Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Phenomena in this place where I live...

That should technically be a singular noun—phenomenon—as I’m only going to talk about one. I’m sitting here in my room, with a window open, listening to the weakened strains of Hurricane Katrina waft their way across campus. We’re under a tornado watch, a flood warning, a severe thunderstorm watch, plus a chance of rain. With the window open and the frogs and cicadas and crickets doing their little chirping thing they do, there’s an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. I don’t feel like sleeping. I feel like writing. I feel like sharing with the world my happy feeling.

I listen from bed and think about getting up, when a new and strange sound enters upon this organic experience of open windowness. It’s the sound of a dozen or so mellow male voices, chanting an ancient plainsong hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, mater misericordiae. The intrusion of human voices upon the quiet and peace of the irrational (meaning nonliving—see Phil201 for more details) world sometimes is so jarring and inappropriate. Car radios blaring and obnoxious laughter come to mind. However, these richly blended voices coming in through my window have no such unpleasant effect. I listen to their words, and I get up. I write.

Salve Regina, mater misericordiae. ‘Hail Queen, merciful mother.’ They open their song of supplication and pleading, not with a ‘Mommy, gimme!’ but a high and courtly expression of greeting. These knights, standing in the rain and offering their prayers for one of the Queen’s maidens, treat the Lady herself with utmost respect. They carry her colors with them into battle, and their every greeting of her begins in this same manner. ‘Hail!’ The knights come in confidence and manly pride, not hubris, but real and inspiring confidence in themselves, for they can do all things in Christ, Who strengthens them. They hail their Queen, and they begin to describe her in the manner of any servant addressing a royal figure. They begin listing, as epithets in an epic, those qualities of their queen which they desire to serve and protect. Merciful mother, vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra salve. ‘Our life, our sweetness, and our hope.’ Not only are these knights full of respect, they are full of love. The Queen is all in all to them, their intercessor with the King and hence their greatest ally.

Ally? Let’s go back. She’s not just an intercessor and ally in the plainest sense of the word. They have called her ‘mother.’ Ah! So these knights are not only knights, but sons of the Queen. With formality and chivalrous grace, they lavish upon their mother and Queen these expressions of love and admiration. They cannot imagine a more beautiful and wonderful woman! What a lovely Lady they serve! She can do anything for them.

Ad te clamamus, exules filii evae. ‘To thee do we cry, banished sons of Eve.’ Supplication in the most touching humility. These sons of hers, knowing that they have been granted sonship and a share in the kingdom by the King himself, yet choose to align themselves under another sonship, one which emphasizes their faults and weaknesses rather than blessed position. They are sons of Eve, fallen men, whose failings are so very present to them, ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum vale. “To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.” The Knights bend their knees, bend their pride, bend their very souls in humility, weeping openly and without shame for the faults they carry. Their worldly baggage weighs on them so heavily, they can do nothing but sigh to their Queen. They feel so hopelessly mean and worthless in her sight, they mourn as exiles in a vale of tears and shame.

However, the Queen does not disdain these beloved Knights of hers, tottering wayfarers in a dark forest as they are. She smiles upon them in grace and love, and they are heartened to finish their prayer. Eia ergo advocata nostra illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte. ‘Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us.’ Again, mercy is appealed to, because the Knights know full well there is nothing they deserve. They seek a merciful intercession, a merciful gift, from a mother whose love for them is inexpressible. Et Jesum benedictum fructum ventris tuis, nobis post hoc exilium ostende. ‘And after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.’ Like wise Solomon of old, these humble Knights know better than to ask for worldly wealth or power or glory. No. They stand outside my window, in the rain and the cold wind, and ask for nothing more than the Queen to introduce them, intimately, to her son. Their desire is to know the King, and they approach him through his Mother, their loving advocate and mother as well.

O clemens, o pia, o dulcis virgo Maria.

The maid who serves the Queen closes her window and goes to sleep. The Knights disperse and return to their own habitat…all are in their rightful place. Having shown themselves humble and gracious in their hymn of supplication to the Queen, the Knights seem all the more manly in the eyes of the maids who listen from behind their curtains, savoring the deep and strident tones which ring out in praise of the Mother of them all. There is a peace in the world tonight as the Knights who protect us go their way, having sung a prayer to the Queen for our intentions and interests in the upcoming year.

I love birthday singing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

We interrupt this program...

To clean our room. Actually, I did that earlier. Faced with an empty class slot, I decided to take an hour or so and clean from stem to stern the dump that was my room.

I did. It was great.

Of course, I was mildly interested to see, when I got all through, that I really was reminding myself of my mom. I was dusting blinds and cleaning underneath the you-can't-see-under-here-anyway-so-why-bother part of the sink, and I vacuumed, and all sorts of things which one normally doesn't think of doing in a dorm room. Heck, we were doing good to be able to see the floor most of the week. However, this morning the fit took me and I cleaned up, mom-style. Then, roommate #1 came back. She brushed her hair, washed her hands, and left again to go to Mass. I look around what had been a clean and organized room.

There was a hairbrush sitting on top of a dresser, a drawer sitting open, and a washcloth on the sink instead of on it's hangar.


I feel my mom's pain, all of a sudden, in a new and frightening way. I now understand why she used to fall off her rocker at us if we failed to replace the towel on the rack, or if we left our clothes all over the floor of the closet instead of hanging them up. (Or if we left our shoes sitting in the middle of the floor at the bottom of the steps and people nearly died terrible suicidal deaths by tripping over them. Hehehe. Those were not good days...) I now understand. She had taken care and time and everything to see that the house was in order, and there was peace in her heart because all was as it should be, her children could exist in a clean and well-ordered environment, and she didn't have to worry about things growing in our laundry hampers. All was well. Then, we came in and walked all over that order by failing to return the house to it's immaculate state of cleanliness, preferring for all intents and purposes to leave things where they should not be. All this despite the fact that it's painfully simple to just hang up said towel, put away said clothes, or properly cubbyhole said shoes.

I understand.

I'm also the world's biggest hypocrite, because I still leave all of the aboves in the wrong places and my mom still falls off her rocker. Yet I complain about the habits of my dear sweet roommates. The difference at this current moment is that I'm having a cleaning fit so I feel empathy with the Mother. (The mothership is calling me to vacuumm...ooohhhmmmm...)

Ha. This makes me think, of course, of the other difference between my mother and I. She would have never let the room get into such a deplorable state, or at least would have cleaned it up long ago. I didn't. Mom can't work with a mess around, neither can I. Mom would take time to clean up the mess, I just go away where I can't see it.

And the girls are leaving dishes everywhere again.

However, that also reminds me. There is a dish of tea and a copy of Beowulf waiting for me back at the dorm, so I should go. This is, I think, my first almost-midnight post, which makes me feel oddly legitimate as far as blogging goes. With that said, I'm off to read a little classical literature, and disperse my history notes to the four winds.

No, actually, to the three classmates. Thanks for joining us, ladies and gentlemen. Goodnight, Betty, wherever you are!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

St. Son of Monica...

Oh, gosh. I'm not going to try and do anything interesting tonight. I'm too tired.

Go to this Erudite Site and read about St. Augustine, a personal favorite of mine, and I promise that they check their sources and don't post erroneous information. As I seem prone to do...

Aaaaaaaaaaaah, me, you men will never understand...

What a delightful song. Too bad that line stands alone rather poorly, but the little vibrato-induced shudder that always come to me when hearing the line has never disappointed me. Dear little Gianetta.

Oh, yes. This brings about several public service annoucements.

1. I am a professed and die-hard Gilbert and Sullivan fan. Be forewarned.

2. I have enabled a somewhat-helpful security device on the comments feature, since all these nice people keep trying to sell me real estate in Norway which I don't want. I'd like to discourage them in any way possible, so please forgive the inconvenience.

3. I shall again enlist your aid in praying, this time for a good friend who will begin to undergo a serious series of treatments for advanced cancer beginning on Tuesday. We're quite worried, as the treatment is very destructive in and of itself, and much prayer is needed for a good outcome to be likely. Thank you! The Sponsor has been so good to me about things like this in the past, I'll be thanking you to show Him you care.

Thank you. I now return you to your regularly scheduled blather.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Mothers go straight to heaven...

Or, so I'm told. The theory is that any woman who has a little Bloke or Sheila to take care of and train up in the way he should go, has got a sure-fire one-way ticket into eternal bliss. Mothers are the ones who best follow the mandate of Christ to "give up one's life" for another. I mean, don't they? Moms rock. I love mine. St. Augustine loved his, too, and she's our saint for the day.

"I think it is only when we are in the next life that children will learn how much their parents prayed and sacrificed for them. One mother who prayed a great deal for one of her children is St Monica, the mother of St Augustine. She lived in Tagaste in North Africa which is called Algeria today. Monica and her husband Patricius had three children, Augustine, Navigius and Perpetua. Navigius was always a good son, and Perpetua became a nun and abbess. But Augustine was different. As a teenager he was influenced by the loose living of his companions. When he was studying in Carthage he decided to take a mistress. Augustine was, as we would say now, such a brat that he even once said to Monica his mother that there would be no problems between them if she gave up her faith! After that Monica was so desperate that she went to a bishop who advised her to be patient. He told her it would be impossible that a son over whom she had shed so many tears would perish and that he would soon return to the faith. From then on she stayed as close as possible to Augustine and she prayed and fasted for his conversion. When Augustine was 29 he moved to Rome to teach rhetoric and then he moved to Milan where he received a position teaching rhetoric. Monica moved to Milan after him. Augustine often heard Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, preaching and this is probably what sowed the seed of faith in his heart. All the prayers of his mother Monica for his conversion were now beginning to be heard after many years of seemingly being unheard. Augustine began to study the New Testament and especially Paul. He was close to being baptised but could not take a decisive step. His soul was crying out for conversion but his body said no! “Lord make me chaste but not yet” describes Augustine at this stage.

The turning point came when one day Augustine read a passage from Rom 13:13-14 “put on the Lord Jesus and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.” Augustine described in his Confessions telling his mother that his struggle was over. She leaped for joy and understood that God had given Augustine more than she had begged. Augustine was baptised by Bishop Ambrose of Milan and he and Monica decided to return to North Africa. While waiting in Ostia, the port of Rome, to catch a boat back home, Monica said to Augustine, “I have no further delight in anything in this life…There was one thing for which I desired to linger a little while in this life, that I should see you a Catholic Christian before I died…Why am I still here?” Five days later Monica caught a fever and went into a coma and died after nine days. Augustine devotes many passages of his Confessions to his mother and all he owed her. Augustine went on to become a priest at the age of 36 and a bishop at the age of 41 and was Bishop of Hippo in North Africa for 35 years. One example of the influence Augustine has on the Church is that in the Catechism of the Catholic Church there are more quotations from Augustine than from any other writer. And all of this due to the persistent prayer of his mother St Monica."

~From a Homily for the Twentieth Sunday Year A by Fr Tommy Lane, Ireland

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Saint of the Day: Louis IX, Crusader King of France

On this day in history...325 Council of Nicaea concludes.

"The Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical debate held by the early Christian church, concludes with the establishment of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Convened by Roman Emperor Constantine I in May, the council also deemed the Arian belief of Christ as inferior to God as heretical, thus resolving an early church crisis.

The controversy began when Arius, an Alexandrian priest, questioned the full divinity of Christ because, unlike God, Christ was born and had a beginning. What began as an academic theological debate spread to Christian congregations throughout the empire, threatening a schism in the early Christian church. Roman Emperor Constantine I, who converted to Christianity in 312, called bishops from all over his empire to resolve the crisis and urged the adoption of a new creed that would resolve the ambiguities between Christ and God.
Meeting at Nicaea in present-day Turkey, the council established the equality of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the Holy Trinity and asserted that only the Son became incarnate as Jesus Christ. The Arian leaders were subsequently banished from their churches for heresy. The Emperor Constantine presided over the opening of the council and contributed to the discussion."

~from The History Channel

Q: The ringing of bells at the elevation is now omitted during the consecration; the reason given is that since the Mass is now said in the language of the parishioners, they should be aware of what is happening and are not in need of bells to tell them. Does not the ringing of bells at the elevation draw attention to the great event that has occurred on the altar? -- E.H., Williamsford, Ontario

A: The General Instruction of the Roman Missal refers to bell ringing in No. 150: "A little before the consecration, when appropriate, a server rings a bell as a signal to the faithful. According to local custom, the server also rings the bell as the priest shows the host and then the chalice." The text makes it clear that ringing a bell at the consecration is an option, not an obligation. Since the GIRM's presumption is that Mass is celebrated in the local tongue, the use of the vernacular, in itself, cannot be used as a reason for the abolition of the bell ringing. There may be other good reasons, but they should be weighed carefully.

A long-standing custom should not just be swept away unless more is to be gained by dropping it than retaining it. The birth of the custom of a signal bell at the consecration, probably during the 13th century, had more to do with the recitation of the canon in a low voice than to the language of the Mass as such. It may also have been inspired by changes in church architecture in which the people were more physically separated from the altar by the choir -- and in some cases a significant number of faithful were impeded from seeing the altar during Mass.

Thus the use of the bell became necessary. Some centuries later the bell was also rung at other moments such as the Sanctus and before Communion. Certainly the practical reasons for ringing the bell have all but disappeared. Yet, it can still serve a purpose as an extra aid to call attention to the moment of the consecration, as a jolt to reawaken wandering minds and a useful catechetical tool for children and adults alike. In an age when people are ever more in thrall to audiovisual means of communication, and less attentive to abstract discourse, it seem strange that we set about removing those very means that, as well as forming part of our tradition, could prove most effective in transmitting a message of faith.

A similar argument could also be made regarding the decline in practices such as the use of incense during Mass. The Holy See has maintained the practice of ringing the bell at the consecration in St. Peter's Basilica, although it has an excellent sound system. I also had the experience of a parish that restored the use of the signal bell after many years without it. Not only where there no complaints but the general reaction was very positive from all age groups.

~courtesy of Zenit, which has available many other interesting liturgical questions and their answers

Still in DC, but hopefully more lucidly...

I see, in rereading, that my original DC post left something to be desired. I failed to make an all-powerful and mighty distinction between "clothes," "Clothes," and "Sunday Dress Code." Little-c clothes we wear during 'off' time, like to dinner and on Saturdays and in the early morning while we're still bleary-eyed and dopey from sleep deprivation. Big-c Clothes we wear to class, lunch, and midday Mass. SDC we wear, of all things, on Sunday, or when a major speaker comes and we feel the wild need to dress super nicely so that the notable personage is impressed by our decorum in the fashion sector. It will comfort you to know that the dresscode to the left was abandoned about 4 years ago, on account of the breeches being deemed 'unprofessional' for classroom use. The hair is still in fashion for some of our young men, but I'm not talking to them right now. This is all about girls, clothes, Clothes, and, well, you know.

Let's adress these one by one, in my inimitable and verbose fashion. First, clothes. These are the things which must always be modest, but not neccessarily always be stylish, coordinated, or neatly ironed and pressed. Shorts, jeans, tshirts, sporty polo shirts, modest (ah, the objectivity suggested by that word!) tank tops, and all other manner of 'casual' stuff is labelled 'clothes.' We wear these clothes with great gusto, many of my esteemed classmates taking the trouble to change as many as five ties a day, in order that every non-class-dresscode moment may be spent in the comfort of warmups and a sweatshirt (both also styled 'clothes.'). Little-c clothes are the lowest level of clothes, and they form the foundation of the 'modesty dress code' which is always in force, which helps us maintain the standard of appearance which is in keeping with the proper Christian yound lady's idea of propriety, chastity, purity, modesty, and all those other 'ty' words. (This threatens to send me on a long digression about a line of beanbag animals...)

For Clothes, on the other hand, there are more nuances. For Clothes, we stress the idea of "Professional Attire" because there is a nebulous, but meritous, idea floating about campus that if we look nice and clean and neat and dquared away on the outside, it's possible that osmosis or something will make our cranial content appear in the same fashion. Por exemplo, we do not wear jeans to class. Jeans make us slouch, they make us relax, and (worst of all for class attention span), they make us think of being outside and enjoying the beautiful weather which only happens in the mountains during this transitional time of year. Jeans do not make us concentrate on the material being taught. Theoretically, nice khakis with belt and button-down blouse or nice sweater will make us concentrate on the material being taught, hence these are styled Clothes. We do not wear a denim skirt to class, unless we take special care to 'dress it up' with a very nice blouse or a jacket which denotes 'professional.' Again, nebulousness takes hold with an iron grip in here someplace, because what you call professional and what I call professional might not be the same thing. However, it's the spirit of the law at stake here, and we'll assume that denim doesn't equal professional. Again, Clothes also fall under that 'modesty dress code' thing which I shan't type out in entirety again.

I could go into footwear that are Clothes here, but I shan't. Takes too much time. I'll stop at "flip-flops are not professional, class" and leave it at that. One's feet, I suppose, can't technically really be immodest (they can be other things, like unmentionably dirty, blistered, or even scarred from the Virginia Reel), but there is something about attitude conveyed by footwear. This is another post for another day.

"Sunday Dress Code" (*angelic singing sound effect and reverent head inclination*) means we dress up really, really nice because it's the Lord's day and you've got to do something special for Him. Come on! I mean, if we change clothes five times a day to get comfy, or if we are late for breakfast because we had to wash, iron, and in other ways mutilate a particular blouse because it would look soooooo cute with the pants we had to dry, hem, and patch this morning because they would look sooooo cute with that blouse, we can certainly take a little extra effort with Sunday. So we do. No pants on ladies for Sunday Mass and Brunch, no denim skirts on ladies, no clothes, only Clothes. Very simple. (If this were a post for guys, I'd include here the clause about adding a blazer/suitjacket/whatever else they call it to the menu, but this isn't a post for guys.) SDC is a very special thing, because it makes you sit up and realize that something is different and special about The Day. Yeah. I'm into Sundays. {Insert original clause about the modesty dress code.}

However, I feel myself slipping into mushbrain syndrome. Political Science at 8:30 in the morning does that to me. Just keep in mind that I wrote the above with ladies in mind, and that there are many many many many many nuances to this little DC thing that I haven't gotten into. The great comfort is that, no matter how many potential infractions and loopholes and questions and issues and faux pas (how does one pluralize that?) we see, there are (uh-oh, can't remember the exact number) a dozen or so beautiful ladies here on campus who spent a week learning to take care of us, and clothes, Clothes, and Sunday Dress Code are three of their specialties.

See your RA or proctor if you have a question, Betty. It's always okay! (-: Besides, they get paid for it.

An Inspiration in a Fog....

Someone dear to me passed on the following story this morning, which I thought neat enough to share. To read the whole article, go here.

"In 1969, The Coca-Cola Company and its advertising agency, McCann-Erickson, ended their popular "Things Go Better With Coke" campaign, replacing it with a campaign that centered on the slogan "It's the Real Thing." Beginning with a hit song, the new campaign featured what proved to be one of the most popular ads ever created. "

Who remembers this song? I don't, but please consider my extreme youth and forgive me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Wowsers. I've been linked by Amy Welborn. Terror strikes at my very heart, as I frantically scan my little brain for material on which to blog. It's a programming blackout...there's no feed...

Actually, the fact that I have a class beginning in nine minutes may have something to do with my lack of "with it-ness." Something about impending discussions of Beowulf and the like do sad things to my little brain.

I can, however, once again direct you to my sponsor. A group of students from school are once more gearing up to travel into the big city every saturday and pray outside the abortion clinic run by Planned Parenthood. We're working on revving up participation, fundraising, and even the size of the program itself, so please keep us all in your prayers.

The ministry of being there, in person, outside a clinic, and praying for these men and women who enter the building is something powerful to behold. I find myself in admiration and awe of those dedicated souls who get up in the dark and chilly hours of the morning, rain or shine, no matter the temperature or other extenuating circumstances, and go to be a martyr for Christ, in the witnessing sense of the word.

Remember us!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Prayers, requests, peitions. A word to the Sponsor

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for an announcement. I like my Political Science class. Thank you.

Actually, you could take a walk over to Shameless Plagiarism and read Filia's comment about WYD, as it is an interesting thing, and I repeat here my plug about getting with my Sponsor. It's a funny thing, how Satan decides to capitalize on such opportunities. He's awfully tricky, and so nastily creative. I remember that being the bit in Screwtape Letters that struck me most: just how inventive and enterprising the evil one really is.

Of course, lately, everything for me has been roses and smiles and lots of Grace (which has recently acquired the strangest of nicknames in my dorm), since I'm back here in this beautiful place and God is just outside my door, literally. In fact, I still keep running over and peeking in His doorway, just to make sure he's still there. TTO'D told us on Sunday that, when he first went away to college, his father wrote him a little note than simply said, "Son, just remember that a red light burn always, in silence, and the Best Friend in the world is always waiting to hear from you." It was a cool thought, and I continue to pop into the BF's place from time to time. It's a pleasant thing, to have the chapel so convenient. One is allowed extra opportunities for pius reflection inside Church, where in the normal world one must work a little harder to make all reflection pius, though most of it happens outside Church. I'll grant you, having God so blastedly convenient makes practicing that other reflection so difficult! Who would bother training the mind to pray while washing dishes, when He and his holy silence are right there?

Okay, so maybe a lot of people would. I think this is going to be my project for a long time--learning to bring that silence out of the Church and take it with me everywhere, since I know full well that that Easy Access God and Grace Station (Like a 7/11, only different) is not something that will be available to me all my life. In fact, I only have approximately 27 more months left! So, I proceed to get myself geared up for dragging holy silence into the real world, where I will actually be needing it.


Back to the chapel, Betty.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Me again, only slightly out of date. But I'm sure you don't mind.

Well, not quite midnight, but I’m still blogging late. Well, not quite that either. I’m sitting in my happily organized and neatified dorm room and writing something which shall be broadcast at a later date. Probably tomorrow afternoon before I go to meet the Dean.

Speaking of the Dean, a funny thing happened on the way to the commons. As a member of the welcoming committee, I decided yesterday afternoon that it would be a good idea to pick up my t-shirt, so that I would be properly and fully equipped with a bright green and largely unattractive shirt declaring “Welcoming Committee” in letters large enough to read but still small enough to all fit on one line. A delicate balance, to be sure. Anyhow, I go to the assistant dean’s (not going to capitalize the noun anymore—takes too much time) office and said, “Hi, can I have my shirt?” She goes, “Here’s XX dollars, go meet the pizza guy, give him this tax form, and make sure you get a receipt. If I’m not there at noon sharp, make them all pray and get busy being organized for when people show up. Oh, yes. Welcome back!” From thence on, I became the special minion to the deans, and enjoyed the heck out of myself running to and fro, being friendly, meeting people, talking a great deal more than is necessary, and taking many many pictures, for I am also the designated yearbook photographer person for the weekend. This makes me a very busy little bug.

The mostest funnest part of all, though, was last night. I got to help serve the port and sherry to parents and faculty at a reception, and all my old professors were there. Each one remembered my name, what classes I had taken from them, and all sorts of neat details about my person, such as the fact that I liked to laugh in class. At lots of things. It was a truly grand evening, ending with me being utterly tired out from walking back and forth and greeting parents and making name tags and pointing out professors and answering questions and replenishing the sherry (nasty, sticky stuff which I should never care to taste as it smells so dreadful) and consolidating the cookies…yeah. I had a good time. The cool part about the whole thing, though, is I have again made friends with the deans and we’re on excellent terms. (This morning, that enabled me to make a nuisance of myself with the camera and take nice shots of the dean talking to freshmen, and more nice shots of freshmen listening to the dean.) Great fun. However, tomorrow the camera goes back to A, who is the real brains of the yearbook operation, and he gets the job of photographing during Mass, something which I don’t particularly care to do myself, and which would be quite difficult as I’m singing with the choir.

Which is the other thing I did today, which I mentioned in the blog before but not in detail. Dr. P has decided that intonation and balance and tone and things like that are very important to a choir and must somehow be improved. Hence, a little book called “The Care and Feeding of Singers” has been brought off the shelf and we’re doing exercises with words like “zoooo zoooo zoooo” in which the sopranos and tenors sing a steady tone and the altos and basses (1st, 2nd, and 3rd bass) sing a moving line which goes down a minor third, back up, and then down a major third and you end up (ideally) with a major interval nicely tuned and balanced. It’s going to take some work. Of course, the fact that most of us have not sung anything of consequence all summer (I did, but leave that out for now) is factoring into the equation, and Dr. P realizes. For this reason, nothing above “nearly but not quite impossible” is on the list for tomorrow’s Mass.

Oh, yes. And there’s to be a dedication of a massive Crucifix which hangs in the library, tomorrow after Mass. With that, I go to sleep before some other sweet person comes in to chat with me and I again fail to become comatose before 1:30 in the morning. If I didn’t get up at 6:30 regardless, I have a feeling this wouldn’t be such an issue.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Home? Again.

Yes, ladies and gents, we are broadcasting to you this evening from my home-away-from-home /second home /scholastic domicile /prison compound. It's good to be back, after a long summer, as one must be back at school in order to begin classes. I have purchased books, spoken to many professors, and have attended my first choir rehearsal of the year. 'Tis been a long day.

It's an odd sensation, though, to be back on campus after a three-month hiatus, because one gets the feeling (within just a few hours) that one has never left. The place hasn't changed, for better or for worse, and neither have the people. They are all much the same as I left them back in May, and only the shining faces of more than one hundred happy and enthusiastic freshmen clue me in to the fact that this is not, after all, last year. However, the seeming repeat of history is rather disconcerting. One goes through the exact same round of buying, selling, listening, talking, registering, and generally being busy that one went through last year. The only trick is that there are people now who know less than you. This was not the case last year, no sirreebob.

But, that's not why I'm really on here to blog. I'm really on here to tell you that the highlight of my day (so far, and I don't see Game Night as holding much promise as far as spiritual revelations go) was Mass this morning. Fr. H read to us from a speech which Benny Sixteen gave at WYD sometime in the last day or so, in which he said:

Now all of us together have to put his teaching into practice. It is this commitment which has brought us here to Cologne, as pilgrims in the footsteps of the Magi. According to tradition, the names of the Magi in Greek were Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar. Matthew, in his Gospel, tells of the question which burned in the hearts of the Magi: “Where is the infant king of the Jews?” (Mt 2:2). It was in order to search for him that they set out on the long journey to Jerusalem. This was why they withstood hardships and sacrifices, and never yielded to discouragement or the temptation to give up and go home.

There is much more, which you can read at EWTN, but that particular passage was quite interesting, as Father compared the Magi to students at college who have left home and family to search for the Truth, and in the end he explained it all so that we were fired up and excited about learning His ways, his truths, and anything else of His that He cares to reveal. It was a pep talk from the pulpit, yes, but I appreciated it greatly. Made me all set....time to get back to work, Betty.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Back to D.C.

And I don’t mean the capital of the country, folks. I mean dress code. It’s something that was brought to my attention once more by a friend coming to CC for the first time this semester…I had forgotten about such things as lengths of shorts, heights of slips, and puckering of shirts, not to mention all-important anatomy lessons such as:

A. Finding your collarbone! This is a new adventure for many ladies, but essential to determining the appropriateness of that new dress. Three fingers and three fingers only are allowed to fit between that amazing little bone and the beginning of the fabric. Any more, and I’m afraid we’re just going to have to fine you. I recall my initial experience with this being very, very new, as my collarbone had never seen the light of day. (You're speaking to Miss Tshirt and Turtleneck here.) In fact, I don't think it has all summer.

B. Finding the crease in the back of your knee. This doesn’t sound so interesting as locating a collarbone, but it’s pretty important. It’s actually back there--get acquainted, especially if you plan to wear a skirt that doesn’t go sweeping along the floor with a gentle swish. (Funny, though, how such a ladylike effect only registers in my dirty little mind as “Gee, Betty, my hem’s getting simply filthy down there! I wonder if Zoop! detergent will get out that floor residue?” ) The kneecrease is something else of mine which rarely gets any sunlight.

Then there’s all the non-anatomy stuff you get to remember, things I simply hadn’t thought of since leaving school. Chapel veils, for instance, and how I’m not going to wear one. This shall become an interesting debate in approximately 120 hours, but I'm holding firm. There's something inconsistently hypocritical in wearing a veil at school and nowhere else. Or, remembering which shoes make that horrible clicking noise in church when you walk down the inconsiderately clicky hardwood floor. It never failed…the days I wore the wrong shoes were the days I was singing and had to walk the entire way from front to back of churhc with everyone still kneeling piously (quiet piety, too, oh, so quiet!) and trying to ignore the bloody shoes.

Then there are all the non-written dress code and fashion rules which govern the wearing of clothing. The biggest problem I’ve had this summer is seeing how long I can go before my mother notices that I’ve been wearing the same outfit for, like, say, about, well, a week. Then she mildly inquires whether I wouldn’t like to wash it, as a special occasion. (I swear she steals my clothes in the night sometimes and washes them when I’m not looking.) At school, so dim memory reminds me, one had to be sure and pick an entirely different outfit every day, because someone would be sure to notice that you’d worn that one yesterday. In fact, it was good to have at least two months’ worth of different outfits, because some of those noticers had memories like elephants. “Gee, Betty, didn’t you wear that outfit three Tuesdays ago? Is it a trend? I’ve got quarters, dear, if you need to do laundry that badly.” I try to change shoes on a biweekly basis, too.

Who worries about all this stuff in the summer? Who gets up in the morning during summer and goes, “Ah, shoot. I can’t wear my polo shirt today…I have class?” What person not under the wraps of an all-embracing dress code rummages through the closet and goes, “Gee, Betty, I can’t wear this shirt because it puckers!” (Well, to be honest, I have, but only because I’m too stupid to remember that sort of thing on a daily basis. I did it once, and promptly passed every puckerin’ shirt in the closet on to a place where puckers are looked upon with equanimity and mercy. Couldn’t afford to get sent back to the dorm every morning to change.) It's so funny to me to have dress code again thrust upon my mind as an entity. Since I'm practically always in dress code (except for the sneakers and polo shirt bit--sorry, Mollie!), I don't even think about it at home. I don't wake up in the summer and go, "I wore this outfit three days in a row this week. Someone might start noticing."

Sigh. Back to the grind. Back to the world where my sneakers will no longer be on my feet 24 hours a day, six days a week. Back to the world where you can’t wear someone else’s clothing unless they’re wearing something of yours, or else they’ll tell. Back to the world where borrowing your younger brother’s clothes is no longer possible, because he’s 500 miles away. Back to the future, McFly.

“Gee, Betty, isn’t this a lovely program? We should tune in every night!”

A little something from theology.

All grace given to men after the fall of Adam is the fruit of Christ’s redemptive death. Christ purchased the gift of grace for us, it is not owed us or earned by us—one cannot say that God owes grace to any creature. Nothing that we have is owed to us, not even our existence. It is all a gift.

We cannot demand of God the right to be. However, given that God created us, certain things are necessary for us to achieve our natural perfection. For example, we need air in order to breathe, because God created us that way. We need food to survive, because God created us to have that need. In this way, God owes us those things which he has created us to require. Grace is not one of those things. Confusing? What about ‘man is a spiritual being’? Well,‘spiritual’ is not the same thing as supernatural. Man is ‘spiritual’ by nature and so spiritual things are in the natural order- God only ‘owes’ things in the natural order. Grace is supernatural and hence above the level of those owed things.

‘Directed toward salvation’ means that salvation depends on grace, and we cannot get there without it. The most fundamental gift that God gives us to direct us to salvation is Himself. This is a type of grace in and of itself, called ‘uncreated grace.’ Sometimes this is called an ‘indwelling of the Holy Spirit,’ or indwelling of the Trinity appropriated to the Holy Spirit. God actually comes and dwells in us, as Christ said.:

"If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my father will love him, and we
will come to him and make our home with him." (John 14:23

When God comes to be with us in this manner, we become temples of the Holy Spirit. God also gives us other supernatural gifts. These include the effects of His presence in the soul, as well as other aids to foster the divine life. Some created graces are given primarily for the personal sanctification of the recipient alone. These are called gratum faciens, which means ‘to make pleasing.’ This includes sanctifying grace and the other gifts given with it, namely infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Gratum faciens are given with the reception of sacraments and in many other
cases. They come together, and are among the most beauteous gifts God bestows upon us, by the very generosity with which they are given.

These gifts, of themselves, make the soul pleasing to God. Also included in this group are actual graces. Gratum faciens are intended for all men and are necessary for salvation. Other created graces are given to some primarily for the salvation of others, and are called gratis datae, or ‘healing.’ Their common name is ‘charismatic gifts,’ and they manifest the operation of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church by bestowing on certain individuals the power to perform extraordinary works for the good of the whole church. Miracles, Prophesy (which means the proclaiming of the word of God and not telling of the future), healing, discernment of spirits, and tongues are all included in this group. These are not necessary for salvation and are given only to few persons. (I knew a priest who spoke in tongues often.) Furthermore, they are not an indication of holiness- holiness is not a prerequisite to the possession or exercise of the Charismatic gifts. God can bestow them on sinners. Lastly, either of these kinds of graces can be present without the other.

Sunset Glows on the Tomcat

They're coming one after the other now. Each day seems to bring another heartache – articles in professional journals, invitations for “the last of” events, order forms for coffee table books. I'm beginning to realize that there's no putting off the fact that one of the most revolutionary, capable, and elegant airplanes ever to dominate the skies is going away.

I refer, of course, to the F-14 Tomcat. Over the next number of months the grand old boy will take his leave. With the F-14 goes the notion of swing wings, variable geometry intakes, radar intercept officers, and 1.8 indicated Mach number on the airspeed gauge. And with the F-14 also goes a big part of what made my life noteworthy, dare I say, the stuff of novels.

The Tomcat had an amazing run: thirty-plus years, three wars, dozens of brushfires and contingencies, and one popular – albeit hokey– movie called “Top Gun.” Few airplanes in the history of aviation have adapted as well to the tactical landscape over their years in the inventory. The F-14 was designed around the AWG-9/Phoenix missile system, a long-range air superiority fighter that pushed out the boundaries of fleet defense. The early portion of my flying career was about launching on the Alert 5 and escorting Soviet bombers and transports. Those were the days of the 1+45 cycle, the days when the Tomcat was the fuel critical jet in the air wing. The thought of dropping bombs was anathema to us then.

But the threat changed as the post-Cold War defense budgets shrunk, and the F-14 morphed into an attack platform. A few years after that the LANTIRN pod was strapped onto a wing station and strike planning doors that had once been shut to the Tomcat community came flying open. Suddenly the Tomcat, with its two-man crew and newly received high-resolution displays, was the platform of choice for culturally sensitive or hard-to-find targets. System by system (including the flight controls), an analog airplane turned digital.

And none too soon. Precision bomb delivery along with the refinement of the photo reconnaissance mission and the addition of roles such as FAC(A) came just in time to serve in the wake of 9/11. Six-hour missions to Masir-e-Sharif? No problem. Same goes for the way the airplane was employed during the opening months of the Iraqi War. A flexible, capable platform combined with resourceful aviators is a great pairing in the face of a dynamic battlefield. Ironically, perhaps, as the Tomcat got older, it got better. In sum, it's safe to say that the American taxpayer was well served by this asset.

But now the F-14's time is nearly over. Emotions stir in the face of this reality. Thousands of hours of my adult life were spent strapped into the back seat of the “Big Fighter.” It was there that challenges were met, friendships were forged, and the nation's will was carried out. From that lofty perch I looked up at the heavens and down on hostile lands. I didn't always realize it then – youth, of course, is lost on the young – but each sortie was a gift.

So, too, was the time spent in the company of greats. I think back on chain-laden plane captains who loved the airplanes as much as we did, those who kept the aviators going with their enthusiasm in the face of long days that promised nothing but more hard work. I remember the maintenance master chiefs who taught me not just how the Tomcat works but how to be an officer and a man. And for their caring they asked for nothing in return. In their countenances I saw my responsibilities.

Anyone familiar with my Punk series of books knows that the years I spent riding in the back gave me a de facto doctorate in pilot personality types. Any RIO with 1,000 hours or more in the airplane possesses a similar degree. And as I flip through the pages of my weathered logbooks and read the names – Orr, West, Davison, Owens, Daill, Alwine, and hundreds more – I think of their skill, skill that boggles the mind even now, and the teamwork between cockpits that made flying the F-14 rewarding. I know few things as surely as I know that U.S. Navy carrier-based pilots are the best in the world.

And what of the down times between sorties? In my mind's eye I conjure up a gathering in the eight-man stateroom where problems are broached, dissected, and solved. This is where I learned about trust. This is where I realized I could survive the trial that was life at sea – hell, life period.

Now I close my eyes and hear the clack, clack, clack of the shuttle as it moves aft for the next launch. The exhaust from the powerful and reliable F-110 engines fills my nostrils until we drop the canopy and bring our jet to life. Air roars through the ECS. Systems power up. Soon we're parked behind the cat, waiting our turn. I roger the weight board – 68,000 pounds, buddy, 68,000 pounds. Grasp that, if you can. The jet blast deflector comes down and we taxi into place, my pilot deftly splitting the cat track with the twin nose tires. And then – even after decades of doing the same thing – the adrenaline starts to flow as we go through the deck dance unique to the Tomcat: The nose strut compresses, giving the fighter the look of a rail dragster; the launch bar comes down. Wings spread. Flaps lower. Outboard spoiler module circuit breaker goes in (a RIO gotcha). Our hands go up as the ordies arm the missiles, bombs, and gun.
There's the signal from the catapult officer. My pilot puts the throttles to military power and wipes out the controls – stick forward, aft, left, and right; rudder left and right.
“You ready, Mooch?” he asks. I run the fingers of my right hand across the top of the lower ejection handle (for orientation purposes) and answer, “Ready.”

He salutes. We both lean forward slightly. (No self-respecting Tomcat crew would take a cat shot with their heads against the headrest, not to mention that would be a good way to get your bell rung because of the way the airplane surges down before it starts moving forward.) A couple of potatoes later we're off. Airborne.

And for the next hours we stand ready to bring this machine, this manifestation of American know-how, to bear however it might be required. Or maybe today isn't our day to save the world, so we accommodate one of the small boy's requests for a fly-by or break the sound barrier just because we can (and we're far enough above our fuel ladder to get away with it).
We're flying a Tomcat. And we're getting paid to do it. Alas, I speak of days gone by. What remains of what once gave my working life purpose will soon only be found in front of main gates, aviation museums, and VFW halls around the country. In the blink of an eye I have become the guy with the ill-fitting ball cap and the weathered flight jacket who bores young ensigns (and anyone else who happens to make eye contact) with his tales of derring-do. “VF, dang it!” I rail. “Those were real fighter squadrons.” And they were. Swordsmen, Pukin' Dogs, Grim Reapers, Diamondbacks – mascots of an adventure. At the center of it all was the airplane itself, and when an airplane has so much heart, personality, and character it ceases to be inanimate to those who climb into it on a regular basis.

So it's goodbye, dear friend. Forgive my depression. I've heard the promises of a brighter future, but my time in the arena was with you. I watch you zorch into the sunset and wonder how it all could have passed so quickly. It doesn't seem like that long ago when we were together, inextricably linked, one defining the other. Ours was a world of unlimited possibilities and missions accomplished. Ours was a world of victory.

So goodbye, Big Fighter, blessed protector of the American way and our hides. We who knew you well will miss your class, your swagger, your raw power. Even in the face of technological advances you bowed to no other. Thanks for the memories. They are indeed the stuff of novels.

About the Author: Ward Carroll served in four different F-14 squadrons based at NAS Oceana and was the operations officer for Carrier Air Wing One. He was editor of Approach magazine and is currently a contributing editor for Naval Aviation News. His three books about a Tomcat pilot -- Punk's War, Punk's Wing, and Punk's Fight -- have been widely praised for their realistic portrayals of a Naval Aviator's life. His latest novel, The Aide, was recently published by Signet.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Betraying my latest vacation spot.

While recently driving through the Great Smoky Mountains, not far from Asheville, North Carolina, I discovered at long last whence cometh the monkier of those famed hills.

They do, indeed, smoke.

With a charming southern thunderstorm belabouring the mountainsides with rain, wind, and weather of various descriptions, the rainforests upon said mountainsides began to give forth their response to rain, wind, and weather of various descriptions. Usually, of course, this exchange of rainforest heat and cool rain begets a nice sort of mist, but not so in the Smokies. No, there everything is done on a grand scale, and the hills seem to (quite literally) be on fire. Great clouds, nay, columns of smoke waft up from various spots along the tortuous highway, making one feel as if the entire environment is being consumed by an inferno. This effect is heightened by the fact that the whole upper thousand feet or so of the range is cleverly disguised as a cloud bank. What with all that cloud business going on in such a thick and determined manner, the effect of having wandered into a forest fire is complete.

Hence, the Smoky Mountains. It interested me, at the time, because driving upon a narrow two lane highway above 5000 feet, passing the occasional sign that says "Caution, dropoff has no Bottom", is always interesting. It interests me now because, at this great distance of time, it makes me think of visits to Point Reyes Light House (California), The Badlands (Dakotas), and The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (Maryland/Virginia), were all similarly shrouded in the mysterious cloud vapour which is made up of water too good to join it fellows in land-based organizations, but takes instead to the skies in a non-condensed form. At Point Reyes, of course, it caused the outside temperature to feel appromixately -789degrees Kelvin, but that's most likely an exaggeration, brought on by the fact that I was inadequately dressed for an Antarctic excursion. Oh well.

Back to the mountains.

Something else interesting...

Just so you know, I've decided that putting up more links on my site would be unimaginitive.

I'm sending you to the linkspot to end all linkspots. If he's not got it linked there, then you simply don't need it. At least, that's worked for me anyway.

Also, the good nuns in Nashville seem to be constructing something on their website, for which reason it is currently unavailable. Oh vell. They'll be back...

The first (second) post.

By rights, this should go first, but I have decided to imitate dear old Ludwig von B, and have my second actually come to life, or at least public domain, before my first. Hence, the following:

And with such fanfare and glory as might otherwise overturn a small boat, I proceed to make an electronic splash into the world of blogging. My computer does not recognize this gerund "blogging." Hmm.

Well, as I say, here I am. So this is what blogging is about. Putting my thoughts on a cute little templated website (computer does not recognize verb form ‘templated’, either) for anyone to read who happens to stumble into my little electronic world. Wow.

I’m thinking about being amazed. However, my thoughts are rapidly running dry. I suspect that someone else’s words might do you more good than my own. I’ll put some of those up. Cheers.

From the early days of 1942...

The reason the world is at war is that the rulers of people and the people themselves have spurned or forgotten God and God’s commandments. Many of the sufferers on both sides are innocent victims, thinking and praying as we are thinking and praying for peace, a peace with justice.

We sympathize with them and with ourselves in this predicament, for our hopes and our help go out to all the suffering peoples. Our prayers are with the living and with the dead. Yet we ourselves must look to the lesson that their plight and our own plight teach that we must put our own house in order against those who through malice or ignorance would tear it down. This means that we must be vigilant against internals as well as external enemies.

When I went to school, freedom of the press meant the presentation of facts with decency and sincerity. Now, there are those to whom freedom of the press means license to publish pornographic literature and to distribute it freely with the resulting corruption of minds and morals. When I went to school, freedom of religion meant just what it said. Now it seems to include the freedom to destroy religion. When I went to school, freedom of speech consisted of saying indeed what one believed to be true, but it did not include the prerogative of making venomous, subversive speeches against our form of government and the public advocacy of violent measures to overthrow it. When I went to school, freedom of assembly was not interpreted to mean the right to browbeat and headcrack law-abiding citizens minding their own business.

What are we going to do about it?

We should try to live ourselves and let others live in accordance with God’s commandments and in accordance with the Constitution of the United States. As far as we possibly can do so, we should try to put God back into education, into the home, into government. At the present time there are two very separate camps into which the world is divided. One of these groups is striving to raise the standard of living. It is a much-used phrase and in no place is its meaning wider and more true than in the United States.

We are pioneers and leaders in raising the standard of living. In the spiritual sense, as well as the material, no force has done more the raise the standard of living than the Church. And when I say "standard of living" I mean standard of living in all the possible phases of its meaning but especially do I emphasize the standard of living righteously, living in accordance with the laws of God, God’s commandments.

In that sense not every American nor every Church member is raising the standard of living. There are also destructive forces in America. And for a juxta-phrase, I would say that these forces and these nefarious influences may be characterized as representing hordes who are "raising the standard of killing," not only of killing bodies but of killing souls. God has been taken out of life, education, industry, and political activities. Now we are reaping the whirlwind.

When God is taken out of human life, when God is torn from the foundations of human living, diverted from the motivation of human actions, when God is supplanted by a substitute as the mainspring of human ambitions, then standards of morality are lowered and conversely standards of killing souls and bodies are raised.

-Francis Cardinal Spellman, The Road to Victory