It is Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in Western Christendom. I wonder how much of Christendom actually makes the pancakes, however. In Poland and Polonia the fun day is Tłusty Czwartek, Fat Thursday, which was last Thursday, when Poles have a good excuse to stuff themselves with pączki, i.e. jam-filled Polish doughnuts. This year I was determined to remember to celebrate Tłusty Czwartek, but then Hilary White converted me to Anti-Sugarism. That said, I shall be making blueberry pancakes for B.A. and me tonight and not stinting on the 100% Canadian maple syrup. As Carnival hijinks go, that strikes me as mild.
I was going to make pancakes for breakfast but unfortunately I was in the grip of a terrible dream. In this dream, I had been hired to give Seraphic Singles lectures at a Catholic or Evangelical conference in Cuba or Bahamas or somewhere like that, but instead of giving the lectures, I had an affair. It had absolutely no glamour of evil, either. There was no deep conversation or shared jokes or high-minded speeches or sunsets. It was basically just being in bed with some skinny stranger while cranky conference organizers burst in the room from time to time to find out where I was and go through the trash for evidence of wrongdoing. They found a lot, for when I got home, my mother revealed that they had written to her, and she was not amused.
At this point the dream got even more confused because it seemed to me very unlikely that I would do such a wicked thing, or have the time to go to Cuba or the Bahamas during my Canadian trip. Although I vaguely remembered something like that, I was sure it must have been a dream. How to explain the letter, though? In great agitation of spirits, I checked my passport to see if it had any corroborative stamps. Hélas! My passport was a patchwork of wrong names and advertising!
From time to time I would half-wake up and notice B.A. snoring away beside me and feel sure that the dream was just a dream, but then I would fall back into it. Really, it never seemed to end. I kept rushing hither and thither trying to prove I had not gone to Cuba or the Bahamas. It was a great relief to wake up entirely and find B.A. buttoning up his shirt. However, when I told him of my ghastly dream, he said, "So that's why I got that letter from the Cuban Health Authority."
Hours later I realized that the skinny stranger was the British "Food TV" presenter who wasted an hour of our lives last night wandering around Los Angeles eating street food. Ugh.
My mother watches a lot of television, but as my parents have a big house, it is quite easy to escape the idiot box. The same is not true of the flat in the Historical House. My mother thinks the flat has the same square footage as her house, but it really does not have all the comfortable nooks and crannies. It also lacks the neighbourliness of several people all looking vaguely like me. The only other person around is B.A., so if I want the comfort of another human presence, I have to go back into the living room where he is watching brainless British telly. "It's not brainless," he is wont to say. "It's a documentary about the coast of Ireland."
Although I can get sucked into "The Great British Bakeoff", I would be perfectly happy if the only channel we got was ITV Three, so I could watch "Poirot", "Endeavour" and "Lewis." Although "UK Border Police" was diverting, watching illegal migrants climb out windows and run like the wind struck me as cruel.
The trad part of the Catholic blogosphere is going nuts because the young, plump bishop of Fort Worth, Texas has tried to solve the problems of a local Catholic college by banning its use of the Extraordinary Form. It is striking that the man was made bishop at age 47, and now he is internationally infamous, too. Nobody gave him the memo that bishops can't ban the Extraordinary Form. Nor did it occur to him (or whoever actually wrote his letter) that suggesting that the Mass of the Ages, which dates long before the Council of Trent, and nourished generations of Christians, including almost all the known saints, is bad for your soul is best left to anti-Catholic tracts.
I have no stake in Fisher-More College, except for any readers there (hello!), but I understand that the bishop's real concern was not about the Extraordinary Form but about the college president's increasingly strident critique of the Second Vatican Council. How happy I will be when we have Trent II, so we have another Council to fight about. All my life people older than me have been banging on about Vatican II like it was Catholic Woodstock. Vatican II was actually quite dull compared to other Councils: the bihops, periti and guests never had to suspend talks and flee because war had broken out, and nobody punched anyone else. My friend Aelianus loves the Council of Florence best; currently I have a soft spot for dear old Trent. At least people obeyed the liturgical reforms of Trent. Very few people seem to have read the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. "Look, giant puppets!" "No, it says Gregorian Chant." "Puppets!" "No, look. Sound it out. G-r-e-g-o-r-i-a-n ch-a-n-t." "Puppets!"
Only once have I walked out of Mass thanks to the musical stylings of the soi-distant ministers of music. That really amazes me when I think back to what I have sat through in my time. Long electric guitar solos in the middle of the Gloria. Outrageously loud amplification in a German seminary chapel. A parish choir singing the atheist "We Rise Again in the Faces of Our Children" during Communion. No, what did it for me was a Filipino folk band in Toronto. The place was packed with stolid-faced white folk, and the only one smiling was the elderly priest, who did a little dance behind the altar as the happy band banged and strummed, tootled and wailed through microphones. I forget if I lasted to the Gloria, or if it was the Kyrie that inspired my retreat. As my heels hurriedly clicked-clicked to the blessed quiet of the street, all eyes to the left and right followed me enviously down the aisle.
I once told a flame that what I liked best in music was the silence between the notes. He was most impressed and said I was ready for jazz, which is the sort of thing flames say. Men love to instruct women on just about anything: shooting pool, shooting baskets, Wittgenstein. Use this knowledge for good.
What I like very much in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is the extraordinary hush it fosters in a congregation. At the 11 o'clock at Holy Family Church in Toronto, you can hear the flutter of the Mass booklets and the gentle thumps of the kneelers going down. Sure, sometimes a baby has to wail a bit. but he is usually taken out if Mass has actually begun.
I am strongly of the opinion that we hear God in the silence between the notes. A world that hates silence is a world afraid to hear God.
Update: Mark J. Miller of Catholic World Report differs on the subject of bishops being able to squelch celebration of the EF. Still unanswered, however, is the question of how squelching it would in any way help the college president's or his students' souls.
Update 2: When I say "young, plump" bishop, please don't think I have it in for obese priests. As a matter of fact, I feel terrible for them, as I do for any priest who has an obvious health problem. We have developed an understanding and supports for priests who abuse alcohol, poor souls, but so far I haven't heard anyone address the problem of clerical obesity. My only uncle died at my age, and I am absolutely sure this was related to his weight, his eating habits and his Single state, poor man.