Friday, October 28, 2011

While Leaves Are Turning

Earlier this week, I was on the phone with my sister, talking about Mom and Dad. I told readers of Mom's accident back in September, and how I was planning to visit in early October. It's been nearly three weeks now, and I have yet to chronicle my most recent trip to Cincinnati.

IMAGE: Mom and Dad, Pikes Peak, Colorado, August 1961.

The visit stirred more memories than usual, which is what happens when the mortality of your parents becomes all too apparent. Mom goes in and out, wondering what she's doing in a rehab facility, and when she can go home; like, oh, tomorrow maybe. But it's not going to happen, not that easily anyway. Dad continues to fade, and it's so hard for him to talk, we don't talk much on the phone anymore.

IMAGE: The four of us on the front porch, Easter Sunday, 1963. Mom made Mary's dress. "Kevin" was in the middle of his bow-tie phase.

My brother and sisters have, to greater or lesser degree, put their lives on hold for this chapter of it, and it's getting to them, maybe a little. But when they're together, it's all for one and one for all, and any sibling rivalry will have to wait until it's over -- whenever that is. Another visit is already planned for the week of Thanksgiving. I should really write about the previous visit by then, shouldn't I?

In other news ...

Our series devoted to the new Roman Missal has been the most ambitious work in the nine-plus-year history of mwbh. This is why, more often than not, each installment is published in an unfinished state, to be completed by Tuesday or Wednesday. I've already started gathering material for the next installment, devoted to the Offertory (Preparation of the Gifts). One blogger who has publicized this series very widely on social media (for which I am grateful) has called it the "Best Series on the New Missal translation out there!" That's pretty high praise, and I'm not sure how I earned it. But I am sure of what distinguishes the series from others:

1) it does not focus exclusively on the "new words," but also upon the greater role that music, specifically plainchant, will play in the celebration of Mass,

2) it delves into the clarification of both the rubrics (the red-lettered instructions within the main text), as well as a recently re-translated General Instruction, and finally

3) it sheds light on challenges that remain in using the new Missal, even if all goes as well as can be expected.

Some will provide a greater presentation than yours truly, in one area or the other, but I do not know of any writer or blogger who has attempted to do all three.

IMAGE: It's not quite this bad. Really.

There has been a lot of work to do around Chez Alexandre. I come from a long line of packrats, and the year has been spent taking measure of what's in the house, and in storage, and clearing a path therein. I lot has changed in the last ten years or so. My present wardrobe has, well, matured a bit, to the point where I rarely wear blue jeans anymore. I'm not even sure why. I got used to the pockets on cargo pants, and it sort of went from there. I don't need as many shirts for as many types of occasions, and there are several dozen books that I've either already read, will never get around to reading, or would be embarrassed to read now (like books on "expanded lay ministry" or hymnals that will be obsolete by the end of the year, or political commentaries that were old news by the time the last election was over). If there are enough hours in the day, I can send one or two bags per day to Goodwill, and notice the change after a few weeks. "Sal" enjoys cooking at the house, but she says my kitchen needs to be redone. Now, when she's happy, the whole world is happy, but "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride." I'm tired of arguing with her, so I ask her where the money's going to come from.

That's when the discussion sort of lays there.

IMAGE: The Traditional Latin Mass at "Old Saint Mary's" in Washington DC. We're just as good as these guys.

Meanwhile, over at Saint John the Beloved, the only weekly Traditional High Mass in or around the Beltway continues to draw a crowd, not to mention a few new servers. I have started a program of training three or four of the older boys to be "Associate Masters of Ceremonies," to fill in for me when I'm not there, and eventually, to become the nucleus of a rotation of MCs on the monthly schedule. I figure it will take the next six to eight months to complete that process. It will also take an additional one to two years, to get the program to the point where it is self-sustaining -- which is to say, it won't fall apart if I were to leave. Still, I will be at Saint John's for as long as they need me, or can stand me, or both.

IMAGE: Yours truly, Baltimore, Maryland, 2004.

And now, the time for true confessions ...

Since I began going to school to study web design seven years ago, I have gradually cut back on guitar playing. I was playing a lot at the time. In fact, I was on a roll, sitting in with a number of bands for house parties, and at dances when the promoters were not looking. (A rather tightly wound bunch, they were.) But school took a lot of time, and the promoters took at least some of the fun out of it. So I may have trailed off a bit, picking it up only now and then. Recently I got one of those "pocket books" that fit in the "neck" portion of guitar cases. This one has practice exercises with scales. Sometime in the next month, I'll work on the fundamentals, then go from there. I could be wrong, but I feel a change coming on, as if my already-busy schedule will clear an opening. Call it a hunch.

IMAGE: A Scout Is Helpful, by Norman Rockwell, as appearing in Boys' Life magazine, 1941.

My work with Scouting continues. Our district (a segment of a local council, the latter covering a metropolitan area or its rural equivalent) got a new District Commissioner. They usually serve for three years before moving on, and invariably up. I had the chance to speak freely with the guy. He seems like a good egg. My biggest challenge has always been trying to find my niche in Scouting. I don't have any boys in Scouting, and (if you are an active adult in Scouting, you don't have to ask why I'd make a point that) I'm not a Mormon. So it's not always easy fitting in. We'll see what happens, but right now I'm pretty optimistic.

The leaves are falling here on the east coast, and Arlington Village, the townhouse neighborhood where Chez Alexandre is located, includes a designated nature preserve with walking paths. Naturally, the foliage is beautiful this time of year, and if you can't make the trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains, this is the next best thing. There is talk this weekend of freezing rain, and possibly snow. We go through this very short lifetime of ours, knowing that few things ever stay the same.

The leaves display the full array of their beauty, even as they are dying. And with their death, and following the slumber of winter, there is the promise of spring, of new life in their place. Our loved ones remind us of how they loved us, and move us to return that devotion to them in the course of this life.

“O son, help your father
    in his old age,
and do not grieve him
    as long as he lives;
even if he is lacking in understanding,
    show forbearance;
in all your strength
    do not despise him.
For kindness to a father
    will not be forgotten,
and against your sins
    it will be credited to you.”

(Sirach 3:12-14)

Thus says the word of the Lord. Thus says the falling leaves.

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