Alexandria for an afternoon

I had thought earlier in the week of a hike today, but the weather is cold and windy enough that I changed plans. I headed to Old Town, Alexandria for Mass at the Basilica of Saint Mary and then headed to Village Brauhaus to spend time with a friend and catch up.

It’s a great thing to be able to do and see so much in and around Washington with relatively little trouble.

January scenes in Washington

It’s back to being January-like in terms of temperature—much more unpleasant to be walking around Washington. But all things considered I’m glad to walk and to be able to take in simple scenes like the two below this week, first on Dumbarton Street and the second facing Connecticut Avenue.

Looking forward to a quiet MLK Day weekend and the March for Life next week.

Lighter winter days

I took this photo as I was walking along K Street this morning. I had left the Catholic Information Center and was heading to Americans United for Life a few blocks away. It has felt like spring for the past week, and this morning it looked that way too.

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The days are starting to be noticeably longer, too. It’s great to be able to leave the office past 5pm and still have some light while walking home.

Visiting St. Ann’s

I visited St. Ann for Mass on Sunday. It’s a beautiful old church, celebrating its 150th anniversary. It’s up Wisconsin in Tenleytown, a ten minute or so drive north from Georgetown.

The Gospel on Sunday was Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism. It was a gift to see St. Ann’s beautiful mosaic of this scene.

The wind blows where it wills

It’s incredible in Washington this weekend. Beautiful early morning, and it’ll reach 70 degrees today and nearly as high tomorrow. It’s good to still be so early in the new year, and to make time for being with good people and doing good things. I headed to Arlington this morning for Borromeo Brothers at St. Charles in Clarendon.

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We read John 3:1-21 today, which I’ve included below. Fr. Don, the pastor at St. Charles, visited with us this morning before Mass and gave a talk on the sacraments as “efficacious signs”—that the sacraments, starting with baptism, confer the grace they signify.

How difficult it can be to believe. But the same mystery is at the heart of the most everyday things of life and we do not wonder at what we witness: “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes…” If we start from a posture of gratitude, it’s not so difficult to believe what Christ proposes—and to recognize the limited nature of our own will and power.

Nicodemus Visits Jesus

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can this be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.

Motorcade on Wisconsin

I work on Connecticut Avenue and live off Wisconsin Avenue, and both frequently feature motorcades. The Naval Observatory, where the Vice President lives, lies north of Georgetown and so his or an affiliated party’s motorcade frequently comes down Wisconsin. That’s what I caught this morning, as I was about to cross the street to pick up a JUMP bike to get to work.

Snow on Connecticut

It snowed yesterday and for the first time this winter, but only for a few hours. The government let out at 1pm to allow people a hypothetically simpler commute home before the snow started in earnest. I worked from the office for the afternoon, since I can walk home. It was clear and fine in DC by six or so, but apparently pretty bad on the more rural roads in Northern Virginia.

It’s been a mild winter so far, but I hope we get a few great snow storms in the next few weeks.

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‘Be transformed by the renewal of your mind’

I spent this morning in Arlington at St. Charles for the Borromeo Brothers men’s group. I hadn’t been for a few weeks due to work and travel in December, and it was great to be back and to start the new year with good men.

We read and considered Romans 12:1-13, where Paul is speaking: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” That’s part of the reading.

We spoke about what this call to be a “living sacrifice” looks like in the day to day, in our lives and especially in relationships like marriage. A few of the married guys shared powerful and honest reflections.

A friend joined for Borromeo Brothers, and afterwards we went to Mass and then caught up at Northside Social over coffee, before I walked back to Georgetown.

It’s a beautiful day despite being overcast, like 55 degrees. Great day to be with good people and to be outside.

Fresh new days

I got back into Washington early yesterday afternoon. It’s a good time of year in the city. The days feel just as fresh as the year, and it feels as if a good portion of the city is still away until next week. The streets have felt quieter than normal, and it makes it a bit more peaceful, like on tonight’s walk home from work.

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This was the view as I walked along M Street, over Rock Creek and the Rock Creek/Potomac Parkway.

Mary sang in this world below

I’m at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception this evening for confession before Christmas, and will stay here for Midnight Mass tonight.

Billy Ryan shares J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Christmas prayer to the Virgin Mary,” apparently an only recently rediscovered 1936 poem called “Noel” that appeared in an Oxfordshire magazine:

Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.

The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.

The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.

Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.