As the year draws to a close (and as I get my tuxedo out of storage), we bring you Jared Gordon, a man who does one hundred voice impersonations in just a wee bit over four minutes. Most are on the mark. Some are better than others.
There's even a sequel. We'll wait until next year for that one, okay? .
[UPDATE: Something has been brought to my attention which I should have known, that the Church actually wears RED vestments on this day, as the color of martyrdom. Where the purple thing came from I don't know. Hey, I just link this stuff.]
[THIS JUST IN: Nicholas Trandem writes: "Before the unfortunate changes of the 60s, the color was Violet, unless the Feast fell on a Sunday. From the Catholic Encylopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07419a.htm). The liturgical colour of the Roman Church is purple, not red, because these children were martyred at a time when they could not attain the beatific vision... On the octave day, and also when the feast falls on a Sunday, the Roman Liturgy, prescribes the red colour." Thanks, Nick.] .
But wait, there's more. On this day in 1065, Westminster Abbey was consecrated. John Calhoun became the first Vice President of the USA to resign, on this day in 1832. There's a lot of focus on Iowa for the presidential race, but today in 1846 it became our 29th state. William Semple of Mount Vernon, Ohio, obtained a patent for chewing gum on this day in 1869. Also on this day in 1945, Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegience. (Seems to take them a while to do a lot of things, eh?) Finally, on this day in 1954... well, you know.
(No, the link on the image doesn't work. Click here.) .
This morning, at the parish of Saint John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia, the priest blessed bottles of wine brought by the faithful.
"The disciple whom Jesus loved" was, for a time, banished under Emperor Domition to the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. This was before returning to Ephesus to live to a ripe old age. While John was the only one of the Twelve to die a natural death (living to be nearly one hundred years old, according to tradition), it was not for want of his enemies trying. Upon an attempt to kill John by poisoning his wine, the evil substance miraculously took the form of a serpent, as it dissipated from his cup.
Lord Jesus Christ, Thou didst call Thyself the vine and Thy holy Apostles the branches; and out of all those who love Thee, Thou didst desire to make a good vineyard. Bless this wine and pour into it the might of Thy benediction so that every one who drinks or takes of it, may through the intercession of Thy beloved disciple, the holy Apostle and Evangelist John, be freed from every disease or attack of illness and obtain health of body and soul. Who livest and reignest forever. (Amen.)
He then lifts his glass toward the next person (or touches the rim of his glass to theirs), saying, "I drink you the love of Saint John." The receiver says in response, "I thank you for the love of Saint John." The second person turns to the third, and the process is repeated all around the table.
That's the long form. The short form is where all present clink their glasses together saying, "Drink the love of Saint John." This is especially handy for young children who cannot wait to chow down.
We pose this question at mwbh as we enjoy the holidays (where we'll get back to you on the details after it's over). While biblical "scholars" say this couldn't possibly have happened -- after all, it's not as if God has any control over the forces of nature or anything, just because He created everything that exists, right? -- Melinda Wenner poses the same in a recent issue of Slate magazine. The short answer is, "yes, but it's very, very, very unlikely." The long answer includes at least a bit of anecdotal evidence:
It is a poem we have all heard at one point in our lives. We won't hear it on mainstream television anymore. But tomorrow the stores will be closed; not because of Chanukkah, or Kwaanza, or Eid, or Saturnalia, or whatever holiday the Druids celebrate. Virtually everything in the USA, and in much of the world, will shut down because of Christmas. This video clip of an old Bing Crosby special in the late 1960s, is a reminder of "the reason for the season."
We have become slaves to a world of political correctness and social intimidation. It is a malaise that is less intended to civilize, that it is to apply the thin veneer of "inclusiveness" at the behest of those who would be loathe to return the favor. And yet, for one day, if only in the popular culture, Christ is the victor. That one day will become an eternity, and its scope beyond the whims of fashion, all in due time. He will appear at the right hand of God, the Final Judge of all who have ever lived. Until then, He appears to us as a babe in a feeding trough, born of a Virgin, in the presence of beasts of burden, and of the peasants who tend to them.
We have heard the voices of prophets tell us of this night. The world will be in stillness to witness that miracle once again. A blessed Christmas to all, from Chez Alexandre, and from all of us at man with black hat. .
A beautiful Christmas story: taken from the Downside Review, January 1990, by Mary Hazel Hastings
(Mrs Hastings was born near Battleford in Canada in 1897. Her mother, Mabel Hutchison, had emigrated to Canada a few years earlier. She became a Catholic, and married Charles Daunais, a French Canadian farmer in Saskatchewan. After his death she returned to England with her little daughter, and a few years later asked to be received into the Benedictine community of Stanbrook [transcriber's note: the prototype for Rumer Godden's Brede Abbey]. At that time there was a tiny school within the enclosure and it was agreed that her daughter should also live at Stanbrook as a schoolgirl. She entered the school in the summer of 1904 at the age of six. Her mother joined the community a few months later, receiving the name of Paula. Dame Paula Daunais died in 1961 in her 57th year in the Benedictine habit. Mrs Hastings here recalls her first Christmas at Stanbrook in 1904.)
The tower of Stanbrook Abbey houses a peal of eight bells that are rung from a gallery immediately above Lady Abbess's throne called the Tribune. When my first Christmas at school came round it was decided, as I was only seven, that it would be enough for me to sit through Midnight Mass itself in the church, where my short legs swung uncomfortably from the school bench. But to leave me all alone down in the dormitory while everyone else went to Matins would be unthinkable, so I found myself preparing to do the exciting climb up to the Tribune, where I was to sit in warmth and comfort while the nuns sang the grand and very lengthy Christmas Matins.
Sister Martina lit her 'bougie' from a gas jet in the cloister and guided me through the narrow door and up the twisting stone stairs: her other arm was occupied with a stone hot water bottle, a pillow and a couple of blankets. 'Now be careful, Miss Hazel, keep close to the wall and do not stumble.' They were deep steps and the light from the 'bougie' was dim and flickering, but we reached the narrow landing safely and Sister Martina opened the Tribune door. The bell-ringer was there already and was preparing to ring the first toll. I climbed onto a kneeling-chair and stood on tip-toe looking over the top of the stone balustrade. In the church below all the gas lamps were burning and the flames of the candles in the brass candlesticks above the consecration crosses danced as one by one they were lit by one of the sacristans. Round the crosses there were wreaths of yew and ivy with bright clusters of holly berries and, far away, beyond the great wrought-iron grille the Sanctuary was a mass of flowers and lights. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Suddenly the bells began to ring and I nearly fell off the chair. I had never before been so close to them. When the great bell at the bottom of the scale boomed the whole tribune seemed to shake.
Sister Martina had been preparing my chair and now it was ready for me, a pillow behind me and another chair for my feet. I was tucked in like a caterpillar in its cocoon with the hot water bottle at my feet, but if I turned my head I could watch the bell-ringer as the changes were played on the eight bells. The ropes danced in and out of their places on the wooden frame, clicking like castanets. When Sister Martina opened the tribune door to go down and join the procession the noise was so great that I had to put my fingers in my ears. As she went out an old sister came in and knelt behind me. I was glad that I was not going to be all alone up there. The second toll was low and slow, just the thud of the great bell again and again making the tribune and my chair and me tremble with each boom. Then came the third toll and the bells went up this time from the big booming bell to the small high one--not quickly and gaily like the first toll but slowly and solemnly--and then suddenly the organ began and the bells stopped and as I leant forward I could see, through the holes in the balustrade, the procession coming into the church. First came two nuns and then two of the girls in the school--one carrying Lady Abbess's silver crozier and the other the big book of the Office. Behind them, slowly and with great dignity walked Lady Abbess. They all turned to the altar and genuflected together and then they turned again and I watched them as they walked down the church, till they disappeared under the tribune. The nuns followed, two by two, genuflected to the altar, then up the church and bowed to Lady Abbess before turning apart and going to their stalls, one on each side--and last of all came my mother, now a novice, in her new white veil.
When we went into church I always went in right at the end of the procession, when all the nuns were already in their places, and it looked very different from my tribune chair. When the nuns and the girls and the lay sisters were all assembled, standing facing the altar, Lady Abbess knocked with a little silver ivory knocker and everyone knelt for a moment, she knocked again and Matins began. The sound too was quite different from what it was when I sat in the school bench. It floated up all around me. I sat back and enjoyed it, very warm and cosy in my blankets, with my feet on the stone bottle (that had once been full of ginger beer) and presently my eyes closed. I woke up to see Sister Martina bending down with her finger on her lips. She unfolded the blankets, picked up the water bottle and I followed her on tip-toe through the narrow door and down the steep twisting steps with her 'bougie' twinkling in the darkness ahead. When we got down and out into the cloister she spread a blanket on a stone window-seat and made me sit there. She unpinned my crushed veil and put on a clean one and then, even more quietly on tip-toe, we went together by the side way to the church door. It meant going very close to Lady Abbess's throne. Only a curtain was between her and us, and it felt like a very exciting game of hide-and-seek. I must not let her hear me or see me. I held my breath, and tightly clutching Sister Martina's hand I got 'home' without being caught, right to the bottom of the church inside the great doors, and she slipped me quietly into my place. One of the school benches was in front of the organ and I always sat up at the top end--next to Clare Kenyon who was the biggest girl in the school. She had to lift me up on to the bench. When she got me there she was allowed to leave me perched in the corner of the high-backed bench, while everyone else stood up and bowed down and then sat down again, as they did over and over and over again. On Sundays, when there was a sermon, I slipped out of the bench and round to the back of where the organ blower sat. There were two steps that led up to the back row and she kept a fascinating box of cards for me to look at--old coloured prints of Biblical stories--Judith holding Holofernes's head by the hair; beautiful Ruth with an armful of corn and handsome Booz smiling benignly at her; David creeping into Saul's tent and dozens of others that I can still remember, so that at that period sermons were things to look forward to and enjoy. But at Midnight Mass there was no sermon, just lots of singing and clouds of incense that made me sleepy. It went on for a long time but at last it was over; even Lauds was over and the organ played as we went out at the end of the procession.
Down we went throught the cold 'tin tunnel' and the two long cloisters, through the dark, ghostly chapter-room and into the school. Sister Winifred was there already, preparing a great jug of hot cocoa. Mother Christina had come down with us and together we went into the 'second classroom' and put the Infant Jesus onto his bed of hay. We then sang a carol: 'Dear Little One, how sweet Thou art, Thine eyes how bright they shine'. It was always that one after Midnight Mass. I thought our Infant Jesus the most beautiful one imaginable but his eyes did not shine; they looked as if he had just been crying and I wondered why. After the carol, cocoa and bed. We were up for Mass at dawn, 7 o'clock, and then there was still the solemn Mass at 9 with Terce and Sext. After our Christmas dinner we went up to the dormitory and lay on our beds but I think we never slept. We listened to the nuns who trooped down to look at our Christmas presents spread out on the long table in the second classroom.
The bells had rung out magnificently into the Christmas night, and for Mass and Vespers next day, rung by the best bell-ringers in the monastery, probably the blind Dame Gabriel and Dame Febronia; but two days later, at ten minutes to three, there was a strange and fumbling peal of six to ring in the Feast of Holy Innocents. The School had taken over. I doubt if any Stanbrook girl ever allowed her parents to drag her home for Christmas. It would have meant missing Holy Innocents and no Christmas trees and dinners and parties could come up to that. For one full day we were treated as a Community visiting the monastery. Our elected Abbess, wearing her Pectoral Cross, sat in church on the right of the Stanbrook Abbess; they came into choir together. The Holy Innocent Abbess gave the knock with Lady Abbess's ivory hammer to end the silent prayer. She took the Office, intoning the first Antiphon, singing the prayer of the day and the Venite Exultemus at Matins. At my first Feast of Holy Innocents I was a novice: Phyllis, my companion-novice and I, being much too small to manage a stall, sat on the steps of Lady Abbess's throne. Every girl had a favourite nun and long before the feast you srewed up courage to ask your nun to lend you one of her veils and her second habit, if she was at all your size: you arranged if possible to sit next to her in choir and you got her to come and dress you before the First Vespers. Names had been chosen long before, and every friend and old girl and relative was bullied into writing to us, addressing us by our religious names. I went through a considerable litany during the nine years that I was a Holy Innocent. Inevitably it was Eustochium (my mother's religious name being Paula) for one year or possibly two; then there was the martyr period when I had read "Fabiola" and was Dame Sebastiana and the following year Pancratia. It was in 1910, I think, that having been to Buckfast Abbey during the holidays I was Dame Anscara after its Abbot, Dame Anscar Vonier. We had our allotted offices--portress and printer, cellarer and dispenser and infirmarian and bell-ringer, and we went off with our Stanbrook counterpart to 'help' her with her work. Dame Rosalie was a great favourite and there was always competition for the privilege of assisting her in the messy job of making 'bougies'--string coated with wax that the nuns kept coiled up in their pockets and used for lighting candles and lamps. What made it all so enjoyable was that we were taken seriously--as though we were truly a visiting community. There were always too extra priests for the Christmas week and the Innocents chose one to be their Chaplain. He gave his community a Conference in the large parlour, and the year that I was Abbess my chaplain decided that as the Abbess gave her nuns penances during their 'Chapter' he would give me one, and I was told to put the Vespers hymn of the feast into English verse. The literary gem that was produced has not survived. What has instead are these happy memories of my childhood in a Stanbrook of long ago.
[The following is the final in a series of reprints in anticipation of the Christmas season. This entry originally appeared at mwbh in December of 2006.]
So, you've just spent the last week making holiday preparations, on top of finishing up the homeschool lessons for your ten kids, and you're about to head to the supermarket. Oh, and you're stressed out. Well, here's one Rachel who won't be "wailing in bitter lamentation for her children." For all you Keepers of the Hearth, our own Ms Ray comes to the rescue with how to whip up a class act in a hurry, in this Five Minute Party Starter.
You definitely have to “march to your own drummer” to homeschool your kids. This clip of one such family was seen circulating the internet early this week. And so, even though it has nothing to do with Christmas, we feature it here for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
Stay tuned for next week, when we highlight the mad genius responsible for stuff like this. .
It's that most wonderful time of the year, right? What if you took one look at the traffic near the Mall, and decided then and there that you're in the mood this year to be cheap innovative? Well, once again, mwbh comes to the rescue, proving to all the world what real men already know, about the many wonders of duct tape.
Here's a wonderful piece of garage bench craftsmanship that took three hours to make. But you've got better things to do, so it's been sped up to ten and a half minutes. You can pencil that much in, can't you???
Now you can give your little Suzy a truly original creation, while all the other girls in your overpriced suburb are running around with Bratz wannabes and cheap Gucci knock-offs. Who needs that, right?
[The following is the third in a series of reprints in anticipation of the Christmas season. This entry was contributed by guest writer Paul David Alexander, and appeared at mwbh in December of 2005.]
i got a lot of good stuff for christmas... but heres what i really wanted.
secretly, i was hoping that the morning of the 25th would start out something like this dream i had:
wake up. the power is out. for the first time in forever i have to lift up the curtains to see whats going on.
nothing, i soon find out. its not immediately discernable due to the sunlight, but the power is out, everywhere. houses are unlit. streetlights have stopped working. the parking lots are emptied on my street and i assume people left to find out if their neighbors had power, or to get a better idea about what is going on.
i get in my car and drive around the block. cars are stopped in the middle of the road with no occupants. wouldbe victims of fender benders and head-on collisions, of multi-car pileups and t-boned passenger side doors have, for one reason or another, disappeared. ive read "left behind," so i figure instantly that the rapture has come, that the righteous have been taken and the forsaken have been forced into earthly exile. then i see the wreckage of the buildings around me. layers of gray dust and debris cover the scorched buildings like in news footage of ground zero. it is at this point i remember that the rapture was an invention of fundamentalist christians in the 1850s and is not specifically mentioned as a literal occurence in the book of revelations. also, it was a bunch of bull****. it now seems far more likely to me that al-Someone destroyed my neighborhood; vengeance struck down upon citizens of my street, merely because we let totalitarian dictators make all the most important decisions for us. the punishment, although certainly justifiable, doesnt seem to fit the crime.
as i weave in and out of crowded traffic, strewn bumper to bumper across the beltway, each car empty, i realize thered be no way of knowing what happened if i wanted to. cell phones, televisons, even my car's radio-they arent working. luckily the cd player is.
i begin driving towards fairfax. thats always felt like my home base, ive always felt like "when in doubt, go to fairfax." so thats what i do. along the way, i see roaming strangers on bikes, some in tatterred rags for clothes, too confused and dumbfounded by the situation at hand to shed any sort of light on what occurred while i slept.
i begin knocking on friends' doors. they, too, are just as surprised by what has happened as i was when i looked out the window. i can offer them no answers, just things that must be done to ensure our survival. i knock on door after door. by midday, there are more than a dozen of us, all traveling by caravan through lonesome suburbia.
we have to make sure we have clothes and food. we are raiding convenience stores. we are breaking into tj maxx for some reason. the few store clerks who bothered to show up for work on this of all mornings can do nothing but watch as the crowd and i run through the aisles taking everything and running around like little children. despite the destruction outside, i cant help but feel a sense of optimism. the group is getting larger. suddenly i recognize fewer and fewer people.
if there is ever another history book, than today will be marked down in those books as Consumption Day. batteries for ghetto blasters and flashlights. beef jerky. 97 different kids of gum. sweaters and scarves and cds and tapes. we are selfish, but now it is justifiable, unlike those long lost days when we had it all and wanted more. now we have nothing, and all we want is something.
we are running through the mall. we are changing everything.
we are sitting in the library. we are taking time to read.
as night falls it becomes clearer that things may be this way for a long time. today we survived with a mob mentality. we could all agree without saying a word what the good of the people would be. this is how it will be until the lights come on again.
we are starting fires in the community center to keep warm for a party. since there is hardly any music with us, we are grateful for the songs that are played. we remember ones we forgot. i take a deep breath and exhale, relieved. there is no stench of tribal hippie bull****. this is the real deal. we are helping each other and we are happy to do so. we say please and thank you. we give and take, we laugh mostly. about what used to matter. long lines in stores and tempter tantrums and letting the fact that the guy in front of us on 95 is only going 10 miles above the speed limit instead of 15 get to us - these things didnt just happen. they ran our day. we loved our commute, once. now we are content with no place to go...
i would have also liked an xbox 360. and a bajillion dollars. .
O KEY OF DAVID, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.
It happens all the time. I'm at a party, and the subject of The Catholic Church comes up. Someone asks a question about it, or (usually) says something really retarded, and I'm able to provide an explanation everybody can live it (which is not the same thing as agreeing, okay?). Then comes the inevitable question: "Were you ever a priest or in the seminary?" I tell them, no, but Dad was in the seminary for seven years, is that close enough? I don't tell them how good I was in catechism class, because I wasn't. Even though my dear departed Grandma Rosselot was always impressed by my knowledge of particular saints, religion class for me was a real snooze-fest, whether before or after Vatican II. Before, it was just writing down questions already in the book and making sure the answers were in complete sentences before getting whacked with a ruler. After, it was about inane questions like, "How can a sixth-grader best bring the example of Christ to the world?" This didn't exactly call for quantifiable information, but getting in touch with your feelings, something I preferred to do by making wise-cracks. Or writing answers like "The same way as a fifth-grader, only one year later."
As an adult, you might begin to get the feeling that "the Church" attempts to put everyone into one of three little boxes, ostensibly known as "discerning your vocation." You are either in The Single Box, The Married Box, or The Priesthood/Religious Life Box. The first Box is, of course, a holding place until you figured out which of the other two was your ultimate destiny. If you are divorced and don't have an annulment, you are still in The Married Box, which means you have to act like you are still married. This is harder than it looks without the involvement of a spouse, especially if they ran off and found another one -- albeit invalidly. (In a Catholic setting, when you have to admit to people you're divorced, you all know what the next question is, don't you? I would always answer: "Why, you got a sister?" A real conversation-stopper, yup, that's me...)
Now, the worst kept secret here at mwbh is that its author is not exactly a Roman Catholic poster boy. That's why I won't get dozens of responses to this in the combox from the usual round of adoring fans (and you both know who you are) because I write the same crap you'll read everywhere else, or have some tawdry conversion story that I can parlay into a book deal. (My life should have been so exciting.) No, I simply read too much for my own good, the more arcane the better. I actually interviewed for a Catholic newspaper once. The editor was a priest who couldn't figure out why a layman would be so interested in liturgical stuff. That was about ten years ago. Now I'm the master of ceremonies for an Old Latin Mass, and half the guys who serve the "TLM" in the DC area are adults. I'm pretty sure most of them aren't gay.
My point (and there is one here eventually) is that, if the process of discerning a vocation is truly dependent on determining God's will, as opposed to anyone else's, then it's going to be on God's terms, and God's timetable -- again, as opposed to anyone else's. I get tired of some fresh-faced twit in a Roman collar telling a Theology On Tap crowd how they must "discern their vocation," while implying that there is some kind of deadline to meet. You don't see many people over 35 at those things, do you? I used to go to them, but the minute I'd strike up a conversation with someone, it's pretty clear that it's either a gal who decides I'm not "marriage material" (sorry, ladies!), or it's a guy who just bumped into a gal who is.
But enough about me. Discernment can take years for some people, not because they're wasting their time, but because God's isn't the same as ours. Our lives are a mystery, even to those of us who live them, as we see so little of the total picture. The lives of any number of saints will attest to this (including one young Dominican friar referred to in Tom's piece, who really should be doing Theology On Tap himself.)
Another thing I can't get over, is the number of engagements that are announced among graduates of the new wave of "orthodox" Catholic colleges. I'm familiar with their policies on "fraternization," and I just gotta know how the hell those young'uns pull it off? Oh, I've heard all the canned explanations about how "we start by learning to be friends." Oh yeah, like most kids fresh out of high school have that down to a science. It's probably because they got sold on the bill of goods that they had no time to waste for "doing God's work." Not that these things don't work out, mind you. But after ten years and five kids, I wonder if the magic is still there, or the love, or whatever. Someone should conduct a study. It might tell us something about the choices we make.
Not to mention why, and what God ever really had to do with it. .
[The following is the second in a series of reprints in anticipation of the Christmas season. This entry was originally entitled "The Reason for the Season," and appeared at mwbh in December of 2006.]
You gotta be careful. Somebody at a department store the other day wished me a "Merry Christmas." It's a good thing their boss wasn't watching. I might have been Jewish and celebrating Chanukah, or African-American and celebrating that made-up holiday Kwaanza, or Muslim and celebrating Waqf al Arafa, or a Druid and celebrating the Winter Solstice (which is [the 21st], for all you Druids out there), or... have I left anyone out?
As a Catholic, I'm under no illusions that there has ever been any other resaon for all the fa-la-la-la-lah than Christmas, a term that originated with "Christ's Mass," which is what originally happened to celebrate that day. (By the way, kids, did you know that the Roman feast of Saturnalia was started in response to the early Christians celebration of Christmas, not the other way around? Check out what Mark Shea discovered. Hmmm...) But that's not going to stop the more "enlightened" among us from making the occasion as innocuous and non-offensive as humanly possible, even though one glance at the television specials will prove that no one is fooling anyone, except maybe themselves. The truth (which most people can't handle anyway) is, the use of generic holiday greetings at year end is nothing new. I remember "Seasons Greetings" on the streets of Milford, Ohio, when I was a kid. Plus there was some ridiculous song back then that went "Happy Holida-a-a-a-ays" or whatever. In recent years, I've taken to wishing people a "blessed holiday." For me, it's not just about Christmas, but it's about the whole twelve days that are supposed to comprise the actual holiday. That's why sometimes I send stuff to my family after the big day, just to keep the party going. It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it.
Back home in Ohio, my family's celebration of Christmas tends to be low-key, just my siblings and their spouses with the grandkids coming over to exchange gifts and have dinner. Steve will make a late breakfast, or Pat and Mary will handle the dinner, depending on who shows up and when. Grandma and Grandpa both wear Santa Claus hats, and it's great to see them loosen up and get crazy like that once a year. I can't be there, of course, but a gift basket is on its way. Mom will complain that I'm wasting my money, and I'll remind her that it's being wasted on her. Wish I could be there.
Paul is going to be out of town to see his Ma for Christmas, so I told him he's getting his present on January 1, which Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics remember as St Basil's Day. The Greeks give presents on that day. Paul didn't want anything, probably because he forgot to get something for his dear old Dad. That same dear old Dad who remembers when his son was about eight or nine, and got the Old Man a bottle of mouthwash for Christmas. I acted grateful enough that he wouldn't notice how I knew, that his mother put him up to it. Bottom line is, it's payback time, and he's getting a really nice present whether he likes it or not, the little weasel!
The word "holiday" is a corruption of the term "holyday." In the end, there is no escape for the PC crowd from the spectre of history. Soooo... if you're working at a department store this year and some geek assistant manager with a bad tie and an equally bad hairpiece orders you to wish customers with a generic greeting, try saying "Happy Holydays." Maybe the ones who won't notice won't feel discriminated against (which won't bring their party down anyway, you can be sure of that), and maybe the ones who will notice will know that you know what they know, if you know what I mean.
I read this yesterday, and I still can't believe it. From the wires of the Associated Press, we get reports that filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli appears between assignments. Now he wants to be a fashion consultant to His Holiness.
[The following is a first in a series of reprints in anticipation of the Christmas season. This entry originally appeared at mwbh in December of 2005.]
+ + +
I get more sick of it every year. Maybe it's because they start on me a little earlier than before. Maybe it's because I bought a house this year, and I think Santa's treating me just fine as it is.
By "they," I mean the marketing/retailing apparatus in the USA (one that is perhaps duplicated elsewhere). Now, as I understand it, roughly one-fourth of a large-scale retailer's annual sales is made during the period beginning the day after Thanksgiving, and ending the day before Christmas. So they're off to the races not a moment too soon. And like lemmings over a cliff, we'll follow them. I'll get my fill of all the fun I'm supposed to have, all the magic and the wonder, even as the Halloween decorations are marked down at the local drug store.
Then, as if that were not enough, I have to listen to someone's favorite pop or country singers succeed in butchering our all-time favorite "traditional" hymns.
Meanwhile, in our "countercultural" Catholic press, there is the obligatory reminder that the four weeks preceding Christmas is not Christmas, it is Advent. And they're right; we should hold off just a bit and devote ourselves more to preparation than to celebration. But do they spend as much time reminding us that there are twelve days of Christmas, as opposed to only one?
I doubt it.
We are told to go to daily Mass, go to confession, give something up as if it were Lent (which is not out of order, as Advent is a time of penitence, if on a different order than that of Lent). But I have yet to hear a suggestion, for example, that instead of giving all our presents out on one day, we extend the gift-giving on through New Year's Day, and into Twelfth Night. Of course, on that last point, it would help if the Church actually insisted we celebrate Epiphany on January 6, rather than go along with the "nearest-Sunday" approach that is currently popular with some national conferences of bishops.
But, now that they're all hiding behind their lawyers for one damn fool reason or another, I submit we can take some initiative out in the pews. So, here's my suggestion. Are you ready?
Make Christmas last for twelve days. Literally.
If you have to give up sweets during Advent, then make merry all the live long day into the first week of the year. Hold back on the Christmas CD's in your collection until Christmas Eve, then keep the party going after the last ball drops on New Year's Day. Take a few days off; nothing important is getting done at the office anyway.* Go down to the southwestern portion of Louisiana, where in smaller cities and little hamlets, the party doesn't stop from Christmas till New Year's Day. (I'm tellin' ya, them Creole people, they know how to party. Yeah, you right!)
But most important, if you do nothing else, give the kiddies only one present a day, for twelve days!!! If you're not careful, they might get the idea that there is more to "Christ's Mass" than what they see in the shopping malls.
Besides, those after-Christmas specials are going to come in real handy, if little Johnny and Suzy are going to be kept in suspense for that long, eh?
And while you're at it, you can always save the best for last.
* Unless you're an exec with one of those companies that have you burning the midnight oil for the year-end report. Or, worse, unless you work for one of those big-@$$ retailers. In which case, I'm letting you off easy. For now. .
...was a singer-songwriter who won critical acclaim in the 1970s for "Part of the Plan," "The Power of Gold," "The Language of Love," and "Lonely in Love," among other hits. His folk-influenced-soft-rock sound was a popular genre in that decade, especially for those who were waiting for disco to just go away. In 2004 he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. Aggressive treatment bought him time, and he never gave up hope. But time ran out early yesterday morning, when he passed away at his home in Maine. His devoted wife Jean was at his side. He was 56.
Fogelberg's 1981 recording, "Same Old Lang Syne," was based on a real-life chance meeting with a former sweetheart. At the time, it had a similar effect on yours truly.
Beginning this day in the Roman Calendar, the Church counts the final days before the Lord's coming with the "O Antiphons." This seven days of observance is known collectively as the "Greater Ferias" (feria in the ancient tradition, referring to a regular weekday). They are the short hymns sung before and after the Magnificat during Vespers. Many of us have sung their paraphrases in the verses of the great Advent hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel."
At this time last year, Father Zuhlsdorf prepared a series of commentaries on each of the antiphons upon which each of the verses of this hymn are based:
"Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete." "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice." Paul's admonition to the Church at Philippi is heard in the Entrance Antiphon (Introit) for the Third Sunday of Advent, giving this day the name "Gaudete Sunday." Amidst this season of somber preparation, the violet vestments are exchanged for a brighter rose (a color similar to pink, but not quite, as Father Zuhlsdorf explains), and the anticipation of the Birth of Christ takes on a renewed urgency.
"Renewing the Mystery of Advent" is a video series produced by a team of Dominican Friars, from both the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, and Saint Vincent Church and Priory in New York City, for the Catholic Exchange. Father Aquinas Guilbeau, OP, is a Dominican Priest and a Friar of the Province of Saint Joseph. The complete Advent series is also available at dominicanfriars.org.
Here at "Chez Alexandre," we anticipated Gaudete Sunday the night before, by putting up the lights in the window, and setting up the three-foot artificial tree on the chest by the stairway. No lights on the tree yet, though. Those, and the decorations, wait until Christmas Eve. .
Have you turned into a zombie yet from all that Christmas shopping at the mall? Well, you should be. And next week, we've got a special treat in store for you here at mwbh. We're going to tell you how to minimize the pre-Christmas hype in your family, and make the holiday last for more than one lousy stinkin' day. Don't expect any solutions from old Father Magillicuddy, when he gets up there on Sunday and rails on about treating Advent as though the Big Day were already upon us. Oh, no, my friend, you can only find it here.
Recently I filled out a form at the school's office for counseling services. (Don't ask.) Under "sex," they actually had three choices; "male," female," or "other."
I was reminded of that today, when I read this little gem from the wires of the Associated Press, as to how women are able to keep their balance while pregnant. It seems that minor differences with men in their midsection allow them to adjust their center of gravity:
...passed away at his home near San Diego tonight at the age of 76. The cause of his death was not immediately known.
Ike Turner is best known for his association with his musical partner and former wife Tina, with whom he recorded "Proud Mary," in a version which, despite being perfectly dreadful in its treatment of the subject matter -- I mean, who the hell jumps around like that when they're rollin' on the river anyway??? -- and butchered even further over the years at countless wedding receptions, was actually done much better by its originators, Credence Clearwater Revival. Oh, and Ike supposedly used to knock Tina around, a claim he denied (in a roundabout way) to the end. But she made a movie of it before he could. C'est la vie.
"We have reared a generation of brats. Parents aren't firm enough with their children for fear of losing their love or incurring their resentment. This is a cruel deprivation that we professionals have imposed on mothers and fathers. Of course, we did it with the best of intentions. We didn't realize until it was too late how our know-it-all attitude was undermining the self assurance of parents."
....comes this reincarnation of Speed Racer, created by those Wachowski brothers, obviously not content with their success with the Matrix series. On the bright side, Christina Ricci, every little boy's favorite "goth girl," gets to play Trixie.
Hey, do you think there might still be time to get Sean Penn to play Chim Chim?
The year of Our Lord 2007 has seen significant changes at "Saint Blog's Parish," as several well-known authors have curtailed or ceased their activity in the Catholic blogosphere. This past Friday, it was announced that Father "Don Jim" Tucker, author of Dappled Things (not to be confused with an online journal of the same name) would be discontinuing.
Father Tucker is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. I had the privilege of serving a traditional Latin Mass for him a year ago, while he was a guest celebrant at St Lawrence in Franconia. This past summer, he was transferred to All Saints Parish in Manassas, the largest parish in the diocese, as their new parochial vicar. He has no doubt had his hands full since the day he arrived. And even though we in northern Virginia do not suffer from quite the vocations shortage as they do in other parts of the country, a priest in this locale can find himself kept pretty busy.
The good Father's blog was a source of "all things counter, original, spare, strange..." He was a true renaissance man, who kept his combox off, and his discourse civil. His was less the work of an apostolate, than it was the living out of the Catholic life as a pursual of the truth that could be found in all things of beauty -- art, music, history, literature, and the like. To wit, he was a fine example for other bloggers who would endeavor to do the same. His page will remain online for the foreseeable future, and his occasional bouts into the realm of the arcane will be sorely missed, by those who read his work, and those who are honored to call him a "fellow-parishioner" of Saint Blog's. .
I saw her standin' on her front lawn Just twirlin' her baton Me and her went for a ride sir And ten innocent people died
From the town of Lincoln Nebraska With a sawed off .410 on my lap Through to the badlands of Wyoming I killed everything in my path...
In the past week, we've read about a disturbed teenage boy who walked into a shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska, killing a number of innocent people -- nine, as I remember -- before taking his own life. As I understand it, he lost his job at McDonalds, his girlfriend left him, and there was nothing left for him that he should be remembered, but to be turned over to the Darkness. There are those who, as we remember from the writings of Milton, may prefer to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven. Such is a sad commentary on the human condition.
We wonder why there is evil in the world, why things like this happen. But it has been this way since Adam and Eve left the Garden, and it will be this way until the Second Coming. But until "that great and terrible day," the folks at Confederate Yankee have some good advice for people caught in that situation. This writer remembers that blog as the only source of wisdom, concerning Vice President Cheney's hunting accident a couple of years ago. Dad29 reprinted the main points earlier this week, and we here at mwbh give a Tip of the Black Hat while doing the same:
+ + +
Get in. The long, wide corridors and hallways lined with stores in a mall provide us with easy access from one store to another. In situations where a shooter is on the loose, they are also going to be the first route of escape for shoppers. The panicked rush of people attempting to use these corridors to escape increases the risk of being trampled in a mob. It goes without saying that these long open hallways provide next to no cover from any bullets fired. If you happen to be walking in the mall and a shooting occurs, get into the nearest store or side hallway.
Get low. Firearms, be they handguns, rifles, or shotguns, are typically fired from the shoulder. Most bullets or pellets travel roughly on a horizontal plane from shoulder to waist high. By going prone, you decrease your chances of getting hit. Once down, stay down. Bullets have no problem penetrating multiple layers of building materials. Just because you do not see the shooter does not mean you are out of danger.
Get out. Stores do not bring their merchandise in through the front door. Almost all have loading docks, and to comply with fire codes, an emergency exit that leads either to a back hallway, or provide directs access to the outside of the building. Look up for the "exit" sign on the ceiling at the back of the store, and make your way there as fast as possible, keeping as low as possible.
Keep moving. Once you make it outside, keep moving. Put as much physical space and as many physical objects between you and the scene as possible.
Today was the feast of Saint Nicholas of Myra -- the REAL Santa Claus. Yes, Virginia, there is one, and he lives, if not in this earthly life. Creative Minority Report gives its spin on the observance this year. We did our own at mwbh just last year. .
A reflection on the Gospel for Wednesday in the First Week of Advent given by Brother Dominic Colangelo, OP, a Dominican friar studying at Blackfriars, Oxford and uploaded for http://godzdogz.op.org. .
Since that time, the project has been redone, and today it IS done. That's because today it is due. I must say I have enjoyed the project, not because it was easy, but because it was hard.
And yet, the overall experience of returning to college as a "non-traditional student" is losing its appeal. It has been enough of a challenge over the last three years to fit into an academic environment where most of the students are younger than your son, and most of the faculty are younger than you. But when you have established a camaraderie with a group of students, and they graduate before you do, and you're left with those who don't share that sense of "hail fellow well met," then... well, it's like B B King once said, "the thrill is gone." To make matters worse, a revolving door at the administrative level cannot help but affect the quality of the curriculum over the long haul. That, and being part-time and having a career in a related field, not only eschews the luxury of a "total immersion" experience (which allows one the space to adapt to the politics of academia, as I know from prior experience), but you get really tired of being talked to as though you're some punk-@$$ kid who's still wet behind the ears. (Sure, it only happens once in a while, but three years can add up, eh?)
Then they announced a diploma option for web design, which I began to see as an alternative to an associate's degree. First, I'm already a Bachelor of Science in Design, so an associate of arts in a related field is unlikely to raise my academic standing. Second, I wouldn't have to complete a math requirement, something I did not have to do when I went to UC, and which would most likely require a remedial prerequisite, it having been so long since high school algebra. (My employer is unlikely to support subject matter with little return of investment for me, and none whatsoever for them.) Third, I would graduate one year sooner, saving over five thousand dollars in somebody's money, probably mine. I would have only three classes left at the end of this term, maybe four if I take a particular elective to facilitate my portfolio presentation.
So, click on the url below, and if you're not careful, you might learn something.
[UPDATE: Speaking of learning something, I did today. The project is actually due for completion this time NEXT week. The professor sat with each of us to ensure that minimum technical requirements were met. I was fine. But she wanted me to consider "pushing" the design further, in a direction away from redundancy. Laying out books and journals for years at a stretch can do that to a man. Since she made a formidable case, I went and completed a flurry of notes, and tomorrow I'll be getting down to business. But tonight I have to watch the thrilling conclusion of "Tin Man" on the Sci-Fi Channel. A man has to have his priorities straight, eh?] .
You may have noticed that there is little discussion about the Presidential elections here at mwbh. This is one of those rare occasions when I really don't know what to say. Yet.
But here goes anyway.
For the last two elections, I voted for a third-party candidate -- Patrick Buchanan of the Reform Party in 2000, and some guy named Petrouka of the Constitution Party in 2004. I'm getting pretty tired of having to choose between the lesser of two evils, quite frankly. I also appear to be turning into a Federalist in my old age. I don't expect the Federal Government to be whittled down to practically nothing in the coming years (at least while I'm still on the books), but time and the Department of Homeland Security are proving to me that we may be getting a little carried away. Fortunately, most of you Americans out there in blog-reading land will continue to elect senators and congressmen who will demand a lion's share of the Federal pie, so I'm sittin' pretty at the moment. But, I digress...
If Barack Obama is nominated by the Democrats, it will at least show that they thought outside the box for once in their lives. He could be reasonably entertaining. If Hilary is nominated, it will be the wake-up call that conservatives need so badly. John Edwards is barely worth mentioning, so I won't.
Meanwhile, with the Republicans, if Rudy is nominated, that wake-up call will hit the snooze button for four more years. You see, Rudy is no more conservative than Hilary. He's what we used to call a "Rockefeller Republican." The GOP will nominate him (or Mitt Romney) only if they want to offend the least number of people, which will also excite the least number of people. That will cost them big time, especially if Hilary gets the nod. Fred Thompson is a Federalist at heart. His position on abortion was once less motivated by the reality of when life begins, than it was whether the Feds should take the role of determining its place in society to the states. His declaration that Roe v Wade is "bad law" (an opinion shared by retired pro-choice Justice Sandra Day O'Connor) is consistent with this philosophy. People think he's "switched sides" on abortion. Well, he's on the right side now, and the consistent thread -- from 1994 to the present -- is a strict-constitutionalist philosophy. People say he's lazy, but they confuse style with substance, and they ignore that he has a very well-organized campaign. Then there's Mike Huckabee, who is gaining interest among "social conservatives," but he leaves behind him a record that needs some explaining (increasing Arkansas' budget while governor, not always being pro-life, some not-so-conservative things about his immigration policy, and so on). His smartest move to date was running a campaign ad summing up his immigration policy in two words: "Chuck Norris." I could learn to live with it. His biggest liability, however, is his name. (Be honest; you've thought about certain variations, haven't you now???) Ron Paul is a favorite among traditional Catholics. His biggest problem is his inability to take control of his own message, from the lunatic fringe types who get banned from conservative sites like FreeRepublic.com for spouting all their "9-11 Conspiracy" nonsense. All this, before we even get into exactly HOW he would shut down the IRS or re-invent (or whatever it is he has in mind) the Federal Reserve. It doesn't matter; if he can't even run his own campaign...
Well, that's how it looks to me so far.
(By the way, all you 9-11 "truthers" out there, don't even THINK about posting here. I live in Arlington, where the Pentagon is located. If it were hit by a missile instead of a jet plane, we would have seen it, and the Arlington Country Fire Fighters would not have seen charred bodies strapped to their seats in the wreckage.) .
Earlier this week, I posted on a particular entry at another blog. I then went to the blog in question, and provided a link in their comments box to my own essay. I revisited that other post last night, to find that my link had been quietly removed. After taking a look at their "rules," it would appear that, in acting as I did, I was engaged in some sort of shameless self-promotion of my blog, which this other blog owner does not permit at her own.
Who would have thought...
Now, this person lives in the DC area. She and I have never been introduced, and I'm in no particular hurry. Nor am I particularly ashamed. The reason I did what I did, was to respond with a comment as would anyone else. Sometimes I just make comments, but this time I had more to add. So I did, with a blog. That's what it's for. Also, I subscribe to what I would call The Alexander Protocol: if I write about you, I'll tell you about it. That's more than you'll get from some twit who hides behind a nom de plume, or simply behind "anonymous."
People who own their own blogs are free to do with them as they will. It doesn't make it right, it just makes it theirs. In the past month or so, I have dealt with people who think the internet is a free ride to be able to say anything they damn well please about anybody, whether it's true or not, and not be sorry about it, even when they are called on it (and you know who you are, Ken). And yet the mentality appears to be, that if your cause is a just and righteous one, all bets are off, and no holds are barred.
And yet, none of us is above correction, including me. This past year, I removed a comic strip from this page because more than one person thought it inappropriate for a "Catholic blog." They were probably right, so I removed it. We who examine everybody else with this medium often do not take enough time to examine ourselves. One very well known figure in the Catholic blogosphere has a detailed set of rules for comments at her site, placing great emphasis the importance of civility in such discourse. She may also be the Catholic blogosphere's reigning expert on an adult cartoon program entitled "South Park." It is clear from her writing that she has enjoyed the program, and probably not for its depictions of civility (inasmuch as there are none). Am I the only person viewing this who sees the irony in that?
Some people use this medium essentially to reinvent themselves, to craft a persona bearing little resemblance to who they really are. But oh, no, not here. In this neck of the woods, you get a politically-incorrect, foul-mouthed, smart-assed, irreverent curmudgeon in the making, who reads too much for his own good, has little to hide, and no claims to fame or glory. He would rather be back in Ohio jamming at an Irish pub with folks he's known since high school, than living in the same zip code with the movers and shakers of America. But we all have to "bloom where we are planted," don't we? He is a northerner by birth, a southerner by chance, and a Catholic by the grace of God -- the latter not giving cause to boast, but of the realization that, where this short breath of life is concerned, he has no place left to go.
The past year has seen a lot of changes in what is affectionately known as "Saint Blog's Parish." The medium is changing, from an augmentation of an established writing career in print, to a respectable medium in its own right. That being the case, Michael Rose, an author and journalist for whom I once wrote when he published The Saint Catherine Review, has been quoted as saying that the internet is host to thousands of what are simply "vanity blogs." From what I remember of his remarks, he would consider these as self-indulgent attempts by their authors, to tell the world of their day-to-day comings and goings, as if the world is simply dying to know. I can hear the music in my head already: "You're so vain, you probably think this blog is about you..."