It is the 5th of August 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1912.
In the far east, it was a year of epoch-making transitions. The Qing dynasty came to an end, with the Xinhai revolution of the following year and the abdication of Puyi, the last emperor. The phenomenal movie, “the Last Emperor,” is based on his story. Thus, the era of the Chinese dynasties was over and the Republic of China began its excursion into the wild waters of the 20th century.
In Japan, the Meiji dynasty came to an end in 1912. This era of development and westernization ended with the death of Emperor Meiji. Japan would both conquer and flounder in expansionist policies in the aftermath of this reformist era. The modern militaristic Showa period was soon to follow.
The Great War was two years away. Woodrow Wilson defeated what was essentially a Republican ticket divided between William Howard Taft and his old mentor, Teddy Roosevelt, running on the ticket for his own Bull Moose Party.
It was the last year that the USA added a new state that was contiguous. Arizona became the 48th state. Fenway Park saw action for the first time in 1912, making it the oldest major league ballpark in America. Fun fact: it’s a garbage place to watch a game unless you have the dollars to sit up close.
The big story in 1912 was the sinking of the unsinkable Titanic. The Onion has marked the event by referring to it as “the World’s Largest Metaphor hitting an iceberg.” 1,517 perished and that’s an ironic number I didn’t realize until just now. Let’s count Jack’s drowning and make it 1518.
If you want a musical connection to the year, you can hear it in by listening to both Debussy’s second book of Preludes and W.C. Handy’s “Memphis Blues.” The difference between the pieces, composed in the same year, as well as some parallels, can give you a sense of where orchestral music and jazz music converged and diverged.
It wouldn’t be a year in the early 20th century if we didn’t list a number of the hits from that year in America with titles we can giggle at. They included: “Beans!, Beans!!, Beans!!!,” “Everybody Loves a Chicken,” “Pick, Pick, Pick, Pick on the Mandolin,”
and “The Elevator is Going Up, Going Up, Going Up, Going Up.” I love that unnecessary repetition.
1912 saw the birth of Almanac's favorite Jacques Ellul, historian Barbara Tuchman, musician Lightin’ Hopkins, Julia Child, Gene Kelly, and Chuck Jones of Bugs Bunny fame.
And it was on this, the 5th of August, in 1912, that Henri-Antoine Groues was born. The French priest was more popularly known as Abbe Pierre. He founded the Emmaus movement, was voted the most popular Frenchman by the French for 17 straight years, and in 2005 a poll named him the third greatest French person of all time behind Louis Pasteur and Charles De Gaulle.
Abbe Pierre was born into a wealthy family but gave it all away when he became a monk. He served as an NCO on both fronts during World War II and became a symbol and hero of the French Resistance. He helped many Jewish people to escape over the Alps and Pyrenees. After the war, his passion became for the homeless of Paris. His “uprising of goodness” encompassed ministries amongst the poor in over 50 countries. It would eventually be known as Emmaus International, after the famed meeting of the disciples with the unrecognizable, yet risen Christ.
His work amongst the poor earned him the title of “the ragpicker's saint.” The French priest and moral compass for France over much of the 20th century died in 2007. Born on this date in 1912, Abbe Pierre was 94 years old.
The reading for today is a poem entitled “Dominus Illuminatio Mea” by Richard Doddridge Blackmore.
In the hour of death, after this life's whim,
When the heart beats low, and the eyes grow dim,
And pain has exhausted every limb —
The lover of the Lord shall trust in Him.
When the will has forgotten the lifelong aim,
And the mind can only disgrace its fame,
And a man is uncertain of his own name —
The power of the Lord shall fill this frame.
When the last sigh is heaved, and the last tear shed,
And the coffin is waiting beside the bed,
And the widow and child forsake the dead —
The angel of the Lord shall lift this head.
For even the purest delight may pall,
And power must fail, and the pride must fall,
And the love of the dearest friends grow small —
But the glory of the Lord is all in all.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 5th of August 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a connoisseur of the musical fruit 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.