Friday, November 30, 2012

FAMW: The Parent Rap

Better late than never, I always say. This one comes to us from Victoria Hill, by way of our correspondent David Reed. We couldn't resist posting it before it went viral (if it hasn't already), for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
 

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Saint Andrew was here!

As the month comes to an end, we have been gearing up for the Advent-Christmastide-Epiphanytide publishing cycle. Yes, there really is one, where items for inculcating Catholic culture (and also appropriate alliterations) are prepared days in advance. Thus our usual Friday afternoon feature was unavailable today. But fear not, we shall return this weekend, and certainly on Monday morning, with our usual routine.

By the way, today is the feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, "The First-Called" as he is known in the East, and the brother of Saint Peter the Apostle as he is known in the East and the West. He is also the patron of this writer's hometown parish in Ohio. Here is his image as it appears among the stained-glass windows. (Yeah, low-resolution. Best we could do on short notice.)

Stay tuned, and stay in touch.
 

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

“Vatican 2? We’ve got an app for that!”

By now, every other "Catholic blog" at a loss for an original idea has gone on and on about the "Year of Faith," apparently on the Holy Father's premise that in order for us to proclaim the True Faith, we need to create a gimmick. That's the good news. The bad news is, he's probably right. (He usually is.) In case you're wondering why we here at man with black hat haven't done that yet, it's because, for over a decade, we haven't needed a gimmick. (It wouldn't help anyway.)

And speaking of decades, for several of them, the Enlightened Ones who hang around rectories looking for activities to keep them in the business of "caring and sharing" instead of just getting a life, have prattled on about "the spirit of Vatican II." (Yes, Mr Voris, we knew that already.) But now, Rome Reports ... uh, reports, that you can get an application for your smartphone that accesses the documents of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (as in, the LETTER of Vatican II), as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, among other things.

(You see, they call it an "app" because that's short for "application," and your cellphone is kinda like a tiny computer, so "app" is a tiny way of ... you get it.)

For the time being, a working knowledge of Spanish is helpful, since that's the only language in which it's available right now. In the old days, the first edition would have been in Latin. On the other hand, they didn't have cellphones back then.

Never mind.
 

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: “The Greatest Miracle”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Yesterday, the Maximus Group distributed a press release announcing the DVD release of an animated film, produced by Pablo Barroso, who also produced For Greater Glory, and directed by Bruce M Morris, the visual writer of the animated hits Pocahontas and Hercules. The story focuses on three people who find themselves at the same Catholic Mass because of crises they are struggling to endure. Going to Mass is not new to any of them – but they need help to embrace its true meaning. THE GREATEST MIRACLE masterfully portrays the invisible realities of the Catholic faith.
 

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Monday, November 26, 2012

The Church’s Ultimate Trial

675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. (Cf. Lk 18:8; Mt 24:12) The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth (Cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20) will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. (Cf. 2 Thess 2:4-12; 1 Thess 5:2-3; 2 Jn 7; 1 Jn 2:18,22)

676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, (Cf. DS 3839) especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism. (Pius XI, Divini Redemptoris, condemning the "false mysticism" of this "counterfeit of the redemption of the lowly"; cf. GS 20-21)

677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. (Cf. Rev 19:1-9) The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. (Cf. Rev 13:8; 20:7-10; 21:2-4) God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world. (Cf. Rev 20:12 2 Pet 3:12-13)

(Excerpted from The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Read it and weep, SUCKAS!!!)
 

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“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Post-Thanksgiving Edition)

A scientist argues that our early hunter-gatherer ancestors may have been smarter than modern day humans. Is your average ancient Athenian even smarter than your typical computer scientist? Find out (or be even more confused, take your pick) by listening to this august panel from Pajamas Media.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

First, the bad news. Guess what has passed Justin Bieber's "Baby" as the most watched video of all time. (Billboard)

A postcard has just arrived in Elmira, New York, which is not remarkable in itself, except that it was sent in 1943. (Elmira Star-Gazette via AP)

Speaking of messages, at least that one could be read. In the UK, the remains of a carrier pigeon dating to World War II have been found, with a message that may never be deciphered. See for yourself. (ABC News)

Meanwhile, in the world of somewhat more advanced technology, the world's oldest original working digital computer, about the size of an SUV, finally gets a reboot. (BoingBoing.net)

Finally, and while the leaves are still falling, don't try this at home. (The Sideshow)

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.
 

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Advent: A Counter-Sign for Christmas

“It’s beginning to look a lot like ...”

... that time of year when we celebrate Christmas for roughly four weeks, beginning in late November, and ending abruptly on the day following that which is actually Christmas. On Sirius XM satellite radio, six channels are devoted solely to Christmas music (and one to Channukah), some beginning as early as November 13, and three of which ending on (you guessed it) the day after Christmas. (The Latino channel goes until January 7. Somebody did their homework, eh?) The exception will actually go as far as New Year's Day, but that's the end of it. Needless to say, the stores are already in full swing with holiday decorations and people killing each other at Walmart for a steal on pre-paid cellphones.

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In response to the latest of our regular Friday afternoon feature, one of my good colleagues remarked that, even with this overture of light-heartedness in the midst of crass commercialism, “they are committing the same anti-Advent error as the secular culture is. Some counter-sign!”

He's right, but is there an alternative?

’TIS THE SEASON

It should first be remembered that the Advent season, which begins one week from today, is itself part of the Christmas Cycle, that which traditionally began the liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent, and continued on into the twelve days of the Christmas season, and thereafter into Epiphanytide, up until the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima (the three Sundays that were prelude to Ash Wednesday). To celebrate Advent then, is already to celebrate Christmas, if only to a point.

Is Advent only about doing penance?

Modern dilettantes on matters liturgical like to tell people, at their sophomoric weekend workshops, that Advent is really not like Lent at all, that it is a season of expectation, not penance. Nearly two thousand years of evidence suggests this to be, at the very least, misleading. In the Eastern churches, the forty days preceding Christmas is one of the four seasons of fasting, with what is known in the West as Lent referred to as "the Great Fast." It begins with the Feast of Saint Philip on the 14th of November (according to the Eastern calendar), and is therefore known among the Slavs as "Filipovka." Even in the West, the notion of fasting or abstinence, is akin to the Famine before the Feast. Yes, it is indeed about penance, if for a purpose that is different from Lent, and yet similar to a point.

The time for those of the Domestic Church to stop wringing their hands, and take matters into them instead, is long overdue. This venue has been active in the same cause for nearly a decade. (Where the hell have the rest of you been?) Parents who complain that their children will grow up learning nothing of Christmas but crass commercialism, and that the 26th of December is the day of the Big Anti-Climax, have an alternative. They'll have to work at it a little. They may even have to find other families of like mind within their parish, whether or not they ask for the pastor's cooperation in putting the kabosh on parish "Christmas parties" in mid-December.

You can almost hear it now:

“But, but, Mister and Missus McGillacuddy, the families will tell me they’ll all be out of town.”

"But, but, Father, that still doesn’t make it Christmas yet, does it?"


And so it goes ...

THAT NASTY HUMAN EQUATION

In dealing with the celebration of Christmas in its proper perspective, we must first remember that what we have now, with endless shopping and carols on the radio in preparation for a single day, appeals to our nature. We have an innate sense of the seasons of the year, the times of our lives. We delight in anticipation, or else the department stores would have nothing to which to elicit the usual response. And yet, we have also led ourselves to believe that taking more than a day off to celebrate anything is somehow excessive unless we leave town over it. We are just as likely to spend over a month preparing to celebrate the second biggest holyday in the Church year on only one day, just like everyone else. So why should the rest of the world take the idea seriously that Advent isn't Christmas yet? We don't behave as if it is anymore than our neighbors, except when we complain about ... well, our neighbors. At least they're having more fun with it than us.

Every year at man with black hat, we celebrate the season before, during, and after the Feast of the Nativity. You and your family can celebrate each day with us. But first, we begin with Advent.

THE ADVENT WREATH

The most popular household devotion of Advent is, of course, the Advent wreath, which originated among the German people as early as the 17th century. What began as the lighting of one candle for each day in December leading to the 25th, eventually evolved into the lighting of four candles to mark the Sundays of Advent, usually at the start of the evening meal. For the first week, one is lit; for the second, two, and so on, until all are lighted up to the eve of the Nativity. The candles are traditionally purple, to coincide with the penitential nature of the season, as seen in the priest's vestments. The third candle is usually pink (or more properly, rose) to mark the mid-season occasion that is Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday.

This display is also popular in parish churches, which is somewhat of an anomaly, as it is not a liturgical practice in the strict sense, but a pious custom more suited to the home. Be that as it may ...

At the beginning, especially if there are children, they may be invited to begin by singing the first verse and chorus of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" as the appropriate number of candles are lit. A portion of Scripture for the Mass or Office of the Day may be read. The devotion culminates with the traditional Collect of the Mass for that Sunday.

V. O Lord, hear our prayer.

R. And let our cry come unto Thee.

V. Let us pray ...

Advent I

Stir up Thy power, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come: that from the threatening dangers of our sins we may deserve to be rescued by Thy protection, and to be saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.

Advent II

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way of Thine only-begotten Son: that through His coming we mat attain to serve Thee with purified minds. Who liveth and reigneth, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.

Advent III

Incline Thine ear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to our petitions: and, by the grace of Thy visitation, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.

Advent IV

O Lord, we beseech Thee, stir up Thy power, and come, and with great might succor us: that by the help of Thy grace that which is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness: Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.

Beginning on Christmas Eve, the violent and rose candles are replaced by white candles, which remain until the end of the Twelve Days. (Devotions associated with the Twelve Days of Christmas will be found within this venue at the proper time. Stay tuned ...)

THE ADVENT CALENDAR

Another popular devotion is the Advent calendar, which marks the days of December leading up to Christmas, irrespective of the beginning of Advent (which begins anywhere from November 27 to December 3). This practice, which originated among German Lutherans in the 18th century, had origins similar to the Advent wreath, with the lighting of candles to mark the days. Eventually the use of the wreath would evolve into either the wreath, or an elaborate structure resembling a calendar, but with closed compartments each containing a small gift, to be opened one evening at a time until Christmas Eve.

Most of us have seen inexpensive Advent calendars in card shops and church bookstores, but there are some very good ones that can entertain the children of the house, or otherwise remain as treasures over the years. One of our favorites is the Kurt Adler Wooden Nativity Advent Calendar (see image above), which comes complete with 24 magnetic figures contained behind their respective doors. Each day, a figure is removed from its container, and placed appropriately on the empty manger scene, to be completed on the night before Christmas. At a price from Amazon of just under $69 (with alternative distributors selling for a bit less), it may be a bit expensive, unless you consider it as lasting for several years, and passing it down to your children when they have families of their own.

If you order now, you can probably get it in time.

Barring that, there are numerous alternatives to be found among Traditional Advent Calendars from Germany by Richard Sellmer Verlag.

THE JESSE TREE

Another form of the Advent calendar is the "Jesse Tree." This depiction of multiple imagery is that of the ancestry of Our Lord. At its heart is a passage from the book of the prophet Isaiah: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” (11:1) Examples in stained glass of cathedrals date to the 11th century. You can find a cornucopia of examples by clicking here or here, or you can use the image provided here. Simply click on it, print it out at its actual size, paste it on card stock, and cut out the images, hanging them on a small artificial tree on a counter top or kitchen table. This can be a wonderful learning tool for the entire family. Descriptions of various schemes can be found at fisheaters.com.

THE SAINTS OF THE SEASON

There are a number of saints' feast days which occur during the month of December, which have over the centuries developed a close association with the preparation of Christmas; among them, Saint Barbara on the 4th of December, Saint Nicholas on the 6th, and Saint Lucy on the 13th. The customs associated with them will be described as they arise in December, but if you click on the name of the saint, the folks at Fisheaters.com can give you a head start. After all, at least one of them involves baking cookies.

On a related note, we would be remiss if we did not remind you of the calendar feature at The Old Farmer's Almanac, which will show you the "red-letter days" of December (including saints) on the first of the month.

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It is hoped that the above can provide you and yours with a means of commemorating the season, in a way that will delight your children, and teach them something of their precious Catholic heritage. There will be more depictions and devotions as the season progresses, and we celebrate the Year of Grace here at man with black hat.

Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

(H/T to Fisheaters.com for their extensive research into Catholic customs, and also to Ryan for presenting us with the challenge.)
 

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Friday, November 23, 2012

FAMW: Obligatory Black Friday Flash Mob

No one in their right mind would get into a crowded fistfight to save a few bucks over an iPod that's going to be obsolete by this time next year. But this time last year, in Saint Cloud, Minnesota, the folks at contemporary Christian KKJM “Spirit 92.9” Radio tried to save a few souls at Walmart the only way they knew how. It was the least we could do for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
 

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks 2012

Every year, the President of the United States declares a national Day of Thanksgiving.

This tradition began with our first President, George Washington, and continues to this day. Eventually, the date was set at the fourth Thursday of November. Every year, the day before remains the worst day to travel anywhere on the Easter seaboard.

The aforementioned origin of the feast is, of course, the official mainstream American (that is, Protestant) line.

The fact is that the idea of a day for giving thanks in America is (naturally) a Catholic one. It was brought to the New World by the Spaniards, more than half a century before those Protestant upstarts farther north along the coast.

Robyn Gioia was a fifth-grade teacher from St Augustine, Florida. A few years ago, she published a book, America's REAL First Thanksgiving.

An article in USA Today elaborated ...

What does REAL mean? Well, she's not talking turkey and cranberry sauce. She's talking a Spanish explorer who landed here on Sept. 8, 1565, and celebrated a feast of thanksgiving with Timucua Indians. They dined on bean soup ...

The article is worth reading, and worthy of reflection for those who underestimate the Catholic heritage in what is now the USA. It might be one more positive by-product of a growing Latino population, that the birthday of Our Lady was the true inspiration that we would have reason to give thanks.

When I was married, it was a day to ensure that everything was perfect. Children who grow up with alcoholic parents have a way of making that a priority, giving themselves a sense of control over their surroundings, and telling themselves that all is right with the world, even when it is not. In the years that followed, from the 1990s onward, it varied. They say that no one should be alone on Thanksgiving Day. But one year, I was, and I managed to find an IHOP that was actually open that day (as this was over a decade ago), and had a traditional turkey dinner with all the "fixin's," all by myself. At the time, it beat the alternative.

It's been easier these days. As this is written, Paul is in the living room, sleeping on the couch, having caught the early morning flight out of Atlanta for BWI. Following the usual rapid-fire debate over what's wrong with the world, he needed to rest up before tending bar tonight. He'll make more in tips for three nights in DC, than he would for ten nights in Atlanta. He knows where the money is.

He won't be alone, but at least it's something of his choosing. The major "big box" stores like Target and Walmart have discovered that their employees don't really need a day for giving thanks. Given the not-so-living wages they dish out, they might be right. But all the more reason to make their little minions come into work today, at the regular non-holiday rate, to get a jump on Black Friday, so that other people can ruin their holiday voluntarily, by getting great deals on stuff for which they will drive all over town, when they could order it online on "Cyber Monday" (which is what I'll probably end up doing).

It seems a long time ago, but it was only last year that Nordstrom showed its admirable restraint.

At Nordstrom, we won't be decking our halls until Friday, November 23rd. Why? Well, we just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time. From our family to yours,

Happy Thanksgiving

Nordstrom will be closed Thanksgiving Day. On Friday, our doors will open to welcome the new season.

And so, later today, we'll head out to the western hinterlands of suburban Virginia to a friend's house, and from there, after dropping Paul off at the subway, proceed to her family's place. A vast table will be spread, and I won't understand a word most of them are saying -- but more than they think I know. You got that right, pare!

I could do worse. I already have. Here's hoping for you, dear reader, in spite of everything, to have reason for giving thanks.
 

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Paruparong Bukid

Time once again for (an unusual twist on) our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Today is "Sal's" birthday. It's a special one this time, because it's divisible by five or ten. Other than that, I cannot disclose her age, but everyone says she looks ten years younger, and not just when I'm around. So this one's for her ...

Paruparong Bukid (Butterflies in the Field) is a humorous song comparing a butterfly to a Filipina dressed in her glamorous formal dress with tall butterfly sleeves, as she moves down the aisle of the church, swaying her hips as every one looks on. This recording in the first clip is performed by the Filipina singer and actress Nora Aunor.

Paru-parong bukid na lilipad-lipad
Sa tabi ng daan papaga-pagaspas
Isang bara ang tapis Isang dangkal ang manggas
Ang sayang de kola Isang piyesa ang sayad.

May payneta pa siya ... Uy!
May suklay pa mandin ... Uy!

Naguas de ojetes ang palalabasin
Haharap sa altar at mananalamin (mananalangin)1
At saka lalakad nang pakendeng-kendeng


The song is a popular staple of collegiate glee clubs, both in the Philippines and in the United States. In those settings, especially in the States, they tend to be embellished somewhat, often by starting out with a "paru-paru" sound, as if to emulate the butterfly's fluttering about. One of the most popular recordings on YouTube is by the Northwest Missouri State University Madraliers, as recently performed at the Liberty United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri. By now, I'll bet you're curious as to what it means in English.

A butterfly from the fields; flitting and floating by;
waiting by the main trail, fluttering in the air.
Sari wrapped around her, sleeves as wide as my palm,
Skirt’s a trifle oversized,
2 ends dragging on the ground.

Hair held with a fancy pin. Oh!
Her hand twirling a comb. Oh!

Decorated half-slip, drawing others to peep.
She would face the altar, ogling her own image,
She would come and tease us, hips swaying like a duck.


"Swaying like a duck." Now fellas, THAT'S how you talk to a girl.

This third clip is an example of the folk dance associated with the song. It's cut off in a few places, but the others available were all little kids, so what can I say? Notice in this case, that the dresses are not the formal variety referred to earlier, but are known as the "Maria Clara" style more common to the provinces. I rather prefer them myself.

I also prefer when Sal performs this dance for me herself, which is really quite entertaining. She is that, and so much more. Happy birthday to my best friend. Mahal kita!

1 The term "mananalamin" appears in most versions, meaning "to gaze in the mirror." Some versions, however, apply the context of the reference to an altar, thus using "mananalangin," meaning "to pray."

2 Also translated as "shaped like a grand piano." Don't ask me why.
 

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A professor stood before his philosophy class ...

... and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed..

'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things -- your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions -- and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else -- the small stuff.

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

"If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

"Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

"Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, "I'm glad you asked. The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of Beers with a friend."

(The above is from Brodie Smith, and is published here without permission or shame.)
 

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Monday, November 19, 2012

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Mid-November Edition)

This past week, Governor Chris Christie warned that tax hikes are coming to New Jersey. Has Christie always been a closet Democrat or has Hurricane Sandy left him with little choice? Also featured are Obama's plans to increase welfare spending, in addition to Congressman Paul Ryan's warning to the President, all brought here by the folks at Pajamas Media.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

NYC Mayor Bloomberg may have put a limit on soft drink servings at fast food joints, but will he do the same for alcohol after this gets out? (AP)

And speaking of limits on soda, here's one that defies all limits, as Japan is introduced to a new variety of Pepsi with fat-blocking ingredients. (Forbes)

In the wake of the political elections here in the States, from across the pond comes word that the annual World's Biggest Liar competition is underway (AP)

And speaking of politics, is Governor Christie of New Jersey getting more attention than he can handle? Hurricane Sandy, Saturday Night Live, and now, Twinkies??? (AP)

Finally, and speaking of Sandy, there may be people in New Jersey and Long Island still without power, but they managed to save some pelicans who were caught up in the fury. Who doesn't love pelicans? (Reuters)

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, and the traffic out of town gets even worse, stay tuned, and stay in touch.
 

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Proficiscere: The Catholic Way of Dying

As part of our remembrance of the month of November, as that which Catholics associate with intentions of the dead and the Life Beyond, we devote this piece to the preparation of the dying. Catholics in the health care professions, particularly those devoted to home and hospice care, may have a unique opportunity to bring their commission through Baptism to the fore. But it is no less so to friends and family of those who prepare for the Inevitable. Here at “Chez Alexandre” we have a silver troika, consisting of a crucifix between two candlesticks. When a patient under Sal's care has passed away, we have been known to recite the Psalms together while the crucifix with lit candles is on the table before us. We have found the so-called "penitential psalms" also known as the "psalms of confession" to be quite suitable. They are: Psalms 6, 31(32), 37(38), 50(51), 101(102), 129(130), and 142(143). (NOTE: The numbering system from the Latin Vulgata is given preference here. Most modern usage employs the Greek, or Septuagint numbering, which appears here in parenthesis.) Of these, Psalm 50(51), the Miserere is the most appropriate:

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
    In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
    And cleanse me from my sin ...

Every Catholic home should have a "sick call set" handy, for the use of the priest or deacon who visits the sick or dying. It consists of a crucifix and two candles on a white tablecloth by the bedside, along with a vial of holy water, and a dish of regular water with a small white cloth for ablutions. The use of the palm from Palm Sunday, and a bell to announce the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, is optional. It has become common to have such a set self-contained in a wall crucifix, the top portion of which can be detached, to access the accessories contained in the base. (See image at left.)

The priest who comes to the door with the Sacrament does so in silence, and should be greeted by a person carrying a lighted candle. He will say, "Pax huic dómui." ("Peace be unto this house.") The greeter should respond, "Et ómnibus habitántibus in ea." ("And all who dwell therein.") The cleric is led to the room in silence. All genuflect or kneel in the presence of the Sacrament. In the event that the patient needs to confess his sins, all must leave the room, including the primary caregiver. A priest is trained to know when other assistance is needed. In the event that the patient lacks capacity to confess, a general absolution may be given. If a priest or deacon is unavailable, the faithful are nonetheless able to help prepare a soul for the journey. A page devoted to this is found at Fisheaters.com. A prominent feature to this guide is the prayer known by its beginning word in Latin: Proficiscere.

Go forth, O Christian soul,
    out of this world,
in the Name of God the Father almighty,
    Who created you;
in the Name of Jesus Christ,
    the Son of the living God,
        Who suffered for you;
in the Name of the Holy Ghost,
    Who sanctified you ...
... may your place be this day in peace,
    and your abode in Holy Sion. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Of course, circumstances may dictate the length or brevity of such preparations. The communal praying of the Rosary, particularly the use of the Sorrowful Mysteries, is most commendable whatever the circumstances. Once the soul has passed on, a different set of prayers is appropriate. As the time before death is devoted to preparation, that which follows requires intercession from on high. One most appropriate form is the Responsorium, the Responsory for the Dead:

V. Do not remember my sins, O Lord.
R. When you come to judge the world by fire.

V. Direct my way in your sight, O Lord, my God.
R. When you come to judge the world by fire.

V. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
    and let your perpetual light shine upon him.
R. When you come to judge the world by fire.

V. Lord, have mercy.
R. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

V. Our Father ...

Our series continues next week, with a reflection on Catholic funerals, and the practices associated with them.

[As this month is when Catholics traditionally contemplate the "Last Things" -- death, judgment, heaven, hell -- we choose this opportunity to reprint an article from November of 2009. -- DLA] .

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Obligatory Twinkies Moment

The company that put the white bread in "white bread America" (Wonder) and the junk in junk food (Ding Dongs) for nearly a century has filed for bankruptcy. It seems the unions couldn't handle something like an eight percent pay cut. So the Hostess Brands company had no choice but to make the unions an offer they couldn't refuse -- a one hundred percent pay cut for an estimated 18,500 workers.

Hey, you roll the dice, you take your chances, huh, guys?

It has been speculated that someone will invariably buy the rights to the formula for -- no, not Wonder Bread, but Twinkies! It's either that, or the White House responds to a petition to save America from junk food deprivation.

We the undersigned, hereby request Barack Obama to immediately Nationalize the Twinkie industry and prevent our nation from losing her sweet creamy center.

You know what they say: “Too big to fail!”
 

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FAMW: Siri-ous Help

Today, we take a five-second look at the artificial "intelligence" known as “Siri” on the iPhone, and the mixed results we often encounter, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy. Siri-ously.
 

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ron Paul’s Swan Song

Congressman Ron Paul, Republican from the Texas 14th Congressional District (Galveston and vicinity), considered by many to be the “intellectual godfather” of the Tea Party movement, recently announced his retirement from the United States Congress. Yesterday, he gave his farewell address, which is shown here. Also available is the full transcript of that address.
 

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Art-For-Arts-Sake Theatre: Hamlet (A Small Rewrite)

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

We haven't done any Hamlet for a while (other than that Henry V thing for St Crispin's Day), so here is a 1989 sketch called “A Small Rewrite” performed by Hugh Laurie (aka House) as Shakespeare and Rowan Aktinson (aka Mr Bean) as the editor. We neglected to check this clip for excessive ribaldry; you're on your own.
 

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

America: The People Have Spoken ... Right?

One week ago tonight, we learned the results of this year's general election, including that of President of the United States. As forty-eight percent of the population were stunned by the results the following morning, fifty percent of the population were jubilant at what they termed a "decisive" victory. Now, fifty percent is hardly decisive. Neither is fifty-one percent, which is what they had once Florida's votes were counted. As the inevitable appeared likely, Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly had this to say as to why the incumbent would be re-elected.

WHAT HAPPENED (IN A NUTSHELL)?

The white establishment is now the minority ... The voters, many of them, feel this economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You’re gonna see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things — and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?

If one can overlook the ethnic distinctions, which are in danger of having entirely too much significance attached to them, it makes a great deal of sense. The unemployment figures do not always count those who have given up looking for work, and if there are enough of them (and the numbers tend to be disproportionately higher among nonwhites), and if enough of them have given up, they will abandon opportunity for dependency. This is part of the cycle to which we alluded just four years ago at this time.

For most of this week, I have chosen to view the reactions of others to the recent election, and synthesize their opinions of what happened and why, what should have happened, and where to go from here. It was during that time that I discovered this quotation from an anonymous source:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this sequence; from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependency back again into bondage."

In contemplating that passage, I am struck by the process of ascendency and decline, measured as though it were the everlasting series of benchmarks of all empires in our history, as though moving in a circle ...

Meanwhile, there is already a grassroots petition to demand a recount, for all the good it will do, even though there are numerous instances of voter fraud reported in several states, including those by mainstream news sources, such as this one in Ohio by no less than the Columbus Dispatch:

In two counties, the number of registered voters actually exceeds the voting-age population: Northwestern Ohio’s Wood County shows 109 registered voters for every 100 eligible, while in Lawrence County along the Ohio River it’s a mere 104 registered per 100 eligible ...

... and that's just for openers. Personally, I don't imagine the President or his campaign to be responsible for this. They wouldn't have to be, with support at the local and state levels from the Service Employees International Union (you know, those goons in the purple tee-shirts who would beat up people outside of "town hall" meetings), and whatever demon spawn has arisen from the ashes of ACORN. It has also been observed that Obama lost every state that required photo identification in order to vote, which cannot help but say something about the integrity of our voting process. Is it so unrealistic to expect people to prove who they are to vote in an election?

While all that's going on, we thought we'd take this opportunity to look at the why and the wherefore of the results, both the big picture, and the devil in the details.

LOOKING AT THE STATES

The Washington Examiner provided an excellent guide to the ballot counting by state, and the electoral vote. We would be remiss not to acknowledge this resource in reporting our findings.

First, let's look at the nationwide map from more than one vantage point. The first map (in this case, from CNN) is how the results would have looked if only those who paid federal income taxes had voted. We can see that it would have been no contest for former Massachusetts Governor and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. This scenario might lend some credence to O'Reilly's observation, especially when you consider that nearly half the population pays no federal income tax. Or so they tell me.

The second map is which way the states actually ended up going. While the popular vote was 51 percent for Obama to 48 percent for Romney, the electoral vote, that which actually determines the election, was counted at 332 for Obama to 206 for Romney. In the United States, the people do not elect their President; the states do, in the form of electors, representatives of the will of their respective states, apportioned by population. But even this is misleading in terms of where the nation as a whole stood with this election.

(We note the exclusion of Alaska and Hawai'i in our subsequent examples. For what it's worth, the former was overwhelmingly Republican, and the latter was overwhelmingly Democratic, so there you go.)

It is here that we look to how the counties voted, which gives up a more accurate depiction of the mind of the popular electorate. In particular, we will look to three of the "battleground" states; Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

First, we examine this writer's native Ohio. It is the Buckeye State, above all others, which is arguably the most representative of a cross-section of the nation (or as I used to call it, "the most average state in the Union"). Here we see a state that has long been culturally and economically divided. The northern part of the state is part of the Great Lakes region, with traditional blue-collar industries such as automobiles, coal, rubber tires, steel, and other forms of manufacturing. They would be dominated by the labor unions, whose members traditionally vote Democratic. The central and southern parts of the state are a combination of agrarian-dominated rural and small-town areas, and cities with a balance of white- and blue-collar industries. The southern part of Ohio, in particular, shares a common culture with the South, which in the last several decades has been more conservative, and tends to vote Republican. With the vote from Hamilton County in the southwest corner (which includes Cincinnati) having been swayed to vote Democratic in the 2008 and 2012 elections, it was enough to swing the state's 18 electoral votes (with 50.1 versus 48.2 percent of the popular vote) in favor of Obama.

We see similar dichotomies in Pennsylvania and Virginia. The former is divided between the larger urban centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and smaller ones such as Erie and Scranton, all with mostly blue-collar and/or minority populations. The latter is more or less split along the Rappahannock River. To the north is a region largely consisting of non-southerners and foreign-born, who rely on the federal government as a "company town" and want to keep it that way, and so will tend to vote liberal; that is, Democratic. The rest of the state is very southern, ergo conservative, ergo Republican, except for the urban centers such as Richmond and Newport News/Norfolk, which are, in concert with northern Virginia, enough to give its 13 electoral votes to Obama as well.

There is another perspective to our cultural divide that was brought to our attention just recently. “One can drive nearly the entire length of the continental United States in a straight line, over 3000 miles [from Curry County, Oregon, to Granville County, North Carolina], without going through a single county that voted for Barack Obama. North to south [from Divide County, North Dakota, to Terrell County, Texas] isn't even difficult.” Well, the west-to-east route could have been pulled off by angling it just a touch southward towards the end, but you get the idea. The bulk of the Democratic vote is concentrated in the northeast, along the Great Lakes, and the east and west coasts, not to mention the Indian reservations. Virtually everywhere else is distinctly Republican. This is how America is divided; urban against rural, urbane against provincial, liberal against conservative. We are supposed to be united as a country, even after a general election. But with the popular vote split so evenly in the last two elections, we live in what Michael Barone calls "two Americas."

One America tends to be traditionally religious, personally charitable, appreciative of entrepreneurs, and suspicious of government. The other tends to be secular or only mildly religious, less charitable, skeptical of business, and supportive of government as an instrument to advance liberal causes ... The election may be over, but the two Americas are still not on speaking terms.

How did it get this way?

PONTIFICATING PUNDITS

People like Ann Coulter blame everyone but Romney, namely those who were what she calls "purists,"while insisting that everyone should have quit the internecine bickering and go with the most palatable, least offensive candidate from the get-go. She does manage to explain, if badly, why the middle-of-the-road approach did not work in 2012. Yet she and so many others of her ilk neglect to explain why this approach also didn't work in 2008, in the form of the wannabe "maverick," Senator John McCain.

The advocates of a middle-of-the-road Republican candidate, which dominate the party establishment and show no signs of yielding, continue to deny that their approach continues to fail. As Jonathan Last points out:

Romney was an ideological Rohrschach test for voters onto which they could project whatever views they wanted. As such, you can’t really say that they were uniformly rejecting some particular brand of ideology.

Nor can you say that they were embracing one. That's why they call it "middle-of-the-road." It was the downfall of Bush the Younger's legacy, it didn't work in 2008, it didn't work in 2012, and the definition of insanity, where the same thing is tried repeatedly in the hope of different results, would once again prove fatal for Republicans.

Another columnist for the National Review, Kevin Williamson, boils Romney's loss in Ohio down to three things ...

1. Ohio likes crony capitalism. The automotive bailout is popular in Ohio, and not just among self-interested workers and investors in that industry ...

2. Class warfare works. It is juvenile and it is economically illiterate, but a fair number of Americans worked themselves up into a lather over Mitt Romney’s paying a relatively low tax rate ...

3. Repealing Obamacare was not a deal clincher in Ohio. A number of people I spoke to in the state suggested that the Romney-Ryan ticket paid too much attention to repealing Obamacare without spelling out an alternative ...

... the first amounting to borrowing from China to prop up a "too big to fail" industry, the second being a confirmation of how Camille Paglia became disillusioned with Obama, the third underscoring Romney's fundamental weakness: the inability to elaborate on a specific plan, relying too much on that of his running mate (who couldn't very well coach him during the debates, now, could he?).

Then there was the usual canard about playing to the conservative base, the so-called "Tea Party" -- by the way, there's no such thing, as it's more of an idea or a movement, than it is a single, coherent organization -- at the expense of the big tent, the broader conservative constituency; in other words, the country-club-joining, three-martini-lunch-sipping, East Coast banker-and-lawyer types, the aging white guys once known as "Rockefeller Republicans." This old party establishment went out of their way for at least a year to ensure that their man got the nod no matter what enthusiasm any other candidate for the nomination would generate. Don't worry, they'd tell themselves, they'll all say or do something stupid sooner or later.

The thing is, most of them did. On the other hand, none of them ever strapped a dog cage to the top of their car with the dog still in it. In other words, Romney was no more immune from the frailties of the human condition than the rest of them. Many have gone to considerable lengths to describe the Republicans stumbling all over each other, but the most amusing (if only as an acquired taste) came from none other than my son, wunderkind of game design and would-be political wonk Paul David Alexander, a couple of months ago.

At the beginning of the year, it was somebody, ANYBODY but Romney. Romney was a wishy washy twerp who couldn't possibly guide true conservatives to victory. His chief accomplishment in office was Romneycare for [pity's] sake! SuperPACs flooded the campaigns of Gingrich, Cain, Bachmann, Perry -- a different crazy kook every other week, all in the desperate hopes of avoiding what most pragmatic conservative pundits saw as the inevitable. When that didn't work, conservatives pitched a fit and insisted Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Sarah Palin, or the resurrected corpse of Ronald Reagan take a shot at it. When THAT didn't work, every single notable radio/talk show conservative pundit -- from O'Reilly to Coulter to Huckabee to Beck -- insisted that they were drawing a line in the sand. No way, no how were they gonna get behind this guy. They trashed him week in and week out. My, how things change.

And change they did, which actually proves one of two things. Either the GOP should have come to a conclusion sooner, saving a lot of money on the convention and the primary brouhaha, or the party establishment should have gotten the message that maybe the proverbial cat was not necessarily in the bag, that the "least offensive candidate" approach was going to fail -- again. Alas, they didn't get the hint, and they didn't get the White House. Not very "pragmatic," is it? My, how things don't change. (See "definition of insanity," above.)

AND NOW, THE SO-CALLED “CATHOLIC VOTE”

You were wondering when we'd get to this one, weren't you?

The very idea of discussing the Catholic vote, at first glance, is a joke, as ably demonstrated by those on the political left or right who attempt to claim it. The very fact that such a voting bloc can be determined solely along partisan political lines is a perfect illustration of the ideological tail wagging the Catholic dog. Well-intentioned organizations like CatholicVote.org come off looking like neo-conservative front groups, when they draw up litmus tests that read like a Republican scorecard, heedless of such factors as reservations of two popes concerning America's war in Iraq, all in relation to the "just war theory." One can disagree as to whether or not this criteria may apply, and it is not an absolute teaching like, say, abortion, but when a Pope speaks out on it one way or the other, it carries a certain weight -- unless, we can only surmise, it becomes politically inconvenient to do so. (Mind you, their list isn't wrong, merely short-sighted.)

Attempts to explain the Catholic vote are also pointless without certain distinctions being made.

The poll shows that 50% of voters who identified themselves as Catholics voted for Obama, and 48% for Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The CNN poll did not distinguish between active and lapsed Catholics [which, upon doing so in the exit polls] showed a clear preference for Romney (59-39%) among voters who attended church services weekly, and an even more pronounced tilt toward Obama (62-34%) among those who never attended services.

Getting past why an ostensibly "conservative" Catholic source would refer to assisting at Mass as "attending services" (which some of us are old enough to remember never being done), we can see that practicing Catholics vote one way, and non-practicing Catholics vote the other. Otherwise, the above only proves that the Catholic vote is just like the Catholic divorce rate; indistinguishable from its non-Catholic neighbor.

In other words, the Catholic vote is no big deal. It's just like how we don't have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but just "attend services." Geez!

WHO LOST?

Besides Romney, that is to say? At least his life will go on, and it's not as if he needs the job. He could retire comfortably for the rest of his life, although he probably won't. Other candidates in recent years have learned their own lessons from losing as well.

One big loser is conservatism in America, and the Republican party in particular. There are fiscal conservatives who are not keen on the social issues, and social conservatives who court the "religious right," but end up being "big government" conservatives when in office. George W Bush was an example of the latter, and to hear some say it, he has yet to live it down. But one segment of the conservative movement is consistently ignored, and has the capacity to both rouse the traditional party base, and win a good share of the young vote. The so-called "granola conservatives" (or as Rod Dreher so ineptly refers to them, "crunchy conservatives") endorse fiscal prudence, social conservatism with a locally-based activist streak, and a foreign policy of non-interventionism, which we may be forced to adapt sooner or later, as we may no longer be able to afford our Wilsonian vision as the world's babysitter. The most viable standard-bearer for this point of view in the 2012 race was Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who has been the laughingstock of his party's establishment, not to mention some of the candidates.

But the really, REALLY big loser in this election year, which may not be apparent for a while, is the mainstream media. Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel assess the bitter fruit of playing the lapdog for the Obama presidency, with so-called journalists resigning themselves to rare press conferences, evasive responses, and being confined to soft-balling questions, lest they appear "rude" to a thin-skinned chief executive.

The media are rooting for Barack Obama. They’re not hiding it.

Consider Benghazi. An American consulate is destroyed and a US ambassador murdered at a time when the president is boasting at every campaign stop that he has crushed al-Qaida. In an effort not to disrupt this narrative, the White House and the Obama campaign spend weeks claiming the incident was merely a protest over a video, rather than a real terror attack. Then intelligence surfaces showing just the opposite: The killers in Benghazi were no street mob, and Obama knew as much from the beginning.

Imagine if George W. Bush, or even Bill Clinton, had tried something like this during a re-election campaign ...

We'll leave the rest to you since, having witnessed Joe Biden's completely boorish conduct during the vice-presidential debate, we know you can very well imagine.

HOPE BREEDS ETERNAL (IF MOMENTARILY ELUSIVE)

Syndicated columnist and Pinay Jersey girl Michelle Malkin found reasons to rejoice over the election, if not at the national level, but at various congressional, gubernatorial, and other assorted victories across the nation, in her "20 things that went right on Election Day." One victory she neglected to mention, probably because the results were not immediately apparent, was that of Michelle Bachmann, once-defeated candidate for the Republican nomination, who went on to regain her seat in the House of Representatives, on behalf of Minnesota's 6th congressional district.

Of course, this also means that I won't be getting any more fundraising e-mails from Madame Congresswoman with the subject heading:

“Stop what you're doing.”
 

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Obligatory Bishops’ Meeting “Church Chat” Segment

We here at man with black hat simply cannot be everywhere, not like those "professional Catholics" such as my Close and Personal Friend Mark Shea, whom I understand was flown clear across the country (by coach, right?) to Baltimore for the bishops' meeting this week, supposedly to talk about blogging and social media and stuff (or maybe just to hang out in the lobby and wait for people to interview him, whatever). And to think I live just an hour away by car. Do you know they spend several million dollars on that annual soirée every year? Even after they moved it from Washington to Baltimore?

And they invited Rocco Palmo? Boy, that hurts.

Anyway, at some point, this was reported:

@roccopalmo: (Cardinal) Dolan: "The church made a mistake" in watering down Fri abstinence. In other words, you can bank it that year-round's coming back #usccb12

Do I observe it year-round? I did when I was married. My parents did for most of their lives until recent years. I observe it sporadically beyond penitential seasons. My substitution of penance is usually fasting. Personally, I could live with Friday abstinence being year-round. I think a lot of Catholics could live with it, both young and old, once they get used to the idea. It may seem like a trifle to some of you anointed ones in the Catholic intelligensia, but if it helps us to identify more with our Catholicity instead of less, it's a small price to pay.

Besides, I believe it was Teresa of Avila who said: “Trifles make for holiness, and holiness is no trifle.” Makes sense, don't you think?

Or don't you?
 

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A Veterans Day Message

India foxtrot yankee oscar uniform charlie alpha november uniform november delta echo romeo sierra tango alpha november delta tango hotel india sierra charlie oscar papa yankee alpha november delta papa alpha sierra tango echo india tango tango oscar yankee oscar uniform romeo sierra tango alpha tango uniform sierra.

(IMAGE: Four brothers in uniform, Sidney, Ohio, circa 1950. Standing left to right: Raymond Alexander (godfather), Francis Alexander (uncle), Paul Alexander (father). Seated, Virgil Alexander (father). More information, click here)

(H/T to Rosemary.)
 

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“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Veterans Day Edition)

This week, in lieu of our usual segment, Bill Whittle reflects the morning after last week's election, which is a bit depressing to watch. On the other hand, we can rest assured that the First Lady can be proud of her country for another four years, while taking more vacations to other countries at our expense. Isn't that the least we can do?

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

We all know how annoying those Facebook games are, but in at least one case, they helped a woman find a new kidney. (WGCL-TV)

In the city of Walton, Kentucky, the race for a seat on the city council was tied, and will be decided by a coin toss. If only Robert McDonald's wife had turned up to vote. (The Kentucky Enquirer)

Speaking of McDonalds, a restaurant by that name in West Virginia flew the American flag upside down the morning after the election, which is customarily a sign of distress or a call for help. (WTOV-TV)

Finally, speaking of a call for help, a woman in Kenya gave birth to twin boys, whom she named Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. (The Standard)

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.
 

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Building a Village of God

Sermon for All Saints Day 2012
The Right Rev'd Philip Anderson
Abbot of Clear Creek Monastery
Lost City, Oklahoma


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
My very dear sons,

Today's feast, through the liturgical texts that it employs, transports us into the courts of the heavenly Jerusalem, where all the saints, who have fought the good fight on earth, enjoy evermore the fruits of their victory over sin and death. And they praise God and the Lamb, that is to say Our Lord as He appears in the Apocalypse of Saint John, knowing that their victories derive, in fact, from Christ's own Passion, Death and Resurrection. “And I saw: and behold in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the ancients, a Lamb standing as if slain ...” (Apoc. 5:6). The Saints are truly this "cloud of witnesses" that the Epistle to the Hebrews mentions (12:1), who encourage us from above in our own combats here below.

In our increasingly secularized society, it seems that the strongmen on the political scene (and behind the political scene) are moving forward with a plan to marginalize little by little the presence of the Christian Faith in the public square and to push all Christians — especially Catholics — behind the walls of their churches, in such a manner as to make of religion a purely private affair. This is already happening with the infamous HHS mandate that the current administration has prepared and which effectively forces upon our consciences such highly immoral practices as abortion and artificial contraception. If this law were to remain, many Catholic hospitals and schools would have to close their doors — and that would be just the beginning. Despite praiseworthy efforts of late to organize Catholics in prayer and adoration in order to combat these tendencies, it is clear that our voices are all but ignored in Washington and in the major media sources. Secular society pays less attention to us even than Goliath did to the youth who advanced in his direction, once upon a time, carrying a slingshot and five pebbles in his shepherd's bag.

In this Year of Faith it is important to place this situation facing the Catholic Church in America within the context of the whole story of the faith described by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews:

“By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice more excellent than did Cain. By faith Noe, having been warned concerning things not seen as yet, prepared with pious fear an ark in which to save his household. By faith he who is called Abraham obeyed by going out into a place which he was to receive for an inheritance. By faith also Sara herself, being barren, received strength to conceive seed, because she believed that he was faithful who promised. By faith Moses left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he persevered as if seeing him who cannot be seen.”

It is a similar effort of faith that is required of us today, because we too are called to join the "cloud of witnesses" who give praise to God through living in this spirit of faith that is also the spirit of the Beatitudes.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill ...”

We might note that each beatitude, in this regard - much like each act of faith - is a kind of passage from darkness to light, from something painful to consolation. That is just the way it is with the faith. In the vision of eternity no sadness enters in, but that is not so in our present condition. Faith is a kind of light, but also a kind of darkness, since we do not see directly the object of our faith, which is God Himself. Faith might thus be called a "luminous shadow." Or perhaps it is something like the light that appears at the end of night on the horizon before dawn actually breaks.

But will we really win, as David won, in this unequal combat? Will we triumph against the modern Goliath? Of course! That is as long as we do not try to put on, so to speak, "Saul's armor." In other words as long as we remain within the logic of the true Catholic Faith and do not try to beat the prince of this world at his own game by trying to know all the secrets of his evil at work in society, we will have God's strength with us. Being strong in the Faith, simple and sober-minded, we have a share in Christ's own victory, which is crushing to the enemies of the Church and quite complete. We just have to wait for God's hour to bring it all about.

We accomplish all of this, of course, sailing through life in a somewhat leaky boat, Peter's bark. If the Church remains in her essence, as Saint Paul affirms, “not having wrinkle, or any such thing, holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:27), she is nevertheless composed of very imperfect human beings. “For see, brethren, that there are not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble.” (I Cor. 1:26). The same Saint Paul gives us a clue as to why this is: “But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the strong.” (ibid. v. 27).

Let us continue, during this Year of Faith, to call upon all the saints, who form a "cloud of witnesses" from age to age through Christian history, but especially upon those who have a particular role to play in our time and place. We would do well to pray in particular to the recently canonized Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be raised to such an honor, to Saint John Neumann, to Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and to the other American saints. Let us ask God to grant us the grace of seeing in our lifetime the overturning of unjust laws such as those allowing abortion and other offenses against the dignity of human life — crimes that so darken our land — and the return to what truly builds a civilization based on natural and divine law, the "civilization of love," following the expression of several recent popes. It is the spirit of faith that leads to the establishment of such a civilization and of such a culture.

Following the Blessed Virgin Mary, the "star of the New Evangelization," and, on the contemporary scene of this world, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, whose own tranquil faith continues to inspire us, let us construct right here at Clear Creek a small but significant corner of that true civilization of love. Saint Augustine spoke of the "City of God." May Clear Creek become the "Village of God" and the rugged but beautiful birthplace of a new generation of saints for America and for the world.

Amen. Alleluia.

(H/T to Rooster Cogburn.)
 

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

“Would you like to swing on a star?”

The last time we published something with the above title was in April of 2010, when ...

... the House of Representatives passed a resolution by a vote of 223 to 169, which could lead to Puerto Rico rejecting its commonwealth status, and possibly becoming the Nation's fifty-first state.

Closer to the present, this past Tuesday saw Puerto Ricans vote in favor of statehood. If the House approves, they would have to give up fielding their own Olympic team, and join ours as our fifty-first state. This would require a redesign of the American flag, contingencies for which have already been drawn up by the United States Army Institute of Heraldry, which provides heraldic services to the Armed Forces and other government organizations, including the Executive Office of the President. They actually have designs on the drawing board for arrangements of up to fifty-six stars. The illustration on record is a staggered star arrangement of three rows of nine stars, alternating with three rows of eight stars. Personally, I prefer the design proposed by Puerto Rico's New Progressive Party.

When I first heard of the Puerto Rican vote, my first reaction was that a new flag wouldn't be necessary, as I fully expected Texas to be the site of a new secessionist movement. Of all that several States, they seemed most likely to go through with it. But their neighbors to the east may have the jump on them. Here's a petition submitted by residents of Louisiana, on the White House official website:

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

"...Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government..."

Has a familiar ring to it, doesn't it? They need 25,000 signatures by December 7, at which time to White House promises to get back to them. At this writing, they have 4,295. (They gained roughly a hundred while this piece was being written.)

UPDATE 1: Sure enough, the Lone Star State has followed suit:

The US continues to suffer economic difficulties stemming from the federal government’s neglect to reform domestic and foreign spending. The citizens of the US suffer from blatant abuses of their rights such as the NDAA, the TSA, etc. Given that the state of Texas maintains a balanced budget and is the 15th largest economy in the world, it is practically feasible for Texas to withdraw from the union, and to do so would protect it’s citizens’ standard of living and re-secure their rights and liberties in accordance with the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers which are no longer being reflected by the federal government.

As this is written, they are two/thirds of the way to obtaining the necessary 25,000 signatures by December 7.

UPDATE 2: The count of petitions is now up to fifteen states.

UPDATE 3: Nearly twenty states, and some people aren't taking it so well.

And so, the plot thickens.
 

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Friday, November 09, 2012

FAMW: A Message from the Queen

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith:

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

Her Sovereign Majesty will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except North Dakota, which she does not fancy).

Your new Prime Minister, David Cameron, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. The letter "U" will be reinstated in words such as "colour," "favour," "labour" and "neighbour." Likewise, you will learn to spell "doughnut" without skipping half the letters, and the suffix "-ize" will be replaced by the suffix "-ise." Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up "vocabulary").

2. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter "u" and the elimination of "-ize."

3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not ready to shoot grouse.

5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable, as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth - see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialect in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

11. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).

12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1 percent of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

13. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

14. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

15. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God Save the Queen!

(We just couldn't help ourselves at this time in our history, not to mention for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.)
 

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