Monday, July 22, 2002

Steubenville (revisited)

In repsonse to my account of life at the University of Steubenville, one of my learned colleauges writes:

"[Y]ou're likely aware that the charismatic element at Steubenville, while influential, is now a minority. You'll find as many Catholics of our stripe (God help them!) as you will tongue-speakers."

Yes, my good man, I am aware of them. But if the "charismatic element" is a minority, why are they still so influential? Is it because the administration is still stuck in the glory days of the 70s, when being charismatic was such a groovy happenin' thing? To this day, is there a regular Latin Mass at Steubenville?

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen..." (revisited)

Mary Beth Bonnaci joins the ranks of those shocked by the disgrace of Father John Bertolucci, who was found to have been guilty of sexual abuse of young boys many years ago. She is also reminded of a similar fate having befallen Father Kenneth Roberts.

I remember the first Mass I attended at the chapel at Franciscan University of Steubenville. At the end of the Gloria, the guitarists banged out a climactic fanfare, as some of those assembled began speaking in tongues. I turned around and started looking for the nearest exit.

Alas, in recent years, the faith of many has been shaken. They desperately seek out signs and wonders. "Oh look, the Blessed Mother is appearing over at..." I heard that often enough. Many such "visions" are eventually disproved, their advocates exposed as charlatans. I've been there. I've seen it myself.

In his 2nd century Treatise Against Heresies, Irenaeus warned against the misuse of alleged "gifts of the Spirit." In matters of faith, there is a danger in getting all caught up in the purely experiential. Man is a reasoning animal, and Catholicism is, by its nature, a cognitive way of life -- lived through the heart, but received through the head. Small wonder, then, that some traditional Catholics have long taken a dim view of the Charismatic movement. It all sounds wonderful, until the rubber meets the road.

That's when we all risk looking pretty silly.

More Granola!

There are several entries today from Ad Orientem, which continue the conversation on "granola conservatives." (You know, that one that began here.)

I've been meaning to read Chesterton's 1927 book Outline of Sanity, which I've been carrying around forever, especially since reading this review by Barbara Rose.

Meanwhile, Joel Kotkin of the Davenport Institue at Pepperdine University contributes this piece in the Sunday Washington Post, entitled "If We Let Rural America Die, We Shall Lose a Piece of Ourselves". (Links to Washington Post articles are free for the first 14 days.)

For all anyone knows, I could be writing this from the middle of North Dakota. Hmmmm...

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen..."

Louis, we hardly knew ye...

We assembled in his back yard yesterday afternoon, nearly 150 of us, to bid farewell to an old friend, Louis Uram. The memorial was intended to resemble a Quaker service, unadorned and spontaneous. And so, we gathered in chairs around the garden pond, built in the final weeks of his life, to his specifications, as his final memorial.

It began with no less a figure than myself, playing the opening hymn on the harmonica, then singing unaccompanied:

The Minstrel-Boy to the war is gone
In the ranks of death you will find him
His father's sword he hath girded on
And his wild harp slung behind him
"Land of Song!" said the warrior-bard
"Though all the world betrays thee
One sword, at least, they rights shall guard
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"

The Minstrel fell! - But the foeman's chain
Could not bring that proud soul under
The harp he lov'd ne'er spoke again
For he tore its chords asunder
And said "No chains shall sully thee
Thou soul of love and brav'ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free,
They shall never sound in slavery!"


(Information and sound bite found here.)

The wife of the deceased arose to speak, followed by the testimony of others. Among them was this one:

Today I remember a man who was my hero, though I hardly knew him.

His wife may have been the belle of the ball. But over in the corner, some little guy was smoking a cigarette, never missing a thing around him.

You would never guess that Lou was one of a number of Marine Corps "noncombatant advisors" -- or so they called them -- in the early years of the Vietnam conflict. He didn't miss much there either. He told me later of how he was ready for death, because he could see it coming, like he had before. And so he stood up to it, unmoved, thus bringing solace to those who kept vigil around him.

Lou was Yoda, and I was the Jedi Knight in training. His size was a deception, for inside him beat the heart of a warrior. It showed in the counsel he gave, of one who observed the otherwise imperceptible in the human condition. And like the humble figure in the Star Wars saga, his counsel was doled out sparingly, leaving the student with more questions, and in the end, leaving him all too soon. I wasn't ready, I told him recently. There was not enough time.

But I discovered something. I heard it more than once: "Lou wanted me to tell you how much he appreciated..." Maybe he was too modest to tell me himself. Maybe he wanted me to know, however unlikely, that I too, could be a hero.

Will I ever learn how he meant that? My answers may rest with those who knew him longer than I, who knew him better than I. It is to them that my heart is poured out. It is to them that I turn with questions to be answered.

For I fear I shall not see his like again.


Following more testimonies, a tree was planted in one corner of the garden. As the dirt was filled in around it, along with handfuls of his cremated remains, I took up my guitar, and sang:

O, all the money e'er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm that ever I've done,
alas it was to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit
to mem'ry now I can't recall;
So fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.

O, all the comrades e'er I had,
They're sorry for my going away.
And all the sweethearts e'er I had,
They'd wished me one more day to stay.
But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call,
Goodnight and joy be with you all.


(Commentary of song to be found here.)

As I joined the others in line to contribute ashes, I picked up a leaf suitable for scooping it up, lest I touch that which I held to be sacred. As I poured in the remains, I said a prayer for the soul of this man, who practiced no formal religion, but would have heard these words as a child:

Shema, Y'israel, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echad.

(Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.)

Afterwards, one of his sons came up to me, and thanked me for saying what he was unable to say himself. We all retired to the house for a repast. I left soon thereafter to go zydeco dancing. Lou would have wanted it that way.

After the voices go home...

Yesterdays Boston Globe reports of how "Lay Catholics issue call to transform their church." There is so much to write today, and others who speak so much better than I. So I will let John DaFiesole of Disputations and Gerard Serafin of A Catholic Blog for Lovers do the talking for me.

Today is the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, the patroness of fallen women, and testimony to the potential in all of us to be saints. Mr Serafin provides the litany that bears her name (see entry for Monday, July 22, 2002).

Friday, July 19, 2002

As the feet hit the floor, and I head out the door...

• My best friend is in Chicago this week visiting family, and is missed here at home.

• My son is caught up in the throes of adolescence, made worse by his being the product of what we used to know in polite company as "a broken home." (St John Bosco, where are you when I need you?)

• I have a memorial service to attend this Sunday, to honor a man whom I did not know for very long, and the likes of whom I shall not see again (see entry for this past Wednesday).

• Several thousand people with a lot of time on their hands will meet in Boston this weekend, to discuss matters about which they know little, and about which they can do even less.

• I haven't danced much in the past week or more, and the deficit is starting to show. I'm checking out various options as this goes to press. I might even settle for swing dancing. In my humble experience, the jitterbug scene is one of those where, if you go to a decent event of said genre, you are having to deal with the real die-hards who take it sooooo seriously, and dancing is something I never take seriously! So I might just wait for zydeco on Saturday and Sunday nights. At least then I'm in my element.

"But it's a five o'clock world when the whistle blows, no one owns a piece of my time..."

We'll see what happens, eh?

The Third Way: Beyond Granola

Rod Dreher of the National Review did a piece online recently, concerning the curious phenomenon known as "granola conservatism." Then my friend Mr Dave Pawlak chimed in with some insights of his own (Note: refer to post of Friday July 12, as link may not be operative). This was followed by Disputations, first with one comment, then with another.

For those who lament the passing of the magazine known as Caelum Et Terra, they would be surprised to learn of its would-be heir apparent, appropriately titled Heaven & Earth. Sadly, this twelve- to sixteen-page magazine (if you can call it a magazine at such a modest scale), begun only in the past year, only has a few dozen subscribers at last count. Several things may account for this; the increase in Catholic publications in the last decade, the increasing role of the Internet as a "low-impact" means of dispersing information, and the failure in modern times (once again) of any radical approach to living in a Catholic culture. (Sooner or later, you get sick and tired of just talking about it.)

This weblog will be devoted to matters relevant to this line of thought in the weeks to come. Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Twelve years ago today...

...I came home from work, like I always did. Instead of finding my wife and son, I found a note.

Life hasn't been the same since.

Naturally, I believed that the Church could help me. So I enrolled in the "separated and divorced ministry" conducted by the excruciatingly-orthodox Diocese of Arlington. It began with a six-week series of group sessions called "Coping." Many of the facilitators weren't even Catholic, and were certainly in no position to discuss the spiritual life in such times. The holidays came. I contemplated suicide. Through the grace of God, and the intervention of a good and holy priest (as opposed to the bungling of another given to self-righteousness), I passed through my "dark night of the soul." I went on to the next six-week series called "Rebuilding." It appeared to the facilitator of my group that my "anger issues" were not resolved, thus I was not ready for that series. So she violated a major tenet of the program, that of confidentiality, to inform the head facilitator that I had to be removed. And so I was "asked nicely" to leave (but not before being praised for my "courage").

I complained to the alleged "family life office" of the Diocese, which sponsored the program. It was not properly supervised by a clinical professional, I told them, and many of the leaders of this "Catholic ministry" were professed non-Catholics. The pin-headed bureaucrat at the other end of the line, the good little soldier that he was, disassociated his institution from any responsibility for what happened.

I was on my own.

Except for a brief period since then (which is another story for another day), I have been a faithful Mass attendee. I even abstain from meat on Friday most of the year -- not just during Lent, okay? I won't claim to have always been a very good Catholic. By some accounts, hell, I shouldn't even be one. Sometimes I go to confession once every several months, sometimes once a week. I have passed out over a dozen copies of a particular book, Crazy Time by Abigail Trafford, to aid the recovery of others who share my situation. In each copy, I write "To (enter name here), because I'm on a mission from God."

So how is the Diocese getting along? Quite well, thank you. New parish churches that look like the neighboring Wal-Mart have been built, and more men are being ordained -- twenty-three in a two-year period, in fact.

Meanwhile, reports have circulated that one of our more devout priests ran off with another man's wife, and took the kids with him. When it was over, the abandoned husband suffered a heart attack. We got a lot of apologies during the Great Jubilee, but none for that little stunt. Is the story true? I don't know. I didn't read about it in the Washington Post, nor can I verify the story otherwise. But I wouldn't put it past anyone. After all, "orthodoxy" is simply another word for talking a good game, right?

But for several thousand Catholics who will be meeting in Boston this weekend, appearances are not only deceiving, they're a crock. Known to most as the Voice of the Faithful, all of them are justifiably angry, and most of them will be deceived into believing that it's all about power. They barely know the meaning of the word. Little do they know the power of the Evil One to use a priest whose virtue is weakening, to drag countless souls down with him. (One more good reason to pray for them every day.) The forces of good and evil at work, in the heavens and on the earth, are more than they can comprehend. "Where's our piece of the action?" they will ask themselves.

Most likely in their own back yard. That's where I found mine. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

"Here a pope, there a pope..."

Father Bryce Sibley, host of A Saintly Salmagundi, begins his series of current anti-popes (guys who think they're the real pope because the one we all know is pope is really a fake, but anyway...) with one in Kansas who makes his claim while admitting he is not yet a priest. (He would at least have to be a bishop first. Duh...) I'm waiting to hear about the guy in Canada, one in Montana, one in Spain (or is it two!), one in France, and one in (get this!) Rome itself!

And Catherine of Siena thought she had it rough. Oy veh!

The Black (Hat) Watch: Day Twenty-Three

The following entry was posted by the inescapable nihil obstat:

Saturday, July 13, 2002
 
An imprimatur is overrated anyway.

Links to individual posts on blogspot sites are still fouled up, but you can find the rookie mistake of the "man with black hat" in the post dated July 12:

"... the incomparible Mark Shea ..."

posted by nihil obstat at 10:19 AM


"Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa..."

"Home is the sailor home from sea, and the hunter home from the hill."

My best friend called me today, with the news we had been expecting. That evening we met, and wrote the words to pass on to our friends:

"Lynn Uram is saddened to announce the passing of her devoted husband, Louis, on the morning of Tuesday, July 16.

"Lou will be remembered for his quiet but self-assured presence, and his insightful wisdom...

"Further details will be made available in either Thursday's or Friday's edition of both the Carroll County Times and the Baltimore Sun."


(Title from a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson)

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

The Rocky Road to Boston (with a Stop in Baltimore)

St Blog seminarian Steve Mattson gives us this commentary, about an article in last Sunday's Washington Post, in light of the supposed call of the Boston-based Voice of the Faithful to "democratize" the Catholic Church. Some of their leadership are so anxious to emulate the experiences of our separated brethren. Let's see if they will listen to what they don't want to hear. My experience with local VOTF groups so far is not very promising. (Note: link to Post article is active until the end of the month.)

Some of you are aware that I have been collaborating with the VOTF in the past couple of months, in an attempt to offer an alternative to the intellectual cabal that appears to have taken over their center of opinion. I should say that their representatives have been most cordial, and admit to being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task ahead of them. They seem most sincere in their desire to provide for a "conservative element" in their discussions. Sadly, the evidence leaves something to be desired.

There will be more to say on this matter as it develops. Stay tuned...

Meanwhile, tonight I have better things to do. Keith Frank is appearing in Catonsville in suburban Baltimore. This high-powered kick-ass zydeco music maker doesn't travel much outside of Louisiana, and so a dance party with him in these parts should be a real treat. If you knew why I haven't been posting much lately, you wouldn't blame me for wanting to let off a little steam. Eh toi!!!

Friday, July 12, 2002

The Missing Link(s)

If you look to the right of the screen, you see a limited number of links. I am still learning how to break out of the mold that is my template, and create a longer list. I look forward to making such progress. Maybe then the incomparible Mark Shea will include me on his list, items within which are accompanied by short but witty descriptions of the host. My personal favorite? "Thrown Back: In Case you are Wondering what Fr Rob Johansen is Thinking Right Now."

Who the hell cares what I'm thinking anyway?

We got Bastille Day coming up this weekend. Another excuse for a fais-do-do, and zydeco!!!

Now, what movies to see this weekend? Any ideas, kids?

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Where in this world can true love be found?

Rocker Eddie Van Halen and his actress-wife of 21 years, Valerie Bertinelli, announced their separation after 21 years of marriage. Details from CNN.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

"Fish are jumpin,' and the cotton is high..."

I've been in and out during this week, and so have very little to post.

It has been reported that the soundtrack album to Oh Brother Where Art Thou? has sold more than six million copies. All this with very little airplay, even on so-called "country music stations." A generation of artists have never stood behind a plow. Will a few of them ever figure out what is missing, or will the Nashville establishment keep leading the majority of them by the nose?

I've been reading in more detail about the recent Catholic bishops' meeting. I have yet to say much about all that, but I hope to soon. In the meantime, I have purchased Father Benedict Groeschel's new book From Scandal to Hope, and will review it on this site before month's end.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

"I'm back in the saddle again..."

The entire blogosphere is rejoicing this weekend, as technical difficulties plauging Blogger.com have been remedied. My entry for Friday July 5 was finally posted today. Finally went to see that movie I wanted to see last weekend. More on that later. The weekend is in full swing. Stay tuned...

Friday, July 05, 2002

Sally Fourth!!!

On Independence Day, Washington is the last place where I want to be.

The local law enforcement community -- which is otherwise to be commended in its efforts in the wake of September 11 -- appears to the casual viewer, to relish any excuse to erect a roadblock, when and where you least expect it. This year was certainly no exception, in light of recent events. Care was taken to severely limit vehicular traffic near the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Mall. Millions of sweaty people on the Mall, dozens of portable toilets backed up, the hot sun beating down...

I never tan all that well anyway.

The building where I work, just west of the White House, is in a high-risk area. In previous years, employees could view the fireworks from one of the balconies. We were not so fortunate this year. Only those invited to the private party of the agency's administrator were granted access.

So I headed out of town, to Baltimore, and met up with a few of my friends. The seven of us took a water taxi across the bay to the "Fell's Point" neighborhood, a picturesque area noted for its old boating docks, and watering holes once haunted by merchant seamen and assorted roustabouts. After a brief tour of the usual places, it was back across the bay, for several hours of zydeco dancing, to the music of Roy Carrier and the Night Rockers.

The evening culminated in a fireworks display. The best part of it all was watching the little boys in front of us, as they were watching the spectacle. "Oooh, I really like that one." "Oooh, I like that one too." My thoughts turned for a moment to my own son, when he was that age. There is nothing quite like watching the good things in life through the eyes of a child. Parents of young children be advised: enjoy it while you can.

There is more celebration this weekend, according to the usual schedule of events.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

The Black (Hat) Watch: End of Day Thirteen

Still no word from nihil obstat. My imprimatur remains intact. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

"You'll never blog in this town again!!!"

"The moderator of the beltwaybloggers group has denied your request for membership. 
 
"The moderator of each Yahoo! Groups group chooses whether to restrict membership in his or her group. Moderators who choose to restrict membership also choose whom to admit. 
 
"Please note that this decision is final..."

Guess who's the "voice of sanity" today...

Dave Pawlak takes a moment to offer his own observations on the current dialogue within the ranks of the Voice of the Faithful. While the leadership makes preparations for their national shindig in Boston on July 20th, orthodoxy demands a place at the head table. For now, witness the scene at their message board. Thanks, Dave.

Monday, July 01, 2002

Other Voices

Life goes on at the message board of the Boston-based Voice of the Faithful. Mark Shea is keeping tabs. Our mystery accuser persists in her crusade, much to Mr Shea's dismay. Why should I have all the fun? And so, the plot thickens...

A pax upon this house!

Some of us have been watching, with distress, an ongoing disagreement between two respected Catholic writers. Finally, Mr Pawlak has stepped in with a call for these two gentlemen to patch up their differences. Michael? Stephen? I don't give a rat's behind who started it! Are you listening?

Sunday, June 30, 2002

Meanwhile, back at the aisle seat...

We didn't go to this movie, but we saw this other one instead. Some of it was quite amusing; at other times, typical Hollywood hokum.

Friday, June 28, 2002

“A young man from a small town, with a very large imagination...”

Recently there was a discussion among Catholic weblog owners concerning the mention of personal material on their sites. One insight shared by the discussion's hostess, Eve Tushnet, is worth noting:

"...[W]hen it's presented with a little more care for one's own privacy, the personal aspects of blogging can help other people really understand your philosophy -- the underlying worldview that unites your stances on, say, gun control, Bruce Springsteen, and race relations in Milwaukee. Blogs help show that politics isn't -- or shouldn't be -- some disconnected policy preferences; political beliefs should flow from underlying ethical and ultimately metaphysical beliefs that you live with all day long. (Or try to, anyway.)..."

In any case, most "bloggers" would have begun their sites with their life story. I needed time to make mine seem interesting.


Washington DC, 2000

My name (as if you didn't catch it by now) is David Alexander. I am a nearly-48-year-old graphic designer working for the Federal government. I live alone in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from what is politely referred to as "the Nation's capital." I have a teenaged son, Paul, from a previous marriage. He lives with his mother, farther out in the hopelessly middle-class Virginia suburb known as Fairfax County.

My roots in the southwest quadrant of Ohio date back over a century and a half, at least five generations. The majority of my ancestors came from the Alsace-Lorraine region of what was sometimes Germany, but what is now France.

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, just three days after Christmas, and the worst time of the year to have a birthday. My parents have always sent me a card, if no one else did, and if only out of guilt.

When I was still in the cradle, we moved to a village just east of Cincinnati (and closer to our "kin and ken") known as Milford, where I lived until I moved to DC in 1980. The oldest of four -- boy, girl, boy, girl, in that order -- I attended Catholic grade school and high school. From there, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Design from the University of Cincinnati. After two years of various studio assignments, I got the big break from my rich uncle. (Sam. Maybe you know him.) I have been on his payroll every since.

I am the only member of my immediate family to have left the Cincinnati area. I sign all my letters home, "Your long lost son..."

Along the way, I learned to play both the guitar and the banjo (the latter in the old-time mountain style; I don't do bluegrass), and can fake my way through several other instruments laying around the house. I've also been known to sing. In addition, I have been an avid folkdancer for nearly a quarter century. My latest passion is zydeco, which is the music and dance of the Creole people of southwest Louisiana.

At 11, I became an altar boy; at 17, an Eagle Scout; at 35, a purple belt in karate. I still claim all three titles.

Finally, I read too much for my own good, which was enough to make me think I should never have an unpublished thought -- hence the presence of this site you are reading now.

Following this entry, things can only get better.

(Apologies to John Prine, from whose lyrics the title of this entry originates.)

This weekend, I'll be in the aisle seat...

...for this movie starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman.

Suppose they had a "dialogue" and nobody came?

My colleague Mark Shea wrote this piece about a month ago, concerning Voice of the Faithful. Definitely worth their careful review. That's why I posted it to their message board.

Let someone else have a crack at it, that's what I say.

"A nice enough chap..."

...vindicated.

"A nice enough chap..."

Mark Shea has written this commentary, concerning my involvement with a Boston-based group known as Voice of the Faithful. This was in response to someone (and I know who you are), accusing me of all manner of apostasy and deception.

Guilt by association can be a nasty business. So is what I would call guerrilla apologetics. The latter requires meeting the adversary where they are. One may risk drawing the wrong kind of attention, as did Our Lord when He dined with tax-collectors and the like. In the face of it all, Mr Shea has brought up a very good point: "[I]nstead of instantly writing off David Alexander (are you sure the guy at this blog is the same as the one in DC?) and declaring him an Enemy Mole, it might be a good idea to, oh, I don't know, talk to him?"

Good call, Mark. Or better yet, one might go out on a limb, and visit the VOTF Message Board, to see what a pain-in-the-ass I have been to any wanna-be reformers. Before lighting the fire at the stake where I am currently tied, kindly read my two essays, Whose Voice? Which Faithful?? What Vision???, and Quo Vadis?, both of which have been sent directly to the officers of the VOTF.

While my works have been all but ignored by the officers, they have been some of the most widely read posts on the board. If I am guilty of "Stockholm Syndrome," the evidence will be found there. Don't hold your breath.

This is the kind of abuse...

...I endure from my friends. (Note: It is only a coincidence that my middle name is Lawrence.)

Life With Father

There has been a lot of bad press about things going on in the Church. But amidst the ashes of the headlines, a phoenix gives rise to hope. Witness this inspiring account in USA Today. Also recommended are two adjoining photo galleries -- The Call to Priesthood, and The Life of a Priest. Thank you, USA Today, for telling us the rest of the story.

For these chosen men, Mark Shea illustrates a bit of unfinished business entitled People Actually Go to These Things!

Go (???) Bearcats!

John Galvin wrote this commentary a while back, about my alma mater. It illustrates why I stopped giving them money about ten years ago.

Now, I didn't exactly say that Baltimore was better than DC...

...but you're right, Karl; maybe I should have.

"Hope I die before I get old..."

John Entwistle, bass player for the British rock band The Who (you know, "the quiet one" standing on the left), is found dead of a heart attack. He was 57.

The Beatles started out playing skiffle, but John and guitarist Pete Townsend began with Dixieland jazz. There's a message here somewhere.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

The Black (Hat) Watch: End of Day Seven

Until now, I have escaped the otherwise inescapable notice of the notorious nihil obstat, self-apppointed proofreader of weblogs identified as "Catholic." My thanks go out to every English teacher I ever had. This would include my father, who used to be one in his younger days. He taught me how to think, which I needed to know before anyone could teach me how to write. Thanks, Dad.

Boys will still be boys.

Never one to be denied his piece of the action, Gregory Popcak at HMS Blog enters the fray.

Boys will be boys.

Amidst the crises of church and state in the world today, three of my fellow parishioners at St Blog's -- namely, Tim Drake, Mark Shea, and Pete Vere -- are currently locked in mortal polemics, over what may emerge as one of the burning issues of our time.

May the best man win. Whatever. You guys are way out of my league.

"A man after my own heart..."

I am described thus by Dave Pawlak, owner of the weblog entitled Pompous Ponderings. Dave and I shared many a thread on various "trad catholic" lists, such as cingreg and tradx. No doubt he rejoices this week, as a new bishop is appointed to Milwaukee, and better days are ahead in that fair city and its environs.

Pray hard, Dave. The new guy's gonna need it!

Cantor Fitzgerald: The Plot Thickens

On September 11, events in Manhattan brought street crime (pickpocketing and the like) to a near halt that day. The more "respectable" citizens were not so restrained, as this report from Fox News, and this analysis from Steve Schultz will show.

mwbh Makes "The List"

Gerard Serafin announces the entry of both me and this site, to the list of "New Parishioners of St Blog's." Gerard is known to many in the Washington/Baltimore area for his promotion of the unity of Christians -- especially the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican communions.

Gerard's efforts can rightfully be considered "true ecumenism," which is best described by C S Lewis in a letter he wrote a half century ago:

"I believe that, in the present divided state of Christendom, those who are at the heart of each division are all closer to one another than those who are at the fringes."

Now, if I could just find a parish in the real world where I feel like I belong. (Yes, a story for another day.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

One good "spin" deserves another.

Steve Schultz at Catholic Light gives a response to my piece on Cantor Fitzgerald.

Yeah. What he said.

Random Thoughts on Community

The other day, Summa Contra Mundum posted these thoughts on the misappropriation of the term "community:"

"I was sitting at daily mass this morning when during the intercessions, the priest asked that we pray for our faith community. This word 'community' has become very common in recent years, almost to the point of being devoid of meaning... For example, at mass this morning the only thing I had in common with the other people there was that I attended daily mass today. We don't even know each other..."

In more than twenty years of living in the DC area, I still feel like I'm from out of town. I'm lucky if my best friends here return my calls within a few days. The city seems plauged by an overwhelming sense of self-importance. Or maybe we're all just too damn busy trying to run the world. In any case, I'm afraid Harry Truman may have been right when he said: "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."

About two years ago, I found some respite from the situation, when I discovered Baltimore. Now, I always knew it was there, mind you. But it didn't occur to me until then, that a real city with real people was within reach. One night, a bunch of us were leaving a dance at one of the watering holes by the Bay, heading a few blocks over for a bite to eat. I could overhear a few of them talking about growing up Catholic in Baltimore. It was then that I experienced an epiphany: This is just like being back in Cincinnati. That's when I knew I had found a new home.

It became clearer to me earlier this month, when I returned to Ohio for my parents' golden wedding anniversary. My first night back, I started feeling homesick. But for the first time, I wasn't homesick for Cincinnati, but for Baltimore.

In later entries, I will speak more about issues of community-building, including a practical remedy. I'll also have a few things to say about that anniversary. (I hope Mom and Dad have a sense of humor. I had to get mine from somewhere.)

"Ozzy don't preach..."

Is anyone else as tired of watching this family as I am?

Why am I still a Catholic?

Father Bryce Sibley, proprietor of the weblog entitled A Saintly Salmagundi, gives a commentary on the priesthood, written by the late theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, in the latter's book Eludications. One of my favorite passages from any book ever written appears elsewhere in the same volume, where von Balthasar answers the question as to why he remains in the Church. It seems a very timely explanation, given the current situation:

"Because it is the only chance to escape from oneself, from this curse of one's importance, of one's own gravity, from the role which is identified with my own person, so that if I lost my role I would end up falling in love with my person: to escape from all this without becoming estranged from man, because God has become man, not in a vacuum but in the community of the Church. I do not doubt for a moment that God's incarnation is intended for all men and that he is sufficiently God in order to reach all whom he will. But he has set up, in the middle of the history of humanity with all its terrors and hells, a marriage bed, splendid and untouchable -- it is portrayed in the Song of Songs -- and even the endless problems of the Church cannot create a fog so thick that it cannot from time to time be penetrated by the light of love which shines from the saints: a love which is naive, which cannot be taken over and built into any program.

"There are vocations in which men are called into the sphere of the fire. They always demand the whole person. Those who have said 'no' remain marked. They burn, but they become cynical and destructive, they smell each other out and hold together. It makes no matter whether they officially leave the Church or remain within her. Anyone with some facility for discerning spirits can recognize them.

"It is up to me, up to us, to see that the Church comes closer to that which in reality she is."


I have been known to give the shorter explanation:

"Because I have nowhere else to go."

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

I must be in the wrong line of work.

What is a "blog?"

Once and for all, here is a very well-crafted definition. Thanks to Padre Jim of Dappled Things for finding it.

Traditionally, a eulogy is considered inappropriate for a Catholic funeral. Could THIS be the reason?

Errata

Yesterday, the one behind the Disputations weblog was incorrectly identified as "Capax Dei." In fact, his name is John DaFiesole. John is also the author of Praying the Post. "Reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee in one hand and a rosary in the other."

Like the ads for the Post say: "If you don't get it, you don't get it."

Whose "spin control" is it anyway?

Kathy Shaidle of relapsed catholic brought this to our kind attention:

"Nine months ago, very few Americans were familiar with the company. It came briefly to widespread attention because of the disproportionate extent to which it suffered, losing approximately 2/3rds of its 1,000 employees headquartered in the World Trade Center.

"Now according to some critics, Cantor Fitzgerald is trying to capitalize from that tragedy in a series of nine television commercials."


The writer asks: "Is it unethical - or even immoral - to try to profit from what occurred in lower Manhattan? Should Cantor Fitzgerald use the accident of geography, that is, where it leased its corporate offices, as a marketer's call to action?"

Without reading the writer's answer, I'm going to give my own.

No. And yes. In that order.

I remember in the wake of 9/11, when the owner of Cantor Fitzgerald appeared on MSNBC. This was not a man for whom money could buy happiness. He lost not only his business, but most of the people with whom he worked every day. He had families calling him about payment of death benefits. With everything gone, he had nothing left to give that to which they were entitled. That such a dilemma tore at the man's conscience was obvious, and he showed it to the world. The one Manhattan power broker who could have earned my sympathy was on the air that night. For I thought of the days when loyalty to an employer was a two-way street; you took care of them, and they took care of you. You never spoke ill of your employer, whether within the building or without. They put bread and butter on your family's table, and clothes on the backs of your children. The least you could do was give them your best in return.

Then came the 1980s, with mergers and acquisitions, and hundreds of people let go at the drop of a hat. No time to say goodbye with a security guard standing there, while you clear your desk into a cardboard box. I know of one company, where the president announced the laying-off of several thousand employees. He and the board of directors then voted him and his 99 vice presidents huge year-end bonuses. After all, they saved the company millions.

Pigs. All of them.

In his 1891 social encyclical Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor), Pope Leo XIII wrote of how work was created for man, as opposed to man for work.

The man behind Cantor Fitzgerald appears to have learned his lesson. He wants to tell the world. In so doing, there may be little to distinguish him from others who would capitalize on tragedy.

Perhaps he has the right to capitalize on his own tragedy. Perhaps his comrades-in-arms do as well. I can live with this. I've seen worse. So have most of you.

Monday, June 24, 2002

The verdict is in: I am now "fully functional." Thanks, Mark.

"Oh, I'd love to be an Oscar Meyer weiner..."

In case you missed the grand unveiling last Friday, my raison d'etre for this site can be found clicking... well, on "raison d'etre."

Yo, Faddah! Youse gotta plane ta catch, huh?

John Schultz of Catholic Light has this concern:

"I know a priest who insists that every verse of every hymn is sung for hymns/songs picked for the liturgy... I believe the reason he does it is that he considers most hymns to be complete prayers... Let me know if you have any thoughts, please."

You call that a problem, John? I'll tell you a problem. It's the priests who think they have to bolt down the main aisle at the first bar of the opening hymn, get in place before the first verse is over, and spend two or three verses just standing up there, like birdies in the wilderness. If they had any class, they would simply wait until the first verse is over before nudging the altar boys down the runway, walk with some awareness of the formality of the occasion, thus using the processional hymn for... well, processing. What a concept!

Some of these guys are the same ones who admonish us for wanting to duck out before the closing hymn is over. I say they're just jealous because we've got a head-start.

John's not the only guy on top of things. His brother Steve, also at Catholic Light (proving that astuteness runs in the family), is compiling a list of "reform" groups. Meanwhile, Disputations, operated by one identified only as "Capax Dei," has founded one known as Reform the Hell out of The Church. Obviously he has discovered what the rest of us have missed:

"...good-for-nothing bishops; priests who do not humbly accept criticism; poor congregational singing; noisy children and the parents who spoil them; parking lot traffic snarls between the 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Masses on Palm Sunday; anything to do with Massachusetts politics; and youth ministers."

Oh, another thing, Cap: bishops who outlaw bingo! What are they thinking? How are we gonna pay for all the lawyers???

Now... where can I run like Hell to sign up?

"Monday morning, so good to me..."

First of all, my thanks to Pete Vere, who helped me fix a nasty little code problem, thus making it possible for PC users to access my links (I work on a Mac). Now then...

The weekend went reasonably well. The zydeco house party at Chez Louise was a smash. Lots of people were there whom I didn't know from Adam. I muddled through somehow. Spent Sunday morning with my 16-year old son Paul, who lives with his mom. He was ill, so we attended Mass at the National Shrine, through the magic of television.

Later in the day, my best friend returned home from the beach, and the two of us went out for ice cream.

Life is good... so far.