Monday, April 30, 2012

“I read the news today, oh boy ...”

Everybody else is reporting on the "Nerd Prom" known in polite company as the White House Correspondents' Dinner. We have some other ideas, from the usually unusual sources.

Some of you missed a chance to buy an entire town out west, which had a population of one, and he was bugging out. Another opportunity knocks, and this one -- Toomsboro, in southern Georgia -- is better equipped. (AP)

From a town outside of Indianapolis comes this variation on our recent comments on school bullying. A six-year-old student was arrested for kicking and threatening the school principal. Did we mention this was a girl? (Reuters)

Vermont has the USA's smallest state capital, Montpelier, with one of the smallest state capital buildings. Among the resolutions passed was to thank one of the legislators for replacing plain M&Ms with peanut M&Ms. (AP)

In Mexico City, a woman is pregnant with nine children, six girls and three boys. Check your local listings for the reality show that follows. (Reuters)

Finally, a young co-ed at the University of Iowa just wanted a night out with the girls, so she got up on the platform to dance along with them, and the bouncer pulls her off the platform because ... (ABC News)

Well, that's all the news that fits. Stay tuned, and stay in touch.
 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

On Being “Pastoral”

The gospel account of Christ as the "good shepherd" is read in the "extraordinary form" of the Roman Mass one week ago, on the Second Sunday After Easter. Most Catholics of the Roman Rite, who attend the "ordinary form," will have heard it today, where it was moved to the Fourth Sunday of Easter. No one knows why.

At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father." (John 10:11-18)

We use the term “pastor” for our parish priest. The term itself is simply the Latin word for "shepherd." Most Catholics use the term "pastoral" to describe the priest's degree of accommodation. “Father Billy Bob takes a pastoral approach with couples wanting to marry, which is why they can live together before exchanging vows, and let their conscience (unguided, we are led to believe) determine whether to use birth control.”

But is that what the word means?

The French writer François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, himself no friend of Mother Church, nonetheless attached some significance to an objective idea of Truth: “If you would converse with me, you must first define your terms.” Radical progressives do not understand this, and so use words to mean whatever they want. For example, if there being only two genders does not satisfy one's requirements (that would be "male" and "female"), then one is compelled to appease the socially enlightened, by dismissing the limitations of biology and adding more "genders" to the list, which is confusing in a society where not everybody "gets the memo." If we are to explain ourselves to one another, short of drawing a picture for someone, words are all we have, and their meaning must stand on its own. If we understand the word "pastor" by its original, objective meaning, to be "pastoral" is to act in the manner of a shepherd. What does a good shepherd do that a bad on does not?

Let's see that quotation again, the part given emphasis above.

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.

So then, a good shepherd risks his life to save his sheep from harm, while a bad shepherd leaves them to fend for themselves in the face of harm.

What kind of harm do we mean? Obviously, spiritual harm. An engaged couple is not being done any favor, if Father Billy Bob winks at their living arrangement. Marriage is what we call a "sacrament of the living," which means it must be entered into while in a state of grace, or we defile it. If all Father wants is to be a nice guy, he will be like the mercenary and leave Dick and Jane to their own devices. But if his goal is to keep them from spiritual harm, he will beg to differ.

To be honest, some priests can be real jerks about this. Many of them know this, and are afraid to be perceived that way. Why do they have to be?

In a city like Washington, where many couples do not have the support of family within their locality, one party or the other would be hard pressed to break a lease on a rented apartment, just to satisfy what could be dismissed as a procedural requirement. This is one of the casualties of our uprootedness, where we lack any sense of a familial home, and a parish is less a spiritual home than it is the setting for a personality cult (a problem made worse by the wave of closings and mergers of otherwise viable parishes to replenish the bishop's legal slush fund). If we were who we pretended to be, none of the more vulnerable among us would be left to the wolves. Can one party or the other in an impending marriage rent a room for a few lousy months from an "empty nester," a couple whose children are gone, but who are known by the pastor to be of good character, and can be like a mentor?

It is at times like this, where all the yakkity-yak about "ministering" to people is put to the test, and one of many reasons why we fail.

Our conclusion, then, is that to be "pastoral" has less to do with appeasement and keeping the peace, and more to do with protecting others from danger, to the point of giving one's life. And yet, it also means that no man charged with knowing his sheep can really stand alone.

After all, even a good shepherd needs a well-bred pair of border collies to help keep the flock together, don't you think?

Or don't you?
 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Other Root of All Evil

It would be easy to simply post a video here and tell you, "Hey, what he said!" and let that be the end of it. But that's not how we roll here at mwbh.

The rise of radical progressivism in the last one hundred years has been built on an almost maniacal obsession with theory. Someone writes a book based on a theory of how they think things should be, one that appears fine by itself, but is as yet unproven. That it takes so little of the foibles of the human condition into account, that it never will be proven, does not always stop its originator from promoting the idea, or in some cases, prevailing for a time.

Communism itself was the brainchild of a man who spent most of his adult life doing writing and research, in the Reading Room of the British Museum in London. Karl Marx never picked up a gun, or so much as ran for election as the village dog catcher, never mind higher office. In all likelihood, he never did any harm to a living thing. But his Manifesto inspired a way of life for more than a quarter of the world for nearly a century, before collapsing in on itself in most countries where it once ruled, but not before taking millions of people with it to their deaths, for the crime of begging to disagree.

The current Presidential administration has brought with it many people whose evil intent may be a matter of debate, but who earned their positions through the promotion of either that which is unproven, or that which is proven false, but nonetheless remains fashionable. As they bear watching, it is helpful to remember who put them there, and who has the power to remove them.

To quote a line from a classic movie: “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.”
 

Friday, April 27, 2012

FAMW: We Know Drama (And You Can Too)!

To launch Turner Network Television (TNT) in Belgium, they placed a big red push button on an average Flemish square of an average Flemish town. A sign with the text "Push to add drama" invited people to use the button. And then they waited.

So can you, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

My Casey Heynes Moment

“13 million kids will be bullied in the US this year.”

So we learn in the documentary movie Bully, directed by Sundance and Emmy-award winning filmmaker, Lee Hirsch, and showing in theaters since the end of March. If you're lucky, you'll learn that it's showing near you. If you live anywhere other than Los Angeles or New York City, that could be difficult, as the promotion hasn't been all that great. This writer was fortunate enough to catch it earlier today at one of several locations. Starting tomorrow, it shows at only one theater in the DC area.

The movie takes us on a journey with The Bully Project, as it follows the lives of five children and their families in five different states over the course of the 2009-2010 school year. We meet Kelby, a 17-year-old girl with tomboyish mannerisms, who has "come out" as gay. She describes a group of students who hit her with a car, and is embarrassed that it was only a minivan (driven by someone unaware that vehicular assault is a felony in most states). The one thing Kelby has going for her, though, is the support of friends, which gives her a critical mechanism for coping.

Much of the film follows 12-year-old Alex, a shy, awkward, geeky sort of fellow, who is tormented on the school bus daily, and has learned to live with it, much to the surprise of his own father. We are told that, since the release of this film, Alex is now more popular in school. One may conclude that a nationwide audience is a necessary deterrent to such mistreatment. If that's what it takes in this case, more power to Alex.

We also see school administrators who are hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with the problem. We meet an assistant principal who is absolutely clueless as to the scale of what desperate parents bring to her. We also meet another assistant principal, slightly more proactive, but every bit as clueless, who is taken aback for not being seen as doing all she can. (No, the bully doesn't sit on Alex's head on the bus anymore. Now he just torments him in numerous other ways. She expects the Nobel Peace Prize for this?)

But more important, we learn what is being done by the parents themselves, who have lost children to suicide. Two years ago, Kirk and Laura Smalley lost their 11-year-old son Ty to suicide. As a result, Stand for the Silent was born. They have a website, and two Facebook pages, one for general notices, another for conversation.

The movie is a deeply moving account into the hopes and dreams of those who are threatened in this way, and the heartbreak of parents who must confront indifference. (The scene in the trailer where a coach admonishes several boys does not appear in the final cut of the film.) But the movie is not without its critics. Writing for Slate.com, Emily Bazelon laments that the film "dangerously oversimplifies the connection between bullying and suicide," but otherwise gives it praise.

Personally, this writer is skeptical. We have dealt here with the problem of bullying on two occasions. Further, I was a victim of bullying through grade school, high school, and for several years, as an adult in my job with the Federal Government. I can speak with personal experience, and in great detail, of how helpless anyone in a position of authority can be. In the fall of 2000, my son Paul was accosted by his freshman football coach, in the locker room of a high school in Fairfax County, Virginia. (The boy's father only learned the whole story after graduation, and attempts at a legal remedy proved futile.) A series of events led to Paul's later success in life, which is a story in itself, but he is one of the lucky ones. This cannot be said for the son of Kirk and Laura Smalley.

And yet, standing in a circle and sending balloons in the air may bring solace to grieving parents, and we will not downplay that aspect of it here, but it does not solve the problem of bullying.

It is here that there is both a short-term and a long-term remedy.

The one for the short term, is not to assume that a bully can be reasoned with. Those who resort to physical or emotional torment on a sustained basis are not reasonable people, or they would not engage in such behavior. Their parents are generally unaware of what their children are doing, and would be shocked at the very accusation. The only message a bully understands, is the one provided by Casey Heynes, the Australian boy who, last year, gave Richard Gale a taste of his own medicine, as seen in this video that has gone viral. Richard may have walked funny for a few days afterwords, but he may never harm another living thing for the rest of his life.

Sadly, not every confrontation can have such a happy ending. Father Robert Barron goes to what may be the root cause of such destructive behavior, which is prerequisite for any solution in the long term.

One reason why boys turn into bullies is that they have no one around to turn them into men. Boys are filled with energies meant to be channeled in a positive direction, toward protecting the innocent and building up the society.

It is the fault of society, through the breakdown of family systems, and an incompetent educational system, that the raw material of youth cannot be honed into a more productive member of that society. Until the problem can truly be remedied, and public awareness can be brought to bear, with documentaries like this and the efforts they inspire, some kids will require the good old-fashioned country @$$-whoopin' they richly deserve, don't you think?

Or don't you?
 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: The King Cousins (1965)

It's time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

For those of you who merely assumed that “The King Family” was a reference to the fifteen children from roughly a dozen women of bluesman B B King, you're not even close. They were actually a multi-talented (or at least energetic) extended family which grew out of a 1940s big-band-girl-singers quartet known as The King Sisters. Their musical variety show ran on ABC from January 1965 to January 1966, and again from March to September 1969. In 1965, rock and roll was the siren song of depravity in the Alexander house, so the closest we ever got to depravity that year, was the show segment known as "The Top Twenty," performed by what were known as "The King Cousins."

Leading the hit parade is a sanitized version of Roger Miller's "King of the Road." Leaving out references to cigarettes was probably less a Mormon thing -- you mean you couldn't tell? -- as it was a network standards and practices thing. Although still debatable at the time whether cigarettes caused cancer, with teenagers it definitely led to all manner of wickedness. Then there was some kid named Jon, who usually appeared with the little cousins for the occasional canned laughter at being so adorable, yet who appears a little over his head with the big girls in "The Birds and the Bees." (That's right, his voice hasn't changed yet. Adorable.)

The personal favorite of yours truly was Xan, shown here leading Ray and Jon in "The Freddie," partly because she was really cute in a quirky, nerdish sort of way, but also because her name was so awesome. She was the daughter of King Sister Donna, and cousin of Tina Cole (featured in "Downtown") who played Katie on "My Three Sons." (The one who married one of the Sons, remember?) A former child actress ("The Hideous Sun Demon" 1959), Donna Alexandra (shortened to "Xandra" or "Xan") Conkling Albright went on to co-produce The King Family Cookbook, and except for occasional PBS specials, was (sigh!) never heard from again.

Be that as it may, this beats the hell out of Donny and Marie, don't you think?

Or don't you?

FOOTNOTE: Two grandsons of King Sister Luise, namely Win and William Butler, are lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, respectively, for the Montreal-based indie rock band Arcade Fire. Not too shabby.
 

Monday, April 23, 2012

National Talk Like Shakespeare Day

... was today. Nobody told me. It's not my fault!!!

So the Lord Mayor of the City of Wind that is Chicago doth declare to all those who be present. But hark, before the witching hour that is twelve, one may partake of the glorious lampooning of The Bard, as made manifest by that indefatigable Father of the Letter Z. Mayest thou click here, and be thou enlightened, anon.
 

“I read the news today, oh boy ...”

Last week was the week that it was, and so it is. Let's get started.

Somewhere in the world, a soccer ball has quite a story to tell, having been swept up by a tsunami in Japan, and found washed up on the shores of ... Alaska. (Reuters)

If you can get on a plane here in the States today, you might still make it in time to catch the International Whistling Convention in Louisburg, North Carolina. (AP)

Starbucks has announced that it will stop using a government-approved coloring in its strawberry flavoring, a perfectly natural ingredient made from ... crushed beetles. This after complaints from vegetarians. We can see it now. Beetles: the other white meat. (Reuters)

A woman in New Zealand is said to have possibly died from a Coke overdose. That's more than two gallons a day of Coca-Cola. (The Sideshow)

Six years ago today, eighty men and women entered a Manhattan Best Buy store wearing blue polo shirts and khaki pants, whereupon all hell broke loose. (improveverywhere.com)

Finally, we want to wish a belated happy birthday to the world's oldest living man, as Jiroemon Kimura of Kyoto, Japan, just turned 115 years old. Ad multos annos! (The Slideshow)

That's all the news that fits. Stay tuned, and stay in touch.
 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

If America Were Catholic

Dr Taylor Marshall of Canterbury Tales wants to know, and answers himself when in so asking ...

So then, what if we Catholics lived holy lives and lovingly evangelized as we should? What would the United States look like?

Some of his bullet points are predictable (sessions of Congress beginning with the celebration of Mass, et cetera), but there are a few curve balls. One would hope that the bars could stay open on Sundays -- except maybe during Lent.

(H/T to John C Hathaway OCDS.)
 

Mark Lavon Helm (1940-2012)

As the 1960s progressed, the genre known as "rock and roll" took numerous directions, depending upon its inspiration. Was it from country, or folk, or blues, or jazz?

One of those directions was a departure from the usual psychedelia and "acid rock" that was emerging at the time. Shortly after folksinger-songwriter Bob Dylan went electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, he found a group of collaborators in the form of a band known simply as "The Band." Among them was the drummer and multi-instrumentalist Levon Helm, who passed away last Thursday at the age of 71. Only two days earlier, his family disclosed that he was in the late stages of cancer. Then came the announcement ...

Levon Helm passed peacefully this afternoon. He was surrounded by family, friends and band mates and will be remembered by all he touched as a brilliant musician and a beautiful soul.

... and this writer was reminded of being present for the passing of his own father two months earlier.

Slate.com recently did an piece about the 1978 film documentary of the band's farewell concert, The Last Waltz, directed by Martin Scorcese. Apparently, “Helm hated Scorsese’s film, but he made it worth watching.”

And so he was. Rest in peace, Levon.
 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Where did all the “church chat” go lately?

First of all, that's not all we talk about here at the Black Hat Corral.

As many Catholics are aware, discussions between the Holy See and the separatist-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) are nearing an accord. This has prompted a discussion at a group blog of Cincinnatians, and those in exile, namely Over the Rhine and Into the Tiber, where the intellectual superiority of yours truly has already been ably demonstrated.

No, we never said we were humble.
 

FAMW: “Worst Music Video ... EVAH!”

Hot Problems is a song recorded by a duo known only as “Double Take.” No one knows why. At this writing, the video has received nearly 1.8 million hits on YouTube, with 92 percent giving it a "dislike" rating. It was produced by Old Bailey Productions, which could only say that they "did not create any of the audio or lyrics for this video. We produced the video as a favor."

A favor? We wouldn't bet on that, but you can judge for yourself, if you dare, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

POSTSCRIPT: Okay, now the girls are holding a press conference, picked up by MTV News. Only 47 seconds, Deo gratias! But that's not bad enough; CNN is getting in the act.
 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Richard Wagstaff Clark (1929-2012)

There are already many tributes on the internet to Dick Clark, who died yesterday at the age of 82. Known throughout his professional life as "America's oldest teenager," he appeared to age little, if at all, as his Saturday afternoon TV dance show grew into an entertainment empire. Or, as he put it more simply:

“I played records, the kids danced, and America watched.”

As a boy growing up outside of Cincinnati, I watched the show only on occasion. My folks were not entirely convinced that "that infernal rock and roll music" (as it was known in our house) was not the downfall of a generation. But I can remember the local shows that were inspired by it, with hosts like Bob Braun and Glenn "Skipper" Ryle. It was also a relief as I was coming of age, to see an alternative to old geezers getting wasted while dancing to Guy Lombardo on New Year's Eve.

Some guys just knew how to stay young at heart. So long, Dick. Rest in peace.

(Of course, you know what this means, don't you?)
 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Angry Beard

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

From the people who did not necessarily bring you “Angry Birds” comes this variation on a theme. A tip of the Black Hat goes out to wondermark.com, as well as director Adolfo Bueno and the rest of the crew at tksfilms.com.

Would yours truly ever shave his beard? For one reason only.
 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Exclusive Video: “Yeah, just another day at the office.”

video

Earlier today, a specially-modified NASA Boeing 747-100 jet carried the space shuttle Discovery via "piggyback" to its new home, at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport, located in the Virginia suburbs of the Washington DC area. On its way there, it took the scenic route in and around the Beltway, including a trip across the National Mall, shown here from a location about one mile north of the Capitol.

As to the little speck flying alongside it, that is a Northrop T-38 Talon. This supersonic twin-engine trainer, the first of its kind in 1959, has been a U S Air Force staple for over half a century (where it is affectionately known as the "Baby Buggy"), and is also used by NASA for escorting larger cargo and transport craft.

Yours truly shot this video this morning with a hand-held Fujicam.
 

Monday, April 16, 2012

“I read the news today, oh boy ...”

Time once again for (reviving) our (once upon a time) usual Monday morning feature. And while we're waiting for Uncle Jay to explain the news, or his absence, we will press on with our pals at Pajamas Media, giving us their review of the news blogosphere in the past week. As to this day of the week, it was a busy one. Better late than never.

Let's get started:

A woman at Denver International Airport was told to put out her cigarette while going through security. Inasmuch as such a request might be easily misconstrued, she proceeded to strip naked, which was probably more than the Patriot Act had in mind. She will reportedly not be facing charges. Obviously they'd seen enough. (DailyMail.co.uk)

Meanwhile, already in the friendly skies was an Air Canada pilot who had been at the wheel a little too long, and mistook the planet Venus for another plane, and proceeded to steer clear of it. Close call, eh? (Reuters)

A woman in Portage, Wisconsin, won a seat on the city council with only two votes. There were no other candidates for that seat, so she wrote in her own name, and got her husband to do that same. The other eleven write-ins only got one vote. Obviously the most aggressive campaigner won. (Associated Press)

We just had to get a shot of this one. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was seen dancing the night away at a nightclub in Carthagena, Columbia, last Saturday night, looking quite stunning in the black evening pant suit set off by the equally impressive sparkly necklace that she wore to the state dinner earlier that evening. Doesn't look like she brought a date. Maybe he was, uh, busy. (Agence France-Presse)

Finally, we will end this edition of IRTNTOB, by mentioning not only that today is the 85th birthday of Pope Benedict XVI, but the feast of Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, and (according to Father Z) National Eggs Benedict Day. To our Holy Father we just wanna say ... ad multos annos!

Well, that's all the news that fits.
 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

“Curae Animarae” on the Titanic

There is a final note to our observance (such as it is) of the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic. From LifeSiteNews.com, we get the story of a Catholic priest who was among the passengers, and who spent the last moments of his life caring for souls.

Fr Thomas Byles ... gave up two spots on a lifeboat in favour of offering spiritual aid to the other victims as they all went down with the “unsinkable” vessel ... the priest helped women and children get into the lifeboats, then heard confessions, gave absolution, and led passengers in reciting the Rosary.

For a listing of recent books about the Titanic, a review in the Washington Post can be found here.
 

Where Have You Gone, Quasimodo?

[The following is a reprint, with some minor adjustments, of a piece which appeared for this occasion the previous year. -- DLA]

Today is known on the Christian calendar by at least six names. In the traditional Missale Romanum, it is referred to as “Dominica in albis octava Paschae” -- Sunday in White Within the Paschal Octave, when the robes of the neophytes are removed eight days after their initiation into the Sacraments during the Paschal Vigil. In the traditional Roman calendar, it was officially known as “The Octave Day of Easter” or “Low Sunday.” It was also popularly known as “Quasimodo Sunday” (my personal favorite, hence the title), after the first words of the Entrance Antiphon, or Introit: “Quasi modo geniti infantes, alleluia ...” (“Like newborn infants, alleluia ...”) In the Eastern churches, it is known as “Thomas Sunday,” as the same gospel is read, that of our Lord showing himself to the doubting apostle Thomas.

Since 2000, by decree of the late Pope John Paul II, it is known in the universal Roman calendar as Divine Mercy Sunday, "the culmination of the novena to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, a devotion given to St Faustina (Mary Faustina Kowalska) and is based upon an entry in her diary stating that anyone who participates in the Mass and receives the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist on this day is assured by Jesus of full remission of their sins." (from Wikipedia)

(I already thought Confession did that anyway. This is what I get for using Wikipedia for the short version.)

This brings up an issue which has concerned traditional Catholics in recent years, one that is presented in the current issue of New Oxford Review by Robert Allard: "Is Divine Mercy Sunday Liturgically Correct?"

It is interesting to note that in the Tridentine Latin Mass, the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the epistle reading, 1 John 5:4-10, includes the mention of the blood and water as portrayed in the Divine Mercy image, not just once but three times each. This is important to note because the Feast of Mercy was established for the entire Church universal, not just for the ordinary form of the Mass.

There's also that part about Our Lord breathing on the apostles, giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins. There's a bit of mercy for the rest of us right there.

Such remembrances need to be harmonized with the liturgical season if they are to serve the faithful. This requires sufficient deference to the history of salvation as played out during the year, including the birth, the life, passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord, culminating in his ascension into Glory, and the establishment of His Church on Earth, through the work of the Holy Spirit. That said, there is an aspect of this devotion that may appear problematic, one that has less to do with the Feast itself, than with the novena which precedes it, one that begins on Holy Thursday, and extends throughout the Week of Easter.

Q. My pastor will allow us to pray the Divine Mercy Novena, but not on Good Friday or Holy Saturday. He says it interferes with the Holy Triduum, which are the holiest days of the year.

A. The Paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) ushers in Easter Sunday and constitutes the most holy period of the Church year. The Divine Mercy Novena does not supersede the Triduum, but extends the Solemn General Intercessions of the Good Friday observance of Our Lord's Passion and Death throughout the whole octave of Easter, building up to the day of thanksgiving for Our Lord's Divine Mercy.


The problem with this response is that it belies the specific character of Easter itself, thus the octave which follows it.

For two millennia, the Easter season, particularly the Octave, has been devoted to the celebration of the resurrection. In the Eastern churches, where rules of fasting and abstinence have retained their traditional severity, the requirement to abstain from meat does not apply on the Friday of this octave, such is the extension of the occasion. The Fathers of the Church have told us, we have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast. Yet the greater part of the novena is devoted to chanting thus: "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world." Granted, at every Mass offered on any given day, we remember the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. A purpose of the liturgical year is to shed a spotlight on a particular aspect of that salvation history. One might wonder if the emphasis made by this novena, in light of the timing, sheds that spotlight appropriately, even if we reduce it to a mere devotion (as opposed to the official prayer of the Church through her liturgical life).

If we read the history of the development of this Feast that is the Sunday within the Octave of Easter, if we understand what the readings and the orations are trying to tell us, we might consider the possibility that Our Lord was telling Sister Faustina something of Himself, which He has been trying to say to His Bride, our Mother the Church, all along. That said, the Church has long admonished us to be prudent with respect to the messages of private revelations. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 65-67). And while accepting the judgment of the Apostolic See in this matter, we may long for a further study of this devotion in relation to the whole of the liturgical year, as discussions of a "reform of the reform" of our sacred worship continue in earnest.

After all, even if the novena is not "liturgy" in the official sense, its use in parishes during the octave of the resurrection is enough to give pause when considering the "big picture."

+    +    +

To learn more about the devotion to the Divine Mercy, visit the website of the Apostles of Divine Mercy at DivineMercySunday.com, or that of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at TheDivineMercy.org. For a guide to praying the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, go to the appropriate page at EWTN.com.
 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Reason.tv: Why Democrat vs Republican is the Wrong Way to Look at the 2012 Election

It is safe to say that, up to now, this Presidential election year has been less about ideas, than it has been about who said what to whom and what they did or did not mean. (Come to think of it, the previous election was like that too, did you notice?) But tonight, if you've got a half hour to kill, you can listen to two guys who are equally unimpressed with both sides of the argument.

“We had a non-Obama president recently, his name was George W Bush, it wasn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows.” - Matt Welch

“Being Republican is not enough to counter Obama. Mitt Romney is not offering an alternative to Obama.” - Nick Gillespie

As to Gillespie's remark, one might beg to disagree. Romney definitely has a more impressive resumé than Obama, even with the latter being able to put "President of the United States" on his up to now. But other than that, Romney hasn't been entirely specific about just what he would do or what he would cut. In fact, none of the Republican candidates (except Ron Paul, and everybody thinks he's crazy) have been very specific.

This is not just an indictment of any potential candidate, but the voters themselves. Everybody wants to have "smaller government," and nobody wants to give up anything that would make that possible. Is it any wonder that the candidates' stump speeches will reflect this duality?

Welch and Gillespie, the co-authors of “The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America” hosted a discussion with the above title at Reason Weekend, the annual donor event held by Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes the Reason.tv website). It is produced by Anthony L Fisher, and shot by Josh Swain and Fisher.

So, go make some popcorn, click on the full-screen option, and get ready to think for yourself.

For once.
 

Jon Stewart Does Zimmerman

As the trial gets underway, we here at mwbh continue to be outraged at the bias in coverage of the George Zimmerman trial. He was foolish in refusing to follow the guidance of police, by following Trayvon Martin while carrying a gun (a cardinal sin for any neighborhood watch), and that would be downfall enough. But this fiasco wouldn't be complete for our readers without our favorite pretend pundit.

"Presumed guiltocent"?
 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Obligatory “Unsinkable Titanic” Video

One hundred years ago this weekend, the "unsinkable" sank.

Since then, the RMS Titanic has been the subject of any number of books, two motion pictures (one of them remade in 3-D), two TV miniseries, and (get this!) one musical. For most of history, we thought it was simply because of crashing into an iceberg, but new studies have shown that inferior rivets used during construction may have been a contributing factor.

Today, a generation of young people are learning that this was not simply conjured up for an epic piece of cinema, but actually happened. The greatness of man's achievements ultimately being subject to the throes of Mother Nature, is what haunts us to this day.

And so it goes.
 

FAMW: “You’re Under Arrest!”

If you ever visit Arkansas, and pronounce it "arr-KAN-sas" instead of "ARR-kan-saw," you can be ARRested! If that's not bad enough, the mathematical value of "pi" in Indiana has been officially rounded up to the nearest whole number. (Hey, Hoosiers, why not just change the laws of physics while you're at it?) These and many other ostensibly outdated ordinances in the several States can be found here, in what is perhaps the first non-video submission in a dog's age for our regular Friday feature, that which is this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Guitar Workshop: Open Tunings with Orville Johnson

We here at mwbh have been in love with Acoustic Guitar magazine, ever since the first issue came out in 1990. Yours truly can still remember putting certain back issues aside for vacations, continuing to explore new tunes and training exercises. In recent years, their website has been a gold mine of information and instruction. Here we have contributing editor Orville Johnson of Seattle, as he gives us a nineteen-and-a-half minute “Open Tunings Lesson” with the two most common tunings, Open-G and (beginning at 11:49) Open-D. Click on the aforementioned title to go to the page itself, featuring both the video, and the tablature exercises (like the one below, ready for the clicking).

When you're performing, changing tunings can be a pain, which is why most guitarists who perform with open tunings have more than one guitar handy, each pre-tuned for the occasion.

Just sayin'.
 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Booker T Washington Explains It All For You

I first read this quote several years ago, and have sought it out ever since. As certain recent events enter into a new chapter, it is a timely message, and a cautionary tale, for those who draw conclusions in undue haste (and you know who you are). -- DLA

"There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.

"I am afraid that there is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don't want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public."

(From his 1911 work entitled My Larger Education, Being Chapters from My Experience)
 

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: The Wailin’ Jennys “Bird Song”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

The last generation of old-time Appalachian musicians to have "stood behind a plow" has passed away. Now a new generation, arguably too young to have known them, is pushing the genré in new directions, while maintaining its pathos, indifferent to the restraints of commercialism. In this clip from the studios of CBC Radio 2, a trio from Winnipeg, Manitoba, known as The Wailin’ Jennys perform with guest fiddler Jeremy Penner.
 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hiatus

We're on a break here at man with black hat, to recover from the activities of Holy Week, especially negotiating the church parking lot last Sunday when all the "Christmas and Easter Catholics" showed up. (Note to selves: next year go to the Easter Vigil instead.) It hasn't been decided whether to resume operations tomorrow or Thursday. That said, we have found a way to keep you reasonably entertained for at least a couple of minutes.

And if that's not enough, here's another game for you:

1. Go to http://translate.google.com/
2. Copy this: "pv zk bschk pv zk pv bschk zk pv zk bschk pv zk pv bschk zk bschk pv bschk bschk pv kkkkkkkkkk bschk"
3. Use settings to translate from German to English
4. Click the "play" button
(H/T to Laugh Now)

In other news, we've been hearing more buzz about that whole Theology of the Body thing that was resurrected about this time last year. Someone asked us for our take on it, and we referred them to our "guest" piece by Mary Joyce published last April.

And so it goes.
 

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Christus resurrexit, sicut dixit, Alleluia!

It was on an Easter Sunday,
    and all in the morning,
Our Savior arose,
    and our heavenly King.
The sun and the moon,
    they both did rise with him,
And sweet Jesus
    we’ll call him by name.


+    +    +

An Easter Homily of St John Chrysostom

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
 

Friday, April 06, 2012

Footwork Revisited

Suppose you are a pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington. You have just endured yet another episode of high drama from certain "enlightened" members of the parish, over your insistence that the liturgical norms of the Church be followed on Holy Thursday, as the Washing of Feet is reserved to males. You wish you could accommodate them, but the aforementioned norms are very clear on the subject. You are a man under authority, and it is your duty to be obedient to that authority, your own sensibilities notwithstanding.

Then, the next morning, you open the Friday edition of the Washington Times, and see this ...

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, washes the feet of Les Ralston during the Mass of the Lord's Supper at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., on April 5, 2012, which was Holy Thursday. Ralston was one of 12 church members to have their feet washed, a religious rite that represents Jesus washing his disciples' feet, saying "A servant is no greater than his master." (Barbara L. Salisbury/The Washington Times)

... as your archbishop is seen washing the feet of women. You must feel pretty foolish. To those parishioners who begged to disagree with your decision, you must look pretty foolish. Who do you have to thank for this?

When it comes to the challenges faced within the Church today, including the attacks from within, many of our bishops have become accustomed to passing the blame on to others, whether their own priests, or the laity. Consider the number of them who spent years hiding priests guilty of sins of impurity against children, and who now throw those priests to the wolves at the slightest accusation. Were these prelates to be found in any other line of work, how many of them would be in jail right now, for aiding and abetting felons, or obstructing justice, or both? Consider how your dear old Auntie, who has been teaching catechism for the last forty years, must now be subjected to fingerprinting and a background check, as though she were a common criminal, or applying for the CIA. Did she do anything to make her a potential liability, or was it someone (or something) else?

When he assumed the cathedra of Washington, Donald Weurl made a great deal of his primary mission being "to teach." What is he teaching us here?

Discuss.
 

Good Friday

It was on a good Friday,
    and all in the morning,
They crucified our Savior,
    and our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing
And sweet Jesus,
    we’ll call him by name.


From "the third hour" until "the sixth hour."

From sext to none.

From noon until three in the afternoon.

Scripture tells us that our Lord was dying on the cross at this time, culminating in the words “Consummatum Est” (“It is finished”).

When we were kids, growing up in Ohio, we would either go to church for Stations of the Cross or some related devotion, or if we were at home, Mom would turn the radio off, and we would be admonished to be quieter than usual. It marks the consummation of the ultimate act of sacrificial Love, that of the Bridegroom with His bride.

Elsewhere in Cincinnati, a venerable custom dating a century and a half still takes place on this day.

In December 1860, a Catholic church was completed on a bluff atop Mount Adams, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Since the hill was too steep for a horse-and-buggy, there were a series of wooden steps built as well, leading from St Gregory Street near the riverfront, on up to the church entrance. The following spring saw the start of the Civil War, and Immaculata Church became the site of devout Catholics praying the rosary for peace, while climbing the steps to its entrance. The tradition continues, as every year on Good Friday (a day when it invariably rains), an estimated ten thousand pilgrims climb the 85 steps -- the wooden ones having since been replaced by concrete -- leading to the entrance. The procession begins at midnight, with the parish priest's blessing of the steps, and continues for twenty-four hours.

The Passionist Historical Archives elaborates on the legacy of “St Mary’s of the Steps”, as does the parish website.
 

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Holy Week: Waiting in the Wings

Holy Week at the parish of St John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia, is an awesome thing, where the "neo- traditional" approach to the liturgical life is the gold standard. Even if the "ordinary form" is used, the altar is "versus orientem" for the three days, and Latin and English co-exist peacefully.

The Sacred Triduum is preceded by the service of Tenebrae on Wednesday evening. Two hundred people join the clergy, seminarians, and altar servers in witnessing the dimming of the lights, to await the Light of the World in the three days that follow. Imagine the sight of dozens of altar servers processing in, two by two. It begins with the crucifer and candle-bearers, followed by the very young, appearing quite cherubic in their surplices and black cassocks. The older servers follow in their maroon cassocks and pleated surplices. Then come the seminarians and deacons of the parish. Finally, the master of ceremonies leads the parish priests, as the procession of nearly one hundred clerics and laics converge upon the Holy of Holies. It is from there that the time of darkness and lamentation begins, followed by the hearing of confessions.

Tonight is the "Cena Domini" or Mass of the Lord's Supper. The original meal shared by the disciples, the sacrificial offering that took place in the twenty-four hours that followed, all will be re-presented in the presence of the faithful. The pastor will remove his outer priestly vestments, put on an apron, and wash the feet of twelve young men who serve him at the altar of God during the year. "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve."
 

Clean Livin’ and Fancy Footwork: 2012 Remix

[The following was originally published in the spring of 2005. In light of some dioceses going on record as "winking" at variance from correct practice for Holy Thursday's foot-washing ritual, we present here an updated edition of the same. -- DLA]

“Mandatum novum do vobis: ut diligatis invicem, sicut delexi vos, dicit Dominus. Beati immaculate in via: qui ambulant in lege Domini ...”

(“A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, says the Lord. Blessed are the undefiled in the way: who walk in the law of the Lord ...”)


For those of us in the Christian world, Holy Week is upon us. As with every year, the Mass of the Lord's Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday (this year on April 21), will be highlighted by the Washing of Feet.

The traditional number of participants with the priest is twelve, and the rubrics are specific that that only males are selected (in Latin, viri selecti, usually translated as "men"). Since most liturgical functions of the laity are open to both men and women, the significance of this restriction is lost on the general Catholic public. What's more, the exception is difficult to justify or explain simply at the parish level, and even parishes which are otherwise steadfast in devotion to Church teaching and practice, are known to allow women to have their feet washed.

Defenders of the practice, in addition to underscoring the need for fidelity to Church discipline in and of itself, are quick to point out the significance of the apostles' all being men, thus the connection with the institution of the ministerial priesthood is reinforced by only men's feet being washed. While this position appears worthy of merit on the surface, it could be sufficiently challenged, given developments in liturgical law following the Second Vatican Council.

We should be reminded at the offset that the sanctuary, or presbyterium, as the place of presiding, was traditionally limited to men. Since a typical parish church did not have the benefit of a complement of minor clerics, men and boys of the parish would act as legitimate surrogates. (Some can still remember when a layman would be pressed into service at a Missa Solemnis as a "straw subdeacon.") Strictly speaking, and in the official ceremonials, this is still the case. It is only by legitimate indulgence in certain parts of the world (including nearly all of North America), that women perform liturgical functions -- reader, acolyte, and so on -- within the sanctuary. Even devout Catholics would not be aware of this, let alone that these indults were not instituted all at once, but at one time or another, in the last few decades of official liturgical reform.

Once exceptions were made (beginning with women ushers in 1969, then as lectors, at the celebrant's discretion, in 1971), it was only a matter of time before others would follow, whether at the initiative of the Holy See (as in the case of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, where a female Religious is actually preferred over an unconsecrated male), or an acquiescence to prolonged disobedience. What some defenders of the current directive fail to recognize, is that the connection to the ministerial priesthood was the traditional justification for all liturgical functions being restricted to men. (Strangely, no one has a problem with all-male ushers or pallbearers, even at parishes which use female altar servers.) The only significant exception that has not been made, is a practice that occurs only once a year, on Holy Thursday.

When we consider why disobedience persists, and attempt to challenge those who engage therein, it does not serve us to play loose with the facts. Michael Voris would suggest that the requrement for "men" eliminates even boys. This is patently false, enough to suggest that liturgical matters are not his strong suit. Since the term "men" is not defined here, we might assume that any male who has received all sacraments of initiation, including Confirmation, is of sufficient maturity in the life of the Church. Indeed, the use of twelve altar boys having their feet washed by the parish priest whom they serve has been a staple of this tradition for many years, and all in accordance with liturgical norms.

As to why the current practice of washing only the feet of males is still recognized as proper, the reasons vary. One is the perception that a change would be one more reinforcement of "caving in" to those who violate liturgical directives in Catholic worship. This sends the wrong message to those who endeavor to be compliant, whatever the discomfort. The allowance of female altar servers in 1994, which is known to have occurred against the late Pope John Paul II's privately expressed wishes, is a case in point.

There is also a matter of propriety. Depending on the setting, even the age of the priest, it may be considered inappropriate for a man to wash the feet of a woman with whom he is not on sufficiently familiar terms, let alone in public. Again, the sensibilities of those assembled may vary from one region to another, even one parish to another. I know there are people in "civilized" parts of the world, especially in "über-enlightened" North America, where this is hard to believe. Such naysayers should really see more of the world, or at least watch the Discovery Channel.

Meanwhile, some parishes apparently feel the need to prove something to everybody, and will substitute the men-only foot washing with a Washing of Hands amidst the entire assembly. This is rather troubling, when you consider that it was Pontius Pilate who ceremoniously washed his hands in the presence of the crowd, to declare his resignation of Our Lord's eventual fate. If symbols are to have any enduring power, their meaning must be inherent, as opposed to being subject to whatever spin their manipulators (in the form of parish liturgy committees) wish to impose on them. Or have we forgotten what happened to the Emperor who listened to his tailor, at the expense of his own good judgment?

This may be why, in the diocese of yours truly, the bishop has directed that, the ritual itself being optional, parishes may choose instead to take up a collection of canned goods for those in need. And yet, one or two of his parishes will openly choose to "go rogue" on this one; yes, even in the Excruciatingly Orthodox Diocese of Arlington.

Aside from whether we are to assume, that the original premise for the footwashing in our tradition is intended to remind us of the institution of the priesthood (and there is evidence in the history of Pius XII's 1955 revision of the Holy Week rites to doubt that), it is best to follow the correct discipline of the Church in this matter. Even in our politically correct day and age, we have not entirely evolved beyond the separation of roles for male and female, and not just for setting preferences in the lifeboat. We are also obliged to set an example for ourselves and others. If I am a pastor who can play fast and loose with how the rules apply to me, how can I expect others to listen to me? Who determines what rules are okay to break or not to break?

“Charity in all things” is more than simply being nice. It is also a reason for doing good and avoiding evil, which means setting a proper example. And it is that example, which was the inspiration for our Lord washing the feet of his disciples.

It's not too much to ask for one evening of the year, don't you think?

Or don't you???
 

Maundy Thursday

It was on a
    maundy Thursday,
        and all in the morning,
They planted
    a crown of thorns
        on our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus
    we'll call him by name.


Today begins the Sacred Triduum. We will have more on this subject later today, including our oft-printed piece on the Rite of Foot Washing and its place in official Catholic worship. It is quiet here at Chez Alexandre, with preparations to be made, errands to be run, and ... more writing.

For a Catholic, as much as some try to deny it, the next three days are not business as usual. The whole of human history -- before, during, after -- turns on the events we remember this week.

Today’s meditation is from a poem by Jalaludin Rumi. It is translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne, with music by David Wilcox and Nance Pettit, and is produced by Bob Carlton.
 

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Miserere Mei

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

This piece is Psalm 50(51), set to music by Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652) around 1630. It is one of the finest and most popular examples of renaissance polyphony. It is often heard in Churches of the apostolic Christian tradition on Ash Wednesday, as well as during Tenebrae, the evening service which precedes the Sacred Triduum. It is performed here by The Sixteen.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; *
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness *
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, *
and my sin is ever before me.

Against you only have I sinned *
and done what is evil in your sight.

And so you are justified when you speak *
and upright in your judgment.

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *
a sinner from my mother's womb.

For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness, *
that the body you have broken may rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins *
and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence *
and take not your holy Spirit from me.

Give me the joy of your saving help again *
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

I shall teach your ways to the wicked, *
and sinners shall return to you.

Deliver me from death, O God, *
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,
O God of my salvation.

Open my lips, O Lord, *
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice, *
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; *
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Be favorable and gracious to Zion, *
and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Then you will be pleased with the appointed sacrifices,
with burnt-offerings and oblations; *
then shall they offer young bullocks upon your altar.


Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross.
 

Spy Wednesday

It was on a Holy Wednesday,
    and all in the morning
When Judas betrayed
    our dear heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus,
    we'll call him by name.


This day in Holy Week is known among Western Christians by the above title (or among Christians in the East, Μεγάλη Τετάρτη, in case you were wondering), as tradition commemorates this day for when Judas Iscariot conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Our Lord, in exchange for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15). Was that a lot of money in those days? The term in the original language, "arguria," simply means "silver coins." Historians disagree as to what form of currency is described. They could have been either staters from Antioch, tetradrachms from Ptolemy, or shekels from Tyre. (Nothing about Greek drachmas, which were either bronze, copper, or iron. Just so we're clear on that.)

Closer to the present, it is also when we here at man with black hat (more or less) interrupt our usual blogcasting in order to focus on the Main Event for the several days that follow. Stay tuned ...
 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Obligatory “Sarah Palin Joins Lamestream Media” Clip

The former Alaska governor, vice- presidential candidate, and Tina-Fey-look-alike was a "co-host" on NBC's Today show this morning, and she showed the gang at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (once again) that she can take a joke as well as anybody, including the jokers on the regular cast, all of whom are obviously charmed to death by her when they actually meet her. Matt Lauer, of course, could barely contain being a sorehead when she was using his dressing room. We wonder to ourselves, is she like that in person? (We're gonna bet Matt Lauer is; what a poseur!) Meanwhile, here are a few of the highlights from that show.

We also got to thinking about the beginnings of that show, and how its first host, Dave Garroway, used to end his program, as far back as the mid-1950s, by giving the "peace sign" as shown here. Of course, it had yet to evolve into the letter-form we know today. The first to use the peace sign, and the first to make Sarah Palin part of the "lamestream media." The show is quite the ground-breaker, don't you think?

Or don't you?
 

Monday, April 02, 2012

Backwards To The Future

This might have merely been an elaborate April Fool's joke, but first, let's think about it for a moment.

gmail.com/tap

The proposal being shown here, is to simplify the keyboard on smartphones, by reviving the use of Morse code. If you only have to type either a dot or a dash, you can send text messages with ease, even with adult sized figures. Of course, you would have to know Morse code, which even the Boy Scouts discontinued as part of their Scoutcraft training in the 1990s (I think). And yet, the prospect of a zombie apocalypse, or an overhead explosion by terrorists that knocks out our electronic devices and sends us back to the 18th century (or thereabouts), may give us cause to reconsider learning this complex system of dots and dashes.

And so, we turn to the only people who can save us, the nerds to end all nerds. That's right; amateur radio operators. They are a hearty lot, these purveyors of arcane and seemingly-increasingly useless knowledge. But do not count them out just yet.
 

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Hosanna Filio David!

Let us go together to meet Christ on the Mount of Olives. Today he returns from Bethany and proceeds of his own free will toward his holy and blessed passion, to consummate the mystery of our salvation. He who came down from heaven to raise us from the depths of sin, to raise us with himself, we are told in Scripture, above every sovereignty, authority and power, and every other name that can be named, now comes of his own free will to make his journey to Jerusalem. He comes without pomp or ostentation. As the psalmist says: He will not dispute or raise his voice to make it heard in the streets. He will be meek and humble, and he will make his entry in simplicity.

Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at his coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us.

In his humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself. And even though we are told that he has now ascended above the highest heavens – the proof, surely, of his power and godhead – his love for man will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory, and made it one with his own in heaven.

So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel.

-- From a sermon by Saint Andrew of Crete, bishop. Images from Palm Sunday in 2009, at St John the Beloved Church, McLean, Virginia, courtesy of Miss Sarah Campbell.