Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Too much is happening. I can’t take it all in."

So wrote one of my favorite columnists, Joseph Sobran, in a recent piece. I can identify with this sentiment, especially lately.

I was reluctant to continue with any new works until my October 6 piece was completed, but... what the hey.

Some things are more difficult to write than I imagine at the offset. Not because I am at a loss for words; my friends assure me that is the least of my worries. Rather, there are things so close to the heart as to overwhelm me. So many words, a jumble of them with which to render order out of chaos. What to say, what is better left unsaid. The exercise is much harder than I make it look.

And there comes a point in any writer's work where this happens, sort of an occupational hazard. To make matters worse, and as the above title suggests, there is no shortage of matters in politics and/or religion to provoke commentary. To wit...

The mid-term elections in the USA are some of the nastiest we've seen in years, as the Democrats are so close to dominating the legislative branch that they can taste it. The races in Missouri and Tennessee are symptomatic of a divided nation, reeling from the ongoing Culture Wars. Closer to home, they're out for blood on both sides of the Potomac, as the senatorial races in both Maryland and Virginia come down to the bare knuckles. There's also a growing interest in a young and rather charismatic figure from Illinois. If the Republicans do manage to lose control of one or both houses of Congress -- my guess is the GOP will keep the Senate, and the Dems will take the House by a small margin -- it may be the exercise in character-building they desperately need. Peggy Noonan appears to agree.

From Rome, we hear (once again, ad nauseum) of news that the Holy Father will grant a broader permission of the classical form of the Roman Missal -- the so-called "Tridentine Mass." Authors at group weblogs like Rorate Caeli are like schoolboys on Christmas morning; while claiming to limit their scope only to the most authoritative of sources, and I should say in all fairness they are incomparably good, they nonetheless jump at every utterance from the mouths supposedly near the epicenter. The big story is, alas, that there is no story, at least not a new one in the overall picture. The story behind the story is in the details, which appears on several fronts, and which is beyond which set of books is used to celebrate the Mass. To that end, I've been talking to sources of my own -- I do have them, you know -- and will wait for the huddled masses of pundits to run out of breath before taking my own.

While the actor Michael J Fox is no doubt suffering due to his bout with Parkinson's, I don't imagine that qualifies him to call for the deaths of millions of the unborn, to extract a part of their remains that studies have already shown to be a lost cause, as opposed to the under-reported alternatives. To say this is not to wish to prolong his suffering (a point invariably lost on the cable news channels). It is to wonder who else gains from the lending of his name, and whether he knows he is being used. The late Pope John Paul II was similarly afflicted. Did he respond by waving the banner of the Culture of Death? Would a refusal to do so have lightened his burden?

My volunteer work with the Boy Scouts is taking an interesting turn, as the worldwide scouting movement prepares to celebrate its centennial. It was one hundred years ago next August, that a British war hero conducted an experimental outdoor program for boys, on an island off the English coast. More on that in the coming year.

Closer to home, and the present, I've caught up with people to whom I haven't spoken in awhile. If you want to feel your own age, take a trip down Memory Lane with an old friend, and start to realize how far back that takes you. It seems like only yesterday, but it was fifteen years ago, that I was in my mid-thirties, newly divorced, and living in a basement apartment in Georgetown, wondering what would happen next.

I'm not one to sing the praises of conventional network television, but I do admit to being hooked on two new dramatic programs that premiered this season.

The upcoming holiday season is the first one in years that I don't particularly dread. That's probably a good sign.

I guess this means... we're back. Stay tuned.

[THIS JUST IN: There is a petition circulating online, calling for the resignation of Roger Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles. Very tempting, until you read that whoever wrote it missed a few catechism lessons: "Be immediately removed from his office as Cardinal." Duh.]

Friday, October 13, 2006


UPDATE October 21:

Hey, everybody, welcome back to Friday the 13th. I got tired of looking at that DBD comic, and put in a new one. Then, without warning, it happened.

I got to thinking...

You know, when certain people spend enough time manipulating the Scriptures to mean whatever the hell they want, it's not hard to imagine others of similar ilk claiming to... well, own them.

When you think about it, though, the copyright holder had to get the raw material of their "property" from someone else, who had to do likewise, and so on down the line, until you reach that special place known as the "public domain." In other words, eventually you reach a body of work that isn't owned by anyone. At least not in the legal sense. So, the next time someone from the bishops' conference tells you they own the rights to the Bible, tell them to take a long walk off a short pier. Between the recent staff cutbacks at their headquarters, and the bishops having to move the annual meeting from DC to Baltimore to cut down the overhead, those pencil-necked geeks won't have the spare time and/or money to spend chasing you down for long.

Then again, there's always the King James Version. Sure, it's a Protestant version, but the King won't mind. He's dead.

Long live the King.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Stay tuned...

Recent events have delayed the completion of the preceeding two post, especially changes in my academic schedule, being away from anything resembling a computer, and... life in general! But, hey, not to worry; mwbh should be back into regular operation by the weekend, with the usual enlightened commentary on the usual issues. (Including that thing on the Latin Mass. Trust me, you can wait!)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Psalter on a Pstring

Today the Western church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. There is actually a story in the works, but we're a little backed up here at mwbh, what with jumping head first into learning JavaScript and all, but until then, we'll let Dad29 do the talking for us.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Stay tuned...

...for a memorable tribute. Later tonight. At a blog near you. Like, um, this one.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Obligatory Blog Post for St Francis

Today is the Feast of St Francis, alleged nature boy and ecumenical good-guy of the Communion of Saints. Of course, the real deal is nowhere near the same, as viewers will learn by reading Amy's entry at Open Book.

Meanwhile, someone around here has to work for a living. That guy looking over my shoulder, for example...

UPDATE: My colleague Athanasius has provided his own post on St Francis, as well as that of St Therese of Lisieux, whose feast day was this past Sunday. Both contain some fascinating insights on these popular saints.


There are plenty of stories still floating around Washington about J Edgar Hoover, founder and first Director of the FBI, not all of them having to do with certain peculiarities in his private life. His public life was colorful enough by itself.

Hoover once led an entourage to Quantico, to review a new class of agents-in-training. After silently watching them go through the motions, he turned to one of his aides and said: "Get rid of the pinhead." Now, Hoover was not a guy accustomed to having to explain himself, and his lieutenants didn't get where they were by pushing their luck with him. So they quickly came up with what they believed to be the Director's wishes. They went through all the lockers of the agents-in-training, until they found the guy with the smallest hat size.

You know the rest.

If there's one thing you learn after a few years in this town, it's that having power means enjoying the license that comes with it. Whether you are a member of Congress (thus exempt from many of the laws you pass for others to follow, and able to vote yourself a pay raise in the midst of a budget deficit), or the head of a rinky-dink Government agency of a few hundred employees, or a mid-level supervisor within that agency, or even the head waiter at one of Washington's finest restaurants which is frequented by that mid-level supervisor -- all the way down the food chain, rank has its privileges, or at least the illusion thereof.

Perhaps the biggest surprise about the revelations of Congressman Mark Foley's inappropriate conduct with underage interns, is that so many people inside the Beltway -- not to mention the pundits who follow their every move -- are surprised. Did they really think this guy wouldn't place himself above the law? And why wouldn't the Democratic leadership take undue advantage of the situation with the onset of mid-term elections, by calling for Speaker Dennis Hastert's resignation? Which party wouldn't pull that ace out of their collective sleeve? The Dems didn't set anybody up; the Republican leadership handed themselves to the gang across the aisle on a silver platter.

After all, when it comes right down to it, there is no shortage of pinheads in town this week.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Can I Get A Witness?

Witness is a 1985 movie starring Harrison Ford as "John Book, a Philadelphia cop whose life is altered while trying to help Rachel (Kelly McGillis), an Amish woman, and her son Samuel (Lukas Haas), who witnesses a murder in a Philadelphia train station bathroom. After discovering that the murder was committed by a member of his force, Book travels to Lancaster County with Rachel and Samuel and poses as a member of the Amish community to hide from his murderous police peers. While there, love blooms between Rachel and Book, and he finds himself drawn in by the honesty and simplicity of the old-world Amish lifestyle." When the corrupt police detectives find where Book is hiding, they come fully armed, prepared to take him out. The people respond to the violence in their midst by ringing the farm bell, which sends men down from the fields. As one of the bad cops threatens Book in the farm yard, he is challenged in the midst of men who are pledged against any form of violence. Are you going to shoot me? Who's next? Where will it end? What about him... or him... or even him??? The men stand around in silence, saying nothing but bearing witness, as the errant policeman finally realizes he is finished.

He is ultimately done in by the weight of his own conscience. The man who held Amish schoolgirls hostage yesterday, killing three of them before taking his own life, may not have been as well equipped. (MSNBC reports that at least two more girls have since died from severe wounds.)

We wonder why God allows so much evil in the world. The answer can be traced to the sin of Adam, the fall of innocence that led to our departure from the Garden.

It also begs the real question: why do WE allow so much evil in the world?

Monday, October 02, 2006

"Shout, shout, let it all out, these are the things I can do without..."

This week's Tip of the Black Hat goes to Father Guy Selvester, author of the weblog Shouts in the Piazza, thanks to the following:

"I marvel at the so-called Vatican experts who claim to know so much about what's going on 'inside' the Vatican. I'm truly flabbergasted at how frequently they pursue stories about patently obvious things and then claim that they broke the story or spearheaded the investigation into... you fill in the blank. They think they're running another Catholic News Service but in reality they're just tapping out their own little rant. More often than not they just take what they'd like to be true and keep saying it over and over and over and over until they convince as many people as they can (and themselves to boot) that it is true. Beware of people who claim to have the 'real story.' Nine times out of ten it's something they either made up, heard from the friend of a friend of a friend, or found somewhere else on the internet at 3:00 AM and posted it while everyone else was asleep. The people who speak for the Vatican work at the Sala Stampa. Everybody else is just someone at home with a computer, a healthy opinion of themselves and, perhaps, a little too much spare time."

In light of impending rumors, be they concerning the religion of politics, or the politics of religion, we could all afford a reminder of our true place in the overall scheme of things.

In Principio

Today, in this town, a part of the world begins anew. Its prelude was yesterday...

At the Cathedral of St Matthew in DC, there was the annual "Red Mass," presided over by Archbishop Weurl, attended by prominent members of the legal and judicial community, Catholic or not. It traditionally precedes the "first Monday in October," which is when the US Supreme Court begins its new session.

Also yesterday, the US Government began its new fiscal year. We spent all last week at this agency, in a frantic effort to process any outstanding funding requests and/or voucher reimbursements under "the old money." Thankfully, I have my schooling at the Institute paid for through the Winter Quarter. As to the Spring... well, they tell me that training funds will be very tight, if they exist at all. So I'll have to find a way. In my nearly twenty-six years of civil service, there usually is when someone influential enough wants something done badly enough. Whatever happens, we won't know squat for much of the first quarter, as Congress passes one "continuing resolution" after another while trying to settle on the current Federal budget. It's the same damn thing every year. More on that later.

My piece on "Playing Priest" got a moderate number of comments, but at least three links of which I'm aware. Another piece is being completed for this week, which will be of similar magnitude.

Now, if you'll excuse me, we've got a job going to press tomorrow. Duty calls...