It is the 8th of June 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1896. The world was increasingly interconnected. This year is the first with the modern Olympiad. The Olympic tradition was revived with these games held in Greece.
Across the world, the automobile was in its very earliest phase. Noted Anti-Semite Henry Ford produced his quadricycle, the forerunner to his Model-T. In England, a car created by the Benz company struck Bridget Driscoll, killing her. She is the first recorded traffic fatality. And on the same Island, Walter Arnold, the thrill-seeker, received the first-ever traffic ticket. He was going eight mph in a two mph zone.
1896 was the first year for the mass production of gramophones. Music, for the first time, was accessible to the masses for private listening. Some of the biggest hits were religious: "Nearer My God to Thee," "Onward Christian Soldiers," "Rock of Ages." Other singles included the Hallelujah Chorus & La Marseille. Other favorites included songs with titles like, "You've Been a Good Old Wagon, But You Done Broke Down," "My Gal Is A High-Born Lady," and the "Amorous Goldfish."
Also, in the Arts, 1896 saw the premiere of Oscar Wilde's “Salome.” Wilde himself was not at the premiere as he had been jailed for things we don't arrest people for anymore. Puccini's opera "La Boheme" made its debut as did Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra," a piece based on the writing of Friedrich Nietzsche. Alfred Jarry's "Ubu Roi" kicked off the age of absurdist theatre. The first performance of this satire of influence, power, and money shocked the audience into a riot with the first line of the play being "Merde."
In American politics, the so-called "4th Party System" began with the election of Republican William McKinley over the Democratic-Populist William Jennings Bryan. The designation of Republicans as hawkish and Democrats as populists would last up through the election of FDR.
Much of the world's attention was in those new colonies around the world. Wars raged between the English and the Boers in South Africa. The Uganda railway act helped England continue to lay tracks across Africa. France claimed Tunisia as a protectorate, and also annexed Madagascar off the coast of East Africa. We will return to the island nation in just a few moments.
Folks born in 1896 include Comedian George Burns, who would span vaudeville, radio, movies, and television. His last film appearance came in 1996. Joining Burns in being born are novelists F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Dos Passos.
In 1896 Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, died as did the great French symbolist poet Paul Marie Verlaine. Alfred Nobel died this year, coinciding with the announcement of the first prizes being given out in his name.
And it was on this, the 8th of June in 1896, that Jacques Berthieu died. He was a Jesuit missionary working in Madagascar. He was sainted, and many churches, especially of the Catholic variety, recognize this fascinating character today.
Jacques Berthieu was born in 1838 in France. Born to pious farmers, he became the oldest of six when his older sister died. He entered seminary and was ordained in 1864. He served as a vicar until he decided he wanted to join the Jesuits. He became a novitiate in the order in 1873. Two years later, he claimed to have received a call for foreign missions. He was sent to an island off the coast of Madagascar. Setting off from Marseilles in 1875, he ended up on the island of St. Marie, an island run by the French. Staying here allowed him time to learn the language and dialects of the region and form a mission with two other Jesuits.
However, in 1880 the French foreign minister banned all Jesuits from teaching in French territories. You may remember the constant badgering of Jesuits by even those in the Catholic church. The French saw them as Italian interlopers. Berthieu left the island of St. Marie for the big island of Madagascar, which was not under French control yet.
However, by 1883 the French had begun trying to annex Madagascar. This move led to the Red Shawl revolt by the locals. Berthieu was mostly beloved, but many saw him as an instrument of the invading empire. He had to flee and hide from the rebels but was soon captured. The locals made a spectacle of their new captive, stripping him, beating him and covering his head with mud and blood-soaked handkerchief. Bound, they called to the crowd, "Behold the king of the Europeans!" He was paraded and eventually shot from close range.
His story would become famous as an example of the problem of colonization and evangelism. As stories circulated, he was ultimately lionized and was beatified and then sainted in 2012 on World Missions Day. Jacques Berthieu was born in 1838. He was martyred on this day in 1896. Berthieu was 57 years old.
The reading for today comes from one of the hymns made famous this year by the gramophone. It is one stanza from a hymn we have read from before. This from Augustus Toplady, a verse from the hymn “Rock of Ages.”
Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace:
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
That was a stanza from the famous hymn of 1896, Rock of Ages by Augustus Toplady.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 7th of June 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by the Amorous Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.