Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And today is Midsummer’s Eve.
Today’s Solemnity of the Sacred Heart always falls on the nineteenth day after Pentecost, which is always a Friday. The devotion especially emphasizes the unmitigated love, compassion, and long-suffering of the heart of Christ towards humanity, with Jesus’ physical heart as the representation of his divine love for humanity. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus can be clearly traced back at least to the eleventh century. It marked the spirituality of Bernard of Clairvaux in the twelfth century and of Bonaventure and Gertrude in the thirteenth. The beginnings of a devotion toward the love of God as symbolized by the heart of Jesus are found even in the fathers of the Church, including Origen, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine of Hippo, Hippolytus of Rome, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and Cyprian, who used in this regard John 7:37-39 and John 19:33-37. The first liturgical feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated, with episcopal approval, on August 31st, 1670, in the major seminary of Rennes, France, through the efforts of Saint John Eudes. The Mass and Office composed by this saint were adopted elsewhere also, especially in connection with the spread of devotion to the Sacred Heart on the First Friday of each month following on the revelations of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (died 1690). A Mass of the Sacred Heart won papal approval for use in Poland and Portugal in 1765, and another was approved for Venice, Austria and Spain in 1788. The Promises that Jesus gave to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in visions in 1672 and 1673 to those that practice the First Friday Devotions are:
- I will give them all of the graces necessary for their state of life.
- I will establish peace in their houses.
- I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
- I will be their strength during life and above all during death.
- I will bestow a large blessing upon all their undertakings.
- Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.
- Tepid souls shall grow fervent.
- Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
- I will bless every place where a picture of my heart shall be set up and honored.
- I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
- Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be blotted out.
- I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
The celebration of Midsummer’s Eve was from ancient times linked to the summer solstice. Mid-summer plants, especially Calendula (marigolds), were held to have miraculous healing powers and they were therefore picked on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again. In the 7th century Saint Eligius (died 659 or 660) warned the recently converted inhabitants of Flanders against the age-old pagan solstice celebrations. As Christianity entered pagan areas, Midsummer celebrations came to be often borrowed and transferred into new Christian holidays, often resulting in celebrations that mixed Christian traditions with traditions derived from pagan Midsummer festivities. In Great Britain from the 13th century, Midsummer was celebrated on Midsummer Eve (St. John’s Eve, June 23th) with the lighting of bonfires, feasting and merrymaking. Perhaps the epitome of the British celebration can be found in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the 1595 play by William Shakespeare. (Summer’s Eve® is a feminine hygiene product; many years ago, my high school in West Virginia accepted the suggestion of Summer’s Eve for a spring dance theme. Fortunately, someone took pity on the organizers and advised them of what Summer’s Eve was in time, and they changed the theme to something else.)
Last night I continued reading Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner via Kindle on my tablet.
Back home in Southwestcentral Louisiana, Richard started his work week at the casino, and he got out early at 6:30 am. I woke up at Liz Ellen’s house in Eastern Kentucky at 8:00 am, posted to Facebook that today was Midsummer Eve, did my Book Devotional Reading, and read the local paper.
Liz Ellen and I left the house at 10:45 am. Our first stop was the local hospice, where Liz Ellen left off the box of magazines and such I had brought up. At Advance Auto Liz Ellen got auto supplies, then we went to the mall. We left off cat supplies at the animal rescue center, then ate lunch at Callahan’s, where I posted to Facebook one of the photos of Liz Ellen and me from yesterday. We then went to the theater and watched the 12:30 pm showing of Wonder Woman, which is a very good movie. On our way home we got groceries at Kroger, then we stopped at the local animal shelter, left off cat toys, and visited the cats (one of which was a mother cat with very new kittens).
Once we arrived home, we watched our #3 LSU Tigers at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska beat the #1 Oregon State Beavers by the score of 3 to 1. I then rolled up Liz Ellen’s loose change for her, and collected some National Park quarters for my collection. We had baked chicken with Brussels sprouts for dinner and watched Jeopardy! I continued reading Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner via Kindle on my tablet. When I finish this Daily Update, we will relax for the evening. The New Moon will arrive at 11:33 pm.
Tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the last Feast of the year that depends on the date of Easter. It is also the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist, and Midsummer’s Day. Richard will be working at the casino. Liz Ellen and I will take her cats to the vet, and we will attend 4:00 pm Mass. At some point at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, our #3 LSU Tigers will again play the #1 Oregon State Beavers; the winner of the game will be in the Championship series with the winner of Friday’s Florida – TCU game.
Our Midsummer’s Eve Evening Parting Quote comes to us from Richard Matheson, American author and screenwriter. Born in 1926 in Allendale, New Jersey, he was raised in Brooklyn, New York, and had his first short story published in The Brooklyn Eagle at the age of eight. After high school he entered the military and spent World War II as an infantry soldier. In 1949, he earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and in 1951, he moved to California and got married the next year. Meanwhile, his first novel, Hunger and Thirst, was ignored by publishers for several decades (it was not published until 2000), but his short story “Born of Man and Woman”, a tale of a monstrous child chained by its parents in the cellar and written as the creature’s diary in poignantly non-idiomatic English, was published in the third issue (Summer 1950) of the new quarterly The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Later that year he placed stories in the first and third numbers of the new monthly magazine Galaxy Science Fiction. His first anthology of work was published in 1954. Between 1950 and 1971 he produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres. Several of his stories, like “Third from the Sun” (1950), “Deadline” (1959), and “Button, Button” (1970) were simple sketches with twist endings; others, like “Trespass” (1953), “Being” (1954), and “Mute” (1962) explored their characters’ dilemmas over 20 or 30 pages. Some tales, such as “The Doll that Does Everything” (1954) and “The Funeral” (1955) incorporated zany satirical humour at the expense of genre clichés, and were written in an hysterically overblown prose very different from Matheson’s usual pared-down style. Others, like “The Test” (1954) and “Steel” (1956), portrayed the moral and physical struggles of ordinary people, rather than the then nearly ubiquitous scientists and superheroes, in situations which are at once futuristic and everyday. Still others, such as “Mad House” (1953), “The Curious Child” (1954), and perhaps most of all, “Duel” (1971), were tales of paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes inexplicably alien or threatening. “Duel” was adapted into the 1971 TV movie of the same name. He was a member of the Southern California School of Writers in the 1950s and 1960s, which included Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, William F. Nolan, Jerry Sohl, and others. Matheson’s first novel to be published, in 1953, was Someone Is Bleeding. His early novels included The Shrinking Man (1956, filmed in 1957 as The Incredible Shrinking Man, again from Matheson’s own screenplay) and a science fiction vampire novel, I Am Legend (1954, filmed as The Last Man on Earth in 1964, The Omega Man in 1971, and I Am Legend in 2007). Other Matheson novels turned into notable films include What Dreams May Come (1978, film version 1998), A Stir of Echoes (1958) (filmed as Stir of Echoes,1999), Bid Time Return (1975) (filmed as Somewhere in Time, 1980), and Hell House (1971) (filmed as The Legend of Hell House, 1973), the last two adapted and scripted by Matheson himself. (I must confess having read Hell House in the 1970s; talk about your guilty pleasures.) Three of his short stories were filmed together as Trilogy of Terror (1975), including “Prey” (initially published in the April 1969 edition of Playboy magazine) with its famous Zuni warrior doll. Matheson’s short story “Button, Button (1970)”, was filmed as The Box in 2009, and was previously adapted for a 1986 episode of The Twilight Zone. In 1960 Matheson published The Beardless Warriors, a non-fantastic, autobiographical novel about teenage American soldiers in World War II. It was filmed in 1967 as The Young Warriors though most of Matheson’s plot was jettisoned. In 1993 Matheson published a non-fiction work The Path, inspired by his interest in psychic phenomena. During the 1950s he had published a handful of Western stories (later collected in By the Gun, 1993); and during the 1990s he published Western novels such as Journal of the Gun Years, The Gunfight, The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok, and Shadow on the Sun. He also wrote a blackly comic locked-room mystery novel, Now You See It …(1995), aptly dedicated to Robert Bloch, and the suspense novels 7 Steps to Midnight (1993) and Hunted Past Reason (2002). Besides his prolific career as an author, Matheson also wrote screenplays for several television programs including Cheyenne, Have Gun – Will Travel, and Lawman. He was, however, most closely associated with the American TV series The Twilight Zone, for which he wrote more than a dozen episodes, including “Steel” (based on his short story of the same name), and the famous “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (1963), plus “Little Girl Lost” (1962), a story about a young girl tumbling into the fourth dimension. For all of Matheson’s Twilight Zone scripts, he also wrote the introductory and closing statements spoken by creator Rod Serling. He adapted five works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman’s Poe series, including House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), and The Raven (1963). He wrote the popular Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within” (1966). For Hammer Films he adapted Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out (1968). In 1973 Matheson earned an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his teleplay for The Night Stalker, one of two TV movies written by Matheson that preceded the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Matheson also wrote the screenplay for Fanatic (1965; known in the United States as Die! Die! My Darling!), starring Tallulah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers. Matheson received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1984 and the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Horror Writers Association in 1991. At the annual World Fantasy Conventions he won two judged, annual literary awards for particular works: World Fantasy Awards for Bid Time Return as the best novel of 1975 and Richard Matheson: Collected Stories as the best collection of 1989. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2010. His last novel was Generations, published in 2012. Matheson died just days before he was due to receive the Visionary award at the 39th Saturn Award’s ceremony. As a tribute the ceremony was dedicated to him and the award was presented posthumously (died 2013): “Our world is in profound danger. Mankind must establish a set of positive values with which to secure its own survival. This quest for enlightenment must begin now. It is essential that all men and women become aware of what they are, why they are here on Earth and what they must do to preserve civilization before it is too late.”