Late in the evening, April 10, 1983, in the little bathroom of our upper-northwest Washington, D.C., house:
My brother and I came to blows.
It didn’t amount to much. But it was the worst fist-fight we ever had. And the last one we ever had.
The New York Islanders had just eliminated the Capitals from the Division Semi-Finals. As my poor, long-suffering brother brushed his teeth, I stood beside him, mocking the choke-artist Caps ruthlessly, with every ounce of my twelve-year-old obnoxiousness.
He finally spit out his toothpaste and took a swing at me. I had it coming, big-time. He beat me, like a man possessed with a vision of justice. We wound up in the bathtub, and I begged him for mercy that I didn’t deserve.
Since that day, now over 35 years ago, my dear brother has longed–with some of the most fundamental fibers of his being–for the Caps to bring home the Cup.
Do it, guys. For him.
[POST-SCRIPT, Six hours later: They did it! Caps win!!!!!]
Everyone knows that the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven forty days after He rose from the dead. And everyone knows that, as He prepared to ascend, Christ commanded His disciples to pray. Thus began the original Novena—nine days of prayer before Pentecost.
Everyone knows these things, of course. So there’s no sense in dwelling on the fact that no one knows when we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension anymore.
Let’s focus on the bright side. Since today isn’t the Solemnity of the Ascension (even though it is), we get to keep the Feast of St. Matthias this year!
And the Feast of St. Matthias holds special significance for the most exquisite of all sufferers, the most rarefied of all white martyrs, Washington-Capitals fans.
Because May 14 is almost always the day after the Caps get knocked out of the playoffs by either the New York Rangers or the Pittsburgh Penguins.*
The apostolate involves suffering. As St. Paul put it, those who proclaim Christ go like sheep to the slaughter. Our reward does not come in this present life, fleeting as it is, but in the great and mysterious life to come.
St. Matthias received his vocation as an apostle during the original Novena between Ascension and Pentecost. He struggled to mortify himself and his fleshly desires. For this reason, people struggling with alcoholism have revered St. Matthias as a patron. St. Matthias attained his reward when he was stoned to death by cannibals.
May his holy prayers help us to keep these days especially holy.
* May 13, 2015: Caps knocked-out by Rangers. May 13, 2013: Caps knocked-out by Rangers. May 12, 2012: Caps knocked-out by Rangers. May 13, 2009: Caps knocked-out by Penguins.
When I visit my dear father’s grave, I also visit the graves of my great-great grandparents. They are buried next to my father. Their graves are well over a century old.
They were dead before my father was even born. I never knew them. I can say without the slightest doubt that there is not a soul on earth who remembers anything about my great-great grandparents. I may be the only one who ever gives them a thought, which I do when I see their grave markers, and I pray that they will rest in peace.
Someday, a century or two from now, no one on earth will remember any of us.
A century or two after that, our graves themselves will be forgotten, their markers destroyed by some force of man or nature. All memory of us will be wiped off the face of the earth.
Shall we not, therefore, hope in Christ?
What other hope do we have?
Either we hope to live forever in Him, or we accept the inevitable darkness of utter oblivion.
…Call me obtuse, but I have always found this parable difficult to understand:
No one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.
And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’ (Luke 5:37-39)
The parable seems clear enough:
Christ has inaugurated the New Covenant. The New Covenant requires a complete renovation of religion. The ancient observances of the Old Covenant had to be changed. Those who were accustomed to the old way had a hard time accepting the Christian way of life, even though it is sweeter and better than Judaism.
The fact is that the taste of wine improves with time, up to the point when it reaches its peak. The ancient Palestinians used inside-out animal skins as wine bottles (until the Prohibition of Mohammed deprived them of the joy of the vine).
Skins were used for transporting wine on camel-back. The wine would ferment a second time in the skins, under the hot sun.
So, while it is true that pouring wine into old, dried-out skins would never be wise, neither would it be wise to drink wine that you had just poured into a wineskin. Better to take your journey, then drink it later.
So the “newness” interpretation doesn’t do full justice to the parable.
Today I finally found the perfect explanation. In order fully to grasp the parable, we have to understand it as applying to the Holy Mass:
The wine of Christ’s blood, drawn from the many grapes of the vineyard that He had planted, is extracted in the winepress of the cross. When men receive it with believing hearts, like capacious wineskins, it ferments within them by its own power. (St. Gaudentius of Brescia)
That time, Alex Ovechkin knocked everything else, other than the kitchen sink, into the crease.
This is what Steve Kolbe said about Ovechkin’s disallowed goal in the second period this evening. Will the streak end? Caps are clawing back from a 5-2 deficit right now.
…I am not trying to be a priss. But to call our mid-Atlantic snowbound situation an “apocalypse” is really a sacrilege.
The Apocalypse will occur when the Lord Jesus Christ appears again in glory. If we are not ready for it, it will be a great deal more unpleasant than four feet of snow.
I think Mike Wise described our situation better in his column:
We have run out of bread and milk. We can’t move our vehicles. We can’t move our muscles.
We are snowed in until June, people. June!
We are trapped in a Ukranian hamlet, huddled around a bonfire trying to thaw, comforted by just three things: grain alcohol, the thought of global warming and our money-in-the-bank hockey team — Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and the boys, winners of 14 consecutive games.
We are fed up. We are freezing. We are “Dr. Zhivago” with a Target.
All we have left is the Caps. C-A-P-S! Caps! Caps! Caps!
…Don’t forget that it is only three months until the 400th anniversary of the death of Fr. Matteo Ricci.
Fr. Ricci was a Jesuit missionary in China. He is one of the most excellent men who has ever lived. He died on May 11, 1610.
I just took a nice long look at my autographed Matt Bradley jersey. It reads, “To Father White, Thanks for Rocking the Red!”
To my horror, I realized: My pathetic blog has ignored the Capitals in a shameful manner.
At this moment: 1. The Caps are leading their division. 2. The Caps are tied with the Detroit Red Wings after two periods.
Who just scored? Matt Bradley, people! My man Matt Bradley.
Please forgive me for my inexcusable neglect of the best team in town. Mea culpa. Caps ROCK!
…Here’s a question: What comes naturally to us?
On the one hand, we could say that it comes naturally to us to acknowledge the awesome greatness of our Creator. It is natural to humble ourselves before Him and to want to please Him. We were made by God and for God, so to worship Him is the most natural thing in the world.
On the other hand, we could also say: It comes naturally to us to be selfish, lazy, obtuse, and given to seeking short-term gratification. We are born sinners, so sinning comes naturally.
Both of these answers to the question are true. How do we deal with this mess?
The big ecclesiastical news of the past month is that Pope Benedict intends to make it easy for Anglicans to come into full communion with the Church.
Entire Anglican parishes–even dioceses–will be able to unite fully with the Pope while retaining some distinctive Anglican practices.
Which brings us to the Book of Common Prayer, the Anglican liturgical prayerbook.
This book was a companion of mine for years, before my reception into the R.C. Church in 1993.
The Book of Common Prayer book was originally published by the Protestant bishops in England in 1549. It has undergone a number of revisions. Different Anglicans use different editions.
The Preface to the edition published by the Episcopal bishops in the new United States in 1789 concludes with an exhortation about the use of the prayerbook:
It is hoped that [this book] will be received and examined by every true member of our Church, and every sincere Christian, with a meek, candid, and charitable frame of mind; without prejudice or prepossessions; seriously considering what Christianity is, and what the truths of the Gospel are; and earnestly beseeching Almighty God to accompany with his blessing every endeavor for promulgating them to mankind in the clearest, plainest, most affecting and majestic manner, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Savior.
Granted, this is a thoroughly edifying sentence. But the book contains errors.
The book features only two of the seven sacraments. The prayers in this book do not honor the Blessed Virgin or any of the saints, and the rules prohibit praying for the souls in Purgatory.
The book does not include prayers for the Pope.
The book systematically refuses to express that the Holy Mass is the sacrifice of Christ and that He is truly present–Body, Blood, soul, and divinity–in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. The book requires that the chalice be offered to the people.
The Church embraces many styles of ceremony for the celebration of Her faith. But there is only ONE faith, the Catholic faith.
The faith is expressed in the teaching of the Popes and Councils, including the Council of Trent. Parts of the Book of Common Prayer were originally published precisely to contradict the teachings of the Council of Trent.
The Book of Common Prayer was edited for use as a Catholic liturgical prayerbook in 2003. The errors of doctrine were fixed. The revised book is called the “Book of Divine Worship” (this link takes a long time to load).
Apparently, a few Anglican-use Catholic parishes already use this revised prayerbook. Perhaps this version will be the book used in all Anglican-use churches.
…Last Sunday I published a silly little sermon about miracles. I tried explain that the Lord Jesus worked miracles not for the sake of working miracles, but for the sake of communicating the mystery of the Kingdom of God. In other words, His miracles were signs, as St. John called them in his gospel.
Anyway: St. Augustine explains this much better in the first part of his Sermon 98…
Tough loss for the Caps this evening. Bad news: After a fisticuffs, Ovechkin left the ice with an undisclosed “upper body” injury.
First thing this morning, I put my red on. But it wasn’t in honor of the faltering Caps.
I vested in a blood-red chasuble in honor of the martyr Saint Denis, who was beheaded 1751 years ago today. He was the first to preach the Gospel in Paris.
In Act V, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Henry V, the king invokes the aid of St. Denis.
Henry is trying to woo the Princess of France. But she is stone-faced, because she thinks Henry is an “enemy of France.”
Katharine. I cannot tell vat is dat.
No, Kate? I will tell thee in French; which I am
sure will hang upon my tongue like a new-married
wife about her husband’s neck, hardly to be shook
off. Je quand sur le possession de France, et quand
vous avez le possession de moi,—let me see, what
then? Saint Denis be my speed!—donc votre est
France et vous etes mienne. It is as easy for me,
Kate, to conquer the kingdom as to speak so much
more French: I shall never move thee in French,
unless it be to laugh at me.
When Kenneth Branagh delivered this line in his movie version, he skipped the invocation of St. Denis. Not a good idea!