Georgetown in early autumn

It’s starting to feel like autumn in earnest at this point. Each morning becomes somewhat less inviting in terms of getting out of bed, but stepping out for the first time each morning also feels a bit better as the chillier air greets you and forces you more fully awake. A few of the scenes below are Saint Matthew the Apostle, and there’s one of two from my walk to/from work, but most are from Georgetown:

We might have our first snowfall within the next month or so.

Georgetown Half Marathon

I ran the Georgetown Half Marathon this morning along the C&O Canal Towpath, the third and final C&O Canal Towpath race I’m doing this year.

I registered for the Georgetown Half back in March, after my poor performance in the Washington Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. It was after registering for the Georgetown Half that I learned about the September and October marathons I ran, so in a sense today felt like closing a chapter I had started in the spring.

It was a beautiful morning for a run along the towpath. We started at 9am, all 400+ runners at once, and that meant the first 2-3 miles were very crowded. As runners started to break out into different pace groups, I found another guy who was at an aggressive but steady pace and we ended up running together for essentially the entire 13.1 miles.

Georgetown Half Marathon was a record for me, both in terms of time for a half marathon and in terms of overall pace for a distance run. I finished at 1 hour, 40 minutes at a 7:36 pace.

Before this morning, I had only run one other half marathon—a trail half marathon eight years ago in Philadelphia’s Pennypack Park.

Keeping the faith in demoralizing times

I got back into Washington this afternoon, cleaned up, and headed to Georgetown University’s downtown location for “Keeping Faith in Demoralizing Times,” a panel discussion hosted by the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life:

This Salt and Light Gathering for young Catholic leaders in public life will explore how to live with faith, hope, and charity at a time of division in the United States, crisis in the Catholic Church, and paralysis in Washington, DC. Four remarkable leaders will share their experiences and the lessons they have learned regarding how to work with integrity and maintain your principles in the midst of growing public hostility, polarization, and disengagement. The gathering will ask how young people of faith with a shared commitment to human dignity and the common good can live out that faith in both their professional and personal lives.

This wide-ranging conversation will reflect the diverse perspectives and experiences of its participants: two Washington Post columnists and two young leaders at the intersection of faith and public life.

Michael Gerson is a Washington Post columnist and a policy fellow with the ONE Campaign. He was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush and a former senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Elizabeth Bruenig is a Washington Post columnist and editor who focuses on religion, politics, and culture. She was a 2019 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her series on teen sexual assault victims in her hometown of Arlington, Texas.

Jeanné Lewis is the vice president and chief engagement officer at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. She also serves as a board member for Faith in Public Life and is a member of St. Augustine Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.

Montse Alvarado is vice president and executive director at Becket Law. She is a consultor to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for Religious Liberty and a member of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students’ President’s Advisory Council.

John Carr, director of the Initiative, will open the gathering. Kim Daniels, associate director of the Initiative, will moderate the conversation.

It was a good conversation and a chance to see new and old friends.

Red Mass

I attended the Red Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle this morning, an annual Mass sponsored by The John Carroll Society for the Holy Spirit to guide all who make and interpret our law at the start of a new Supreme Court term.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington celebrated the Mass alongside Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington. It was a beautiful Mass, with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and others in attendance. I caught up with Leonine Forum friends afterwards and a number of others, and went to Kramerbooks Cafe near Dupont Circle for lunch.

As background, The John Carroll Society offers this history of the Red Mass:

On February 15, 1953, Archbishop Patrick A. O’Boyle celebrated the first John Carroll Society sponsored Red Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle. In succeeding years, the congregation frequently has included the President of the United States, the Chief Justice of the United States, and Associate Justices, other leading federal, state and local jurists, cabinet officials, members of Congress, diplomats, university presidents, deans, professors, students of law, and lawyers.

The Red Mass is celebrated annually at the Cathedral, traditionally on the Sunday before the first Monday in October, which marks the opening of the Supreme Court’s annual term. Its purpose is to invoke God’s blessings on those responsible for the administration of justice as well as on all public officials.

Since its inception, the Red Mass has remained the ceremonial highlight of the Society’s year. Liturgically, the Red Mass is celebrated as the Solemn Mass of the Holy Spirit. Its name derives from the traditional red color of the vestments worn by clergy during the Mass, representing the tongues of fire symbolizing the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The Red Mass enjoys a rich history. Originating centuries ago in Rome, Paris and London, its name also exemplifies the scarlet robes worn by royal judges that attended the Mass centuries ago. The Red Mass historically marked the official opening of the judicial year of the Sacred Roman Rota, the Tribunal of the Holy See. During the reign of Louis IX (Saint Louis of France), La Sainte Chapelle in Paris was designated as the chapel for the Mass. In England, beginning in the Middle Ages and continuing even through World War II, judges and lawyers have attended the Red Mass, which today is celebrated annually at Westminster Cathedral.

In the United States, the Red Mass tradition was inaugurated in 1928 at old Saint Andrew’s Church in New York City. Since then, the Red Mass has been celebrated increasingly in communities throughout the United States.

Potomac River Run Marathon

I ran the Potomac River Run Marathon this morning, finishing with my second best time across the six marathons I’ve run so far—4 hours, 11 minutes at something like a 9:20 pace.


It was noticeably colder this morning than a month ago when I ran the same route for the Abebe Bikila Day International Peace Marathon, and that’s after starting an hour later than last month, at 8am versus 7am. There were something like 130 total marathoners running this morning, a low-key course compared to the major marathons.

I felt good throughout, although my pace was worse than last month. There were long stretches this morning where I found myself running alone, and to some degree that probably slowed me down in terms of the lack of runners to pace-set against. As I came up on mile 17, I was alone and alternating between boredom and thinking too much, so I prayed my Rosary for the day. I had read about a woman who ran a marathon a few years ago who prayed the Rosary throughout her marathon, and that came back to me in the midst of my discontent.

I’m glad I ran this, and am looking forward to one more (shorter) run before autumn really sets in.

Capitol Bikeshare membership

I signed up for Capitol Bikeshare a year ago today. It’s been a useful and generally fun way to get around Washington and Arlington over the past year. Here’s a snapshot of the past year’s ride history:


Capitol Bikeshare’s annual membership rate is $85, and rides lasting fewer than 30 minutes are free for members. I’ve used it most often for coming home to Georgetown from Court House when our offices were there, or from Clarendon. And more recently for commuting to/from our new offices located down M Street, near Dupont Circle. Letting the bikes cruise down the hills of Arlington into Rosslyn has been especially great.

It’s been cost effective, but I’m letting membership lapse in favor of walking, using a JUMP (electric) bike, or taking the bus to work.

I’d recommend bike share to most people, unless you’re confronting serious inclines that will leave you a mess when arriving wherever you’re going. A major pain point was the docking process—first, needing to know where docks are to pick up or leave a bike, and second, having to pull up the app to see whether any bikes are available.

The dockless (pick up/leave anywhere) nature of JUMP bikes is their plus, along with the fact they’re electric.

Epiphany’s Tabernacle

I took this photo after Mass this morning at Epiphany in Georgetown. Ever since first coming here, I’ve been taken by the simplicity of this church and love it as a sign and symbol of the simplicity that characterizes holiness—the lack of ego, the lack of pretension, the humility. And one of the other things I love about Epiphany is the way the Tabernacle is illuminated by natural light through a small glass window.

It wasn’t dark in the church when I took this, but I brought the light down specifically to emphasize how beautiful the natural light illuminating the Tabernacle is—especially on early mornings or dark days. There’s poetry in that: the place where Christ dwells in the light.

Clarendon Day 10K

I ran the Clarendon Day 10K this morning, which started in Clarendon and headed downhill on Wilson Boulevard (past my old office at Court House), took place mainly on the temporarily closed Richmond Highway before ending in Roslyn.

When I was looking up races a few weeks ago for the fall, Clarendon Day stood out because I realized I hadn’t run a 10K since the Independence Day “Revolutionary Run” 10K in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania seven years ago. I signed up and picked up my race bib from Pacers in Clarendon yesterday (where there was a great guy playing the saxophone), and this morning ran the 10K. It was a beautiful morning, and a simple course, and I was fortunate to set a personal best, beating my 10K best of 2011 (7:21 pace, 45:45 finish) with a 6:56 pace, 43:06 finish. Regular running (de facto training) and regular gym time have an impact—who would have thought?

Afterwards I walked home over the Key Bridge, picked up my rental car, and headed to State College. Tomorrow is the Mount Nittany Conservancy’s next board meeting, and after that I’ll head to Philadelphia for a friend’s wedding.

Late summer sunsets

I’ve been enjoying the sunsets on my way home, typically on a Capitol Bikeshare bike, along M Street recently. These are two recent sunsets:

When you take the time to really watch a sunset (or sunrise), you can understand where poets come from. I think I would’ve been drawn more to poetry when I was younger if classes took place outside at sunset than where they really took place—within cinderblock walls.

Late summer street scene

Since our office moved into Washington in June, I’ve been walking home as often as possible—it’s about a mile from the office to home, and most of the way is along M Street. And sometimes I’ll walk halfway, then pick up a Capitol Bikeshare bike and ride the rest of the way. I did that recently, and as I was approaching the bikes just past 23rd and M Streets this is what I saw:


There’s nothing special about this. It’s a typical corner, on a typical (even unremarkable) block. Still, there’s so much going on here—the sunlight, the shadows, the color, the variety of ways we’ve shaped this particular spot.

A lot like the advice to “stop and smell the flowers,” I think similar advice holds for stopping to appreciate the view.