Saturday, February 28, 2004

A Movie That Needs No Introduction

Really. The Passion of the Christ does not open with credits, titles, or any of that stuff. Just goes right into the Garden of Olives. We learn early on what Jesus may have meant when he said to Peter, James, and John: "Pray that you do not be put to the test." We see Jesus, not being comforted by an angel, but tormented by some androgynous Marilyn Manson-wannabe with a snake under his cloak. The scourging scene is the hardest part to watch. That, and the nailing to the cross. The rest truly captures the madness to which Jerusalem had fallen on that dark Friday.

The role of the Blessed Virgin Mary is played out as never before on film. Accompanied by Mary of Magdela and John, she suffers along with her Son, to the point of wishing out loud to die with him. What mother could not see herself in that way?

There is so much more to say, and others have already said it. But I can only say, that after seeing The Passion of the Christ, no other production on the life of Our Lord, be it Cecil DeMille or Franco Zefferelli, will ever look quite the same again.

After it was over, "Sally" and I went quietly to my parish, where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed throughout the night in the Adoration Chapel. There, we prayed Psalm 91, read a reflection by Adrianne von Speyr (sp?), and then sat quietly, each with our own thoughts and prayers.

Friday, February 27, 2004

You know you're from Northern Virginia if...

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Anne Catherine Emmerich: "Behind every successful man..."

Last night, The Passion of the Christ premiered. Mel Gibson sunk $30 million of his own money into the project. It took in between $15 million and $20 million already. He should get it all back by the end of the week.

Those who wish to know more, will eventually learn the inspiration for the film. No, not just the Gospels.

The script of the Gibson film was inspired in part by the visions of a poor German mystic by the name of Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824). Her visions and locutions over the years included, in 1833 (posthumously), an elaborate account of the Passion that claimed to go into far more detail than the Gospels themselves. They were transcribed with the help of Clemens Brentano, the famous poet of her day, and the fruit of this collaboration was The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The publisher of the English edition is TAN Books of Rockford, Illinois, a family-owned publisher of traditional Catholic works, virtually unknown (until now, I hope) outside of Catholic circles.

Stephen Hand of TCR News elaborates on Emmerich's case:

"For millions of Catholics, a much needed sunbeam of joy in a time of great darkness and scandals, rose in our hearts last July when word came down from Rome that the cause for beatification of the German mystic, Anne Catherine Emmerich, was on track again after laying somewhat dormant since 1972... [a] remarkable stigmatic-mystic so devoted to the Passion of Jesus... The Gibson movie and the renewal of her Cause in Rome has sparked widespread renewal of interest in the life of this prodigy. Gibson credits this writing and her life with his own late conversion to Christ..."

To say the least.

Meanwhile, USA Today reports on the reaction to the film:

"Many viewers wept or cried out during the graphic scenes of Jesus' ordeal. Others felt nauseous. A few walked out during the bloodiest scenes and returned later. Some said they were unnerved for hours, unable to sleep or concentrate..."

There have been protests outside some theatres, no doubt all bent out of shape because of the movie's supposed "anti-Semitic" tone. But columnist Joseph Sobran writes:

"According to the Talmud and other authoritative Jewish writings, Jesus was a 'bastard' and 'sorcerer' who deserved his death and is now in hell, 'boiling in excrement'... According to many Jewish writers, even the Gospels are anti-Semitic... But why stop with the Gospels? If the entire religion centered on hostility to the Jews, why not blame the founder himself?"

Fear of being struck by lightning, perhaps? As my colleague in the office put it: "The only people even depicted in the movie are Romans and Jews."

Anyone who even takes the time to read the Gospel accounts alone, would know that a few of the chief priests -- Annus, Caiaphas, you know, those guys! -- managed to railroad the Sanhedrin into a kangaroo court for political ends, while certain other members of that body -- Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimethea -- were kept in the dark until the deed was done.

"Boiling in excrement?" Give me a break! The Jews get off easy here. And if the real culprit was the sins of all humanity throughout all time, so do the rest of us.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Carnival!

For the last week, people around the world have engaged in all manner of revelry, obstensibly in anticipation of the great penitential season. In the recent issue of the Arlington Catholic Herald, Father William Saunders gives an excellent explanation of the origin and meaning of the pre-Lenten observances:

Shrove Tuesday is the last day of what traditionally was called "Shrovetide," the week preceding the beginning of Lent. The word itself, Shrovetide, is the English equivalent for "Carnival," which is derived from the Latin words carnem levare, meaning "to take away the flesh." (Note that in Germany, this period is called "Fasching," and in parts of the United States, particularly Louisiana, "Mardi Gras.") While this was seen as the last chance for merriment, and, unfortunately in some places, has resulted in excessive pleasure..."

Huh???

I could have partied every night since last Wednesday, but declined on most occasions during the week. Call it a matter of scheduling. The point is, he couldn't possibly be talking about me. Maybe next year...

Of course, for this year, both the Western and Eastern churches will celebrate Easter on the same day. That being the case, "the Great Fast" among the Orthodox began this past Sunday evening, following the Vespers of Forgiveness. The following day, one which is observed by my Byzantine Catholic son, is known as "Clean Monday." But for us in the West, it begins tomorrow.

But until then, I have a swing dance class tonight. After that comes a regular dance, and after THAT... well, we'll just have to look for another party, won't we?

Then, after midnight, we all turn into... sackcloth and ashes. Eh, cher?

Thursday, February 19, 2004

(One More) Stupid Cajun Joke

Boudreaux and Tuseau got married in Jeanerette. On their honeymoon trip they were nearing New Orleans when Boudreaux put his hand on Tusuau's knee.

Giggling, Tuseau said, "Boudreaux, you can go a little farther now if ya want to."

So Boudreaux drove to Mobile.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Ever wonder why they're called "b***s"?

"The big shocker, after five episodes, is meant to be that the women's team shamelessly use their h*****s to score business wins... No one disputes that the women's conduct is effective: The show mostly just proves that prostitution really is the world's oldest and most lucrative profession. But debate rages over whether it's appropriate in today's business world..."

You mean there's actually a debate over this?

If you're a Mac user (including you, Dom!), you'd understand...

...why I've been too preoccupied to comment on the universe lately.

We're upgrading our operating system here, from MacOS9 to OSX (ten). This is the biggest change to the Macintosh Operating System since System 7, or maybe the biggest, period! Gone are the familiar cute little icons that made us all fall in love with the Mac, to be replaced by more polished looking pictograms. Gone is the simple one-box interface, to be replaced by something that more closely resembles Windows.

But it had to happen sooner or later. Our soon-to-come upgrades to major applications would require OSX. This is especially true of applications for web design, the subject of my latest professional foray. Meanwhile, we're upgrading older documents in new versions of software, and trying to figure out why our CD-ROM drives play DVDs, but not CDs.

One good thing though. My new DVD Player is a lot smoother, especially when something else is running at the same time. I can watch reruns of The Andy Griffith Show during lunch. Oh boy!

Oh, and I can still do THIS. Stay tuned...

(Dom, if you're out there... wanna compare notes?)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Goodbye, No Touchy!

In today's Arlington Catholic Herald, Bishop Paul Loverde announces the selection of a program for raising awareness of child sexual abuse:

"What has remained clear since the beginning of our dialogue on this issue is the fact that the Diocese of Arlington must continue to strengthen our existing child protection efforts first and foremost by creating new sets of eyes among children’s primary educators – their parents, as well as other adults who have contact with them... To build on this dialogue and the child protection efforts we have made thus far, I am pleased to announce that we will be implementing a nationally renowned sexual abuse prevention program, 'Protecting God's Children,' throughout our diocese beginning this Spring."

It has already been suggested that the good Bishop "spins the facts a bit, putting the diocese in the best possible light and making it look like they cooperated completely with parents." That may be. And his now-former spokesperson, Catherine Nolan, did manage to lay a sizable public-relations egg before resigning.

Still, somebody should defend the poor guy at this point, so I will.

As far as I am concerned, Bishop Loverde has done more to listen to the ordinary "man in the pew" than the previous two bishops combined. My experiences with the Arlington diocese, in addressing matters of pastoral concern, have usually been less than positive. Officials have almost always been a little... well, snotty. People like to call this a "conservative" diocese. I would not have used that term. I would have preferred "tight-assed."

Not that they have been incapable of looking the other way over the years, when it comes to certain ongoing irregularities. Like the priest who celebrates Mass as if he were a game-show host, the occasional "peace and justice" charade that leaves concern for the unborn to that other chancery office down the hall, or a "separated-and-divorced ministry" that could eventually get "the Church" sued for malpractice. (Note to whoever's got their shorts in a bind while reading this: Go ahead. Ask me for details. Make my day!) After all, there are priorities to consider. That "game-show" priest is a really groooooovy guy, who keeps the '60s-throwback generation happy, and their checkbooks open.

Besides, what is orthodoxy without the ability to talk a really good game?

But enough of this rant. While I don't agree with everything that Bishop Loverde has done, I have known of priests whose behavior demanded correction, and during the course of this episcopate, I have been able to walk right through the chancery door and speak to someone who had the bishop's ear. More than once. Eventually I got results. Before Loverde, you would have thought they were doing you a favor just giving you the time of day. Or taking your money every week.

The son of Sicilian immigrants who grew up in a factory town in Connecticut, Paul Loverde is a man who loves to be around people a lot. On one Saturday morning a month, he says an early Mass at a parish, and then leads people to saying the rosary in front of an abortion clinic. He is not a man given to much fanfare, and is sometimes spotted in Catholic bookstores by himself, in his clerical suit, with only the silver chain of his pectoral cross to distinguish him.

I've seen people confront him in public, at most inopportune moments, about matters of controversy. (A funeral luncheon? What were you thinking???) And he's been known to get some very nasty letters.

But me? Hey, Mon Signeur, if you're reading this, I know a nice little Italian restaurant out in Oakton. Whaddaya say I take you out there sometime? I know the waiter personally. We'll get a nice table, order the special of the house, split a bottle of cianti, and talk like men.

Since neither of us plays golf (and I never learned to play bacci), it seems like the next best thing. You know where to find me.

Monday, February 09, 2004

"I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees..."

...but other than that, it was a pretty good weekend.

It included listening to an interview on public radio, produced by AARP. Just what the world cries out for right now, you say to yourself; another book about legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. But this one is sure to find a place on my bulging music library shelves. His entire body of works are contained on one small set of CDs, but the impact of Robert Johnson’s music extends to an immeasurable number of singers and songs. On Prime Time Radio, host Mike Cuthbert joins author Elijah Wald to discuss Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues (RealPlayer required to hear interview). Johnson only released 29 recordings in his short and angst-ridden life. But his impact on popular music in the middle and late 20th century can never be underestimated. Wald takes on the magnitude of this contribution, and dispells a few misconceptions on the way. After all, if I had to convince you that the great bluesmen could dig Lawrence Welk... well, I think I've made my point. (Note to son Paul: Been looking for a way to connect the dots between your blues harp playing and your urban street poetry -- aka "hip-hop," for the rest of you? Check this out.)

Friday, February 06, 2004

Risk

To laugh...
...is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep...
...is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach for another...
...is to risk involvement.
To expose your feelings...
...is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams before a crowd...
...is to risk their loss.
To love...
...is to risk not being loved in return.
To live...
...is to risk dying.
To believe...
...is to risk despair.
To try...
...is to risk failure.

But...
...risks must be taken,
because the greatest hazard in life
is to risk nothing.

The person who...
...risks nothing,
...does nothing,
...has nothing,
...is nothing.

They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
but they cannot...
...learn,
...feel,
...change,
...grow,
...love,
...live.

Chained by their attitudes
they are slaves,
they have forfeited their freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.


--Anonymous Chicago Teacher

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Mark Cameron's Burning Issue of the Week

Over at Mystique et Politique, my learned colleague and fellow-Latin-Mass-discussion-list-veteran is upset over some of his fellow-Canucks herding salmon as if they were cattle. Where the hell have you been, Mark? Way down south in the land of Dixie, we've been doing this with catfish for years! But I'll give you some credit; this is way more important than Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction."

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Dappling with "The Don"

Speaking of living in a happy nation, Don Jim of Dappled Things has come up with an interesting way to pass some time in the blogosphere: "I'd like to compile a list of songs from groups that are not chiefly religious bands (no Gospel bands and Christian rock, in other words) but that cite the Bible, Catholic liturgy, or other explicitly Judaeo-Christian sources."

Yo, Padre. I've got one for ya. This is from the Swedish reincarnation of Abba, better known as Ace of Base. Imagine the trademark pseudo-reggae purcussion in the beginning, while in the background there echoes the following:

"Laudate omnes gentes laudate
Magnificat in saecula
Et anima mea laudate
Magnificat in saecula..."


The song continues about "living in a happy nation" and some situation leading to "sweet salvation," not to mention "mankind, brotherhood." Sounds good to me. But if you translate the Latin, you find that it... makes no d@#& sense.

But you can dance to it.

Somebody bless my throat, I'm getting all choked up!

Today is the Feast of Saint Blase (pronounced BLAZE). He was bishop of Sebaste in Armenia in the 4th century. They tried all kinds of ways to kill him, and all but one of them didn't work. Guess which one did. So his cult spread throughout the Church in the Middle Ages, and he is invoked against diseases of the throat. Candles blessed the day before (on Candlemas Day, remember?) are used for blessings after Mass today.

And speaking of getting choked up, by now everyone has read about the Super Bowl. Personally I was rooting for Carolina -- not because I follow pro football very closely, but because they were the underdog, a team that rose from the gutter in two years to be a contender. All by being a team, without prima donnas by today's standards. They came real close to the brass ring in any case.

Unfortunately, the real story has been the halftime show, where Janet Jackson couldn't resist the urge to push the envelope -- again. I saw her on Oprah once. She admitted to having pierced her -- well, you know -- so she could always have "the sensation." Ouch! I guess that sensation was shared with the world, when the leather portion of her jacket "accidentally" took the underlying undergarment with it. Not supposed to happen, huh?

Maybe not. But years from now, the pundits will praise this as another moment of "progress" in breaking down the walls of oppression against those brave underdogs of Hollywood. Viewers with TiVo will never have to buy the commemorative edition; they can relive history again and again.

Besides, even if the "accident" didn't happen, and it only showed her undergarment, the point still would have been made, that women get turned on by being treated savagely in public. And all those parents with TiVo can watch their third-grade daughters go off to public school dressed like Brittney Spears (or whoever pre-adolescent girls are emulating these days). People wonder why violence against women is still with us. It's because we promote it. Even when we teach girls to tell people "it's MY body." I'll bet those were Janet Jackson's famous last words too.

There are already complaints that sports and entertainment are mixed too much, and halftime should be reserved for marching bands and the like. But hey, how else are those of us who aren't couch potato jocks ever supposed to develop a taste for the game? Comic relief in between plays has brought a whole new audience to professional sporting events. Otherwise, I would have been less likely last summer, to take my son to a Seattle Mariners game, so he could yell at Ichiro Suzuki in Japanese.

That kid still cracks me up.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Guess who saw his shadow today!

That's right. So we've got six more weeks of this crap. Starting tomorrow. Again this weekend. Geeeeezzz!

Today is the Feast of the Purification of Our Lord (formerly the Feast of the Presentation of Mary). Coming forty days after Christmas, it is the traditional, if not the official, end of the Christmas season. (I was waiting to take down the lights on purpose. Honest.) Last year at this time, I explained why Phil the Groundhog is a Catholic.

I did not watch the Game yesterday. On the published schedule, they had four hours blocked off for the game itself, and six hours for the pre-game hype. I used to go to my son Paul's Byzantine Rite parish, to watch the game with the Men's Club. But this year I was with Paul for the afternoon. There were some kids from his high school at a swing dance last Friday night, so I'm trying to get him to join us this Friday. "Honest, Paul, if you just try it once, you'll really like it."

Well... he might.