Category Archives: Catholic

Edward Moore Kennedy, 1932 – 2009


It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known,– cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor’d of them all,–
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
to whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,–
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me,–
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads,– you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,–
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

by Alfred Tennyson

Daniel Davies Responds to PZ Myers

My basic sympathies are with PZ. I’m in favour of occasionally having a bit of harmless fun at the expense of the religious as long as there aren’t too many obviously foreseeable adverse real-world consequences. In other words, I’m basically of the view “it’s all fun and games until the Danish Embassy gets burned down”.

On the other hand:

… Dawkinsite militant atheists are as annoying as fundies in their own way and perhaps deserve a bit of winding up too. Thus I have determined to strike a blow in retaliation on behalf of the Catholic Church.


… I plan to tell a small, credulous child that a rainbow is a special sign from God that he promises never to flood the world again and that this proves that God exists. And PZ Myers will have this on his conscience … as a direct result of his actions.

Heh. Take that, asshole.

Happy 50th, Cardinal McCarrick

I was born and raised a Catholic, but I never did the confirmation thing as a teenager like I should have. With Dad being in the Army, we moved every year or two, certainly never more than three years in one place, so we didn’t ever really put down much in the way of roots in any one parish anywhere. And it was the seventies, when a lot of people were drifting away from the Church. And I was a typical teenagers, much more interested in girls and drugs and AOR music than some dumb old God and Jesus stuff.

So fast forward twenty-five years and part of my initial attraction to Dawn was not just that she was Catholic, but she actually went to Mass. And she invited me to go to Ash Wednesday with her. This was before we started dating proper even. And when we got engaged I wanted to go ahead and actually get confirmed, even though there wasn’t like any rule or anything that said I had to do it. But I wanted to do it.

And the whole RCIA process was incredible and great. Chris McCullough was the faith coordinator at the Cathedral at the time, and I loved him. And Michael and Barbara and Will and Bridget. And Barbara Reck, my sponsor. And the cool kids in the class of ’03 with me, Dori and James and Sam and Heather. And so come the big day, the Easter Vigil Mass, April 19, 2003, it’s Elvis himself, Cardinal McCarrick who presides and traces the cross on my forehead with the oil.

And today he celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination as a priest. Happy Fiftieth, your Eminence. Or, as Rocco Palmo says everyone calls you, Uncle Ted.

scan0013We got to meet him in a more personal setting an hour or so before the Mass that day we got confirmed, down in the East Conference Room. We lined up, each of us with our sponsors, and Chris presented each of us to and introduced us to the Cardinal, who gave us each an icon of St. Matthew, appropriately enough. It sits to this day on my dresser, gazing at me every morning as I get ready for work. He was a civil servant, St. Matthew was, and is the patron saint of same.

I had had a rather more personal encounter with his Eminence two days before that, actually, when I was one of the dozen whose feet he washed at the Holy Thursday Mass. It was really scary, actually, before hand. But then so very moving at the actual moment. For him and for us, it seemed to me.

And the other picture of him that I always carry with me is at the Vigil Mass on April 2, 2005, which otherwise would have been a pretty ordinary Saturday, except that His Holiness John Paul II had passed away that afternoon, a couple of hours before the Vigil Mass. So Cardinal McCarrick came to celebrate, and President Bush and the First Lady arrived as well. I certainly never expected to be in the same room, albeit a pretty big room, with the President of the United States ever in my life. Oh, hey, and certainly not this President. Not by choice by a long shot. But there I was. Praying so very hard: Thy will be done, and As we forgive those. Thy will be done. As we forgive those. Thy will be done. As we forgive those. The Cardinal was very warm and generous that day, much nicer than I’ll ever be.


So, it’s here and Easter is over. And funny to find out today about the readings from the Mass celebrated by His Holiness Benedict XVI a few weeks back. They certainly weren’t the readings for Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter. But apparently they weren’t just some random readings either. They were – you guessed it – Pentecost readings! Not quite today’s readings, being as they were the year B readings. We’re in year A of course.

And all this Easter season we’ve had the rite of blessing and sprinkling of holy water, during which we sing Vidi aquam. And it’s a tough little ten-note snippet, this refrain is.

It’s in 3/8 time, stretching these four simple syllables over 7 bars. The first syllable Vi– is a quarter note F followed by an eighth note G. The second syllable –di is a quarter G, an eighth E, a quarter G, and an eighth F. Third comes the a– in aquam, dotted quarters F G F. The -quam is another dotted quarter F.

You see how all three transitions from one syllable to the next happen on the same note. And for some reason they all give me trouble. The first and third are marginally less troublesome, given that the new syllable at least starts with a consonant. But the transition from the di- in Vidi to the a- of aquam is especially hard. I miss it at least half the time. Something about holding the same note but changing vowel sounds. Can’t do it.


It is and it isn’t Ascension today. That would’ve technically been May 1, really. But apparently in the Archdiocese of Washington today is Ascension Sunday.

We ride our bikes to church, so we arrive a good twenty minutes early. The 8:30 Mass is still filing out. I ask an usher about this, and he explains that there was a speaker after the Mass. Is why it seems to have run so late. I dash downstairs to use the restroom and notice a poster for the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation. Probably a speaker from/for them. We’ll likely hear him/her as well.

Back upstairs in our pew I get settled, kneeling and trying to pray. But there are still tourists from the earlier Mass wandering around and taking pictures. Seems like nowadays we’ve all got cameras, are always taking pictures, what with the digital cameras now. I’m as guilty as the rest, I suppose.

Bill Culverhouse sings an astonishing piece from Messiah, I’m not sure which piece. Thou art gone up on high; Thou hast led captivity captive, I think. But he’s in fine, wonderful voice this morning, and it’s a little lower than his usual tenor register. As I said, it’s wonderful, except for the tourists still puttering about.

The entrance hymn is A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing. I think we sang this as the closing hymn last week. But it’s totally an Ascension song. I get all excited with the third stanza, knowing the reading that we’ll get getting today.

To whom the shining angels cry,
“Why stand and gaze upon the sky?”

Oh, yeah. That’s right. We’re getting the “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” One of my total favorites.

The hymn’s tune is Lasst uns erfreuen, which Babelfish tells me means “Leave to us a pleasing” in German. I still don’t really get it. It’s an old, old tune, according to ChoralWiki. Written I guess by Pe­ter von Brach­el in 1623, although they seem also to credit it to Ralph Vaughan Williams, apparently because of his 1906 harmony thereto. I’m not sure how that works.

I should really ask Bill Culverhouse about these things. I would if I knew him better. But now he’s leaving us anyway. In June I think.

The readings today are interesting bookends, in a way. The first reading is from the very beginning of Acts. And the Gospel reading is, as Deacon Work announces it, from the conclusion of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. It’d match up even better if the Gospel were from St. Luke. Maybe they do that in other years.

And sure enough, of course, Acts begins with the Ascension of our Lord. Whoosh he goes up in a cloud, and the apostles stand there like dummies looking up at the sky.

While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I love this passage, this exhortation to get to work down here while we’re waiting for him to return. Let’s get it right, people!

The Gospel reading itself is amazing in its own way.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.

Can you imagine? It sure makes me feel a whole lot better, about my own moments of weakness and doubt. Here are Christ’s very own apostles, who have been with him for however long, who have personally witnessed the miracles. Who have seen him crucified and return from & conquer death. And yet they still doubt. Amazing.

And we do get the dude from the HCEF talking to us after Mass. I’m a little troubled by him, actually. While it sounds like they do good work, with the kids and the educational scholarships and all, I find his/their focus on ensuring a continuing Christian presence in the Holy Land a little disturbing. It’s a bit Crusade-y for my tastes.

The recessional hymn is Go Make of All Disciples. The tune is Ellacombe. I really don’t know and haven’t figured out what that one means. But I do learn that there’s something called an Ellacombe apparatus, something that aids in church bell ringing. And, in one of those little details that makes Wikipedia so great, it says that said apparatus was invented to deal with unruly bell ringers. Who knew they were such trouble.

Quick Glimpses of the Pope

I had figured that the Holy Father would finish his visit at the White House around noon, and then it would take a while for the motorcade and popemobile to get organized. And if things ran late, then he wouldn’t be heading up the hill until maybe even one.

So at noon I fire up and the live video feed. And there he is, already in the popemobile, on the move on Pennsylvania Avenue! Yikes!

I grab my backpack and coat and start running. I figure I am too late to go straight south the four blocks, straight to Pennsylvania. He’s moving west, so I head west as well, on M Street. They meet, M and Pennsylvania, right before Georgetown.

I can see the crowds down at the ends of the blocks as I hustle past 22nd, then 24th. (No crowds allowed at 23rd, at Washington Circle, apparently.) Think maybe I see the popemobile in the distance across one of the blocks as well. I finally cut south at 26th, at that little park there, just a small block north of Pennsylvania. There are a few folks lining the sides of Pennsylvania, as well as three looks like college kids relaxing in lawn chairs. I tear off my backpack to try to get the camera out, but suddenly I’m all fumble-fingered and inept with the lock. And suddenly this very second of course he goes riding by. Ah well. No picture, but I do see him pretty close, maybe half a block away. The college kids lounging in the chairs wave enthusiastically.

So that’s it then, I think, walking the few feet back to M Street. But looking west at the mess of the traffic jam trying to get into and through Georgetown, I wonder idly where the motorcade is going next. Thinking about where we are in relation to the Nunciature up Massachusetts, I suddenly realize that they’re likely to be heading up Rock Creek Parkway. And I’m only like 100 feet from the bridge where M Street goes over the Parkway.

So I trot over, and sure enough there’s the motorcade going right below. I catch my best glimpse yet of the Holy Father, sitting in the popemobile with Archbishop Wuerl, just before he goes under my feet. (I had yanked out the camera phone and tried to snap a pic with that, but the shutter lag utterly screwed me. So no pix again.)

I turn around and dash through the stopped cars to get to the north side of the bridge, to watch the motorcade head north away from me. Two cops start yelling at me, telling me that I have to keep moving, that there’s no stopping on the bridge. I usually react with solicitousness, followed soon by anger, but then immediately replaced with an overwhelming self-loathing at such encounters with preening petty authority like this. But at this moment I am filled with such cheer at having seen His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI that I do just keep moving, start walking back to the office.

Not quite the experience I was hoping to have, but a small measure of success anyway.

Michael Sean Winters

It is hard to overstate how important Michael is in my returning to the Church. I first went to see Chris McCullough, at the time the coordinator of faith formation at St. Matt’s, and after we talked he suggested I start attending the weekly inquiry meetings on Wednesday nights in the East Conference Room. The first time I went I met Will and Bridget, and the next week I met Michael and Barbara. And they traded off every week, Will/Bridget and Michael/Barbara.

But the thing that struck me right away that second week, meeting Michael for the first time, was something he said. He first asked us all why we were there. We went around the room giving various answers as to our backgrounds and relationships maybe with Catholics and what we were seeking. After we were all done, Michael said that these things were all well and good, but first and foremost, we had arrived here because God had called us here.

I was rather stunned to hear this.

You may argue as to the influence that God actually has on us on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps then it’s more accurate to say that God calls all of us, each and every one of us, all the time. So perhaps we had showed up that day because were just finally answering a phone that had been ringing and ringing for some time.

Talking to him since then, I’ve learned that he’s a writer. Wrote a lot about the scandal, priests sexually molesting kids and the Church covering it up for decades. The Scandal – it deserves capitalization, at least. Wrote for the New Republic. I had done some web surfing and scoured up a bunch of articles and put them together as The Michael Sean Winters Reader.

Have now discovered that he blogs. (Of course! Who doesn’t?) Over at America, the National Catholic Weekly. Read him there, contributing to the In All Things blog.

Going to the Show, Baby!

Just got an email from the staff assistant at the rectory. The subject line was PAPAL MASS TICKETS, so from the sender and the subject I was pretty excited right away. Of course, could always have been, “Sorry to inform you …”

But it wasn’t. Not at all.

Good Afternoon:

You have been selected to receive a ticket …

Oh, yeah. I’m in!

I kept telling myself during these weeks waiting to hear that it was okay either way, that I’d understand if there wasn’t room for me. But all that went right out the window when I saw the email. I realized how much I really really really wanted to go.

Easter Sunday

Back to St. Joe’s, to the early mass, 8:30 a.m. It’s lightly attended and there’s no music, which oddly enough makes it so very solemn and lovely.

The Gospel reading is from St. John, where Mary of Magdala discovers the empty tomb and runs to tell everyone. Peter and another, un-named disciple come running. Poor St. Peter, always the schlub, loses the race, of course.

But somehow, to me, thinking of poor St. Peter the schlub, thinking about he so often gets it wrong but keeps going, it just makes Acts or his epistles so much more real to me. To think that likely St. Paul never met Jesus, pace that encounter on the road to Damascus. But St. Peter really was there so much of the time. And so he can say,

We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.

and he’s being so entirely literal, you know? “We are witnesses to all that he did.”

Happy Easter, folks.

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

Despite how much I’m digging St. Peter’s this week, we go to St. Joseph’s on Capitol Hill for the Good Friday service.

The procession is in silence. Then when the priests reach the sanctuary, they prostrate themselves, lie there with their faces on the floor for a short time. It’s incredibly moving. The altar itself is absent its usual cloth. The Tabernacle, here at the back of the Sanctuary behind the altar, stands open and empty. And here at St. Joseph’s on either side of the Tabernacle are statues of angels which also serve as candle holders. Today they hold none; indeed, they’ve turned their backs on us as well. Everything is all so very lonesome feeling.

And there’s no Mass today, just a service.

Of the readings, the first is a long, heart wrenching piece from Isaiah. This gets me every year.

He was spurned and avoided by people,
a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
one of those from whom people hide their faces,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins

The Gospel is from St. John, two whole chapters. Nineteen hundred and fourteen words. The whole persecution and passion.

After this, aware that everything was now finished,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I thirst.”
There was a vessel filled with common wine.
So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop
and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said,
“It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

I always liked this scene in The Last Temptation of Christ. The movie, I mean. I never read the book. Willem Dafoe plays Jesus, and in this last line he says, “It is completed” rather than, “It is finished.” I don’t know what exact word St. John used in the original Greek, but I like that.


Holy Thursday

We generally stay away from our dear St. Matt’s on the big holy days. It’s so very crowded. And Dawn is, as mentioned earlier today, a little thing, and she doesn’t like big crowds. So we go to St. Peter’s on Capitol Hill.

It’s at 2nd & C Streets Southeast, just across the street from the Library of Congress Madison Building, so it’s only like sixteen blocks from our house. Normally that’d be an easy bike ride, but we’ve already ridden like fifty miles today. So we drive. I’m worried about parking, but we happily find a spot along Folger Park just three blocks away.

We’ve been to St. Peter’s before, once or twice. I think maybe Good Friday three years ago? I remember being very disappointingly uninspired. Not so today. We have the pastor Father Byrne tonight. I don’t remember him from before, but I like him very much. For his homily he talks about what it’s like to be a priest and how much he loves being a priest. It’s not remarkably Holy Thursday-ish, but it is wonderfully honest and heartfelt.

And the church itself is beautiful. As is often the case, it’s the result of a few iterations. The exterior and stained glass are from around 1890, and the interior is from 1941. The only trouble I have is finding the font of holy water as we’re walking in. One of the ushers sees me looking around bewildered and knows exactly what my problem is. She points me to the tiny cups on the backs of the last row of pews.

The most amazing thing of the night is the cantor. They’ve got a choir here, and they’re okay, no St. Matt’s Schola Cantorum or anything. But the cantor is this amazing tenor. I assume he’s the music director Kevin O’Brien, but who knows for sure. He’s lovely to listen to all the same.

And the homily about being a priest, about serving, does actually serve well for the feet washing on Holy Thursday. Of course I always think back to Holy Thursday in 2003, when I was one of the nervous folks up there getting my foot washed. I think maybe I’d feel a little more at ease with friendly Father Byrne, after the homily about how much he loves serving as a priest. Back in ’03 it was His Eminence Cardinal McCarrick. Yikes.

But it’s good stuff, the washing of the feet.

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.

Poor St. Peter, as usual, misses the point.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him,
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”

At the end of the mass comes the greatly moving part, where the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the Tabernacle, which remains open and empty. It always makes me think of Cordelia’s sad monologue from Brideshead Revisited.

They’ve closed the chapel at Brideshead, Bridey and the Bishop; Mummy’s requiem was the last Mass said there. After she was buried the priest came in — I was there alone. I don’t think he saw me — and took out the altar stone and put it in his bag; then he burned the wads of wool with the holy oil on them and threw the ash outside; he emptied the holy water stoup and blew out the lamp in the sanctuary and left the tabernacle open and empty, as though from now on it was always to be Good Friday. I suppose none of this makes any sense to you, Charles, poor agnostic. I stayed there till he was gone, and then, suddenly, there wasn’t any chapel there any more, just an oddly decorated room. I can’t tell you what it felt like.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

We attend the 8:30 a.m. at St. Matt’s, avoiding our usual 10:00 a.m. It’s not going to be the usual Latin anyway; rather, it’s the Archbishop, in English. So 8:30’s fine.

The processional antiphon is Richard Proulx, as we’ve had all through Lent. Ah, but not Psalm 130. Today it’s Hosanna to the Son of David, chant, mode VII, choral setting, no less. The procession makes it’s way to the back of the nave, rather than forward to the sanctuary. This is per usual on Palm Sunday. We’ve got palms to bless and then a gospel reading first. From St. Matthew:

Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
“Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately you will find an ass tethered,
and a colt with her.”


This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:
Say to daughter Zion,
“Behold, your king comes to you,
meek and riding on an ass,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

This confuses me every year. What’s the deal with riding on both animals at once?

In these things in the New Testament, when they say that such-and-such happened so that some particular thing might be fulfilled, the particular thing necessarily comes from the Old Testament. And here St. Matthew even tells us that it’s from one of the prophets. I assume immediately that it’s our man Isaiah. It’s always Isaiah, isn’t it?

Turns out I’m only half right. It’s a mixing of two passages, one from Isaiah, t’other from Zechariah. Isaiah’s just the “Say to daughter Zion” part. Zechariah’s the one with the livestock. Zechariah 9:9b says:

See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, Meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.

Goodness. It’s an ass, a colt, and a foal. Now there’s three animals!

Turns out I’m not the only one confused. Notice how Zechariah doesn’t ever use the word and. Apparently St. Matthew was himself somewhat confused. The annotation to the USCCB’s NAB says that the ass and the colt are the same animal, mentioned twice in a rather standard method of Hebrew parallelism. They go on to say that St. Matthew’s confusion leads scholars to believe that he was a Gentile rather than an originally Jewish Christian, mistaking the parallelism for two different animals.

The St. Matthew gospel reading ends with Jesus riding so provocatively into Jerusalem:

The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest.”

Hence the Proulx antiphon this morning. I love things like that. And we get to wave palms as well. Palm Sunday always starts out as a hooting good time.

But, of course, things turn deadly serious later. The gospel reading for the mass proper is again from St. Matthew, all but the first fourteen verses of chapter 26, followed by chapter 27 in full. It’s a solid twenty-five minutes. Two-thousand, six-hundred and seventy-nine words. The heart of the matter:

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
“This one is calling for Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge;
he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed,
gave it to him to drink.
But the rest said,
“Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”
But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice,
and gave up his spirit.

Welcome to Holy Week, people.

Fifth Sunday of Lent

All about rising up, from the depths, from the grave, today.

Much of the singing comes from Psalm 130. As is usual every Sunday in Lent, we don’t have an entrance hymn; rather, we have a chant. Specifically it’s the Processional Psalm for Lent by Richard Proulx. It’s definitely Psalm 130, but Proulx doesn’t use the New American Bible, or at least not any version I’m familiar with. Neither is it King James, although it’s much closer:

Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice.
O let thine ears consider well
the voice of my complaint.

These first few lines in fact match up with the Book of Common Prayer, of all things. But after this the lyrics diverge. The Book of Common Prayer has, “If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it?”Proulx uses iniquities (instead of what is done amiss) and who shall stand (rather than who may abide it).

The responsorial Psalm today is also 130. But, again, not strictly from the NAB. It’s the Lectionary version: “Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.” Just for the record, our Bible’s got it as, “May your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”

And just for kicks, during communion we sing a phrase from James Biery, Whoever is alive, and the choir sings verses, from good old 130.

The first reading is from Ezekiel.

Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.

Up from the depths indeed.

So of course the Gospel of St. John tells us today of Lazarus. And just like two weeks ago, when Jesus told the woman at the well, and just like last week, when he told the man blind from birth, this week Jesus tells Martha that he is indeed the Christ.

Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

But what’s most amazing about this whole story is when Jesus becomes “perturbed and deeply troubled.” Why is that, I wonder. Does he or doesn’t he know what he’s doing?

But then, this chapter in St. John relates how close these events are to Passover. It’s almost time for the Passion. So maybe that’s why. So maybe therefore, the most moving passage in all the New Testament:

When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping,
he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.

The Hottest Ticket in Town

I mentioned a letter that I had written to Monsignor, requesting a ticket to the Mass that the Holy Father will give at the baseball stadium in April. Saw this morning a small piece of the puzzle.

Tickets Arrive For Pope’s Mass In Washington

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Archdiocese of Washington is giving 14,000 tickets to about 120 Catholic dioceses for the April Mass that will be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at the Nationals ballpark.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs says the biggest share will go to the Diocese of Arlington, which will receive 6,000 tickets. The Archdiocese of Baltimore will receive 2,500.

Gibbs says the Archdiocese of Washington will announce Friday the ticket allocation to parishes that are part of the archdiocese. Each parish will receive tickets based on the size of its Mass attendance and whether it has a school or significant religious education program.

So, I was figuring that the stadium held about 45,000 people, but I wasn’t sure how many of those would be alloted to the various parishes. I thought if Monsignor got 100 tickets, then I was out of luck. If he got 1,000, maybe I had a chance. If he got 10,000, then I was in for sure. But I had no clue at all as to how many tickets he would have to work with when considering requests.

This new info makes me think he’s got closer to 100 than 1,000. I mean, if the whole Archdiocese only has 14,000 to work with, and then over half of those are going to Arlington and Baltimore alone, then I can’t see St. Matt’s getting 1,000 of the remaining. Not with like 143 parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington. That averages out to only 38 tickets per parish. But the Cathedral likely gets more than average, being bigger than average? Maybe. Dunno.

And what about the remaining 30,000 or so, the share of the stadium that the Archdiocese doesn’t have to give out? I was figuring that the schools in the Archdiocese would get a big share as well. And looking at the Archdiocese’s website, apparently they’ve got 106 schools and nearly 31,000 students. Sounds about right.

A quick check, though, at the stadium’s website tells me that it seats 41,222, not quite the 45,000 figure I was working with. But were just tossing around rough numbers here. Heck, maybe they’ll get another couple thousand on the field anyway.

Third Sunday of Lent

Dawn rides her bike to Mass, but I’m running late so I leave fifteen minutes later and drive. I park on 17th a block before St. Matt’s, right in front of the Human Rights Campaign. After crossing over to Rhode Island, I notice that Dawn’s bike isn’t locked up in the bike racks on the side of the YMCA. Has she not arrived yet? She should be here by now surely. I wait for a minute, checking my phone to see if maybe she’s called me, maybe had a flat or something. Then I decide to walk the block down to the Cathedral, see if maybe she’s locked her bike to a pole or parking meter. Sure enough, there’s her bike about halfway down the block.

I see Monsignor at the back of the nave and say hi & give him a hug. I sent him an email Thursday night last, formally requesting a ticket to the Papal Mass in April. I wonder if he’s read it yet. He must have gotten a ton of requests. I certainly don’t ask him, though. Just keep my wondering to myself.

The choir sings Justitiae Domini rectae during the Preparation and Ad te levavi oculos during Communion, both arrangements by Palestrina. I always have fun trying to decode the Latin on my own. If figure the former is The Lord builds justice and the latter is To you I lift my eyes.

Eh. I’ve done only okay. The first is from Psalm 19, verse 8, (ChoralWiki has a typo, saying it’s Psalm 18, verse 9), and the NAB translates it as The precepts of the Lord are right. I went with the wrong -rect, apparently, thinking rectae to be some form of erect, but it turns out to be like correct. And I went a little too literal with justitiae, although the King James has it as statutes rather than precepts, but I suppose the Catholics maybe work more from St. Jerome’s Vulgate, which has the Latin as praecepta Domini recta. But now wait a minute. That’s from the Vulgate’s Psalm 18, verse 9, so maybe ChoralWiki is correct in the first place. Only now I’m thoroughly confused. Some more research for another time is definitely called for here.

I’ve nailed the second one, though, Ad te levavi oculos, quite exactly. It’s from Psalm 123, first verse, To you I raise my eyes in the NAB, and I’m not going anywhere near King James or St. Jerome this time.

We’ve got readings all about thirst today. From Exodus we get Moses striking the rock at Horeb at the Lord’s command and getting water. And from the Gospel of St. John we get the story of the Samaritan woman and Jacob’s well. It’s a really long passage but Deacon Work reads the short version, the version in brackets. Don’t usually do that at St. Matt’s. Usually always get the long version.

We get from St. John his usual specificity: he tells us this incident happens about noon. But what strikes me most is that Jesus unequivocally tells the Samaritan woman that he is the Messiah.

The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.”

This isn’t like Jesus asking the disciples if they think he’s the Christ, and then directing them to keep mum when they say they think so. Here he’s saying it right out. Of course, the disciples aren’t there. They’re off buying lunch. And this woman isn’t even a Jew, rather she’s one of them there pagan Samaritans. So why is he telling her?

Heck, she even asks him why he’s getting water from her in the first place, given that, as St. John helpfully tells us, For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans. We have to really like her though, for almost teasing Jesus when he starts in with the living water metaphor. Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Heh. He doesn’t even have a bucket.

It’s interesting that Jesus then tells her that anyone who drinks the living water will never thirst again. But of the plain old well water, Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. The Exodus story of Moses and the rock apparently contrasts a later incident in Numbers, chapter 20, forty years after the first, where the people are yet again thirsty and getting angry at Moses. They’re thirsty again, see?

In the latter occurrence, though, the Lord directs Moses to order the rock to give up its waters, not hit it. But Moses instead just hits the rock again. He succeeds in getting the water flowing, all right, but for his disobedience the Lord will never allow Moses to ever make it back to Israel.

First Sunday of Lent

We don’t have processional hymns during Lent, rather just a psalm. Lord, hear my voice, we sing. Lord, hear my voice. The choir sings verses and a few members ring bells.

And it’s always a shock to me during Lent when we skip the Gloria.

During the Preparation the choir sings the Palestrina Scapulis suis, and then during Communion they sing a version by Orlando di Lasso.

The first reading is from way early Genesis. The Fall. I notice how the serpent mixes both truth and lies to trick the woman. God knows well, he says, that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil. This is true, of course. But just before that he says, You certainly will not die! And that’s most certainly a lie.

Not that she dies right away. In the epistle reading, St. Paul tells the Romans and us:

Through one man sin entered the world,
and through sin, death,
and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned

But we know where this story is going:

For if, by the transgression of the one,
death came to reign through that one,
how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace
and of the gift of justification
come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.

And that’s what Lent is all about then, for us, really reflecting on our sins, making our way, preparing ourselves, looking toward Easter. The Gospel reading for the first week of Lent is always the same story, from the different Gospels, this year St. Matthew, of Christ tempted in the desert. Like Eve was. Like Adam was. Or even more so.

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”

I wonder here, though, if the devil is again mixing truth with lies, or just flat out lying. Could he really have given Christ all the kingdoms of the world? Were they his to give, if Christ would have worshiped him?

I guess it’s temptation either way, whether the payoff is real or not. Maybe that’s a lesson in itself, somehow. Not so much what profiteth a man to gain the world. More like losing your soul for nothing. Nothing at all.

Scapulis suis comes from Psalm 91, line 4 and half of 5. Pinions are the outermost feathers on a bird’s wing.

He will shelter you with pinions, spread wings that you may take refuge; God’s faithfulness is a protecting shield.
You shall not fear the terror of the night

Ash Wednesday

We go to St. Joe’s for the 8 am. It’s about half full. I always like seeing Apollo from the Frager’s Hardware Store helping out at mass. Dawn declares that my ash smudge is pretty light and likely won’t last all day. I’m disappointed. I really prefer a big ol’ smudge. But I suppose the weak smudge is balanced somewhat by the fact that we got “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return” when we were getting smudged. I like that one much better than the “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.”

I help usher at the 5:30 at St. Matt’s. Funny that they start about two minutes early, but I suppose people are going to be streaming in late anyway. Place is jam packed SRO by about 5:40.

I always love Ash Wednesday, getting to be so publicly marked as Catholic for the day. But then of course I feel guilty, when Christ tells us in today’s gospel,

When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.

And on this day when we fast and walk around with dirty faces:

[W]hen you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.

But Monsignor reminds us in the homily that Lent is a season, a journey. It’s not just about today, but about the next forty (or so) days.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

The entrance hymn today is Christian, Do You Hear the Lord, and the recessional hymn is Christ Is the World’s Light. Both of these seem to be relatively obscure, not found in the usual places on the interwebs. Maybe they’re exclusive to the Worship Hymnal? I keep meaning to actually buy a hard copy, since, although they in fact publish it, Worship is not one of the search-able hymnals on Gia’s online hymnal site

In the first reading, there’s Midian yet again. I’ve wondered before about Midian, so some proper research later will find me, from the Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th edition, from the entry for Gideon:

The Book of Judges relates that Gideon was a strong opponent of the Baal cult. He defeated the Midianite oppressors and appeased the rival Ephraimites, thus securing a generation of peace for Israel. His decisive action gave rise to the phrase “Day of Midian,” which came to denote Israelite victory over her enemies.

So now we know.

It’s interesting to contrast the first reading from Isaiah:

First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun
and the land of Naphtali;
but in the end he has glorified the seaward road,
the land west of the Jordan,
the District of the Gentiles.

Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness:
for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.

With the quoting thereof from today’s gospel:

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,
he withdrew to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet
might be fulfilled:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

It’s always so interesting when the New Testament so specifically refers to the old, when the authors of the Gospels are really trying so hard to prove that this is the real thing, everything that’s been promised. And then when the quoting, in our translation anyway, is not quite exact. They could cheat, you know, the translators and publishers nowadays. Make it exact, make the way to the sea into the seaward road. Make it land of gloom instead of land overshadowed by death. But they don’t. I’m glad they don’t.

Father Caulfield is presiding over the mass today, per usual for the Latin, but Monsignor Jameson is with us as well. He’s sitting over with the lectors, so he’s not concelebrating or anything. So I expect he’ll give the homily. But then Father Caulfield heads over to give the homily. But then he doesn’t give a homily really, rather he just introduces a recorded message from the Archbishop, appealing to us to give. To the Archbishop’s Appeal, of course. Then Monsignor takes over at the ambo/lectern/pulpit/whatever and walks us through filling out the appeal form, line by line.

Leaving after mass we see Andy with Emily, who’s getting so big. In the fourth grade this year. Her little sister Clara is four now. Her mom Kate is still teaching at American.

Then Dr. Rousseau walks by and grabs my arm, asking my name once again. She’s giving the lecture on the art in the cathedral next week. Not in the cathedral this time, though, but up at Montgomery College. When she gave it in the cathedral years ago when the restoration was finally finished, the screen for the slide show wouldn’t stay up. So Chris McCullough and I had to stand on either side and hold it up. Was of course physically tiring after a while, but worst thing was that we couldn’t see the slides. We were there but we kinda missed the whole thing.

The Baptism of the Lord

The entrance hymn is When John Baptized by Jordan’s River, which is strangely hard to sing, but I’m not sure why. I keep wanting to hold the half-notes at all the wrong places. Maybe the rhythm of the lines confuses me because they’re longer than I’m used to, some nine syllables? Either that or it’s the mixture of words written by an apparently still living author (at least when this edition of the Worship hymnal was published), and the semi-ancient tune, one Rendez à Dieu, from the sixteenth century. And the language change as well? It’s twentieth century English words to a sixteenth century French tune. Whatever, I’m a bit flummoxed by it.

A few minutes later, instead of the Confiteor, we get the Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling Holy Water. The choir sings Asperges Me, which is the Latin for sprinkle me. Don’t it sound so much nicer in Latin? Just the word sprinkle to me is somewhat unseemly. Don’t like it. But I suppose the Latin Asperges reminds me of Asperger syndrome, which isn’t especially good either. Although the syndrome doesn’t have anything to do with water or anything, it being named for the doctor who described it and all. Anyway.

The second reading has St. Peter, from Acts, saying, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” I always love references to these sorts of things beyond our own little selves. Beyond thinking that I know what to do or how to act or how to tell anyone else how to act. I always feel like I’m probably going to step into grand heresy when I think these things, but let’s call it a sort of sola gratia thing. Except of course Peter explicitly backs up the sola gratia with a slice of sola fide and a dash of meritum as well. So what do I know?

The first reading and the Gospel reading both include references to God being pleased. First, from good old Isaiah:

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased

And then, for this day of course, the Lord’s baptism, from St. Matthew:

After Jesus was baptized,
he came up from the water and behold,
the heavens were opened for him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove
and coming upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

There’s later stuff from the Isaiah reading that makes me wonder, though. Makes me wonder about the parallel between this passage and with Christ.

[H]e shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.

Not that they have to exactly correspond, really, the chosen one from Isaiah and the annointed one from the New Testament. I guess the not making his voice heard in the street made me think of, and contrast to, the Palm Sunday scene, where Jesus goes very deliberately and provocatively riding into Jerusalem. Either way, though, what could be lovelier than:

[A] bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;

And the recessional hymn works a whole lot better for me. Songs of Thankfulness and Praise, with nineteenth century words and seventeenth century tune, with harmony by J.S. Bach no less.

The Epiphany of the Lord

One thing I notice this year, throughout Advent and Christmas, is how different folks receive divine revelation. Specifically how sometimes it’s the angel of the Lord directly and sometimes it’s in dreams. Could be that I think of this because this year is year A, year o’ St. Matthew, whereas last year was year C, of St. Luke. St. Luke’s Gospel begins with the angel of the Lord appearing to Zechariah and then the angel Gabriel appears to Mary.

But the infancy narrative in St. Matthew sorta switches perspective, in that the angel appears to Joseph instead of Mary, and not directly but in a dream. And last year in St. Luke, the angel appeared to the shepherds and told them the good news. But now in St. Matthew, as we see in today’s Gospel reading, it’s magi seeing a star and then being sent by King Herod. But they’re warned in a dream not to return to Herod.

Then Joseph is warned, yet again in a dream, by the angel of the Lord, to take the family to Egypt. The angel appears again to him in a dream when Herod dies. And then again in a dream he is warned to avoid Herod’s son Archelaus and go to Nazareth.

Maybe this is just a Luke vs. Matthew thing, angels appearing directly versus in dreams. I imagine that it goes to the different audiences to whom the authors of the Gospels were addressing. Maybe one had an angel tradition where the other just dreams. Interesting.

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

We stick around closer to home this morning, going to St. Joseph’s rather than the Cathedral. We ride our bikes. There’s no choir here, but we do get an organist and a cantor. But they seem have some sort of issue(s) between them. The organist dives right in and starts playing when the cantor is trying to tell us which hymn and hymn number it is. Happens pretty much every song. It’s funny and frustrating all at the same time.

Afterwards we ride over to Renee’s, only like five blocks away. She’s having a New Year’s Open House, one of two that we’ll be attending today. We end up having a funny conversation with her husband Jim. Renee wants Jim to take ballet, to be able to dance together as a married couple, a la Dawn and Edward. Jim’s having no part of it, although there does seem to be some deal on the table where if Renee will go golfing with him then he’ll take ballet with her. Sounds like a good deal to me, but Renee won’t do it. Guess she hates golf that much. This reminds me that I had a similar deal with Dawn, that I’d take ballet if she would … do … oh, I don’t remember what.

I discuss this with Dawn later. She remembers no such deal, although she does remember that it would have been that she’d go camping with me. If there was such a deal. Which there wasn’t.

In the afternoon we drive out to Silver Spring to Barbara Eames’s house for an afternoon open house. I like that for open houses you don’t have to knock. You just walk in. At least we do anyway. We take open house pretty literally. Just generally chatting I come to find out that Barbara’s husband Charlie is a high school teacher. At first I assume he teaches at Montgomery Blair just up the street, but, no, he teaches theology at a Catholic school.

So then I’ve got some questions for him. First is the Emmanuel/Jesus naming thing. He confirms for me that they’re the same thing. Then I try to get the scoop on the schism in 1052 [actually 1054. I was close though.] over the filioque. He loves this one. He gives me good stuff on proceeding with versus proceeding through. Oh yeah, he’s a big fan of filioque.

Later Charlie tells great stories about working at a fish market in NYC, whence come he and Barbara both. And another story about when he was first a teacher, but the union wouldn’t accept Catholics, but the Teamsters would, so they joined the Teamsters.

Christmas Vigil Mass

It’s Christmas Eve. The evening of Christmas Eve. We go to the Vigil Mass at St. Matt’s, starting at 5:30 p.m. Oh, but we get there around 4:40 p.m. though. Just under an hour early, I suppose. We would prefer to sit. It’s SRO by showtime.

And there’s a choral prelude starting just after five. It’s the Contemporary Choir of the Cathedral, not the Schola Cantorum. Many of the same members though, including the sublime Ellen Kliman, who has a dazzling solo later in the actual service, after communion. But during this actual prelude there’s some strange stuff. Something called The Holly, She Bears a Berry. And another piece called Ain’t That a Rocking All Night, which doesn’t actually rock, à la Elvis or Little Richard, like I expect it to.

But lots of singing for us too during the whole mass. O Come, All Ye Faithful as the entrance hymn. O Little Town of Bethlehem at the preparation. Silent Night and It Came Upon the Midnight Clear at communion. And Joy to the World as the recessional hymn.
And while we are indeed at the Vigil Mass, we get the readings for the Midnight Mass. First, some really earthy Isaiah:

For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.

I’m still not sure when this day of Midian is supposed to be. Is that Gideon? With his three hundred men, blowing the trumpets, in Judges 7? I get that far with Wikipedia. Catholic Encyclopedia is no help.

The Gospel is from St. Luke. That means shepherds. (St. Matthew’s got the Magi.) You know, what Linus goes on about in Charlie Brown Christmas:

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”

We get a fun moment in the Credo where we kneel at the Incarnation. Normally we just bow. Even though it’s noted in the program, Monsignor also reminds us about it just before we start, saying that we do this only twice a year, at Christmas and Easter. But the program also mentions a brief moment of prayer. But we don’t in fact stop for it. We just keep on going.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Pretty serious stuff today, almost there, almost through Advent. The first reading is from our man Isaiah. “[T]he Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” And then the Gospel of St. Matthew. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'”

But then I’ve always wondered: why did they name him Jesus instead of Emmanuel?

The Catholic Encyclopedia is not a big help at the entry for Emmanuel.

The various views advanced as to the identity of the child cannot be fully explained and discussed here; the following observations must suffice.

They go on to note that the child is not merely a metaphorical child and other such things. Bigger help maybe is over at the entry for Jesus, Origin of the Name of Jesus Christ.

The word Jesus is the Latin form of the Greek Iesous, which in turn is the transliteration of the Hebrew Jeshua, or Joshua, or again Jehoshua, meaning “Jehovah is salvation.”

So is that it? God is with us is pretty close to Jehovah is salvation.


It’s the Third Sunday of Advent. It’s pink candle day. Apparently pink vestments is also an option, but we don’t see them here.

Here means St. Matt’s, by the way. It’s good to be home.

The entrance hymn is When the King Shall Come Again; the tune is Gaudeamus Pariter by Johann Horn 1495-1547. Gaudeamus is some other form of gaudete, seems like. Maybe “our rejoicing” whereas gaudete is “your (familiar) rejoicing.” Dawn would know better than I would. And in any case it’s hard to sing. Not an easy one like the recessional hymn turns out to be, People, Look East.

More readings about stuff that’s gonna happen. From Isaiah, “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.” The response for the psalm, “Lord, come and save us.”

The epistle from St. James is especially awesome:

Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.

I just think the image of the patient farmer waiting for the precious fruit is lovely. But then it hits particularly hard to me when I think of my semi-meltdown on the plane earlier in the week over stupid old headphones. Although perhaps meltdown is a bit strong. Even in the midst of it, I knew that I would suffer waves of shame if I got too angry. That I always become ashamed after being angry. So thinking about that at the time helped me in fact from going really too far. And it’s not like I yelled or anything. But I sure did do a long slow burn.

But, instead, I need to make my heart firm. The coming of the Lord is at hand. Pay attention, dummy, St. James says to me. Pay attention to the important things.

Christian Humility, or lack thereof


I have these earmuffs that I use in the workshop to protect the (already damaged at this point) hearing from the power tools. I took them with me on the trip to Atlanta, to wear on the plane, because the noise of the engines can sometimes bother me on take-off. Plus it helps to deaden the jagged crying of babies or the idiotic conversations of the adults.

But they made me take them off today. The flight attendant told me flat out that the pilot would not take off if I continued to wear them. Strange.

I kept protesting to them that they weren’t personal electronic devices (PEDs), prohibited below 10,000 feet. I showed them that there were no wires, no batteries, no nothing. All for naught, however.

I stewed furiously throughout the flight, unable to even fire up the iPod after we were high enough. I did wear the muffs after the ding when we were told we could use the PEDs. But I dutifully took them off for landing. But still I was so pissed.

I talked to the other flight attendant and the pilot when leaving the plane. The pilot explained that it was a safety issue, that I had to be able to hear safety instructions, that it had nothing to do with electronic devices.

That made some sense, in a lame sort of way. But it also made me feel ashamed for being so angry about it for the whole flight. But another part of it was just being ashamed for being angry in the first place. It was just some earmuffs, after all.

Second Sunday of Advent

Sadly, despite my best laid plans to make it to Sacred Heart for the two o’clock Spanish mass, we have a meeting at scheduled for three for the President’s Reception workers. Then there’s the five o’clock at Immaculate Conception, but we all have to get on the bus at six to head over to the Piedmont Driving Club.

So I don’t make it to mass at all anywhere. Sigh.

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

It’s been very nerve-wracking trying to schedule time to go to Mass during Annual Meeting. Even worse, in addition to the usual Sunday obligation, today’s a holy day of obligation as well. I’ve got the 5:30 vigil mass at Sacred Heart on my schedule, in hopes of going, even though said vigil mass is more for the Sunday obligation rather than the holy day.

But planning with Dante all during the day, I discover that the even closer Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is having an extra mass at five, in addition to their usual Saturday at nine in the morning, for their feast day. Things are fairly quiet around the staff office and my ticket booth, so we dash over by cab.

It’s a modest but lovely church. Sign says it was the first Catholic church in Atlanta. The original wooden structure some blocks away, gone now, while this building erected in 1872. I do so love old churches.

But going to a different church for mass is something of a dance, not knowing where and how they practice certain things. We sit near the back, but Monsignor Gracz announces right at the beginning that he’d like everybody to move as far forward as possible. So we hike up to the front row. Then Monsignor basically begins the mass standing in the nave in the back. Strange and backwards. And he asks us to start out by introducing ourselves to everyone around us. Andy is right behind me, Regina is two rows back. I tell Regina that she has the best name for today.

Finally Monsignor processes up to the sanctuary. Our singing is not remarkably good. The opening hymn is Sing of Mary, Pure and Lowly. Then, for the readings, Monsignor comes and sits in the pews, in the front row, right next to me. The first reading is from Genesis, “After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree.” Original sin time. Good for today though, for the Blessed Virgin, born without it.

Lotta folks misunderstand the Immaculate Conception, of course, confusing it with the virgin birth of Christ. Then all the non-Catholic denominations who do understand what we mean by it specifically reject the Immaculate Conception as strange dogma, recent too. To me it’s pretty easy to go along with it. I mean, if you’re going to believe in the concept of original sin in the first place, how hard is it to think of the mother of the savior as being without it? Not a big leap. For a God who can create the entire universe, this particular item doesn’t seem like it’s that difficult, yeah?

But, back to the reading, totally fie on Adam for immediately trying to blame Eve for his own actions, for taking that bite of the apple. For shame. Very weak, but I suppose typical of my gender.

The Gospel reading is from Luke, because, hey, it’s the Blessed Virgin’s day and St. Luke is totally the best for all things Marian. It’s the Annunciation, although sadly it doesn’t quite go all the way through to include the Magnificat. Whenever I picture this scene, the Annunciation, I always imagine the angel Gabriel up above Mary, being an angel and being able to fly and all. But then my favorite painting of this scene, by Boticelli, has Gabriel kneeling reverently below Mary. Either way:

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.

And note also that there’s a separate feast for the actual Annunciation itself, a movable feast in the Catholic church, normally March 25.

First Sunday of Advent

Happy New Year!

Although it’s kinda funny, this whole new beginning today, switching from Year C to Year A in the lectionary, and yet we sing the exact same responsorial psalm as last week. Yep, same exact one.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I like it. “Jerusalem, built as a city.” Although then the lectionary has the next line as “with compact unity,” whereas the NAB for Psalm 122 reads “walled round about.” I wonder about this. The walled round about makes me think of Rome, when we were there, where we followed the old wall around for a while, when we got lost after riding the subway. The compact unity makes me think of my own city, so compact, with nowhere to grow. Not that I’m thinking that either Rome or DC is Jerusalem. Or should I be like Blake, bringing Jerusalem home? On these dark satanic grounds?

The first reading is from good old Isaiah:

They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.

When, oh Lord? Soon? I suppose I’m not unique in this, thinking that maybe all this might be sorted out in my lifetime. I hear tell that St. Paul himself felt that way too, and he was off by at least two millenia. Still, I sure do love the idea of beating swords into plowshares. (Hmm, feels funny spelling it that way. I’d go with ploughshares myself.)

Next up is St. Paul, being antsy like I am. “You know the time,” he tells us. “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.” He goes on to say that salvation is going to come even sooner than anyone thought.

For year A we go back to the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Today’s reading has Christ telling us that none of us knows the hour when the Son of Man will appear. Like a thief in the night, he tell us. I’ve always found that amazingly jarring, the thief in the night simile. Always seems so backwards, so negative, to compare the arrival of Second Coming as like the arrival of a thief. I suppose that’s the point, to defy expectations, to make sure we know that things are going to be might different from now on.

All of the readings then, all about anticipation. It’s that time of year. Something’s coming.

Changes in Latin Mass Music

I didn’t mention, but we experienced something of a change to our routine on Sunday at the Latin Mass. Generally when the choir is around they’ll sing some cool Palestrina arrangement of the Gloria after we’ve recited the Confiteor and sung the Kyrie antiphonally with them. But the bulletin tells us that starting today we’ll be singing the Gloria together, apparently to “increase the opportunities for full and active congregational participation.” Um, okay, whatever. But then also the schola will sing the Agnus Dei without us now. I don’t understand how getting us to sing the Gloria but taking away the Agnus Dei increases our participation. If anything, it’s a wash, right?

I always thoroughly enjoy singing the Gloria, when the choir is gone between the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Lent. And I enjoy hearing them sing the different arrangements other times. So it’s funny how unsatisfying it is today to sing the regular old Gloria with them.

And I do so miss the Agnus Dei. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, but I’ll always remember how we chose to have the Latin for our wedding mass. When time came for it, poor Jenny the cantor raised her hand and sang it, but few if any of us sang along with her. I sure didn’t, not knowing the words. So I sure know them by heart now. (It’s so short and simple anyway.) And the schola’s first two petitions in chant aren’t nearly as great as how we all used to do it.

Sigh. I hate change.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The first reading is from Sirach. I love the whole tone of the reading, something of the preferential option for the poor about it that really appeals to me. But an early line jumps out at me, jarringly, noting that the Lord is “not unduly partial toward the weak.”

I’m a little stunned: isn’t God unduly partial toward the weak? Shouldn’t God be unduly partial toward the weak?

Apparently not. And I suppose that’s just, given that Sirach tells us simply that the “one who serves God willingly is heard,” so being rich and powerful is not necessarily a barrier to being heard by God. But then this is still, after all, an Old Testament sentiment. Maybe I should be glad that it’s at least this partial to the lowly, before Christ comes and changes everything.

I especially enjoy the imagery of the prayer of the lowly piercing the clouds.

Volunteer Happy Hour

After work I go to the Fourth Estate Grill, where used to be the Ha’penny Lion. There’s a meet and greet for volunteers for the upcoming benefit and concert to celebrate the Feast of St. Matthew at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. I’ve been so out of touch with the Adult Formation Committee, having been slaving over the TIMSS upgrade for so long. It’s good to try to plug back in.

Nancy Lutz is working the door, and it’s good to see her. Pat Durham greets me warmly, and it’s good to see her too, except that we see her every Sunday lately at the 8:30 mass, where she’s an EME. Maureen’s there, and it takes me a while to screw up my courage and go say hey, since she’s the Faith Formation Coordinator for the Cathedral. The one whose committee meetings I’ve been missing all these months. Happily for me, she’s still nice to me and excited that I’m going to be helping out for the benefit.

The bar has some food out for us, and I eat yummy celery and carrot sticks. I grab a few crackers, but they turn out to be like really bad or something. Too old and stale, maybe. I meet a couple of new people, new to me anyway. Mostly I talk to Ella, from the World Bank. She’s been in Washington for nine years but only recently has started to come to St. Matt’s. She’s originally from the Philippines. She goes to the 8:00 a.m. mass. Every day. I feel like such a slacker.

Monsignor is there, but he’s always surrounded by people, so I don’t get a chance to say hi. Maureen says there’s a meeting next week to discuss next steps for this big shindig.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The music leaflet says that the opening hymn is Christ is Made the Sure Foundation and the closing hymn is There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy. First, that Wideness song always makes me think of Renee Weidman. Beautiful but, sadly, troubled Renee. God bless her. Anyway, next I think, hey, didn’t we sing these same two hymns last week? No, actually, ’twere Christian, Do You Hear the Lord and Now Let Us From This Table Rise. Maybe based on the same tunes? Nope, Westminster Abbey and Wellesley this week, something I don’t know can’t find and Deus Tuorum Militum last week. But, hey, we did sing Wideness six weeks ago.

I have something of an epiphany, maybe a mini epiphany praying before mass starts. I get to the part in the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I usually think of this passage when I’m annoyed at someone about something, and then I think of the forgiving as something that maybe is really really hard to do but is just simply something that one must do. It’s just what we do. End of story.

But for some reason today I get to thinking about how the two are connected, the begging God’s forgiveness for our own trespasses, as we forgive etc. And I think about how our trespasses are generally not against God but against each other. I think of how sin can be basically defined as anything that takes us further from God, including, and maybe then especially, when we do something against someone else, not necessarily towards or against God himself.

All good stuff to be thinking about, but then the readings themselves all turn out to be about sin and forgiveness. It’s pretty cool. But I get especially excited at the Gospel, from Luke of course, where the Lord gives us the Our Father. I’m waiting also for the explanation about loving God and loving one’s neighbor. But of course that was two weeks ago, and that’s probably why I’m making this connection. Oh, well, better late than never.

The first reading is from Genesis, good old Abraham getting all lawyerly with God. “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes!,” he says. Hah. But God let’s him get away with it. And it’s times like these where I wonder about God’s omniscience. That he knows all that’s happened and all that will happen. What does he get from this conversation? See how he lets Abraham bargain him down, from fifty to ten? But it’s not really bargaining down from God’s perspective, is it, since God knows that Abraham’s going to pull all this on him, has always known. So it can only be a lesson for Abraham, even though Abraham thinks he’s being all slick, especially with the false humility.

Or is it false humility? Or do I only look at it with the jaded, ultra-ironic eye of the here and now? Maybe gotta find out more about this Abraham guy. All I really know is the story of Sarah and Hagar, & Ishmael and the water from the rock.

St. Paul writes to the Colossians about the “the uncircumcision of your flesh.” What the heck does that mean? It makes me think of the battle in early Christianity, whether Christianity was this new separate thing or just a specific sect of Judaism, whether this was open to the Gentiles or not. Of course it turned out to be this new thing, open to the Gentiles, who didn’t have to be circumcised. So here maybe Paul’s trying to get sorta metaphorical about circumcision, maybe saying that becoming a Christian involved being circumcised, either physically or metaphorically. Maybe? Seems like that’s got to be it, given the earlier verse, talking about being buried in baptism with Christ, being raised from the dead with him. Definitely metaphor there.

The reading is just verses twelve through fourteen. Verse eleven gives a better clue as to the whole metaphor: “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ.” So, there he just goes ahead and says it, that it’s not actual physical circumcision, not “administered by hand.”

The Gospel is also somewhat strangely funny, where Christ asks what father would give his son a snake or a scorpion when he (the son) asks for a fish or an egg. It’s just an amusing image to me, actually picturing this little boy asking for an egg and getting a scorpion. I can’t really imagine the boy asking for an egg, though. How would he do it, ask his dad for an egg. “Hey, Pa, can I have an egg?” Just doesn’t sound right. Maybe more like:

Kid: Morning, Dad!
Dad: Morning, son. You’re up early. Hungry?
Kid: Yes. Starving.
Dad: Whaddya hungry for? Want some toast? Waffles? An egg, maybe?
Kid: Ooh, yeah. An egg.

And so Dad reaches behind his back and hands the kid …

… a scorpion!

Kid: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

(And this little scene for some reason reminds me of Shakespeare. Think Winter’s Tale. Exit, pursued by bear.)

Christ’s ultimate point, though, is rather astonishing:

If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?

He’s talking to us, and says flat out, we are wicked. Wicked. But all we have to do is ask for the Holy spirit. That’s all. Ask for the egg, and get the egg.