Monthly Archives: September 2006

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A stunning first reading, so clearly pre-figuring the Passion.

For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him.

I love Old Testament readings that do this.

The Gospel reading is from St. Mark, where the disciples are arguing, arguing as to who among them is the best disciple. What are they, like junior high students or something? I’m the best, says one. No way, I’m so totally the best of the best, says another. I’m pleased at how utterly human they are, like we are as followers today, as much as I’m annoyed by them.

Surprise Party

We’re up early to drive to New Jersey. Main and Erin are throwing a graduation party for John. Supposedly.

Rumors have been flying about this party all summer. I’m so dense I wouldn’t have figured it out for myself, but Rob & Carol decide that it’s going to be a wedding rather than a graduation party. I initially dismiss such talk as silly, but the closer we get to the actual event the more I’m convinced that they’re really getting married.

So we get to the Madison Hotel in Morristown NJ, all of like fifteen minutes before the official start time of one p.m. I’m a little panicky, really not wanting to be late for a wedding, in case it is a wedding, right?

And first thing I see is the sign directing various folks to the various functions being held in the hotel, and the item of note says Lawler/Melick Surprise Party. Now, this was billed as a simple graduation party. No surprise. Yup, must be a wedding.

I quickly change in the spacious restroom, and when I come out I find Dawn. Then we find Main and John. I see John’s in a suit, and Main’s, yup, in a white dress. It’s a wedding.

But there’s cocktails from one to two, so needn’t have worried about being late. Who is late, however, is Annmarie. We chat with her son Patrick and his wife Valerie, who have been in cell phone contact with her, but don’t want to tell her why she should hurry.

Happily Annmarie shows up in plenty of time, whereupon Main assures her that she wouldn’t have started without her, and Annmarie bursts into great sobbing tears anyway.

The bride is lovely and the groom is especially spiffy. Erin is spectacularly dazzling. A Catholic priest good-naturedly performs the civil ceremony. Main and John touchingly recite their own vows.

And Erin later gives her own touching speech for a toast to the happy couple.

What grand fun.

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Some tough readings today, all about action. Can’t just talk the talk; rather, gotta walk the walk.

Isaiah tells of real hardship for following the Lord. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. Really raw suffering, for his faith. And St. James asks us, What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? He says that just wishing the poor and hungry a good day doesn’t do them any good. It’s feeding them and clothing them, not just sympathizing but comforting, actually providing, that counts. And Christ tells us:

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it.

I think about these things and wonder: how much is enough? And I know that however much I think is enough, it’s not enough.

And but then I think of poor Martin Luther and justification by faith alone.

So, as I see it, you gotta walk the walk. It doesn’t count. But you gotta walk it anyway.

The Holy Father and Islam

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI gave the speech on Tuesday, days ago now, but it’s all just now starting to get into the news. Certainly I first year about it today. I of course do the right thing and go find a copy & read it. Hard to know what to think about reactions to what the Holy Father said without actually knowing what he said, huh?

So I read it and am not especially outraged. He quotes a fourteenth century Byzantine emperor, quoting a rather charged statement actually, but qualifying the quotation by noting that it’s a rather charged statement. And apparently I read an early translation of the orginal German into English, which translation misses even more qualifiers.

But, okay, I’m not a follower of Islam, so I won’t pretend that I can adequately judge their sensitivies to bias and insult. I myself am fairly sensitive to anti-Catholic sentiment, heck, was so when I didn’t particularly believe in God. So let’s just stipulate that what the Holy Father said is in fact offensive to Islam.

Does that justify fire-bombing churches? (Although neither of the two churches bombed in Nablus were actually Catholic churches. One was Anglican and the other Greek Orthodox.) And shooting and killing a Catholic nun in Mogadishu? That’s just fucking crazy.


My mother was stuck in Mexico, having been scheduled to fly back later on the day of the attacks. My father’s girlfriend Sharon was actually in the air, coming back from Germany, and got diverted to Canada. Dad later drove to Detroit to get her.

I wasn’t sure the next day whether to go to work. Whether the office was open. Whether the city was open. And we were all pretty keyed up for like a whole month after that, where any emergency vehicle siren was upsetting, where guys were stationed on every street corner on top of Humvees and holding machine guns. National Airport didn’t open for more than a month.

I remember rallying behind President Bush. Heck, we all did. And Le Monde saying, Nous sommes tous Américains, remember? Where did that go?

I didn’t especially relish the idea of invading Afghanistan, but I didn’t especially oppose it either. I mean, the President certainly gave the Taliban every opportunity to give up Bin Laden. (Although I suppose that Bin Laden pretty muched owned the Taliban, so it’s not like they very much could do anything. But live by the sword, you know?)


Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

An English Translation of the Mourner’s Kaddish


It was a Tuesday morning and I was at work, of course. I worked at Arthur Andersen, at the Office of Federal Tax Services, at 1666 K Street Northwest in Washington DC. I was on the tenth floor. At some point my boss Bethany came by my cubicle and asked if I had heard what was going on in New York. I hadn’t.

So I made my way down to the ninth floor, to the legislative practice, where they had TV sets, usually with C-SPAN on them. It may have been Rachelle Bernstein’s office, or maybe Andy Prior’s, I’m not sure. Maybe Carol Kulish, now that I think about it. But she wasn’t in the legislative practice, I don’t think. I seem to remember John Rooney being there as well. Anyway, doesn’t matter.

Both planes had hit the World Trade Center by then, but the news anchors or reporters or whoever were still talking as if they might have just been small planes. They weren’t sure yet that they were airliners, that they were hijacked airliners. I went back up to my desk and turned on my little radio, my little ten-dollar radio shack transistor radio, that I had bought to listen to coverage during the recounts in November and December 2000. I still had no idea of the magnitude of what was happening.

It must have been soon after that that I heard about the plane hitting the Pentagon. That was a good bit closer than New York City, just barely over two miles. What was more worrisome, though, were reports on the radio that the Old Executive Office Building, right next to the White House, was on fire. That was 450 yards away. The radio also said that there had been a car bombing at the State Department (a rather safe 11 blocks away) and that there was a plane circling the Capitol. Really was turning into the craziest fucking day.

I went downstairs again to check the television news. I saw that someone had wheeled in and turned on the TV in the main conference room. Nobody was in there watching it, but it was on. And amid the chaos and chatter they were saying that one of the World Trade Center towers had collapsed.

My God. There were tens of thousands of people who worked in there. Tens of thousands dead?

I wandered back upstairs in a daze. I went into Bethany’s office and mumbled that one of the towers had collapsed. She put her hand over mouth and just stared at me. Then she said we were leaving. This was about quarter after ten. I saw Glenn Carrington, the office managing partner, in Jim Malloy’s office. I think it was just a few minutes later when he shut the office down and sent us all home, but we were on our way out anyway.

Bethany, Abbie, and I went across the street to the Metro, to the Farragut North station, on the Red Line. We were under a vague sort of impression, one of us had heard somewhere, that the Metro had shut down, but we went down into the station to make sure anyway. The trains were in fact still running. We hopped on the next train and rode it to Friendship Heights.

I had been in phone contact with my brother. It was at the Friendship Heights station where he told me that the second tower had fallen. He also told me that our sister was not in New York City this particular morning, that she was still at the Coach facility in New Jersey.

I drove Abbie and Bethany to their respective homes, then went back to my apartment, a couple blocks past Western Avenue, just outside the the city line. My girlfriend had moved out the previous weekend, taking her TV with her, so I didn’t have any way to watch any news the rest of the day. And I lived right by a top-forty radio station tower, so all I could get on the radio was that crappy music station, and they weren’t having any news. And by this time phones lines were all jammed, and all I had was dial-up Internet, so no news there either.

So I spent the rest of the day just lying around with my kitty Gwen. I knew that the FAA had grounded all air traffic, so I would get pretty rattled when any jet would come screaming low overhead. They were low, and so very loud. Military fighter jets, evidently.

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

We’re back to the ten a.m. Latin Mass, and today we’ve got special guests Papa Joe and Mother Dillon. Sarah always likes to come to the Latin Mass with us, but this is a first for us with Joe. Last time he came he flew out too early to go with us.

The choir is back. Hooray! You know what that means? That’s right. Palestrina!

From the always useful Wikipedia:

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c 1525–2 February 1594) was an Italian composer of Renaissance music. He was the most famous sixteenth-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition. Palestrina had a vast influence on the development of Roman Catholic church music, and his work can be seen as a summation of Renaissance polyphony.

The choir sings the Gloria from Palestrina’s Missa brevis, then later, during the Preparation, the sing Ad te levavi oculos (To thee have I lifted up my eyes) by Palestrina as well. During communion, one of the sopranos sings an absolutely lovely solo from Handel’s Messiah.

The first reading is from Isaiah, and it makes me think of 9/11:

Thus says the LORD:
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.

Although I’ve generally been thinking a lot about 9/11, the anniversary of which is tomorrow. Not that I think that this particular passage implies at all that God is on our side, nothing like that. Rather, it’s to me more of just an encouragement, for us, and for me, one whose heart is so often frightened.

But it’s the Gospel reading that really knocks my socks off. It’s from our Year B main man, St. Mark, of course. In it, Jesus cures a deaf man.

[P]eople brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!” -. that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.

What’s so great is that spitting, that so completely human, low-tech way of producing a medicinal salve. And then, and then, he groans. How utterly strange, groaning. Again a so very human method, this time of incantation. But, no, pre-human even, pre-verbal. Then that strange word, ephphatha. This is all so very cool, picturing Jesus being so completely caught up in what he’s doing, so dramatic, looking up to heaven and groaning. It’s like a purely cinematic moment. And never mind the miracle itself. We see that time and again in the Gospels. But never so dramatic as this.

Happy Birthday, Sweetest Sexy Babe Wife


Happy happiest of birthdays to my lovely wife Dawn.

I met Dawn in an elevator, sometime around Thanksgiving 2001. She was leaving early to go to ballet class and I was heading down for some free turkey in the lobby courtesy of the building management at 1666 K Street. I asked her if she was going for the food and then teased her when she said she was leaving early.

When later I showed her that I knew first, second, third, etc., foot positions, apparently she found me charming.

I soon started dating someone else, but that ended fairly quickly. Soon after that Dawn and I were dating. Then we got engaged. Then we moved in together. Then we got married.

Apparently she still finds me at least somewhat charming. She hasn’t traded me in yet anyway.

Happy birthday, to you, my dulcet darling.

Birthday Party

Busy, busy day, starting with yoga, of course. It’s Purvi’s last day assisting Carol’s Saturday 9:15 class. She apparently is graduating and moving on to teaching on her own.

Then after lunch we’re off to pick up Dawn’s parents, Mother Dillon and Papa Joe, from the airport. We watch a plane taxi to gate seventeen, but the screen has told us that their flight is arriving at gate nineteen. So it’s something of a surprise when they walk up to us as we’re just sitting there, like we were too lazy to go wait right outside security for them. We’re a bit embarrassed.

First to arrive to the party are Gordon and Ally, who arrive early as they have to leave early. Babs is running in some sort of 9/11 5K, and they have to go cheer for her. They’ve brought their salsa, which Dawn specifically emphatically repeatedly requested. Many other family, friends, and neighbors start flowing in not too much later: Dad, Rob & Carol, Kevin & Clare, Renee & Jim, Kara. I hope I’m not forgetting anyone. Most everyone brings a bottle of wine with them. Dawn gets pleasantly drunk. I eat too much, so I’m too full to drink too much.

We have two kinds of pie in lieu of cake, both pies that I’ve in fact made myself. The one is a pumpkin-gingerbread pie in a baking dish, the easier of the two as it’s made with canned pumpkin and gingerbread mix. The other is a more personal statement, a maple walnut pie, for which I’ve made the crust. I’m pretty proud of my pie crusts.

We have two candles, one a big wax four and the other a zero, instead of actually having forty candles. We sing Happy Birthday, then Sarah remembers that she wants a picture of this, but needs to go upstairs to get her camera. So while we’re waiting we sing again, then add my Dad’s May the dear Lord bless you verse. Finally Sarah returns and gets her picture.

There’s a lot of dishes to do, even though we used paper plates and plastic cups and whatnot as much as we could. There’s a ton of leftovers too, that we’ll be eating for days.

Half Day

I work only half the day, or maybe a little more. Dawn’s at home all day getting the place ready for her parents’ visit and tomorrow’s party. I’m hoping to dash just after noon, but then Arthinia needs to finish entering some booth orders so that I can run an exhibitor list for her. I leave sometime around one-thirty.

I get home and work through my list of chores that Dawn has thoughtfully drawn up for me. The biggest is cleaning off the workbench, and then moving it to the center of the workshop/dining room so that we can use it as a buffet table for the party. Man, it’s really heavy. I originally built it so as to be portable, too, is the thing. So as to be able to dis-assemble it for storage and to re-assemble it as needed. But that was before we decided to turn the dining room into the workshop. Before I added the hardboard back to lessen the already minor racking of the base assembly.

President Confirms Secret CIA Prisons

Original story here.

Bush Says Detainees Will Be Tried
He Confirms Existence of CIA Prisons

By R. Jeffrey Smith and Michael Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 7, 2006; Page A01

President Bush yesterday announced the transfer of the last 14 suspected terrorists held by the CIA at secret foreign prisons to the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and said he wants to try them before U.S. military panels under proposed new rules he simultaneously sent to Congress.

Bush’s statement during an impassioned East Room speech represented the first time he has confirmed the existence of the CIA program under which Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and others have been secretly held and subjected to irregular interrogation methods.

It’s these kinds of stories that I honestly and truly have trouble reading. I actually start to get physically sick and have to turn away. There was a point in say late 2001 when I use to exclaim that I simply must be on fucking Mars, because the world just did not make sense to me anymore. That feeling’s passed, to be replaced by an incredulous wonder at the path that we have taken, at the things we do now.

Secret prisons. We’re operating secret prisons. Irregular interrogation methods. This is also called torture. It’s all just so a priori wrong.

In the movie The Untouchables, a Chicago beat cop, played by Sean Connery, describes to federal agent Elliot Ness, played by Kevin Costner, the “Chicago way” of dealing with criminals. Agent Ness subsequently murders a captured suspect, throwing him from a roof. He declares, “I have broken every law I have sworn to uphold, I have become what I beheld, and I am content that I have done right.”


ASH Kickers v. Kick This

We play the team called Kick This, the light blue team, which team actually I’ve met, since I reffed one of their games a couple weeks ago. I reffed quite poorly, and maybe even they lost because of my poor skills. I felt pretty bad.

They don’t play so well, but we play abominably, although the final score of 4 to 1 doesn’t really do our horror show any justice. There’s the one point where we’re on defense, and at one moment they’ve got two runners on third. Cole, our third baseman, is screaming for the ball, alas, to no avail. The runners have time to chat, plot some strategy even, before deciding that maybe the best thing to do is to try for home. They both make it.

Kevin drives me home and we both agree that we’re not having any fun playing on the team.

Joe Hill

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me.
Says I, But Joe, you’re ten years dead.
I never died, said he,
I never died, said he.

In Salt Lake, Joe, says I to him,
him standing by my bed,
They framed you on a murder charge,
Says Joe, But I ain’t dead,
Says Joe, But I ain’t dead.

The Copper Bosses killed you Joe,
they shot you Joe, says I.
Takes more than guns to kill a man,
Says Joe, I didn’t die.
Says Joe, I didn’t die.

And standing there as big as life
and smiling with his eyes,
Says Joe, What they can never kill
went on to organize,
went on to organize.

From San Diego up to Maine,
in every mine and mill,
where working-men defend their rights,
it’s there you find Joe Hill,
it’s there you find Joe Hill!

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I, But Joe, you’re ten years dead
I never died said he,
I never died said he.

— Alfred Hayes, c. 1930

Labor Day

Tommy Wells, candidate for city council, rings the doorbell, with him a woman with an SEIU sticker on her shirt. Tommy says that he’s appropriately campaigning with a member of organized labor today on Labor Day.

I tell them that I’ve been thinking about the great Flint Sit-Down Strike today. I greet the woman cheerfully, telling her that I know SEIU stands for the Service Employees International Union. And that they just celebrated their one-hundredth birthday in 2003. Happy birthday, I tell her.

Later research will show me that I’m terribly confused, that I’m actually thinking of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. They are kind, however, and ignore my mistake.

I tell Mr. Wells that, although I like him and appreciate him coming by, I am not a registered Democrat and thus cannot help him on September 12. I’m happy to support him in the general election in November, but for now he needs to speak to the missus.

Handily, she’s just coming around to the front from the back yard. Mr. Wells and Dawn chat for a while.

(A couple days later Dawn will receive in the mail a nice hand-written note from Tommy thanking her for her time and asking for her vote.)

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

The choir returns next week, so this is our last week coming to the 8:30 a.m. Mass.

Good German tunes for singing today. The processional hymn is The Master Came to Bring Good News, to the tune Ich Glaub an Gott, German for I believe in God. The recessional hymn is How Shall They Hear the Word of God, to the tune Auch Jetzt Macht Gott, German for Also now makes God or Still God Makes. Whatever that means.

The first reading is from Deuteronomy, Moses addressing the people, telling them to observe faithfully and exactly the laws he has given them. One line, [Y]ou shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it, brings to mind the Gettysburg Address, where President Lincoln says that the brave men who fought there had consecrated the ground far above our poor powers to add or detract.

(The second reading from St. James has something of a similar notion as well, when he says about God, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.)

But it’s that admonition from Moses that to me colors, and in doing so confuses me about, the Gospel reading from St. Mark. The Pharisees ask Jesus why some of his disciples do not wash their hands before a meal. The narrative explains that this practice is something that all Jews do, as a way of keeping the traditions of the elders.

But it’s more than just a tradition, isn’t it? It’s a direct mitzvah from the Torah, and Moses specifically says that no one is to add or subtract from that. But then Jesus answers the Pharisees in such a way as to emphasize the spirit of the law rather than the letter.

Peter O’Toole

As I’m getting out of the shower, drying off, Dawn asks me if I’ve heard about a Lassie moving coming out. I haven’t, actually. She tells me that Peter O’Toole is in it.

Isn’t he dead? Is this a new movie? Dawn doesn’t think that he’s dead. She says it’s a new movie.

I tell her that I met Peter O’Toole once, and she asks me what he was like. Drunk, is what I remember. And I tell her that he was trying to nail Babs. Dawn observes that this simply proves that Peter O’Toole has good taste.

Babs was wearing a provocative red dress, I also remember.