Saturday, October 04, 2003

The Old Man
An old chestnut from years of listening to Boston's Irish music station on Saturdays.

The tears have all been shed now
We've said our last goodbyes
His souls been blessed
He's laid to rest
And it's now I feel alone
He was more than just a father
A teacher my best friend
He can still be heard
In the tunes we shared
When we play them on our own

I never will forget him
For he made me "what I am"
Though he may be gone
Memories linger on
And I miss him, the old man

As a boy he'd take me walking
By mountain field and stream
And he showed me things
not known to kings
And secret between him and me
Like the colours of the pheasant
As he rises in the dawn
And how to fish and make a wish
Beside the Holly Tree


I thought he'd live forever
He seemed so big and strong
But the minutes fly
And the years roll by
For a father and a son
And suddenly when it happened
There was so much left unsaid
No second chance
To tell him thanks
For everything he's done


A Prayer For the Holy Father
Thanks to Lane Core for the heads up.

Lord, source of eternal life and truth, give to your shepherd John Paul a spirit of courage and right judgment, a spirit of knowledge and love. By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care may he, as successor to the apostle Peter and vicar of Christ, build your Church into a sacrament of unity, love and peace for all the world. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

My Father's Birthday
Today would have been my father's 83rd birthday. He died December 31st, 1989. George Thomas Senior was one of 7 children (2 boys, 5 girls) who survived from the 14 his mother gave birth to. Times were hard for the immigrant family in Malden before the Depression even started. The Depression, obviously, made things much worse.

Dad went into the Army Air Corps after Pearl Harbor, and was stationed at Alamagordo, New Mexico, where his greatest concerns were not being bitten by rattlesnakes while guarding an airstrip that was associated with the Manhattan Project (he knew nothing of that at the time), and getting the guy at the base PX to understand that, when he ordered tonic, he wanted a soft drink, not hair tonic.

The Battle of the Bulge created a huge need for combat infantry replacements. So the rear areas were combed out again and again, and in late January, 1945, Dad found himself on a liberty ship bound for Europe. He was assigned to the 69th Infantry Division (the famous Irish division of the pre-war New York National Guard). He was awarded a Bronze Star for pulling a wounded comrade under cover while under fire. He himself was wounded in the lower back in April, 1945, by a sniper's bullet, ending his active military career.

He married his sweetheart Kathryn Ann in April, 1946 in Malden. For their honeymoon, they drove along the Mohawk Trail in Central/Western Massachusetts. A few years later, having trouble conceiving, they adopted my grandmother's foster son. It was not until 1964 that I came along, very much a surprise for the 44 year-old George and the 41 year-old Kathryn.

Dad went on permanent disability after a severe heart attack in 1972. From that moment on, he was a shell of the active kid who had played football, stickball, and street hockey with anyone in 1930s Malden, Medford, Everett, or Melrose who wanted to. Salt and butter disappeared permanently from our larder and table. Dad took long walks alone in the as-yet undeveloped neighborhood of West Peabody where we had moved to in 1967. And we lived in fear of Dad's temper causing him another heart attack.

He and Mum scrimped and saved to put first my brother (Chevrus and Dominic Savio), and then me (Our Lady of the Assumption and Saint John's Prep) through Catholic grammar school and high school. I don't think they ever took a vacation in their lives. For a time in the late 1960s, they had access to a cottage in Wells or Ogunquit, Maine and would go there 3-4 weekends a year. That also stopped after Dad's heart attack.

In his boredom, he developed a problem with alchohol. Realizing that he was becoming quite volcanic and unreasonable, he gave up drinking on his own, cold turkey, as a matter of will. I don't think he had a drop of anything alcoholic in the last seven years of his life.

Dad loved our dogs, Flash, a female Beagle-German Shephard mix brought home from a shelter when I was 3, and Buttons, a grey teacup Poodle male who joined the family when I was in college. He delighted in taking them for walks. In his last years, he and Buttons were virtually joined at the hip. When Dad drove somewhere, Buttons was sure to be in his lap, with his front paws on the steering wheel "driving."

Dad and Mum seemed to live very seperate lives, though confined within the same tiny dwelling day after day. For a fair amount of the time, they barely spoke to each other. But they seemed to draw closer again at the end. Every Sunday (or Saturday) they went to Mass together, while I went to a later Mass.

In the late fall of 1989, having duly graduated from law school, and passed the bar exam, I was still living at home, and had started a job with a small Boston firm. Thanksgiving and Christmas that year had been the happiest and most complete ever. On the Wednesday after Christmas, Dad was srapping the ice off my car, and starting it up for me as he always had done all the years I had commuted to BC (Dad did all the little things, because financially and physically he could not do the big things).

When I came out of the shower, Mum said Dad had fallen outside. I asked him if he was all right, and he said he was. When I got to work in Boston, Mum called to say that Dad had admitted that he had not fallen, but had collapsed and blacked out. She and my brother tried to persuade him to go to the hospital. No. Dad had a will of iron, and would absolutely not do something he did not want to do. He was probably worried about the bills, though he had Medicare and the best coverage from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. No more was said about it for fear of upsetting him.

New Years' Day was always festive in our house. My parents no longer went out at night, but on New Year's Day they made lasagna and meatballs and invited their only close friends over. Strangely, I was out doing my own errands (spending Christmas money) and ran into them in the supermarket on Saturday the 30th while they were buying the ingredients. I don't think I ever ran into them in a store unless I had come with them. Much to Dad's chagrin, they had left Buttons at home, since they were both going into the store.

New Year's Eve was a Sunday. Mum and Dad went off to the 9:30 Mass as always. I stayed in bed a while, since I always went to the 12:00 in hopes of seeing a girl I had had a terrible crush on since 7th grade, but had never had a date with. I was going to go into town that evening with friends from law school to see the First Night Festivities for the first time. I was out of the shower and starting to get dressed when they came home.

Dad had been helping an elderly widow down the street by raking leaves and removing ice and snow for her. There had been snow recently, and Dad headed over to clear away some ice on her porch. A few minutes later, the lady called to tell us that Dad had collapsed on her porch, and she could not rouse him. An ambulance had already been called.

I hastily dressed while Mum prayed and got there as the paramedics had just started work. They carried him into the back of the ambulance. A state trooper who had also arrived gave me a lift back home. On the police radio, I heard that "There is a code on the elderly gentleman at ...". I looked at the trooper, knowing that I had just lost my father.

We did not have long to wait at the hospital. A priest came by to tell us that he had given Dad Extreme Unction and that he had been pronounced dead.

Mum later told me that, during Mass, Dad had held her hand in a way he had not for many years. She also said that, on the way back, he had to stop because he was having a dizzy spell. Before he started up again, he told her that he might not be around much in the new year.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

And thanks, Lord, for a great Dad who was proud of my small accomplishments.

Saint Francis of Assisi
Today was, is, and hopefully always will be the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. Born the son of a rich cloth merchant, Francis Bernardone led a frivolous youth, but was transformed by divine grace in the jails of Perugia. He embraced poverty, going barefoot, wearing rough clothes, begging at the gates to towns, and preaching purity of heart and universal peace.

He was joined by disciples who became the first Friars Minor in 1209. In 1212, Clare of Assisi joined him, and began the process of founding the Sisters of Charity (later called the Poor Clares). In 1222, a third order was founded. Desiring martyrdom, St. Francis made three attempts to reach Moslem countries. Only on the last attempt was he succcessful in reaching hostile shores, though his hosts treated him courteously, and denied him martyrdom.

Francis was a lover of all God's creation, and is famous for his affinity for the animals and birds. He is credited with creation of the first Christmas creche. He also swept out churches, sent food to thieves hiding in the woods, and cared for lepers. In 1221, he was displaced as head of the Franciscans by reformers, the fate of many saints who founded orders. In September 1224, on Mount Alvernia, he received the stigmata. On October 3, 1226, he stretched himself naked on the bare ground and waited for death. He died while trying to sing.

Saint Francis is one of the best-loved of all saints. His order still thrives. Pope Benedict XV called him, "the most perfect image of Christ that ever was."

Friday, October 03, 2003

Father Rutler On the Publican and the Pharisee
This has long been one of my favorite parables. I have made the publican's prayer my own, coupled with the first line of the 51st Psalm I have repeated it daily for years now, 10-20 times a day. It reminds you of who you are, and what a need (a sinner, and God's mercy).

I Don't See Why He Should Apologize
After all, Kennedy's past is much like Arnold's. For instance, the "waitress sandwich" (with Chris Dodd, at a Washington nightspot.

Just a case of making nice with the state's senior senator.

Interesting Interview With Cardinal Arinze
From Adoremus.

"Rush Is a Great American. I Am Confident He Can Overcome Any Obstacles He Faces Right Now."
President Bush

Archbishop Sean Tries To Rally Support For Traditional Marriage
It is good to see him out in front on this issue. While his statement could have come much earlier, one must acknowledge that he has had other pressing priorities that have been engaging his attention up until now.

This comment deserves special attention:

"We are part of a pluralistic society and in no way pretend to force our religious preferences on other people," O'Malley said. "But neither can we be intimidated by those who see our defense of the common good as simply mean-spirited, narrow-minded, or intolerant of other people's rights. The rights of children and indeed of the community demand that we support family life by protecting the definition of marriage."

And of course, the Globe being the Globe, the article is concluded (in the name of balance, don't you know) with comments from a gay activist and a nutcake Unitarian minister attacking the Church's position on gay marriage. The more things change...

Well, At Least There Was Another Lovely Sunset
The Red Sox dug themselves a deep hole in Oakland, and trail the series 0-2.

But last night's sunset was quite nice, due again to a succession of cold fronts that have been giving us lots of clouds just above the horizon at sunset the last two days.

Wait until next year? Red Sox fans are starting to feel like the doll on the Island of Misfit Toys: "I haven't any dreams left to dream."

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Cardinal Schoenborn Now Warning About the Pope's Health
This is no laughing matter. One is reminded of the final chapters of Brideshead Revisited, Lord Marchmain's progressive decline. "I don't know if this is the end...But when the end comes it will be very much like this." Soon there were no good days.

As both Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Schoenborn have said, pray for the Holy Father, and for the Church.

No, What Rush Said Was Not Rascist. But This Was.

Guardian Angels
Today the Church honors our Guardian Angels. So valuable is the human soul that each of us has the protection of a Guardian Angel from the moment of conception, according to Saint Jerome. These Guardians enhance our work and study, pray for us constantly, and preserve us from physical danger and temptation. This feast was started in Spain in the 16th century. In 1679, Pope Clement X extended this feast to the universal Church, and moved it from September 29th (it was celebrated in conjunction with Michaelmas) to October 2nd.

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom God's love commits me here,
Ever this day, be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide.

Archdiocese Fundraising Up About 20% Over Last Summer
That is a good sign that people feel more confident now that Law has ridden off into the sunset. The folks in the pews feel better with Archbishop Sean at the helm, and so they should.

The Rush Limbaugh Thing
Well, everyone is talking about Rush Limbaugh's resignation from ESPN over the Donovan McNabb comments. First let me say Rush should have been much more guarded about saying something like that on national television in this climate.

That said, he was essentially correct. McNabb is overrated. He is a journeyman- quality quarterback at best, a Tony Eason, Tom Brady, or Doug Flutie, not a Joe Montana or Joe Namath. Neither is he the Tiger Woods of NFL black quarterbacks. He has underperformed significantly. He is not legitimately a superstar.

Rush was also correct in saying that the NFL and the national press has been urgently eager to promote the reputation of any black quarterback, or head coach, that comes along. I noticed an immediate reaction that said the Philadelphia press has not been kind to McNabb or looking the other way. But that does not counteract the fact that the national press and the NFL are desperate to overcome the impression of long-standing bias by promoting Donovan McNabb to super-star status, a status his performance does not justify.

But as I said, Rush should have been more circumspect in saying things like that on national TV. He can say it on radio. He could say it in a blog. He cannot say it on TV. And that is part of why our culture is a mess, people cannot speak the truth on national TV on matters pertaining to race.

Sometimes, hard things need to be said about certain black people. Jesse Jackson, for instance, is an appalling fraud. The cult of Martin Luther King, Jr. is hero-worship misplaced on a man profoundly unworthy. O.J. Simpson is a murderer. Donovan McNabb is not a superstar quarterback. By the same token, Louis Armstrong was the king of jazz musicians. Ward Connerly deserves canonization. Clarence Thomas might well make a great Chief Justice. And Thomas Sowell has pointed out some of the hidden but nevertheless all-encompassing aspects of social and political thought.

You can't prejudge an entire race, as Buster Kilraine says in The Killer Angels. Rush was not doing so. He was criticizing the performance of a single black athlete, and questioning the NFL's efforts to make him into something he is not, a superstar.

But saying such a hot-button sort of thing on TV does not work. Rush had only to look back at the failures of Michael Savage and Dr. Laura to see that. But on the whole, I am happier to have Rush devoting his full energy to his radio program. I didn't like the way the radio show suffered to accomodate the ESPN schedule.

Well, At Least There Was A Stunningly Lovely Sunset Last Night
The first playoff game did not go so well for the Red Sox. A bunt in the bottom of the twelfth brought in the winning run for Oakland. But it was an exciting game.

And, as I said, the sunset was lovely.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The Red Sox Are Playing Something Other Than Golf In October
Late tonight, the Sox take on the Oakland As in Oakland. Pedro will be on the mound, and all of New England (except for those areas of Connecticut and Vermont more under the spell of New York than Boston) will be watching or tossing and turning while wondering how the game is going.

The First of October
October is a magical time in New England. The apple crop is still coming in. The weather is usually wonderful. Fresh cider is almost at its best. The leaves are beginning to change, and will be at peak in the north in a week or two. Halloween is just around the corner.

It is, with the possible exceptions of Christmas and Thanksgiving, my favorite time of the year. October weather is always much better than November or December weather. This year is sort of a hard one for us. It has been wretched from the very start, with me dislocating my kneecap on January 5th. Things have not improved. Please keep the Fitzpatricks (including Gaspar the Wonder Cat) in your prayers this October.

Saint Therese of Lisieux
This is the feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux, "the Little Flower" according to the reformed calendar of feasts. Her traditional feast is Thursday. She has become one of the most popular saints in Christendom. And as she was a Carmelite, she is of special interest to me (my birthday is July 16th, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel).

She was born in Alencon in January, 1873. Of her parents' nine children, only 5 daughters survived, all of whom became nuns. By the time she reached age 8 both of her parents had died, so that she was brought up by the Benedictines of Lisieux. In April, 1888, she entered the Carmelite convent at Lisieux. After holding the usual series of minor offices at the convent, she became assistant novice mistress in 1893.

She pioneered what she called the "little way," offering up even the tiniest sacrifice. She began her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, in 1894. From April 1896, she began to cough blood, and seemed to be deprived of spiritual sureness. Her final illness began on September 30, 1897. Her last written words were, "I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth." She died in the early hours of October 1, 1897.

She is widely venerated and imitated for her "little way." She has had an enormous impact on the piety of the Carmelite order, and the Latin Rite in general.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The Decline Of the Holy Father's Health Confirmed
We should all pray for this great and good man. May he accomplish the things he wishes to accomplish for the Church, may his sufferings be lessened, and when God does call him home, may he meet his eternal reward quickly (I have little doubt of that).

Monday, September 29, 2003

Requiescat In Pace
I missed this one. Actor Donald O'Connor died. He was the human "star" of the Francis the Talking Mule movies, and co-starred in Singing In the Rain, where he performed one of the funniest dance numbers in history. Requiescat in pace.

Today is Michaelmas, the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels. Saint Michael, perhaps the greatest of the Ark Angels, is the protector of the Church.

Michaelmas was a quarterly rent day in England and Ireland. It is the start of the university term at Oxford and Cambridge. Presents and feasts featuring geese were very much the custom at this time of year. Roast goose with sage and onion stuffing would go down very well right now, I can assure you.

We have the absurdity, due to the Migratory Birds Act, of having lots and lots of geese around the Boston area year-round making a great nuisance of themselves, and no ability to harvest them. The recent mild winters and the fact that many people feed them have led thousands and thousands of Canada geese to make Boston their permanent home. And yet, because of the law (designed to protect migratory birds, not birds that live in one area year-round) no one can harm these creatures, who would be quite savory main courses on the plates of thousands of families.

So, roast a goose for Michaelmas, so long as it is not a Canada goose.

Signifer Sanctus Michael repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam.

Archbishop Pell Got His Red Hat. Archbishop O'Malley Did Not
Pretty much as I expected. O'Malley may yet get his red hat, though perhaps not in Boston.

The needs of the Church can change on a dime. Who knows where Archbishop O'Malley will be 2, 3, or 5 years from now? When Bernard Law was appointed Archbishop of Boston, it was, if I recall correctly, some months, perhaps more than a year before he was made a cardinal. One should not expect that even this highly regarded one-man fire brigade would be made a cardinal after only two months as an archbishop.

And there is Law still alive (though not living in Boston) and active as a cardinal. The well-known histoic disinclination to have more than one voting cardinal from the same city in a conclave at once may be a factor (though Law no longer lives in Boston, but in Maryland).

With O'Malley's installation, there was no talk, as there was when Law was appointed, about "after Boston, there is only Heaven." Archbishop O'Malley is a troubleshooter, a fixer of problems. It is entirely possible that, once the Boston situation is stabilized, that he may be sent elsewhere. He may not be here permanently. In fact, he personally, given what has happened over the last ten years in his ministry, may not think he is here permanently.

Though some are expressing shock that O'Malley was not given a red hat, such an appointment would further limit his usefulness to the Vatican as a fixer of problems. It limits where he could be sent, even more than his appointment as an archbishop does. He could hardly have expected that his name would be on the list.

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