Tuesday, July 30, 2002

"I love it when a plan comes together." (Revisited)

Miss Stimpson (God forbid this flower of Catholic womanhood should ever be addressed as "Ms"!) comes back at Victor Lams of Et Cetera with a five-point plan for the reform of the Church.

Either is preferable to "traveling to Boston for a pep rally." But the dear lady seriously underestimates the movement of those who "quit their jobs, pack up their house, leave their friends and move to Steubenville." The counrtyside to the west of that fair city has become the seeding ground for a Catholic agrarian movement, comprised mostly of homeschooling families. This is particularly the case in the next county over, Harrison, one of the poorest per capita in Ohio. You can count on one hand the number of traffic lights. And the greatest sign of urban encroachment to date, is the plan to build a Kroger supermarket just outside of Cadiz, the county seat.

But the greatest sign of hope is a little town known as, appropriately enough, Hopedale. There was this woman who was found to have breast cancer. Living on the products from a small farm, combined with a subsistance income, she and her husband were without health insurance. The town held a spaghetti dinner at the local firehouse, with a silent auction and who-knows-what-all, to raise enough money for her treatment. These kind folk did the same once again, for a mother and daughter with identical brain tumors. I was there.

I'm not making this up, Miss Emmy. Wanna go for a drive?
Nineteen Fifty-Seven

According to a friend, these were comments actually overheard during the year in question:

"I'll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are, it's going to be impossible to buy a week's groceries for $20." 

"Have you seen the new cars coming out next year? It won't be long before $2000 will only buy a used one." 

"If cigarettes keep going up in price, I'm going to quit. A quarter a pack is ridiculous." 

"Did you hear the post office is thinking about charging a dime just to mail a letter?" 

"If they raise the minimum wage to $1, nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store." 

"When I first started driving, who would have thought gas would someday cost 29 cents a gallon. Guess we'd be better off leaving the car in the garage." 

"Kids today are impossible. Those duck tail hair cuts make it impossible to stay groomed. Next thing you know, boys will be wearing their hair as long the girls." 

"I'm afraid to send my kids to the movies any more. Ever since they let Clark Gable get by with saying 'damn' in 'Gone With The Wind,' it seems every new movie has either 'hell' or 'damn' in it." 

"I read the other day where some scientist thinks it's possible to put a man on the moon by the end of the century. They even have some fellows they call 'astronauts' preparing for it down in Texas." 

"Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $75,000 a year just to play ball? It wouldn't surprise me if someday they'll be making more than the president." 

"I never thought I'd see the day all our kitchen appliances would be electric. They are even making electric typewriters now." 

"It's too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women are having to work to make ends meet." 

"It won't be long before young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work." 

"Marriage doesn't mean a thing any more; those Hollywood stars seem to be getting divorced at the drop of a hat." 

"I'm just afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business." 

"Thank goodness I won't live to see the day when the Government takes half our income in taxes. I sometimes wonder if we are electing the best people to congress." 

"The drive-in restaurant is convenient in nice weather, but I seriously doubt they will ever catch on." 

"There is no sense going to Lincoln or Omaha anymore for a weekend. It costs nearly $15 a night to stay in a hotel." 

"No one can afford to be sick any more; $35 a day in the hospital is too rich for my blood." 

"If they think I'll pay 50 cents for a hair cut, forget it."

Looking back:

• some girls now want their hair as short as that of the boys,

• drive-in restaurants never really did catch on, and

• a one-day stay in a hospital still costs me only $35 -- after insurance.
Crashing Through Windows

Rod Dreher of the National Review learns the lesson that Macintosh users have known for years. They can make it look like a Mac, walk like a Mac, and talk like a Mac. Ultimately, however, a Windows platform still sits on a DOS.
Somewhere over the Internet...

...is a web page with hundreds of "guy walks into a bar" jokes. Until then, this collection from Mark Shea will suffice.

Monday, July 29, 2002

"I love it when a plan comes together."

(-- Colonel Hannibal Smith, from the television series The A Team)

This nine-point plan to combat the current scandals in the Church can be measured up to any nine-day novena on the books. After all, none of them include the use of a shotgun or a pick-up truck. Lock and load, boys!
Prime Time

The Liturgy of the Hours (also known as The Divine Office) is one of the official prayers of the Church -- the other being the Mass itself -- that lives up to the Scripture verse: "Seven times a day shall I praise Thee." Once the domain of priests and monastics, the modern era has extended its use to the rest of us.

Sursum Corda gives an overview of the LOTH, and a summary of its contemporary use by the laity.

John DaFiesole of Disputations laments the suppression of the Office of Prime, the prayer of the "first hour." He makes his case in a first, a second, a third, and a fourth entry.

Subsequently, Father Tucker of Dappled Things explains the reasoning behind its supression.

Disputations also proposes a "Microbreviary" -- that is, an abbreviated form of the Hours for common use.

I propose two alternatives that are already in print. One can eventually be memorized for the entire day. "Daily Devotions" appears in a section of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. This can be found online by going to this page, and scrolling down to a place just after page 136, to where it says "Daily Devotions for Families and Individuals." It is also found in the back of a handy little black date book produced by Morehouse Publications. I've been using this type of date book for the last several years.

There is another more comprehensive alternative, published monthly as Magnificat. This little booklet combines for each day, a simplified version of morning and evening prayer, with the Mass texts for that day. Included are reflections from the writings of the Saints and others, plus general articles on the spiritual life. Also available is a leatherette cover with ribbon markers.

With so many of the official English translations of liturgical texts in a state of flux, this is the one to get.

Magnificat: the breviary for the rest of us!
"Monday morning, it was all I hoped it would be..."

...especially since I got a seat on the Metro this morning. It's the only good thing about spending August in DC.

Anyway, my best friend and I went to see a movie, Lilo and Stitch. Pretty good stuff. Then we planted a tree -- my first since my Boy Scouting days.

Sunday was a hot one. But I went to see Zydeco Crayz anyway. To my astonishment, my son elected to join me. So my friends got to meet him. He had a few observations about the zydeco scene in general. But since most of them had to do with me, they cannot be printed here. Sorry.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Random Thoughts During the Interlude

Amidst the merriment that comes from being around friends and others, there are the quiet moments. They often occur to me after Mass on Sunday morning, or elsewhere when the music stops.

During one of them, I thought of a dear friend of mine, who is going through a difficult period. We have become very close, and with the changes to our lives, come the inevitable tensions that arise when paths are at risk of diverging. I remembered that friend at Mass today, in the hopes that all would be well.

I thought of my friend Lou, who died of cancer earlier this month. As the reality sets in, I realize just how much of a gap he left behind. I keep thinking of the things I wanted to ask him.

Imagine Christ losing most of his following (Gospel of John, chapter 6) when He lost most of his followers, because He told them what they didn't want to hear. Imagine Him then on the cross, after most of His dearest friends deserted Him outright. If we love someone, we must sooner or later deal with losing them. All of us, both in entering this world in the beginning, and leaving this world at the end, face that passageway alone. In such moments, "God alone suffices."

Friday, July 26, 2002

This weekend...

...I'll be up to my usual no good, starting at a place by the Bay in Baltimore. Then there's more zydeco on Sunday, both in the afternoon and in the evening. In between, I think I'll go see a movie. But (sigh!) which one?
"Even a stopped clock is right twice a day."

Father Jim Tucker of Dappled Things discovers (much to his astonishment I'm sure) that Notre Dame theologian Father Richard McBrien is right about something after all. Reading the piece referred to by "Don Jim," I ask myself, why can't McBrien be this insightful when he's on CNN, and spare us the usual ideological harangues?
Better Living Through Chemistry

As one of 20 million Americans who suffers from some form of depression, I read with some interest the discovery by Mr Popcak, of a University of Connecticut study which shows that "the class of mood enhancing drugs called selective-seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) that include prozac may not actually do any more than taking a placebo."

Well, Greg, I tried Prozac for three weeks. I'm willing to bet a sizable amount of money, that a placebo wouldn't give me the jitters, as if I drank ten cups of coffee a day.

I'm not prepared to state that medication is the answer for everybody. But for those of us (I'd say... oh, roughly twenty percent) who put off such solutions for years while we tried damn near everything else, there is hope through modern medicine.
More enthusiasm!

John Mallon gives us his two-part account, written ten years ago, about the co-existence of traditionalists versus charismatics at Franciscan University of Steubenville. It is defiinitely worth reading for all you Steubenville-watchers out there. As for you, John, if you really want to know about someone who's "without a clue," look no further than here.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

VOTF Watch

"Show me the money!"

...and guitars. The enthusiasm over... well, enthusiasm, continues.
Somebody out there...

...had the audacity to take my comments on the charismatic movement at face value, rather than read all kinds of things into them. Nice to know I'm in good company with the likes of Msgr Knox. (Lest anyone get the wrong impression, I was not a student at Steubenville, though I have a number of friends in the area -- even now.)
True Confessions...

...from Kathy Shaidle in Toronto.
Keep those cards and letters coming!

In the face of adversity, the MWBH Mailroom is bulging with fan mail. Here's a piece from a student at Notre Dame:

Dear Mr. Man With Black Hat,

Have enjoyed your blog, though one thing did come to mind recently. In terms of Latin Masses, one mass per month means Steubenville is light-years ahead of U Notre Dame, which is where I go to school (I hope to be an architect and build churches that look like real churches, not Mormon ice-cream cones or flight hangars). While we have a fine traditional choral program with wonderful Latin motets and incense and a pipe-organ, we only have a real, honest-to-goodness Latin mass once every YEAR! Odd the way it's worked out.

Also, regarding occasionally accompanying the mass with a guitar, it may not be incompatible with Latin, chants and a traditional mass. One just has to watch where one's going. While it's rather obscure, there's a long history of Latin ecclesial choral works accompanied by stringed instruments, including...yes...guitars. One can find lute and mandolins accompanying Venetian polychoral works and even the occasional guitar for liturgical settings of psalms from 16th century Mexico. It actually sounds pretty good, which astonished me.

Of course, the strings are partially covered up by recorders, shawms, sackbutts--fear not, it's a sort of mediaeval trombone--and continuo, but it's still there. However, the music has, unlike most contemporary "hymns," the advantage of a) being old b) being polyphonic c) having sackbutts--I love saying that word--and d) most importantly, *not* being written by Marty Haugen.

Ah, yes. Fascinating commentary on the liturgical use of guitar and other instruments. I'm not above using a pennywhistle and a bodhran (an Irish drum made from a pigskin stretched over a sieve) when I'm on the job. I go for doin' the Celtic thing. Mr Schultz, are you taking notes?

The reader had one more question:

And why are you The Man With Black Hat? Is that like Zorro?

No, sir. It's more like Johnny Cash, "The Man in Black." Listen to his song about why the country music artist wears that color. You get the idea.

Now then, we have another one, from fellow St Blog parishioner Mr Dave Pawlak:

I grew up around charismatic prayer groups in the '70's, as my mother went to them. I read about some of the things going on the the 80's (by then, my mom had moved on to becoming more active in her own parish), and I "re-entered" the movement in the mid-90's, when I joined a prayer group which had a charismatic aspect to it. So I do know something about the movement.

Do I have reservations about the Charismatic Movement? Definitely. I've run across people who think you're not a complete Christian unless you've received the gift of tongues, despite what St. Paul said about the matter. Some boast about their particular "gift" (which makes me wonder). And there is a tendency to attract some rather mentally unstable people, or at least people who have a tendency to take things to extremes. They've flitted from Charismatic Renewal to questionable apparitions to Integrist Traditionalism (check out http://www.DailyCatholic.org for an example of the latter).

OTOH, I think that the younger folks in the Movement have more balance. They've learned from the errors of their forebears (by and large), and want the emphasis on Catholic rather than Charismatic. That means not equating prayer meetings with Mass, nor mixing the two together; no apologies or downplay regarding hard doctrine and belief; and a realization that the Movement is not the be-all and end-all --- that it is simply one spirituality among others. And many of the older folks (including my own mother) have credited the Movement with helping them become better Catholics. They may no longer attend prayer groups, but they've moved on into other things as faithful members of Christ's Body.

One last thing on gifts: One evening, at prayer group, my mother was asked to pray with a troubled young woman. As Mom was sitting with her, she silently prayed, and wondered what was wrong with this woman, why she had so many troubles. Suddenly, Mom looked up and said, "All because your mother died and you had to raise your brothers and sisters......". She knew nothing of this woman's past. But it was true. Scared my mother no end, since she didn't ask for this.

I'm sure Mr Pawlak will agree that no discussion on this matter would be complete without our friend Mr Pete Vere writing on "The Trentecostal Experience."

Thanks for writing, everyone. Keep 'em coming.
I should have taken another day off!

Saints preserve us! The bloodletting isn't over yet.

One of my learned colleagues at St Blog's accuses me of being "without a clue" concerning the charismatic movement. He then proceeds to draw rather narrow conclusions (at least to my mind) as to what constitutes being "joyful" in Catholic worship. Gregorian chant can be joyful, in the true Catholic sense.

There is a story I will tell eventually, of how the "gifts of the Spirit" saved my own life. There is also a quotation from Irenaeus that I shall pull out of my library eventually, that came to mind in the course of this exchange. If that isn't enough, I will be happy to tell of all the fine Catholic folks I have met in recent years, who claimed to hear voices and see visions (one of whom continues to harass me by private e-mail). I can also tell of those who made money off of them. Other than that, I have said all that I am going to on the subject for now.

To those who watch this exchange, I have the highest opinion of everyone who has taken issue with me on this matter. They are fine people who have inspired me to take up this medium that you read now. They are good to remind me that occasionally I may be mistaken on any given topic. Over the course of this exchange, I have already admitted as much.

By the way, Miss Emily, I got that call from development office at your alma mater. I may have some redeeming qualities after all. Ahem!!!

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Striking another blow...

for political incorrectness.
The Rocky Road to Steubenville

Both Mr Popcak and Ms Stimpson take issue with my observations about Charismatics, speaking in tongues at Steubenville, and all that. Both contain some very valid observations, and I am grateful for them. Yes, it is unfair to suggest that the failings of one priest (or even two) should condemn an entire movement. Both of them were off the mark on a few points, however. Greg, I stand behind my observations of Catholicism as a cognitive experience. Although I will concede that the will must precede the intellect. And Emily, one Latin Mass a month is the same now as about ten years ago. I do manage to follow the discussion, both through the independent magazine University Concourse, and with friends from Steubenville (if I still have any left).

I've had some experience with people who claim certain "gifts." The ones I admired most were the ones who didn't wear it on their sleeve. I've also known of devotees of the Latin Mass who were quite dedicated to the Charismatic movement. My only point concerned the potential for danger with forces not completely within our control. Beyond that, I prefer not to squabble with those, with whom I have more to share than not.

So, Miss Emily, have your people call my people, and I'll keep those checks coming.

(By the way, Mr Popcak, I have played guitar since I was 11, and am not above accompanying the liturgy with the instrument. I tend to lean more toward traditional hymns, though, and Gregorian chant settings for the Ordinary.)

Monday, July 22, 2002

Steubenville (revisited)

In repsonse to my account of life at the University of Steubenville, one of my learned colleauges writes:

"[Y]ou're likely aware that the charismatic element at Steubenville, while influential, is now a minority. You'll find as many Catholics of our stripe (God help them!) as you will tongue-speakers."

Yes, my good man, I am aware of them. But if the "charismatic element" is a minority, why are they still so influential? Is it because the administration is still stuck in the glory days of the 70s, when being charismatic was such a groovy happenin' thing? To this day, is there a regular Latin Mass at Steubenville?
"Oh, how the mighty have fallen..." (revisited)

Mary Beth Bonnaci joins the ranks of those shocked by the disgrace of Father John Bertolucci, who was found to have been guilty of sexual abuse of young boys many years ago. She is also reminded of a similar fate having befallen Father Kenneth Roberts.

I remember the first Mass I attended at the chapel at Franciscan University of Steubenville. At the end of the Gloria, the guitarists banged out a climactic fanfare, as some of those assembled began speaking in tongues. I turned around and started looking for the nearest exit.

Alas, in recent years, the faith of many has been shaken. They desperately seek out signs and wonders. "Oh look, the Blessed Mother is appearing over at..." I heard that often enough. Many such "visions" are eventually disproved, their advocates exposed as charlatans. I've been there. I've seen it myself.

In his 2nd century Treatise Against Heresies, Irenaeus warned against the misuse of alleged "gifts of the Spirit." In matters of faith, there is a danger in getting all caught up in the purely experiential. Man is a reasoning animal, and Catholicism is, by its nature, a cognitive way of life -- lived through the heart, but received through the head. Small wonder, then, that some traditional Catholics have long taken a dim view of the Charismatic movement. It all sounds wonderful, until the rubber meets the road.

That's when we all risk looking pretty silly.
More Granola!

There are several entries today from Ad Orientem, which continue the conversation on "granola conservatives." (You know, that one that began here.)

I've been meaning to read Chesterton's 1927 book Outline of Sanity, which I've been carrying around forever, especially since reading this review by Barbara Rose.

Meanwhile, Joel Kotkin of the Davenport Institue at Pepperdine University contributes this piece in the Sunday Washington Post, entitled "If We Let Rural America Die, We Shall Lose a Piece of Ourselves". (Links to Washington Post articles are free for the first 14 days.)

For all anyone knows, I could be writing this from the middle of North Dakota. Hmmmm...
"Oh, how the mighty have fallen..."
Louis, we hardly knew ye...

We assembled in his back yard yesterday afternoon, nearly 150 of us, to bid farewell to an old friend, Louis Uram. The memorial was intended to resemble a Quaker service, unadorned and spontaneous. And so, we gathered in chairs around the garden pond, built in the final weeks of his life, to his specifications, as his final memorial.

It began with no less a figure than myself, playing the opening hymn on the harmonica, then singing unaccompanied:

The Minstrel-Boy to the war is gone
In the ranks of death you will find him
His father's sword he hath girded on
And his wild harp slung behind him
"Land of Song!" said the warrior-bard
"Though all the world betrays thee
One sword, at least, they rights shall guard
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"

The Minstrel fell! - But the foeman's chain
Could not bring that proud soul under
The harp he lov'd ne'er spoke again
For he tore its chords asunder
And said "No chains shall sully thee
Thou soul of love and brav'ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free,
They shall never sound in slavery!"

(Information and sound bite found here.)

The wife of the deceased arose to speak, followed by the testimony of others. Among them was this one:

Today I remember a man who was my hero, though I hardly knew him.

His wife may have been the belle of the ball. But over in the corner, some little guy was smoking a cigarette, never missing a thing around him.

You would never guess that Lou was one of a number of Marine Corps "noncombatant advisors" -- or so they called them -- in the early years of the Vietnam conflict. He didn't miss much there either. He told me later of how he was ready for death, because he could see it coming, like he had before. And so he stood up to it, unmoved, thus bringing solace to those who kept vigil around him.

Lou was Yoda, and I was the Jedi Knight in training. His size was a deception, for inside him beat the heart of a warrior. It showed in the counsel he gave, of one who observed the otherwise imperceptible in the human condition. And like the humble figure in the Star Wars saga, his counsel was doled out sparingly, leaving the student with more questions, and in the end, leaving him all too soon. I wasn't ready, I told him recently. There was not enough time.

But I discovered something. I heard it more than once: "Lou wanted me to tell you how much he appreciated..." Maybe he was too modest to tell me himself. Maybe he wanted me to know, however unlikely, that I too, could be a hero.

Will I ever learn how he meant that? My answers may rest with those who knew him longer than I, who knew him better than I. It is to them that my heart is poured out. It is to them that I turn with questions to be answered.

For I fear I shall not see his like again.

Following more testimonies, a tree was planted in one corner of the garden. As the dirt was filled in around it, along with handfuls of his cremated remains, I took up my guitar, and sang:

O, all the money e'er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm that ever I've done,
alas it was to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit
to mem'ry now I can't recall;
So fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.

O, all the comrades e'er I had,
They're sorry for my going away.
And all the sweethearts e'er I had,
They'd wished me one more day to stay.
But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call,
Goodnight and joy be with you all.

(Commentary of song to be found here.)

As I joined the others in line to contribute ashes, I picked up a leaf suitable for scooping it up, lest I touch that which I held to be sacred. As I poured in the remains, I said a prayer for the soul of this man, who practiced no formal religion, but would have heard these words as a child:

Shema, Y'israel, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echad.

(Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.)

Afterwards, one of his sons came up to me, and thanked me for saying what he was unable to say himself. We all retired to the house for a repast. I left soon thereafter to go zydeco dancing. Lou would have wanted it that way.
After the voices go home...

Yesterdays Boston Globe reports of how "Lay Catholics issue call to transform their church." There is so much to write today, and others who speak so much better than I. So I will let John DaFiesole of Disputations and Gerard Serafin of A Catholic Blog for Lovers do the talking for me.

Today is the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, the patroness of fallen women, and testimony to the potential in all of us to be saints. Mr Serafin provides the litany that bears her name (see entry for Monday, July 22, 2002).

Friday, July 19, 2002

As the feet hit the floor, and I head out the door...

• My best friend is in Chicago this week visiting family, and is missed here at home.

• My son is caught up in the throes of adolescence, made worse by his being the product of what we used to know in polite company as "a broken home." (St John Bosco, where are you when I need you?)

• I have a memorial service to attend this Sunday, to honor a man whom I did not know for very long, and the likes of whom I shall not see again (see entry for this past Wednesday).

• Several thousand people with a lot of time on their hands will meet in Boston this weekend, to discuss matters about which they know little, and about which they can do even less.

• I haven't danced much in the past week or more, and the deficit is starting to show. I'm checking out various options as this goes to press. I might even settle for swing dancing. In my humble experience, the jitterbug scene is one of those where, if you go to a decent event of said genre, you are having to deal with the real die-hards who take it sooooo seriously, and dancing is something I never take seriously! So I might just wait for zydeco on Saturday and Sunday nights. At least then I'm in my element.

"But it's a five o'clock world when the whistle blows, no one owns a piece of my time..."

We'll see what happens, eh?
The Third Way: Beyond Granola

Rod Dreher of the National Review did a piece online recently, concerning the curious phenomenon known as "granola conservatism." Then my friend Mr Dave Pawlak chimed in with some insights of his own (Note: refer to post of Friday July 12, as link may not be operative). This was followed by Disputations, first with one comment, then with another.

For those who lament the passing of the magazine known as Caelum Et Terra, they would be surprised to learn of its would-be heir apparent, appropriately titled Heaven & Earth. Sadly, this twelve- to sixteen-page magazine (if you can call it a magazine at such a modest scale), begun only in the past year, only has a few dozen subscribers at last count. Several things may account for this; the increase in Catholic publications in the last decade, the increasing role of the Internet as a "low-impact" means of dispersing information, and the failure in modern times (once again) of any radical approach to living in a Catholic culture. (Sooner or later, you get sick and tired of just talking about it.)

This weblog will be devoted to matters relevant to this line of thought in the weeks to come. Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Twelve years ago today...

...I came home from work, like I always did. Instead of finding my wife and son, I found a note.

Life hasn't been the same since.

Naturally, I believed that the Church could help me. So I enrolled in the "separated and divorced ministry" conducted by the excruciatingly-orthodox Diocese of Arlington. It began with a six-week series of group sessions called "Coping." Many of the facilitators weren't even Catholic, and were certainly in no position to discuss the spiritual life in such times. The holidays came. I contemplated suicide. Through the grace of God, and the intervention of a good and holy priest (as opposed to the bungling of another given to self-righteousness), I passed through my "dark night of the soul." I went on to the next six-week series called "Rebuilding." It appeared to the facilitator of my group that my "anger issues" were not resolved, thus I was not ready for that series. So she violated a major tenet of the program, that of confidentiality, to inform the head facilitator that I had to be removed. And so I was "asked nicely" to leave (but not before being praised for my "courage").

I complained to the alleged "family life office" of the Diocese, which sponsored the program. It was not properly supervised by a clinical professional, I told them, and many of the leaders of this "Catholic ministry" were professed non-Catholics. The pin-headed bureaucrat at the other end of the line, the good little soldier that he was, disassociated his institution from any responsibility for what happened.

I was on my own.

Except for a brief period since then (which is another story for another day), I have been a faithful Mass attendee. I even abstain from meat on Friday most of the year -- not just during Lent, okay? I won't claim to have always been a very good Catholic. By some accounts, hell, I shouldn't even be one. Sometimes I go to confession once every several months, sometimes once a week. I have passed out over a dozen copies of a particular book, Crazy Time by Abigail Trafford, to aid the recovery of others who share my situation. In each copy, I write "To (enter name here), because I'm on a mission from God."

So how is the Diocese getting along? Quite well, thank you. New parish churches that look like the neighboring Wal-Mart have been built, and more men are being ordained -- twenty-three in a two-year period, in fact.

Meanwhile, reports have circulated that one of our more devout priests ran off with another man's wife, and took the kids with him. When it was over, the abandoned husband suffered a heart attack. We got a lot of apologies during the Great Jubilee, but none for that little stunt. Is the story true? I don't know. I didn't read about it in the Washington Post, nor can I verify the story otherwise. But I wouldn't put it past anyone. After all, "orthodoxy" is simply another word for talking a good game, right?

But for several thousand Catholics who will be meeting in Boston this weekend, appearances are not only deceiving, they're a crock. Known to most as the Voice of the Faithful, all of them are justifiably angry, and most of them will be deceived into believing that it's all about power. They barely know the meaning of the word. Little do they know the power of the Evil One to use a priest whose virtue is weakening, to drag countless souls down with him. (One more good reason to pray for them every day.) The forces of good and evil at work, in the heavens and on the earth, are more than they can comprehend. "Where's our piece of the action?" they will ask themselves.

Most likely in their own back yard. That's where I found mine. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

"Here a pope, there a pope..."

Father Bryce Sibley, host of A Saintly Salmagundi, begins his series of current anti-popes (guys who think they're the real pope because the one we all know is pope is really a fake, but anyway...) with one in Kansas who makes his claim while admitting he is not yet a priest. (He would at least have to be a bishop first. Duh...) I'm waiting to hear about the guy in Canada, one in Montana, one in Spain (or is it two!), one in France, and one in (get this!) Rome itself!

And Catherine of Siena thought she had it rough. Oy veh!
The Black (Hat) Watch: Day Twenty-Three

The following entry was posted by the inescapable nihil obstat:

Saturday, July 13, 2002
An imprimatur is overrated anyway.

Links to individual posts on blogspot sites are still fouled up, but you can find the rookie mistake of the "man with black hat" in the post dated July 12:

"... the incomparible Mark Shea ..."

posted by nihil obstat at 10:19 AM

"Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa..."
"Home is the sailor home from sea, and the hunter home from the hill."

My best friend called me today, with the news we had been expecting. That evening we met, and wrote the words to pass on to our friends:

"Lynn Uram is saddened to announce the passing of her devoted husband, Louis, on the morning of Tuesday, July 16.

"Lou will be remembered for his quiet but self-assured presence, and his insightful wisdom...

"Further details will be made available in either Thursday's or Friday's edition of both the Carroll County Times and the Baltimore Sun."

(Title from a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson)

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

The Rocky Road to Boston (with a Stop in Baltimore)

St Blog seminarian Steve Mattson gives us this commentary, about an article in last Sunday's Washington Post, in light of the supposed call of the Boston-based Voice of the Faithful to "democratize" the Catholic Church. Some of their leadership are so anxious to emulate the experiences of our separated brethren. Let's see if they will listen to what they don't want to hear. My experience with local VOTF groups so far is not very promising. (Note: link to Post article is active until the end of the month.)

Some of you are aware that I have been collaborating with the VOTF in the past couple of months, in an attempt to offer an alternative to the intellectual cabal that appears to have taken over their center of opinion. I should say that their representatives have been most cordial, and admit to being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task ahead of them. They seem most sincere in their desire to provide for a "conservative element" in their discussions. Sadly, the evidence leaves something to be desired.

There will be more to say on this matter as it develops. Stay tuned...

Meanwhile, tonight I have better things to do. Keith Frank is appearing in Catonsville in suburban Baltimore. This high-powered kick-ass zydeco music maker doesn't travel much outside of Louisiana, and so a dance party with him in these parts should be a real treat. If you knew why I haven't been posting much lately, you wouldn't blame me for wanting to let off a little steam. Eh toi!!!

Friday, July 12, 2002

The Missing Link(s)

If you look to the right of the screen, you see a limited number of links. I am still learning how to break out of the mold that is my template, and create a longer list. I look forward to making such progress. Maybe then the incomparible Mark Shea will include me on his list, items within which are accompanied by short but witty descriptions of the host. My personal favorite? "Thrown Back: In Case you are Wondering what Fr Rob Johansen is Thinking Right Now."

Who the hell cares what I'm thinking anyway?

We got Bastille Day coming up this weekend. Another excuse for a fais-do-do, and zydeco!!!

Now, what movies to see this weekend? Any ideas, kids?

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Where in this world can true love be found?

Rocker Eddie Van Halen and his actress-wife of 21 years, Valerie Bertinelli, announced their separation after 21 years of marriage. Details from CNN.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

"Fish are jumpin,' and the cotton is high..."

I've been in and out during this week, and so have very little to post.

It has been reported that the soundtrack album to Oh Brother Where Art Thou? has sold more than six million copies. All this with very little airplay, even on so-called "country music stations." A generation of artists have never stood behind a plow. Will a few of them ever figure out what is missing, or will the Nashville establishment keep leading the majority of them by the nose?

I've been reading in more detail about the recent Catholic bishops' meeting. I have yet to say much about all that, but I hope to soon. In the meantime, I have purchased Father Benedict Groeschel's new book From Scandal to Hope, and will review it on this site before month's end.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

"I'm back in the saddle again..."

The entire blogosphere is rejoicing this weekend, as technical difficulties plauging Blogger.com have been remedied. My entry for Friday July 5 was finally posted today. Finally went to see that movie I wanted to see last weekend. More on that later. The weekend is in full swing. Stay tuned...

Friday, July 05, 2002

Sally Fourth!!!

On Independence Day, Washington is the last place where I want to be.

The local law enforcement community -- which is otherwise to be commended in its efforts in the wake of September 11 -- appears to the casual viewer, to relish any excuse to erect a roadblock, when and where you least expect it. This year was certainly no exception, in light of recent events. Care was taken to severely limit vehicular traffic near the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Mall. Millions of sweaty people on the Mall, dozens of portable toilets backed up, the hot sun beating down...

I never tan all that well anyway.

The building where I work, just west of the White House, is in a high-risk area. In previous years, employees could view the fireworks from one of the balconies. We were not so fortunate this year. Only those invited to the private party of the agency's administrator were granted access.

So I headed out of town, to Baltimore, and met up with a few of my friends. The seven of us took a water taxi across the bay to the "Fell's Point" neighborhood, a picturesque area noted for its old boating docks, and watering holes once haunted by merchant seamen and assorted roustabouts. After a brief tour of the usual places, it was back across the bay, for several hours of zydeco dancing, to the music of Roy Carrier and the Night Rockers.

The evening culminated in a fireworks display. The best part of it all was watching the little boys in front of us, as they were watching the spectacle. "Oooh, I really like that one." "Oooh, I like that one too." My thoughts turned for a moment to my own son, when he was that age. There is nothing quite like watching the good things in life through the eyes of a child. Parents of young children be advised: enjoy it while you can.

There is more celebration this weekend, according to the usual schedule of events.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

The Black (Hat) Watch: End of Day Thirteen

Still no word from nihil obstat. My imprimatur remains intact. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

"You'll never blog in this town again!!!"

"The moderator of the beltwaybloggers group has denied your request for membership. 
"The moderator of each Yahoo! Groups group chooses whether to restrict membership in his or her group. Moderators who choose to restrict membership also choose whom to admit. 
"Please note that this decision is final..."
Guess who's the "voice of sanity" today...

Dave Pawlak takes a moment to offer his own observations on the current dialogue within the ranks of the Voice of the Faithful. While the leadership makes preparations for their national shindig in Boston on July 20th, orthodoxy demands a place at the head table. For now, witness the scene at their message board. Thanks, Dave.

Monday, July 01, 2002

Other Voices

Life goes on at the message board of the Boston-based Voice of the Faithful. Mark Shea is keeping tabs. Our mystery accuser persists in her crusade, much to Mr Shea's dismay. Why should I have all the fun? And so, the plot thickens...
A pax upon this house!

Some of us have been watching, with distress, an ongoing disagreement between two respected Catholic writers. Finally, Mr Pawlak has stepped in with a call for these two gentlemen to patch up their differences. Michael? Stephen? I don't give a rat's behind who started it! Are you listening?