Friday, April 30, 2004

While I was out...

...the latest draft of the proposed English translation of the Roman Missal was released (courtesy of ABC Radio in Australia). I'm okay with most of it. I'm not okay with some of it. They say it will be out in the pews in a couple of years. Knowing what I do of the process (and I've been watching it for over twenty years), I would be surprised to see it published before the end of the decade. An analysis which would bore the general audience of MWBH to tears will follow later in the next month.

Meanwhile, my son is graduating from high school soon, and I'm starting to look for a house, after spending nearly fourteen years living in basement apartments. My tax situation needs to be, well, uncomplicated, and I've been more tired than usual lately.

There is also a story to tell, of something that happened recently. It won't be published here until later in the year, because the story isn't over yet. But when it is, it will show a fundamental shift in my beliefs about the state of the world today.

In the meantime, I must flee to the desert for a few days. Pray for me, and stay tuned...

Monday, April 26, 2004

Random Thoughts While Slouching Toward May Day

It's raining off and on in the Nation's capital tonight. I'm at the office, getting caught up before taking a couple of days off.

As I was writing about the March, I came across the news of the Republican senatorial primary in Pennsylvania. Long-time incumbent Senator Arlen Specter is in the political fight of his life, despite one helluva war chest. He is solidly pro-abortion and has worked to try to remove the pro-life plank from the Republican National platform. In contrast, his opponent, Congressman Pat Toomey, is proudly pro-life, with a 100 percent pro-life voting record in the last Congress. He doesn't have much money, but he's got a lot of heart. Not to mention a grassroots following that's bigger than himself -- including an unofficial weblog called ToomeyBlog, that follows his campaign.

I also thought about how it felt to be at the March. On the way there, a dozen of us were surrounded by the enemy, people who weren't afraid to hate us while calling us "hatemongers." I'm getting e-mails from pro-life activists asking me to contact my friends in Pennsylvania.

Most of my friends from the dance crowds (including Pennsylvania), most of the people I meet from day to day, most of the damn universe, it seems -- they're all pro-"choice." It's lonely here in the middle of Babylon. Try to start from the proposition that, if an unborn child is a human life, then taking that life away would constitute murder. Infanticide. Whatever! Then you get this whiney little "well I just feel that the woman should have that choice..." Oh yeah. Just like the gal who ditched her car into a lake a few years ago -- with her two little boys still in it.

Scary, huh? Wanna hear something really scary? Try taking a pair of forceps and crushing the skull of a baby when it comes out of the mother's womb. Whatsa matter, hon, losing your lunch over this? Well, get over it, because a bunch of uppity Hollywood drama queens are perfectly okay with the whole thing. But, hey, it's upsetting, it's gruesome. We don't want to think about it.

We don't want to think.

And most people don't. They follow the crowd. The German people in the 1930s were in a tough spot. They took the fall for leading Europe into the Great War, and the Allies made them pay for it. So in a few short years, one man made good on a promise to lead them to prosperity. And jobs. And a cute little automobile for every family. And one kick-@$$ highway system to drive them on.

Oh, and he encouraged them to blame the Jews for their problems, knowing they were prepared to do it anyway.

See how easy it is? As far as I am concerned, most of those pinheads who marched the other day would have followed Hitler to the ends of the earth, if he told them what they wanted to hear. History has proven this, time and time again. You just had to see it to believe it -- grown men and women saying the most vulgar things to innocent little boys and girls, young enough to be their grandchildren, while highly trained law enforcement officers stood there with their fingers up their... um, on their triggers -- yeah, that's it!

But occasionally, someone doesn't go along. It's a big risk. You could lose your friends, your fortune, even your own family! You could miss being invited to all the cool parties too. Who would be stupid enough to do a thing like that?

In a little town called Nazareth, in Galilee, a young man stepped up to the podium in a humble place of worship. After reading a passage from Isaiah ("The spirit of the Lord is upon me..."), he sat down. Then he dropped the bomb.

"Today's passage is fulfilled in your hearing."

Well, we all know what happened next. Everybody thought he was crazy. Who did this guy think he was? He's just the carpenter's son. Let's get rid of this young upstart. So they set about to throw him over the cliff at the edge of town. But he passed throught them and walked away. (Don't ask me how he pulled that off. I'm not God.) But here's the thing. In a town that small, he was related to practically everybody -- his aunts, uncles, cousins, the whole famn damily, all wanted to kill him.

And yet, he walked alone, away from all he knew of this earthly life. And so it began, the journey that culminated in a humiliating death, that ended in rising to life, and ascending to a crown of glory.

It must have been worth it. So it was with the saints. So it was for a few brave young people who stood with a fool like me on Sunday.

So it was. So it still is.
"If you dig a hole deep enough, everybody will want to jump into it."

That sage advice from The Firesign Theatre still rings true today. And you thought I never missed the 60s. Actually, in our house, it was all the old man could do to get past the 50s, so the 70s were a really rude awakening...

But, I digress.

The above maxim would seem to apply to yesterday's so-called "March for Women's Lives." Never mind that roughly half of all abortions take the lives of female infants, and never mind that there are still several hundred deaths a year through legal abortions (you know, the ones without coat hangers). I went to the March, of course, but as one of the counter-demonstrators. I found a group of pro-life college kids wandering the streets in search of a leader, so I bid them to join me. We managed to number about a dozen or more, as we entered into the crowds headed for the parade line. We were met by a group of hairy guys in drag, with some equally butt-ugly women, who confronted us with an angry rhyme about what a bunch of "hatemongers" we were. One guy took to high-stepping, nearly hitting me in the face more than once. Had I not been carrying my walking staff, I might have been tempted to... well, he got off easy.

I met some prelates of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, and some Priests for Life. But most of the time, I was with a young mother and her children and friends who came all the way from Maine, obstensibly for a vacation. I treated the kids to bottled water. We stood behind the barricades, surrounded by DC Police and US Marshals, who kept a close eye on us to make sure we didn't bomb anyone.

The crowds taunted us, even the children. Several older people told the young children that "your parents are brainwashing you" or "learn to think for yourselves." Apparently being with a decided minority was insufficient evidence of the latter. Oh, and my personal favorite, to an eight-year-old boy: "You should learn to use condoms and take responsibility for yourself." Gee, thanks, Grandma. But when one old crone decided to pick on one of the girls, I just had it: "Hey, lady, pick on someone your own age." She must have thought I meant me, as she proceeded to tell me what I could do with my... er, uh, manhood.

Obviously I reminded her of some Don Juan who jilted her in her misguided youth.

Anyway, the Washington Post (in typical knee-jerk fashion) made the event out to be one of the biggest marches in recent history, even though estimates ranged from 800,000 down to 400,000, and the other guys with the March for Life manage to produce that big of a crowd every year.

But the most memorable moment for me came, when a young lady with a video camera asked me to assist them for a documentary of the March. Apparently they wanted to appear balanced or something like that. I thought about what the Orthodox feminist/matushka Frederica Mathews-Green would have said, and gave a statement on how abortion involves women being pressured by men when their backs are against the wall, and how most of those who profit from the act are also men. I told of how women deserved better. I also had to give a disclaimer on-camera, "allowing the use of my statement and likeness for this documentary or any such purpose that the producers see fit, even though I'll probably regret this after they quote me out of context and my mother sees this on the evening news..." The ladies seemed amused by me, and said my statement was very eloquent and among the best they had heard among those of my ilk.

Okay, so they were buttering me up. Obviously it worked.

Thank God somebody like ScrappleFace gave a balanced account of the event:

"Calling themselves the 'final generation' of abortion advocates, hundreds of thousands of women today packed the Mall in Washington D.C. to defend their right to prevent their views on abortion from being passed on to their children."

(Hey, wait, this gets better.)

Although several hundred thousand abortion rights supporters are expected to march in Washington D.C. this coming Sunday, a spokesman for The American Association of Aborted People (AAAP), a political inaction committee, said none of its 38 million members would participate in the protest march."

After all that hissy-fitting, I'm tanned, rested, and ready for the week ahead. Deo gratias.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

"How long, O Lord?"

I received the following memo from a source within the pro-life movement in South Carolina:

"Last Wednesday I forwarded an e-mail that urgently sought your prayers for the life of an unborn child who was scheduled to be aborted at 23 weeks gestation at Spartanburg Regional Hospital because the child had been diagnosed with disabilities.

"Loving, caring responses and prayers poured in. The response from the Body of Christ was overwhelming. Three families in three states offered to adopt the baby, and a nurse in Virginia offered to foster parent the baby.

"The mother, however, rejected all offers of help. Labor was induced with drugs on Wednesday, and the baby, a little boy, was stillborn on Friday. His heart was still beating an hour before delivery, but he was not strong enough to survive birth..."

"His heart was still beating..."
Anyone would conclude that the unborn child was human. And yet...

How long, O Lord?

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

How can you tell if someone is lying? Martha Brockenbrough, writing for, provides some insights:

"A Cornell University professor recently finished a study that counted how frequently 30 of his students lied--about 26 percent of the time, the group learned... Paul Ekman's book Telling Lies: Clues to Detect Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage takes on the eye-contact belief... but the problem is that this is so commonly believed that a good liar will make sure he does make eye contact. Pathological liars do this all the time... shifty eyes are better interpreted as a sign that someone is feeling emotional -- perhaps from a lie, but perhaps just from nerves..."

Of course, no commentary on the subject would be complete without the words of the 1960s pop hit, written by Jim Donna, and recorded in 1965 by the Minneapolis-based one-hit wonders known as The Castaways:

Liar, liar, pants on fire
Your nose is longer than a telephone wire

Ask me, baby, why I'm sad
You been out all night, know you been bad
Don't tell me different, know it's a lie
Come kill me, honey, see how I cry...

(This link complete with guitar chords and kick-@$$ bass solo.)
It's almost noon...

...and here at the corporate headquarters of MWBH, we all stop what we're doing as the bell tolls, and pray the Angelus. Right after that, we all stand in place at our desks and do our favorite workout video.

Altogether now...!!! (Thanks Vic.)

Monday, April 12, 2004

Faith and Culture Revisited

Dateline Poland: "It is the universal custom, among the common masses as well as among the distinguished, for men to soak the women on Easter Monday. On Tuesday, and every day thereafter until the time of the Green Holidays — Pentecost — the women doused the men."
Maybe it's because it's a leap year...

...but usually, it rains on Good Friday, and the sun is out on Easter Sunday. This year it was the other way around.

On my desk, waiting to be buried by other stuff, is this month's copy of Catholic World Report. I recommend the magazine highly to other Catholics, but particularly the current issue, which can sometimes be found in the magazine racks at big-chain bookstores. Editor Phil Lawler pulls no punches in his commentary on the bishops ("Invincible Arrogance"), and a series of articles offers continued in-depth analysis on the whole Scandal thing. In addition, fellow-Saint-Blog's-parishioner Domenico Bettinelli does a piece on the phenomenal success of the movie The Passion of the Christ and "the ideological gap that separates media elites from ordinary Americans." (Gee, Dom, you really think so?)

The night before Palm Sunday, "Sal" and I went out dancing. Nothing big, mind you. There's this nightclub at a nearby Holiday Inn, where they crank up the disco lights and party mix, while a few people sitting at the bar watch an empty dance floor. Pretty pathetic, huh? Until we got there at least. We had the whole floor to ourselves for over an hour. You'd be amazed what a little ballroom-latin-swing experience can do in a variety of situations. Eventually another ballroom-dance couple joined us on the floor. I had my harmonica set strapped on, which came in handy for the blues-based numbers. That got attention from the bar, where there was a Garth-Brooks-look-alike who's actually heard of zydeco.

Other than that, I've been falling behind in my party-animal routine, eschewing zydeco events for other diversions. At our "Theology of the Body" class last week, we discussed a scene in a bar, where one of our members observed people cheering a group of women who were standing on a pool table and baring themselves (or something along those lines). We commented on the degenerate behavior of otherwise normal adults in today's society. I've noticed it more among people in some of my heretofore usual social circles -- grown men and women, in their forties and fifties, behaving like jerks; in public, toward each other, and (once or twice maybe) toward me.

The latter has been going on for awhile now, emerging gradually. The difference between now and, say, a year ago, is that it doesn't affect me as much.

Because, somewhere down the road, there's always a better class of people. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

The Son Also Rises

"It was on a holy Wednesday, and all in the morning,
That Judas betrayed our heav'nly King.
And was not this a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus, we'll call him by name."

Today is my last day of work before the Triduum. I've bought half of what I need for my Easter basket. No, not those little weenie baskets you see in the drugstore. I'm talking about those big mamas that measure eighteen inches in diameter (or more!), like they do in Eastern Europe. Inside are all the things that were traditionally given up during Lent -- meat, dairy products (including eggs), distilled spirits -- plus items symbolic of the Passover -- salt, horseradish, and so on.

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

On the night of the Last Supper, I will join the other men who serve for the Old Latin Mass at Saint Mary's, located at the edge of the "Chinatown" section of DC. I will be off the whole day, doing work around the house.

"It was on a good Friday, and all in the morning,
They crucified our savior, and our heav'nly King.
And was not this a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus, we'll call him by name."

Back in my hometown of Cincinnati, the pilgrims will ascend the stairs from the riverfront to the top of Mount Adams, to the Immaculata Church -- "Saint Mary's of the Steps" -- reciting the Rosary with each step. This tradition dates back to the Civil War. It invariably rains on this day. Meanwhile, I will once again go to Saint Mary's in DC at noon, for the Veneration of the Cross. Afterwards I will remain alone, until three in the afternoon, when I will serve alone with the pastor, for Stations of the Cross.

On the evening of the Great Vigil, we'll attend my "other parish," the Byzantine Rite church where my son still attends. There we will sing the Resurrection Matins for two or three hours, culminating in the Liturgy of the Resurrection. We will sing throughout the night: "Christos voskrese iz mertvych, smertiju smert poprav, I suscym vo hrob'ich zivot daravav." ("Christ is risen from the dead! By death He conquered death, and to those in the graves He granted life.") We will process around the church, within the church, and eventually to the parish hall, where our Easter baskets (remember them?) wait to be blessed.

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

"Great day in the mornin'!" We'll attend St Mary's one more time, where I'll serve for the Missa Cantata of Easter Sunday. Afterwards we'll take my blessed basket to the church basement, and share my goods with the children, who have come to expect this every year. In the afternoon, we'll head up to Catonsville, to the convent of The All Saints Sisters of the Poor (Episcopal), to give them my other basket -- again, as I do every year.

Come Sunday evening, if we have any strength left, we'll go dancing.
"Through your goodness we have this whine to offer..."

"Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien wants his travel time deducted from the 1,000 hours of community service he was ordered to serve... O'Brien, 68, was convicted Feb. 17 of felony hit-and-run for leaving the scene of a fatal car-pedestrian accident in June... Gerst sentenced him to four years' probation and... ministering to the sick and dying, who can contact him on a hotline set up by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix..."

There are also reports of the bishop's complaint, that the punishment will interfere with travel and other engagements associated with his position.

So there you have it. A bishop hits a guy with his car, leaves him there to die, and is sentenced to perform the corporal works of mercy during his retirement.

And they wonder why they can't be taken seriously.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

FLASH: Anti-Christ Exposed! Irrefutable Scientific Evidence!!

Don't believe me? Go ahead, do the math.

(MWBH Update: If you haven't already guessed... April Fool!)