instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Is rocky road ice cream paved with gold in Heaven?

A good question was asked this week at RCIA (good in the sense that I've asked it myself):

Doesn't Jesus try to bribe us to be good by promising that those who are good and believe in Him go to heaven?

The answer, of course, is, come back and talk after you've raised some kids. Say what you want about bribery, properly employed it works.

I jest, but there's some truth to it. Young children don't understand the goodness of virtue in the abstract, but they sure do get the hang of going out for ice cream afterwards. Since, as Bl. John Henry Newman observed, "too many, or rather the majority, remain boys all their lives," it's little wonder Jesus points out to the crowds the rewards of believing in Him.

Moreover, the rewards of believing in Jesus may attract people, but they aren't really a bribe properly speaking. The rewards are (by God's grace) the result of believing in Jesus. When you follow Jesus, you wind up in His Father's home, because that's where He's gone. Eternal life isn't accidentally associated with faith in Christ, like ice cream if you behave in the shoe store. It's like ice cream if you don't jump out of the car while Dad drives to the ice cream store.

And eternal life as the result of faith in Jesus is a key part of His revelation to us. It completes what He has to teach us about who God is, why He created us, and what our relationship with Him is supposed to be. Virtue may be its own reward, but saying so doesn't tell us about the Father.

Finally, just what is the reward Jesus promises? "Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ." God isn't just the host in Heaven, keeping the chip bowls full while we hang out with friends, Mozart, and our childhood pets. God is what heaven is all about; everything else comes through, and after, our knowing, seeing, and loving our Father, and His Son, and their Holy Spirit. Anyone who's banking on Pascal's Wager paying out in skittles and beer is going to be disappointed, either in this life or the next.



Thursday, October 01, 2015

Word art


Pope Francis: "We must go out and encounter those marginalized and despised by society..."
Liberal Americans: "Yay! This pope is wonderful and good!"


Pope Francis:"...including those marginalized and despised by liberals."
Liberal Americans: "Boo! This pope is awful and evil!"


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Yes, yes, the family

I'm going to play contrarian and say I didn't find Pope Francis's talk at the Festival of Families to be any great shakes.

I mean, it was fine. I'm not objecting to or criticizing the speech. I'm just saying what the Pope said was kind of... unremarkable. I did like the bit about the family as a factory of hope, but on the whole, I don't think it would have been a standout across a year of homilies in my parish.

As I say, though, this is a contrarian position. A lot of people absolutely loved his talk. It was a stunning speech, I read. The Pope really hit it out of the park.

But maybe the two positions aren't actually contrary. Maybe people are mostly marveling at the personal connection Pope Francis made. Making a personal connection doesn't call for profundity or breaking new ground on a topic.

More to the point, maybe what the Church in the United States needs from this apostolic visitation isn't profundity but personal connection. If the Catholic Us included all Catholics in the country, united under the Pope, imagine how much stronger a witness we would be able to give to the culture. And if the culture could believe that we were "Catholic and," not "Catholic but," it would at least give us room to be Catholic.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

The felt banner of the counter-revolutionaries

The Catholic knight!

Yeah, um, no.


The moral of the story: Never read a book

I'm reading Robert Hugh Benson's Lord of the World, per Pope Francis's recommendation. (He's also recommended The Betrothed, which is a good read too.) Last night, just before I went to bed, I read the passage where Fr. Franklin meets the Pope (to say the least, that's a very different experience than people are having in the U.S. this week).

I wound up spending a good part of the night dreaming about Cardinal Fromme, a man so devoted to the Pope that he changed his name (from something like Eikenhardt, I think) when he thought the Pope asked him, "Are you Fromme?" and he felt obligated to answer, "Yes, your Holiness." The punchline was that the Pope had actually asked, "Where are you from?"

I woke up shortly after I realized that would have only worked if they were speaking English to each other.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Speaking of declarationist nominalism

Pope Francis laid another lump of jargon on us in his speech to the United Nations. He does this from time to time, perhaps most notoriously with Evangelii Gaudium's "self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism." I'm not sure why he lets these through without expansion, or even further comment. Maybe they're just meant as Easter eggs for people who like to overanalyze.

At the UN he gave us this:
Such is the magnitude of these situations [of social and economic exclusion] and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences.
Well, obviously.

Nominalism as a philosophy (I write with the authority of some guy on the Internet) denies the existence of universals. (Though, apparently, nominalist kids these days deny the existence of abstract objects instead.) A universal is a property or characteristic that appears to be shared by multiple discrete objects; colors and shapes, like "redness" and "roundness," are common examples. (Wikipedia (or possibly Feldman) helpfully proposes the "Ness-Ity-Hood Principle" as a way of generating candidate universals. Add "-ness" or "-ity" or "-hood" to a word, and Bobness is your unclehood.)

A nominalist would say there's no such thing as "unclehood." (Part of the fun of being a realist is making nominalists say things that any sane person would giggle at.) Of less gigglity, perhaps, "humanity" isn't a real thing for nominalists, it's just a word we use to describe what we have in mind when we abstract something we notice humans have in common.

I'd say Pope Francis was referring to a degenerate form of nominalism, which shoots past "they're just words, not reality" and lands on "just words are reality." It's almost a form of sympathetic magic; if I invoke "care for the poor," then I am caring for the poor.

There is of course nothing wrong with invoking care for the poor (as long as you aren't doing it as part of a magic spell). But if a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and you say to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?


See, listen, respond. Plus a nice cuppa.

To pick one from all the examples, in his speech to the U.S. Congress Pope Francis said about migrants from southern countries:
We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.
Since I was thinking about that while making a cup of tea, the thought popped into my head of understanding Pope Francis's "theology of encounter" in the context of Argentina's custom of sharing a gourd of yerba mate.



Thursday, September 24, 2015


For those who don't believe in coincidences, I was thinking about this statement earlier today, which I did not know came from Cardinal Suhard, in the context of chewing over something from Pope Francis's homily yesterday, then I came across it in a piece on Dorothy Day, which I found linked to because Pope Francis mentioned her in his speech to Congress:

To be a witness ... means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.


Correcting the Pope

I have to say, I did not expect Pope Francis's speech to Congress to be littered with so many errors. Though, on reflection, these are just the sort of errors I've come to expect from the Vatican.

I correct some of them below (though in some cases it may be better to have said nothing at all):
Mr. Vice-President,
Mr. Speaker,
Honorable Members of Congress, Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

Yours is a work which THAT makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which THAT offer a helping hand to those most in need.

I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which THAT will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which THAT we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which THAT sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which THAT affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which THAT would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which THAT can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776). If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which THAT sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Here too I think of the march which THAT Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which THAT lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which THAT awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which THAT is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which THAT we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which THAT time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which THAT seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which THAT I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which THAT includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of... developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which THAT is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which THAT have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which THAT may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Four representatives of the American people.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which THAT pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which THAT enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which THAT becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which THAT has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!



The Canonization Mass of Saint Junipero Serra

Metro was up to the task.
In Transit

8:12 am- At Glenmont Metro. Not crowded. Train pulled out as I walked down the stairs to the platform. I offer it up.

8:14 - Next train leaves. This "offering up" business is pretty easy.

8:33 - Arrive at Brookland. Train car never doubled up seats. Gorgeous morning.

Breakfast and White House Welcoming Ceremony

Welcome to Little Rome.
8:39 - At Brookland Pint, which opened today at 7 am. Breakfast! Starting Lord of the World, at the Pope's recommendation.

8:58 - The Pope is on TV, greeting the crowd waiting for him on his way to the White House. A woman at the bar points out 3 TV stations show him outside 3 locations: "Embassy," "Nunciature," and "Diplomatic Mission."

9:30 - The Pope is not visibly digging the American Revolution marching band. He doesn't seem to like the whole statecraft business to being pope.

9:41 - I'm in a bar that has 4 TVs. All of them show the Pope. The music has been turned off, and we're listening to President Obama greet Pope Francis. In a bar. Granted, it's Little Rome, but dang.

9:43 - The Pope begins with, "Good morning." I suppose starting with the Sign of the Cross would be too much.

9:46 - Holy cow, the Pope speaks English with an Argentinian accent! That's only remarkable because I work with an Argentinian, and he has the same accent.

The draft menu was also specially curated for the big event.
9:51 - Close captioning has the phrase "open doors to corporations." Oh, local Fox station, that's "cooperation"! Freudian Autocorrect?

9:53 - The Pope's speech is over. It seemed largely harmless, something to encourage and/or bug anyone who wants to react to it.

10:00 - Yes, yes, I know, "The Liberty Bell" is a John Philip Sousa march, perfectly suited to state visits. But it's also the theme music for Monty Python's Flying Circus. Is that how we really want to play the Pope off the stage?

Getting on Campus

10:16 - I can't get to the Orange Gate entrance from where I'm standing.Good thing I have six hours to figure it out.

10:18 - A vendor's sign says "Merchandise $5." Such a deal!
On the right side of the street. The wrong side of the street is two blocks away, unless you want to take your chances vaulting the barriers.

10:21 - I've caught up with Orange Gate entrance line. Like Disneyland, it doesn't look so bad (see above), until you turn a corner and see the whole mob.

10:41 - All Things Considered radio rehearsal happening twenty feet away. I'm guessing it turned into this report.

10:57 - Okay, maybe getting through the gate by 11:30 was optimistic. But noon for sure, maybe.

11:04 - I notice that I'm surrounded by a bunch of white people chatting about various thing. Off a ways a bit, some people are singing in Spanish. Who's having more fun? (The college student next to me just mentioned the "Platonic form of unicorn." Sigh.)

11:09 - Nothing sets the mind in a large crowd at ease like the sight of bored cops. Even if they're wearing an ATF vest. Noticing there's an ATF medic, a Secret Service K-9, a gaggle of Maryland state police. And yes, the one muscled fellow in the suit with the earpiece informing us that this car is going to drive away now.

11:39 - I'm getting closer to the metal detectors. Can't wait to get through and... wait till 4:15!

11:41 - A volunteer is leading a train of Mexican friars through the line. Some white guy in a T shirt decides to follow them up to the metal detectors. I hope one of them will hear his confession before Mass.

11:58 - At long last, I'm through the checkpoint, where I'm given a most warm TSA welcome. (I will never complain about having to take off my belt at an airport again.) And a goody bag including a Mass program, a booklet on [now] St. Junipero Serra, and a ball point pen.

Waiting in Section E

Not my view, as an ATF agent politely but firmly told me.
My view. Jumbotron on far left was to help me see what the white dots in the sanctuary were doing.

12:11 - Not a bad view. I hope the fall sun doesn't burn. (That hope proved groundless. When I finally looked in a mirror that night, I looked like a cartoon of someone with sunburn. If I had seen me in a TV show, I'd have said, "That makeup's over the top.")

12:32 - Watching the Pope speak to US bishops on the Jumbotron. I can't quite hear the translator; I'll just wait for the book. I should spread out the papal poncho from the goody bag to sit on the ground, as others have done, but then I won't have a pristine papal poncho. #popeswag

12:56 - I've seen some fellow parishioners in my section. I knew at least some from my parish got tickets in a seated section. I am pleased that, however the tickets were divvied up, I wasn't singled out for the periphery.

1:18 - Just 3 hours until Mass doesn't start on time. I hear people around me say the Pope will mobile along the path about 30 feet in front of me (see aluminum fence in above right picture). Cool, if so.

1:46 - I am sitting on my goody bag in the bright sun, unable to read the Kindle screen to see how to adjust the brightness so I can read the Kindle screen. I have decided Lord of the World is, no doubt, a good book, but not really good prep for a papal Mass. On to St. Catherine of Siena's letters.

1:58 - Two hours after passing through the gate, I have the first thought of leaving early. Like right after canonization. As I slowly broil, I'm struck by the thought that seeing the Pope is like seeing a giant panda. Having seen him, how long do you stick around to watch him?

236 - A WBAL reporter walks by, holding a microphone and asking, "Anybody from Baltimore? Anybody?"

2:43 - Prelude starts with "Simple Gifts." I am hopeful that Mass won't start too too late.

2:53 - The shade has finally reached me. I feel like I'm standing on a two-square-foot duchy on a trade crossroads that everyone wants to sweep through on their way to greener pastures. A tall fellow with binoculars (and therefore elbows out to either side, a tall fellow in a suitcoat, and a medium height fellow with a small Vatican City flag stuck in the top of his cap are now obscuring the view that was unobscured for the previous 3 hours.

3:15 - Folks have noticed a sun dog. They're common enough around here, but I suppose it never hurts to have omens in the sky on days like this.

3:17 - Here's a picture of my current  view of the sanctuary. I am moderately grouchy.

3:30 - A number of altar servers have just walked up the steps to the altar. Practice? Or are they already taking their places

3:40 - The videoscreens show the Knights of Columbus processing along the front of the basilica. Within a minute, they've come around the corner and in direct sight. Following them are four hundred bishops in white. It seems a dirty trick to be at a papal Mass with white vestments, but what are you gonna do?

3:50 - The Popemobile is spotted! By me, I mean. There were some video shots of the Pope arriving in his Fiat (say what you like about humility, that car still looks a lot nicer than mine), and then of him somewhere on campus in his Jeep, but I have now clapped eyes directly on the vehicle itself.

A picture of people taking pictures of the Pope.

3:53 - The pope just smiled at me. Well, the couple thousand of us in Section E. He really does go to the periphery! In person, he looks exactly the way he looks on TV, which is to say, happy to see people.

3:58 - He's coming back! The Popemobile did a U-turn somewhere and is passing back the way it came, at a slightly higher clip than before. I get an excellent view of the back of the Pope's head.

The Canonization

And now my phone battery is dying. I need to save it for one last text so my wife knows when to pick me up from the Metro station, so I stop my detailed record keeping. Oh, and also there's a Mass going on somewhere up there, so I should probably attempt at least a little reverence.

Though I do risk both battery and impiety with a couple of pictures during the canonization rite, including this one, which is the only picture I took that I can tell has Pope Francis in it (he's sitting in his chair, listening to the biography of St. Junipero):



Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Layers of meaning

CROSS, n. 1. A Christian symbol of Jesus' love for us and obedience to the Father. 2. Something Pope Francis will be doing to downtown Washington for the next couple of days. 3. Something that will be very hard for anyone else to do to downtown Washington for the next couple of days.
adj. Something a lot of people will get when they find how hard it is to do to downtown Washington.