Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Weekend Update

Dear Internet,

It’s been a fair bit since I have blogged with any meaningful regularity. I know this true because strangers and passersby told me so their own bad self. So it’s only appropriate this blog entry deals with our weekend jaunt to Chicago. In order to minimize the stress levels to which modern life subjects us all, I’ll let you know that all went well.

That said, there are times when your mind is not weighed down with your everyday woes and cares when you start to notice the manifest weirdness that swirls unnoticed otherwise. In my case, this started when we were in the gate are awaiting the call to board the flight. There was a woman arrayed in very 1970s raiments. Frosty blue eyeshadow, the fauxest of faux eyelashes and a blouse with a print emulating a stained glass window designed by someone unfortunately suffering under the influence of mescaline.

As befits someone seemingly extricated from a time capsule ca. 1976 Nashville, she was also a rather voluble sort. She spoke to the unfortunates at either side in a pronounced Noo Yawk accent which I almost, but not entirely, managed to tune out. Considerably more difficult to tune out was her dog (a small breed best known for its propensity for oscillating at 20 megacycles and unexpected renal outbursts) and with a misanthropic disposition and anger management issues manifested by snarling loudly, so that it sounded like two asthmatic ducks fighting to the death over an iron lung.

Joy for me, Midcentury Dog Woman sat right behind us on the flight and promptly propped up her admirable feet on my armrests, as if she were flying ObGynAirlines. Other than her proffering me (quite unbidden) massages to the small of the back as she adjusted herself, and the Laryngitic Waterfowl sounds emanating from her general vicinity, the flight was uneventful. Not that MDW was content with just the foot propping thing, opting to afford us a considerable frisson by berating whomever she called upon landing to pick her up for suggesting she take a mode of transport which didn’t involve the berate-ee schlepping to the airport.

Upon arriving and checking in, I went for lunch. For some karmically unexplained reason, I was seated behind another socially dysfunctional woman who alternately berated her mother (seated directly behind me, and apparently dying of shame) and her father (on the cell phone) and her 3ish-year old son, who had had quite enough of the whole enterprise. As the woman’s patience wore ever thinner, her decibel output grew commensurately, her mother turned increasingly puce with embarrassment and her son’s displeasure became simultaneously more lachrymose and vocal. To my eternal relief, Angry Restaurant Woman eventually skated to the very ragged edge of a complete emotional meltdown and announced her departure. She didn't actually say she would be climbing atop a fast food restaurant with a cache of firearms, the better to vent her vexations upon pedestrians, but it wouldn't have surprised me.

Had I not been a fellow filled to the brim with the milk of human kindness, as well as busy working the chopsticks on behalf of some dim sum, I would have applauded heartily and bribed the lad to kick her shins upon egress.

The day, of course, wasn’t quite done. I had clients to see. Said client was unable to fetch me and I hailed a taxi. Our driver, a Somali national (if the profusion of stickers affixed to the interior of the vehicle are anything to go by) had the radio tuned to a Christian radio station – at full volume, no less – and in marked contradistinction to the message proclaimed over the airwaves, proceeded to weave suicidally in and out of traffic (of which there was an impressive, if immobile, amount) and honk vehemently at elderly pedestrians who adversely affected his progress. This jaunt took 45 minutes, during which time we heard an interesting exegesis of the story of Joseph in Egypt at 120 dB.

My theory is that said driver is someone manifestly trying to impugn Christians by juxtaposing his listening choices with driving as if here were trying to commit genocide in alphabetical order.
Dinner with the client proved uneventful in a good way.

The next day I arose, breakfasted and shopped* a bit. The client had issued an invitation to a white tie gala event and seeing as how said client represents a healthy hunk of my tithe, and how additional potential clients would be in attendance, I nodded assent. That went well, as well.
The next day (i.e., yesterday, Sunday) I decided to attend Mass at Holy Name Cathedral. Many of you have written me privately and have told me that Mass in the vernacular can be just as beautiful as Mass in Latin. While I still cannot find any sensible reason to give my agreement to such a view -- at dinner, I chatted with a "cradle Episcopalian" and I said the reason why modern Catholic liturgy is so near-universally banal is to prevent a flood of Anglican refugees -- this Mass was among the best I have attended in English, that is to say it was "not too bad at all." Celebrating this Mass was Francis Cardinal George, and His Eminence did so quite well, although I wish he hadn't delegated the homily. But now I pick nits.

There was minimal "pumping grace" or hand holding, the choir was good (if drowned out by the organist, so that it was difficult to make out if they were singing in Latin, English or Lutonian) and there was plenty of incense.

The Cathedral, alas, looks as if the 1970s had happened to it. Although that "ghetto of a decade" (to quote David Frum) hadn't managed to land a body blow on the Cathedral, it had definitely made contact in a couple of places. As usual, the tabernacle was hidden from the Great Unwashed (and even from the Pretty Good Yet Slightly Washed). As Veritas would say, one felt akin to Mary Magdalen, wandering in and sobbing "They've taken away my Lord, and I know not where they've put Him." It goes without saying the High Altar and all those "antiquated" architectural touches have been removed for our benefit, lest we forget we are a Bicentennial People.

Interestingly, it was also Red Mass in honor of Catholic judges and lawyers. It's safe to say, from the attendance at this Red Mass that, at least as regards lawyers, Chicago is in no danger whatsoever of a sudden shortage. An unexpected screech and crashing sound outside would have halved the attendee population quite easily.

But all in all, it was good.

So here we are.


* Karen, one of the highlights of any trip to Chicago was being able to stop at Paul Stuart. They had a sort of trunk-show thing going on and, being a man with a tenuous grip on my sartorial willpower, I ordered a suit. (Like an idiot, I realized I didn’t specify a “ticket pocket” on the jacket. ARGH!)


  • At 9:40 PM, October 01, 2007 , Blogger ~m2~ said...

    i have to say i vacillated between amused and appalled during this post..."Pap Smear Airlines?"

    "this Mass was the best I have attended in English..."

    i had no idea you were so like this.

    i am rethinking my Prot roots. thanks for the help :)

  • At 12:06 PM, October 02, 2007 , Blogger Joe said...

    Well, sometimes my soaring imagery gets the best of me. (Mea culpa.)

    And yes, this was the best Mass I have attended in English. All else being equal, I'm of the opinion Mass in Spanish is eleventy gazillion times "better."


  • At 1:50 PM, October 02, 2007 , Blogger ~m2~ said...

    ohhhhh, okay :) i have to apologize because I thought you were referring to the "Latin" mass.

    you know what they say about *ass*uming....yikes. i stand corrected, my amigo :)

  • At 2:13 PM, October 02, 2007 , Blogger Joe said...

    To be fair, Mass in English suffers in comparison to pretty much every other language.

    But this Mass was pretty good.


    P.S. I am, however, Latin Mass-friendly (New or Old, I want to make sure my parents' got their money's worth on my tuition), not that it's my intention of attending same exclusively or nearly so.


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