Posts Tagged ‘May 14’

Your Saint of the Day

Posted in General, On This Day on May 14th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – 2 Comments

Today is the official feast day of St. Matthias.

I would tell you all about him, but the Church itself is rather bewildered on the subject. The Gospels are unaware of him, but he is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as being chosen to replace Judas Iscariot–who obviously lost his tenure as a saint. The Church’s Board of Directors felt that it needed a 12th apostle. Unfortunately, the resurrected Jesus had failed to hire anyone; no doubt, He was preoccupied with packing for His Ascension. So, the Board of Directors picked Matthias (which is more than can be said for St. Paul).

And that ends the history. Of course, theological etiquette requires a few legends about him. For instance, the nature of his death is a buffet of choices. He was either killed by Jews in Jerusalem, pagans in Georgia or cannibals in Ethiopia. (The theological affiliation of the cannibals is unspecified; they could have been Christians who took communion too literally.) And he is also reported to have died of old age in Jerusalem–but that is too boring to be plausible.

Matthias at least is kept busy being the patron saint of alcoholics. If your life were a perpetual fog, you would want a saint in a similar condition.

On This Day in 1796…

Posted in General, On This Day on May 14th, 2007 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

How should we celebrate the anniversary of Edward Jenner’s introduction of vaccinating against small pox?  A cake covered with buttercream pustules?  (You know me: any excuse for frosting.)   

It is a tribute to English tolerance that Edward Jenner was merely vilified for his dangerous notion about vaccination…and not hanged or exiled to Australia.  The English were not just intimidated by medical innovation; they had developed a sentimental attachment to small pox.  The disease had proved extremely helpful in clearing North America of its natives.  (The Spanish were just as grateful for the same reason.)

However, the French–ever the contrary–did not seem to like small pox.  Of course, they would prefer the great pox–and even earned the honor of having syphilis renamed the French Disease.  And small pox did not behave itself in France. 

It is the reason that Louis XIV was succeeded by his great-grandson.  So, what happened to Louis XIV’s dauphin and grand-dauphin? In 1711-1712, there was an outbreak of smallpox at Versailles. The mortality among the Bourbons would have made a Jacobin jealous. The future Louis XV was the third son of the Duc of Burgundy. By the time the epidemic had ended, he had lost both his parents, his two older brothers and his grandfather. The two-year-old had been fifth in line to the throne; he now was the heir.

Indeed his survival was due to the diligence of his nurse; she quarantined herself and the child–isolating themselves from any other contact. But for her zeal, the succession might have passed to the Orleanist branch of the royal family; and who would want intelligent, progressive kings of France?