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High Point of the First Battle of Bull Run, About 2:00 PM

Manassas is hoping to break into the Civil War big leagues:

“We call Gettysburg the mothership — the center of the universe for the Civil War,” said Ed Clark, the Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent. “It will probably always be the most-visited place, but there is a lot of opportunity for Manassas and the stories we have to tell.”

For the first time, historians and elected officials say, there’s a perfect confluence: Prince William supervisors and Manassas council members see the value of tourism and want to invest in their historic assets, a new leader is in charge of the visitors bureau, and a major anniversary of the war fought on Manassas soil is coming up.

“The 150th is our moment to turn the tide in terms of our tourism product,” said Ann Marie Maher, named last year as director of the Prince William County/Manassas Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This is our linchpin year and the only one we will have in our generation to have events that will capture the attention of the nation.”

The county is planning a four-day sesquicentennial event July 21-24. The main attraction: As many as 10,000 reenactors will descend on a farm adjacent to the battlefield to re-create the First Battle of Manassas.

Manassas Battlefield is, in fact, a very nice place to visit and is an excellent “beginner” site for those just getting into this sort of thing.  This is largely due to the fact that the majority of the fighting in the first battle  there in 1861 took place in a relatively confined area, the top of a plateau known as Henry House Hill.  When you stand there, you get a very clear view of where the armies came from and where they wound up.   Furthermore, you can walk the entire area quite comfortably.  (The second battle, in 1862, was a much more spread out affair and you really need a car to drive around to its various points of interest.)

The trouble, as the article notes, is that nobody really started in on the historick preservation bit until it was almost too late.   For one thing, the town of Manassas, apart from a small downtown area of three or four square blocks, is totally modern and comprised of a hodge-podge of stripmalls, apartment complexes and small houses.  (And its next-door neighbor, Manassas Park, is an abomination.)  It’s simply never going to have a “historickal” feel to it.  Further, twenty-odd years ago when I first came to the area (I had an apartment in Manassas my first year here), Manassas was still considered to be at the outer fringe of the Dee Cee ‘burbs, and the land all around it (including the area around the battlefield) was all farmland.  It’s not like that now.  I-66, the east/west commuter line that runs very close to the battlefield, has been widened from four to eight lanes, and where Sudley Road (which leads to the battlefield) crosses it, yet another big strip-mall has grown up.  Route 29 (the old Warrenton Pike), which cuts through the battlefield, used to be a sleepy little two-lane road.  It’s now a mobbed four-lane artery.  (UPDATE: Actually, it’s still two lane as it goes across the battlefield.  But it is mobbed.)  As for the farmlands, it now seems as if the communities of Manassas, Centerville, Chantilly, Germantown and Fairfax have swelled and congealed into one giant glob of suburban sprawl.  Consequently, the traffic on both the highways and the secondary roads out there is much, much worse than it was when I first arrived.  Indeed, the very first thing that popped into my head the other day when Vic mentioned the anniversary celebration was what a wretched ordeal it would be to try and get in and out.

Places like Fredericksburg and Gettysburg have the advantage of still being (relatively) isolated and preserving a lot of their historickal character.  I’m afraid that Prince Weeeyam County in general, and the area round Manassas in particular, probably just have too much modern clutter to be able to achieve anything along the same lines.  I certainly hope they are able to make at least something out of it, but I think it will be a real uphill battle.

The Universae Eclessiae, the Instruction for implementing B-16’s Summorum Pontificum concerning the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, has been released and it looks like a win:

The most important point to carry away is that UE reveals something more of the mind, the mens, of the lawgiver, Pope Benedict XVI.

Questions will remain, but after the 3 year period following Summorum Pontificum (and the subsequent months which followed) the more pressing questions are addressed in this Instruction.  Some of us could have wished for a bit more strength, but this is a document from an office of the Roman Curia, not from the Pope himself.  It is not a Motu Proprio of the Pope.

I was initially worried that there would be some gassy rambling in the introduction upon which liberals could latch.  The introduction is rather more helpful than harmful.

The Instruction clarifies that the provisions of Summorum Pontificum were for all the faithful, not just followers of the SSPX, or old people who are nostalgic, etc.

The Instruction could have said that the Extraordinary Form is not to be used as often as the Ordinary Form.  It doesn’t.  It says that the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms are “one alongside the other” and that the Extraordinary Form is to be maintained with “appropriate honor”.

The fact that the older form was never abrogated is found in some subtle language which says that, after the Novus Ordo of Paul VI was released, legislation about the use of the older books didn’t seem necessary.  That left a hole or “lacuna” that the provisions of Summorum Pontificum resolved.

It restates with a direct quote what Pope Benedict wrote in 2007: “What was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, and cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful.”

This is wonderful.  As regular port-swillers will know, I am fortunate enough to belong to the only parish in my area that offers the Tridentine Mass weekly.  Indeed, in the past three-plus years now, this has easily become the single most important 90 minutes of my week.  Every time I have to attend a Novus Ordo Mass, I am again amazed that anyone ever considered abandoning the older form in the first place.

Here’s hoping that more and more people will now get to discover what I mean.

(A glass of wine with Damian Thompson.)

Trade-marked this day in 1958 and, along with duct tape and WD-40, surely one of the trifecta of practical ingenuity.

In honor of the day, let’s go to the videotape:

(Yes, kids, Dave used to be funny, once upon a time.)


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May 2011