Monthly Archives: September 2016

Etymology: The Anime!

Nope, no magical powers. Not a historical anime, either.

It’s the story of a modern linguistics post-grad who gets hired onto the staff of a great Japanese multi-volume dictionary, similar to the Oxford English Dictionary. He finds true love and life while researching words.

It’s the new Noitamina anime for this season. Unfortunately nobody knows whether it will be licensed or not. But it starts October 13, 2016.

Fune wo Amu. The name means something like “The Great Ship,” because a dictionary is like a ship.

UPDATE:Actually, the name Fune wo Amu means “To Build a Ship” or “To Assemble a Ship.” Oh, the irony of getting this wrong about a dictionary story!

Where did the false info come from? I forgot that there is already a 2013 movie about this story. (I haven’t seen it, but it’s supposed to be very good. It doesn’t seem to be on any of the streaming services, though.) In its US release, this movie Fune wo Amu was called The Great Passage (because that’s the translation of the name of the fictional dictionary, the Daitokai).  Both the movie and the anime are based on a 2011 novel, Fune wo Amu, by Shion Miura.

Miura’s novel references a real Japanese dictionary of this sort called the Daigenkai, which literally means “The Great Ocean of Words.” It was edited by Otsuki Fumihiko, whose first and widely successful dictionary was called the Genkai, or “Sea of Words.” The big chunky Daigenkai came out in four volumes that appeared after the death of its editor in 1928.

(But he lived a long life; he was born in 1847 to a samurai scholar family** and had fought in the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, on the losing side of the Tokugawa shogunate. So yet another real-life character who could easily have appeared in Rurouni Kenshin.)

So the idea is that the new (fictional) dictionary would be a ship (fune) that would take the reader on a journey (tokai) across the ocean of words (genkai). Not what I was thinking below in the comments, but pretty cool.

(Since Otsuki was a Western studies guy, his titles may also have been referencing Noah Webster. Japanese scholars love wordplay.)

The movie adaptation seems to have focused on the love story in the novel, but the series will give more time to the friendships between the main character and other members of the dictionary staff.

** Otsuki Fumihiko’s grandfather, Otsuki Gentaku, began the tradition in his family of being scholars of “Dutch studies” (Rangaku), by learning Western science, technology, and arts from Dutch books obtained in Nagasaki. Otsuki Gentaku was a physician and writer who wrote Steps toward Dutch Studies (Rangaku Kaitei), the first Dutch grammar book in Japanese. He also founded and ran Shirando, the first private school for Dutch studies, which was located in Edo (Tokyo), and promoted honoring Hippocrates as the father of Western medicine. (And when I say “honor,” I mean “like another Shinto god or hero,” in some cases.)

He is best known today for his sensible challenge to various Japanese misconceptions about African people. For whatever reason, the Japanese believed then that Africans acquired a black skin color through too much exposure to water, but that as a result Africans were abnormally good swimmers,  as intrinsically unintelligent as Japanese fisherfolk, and  just as intrinsically lowborn. Gentaku contended that Africans were just like every other human group, full of “the noble and the lowly… the wise and the foolish.” He also helped write a famous book, Kankai Ibun, which recounted the experiences of the survivors of a Japanese ship who ended up in Russia, the Straits of Magellan, and Hawaii. The book includes a woodcut illustration of the Japanese standing by the famous St. Petersburg statue of Tsar Peter the Great.

Otsuki’s great-grandfather was Otsuki Genryo, a Western-trained physician who was the official chief surgeon of the Sendai domain and chief physician to the Ichinoseki han.



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Pre-Vatican II Hats in the Austro-Hungarian Empire

Hungarian ladies wearing wreaths to Mass, at the 1866 coronation of Franz Josef I as King of Hungary. These were fashionable in the 1860’s all over Europe. You’ll see similar ones in pictures of Queen Victoria standing under Prince Albert’s Christmas tree with the kids.

(Modern pictures of Hungarian ladies wearing traditional embroidered headbands and crown-like hats.)

Here’s a rare picture of Austro-Hungarian ladies wearing veils, from the coronation of Franz Josef I as Holy Roman Emperor. These are the same kind of fashionable veils worn by Queen Victoria in the late 1840’s.

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Blessed Alexander of Lugo, Dominican Martyr

Giacomo Baldrati was born in Lugo, Italy, on September 26, 1595. His parents (Cesare Baldrati and Lucia de Bianchi) supported his boyhood piety, and he joined the local Dominicans on January 15, 1612, taking the name “Alessandro”, or Alexander.

The Order sent him to study in Faenza and Naples. The friar was then ordained a priest and sent to the University of Bologna as a teacher, where people said he devoted half his time to God and half to his neighbor, leaving no time for himself. He collapsed into sickness from overwork and was sent to Venice to recover.

The interesting bit is that he may have ended up with some kind of mental illness too, which is very unusual in a saint. Some saints are very eccentric, but they tend to be saner than most. Alessandro had been known to be a particularly cheerful person all his life, but now he became depressed and prone to wild anger. He also began to fear his fellow friars (some of whom apparently teased him at this point) as persecutors. His biographer from the 1700’s from Chios, Leone Allacci, says that he went to Venice without permission from his superiors, and that he definitely was on the run when he took ship from Venice to Constantinople, and from there to Pera. He reported in at the Dominican friary at Pera. They decided to send him to Smyrna, because the archbishop of Edessa and co-adjutor of Smyrna was a particularly wise and holy Dominican, Venerable Giacinto Subiani di Arezzo. Friar Alexander was filled with fear again, but the monks of Constantinople assured him that Smyrna was “not a place where they beat up foreigners.”

Things must have gone well in Smyrna, because Archbishop Giacinto decided to send him to the small monastery of St. Sebastian on the Greek island of Chios — which was then part of the Ottoman Empire, and ruled by Muslims. With no other duties, Friar Alexander decided to spend all day preaching in the little Christian towns. Archbishop Giacinto later testified that he harvested “abundant fruit of souls” among his fellow Christians.

Then his Italian brothers sent a letter inviting him to come back. Friar Alessandro had a relapse into his fears, and was sure the letters were a trap. At times he seemed to go catatonic. At other times, he ran around town, crying out his sadness and fear. Strangely, he kept saying that people were going to burn him at the stake.

Politics and human drama ensued. Since a couple of prominent churchmen (including Archbishop Giacinto) arrived at Chios at about the same time to change ships, some local Muslims spread rumors that the Christians were planning to take back the island. Taking advantage of the hostile atmosphere, a guy named Aga Cuzaim, a Chios Muslim who had once been Christian and who disliked Friar Alexander (nobody knows why) decided to report him to the local Ottoman authorities as an apostate Muslim.

And of course we all know that the sharia law penalty for forsaking Islam is death.

Under the Ottoman Empire, sharia law ruled in most matters. Alexander was hauled into court by the Muslim governor. Here’s the strange thing. Now that he was really being persecuted and was really in danger of his life, Friar Alexander became himself again, fearless and articulate as a Dominican preacher should be. He protested again and again that he was Christian, had never been anything but Christian, and never intended to be anything but Christian. (One source seems to think that he may have apostatized during his screaming fits, some of which happened near Cuzaim’s house; but Allatios doesn’t seem to believe it.)

The Dominicans and the visiting churchmen were threatened for having concealed an apostate Muslim. They fired back that Friar Alexander was a Christian and never had been anything else. Eventually they were let go, and sent messages to Alexander to stand firm. Archbishop Giacinto ordered all his churches to keep a 24-hour prayer vigil for their fragile brother.

When Alexander was brought to court again, the judge told him that he would be executed for apostasy unless he embraced Islam again. He told them once again that he was a Christian who had never been anything else. He also told them for good measure, “Your Prophet is a prophet of lies; your law comes from the Father of Lies.” He was almost lynched then and there. But he was not afraid; he was calm and happy to die for Jesus’ Name, and professorial in his defense of Christian doctrine.

After all his fears, and possibly because they were known, he was indeed condemned to be burned at the stake for his “blasphemy.” He wasn’t even shaken, now that it was real. So they threw in some torture over the next few days. Prisoners and guards agreed that Friar Alexander fasted the whole time, prayed prostrate in his cell as was one of the Dominican customs, never complained, and was constantly penitent over his sins but in control of himself. When they came to execute him, he was serene and calm. He was led through the streets as a frightening example; but the streets were lined with Christians eager to honor their martyr, Catholics and Orthodox alike.

After he had been led out and bound to the stake with chains, the governor tempted him one last time. “Lift one finger to show that you believe in the God of Mohammed, the one true God, and your life will be spared.”

Alexander lifted three fingers. “The One God is the Holy Trinity!” Then he blessed the crowd with those fingers, “In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!”

They lighted the fire — but the flames refused to touch him. They added wood, and the wood rolled away from him.

The Muslim crowd shot him, hacked him to pieces, then blew up his body with gunpowder. It was February 10, 1645.

Relics were saved from the mess and were sent around the world by the Dominicans, including to his hometown of Lugo.

February 10 is his memorial. His symbol is a martyr’s palm and a chain.

Blessed Alexander of Lugo, pray for us!

Here’s his biography:

Vita e morte del p.f. Alessandro Baldrati da Lugo, fatto morire nella citta di Scio da’ Turchi per la fede cattolica li 10. di febraro 1645. by Leone Allacci, Rome: Francisco Moneta, 1657. And here it is on Google Books.

The author is also known as Leo Allatius or Leo Allatios (1586-1669), and he was indeed a Greek born on Chios. He was also one of the Vatican Library’s head librarians, from 1661-1669, and was responsible for a lot of its Greek and Syriac acquisitions. On the side, he was a trained physician. He fought hard to heal the schism between Catholics and Orthodox, and wrote several important works about it. He translated St. Methodius of Olympus’ Banquet of the Ten Virgins into Latin, and refuted the urban legend of Pope Joan by consulting Greek records. He is a major source for opera history, since he listed all the operas put on in a city in his book Drammaturgia. He also wrote about Greek folklore in his De Graecorum hodie quorundam opinationibus. Most of his 150 volumes of manuscripts have never been published… but he published and edited hundreds of books during his lifetime. So yeah, Leo was an interesting guy.

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CIA Director John Brennan Admits Communist Past

And we wonder why the CIA can’t catch moles.

Yes, the CIA Director used to be a Commie, voting Communist during the Cold War. And he revealed this. And they still hired his pathetic butt.

And what’s worse — he passes it off as a funny story.

And no, he doesn’t have some kind of dramatic Whitaker Chambers-style conversion story, or even a realization that he was being a juvenile tool. Nope, it’s a funny story. Laugh, proles, laugh.

Our news media is ridiculous.

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A Great Book You’ve Never Heard of

When I was growing up, my dad had a huge tome with a mysterious title stuck among the “big kids” children’s books that were just barely too old for us. Eventually I did tackle the big book, and found a whole new world opening before me.

Our edition was called Dickon of the Lenni Lenape.

(The original 1938 edition was called Dickon among the Indians. It’s now available on Kindle and in paperback, and being called The Indians of New Jersey: Dickon among the Lenape, by Professor Mark Harrington. It’s a little pricey, but the gorgeous drawings are there, and the book is otherwise unobtainium.)

Basically, it’s a fictional version of a capture narrative. It was very common for people who survived being captured by Indians to write down the story of their experience, and to include a lot of anthropological information as part of the story. Professor M.R. Harrington, an anthropology guy, just decided to present his Lenape collection of legend and lore with the capture narrative as a frame.

In this case, Dickon is a kid who gets shipwrecked in New Jersey’s wild wilderness. The Lenape (often called Delaware) capture him, mistreat him for a bit, and then decide that they should let a childless old woman adopt him, in order to provide her with a servant. But since Dickon is a kid who is brave and quick to learn, most of the tribe gradually starts treating him like a Lenape. (Which is not unrealistic, depending on the tribe.) He makes friends, gets sent on a spirit journey, and learns the skills of a Lenape man. (And since this is being written by an anthropologist, of course Dickon finds out quite a bit about the women’s way of life too, courtesy of working for his old lady “mother.”) There’s even a little touch of teenage romance.

There is a lot of survival knowledge presented in this book, too. (Albeit there may be better ways to do some of these things; but what’s presented is is the Lenape way of the period.)

Kids love this book. Some teachers in New Jersey used to read it to their fourth graders, apparently. But it’s good for adults too. You will learn a lot, and it’s great for knowing how Algonkian/Woodland tribes lived. If you read about other Woodland tribes or about the Lenape in other places and times, this will give you a wonderful foundation, so you’ll know what the heck people are talking about.

Now, here’s the amazing part. There’s a sequel! I never knew there was a sequel!

The Iroquois Trail: Dickon among the Onondagas and Seneca by Professor M. R. Harrington brings Dickon back, on a quest to find his Lenape brother, Little Bear, who has been captured and carried off by a raiding party. Yup, it’s those darned Iroquois Confederacy guys. (The seven tribes of the Confederacy basically tried to take over all the European fur trade, on the provider side, by killing or driving out all the tribes that lived in the Northeast, from the coast to Ohio and Kentucky. They tended to do a lot of long-term torture and had other unlovely attitudes toward outsiders, so you can see where they don’t have a good rep with other tribes. Having a great system of government doesn’t really show in the day to day experience of people with them.) They spoke languages that weren’t related much to Algonkian; their closest “relatives” were the Dakota/Sioux out west. They also had totally different lifeways and beliefs, but incorporated a lot of the “Mississippian” stuff that had come north from Mexico, and which was also seen in ancient Cahokia, and down south among the Creeks and other tribes.

I haven’t read this book, but I expect that it is also amazing. The Confederacy was not all bad, after all, and they were a great inspiration to early American writers. Iroquois people have done some great stuff since they accepted Christianity and gave up all the torture magic. But I suspect that just as the characters will now be older teenagers or adults, the age for reading this book will have to be older too.

Lenape, Onondaga, and Seneca stores online sell these books with pride. So it’s not just me recommending them!

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Royal Catholic Bridesmaids Wearing Hats

To avoid making people scroll down for the hat portion of my post on the imprisoned Queen of England, morganatic marriages, and the PITA in-laws you got if you married into the Austro-Hungarian imperial family, I’m going to repost the hat portion here.

Here’s a picture of the marriage of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to Countess Sophie Chotek, a Hungarian noblewoman of high birth. Because of their unequal (though high) rank, their marriage was severely opposed by Emperor Franz Josef. After most of the crowned heads of Europe and the Pope interceded for the couple, the Emperor finally acceded, but only under the condition that it be a morganatic marriage where Sophie would never become empress and the children could not succeed to any titles.

The Emperor refused to attend or let most of the relations attend, so the Nuptial Mass was celebrated in the tiny Reichstadt Castle chapel. But the celebrants were the parish priest with two friars as deacon and subdeacon. So they got a Nuptial Mass said for them (a sign that there was no scandal in God’s eyes), the Mass itself was in full splendor, and everything showed that the Church regarded it as a true marriage of equals with nothing morganatic about it.

The picture comes from an illustrated journal of the day, The Sphere. (Note that the Catholic archduchesses all wore hats to Mass.)


“The Archduke Franz Ferdinand duly wedded the Countess Sophie Chotek, the choice of his heart, at the Imperial castle of Reichstadt in Bohemia last Sunday week. The service was conducted by the parish priest, assisted by two Capuchin friars The little wedding procession, consisting of thirty-one persons, proceeded from the Archduchess Maria Theresa’s drawing room through the billiard room, where the Emperor Franz Josef and the Czar Alexander II met in conference in 1876, to the little chapel, to which no one else was admitted. First in the procession walked the bridegroom with his stepmother the Archduchess Maria Theresa, and his two half-sisters, the Archduchesses Maria Immaculata and Elizabeth, and his two sisters; and after then the bride, accompanied by her uncle, Prince Löwenstein, and Count Charles Chotek, head of the family. The Countess wore a white silk dress trimmed with myrtle blossoms, and on her forehead a diamond coronet, a wedding gift from the Archduke. Behind her came her brother, her sisters, and their husbands, and two or three court dignitaries. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s brothers were not present. From Reichstadt the bride and bridegroom proceeded to Konopischt Castle in Bohemia, a favourite estate of the Archduke’s, where they are passing their honeymoon. Our picture is by the one artist present (a Viennese).”

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Project 2996: Dora Marie Menchaca

Dora Marie Menchaca died on Flight 77, the airplane that hit the Pentagon.

She was 45 years old, and she worked for Amgen, Inc. in Thousand Oaks, California, developing and testing better drugs to fight cancer and pneumonia. In fact, she was their associate director of research. Her home was in Santa Monica.

She was one of six siblings. Her heritage was Hispanic. She came from a poor background but worked hard and was smart. She attended Providence High School, a Catholic school in San Antonio, but she had to go to Central Catholic for calculus. She went to Notre Dame for her bachelor’s and master’s, and was the first in her family to attend college.

I found some info that she had a first husband but later divorced, but that might not be trustworthy or it might be about another Dora Menchaca. (There seem to be a few out there!)

She met her husband, Earl Dorsey, in grad school at UCLA, while working on her doctorate in epidemiology. They fell in love and got married, and lived happily ever after.

Her job and field made her urge her husband to get a prostate cancer test. He finally gave in and got one, and was shocked to find out that he had it. Early treatment made the difference for him. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to save her dad from the same disease; he joined her after a month after her death.

She once helped a man she occasionally played soccer with, giving him grocery certificates to help the family and a beautiful note. Her husband never knew until after her death; she kept her small charities and kindnesses secret.

She had been in DC for hearings with the FDA on a new prostate cancer drug. Her meetings ended a day sooner than expected, so she changed her tickets to standby to fly home to California quicker, to her husband and their two kids, Imani and Jaryd. Her oncologist colleague, Dr. Scott Fields, also changed his tickets, but he flew United. He asked her to come along, but her frequent flyer miles were on American, and it made no financial sense. He says he will always wonder if he should have argued harder, and if he could have changed her mind. (But of course, it was just chance that the terrorists didn’t fly his United flight, too.)

When she made it onto the plane, she left her husband a voicemail. It had been prearranged that she should do that, in order not to wake up their toddler son who slept with his dad when Mom was away from home.

In her last minutes alive, she wrote her husband a note. It miraculously survived the crash and the burning of the Pentagon.

Here’s a video of her brother John Menchaca, remembering her. Another video of John Menchaca at a memorial service for her in San Gabriel.

A high school friend from San Antonio, Texas remembers her.

Amgen honored her memory with a reflection garden at their headquarters (featuring her favorite roses) and a patient care center wing at UCLA’s hospital.

A list of Notre Dame alumni who died on September 11.

Dora Marie Menchaca: wife and mother, scientist and businesswoman. She saved lives. May she rest in peace.

Never forget.

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Project 2996: Fifteen Years After

May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. May we pray with them for solace for all those who mourn, and for all survivors.

May God’s justice and mercy prevail on earth, as it does in heaven. May God give the grieving comfort and peace.

Memorials from previous years for The 2996 Project:

Myrna Yaskulka.

James P. O’Brien.

MORI Sanae, aka Sanae Mori.

AOYAMA Seima David, aka David Seima Aoyama.

Brian E. Martineau.

Ss. Nunilo and Alodia, pray for us.
St. Lawrence of Brindisi, pray for us.
Martyrs of Otranto, pray for us.
St. James, pray for us.

Martyrs of San Bernardino, pray for us.
Fr. Hamel, pray for us.

Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.
All you holy men and women, pray for us.

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How to Embarrass Your Parents, by Natalie Barney

Natalie Barney was one of those “poor little rich girls” who decide to do stupid things. She had all her money from a streetcar company in Dayton, Ohio, which apparently did not suit her self-image.

In her case, she decided to become a lesbian, which obviously was not the thing to do in 1900. But she and a bunch of other American heiresses were running around doing just that. (And to be fair, a lot of the trouble may have been the expensive French boarding school where a lot of these American heiresses were sent. It seems to have turned out a lot more lesbians than is statistically believable, and they all seem to have “discovered” their sexual orientation at exactly the time they went there; so one suspects that there was a culture of female pedophilic abuse present.)

Also to be fair, her parents were apparently not all that. Her dad had a nasty temper and thought himself too good to follow the family business; he didn nothing but live it up and chase women. Her mom was a good artist but a flighty kid, who ditched true love with Sir Henry Morton Stanley (of Stanley and Livingstone fame) while Stanley was away on an expedition to Africa. (Without telling him, or even sending a letter, or even bothering to read his letters for that matter. The poor guy found out when he got back, all ready to marry her as agreed. He read a news story about how his fiancee had just had her first kid with her husband. Yeah.)

But also to be fair, a 24 year old American woman in 1900 was more than old enough to know better, or at least to pick a broader life goal than just “be a lesbian in Paris and nothing else.” There were a lot of other things she could have done. (Her mother was flighty but also public-spirited; she achieved a lot, and did a lot of good for theater and the arts. She raised money for charity, and let her homes be used as an office by many good causes. Natalie, not so much.)

But she didn’t run off to do it. Oh, no. She was taken to Paris by her mother, Alice (a whisky heiress who had married Albert Barney, a streetcar heir), to study French culture, while her sister Laura got surgery on her leg. But since Natalie spoke and wrote French and Alice didn’t much, and since Alice was busy improving herself with intense painting classes while Natalie made a lot of female friends, apparently she didn’t notice.

Then Natalie wrote and published (through an expensive vanity printer) a book of sonnets in French. Apparently she told her mother that they were just “sonnet portraits of women,” like the title of her book said. Mom’s French (or her suspicions) didn’t reach to understanding that it was all lesbian poetry.

She conned her mom into doing illustrations for the book.

(Perfectly blameless art-deco illustrations, of course, because of course her mom didn’t know! And actually, her mom did some gorgeous work for her not-so-loving daughter. The rumor is that Natalie was having affairs with all the women she asked her mom to paint for the illustrations, including a Folies Bergere dancer named Liane de Pougy. As far as Mom knew, they were just French friends who’d agreed to be models.)

Then Natalie Barney made sure that her book got into the hands of sophisticated American reviewers.

Well, if she was looking for attention, she got it. The papers all talked about it. Her dad stormed over from Dayton by train and ship, bought up all the remaining copies of her book, and had the French publisher destroy everything connected to it, including the art plates of Mom’s art.

Mr. Barney died in 1902. Natalie Barney went off with the money she inherited and lived a dissolute life in Paris.

Natalie’s sister Laura, who was also dragged into all this scandal, went religious; but as far away from everything American as she could get. She became a Baha’i. You can hardly blame her. What’s startling is that she actually stayed friendly with her sister, and that Mom forgave Natalie.

Natalie Barney’s book on how to embarrass your parents is called Quelques Portraits-Sonnets des Femmes. She wrote it under the name “Natalie Clifford,” since Clifford was her middle name. This is apparently an annotated photo reprint of a surviving copy of the original edition.

If you look around on the Internet, you can learn more about Barney’s special snowflake lifestyle and all her special snowflake friends in Paris. It’s not very edifying, unless you want to know how a lot of Midwestern millionaires got disappointed by their kids.

Before and during WWII, Barney stayed in Paris despite persistent rumors that her family was Jewish. (If she had Jewish ancestors, they were a ways back. Her granddad was a staunch Baptist, and her mom’s family were Episcopalians.) But she wavered back and forth between describing fascism as tyranny, and following the progressive line of her friends by praising Hitler. On the other hand, she did help a Jewish couple get out of Italy and get passage to the US. So maybe she did have a tiny bit of energy to help others.

She died alone in 1972.

Natalie only set foot in Dayton a very few times in her life; she was really a native of Washington, DC; NYC; and Bar Harbor, Maine. But all this gossip history is memorialized on an extremely gaytimonious historical marker, in the park right next to the main Dayton Library downtown. I now realize that this was because of the book. But the once-lovely Cooper Park is now mostly the property of extremely drunk or mentally ill homeless men, so it’s not a great choice for glory and remembrance.

Meanwhile, the Folies Bergere dancer married a prince. After the death in WWI of her son from her first marriage, she became a tertiary order Dominican living in community, working to help children who had birth defects. She may have lived a pretty shocking life at times, but in the end she knew that life wasn’t all about her.

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