Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Critical Mass: Lost (and Found) in Translation

(WARNING: A serious instance of ecclesiastical minutiae is to follow. While of potential benefit to its intended general audience, the reader is advised to proceed with caution, as occasional glazing over of the eyes may result.)

Most Catholics who attend Mass regularly on Sunday would be surprised to learn that its original language is (still) Latin. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, there followed more than simply translating the Latin of the Mass into the vernacular. The Mass was revised in response to the Council*, and the "Novus Ordo Missae" was released in its current form by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

In recent years, serious concern has been expressed over the official English translation of the original Latin text. What has been touted as "dynamic equivalency," that is, taking into account the broader view of the text and the sensibilities of the audience, has been cited as an excuse for literary banality, a diminishing of the sacred, and in some cases, a lack of theological precision.

After years of resistance from participating bishops' conferences in the English-speaking world, and from the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), the official body through which these conferences participate in the translation and publication of official texts, Rome has intervened.

For years, when the priest said: "The Lord be with you," the assembly would respond: "And also with you." In the years to come, they will instead respond thus: "And with your spirit." This is a more literal and faithful rendering of the Latin "Et cum spiritu tuo." It also acknowledges the sacred. You know, that thing about "your spirit" and all.

A couple of years ago, an Australian news site managed to get a hold of a proposed text of the Mass for general consumption. This was later pulled, and Church officials have since taken steps to guard their information more carefully. However, a few people other than bishops and the press have gotten hold of a second proposed text -- known as "the green book." One of them is Rocco of Whispers in the Loggia. This past week, he has released the following excerpts:

The "Confiteor," or Confession of Sin

Note how the practice of the three-fold beating of the breast while saying "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grevious fault" is returned, as it never left the Latin original.

The "Gloria," or Glory to God

The biggest concern here (and Rocco makes reference to it in his headline) is the ability to compose suitable music for this non-metrical edition. We may have to resort to such non-metrical forms as -- oh, I dunno, plainchant???

The Nicene Creed

Now, here's the case in point regarding precision in the meaning of the text. Before, the phrase "visibilium et invisibilium" has been translated as "seen and unseen," as opposed to the more literal "visible and invisible." What's the big deal here? Well, if I appear in a room in front of someone, I may be seen. But if I step behind a curtain or a door, I may be unseen -- BUT, I'm not necessarily invisible. How big a deal is that? Well, big enough to convene the ecumenical council in the fourth century which composed the Creed in the first place. And they were known to make more out of even less. Father Peter Stravinskas has spoken eloquently on the difference a word can make: "[W]ords are important for they bear meaning. Think, for instance, of this situation: You are living in a house. Does it matter whether you are the tenant or the owner? I don’t know anyone who would respond in the negative. And if that little example from daily life holds true, how much more so in philosophy and theology. After all, the Nicene Creed we pray at every Sunday Mass was the direct result of an apparently 'petty squabble' over not a word but a letter – homoousios versus homoioousios. The little letter 'iota,' hence, our common expression, 'It doesn’t make an iota of a difference.' Except that it did in 325 AD. And words continue to make a difference seventeen centuries later."

And speaking of the difference a word can make:

The "pro multis" question.

As the priest consecrates the Precious Blood, he says the words "for you and for all." But the Latin "pro multis" literally means "for many." Some traditionalists claim this renders the text imprecise, or even invalid.

They are all wrong.

What is at issue is what Christ said, and he didn't say it in Latin, but in Aramaic (or more likely, in Hebrew, as these were formal prayers not meant for the vulgar tongue). And in that language, the word used for "many" is not a finite term. It refers to an infinite number; in other words, to a "many" without end. This is consistent with other references in Scripture, where Christ is said to have shed his blood for all -- our willingness to take Him up on it notwithstanding.

Besides, Rome has authoritatively defended the practice, so I'm afraid the maxim "Roma locuta, causa finita" applies across the board.

An excerpt from the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I)

Notice how much longer the proposed text is than the current one being used. Such lack of eloquence for the sake of brevity is said by many to be characteristic of the current text.

"Ecce Agnus Dei," or the introduction to "Lord I am not worthy"

"...only say the word, and my soul shall be healed." Again, references to the sacred, such as acknowledging the presence of "my soul" are revived. This too is one of the major issues in the debate over translations.

There are those who say we should be able to pray in our ordinary manner of speech. These same people think nothing of the use of more formal language for any other setting -- a courtroom, a formal dinner, a college commencement. That's because they are not ordinary. They are set apart. In this case, we are not just speaking to the man on the street. We are speaking to God, and to each other in the house of God. We elevate the usage of language to fit the occasion.

Then maybe people will get the idea that the idea that this occasion requires more suitable attire than Bermuda shorts and a tee-shirt.

Or maybe they'll just stand in the back more often. Who knows?

+ + +

*FOOTNOTE: Whether the current reform of the Mass was what the Council Fathers had in mind, has been the subject of considerable controversy in the past decade. The conversation has taken on new life as one of its primary voices, the former Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, is now Pope Benedict XVI. This is a separate matter, to be taken up in a future post. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My Direction Home

"How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?"

Last night, I watched the first of two parts, of the new documentary by Martin Scorsese, No Direction Home, which chronicles the early years of folksinger Bob Dylan's career.

As most MWBH readers know, I play a number of musical instruments (some better than others). But my first love is the guitar, which I first picked up when I was 11. Nearly forty years later, you'd think an adult who doesn't have to play it for a living would have given up on it. But I didn't. Nor do I intend to.

I started as a child, really. In a house of Midwestern meat-and-potatoes Republicans, I watched "Hootenanny" on ABC. That show has been described as the "commmercial" side of the 1960s folk music boom (or the "folk music scare," as we like to call it). But what the hell do they know? Who are Baez, Dylan, Seeger, and the rest of those clowns to say who sold out and who didn't? Like they didn't exactly starve up until now, right? Anyway, somewhere my mom got a hold of Peter Paul & Mary's album "Blowin' in the Wind." I played it to death in those days.

I knew that these songs were connected with what was going on in the world. And while I was as much for social justice and a better world for all as the next guy, I was proud to grow up an American, and was disconcerted to see outright disdain for a country I loved, on the part of those who appeared to be living quite well within its borders. And while guys like Pete Seeger could follow Jane Fonda around and play footsie with our nation's sworn enemies in Paris or Hanoi or wherever, other guys like the Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot could stay true to who they were, without being political outright.

Then there were coffeehouse hangers-on like Neil Diamond, who eventually discovered Vegas, and the rest is history. But that's another story...

By the time I reached college, I saw what people called "folk music" sort of merge with rock-and-roll, becoming "folk-rock" or just something else. But it was during the mid- to late- seventies that I discovered the real thing. Music that didn't have a copyright attached, that was played by people who didn't fly around in jets and get interviews in Time magazine, and who didn't compromise what they were doing just for three minutes on the airwaves.

I also had this buddy in college who, from the time he first heard me play, described me as transforming into this laid-back, easy-going fellow. This is remarkable when you consider that I'm not at all like this in real life. At least not when playing music.

Which makes even me start to wonder what I'm like in real life.

So I discovered the flip side of me. And it didn't stop there. I used to play for New England contra dances back in Ohio. One night they pulled me on to the dance floor. I haven't left. Being a dancer is probably the only thing that ever gave me a sense of charm and grace, at least in the eyes of the opposite sex.

But I was a musician first. (And whatever happens on the dance floor, we all know that, in the end, "chicks dig guitar players.") For awhile I sat in with zydeco bands coming up from Louisiana. My dancing chums got a kick out of it, and I got along great with the guys in the band. Then some of the promoters threw a hissy-fit. I'd get some b******t excuse about how people were paying to see "the authentic Louisiana experience." Apparently a bunch of guys from Louisiana needed guidance on what that meant, from a few uppity white middle-aged middle-class East Coast pseudo-intellectuals. One gal (a promoter, I hesitate to call her a "lady") even tried to literally pull me off the stage, after the bandleader kept begging me to join them. Her line? "They don't want you up there."

Who can argue with reasoning like that?

In forty years of playing, both amateur and professional, I had run into the dabbling of dillatantes before. An end-run is being contemplated. But I have to travel to Louisiana first. Now's not a good time. Stay tuned...

Meanwhile, the world has discovered "Americana," a genre that is traditional in its roots, and progressive in its wings. You can learn more at the website of The Americana Music Association:
"Americana is American roots music based on the traditions of country. While the musical model can be traced back to the Elvis Presley marriage of hillbilly and R&B that birthed rock 'n' roll, Americana as a radio format developed during the 1990s as a reaction to the highly polished sound that defined the mainstream music of that decade. By also including influences ranging from folk to bluegrass to blues and beyond, Americana handily bridges the gap between Triple A radio and mainstream country."
Works for me.

In recent years, I got comfortable on stage. My favorite audience was always the annual talent show at my son's Byzantine Rite parish. I should consider a triumphant return, shouldn't I?

But until then, there's work to be done. One of the features of the new place will be the provision for working on my music. The living room will be graced by that portion of the library devoted to music, and a few instruments will be on display, as opposed to all of them staying in the closet like before.

Because we all gotta start somewhere, even if it's starting over, or starting again.
Critical Mass: Indult Revisited

I want to thank all the people who wrote in (well, both of you) about yesterday's post entitled Critical Mass: When is an indult not an indult?

Mariette writes: "I can't help but think that all this concern for details is like worrying about the arrangement of chairs on the Titanic. Isn't the Catholic church tanking big time?"

"Lex orandi, lex credendi." The law of praying is the law of believing. We pray what we believe. If, as you suggest, believe in the Mass as a Sacrifice is diminished, it is all the more reason to be concerned. Some of the great Protestant reformers knew, that if they could destroy the Mass, they could destroy the Church. As Luther himself said: "Tolle Missam, tolle Ecclesiam."

Is the Church "tanking"? Yes, and it isn't the first time. On the night Our Lord was betrayed, the Apostles went running scared. Their successors have been running scared ever since. There is a little known custom that when a bishop is in procession, the crossbearer carries the cross with the image of the Crucified facing the bishop -- as a reminder.

At a time when there were more than one claimant to the papal throne, one saint followed one, the other followed the other. (My library is still in boxes, or I'd look up the details for you.) Obviously, we've had it worse. In fact, the current scandals are not the first time the Church has dealt with pedastery in the priesthood.

Anonymous said: "I fail to see how the Old Mass is adverse to 'Organic Development.'"

It is not. But as Dom Alcuin's book on the subject demonstrates, Rome has not been above micromanaging that development at one time or another. (This is a common complaint of certain learned Roman Catholics who convert to Eastern Orthodoxy; their concern goes beyond Vatican II, all the way to Trent.) A case in point is the centuries following the liturgical reforms of Trent. Some rites of the West that were more than 200 years old (the Ambrosian in Milan, Italy, and the Mozarabic in Toledo, Spain, to name two) were preserved. But many were not, including some in France that had been in constant use beyond living memory at the time. Their persistent use, in spite of Rome's directives, continued even into the nineteenth century.

I can't recommend this book enough (see link in previous post). A good many students of the traditional Roman liturgy have been picking it up lately.

As to the future of the Roman liturgy, I have a unique theory about that, which I hope to present in the weeks to come. Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Monday, September 26, 2005


In the comments section of another weblog, namely, I've been challenged to comment on the claim in John Boswell's "Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe."

Some of us guys might remember having "blood brothers" when we were boys. This practice has a very ancient heritage.

Friendships between men in modern American culture tend to be somewhat reserved, when compared to those of most other cultures, not to mention most of recorded history. The simple ritual of a "blood oath" would seal a friendship for life. Such an exchange of bodily fluids might have no less significance from an anthropological standpoint, than the very different exchange that occurs in the marital act.

A man would go into battle alongside one known as his "paraclete." Now, devout Catholics have heard the Holy Spirit referred to by this title. But the word literally means "protector" or "comforter." In the context of male bonding, a paraclete was the guy who watched your back in the thick of a fight, while you watched his. Even into the present day, a police officer has a special bond with his partner, one virtually as important as that of his wife. And in the Boy Scouts, the "buddy system" is designed not only to facilitate brotherhood, but for safety as well, whether swimming, hiking, or traveling in the dark.

As the Church spread the Gospel throughout the world, she did not merely supress the good things of a culture, but rather embraced them, elevated them. Thus our many holydays have taken on the form that they have, in terms of local and cultural celebration. So too with our rites of passage. In the ancient context, the friendship between two men -- in the case of Boswell's book, Saint Sergius and Bacchus were comrades-in-arms who were martyred each for their faith, and for the sake of each other -- would have warranted a blessing.

If one reads the ancient texts appendixed in Boswell's otherwise seriously flawed account, one might still be left with the impression that they possessed a significance akin to marriage -- that is, until one is reminded, not only of the above, but that the penalty for sodomy in ninth-century Byzantium was... castration.

In which case, a blessing would be a rather poor consolation, to say the least.
"Gee, Wally, if Dad finds out, you're gonna get creamed!"

Dom Bettinelli, editor of Catholic World Report, author of the weblog, and Close Personal Friend Of Mine, gives the scoop on Father Walter Cuenin (finally!) resigning his position as Pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Newton, Massachusetts, of the Boston Archdiocese.

The entries are linked in order: "The camel's back broke," "Cuenin speaks," "The Globe spins for its favorite priest," and finally (so far), "The Herald spins for Cuenin too" Also posted is a call to thank Archbishop O'Malley for dealing with the problem.

One of Beantown's most notorious priest-dissenters from Church teaching, Cuenin has done stuff that would have gotten most priests black-balled years ago. (The short list includes using invalid matter for the Eucharist, promoting "gay pride" events, stuff like that.) But the thing that did him in was, of all things, financial mishandling. This included living a little better than the average parish priest, with the alleged blessing of the parish finance council, which apparently acted outside their normal consultative bounds in the process. (I don't suppose VOTF will be calling them to "accountability" anytime soon, eh?)

My only complaint is that it took entirely too long. When guys like this are allowed to use their personal charisma to do what they please, they sooner or later get the idea that they can... well, do what they please!!! Not only that, but they can get others to go along with it, including people who like being part of the parish "in-crowd."

Dom's posts have lots of comments, a few of them with the audacity to be Cuenin's defenders. But on a level playing field, most of them don't know diddley. And it shows.

Lately, I've been getting some comments which go something like this:

"Wow - you're blog is full of good info. It's getting hard to find blogs with useful content and people talking about Treasure Hunting these days. I have just started my Latest Treasure Hunting News blog..."

They go on to try and solicit my viewing their site, possibly buying into something, anything from real estate to betting on the horses. Whatever they're pushing, it's obvious that these people don't give a rat's patootie what I have to say. With e-mail, it's called "spam." And starting today, that's how it will be treated here. All such comments will be deleted upon discovery.

Because I may like the attention, but I'm not desparate.
Critical Mass: When is an indult not an indult?

Answer: When it is the norm.

Vaticanisti, among others, have reported on the very likely prospect that Pope Benedict will grant a "universal indult" to lift all restrictions on the use of the 1962 Missale Romanum -- otherwise known as the "Old Latin Mass" or the "Tridentine Mass." Some have gone so far to say that a local bishop's permission would not be necessary, that a priest can decide at his own discretion whether to use the classical or reformed Roman Missal.

This writer is definitely in favor of more frequent use of the Old Mass. That being said, there are problems associated with simply issuing a "universal indult."

I've worked in liturgy preparation at Catholic conventions, and have known priests who decide on a whim to do the "Old Mass," leaving those who serve him to scurry about at the last minute, making sure the altar is prepared accordingly, and God forbid that people should sing the Our Father along with the priest (which is allowed in the newer observance, but not the old). It also seems problematic that a bishop might be impeded from performing his proper role as chief liturgist of a local diocese.

I also know of cases where, when the classical observance is allowed, resources devoted to preserving the sacred in the Roman Rite tend to abandon their efforts with the reformed observance. This is to the detriment of the general population of Catholics, 98 percent of whom use the Roman Rite.

Another factor is the nature of an indult itself. As the root of the word implies, it is, quite simply, an indulgence. That it is presumes a norm. A universal indult ceases to be an indulgence. So, as if the history of the Roman Rite were not angst-ridden enough, you have the problem of two Roman Rites. This is an historical and liturgical anomaly, and runs counter to the "organic development" argument currently popular among traditionalists in their critical assessment of liturgical reform.

Still another consideration is the total context of Pope Benedict's comments on the state of the sacred liturgy in the West. The term "reform of the reform," so vilified among some traditionalists, originated not with Adoremus or any other special interest, but from the current Holy Father himself. Further, while supporting in theory the practice of celebrating Mass "facing East" -- that is, with priest and people facing the same direction -- he has acknowledged the difficulty of implementing this practice on a wide scale, given the possible reaction of people to such a change (however recent a return to an older practice it may be). And yet, the current reformed Missal is written in such a way, as to presume the priest is already so oriented. Were the Holy Father to be reticent on that which is already normative (however little-known)... well, you get the idea.

It is entirely possible to make the classical observance of the Roman Rite more generally available, without a universal permission. The Holy See should simply insist that diocesan bishops be held accountable for the complete implementation of the 1988 Indult Ecclesia Dei, making the Old Mass available on a regular basis somewhere in their diocese. Start with the cathedral if you have to. People should not have to beg a lower authority for that which a higher authority allows. Nor should such consideration require a diocese full of loose cannons. (After all, what have loose cannons in the priesthood gotten us so far?)

There is more to write on this subject, and I will do so at a later date. But I want to recommend a book by Father Aidan Nichols entitled Looking at the Liturgy: A Critical View of Its Contemporary Form , published by Ignatius. And for those who can't get enough history on the subject, there is always The Organic Development of the Liturgy: The Principles of Liturgical Reform and Their Relation to the 20th Century Liturgical Movement Prior to the Second Vatican Council, by Dom Alcuin Reid OSB, published by St Augustine Press. Among other things, this book shows that the liturgy in the West has been the object of interventionalism before -- some would call it "non-organic." The same publisher also has a book out compiling various addresses given at a conference on this subject, entitled Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy With Cardinal Ratzinger: Proceedings of the July 2001 Fontgombault Liturgical Conference, edited by Dom Alcuin, and presided over by the man who today wears the Fisherman's Ring.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

"Hurricane Philly" Digs Out From Under

It's been lawyers-guns-and-money for the Church in the alleged City of Brotherly Love. Rocco of Whispers in the Loggia has been covering the saga this past month. His series of entries of yesterday, entitled "THE REPORT," are worth reading, especially his personal encounters with the previous Archbishop, Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua.
Pork and Patronage

Here in the blogosphere, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has joined forces with NZ Bear of The Truth Laid Bear, among others, to identify Federal spending projects that are worth cutting on the Hill, to make funding available for recovery from Katrina. This might appear as a local problem confined to the New Orleans area, until you consider that the mouth of the Mississippi Delta is the USA's busiest inland port.

Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin, syndicated columnist and Filipina-American Jersey Girl, sheds light on a perennial issue with this administration, granting top political appointments to people who are blatantly unqualified. The biggest case in point is the latest nominee to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the Department of Homeland Security. Quoting the Washington Post: "The Bush administration is seeking to appoint a lawyer with little immigration or customs experience to head the troubled law enforcement agency that handles those issues, prompting sharp criticism from some employee groups, immigration advocates and homeland security experts..." As if the previous head of FEMA wasn't enough of a wake-up call.

This is not unusual for an administration to have a "reward my buddy" program, and this writer has been watching it from the inside for years. It's bad enough when it's confined to the political ranks of a Federal agency; the long term effect is when it trickles down to the ranks of middle- and top-level career management. It can be even worse in the "turkey farms," a local term for those less glamorous agencies where some Important Political Contributor's nephew is likely to end up. After all, someone owes someone a favor, and you gotta stick 'em somewhere, don't ya???

A few go on to be head waiters in some of Washington's finest restaurants.

Oh, the stories I could tell...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ad Random

I gotta go to court tomorrow. Seems I was in an auto accident about fifteen months ago, and I gotta be in the dock to explain what happened. My insurance more than covers me, though, so there's no personal liability. Otherwise I'd have a helluva time buying a house, now, wouldn't I?

Funny thing, though. As the attorney was interviewing me, he asked what I did for a living. I told him I was a graphic designer for the Feds. That threw him off, since my answers made me sound like a lawyer. "Oh, that comes from discussing Thomas Aquinas at the dinner table when I was growing up. No, I didn't get this way from watching re-runs of Law and Order. I'm like this in real life."

[UPDATE: I got a call later in the day. The parties are close to a settlement, so my appearance has been postponed, perhaps indefinitely.]

I'll be spending the rest of the month getting the house in shape for the big house-warming shindig right before Christmas. (This weekend's a big deal; we get the lower level in order, especially the kitchen.) So all you St Blog's people in the DC area stay tuned for your personal invitations, okay?

There's a lot of things I could comment on right now, but matters of home and hearth come first. I'll be sure and comment on them, of course.
Oh well, maybe she still thinks your tractor's sexy.

Fox News reports that actress Renee Zellweger has filed for a civil annulment from country-singer-cum-beach-bum Kenny Chesney. It was a first marriage for both of them. It lasted four whole months. Kenny says "I'll be OK" following the split. Seems that working for a living AND being married were a bit much for him.

Or both of them. Beats the hell outa me.

Earlier this month, a college freshman in Richmond was discovered missing. According to Fox News, after more than two weeks, her car has been found. She was a local girl, and on, my son Paul laments her disappearance: "suddenly, a friend of mine has disappeared with out a trace. my buddy from my senior year art class is on the ten o' clock news. a girl i took on a date to see team america: world police is now the subject of a nationwide police search. for some reason, america's most wanted host john walsh is telling everyone to be on the lookout for the girl who resurrected my most unfortunate nickname from my childhood - pauly pocket."

Meanwhile, Friends of Taylor is a website devoted to the hope of finding her.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Living in Daylight

Following my wife's desertion fifteen years ago, I moved to Georgetown, where an old friend had some properties sitting around. I was given the use of a basement apartment for three years. After that, I moved to Virginia, outside the Beltway, for a year, in a group house (something I'll never do again). Then it was back into town, still in Virginia, to the basement studio which I occupied for eleven years -- the longest I've lived anywhere since moving to this area in 1980.

What they all have in common, is that they were underground.

If you live above ground, you take it for granted. But something happens when you don't. You wake up in the morning, and the sun shines in through the front windows of your house, you discover you could go for most of the day without ever turning the lights on. There is light everywhere. You actually wait until evening to switch them on.

There is no cable outlet upstairs. This is just as well, as I prefer not to have a television in my bedroom. Not this time. And since I can't stand most commercial radio, and this town's managed to ruin public radio, I'm adding the benefits of satellite radio, already in my car, to the upstairs of the house. I'm really into music. Having a dozen instruments around the house will do that. So I listen to a lot of it.

The "guest room" (formerly the den) measures seven-and-a-half by eight feet. Just enough room for a daybed with drawers underneath, with a small desk and a bookshelf.

For nearly a week, I've been away from the blogosphere. My son helped me move the big stuff with a truck late last week. Sal and I cleaned out the old place, and brought various smaller items to the new. We've got it all worked out for next weekend; she'll arrange the kitchen, and I'll handle the rest of the house. Meanwhile, I'm back at the office. The news is pretty much the same as when I left. More on that later.

But closer to home, I am no longer a serf on a share of a landowner's property. I'm the landowner, and my name is on the property. I've waited a long time for this, and -- Deo volente -- I'm never going back. Stay tuned...

(UPDATE: An extensive photo collection from the LA Times of the recovery from Katrina can be found here.)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Were I not so busy with the move...

...I would have more time for revelry such as this.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


A set of them sat on the mahogony table, just out of reach, as I signed and/or initialed a mound of papers, one after the other, as an attorney explained each to me. I actually listened to him.

When the signing was over, I was handed the keys.

Early that evening, I used one of the keys to unlock the door, and to step into the townhouse that was, for the first time, my own. (Already in the kitchen, from an earlier inspection, were the traditional Filipino gifts for a new home -- rice, salt, and sugar.) My first words upon entering were: "Peace to this house, and to all who dwell within." With a vial of holy water, I blessed every room in the house. With a vial of holy oil, I anointed each of the four walls of the interior, beginning with the north wall, going to the west, to the south, and ending with the east. Then, while facing east, I recited the 103rd (104th) Psalm ("Bless the Lord O my soul, you are very great O Lord my God, clothed with pomp and brilliance, arrayed with light as with a cloak...") Finally, I ended with "The Blessing of A New Home" from the traditional Rituale Romanum.

During the week, Sal and I will hasten the final cleaning of the old apartment, where I have lived for eleven years. My son and I will load the truck and move the heavier objects into the new place. The weekend will be spent getting the townhouse into at least a provisional sense of order.

Elsewhere in this country, thousands have lost the only home they had. If I didn't know better, I'd say I was truly blessed.
Let Them Eat... (Melted) Cake?

Judith Moriarty of TCRNews provides reflections on the aftermath of Katrina: "When the levees broke on Tuesday-August 30-05, he [President Bush] was flying around in the gas guzzling Air Force One, delivering a melted cake to McCain in Arizona, and then celebrating victory over Japan in California, with Rumsfeld. He took time to strum on a gifted guitar as the people drowned in their homes or took to the rooftops waving flags of distress. The day the music died. Condi was in New York shopping for thousand dollar shoes, and attending a Broadway show. Cheney hung out a Gone Fishing sign and headed for the pristine streams [absent floating bodies, dead vermin, and fecal matter] of Wyoming, to do some fly fishing. Other politicians were scattered, hither and yon, vacationing; what with the money to do so, having given themselves their yearly cost of living increase in wages."

Hey, Judith, this is what happens in August in DC. Everybody scatters "hither and yon" during the late summer recess, a holdover from the days before air conditioning. But it does make one wonder if they could have dropped what they were doing a hell of a lot sooner. Like they did on 9-11.

Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin (who's usually right about everything else -- almost!) is posting comments of outrage, that the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania includes a grove of trees shaped like a crescent moon, which is the symbol of Islam. That's a lot like saying that every street intersection in the country is a violation of "church-state separation" because they're shaped like a Christian cross.

As I recall (and Mrs Malkin is probably too young to remember), everybody bitched about the Vietnam Vets Memorial too, because it wasn't a guy on a horse. Since then, "The Wall" has become the most popular attraction in Washington.

Give me a break.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Nine-Eleven Plus Four

There is a story told of when Harry Truman left office as President. Commenting on his successor, he was heard to say: "Poor Ike. He'll get in here and still think he's in the Army; telling everybody, do this, do that, and wondering why it doesn't get done."

Closer to the present, the Mayor of New Orleans ordered those left behind to converge upon the Superdome. There, many were effectively abandoned by the city to starve or die. Those who lived did so in horrible conditions. How did the Mayor fail? Or did a subordinate fail? Or does it really take the Governor of Louisiana 24 hours to get back to His Honor with a decision?

Now, let's move on up the ladder.

In August of 1969, following a tornado that hit our town, I returned from camp, to learn that I had been appointed provisional senior patrol leader for a unit of a dozen Scouts, joining other units in the disaster area. Of course, in these litigious times, the most the BSA would have boys do is hand out leaflets. (At least that's the impression they gave me at a Roundtable last year.) I wonder if that experience would render me more qualified to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency, than the political hack who's there now. His previous job was running a trade association for Arabian horse owners. At least he'll know where not to step, assuming he knows which end of the horse to check.

Many pundits in the blogosphere and beyond, will have more to say concerning the above. In an inspirational 1982 speech at Columbia University, the late Admiral Hyman Rickover said: "Unless the individual truly responsible can be identified when something goes wrong, no one has really been responsible." Four years after the Big Wake Up Call, we're still unprepared -- at the Federal, State, City, and (lest we forget!) the personal level. I recommend the wisdom of that old sailor (who during his life was also a devout Catholic) for those who dare to lead, and have the audacity to expect us to follow.

(PS: As far as this writer is conerned, rescue helicopters in New Orleans should have had armed escorts, ready to take out shooters from the ground on sight.)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


The other day, I said the following concerning the passing of Chief Justice Rehnquist: "A Catholic funeral Mass will be at St Matthew's Cathedral (for once a high-profile Catholic deserves one)..." In fact, His Honor was not Catholic, but Lutheran. In accordance with Church discipline, the local ordinary (that is, Archbishop Theodore Cardinal McCarrick) permitted our separated brethren to use the Catholic cathedral for one of their own.

Given the defense of human life demonstrated by His Honor, when certain obstensibly Catholic occupants of the bench have not, I'll leave it to my readers to note the irony here.

(The move is moving along. I am still overwhelmed. And yet, as they say, "this too shall pass.")

Monday, September 05, 2005

While I was out...

* Chief Justice Rehnquist died Saturday here in Arlington. He was 80. In 1973, he wrote the dissenting opinion for Roe v Wade. A Catholic funeral Mass will be at St Matthew's Cathedral (for once a high-profile Catholic deserves one), and burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery. (THIS JUST IN: John Roberts nominated to succeed Rehnquist as Chief Justice.)

* Bryan Preston reports on "Apocalypse Now in New Orleans," an inside look at The Dark Side. (Courtesy

* In the wake of Katrina, God was found amidst the ruins.

* Will Rome see a changing of the guard, other than the Swiss? A rise of expected retirements fuels speculation of a shakeup in the Roman Curia -- as if Pope Benedict needed that excuse.

More to come. Stay tuned...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Note to Paul: Remember to get the CD, alright?
Still Big, Ain't Gettin' Easier

It's been four days now, and relief is only beginning to reach New Orleans, and other cities in the region. Thousands of the area's poor, lacking the means to evacuate when told, are dead or dying. The account in today's edition of TCRNews reads like the morning after the Johnstown Flood of 1889. The Anchoress provides some very good commentary: "When the levees fell and hell was unleashed, those emergency folk who were in place were faced with a disaster that they’d simply never encountered before. No matter how “prepared” they might have been, they were not - could not be - prepared enough. Suddenly they were not dealing with a mere disaster, they had a true catastrophe on their hands..." There is much more here, and it's definitely good reading. I also recommend Michelle Malkin, who is staying on top of the story, and the response from within the blogosphere. Amy Welborn of Open Book provides various insights from others on the bigger picture. (Definitely worth a shot.)

And speaking of blogosphere, an inside account from an IT group stranded in NO is known as The Survival of New Orleans (formerly known as The Interdictor).

Jack was asking me "where the hell is FEMA, the all-powerful, government created agency that can assume absolute power in times of an emergency?" FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, an independent Federal agency until being incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security in March of 2003. Washington insiders will tell you that, conspiracy theories from The X-Files notwithstanding, FEMA has not always enjoyed a stellar reputation. Add to that the difficulty of reaching anyone while getting shot at. At least in Iraq you can shoot back at an enemy. Shooting at desparate civilians is another matter. If you read the sources listed above, you'll have some idea of the status of the response. Remember, this is the largest natural disaster in American history since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Meanwhile, I've got an evacuation of my own to prepare.

Tomorrow I commence seven days of frantic preparation. One week from today, I go to settlement on my new home. The following day, the moving van pulls up to the basement studio apartment I've rented for the last eleven years. That's the longest I've lived anywhere since moving to the DC area from Ohio nearly 25 years ago. For the five days that follow, I will be wrapping up the old, and setting up the new.

While I will attempt to maintain an active presence at this time, my entries will be minimal. I expect to be back up to full speed by the 15th.

On a final note...

As I close, I remember the Archbishop Hughes of New Orleans, and Bishop Muench of Baton Rouge. Both are staying with the poor in Baton Rouge, serving them as the true shepherds they are. (Thanks for the heads up, Dom.) Tonight, there's a zydeco dance across town in Maryland. Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners are scheduled to play. I hope they made it up from Louisiana in time. I've got a lot of musician friends down there, and I'll hear more about how they're doing by tonight.

Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Silent Heroes

The following is posted by Dom at Bettnet: "Meanwhile, the seminarians of St. Joseph Seminary in St Benedict, near New Orleans are alive and well and caring for 100 elderly and sick refugees. They’re running on generator power and there’s no flooding, but the roads are blocked and there’s no way in or out."
Be Prepared

There's a lesson learned by every Boy Scout, if he learns anything at all, which is reflected in the motto: "Be Prepared." Someone once asked the Founder, Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell, for what should a Scout be prepared. His answer was, essentially -- anything.

From the day I moved out to be on my own, there has always been camping and survival equipment stored in my closet. I'll admit it's not all packed in one container, ready to grab as I fly out the door. But in an hour, I can be ready with enough to survive for two to three days all in one backpack; with first aid equipment, extra wool socks (which stay warm even when wet), extra briefs and can be rinsed and drip-dried for repeat wearing, non-perishable whole-grain food items for eating on the run, MREs (meals ready to eat, military issue), a hunting/survival knife, emergency rescue blanket, flashlight, batteries, a radio, a parka with extra survival goods packed in case the pack gets lost or stolen... did I leave anything out?

Oh, yeah, I'd bring my guitar along if possible. The traveling model.

(By the way, you know how to make matches waterproof? It's easy. You get those wooden stick kind that come in the big boxes, and paint them at the top end with clear nail polish. Keep them in a little waterproof container, or a little tin. That way, when you need them and even if they're all wet, just wipe them dry and strike on the appropriate surface. You're good to go.)

In addition to the usual roadside emergency stuff, I keep a couple of lengths of good, strong rope in my car. I also keep a woolen blanket in the back seat, and a couple of emergency survival blankets in the glove compartment.

I have never, EVER, lived on on a flood plain. You can't control Mother Nature. If enough rains falls, all the "flood control" efforts upstream won't stop the water from settling in the lowest place. And believe you me, water always finds the lowest place. And it stays there, till it decides to leave.

In New Orleans, the police looked the other way as looters walked off with groceries. But they failed to stem the onslaught of sub-human creatures who walked off with television sets, VCRs, cartloads of designer athletic shoes, and other luxury items. These neanderthals are the same ones who are gonna bitch about why the city takes so long to clean up after them.

It is said that one-fourth of the NO population is below the poverty line. Most of them live in the low-lying area of the city, which was hardest hit by the flooding. Perhaps the greatest shame of poverty is not the loss of material goods, but the loss of human dignity. The knowledge that others have what one does not, is enough to dampen the spirits of the weaker among us. In despair, they take what they can get, heedless of the cost to themselves or others, and to the devastation of the following day.

It is that devastation which is the result of their own lack of foresight. But is it not also the result of a culture that places value on the wrong things? What sort of example is set by those who have, for those who have not? Without question, those who do the looting cannot be excused. But might their stealing of luxury items be considered the lesson taught by those who prosper, and display as much to the point of excess? Is there an irony in the prospect that the latter may include some of those from whom the goods are looted?
It Ain't Easy in "The Big Easy"

By now, everybody has heard about the flooding of New Orleans and surrounding parishes, caused by the recent Hurricane Katrina. The mayor has estimated the death toll in the thousands, and that it will be the city at least two months to be operational. Until then, he has ordered its evacuation.

For those who stayed behind, many are stranded on rooftops. Hundreds of hospital employees are still stuck at their facility after having evacuated the patients. On the flooded streets, there is looting of the stores, as people are making away with foodstuffs and infant supplies, in an attempt to survive. The looting has erupted into total mayhem, like Mardi Gras turned ugly, as people with stolen firearms are shooting at helicopters attempting to help with the evacuation. Local police have actually been called away from rescue detail, simply to restore some sense of order.

People are even attempting to enter refugee centers with their recently acquired big-screen plasma TVs. Maybe they floated on them, and so they have sentimental value. Beats the hell outa me...

Last night, I watched MSNBC's Scarborough Country, where some very moving accounts are being reported. "One man came up to us. He took the water, took it back to his wife. She was weeping silently in the passenger side of the front seat. And the man looked down. He said, ‘How much do I owe you? I don't have much. I have lost everything.’ And we said, you owe us nothing. They drove away weeping." There's more. I've heard reports of people driving south with truckloads of bottled water, and simply leaving their cargo at the edge of disaster areas.

Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds excerpts from his Instapundit weblog on the MSNBC website, with information on how to support relief organizations involved in the effort. I'd recommend any of them, but especially Catholic Charities, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army. In addition, the Boy Scouts of America is weighing in as part of their "Good Turn for America" initiative.

In addition, you might check out Wal-Mart, a commercial partner in the relief effort.

Stay tuned for more developments -- and this writer's own thoughts on the crisis (some of which are not far removed from those of the Old Oligarch).

(UPDATE: We've got NZ Bear taking the initiative on behalf of the blogosphere at his site, Truth Laid Bear. In addition, syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin has some interesting thoughts on the aftermath of Katrina.)