Monday, February 28, 2011

The First Ladies

1 Degree

American First Ladies have traditionally worn black when meeting the pope in an official capacity.  Only in the later half of the 20th Century and afterward have American presidents met popes face to face.  The advent of air travel has allowed this to happen.

To read a presidential etiquette insider's blog on the subject click here.  NPR has a wonderful primer on meeting the pope.  In it are bits of wisdome like

What if the pope approaches me?
Don't just stand there — genuflect. That means bend at the knee, for you non-Catholics.

To read the entire list of suggested manners click here.
Jackie Kennedy had a private audience with the pope, but I'm not sure weather it was John XXIII or Paul VI.   The footage here is of Jackie with John XXIII.

Nancy Reagan met John Paul II with her husband in 1982.  To see this short, historic video, click here.
This was not from the 1982 meeting, but a more informal occasion later
in the Reagan presidency
The Clinton's and John Paul II

The Bushes with Benedict XVI

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Harding, Reagan, H.W. Bush, Obama

Many presidents have been mentioned in posts.  Here is a smattering of them.

Warren G. Harding
1 Degree
See the post on Albert Einstein to learn more.  Here is newsreel footage of his inaugural address.

Ronald W. Reagan
1 Degree 
Reagan is in the Charles Manson post.  He had a fabulous sense of humor.  Here are some of his jokes.

George H. W. Bush
1 Degree
Featured in the Lizzie Borden post, George H. W. Bush is just one degree away.  I think that many of us are regretting that this particular Bush was just one term.  Perhaps things would have been very different if H.W. had 2 terms and W., just the one.  If you have an hour, try checking out this feature of George Senior on PBS American Experience.  The next video is Dana Carvey doing George Bush.  The President enjoyed the impersonation.

Photo from Time Magazine

Barak H. Obama
2 Degrees
The first new president inaugurated after the death of John Paul II, President Obama got his own post.  In that post, I connected him in 3 degrees.  Look for the post on First Ladies on February 28th for footage of Obama and Benedict XV.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

George W. Bush

1 Degree
George Bush presenting the Medal of Freedom to JPII
Not every president is a great favorite.  It's especially rare for a man to be universally loved and admired while he holds office.  Such is the case with George W. Bush for me.  While his doctrine of preemptive acts of war, suspending Habeas Corpus, and many other policies are distinctly not Catholic, his stance on abortion and euthanasia have been spot on.  As we ponder the presidency of George W. Bush and all the presidents this month, we see that there is no one party that embodies Christian morals and teachings.  There never will be such a party.  It is up to each individual Christian to determine where their vote should go and which party to support in which election.

George W's brother, Jeb, is a 3rd Degree Knight of Columbus!  Here is George talking about Benedict XVI's visit to the United States in 2008.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Jimmy Carter

1 Degree

John Paul II was elected as pope toward the end of Jimmy Carter's presidency.

President Carter was lampooned for wearing his sweater and for appearing so informal in this address.  He did not ask us to conserve oil in our private homes in that speech.  It was in this video that he did.  I remember this speech.  After it, my family set its thermostat to 68 degrees during the day and 62 or 64 at night.  I still enjoy having a cold nose and warm toes at night.

Jimmy Carter's legacy is much much broader than the energy crisis and energy policy.  But, as we endure another New England winter, those lessons are worth learning once again.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

My mother was born on this date during the presidency of FDR.  I am therefore writing about Franklin Delano Roosevelt today.

2 Degrees

As detailed in the post on Chairman Mao, FDR exchanged letters with Pope Pius XII during World War II.  I don't have anything to add about the relationship between FDR and Pius XII, but here are some videos that might interest you.

I strongly urge you to visit the FDR presidential library in Hyde Park, New York if you get a chance.  He had 4 terms, there is loads of information to sift through and wonderful displays there.  Click here to visit their site.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thomas Jefferson

Happy Valentine's Day!  Let's explore love, black history, and presidency with T.J. and Sally Hemings.

Sixth Degree: Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, penned
The Constitution, was a founding father of two families and our country.

De'Shante Hemmings, son of
Thomas Jefferson and
Sally Hemmings

There are no extant pictures of Sarah (Sally) Hemings.
This portrait of a mixed race woman is as good as any, and
I think it captures an innocent captivity that I associate with
Sally Hemings.  The Hemings family were referred to as "mulatto, "
a term from the latin root for "mule," a half-breed animal.  
Fifth Degree: Sally Hemmings
"Thomas, when I brought the Hemings as a wedding
gift, I didn't mean that kind of gift.  I'll free her over my
dead body.  Oh, wait, not even over my dead body."
Slave, mistress, half-sister-in-law, and trusted servant to Mrs. Jefferson, Ms Hemings has captured the imagination of millions.  We must never lose sight of the fact that she was enslaved and therefore robbed of self-determination.  Her children were promised freedom, but that promise was never kept.  Martha didn't free her half-sister in her will, and Thomas felt compelled to bed Martha's enslaved sister in order to keep his promise never to remarry.  And you think your family has issues!

Below is a video of Annette Gordon-Reed, a law professor at Harvard University and a Jefferson and Hemmings historian.  You can buy her book here.  I'm in the middle of it and absolutely love it.  It's upsetting, shocking, and inspiring.

Fourth Degree: Dr. Robert Sutton
Dr. Sutton administering the first vaccines
Sometimes being in a clinical trial or being the subject of medical research is a good thing, sometimes not.  In the 18th century it was usually not so great.  While Ms Hemmings and President Jefferson were in Paris, the smallpox vaccine was still experimental and new.  Dr. Robert Sutton was the doctor to the stars and he inoculated Sally Hemmings against smallpox.  It is doubtful that Jefferson was inoculated concurrent with Hemmings.  Most likely, he waited to see how she would react to the vaccine.

Louis XV visiting his youngest daughter.
Third Degree: King Louis XV
In 1774, Dr. Sutton was called to the bedside of King Louis XV to save him from small pox.  He was unsuccessful.

Marie as a child in Versailles
Second Degree: Louise Marie de France
Louis' seventh legitimate child became a Carmelite nun in 1770.  Some suppose that she did this to help compensate for her father's lax sexual morals.  Her father kept a seraglio of young women to feed his sexual appetites and cavorted with Madame Pompadour among others.

Louise Marie was raised and educated in Fontevrault Abbey with 3 of her siblings.  Plans to marry her off to a nobleman did not come to fruition and her father, Louis XV gave his permission for her to take the veil.   

Louis Marie became Mother Superior of her convent, and led an exemplary life.  She was stricken with a stomach ailment and passed into the Kingdom of Heaven on December 23, 1787.  She was made venerable by 

First Degree: Pope Pius IX, the longest reigning pope in history, (almost 32 years.)  

Fun Facts about Pius IX
Pius IX was pope longer than any other.  His 31 years and 236 days on the throne of Peter saw reforms and changes.  Here's a short list of Pius IX's innovations and accomplishments.

  • overseeing the First Vatican Council
  • he declared The Immaculate Conception, the first of only two times that papal infallibility has been declared
  • Italy became a country during his reign
  • he was the last pontiff to have his entire papacy during the 19th century
  • Pius IX refused to sanction the declaration of war against Catholic Austria and was beseiged by the new Italian government.  This was before the sovereign state of The Vatican, and the pope was in grave danger.  He was helped to escape by German and French military.  
  • Loss of the Pope Pius IX's temporal power led to the ignoring of concordats throughout Europe.  Catholics were persecuted and their rights were removed from Prussia to France, Germany to Switzerland.  
  • The concordat with Spain was successful.  
  • he wrote an encyclical which warned against and condemned the "False Liberalism" of the age, namely,  pantheismnaturalismrationalismindifferentismsocialismcommunismfreemasonry, and the various kinds ofreligious liberalism
  • He ordered dozens of American diocese to be established
  • He built the Latin American College in Rome
  • He built College of the United States of America at his own expense
for a biography of Pope Pius IX, click here

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Abraham Lincoln

Two reckonings of Abraham Lincoln, one through great African-Americans and one through the man who murdered him.  

Reckoning 1

7 Degrees

Seventh Degree: Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln is a president that all Americans are proud of.  Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, Lefties, Righties, Women, Men, Blacks, Whites, Browns, etc. all love Abraham Lincoln.  Here are two videos about Lincoln, one from the right-ish and one from the left-ish.

Watch the full episode. See more Bill Moyers.

Sixth Degree: Frederick Douglas and Booker T. Washington
It pains me to put these two great men on one degree.  They deserve their own degree.  But you see, their paths cross a few generations down the line with their great-great grand children.  To read Nettie Douglas' letter to her great grandfather, click here.  

Fifth Degree: Nettie Washington Douglas and her son, Kenneth B. Morris Jr. 
Mrs. Douglas presented 4th Degree, Joe DiMaggio with the first Booker T. Washington half-dollar in San Francisco in 1950.

"I let no man drag me down so low
as to make me hate him." - Booker T. Washington
American Slavery Still Exists!
Watch a video of Mrs. Douglas and Mr. Morris discussing modern slavery here.
To see a video with comments by Ashley Judd and other celebrities click here.
For a CBS morning show spot on human trafikking in the Us click here.  

Slavery is mentioned in the bible.  You may remember the section about "slaves, obey your masters."  It's a shocking phrase.  In this post I found a website that ranted against the Catholic Church for supporting slavery in its history.  I was actually a bit surprised that this site didn't dig up more.  To my eyes, a dozen phrases spoken or written in 2000 years of popes is not a lot of evidence.  

We all know that some popes are more holy than others.  By the grace of the Holy Spirit, the church has survived some dark years.  What's really amazing is how consistent the teachings of the church are in spite of its 2 millenia of history peppered with a few unholy popes.  The United States is not even 250 years old and its history is liberally peppered with poor presidencies.  What we agree on is that the United States is a great country and she is worth fighting for.  As Catholics, we know that our church is that of Jesus Christ and worth fighting for.  We fight with ideas, we fight with our bodies, we fight with our resources, but ultimately, we fight with love.  

For the official Catholic word on slavery, click here.  

Degree: John Wilkes Booth, assassin of President Lincoln
6 degrees

Descendants of  Fifth Degree, John Wilkes Booth are maintaining that Booth lived for 40 years after the assassination.  Here is a link for an episode of "Decoders" from The History Channel.  I hope you enjoy the video.
Dr. Samuel A. Mudd
"His name is Mudd," the probable
origin of that idiom.
Fourth Degree: Dr. Samuel A. Mudd
Weather you believe that Booth died in a barn just after the shooting, or that he lived in obscurity for decades thereafter, there are elements of the shooting that are beyond doubt.  A jump from the presidential box or a fall from his get-away horse caused Booth to break his leg the day of the shooting.  His injuries were too severe for him to dismount on the way to medical attention.  
The couch on which Booth was treated by Dr. Mudd

As Booth wound his way from Ford's Theater with his co-conspirators, he sought remedy for his painfully broken leg.  In the wee hours of the morning, he came to the house of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd.  Mudd, a southerner who was raised on a tobacco plantation, set the leg, cared for the wound and sent Booth on his way.

Dr. Mudd's aid and comfort to the assassin is the origin of the term, "Your name is mudd."

Third Degree: Roger Mudd
Decades later, in February of 1928, a distant relative of Dr. Mudd, Roger Mudd was born in The District of Columbia.  This Mudd grew up to be a journalist on the order of Walter Cronkite.  Here he is in his most famous interview, with
Second Degree, Senator Ted Kennedy.

First Degree: Pope Pius XII
Young Ted Kennedy received his first communion from Pope Pius XII.  It appears from her veil and white dress, that his sister did as well.

The Kennedy family were very wealthy, but devoted to public service.  Living out their Catholic faith has been inconsistent in their family, as it is in most Catholic families.  The virtue of marital fidelity is hard to come by in the Kennedy men, but modesty was common among the women.  All Kennedys seem to have a deep sense of public service and need to sacrifice for their countrymen.  Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find a family who has lost more of its members to assassination than the Kennedys.   
Eunice Kennedy at the center of a candid photo from Jack and Jackie's
wedding day.  
The most saintly Kennedy in my opinion is the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver.  She lived a beautiful life, never bowing to popular will, but only to the will of God.  She is most popularly known as the founder of Special Olympics.  This alone is accomplishment for a lifetime, but she did much more than that.  For a list of her awards and honors is here.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

2 Degrees
President Kennedy was mentioned in the Jerry Lewis post.  Here is some video of JFK and his relationship with the Catholic Church. 

Is he going to be a puppet of the pope?
He went to Italy.  At the end of this video is the pope's message after the murder of JFK.

Friday, February 4, 2011

George Washington

George Washington in bucolic scene with chattel etc.
7 Degrees

Seventh Degree: George Washington freed his slaves upon his death as part of a pact with the Marquis de Lafayette.
Oney Judge, a slave on Washington's Mount Vernon Plantation, was not owned by George, but by his wife, Martha.  She kept most of her slaves and bequeethed Oney Judge to her granddaughter, Eliza Custis.  Oney was not excited about the prospect of being owned by yet another person (and perhaps Ms Custis wasn't a nice lady either.)  Oney Judge escaped!
Full story and interview here.

Sixth Degree: John Langdon
Oney made her way to New Hampshire where she was given sanctuary by Senator John Langdon (future Governor of New Hampshire).  Mr. Langdon was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787.   click here for a full list of delegates.  

Fifth Degree: Gabriel Duvall of Maryland (Named because it was the colony for Papists, those devoted to "Mary", it was their "land") was also a delegate to that convention.  After the United States of America was created, Mr. Duvall became Justice Duvall.  He served in the US Supreme Court for over 20 years with Chief Justice John Marshall .

Fourth Degree: John  Marshall
Just a few branches down the family tree of John Marshall, we come to
Third Degree: General George Marshall (of The Marshall Plan fame).

Second Degree: FDR
George Marshall served under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  For The History Channel's history of George Marshall, click here.  "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," The Marshall Plan embodies this phrase and is something that Americans are proud of.  Like all people, George Marshall was flawed, but he was great.

First Degree: Pope Pius XII
FDR wrote many letters to Pope Pius XII.  Myron Taylor, ambassedor to the Vatican, presented the letter to Pius XII in person.

A Word About Pius XII
Hated by Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin, Pope Pius XII stood up for the faith and was hailed as a brave hero by Jews and Christians alike.  Communist propaganda painted him as an enemy and and anti-Semite in the 1950s and 1960s.  This image persists today. Go to one of the Holocaust museums around the world, read newspaper stories and encyclicals from the wartime, read the recent NY Daily News story defending the Pius XII.  Don't believe the hype!  Go to the source.

In December 2008 there was a symposium on the papacy of Pius XII.  This symposium was part of an ongoing effort by The Vatican and Jewish leaders to maintain healthy and truthful interfaith dialogue.  Click on the name of a participant to see their video of reaction to the symposium.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Presidents' Month

Last month was Greek Month.  This month is Presidents' Month.

Welcome to Presidents' Month!
George Washington was one of the first posts I wrote.  It was the first one where I went farther back into history for connections to John Paul II.  It's so exciting to share it with you on February 4th.  Some smaller posts will remind you of connections to presidents who have been mentioned before.  I hope you enjoy this month.