Today is the National Day of Lithuania (Day of Restoration of Independence of Lithuania - from the Soviet Union in 1990); and Johnny Appleseed Day in the USA. The Orthodox Church today celebrates the Venerable Theodora of Arta, Queen of Arta, wife of Despot Michael II of Epirus (ca 1275) and Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem, Patriarch of Jerusalem (638). The Catholic Church celebrates Our Lady of Lourdes and Saint Gobnait.
In 1858 the immaculate Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, near Lourdes in France, in the cavern called “de Massabielle.” Through this poor, fourteen-year-old girl, Mary calls on sinners to change their lives. She has inspired in the Church a great love of prayer and good works, especially in the service of the poor and the sick.
St Gobnait is a fifth-century Irish saint. Although there are many legends and traditions associated with her, there are few if any historical facts. This commonly happens to people whose memory is kept alive by tradition rather than written records, and it casts no doubt on her existence or her merits.
Today is also the anniversary of the birth of:
Torquato Tasso, Italian poet (1544);
Urbain Le Verrier, astronomer (1811);
Henry Tate, Tate gallery founder (1819?);
Marius Petipa, choreographer (1822);
Raoul Walsh, actor/film-maker (1887);
Henry Dixon Cowell, composer (1897);
Dorothy Gish (Dorothy de Guiche), actress (1898);
Frederick IX, king of Denmark (1899);
Lawrence Welk, US bandleader (1903);
Harold Wilson, UK politician (1916);
Nicolaas Bloembergen, Nobel Laureate (1981) physicist (1920);
Althea Louise Brough, tennis player (1928);
David Gentleman, painter (1930);
(Keith) Rupert Murdoch, media magnate (1931);
Douglas Noel Adams, author (1952).
The bee orchid, Ophrys apifera, is the birthday flower for this day. The generic name is derived from the Greek word for eyebrow, ophrys, according to Pliny in reference to the use of the plant for darkening ladies’ eyebrows. Apifera in Latin signifies bee-bearing reflecting the flower’s resemblance to a bee. The flower symbolises error.
Dying on this day: In 1602, Emilio de’ Cavalieri, Italian composer of one of the first operas; 1820, Benjamin West, US painter who became President of the Royal Academy in London; in 1820, Sir Alexander McKenzie, Scottish explorer of Canada; in 1955, Sir Alexander Fleming, Scottish bacteriologist and discoverer of penicillin; in 1957, Earle Stanley Gardner, US lawyer and crime writer who created Perry Mason; in 1957, Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, US aviator and explorer.
John Chapman (September 26, 1774 – March 11, 1845), often called Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present day West Virginia. He became an American legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples. He was also a missionary for The New Church (Swedenborgian) and the inspiration for many museums and historical sights such as the Johnny Appleseed Museum in Urbana, Ohio and the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center in between Lucas, Ohio and Mifflin, Ohio.
The popular image is of Johnny Appleseed spreading apple seeds randomly, everywhere he went. In fact, he planted nurseries rather than orchards, built fences around them to protect them from livestock, left the nurseries in the care of a neighbour who sold trees on shares, and returned every year or two to tend the nursery. Although apples grown from seed are rarely sweet or tasty, apple orchards with sour apples were popular among the American settlers because apples were mainly used for producing hard cider and apple jack. In some periods of the settlement of the Midwest, settlers were required by law to plant orchards of apples and pears in order to uphold the right to the claimed land. So Johnny Appleseed planted orchards that made for popular real estate on the frontier.