Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Apocalypse: An Alt-Christmas Story

Just before 7 this morning, I turned fifty-one. Before the end of the day, actor Denzel Washington will have done the same. Anyway, instead of writing about my holiday, which really isn't finished yet for reasons I've already explained, I'm including a piece written late last night by Paul David Alexander. The title is mine, but the piece itself is his -- right down to a near-aversion to the use of the shift key. – DLA

i got a lot of good stuff for christmas... but heres what i really wanted.

secretly, i was hoping that the morning of the 25th would start out something like this dream i had:

wake up. the power is out. for the first time in forever i have to lift up the curtains to see whats going on.

nothing, i soon find out. its not immediately discernable due to the sunlight, but the power is out, everywhere. houses are unlit. streetlights have stopped working. the parking lots are emptied on my street and i assume people left to find out if their neighbors had power, or to get a better idea about what is going on.

i get in my car and drive around the block. cars are stopped in the middle of the road with no occupants. wouldbe victims of fender benders and head-on collisions, of multi-car pileups and t-boned passenger side doors have, for one reason or another, disappeared. ive read "left behind," so i figure instantly that the rapture has come, that the righteous have been taken and the forsaken have been forced into earthly exile. then i see the wreckage of the buildings around me. layers of gray dust and debris cover the scorched buildings like in news footage of ground zero. it is at this point i remember that the rapture was an invention of fundamentalist christians in the 1850s and is not specifically mentioned as a literal occurence in the book of revelations. also, it was a bunch of bull****. it now seems far more likely to me that al-Someone destroyed my neighborhood; vengeance struck down upon citizens of my street, merely because we let totalitarian dictators make all the most important decisions for us. the punishment, although certainly justifiable, doesnt seem to fit the crime.

as i weave in and out of crowded traffic, strewn bumper to bumper across the beltway, each car empty, i realize thered be no way of knowing what happened if i wanted to. cell phones, televisons, even my car's radio-they arent working. luckily the cd player is.

i begin driving towards fairfax. thats always felt like my home base, ive always felt like "when in doubt, go to fairfax." so thats what i do. along the way, i see roaming strangers on bikes, some in tatterred rags for clothes, too confused and dumbfounded by the situation at hand to shed any sort of light on what occurred while i slept.

i begin knocking on friends' doors. they, too, are just as surprised by what has happened as i was when i looked out the window. i can offer them no answers, just things that must be done to ensure our survival. i knock on door after door. by midday, there are more than a dozen of us, all traveling by caravan through lonesome suburbia.

we have to make sure we have clothes and food. we are raiding convenience stores. we are breaking into tj maxx for some reason. the few store clerks who bothered to show up for work on this of all mornings can do nothing but watch as the crowd and i run through the aisles taking everything and running around like little children. despite the destruction outside, i cant help but feel a sense of optimism. the group is getting larger. suddenly i recognize fewer and fewer people.

if there is ever another history book, than today will be marked down in those books as Consumption Day. batteries for ghetto blasters and flashlights. beef jerky. 97 different kids of gum. sweaters and scarves and cds and tapes. we are selfish, but now it is justifiable, unlike those long lost days when we had it all and wanted more. now we have nothing, and all we want is something.

we are running through the mall. we are changing everything.

we are sitting in the library. we are taking time to read.

as night falls it becomes clearer that things may be this way for a long time. today we survived with a mob mentality. we could all agree without saying a word what the good of the people would be. this is how it will be until the lights come on again.

we are starting fires in the community center to keep warm for a party. since there is hardly any music with us, we are grateful for the songs that are played. we remember ones we forgot. i take a deep breath and exhale, relieved. there is no stench of tribal hippie bull****. this is the real deal. we are helping each other and we are happy to do so. we say please and thank you. we give and take, we laugh mostly. about what used to matter. long lines in stores and tempter tantrums and letting the fact that the guy in front of us on 95 is only going 10 miles above the speed limit instead of 15 get to us - these things didnt just happen. they ran our day. we loved our commute, once. now we are content with no place to go...

i would have also liked an xbox 360. and a bajillion dollars.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Here's hoping we all do better. Merry "Christ-Mass" to all, yada yada, good night!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Is it just me...

...or is it possible, that some of the replies given by the "Q&A" staff at the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), are a bit more lame than they used to be???

Read. And discuss.
Is this the reason for the season?

I get more sick of it every year. Maybe it's because they start on me a little earlier than before. Maybe it's because I bought a house this year, and I think Santa's treating me just fine as it is.

By "they," I mean the marketing/retailing apparatus in the USA (one that is perhaps duplicated elsewhere). Now, as I understand it, roughly one-fourth of a large-scale retailer's annual sales is made during the period beginning the day after Thanksgiving, and ending the day before Christmas. So they're off to the races not a moment too soon. And like lemmings over a cliff, we'll follow them. I'll get my fill of all the fun I'm supposed to have, all the magic and the wonder, even as the Halloween decorations are marked down at the local drug store.

Then, as if that were not enough, I have to listen to someone's favorite pop or country singers succeed in butchering our all-time favorite "traditional" hymns.

Meanwhile, in our "countercultural" Catholic press, there is the obligatory reminder that the four weeks preceeding Christmas is not Christmas, it is Advent. And they're right; we should hold off just a bit and devote ourselves more to preparation than to celebration. But do they spend as much time reminding us that there are twelve days of Christmas, as opposed to only one?

I doubt it.

We are told to go to daily Mass, go to confession, give something up as if it were Lent (which is not out of order, as Advent is a time of penitence, if on a different order than that of Lent). But I have yet to hear a suggestion, for example, that instead of giving all our presents out on one day, we extend the gift-giving on through New Year's Day, and into Twelfth Night. Of course, on that last point, it would help if the Church actually insisted we celebrate Epiphany on January 6, rather than go along with the "nearest-Sunday" approach that is currently popular with some national conferences of bishops.

But, now that they're all hiding behind their lawyers for one damn fool reason or another, I submit we can take some initiative out in the pews. So, here's my suggestion. Are you ready?

Make Christmas last for twelve days. Literally.

If you have to give up sweets during Advent, then make merry all the live long day into the first week of the year. Hold back on the Christmas CD's in your collection until Christmas Eve, then keep the party going after the last ball drops on New Year's Day. Take a few days off; nothing important is getting done at the office anyway.* Go down to the southwestern portion of Louisiana, where in smaller cities and little hamlets, the party doesn't stop from Christmas till New Year's Day. (I'm tellin' ya, them Creole people, they know how to party. Yeah, you right!)

But most important, if you do nothing else, give the kiddies only one present a day, for twelve days!!! If you're not careful, they might get the idea that there is more to "Christ's Mass" than what they see in the shopping malls.

Besides, those after-Christmas specials are going to come in real handy, if little Johnny and Suzy are going to be kept in suspense for that long, eh?

And while you're at it, you can always save the best for last.

* Unless you're an exec with one of those companies that have you burning the midnight oil for the year-end report. Or, worse, unless you work for one of those big-@$$ retailers. In which case, I'm letting you off easy. For now.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I have to get my satellite radio home unit fixed over the weekend, or my selection of Christmas music is going to leave a lot to be desired. No more pop singers crooning, please!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

This is the part where...

...the weblog author tells you how "blogging has been light lately," for one reason or another.

Aside from the demands of academic and professional life, I've been doing a lot lately with, believe it or not, Scouting.

I've been an adult volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America since July 2004, after over thirty years out of uniform. I've been engaged in research for my position as a unit commissioner -- essentially a liaison between the "front office" and the individual units. To that end, I've been in frequent correspondence with my peers in other parts of the country, even the world. Most "Scouters" don't go about it quite this way. It just worked out that way for me. Probably because of a frustration with the role of an adult in Scouting.

The boy scout movement was founded in 1907 by a British war hero named General Robert Stevenson Smyth Baden-Powell, Lord of Gilwell. A handbook he penned called "Aids to Scouting," was developed as a reconnaissance manual duing the Boer War. Upon learning of its popularity with young boys seeking outdoor adventure, he re-worked it to his newfound audience, and re-titled it "Scouting for Boys." In August of that year, on an island off the English coast known as Brownsea, he led an experimental training camp for twenty boys of various walks of life. Dividing them into patrols, developing team-building exercises, and teaching various "scoutcraft" skills, the experiment was a success. You know the rest.

In the course of promoting the Scouting movement throughout the world in the early twentieth century, Lord Baden-Powell was fond of saying, "Once a Scout, always a Scout." Those of us who serve as adults believe that in our hearts; the practical application of it is another matter. Now, don't get me wrong; I enjoy my work, and the adults in Scouting are some of the most reasonable I've ever encountered in volunteer work. It's just that there is very little opportunity for the adults to "do Scouting" themselves, when the bulk of our training, our time and talent, not to mention how we are honored, is mostly dependent upon guiding the boys so that they can "do Scouting."

And so, I've been in touch with like-minded folks throughout the Scouting movement, who share my restlessness over this matter. We seek an answer in the writings of the Lord of Gilwell himself, and the pages of Scouting history. A few of us believe we have found it.

Ah, but that is a subject for another day. As they say in show business: "Always leave them wanting more."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Friday, December 09, 2005

I hear they're changing the words to "Silent Night" so nobody could possibly get a burr in their saddle over it. Too bad it's in the public domain. Fortunately, the copyright on "Jingle Bell Rock" (words and music by Joe Beal and Jim Boothe, first recorded by Bobby Helms in 1957) is still in force. It's nice to know, as the day of "Christ's Mass" approaches, that some things are still sacred.

Well, the moment we've all been waiting for is upon us. Today, Disney's production of The Chronicles of Narnia opens in theatres across the USA. There is concern among many purists that Disney might have watered down the Christian allegory present in the story, in yet another fit of political correctness.

Of course, the movie is never as good as the book, now, is it? But people managed to sit through Lord of the Rings, which got a good spin in the Catholic press.

Then again, we're talking about Disney here, right?

So, where better to look for how the C S Lewis legacy is being handled, than his stepson, 60-year-old Douglas Gresham, who to this day is overseer of the Lewis estate and de facto custodian of the Lewis legacy.

And, while we're at it, co-producer of the film in question.

In an interview last week with John Flesher of the Associated Press, Gresham observed: "My job, I suppose, was as resident Narnia guru, to make sure everything Narnian was Narnian in the film, to make sure there weren't anachronisms and incongruities... But... the team that we have had on this film has been so good that there's been very little that I've had to complain about."

He also had some advice for viewers:

"Let the magic of Narnia work itself on you. Look at yourself in relation to what's happening on the screen. If you were one of the characters, which one would you be? When we do that honestly, we usually find that we don't measure up very well."

Sooooo.... let's save me the aisle seat, shall we?

(UPDATE: This just in from The Detroit News.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"I will put emnity between you and the woman..."

The line is taken from an antiphon in the Divine Office for today, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It does not commemorate the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary (as is often assumed by popular belief), but the conception of Mary herself, free from the stain of original sin, within the womb of her mother Anne. For Catholics, this is a holyday of obligation. So I'm duckin' outa here during the lunch break for Mass.

For what it's worth, this is also the day when, twenty-five years ago, former Beatle John Lennon was assassinated outside his Manhattan apartment building.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I tell people they can just call me "sir."

Today, the website of the New Oxford Review features a piece from their January 2000 issue entitled: "Bishop Fred?" Why? "Would Catholics refer to their bishop by his first name? Not likely. It would be incongruous because it would be so disrespectful. Oh yes, we've heard of some Catholics on the left fringe who do so, but they probably do so in order to signal their own low view of the episcopate."

Actually, in the Eastern churches -- both Catholic and Orthodox -- priests and bishops are more often than not, referred to by their first names, as in "Father Basil," or "Bishop Seraphim." The motive of their faithful is less one of familiarity, than of endearment.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

For all your "Saint Nicholas Day" needs...

...go to the boys named Nicholas at Traditio in Radice. I first heard the "prison story" years ago from an Old Calendar Russian Orthodox priest. A real Catholic does not hesitate to tell his or her children: "Yes, there is a Santa Claus." This will help them take it from there.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Pope Movies

For what it's worth, here's my review of the recent movies about JP2, as posted on Amy Welborn's Open Book.

"The ABC version was trite, overromanticized, and took considerable liberty with biographical details. The CBS version was more gritty, more authentic, more accurately captured Karol's closeness to certain female friends (although still a little over the top), and the liturgical scenes were more authentic. (Okay, the Nova Huta scene was a bit hokey, but they got it down singing that Litany of the Saints at his ordination.)

"By the way, when Karol learned he was made a bishop, he was on a camping trip. They had to comb the wilderness to bring him the news."

I just love throwing in little fun facts, don't you?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Speaking of movies being kosher...

There's been a lot of buzz about the upcoming film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, opening one week from today at a theatre near you. J R R Tolkein never wanted Disney to get their hands on The Lord of the Rings. Will Mickey and his pals do justice to the work of C S Lewis? Next week we'll report on what's been overheard at the St Blog's Coffee Hour, and provide insight from an unexpected place. And, of course, we'll open the comments box. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"Master, where dwellest thou?"

"Come and see."

For over a quarter century, the mural entitled "The Call of Andrew" graced the wall behind the main altar at the parish where I grew up*, which was named for that saint, whose feast day is today. It depicted the Apostle known by the Greeks as "The First-Called," at the moment when he was.

The face of Andrew on that mural was none other than that of the late Father Andrew Creager, who was pastor in the early 20th century, and the longest-serving on record. It was he who commissioned the building of the church where I worshipped as a boy, and his priestly vocation which was commemorated, when the church had undergone renovation in the late-1960s.

Sadly, another renovation in recent years caused them to cover up the mural with drywall, leaving only a blank surface. Despite the premise that it would never be used any other way, out of some respect for the original benefactor of the mural, a large crucifix now hangs there. While I would normally consider this decision to be most fitting, I miss that image I knew growing up. Yes, it was admittedly... well, less than haute couture. Still, this did not take away from its significance, or its own kind of beauty.

But its suppression is what happens when a parish is taken over by people who know better what is good for everybody else -- just ask them -- and a sad commentary on the modern breakdown of parish life (the subject of a future posting now in the works). Besides, I'm told the archbishop never cared for it much, so... there's the "empowerment of the laity" for you, eh?

Andrew is my father's middle name. He received it in honor of his paternal grandfather, Andre Alexandre, who with his wife Marie, came here from France in the 1840s, and after arriving in Cleveland, Ohio, worked the railroads, until he settled in the western part of the state, where his descendants scattered over Darke and Shelby Counties -- a land known for its many beautiful Catholic parish churches marking the various small towns.

Father "Don Jim" Tucker remembers St Andrew today, with the text of a past homily. The 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia also has an appropriate entry.


* For what it's worth, I'm the third kid from the right.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Okay... now I understand.

This story reminds me of a similar tale in the late M Scott Peck's book, The Road Less Traveled. If you have a copy, it's in the section on... grace.
Objectively Disordered

The Holy See has released its long awaited statement entitled "Concerning the Criteria of Vocational Discernment Regarding Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to Seminaries and Holy Orders." provides excerpts from the English translation, as well as an excellent commentary by Father Jim Clark, writing in the Boston Globe. (Included in the second link, in the comments section, are links to the saga of "the politics behind the APA’s 1973 removal of homosexuality from the it’s compendium of psychiatric disorders." Of course, if it was about politics, where was the hard science?)

There are stories out now of priests who are quitting over the release of the Vatican instruction. Good. They're doing us all a favor. Especially if they are linking the Vatican's decision to any ineptitude in handling the clerical sexual abuse scandal. Why? (Drumroll, please!) Every time a priest sodomizes a male adolescent, it is the direct result, if only in that case, of same-sex attraction by the priest. That means that the behavior, by definition, is homosexual.

This is not to say that all homosexuals are attracted to young boys. It doesn't matter. A person's sexuality is a really big deal, whether its genital expression is exercised or not. For a Catholic, faith is a nuptial relationship; the Creator to the Created, Christ to His Church, a priest to those whom he serves, and so on. Anyone inclined toward such disorder at a fundamental level of human personhood, is going to be challenged when fulfilling an apostolate where this relationship matters -- that is to say, in the same way as one not so disordered, all other things being equal.

Not only that, but anyone stupid enough to let political correctness get in the way of seeing the obvious, to the detriment of the innocent, shouldn't be responsible for much of anything.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Death of America... a weblog entry written by Father "Don Jim" Tucker (with information courtesy of The Drudge Report), who notes a subject matter for the coming year of serial TV dramas. In these scenarios, a frieghtening paralell to ancient Rome, the land that was once a republic expands to an empire, whose citizens gradually abdicate their rights for the illusion of prosperity, only to see their entire way of life implode over time.

This is most likely how America will end in the 21st century (unless everybody in America reads this essay by Patrick Buchanan, written within days of 9/11). It makes entirely too much sense to be any other way. Which is why Father's right, and why I agree with him.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

From Usual Suspect to UNusual!

Beginning today (while everyone is tied up on the freeway trying to get home from turkey leftovers at Grandma's house and are therefore too busy to notice), Chris Muir's "Day by Day" cartoon is to be found, in a new installment every day, at the bottom of this page.

Keep it up, Chris! You da man, you da man...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The X Factor

Somewhere in the Catholic blogosphere, they're still talking about why there are "too many annulments" granted in the USA.

To a little boy or girl from what we used to call "a broken home," the pain of knowing that Mommy and Daddy aren't getting back together again, will not be lessened by any letter from any chancery. When you look at it that way, one annulment is one too many.

According to the statistics, the overwhelming majority of petitions for a declaration of nullity in the USA are granted a favorable decision. In other words, their marriages are declared null and void. This development by itself seems like a big deal, to the point of scandal. And it very well might be, were this to be the whole picture.

It is not.

First, you have to consider that roughly five out of six divorced Catholics who remarry, do so outside the Church. So it doesn't sound like they'll be adding much to the paperwork anytime soon. Then you must take into account, should it appear evident that a petitioner will not be granted a favorable decision, that the common practice is to discourage him or her from going forward with their petition. So that's an undetermined number of marriages whose validity is upheld, before they even enter the system. What you are left with, then, are the ones that do get through the system.

It would be interesting to hear from any number of parish priests and canonists on this subject -- you know, people who actually know what the hell they're talking about, as opposed to those of us in the peanut gallery who read so much we just think we do.

So then, the question of "too many" is answered one way or the other, without all the variables -- one more good reason to look elsewhere, to the beginning of the process, and not the end. Some would call it the "root."

In a related story...

You wouldn't guess I'd be hanging around with the "Tridentine Mass or Die" crowd, now, would ya? But over at Traditio in Radice, two guys whose real names are Nicholas do a pretty good job. One of them has a series, now in three parts, on "Things I Wish I'd Known About Dating." No, it's not the one about chaperones that I wanted to bring up here (as I have a hard enough time as it is if I think I'm being followed by somebody), but the one about marrying non-Catholics.

To this day, the Church officially discourages marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, and there are very good reasons for it. It's actually harder than it looks, as unfortunately, there are divergent ideas of what it means to even be a Catholic.

You've got your garden-variety Catholic who attends Mass at his parish church which uses the reformed Missal (what some people call the "Novus Ordo"), in English, with the priest "facing the people," all done with varying degrees of reverence, or a lack thereof. Then there's the ones who prefer the classical Missal (or the "Trid Mass," if you will), and attend the "Old Latin Mass" in a parish that has the permission of the local bishop. On top of that, you've got followers of the late Archbishop Lefebvre, which is the Society of St Pius X. Apparently they don't think that "Novus Ordo Catholics" are Catholic enough, or something like that. Then you've got those from the Society of St Pius V, who broke away from the "Lefebvites," apparently because even they were compromised. From this point, we get into the "sedevacantist" crowd. That's from the Latin "sede vacante," which means "the seat is vacant." These are folks who don't believe there's been a legitimate Pope since Pius XII, or thereabouts. Some of them are convinced that another man is the rightful claimant to the Throne of Peter. One such pretender is in Montana, another in Kansas, still another in Quebec. Then there are two or three in Europe, last time I counted.

So, if I were a younger man today, and I wanted to find a "nice Catholic girl," I'd probably be doing things the old-fashioned way -- meeting them in bars and (swing) dance halls.

That's not a good sign, is it?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Step 1: Open Wound. Step 2: Add Salt. Step 3: Stir...

Over at the Caelum et Terra weblog, the discussion on the post entitled "An Open Wound" has continued.

It's a lonely job being the one guy who sees the world differently than everybody else. Mr Nichols' essay has given rise to two or three different "threads" of discussion, all of them quite interesting. But the one that interests me is where tribunals are invariably to blame for "too many annulments." It seems that people differ on what the "root" of a problem is. For me, the "root" is best found at the beginning, not the end, of a process. And that, I think, is where people differ.

And these people are not stupid or uninformed. They include some of the smartest and most intellectually rigorous people I know. And they are shocked to learn that a couple, which would have appeared to them to be the model of a "good Catholic family" should fall completely apart.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), nothing in this area shocks me. Perhaps if I had a totally faithful Catholic wife, one who believed that "forever" meant just that, and didn't run out when things didn't work out as planned, leaving me with our five or six kids, I'd look at it the way they do too. After all, it's easy to blame tribunals who appear to be letting couples off the hook when things take a wrong turn.

No, guys, I'm serious, it's real damn easy! You just say, "Look at what they're doing, they're making it worse," and that's the ball game!

Sometimes they can even write a whole book which says the same thing. And they're convincing enough to make you forget, that there might be something about these couples that you don't know. Which means there might be something THEY don't know.

It's harder to look back to the beginning, which is why it does not surprise me that one of my colleagues in that discussion (probably the smartest guy in the whole bunch) said: "Poor marriage preparation, etc., is also, of course, a big problem. It just doesn't happen to be the problem we're talking about right now." Well, there's no point debating the obvious. He goes on: "Poor marriage catechesis does not seem to be at the root of some of the breakups and subsequent annulments most of us have seen."

I'm curious as to how he knows this. Did he follow this couple, both husband and wife, from childhood? Does he know what example their respective parents gave them about married life? Was he there when they met, and/or when they courted? Was he in the rectory office when they first came to the priest? I could go on...

But the answer to all those questions is most likely to be "No." And if that applies there, it is likely to apply anywhere else, where what goes on behind closed doors, stays there. So neither he, nor everybody else with a finger to point somewhere, has any way of knowing what should nor should not be "...the problem we're talking about right now."

And maybe that's the problem. Maybe we don't know nearly as much as we think we do.

I've always been told that knowing that... is the beginning of wisdom.

Then again, what the hell do I know?
Giving at the Office

In addition to the Mass, the official prayer of the Church also consists of the Divine Office, known in its reformed version as The Liturgy of the Hours. It fulfills the biblical mandate to pray "seven times daily." Its use in choro has been the province of monastic houses for centuries, and most of us who grew up Catholic might remember the priest saying his private prayers from the little black book known as a "breviary."

The main parts of the daily Office are Lauds (morning prayer) and Vespers (evening prayer). Then there is Compline (night prayer) to be said before retiring, the three "little hours" of Terce (midmorning prayer), Sext (midday prayer) and None (midafternoon prayer), and finally Matins, also known as Vigils, or the Office of Readings. In monastic usage, Matins is prayed in the middle of the night, but the rest of us can resort to it at any time during the day.

I told myself I was going to begin praying the Divine Office beginning with the new liturgical year, beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, on November 27. I would limit myself to Lauds and Vespers, which is all most people do anyway who are under obligation.

There is an online version at a site called But more likely than not, I'll use the real book. I have one in my library already, but it's nice to know I can pull up a copy online if I have to.

Now if I could just get a version for the Palm Pilot. Any ideas out there?
Hail Mary Revisited

Most of my concern about a project like Ave Maria University, has less to do with the university (although Michael Rose is absolutely right about the chapel, and its defender Father Fessio is smart enough to know better), than with the town. A view of the site plan alone suggests that Ave Maria, Florida, is not a "town" in the traditional sense of being designed for pedestrian traffic, but rather a suburb designed for the automobile. The residential sections appear to be predominated by cul-de-sacs, isolated enclaves where there is only one way out. You may be less than a mile as the crow flies from the village market, but by the time you weave around the maze that a minivan can traverse with no problem, you have walked nearly twice that far. Even if you don't consider the average temperature in Florida -- higher than Michigan, for those who flunked geography -- this environment is clearly designed to an industrial scale, as opposed to one that is human. After all, why walk a mile for a quart of milk when the Hummer is right there in the driveway? It is at risk of becoming, therefore, a monument to consumption and excess for which the American suburb has become known in over half a century.

And which is more "cultural Calvinist" than it is Catholic, regardless of how many streets are named for saints.

(A closer read of the material suggests a variety of housing, from apartments toward the center of town, to larger single-family homes on the outskirts. Be that as it may, the overall site plan speaks volumes for the major thrust of the project -- in other words, where the developers assume the money is.)

With the rise of "new urbanism" as a viable and humane alternative to single-use zoning, there is no excuse for this, particularly with those who have the means to do otherwise. Responding to the first "Hail Mary" piece, a reader of MWBH wrote: "To paraphrase Cardinal Newman, 'Republicans in minivans have souls.'"

We can only hope. They're going to need something to sell when they get there.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The issue is the issue!

If you hang around in the public square of ideas long enough, and people know you for a set of convictions, they'll do one of three things.

1) They will agree with you.

2) They will not agree with you.

3) They will not only not agree with you, but will make you the issue.

Some of you may remember my tale of the parish in Georgetown where I worked as a sacristan in the early 1990s. Later in the decade, when certain controversies started to get worse, they set up a discussion forum on the parish website. Knowing that a cadre of pseudo-intellectuals that dominated the parish managed to intimidate everyone into conformity, or at least silence, I knew the only way to get the online participants to focus on the issue at hand, was to remove the personality. Knowing I'd be a personality that would easily become an issue, I removed it from the equation. For the first and only time online, I adopted a pseudonym.

I picked the name "Solanus," for the Capuchin friar from Detroit whose seminary professors considered him a bit dull-witted. Seems he was the only Irishman in a German-speaking seminary, and certain impediments didn't occur to them to be the cause of anything. So when he was ordained, it was on the condition that he never be allowed to preach or hear confessions. Despite these limitations, Father Solanus Casey was the porter (a sacristan, essentially) at St Bonaventure's Friary in Detroit during the early- and mid- 20th century, and was known far and wide as a counselor and healer. A number of miracles have been attributed to him, both during and after his lifetime. He has in recent years been declared "Venerable," his cause for sainthood having begun in earnest.

But this Solanus got taken seriously, and his responses were closely monitored by parishioners, even by Jesuit professors on the Georgetown campus. Before "coming out" around Christmas of that year (after the site was shut down when both sides of the debates were beginning to agree that the pastor's judgement deserved a closer look), the prevailing wisdom was that "Solanus" was either a woman, or a retired Jesuit.

But most pundits don't have that luxury.

A columnist named Michelle Malkin is mentioned at MWBH from time to time. The daughter of Filipino immigrants who grew up in New Jersey, she is a rising star among conservative women in America. Her husband even put his own ambitions aside when her own career took off. With her two small children, they live in suburban Maryland. Unfortunately, because she is of Asian parentage, her race has become an issue to her more vehement detractors. Recently, she used her weblog to lament what she calls an "Asian whore fixation" on the part of her enemies. She provides a Google link to these complaints. Very few of them appear to be about the issues she raises. Most of them seem to be about her.

Now, I've seen her on television. If we're going to dwell on ethnicity as a means of identification, her parents may both be from the Philippines, but I'm sorry, she's no kababayan. With that kinda spunk, we're talkin' Jersey Girl here! But her enemies don't even get that far; playing the racist card appears to bring them more amusement.

And the more you read it, the more sick it gets. Here I thought liberals were so much more accepting of diversity and all that. Suddenly I seem so -- oh, I don't know -- ENLIGHTENED!!!

Besides, if you know anything at all about Filipino culture, it is as much old-world Spanish as it is Asian, especially to those in their forties or older. And whatever part of it is Asian, is less Oriental than it is Polynesian-Malay. (The Filipino language, a k a Tagalog, is part of the latter family, as opposed to the former.)

Who knows, the USA might even have a black woman for president in 2008. But if we do, will the crossing of that barrier mean nothing, simply because the achiever doesn't fit certain preconceptions? And how is racial or gender equality supposed to be such a worthy goal, if some unseen ideological cabal dictates what and how that person is supposed to think, by virtue of who and/or what they represent?

Don't they at least have the right to be themselves?

Personally, I find some of Malkin's views a bit wanting. I'll admit, in my weaker moments, to wondering whether a few months in an internment camp would change her mind about what happened to Japanese-Americans during World War II. But I'm happy to report that the feeling soon passes. Because I can't really prove any of that. And besides, it matters less to me than what she has to say. And what she has to say is pretty sharp. So I wish whoever has a problem with Mrs Malkin would look at the problem they're having with themselves. Especially now that her family is becoming the object of their attacks.

Besides, Sal can't wait to meet her.

Friday, November 18, 2005

It's been quite a busy week here at MWBH. Very little was posted for today, which was spent going over the comments, and responding to as many as time allowed. Also today was a great deal of offlist correspondence, inspired by writings of this past week. The above is only in jest, as I have pledged to keep a number of conversations "in pectore."
Hilda of Whitby

...(614-680) is the saint recognized on the Anglican calendar today. The 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia's entry for her (which places her feast on the day before) is not all that remarkable, when you consider her role in the early Anglican tradition: "[S]he founded the abbey at Whitby, where both nuns and monks lived... [which] was the site of the famous synod convened to decide divisive questions involved in the differing traditions of Celtic Christians and the followers of Roman order. Hilda favored the Celtic position, but when the Roman position prevailed she was obedient to the synod's decision."

In iconography, she is often depicted with a crosier, since in medieval times, both abbots and abbesses had the administrative and jurisdictional powers associated with bishops in the present day.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


In the Autumn sky,
Wild geese align with the stars,
To find their way home.

-- John Hearn
Hail Mary, Incorporated

They say money cannot buy happiness. But as history has demonstrated time and again, it's never stopped anyone from trying.

Thomas Monaghan is the man who built his fortune on Domino's Pizza, before giving it up to do philanthropic work, in the hope of sharing his Catholic faith with others. A man considered by those who know him to be very devout, he used his generosity to found Ave Maria College in Michigan. This was a good thing, as devout young people and their families invested their time and treasure in this dream.

But after a few years, a humble liberal arts college wasn't big enough. An attempt to enlarge the campus to the scale of a university was foiled by the locals townspeople. But when you are a rich man, you are accustomed to having your way. And so (while we can never be completely sure of the inner motives of any man), Mr Monaghan decided to move the whole she-bang to Florida. Thus was founded Ave Maria University.

The only problem was, this involved shutting down the little college in Michigan.

But then a number of students and faculty in Michigan began to show their ingratitude. This was a puzzling response. After all, the only thing they had to do was relocate themselves -- and in some cases their families -- a second time, to follow a dream built by another. It wasn't as though they had the truly big task of throwing money and influence around, thus earning the lion's share of the credit.

And, as if this indignation were not enough, a group of parents got involved, with the audacity to erect a website to complain of their sorry state. Seems they thought their money was just as good as Mr Monaghan's. Sadly, it was not, for he is a rich man, and they are not.

So, the forces of sanctified capitalism will prevail over the cries of shattered plans and allegedly broken promises. A university is being built in Florida, and a town named Ave Maria, obstensibly in honor of Our Lady, will be built alongside it. They have an impressive website, successful developers, and (lest we forget) millions of dollars.

What of those left behind? Perhaps their grief will pass, and they will come to see the wisdom of those with greater means and influence, and know that the greater good has been served. An impressive show of brick and mortar will rise from the midst of an intemperate climate, a house of discernment for vocations will be erected to educate souls for the glory of God, and thousands of frustrated Republicans with sufficiently-respectable incomes will be able to drive their minivans from their safe suburban homes to daily Mass -- in Latin, of course.

And after all, isn't this what it really means to be Catholic?

The Call of the Wild where I wanna be. Mr Ian Palko, the rad-trad biermeister and one among our recent guests, posts this collection of climbing photos.
"Old man take a look at my life, I'm a lot like you."

A recent article in the Toronto Sun takes a look at a Canadian singer-songwriter who just turned sixty: "For a guy who sings like a strangled loon, Neil Young has not done too badly." Be that as it may, he was my inspiration in high school for putting a harmonica in a neck harness and playing guitar simultaneously.

Too bad you gotta pay to read the article, eh?
"Nice work..." -- apparently!

My post of November 3 entitled "Nice work if you can get it," a critical-if-not-totally-jaded look at the lay apostolate within the Church infrastructure, has received the most critical acclaim (two words that haven't been used to describe anything coming out of MWBH) of any post at this site, since its inauguration three and a half years ago:

"Greatest. Post. Ever." -- The Donegal Express

"[E]xactly my experience with such 'lay ministry' in my college days..." -- Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus

"Excellent! This gives me a lot to think about. Thank you." -- Barb Szyszkiewicz, sfo

The total comments -- most favorable, but not all -- is at sixteen as of this writing, which is a MWBH record. I wanna thank everybody who wrote, especially all the new readers, and even more especially, those identified as "evil traditionalists."

Welcome to the dark side.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Critical Mass: Lost (and Found) in Translation II

(Dear reader: Part I of this sub-series can be found here.)

The proposed 2005 draft for the English revision of the Order of Mass (you know, the one that everybody was fussing about on eBay), is on the table at the bishops' conference in Washington this week. Bring on the spin doctors...

It seems that people are accustomed to the banality of the present translation, and should not have their delicate sensibilities upset. This from a bunch of guys who, in the last three years, can barely take responsibility for anything without a parade of lawyers and "child protection" experts fingerprinting your Aunt Minnie who's been teaching catechism for a lifetime. After all, she might be a danger to the kiddies. Duh...

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette mentions a comment by Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago:
[Cardinal George] noted that a long-standing division between bishops who prefer standard American English and those who want a literal rending of Latin has become more complex. Some bishops on both sides have realized that the current English text is more familiar and meaningful to many Catholics than the centuries-old Latin text once was, he said.

"There are those who have been quite critical of the present translation, but who are now saying that we don't want to disturb the people, especially in the situation of weakened episcopal authority we have now," he said, referring to distrust of bishops who failed to remove child molesters from the priesthood.
Okay, Eminence, leaving aside the fact that you have a doctorate in linguistics, let's talk about distrust for a moment.

The problem with someone who lies (and if we're talking about dropping everything because of the sex scandals, we are talking about various prelates lying through their teeth for years), is not so much that they have lied, but that we no longer know whether we can believe them.

Ah, yes, what to believe!!! This, to quote the Bard: "is the rub."

If we pray what we believe, then what we believe needs to be clear enough -- not only for the ones who proclaim it, but out of respect for the One who hears. We have commented eariler in this occasional series (see reference to part one, above), about the significance and meaning attached to a particular word, or set of words.

Before they dismiss the proposed revisions on the basis of that to which their subjects are accustomed, our shepherds might be reminded that this did not stop anyone forty years ago, when the official liturgical reform after Vatican II was implemented.* Nor would it have prevented the liturgical intelligensia from going through with their original plans in the 1980s and 1990s, to purge the texts of male pronouns in reference to God as Father, as well as introduce a host of "adaptations" that would have borne no resemblance to the official text of the Roman Missal, as originating in... well, of all places, ROME.

The American bishops wonder out loud about an atmosphere of distrust. It is because, quite simply, their actions have demonstrated that the faithful do not know whether they can be believed. If they are to regain that trust, what better place to start, than with WHAT IS TO BE BELIEVED?

Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, PA, is among the last of the old status quo with respect to liturgical revisionism. He uses a line from the Nicene Creed as an example of his distress with the latest draft.

The Latin text that defines the nature of God the Son reads in part: "consubstantialem Patri." This portion is currently rendered: "one in being with the Father." The 2005 proposal goes: "consubstantial with the Father." (Gee, whiz, you'd almost guess that an English word originated in Latin, wouldn't you?) In other words, the Son is of the same substance as the Father. This is exactly what it means to say "one in being." And to say exactly what you meant about the Son in relation to the Father, was a really big deal in the early fourth century, when a heresy that said otherwise was overtaking the majority of the Catholic world.

So to apply the root meaning, as opposed to a less accurate tangent, is all the better to explain the nature of God. And if we pray what we believe, aren't we better off getting it right the first time?

Getting it right the first time!!! That too, to quote the Bard again... you get the idea.


* It is here that the paleo-traditionalists would be quick to remind us, that nobody in the pews asked for a reform of the Mass -- nobody, that is to say, other than many of the Fathers of the recent ecumenical council. The lack of a global "straw vote" in matters of faith and belief notwithstanding, this point is another matter for this continuing occasional series. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

La Belle France???

I have hesitated to write about the disturbing developments in the country of (most of) my ancestry.

Until now.

That's because, thanks to my colleague and sister in Christ, Mrs Darwin, my attention has been brought to the musical version of this saga. I cannot wait for Les Risibl├ęs to appear in dinner theaters across this great land of ours. Mrs D posts an excerpt from Act III at her site, DarwinCatholic.

Takes me back to my days in the high school musicals. (Sigh...!)

It has been suggested that MWBH has adopted a tone of being too "obstreperous." As part of this author's continuing search for the proper niche audience (not to mention still looking up the word "obstreperousness"), readers are invited to suggest weblogs elsewhere within the realm of "Saint Blog's Parish," for a possible prototype.

More significance will be attributed to those authors who do not already have an established presence in the print media. "Verily I say unto thee, they already have their reward."
"Master Race" Revisited

I received the following in response to yesterday's commentary regarding Bishop Williamson's latest tirade on allegedly inferior races:

"Don't post on my blog ever again."

I assured the little twerp that once was enough.

It's no secret to those who know me (which means meeting me in person, okay?) that I love the Old Mass. And yet, as I told a correspondent recently, the only problem I have with the promotion of the "traditional Latin Mass" is the promoters themselves. Until many of them (most of whom weren't even born by 1962, and so are in no damn position to tell anyone how things were done back in the day, especially someone who was actually there -- grumble, grumble...!) can bring themselves to let Rome be Rome, their progress will be limited.

And they'll drive the rest of us crazy. Especially the ones whose inclination for tradition is so vehement, that they are willing to resort to bad science to justify a conviction that the Earth is flat.

They make my own parents seem thoroughly modern. Be afraid, be very afraid...
Charles Coulombe... one of the smartest guys I ever met. He's right just over 99 percent of the time, which is even more than... well, ME. And now, he has his own weblog, Coulombe's Law.

It's about time, Chuck.

Where does forever go?

I recently came across a piece by my colleague Daniel Nichols, writing for Caelum et Terra, about a large homeschool family whose wife and mother deserted them.

It wasn't hard to figure out to which of our mutual friends he was referring. In fact, I was once very close to this family, until things fell apart. I'd send them presents every Christmas, and even gave the two daughters a little money to help with their Jubilee pilgrimage to Rome. But I also made the mistake of not realizing the limits of friendship, particularly where it concerns those who must ultimately walk alone. And so, for all I know, I have forever lost the affection of a wonderful group of children, for whom I served as a sort of "Dutch uncle." But I am also reminded of something farther in my past...

Once a month, Dad would pack us all into the two-toned Pontiac, to make the drive from Cincinnati to our paternal grandparents' home in Sidney, a town one hundred miles to the north. But first, we had to go through Dayton. One of Mom's cousins had a wife and five kids there. But he was an alcoholic, and one day he just up and left them. Mrs E didn't see fit to work outside the home and leave her children, so she settled for public assistance and the charity of others. Somehow she kept things going with those children in that big house just off the freeway. So Dad took it upon himself for us to stop there regularly, with a big box of household items -- mostly Procter and Gamble products, as he had access to promotional samples as part of his job at the time -- to help the family out. They in turn would give us toys they no longer needed. This struck me as a great deal all around. What's more, the family showed no signs of being "white trash;" the house was always clean, if a bit spartan, and the children always happy and well-behaved.

In later years, our visits stopped. I was never sure why. But after awhile, Mrs E remarried. Her new life gave her occasion to pass through the area around Milford, the town outside Cincinnati where I grew up. But even as Dad's condition got worse, she never stopped by to say hello. Dad did get visits from Mr E, though, and would hear of the man's attempts to reconcile with his children. Dad would also hear him wonder out loud why they wanted nothing to do with him. Eventually he passed away. At the funeral Mass, a lone red-haired woman could be seen in the back pews -- his only daughter.

When I asked him about it, Dad never regretted helping the E family. It was the right thing to do, and he never expected to get anything back anyway, and so it was...

And today, so it is. I may never learn what becomes of the family I once knew. But should they ever visit the Nation's capital, they will find an open door, and a place to rest their head. Still, I can't imagine it being reciprocated.

Then again, I've been wrong about them before.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Yo, Saint Anthony! I lost my "Master Race" membership card the other night!!!

Bishop Williamson of the SSPX is at it again. Apparently, the de-Christianization of Europe is not only the result of men not being able to control their women (good luck with that one, huh?), but with Christians not being able to control Jews (because one World War wasn't enough, I suppose), AND white people not being able to... oh, please, read all about it here.

Then SOMEBODY on that side of the street please explain to me when and how Caucasians specifically got the top job. (Jesus was obviously Jewish, but if He appeared today as He did then, would He look Caucasian enough for Bishop Willie?)

UPDATE: It should be made clear, that this author supports the notion of a Christian Europe. Not only is Christianity responsible for the very civilization of that Continent, and not only is the True Faith thus able to be duly proclaimed, but only under a Christian Europe may all be able to accept this True Faith with full consent of the will. This, as opposed to an Islamic civilization, where the predominent belief would be thrust upon them. In addition, this author supports the notion of "biblical headship" as described by Paul to the Church as Ephesus, inasmuch as the husband be willing to lay down his life for the wife, and that whenever the husband is rightly considered head of the household, the wife reigns as its heart. All this being said, the notion of superiority by virtue of color is repugnant to the dignity of the human person, as are the usual "conspiracy theories" regarding Jewish ownership of financial institutions, merchantile chains, et cetera.
I just got back from my pilgrimage to Chartres Cathedral...

...and all I got was this lousy tee-shirt. But according to this young whipper-snapper, I can't wear it in public, or I'm being immodest.

And to think I went for a loose fit. Thankfully, he's pretty much on the mark with everything else. Especially regarding attire for church. I never allowed my son to wear shorts in the house of God, even though his mother did. I stopped listening to her years ago anyway.

No mention on black-tie at weddings before six in the evening though.


Today is the Feast of Saint Philip the Apostle in the Eastern (Greek) Calendar. On this day, the Eastern Church begins the forth-day "Philip's Fast" in preparation for Christmas and Theophany. (Philip is remembered on May 3, along with fellow-apostle James, in the Roman Calendar.) Some Eastern Christians -- be they Catholic or Orthodox -- will observe simple abstinance (from meat) for the entire period, while others will engage in strict abstinance (meat and dairy products, the latter traditionally including eggs). Observers in the West generally only abstain on Wednesdays and Fridays, or at least on Fridays. The day before the Nativity is a day of fasting, as the table is prepared for the Holy Supper. More on that later...
Critical Mass: Do Two Rites Make a Wrong?

This post from Musica Sacra confirms what this writer has known for years -- that opposition to the more liberal use of the classical Roman Missal (the 1962 Missale Romanum, or "the Tridentine Mass") originates within the Roman Curia itself: "[I]n August 2005 a document was prepared in the Roman Curia aimed at preventing a more widespread use of the 'old' Roman Missal... The text is said to have been prepared last August by the Congregation for Divine Worship..."

This weblog is the product of The Church Music Association of America (CMAA). There more good stuff here.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Today we remember what happened eighty-eight years ago today, on the eleventh month, the eleventh day, at the eleventh hour. Blogging has been light lately, and will remain so until at least the middle of next week. But we remember those who serve, in the hope that their sons will never have to.

And on that note, your moment of whimsy.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I, Claudius, found this in a Hollywood vault...

No, not a remake of the PBS miniseries. It seems there's an "original" Warner Brothers release of Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings, with Humphrey Bogart as Frodo Baggins. Also featuring Marlene Dietrich as... oh, who cares, it's Marlene Dietrich! (Prrrrr!!) IClaudius of Why Fret? brought it to my kind attention. How they managed to capture the essence of this saga in just under nine minutes is beyond me, but obviously "they don't make 'em like they used to." So, boys and girls, hurry up and view it, before a bunch of lawyers running out of ambulances to chase gets it taken down from the Internet. (QuickTime required.)
A Piece of the (Catholic) Action

They say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Personally, I have found that the best results can be obtained with a fresh road kill. To put it another way, sometimes you have to use drastic measures to get an audience's attention. It requires that you go on the edge, and take risks. Well, I took at least one last week in the rant entitled "Nice work if you can get it." Whatever one may think of its style, it is a fair representation of how many people view the state of the lay apostolate at the parish and/or diocesan level.

Apostolate??? That's a word we don't use much. We like to call it "ministry." That makes us seem more respectable, less old-school. "Oh, you know so-and-so, she's a lay minister at her parish."

Just what the hell does that mean?

Was he or she appointed? Commissioned? Did he or she draw the short straw? Who knows? Who gives a rat's patootie?

But if the example of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin are any indication, we don't need the bishop's permission, or a masters in theology, to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in our lives. If we do nothing else, this is what our mission is. Of course, now that I'm starting to sound like those Catholic weblogs that do little else but mimic catechism class -- and we're not about to let that happen -- let's look at the list, shall we?

From the 1917* Catholic Encyclopedia:

The traditional enumeration of the corporal works of mercy is as follows:

To feed the hungry;
To give drink to the thirsty;
To clothe the naked;
To harbour the harbourless;
To visit the sick;
To ransom the captive;
To bury the dead.

The spiritual works of mercy are:

To instruct the ignorant;
To counsel the doubtful;
To admonish sinners;
To bear wrongs patiently;
To forgive offences willingly;
To comfort the afflicted;
To pray for the living and the dead.

There is nothing stopping anyone from "being Church," nothing that requires we call a press conference to show how caring and sharing we are. People are hanging around rectories and sacristies on Sunday, just looking for a break: "Oh, Father, are you sure you don't need a communion minister? I'm just trying to help..." Unless you really are competent in matters liturgical (like... well, ME, for example), you can be a lot more help offering to park cars.

Or being an usher. (This is something women have been allowed to do since 1970. How many women do you see being ushers in parishes that are up to their necks in altar girls??? Discuss.)

Now, you think I'm poking fun at extreaordinary ministers of the Eucharist, do you? I actually was one once, at the Georgetown parish where I was a sacristan. It was out of necessity, since I was handling the Sacred Species as a part of my job. The experience changed me to the point where I no longer received communion in the hand. That, and something Father Stravinskas once wrote ('cuz after all, the man's a damn genius).

There was a time when, for a group to publicly call itself "Catholic," it had to obtain the permission of the local bishop. This manner of structuring the lay apostolate, known as "Catholic Action," ensured the integrity of identity of the endeavor or endeavors. That way, if you were in the business of, say, placing children for adoption, there was a priority on placement in homes dedicated to sharing with these little ones the gift of the Faith. This, as opposed to whatever your Federal grant money, or some feminazi nun with an attitude problem, told you to do (unmarried couples, gay couples, et cetera). Or if you were a doctor who worked at a free clinic operating as "Catholic," it was safe to say you weren't handing out condoms.

But it's different now. Even an "official" Catholic charitable work is problematic. You can read all about them in the Catholic blogosphere.

Which is reason enough to bag the whole "lay ministry" racket, and strike out on your own. Let 'em tell you you're not Catholic. Make 'em prove it.

Then tell His Excellency to kiss your ring. I know I would.


* Hey, I thought it was 1906 too, but that's the year they listed.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Somebody help this man.

Mark Shea is confused.

This author of a number of Catholic books, who has probably inspired more conversions to the Faith than.. uh, well, ME, wants to know what his weblog is supposed to be about.

Well, for my money, it's about the only place in the Catholic blogosphere, where the author can leave for months at a time, to write a book, visit Okinawa, or work in a department store during the Christmas rush, and the comments box alone will keep it up to date. If the "St Blog's Awards" ever has a category for "Most Pro-Active Fan Base," this dude has it wrapped up, hands down!

And I thought I had a rough time last week.
Getting Off Baghdad at the Nearest Exit

Washington think-tank guy William Lind has a three-point plan for getting the hell out of Iraq, with our dignity and our stated objectives intact:

"First, announce that we will leave Iraq soon, and completely...

"Second, open negotiations to set a date by which we will be gone...

"Third... we will also quietly institute the 'ink-blot strategy' in some mixed Sunni-Shiite-Kurdish areas..."

"Brand name isn't everything, it's the only thing."

The past week at MWBH generated more comments than any other week since opening for comments over a year ago. During that time, more than one post generated numbers in the double digits (and most of them were not mine -- geez!!!).

On a related note, we begin this post with a paraphrase of the late Coach Vince Lombardi, in responding openly to an excerpt from a comment written by one of our readers:

"People think of the Internet as an inherently egalitarian medium, but it isn't. The whole reason positions of prominence come forth in society is that there are too many people, and the same holds for the Internet.

"It's like when Amazon started the e-buziness craze. Lots of "internet companies" sprung up, believing to be the wave of the future. But once the traditional brick&mortars set up shop online, it drove the online businesses into irrelevance.

"Brand name is everything."

Maybe, but...

When Alexander Bell invented the telephone, he took his idea to Western Union. The giant of the telegraph industry saw no practical application for the new device. Before broken up in 1984, Bell's company, American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) was the largest corporation in the USA (or is that the planet?). Even after the breakup, they're much bigger than Western Union could ever hope to be.

In the late 1970s, Hewlett-Packard could not see how the average person would want a personal computer in their own homes. One man who believed otherwise went on to become one of the richest in America. (Do you know his name and his company?)

In the early days of television, the most successful news journalists were those men who had already made their mark on radio or in the print media. Such prominence would not necessarily carry over today, as appearance in delivery takes on more significance with the visual nature of the medium.

Amazon, which started in a guy's basement, now has most of a hospital building south of downtown Seattle. It also accesses scores of independent online booksellers for used and other discount volumes. What it does not have... is a warehouse.

Today, perhaps the best-known author in the blogosphere is Glenn Reynolds, also known as Instapundit. Without this medium, it is likely Mr Reynolds would be just another American law professor. Meanwhile, in 2002 Vatican Radio did an interview with a group of prominent webloggers, as part of a segment on the then-growing phenomenon among Catholics. All those interviewed as "bloggers" were already established in the Catholic press or on Catholic bookshelves.

To what degree is the weblog a vehicle for introducing ideas and authors who would otherwise be unknown? How do the nominees and results of last year's "St Blog's Awards" answer that question?


Friday, November 04, 2005

If you haven't noticed, it's been that kind of a week. Good thing I didn't take my parents' advice, by taking a day job at the post office and free-lancing on the side.
Where The Right Went Wrong

I'm currently "reading" the book by Mr Patrick Buchanan, with the above title, in its abridged form on compact disc. It is a fascinating study of the recent history of our foreign policy, and how we got where we are today. The reviews at are worth reading as well, even the negative ones. Of course, I tend to agree with him on practically everything. It's hard not to agree with a man who makes such good sense, and argues his case with such Thomistic precision. If America does not discern the liabilities of being an empire, and return to her origins as a republic, she will go the way of all past empires. History has told us so, as does Mr Buchanan. In this respect, he's right on target.

Then again, I have yet to delve into his thoughts on immigration policy, but I am already familiar with them. I can support the idea of securing our borders. But the line for legal entry is longer than it needs to be, and his comments elsewhere on the fear of multi-culturalism as a divisive factor in American life, are a bit over the top.

Ah, for the good old days, when patriotic Americans used to speak of the Irish in the exactly same manner!

Something to consider, Paddy, me boy!
Yessir, Brownie did a helluva job, alright?

...and after this, okay, okay, you can quit now.
Rants Revisited

It's fair to say that yesterday's commentary was even less even-tempered than usual. I realize I have a debt to queen-size women in spandex the world over. [UPDATE: The reference in question has since been tempered, after "taking counsel with my pillow." It can happen.] Then again, perhaps more appropriate attire while occupying the Holy of Holies would be every bit as kind a gesture, as any to be expected from me.

(Or just paint a bulls-eye on your hind-quarters, for all the difference it makes.)

Until then, I'd recommend to "Anonymous" that he or she obtain the book that was referenced in the essay. It's also available in paperback, and a used copy can only cost a few dollars. And when you do, pay close attention to a woman with a doctorate who started out as part of the parish's inner circle, then lost all her friends when she reconsidered her position on the ordination of women. It was all my fault, of course. I gave her a copy of an essay by Peter Kreeft which basically blew the opposition away. But the woman and her husband ended up leaving the parish because all the "enlightened ones" at the parish ostracized them.

And as an added bonus, read about the pastor's "inappropriate" relationship with a young man -- the operative word being "young." Some of the people who looked the other way are local supporters of VOTF (including a woman with a masters degree who spent an awful lot of time re-writing the Lectionary). Duh...

Which leads me to wonder, where is the compassion of all these over-educated nimrods when things fall apart? So read the damn book, then explain it to me, will ya? I promise, HERE AND NOW, an open forum for your response.

Then maybe -- just maybe -- I'll be impressed.

Stay tuned.... and stay in touch.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

“Nice work if you can get it.”

Amy Welborn had a post recently on working for the Church, in particular the risk that doing so might pose to one's Faith. So yesterday she introduced a separate thread entitled "Risk Factor." People are sharing their stories. Most of them have a familiar ring.

The only time I was ever really on a Church payroll, was when I was a sacristan for a Jesuit parish in Georgetown in the early 1990s. My marriage had only recently tanked, and I was on the mend, living in a one-bedroom flat in the heart of the historic district. Shortly after my arrival, they were looking for an additional member to fill the rotation. I got pretty good at it. Maybe too good. My biggest shortcoming (one that I confront to this day, I confess) is being too conspicuous, which is a liability in a good sacristan. But I knew what to do and how to do it from the get-go, and everybody there knew I was the best, even those who wished I'd go away. Fortunately, I was just quiet enough to stay out of a book written by Washington journalist Jim Naughton entitled "Catholics in Crisis: An American Parish Fights For Its Soul," which describes the high drama that occured while I was there. (I read it -- twice.)

I can't say my adversaries were as quiet.

If there is one thing I have learned about "professional lay ministry" over the years, it is that all the talk about being creative and innovative and caring and sharing and helping others, is really a lot of crap.

Most lay employees in the Church are middle-aged upper-middle-class suburban women with overpaid husbands, who find in their employment an opportunity to indulge their petty agendas. They get advanced degrees from places that don't really teach anything, which is obvious to anyone scrutinizing their positions with sufficient intellectual vigor. They lie through their teeth as easily as you and I breathe, they plot against those who are not like-minded (or in the absense of those, one another), and they make any priest in their midst feel like a patriarchal sexist pig unless they can walk all over him. Which is how they do, leaving a pantywaist shadow of a man in their wake.

Being a "communion minister" is less about assisting the priest in an extraordinary situation, than it is a sort of benchmark of the identity of the "minister." The early morning Mass may only have forty or fifty people. But if some heavy-set woman in stretch pants magically appears at the tabernacle to ride shotgun at Communion -- hey, I know it's cruel, but I keep seeing it everywhere I go -- the laity have indeed arrived. Those who are served are incidental; this is not about them. This is about those who appear to serve. That photo of a woman in an alb or street clothes, doing the orans posture behind the altar during a "communion service," does more for "The Spirit of Vatican II" than feeding a thousand hungry mouths.

They would have you believe that the Church is run by a bunch of men. That only human males are ordained is self-evident. But it isn't much of a man who can't make a move without kow-towing to a bunch of arrogant sea-hags on the payroll. It is they who are the power behind the throne -- end-running a man's decisions, discouraging a good man from entry into the seminary, networking with others of their coven at the parish level, who are hard at work watching the men at their end. One case for a married priesthood might be that these banshees would have to get by the pastor's wife before they could do any real damage.

(Note to the Holy Father: Yo, Holiness! It might be worth it after all.)

And by the way, all that social justice talk, that's for everybody else in the real world, not the land-of-make-believe that is the Church infrastructure. The protections that are available to collective-bargaining employees (who don't have to read Rerum Novarum to know what a union is for) are notoriously absent to an employee of the Church. The exception is the ideological diva who can call a press conference if she's fired for, oh let's say, giving a "reflection" in place of the pastor's homily.

Because, after all, we can't expose the People of God to a scandal now, can we?

But we have. What the mainstream press generally doesn't tell you, is about all the laypeople (and the vast majority in these cases are women) who enabled the errant priests in Boston, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. These guys were not dirty old men in trenchcoats hiding in the shadows of school playgrounds. They were bright, attractive, charismatic figures, who did what they did, and said what they said, because they could get away with it. And they could get away with it, because enough people were convinced that these men could do no wrong. And if enough people convince you that you can do no wrong, then... well, buddy, you can do no wrong! You also serve a purpose in providing fertile ground (as in "Hey, nobody's watching, so...") for those with plans of their own.

This is an admittedly intemperate and apparently uncharitable look at those who labor for the Church. It is also a far cry from the view of certain exceptions, who have shared their good news in the forum which Ms Welborn has provided. But as they are reading this (and they know who they are), they must know that somewhere in the blogosphere, displaced seminarians are laughing their asses off. What is painful for some to read, is also painfully true to those who have learned the hard way.

And it is the most potent evidence we have of the power of The Evil One. Why pick on the average Joe at the periphery, when you can go for the epicenter? Legions of practicing Catholics can lose their faith, vast numbers of souls can be lost (as in vast numbers of Joes), with one direct hit in just the right place. So it has been from the beginning. So it shall remain, to one degree or another, until The Final Battle.

And somewhere in the world, when no one with a camera is watching, the real work of Christ and His Church is proceeding as planned.

"Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ: sending two of his disciples he said to him: Art thou he that art to come, or look we for another? And Jesus making answer said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them." (Matthew 11:2-5)

Wherever the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are performed in His name, He is there, and His Church is there. It is no less so than it is at the feet of the man who sits in the Chair of Saint Peter. Surely one would serve to no avail, without the benefit of the other.

The Lord works in mysterious ways. Not to mention very clever.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dias de los Muertos

In Spanish-speaking areas around the world -- from Mexico City to Metro Manila -- yesterday as the Feast of All Saints, and today as the Feast of All Souls, are known collectively as "Days of the Dead." It invariably involves having picnics in a cemetery, near the remains of one's ancestors. Our own revelry with children dressed as witches and goblins, would pale next to day-long parades in Mexico, of men dressed as skeletons.

Every now and then I hear somebody chide parents for encouraging some occult-based New Age phenomenon. I don't remember such a connection when I was a boy. That tells me it came along later, and even then only because enough people decided to give it the attention for which it clamored.

Then again, that's just me.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Any "Witch" Way But Loose

The Connecticut Post reports on a Wiccan priestess and her legal battle, over being terminated by her employer, for using unpaid leave to observe pagan holidays such as the Celtic New Year -- also known as "Samhain," not to mention "Halloween."

To devout Catholics, it all sounds perfectly dreadful -- the idea that, in a Judeo-Christian society, we should have to dignify an individual's indulgence of a religious holiday other than our own, especially one that passes itself off as a pre-Christian nature worship, but is actually a late 19th century fabrication. What is often forgotten is, the same law that is used on the Wiccan priestess, can also be applied to Catholics who want unpaid holidays for their holydays. I am able to get paid annual leave for "pre-Lenten religious observances" -- otherwise known as Mardi Gras. But I wonder how many stalwarts of orthodoxy would have walked into the boss's office to ask for the day after Halloween off.

Because, strictly speaking, the traditional proscription against "unnecessary servile labor" applies equally to All Saints Day, as to any given Sunday.

Just wondering.
"For all the saints," I have two questions.

I came across an interesting essay yesterday at Traditio in Radice entitled "Things I Wish I'd Known About Dating, Part I." I've got two (sincerely motivated) questions for W's readers, and I hope they are good enough to give their kind attention:

1) M Z Forrest writes: "The notion of courting removes a large sexual elephant from the room in seemingly innocent activities such as dancing." My first question here is, if a man or woman is not in a position to marry, is attending the weekly swing dance (and let's suppose this one is not reputedly a "meet market," which is possible here in DC) a near occasion of sin?

2) Darth Litigious writes: "When a man isn't ready to marry, he should just stay away from women in general..." This begs my second question which is, can a man and a woman ever be friends?

Discuss. Preferably here.


The discussion continues, but not here. Over at
Traditio in Radice.

I would suspect that people are generally more comfortable continuing a dialogue where it originates -- except, once I posted something, and Mark Shea linked to it, and the discussion ensued
at Mark's weblog. Thus allegedly free exchange invariably falls victim to the cult of celebrity.

No, I don't blame Mark. I blame his readers.

As to the above, I guess it's a case of safety in numbers. Which begs the question; would any of us ever stand alone, and continue believing as we do? This brings up a disturbing trend I've noticed in "the Catholic blogosphere," one on which I intend to comment further when it comes time for the "St Blog's Awards."

Monday, October 31, 2005

From our bulging "everybody's gotta get into the act" files...

Kathy Shaidle of relapsed catholic reports on Bill Clinton's tribute to Rosa Parks.
"Aye, Sulu, ye canna change the laws o' physics!!!"

If James "Scotty" Doohan were alive today, he might say this to the helmsman of the Enterprise in the original Star Trek TV series. George Takei, who played Lt Sulu, has announced that he's... well, reversed his cosmic polarity. According to the Associated Press, "The current social and political climate helped motivate the disclosure" that he is gay. Takei, who is 68, has been with his partner Brad Altman for eighteen years.
Going "Bump" in the Night... Revisited

Since I'm too lazy to write anything about Halloween, and I wrote something before anyway, we link to this blast from the past in My Back Pages:

"As a Catholic, one accepts a belief in the forces beyond those of this world, both for good and for evil. Those tools which call upon the powers beyond nature, which do not make their true intentions known, shall be usurped by those entities who will respond as they will, usually to our peril. After all, nature abhors a vacuum -- as does supernature."
Viva la difference! (Long live the obvious!)

"In Taking Sex Differences Seriously, University of Virginia professor Steven Rhoads lays down the facts about men and women. He has the studies, the research, and even the anecdotes to support his evident conclusions... [and] builds an airtight case that the differences are real, vast, and have consequences -- major consequences."

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Time has come today
Young hearts can go their way
Can't put it off another day
I don't care what others say
They say we don't listen anyway
Time has come today...

Did you remember to set your clocks all back an hour? I did.

Not that I got diddley out of it, though. This past weekend was not a good one for the local zydeco universe. If that wasn't enough, Sal was on a home care assignment. Some lame excuse about getting overpaid, and in advance. I failed to come up with a counter offer. So, after midnight, I fell asleep watching television.

But before that happened, I managed to spend the whole day getting a house in order -- still. I'm finding new uses for surplus furniture from the storage room, especially the means of holding my nearly one thousand audio and video recordings throughout the house, and ten years of back issues of both Acoustic Guitar and Catholic World Report magazines. Plus I've always wanted a piano in my sala,* so Paul is looking forward to when the Yamaha electronic keyboard is plugged in and wired to the PC.

The rules have changed today
I have no place to stay
I'm thinking about the subway
My love has flown away
My tears have come and gone
Oh my Lord, I have to roam
I have no home...

Speaking of changing the rules, Congress is extending the time of year for daylight saving time (that's "saving," not "savings," as the official parlance) beginning in 2007, and ending when the Department of Energy is done studying what they probably already know anyway. (Anyone remember when in the 1970s they made Daylight Time a year-round standard? The first person to answer gets a holy card. Don't all jump up at once...)

Now the time has come
There's no place to run
I might get burned up by the sun
But I had my fun
I've been loved and put aside
I've been crushed by the tumbling tide
And my soul has been psychedelicized...

But before your soul goes anywhere, check out the history of daylight time by clicking HERE, going back to (believe it or not!) Benjamin Franklin. Meanwhile, we're taking comments from Indiana residents who can tell us how they cope with the discrepancies in time zone practices in their state. And a tip of the Black Hat to The Chambers Brothers, for today's lyrics.

* The Spanish word for a "living room," and a term common to the Philippines. The French word would be "salon." ¿Comprendez?

Friday, October 28, 2005

In a nation where any boy can grow up to be President (not to mention every girl too, right, Condi?), this could be somebody's big chance.
"Are we going the way of Rome, or is the President just having a bad week?"

Rich Leonardi of Ten Reasons attributes this quotation to Peggy Noonan in her most recent column. I can't find the quote, but essentially that's what she's asking. Of particular interest is this provocative anecdote:
A few weeks ago I was reading Christopher Lawford's lovely, candid and affectionate remembrance of growing up in a particular time and place with a particular family, the Kennedys, circa roughly 1950-2000. It's called "Symptoms of Withdrawal." At the end he quotes his Uncle Teddy. Christopher, Ted Kennedy and a few family members had gathered one night and were having a drink in Mr Lawford's mother's apartment in Manhattan. Teddy was expansive. If he hadn't gone into politics he would have been an opera singer, he told them, and visited small Italian villages and had pasta every day for lunch. "Singing at la Scala in front of three thousand people throwing flowers at you. Then going out for dinner and having more pasta." Everyone was laughing. Then, writes Mr Lawford, Teddy "took a long, slow gulp of his vodka and tonic, thought for a moment, and changed tack. 'I'm glad I'm not going to be around when you guys are my age.' I asked him why, and he said, 'Because when you guys are my age, the whole thing is going to fall apart.'"

Mr Lawford continued, "The statement hung there, suspended in the realm of 'maybe we shouldn't go there.' Nobody wanted to touch it. After a few moments of heavy silence, my uncle moved on."

Lawford thought his uncle might be referring to their family--that it might "fall apart." But reading, one gets the strong impression Teddy Kennedy was not talking about his family but about . . . the whole ball of wax, the impossible nature of everything, the realities so daunting it seems the very system is off the tracks.

And--forgive me--I thought:
If even Teddy knows...
After the last two general elections, and reviewing our military interventions in recent years (another subject for another day), I too am left wondering whether the Visigoths will appear over the hilltop any day now. Particularly telling was this Noonan quip: "You say we don't understand Africa? We don't even understand Canada!"

Good point... eh?
Three of Hearts: A love story...

...because if you try hard enough at kidding yourself, you can justify anything.
"Sam Cagnina meets Steven, a handsome 19-year old college student, and they fall in love. Soon Sam gets an idea. 'Hey, wouldn’t it be great to bring a woman into the relationship!?' Steven eventually agrees and they set out to find a woman who would agree to live in a 'trio' relationship. When they meet Samantha they know they have found that someone else special."
And "anything" is exactly what can happen. Usually at your own risk.