of chains and cords was probably less unusual in the 1920s than it is in the 21st century; nevertheless, Talbot’s story quickly filtered through the community and there were many spectators when his funeral took place in Glasnevin Cemetery. In 1975 Pope Paul VI declared him to be Venerable, which is a step on the road to his canonization, a process which needs evidence of a physical miracle in order to be successful. The Talbot Memorial Bridge, a road bridge spanning the River Liffey in Dublin city centre in the Republic of Ireland was completed in 1978; a statue of Talbot stands at the south end of the bridge. Though he is not a Saint, American Catholics have listed him as a Patron Saint for alcoholics. In February of 2015 it was reported that a possible miracle in Kansas, where a healthy child was delivered despite tests showing genetic abnormalities after his aunt organized a prayer chain asking the intercession of Matt Talbot, is currently under investigation. If shown to be “medically inexplicable”, the case may bring Talbot a step closer to sainthood. If you know of any other miracles that can be attributed to his intercession, please contact the Vatican.

Richard left the house at about 8:30 am for Baton Rouge, and I did not wake up until 10:00 am. I set up my medications for my upcoming vacation (I have two medications to renew on Friday). I started the Weekly Computer Maintenance, did my Book Devotional Reading, and started my laundry. I then did my Internet Devotional Reading and put my new music on my flash drive (more anon). I had been trading Emails with Liz Ellen about our vacation plans, and got a phone call from her at 12:30 pm, while I was reading the paper. I then finished the Weekly Computer Maintenance and started the Weekly Virus Scan (which, as usual, turned off the computer, which I restarted).

I left the house at 1:45 pm, and got a call from Richard; he and Steve had done up Butch’s will, and he was going to Wal-Mart to get a lock box for Butch to keep at the apartment for his papers; he also asked me to call Matthew and Callie to see when they would be coming over to visit. I told him I was on my way to a late lunch. At Peking I ate Chinese for lunch, and finished reading The Mummy: A History of the Extraordinary Practices of Ancient Egypt by E. A. Wallis Budge. I had checked and found that our next Third Tuesday Book Club Book, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, was at the Opelousas location of our parish library, so I drove to Opelousas; even though the computer card catalog said it was in the stacks, it was not there, and I did not feel like asking at the front desk about it. I then drove down to Lafayette (going past Carencro on I-49) to the Lafayette Public Library – Southside Branch to pick up the book, as I had requested it. They told me that it was at the North Branch in Carencro (I must have hit the wrong branch on the web site when I requested the book). So I turned around and headed back to Carencro; on the way I got a call from Matthew at 3:53 pm that he and Callie and our granddaughter were on their way to our house. I told him that I was in Lafayette; he said that since he had talked to Richard, and that since Richard would not be home until 6:30 pm, they would bring our granddaughter over on Friday, and that he and Callie might be over later this evening to visit. In Carencro I picked up the book at the library (I may start using that library if all I am doing is picking up and leaving off books), and headed back home.

I arrived back home at 5:00 pm, and finished cleaning up my music (I had found errors while listening to my new music in my travels). I then did my Book Review for this weblog and for my Goodreads and Facebook accounts for The Mummy: A History of the Extraordinary Practices of Ancient Egypt by E. A. Wallis Budge. Richard got home at 5:45 pm. I then did a couple of Advance Daily Update Drafts, and printed out my PTO worksheet (one with us taking five days in August, and one with us taking three days in August) to take to our Shift Manager on Friday when I talk to him about our August vacation. I then got started on today’s Daily Update, and when I finish this Daily Update I will get ready to go to bed.

Tomorrow is the Optional Memorial of Saint Médard, Bishop (died c. 545; the tradition in SouthWestCentral Louisiana is that if it rains on Saint Médard’s day, it will rain at some point every day for the next forty days). I will finish my laundry and iron my casino pants, apron, and shirts, and I will go to the store to get my salad supplies and make my lunch salads for Friday and Sunday. Matthew and Callie will be in New Orleans to see a concert, so we will at some point go over to Lisa’s to see our granddaughter.

Our Parting Quote on this Wednesday evening comes to us from Kenny Rankin, American pop and jazz singer and songwriter. Born in 1940 in New York City, he was raised in the Washington Heights area and was introduced to music by his mother, who sang at home and for friends. He snagged a contract with Decca Records in the 1950s, and recorded a few singles. One of his major influences was songwriter Laura Nyro, whom he met in Greenwich Village in 1960. He was signed to Columbia Records in the 1960s, and played guitar on Bob Dylan’s 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. His liking for jazz was evident from an early age, but the times were such that in order to survive his career had to take a more pop-oriented course. Johnny Carson was such a huge fan of Rankin’s that he invited him to perform on The Tonight Show more than 20 times, and wrote the liner notes to his 1967 debut album, Mind Dusters, which featured the single “Peaceful.” Rankin’s friend Helen Reddy reached #2 on the Adult Contemporary Chart and #12 on the Pop Chart in 1973 with a cover of “Peaceful”, released as her follow-up single to “I Am Woman”. His 1974 album Silver Morning included a cover of The Beatles’ “Blackbird,”which so impressed Paul McCartney that he asked Rankin to perform his interpretation of the song when McCartney and John Lennon were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987. He was on an episode of The Midnight Special in 1975, and can be heard singing the song “Miles From Here” in the 1982 “Metamorphosis” episode of Fame. He also spent several years on the road opening for comedian George Carlin. Through much of the 1980s Rankin largely concentrated on the live stage, increasingly emphasizing pop and jazz standards using jazz accompaniment. His final album was 2002’s A Song For You, and he was recording with Phil Ramone at the time of his death (died 2009): “I’m a jazz singer who likes to mess with the melody. I sing the songs that touch me in the heart, the songs I would like to sing to someone in front of a roaring fire…But don’t get me wrong. We don’t live in a fantasy world, though we all have one.”

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