91st Street Subway Station of Easter

When you ride the Seventh Avenue-Broadway IRT on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, you roll through the ghost of the 91st Street Station. The train doesn’t stop, because the station has been closed since 1959.

Book of the Holy Gospels
When you pray your way through the Easter season according to the Roman Missal–in most ecclesiastical provinces–you roll through the Seventh Sunday of Easter like a ghost station.

Because now this Sunday is the perpetual home of the Solemnity of the Ascension, transferred from Thursday. The liturgy train doesn’t stop on the pages of the Lectionary marked “Seventh Sunday of Easter” anymore.

The gospel reading for the Seventh Sunday of Easter is the priestly prayer of Jesus.

I certainly am not competent to judge great things, like how to make decisions about when people have to go to Mass.

But this situation is rather ironic.

According to the Second Vatican Council:

The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.

And yet, because going to Mass on a Thursday is too inconvient for people, we solemnly read the Prayer of the Hour of Jesus–by any estimation, one of the most important texts of Scripture, upon which the entire spiritual life of the Church is based–we read it in church…never.

(Well, only at daily Mass.)


Perhaps you will say, ‘Father, we actually hear the priestly prayer of Jesus at EVERY Mass, because the Eucharistic Prayer is the Church’s humble echo of Her Founder’s prayer.’

You would have a fine point. I would grant your penetrating pertinacity. Praise God. You cheered me up.

But, nonetheless, it would be edifying, don’t you think, to hear the original version of the Eucharistic Prayer read from the holy book, at least every once in a while.

Titans of the Underground, Naked Emporers

Astor PlaceIn 1956 a five-alarm fire consumed the Wanamaker’s Department Store in New York City.

Firefighters doused the burning building with their hoses for days.

They sprayed so much water that it flooded the subway station below.

The earth underneath one of the railroad beds collapsed, and a train sank five feet into the hole. Thank God, not a soul on the train was injured.

It was July 14, 11:50 p.m.

At 12:02 a.m. on July 20, the subway began operating through the Astor Place station again. Everything had been completely repaired in five days and twelve minutes.

It was a miracle of decisiveness, engineering efficiency, and wholesome pride.

John Catoe and Jim Graham
John Catoe and Jim Graham

I thought of this when the following happened yesterday:

The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority Board, chaired by D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, voted 4 to 1 to renew the contract of Metro chief John Catoe.

At that very moment, FBI agents were in the office of Councilman Graham’s chief of staff Ted Loza, collecting evidence for a bribery case against him.

The day before, Graham had said that Metro has been subject to demonic attack this year.

“We’re having the heavens open, and all manner of demons have been unleashed.”

He really did say this. Councilman Graham said it when he was asked by a reporter whether or not Catoe should have to take any of the blame for the fact that Metro has become a tragic laughingstock.

devilPerhaps the venerable Councilman was just being poetic when he chalked the problems up to demons from heaven.

Hopefully the man is aware that God and the good angels are in heaven, and the demons are in the other place.

Hopefully he knows that demons tend to focus on enticing people to commit sins, like taking bribes or attempting to “marry” someone of the same sex.

On the other hand, fatal subway crashes, endless delays, surprise station closures, and other signs of managerial incompetence are usually atributable to human error.

…For the record, my disapproval of John Catoe’s regime began two years ago, when he instituted the following public-address message in the stations:

We have a lot of escalators in our system. You’ll notice that most people stand on the right side. And while you’re riding, hold the handrail for your safety. Enjoy your trip, and thank you for riding Metro.

This is not an effective message. It is an effete message.

But Catoe did not want to insist that anyone stand to the right. He didn’t want to give an order. He thought doing so would only encourage Type-A personalities to rush through stations in a furious hurry on the left.

Call me a Type-A personality if you want–call me something worse–but I do not think “stand to the right” is a suggestion. It is like the eleventh Commandment. It is escalator Rule Number One.

To review:

1956 in New York: The I.R.T. has a subway station which has been flooded by the Fire Department, and there is a train sunk into the roadbed. Everything is fully repaired and operational five days later.

2009 in Washington: John Catoe does not want to encourage rushing. It is the deadliest, most bogged-down year in the history of Metro. The WMATA Board renews his contract and gives him a standing ovation.

metro car

Empire Boulevard, Brooklyn


It has been a month since the Monday evening that rattled me as much as I have been rattled in a long time. I think September 11, 2001, was the last time I sat in front of a televison in a state of such distress.

The Washington Metro opened when I was a little boy. My dad worked for the city then, and we rode on a special Metro ride for V.I.P.’s, the day before the system opened.

He was so excited about the Metro that he used to ride it one stop each evening, from his office at Farragut North to the end of the red line at Dupont Circle. Then he would catch the bus the rest of the way to our house (near Friendship Heights–only a shaded ‘future’ station on the map back then).

empireThe Metro ride did not save him any time or trouble. He did it out of sheer excitement.

I guess children who grow up on farms have a special love for pigs and tractors. They do not like to see sick pigs or mangled tractors. For me, it is the Metro.

There was a deadly Metro crash in January, 1982–the same afternoon Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the 14th-Street bridge and plummeted into the Potomac River. And a Metro operator was killed in a crash in 1996.

But I think the crash on June 22 is the event that will mark a turning point in Washington subway history equivalent to the turning point that was reached in New York City ten days before the end of World War I:

Have you ever been to Frederick Law Olmstead’s magnificent Prospect Park in Brooklyn? One of the exits of the park opens onto Empire Boulevard.

Malbone wreckThis street once had a different name. They had to change the name of the street, because the old name had become synonymous with death and horror. Empire Boulevard was once Malbone Street.

Click here for the New York Times account of the deadliest non-terrorist subway catastrophe in history, which happened in the tunnel outside the Malbone Street station on All Saints Day, 1918.

At least 93 people died. The crash occurred because a non-union scab with two hours of training was operating the Brighton Beach express during a strike. He took a six-mile-an-hour curve at 40 mph.

The responsible authorities were indicted for manslaughter.

The NYC subway bounced back. It became a professional operation. May the same happen here in Washington. And may all the dead rest in peace.

Go West, Number Seven! and Cetera


…Would that the disease really were the “swine” flu, in the imprecatory sense of the word ‘swine.’ Then only the most low-down, dirty, rotten scoundrels could contract it.

Judge John T. Noonan
Judge John T. Noonan
…The latest news out of South Bend, Indiana, is that Judge John T. Noonan will speak along with President Obama at the Notre Dame graduation.

(Mary Ann Glendon, who was previously scheduled to speak, perspicaciously declined the Laetare Award earlier this week.)

Please refrain from throwing tomatoes: For my money, of the three orators (Obama, Glendon, Noonan), Noonan promises to be the most interesting.

I am not claiming that he is correct in all his opinions. I do not even know what all his opinions are. I am simply saying that he is a very smart man, with a subtle, penetrating mind. His Power to Dissolve is one of the more illuminating books I have ever read. (It is about ecclesiastical marriage law.)

…The number seven subway in New York City is a delightful line.

sevenYou can ride it between Times Square and Grand Central in lieu of the tedious “Shuttle.” You can ride it out to Shea Stadium and the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, which is where one of the wonders of the world is kept: the New York City Panorama.

The day after I ran the New York Marathon, I parked at a Queens diner, ate an omelette, and paid the owner ten dollars to keep an eye on my car for a few hours. Then I rode the Seven to Manhattan for a wonderful day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, lunch with my brother, etc. Basically, the number seven is sweet.

Now the Number Seven is being extended by two stops to the west. And Archbishop Dolan blessed the huge tunnel drills!

What a world we live in, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! There is hardly time to take it all in. Can you believe that, on top of all this, the weekend will feature:

Caps. Celtics-Bulls. And of course, Nowitzness.

Bread, Meat…Happiness

I am frankly surprised at myself. I am disappointed in my bad priorities. I have been blogging furiously for over a month, and I have yet to address a topic of enormous importance, a topic none of us can afford to ignore: Sandwiches.

A sandwich can simply be a matter of reaching into the fridge: mayonnaise, sliced ham and/or turkey, and–in the best of all possible worlds–hydroponic lettuce. From the bread basket: a nice big loaf of nutty whole-wheat bread. One knife and three minutes later: Utter satisfaction.

A sandwhich could be a matter of saying to oneself: Hot or cold? Hot or cold? Why the ‘or’? Hot and cold is what I am talking about. Three slices of bacon in the frying pan, two slices of white toast in the toaster, a crisp slice of tomato, two supple leaves of romaine, mayo…oh, yes.

Perhaps we are actually talking about a quick trip to Quizno’s. Or Subway.

It used to be that Quizno’s won that contest, hands-down. a) They were alone in toasting their sandwiches. b) Their combination of flavorful breads and sauces is truly creative. (Some people swear by Potbelly Sandwich Works. To me, their sandwiches are on the petite side. Plus, I am not into getting a can of Coke.)

On the excellent subject of Quizno’s, let me tell you a story. I had just finished an all-day bike ride. The sun was setting as I emerged with a hot chicken carbonara. I hung the bag on the handlebars, and then I bent down to undo my combination lock. As I did, I got a noseful of hot-sandwich aroma that was sweeter than any perfume or incense. I was looking forward to eating that sandwich with a kind of anticipation that only a chaste groom on his wedding day could appreciate.

At just that moment, a lovely young lass approached me and said, “Can you tell me where the Starbucks is?” The Starbucks was right behind her. I am not flattering myself. She had plainly seen the Starbucks. I am not Tom Cruise, but…

A sequence of thoughts ran through my mind like a train: Even if I were not a priest–even if I did not strive to behave like a Christian gentleman at all times–even if I did not fear the fires of hell–if you try to seduce me right now–if you try to wrestle me into a car to ravish me–I will fight you with every ounce of strength I possess, so that I can get home and eat this sandwich while it is still hot.

I pointed to the Starbucks without uttering a word and then rode like the wind back home.

Getting back to the question at hand, though: Quizno’s is sublime, but Subway has made a comback. Now Subway toasts. Now Subway has some pretty excellent sauces, especially sweet onion. It’s hard to justify paying twice as much at Quizno’s. On the other hand, Quizno’s has the superior Italian cold-cut.

Sometimes a sandwich is a matter of: egg salad. There is a deli down the street from me where they make a mean egg-salad sandwich. But the best egg salad I have ever eaten is produced by my brother priest, Fr. Mark Tucker. Sunday-afternoon egg-salad sandwiches in his rectory back when I was a seminarian are some of the most pleasant memories of life.

I am not a fan of seafood restaurants. Seafood is generally over-priced and underwhelming. But sometimes I have to go to seafood restaurants, because people tend to like them. Whenever I walk in the door, I beg God that the menu will include: Soft-shell crab sandwich. This is one of the most fun sandwiches you can get. There is all kind of little creature in there. Claws and flippers sticking out. If you lift up the bread, you can take a quick look at the beady little eyes. Nothing is more virile than consuming an entire organism between two slices of bread.

There is so much more to say on the subject of sandwiches. Please chime in with some juicy comments.