Monday, April 26, 2010

Letter to a high-school girl, part 4

You asked: "Did you go to college during the 1960's?" and "What was your college experience like in the 1960's?"

I was at the U of M on and off from 1962 to 1972. The first two years were like a continuation of the 50's, as I've mentioned. My impression was that things started changing in the fall of 1964, when the first baby-boomers hit campus. The "weekly silent vigil to end the Vietnam War" started then - a few people standing by the fence surrounding the Armory at 17th and University for one hour, noon to 1 pm, every Wednesday. They kept this up every day until the last US troops left Vietnam in 1975, by the way, and it was written up in the papers at the time.

I had a distressing experience at the Newman Center in the fall of 1964. The Newman Center (named after John Henry Newman, an important figure in the Church of England in the 19th century, who converted to Rome) had daily noon Mass, and one day they started singing the Gelineau Psalms to guitar (quite an innovation in itself) accompaniment. Now in the psalms the word "Y-h-w-h" is spoken out loud in full, and I was shocked, because to pious Jews that is the Holy Name of God, too holy to be uttered by mortal lips. (I learned that from learning about Judaism in high school and after.) If you ever look at a Hebrew Bible you will see the word
often, and when a pious Jew reads Scripture aloud, he (or she) will substitute the word "Adonai" ("Lord") - which is why in Bibles you see the work LORD in small caps or italicized.

Anyway, this was the age of ecumenism, when people of good will of every faith were reaching out and trying to discover common ground. (There is plenty of it, I have to add. Your family is Lutheran, mainly, and I'm Roman Catholic, but what unites us is more important than what divides us, though the divisions are real and wide. And the Christian tree has its roots in Jewish soil.) So afte Mass was over, I went to one of the singers, a guy I knew from De La Salle, two years younger thanme, and I said, "Russ, the psalm contains the holy name of God that pious Jews will never say out loud - and if any kids from Hillel Foundation walk in here and hear that, they'll never come back, because it's offensive to them." And Russ said to me, "Bob, this is the way it's going to be around here, and if you don't like it you can get the hell out." So much for liberal tolerance.

I had another experience about 1968 or 1969, when a young black woman told me to my face I was a racist just because I was white. I could have told her about my fellow-workers at the hotel and our good relations there, but she had an "attitude" and it turned me off. So much for liberal open-mindedness.

In January 1969 (as I recall) a bunch of students (and some were not), mostly black, broke into the University administration building, occupied it for some time (some people say now only a day or so, but my memory is different), and trashed the place to the tune of dozens of thousands of dollars of damage. They refused to come out until the U met their demands, which included the creation of a Black Studies department funded by the U but administered by the Twin Cities black community. (The department did get started.) The general feeling on the part of a majority of the student body (as I recall) was that the University Police should just go in there and arrest them all. In the 1969 legislative session, the legislature slashed the U's budget request by about 1/3, and some of the legislators said in print that the action was deliberately punitive.

In the spring of 1970, US troops made an incursion into Cambodia, and there was a call for a nationwide "student strike," which many students and some teachers at the U took part in. I didn't. It was my last undergraduate quarter, and I wanted that degree and diploma. A few of the students in the theater department posted a "manifesto" condemning the war and the US involvement and especially the Cambodia incursion (fine) -- but claimed they spoke for the entire theater department, faculty and students. I went around posting up my own manifestos saying that they didn't speak for me. Sometime during the quarter, some of the self-proclaimed leaders of the strike in the theater department convened a big gathering in Scott Hall (the main theater) and demanded the theater faculty to shut down the theater department. I remember "Doc" Whiting, the department chairman, who had built the department almost singlehandedly during the 1930's and who had won accreditation for the BA program, plead with the students not to shut the U down. He had tears in his eyes as he told us that he had seen the intellectual lights going out in Europe in the 1930's (because of Nazism and Communism), that a university was parctically the only place where completely free speech was allowed and encouraged. He practically begged the kids not to do it. But they did it. I was working on my senior project at the time, designing furniture for a kids' production of "Don Quixote," and the scene shop was next to the Armory, which was a favorite target of the peaceniks' anger. When the students at UMD tried to burn down the armory on the Duluth campus, the U of M police ordered the scene shop closed, and I had to carry the furniture to another building, by hand with very little help. I couldn't force my crew to help me (nor dcould I give them bad marks), because the U authorities cooperated with the strike by saying that any student who "struck" would not be penalized. Well, I got everything done one way or another. I think the show opened on a Saturday afternoon and was to play two matinee performances. On the Saturday, the director told me he wanted some extra trimmings on the set and wanted me to coime in Sunday morning to do the work. I replied that I would be going to church, and he said "F--- church!" I didn't do what he wanted. So much for liberal acceptance of religion and my conscience.

In the winter of 1971, when I was in graduate school, working on my MA in theater, the legislature slashed the U's budget 2/3 (as I recall) and again made no secret that it was a punitive action. That made a big difference to me, because I was hoping for a career in academic theater, and with the budget cuts there were no new hires, and some cutting of staff. So there went nine years of work down the drain, so I thought at the time. I tried to keep on with the schooling, but I must have felt "What's the point?" and left the U for good in the spring of 1972. Not coincidentally, that was the last major upset on campus, when a great number of students did a sit-down in the middle of Washington Avenue, a major artery through campus and the bridge across the river. I realized then that my college career was over for good; part of it was that I was tired of studying, part was I was out of money, and part (as I look back) was that the U wasn't the same U that I had entered ten years before. It was all very depressing, and I remember the whole year of 1972 as sort of a gloomy dreary haze.

The world was a whole different place, so different from 1962 that I remember wondering where I fit in or even if I fit in. Well, I stuck at my job at the hotel until 1973, for lack of anything else to do, and in March 1974 I went to work for the Highway Department. Now this is kind of funny in a way, because I started in 1962 as a civil engineering student, got a degree and did graduate study in theater, but ended up working for the Highway Dept. and MnDOT for 27 years as a civil engineering technician.

You asked: "Looking back at the decade what are your feelings like about the 1960's?"

Looking back on it all, I feel it was a great change in American society, but not an improvement. We were a better nation when I was growing up. It was during that decade that the attitude "old is bad, new is good" crept into society and has stayed. It was then that Margaret Mead, the eminent anthropologist, said "This generation has nothing to learn from the past." I thought she'd lost her marbles. In the late sixties or early seventies, Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock, the main point of which, as I recall, was that the pace of change in society was speeding up, and pretty soon changes would happen so fast that no one could keep up with them. I think he was right.

But I did get a very solid and well-rounded education at De La Salle and the U of M, and I still use it, and no one can take it away from me. My Christian faith was solidified and strengthened by being challenged by half-believers and unbelievers. I discovered through reading, study, discussion, and being challenged that nothing on earth can disprove the truth of the Christian faith. The country has changed, but insofar as I have kept to the ideals of my boyhood and youth, I have not; which makes me an outcast in the Land Of Political Correctness. But that's okay, and to be expected, because this is exactly what Jesus warned would happen to His followers.

"God writes straight with crooked lines," says an old proverb. For instance, if I hadn't joined MnDOT, I would never have met your mom, and I would never have known you, and I wouldn't be sitting here writing my story for you. God knows what He's doing. He put me on earth in exactly the right time and place to experience what I did and be able to pass it along. Praise the Lord!

"Rejoice in the Lord, always, I say, rejoice!"

* * * * *

Well, A----, I could go on and write another book for you, but you wouldn't have time to read it and process it. You'll be short on time as it is, I've given you so much. Allow me to sort of play "crusty old Grandpa" for a minute - look over my bifocals and shake my cane at you and say, "Young lady, don't wait so long to start the paper." Seriously though, I know how hard-pressed you are for time and energy.

My best wishes to you and all the family!
Take care and God bless,

Letter to a high-school girl, part 3

You asked: "What were you doing when you heard about JFK's assassination? What did you think?"

I was working in the FBI office in downtown Minneapolis as a file clerk; the announement came over the intercom about 12:30 that Kennedy had been shot; and about 1:00 the news came that he had died. Of course it was a matter for the FBI. I recall thinking something like "Life will go on." I never bothered much about all the teeny details of Oswald and Ruby, or why Ruby shot Oswald (some say it was to keep Oswald silent about all he knew) - and in the years since all kinds of theories have been floating around.

* * * * *

You asked: "Did you participate in politics and if so what candidates did you support in the 1960's?" and "Did you serve in the Vietnam War? If you did in what capacity? Please share some notable experiences about the Vietnam War." and "Please share what your feelings are about the war now." and "Were you eligible for the Vietnam draft? Please tell about your experience with the Vietnam draft."

My participation in politics was limited to voting. Like everything else in the middle and late 60's, politics became very polarized, and that is still going on. In 1964 I would have voted for Goldwater. In 1968 I voted Republican (look up sometime the riot at the Democratic convention in Chicago). Ditto every election since, as best I recall. In general, I vote conservative (though neither major party has an exclusive grasp on good ideas - or stupidity).

I didn't serve in the war, but had many friends who did. Six of them are dead, killed in action; two came home as walking time-bombs and drank and drugged themselves to death later on, because they couldn't handle the horrors they experienced. (There is a contrast there between Vietman vets and WWII vets, but it's not relevant here.) NO ONE I know who served in combat in Vietnam came home whole in both body and soul.

My feelings about the war now are just grief, sadness, and loss. My best buddy, Phil, married Mary in November 1967 and was killed in Vietnam in March 1969. It took Mary five and a half years to put herself back together and remarry. I was with her a lot. The night before Phil shipped out, he stopped over to my house, and we sat on the back porch and had a couple of beers. He told me that since he was a first lieutenant of infantry, his chances of coming home at all were less than half, and his chances of coming home alive and whole were less than one in three. He asked me to take care of Mary if he was killed, and I promised I would, and I did the best I could. You don't forget stuff like that.

My thoughts about the war are that it was unwinnable. The regime in Saigon was corrupt and stayed corrupt, despite American efforts to shore it up, and as a consequence the South Vietnamese Regular Army was also corrupt and incompetent. The North Vietnamese Regular Army and the Viet Cong irregulars were far more disciplined and more effective. There is a book called Vietnam by Stanley Karnow, who covered the war as a journalist while it was going on, and went back to Vietnam years later, after the war was long over. One of the people he talked to was then-General Giap of the North Vietnamese regulars, who said to Karnow that the best allies the North Vietnames communists had were the student antiwar protests in the US and the growing public sentiment against the war. Many years after the war was over, Robert McNamara, who was Secretary of Defense at the time (and resigned in protest), wrote a book In Retrospect, in which he says that the Johnson administration lied to the public about the war. I have to add that the actress Jane Fonda, who was an ardent peacenik, made a trip to North Vietnam, and issued a statement condemning American involvement in the war. A few years ago she apologized publicly for that, but it's too late. To a whole generation of guys she'll always be "Hanoi Jane."

I was eligible for the draft, and registered on my eighteenth birthday in 1962. One way to stay out of the Army was to be in school, which is a lousy motivation to study, but a strong one anyway. I got called up in the spring of 1965, just after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident (look it up) when Johnson (who ran in 1964 on a peace platform) decided to "escalate" American involvement, and the Army needed lots of warm bodies. I went through the physical and, deciding that I was very likely a dead man, went home, packed everything, gave some things away, and sat down and waited for the orders to report. Nothing happened. Nothing happened all summer, because the Army lost my paperwork. Except for the print shop, I had no job, and not enough money for fun, but no one would hire me. In fact, one prospective employer told me, "Look, Kid, I know it's illegal to refuse to hire you, but why should I waste time and money training you in, just to have the Army snatch you away?" It was finally in late August that the notice came that I had failed the physical exam and was unqualified for military service. I was happy and sorry at the same time. My dad served in the Army in WWII, my Uncle George served aboard a carrier in combat in the Navy in the South Pacific, and I wanted to help our country. At the same time, I felt like I had a death sentence taken off my shoulders. Guys my age tell me now that flunking the physical very likely saved my life.

Letter to a high-school girl, part 2

Hi, A----,

Maybe I should apologize for giving you far more material than you can use, but on second thought, I won't, because one of the main tasks of a researcher is picking and choosing from the material available. You'll find that you always accumulate far more material than goes into the finished product.

Anyway -- you asked: "Did you have contact with or awareness about the Civil Rights movement?" and "What were your feelings and reactions like about the Civil Rights movement?"

The only contact I had with the Civil Rights movement was that one of my friends joined the "Freedom Riders" and went South to help with black voter registration. I remember that I tried to talk him out of it. If I recall rightly, I told him that yes, the cause was worthy, but I had a suspicion that white folks in the South were going to resent a bunch of "damn Yankees" coming down there and telling them how to run their own affairs. (Even as late as 1964, there were Southerners still fighting the Civil War, there was still a superior attitude on the part of Southern whites, and a long-lingering resentment against Northerners.)

My feelings about the whole business were (and still are) that confrontation rarely accomplishes any good. Granted that the black folks North and South were still victims of many injustices large and small, but the riots and protests were worse than useless because they reinforced white-racist stereotypes about blacks, and they set up (or increased) in young blacks' minds a sense of resentment toward "Whitey" and an attitude of entitlement (rather than justice). It was as if the attitude changed from "This is unjust" (as Dr. King said) to "You owe me!" as people like the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam said.

* * * * *

You asked: "Did you have contact with or awareness of the counterculture (hippies)?" and "What did you think about the hippies of the 1960's?"

I knew about them and, at the same time, envied and had no respect for them. After all, the idea of sitting around all day, doing nothing but smoking pot, having sex all the time, and having other people feed them is a nice dream, but it's unreal. By the time the hippies came around, my values from the 40's and 50's (and a couple generations before that) were thoroughly internalized, even if I couldn't always put them into words. "Turn on, tune in, drop out" sounds like a nice slogan -- but! I have to note with a certain sarcasm that the hippie culture got its start in "sunny California" rather than in Siberian Minnesota.

(By the way, I think tattoos and piercings are barbaric. Can't stand them. "If it feels good, do it!" is a slogan straight from hell.)

* * * * *

You asked: "Did you have contact with or awareness with regard to the women's movement?" and "What were your reactions like towards the women's movement in the 1960's?"

I have to drop back a few years to the 50's and early 60's and say that women's undergarments were far more rigid and confining than they are now. Even Maureen, who I took to the prom in 1962, wore a corset (I didn't see it, but when she had to sit on my lap in the car ride home she wasn't cuddly). I didn't know girls were soft and jiggly until I was well into my twenties, when the girls on campus started wearing different undergarments, or none at all.

Now this gets us to the very center of the Christian teaching about sex. Sex is the privilege of the married, period, end of discussion! Naturally a normal healthy guy takes some pleasure in looking at gals in verious states of undress -- BUT that's the "old Adam" working, not the grace of God. So my reactions were very mixed, and again, it's the life-long fight within every human soul (male or female) between following the Lord or not following Him.

I am very blessed to have been old enough, and to have had definite views about modesty, that I could sense that the outward manifestations of the women's movement and the hippie movement, were in a lot of ways wrong. They were contrary to everything I had been taught, and what I was taught was right.

(One day in the mid-90's I remarked at work that I was raised with the belief that marriage-sex-children is a package deal. You want one, you have to take all; if you reject one, you have to give up all. My co-workers looked at me like I was from a different planet. Such is a symptom of the de-Christianization of America.)

I have to stick in here that the most hideous outgrowth of the women's movement, or feminism, or whatever, is the notion that women have the "right to control their own bodies." So, ignoring scientific evidence of the humanity of the unborn, and the fact that the baby is not part of the mother's body, we have now suffered the loss of at least fifty million unborn children.

I might add that I see on facebook almost every day young women wearing things that their grandmothers never would have dreamed of wearing, and their great-grandmothers would probably spank them for. One of the things that the women's movement helped diminish or destroy was the sense of modesty for both sexes. The "women's libbers" played right into the hands of Hugh Hefner and his allies, who taught a whole generation of American men that women are objects to be used. (I got it from a trusted source just last week that the most common cause of death of pregnant women is murder.)

By the way, this has been going on for ages. G. K. Chesterton (who I recommend to your attention) remarked about all this a hundred years ago. And while I'm on great Christian writers, I have to mention C. S. Lewis and his book Mere Christianity. It was one of the books that brought home to me that the Christian faith I was taught as a child is also complex enough to be intelligently accepted by an adult.

I have to add that one of the things I liked about the Highway Department was equal pay for equal work. At the hotel, the chambermaids got paid less than the housemen, even though their work was just as hard if not harder. I know, because when we got short of maids I had to be a maid and do sixteen rooms in one shift.

Letter to a high-school girl, part 1

A friend's daughter, a junior in high school, asked me to write her something about my experience of the 1960's. I was more than happy to do it.

Dear Ms. (or Miss if you prefer) J-----,

I was 16 in 1960, and graduated from high school in 1962. I have thought a long time about what it was like back then, and the simplest way I can say it is that the early 60's were really a continuation of the 50's (for instance, for dress-up occasions we guys were expected to wear a white shirt and tie, with sport coat and slacks, or suit, and "shinable" shoes). At sock hops we had records of rock-and-roll music (which was nothing like what's called rock today) but for the spring formal dances, live bands that played the "big band" sound of the 30's and 40's were obligatory. The way I remember it, everything seemed to change after President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and the Beatles made their first appearance on live TV about February 1964. They brought with them a new kind of fashion which we had never seen here. (Look up Twiggy and Carnaby Street.)

There was also the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a very polarized election between Barry Goldwater (R) and Lyndon Johnson (D); the main issue was combating communism in Vietnam, which Goldwater supported and Johnson opposed before the election but changed his mind after he was inaugurated. That was the last election I was too young to vote in (for drinking and voting you had to be 21). Then there was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and after it, a lot of well-meaning college kids, including one friend of mine, went South on buses to help with voter registration of black citizens. (Some states in the "deep South" had poll taxes and literacy tests for voting, as I recall.) Some of those civil rights workers were murdered.

Anyway, what with the changes in music, art, fashion, and politics (I think rather enthusiastically accepted by the first of the baby-boomers who came to the University campus in the fall of 1964), things changed a lot. Now since I was two years older than the "boomers," I was a little more set in my ways even then, and didn't care for a lot of the changes -- which, by the way, I didn't really see as improvements. (If your mom shows you my facebook profile, you can see that I said about myself: "I am turning into a reactionary old crab. During the 1960s on campus I was a reactionary young crab.")

You asked: "What were your relations like with your parents, school, church and job back in the 60's?"

I got along fine with my parents. It was understood that as long as I lived in their house I obeyed their rules, and I did. They gave me very low-cost room and board while I was going to school; when I wasn't in school (summer vacations and breaks between quarters at the U) I was expected to be working and paying about 20% of my net pay towards the household. Pop was the only wage-earner of the family for many years while Mom stayed home keeping house and traking care of us six kids. Besides paying, I was expected to do a share of the house chores. The chores I had to do grew more or less because of the demands of school. (Pop and Mom graduated from high school in 1931, about the bottom of the Great Depression, and they were very strong on higher education, which they never had a chance to get.)

For high school I went to De La Salle, on Nicollet Island. I was in a college-prep curriculum, and I had no say about the courses. Again, it was "if you're here you obey the rules." I had four years of religion, English, math, social studies, science, two years of Latin, and two years of gym. After I graduated (in top 8% of my class) I was not quite used to the comparative liberty of the University. I was in a civil engineering curriculum, where certain courses were required for the first two years; but aside from that I soon realized that the profs and teaching assistants didn't care if I went to class or not - the responsibility of getting there, paying attention, and learning, was entirely on my shoulders. They graded tests and produced marks. If I flunked, tough; it was my fault. One prof told us that they intended to make it rough on us, and wash as many of us out as they could, because they wanted only the best getting engineering degrees from the U of M. That general position didn't change until after 1969 and 1970 (which I'll talk about some later on).

My relations with my Church were rather strained at the time. I went to a Catholic grade school, St. Bridget's, in north Minneapolis, and we had religion every day. There was also Mass every day before school, which was optional. De La Salle was (and is) a Catholic school. So I got my whole primary and secondary education before the Church council Vatican II (which wasn't supposed to change things but did). The reason my relations with the Church - and religion - were strained was that I was discovering that the outside world had moral compexities they never told us about in grade school. I was having growing pains, and was subconsciously (repeat subconsciously) wondering if what I had been taught as a child was enough for an adult. (I have to add that I didn't find the words for this until I was over forty. But it's something that happens to almost every young person, and - I have to add - if it hasn't happened to you and Emily yet, it probably will; but don't give up. Stay faithful. God will see you through it.) Anyway, for six or seven years I did almost nothing but go to church every Sunday - I had an intuition that if I quit that, the last thread of the rope would snap and I would drop off the mountain to my (spiritual) death. The spring I was 23, 1967, I got tired of sitting on the fence, so to speak, said to myself "this is stupid, I have to stay or go." So I took a walk up to the priests' residence of the parish where I grew up, and had a long talk with the assistant pastor, and decided to stay - and I've never looked back. If I had been more pious, I would have remembered the Bible verse about be ye hot or cold, the lukewarm I will spit out of my mouth. But I didn't. What I did remember was Mom or Pop saying, when I hung in the doorway, "For Heaven's sake, go out or come in, don't just stand there!"

I have to say a word about the Second Vatican Council, which the Catholic Church held in Rome between the fall of 1962 and the fall of 1965. The Council produced several pastoral documents, which were intended to develop Catholic Christian teaching and clarify it for the modern world. What happened in many cases was that a lot of people (including clergy, sadly) thought that the changes meant that everything was "up for grabs," and started changing things they had no business changing. Now even though I was having my own difficulties with the Christian Faith, I could see that some of the changes people were making, and thought the Council had allowed to change, were not okay.

(Insert: into a big stewpot throw big changes in the Catholic Church - and I suspect others as well; big changes in music, art, theater, and fashion; the growing unpopularity of the Vietnam war and resistance to the draft; the civil rights movement and the Black Power movement; the hippies and the drug culture; the "women's liberation" movement and the "sexual revolution". . . allow to cook and mix . . . and you have a hot and foul-smelling stew.)

In the summer of 1960 I managed a paper station in north Minneapolis. In those days, the morning Tribune and the evening Star were delivered in bundles by truck to many little steel sheds (maybe 12' by 20') all over the city. The station manager had to be there by about 4:30 in the morning to hand out the papers to the carriers, then do the paperwork, close the station, do the route for any carrier who was sick or lazy and didn't get a substitute. Same routine about 3:00 in the afternoon, except Sundays. Note well that the authority of being station manager carried with it the responsibility of making sure everything got done - this was the accepted, if unspoken, idea of the fifties and early sixties: authority and responsibility go hand in hand and you can't have one without the other. Authority without responsibility is tyranny; responsibility without authority is slavery.

In the fall of 1960 through the spring of 1961 I worked on the janitorial crew at De La Salle to work off my tuition. In the summer of 1961 I worked as a temporary helper at the FBI office in Minneapolis, and made enough money to pay my senior year tuition in advance. By the way, I met a lady there who I still see - we've known each other for 49 years and get better friends all the time. Those are the friends worth keeping.

In the summer of 1962 I worked at the same office again as a summer helper.

In the late summer of 1964 I went to work in a print shop downtown. The pay was low, benefits nil, but there were only two work rules: the printing had to be perfect and it had to be out on time. I loved it, and stayed there until the spring of 1968, when the shop went out of business.

In the spring of 1968 I went to work on the housekeeping staff of a little hotel downtown, and stayed until mid-summer 1973. The important thing about that was that the bottom-line staff was only about half white - the rest was a mix of black and Indian. There were absolutely no racial tensions that I knew of at that place. We worked toegether eight hours a day five days a week, we had to get along, and the only thing that mattered was getting the job done well. Almost all the housekeeping staff was poor people, black and white and Indian, from the North Side, and mixing and working with those folks shattered almost every preconception about black people that I had grown up with. (Remember my dad served in a segregated Army during WWII, and worked in law enforcement [so he saw people at their worst]; and there were no black people in my neighborhood when I grew up.) I learned really fast to take people as they were, not by what they looked like. Of course there were some bad apples, there are in every group, black or white. But if you go back to Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech, one of the best parts is where he says that he wants his children to be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

By the way, years later I wrote a novel about the hotel, which nobody would believe unless they'd worked it one.

(But this was not so on the university campus. Starting about 1968, the black students started making demands, and in January 1969 took over and occupied the University's administration building for a while; the U authorities caved in and granted most of the demands and handed out no punishments that I recall. And it was in the summer of 1967, I think, that there was a race riot in north Minneapolis that started as a fight between some black kids and white kids at the Aquatennial torchlight parade and escalated.)

Okay, on to the next question. More later.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Open Season on Catholics

I just got a notice from a friend about the upcoming exposition of the Shroud. She sent me this link:

Look at the word "condemned." Conjures up horrible visions of black-hooded friars standing by racks and holding thumbscrews? I think the Telegraph means to do exactly that.

What the commission in charge of the exposition actually said (from the same article) was:

"The commission in charge of the shroud said in a statement that 'the sale of special glasses for the three dimensional viewing of details on the shroud' was 'an exclusively commercial initiative' that it did not support or promote in any way.

Of course not. The Shroud commission is there to show the Shroud, perhaps in hope of inspiring devotion to Christ Crucified (and the more of that the better, say I) -- and that's all.

Open season on the Church, folks!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Khrystos Voskres! (Christ is risen!) - to which the response is Voistynu Voskres! (Truly He is risen!) I worshipped with my Ukrainian friends this morning; I'm honored they accept me.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mission Accomplished!

Sleep, holy Babe,
Upon Thy mother's breast.
Great Lord of earth
And sea and sky,
How sweet it is
To see Thee lie
In such a place of rest.

Sleep, holy Babe.
Thine angels watch around,
All bended low
With folded wings
Before the incarnate
King of Kings
In reverent awe profound.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday - Last Thoughts

This is the conclusion of Jim Bishop's book The Day Christ Died, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Nicodemus took the empty spice boxes and the linen strips which were left. He gazed long upon the face of the Mother of Jesus. Then, with no farewell, he turned and went away. Joseph bowed to the women, and followed him. Young John looked helplessly at the big millstone, then told Mary, the Mother of Jesus, that it was time they started for "home." Mary nodded slightly and managed a small smile for her new son. He took her arm, and they left, walking through the garden of wild flowers and up onto the rock shelf where the three uprights stood, and across the roads and through the gate into the Holy City.

Mary of Alpheus said that she did not want to leave. She sat before the golet -- the great rolling stone -- and leaned her back against its beige roughness. Mary Magdalen sat down beside her. Both leaned against the stone.

It had been a long day. A very long day. There was much to remember, and some would remember it this way and some would remember it that way. Much of it had been done in secret, despite the public execution, and it would be weeks before the news reached the small towns of Galilee and the settlements east of Jericho.

The grief among the followers of Jesus would be poignant, a volatile fuel which, in its own fierce flame, burns itself out quickly. They did not understand (For a moment in time at least they could not understand.) To their way of thinking, this was a tragic defeat. It was not.

It was victory beyond their most exalted imaginings. He had come here to die. And he had died. He had come to preach a new covenant with his Father, and he had preached it. He had come to tell man that the way to everlasting life was love -- each for the other, each for him, and his love for all -- and he had proved this by laying down his life in a torrent of torment -- for them.

He did not die particularly for the Jews, or for the Gentiles. He died for man. All mankind. He came to Palestine to lay the foundations of his new covenant because he and his Father were dissatisfied with the old. The Father had never made a covenant with the Romans, or the Greeks or the Egyptians. He had made it, through Moses, with the Jews. And the leaders of Judea had, over the centuries, perverted that covenant until worship became a matter of externals in which all inner love was missing. If a new covenant was to replace the old, it would be negotiated with the same people.

That is why he had to die in Palestine; that is why, of all the cities in Palestine, he had to die in the Holy City -- the city of his Father. The high priests rejected him and plotted against him and killed him. The people didn't. The people were looking for the Messiah, waiting eagerly. And, although Jesus did not fit their conception of a resplendent Messiah clothed in clouds of glory, they were willing to listen. They did listen. And many of them gave up their worldly possessions to follow him. The people were of good heart.

Inside the sepulcher now, Jesus was not dead. If he was, then all men are dead; they creep irrevocably toward darkness. But this is not so. There were too many signs to the contrary. For two and a quarter years, Jesus pointed the way and, had he followed the dictates of his heart, he would have done nothing but cure and cure and cure. In a way, the miracles interfered with his mission, which was to preach the good news and to die. His body was to be rended and its functions were to cease. In this immolation, his soul would be glorified and in this too he was pointing the way to man.

The two Marys sat with their backs to the stone. They loved him and, in their love, they missed the enormous triumph; the new promise; the good news.

They did not even notice that the sun was shining.

Good Friday - the end of the Stabat Mater

Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it had swooned
In His very blood away.

Fac me plangis vulnerari.
Fac me cruce inebriari.
Et cruore Filii.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die
In His awful judgment day.

Flammis ne urar succensus,
Per te, Virgo, sim defensus
In die judicii.

Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defense,
Be Thy Cross my victory.

Christi, cum sit hinc exire,
Da per matrem me venire
Ad palmam victoriae.

While my body here decays,
May my soul Thy goodness praise
Safe in Paradise with Thee. Amen.

Quando corpus morietur,
Fac ut animae donetur
Paradisi gloria. Amen.

The Way of the Cross - Station 14

Priest: The fourteenth station - Jesus is placed in the Sepulchre


Priest: We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
People: Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.


Priest: Consider how the disciples carried the body of Jesus to bury it, accompanied by His holy Mother, who arranged it in the sepulchre with her own hands. They then closed the tomb, and all withdrew.


People: Ah, my buried Jesus, I kiss the stone that encloses Thee. But Thou didst rise again the third day. I beseech Thee, by Thy resurrection, make me rise glorious with Thee at the last day, to be always united with Thee in heaven, to praise Thee and love Thee forever. I love Thee, and I repent of ever having offended Thee. Permit not that I ever offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.

Our Father . . . Hail Mary . . . Glory Be . . .

Priest: Lord, Jesus crucified!
People: Have mercy on us!


Virgin of all virgins best,
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share thy grief divine;

Let me to my latest breath
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.

Virgo Virginum praeclara,
Mihi jam non sis amara,
Fac me tecum plangere

Fac, ut portem Christi Mortem
Passionis fac consortem
Et plagas recolere.

The cross bearer and acolytes return to the sanctuary.

The Way of the Cross - Station 13

Priest: The thirteenth station - Jesus is taken down from the Cross


Priest: We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
People: Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.


Priest: Consider how our Lord having expired, two of His disciples, Joseph and Nicodemus, took Him down from the Cross and placed Him in the arms of His afflicted Mother, who received Him with unutterable tenderness, and pressed Him to her bosom.

People: O Mother of Sorrow, for the love of this Son, accept me for Thy servant, and pray to Him for me. And Thou, my Redeemer, since Thou hast died for me, permit me to love Thee; for I wish but Thee and nothing more. I love Thee, my Jesus, and I repent of ever having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.

Our Father . . . Hail Mary . . . Glory Be . . .

Priest: Lord, Jesus crucified!
People: Have mercy on us!


By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray
Is all I ask of thee to give.


Juxta crucem tecum stare
Et me tibi sociare
In planctu desidero.

The cross bearer and acolytes proceed to the fourteenth station.

The Way of the Cross - Station 12

Priest: The twelfth station - Jesus dies on the Cross


Priest: We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
People: Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.


Priest: Consider how thy Jesus, after three hours' agony on the Cross, consumed at length with anguish, abandons Himself to the weight of His body, bows His head, and dies.


People: My dying Jesus, I kiss devoutly the Cross on which Thou didst die for love of me. I have merited by my sins to die a miserable death; but Thy Death is my hope. Ah, by the merits of Thy Death, give me the grace to die embracing Thy feet, and burning with love for Thee. I yield my soul into Thy hands. I love Thee with my whole heart; I repent of ever having offended Thee. Permit not that I ever offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.

Our Father . . . Hail Mary . . . Glory Be . . .

Priest: Lord, Jesus crucified!
People: Have mercy on us!


Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

Fac me tecum pie flere,
Crucifixo condolere,
Donec ego vixero.
The cross bearer and acolytes proceed to the thirteenth station.