the daily musings ... of faith and culture, of life and love, of fun and games, of a song and dance man, who is keeping his day job.
Monday, January 30, 2012
On the road ...
... to Ohio, again. Just a few days to look in on Mom and Dad, something this writer has taken to doing more often. It's nine hours with a good tail wind from Arlington, Virginia, to "the Queen City of the West." When we're not visiting, we'll be catching up on our reading.
Readers of mwbh know that this writer is not particularly enamored with any of the Republican candidates for President, and has been wavering between Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, all the while preparing to hold his nose at the thought of "pulling the lever" for Mitt Romney (which should not be confused with being "in the tank" for him), and concluding that Newt Gingrich needs to retire and spend more time with his wife before moving on to the next one, maybe hold a garage sale and sell off some of his excess baggage. That said, this is a halfway-decent interview with Congressman Paul on that fair-and-balanced bastion of neo-cons everywhere Fox News. They treat him pretty decently without soft-pedalling the questions, and Paul manages to avoid going off on the Trilateral Commission for nearly twenty minutes.
Now there's something you don't see every day. Exit question: yours truly didn't get to hear the last few minutes. Do they mention the newsletter thing?
An “FYI” for Clergy, Religious and Other Catholic Educators
Homily preached by the Reverend Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D., at the Church of the Holy Innocents in Manhattan on 29 January 2012.
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Today the Church in the United States begins its annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week, and I would like to take this opportunity to review with you the Church’s understanding of the critical importance of our schools and to challenge you to respond appropriately. In the interests of full disclosure, let me note at the outset that not only have I spent my entire adult life working in and for Catholic schools (at the elementary, secondary, university and seminary levels) but that everything I am, I owe to my Catholic education. Not just my priestly vocation but the Catholic Faith itself came to me from the parish school because my parents were not practicing Catholics when they committed me and my education to St. Rose of Lima School in Newark in 1955. Through God’s grace and what I like to call “reverse evangelization,” I brought them back to the Church by the time I was in second grade!
“The days have come ... in which the school is more necessary than the church.” Does that statement startle you? Who could say that? The answer is that it did indeed startle people the first time it was said – and nearly 150 years ago – by Archbishop John J. Hughes of New York. In many ways, it was his insight and foresight that launched the Catholic community in America on an endeavor unparalleled in the history of the Church. Archbishop Hughes felt that if he lost the children, there would be little hope for the future of the Church in this country.
From the last third of the nineteenth century until the same period of the twentieth century, the Catholic school system in the United States was the marvel and envy of the Church Universal.
The First Provincial Council of Baltimore in 1829 asserted that “we judge it absolutely necessary that schools be established in which the young may be taught the principles of faith and morality, while being instructed in letters.” The bishops of the nation made their judgment a matter of law in 1884 at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore: “We decide and decree that near each church, where it does not exist, a parish school is to be erected within two years of the promulgation of this Council.”
Some American bishops, like John Ireland, opted for an “assimilationist” form of Catholicism. This Americanist point of view maintained that Catholic doctrine should be presented in a way that would cause as little difference to surface with Protestants as possible. Educationally, the Americanists were opposed to parochial schools, however, by the time the Code of Canon Law was enacted in 1917, they had to face this strong statement: “Catholic children are not to attend non-Catholic, neutral or mixed schools.” Where no other alternative was available, the bishop himself had to determine what dangers to the Faith existed and then judge if a dispensation from the law would be tolerable.
The rationale behind this stringent injunction was explained clearly by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical, Divini Illius Magistri (On the Christian Education of Youth): “The so-called ‘neutral’school from which religion is excluded, is contrary to the fundamental principles of education. Such a school moreover cannot exist in practice; it is bound to become irreligious.” While this kind of thinking has been characterized as a “fortress” or “siege mentality,” few observers can doubt that the American so-called public school is a potent example of a “neutral” school system becoming “irreligious” de facto and, some would add, de jure.
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council dealt with Catholic education extensively as they followed the trajectory of Church teaching to that point and contributed to its development as well. Several comments bear notice from their Declaration on Christian Education:
“The Church's involvement in the field of education is demonstrated especially by the Catholic school ... Therefore, since it can contribute so substantially to fulfilling the mission of God's people, and can further the dialogue between the Church and the family of man, to their mutual benefit, the Catholic school retains its immense importance in the circumstances of our times too ... As for Catholic parents, the Council calls to mind their duty to entrust their children to Catholic schools ...”
One should observe that these statements are rather absolute, not surrounded by various qualifiers.
In 1971 the American bishops issued a pastoral letter on Catholic education, To Teach as Jesus Did. It became the standard by which to judge all Catholic schools, outlining as it did the goals and objectives for all Catholic institutions of learning. Included is the following statement: “[They] are the most effective means available to the Church for the education of children and young people.” Many would point to the great irony that at the very moment of this letter's promulgation, pastors were closing schools at an unprecedented rate, usually with the blessing of the local bishop.
Pope Paul VI's bicentennial message to the Church in the United States contained praise for the American Catholic school system and an encouragement to continue the tradition: “The strength of the Church in America (is) in the Catholic schools.” Nor was it sheer coincidence that the two Americans Paul VI canonized in observance of our bicentennial, Bishop John Neumann of Philadelphia and Mother Seton of New York, were prime movers in the parochial school effort.
The most thorough analysis of Catholic education in modern times was offered by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education in 1977. The Catholic School probed every aspect of the educational process and also recognized the fact that some people had suggested the phasing out of Catholic schools. Its conclusion was that “to give in to them would be suicidal.”
Pope John Paul II's esteem for the American Catholic school system was demonstrated with great regularity. Just months after his installation, he sent a videotaped message to Catholic educators gathered in Philadelphia for the annual convention of the National Catholic Educational Association, in which he said that he hoped to give “a new impulse to Catholic education throughout the vast area of the United States of America.” He went on to say: “Yes, the Catholic school must remain a privileged means of Catholic education in America. . . , worthy of the greatest sacrifices.” Later that year during his first pastoral visit to the States, with 20,000 Catholic school students at Madison Square Garden, he seized the opportunity “to tell (them) why the Church considers it so important and expends so much energy in order to provide . . . millions of young people with a Catholic education.” It is for no other purpose, he said, than to “communicate Christ” to them. He likewise referred to the Catholic school as “the heart of the Church.”
Pope Benedict XVI, at the Catholic University of America in 2008, weighed in as well:
Dear friends, the history of this nation includes many examples of the Church's commitment in this regard. The Catholic community here has in fact made education one of its highest priorities. This undertaking has not come without great sacrifice. Towering figures, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and other founders and foundresses, with great tenacity and foresight, laid the foundations of what is today a remarkable network of parochial schools contributing to the spiritual well-being of the Church and the nation ... Countless dedicated Religious Sisters, Brothers, and Priests together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society.
This sacrifice continues today. It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.
At times, some “traditional” critics of our schools will agree that Catholic schools were certainly superb “in the old days,” but are not so any more. While some horror stories about bad catechesis and poor attitudinal formation are regrettably accurate, it is crucial to underscore two other points: (1) The local government school will not be any more “Catholic,” for sure. (2) In spite of deficiencies which surfaced in the seventies, Catholic elementary and secondary schools today are on the rebound in terms of reclaiming a truly Catholic identity, to which I can personally attest since I spend the vast majority of my time working with schools on this matter.
A third issue to consider is that socialization and identification with the “institutional” Church are key for an “incarnational” religion like Catholicism, in which structures are critically important; “home-schooling” has not achieved that goal and cannot do so, in spite of good will and intentions – all documented both statistically and anecdotally. Furthermore, sociological surveys consistently show that graduates of post-conciliar Catholic schools continue to be markedly different from their public school counterparts, especially in regard to Sunday Mass attendance, thoughts on abortion, willingness to consider a priestly or religious vocation, and generosity to the local parish (both in service and donations).
At yet another level, the success story of Catholic schools in this country occurs with phenomenal regularity in the academic realm. Professor John Coleman of the University of Chicago documents an impressive performance record for Catholic high school students, which indicates that they outstrip not only public school students but also – and amazingly so – students from private schools! The reason for the success? According to Coleman, this happens because of religious and moral values in our schools and because of the coordination between home and school. These two aspects take on the greatest significance when we reflect on the incredible achievements of youngsters in inner-city Catholic schools.
The National Catholic Education Association recently released the latest statistics on Catholic schools in the United States. Almost totally unnoticed in nearly all the reporting was a small but critically important detail: Over 26% of our schools have waiting lists!
The first lesson to be taken from this is the necessity of passing along good news when it happens, rather than purveying an incessant stream of bad news. Now, we cannot ignore the sad fact that Catholic schools, especially in inner-city environments, continue to close. Which leads to a second lesson. Why are Catholic schools still closing? In the inner cities, it is largely due to a population shift. In other words, the traditional Catholic demographic reality is no longer there. In many instances, whole sections of cities have become veritable ghost-towns, particularly in terms of children – which is why government schools are closing in those places as well. So, let's make sure that when a story is told about the shuttering of a Catholic school that it is put in the context of what is occurring in the overall sociological reality.
Now, back to suburbia – where the vast majority of Catholics have lived for the past three decades and will continue to live into the foreseeable future. A fundamental error in strategic planning was made on the part of ecclesiastical leaders in the 1970s as the demographic shift from urban to suburban began. Whereas up through the 1950s, new parishes always began with schools, that was generally not the case in the 1970s, either because Church authorities were too enamored of the burgeoning CCD cottage industry as a viable alternative to Catholic schools (now proven to be an abject failure) or because bishops and priests failed to see the basic fatal flaw in so-called public education – pointed out so clearly by Pope Pius XI in Divini Illius Magistri. That point must be stressed to our people, if we expect them to make the sacrifices needed to maintain our schools, even in suburbia. In other words, if public schools are not flawed at their root and if Catholic schools are just a bit “nicer,” why bother?
Much more could be said about the moral responsibility of every Catholic – whether or not having children in our schools – to support the total effort of Catholic education, especially as an act of gratitude for the Catholic schooling one personally received (probably for a pittance) and which now presents an almost insupportable burden for so many parents. Needless to say, Catholics and all citizens of intelligence and good will need to unite to reverse the public-school monopoly which keeps parental choice at bay by holding poor and middle-class families economic hostages of a godless and failed system of education.
The Church in the United States responded to an anti-Catholic threat in the nineteenth century by fashioning her own school system and that school system has served both the Church and the broader society very well. A new form of anti-Catholicism exists today, not of Protestants against Catholics but of virulent secularists against all people of faith. That fact forces me to conclude that Catholic schools are more necessary today than ever before in our history. Such aggressive secularization can only be held off and even reversed if the Church is able to offer her members an alternative vision of life and what sociologists call a viable “sub-culture” (actually, the Catholic “sub-culture” is the real culture, while what society is offering is not a culture at all). In essence, that is what St. Benedict did as the decadent Roman culture was breathing its last, and that alternate vision saved not only the Church but western culture. The principal agent of that renewal was a monasticism which founded schools everywhere. What emerged in relatively short order was the glorious Middle Ages – the Age of Faith – with the good, the true and the beautiful producing a superabundance of magnificent works of literature, art, music and architecture – and thousands of saints.
Believers must be convinced – and then must convince everyone else – that the Fathers of Vatican II got it right when they declared in Gaudium et Spes: “Without the Creator, the creature vanishes” (n. 36). History supports that assertion. Just look at the bloodshed of every godless movement of modernity from the French Revolution to the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War to the murderous campaigns of the Nazis and Communists. Clearly, “without the Creator, the creature vanishes.” And an education devoid of God is an anti-education.
Let me conclude with some very insightful observations of the convert-monk and poet of the twentieth century, Thomas Merton. Reflecting on some years of his boyhood spent in France between the two world wars, he contrasted a state school in the village with a Catholic one:
When I think of the Catholic parents who sent their children to a school like that, I begin to wonder what was wrong with their heads. Down by the river, in a big clean white building, was a college run by the Marist Fathers. I had never been inside it: indeed, it was so clean that it frightened me. But I knew a couple of boys who went to it. They were sons of the little lady who ran the pastry shop opposite the church at St. Antonin and I remember them as exceptionally nice fellows, very pleasant and good. It never occurred to anyone to despise them for being pious. And how unlike the products of the Lycée they were!
When I reflect on all this, I am overwhelmed at the thought of the tremendous weight of moral responsibility that Catholic parents accumulate upon their shoulders by not sending their children to Catholic schools. Those who are not of the Church have no understanding of this. They cannot be expected to. As far as they can see, all this insistence on Catholic schools is only a money-making device by which the Church is trying to increase its domination over the minds of men, and its own temporal prosperity. And of course most non-Catholics imagine that the Church is immensely rich, and that all Catholic institutions make money hand over fist, and that all that money is stored away somewhere to buy gold and silver dishes for the Pope and cigars for the College of Cardinals.
Is it any wonder that there can be no peace in a world where everything possible is being done to guarantee that the youth of every nation will grow up absolutely without moral and religious discipline, and without the shadow of an interior life, or of that spirituality and charity and faith which alone can safeguard the treaties and agreements made by governments?
And Catholics, thousands of Catholics everywhere, have the consummate audacity to weep and complain because God does not hear their prayers for peace, when they have neglected not only His will, but the ordinary dictates of natural reason and prudence, and let their children grow up according to the standards of a civilization of hyenas. (Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1998, 56.)
My dear friends, we need to revive what I like to call “The Spirit of 1884,” in which the bishops of our nation issued their clarion call to have every Catholic child in a Catholic school. In that way and only in that way, shall we stave off the emergence of another generation growing up “according to the standards of a civilization of hyenas.” I pray that you will join in that noble effort.
Today, the reformed Roman calendar celebrates the feast of St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Father and Doctor of the Western Church. Known in particular as “Doctor Angelicus” (“the Angelic Doctor”), and as the father of the philosophical-theological methodology known as "Thomism," is the pre-eminent architect of Western theology, whose work was for centuries (and should be today, for that matter) required study for seminarians. Traditionally, the good Doctor was commemorated on March 7, the day of his death, as is the norm. However, in the calendar reforms of 1969, his feast was moved to the date of the transfer of his relics to Toulouse, to avoid its being overshadowed by the Lenten season. (In the traditional Roman calendar, he is still remembered on March 7.)
Growing up in Ohio, and unbeknownst to us at the time, we essentially learned Thomism at the dinner table. “Man is a reasoning animal.” “Everything you do in life is either a plus or a minus.” ... and so on. This writer only discovered later, while studying the Doctor's works in a Sunday night class at the Dominican House of Studies in the late 1980s, that he was a Thomist all along. For reasons explained in this classic Calvin and Hobbes comic, the life and work of this Saint is worthy of attention, now more than ever, don't you think?
After last week's rendition and this week's Guitar Workshop, both featuring Richard Thompson, we thought we'd show you a similar contribution of late night talk show host Craig Ferguson to the popular culture -- just the thing before we head out of town, and for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
Hey, kids, remember the fun we had with Richard Thompsonlast week? Well, oops, let's do that again, only this time, more up-close and personal.
We've seen what can be done with Travis-style picking, in our workshops dating back to September and October of 2010. Well, there's more than one way to do double duty, with the running bass line on one hand, and punctuating licks on ... well, the same hand. We have Thompson to give us an example here.
The iPad is the superior model of a type of electronics that is changing how we obtain and use our information. If you download “On The Music Path” from Apple's App Store, you can get this lesson in “Folk Rock Guitar” for $9.99. One of the songs he opens up for us, is off the 1985 album "Across a Crowded Room" on Polydor, with “When the Spell is Broken” as the first cut. He uses a flatpick in his thump and forefinger to keep the bass line running, leaving, the other three (yes, all three of them) to give a light touch where necessary.
There are many artists whose work can be examined with this amazing app. For the intermediate guitarist, this is as good a place as any to start.
Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.
Four young street musicians from Toronto were together known as Moxy Früvous. From their formation in 1989, they recorded and toured almost continuously for more than a decade, before parting ways in 2000. But in that time, this folk-pop quartet gathered a small yet dedicated following known as “Früheads.” Their schtick was not unlike another Canadian band, Barenaked Ladies -- a stage show punctuated by witty reparteé between selections, and a special appeal to the "recovering geek" in all of us. (Okay, some of us.)
My son Paul used to accompany me to the concerts. He was even worked into the act more than once, which was the origin of “Virtual Boy” as his stage name. The first time was in July of 1998. Some guy named “Mike” tells the story at the band's website, recently resurrected for posterity. There was another appearance we attended as well, in August of 1999.
The band appeared on CBS Sunday Morning in August of 2000, by which time they were already edging towards their separate ways. The last time Paul and I saw them was at the 9:30 Club. When the band would not come out for an encore, about forty of us gathered in a circle and sang "The Drinking Song" in their stead.
Today marks one thousand days that the Congress has failed to pass a budget. The Democrats can't entirely blame Republicans for holding things up, since the Nancy Boys (Pelosi, that is) were in control of the House for the early part of that, and to this day, the Democrats still control the Senate. At least some of the responsibility falls at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, what with the President's vast experience as a community organizer and all that.
The end of this video provides a link to the Heritage Foundation. Maybe they have the answers; maybe they don't. But they're asking at least one of the right questions, don't you think?
This was the scene at the Hyatt Regency in DC this past Saturday. A group of pro-choice activists, calling themselves "Occupy Anti-Choice" interrupted the event (at about 00:30) and prattled on for several minutes on how most of the people in the room would impose their morality on everybody else. Given the opportunity by those at the podium to present themselves at the stand in a civil manner, they appeared incapable. So the hotel security took their damn time about it and escorted the protesters from the room.
Do they know what they are up against? This is a time lapse from last year's march, produced by Air Maria. An hour and thirty-one minutes was reduced to roughly one minute (with St Michael's Parish of Annandale, Virginia, showing up at 0:37), to reveal not hundreds, not thousands, but tens of thousands or more. The mainstream media will try to play it down, as they usually do, but the March for Life remains the largest such annual event in the Nation's capital.
Most people never come face to face with the central argument over abortion. Once you establish that it is indeed a human life, then taking that life amounts to taking a human life, choice or no choice. If you justfy abortion, you justify taking a human life, the circumstances notwithstanding. And as this final video shows, minds can be changed without resorting to the unreasonable. Someday, we as a people will do the same, or avoid doing so to our own peril.
Today it begins, our third annual “Twitcast” joining pro-life bloggers from near and far, who all had the good sense to come in out of the rain, during the annual March for Life. (Click here for last year's transcript.) The following is the transcript of this year's event. Items were edited slightly for correction. Bracketed text is for clarity. Items listed in green entered the feed during our report, and were deemed germaine to the topic at hand.
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Transcript of Twitcast
We've got our coffee, we've got our pastries, here at the luxurious Family Research Council. What could go wrong? #prolifecon 08:26
And ... it begins. Tony Perkins heads the FRC, and leads the introduction, and offers comments "to set the stage for today." #prolifecon 08:34
54 million abortions in the USA since Roe v Wade. That's the entire population of the Pacific time zone. #prolifecon 08:34
Contemplating "moral outrage" over the wreck of the Costa Concordia, but none for the most vulnerable of human life. #prolifecon 08:36
Over 2000 crisis pregnancy centers are operating in the USA today, a step towards becoming a pro-life nation. But it's not over. #prolifecon 08:38
"We need to go beyond political promises, and call for practical solutions." #prolifecon 08:38
Jill Stanek is a registered nurse who exposed the phenomenon of babies being born in hospitals and left to die. She put her ... #prolifecon 08:41
... reputation on the line, and is now a formidable advocate, at jillstanek.com and through speaking engagements. #prolifecon 08:41
Jill introduces Michael Clancy, the photographer of the "Hand of Hope" photo in 2000. #prolifecon 08:43
Media reaction, the hospital attempted to blow off the authenticity of the photo, that the image of a preborn child was staged. #prolifecon 08:44
The story with the photo first appeared in LIFE magazine. As to the baby, "Samuel is my hero." #prolifecon 08:52
Clancy was physically prevented from taking the photo, but it was too late, and now he has all rights to it. #prolifecon 08:53
Julie and Samuel Armas give the "other side of the story." Samuel [the preborn baby in the photo] is now twelve years old. #prolifecon 08:53
Samuel's mother describes his fetal surgery for spina bifida, and later saw the photo in USA Today. #prolifecon 08:59
"This happened so that God's glory could be fulfilled." #prolifecon 09:00
The fetus was at 21 weeks, and weighed at 15 ounces, when the photo was taken. #prolifecon 09:04
"Do the kids at school know it's you in the picture?" Eventually, some of them do, and ask questions about it. #prolifecon 09:06
"Mom, I'm on Wikipedia." #prolifecon 09:06
Dr Gerald Nadal is a prominent pro-life Catholic blogger, lives in NYC with his family. #prolifecon 09:07
There is an effort in hospitals to steadily promote what is essentially eugenics, to weed out "damaged" babies. #prolifecon 09:08
RT @TheMorningSpew: @EdMorrissey Ed have you seen this video? ABC airs prolife video and probably don't realize it. http://t.co/Fxw8Pzbf 09:09
"Science in the service of the pro-life movement" is the theme of Dr Nadal's blog. #prolifecon 09:10
"An aggressive effort in fetal eugenics." Some doctors will refuse to bring certain babies to term. #prolifecon 09:12
"I long for the days when it was about a woman's 'right to choose.' Lately they're not given a choice by doctors." #prolifecon 09:15
The encouragement of fetal eugenics is beginning as early as medical school. #prolifecon 09:16
Ryan Bomburger is Chief Creative Officer, The Radiance Foundation, will speak on abortion, adoption, and the black community. #prolifecon 09:21
Ryan has appeared at this event for ... well, this is the third one, so far as we know. #prolifecon 09:22
We're "rounding third and headed for home" with the #prolifecon event and "twitcast." Transcript later today ... 11:33
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We here at mwbh want to thank the Family Research Council for providing this event yet again this year, and for the support they give us, to make it possible to send you coverage via Twitter. We also want to thank the many of you who retweeted our messages out in the cybersphere, bringing seven new followers to our Twitter feed.
This writer also had the pleasure of meeting with Nashville recording artist Collin Raye, and had a chance to speak with him briefly, about his current undertakings, and the challenge of being his own man in an increasingly secularized musical genre. In the face of it all, he's had 30 singles in the country music charts between 1991 and 2007, four of which have reached number one.
Not too shabby.
There were photos taken with Collin (better than the one above, taken with a cameraphone), and we will publish them here as soon as they are available. Meanwhile, we've got more pro-life coverage in the days ahead. Stay tuned, and stay in touch.
That's what they're saying in China today (where it's already tomorrow), and in the Philippines, as well as in any country with a large Chinese population, not to mention Chinatowns all over the world. Today begins the lunar new year in China -- to be more exact, “The Year of the Dragon.”
I took Paul to his first "dragon festival" in DC's Chinatown when he was about two years old. He fit right in with his bright red snowsuit. Such is the culmination of a fifteen-day celebration that begins today (at least where it's already tomorrow). This clip was taken at the National Building Museum five years ago, with a phone camera. That was the Year of the Pig, but at least a dragon showed up.
Obviously camera phones have come a long way in five short years, don't you think?
That's right, a twitcast. What in Sam Hill would YOU call it?
We will be calling it as we see it, come Monday morning, from the seventh annual conference of pro-life bloggers and online social media activists, sponsored by the Family Research Council, which is hosting “ProLifeCon” in conjunction with the annual March for Life. This will be the third year we will have hung the Black Hat at the Family Research Council in Washington DC, where this yearly event takes place.
Speakers will include Jill Stanek (JillStanek.com), Lila Rose (President, LiveAction), Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Collin Raye (Spokesman, Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network), and many others. We will be sending a continuous stream of messages on Twitter, from approximately 8:15 to 11:30 am. A transcript with commentary will be published in a subsequent post by the following evening. There will also be a live video stream from the conference website.
We thought this week rated a Friday Night Bonus Whimsy. It has been the kind of news cycle that can rate one.
By now you've heard about this, but you didn't believe it, did you? The guy's not that bad a singer, actually. And it gets better. Among the velvety tones he has attempted to emulate, they include Aretha Franklin, and Dionne Warwick. But if that's not enough to dissuade you from Mitt Romney, wait until you hear him sing happy birthday to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. In a completely unrelated story, Chuck Norris has just endorsed ... Newt Gingrich. Fact is stranger than truth.
Either that or he'd just heard Mitt sing.
Soooo ... strap yourselves in for the Year of the Apocalypse, folks, it's gonna be a long one!
The Daily Beast reports on the latest with Chris Crocker, who previously went viral with his video about people being mean to Britney Spears. We doubt she even noticed. In fact, we doubt she's even aware of some of the more unique tributes to her craft, including this 1999 performance of Richard Thompson. Of course, our devoted fans are aware of Thompson's work, having sampled it at our Guitar Workshop in the past year. We'll be featuring him again next week, but until then, he's the victim of choice for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
With or without the anticipation of ABC News interviewing his ex-wife, and with or without advance notice of what would be said, it is easy to depict Newt Gingrich, at least in terms of his personal life, as what used to be known as a “cad.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines this as “a man whose behavior is unprincipled or dishonorable.”
Still, you have to admit, when it comes to those "gotcha!" moments like the ones in this clip, he's a crowd-pleaser. So, until his bid for the nomination, and his political future in general, goes completely in the tank, he makes for good (political) theater.
We here at mwbh did not notice much of a drop in visits to our humble, if virtual abobe, during our Anti-SOPA Protest yesterday, so we'd like to give a shout to our readers. Then again, maybe they had no choice, since Craigslist was blocked yesterday as well. Meanwhile, Wikipedia has no complaints about yesterday either.
The Six Dirty Secrets of Presidential Politics in 2012
Yeah, sure, I'm just linking to an article, with little else to add other than that it proves I was right about something all along, so why not just steal the title as well -- in this case, of a piece in The American Thinker, which included in its short list, this particular gem:
You know the rest. The point here, at least in this item, is that the nation is not split down the middle, but into two-thirds who actually do any thinking at all (right- or wrong-headed, depending on who you ask), and one-third for which ignorance is bliss.
Some of you won't like the rest of the list, but it may prove to be true.
Today, from midnight to midnight, Eastern Standard (USA) Time (or 5:00 AM Greenwich Mean Time), the English-language edition of Wikipedia is temporarily shut down, in protest of proposed legislation to fix something that is neither broken nor over-regulated -- in other words, the Internet. To learn more about the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), click here for the main page. Or, for that matter, here.
Google will post an anti-SOPA notice on its home page. It should be noted that President Obama has threatened to veto SOPA, which is small comfort to those certain that similar measures will rear their ugly heads in the future. Meanwhile, here at mwbh, we will take the opportunity this day, one for which items had already been prepared, to go dark as well, save but for this notice, and whatever remains in the sidebar. This we do in solidarity with one of our favorite sources for research.
And then we'll come back.
UPDATE: Support for the bill, and its evil twin, the Protect Act (PIPA), is fading by the hour today, as Talking Points Memo reports. We may be back in action before the day is out, if only to celebrate our victory dance. Developing ...
IMAGE: "The Wreck of the Birkenhead" by Thomas M Hemy
It was never codified in the annals of maritime law [NOTA BENE: Although we've managed to come pretty close]. Nevertheless, it was the heroic virtue of the captain and crew of the steam frigate-turned-troopship HMS Birkenhead, that originated the most famous of the unwritten Laws of the Sea. In 1852, upon hitting the hidden rocks off the coast of Cape Horn in South Africa, the valiant officers and crew stood in formation at attention -- made famous by the poet Rudyard Kipling as "the Birkenhead drill" -- as women and children were given first choice of what few serviceable lifeboats remained.
To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about, Is nothing so bad when you've cover to 'and, an' leave an' likin' to shout; But to stand an' be still to the Birken'ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew, An' they done it, the Jollies -- 'Er Majesty's Jollies -- soldier an' sailor too ...
By 1860, the maxim "women and children first" entered the popular lexicon, made ever more so with the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. Regarding the latter, 72 percent of the women on board were saved and 50 percent of the children, but only 19 percent of the men. (NOTE: Some estimates dispute these percentages, which may have been slightly lower in all categories, but the point of this example remains.)
What has happened to us since then?
We can blame the captain and officers of the Carnival cruise ship Costa Concordia for their unchivalrous conduct, as their ship ran aground off the coast of Tuscany ...
VIDEO: Raw footage from a passnger of the Costa Concordia of panic on board ship, and an eyewitness account from a survivor. (Content advisory.)
... but the problem runs deeper than that, as we shall take pains to explain further on.
It is said that a captain is the last to leave his ship, and if need be, obliged to go down with her. Such was hardly the case here. (The translation is provided by Reuters via CBS News, and we simply cannot resist the urge to show you all of it.
The coast guard never got that call, by the way. And the above is infinitely more colorful -- this one's for you, Sofia -- in the original Italian. This writer has, at one time or another, worked for those with a similar "hands-off" approach to management, which is about as inspiring as the example above. (Not much of that in over a decade, we are pleased to report.)
There is enough failure to go around here, but it extends beyond a single cruise ship, beyond the high seas, and well-entrenched on dry land. The quest to consider women as equal to men, however noble in some areas of society, has been confused with making them the same, with biology only an arbitrary construct, a concession to the random design of the evolutionary process. This, as opposed to something more. Meanwhile, we as men can say how heroic we would respond to the situation described here. Such is all well and good. But in conversations this writer has had with more than one man who has seen combat, the truth is that a man simply does not know how he will respond. For this reason, the most astutely-trained fighter shows the most courage under fire, as his training has torn the old man to shreds, and made a new one its place. On the surface, it is a matter of choice. At its core, it is a matter of discipline.
Saint Paul admonished the men of Galatia (in harsher terms than he did women, contrary to the assumption of your "parish liturgist") as to how men and women submit to one another; in his case, in marriage. The man is called upon to lay down his live for the woman, a burden not reciprocated in kind. How do we, as Christian men, “put on the new man” in this day and age, with respect to women in general?
It is difficult for most of us to imagine, that the actors we see on the big screen live anything but a 24/7 glamorous lifestyle, as opposed to being real people with ordinary lives. In this clip, Piers Morgan interviews Mark Wahlberg, whose movie Contraband was just released this past weekend, about his Catholic faith.
For the season that is Christmas, the party never stops, at least not until Candlemas Day, by which time "Carnivale" is already underway, depending on one's locale.
Today was known in the Middle Ages as the “Feast of the Ass” -- known in France, where it was most popular, as “Fête de l'âne.” It was meant to honor the beast of burden that carried the Blessed Virgin Mary as she and Joseph fled for Egypt with the Infant Jesus. Apparently, at some point in the Mass of the Day, after the Introit (Entrance Chant), the following ditty was sung, in Latin and in French:
Orientis partibus Adventavit Asinus Pulcher et fortissimus Sarcinis aptissimus.
Hez, Sire Asnes, car chantez, Belle bouche rechignez, Vous aurez du foin assez Et de l'avoine a plantez.
The folks at Southern Fried Catholism explain it further. As they (apparently) explain, liturgical abuses have a long and colorful history. What they don't explain, is that the chant sung here was later the basis for an unrelated Marian hymn, Concordi Laetitia.
It just goes to show you: Fact is stranger than truth.
They call it a “mashup” -- blending two or more pre-existing recordings to create a new one, usually by laying the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the instrumental track of another. This is a case in point, using Van Halen singing "Jump" and John Lennon playing "Imagine." Hard to believe (or maybe, hard to imagine), but this sort of thing can actually qualify for the "fair use" provisions in copyright law. We have “Mighty Mike” to thank for doing a better job of ruining this song, than that guy we've never heard of who changed the lyrics on New Year's Eve. Atta boy, Mikey!
And so, the tradition continues for another year, with this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
For our first Guitar Workshop of the year, I wanted to share something I came across on the internet over the Christmas holidays.
Sometimes these enterprising entrepreneurs can be a lot of hype, leading you on for a product about which you learn nothing, until you're knee-deep in the dog-and-pony show. Well, Griff Hamlin isn't one of those guys. You get access to this page straight away.
Here we are introduced to a blues lead solo that uses just four notes.
That's right. Just. Four. Notes.
For the key of A (per this example), they are on the second and first strings, the tenth and eighth frets. Now, you will have to bend the notes at one time or another, especially on the first string. And you can also move up and down the neck when you transpose keys. Eventually you will be tempted to expand. The next thing you know, you've discovered the pentatonic scale, four notes at a time.
This is a good exercise for the advanced beginner, someone who is getting acquainted with the neck above the first position (other than barre chords) for the first time. This guy's DVD lesson looks like a sweet deal for the price.
Six years ago, when I was eligible for my 25-year pin, some clown from our admin section who didn't know me from Adam was telling everybody I wasn't eligible. I managed to go over his head (not much of a challenge in this case), and got it straightened out. In the year or more that followed, I was awarded two more of them. Three 25-year pins! Then there was a rumor that they were going to discontinue the pins altogether. That's when I took drastic measures and found one on eBay. It didn't look like the ones I was used to, but it was gold-colored, and pretty snazzy.
The communications office had an "all-hands" meeting today, at which time they gave me an official thirty-year pin. It is also gold-colored (unlike the silver ones from previous milestones), and looks like the one in the illustration here. Still not as snazzy as my "unofficial" pin, but now I don't have to change pins from one suit to another.
Whatever makes life easier, I always say.
(NOTE: Due to scheduling challenges, our latest installment of "Guitar Workshop" will appear later today, which is later than usual. Really.)
Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature -- if a bit longer than usual.
New Hampshire native son Dan Zanes was part of the 1980s garage band The Del Fuegos. Something about getting older does things to rock-and-rollers, especially when they have children of their own. They either end up like Ozzy Osbourne, or (we can only hope) like this guy, who is now the front man for the Grammy-winning Dan Zanes and Friends. Why? He explains in the first video.
In the sixth grade, I played guitar for a garage band known as "David and the Dragons." No, I wasn't the David, that was the other guy, David Ziegenhardt, the drummer. (Our teacher said we should have been called "Dragon and the Davids." She had a point.) In high school, I played with a bunch of country rockers, and I'm not sure we even had a name, much less remember what it was. In college during the mid-1970s, I played with a contradance band known as the "Cincinnati Country Dance Orchestra." Later in the decade, I was half of the front end of "Alexander's Part Time Band" (a play on a ragtime tune of a similar name). I played guitar, clawhammer banjo, and mandolin; sister Mary played bluegrass banjo and guitar. Whoever could stand us at one time or another completed the setting, anywhere from one to three others. In the early 1980s, after moving from Ohio to DC, I played guitar and banjo for a trio that traveled with a clog-dance team. We called ourselves "The Stump Jumpers String Band." Our alternate name was "Men Without Taps." (It was the 80s, after all.)
My musical resumé after that is strictly solo. My luck with bands has been very uneven over the years. I have long envied those who succeed with family bands. I don't even think I had much luck dating musicians either. Neither is nearly as romantic as it seems.
Last night I was watching a movie on high-end cable. They usually fill the interim with short films and long advertisements. One of the former was a live-action-with-animation video of this band playing “Wonder Wheel.” I cannot find it, but I managed to find this performance at Battery Park in NYC last Fourth of July. Looking spontaneous can be fun, but it's harder to be in sync with each other.
Voris Revisited (or, do “combox jockeys” wear black hats?)
When is having "jurisdiction" like not having "jurisdiction"? When having it ... DON'T ... MEAN ... when the rubber meets the proverbial road.
If you've been following the discussion at What Does The Prayer Really Say?, you know of the news that the Archdiocese of Detroit has determined that Michael Voris and his apostolate, Real Catholic TV (which is actually owned and financed by another individual and parent entity in another diocese, possibly making it someone else's problem), has been determined as not being sanctioned for the use of the word "Catholic" in its name. Dr Edward Peters, a renowned canon lawyer, author of the blog In the Light of the Law, and father of Thomas “Not Your Average Catholic” Peters, is dedicated to explaining the complexities of ecclesiastical jurisprudence with respect to important issues facing the Church today. He has attempted to explain, with what appears to be no small amount of frustration, that the location of the owner of the apostolate does not affect jurisdiction for the Archdiocese.
I could be wrong, but I believe that our opening statement is what thousands of us poor unlettered "combox jockeys" (as he would have us be known) have been trying to tell the good Doctor for the past couple of weeks. There are likely three reasons why we have been doing a poor job of explaining ourselves. And so, we here at man with black hat have decided to cut the poor guy a break (to say nothing of the rest of you), and elaborate upon what we have identified as three problem areas.
1) The perceived scandal of selective enforcement. Commenters have been quick to point out that tenured-yet-heretical theologians, wild liturgical dancing nuns, and aging-hippie dissenting priests (including one old retired bishop who can't seem to stop whining about something) have been running footloose and fancy free in the Archdiocese for decades without consequence. As much of a scandal as this truly is, and with confidence that the Archbishop of Detroit will answer for each and every single instance, one at a time, when he stands before the Throne of the Almighty -- yes, dear minions, for all of that, here in this our vale of tears, it is irrelevant, as the lawgiver is empowered with the discretion to pursue any jurisprudential matters as he sees fit. Indeed, if one is to function with ANY authority at all, said lawgiver must be given the benefit of discretionary judgment, that which is commensurate with the responsibility in question.
2) The "big picture" in preserving authority. When one is faced with disobedience on all sides, of a sort that demands a response, there must be a reasonable chance, not only that a decree of correction will be met with compliance, but that, failing such compliance, any penalties imposed will actually be felt by the offender, so as to dissuade them from their malfeasance. A religious order can create havoc among their cohorts, generating discontent at both their national conferences and their secret covens in the woods, and eventually put even the appearance of undue pressure on an otherwise faithful prelate. But give a directive to Joe Blow's Catholic Crusade, and he'll fold like an accordion in a heartbeat, thus bringing order to the cosmos that spins around in a bishop's head. The late John Cardinal O'Connor himself lamented that diocesan bishops are often, to use his own term, "morally bludgeoned" by their own staffs. The path of least resistance is tempting, if only because it works. For the moment.
3) Jurisdiction is a many-splendored thing. Canon lawyers have to know Latin, and “jurisdiction” is a Latin word. Let's run with that. The word is from the Latin “juris” (law) and “dicere” (to speak). Jurisdiction, then, is the authority to make pronouncements on legal matters. It is by implication, however, that such is followed by the authority to administer justice, including the imposition of penalties, in the same area of pronouncement. We might be settled on the Archdiocese of Detroit being within its rights to make a statement that, yes, something that someone watches on the internet in the den of their house which is geographically situated within the Archdiocese, is or is not operating with the sanction of local church authority. But (here comes the proverbial drumroll!) is that authority limited to merely having an opinion, or is it empowered to enforce said decree through penalties? And in so doing, will it honor the due process over which it presides, and preserve the rights of the faithful, as opposed to their tired old status quo?
And THAT, good Doctor, is “however that is to be understood.” Capisce?
The matter of who can actually force the issue with the apostolate in question is yet to be settled, as it now appears that it has the attention of both the Archdiocese of Detroit AND the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend (in the case of the latter, at least unofficially). Time will only tell how it is played out. Mr Voris has likely said all that he can say for now, and is unlikely to elaborate without further developments.
As to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit, and those matters which have brought them to the point of outrage, they will get the justice they deserve, ONLY when they decide that they will no longer tolerate the lack thereof, and are willing to act, either with their well-spent time, the withholding of their treasure, or by moving to a diocese that truly appreciates them.
We here at mwbh have been waiting for Michael Voris and RealCatholicTV (RCTV) to respond to an (ostensibly) official statement from the Archdiocese of Detroit, where Voris and his production are domiciled, that he is not sanctioned by the local church (that is, the Archdiocese) to use the name "Catholic" to identify his apostolate, as would be required in the Code of Canon Law. In what has become a question of jurisdiction, Voris has recently pointed out that the operation itself is actually based in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, the domicile of the owner-financier of RCTV, Mark Brummer. As reported in LifeSiteNews.com:
In this video, Voris, as President of RCTV (which is not the same as being owner) provides the official response of that apostolate.
It should also be noted that earlier reports show that Voris and RCTV have attempted to communicate with the Archdiocese on this matter, but that the latter has been unresponsive to them directly. In the opinion of this writer, such would lend credence to the idea (but not necessarily proof) that certain minions within the chancery have gone rogue, and that the Archbishop himself is unable to come out from hiding underneath his desk long enough to take control of the matter.
Notice how Voris wears a tie for the occasion. This means war.
Before Sal could become an American citizen, she had to take a test, one which most adults born and raised in America would fail (but of course, not yours truly, but anyway ...). This included much of what the Constitution actually says about how the Federal government is structured, and what it generally can and cannot do.
Among those who wouldn't be able to make the grade is Mister Lowest Common Denominator himself. Watch this clip of the former Governor of a state having to turn to someone who was never a Governor of a state, to find out what rights a state may or may not have. (No, I don't think he's entirely joking.) It's one of those scenarios that the boys in the Smoke Filled Room that is the GOP establishment didn't count on.
Exit question: Who still thinks Ron Paul is the crazy one?
... is what we call the phenomenon, that which adds light and shade to the ars celebrandi of sacred worship, the dimension of sound and scent that lifts the senses. Katrina Fernandez, author of The Crescat, calls our attention not only to the sensation, but to the science.
IMAGE: November 2010. The author as Senior Master of Ceremonies at St John the Beloved Church, McLean VA, holding a replica of the "Botafumeiro", a famous thurible found in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain. More information:http://tinyurl.com/27nj2ow
Father Peter Stravinskas was fond of telling a story, one which to this writer hopes to do justice. At one parish where he celebrated Mass regularly, there was a woman in the pews who would always be coughing whenever the thurifer* walked by in procession. This was apparently part of a crusade of hers to have the practice of using incense at Mass eliminated from parish life. One Sunday, the good Father decided to leave the thurible* empty. As the procession went along, there she was, still coughing. What can often be a legitimate concern, particularly with incense of poor quality, can also be addressed by sitting farther away.
That, and getting a life.
Perhaps the greatest cause of incense not being used is part of a larger problem, that of the loss of quality of training of altar servers, which are little more than window dressing in many parishes. With all the attention focused on including girls and making some sort of ideological statement, little time and energy is left over to prepare them for the more complex functions of their role. This is in addition to the lingering iconoclasm which still pervades Catholic worship in the life of the average parish.
*The thurifer, or censer-bearer, is responsible during the Mass for the possession and care of the thurible, or censer. In more formal celebrations of the Mass, as he is in the lead position, he often functions as a de facto Master of Ceremonies, in the absence of one so designated.
“Our entire daily lives cannot be occupied with purely religious practices; all of us have to eat, and most of us have and want to do many other activities besides. So though we cannot always be religious in this sense, we can always be Catholic, that is, the round of our daily activities can be conducted in such a way as to express and be in harmony with our Faith. And [this] can involve more than avoiding sin and exercising virtue.”