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Greetings, my fellow port swillers and an ambiguously happy Palm Sunday! **

First off, let me finish off an item that I raised in the post immediately below but that I don’t want to get buried: Last evening, I watched “The Case for Christ”.  Frankly, I didn’t much like it, and not just because it’s set in the horror that was the late Carter Era.  The theology and scientific overlap are, as somebody here said, solid.  But the film itself is pure Hallmark Pablum.  Your results may vary, but if somebody was trying to bring me in to Christianity and showed it to me? I’d get the willies.  (On a more microcosmic level, this same thing happened when I was swimming the Tiber and somebody gave me some Scott Hahn to read.  Better to get a sober grounding first, then to turn to the enthusiasts.  Otherwise, the “flight” instinct might kick in.)  Nonetheless, I was moved enough to order Lee Strobel’s book.  Hopefully, it probes the thing a bit deeper than the film.

That out of the way, Ol’ Robbo has had what, at least to me, seems to have been a very good Lent this year, both cleansing and enlightening.  I’ll tell you about it some time if you’re really interested, but for now I’ll just say that I truly hope, in the words of Alfred, Lord Tennis Court, that after all that work and introspection I will be able to rise on the stepping stones of my dead self to higher things instead of (as usual) going splat some time shortly after Easter.

In any event, Holy Week is now upon us, and I intend to do the whole cycle this year: Tenebrae on Wednesday, the Mass of the Last Supper on Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening.  (I always attend the Vigil in order to cheer on fellow converts coming in to Holy Mother Church.  This will be the 11th anniversary of my own swim across the Tiber.) Sunday itself is reserved for riding herd on my somewhat Christianity-and-water family.  (And I talk about enthusiasts! Physician, heal thyself.)

Anyhoo, as I think I mentioned previously, I’ll be going dark here for the week and will be back after it’s all over and done.  Feel free to keep commenting on this and all the more recent posts, as I’ll still be keeping track and am very, very grateful for all your input.

In the meantime, God bless you all!


** Because it is, isn’t it?  The mob showered Jesus with praise and adoration because they thought when He entered Jerusalem that He was going to turn Pilate into a pumpkin and the Roman garrison into a bunch of white mice.  Quite wrong, of course.  How do we deal with this?

UPDATE:  Bumpers all round, Ladies and Gentlemen, because Ol’ Robbo has finally achieved a long-time dream! I give you my first and second ever successful palm frond crosses:

Nobody ever taught me how to do one and I always felt a twinge of regret watching some seven year old folding them up in nothing flat.  So this afternoon I dug up this how-to YooToob video (actually and coincidentally put out by my own diocese), and hey presto!

Yes, it may be silly, but it actually means quite a bit to me.  Huzzay, huzzah!

MORE:  I just did a bunch of them for practice and left one on each of the Gels’ pillows (Mrs. R included) for when they come home for Easter.  Heh.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are, rounding into the final stretch.  It’s hard to believe it’s only two weeks until Easter.

This has turned out to be what Ol’ Robbo is calling a very “tactile” Lent for me.  I’ve done little reading or otherwise pursuing what you might call the academic side of things this time around.  Instead, I’ve been focusing on fasting and abstinence, and really (as I mentioned a few weeks back) on prayer – and trying to live the thing rather than just thinking about it.  And this practice has proved good, I believe, in ways that are harder to describe than I can do in a mere slapped-off post done to kill a few minutes before its time to shove off for Mass, but are nonetheless real and substantial.  (Maybe, having made this step, I can now go back and combine the hands-on bits with the more egg-heady side of my faith.  Who knows what results that might bring?)

By the bye, just so you know (and I’m sure you’ve been on knife-edge wondering), I plan to keep up regular posting through Palm Sunday next week, and then to go dark after that until after Easter Sunday.

UPDATE:  I swear I sometimes think my Padre is a secret lurker ’round here.  His homily today was on the Gospel passage in John, Chapter 8 where Jesus starts mixing it up with the Sanhedrin. He’s speaking about His divinity, in fact revealing it, but the words are sailing right past their ears.  Our Padre expounded on this “hiding in the open”, talking about how He is with us in our lives too, but that we have to look and listen for Him in order to recognize His presence.  Not that I don’t try to discern anyway, but the practices I mention above have greatly aided in that.  This is what I mean by “hands-on”.  Thankee, Father!  Have some Stilton!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No particular theological insights this week, I’m afraid.

Today’s Mass setting was by Michael Haydn, little brother to Papa, and was good enough to make me think it might have been one of the compositions that his friend Mozart “helped” with when Michael was too blotto to make a deadline.

Only other thing of note today is that I managed to take a toss on the sidewalk heading out afterward, landing on the backs of my hands and one knee, all of which got scraped up reasonably thoroughly.  (I felt a hell of a fool when an officious young whippersnapper came rushing up and asked if I needed assistance.)  Alas, I couldn’t even claim stigmata, as all the bleeding is in the wrong spots.  My fingers are still too stiff for me to tickle the ivories this afternoon, too, which is a pity because I was looking forward to it.

Sheesh, I figured I had another thirty years before I had to worry about randomly keeling over like that.

UPDATE: In answer to the flood of concerned inquiry I’ve already received, no, no, Robbo is not suffering an onset of Lewy body dementia, which is what did the Mothe in.  That was just a rather darkish joke.  Actually, I simply moved to the side of the sidewalk in order to make room for somebody coming the other way (the selfsame officious young whippersnapper, in fact), and lost my footing along the edge.

Also, my fingers loosened up later on this afternoon enough so that I could play through a few of Papa Haydn’s piano sonatas after all.  The mistakes I made (and their name is Legion) were due solely to my rusty sight-reading, not to my injuries.

So all is well.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It took Ol’ Robbo almost exactly four hours to get home from his office to Port Swiller Manor this evening, a distance of something like 14 miles altogether.  I believe this is a personal record for me.  Certainly I could have walked it fairly comfortably in that time.  I could also have handily driven to Pittsburgh, either of the Elder Gels’ schools, or to the top of the GW Bridge in Noo Yawk (with a pit stop at Delaware House, to boot).

Evidently, a tanker truck flipped over in my quadrant of the Beltway early in rush hour.  The system around here is just adequate enough to handle the ordinary flow of traffic.  When there’s a super-abundance or else a blockage at one of the many choke-points, the whole thing can go sideways in a hurry.

You would think Ol’ Robbo would be a jangle of strained nerves and seething anger after such an ordeal.  Certainly Mrs. R was expecting it when I got home.  But you would be mistaken.

For one thing, by great good fortune, not only had I topped up my gas tank this morning, I also got a large (as opposed to regular) size sammich at Potbelly’s for lunch, and stopped by the restroom before leaving my office.  So there were no especial, ah, material concerns to worry me.

For another, though, as I sat slooooowly making my way toward the river crossing, I found myself aware of great reservoirs of calm and patience inside.  I saw other drivers losing it around me, but for my part, I just watched the very pretty sunset, listened to the local mockingbirds, tried to be as courteous as possible to fellow stuckees, and let it all slide on by.

Our Padre has been hammering the theme of the Prayer Life for some weeks now during his homilies, particularly the importance of morning prayer as a means by which to put things in perspective (God first, others second, self third, to borrow the motto of the Gels’  summah Bible-thumper camp) before confronting the day.  Ol’ Robbo has been working particularly hard on this as part of his Lenten exercises, and it seems to be paying off.  As I say, I remained quite at peace.  And now that I’m home, I feel no inclination whatever to use the experience as an excuse to break my fast and have a “hardship” glass of wine.  (Well, okay, maybe a little inclination.  But still a surmountable one.)

It also probably helps that tomorrow is my off day, that it’s going to be quite warm, and that I get to try out my brand-new spreader to weed and feed the yard, which I’ve been looking forward to for some weeks now.

UPDATE:  Turns out Youngest got caught in the maelstrom, too.  Took her an hour to get home from school.  Took her two hours to get back to school for softball (which, fortunately, just consisted of cheering on the varsity game).  Our Baby’s first traffic jam!  She was incensed after crawling all the way to her usual Beltway crossing to discover that it had been closed and she was detoured back almost to where she had started.  Welcome to Life, kiddo….


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo caught bits and pieces of the story of the Iranian Christian convert turned down for asylum by the Brits on the grounds that Christianity is not a peaceful religion, but the story turns out to be even more horrible than I had thought. (Warning, UK Daily Mail link)

The Home Office turned down a Christian convert’s bid for asylum in an ‘unbelievably offensive’ letter quoting bloodthirsty passages from the bible to prove Christianity is not a religion of peace.

The Iranian national claimed asylum in 2016, but was turned down, with Home Office officials saying his conversion from Islam was ‘inconsistent’ with his claim Christianity was a peaceful religion – by highlighting violent passages from the bible.

In the refusal letter six passages are listed and a claim is made that Revelations is filled with ‘images of revenge, destruction, death and violence.’

Un. Bulievable.

The Home Office seems to be getting a lot of flak for this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the decision is reversed.  But it’s only a check: They’ll be back at it again soon enough.

Meanwhile, on a much happier note, our Padre confirmed today what I’ve been noticing with my own eyeballs for some weeks now:  Attendance at our Traditional Latin Mass has been growing steadily.  Apparently it’s the same with the other Masses as well.  Thank Heaven I have such a strong parish.  I sometimes get depressed when I see what people are shrieking at each other over social media.  Makes it seem as if the whole world is going to hell.  But then I see something like this and my hope is restored.

And speaking of Hope, I’m sure friends of the decanter are aware that tomorrow is the Feast of the Annunciation. J.R.R. Tolkien always insisted his Lord of the Rings was not allegorical.  On the other hand, it’s no accident that he chose March 25 as the date for the destruction of the Ring and the downfall of Sauron.

And this gives me an excuse to repost one of my favorite paintings, The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937).  I like it because his rather non-traditional rendering of the Angel’s appearance is very close to the images of such manifestations as described in the writings of C.S. Lewis, particularly in his Ransom Trilogy.  I don’t know if Lewis knew Tanner’s painting, but I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised.   Anyway, enjoy!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As promised (or threatened) below, Ol’ Robbo has a bit of this and that bouncing around inside his braims at the moment:

♦  As I meant to mention, yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of the great Johann Sebastian Bach in 1685.  Robbo considers ol’ Johnny Bach to be the single greatest musickal genius in history, and I’ll fight anybody in the octagon who says otherwise.

♦  This reminds me that I need to go back and have another go at Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach: Music In The Castle of Heaven.  I started it some time in the last year or two but found I wasn’t in the mood for JEG’s blend of wandered history, sight-seeing, and ego.  He also makes mention of a scene from the movie “Amadeus“.  Surely Gardener knows that this movie contained virtually not a single accurate biographical fact about Mozart?

♦  Another writer who appreciated Bach was the late Douglas Adams.  His Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – his best book IMHO, although the ending still puzzles me – contains a long, drawn out, back-handed compliment to the Master.  This lets me rant again about what has always frustrated me about Adams, namely his ability to see God’s thumbprints all over the Universe but refusal to acknowledge what he was looking at.  The book speaks wonderfully to the intersection of mathematics, musick, and the natural order of things.  Did Adams suppose this intersection a mere accident?

♦  Speaking of Adams, I re-watched the Beeb’s old Hitchhiker’s Guide series recently.  I hadn’t seen it in quite some time and found it really rather good, if you can get past the shoe-string budget special effects.  I refuse to see the more recent movie version of the story, as I consider it to be heretical. UPDATE:  Oh, and it’s on Ol’ Robbo’s “bucket list” as the kids like to say that I will someday dress up as Zaphod Beeblebrox for a Halloween party.

♦  Also speaking of movies, I see where a third Bill & Ted installment is in the works, “Bill & Ted Get The Early-Bird Special” or whatever.  I dunno…..I love the original (in fact I own it) for its good-natured dopiness and modest ambitions.  The second one tried way too hard for my taste.  This one?  I assume it’s a complete vanity job for Winter and Reeves, so I hope they’re just going to have fun with it.

Why is it there’s nothing out these days except reboots, sequels, and comic book movies?  (I know the answer, actually.)

♦  I watched “Cool Hand Luke” the other evening.  Now there’s a movie for you, even if I don’t care that much for Paul Newman.  ‘Preciatin’ over here, boss!

♦  One thing I don’t appreciate is the sudden call from the Left to destroy the rules surrounding Presidential elections – national popular vote, abolition of the Electoral College, lowering the voting age, and so on. Of course, it’s all part of the plan to bring about collectivist totalitarianism (and I’m not being hyperbolic here but dead serious), but I wonder why now.  Is it because they think they’ve reached a threshold of ignorance, envy, and greed (to say nothing of fraud) amongst the voters that warrants putting these things in play?  Or is it a panicked Hail Mary response to the set-backs they’ve received from OrangeManBad and a perception that their powers have about peeked for the next generation?  I hope for the latter but fear the former.

♦  Oh, and thank Heaven I do not, never have, and never intend to have a Twitter account.  Pure. Crazy. Poison.

So that’s that.  After a thunder and hail storm rolled through here late this afternoon, Port Swiller Manor ought to get a pretty good look at that big Full Moon this evening.  Think I’ll go look for it……

He’s the Man

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Solemnity of St. Joseph!  (Patron of fathers, families, the Church, workers, solved problems, and happy deaths, among other things.)

When Ol’ Robbo first swam the Tiber, he took as his particular patrons St. Augustine (as a fellow convert) and St. Thomas Aquinas (because I believe him to have been the single most intelligent man ever to live), but over the years I’ve found these two to be just a bit high-falootin’ for everyday use, sort of like breaking out the Sunday china for your Chik-fil-a takeout dinner.

At the same time, I’ve been drawn more toward Joseph, his position making him much more of what Shakespeare might have called “a Saint for the working day”.

There’s not much complex theology around Joseph.  Well, there may well be, but the basic message is readily accessible even to doofuses like me.  The angel told him what to do about Mary and he did it.  (Remember, he could have said no, too.)  He loved and honored her, loved and raised Jesus, and kept a roof over their heads and food on the table through his steady application of himself as an independent contractor.  And as a role model, his example is easily applicable to one’s own life.  “What Would Joseph Do?” is a much more meaningful and answerable question than “What Would Jesus Do?”  (The answer to the latter is always “How the heck would I know? I’m not God.”)  Not to say the answer itself is necessarily easy, but it’s usually pretty clear.

So knock off that Lenten fast for the evening (I’ve been listening to musick all day) and raise a glass to that best of husbands and fathers!

UPDATE:  For those friends of the decanter who might like to see some alternate content, I will mention that I got stuck behind a Tesla this morning that sported license plates reading “ZEROGAS”.  I found myself dreamily wishing that photon torpedo weapons systems were commercially available for private motor vehicles.

UPDATE DEUX:  Back to our main topic again, friend of the decanter Joseph Moore has a post up about iconographic expressions of today’s Saint.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass is the Transfiguration:

17 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.

And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.

    • Matthew 17: 1-8 (KJV because old habits die hard)

I’ve always been curious about a point in this passage:  What were Jesus, Moses, and Elijah talking about?

I understand why they were there for purposes of convincing the Apostles that Jesus was the Messiah: the symbolism of Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law (Moses) and the Prophesies (Elijah), with the Father giving his endorsement from the cloud.  But I’ve long been intrigued at the idea that the Transfigured Jesus and the other two were just….talking.

I wondered at one point whether Jesus wasn’t revealing Himself to Moses and Elijah as well, but then I realized that was silly.  The latter were both Old Testament Saints.  I believe that means they were already in Heaven and not waiting with the rest of the prisoners of hell for Jesus to come rescue them on Good Friday, so presumably they already knew all about Him.  (I could be wrong about this.)  Certainly they seem calm enough, as opposed to Peter babbling in terror and confusion about tabernacles.

So that leaves the question.  Was He thanking them for lending Him a hand to educate Peter, John, and James?  Were they saying, “Happy to help, Lord”?  Was it simply the kind of Heavenly communication that we couldn’t possibly understand?  Was it just idle chit-chat?  (This hardly seems likely.)

I believe it was C.S. Lewis who once posited that every single word or gesture of Christ’s related in the Gospels has had some theological significance attached to it except one:  Jesus’ doodling in the dust while the mob works itself up to stone the Adulterous Woman.  According to Lewis’s reckoning, that detail seems without importance except to show Jesus’s marking time before making an entrance and saving her.  (I love that, by the bye.)  So I wonder if anybody has had a go at speculating what words passed among Jesus and his companions as the Apostles cowered on the ground in front of them.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Today (which Ol’ Robbo happens to have off) is the first day of the new season on which he can comfortably sit out on the porch with his morning coffeve.  Teh kittehs and puppeh are quite happy about this, too, as you can imagine.  We may even get a thundershower this afternoon, which would be icing on teh cake, as Ol’ Robbo loves him some thunder and lightning.  Alas, another front is on its way in and will cold things off again but the forecast says we’ll warm up next weekend, too.  We make progress.  We make progress.

I read this morning of the lunatic who shot up a couple of mosques in New Zealand.  I’ve really nothing to say about it here because this isn’t that kind of blog.  I do have something to say about Rep. Alexandria “Donkey Chompers” Occassional-Cortex, who seems not even to have waited for the gun-smoke to clear before going into full “What use are your thoughts and prayers now?” mode.

Here’s an answer:  We don’t know.  None of us has the remotest understanding of God’s Economy, including you, dear.  We pray for the souls of others (as in this case) because God has told us to repeatedly, and we must trust His word.  That’s why it’s called Faith.

Now, I happen to think that slapping some sentiment up on FacePlant or donning a ribbon or amassing teddy bears and flowers at a candle-lit vigil is not the proper way to pray, as it smacks at once of lazy sentimentality and of the hypocrites standing on the street-corners about whom Our Lord was none too keen.  But that’s a far cry from AOC’s nasty leftist religious-belittlement-cum-gun-grabbing dig.

So I’ll just keep to my prayer life, thank you very much Ms. New Green Terror Jacobin, and continue to believe that it does good because He says so.  Heck, I’ll even pray for you.  (Tee hee!)

UPDATE:  No t-storms after all, alas.  On the other hand, my porch thermometer topped out at 75 degrees and I’m wearing my Bermuda shorts for the first time this year.  (They even still fit!)  So I got that going for me.

By the bye, since I mention the porch, I’m on it now and listening to the sound of construction two houses down.  Until last year, an elderly couple lived there.  (I think they might have been the original owners from when the place was built in the early 70’s.)  We didn’t know them socially, but he used to toddle round canvasing every campaign season, and was regularly astonished when I told him no, I wasn’t interested in listening to any of his Democratic talking points.  (I refrained from the urge to tell him I also thought him a short-sighted fool for believing them himself.)

Anyhoo, the old fellah died at home late last summah and his wife, much to the annoyance of the neighborhood, sold the place for a song.  Then this past winter, workmen started showing up.  They’ve been gutting the inside and redoing the outside, and I was hoping this meant it was perhaps a younger family simply looking to update what likely had not been changed in better than 40 years.

Well, a “For Sale” sign appeared out front this week.  Turns out whoever bought it did so merely to flip it.  I’ve got no rational reason to feel this way, and of course I believe people should be able to do whatever they want with their own, but somehow this irks me.  I suppose it’s because I think of a house as a home, not a vehicle for ginning up quick profits.  (They’ll get ’em, too.)  Also, I suppose, because I now assume the upgrades will be done on the cheap instead of more thoroughly as they would have been had they been supervised by whoever was going to live with them.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo can only assume that his flat-lined viewer hits over the weekend means that friends of the decanter are giving up teh blogs for Lent.  I certainly hope this is the reason: The alternative – that I have become a crashing bore – is a highly unsavory notion.

Anyhoo, I’m sticking around this year although I plan to go dark for Holy Week.

Ol’ Robbo’s biggest sacrifice for Lent these past few years has been musick – both listening to it and playing it myself.  You might not think that is much, but then you don’t know my usual routine. Throughout my day – waking up, commuting, down the office – I listen to the local classickal station more or less continually.  In the evenings, at least outside baseball season, I usually toddle on down to my study to browse through my own CD library and assemble a playlist.  And I like to kill an hour or two here and there banging away at my beat-up old Kawaii upright.  (As an aside, one of my long-term goals is to replace this instrument – which I’ve played since I was a small child – with a baby grand.  I also plan to chuck my current dilettante sight-reading and actually get back into serious study.)

Take all that away and there’s suddenly a very large and very silent hole.  The good thing is that when I realize I’m hearing nothing, as happens multiple times during the course of the day, I don’t find myself saying, “Self, I really wish I could turn the radio on right now.”  Instead, I remind myself why I’m hearing only silence, and take the opportunity to do a little more Lenten introspection.   Plus, on Sundays, like today, the musick is just that much sweeter.  I was pounding away at some Haydn sonatas at the keyboard this afternoon, horribly out of practice but laughing for pure joy. 

I find it to be a very manageable and beneficial programme.  Manageability is key.  If you set your sights too high and fail, you usually wind up chucking the whole thing in disgust and despair.  That’s why I stopped trying to cut out coffee and wine, although I do chip away at moderating the latter.  As a friend of mine put it, “You’re a middle-aged husband and father at the height of your career and you’re dealing with teenagers.  You need these things just to function.  Wait until you’re retired and they’re gone before you start pressing that kind of denial.”

This makes sense to me.







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