Saturday, April 19, 2003

Holy Saturday
"...There is a stillness, a quietness in the air. Holy Thursday and Good Friday have passed, and now we wait to celebrate Easter Sunday. Easter is here, but not quite yet. In some way, our life is similar. We want Heaven, but are not quite ready yet."
Father Thomas Connery, Repent, It's Lent, (Twenty-Third Publications, Mystic, CT, 1998), Prayer for Holy Saturday, p. 48.

During that original Passiontide, this was the Day of Preparation. And so it is today. We wait, mourning Christ crucified and buried in the borrowed tomb. But, unlike the Apostles that first Holy Saturday, we know that Christ will rise on the dawn of the morrow and that the joy will be unleashed at the great vigil Mass tonight, as we hear the moving words of the Easter Proclamation, "O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam that won for us so great a Redeemer."

While we wait, we conclude our lenten reading and preparation. Some churches offer a last opportunity before Easter to recieve the Sacrament of Penance this afternoon. Sadly, few avail themselves of the chance. Around the home there are tasks to perform for the feast of Easter. There is a house to be cleaned, foods to be prepared, decorations to be put up, flowers to be arranged, Easter baskets to be filled. After the vigil Mass tonight, the veils over the crucifixes, saints images, etc. can come down.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick and I wish all of you the most joyful and blessed Easter. May the light of the Lord's resurrection shine in all of your hearts and families this Easter.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Psalm 22/21
O God, my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me?
Far from my salvation are the words of my sins.
O my God, I shall cry by day, and thou wilt not hear: and by night, and it shall not be reputed as folly in me.
But thou dwellest in the holy place, the praise of Israel.
In thee have our fathers hoped: they have hoped, and thou hast delivered them.
They cried to thee, and they were saved: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
But I am a worm, and no man: the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people.
All they that saw me have laughed me to scorn: they have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head.
He hoped in the Lord, let hint deliver him: let him save him, seeing he delighteth in him.
For thou art he that hast drawn me out of the womb: my hope from the breasts of my mother.
I was cast upon thee from the womb.
From my mother's womb thou art my God,
depart not from me.
For tribulation is very near: for there is none to help me.
Many calves have surrounded me: fat bulls have besieged me.
They have opened their mouths against me, as a lion ravening and roaring.
I am poured out like water; and all my bones are scattered.
My heart is become like wax melting in the midst of my bowels.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue hath cleaved to my jaws: and thou hast brought me down into the dust of death.
For many dogs have encompassed me: the council of the malignant hath besieged me. They have dug my hands and feet.
They have numbered all my bones.
And they have looked and stared upon me.
They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots.
But thou, O Lord, remove not thy help to a distance from me; look towards my defence.
Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword: my only one from the hand of the dog.
Save me from the lion's mouth; and my lowness from the horns of the unicorns.
I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the church will I praise thee.
Ye that fear the Lord, praise him: all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him.
Let all the seed of Israel fear him: because he hath not slighted nor despised the supplication of the poor man.
Neither hath he turned away his face from me: and when I cried to him he heard me.
With thee is my praise in a great church: I will pay my vows in the sight of them that fear him.
The poor shall eat and shall be filled: and they shall praise the Lord that seek him: their hearts shall live for ever and ever.
All the ends of the earth shall remember, and shall be converted to the Lord:
And all the kindreds of the Gentiles shall adore in his sight.
For the kingdom is the Lord's; and he shall have dominion over the nations.
All the fat ones of the earth have eaten and have adored: all they that go down to the earth shall fall before him.
And to him my soul shall live: and my seed shall serve him.
There shall be declared to the Lord a generation to come: and the heavens shall shew forth his justice to a people that shall be born, which the Lord hath made.

The Stabat Mater
(Latin Original)

Stabat Mater dolorosa
Juxta Crucem lacrimosa,
Dum pendebat Filius.

Cujus animam gementem,
Contristatam et dolentem,
Pertransivit gladius.

O quam tristis et afflicta
Fuit illa benedicta
Mater Unigeniti!

Quem maerebat, et dolebat,
Pia Mater, dum videbat
Nati paenas inclyti.

Quis est homo, qui non fleret,
Matrem Christi si videret
In tanto supplicio ?

Quis non posset contristari,
Christi Matrem contemplari
Dolentem cum Filio?

Pro peccatis suae gentis
Vidit Jesum in tormentis,
Et flagellis subditum.

Vidit suum dulcem natum
Moriendo desolatum,
Dum emisit spiritum.

Eia Mater, fons amoris,
Me sentire vim doloris
Fac, ut tecum lugeam.

Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
In amando Christum Deum,
Ut sibi complaceam.

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
Crucifixi fige plagas
Cordi meo valide.

Tui nati vulnerati,
Tam dignati pro me pati,
Paenas rnecum divide.

Fac me tecum pie flere,
Crucifixo condolere,
Donec ego vixero.

Juxta Crucem tecum stare,
Et me tibi sociare
In planctu desidero.

Virgo virginum praeclara,
Mihi jam non sis amara:
Fac me tecum plangere.

Fac, ut portem Christi mortem
Passionis fac consortum,
Et plagas recolere.

Fac me plagis vulnerari
Fac me cruce inebriari,
Et cruore Filii.

Flammis ne urar succensus
Per te, Virgo, sim defensus
In die judicii.

Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
Da per Matrem me venire,
Ad palmam victoriae.

Quando corpus morietur,
Fac, ut animae donetur
Paradisi gloria.


At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had pass'd.

Oh, how sad and sore distress'd
Was that Mother highly blest
Of the sole-begotten One !

Christ above in torment hangs;
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
Whelm'd in miseries so deep
Christ's dear Mother to behold ?

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother's pain untold?

Bruis'd, derided, curs'd, defil'd,
She beheld her tender child
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of His own nation,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.

O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above;
Make my heart with thine accord.

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ our Lord.

Holy Mother! pierce me through;
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourn'd for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.

Virgin of all virgins best,
Listen to my fond request
Let me share thy grief divine.

Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.

Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it hath swoon'd
In His very blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful Judgment day.

Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defence,
Be Thy cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with Thee.


Thursday, April 17, 2003

It Is About 50 Degrees Colder Now Than It Was At This Time Yesterday
Literally, yesterday afternoon, while I was outside, I felt a 10-15 degree temperature drop in 10 minutes. That was less shocking than a 30 degree drop we experienced within 20 minutes one day last April. New England weather. If you don't like it, wait a minute. It will change.

Excerpts From the Ecclesia de Eucharistia Encyclical
Everything in this summary concerns the centrality of the Eucharist to Catholic worship. This is a long-overdue statement, that one prays the whole Church will take to heart.

"The Eucharist, as Christ's saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history."

This is back to basics of what it means to be Catholic:

In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned. In various parts of the Church abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet. Furthermore, the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession, is at times obscured and the sacramental nature of the Eucharist is reduced to its mere effectiveness as a form of proclamation. This has led here and there to ecumenical initiatives which, albeit well-intentioned, indulge in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith. How can we not express profound grief at all this? The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation. It is my hope that the present Encyclical Letter will effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery."

He can't just order that all parish churches henceforth be designed with high altars and central Tabernacles for reserved Eucharist, but he comes close:

"The designs of altars and tabernacles within Church interiors were often not simply motivated by artistic inspiration but also by a clear understanding of the mystery. ... Similarly, can we overlook the enormous quantity of artistic production, ranging from fine craftsmanship to authentic works of art, in the area of Church furnishings and vestments used for the celebration of the Eucharist? ... <Within this context of an art aimed at expressing, in all its elements, the meaning of the Eucharist in accordance with the Church's teaching, attention needs to be given to the norms regulating the construction and decor of sacred buildings." [my emphasis]

Even better:

The 'treasure' is too important and precious to risk impoverishment or compromise through forms of experimentation or practices introduced without a careful review on the part of the competent ecclesiastical authorities. Furthermore, the centrality of the Eucharistic mystery demands that any such review must be undertaken in close association with the Holy See."

You tell 'em:

"It must be lamented that, especially in the years following the post- conciliar liturgical reform, as a result of a misguided sense of creativity and adaptation there have been a number of abuses which have been a source of suffering for many. A certain reaction against 'formalism' has led some, especially in certain regions, to consider the 'forms' chosen by the Church's great liturgical tradition and her Magisterium as non-binding and to introduce unauthorized innovations which are often completely inappropriate."


"I consider it my duty, therefore to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity. These norms are a concrete expression of the authentically ecclesial nature of the Eucharist; this is their deepest meaning. Liturgy is never anyone's private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated."

The entire Church needs to take this message to heart. Obedience to it ought to be a litmus test for fidelity to the teachings of the Church. I welcome it most heartily. If only others who entertain their own nostrums about what the Mass and the structure of a parish church ought to be like did likewise.

The Holy Father Re-Emphasizes Some Eucharistic Doctrines
In a 78-page encyclical released Holy Thursday, the Holy Father has issued a stern warning against various abuses of the celebration of the Eucharist. Of particular note are admonitions against reception of the Eucharist by those who have remarried (or otherwise engaged in sexual relations) after a divorce without benefit of an annulment, against celebration of Mass by anyone other than a properly ordained priest, against receiving Eucharist in non-Catholic services, against accepting participation in ecumenical prayer services as counting against obligatory Mass attendance.

Specifically, he ruled out as ''unthinkable'' the practice of substituting obligatory Sunday Mass with celebrations of prayer with Christians from other faiths ''or even participation in their own liturgical services.''

John Paul expressed dismay that sometimes the Eucharist ''is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet.''

There is nothing new here (nor should there be). This is just a reiteration of doctrines that are in danger of being ignored. It is healthy and good to see that the Holy Father is concerned with maintaining the purity of Catholic doctrine. John Paul has done so much to enrich the Church. Not a small part of that has been the beginnings of some sort of discipline, or at least an admonitory voice raised against the steady left-ward lurchings of the American bishops, their staffs, and part of the laity (often the most active). These things needed to be said. I'm glad the Holy Father took the time to make these points again.

Maundy Thursday
Holy Thursday is known in the British Isles as Maundy Thursday. The name may come from one of two sources. The British monarch distributes maunds, or baskets of charity to the poor on Holy Thursday. But some believe the name comes from the Latin mandatum, from the last commands the Lord gave the Apostles at the Last Supper.

The giving of maunds by the monarch is part of a ceremony at a cathedral. He provides coins to one elderly man and one elderly woman for each year of his reign.

The monarch also used to copy the priestly function of washing the feet of the same people. The washing of the feet is, of course, the symbolic embodiment of the function of priesthood. Maundy Thursday is the anniversary of not just the institution of the Holy eucharist, but also of the priesthood.

However, in pre-Reformation England, the day was also known as "Sheer Thursday," "Sharp Thursday," "Char Thursday," or "Shrift Thursday" because, as part of a process of personal renewal, men typically cut their beards or hair on this day to look their best on Easter Sunday.

In the Church, those notorious sinners who had ben excluded from church during Lent were now re-admitted on confession. Bishops blessed oil for use in providing Extreme Unction to the dying, and to anoint the newly ordained for the coming year. Altars were cleaned (after all, they would be stripped after the Mass of the Lord's Supper). After the final Mass for the day, the Holy Eucharist would be carried in solemn procession to a tabernacle of repose, much as we do today. In pre-Reformation England, the custom was to fashion something that would resemble the Lord's tomb, and to place the Eucharist there until the Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday Night.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Roughly Attributed To Condoleeza Rice
We ignore Germany, forgive Russia, and punish France. Sounds about right to me.

Back To Yellow Alert

Lest We Forget
The roll of our honored dead.
The U.K.'s honoured dead.

Marines Find Terrorist Training Camp Outside Baghdad
Again, so much for the claim that Saddam's regime had nothing to do with terrorism.

Recta Ratio
In the spirit of house cleaning before the renewal of Easter, and since the war is pretty much over, I have decided to re-christen Verus Ratio as Recta Ratio, which is of course better Latin, as so, so many have pointed out since June. I had intended Recta Ratio as the title from the beginning, but the primary subject matter of the Scandal being homosexual rape, and recta being uncomfortably close to rectum, so that mockery would be inevitable, I hastily looked up a synonym for recta, and settled on verus, but forgot to make the noun and adjective agree in Latin. Since the URL included verusratio, I stuck with it. I will keep the URL as it is for now, until people are ready to take the next step. It will eventually become Recta Ratio, so long as I can bring the archives over (once I figure out how to restore the archives, that is).

For the time being, I have changed the description to a quotation on the benefits of prejudice from Lord Chesterfield. Prejudice in our society has, for 50 years or so, meant anti-Black or anti-Jewish feeling. I don't intend it that way. The concept of prejudice is much broader, and includes such concepts as disliking, without too much examination, such things as sacrilege, drug taking, obsessive drunkeness, gambling, the ideas of the French Revolution, Marxism, sin, idleness, gluttony, gossip, atheism, body-piercing, tatooing, homosexual practices, promiscuity, pornography, Islamo-fascism, dressing like a tramp, playing very loud music, and other things that, without delving too deeply into the matter, can be seen by the common man as just not right.

You don't need to have a deep philosophical discussion, or a legal argument about constitutional rights, to see that such things are, in varying degrees, morally wrong and to be avoided. Prejudice tells us so, along with Christian principles, rightly understood. Such prejudices are wholesome and beneficial. They are, in fact, the intellectual equipment of the common man, his "right reason." It has been the breaking down of these prejudices by the "anything goes, do your own thing" ethos of the '60s and '70s that has caused so much social turmoil.

Our minds ought not be open to all things, but only to those things that are of genuine benefit to our souls and to society.

Dies Irae
Dies irae, dies illa
solvet saeclum in favilla,
teste David cum Sybilla.

Quantus tremor est futurus,
quando judex est venturus,
cuncta stricte discussurus.

Tuba mirum spargens sonum
per sepulchra regionum,
coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupebit et natura,
cum resurget creatura,
judicanti responsura.

Liber scriptus proferetur,
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus judicetur.

Judex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet apparebit,
nil inultum remanebit.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronum rogaturus,
cum vix justus sit securus?

Rex tremendae majestatis,
qui salvandos salvas gratis,
salva me, fons pietatis.

Recordare Jesu pie,
quod sum causa tuae viae,
ne me perdas illa die.

Quaerens me sedisti lassus,
redemisti crucem passus,
tantus labor non sit cassus.

Juste judex ultionis,
donum fac remissionis
ante diem rationis.

Ingemisco tanquam reus,
culpa rubet vultus meus,
supplicanti parce, Deus.

Qui Mariam absolvisti,
et latronem exaudisti,
mihi quoque spem dedisti.

Preces meae non sunt dignae,
sed tu, bonus, fac benigne,
ne perenni cremer igne.

Inter oves locum praeta,
et ab hoedis me sequestra,
statuens in parte dextra.

Confutatis maledictis,
flammis acribus addictis,
voca me cum benedictis.

Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis,
gere curam mei finis.

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla

judicandus homo reus -
Huic ergo parce, Deus.

Pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem.


The day of wrath, that day
which will reduce the world to ashes,
as foretold by David and the Sybil.

What terror there will be,
when the Lord will come
to judge all rigorously!

The trumpet, scattering a wondrous sound
among the graves of all the lands,
will assemble all before the Throne.

Death and Nature will be astounded
when they see a creature rise again
to answer to the Judge.

The book will be brought forth
in which all deeds are noted,
for which humanity will answer.

When the judge will be seated,
all that is hidden will appear,
and nothing will go unpunished.

Alas, what will I then say?
To what advocate shall I appeal,
when even the just tremble?

O king of redoutable majesty,
who freely saves the elect,
save me, o fount of piety!

Remember, merciful Jesus,
that I am the cause of your journey,
do not lose me on that day.

You wearied yourself in finding me.
You have redeemed me through the cross.
Let not such great efforts be in vain.

O judge of vengeance, justly
make a gift of your forgiveness
before the day of reckoning.

I lament like a guilty one.
My faults cause me to blush,
I beg you, spare me.

You who have absolved Mary,
and have heard the thief's prayer,
have also given me hope.

My prayers are not worthy,
but you, o Good One, please grant freely
that I do not burn in the eternal fire.

Give me a place among the sheep,
separate me from the goats
by placing me at your right.

Having destroyed the accursed,
condemned them to the fierce flames,
Count me among the blessed.

I prostrate myself, supplicating,
my heart in ashes, repentant;
take good care of my last moment!

That tearful day,
when from the ashes shall rise again

sinful man to be judged.
Therefore pardon him, o God.

Merciful Lord Jesus,
give them rest.


Why Are We So Reluctant To Celebrate Victory?
The Administration is keeping quiet about proclaiming victory in Iraq, lest it be accused of gloating, or some terrorist incident kills a number of soldiers. As a consequence, I have observed very little that could be called spontaneous victory demonstrations, other than high-fiving on talk radio and the internet.

With regard to not gloating, I see no reason for the reluctance. Our armed forces have won a signal victory. They overran Iraq in three weeks and ousted the dictator's regime. They have found evidence of weapons of mass destruction, and have arrested a major terrorist. They have almost eliminated an al Qaeda affiliate, the Ansar al Islam organization. The troops did very well. They did all we could hope they would do. They are now our ambassadors to the Iraqi people. They ought to be paraded and feted on their return. We can start the victory celebrations now. A little of the spirit of V-E and V-J Days in the streets of the US would not be amiss.

When Germany surrendered, there remained the possibility of some Nazi holdouts continuing the fight and killing American or British troops. But we nevertheless were not ashamed to declare victory, even if some US troops might be killed later (my own father, when he returned to duty after recovering from his wound, had guns held on him and could have been shot by Russian soldiers who decided to loot a US supply train he was guarding, months after Germany's surrender). Post-war violence is not unknown.

US deaths from this point on can be chalked up to die-hards and terrorists. We have won the Iraq campaign of the War on Terrorism. The American people ought to be told this by the White House, so that they can mark the moment with the joy it deserves. They deserve to celebrate our troops' victory. And when the troops come home, they deserve the same ticker-tape parades and respect that the World War II and Gulf War veterans got, even if there are more battles to fight in the War on Terrorism.

By all means, feel free to gloat in public.

Anglican Clergy Ignorant of Christian Doctrine
It's a universal problem, though it may be improving in the US Catholic Church since we started to get serious again with the seminaries ten years ago. But I would guess that the average, orthodox, well-motivated seminarian today is less knowledgeable about Catholic doctrine, the history of the Church, interpretation of Scripture, etc. than his counterpart 80 years ago would have been.

It is part of the dumbing down of society in general, and there can be no doubt that it is reflected in the training of priests.

We keep them in seminary for a hugely long time (compared to the learned professions, which is undoubtably a factor in the decline of recognized vocations), but waste most of it teaching them to be sensitive and to be social workers, rather than teaching them truly advanced and solid Catholic doctrine. A college graduate with a good foundation ought to be ready for the priesthood after 4 years in seminary or less, if seminary studies were as rigorous as law or medical schools.

Of Course, For Christians, the Seder Reminds Us of the Last Supper

It has often occured to me that, with enough knowledge of changes in calendar, someone could calculate the exact date of the Lord's death by figuring out what year the first night of Passover fell on what we would consider Holy Thursday, the Thursday before the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. It would require projecting back the Gregorian Calendar (or the Julian Calendar, perhaps) and factoring in changes in time-keeping, etc. to between 25 and 35 AD. But since Passover and Easter don't coincide so closely that often, it should be possible. Does anyone know if it has been done, and what the result was?

Update: I see that the exact date is still a matter for debate. Newton thought the Lord was crucified on April 23rd (St. George's Day) 34 AD. But other dates include April 7th 30 AD, and April 3rd, 33 AD.

Passover Begins Tonight
Good Pesach to our Jewish friends.

I've attended a Seder dinner or two in my time. The problem is that, since Passover always falls during Lent, I can't eat the tasty lamb, or drink the wine, unless I make a special exception at the start of Lent. But haroset I like very much, as well as the raspberry or orange jell candies coated in dark chocolate, which of course are not traditional Seder foods, but are nonetheless common in the Jewish section of grocery stores here.

The Palestinian Authority Is Demanding the Release of Abu Abbas
He is under life sentence after being tried in absentia in Italy for the Achille Lauro hijacking.

Sort of shows you where the Palestinian Authority stands in the war on terror, doesn't it? Foursquare beside the terrorists.

Should they really be given a state, without a generation or two of purging of the violent elements of their leadership? When they are docile as sheep, genuinely democratic, interested in prosperity, tolerant of the beliefs of others, perhaps. Now, and for the forseeable future, no. No matter what Europe wants, why create another terrorist state?

Baghdad Bob May Have Killed Himself
Sort of like the other notorious practitioner of the the Big Lie (no, not Bill Clinton), Goebbels.

Spy Wednesday
"Still, as of old, man by himself is priced;
For thirty pieces Judas sold himself, not Christ"

Traditionally observed as the day Judas went to the high priest to offer to betray the Lord. Of course, he could have done so at any time, perhaps early on Maundy Thursday. I'm sure that the other Apostles did not get an opportunity to question him on Good Friday morning, or the high priest, for that matter. But traditionally, his betrayal is recognized on this day.

The only custom specific to Spy Wednesday that I am aware of comes from Poland. There, the young people throw an effigy of Judas from the top of a church steeple. Then it is dragged through the village while sticks and stones are hurled at it. What remains of the effigy is then thrown into a nearby stream or pond, symbolically drowning it.

This has always been a good day for confession and house cleaning in preparation for Easter.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

A Family Tradition Sparks A Thought
In our family, we always watch The Ten Commandments sometime near Passover. Since we acquired a VHS copy (DVD, eventually) we have been freed from the whim of network programmers, and can watch it when we like. We watched the first half last night, and will probably watch the second half tonight.

I was thinking that today, the studios could do a much more convincing job with the special effects (though they were great for their time). But today's motion picture industry could never produce such good actors in the main roles as Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner.

Name two actors active today who could play those parts as well? Gibson? Clooney? Hanks? Penn? Neeson? Cruise? DiCaprio? Irons? Pitt? Ford? Fiennes? Hopkins? Willis? I can't think of a single actor who could play either Moses or Ramses as well today as Heston and Brenner did back then. There are lots of British actors who could do as well as Sir Cedric Hardwicke, including his son Edward, but none who could do it better.

Hollywood's technology is much more impressive today. But its personnel has declined.

What Are the Neighbors Up To?
Neighbor Domenico Bettinelli does a great job fisking a Sunday Globe article which praised VOTF on its first anniversary.

He makes an excellent point: VOTF has pretty much hit its ceiling. It has no where else to go. Previous liberal efforts life We Are Church and "Catholics" For a Free Choice have also been disappointed to find that the vast majority of Catholic laity wants nothing to do with them. Now it is VOTF's turn.

Meanwhile, our neighbor from Metro-West, Mark Sullivan over at Ad Orientem has so much good new stuff up today it is hard to keep track of it all. He makes the excellent point that there is more disorder (or just as much) in the US over sports championships than in Iraq now.

He catches the hypocrisy and appeasement that has motivated Christians in the Middle East, at just the moment when they have seen their arguments refuted by the fall of Baghdad.

And he points out how western churches and the peace movement helped bring on the war, by giving the Iraqi regime the false impression that it could play the stall game forever, and the West would never do a thing.

A good day's blogging for both of Verus Ratio's neighbors.

Fox Is Reporting the Arrest of Abu Abbas, the Terrorist Leader
He was arrested in or near Baghdad by US troops. In case some have forgotten, he was behind the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, which resulted in the death of an elderly American named Leon Klinghoffer (commentator David Klinghoffer's father) when the hijackers pushed him, in his wheelchair, into the Mediterranean.

So much for the claim that Saddam had no connection with terrorism.

Six Days Until the Boston Marathon
One thing I am delighted to be missing, now that we don't watch TV, is Boston Marathon hype. It starts here around April Fools' Day. The TV newscasts of each of the network affiliates here in Boston almost always have a Marathon segment in each sports report. There are special commercials for the thing, touting the coverage those not working that day (it is a holiday in Massachusetts, in honor of the Battle of Lexington and Concord) can watch. All that to see some emaciated chap from Kenya or Nigeria win what started as a local race.

Now I went to college and law school at BC, and the Marathon route runs right by BC's front gate. But since I was a commuter, and had the day off, I was never there to see it. Since I spent the better part of a decade killing colonists on the Green in Lexington and elsewhere on Patriots' Day, I was able to block out most of the Marathon coverage. Though, when I got home to see if there was any film coverage in the news of me firing or commanding troops that morning, I had to wade through 45 minutes of Marathon before they would show a 30-second clip of the morning re-enactment.

Now that I get all my news from the net, and have moved on to another re-enactment group depicting another time period, I no longer see much about the Marathon. If I want sports news, I just click on the Red Sox website, or on the Red Sox coverage on the Globe's site. I don't have to wade through the newspaper the next day, I don't watch the TV news. And my Marathon exposure has dropped 90%. I could scarcely be happier. Ignorance of Marathon hype is bliss indeed.

First Armored Division Still Going To Iraq
Probably to relieve the 3rd Infantry Division. The First Cavalry Division is no longer slated for deployment to Iraq. The Fourth Infantry Division is getting itself sorted out over there. The First Armored is leaving its divisional artillery behind.

US Forces Have Shut Down the Direct Oil Pipeline From Iraq To Syria
But oil may be getting through via other routes. More than a billion dollars per year in illegal oil shipments were going to Syria via the pipeline. One may ask, now that Saddam is gone, and the beginning of a new government for Iraq has at least been debated, why are the US troops enforcing the UN sanctions? After all, the sanctions were on Saddam and his regime.

But the point is more that Syria will have no reason to credit money to Saddam's Swiss bank account for oil received from Iraq, and that we are sending a message to Syria. Play ball with the US, Bashar, or your oil supply (Syria has very little of its own) is not assured.

Pretty Hot for April
At 4:00 pm, the thermometer downtown here in Salem said it was 82 degrees. Of course, I can remember some hotter days in April. I recall Patriots' Day in 1976 being in the 90s (I dragooned my parents-I was 11 at the time- into taking me to the parade in Lexington that afternoon, but could not prevail upon them to take me to the battle re-enactment on the Green at 6:00 am that day). But still, it feels odd, considering the bitter east wind that was blowing down Essex Street yesterday afternoon, when the temp did not get much above 50, and the wind made it feel much colder.

The Wall Street Journal On "Dictator Dominoes"
Let us hope that the war in Iraq will have a substantial effect in bringing down the governments in Damascus, Tehran, and Pyongyang

Eighty Degrees Possible
We are about to get a taste of summer, which will be a shock, since it has been such a cold spring. We often get an east wind that keeps temperatures along the coast down from projected highs. Since we only live a few blocks from the harbor, if thee is any substantial seabreeze, we will get it.

Tuesday In Holy Week
The Triduum is only a couple of days away.

Monday, April 14, 2003

A Lenten Reading Program
I'm obviously not done with my lenten reading. But I am far enough along with most of it to have a solid impression of what I am reading this year. I have to say that I have found it very useful, and not at all politically annoying.

The basic meat and potatoes of my reading has been Day By Day Through Lent by Father Daniel L. Lowery, C.SS.R. For each day, Father Lowery provides the citations to that day's readings from the Mass. He then draws an orthodox and normative brief essay (a page and half on average) from the readings. Then he provides a brief prayer, mostly from the Psalms, and a practical suggestion for how to incorporate the lesson learned from the readings into your daily life. The practical suggestions are not, "Today I will participate in a protest against the captialist system, or the American war machine," which I have found all too common among lenten reflections books, but are instead like this: "Today I will set aside some time in which to appreciate anew the Father's love for me" (from the Cycle C reading-not this year's- for the Fourth Sunday). Father Lowery's goal was to foster spiritual growth, not political activism. I have been reading it in conjunction with my Bible, since Father Lowery only provides citations to the readings, not the text itself. Day By Day Through Lent was first published in 1983, and is available through Ligouri Press.

An old friend is Father Thomas Connery's Repent, It's Lent (Twenty-Third Publications, 1998). This is my 6th year reading this. Father Connery provides a brief quotation from one of the readings for that day's Mass (often the same one focused on by Father Lowery). He then gives the reader a brief anecdote, often humorous, almost always light. Then he wrote a two-paragraph reflection, and composed a brief prayer. Like Father Lowery, Father Connery stays away from politics in his reflections. Father Connery's booklet is best suited for those with a serious time issue. It is a nice complement to Father Lowery's book.

The third book I have been reading every day (I've been trying, but often have found myself playing catch-up) is When They Crucified My Lord: Through Lenten Sorrow To Easter Joy by Brother Ramon, SSF (Ligouri Press, 1999). Brother Ramon was an Anglican Franciscan, and took a different route for his daily lenten reflections. He has been looking at the various characters of the Passion and how their role is reflected in our lives. Some characters (the Blessed Mother, Saint John, Saint Peter, and Judas) got a whole week, each day focusing on a different aspect of that person's participation. Others get only a day (Pilate, the soldiers, the leaders of the Sanhedrin, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Dismas, Simon, the women at the cross and the tomb). For Holy Week, Brother Ramon switches focus to look in detail at one of the Seven Last Words each day. His prespective was a little more political, but still not obnoxiously so. I did not get the feeling that he was promoting a left-wing agenda with each reflection. But from time to time, he would say something that you would notice a slant from.

Brother Ramon's reflections for Holy Week dovetail nicely with a slim book I have been reading a-chapter-a-week, The Seven Last Words of Christ On the Cross by Father Christopher Rengers, O.F.M. Cap.(Tan, 2002). This is an oldie, but was new to me. Father Rengers wrote these reflections in 1957, and they have stood the test of time. Father Rengers provides the basis for spiritual growth in these reflections. Each of the Seven Last Words gets about a dozen pages. He relates how each impacts our lives. I cannot recommend The Seven Last Words of Christ On the Cross highly enough. This is Catholic spiritual writing as it should be.

I have also been reading the propers for each day of Lent from the old Mass. For the first week of Lent, the readings closely coincide with the post-Vatican II readings. But they diverge after that. On at least two occasions, I have read the same readings from the two Masses on different days during Lent. But more distinctive than the readings are the prayers. The emphasis is on sin, repentance, and fasting. This is just where it should be during Lent. I am glad my parents saved some of their old missals, even if their covers are held together with tape.

For the first few weeks of Lent, I slowly worked my way through the chapters of Paul Johnson's The Quest For God that dealt with Death, Judgment, Hell, and Heaven. Johnson, who is one of the best living historians, and probably the most readable, is an older Catholic from England, who remembers hearing genuine Hellfire sermons at his prep school, and has spent much time thinking about Judgment Day. Younger Catholics could use a reading of Johnson's personal reflections, as a counter to the "Jesus-was-nice-be-like-Jesus-and-be-nice" pap they get in religion class or CCD. But I finished Johnson a couple of week's ago. Since then, I have been reading the Dies Irae and the 50th/51st Psalm weekly.

My first reading of Johnson's book six years ago was the impetus for me to start reading the Psalms seriously. I bought an illustrated psalter published by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood back in 1947, My Daily Psalm Book. The book divides up the Psalms for reading during the liturgical hours. Reading it through that way, one would complete the Psalms in a week. But I don't have that much time to read through the psalter that way. Instead, I start with Sunday's Matins, and read that on Monday. On Tuesday, I read Sunday's Lauds and Prime. On Wednesday, I read Terce and Sext for Sunday. On Thursday, I read read Sunday's None and Vespers. On Friday I read Compline. Then the following Monday, I start over with the readings for Monday. It takes me seven weeks to read through the psalter that way, at a rate of 15 minutes a day, very early in the morning. My only complaint is that the Psalms are numberd the old way, making the familiar 23rd Psalm the 22nd.

This year, I finished Saturday's readings at the end of the Fifth Week of Lent. Since I wanted to continue readings the Psalms, but wanted to start fresh with Sunday's readings on Easter Sunday, I created my own late-Lent Psalm program. It incorporates my favorite Psalms, and starts with lenten sorrow, works its way toward repentence, and proceeds to joyful and happy Psalms. So last week and this week, I have been reading each morning Psalms 21, 78, 136, 50, 22, 127, 125 (Old Style) and the Magnificat and the Canticle of Simeon.

Easter Monday, I will go back to my normal pattern of reading the Psalms. But it has been nice during Passiontide to daily read my favorites, the Psalms that most closely reflect my own needs and thoughts.

This lenten reading program cost me no more than $30.00 (of course having the old missal on hand cut the cost significantly). These books are not expensive. Brother Ramon's, at $11.00, was the most expensive. It takes about an hour a day to do this lenten reading. Not everyone can spare that much time, especially those with children. But I have found this program spiritually helpful. You may, too. You may be able to buy these books at a discount now for next year, as Catholic book stores may try to clear out their lenten inventory.

Monday of Holy Week
Has just about always been pretty much a ferial day. But the anticipation of Easter's joy grows.

Fitz' Lessons Of the Iraq War
Below, I linked to an article from the Holzers on what the lessons of the war are. Here are some lessons I take away from this.

The armed forces of most countires we are likely to fight are no match for ours. They are mostly there for the purpose of internal repression. In a serious war with an equal state (think Iran-Iraq) they revert to the most tactically useless and suicidal measures. After a modern Western army (and by "army," I mean military structure) starts to work on them, they have to revert to guerilla warfare as their only mode of resistance.

The major media (with very few exceptions) are ready to believe any nonsense that comes from a foriegn government. They think that by giving the rantings of a Baghdad Bob equal time with General Franks or Ari Fleischer, they are being objective.

CNN cannot be relied upon to tell the whole story as they know it.

The peace maggots know absolutely nothing about history, military affairs, politics, or basic human decency. They deserve to be governed by Saddam Hussein or Colonel Khadafy. Their ignorance and malice does nothing to keep their views from being trumpeted in the domestic media.

Air power can do an awful lot. But guys on the ground permanently taking real esstate from the enemy is the critical war-winning instrument of state.

The Vatican's geo-political judgment is seriously lacking.

A lot of Catholics who are trying to be faithful to the Church get way too caught up in the fly-speck details of Just War theory and the Vatican's foreign policy and can't see the forest for the shrubs.

Armored divisions win wars when the terrain is favorable for their employment.

The regimes of most rogue states are paper tigers that will collapse when one is determined to come after them and take their head.

The US is not planning on taking the war to other nearby rogue states in the near future (we are drawing down our forces already, instead of building them up further).

A small highly mobile force is useful, but its passage leaves rear-area security doubtful.

Don't worry about the Arab Street. We could roll the tanks to Tehran and Damascus and not face serious trouble from it.

We need to spend a fair amount of money on air and sealift capacity. Our troops were forced to fight in "sub-optimal" temperatures because we lack the ability to get large numbers of troops on the scene fast. If we face a conflict with China or North Korea, this could cause a disaster.

Embedding journalists works, as long as things go well. But imagine if the ambush on the squad of the 507th was broadcast live.

We could probably use about 4 more divisions permanently added to our order of battle. Ten or twelve divisions is too little. Sixteen is probably the optimal figure. If China had attacked Taiwan, and North Korea, South Korea, while Syria and Iran sent troops to aid Saddam while al Qaeda launched a major multi-prong terrorist attack on the continental US, we would have been in serious trouble. The concept of a small, but technologically advanced, and lethal military is good. But a large, technologically advanced, and lethal military would be better. The more troops at a commander's disposal, the easier and less costly will be the achievement of his objectives. We were stretched too thin for safety's sake at the crisis of this war. This is a political and force-structure/political economy issue, not really a military one.

President Bush is a very good war leader. His national security advisors are among the best available.

The major media still have not been able to get away from the Vietnam template.

The UN is utterly useless.

France is beneath contempt.

Pat Buchanan and his followers are pretty much vile anti-Semites. If doing something that greatly benefits the US would also aid Israel, they will oppose it. They deserve to be ignored.

Despite decades of steady erosion in patriotic sentiment in the public culture, the American people are still deeply attached to their country and its institutions and safety.

We can make jokes out of the grimmest stuff.

The men and women wearing the uniform of the United States are the very best our country has to offer, and the best in the world.

Rockville Center Diocese Hit with $300 Million Suit
That is just the asking price. My guess is that the 23 victims will end up with substantially less than that in the settlement. Bishop William Murphy, other diocesan leaders, and 13 abusing priests, past and present, are named defendants.

A grand jury had considered the various charges against the diocese. The only reason an indictment was not returned was the 5-year statute of limitations for the most critical charges that could have been filed. The grand jury's report was filed as an attachment to the complaint.

2 Carrier Battle Groups Coming Home
The battle group of the USS Kitty Hawk is heasding for its home port, Yokosuka, japan, while the USS Constellation is bound for San Diego. With heavy combat clearly winding down, we don't need nearly as much air or naval power in the region.

With Heavy Combat Winding Down
The zones of responsibility for Allied forces are being determined. The British will probably keep responsibility for the Basra-Umm Qesr area. The Marines will deal with the southern oil fields and the line of the Euphrates. The 3rd Infantry Division will handle Baghdad and areas close to it. The 4th Infantry Division, just getting its house in order, will be responsible for the former northern front. The Airborne and Air Landing units can be pulled out and put back into strategic reserve. It remains to be seen if the two armored divisions still in the pipeline will eventually relieve the Marines and the 3rd (some of the guys from the 3rd have been in the region for a year).

Fightingest Unit In the Theater?
1st Battalion 5th Marine Regiment. They have fought more engagements and suffered more casualties than any other. They are based at Camp Pendleton.

Comments Are Down
And the site looks weird without them.

Blogger is advertising Victor Davis Hanson's An Autumn of War in the banner ad above (sometimes). I gave that book a plug last week.

In Case You Are Looking for My Archives
They don't seem to be able to be published. I installed something Blogs4God wanted in my html, only to see all but the first week of my archives disappear. Now, when I try to republish the archives, I get Error 203:java.lang.NumberFormatException: (server:page)
They won't republish. I have a call for help out to Blogger, but they still haven't looked at issues I raised with them back on March 17, according to the thing that gives you a status on your complaints. I might have to take out what Blogs4God wanted.

Update: OK, even taking out that html and republishing has not restored my archives. I'm not getting the error message anymore, but the archives are still not showing up in the archives index (except for the first week). Sorry for the inconvenience.

It Could Reach 80 Degrees Tomorrow
Sounds like we have skipped spring and moved right from winter to summer.

The Bruins Are Not Doing Well
They are behind 3-0 in the first round of the playoffs. One more loss, and they are out of the playoffs.

It has been a long dry spell for both the Bruins and the Celtics.

Lessons of the Iraq War
FrontPage Magazine features Henry Mark and Erika Holzer's view of the lessons learned in this war.

Resistance In Tikrit Is Weak
Marines are fighting an estimated 2,500 Saddam loyalists, mostly without any heavy equipment. US troops have general control of Tikrit itself. Loyalists have been pushed north of the city. Many key loyalists have escaped, or are trying to escape to Syria. Our troops caught one of Saddam's half-brothers trying to get to Syria. What will Syria do with them? Will they turn them over when the new Iraqi government demands it?

Syria Can Avert the Fate of Saddam's Regime By Cooperating
In hubris, do they refuse to cooperate, or do they roll over?

The Roll of Our Honored Dead
There are at least 148 confirmed Allied dead so far. The list linked above has only the Americans killed. The British Ministry of Defense maintains the list of honored British war dead.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

A Day of Rejoicing
While we have been absorbed in observance of Palm Sunday, America has great reason to rejoice. Seven American POWS were rescued north of Baghdad near the road to Tikrit by the Marines. All are in good condition. There are still other Americans unaccounted for. For these we must continue to pray.

Our brothers were lost, and are found. Thanks be to God!

Palm Sunday
Today, the Church marks the triumphal entry of the Lord into Jerusalem. Though palm branches were common throughout the Holy Land, they were not available through most of northern Europe until relatively recently. Thus, yew or willow branches were used, and the day was known locally as "Sallow Sunday," "Willow Sunday," "Yew Sunday," and "Branch Sunday."

A procession with the branches from some spot outside the church to the church was common. It is a custom followed still today by a minority of parishes around here.

The reading of the Passion of the Lord has been a staple of Palm Sunday Mass. The cloth that covered the Crucifix was removed for the reading of the Passion. In some places, the Passion was sung (the bass was always the Lord), which is done in some parishes today during Good Friday's Veneration of the Cross. I know of no parishes in which the Passion is sung on Palm Sunday.

For Catholics, and all Christians, this is the beginning of the most sacred week of the year. Our lenten journey is almost over. The new blessed palms are now tucked behind our Crucifixes. The prospect of Easter joy is before us. But first, we must endure the desolation of Good Friday.

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