Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Diversity is one of our strengths. . . .

. . . .it says here. But what happens when one of your pet diversities hates diversity, like, say, one of your my-way-or-the-highway-muzzies? Well, you probably cave, as these folks at Trinity (sic) University will no doubt do shortly, thereby making things a trifle less, uh, diverse.

Exciting Gigs

Not one of mine, thanks be to God. I have all I can do to play cleanly standing on dry land.

Monday, March 29, 2010

St Berthold, O.Carm.

A long time ago today was the feast of St Berthold, "Confessor of the Carmelite Order". He was accounted one of the early founders of the Latin evolution of the Order. He no longer appears in the calendar and no one pays him or his successor St Brocard any mind at all.

Except maybe here where we love forgotten saints. Here's what appeared in his old second nocturn:

Lectio IV

Berthold gave himself to the service of God from his childhood. His love of sacred learning won for him the degree of Doctor in Paris. Whilst engaged in holy warfare for the recovery of the Holy Land, he made a vow to enter a Religious Order, if God would vouchsafe to snatch the Christian armies from the pressing dangers with which they were surrounded. His prayer having been heard, he went up to Mount Carmel to accomplish his vow to the Most High, and he there asked and received the habit of the Order. In the training school of religious life the new wrestler strove to outdo his companions in the practice of virtue, and particuarly in the austerity of life. He lived upon herbs and roots, and contented himself with one meal a day. His progress was so great that he shone in the midst of his companions, with a holiness all his own.

Lectio V

It happened at that time that Aymericus, who was Patriarch of Antioch, and a relation of Berthold's by blood, was sent to the Holy Land as Legate “a latere” of the Apostolic See. Having visited Mount Carmel and witnessed the heavenly way of life of the Brothers, he heaped great favours upon them, and drew up new laws to make their rule of life more perfect. When, upon the death of the Superior of the Order, Saint Berthold was elected by general consent, on account of his remarkable prudence and holiness, the Legate placed him over his Brethren, and proclaimed him Prior General according to the custom of the Latins. Berthold strongly resisted, for he held himself unequal to the charge; but at length, overcome by the prayers of his Brethren, he was inspired by the Holy Ghost to take the burthen upon his shoulders.

Lectio VI

From that time Berthold observed the rules of monastic discipline with greater exactness than ever, and, by word and example, he taught others to shape their lives according to the Rule. So great was his love for the Blessed Virgin, the especial Patroness of his Order, that he let no hour of the day pass without prostrating himself on the ground and saluting her with devout prayers. He burned with charity towards all, so that his face often seemed to shine as if lighted up by the beams of the sun. By the light which he received form on high, he foretold many circumstances of the misfortunes which were to come upon the Holy Land, and of the evils that threatened her through the persecution of the infidels. Moreover, he saw the souls of a number of the brethren, who had been put to death by the sword of the Saracen, carried by angels up to Heaven, wearing he martyr's crown. When this illustrious man had ruled the Order prudently for forty-five years, and had become celebrated for his many merits and miracles, he fell happily asleep in the Lord at the age of one hundred and fifteen years.

The translation is from The Proper Offices of the Saints Granted to the Barefooted Carmelites (1896).

The collect from the same translator:

May the venerable Feast of Saint Berthold, Thy Confessor, protect us, O Lord! and since he ruled the Order of Carmelites with marked holiness, and gave to it increase, may we feel the perpetual effects of his protection. Through our Lord. Amen.

The EWTN website has a little essay on the saint here. It's not much different from the 2d nocturn's account, but without the extravagant penances and unnamed miracles.

How To Tell When You've Been Blogging For A Very Long Time

Or that your interests are even more arcane than you had realized: you research one of your favourite topics and, except for the ads, the entire first page of Googled links refers you right back to you.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Some Piping for the Weekend

The entire weekend was not consumed with the resurrection of my cyber world. We went to hear the Battlefield Band on Saturday night at the Carpenter Center in Long Beach. Quite a change from the last venue I remember (from many years ago) at the old McCabe's Guitar shop. Here's a clip from one of their older performances. They've been around 40+ years and the personnel has changed a good deal over the years. Only one of the fellows on this clip is still with the band but I put this up since the headline listed "Capt Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree" one of my favourite reels. I've never heard it played like this and it's none the worse for the arrangement.

(Mike Katz is their current piper and the one we heard last night. I posted a clip of him playing the Scottish smallpipes last year. You can find it here.)

Habemus Hard Drive

We seem to be set up again. If this post goes through all will apparently be well. And, astonishingly, without the aid a visit from the mobile tech guy. And it only took 9 or 10 hours. Yeah, I know it wouldn't have taken you that long. But you know what you're doing, whereas I only imagine I know what I'm doing.

And everything backed up the way it was supposed to and was restored the way it was supposed to.


With a very few inexplicable exceptions, the e-mail files vanished into cyberpurgatory or wherever e-mail files go when they die. So if I owe you a reply, you're never going to get it now unless you write me again.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Complaint du Jour

Has the City of Long Beach torn up every single one of the main east/west thoroughfares in the city? Or is it just the ones that I try to use?

Anglicanorum Coetibus -- Encouraging Responses

There have been several very encouraging responses to the Holy Father's overture to Catholic-minded Anglicans. A few recent ones:

In the United States: Bishops in the Traditional Anglican Communion's American branch voted to accept Pope Benedict's invitation.

In Canada: The bishops of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada request an Ordinariate from Rome.

In England: The Bishop of Ebbsfleet appears ready for the Ordinariate. The text of the link is from the blog of the chairman of the Latin Mass Society.

In Scotland:
Serious discussions in hand.

Most of these links are from the very useful "Anglican Use News" blog. Many thanks to Steve Cavanaugh for the maintaining it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Folding Money Isn't Accepted In Hades

So don't leave home without coin of the realm.

This post from The Indentured Servant Girl provided some useful financial planning for the afterlife. Even though Old Nick and his devotees in DC prefer to enforce reliance here in the land of the living on the gummint's little green pieces of paper - and it's non-paper, digital entries in the Fed's computers, too, for that matter - apparently neither are any good in the netherworld itself. There you're going to have to cross some palms with silver. The king's shilling. Doubloons. Pieces of eight. Maple Leafs. Kruggerands, even.

O.K., let's not push an analogy too far. (If gold gets you to Hades, does a pound note or a green-back-dollar get you to heaven?) But. . . . on balance, it still reminded me that even though AliObama and the 40 thieves want their health care programme mandatory for you, they themselves have made. . . .other arrangements.


The Health Care Debacle.

I tried to write something about Obamacare yesterday and this morning. But there really isn't anything useful to say. "RECALL. REPEAL. IMPEACH." makes a nifty bumper sticker, and I'm all for it for what that's worth, but as a practical matter it's unlikely to happen. Lots of other folks have explained the situation better than I could have. Here's one that's short and to the point. Here's a longer essay, one from a libertarian POV.

In the absence of anything else useful to do, I think I'll pray vespers now and practice a new 9/8 jig on the smallpipes. (New to me, that is. It's a couple hundred years old.)


If it wasn't for bad luck. . . .

I could become a technophobe without very much persuasion at all. This brand new (brand new!) pc is freezing up at odd times during the day. We ran the Pre-Boot System diagnostic and got an error code which, according the tech support guy at wherever it is the tech support guy is, means the hard drive is about to shuffle off its mortal coil and join the choirs invisible. The brand new hard drive. Yes, six months counts as brand new.

As I made it in under the warranty wire, the tech support guy is this very day going to send me a new one free, gratis, and for nothing, which I will install, it won't work, I will re-install, it still won't work, and I will call yet another tech guy to come out and install correctly.

So if you don't hear from me for a while, you will know that - this time - there is some other reason than bone laziness.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pop Culture Pig Ignorance Index

The PCPI Index was at its highest ever this morning. Usually when I check the birthdays column in the morning paper I find that almost everyone under the age of 50 is completely unknown to me. Occasionally, they throw in a ringer like a baseball player or a politician. But usually it's someone described as "actress" or "singer". Sometimes we go all the way up into the 70s before I know who somebody is. This is a fairly easy, and largely satisfying, way to graph my happy ignorance and occasional surprising knowledge of American pop culture. It's a sort of reverse snob thing. (What can be really depressing is to find that one of the femme fatales of my youth has turned 80. It seems that just because she stopped making movies doesn't mean she stayed 32. So if she's 80, I must be. . . .oh, Lord.)

But this morning the index began and ended at 88. Marty Allen is 88. No idea who anyone else in that list is. I'm delighted.

[You remember Marty Allen. Sure you do. Of Allen and Rossi? C'mon, of course you do.]

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Some Piping for the Weekend

Gary West plays the great old G. S. MacLennan 3/4 march, Kilworth Hills on Scottish smallpipes in D.

Friday, March 19, 2010

St Joseph's Day

Rorate Cæli posts the blessing for St Joseph's Bread here. Old St Joseph's Church, the Franciscan church in Los Angeles, used to do this blessing every year and provided a blessed loaf of lovely French bread to all comers. Not just a slice. The whole, long loaf. It pulled quite a crowd for the noon Mass. No idea if they still do this.

St Joseph is the patron not only of the Church but of families and the protector of children. Judging from the newspapers, his patronage is needed more than ever.

Remember, O most chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Joseph my beloved patron, that never hath it been heard that anyone invoked thy patronage or sought thine aid without being consoled.
Inspired by this confidence, I come to thee and fervently commend myself to thee. Ah, despise not my petitions, dear foster-father of our Redeemer, but accept them graciously. Amen.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kudos to the Headline Writer

The morning's WSJ had a front page article on the green types who build "eco" homes for themselves out of odds and ends they find here and there. Old tires, say. Seems they have a hard time getting bank loans on these, uh, structures. Says the WSJ's inspired headline-composer: Two of the Three Little Pigs Couldn't Get a Bank Loan

The article isn't worth looking up to link to. (You could google it if you absolutely must. It's on the front page.) But that headline was worth the price of admission.

"Two of the three little pigs. . . . "


Beannachta na Feile Naomh Padriag chuig gach duine.


Hail, glorious St. Patrick, dear saint of our isle,
On us thy poor children bestow a sweet smile;
And now thou art high in the mansions above,
On Erin's green valleys look down in thy love.

(optional repeat)
On Erin's green valleys, on Erin's green valleys,
On Erin's green valleys look down in thy love.

Hail, glorious St. Patrick, thy words were once strong
Against Satan's wiles and a heretic throng;
Not less is thy might where in Heaven thou art;
Oh, come to our aid, in our battle take part!

In a war against sin, in the fight for the faith,
Dear Saint, may thy children resist to the death;
May their strength be in meekness, in penance, and prayer,
Their banner the Cross, which they glory to bear.

Thy people, now exiles on many a shore,
Shall love and revere thee till time be no more;
And the fire thou hast kindled shall ever burn bright,
Its warmth undiminished, undying its light.

Ever bless and defend the sweet land of our birth,
Where the shamrock still blooms as when thou wert on earth,
And our hearts shall yet burn, wherever we roam,
For God and St. Patrick, and our native home.

There were three, maybe four, versions of this in the old St Gregory Hymnal we had at school. Not one of them was the traditional version which Frank Patterson sings in the YT clip above, which melody I may add not coincidentally fits the pipe scale rather well.

And in honour of the day that's in it, some traditional music:

Mary Brogan plays a pair of jigs on the double reed harmonica.

A set dance in a staged house dance setting

The Inisfree Céilí Band play a set of reels.

Playing Wearing of the Green, Bushmill's Irish Pipers march toward the competition circle at the Queen Mary Games.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Carlo Valentini, M.D. -- R.I.P.

My friend Carlo died last month. If you've been with us for a while, you've seen mention of him here on occasion, although nothing in detail. I've been trying to remedy that lack of detail for a few weeks now and not very successfully. In the end, I don't have the talent to bring him to life on the page.

So this will have to do.

I've known Carlo Valentini since I was three years old. When we moved to California, my parents asked at the local parish for a referral to a Catholic doctor. Fr O'Connor recommended Carlo and so for the next 30 years or so, Carlo did his best to keep my family on this side of the grass. He wasn't entirely successful in that; there was nothing he, nor anyone else, could do about my father's death on duty with the Navy. My mother and I continued to bring our infirmities to Dr Valentini until he retired.

I don't know what anyone else's visits to the doctor were like. Ours lasted a while. Rather unfortunate for the sick, sore, lame, and disabled cooling their heels in the waiting room. With my mother, there were five or ten minutes for examination and diagnosis and forty-five minutes for arguing politics. An argument like nothing else on earth. In the first place Carlo's Italian accent was as thick as a plate of risotto. In the second place my mother became progressively deaf. It would have been a bizarre conversation at the best of times. But there was no way Carlo's politics could be understood by an American. Perhaps not even by an Italian. He considered himself a Democrat. But no Democrat known to me would recognize the description. Imagine a sort of communist monarchist with personal libertarian tendencies. Got that? Well, it's wrong. Mostly. It was indescribable. And it would have been salted with quotations from Cicero, Horace, Vergil, an ancient Greek or two, and perhaps a French poet all in their respective original languages. I remember once sitting in his office looking at his book case. I suppose most doctors have Merck on the shelf. How many have the multi-volume set of Henri Daniel-Rops' “Histoire de l'Eglise”?

It was only after he retired that my mother learned how much other doctors actually charge for a visit. It was a bit over four times what Carlo charged my widowed mother (who would have insisted on paying if he had attempted not to charge her at all.) My family was not the only beneficiary of his goodness. Nor even of his house-calls. (Do you know what "house-calls" are? In another age, doctors would visit those too sick to come to them. Carlo did so often.) I'm sure there were others. I know that Carlo treated a good many of the clergy in this area without charge. And, of course, the Salesians at St John Bosco – an Italian congregation, and so a step above the general run – were on the list, too.

Carlo was born the son of a bricklayer in 1915 in a little country place near Verona in Italy. From a poor family, he was a scholarship boy at a school run by the Don Massa fathers. According to his obituary the school's watchwords were silence, obedience, and reverence for the Greek and Latin classics. His diligence and intelligence enabled him eventually to study medicine at the ancient medieval university at Padua.

From there he was drafted in 1938 and became the battalion doctor of an Italian Alpine Corps. His son put his wartime experiences into this paragraph:

He finished medical school and was rushed through internship only to be placed in the Alpine division where the Army was positioned in support of the Wehrmacht who were hunting down the Communist partisans in Montenegro. His division was then redeployed to Vichy- held France. Shortly thereafter Italy quit its association as an Axis power. His division was quickly rounded up by the Germans and sent by rail to Germany. Since he was a medical officer and wore the insignia of a doctor on his shoulder, the German guard treated his former ally with some measure of respect. While the train was moving in the area near Grenoble France he was allowed to use the toilet used by German officers which happened to have an open window. Sure enough, he jumped from the moving train and roamed the French countryside where he was given shelter by French farmers in exchange for doing various jobs, including field work. After several months of this he crossed on the Eve of Christmas night 1943 into Switzerland by fording a river that separated war time France from politically neutral Switzerland. He had obtained false ID papers which, with the ability to speak French convinced the Germans that he was Swiss.

He told us some other stories over the years, some of them harrowing. While on the run, he was once stood up against a wall by a German patrol who were on the verge of shooting him for reasons best known to themselves. A German officer happened along who told the patrol to get moving, that they had more important things to do. He was left standing against the wall.

After the war he married an Italian-American woman that he had actually met before the war and courted throughout as best he could by mail routed through truly labyrinthine ways. They moved to California where Jean's family lived and he went through the whole process of licensing and internship again (talk about labyrinthine ways).

I really got to know him and to call him "friend" after he had retired, although I never quite stopped being in awe of him. As a child he was “the doctor” - as if there were only one – and in my child's eyes, all-powerful and perhaps even all-knowing. That's not a feeling you get over in a minute. But in the 1980s we both started showing up at the local indult Mass. After a few Sundays, we started driving to Mass together. And so for the next fifteen years or so we drove all over southern California to the traditional Roman Rite Mass in whatever venue our Most Reverend Fathers in God were permitting it on that day.

Followed by lunch. An outstanding lunch. This was prepared in Carlo's kitchen by himself or Jean or both. A bowl of bean soup, a glass of wine, some pasta, a glass (or two) of wine, some Italian bread, maybe some sautéed peppers, another glass of wine, and the salad. Never without the salad. He grew it himself. The tomatoes were from someone else's garden; I forget whose. His son's maybe? But everything else, all the lettuce, the radichio, the barba di fratelli, the arugula, what-have-you, was all from Carlo's garden. Add a little oil and vinegar and there you are. In season there were string beans and assorted other fresh vegetables, also grown out back of the house. After a good rain, he'd go hunting for mushrooms, which might end up in the salad or perhaps sautéed in a little oil. I enjoyed these tremendously. I only learned later of his earlier, uh, miscues in the mushroom identification process. Finished off every Sunday with eye-crossingly strong Italian coffee and an hour or two or more of conversation which solved most of the problems of church and state.

After the first few years, our Sunday duo became a trio. One Sunday I couldn't make it and Carlo made the forty minute drive to St Mary's by himself. After Mass, his car wouldn't start. A member of the congregation came to his rescue. And every Sunday afterward, Carlo made sure that his rescuer came to lunch with us. Gary has had lunch with us ever since. (And we still have Mass and lunch, even though we're now back down to only two.)

Ten years ago Jean died and he lost a lot of his interest in life. The lunches got a little plainer, and eventually we just went to a restaurant. His hearing became progressively worse. (And our conversations progressively odder; sometimes hilariously so. I'd have trouble deciphering his accent and he couldn't hear me properly. It's a wonder we weren't arrested.) And his health went down hill. Although, some of us still thought him indestructible. One cold in twenty years. (And those mushrooms I mentioned? It was everyone else who got sick. He ate the same batch and never even blinked.) Two years ago he wasn't able to go to Mass with us any more. He now had Ella, a live-in caretaker, which he resisted having every step of the way. In the end, he couldn't do without her. The past few months he was bedridden and largely unresponsive until a few weeks ago. For a few days he was his old self again. His granddaughter read to him from Dante's Divina Comedia and he finished the stanzas as she began them. At school he had memorized huge amounts of Dante. His last words were the first few paragraphs from Manzoni's I Promessi Sposi. He was shriven and anointed the day before his death. Twice, by two different priests. He died at 4:20 in the morning, three days before Ash Wednesday. Ten years before, at 4:20 in the morning three days before Ash Wednesday Jean had called their son to take her to the hospital for what would be her final illness.

There are so many other Carlo stories I'd like to tell but don't quite know where to fit them into the narrative. He made his own excellent Italian sausages. He loved to cook calamari but Jean wouldn't have them smelling up her house so he'd be out in the back garden, grilling them on a barbecue in all sorts of weather. He always took his hand Missal to Mass. Mine is in Latin and English, as yours probably is, too. His was in Latin. Period. I have a "Little Office of Our Lady" in Latin and English. He had one in Greek. Aside from Latin, Greek, Italian, and English, Carlo also spoke Spanish and French, a smattering of Serbo-Croatian and more German than he would admit to. The old Alpine soldier retained a love for the mountains. He hiked and climbed mountains all over the world. You should see some of the pictures of the places he climbed. The pictures alone would make the palms of your hands sweat. In his eighties he was still hiking and climbing. There's a “rifugio” somewhere up in the Dolomites called the "Rifugio Carlo Valentini". Was it named after him? He claimed it was, but with that sly smile and glint in his eye. . . . His war experiences made him an unrepentant pacifist. Seeing his sons, and in the last decade his grandsons, going off to war was profoundly disturbing.

He had a grand liturgical send-off the week before last. A solemn, sung requiem Mass at his old indult parish of St Mary's, celebrated by Fr Alphonsus, one of the Norbertine canons from St Michael's Abbey. The Mass sung was Fauré's Messe de Requiem, Opus 48 with the Gregorian propers and some beautifully sung hymns and motets by Duruflé, Fauré, Mozart, and Bach.

If you have a moment, a prayer for Carlo's soul would be appreciated.