Inspiring, Happy and Sad: 2019’s Anniversaries

Many events that shaped the way we live will mark anniversaries in 2019. For instance, Einstein’s theory of relativity, which changed the way we think about truth, was confirmed 100 years ago by a British Astronomer observing a Nov. 6 solar eclipse, and Freud, who changed the way we think of psychology, died 80 years ago this Sept. 23.

And in 2019, the Beatles’ album “Abbey Road” will turn 50 and the movie Lion King will will turn 25.

Here are some other anniversaries, happy and sad, of note to Catholics this year.

Click here for Aleteia’s Slideshow of 2019 anniversaries.

Jan. 16 marks the 100th anniversary of prohibition.

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution had a number of good effects, as well as its many unintended bad ones. For instance, it stopped epidemic-level alcohol abuse nationwide that is documented in Ken Burns’ “Prohibition.” It also had ramifications for the Catholic Church. One was in the Church’s favor: The I.R.S. okayed a loophole for sacramental wine for Catholics and others.  But anti-Catholic governments in Colorado and elsewhere attempted to ban sacramental wine anyway.

This spring: 25 Years since the Rwandan Genocide.

Between April 7 and July 18, 1994, nearly 800,000 Rwandans died as Hutu tribal militants killed members of the Tutsi tribe. Immaculee Ilibagiza has inspired audiences worldwide with her tale of survival in the massacre. Hidden in a small bathroom with seven other women in a pastor’s house, she eventually turned to the rosary and, “That night I prayed with a clear conscience and a clean heart. For the first time since I entered the bathroom, I slept in peace.” Prayer later helped her forgive her attackers.

June 6: 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

The heroism of the 1944 invasion of Normandy is remembered in the classic film The Longest Day which includes a depiction of Father Francis Sampson,  the “Parachute Padre,” who was among the 15,500 soldiers who jumped behind enemy lines. “Probably no chaplain, Catholic or otherwise, saw more of the horrors of the hedgerow campaign than Francis Sampson,” wrote Father Donald Crosby in Battlefield Chaplains: Catholic Priests in World War II.

Also, look for the 75th anniversaries of the Liberation of Paris on Aug. 19-25, 1955 and the Battle of the Bulge, which began Dec. 16, 1944).

July 20, 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

Pope Paul VI, with much of the world, watched the moon landing on television in 1969. “Man has a natural urge to explore the unknown, to know the unknown; yet man has also a fear of the unknown,” he said in a message to the astronauts. “Your bravery has transcended this fear and through your intrepid adventure man has taken another step toward knowing more of the universe.”

August: the 400th Anniversary of the first slaves being brought to America.

This sad 1619 anniversary cast its dark shadow across all of American history, to our very day. Catholics remember that from 1435 to 1890, popes condemned the slave trade and demanded freedom for all slaves. Christian abolitionists such as William Wilberforce (1759-1833)  in Great Britain and Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) in America would help usher in slavery’s end.

Aug. 26: 40 Years since Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize

Mother Teresa didn’t let the opportunity pass by when she had a worldwide audience in Oslo, Norway, in 1979. She called everyone to Christ and added: “The greatest destroyer of peace today is the cry of the innocent unborn child. For if a mother can murder her own child in her womb, what is left for you and for me to kill each other? … [T]oday, let us here make a strong resolution, we are going to save every little child, every unborn child, give them a chance to be born.”

Sept. 20: 500th anniversary of Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the Globe.

In a time when much of society was closely affiliated with the Catholic Church, exploration was also. In 1519, Magellan took the oath of allegiance in the church of Santa María de la Victoria de Triana in Seville, and gave a large sum of money to the monks of the monastery in order that they might pray for the success of his worldwide expedition, one of whose goals was worldwide evangelization.

Nov. 10 is the 50th anniversary of the premier of “Sesame Street.”

Yes, shortly after man walked on the moon for the first time in 1969, public television premiered this educational television show for children. The show would revolutionize both television and education, inaugurating a time when TV dominated family time and students expected to be entertained as they learned. That year in his message for World Communications Day, Pope Paul VI said, “Indeed, who can claim today not to be affected by a phenomenon of such world-wide proportions as the ever growing expansion, of the press, radio, motion pictures and television, or by their immense influence on families?”

Dec. 21 marks the 50h anniversary of Vince Lombardi coaching his last football game.

Vince Lombardi was such a legendary football coach that each year’s Super Bowl trophy I snamed for him. The proud member of the Knights of Columbus coached the Green Bay Packers to five league championships in seven years and two Super Bowl wins. He received communion daily if he could and prayed that each communion might serve as his viaticum if he died — leaving a great example for Catholics in the new year.

This appeared at Aleteia.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. His book What Pope Francis Really Said is now available on Audible. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, Hoopes served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.