Today is the Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor (died 1787), and we celebrate Lammas Day, the festival of the wheat harvest.
Today’s Saint was born in 1696 in Marianella near Naples, Italy, to the nobility. He was a child prodigy, became extremely well-educated, and received his doctorate in law from the University of Naples at age sixteen. He had his own legal practice by age twenty-one, and was soon one of the leading lawyers in Naples, though he never attended court without having attended Mass first. He loved music, could play the harpsichord, and often attended the opera, though he frequently listened without bothering to watch the over-done staging. As he matured and learned more and more of the world, he liked it less and less, and finally felt a call to religious life. He declined an arranged marriage, studied theology, and was ordained at age twenty-nine. He was a preacher and home missioner around Naples, noted for his simple, clear, direct style of preaching, and his gentle, understanding way in the confessional. A writer on asceticism, theology, and history, he was a master theologian. He was often opposed by Church officials for a perceived laxity toward sinners, and by government officials who opposed anything religious. He founded the Redemptoristines (a women’s order) in Scala in 1730, and founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Liguorians, or the Redemptorists) at Scala, Italy in 1732. He was appointed bishop of the diocese of Sant’Agata de’ Goti, Italy by Pope Clement XIII in 1762, where he worked to reform the clergy and revitalize the faithful in a diocese with a bad reputation. He was afflicted with severe rheumatism, and often could barely move or raise his chin from his chest. In 1775 he resigned his see due to ill health, and went into what he thought would be a prayerful retirement. In 1777 the royal government threatened to disband his Redemptorists, claiming that they were covertly carrying on the work of the Jesuits, who had been suppressed in 1773. Calling on his knowledge of the Congregation, his background in theology, and his skills as a lawyer, Alphonsus defended the Redemptorists so well that they obtained the king’s approval. However, by this point Alphonsus was nearly blind, and was tricked into giving his approval to a revised Rule for the Congregation, one that suited the king and the anti-clerical government. When Pope Pius VI saw the changes, he condemned the new Rule and removed Alphonsus from his position as leader of the Order. This caused Alphonsus a crisis in confidence and faith that took years to overcome. However, by the time of his death he had returned to faith and peace, although the rift in his Order was not healed until 1793, some six years after the saint’s death. Declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1871, he is the Patron Saint of confessors and moralists, and Co-Patron of Naples, Italy; his aid is invoked against arthritis. Today is also Lammas Day, the festival of the wheat harvest. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop; in Anglo-Saxon England the loaf was then broken into four parts and placed at the four corners of the barn to protect the garnered grain. In many parts of England, tenants were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (last updated 1154), where it is referred to regularly, it is called “the feast of first fruits”.
Last night I finished reading Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations by Garson O’Toole via Kindle on my tablet, and I continued reading The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems…and Create More by Luke Dormelh via Kindle on my tablet.
When I woke up to get ready for work I put in a new set of contact lenses. I posted to Facebook that today was Lammas Day, flipped to the new month in my wall calendars, and put the spare Galaxy Note 4 battery into my phone (whereupon I noticed that the old battery from my phone was swollen). I did my Book Devotional Reading. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Fifth Day of my Transfiguration Novena. I cleared out my phone call lists and voicemail lists on my phone, cleared the browsing data on Chrome, Facebook, Play Store, and Wikipedia, deleted my Google Search history, and took screenshots of my home screens. Once in ADR I ordered a new Galaxy Note 4 battery from Amazon. We signed the Early Out list, and when we clocked in at 3:00 am, Richard was on Three Card Poker, while I was the Relief Dealer for Mini Baccarat and Pai Gow. On my breaks I continued reading The Waking Engine by David Edison. We got out at 6:00 am; on our way home we stopped at McDonald’s, and when we got home I ate McDonald’s biscuits and read the morning paper. I then went back to bed.
I woke up again at 11:00 am, and started my laundry; I then worked on cleaning up my music files, did my Book Review for this weblog and for my Goodreads and Facebook accounts for Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations by Garson O’Toole, and addressed and mailed off a birthday card to our friend Steve in Mississippi. We left the house at 12:30 pm and ate at Ronnie’s Cajun Café, and stopped at the ATM on our way home. When we got home at 1:15 pm I worked on Advance Daily Update Drafts for this weblog. Our mail brought Richard a birthday card from his sister Nita in Georgia, and a card and a T-shirt from Liz Ellen. Michelle came by to visit for a bit, then I finished my laundry. After Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm Richard went to get pizza pizza from Little Caesar’s for our dinner. I worked some more on the computer, and then I watched MST3K Episode 201 Rocketship X-M (the soundtrack was by American composer Ferde Grofé, who used a Theremin in the score, the first use of this electronic instrument in a science fiction film) while Richard went to bed early. And now I will finish this Daily Update and go to bed myself.
Tomorrow is the Optional Memorial of Saint Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop (died 371), the Optional Memorial of Saint Peter Faber, Priest (died 1546), and the Optional Memorial of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (died 1868). Richard will head to Baton Rouge to see Butch, and I will head to Lafayette for my appointment with my psych and to put in some comfy chair time.
Our Parting Quote on this Tuesday evening (and the first day of August) comes from Corazon “Cory” Aquino, the eleventh President of the Philippines and the first woman to hold that office. Born as Maria Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco in Paniqui, Philippines, her father’s family were big landowners, while her mother’s family were influential politicians in both Lower and Upper Chambers of the Philippine Congress. She went to an all-girls Catholic school in Manila, but her studies were interrupted when the Japanese invaded Manila. After World War II, she and her siblings as well as her cousins were sent by her father to the United States. She shuttled between the United States and the Philippines; for some summers in the United States, she was treated by her father, Don Pepe, to excursions to Washington, DC and trans-Atlantic voyages aboard the RMS Queen Mary. After her graduation from college in the United States, she returned to the Philippines to study law at the Far Eastern University (owned by the in-laws of her elder sister Josephine Reyes) for one year. She interrupted her law studies in 1955 when she married the then rising political star Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., the son of the late Speaker Benigno Aquino, Sr.; he became the mayor of Concepcion that same year. A member of the Liberal Party, Benigno Aquino rose to become the youngest governor in the country and eventually became the youngest senator ever elected in the Senate of the Philippines in 1967. Their marriage produced five children; during her husband’s political career, Aquino remained a housewife who helped raise their children and played hostess to her spouse’s political allies who would frequent their Quezon City home. She would decline to join her husband on stage during campaign rallies, preferring instead to stand at the back of the audience and listen to him. Nonetheless, she was consulted upon on political matters by her husband, who valued her judgments enormously. An eloquent speaker and brilliant politician, Benigno Aquino soon emerged as a leading critic of the government of President Ferdinand Marcos, and was then touted as a strong candidate for president to succeed Marcos in the 1973 elections. However, Marcos, being barred by the Constitution from seeking a third term, declared martial law on September 21st, 1972, and later abolished the existing 1935 Constitution, thereby allowing him to remain in office. As a consequence Aquino’s husband was among those to be first arrested at the onset of martial law; he was later being sentenced to death. During his incarceration Benigno Aquino sought strength from prayer, attending daily mass and saying three rosaries a day, and drew inspiration from his wife. In 1978, despite her initial opposition, Benigno Aquino decided to run in the 1978 Batasang Pambansa elections from his prison cell. A reluctant speaker, Aquino campaigned in behalf of her husband and, for the first time in her life, delivered a political speech. In 1980, upon the intervention of President Jimmy Carter, Marcos allowed Senator Aquino and his family to leave for exile in the United States, where he sought medical treatment for his heart problems. On August 21st, 1983, however, Benigno Aquino ended his stay in the United States and returned without his family to the Philippines, only to be assassinated on a staircase leading from his plane to the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, which was later renamed in his honor. Corazon Aquino returned to the Philippines a few days later and led her husband’s funeral procession, in which more than two million people joined the procession, the biggest ever in Philippine history. Following her husband’s assassination in 1983, Aquino became active and visible in various demonstrations and protests held against the Marcos regime. She began to assume the mantle of leadership left by her husband and started to become the symbolic figurehead of the anti-Marcos political opposition. In the last week of November 1985, Marcos surprised the nation by announcing on American television that he would hold a snap presidential election in February 1986 in order to dispel and remove doubts against his regime’s legitimacy and authority. Reluctant at first, Aquino was eventually prevailed upon to run for President after one million signatures urging her to run were presented to her. The February 7th, 1986 election was marred by massive electoral fraud, violence, intimidation, coercion and disenfranchisement of voters. Despite this, the Batasang Pambansa, which was dominated by allies of the ruling party, declared President Marcos as the winner on February 15th, 1986. In protest to the declaration of the Philippine parliament, Aquino called for a rally dubbed “Tagumpay ng Bayan” (People’s Victory Rally) the following day, during which she claimed that she was the real winner in the snap election and urged Filipinos to boycott the products and services by companies controlled or owned by Marcos cronies. The rally held at the historic Rizal Park in Luneta, Manila drew a mammoth-sized crowd, which sent a strong signal that Filipinos were already growing tired of Marcos’ two decade-rule. Further, the dubious election results drew sharp reactions from both local quarters and foreign countries. The Philippine’s Catholic bishops issued a statement strongly criticizing the conduct of the election which was characterized by violence and fraud, and the United States Senate condemned the election. After weeks of tension following the disputed outcome of the snap election, disgruntled and reformist military officers on February 22nd, 1986 surprised the entire nation and the whole world when they announced their defection from President Marcos and their strong belief that Aquino was the real winner in the presidential election. Upon the urging and encouragement of the activist Cardinal Archbishop of Manila Jaime Sin, millions of Filipinos trooped to give their moral support and prayers for the reformist soldiers. Finally, to the amazement and admiration of the entire world, after twenty years of martial rule, Ferdinand Marcos was driven out from power and Corazon Aquino was formally and peacefully sworn in as the new president of a freed and liberated Philippines on February 25th, 1986, a historic event which is now known and remembered as the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution. President Aquino was named by Time magazine as the 1986 Woman of the Year. The triumph of the peaceful People Power Revolution and the ascension of Aquino into power signaled the end of authoritarian rule in the Philippines and the dawning of a new era for Filipinos. The relatively-peaceful manner by which she came into power drew international acclaim and admiration not only for her but for the Filipino people, as well. On the whole, the Aquino administration made important gains in the aspects of bringing back democracy, restoring investor confidence in the economy and enacting legal and constitutional reforms. Despite these achievements, her presidency faced several threats from both right-wing military elements and extreme left-wing communist rebels. Further, her administration dealt with numerous problems such as major natural disasters which struck the country and severe power shortages which took a toll on doing business in the Philippines. It was also during her tenure that the United States finally ended its military bases and presence in the country. As the end of her presidency drew near, close advisers and friends told Aquino that since she was not inaugurated under the 1987 Constitution, she was still eligible to seek the presidency again in the upcoming 1992 elections, the first presidential elections under normal and peaceful circumstances since 1965. President Aquino strongly declined the requests for her to seek reelection and wanted to set an example to both citizens and politicians that the presidency was not a lifetime position. On June 30th, 1992, President Aquino formally and peacefully handed over power to her anointed candidate and democratically-elected General Fidel Ramos, after six years of hard-fought democratic transition and restoration. On her way to the inauguration of President-elect Ramos, she chose to ride on a simple white Toyota Crown she had purchased, rather than the lavish government-issued Mercedes Benz, to make the point that she was now again an ordinary citizen. Shortly after leaving the presidency, Aquino traveled abroad, giving speeches and lectures on issues of democracy, development, human rights and women empowerment. In 1997 she attended the wake and funeral of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom she had met during the latter’s visit in Manila in 1989. Though Aquino retired to private life, following the end of her term, she remained active in the Philippine political scene, constantly voicing opposition and dissent to government actions and policies, which she deemed as threats to the liberal traditions and democratic foundations of the country. She also took up painting, and gave her paintings away to friends, Bishops, and international figures. In the 2007 senatorial elections Aquino actively campaigned for the senatorial bid of her only son, Benigno Aquino III, who ran and won under the triumphant opposition banner. He became President of the Philippines just one year after the death of his mother (died 2009): “I just do whatever it is that I believe I should do, regardless of the risks to my life.”