Redskins (and Pope) to NY

Pope Francis pauses in front of a sculpture of Spanish-born Franciscan Friar Junipero Serra in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC

Holy Mass outside the Shrine in Washington yesterday brought me (and the world, I think) many graces.

Papa Francesco declared that Father Junipero deserves veneration at the Church’s altars, all over the world. A mild, peaceful sun shone on an earnest gathering of 25,000-or-so people–an assembly of humanity with pretty much one common bond: faces turned towards Christ.

The intersection of 4th and Michigan, N.E., has never known silence like the moments of recollection during this Mass. Former Abp. of Washington, the late James Cardinal Hickey, loved to talk about how loudly the streetcars squealed at this intersection in 1940. But yesterday, with all the streets closed, and everyone praying in silence, you could hear the breeze rustle a bush 100 yards away.

We priests sang Pescador de Hombres together during the communion meditation, and I prayed for another twenty-two years just like the last twenty-two (which I have spent in the Church ruled by the Pope).

I love our Holy Father very much. He gave a speech inside the Capitol this morning. Some lovely lines, but I cannot defend it as an oratorical work of art.

Pope kisses the crucifix upon entering St. Patrick's Cathedral
Pope kisses the crucifix upon entering St. Patrick’s Cathedral

I heard the speech in the car, driving back to my beloved parish(es). It ended, and I sat in a stunned daze. The sentence that I had awaited never got said.

So I turned off the radio. I do not hesitate, as a two-decade veteran of the Pro-Life Movement, to say that I felt punched in the face. Holy Father had never said the word abortion. Had never referred to the innocent and defenseless unborn child.

So I meditated instead on another papal speech given during an early-autumn visit to Washington…

I do not hesitate to proclaim before you and before the world that all human life—from the moment of conception and through all subsequent stages—is sacred, because human life is created in the image and likeness of God. Nothing surpasses the greatness or dignity of a human person. Human life is not just an idea or an abstraction; human life is the concrete reality of a being that lives, that acts, that grows and develops.

Let me repeat what I told the people during my recent pilgrimage to my homeland: If a person’s right to life is violated at the moment in which he is first conceived in his mother’s womb, an indirect blow is struck also at the whole of the moral order, which serves to ensure the inviolable goods of man. Among those goods, life occupies the first place… Human life is precious because it is the gift of a God whose love is infinite; and when God gives life, it is for ever…

All human beings ought to value every person for his or her uniqueness as a creature of God, called to be a brother or sister of Christ…

For us, the sacredness of human life is based on these premises. And it is on these same premises that there is based our celebration of life—all human life. This explains our efforts to defend human life against every influence or action that threatens or weakens it…

And so, we will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life. When a child is described as a burden or is looked upon only as a means to satisfy an emotional need, we will stand up and insist that every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift of God.

[October 7, 1979, Mass on the Mall, John Paul II]

Torna presto. (Card. Dolan to His Holiness, when the pope was getting ready to leave St. Patrick’s after Vespers this evening.) Most charming line of the papal visit so far. Torna presto, dear reader, for more reflections on Holy Father’s visit.

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Read for Virtual Washington Pilgrimage

For you, dear reader, who does not find him- or herself on the bus with us to Washington, so that you, too, might hear the words and thoughts of the goofy priest the young people have with them on the bus…

Continue reading “Read for Virtual Washington Pilgrimage”

little trinities

The other day, beads of sweat dripped from my elbow when I finished my morning run. The sheer joy of it moved me to compose this little rhapsody:

Come, long hot Washington summer!
Come and enfold your people in your torrid embrace.
We will take every sweaty minute of your grimy kiss.
We hardly know ourselves without your bleary fog surrounding us.
Come and wrap us in your dank blanket!

…Here is a Trinity Sunday homily for you:

Lord, what is man that you care for him? Mortal man, that you keep him in mind? Yet You have made him little less than a god. (Psalm Eight)

In Sacred Scripture, the Wisdom of God testifies that He brought about the making of all things with the Almighty Father:

When the Lord established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; when he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth; when he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; then was I beside him as his craftsman. (Proverbs 8:27-30)

This is the Word of God speaking, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. All three Persons of the Trinity brought about creation. Of all the works of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the greatest is man. Divine Wisdom says, “I found delight in the human race.” The Lord crowned the world by making us “with glory and honor, putting all things under our feet” (Psalm Eight).

Continue reading “little trinities”

Spring Bests Have Arrived

Whenever I can, I try to compose little lists of the best things in the world.

It will take me a long time to get through them all. Fortunately, I am still young.

I have posted a new list under the Bests tab above.

The following old list of ‘blizzard bests’ is retired from the tab…

Continue reading “Spring Bests Have Arrived”

Southwest Corner

Remember when Ferdinand Magellan reached the Philippines?

Well, this afternoon my Evangelization Team and I reached the southwest corner of my little city parish.

Every Friday afternoon, we knock on doors and invite people to church. We take the parish block by block.

It felt great to reach one of the corners of our territory. We memorialized the moment with a cellphone snapshot.

At Sixth and G Streets, Northeast

Three more corners to go.

Altogether Under

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.

Fr. Matteo Ricci, S.J.
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.

It’s not Just a Religion, It’s an Adventure

…Let me say this, my blizzard-jockey friends: When the Washington springtime comes this year, it will be the sweetest ever…

Simon Peter fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him.

Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:8-11)

“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

These were St. Peter’s words when he recognized the awesome holiness of Christ. Peter was afraid. He knew he was not worthy to be in the presence of God. After all, he was a rough and humble working man.

Continue reading “It’s not Just a Religion, It’s an Adventure”

Roads that Don’t Have to be Plowed

On September 9, 1969, President Nixon’s transportation secretary ordered work on the Three Sisters Bridge to begin…

As construction began, near Foxhall and Canal Roads, just west of Georgetown, demonstrators lay down in front of bulldozers and tied themselves to trees that were slated to be chopped down. Opponents paddled a canoe out to the Three Sisters — the three boulders siting in mid-river — and hung a banner on the rocks that read: “Stop the Bridge.”

Arrests took place daily. But work was halted by a temporary restraining order issued that October. In August 1970, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court ordered work on the bridge halted.

His opinion said that proper planning procedures had not been followed and local voices had not been adequately heard. (Washington Post)

Not long ago, I promised to detail the Washington highways that might have been, but thankfully are not.

Our city was spared these depredations, thanks largely to ‘Washingtonian of the Year,’ 1972: Peter Craig.

Here is a brief outline of the city-choking asphalt that would have been laid:

A. I-66 would have crossed into Washington over the Three Sisters Bridge. Then it would have split into two freeways:

1. The Potomac Freeway would have channeled traffic from the Three Sisters Bridge along the Georgetown waterfront and onto a newly tunneled K Street. (It would have been eight lanes wide, double the size of the existing Whitehurst Freeway.) The K Street Freeway would have tunneled from Foggy Bottom to Seventh Street NW. (The approach lanes and exit ramps that now sit near the Kennedy Center would have been the western terminus of this freeway.)

2. The Palisades Parkway, four lanes wide, would have gone northwest from the Three Sisters Bridge to the Capital Beltway in Cabin John, along the Maryland side of the Potomac.

B. What is now the Metro Red Line from Union Station to Silver Spring would have been the ten-lane North Central Freeway. It would have met the Beltway just west of Georgia Avenue.

C. The Northeast Freeway would have allowed I-95 to continue through Prince George’s County and into the District, where it would have joined the North Central near what is now the Fort Totten Metro station. Ten lanes would have gone through Langley Park and Takoma Park.

D. The Industrial Freeway, would have run in six lanes from I-395 just north of the Capitol to Kenilworth Avenue in Maryland, along the New York Avenue corridor.

Glover Archbold Park
E. Most Appalling: There were to have been an “inner Beltway!” The South Leg of this ‘Inner Loop’ would have tunneled under the Mall, beginning beneath the Lincoln Memorial, running below the Tidal Basin and emerging between the 14th Street Bridge and the Jefferson Memorial (in one early rendering, it would have been trenched through the Mall, not tunneled).

Dear readers, I know that some of you are in far-flung places. It might be hard for you to visualize clearly the horror of what could have happened to the most splendid city on earth.

Suffice it to say that there ought to be a statue of Peter Craig in at least one of the beautiful, well-treed parks which he saved from the bulldozers.

Wake Up Call

Expergiscere, homo! It’s time for Christmas!

…Did Chris Wright score a game-high, career-high 34 points yesterday afternoon? Yes, he did!

Rich Chvotkin had the line of the day: “Whatever your were going to give Chris Wright for Christmas, double it.”

…Pope Benedict’s encyclical on hope is really a meditation on the following dialogue, which occurs before every Baptism:

PRIEST: What do you ask of God’s Church?

CANDIDATE/PARENT: Faith.

PRIEST: What does faith offer you?

CANDIDATE/PARENT: Eternal life.

The Pope explains:

The human being needs unconditional love. He needs certainty…Man’s great true hope, which holds firm in spite of all disappointments, can only be God–God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” (John 13:1) until all “is accomplished” (John 19:30).

…Washington is unlike other American cities. One of the ways it is different is this:

Back in the 1960’s, the big thing was to build super-highways THROUGH cities. The plan was to build big highways through Washington, just like there are big highways through Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, etc.

But people rebelled. One of them was Peter Craig, who died last month. There was a nice editorial about him yesterday.

Because of the resistance of local Washingtonians, we DO NOT have the big highways running through town that we were slated to have. This is an ENORMOUS blessing.

I am not familiar with all the projects which the editorial mentions. Nothing interests me more than things like this, so I am going to have to do some heavy-duty research to get a firm grip on all the details of what was to have been built, but thankfully was not.

If the Lord allows me the leisure and resources, you will read a nice, long description of it all here someday.

I acknowledge that this will be interesting only to Washington-geography nerds like myself, but I make no apologies. We will see what I can come up with.

In the meantime, merry Christmas, dear readers!