Today is the Optional Memorial of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (died 1942). Today starts the peak period for star-gazing for Perseid meteors, and today is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.
Today’s Saint was born in 1891 at Breslau, Dolnoslaskie, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) as Edith Stein, the youngest of seven children in a Jewish family; she lost interest and faith in Judaism by the age of thirteen. A brilliant student and philosopher with an interest in phenomenology, she studied at the University of Göttingen, Germany and in Breisgau, Germany, and earned her doctorate in philosophy in 1916 at age twenty-five. Witnessing the strength of faith of Catholic friends led her to an interest in Catholicism, which led to studying a catechism on her own, which led to “reading herself into” the Faith. She converted to Catholicism in Cologne, Germany, and was baptized in Saint Martin’s church, Bad Bergzabern, Germany in 1922. Becoming a Carmelite nun in 1934, she took the name in religion of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was a teacher in the Dominican school in Speyer, Germany and a lecturer at the Educational Institute in Munich, Germany; however, anti-Jewish pressure from the Nazis forced her to resign both positions. To avoid the growing Nazi threat, her order transferred her to the Carmelite monastery at Echt in the Netherlands. There she wrote Studie über Joannes a Cruce: Kreuzeswissenschaft (The Science of the Cross: Studies on John of the Cross). The Nazis occupied the Netherlands in 1940, and on July 20th, 1942, the Dutch Bishops’ Conference had a public statement read in all the churches of the country condemning Nazi racism. In a retaliatory response on July 26th, 1942, the Reichskomissar of the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, ordered the arrest of all Jewish converts, who had previously been spared. Sr. Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa, also a convert, were captured and shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they were gassed on August 9th, 1942. The Anti-Defamation League challenged the beatification and subsequent canonization of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) as a martyr, stating Stein was killed for her Jewish nationality rather than for her faith, and that the misappropriation and Christianization of an event that targeted Jews diminished the memory of the Holocaust. The position of the Catholic Church hierarchy was, and is, that she also died because of the Dutch hierarchy’s public condemnation of Nazi racism in 1942; in other words, that she died to uphold the moral position of the Church, and is thus a true martyr. She was canonized in 1998, and is the Patron Saint of converts and of martyrs, and is one of the Patron Saints of Europe (with St. Benedict of Nursia, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, St. Bridget of Sweden, and St. Catherine of Siena). Today is also the date that begins the peak viewing period for seeing the Perseid meteors, which are associated with Comet Swift-Tuttle. During the peak, which lasts through August 13th, the rate of meteors reaches sixty or more per hour, with the best viewing towards the north-east after-midnight sky. All this assumes, of course, a clear night and no moon. Today is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This day is observed on August 9th each year to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population. This event also recognizes the achievements and contributions that indigenous people make to improve world issues such as environmental protection. It was first pronounced by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1994, marking the day of the first meeting in 1982 of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
Richard left for Baton Rouge, and I woke up at about 9:15 am. I posted to Facebook that today was the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. I then started my Weekly Computer Maintenance, did my Book Devotional Reading, finished the Weekly Computer Maintenance, started the Weekly Virus Scan, and started my laundry. I then read the morning paper, did my Internet Devotional Reading, and said the Fourth Day of my Assumption Novena. I then watched MST3K Episode 404 Teenagers from Outer Space, with aliens deciding to use Earth to breed Gargons (air-breathing lobsters that can grow to enormous size), and with one teenage alien deciding to defect, and another one volunteering to go after him and kill him. One notable aspect of the film is that it was largely the work of a single person, Tom Graeff, who, in addition to playing the role of reporter Joe Rogers, wrote, directed, edited, and produced the film, on which he also provided cinematography, special effects, and music coordination. The film also was directed on a shoestring budget, and a dime store Hubley’s “Atomic Disintegrator” toy was used as the aliens’ disintegrator ray gun. I then watched MST3K Episode 405 Being from Another Planet (Time Walker), with a mummy discovered in King Tut’s tomb coming to life (as it was actually an alien from outer space) to retrieve the crystals stolen by the X-ray tech so that it can return to its home world. I then watched MST3K Episode 406 Attack of the Giant Leeches (giant leech creatures in the Florida Everglades prey on locals; the femme fatale in the film, Yvette Vickers, appeared as the Playmate centerfold in the July 1959 issue of Playboy magazine several months prior to the film’s release) with the short film Undersea Kingdom, Part 1: “Beneath the Ocean Floor”, the first chapter of a 1036 serial about an evil tyrant in Atlantis attempting to conquer the whole earth. (It’s a safe bet that my father saw this serial as a kid.) I then finished my laundry, and at 4:30 pm watched Jeopardy! Richard returned home just before Final Jeopardy! I then watched MST3K Episode 407 The Killer Shrews (scientists messing around with genetics, which gets out of hand; the giant shrews were represented by hand puppets for close ups, and by dressed-up coonhounds for other shots) with the short film Junior Rodeo Daredevils (a cowpoke straightens out some wayward kids by making them put on a small-time rodeo). I then came to the computer and did a couple of Advance Daily Update Drafts for this weblog, and Richard went to Little Caesars and brought back pizza pizza for our dinner. And I am now going to finish up this Daily Update, and I will then take a bath and do some reading.
Tomorrow is the Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (died 258). The Perseid meteor shower continues, and it is also the birthday of Richard’s good friend Steve in Baton Rouge (1956). I will iron my Casino pants, apron, and shirts, go to the grocery to get my salad supplies, and make my lunch salads for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And tomorrow evening our New Orleans Saints will be playing an Away NFL preseason game with the Cleveland Browns.
Our Parting Quote this Wednesday evening comes from David Rakoff, Canadian-born American writer. Born in 1964 in Montreal, Quebec, into a Jewish family, his father was a psychiatrist and his mother was a doctor who had practiced psychotherapy. At the age of three his family moved to Toronto. After graduating from high school in 1982 he moved to New York City to attend Columbia University, where he majored in East Asian Studies and studied dance. Rakoff spent his third year of college at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and graduated in 1986. He then worked in Japan as a translator with a fine arts publisher, but his work was interrupted after four months when, at the age of twenty-two, he became ill with Hodgkin’s disease, a form of lymphatic cancer. He returned to Toronto for eighteen months of treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. He then moved back to the United States. Rakoff worked for thirteen years in the publishing industry, including as a publishing assistant and a publicist. He worked at a literary agency for three years and then as an editor and communications manager for HarperCollins, where he worked for nine years. For a period starting when he was twenty-five, Rakoff wrote as a freelance while working in the publishing industry. He wrote to David Sedaris in 1992, after hearing him read on the radio his essay about being a Christmas elf, to ask if he could publish Sedaris’s works (which he later confessed he had no intention of doing, since he was desperate to leave publishing). They became friends, with Rakoff doing work in the theater with Sedaris, first directing a play written by Sedaris and his sister Amy Sedaris, and later acting in their plays. Through Sedaris, Rakoff met Ira Glass, who was then a junior reporter on the NPR radio program Morning Edition. When Ira Glass began This American Life, Rakoff became involved with the new show at its inception. Sedaris encouraged Rakoff to go on public radio, where Sedaris himself had achieved fame; at his urging Rakoff took work to This American Life, starting with “Christmas Freud”, an account of Rakoff’s job impersonating Sigmund Freud in the window of Barneys department store during the holidays. In the early 1990s, after living in the United States as a resident alien, he was issued his green card. A prolific freelance writer, whose work was published in Conde Nast Traveler, GQ, Outside Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Business 2.0, Details, Harper’s Bazaar, Nerve, New York Magazine, Salon, Seed, Slate, Spin, The New York Observer, Vogue, Wired, and other publications, Rakoff published three bestselling collections of essays, which included his own illustrations. Both Fraud (2001) and Don’t Get Too Comfortable (2005, about his efforts to obtain United States citizenship; he became a citizen in 2003, while retaining Canadian citizenship) were awarded a Lambda literary award (which recognizes excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives), both times in the “Humor” category. Half-Empty (2010) won the 2011 Thurber Prize for American Humor. Rakoff voiced the part of President Thomas Jefferson for the audio book of Jon Stewart’s America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction (2004) and provided the voice of Polish-American Leon Czolgosz (the assassin of President William McKinley) in the audio book version of Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation (2005). He did film work (the back of his head is featured in Capote (2005) as a character dismissive of Harper Lee), and appeared as a modeling agent on the television serial As The World Turns. The episode of This American Life that aired on NPR a week after his death was dedicated entirely to his essays on the program. The episode was titled “Our Friend David” (2012): “The central drama of my life is about being a fraud, alas. That’s a complete lie, really; the central drama of my life is about being lonely, and staying thin, but fraudulence gets a fair amount of play.”