Today is the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the last Feast that depends on the date of Easter. Today is the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist, and today is also Midsummer’s Day.
On this Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, always held the day after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (and thus always on a Saturday), we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary in reference to her interior life, her joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfections, and, above all, for her virginal love for her God, her maternal love for her Son, Jesus, and her compassionate love for all people. The consideration of Mary’s interior life and the beauties of her soul is part of the traditional devotion, as is the consideration of the Heart of Mary as a part of her physical virginal body. The two elements are essential to the devotion, just as, according to Roman Catholic theology, soul and body are necessary to the constitution of man. Devotional practices towards the Immaculate Heart of Mary became common in the late eleventh or early twelfth century. In the 18th and 19th centuries the devotions grew, both jointly and individually; in 1855 the Mass of the Most Pure Heart formally became a part of Catholic practice. Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1944 to be celebrated on August 22nd, thus replacing the traditional octave day of the Assumption. In 1969 Pope Paul VI moved the celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the day (Saturday) immediately after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This means in practice that it is now held on the day before the third Sunday after Pentecost, and is the last feast day of the church year that depends, ultimately, on the date of Easter (the moveable feast par excellence). The pious practice of honoring the Blessed Mother on Saturday is an ancient custom, derived from the tradition that Jesus appeared to her on Holy Saturday. The liturgical observation of venerating Mary on Saturday is attributed to Mary was largely the Benedictine Alcuin (735-804), “Minister of Education” at the court of Charlemagne. On July 1st, 1905, Pope Pius X approved and granted indulgences for the practice of the First Saturdays of twelve consecutive months in honor of the Immaculate Conception. In 1925 Lúcia Santos, one of the visionaries of Our Lady of Fátima in 1917, not long after she entered the Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy as a postulant in the convent in Tui, Spain, just across the northern Portuguese border, beheld an apparition of the Virgin Mary; by Her side, elevated on a luminous cloud, was the Child Jesus. Mary requested the institution of the Devotion of the Five First Saturdays in reparation to her Immaculate Heart, saying, “Look, my daughter, at my Heart encircled by these thorns with which men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, strive to console me, and so I announce: I promise to assist at the hour of death with the grace necessary for salvation all those who, with the intention of making reparation to me, will, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the beads, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary.” The Feast celebrating the birth of John the Baptist is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church, being listed by the Council of Agde, France in 506 as one of that region’s principal festivals, where it was a day of rest and, like Christmas, was celebrated with three Masses: a vigil Mass, at Mass at dawn, and a midday Mass. The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 24th comes three months after the celebration on March 25th of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel told Our Lady that her cousin Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus. The question naturally arises as to why the celebration falls on June 24th rather than June 25th if the date is to be precisely six months before Christmas. It has often been claimed that the Church authorities wanted to “Christianize” the pagan solstice celebrations and for this reason advanced Saint John’s feast as a substitute. This explanation is questionable because in the Middle Ages the solstice took place around the middle of June due to the inaccuracy of the Julian calendar; it was only in 1582, through the Gregorian calendar reform, that the solstice returned to June 20th / June 21st / June 22nd where it had been in the fourth century. Therefore, a more likely reason why the festival falls on June 24th lies in the Roman way of counting, which proceeded backward from the Kalends (first day) of the succeeding month. Christmas was “the eighth day before the Kalends of January” (Octavo Kalendas Januarii). Consequently, Saint John’s Nativity was put on the “eighth day before the Kalends of July” (Octavo Kalendas Quintilis). Since June has only thirty days, in our present (Germanic) way of counting, the feast thus falls on June 24th. Nevertheless, the significance of the feast falling around the time of the solstice is considered by many to be significant, recalling the words of John the Baptist with regard to Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). (Of course, this only applies in the Northern Hemisphere, so it’s a good thing that both John the Baptist and Jesus were born in Judea and not in Christchurch, New Zealand.) Today is also Midsummer Day, which is celebrated around the world in different ways; the United States has celebrations in areas with large Swedish and Scandinavian populations, such as in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Lindsborg, Kansas. (Back home in SouthWestCentral Louisiana, with its strong French Cajun influence, it’s just June, and hot outside, as usual.)
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. And Lele called me late last night (a call that went to voice mail) with news that a mutual elderly relative was failing.
Richard went to work at the casino, and I woke up at Liz Ellen’s house at 8:00 am. I did my Book Devotional Reading and read the morning paper. Liz Ellen and I took her cats to the vet at 9:30 am for routine maintenance, which the cats did not enjoy. We got back home at 10:15 am, and sat out on the front porch, with Winger next to us in his outdoor pen.
We left the house at 11:15 am, and Lele called me to let me know that the elderly relative had died; I told her that I was in Eastern Kentucky, and asked her to call Richard in about forty-five minutes. We ate lunch at Applebee’s, went to True Value (where Liz Ellen got duet for the birds) and Dollar General (where Liz Ellen got cat food, and I got a bag of dog food to take to the Animal Shelter on Monday).
We arrived home at 12:45 pm, and Richard called me at 1:00 pm to tell me he had spoken to Lele. (He would have to get out of work early on Monday to go to the funeral service, so he will probably not be going.) I then set up my medications for next week. I got a call from an unknown Louisiana number at 2:11 pm, which I ignored. I then got a voice mail; it was from the woman who does the Hour before mine at the Adoration Chapel, and apparently the Adoration Chapel Coordinator did not remember to have someone cover my Hour today. (Drat.) Since I could not do anything about covering the Hour from Eastern Kentucky, I did not return the call. At 3:00 pm we started watching the College World Series at Omaha, Nebraska, and were gratified that our #3 LSU Tigers beat the #1 Oregon State Beavers by the score of 6 to 1, which puts our Tigers in the Championship series, starting on Monday, against the winner of tonight’s game between Florida and TCU. We had steaks and baked potatoes for dinner. Richard called at 7:15 pm to report that our air conditioning died.
Tomorrow is the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time; with no Saints to honor, instead we will recall that on tomorrow’s date in 1876 Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry rode to fight the Sioux in what later became known as The Battle of Little Big Horn in Montana. We will also recall that tomorrow is the anniversary of the death of my father in 1998. Tomorrow Richard will go to work on the last day of the two-week pay period. Liz Ellen and I will go to Mass, go up to West Virginia to put flowers on our parent’s grave, and swing by Charleston on our way back home.
This Midsummer Day evening brings us a Parting Quote from Walter Browne, Australian-born chess Grandmaster and poker player. Born in 1949 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, to an American father and an Australian mother, his family moved to the New York area when he was three. Browne won the U.S. Junior Championship in chess in 1966. Having dual citizenship, he represented Australia for a short time. He won the 1969 Australian Chess Championship. He tied first with Renato Naranja while representing Australia at the 1969 Asian Zonal tournament in Singapore, earning the International Master title, which immediately earned him an invitation to an international grandmaster tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico. There he gained the Grandmaster title by tying for second through fourth places, with Bruno Parma and Arthur Bisguier, behind reigning world champion Boris Spassky. He played first board for Australia at the 1970 and 1972 Chess Olympiads, before moving to California in 1973, marrying, and switching to representing the United States in 1974. He won the U.S. Chess Championship six times. His six titles have been exceeded only by the eight titles of Bobby Fischer, all won outright by at least a point, and Samuel Reshevsky. Browne qualified for three Interzonal tournaments, but never came close to qualification for the Candidates Tournament. At the Manila Interzonal 1976, Browne won 15th place. At the Las Palmas Interzonal 1982, he placed last of 14 contestants.. Finally, at the Taxco Interzonal 1985, he reached a tied 9–13th place. Browne generally performed well at the Chess Olympiads in his six appearances. He represented Australia twice and the United States four times, winning a total of five medals, all bronze. Browne was a dominant presence in American chess in the 1970s and 1980s. Aside from his U.S. Championship wins, he also won the National Open eleven times, the American Open seven times, the World Open three times, and the U.S. Open Chess Championship twice (1971 and 1972). He tended to spend a lot of his allotted time during the opening moves and early middlegame; consequently he often wound up in time trouble. This sometimes led to mistakes, even though Browne played reasonably well in time trouble; and good play during this phase could unsettle his opponents. However, after dominating the U.S. Championship for a decade, Browne was unable to approach the same level in that event after 1983. In U.S. Championships, he scored just 7½/17 in 1984, 6½/13 in 1985, 6/15 in 1986, 6/13 in 1987, and 6/15 in 1989. A world-class speed chess player, Browne in 1988 formed the World Blitz Chess Association, but it ended in 2004 after encountering financial troubles. He won the 1991 Canadian Open Chess Championship. Browne was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 2003. He won the U.S. Senior Open in June 2005. In 2012 he published an autobiography and collection of his best games, The Stress of Chess … and its Infinite Finesse. In December 2014 he won the Pan-American Senior Championship 65+ age category held in São Paulo, Brazil. At the 2015 Las Vegas International Chess Festival on June 18th-21st, Browne also gave a 25-board simultaneous exhibition, a lecture series, and taught a chess camp. That same weekend, Browne took byes in the National Open so he could play in the 2015 Senior Event at the World Series of Poker. He played well, but did not win money. On June 22nd, 2015, Browne played in the 50th Anniversary National Open Chess Championship at the Westgate Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. He tied for 9th-15th. After a week of chess and poker, Browne died in his sleep (died 2015): “I’ve got the talent. All I need to do is persevere. And I will, because I’m concentrating all my energies on becoming world champion. I have this fantastic discipline to study chess six, eight, 10 hours a day, this drive to win at all costs short of physical violence. I got this aggression that never quits, this feeling of terrific power. I feel this big hot thing like the sun inside me. I’m not bragging. I really feel as if I can beat anybody at anything!”