Sunday, April 23, 2017

Where Have You Gone, Quasimodo?

Today is known on the Christian calendar by at least six names.

In the traditional Missale Romanum, it is referred to as “Dominica in albis octava Paschae” -- Sunday in White Within the Paschal Octave, when the robes of the neophytes are removed eight days after their initiation into the Sacraments during the Paschal Vigil. In the traditional Roman calendar, it is officially known as “The Octave Day of Easter” or more colloquially as “Low Sunday.” It has also been popularly known as “Quasimodo Sunday” (my personal favorite, hence the title), after the first words of the Entrance Antiphon, or Introit: “Quasi modo geniti infantes, alleluia ...” (“Like newborn infants, alleluia ...”) In the Eastern churches, it is known as “Thomas Sunday” as the same gospel is read, that of our Lord showing himself to the doubting apostle Thomas.

Since 2000, by decree of the late Pope Saint John Paul II, it is also known in the universal Roman calendar as Divine Mercy Sunday, "the culmination of the novena to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, a devotion given to St Faustina (Mary Faustina Kowalska) and is based upon an entry in her diary stating that anyone who participates in the Mass and receives the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist on this day is assured by Jesus of full remission of their sins." (from Wikipedia)

(I already thought Confession did that anyway. This is what I get for using Wikipedia for the short version.)

This brings up an issue which has concerned traditional Catholics in recent years, one that is presented in a 2010 issue of New Oxford Review by Robert Allard: "Is Divine Mercy Sunday Liturgically Correct?"

It is interesting to note that in the Tridentine Latin Mass, the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the epistle reading, 1 John 5:4-10, includes the mention of the blood and water as portrayed in the Divine Mercy image, not just once but three times each. This is important to note because the Feast of Mercy was established for the entire Church universal, not just for the ordinary form of the Mass.

There's also that part about Our Lord breathing on the apostles, giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins. There's a bit of mercy for the rest of us right there.

Such remembrances need to be harmonized with the liturgical season if they are to serve the faithful. This requires sufficient deference to the history of salvation as played out during the year, beginning with the incarnation, and on into the life, passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord, followed by his ascension into Glory, and the establishment of His Church on Earth through the work of the Holy Spirit. That said, there is an aspect of this devotion that may appear problematic, one that has less to do with the Feast itself, than with the novena which precedes it, one that begins on Holy Thursday, and extends throughout the Week of Easter.

Q. My pastor will allow us to pray the Divine Mercy Novena, but not on Good Friday or Holy Saturday. He says it interferes with the Holy Triduum, which are the holiest days of the year.

A. The Paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) ushers in Easter Sunday and constitutes the most holy period of the Church year. The Divine Mercy Novena does not supersede the Triduum, but extends the Solemn General Intercessions of the Good Friday observance of Our Lord's Passion and Death throughout the whole octave of Easter, building up to the day of thanksgiving for Our Lord's Divine Mercy.

This response contradicts itself. It claims that the timing of the Novena doesn't "supersede" the Tritium, and then goes on to ignore its culmination. That makes no sense. Superseding is exactly what it does.

For nearly two millennia, the Easter season, including the Octave, has been devoted to the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The traditional requirement to abstain from meat does not apply on the Friday of this octave, such is the extension of the occasion. The Fathers of the Church have told us, we have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast. Yet the novena is devoted to chanting thus: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Granted, at every Mass offered on any given day, we remember the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ -- the whole nine yards. But that comparison ends in the context of the liturgical seasons, the purpose of which are to shed a spotlight on a particular aspect of salvation history at the liturgical year progresses. There is sufficient reason to doubt that the emphasis made by this novena, given its timing, sheds that spotlight appropriately, even if we reduce it to a mere devotion (as opposed to the official prayer of the Church through her liturgical life).

If we read the history of the development of this Feast that is the Sunday within the Octave of Easter, if we understand what the readings and the orations are trying to tell us, we might consider the possibility that Our Lord was telling Sister Faustina something of Himself, which He has been trying to say to His Bride, our Mother the Church, all along. At the same time, She has long admonished us to be prudent with respect to the messages of private revelations. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 65-67).

While accepting the judgment of the Apostolic See in this matter of the Sunday commemoration itself, we may long for a further study of this devotion in relation to the whole of the liturgical year. Even if the novena is not "liturgy" in the official sense, its use in parishes during the octave of the Resurrection misses the big picture.

“We have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast.”

... for eight days, if not forty, and if you don't mind.

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To learn more about the devotion to the Divine Mercy, visit the website of the Apostles of Divine Mercy at DivineMercySunday.com, or that of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at TheDivineMercy.org. For a guide to praying the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, go to the appropriate page at EWTN.com.
 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Christus resurrexit! Sicut dixit, Alleluia!

It was on an Easter Sunday,
    and all in the morning,
Our Savior arose,
    and our heavenly King.
The sun and the moon,
    they both did rise
        with him,
And sweet Jesus
    we’ll call him by name.


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An Easter Homily of Saint John Chrysostom

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

“Awake, O sleeper ...”

Something strange is happening -- there is a silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory.

At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone, “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:

“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.

“For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, Whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

“See on My Face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On My back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See My hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

“I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced My side for you who slept in Paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

“Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly Paradise. I will not restore you to that Paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The Bridal Chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”


From a homily of St Epiphanius of Cyprus
 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday

It was on a good Friday,
    and all in the morning,
They crucified our Savior,
    and our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing
And sweet Jesus,
    we’ll call him by name.


From "the third hour" until "the sixth hour." From sext to none. From noon until three in the afternoon. Scripture tells us that our Lord was dying on the cross at this time, culminating in the words “Consummatum Est” (“It is finished”).

When we were kids, growing up in Ohio, we would either go to church for Stations of the Cross or some related devotion, or if we were at home, Mom would turn the radio off, and we were told to be quieter than usual. Thus did we mark the consummation of the ultimate act of sacrificial Love, that of the Bridegroom with His bride.

PHOTO: Gail Deibler Finke

Elsewhere in Cincinnati, a venerable custom of more than a century and a half still takes place on this day.

In December 1860, a Catholic church was completed on a bluff atop Mount Adams, overlooking the central city from the east, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Since the hill was too steep for a horse-and-buggy, there were a series of wooden steps built as well, leading from St Gregory Street near the river, all the way to the church entrance. The following spring saw the start of the War Between The States, and Immaculata Church became the site of devout Catholics praying the rosary for peace, while climbing the steps to its entrance.

Even today, the tradition continues, as every year on Good Friday (a day when it invariably rains), an estimated ten thousand pilgrims climb the 85 steps -- the wooden ones having since been replaced by concrete -- leading to the entrance. The procession begins at midnight, with the parish priest's blessing of the steps, and continues for twenty-four hours.

The Passionist Historical Archives elaborates on the legacy of “St Mary’s of the Steps”, as does the parish website.

Finally, our meditation for Good Friday is a "sand art" presentation of the road to Calvary, produced by Francis O'Donohue.
 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maundy Thursday

It was on a
    maundy Thursday,
        and all in the morning,
They planted
    a crown of thorns
        on our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus
    we'll call him by name.


Today begins the Sacred Triduum. It is quiet here at Chez Alexandre. The week has amounted to a "working vacation," mostly doing things around the house that needed being done. And yet there are preparations to be made, errands to be run, and ... more writing.

For a Catholic, as much as some try to deny it, the next three days are not business as usual. The whole of human history -- before, during, after -- turns on the events we remember this week.

Our meditation is from a poem by Jalaludin Rumi. It is translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne, with music by David Wilcox and Nance Pettit, and is produced by Bob Carlton.
 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spy Wednesday

It was on a Holy Wednesday,
    and all in the morning
When Judas betrayed
    our dear heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus,
    we'll call him by name.


This day in Holy Week is known among Western Christians by the above title (or among Christians in the East, Μεγάλη Τετάρτη, in case you were wondering), as tradition commemorates this day for when Judas Iscariot conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Our Lord, in exchange for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).

Was that a lot of money in those days?

The term in the original language, "arguria," simply means "silver coins." Historians disagree as to what form of currency is described. They could have been either staters from Antioch, tetradrachms from Ptolemy, or shekels from Tyre. (Nothing about Greek drachmas, which were either bronze, copper, or iron. Just so we're clear on that.)

Closer to the present, it is also when we here at man with black hat (more or less) interrupt our usual blogcasting in order to focus on the Main Event for the several days that follow. Stay tuned ...
 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

“I’m (still) on a mission from God!” (or, Why I Am Not Giving Up Blogging For Lent)

“Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.”

By now, any number of participants in the Catholic blogosphere have announced, with some measure of fanfare, that they are giving up blogging and other forms of social media for Lent (or, in one case, announcing giving up blogging, and then spending more time on social media, and you know who you are, Skippy!). We're supposed to admire them. They're welcome to the exercise if they'd like. In reading some of them over the years, they'd be doing us all a favor.

Meanwhile, at a place in the Catholic blogosphere well outside the Celebrity Convert Circuit, what follows is why I'm not giving up blogging for Lent. In addition, while not a complete treatise on the subject, this piece will serve to clear up some heretofore little-known aspects of the season.

The Christian calendar has traditionally had numerous periods of fasting in anticipation of great feasts. In some parts of Europe, the "Saint Martin's Fast" would begin on the 11th of November ("Martinmas"), and continue until Christmas. Officially, however, the Roman (Latin) tradition would not begin the penitential season until the four Sundays before Christmas, the time of which is known as "Advent," or "the Coming." There were also the "Ember Days," three days of penance each occurring on a quarterly basis throughout the year. But it was the season of Lent which is known as "The Great Fast" of the Year of Grace.

People assume that Lent is the only time for giving up anything, when it isn't. People also assume that giving up anything involves making a big to-do about it, when it shouldn't. Attending daily Mass is a popular exercise, and in most major cities where there are urban parishes near a business district, there will be an extra scheduled weekday Mass -- and extra time for confessions -- during the season. These things don't always call attention to themselves. They shouldn't.

But don't take MY word for it.

At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“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. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when 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. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

And speaking of the season, it doesn't necessarily start right away. The traditional Roman calendar precedes Lent with three Sundays collectively known as "Septuagesima" (literally "seventy days" but actually "within the octave of seventy days"). They were termed "Septuagesima Sunday," "Sexagesima Sunday," and "Quinquagesima Sunday," respectively. As with Lent, the priest wears violet vestments, the Gloria is not sung, and the Tract replaces the Alleluia before the Gospel. But unlike Lent, the musical accompaniment is not restricted, and flowers and other suitable decor can be placed on the reredos behind the altar, as normally done during the year.

This is also the inspiration for the pre-Lenten celebration known as “Carnival” (from the Latin for “farewell to meat”).

Meanwhile, on the eastern side of the tracks, the Byzantine Rite has five special Sundays preceding their "Great Fast": "Zacchaeus Sunday" (if only in the Slavic churches), "The Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee," "The Sunday of the Prodigal Son," "Meatfare Sunday" (or "The Sunday of the Last Judgment," when the faithful begin abstaining from meat), and "Cheesefare Sunday" (when the faithful begin abstaining from dairy products, which for them would include eggs, don't ask me why). The following day is when the the Fast begins in the East, and is generally known as "Clean Monday."

In addition, there was a time when weddings were not permitted during Advent or Lent, unless there was a serious reason. And if one was allowed, the altar and sanctuary could not be decorated as it could otherwise be for the occasion. (Try that today, and see a young lady get in touch with her inner Bridezilla, eh?)

So right now you're saying, “Pray tell us, O Black Hatted One, as you are a veritable fountain of arcane and useless knowledge, how does it explain why you're not giving up blogging for Lent?”

Well, my little minions, there is much, much more to Lent than giving up things, never mind making a big-@$$ whoop-dee-do out of it. There is a significance in the marking of sacred time, something lost on a people whose solemnities all get moved to the nearest Sunday. But you wouldn't know all that if there was no one to tell you along the way, now, would you? Duh, guess not! Besides, I had to work in all that arcane and useless knowledge somehow.

To the extent that man with black hat identifies itself as "Catholic," its author is engaged in what could be considered a propagation of the Faith. And in case it isn't obvious by now, you don't give up an apostolate for Lent, you big dummy!

But still, you must be wondering if yours truly is actually giving up anything for Lent. Well, yes, and it's something really important.

And I'm not tellin.'
 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Awake, Awake, My Valentine

We all know the story of Saint Valentine, don't we? And that there might have been more than one, and that he was removed in the 1969 reformed Roman calendar, as his account was not historically reliable by the standards set in later centuries. Well, if you don't know all that, click here. Or even here.

And while you're at it, listen to this.

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Awake, awake oh northern wind
Blow on my garden fair
Let my lover come to me
And tell me of his care
For now the winter it is past
Likewise the drops of rain
Come lie in the valley of lilies
Midst the roses of the plain

He took me to a garden fair
And there he laid me down
His left hand lay beneath my head
His right did me surround
His eyes were palms by water brooks
His fingers rods of gold
His head upon my breast did lie
His love did me enfold

Her hair is like a flock of goats
Across the mountain side
Her breasts are like the grapes upon
The vine where I shall bide
Her mouth is sweeter far than vine
And warm to my embrace
No mountain side can hide my love
No veil conceal her face

My lover's hand was on the door
My belly stirred within
My fingers wet with myrrh
I pulled the bolt to let him in
With my own hands I opened
But I found I was alone
My soul failed for my lover had
Withdrawn himself and gone

I'll get me to a mount of myrrh
And there I'll lay me down
For waters cannot quench my love
In floods it cannot drown
My love is clear as the sun
She's fair as the moon
Oh stir not up nor waken love
Lest it should come to soon

Awake, awake oh northern wind
Blow on my garden fair
Let my lover come to me
And tell me of his care
For now the winter it is past
Likewise the drops of rain
Come lie in the valley of lilies
Midst the roses of the plain

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Steeleye Span is an English folk rock band formed in 1969, partially from ex-members of Fairport Convention. They do English ballads, to a greater or lesser degree with an electric twist. Storm Force Ten was their tenth album, released in 1977. It is somewhat of a departure in that the fiddler John Kirkpatrick used the accordion instead for the whole thing. It is the only album up to that time that ever used a piano accordion.

And so it goes.
 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Scouting at 107

On this day in 1910, at the exact time of this posting, the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated in Washington DC. It stands today as one of the largest youth programs in the United States, and the second largest national scout association in the world (as Indonesia's remains the largest). Much has happened with the BSA since the 1910 centennial year, including some controversial decisions in the area of membership policy. Those are not the subject of today's entry, but rather, a view of two entries from our archives that talk about what scouting has done for yours truly.

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WHERE BUFFALOS ROAM (February 2010)

It might be rather pathetic to make much out of it, but I'm not going to lie about it either. My childhood was, for the most part, not a very happy one. My years in Scouting didn't change that. But of all the experiences I had growing up, it was Scouting that gave me the venue to rise above the fray.

Obviously, it didn't happen overnight.

I actually joined the Scouting movement in the fall of 1963, with Pack 128, sponsored by the Milford United Methodist Church in Milford, Ohio. I was in Cubbing for two years. It wasn't much of an experience, really. Even my dad, who was active in the pack as a volunteer, wasn't impressed with Cubbing as a program. I don't remember why. Two years later, as I approached my eleventh birthday, we decided I wouldn't re-register.

But the following year, in February of 1966, I joined Troop 120, sponsored by Victor Stier American Legion Post 450, also in Milford, Ohio. There were some older boys whom I wanted to emulate, but they mysteriously left en masse after about a year, leaving us with a re-organization that eliminated the Eagle Patrol, of which I was about to be made Patrol Leader. I wouldn't get close to the "green bars" again for several years.

My dad became Scoutmaster after the mass exodus, in the spring of 1967. He had little in the way of outdoor experience, but was a consummate administrator. Our "patrol leaders training" classes were run like adult business seminars, and it was only later that I discovered that they were even supposed to be held outdoor. One night, a young man in his mid-twenties walked in, wearing cowboy boots. Hey, this guy is really cool, I thought. And with that, Phil Rumsey became our Assistant Scoutmaster, and Dad's other half.

One of the problems I've always had with how troop organization is handled in Scouting, is with the "staff" positions, those which are not in charge of people but of things. Jobs like Troop Quartermaster, Troop Scribe, and Troop Librarian. I had those three jobs in that order. Advancing from the rank of Tenderfoot to Life Scout (the one before Eagle) took me only three years. I would spend another three years as a Life Scout, and in the meaningless position of Troop Librarian.

It was a dead end. I knew it, and the idiot grown-ups on the Troop Committee knew it. No one had any ideas, but if Ritalin had been around back then, they probably would have begged my parents to have me put on it.

Finally, someone -- I don't remember who -- suggested I become a Den Chief. That's a Boy Scout who helps a Den Mother or Den Leader in managing a Cub Den, sort of like a support mentor. My pack never had such things, because our affiliate troop was rather insular. But this was with the other Cub Pack in town, the one that went with the program. And, it was a "Webelos" Den, which consisted of ten-year-old boys who would be eligible for Boy Scouting in a year. They were fun kids, if several years younger, and I got along with them well enough. But it was the Den Leader, one Mr Bailey, who first taught me the lessons of leadership.

When the ten-year-olds became eleven-year-olds, most of them actually joined Boy Scouting, my Troop in particular. As remarkable as this was -- there is a high attrition rate from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts -- no one wanted them, so they stuck them in a patrol that was about to be phased out. And, of course, being desperate as they were, they made me the patrol leader. I can tell you their expectations for these guys wasn't very high.

By this time, I had read everything I could get my hands on regarding patrol leadership; program ideas, team-building exercises, the works. We went on activities as a group by ourselves, without the rest of the troop, something you only read about in the Boy Scout magazines, but never saw in real life. We had a patrol flag, and actually had our own patrol meetings. We all got together and built our own sled, and kicked ass in the competition at the district's winter "Klondike Derby" campout. The weather was near zero that night, and I spent most of it awake, keeping the fire going, and my young charges from freezing to death by sleeping close by.

When I sat before the Eagle Board of Review, in December of that year, one of the panelists said that "Dave started out as being a problem, but he ended up being the solution." I tried to start an Explorer Post (which now would be called a Venturing Crew -- long story) specializing in canoeing and camping. I actually had a few of my friends interested, but couldn't get enough adult support, so the idea tanked. But I passed the Board of Review. I stayed with the troop for another year, passing on a unanimous vote to be made Senior Patrol Leader, opting instead to be a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, a position common to Eagle Scouts who remain. Sadly, the unit was already going downhill due to poor adult leadership (my Dad was already out of the picture, another long story), and lack of support from the American Legion post (essentially a group of aging drunks).

With graduation from high school, I left Scouting behind -- reluctantly, as with so many institutions of my childhood, they didn't seem to know what to do with someone no longer a boy, but not quite a man. I was getting a part-time job after school, and making plans for college. Barely a year after joining the ranks of eagles, it was all so far away.

My son never got to be in Scouting, mostly due to the lack of cooperation from his mother. I think a few years of it would have done him a world of good, but it's all academic now. With nearly six years back in uniform, I have yet to truly find my niche.

But for a brief episode, it was mine for the taking. The image you see there is of the Buffalo Patrol of Milford Troop 120, in January or February of 1971, as I will always remember them: from left to right, Seth Wallace (whose dad was an architect, and gave me the idea to be one too), Mark Bittner (my faithful, if quiet, assistant), Eric Strathman (who later went on to become "Senior Patrol Leader," the top youth position in a troop), myself, ???? Bollman (whose dad thought he was crazy for being in Scouting when he could be playing football), and Tim Ring (one of my guitar students).

I'm breaking with convention here, by listing names of non-relatives, in the hope that the result is a fitting tribute, to one of the few high points in my childhood, and the colleagues who made it possible. What I wouldn't give to know where they are today, and how they are doing.

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I BLAME THE BOY SCOUTS (November 2010)

Scouting has been the whipping-boy for a number of "enlightened" people these days, as the people who were too cool for it got older, and more obnoxious. Then there's Boyd Matson, a contributing editor and host of National Geographic Weekend on radio.

On this, my third climb up Kilimanjaro, I already know what to expect: six nights sleeping on the ground, no bath for a week, cold wind, thin air, and maybe mild altitude sickness. I keep asking myself, “Why am I doing this, again?” Finally I come up with an answer. I blame the Boy Scouts of America. That organization stole my soul when I was a kid and planted it in the wilderness. I was too young to resist their clever sales pitch built around hiking and camping trips. And their system of rewarding accomplishments with higher ranks and colorful merit badges meant, in effect, there was always one more goal to reach, one more mountain to climb ...

It was the summer of 2003. After a bout with rehab, and from there deciding he wanted me back in his life, I took Paul with me to Seattle. I've described his escapades there in other accounts, but there was what seemed to be a climactic one. We visited a friend of mine who had a little place by the lake there in town -- of course, Seattle is surrounded by lakes and inlets, so that isn't hard -- and she had two kayaks. I hadn't been on one in twenty years, but I tried it, and it was just like riding a bike. Then, of course, Paul just had to try it. He had NEVER been in a kayak before, and when he tried it, it was like riding a bike for him too. When he got to the middle of the lake (right in the middle of potential motor traffic), he just sat there, for about ten minutes, and looked around. We were yelling at him to come back before the Harbor Police showed up, but I don't believe he knew we were there.

He never said later what it was that possessed him, but from a distance, I could swear he was having an epiphany. It was as if the events leading up to that day were coalescing into a sign, a message of where to go next.

Had he ever been in Scouting, he would have had a lot of those. I did.

(H/T to Tom Turba.)

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