Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Short History of Medicine

2000 BC:

  "Doctor, I have an ear ache."
    "Here, eat this root."

1000 BC:
  "Doctor, I have an ear ache."
    "That root is heathen, say this prayer."

1850 AD:
  "Doctor, I have an ear ache."
    "That prayer is superstition, drink this potion."

1940 AD:
  "Doctor, I have an ear ache."
    "That potion is snake oil, swallow this pill."

1985 AD:
  "Doctor, I have an ear ache."
    "That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic."

2000 AD:
  "Doctor, I have an ear ache."
    "That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root."
¿Que pasa... dude?

Father "Don Jim" Tucker makes a note of the recent Washington Post article about Spanish-language TV advertisements on English-language channels, and goes on to elaborate on the prospect of a "bi-lingual" America, in his piece entitled (what else?) "Toward A Bilingual America."

Of course, he's right to point out the fallacy of the simplistically linear approach that is the Anglo-Saxon view of American history. And ultimately, a bilingual culture may be, in the broader view of things, a recognition of the way this nation might have turned out anyway, if only we had gotten on better with our Mexican neighbors, especially over the settling of Texas.

But the truth is, it didn't turn out that way. That the USA does not have an official language of record, does not mean there is not one in practice. And before we rush headlong toward English-Spanish highway signs and required bilingual education, we might ask ourselves how such diversity has served national unity in, say, Canada. (Our other neighbors, remember?) Then again, Switzerland has existed as a unified nation of four languages for centuries. But which comparison is the fairer one?

For better or worse, I believe he may be right; we may be headed toward a day when "Anglos" who speak Spanish will be better off than those who do not. This is not as apparent in my native Ohio, for example, as it is to those who spend time on either the East or West Coast.

A Gentleman and A Scholar

Much has been written in the weeks after the new pope's election, about the removal of Father Thomas Reese as editor-in-chief of America magazine, a weekly publication of the American Jesuits. Actually, he resigned voluntarily, after consultation with the superior general of the order. This followed several years of conflict with the Holy See over various content in the magazine, which appeared to place dissenting positions on equal footing with established Catholic teaching and practice. In leaving voluntarily, Reese intended to act for the greater good. And besides, six years is the longest most Jesuits serve in a position, and he had been there for seven.

His farewell column was most gracious, more so than the scores of editors from the progressive wing of the Catholic press, who fear an impending reign of terror, and impediments to freedom of expression.

I knew Father Reese when I was a sacristan at Holy Trinity parish in Georgetown in the early 1990s, and he was a fellow at Woodstock Theological Center, located nearby on the Georgetown campus. He was a frequent celebrant-homilist for the Sunday evening Mass, predominated by college students and young adults. He was a charming and approachable man, quite popular with all of them. For me personally, it was at the height of my separation and divorce. I got to know all the priests there, and Reese was not above a listening ear, nor likening my challenges to "the way of the Cross." (His words, not mine.)

Reese was also a popular speaker for the parish's adult education program. Whatever balance he attempted to achieve when later appointed to America, he did not have the burden of a level playing field at the time. His periodic dissention from Church teaching would go unchallenged. But even at America, the difficulty was not so much that he presented challenges side-by-side with the Church's position (including a piece by the former Cardinal Ratzinger himself), as implying that they were of equal weight -- which, for a Catholic, they are not.

Now, America is not Commonweal; it is not the National Catholic Reporter. It is not independent; it is run by a religious order, one with a special vow of loyalty to the Holy See, and whose members benefit from the renumeration of the Church. It would seem less than completely honest not to act upon that vow, whatever the merits of one's position.

Reese's desire to provide a forum for "thinking Catholics" would lead one to wonder what exactly it was that he was thinking. One example was reported to have occured during an interview on National Public Radio (NPR) the day after Cardinal O'Connor died. The interviewer posed a few scenarios. One involved a single mother with two chldren now pregnant with a third. Reese allowed for the prospect of an abortion, given the hardship of an additional child under such circumstances.

What of the child? Does the requirement of academic detachment extend to life itself? Doesn't this go beyond detachment, to simply being callous? Where is the "thinking" here?

Reese is a nice guy, "a gentleman and a scholar." But he is most assuredly not a martyr. He is a man who knew exactly what he was doing, and exactly what the stakes were. I wish him the best in his new assignment (with the full knowledge that one was waiting for him upon his departure from America). I wish he were here in Washington again. I miss his homilies.

Most of them.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The weekend's starting early...

...as some of the Feds in DC are getting early dismissal, so we can all clog the highways a little early for the official start of summer this year. Meanwhile, here's a lean Marine every girl will wanna snuggle up next to for a night at the movies:
The following is a chronology of me watching Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. All times are approximate.

Movie Start minus 3 minutes, 23 seconds — Why is there a commercial for "Joey" before the movie? Is that show still on? If so, why?

MS-2:09 — Another television ad, this time for a DVD set of "Will and Grace." I like movie previews, but what's with the TV ads? Man, that Jack guy is annoying. He's kind of a Stepin Fetchit for the gays.

MS+1:04 — Finally, the movie is starting. I forget, what was the original Bridget Jones about? All I remember is her kicking drug dealers' butts and wearing a big afro. Oh, wait...that was "Cleopatra Jones."

MS+10:58 — Already bored. Not a good sign...
Semper fi.
From West Wing to E-Ring

This past season of NBC's The West Wing has been a real letdown. Obviously trying to put a fitting end to the show's run, the story goes into the presidential campaign. The interplay between the main characters is shattered by the fact that some left the White House for the campaign trail, and some didn't. Kiss the interplay (and most of what was decent about the show) goodbye. Martin Sheen gets to fade away into nothingness, as much due to his character's MS progressing, as the writers having run out of things witty, erudite things for him to say.

But -- Deo gratias! -- somebody comes to the rescue. Replacing the White House drama on Wednesday nights at 9pm eastern is The E-Ring, which appears to be the same show in uniform and across the Potomac. (I could be wrong about this.) But who cares? As long as they make it different enough that I can't tell the damn difference, it's fine with me. ("E-ring" is an apparent reference to the inner corridor of the Pentagon Building.) Another St Blog's parishioner, Karen Hall of Some Have Hats, is Co-Executive Producer.

Atta girl, Karen.
Poison Penn?

A reader asks: "Have you seen the attack on Mother Theresa on Showtime?"

No, I haven't, since I don't get the premium channels on my cable television. Apparently the reader is referring to a segment of a show by the magicians' duo Penn and Teller. According to Catholic League president Donahue, quoted in a recent story by NewsMax, an episode of Showtime's Penn and Teller show "Holier Than Thou" was a...
"Nazi-like assault on Catholicism, and on the person the show calls 'Mother F***ing Teresa.' In the 12 years that I have been president of the Catholic League, I have never witnessed a more vicious attack on Catholicism than what appeared this week on the Showtime program 'Penn and Teller.' The episode, 'Holier Than Thou,' was a frontal assault on Mother Teresa and her order of nuns, Missionaries of Charity (as well as Gandhi and the Dali Lama)..."
Well, nice to know that Mother Teresa gets the same respect as the Dalai Lama.

I wish I paid more attention to these things, really. But as much as I like watching cable television (I'll have it turned to either Classic Arts Showcase, Great American Country, or reruns of Law and Order or The West Wing), it's not enough to keep me from leaving the house when I have a notion.

Many of us like to think of saints as placid, starry-eyed perfectly calm individials who win popularity contests in their lifetimes. The majority do not fit this description. Many suffer at the hands of local Church authority, the membership of orders they have founded, or the very people they are trying to help. Some even get thrown out of real classy places like the Temple in Jerusalem (or five-star hotels in Washington). In Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton wrote of the difficulty of understanding the ways of the saints, of how so many of them "cannot fit inside the box."

Merton cited as an example one Benedict Joseph Labre, an eighteenth-century itinerent monk. Rejected by the Trappists, the Carthusians, and the Cistercians, Benedict was consigned to wandering the countryside in southern France and into neighboring Italy, visiting one holy place after another. He dressed in rags, and smelled bad. But in Rome, he was frequently the source of advice and counsel to his fellow homeless. He died penniless in a Roman hospice, and numerous miracles were attributed to him within a few months of his death. He is the patron of beggars, hobos, the homeless, the insane, the mentally ill, people rejected by religious orders, pilgrims, tramps -- and probably because he didn't bathe much, unmarried men.

I'm gonna bet he was also easy to pick on. So's Mother Teresa.

(Did I mention I also like watching reruns of ER?)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Panis Angelicus

Today the Roman Church traditionally celebrates the Feast of Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ). In some parts of the world, the feast is moved to the nearest Sunday. This would include the USA, and elaborate street processions with the Precious Body enshrined in a monstrance are making a comeback in parish life. In the thirteenth century, the Holy Father Urban IV commissioned Thomas Aquinas to compose the sacred texts for the Holy Eucharist. Among them are the hymns Adore Te Devote (a favorite Communion hymn), Pange Lingua (sung especially on Holy Thursday), and the Sequence for Corpus Christi...
Lauda Sion Salvatorem,
lauda ducem et pastorem,
in hymnis et canticis...
Another popular hymn for the eucharist is Panis Angelicus, a current staple on recordings by operatic cross-over tenors (Pavoratti and the like):
Panis angelicus
Fit panis hominum;
Dat panis coelicus

Figuris terminum.
O res mirabilis!
Manducat Dominum

Pauper, pauper,
Servus et humilis...
"The bread of Angels is made/the Bread of man today:/the Living Bread from heaven/with figures dost away:/O wondrous gift indeed!/the poor and lowly may/upon their Lord and Master feed." (Sigh!) It's times like these that I really miss being an acolyte.

Meanwhile, when in Rome...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Arrows Pointing Upward
"When I grow up I'll be an artist!"
Said I at the age of three.
"As usual, you're not the smartest,"
My older sister scolded me.

"How often do you buy a picture?
Why not be practical instead?
Bake something that's a daily fixture --
Become a baker and bake bread."

So I became an artist
Because I'm not the smartest.
After fifty years of life, I am still a small-town boy from Ohio at heart. I might just as well remained that way in reality. Instead I have spent nearly half that life in the Nation's capital, all because I accepted a job offer from a man who died just two months ago, and who was memorialized today.

(Stay tuned...)

Monday, May 23, 2005

Monday Matinee

I was in class this morning. Had lunch afterwards with two of my classmates. Imagine their shock when the asked how old I was. "Wow, dude, you're the same age as my dad." Thanks a lot, fellow dudes.

Meanwhile, I found this movie clip over at et cetera. I'm ending one set of assignments and starting another, the rain clouds are rolling in, and I just feel like sneakin' outa here to catch a movie. Thanks, Vic.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

"Great day in the morning!"

Today the Church celebrates Trinity Sunday. At some point, "Don Jim" Tucker will post his usual thought-provoking homily for the most recent Sunday. I suggest taking a look at Dappled Things when you get a chance.

Last Tuesday was my sister Mary's birthday; today is my brother Stephen's. No, they're not near-identical twins, but are about a year apart. A tip of the Black Hat to both.

Meanwhile, this is a beautiful day in DC, and everybody is out enjoying it but me. I'm slaving over a hot computer right now on a number of things. But last night Sal and I hit my favorite local roadhouse, The Surf Club, where we had Sean Ardoin and ZydeKool in the house. The place was packed, and they delivered the goods!

Now then, where was I?

Friday, May 20, 2005

And they wonder...

...why bloggers have got the mainstream press on the run. Chris Muir, author of my favorite comic strip Day by Day (the "Doonesbury" of the new millenium) illustrates for the rest of us.

My Canaanite Moment

"Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon." But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, "Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us." He said in reply, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But the woman came and did him homage, saying, "Lord, help me." He said in reply, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters." (Matt 15:21-27)
It was about thirteen months ago, that I was unceremoniously removed from a five-star hotel, on the occasion of a prayer breakfast, due to a false accusation made against me. This issue resurfaced again this year, when those in charge of the annual event gave no explanation for the incident, and refused to change their position.

The course of events last year, and their reprise this year, are described herein. It is -- with God as my witness -- a balanced and truthful account of events, to the very best of my memory and ability. It is admittedly long, and possibly self-indulgent. But I am taking that risk, given the benefit of this virtual public square that is the Internet. That, and the furvent desire, not so much to harm the good name of anyone else, so much as to defend my own.

Somebody has to.

Act One

The event in question is the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. The first annual event took place in April of last year, at a prominent hotel here in Washington. There was a Mass scheduled for early in the morning, to be followed by a breakfast, and a keynote speaker.

Now, at various times in the last ten years or so, I've been sort of "free-lancing" as an acolyte for similar events. Whether it's the Old Mass or the New, have cassock and surplice will travel. I've assisted alongside young seminarians, and have trained young schoolboys for such events as well. I have served for both priests and bishops. I was also in charge of logistics and advance detail for the celebration of Mass -- a sacristan, if you will -- for a national convention of lay Catholics for three years running. I got to where I was pretty good at it, if I do say so. At least I wasn't bad enough that I had to be thrown out.

Now then, for this occasion, seeing nothing too forward about it, I used the occasion to offer my services to one Alexandra, the young lady in charge of logistics for the Mass that morning. (I am using real names here; there are no innocents to protect.) Even though there were two boys lined up from a private school to serve, my offer was gratefully accepted.

I arrived the night before, to introduce myself to the organizers, and to get a feel for the place. Alexandra was meeting with her assistants. There was only time to shake hands and say hello, as she was quite frantic in assembling the final details. So I left. But not before taking a look at the place.

They had one of those folding tables for the altar. As such, it was too low for the celebrant to be comfortable. The hotel personnel were also having trouble finding a tablecloth large enough to cover it. So I introduced myself and, making no claims of association beyond what was already discussed, offered to assist them. Out of my car, I got a large white heavyweight bed sheet, two sets of stackable table leg risers, and some duct tape. Between the two or three of us, we had that altar sitting a foot higher, and looking worthy of such a fine establishment. When it was over, we were all congratulating ourselves. I exchanged some small talk with the crew, and the security guards, then left.

I arrived the next morning with my vestments, about two hours before the Mass was to start. I was met by Alexandra, who was looking even more frantic (as if I could imagine that). She appreciated everything I had done, but the hotel security was breathing down her neck about one thing or another, and I'd have to leave until about a half-hour before Mass started. It was quite early in the morning, and I had nowhere to go. "Why don't you go out and get breakfast?" "Ma'am, I came here for breakfast, remember?" She just shrugged it off and left me in the lobby. Following that, I went up to the head security guard, a young off-duty Marine, and told him of the situation. I asked if I could just sit here in the lobby and wait as others were doing anyway. He graciously said yes.

At about one hour to showtime, I stepped out to my car, to move it off the street to a parking garage next door. On the way back, I distinctly heard one of the guards standing by a side door to the hotel, repeating my license plate number into a headset. After he finished, I confessed to him my having overheard, and asked what was up. He assured me it was nothing.


I went back inside. By this time, there were all manner of people milling about near the conference room where the Mass was to be held. I was not aware of any reason why I had to keep waiting in the lobby, since I wanted to be ready in time. So I asked the head security guard if I could go back there, having already told him of my earlier encounter with Alexandra. He told me to wait while he asked. So I stood there, standing next to the other guard. We were both a little uneasy, so I tried to break the ice a bit. "You know, Mister, no one's telling me anything, and I really don't see the problem here. See? Those nuns are walking around back there. You don't see anybody telling them where to go, do ya?"

The guard replied that I should wait while he went and spoke to his superior.

"Subject has left the building."

At this point is where the other shoe dropped.

The head guard came back, gave me his name, flashed his badge, and said that under DC law, he was empowered to force me to leave, or I'd be charged with trespassing. It seems I had threatened the nuns. I was stunned. I never threatened anybody. I turned to the other guard and asked what he told his superior. "What you said," was his reply. I kept trying to defend myself, but it was useless. The head guard repeated his order, and asked if I understood.

I stood there for a moment, in silence. The earlier brush-off, being detained, checking the license plate -- it was obvious I was being set up, but what would possess anyone to do this? The guard asked me again if I understood his order. It was then that I agreed to leave. But there was the matter of fifty dollars that I had paid to attend the event. The head guard took my name and address, and said he'd try to get me a refund.

I was still shaking in disbelief as I was escorted out the door, and heard the words of the head guard into his headset: "Subject has left the building."

In the days that followed, I attempted to clear matters up by phone with the hotel management. Upon inquiry, and with no further explanation, they stood behind the decision of the security guards. I also contacted the New York headquarters of the Sisters of Life, whose members I was accused of threatening. I spoke to two different sisters on two separate occasions. No one knew anything. Furthermore, even with my address, I never received any letter of record, either from the hotel, or any legal representative, summarizing the incident in question and barring me from the establishment in perpetuity.

I got to read all about it in The Washington Times, though:
Sen Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, said descriptions of his battles on the Senate floor last year to ban partial-birth abortions "sound rather heroic" but weren't.

"For five years, I was in elected office and never said the word 'abortion' on the floor of the United States House or the Senate," he said. "It took a herculean effort on my part just to get up and mumble a few phrases on an issue that should shake every person's consciousness."

But it doesn't, because "one of the reasons American Catholics are not as fervent is because many in our clergy are not as fervent in teaching the faith," he said.

The statement was aimed at priests and nuns who "teach a culturally influenced American Catholicism, instead of what the true faith is," the senator said. "Catholics have not been given a proper Catholic formation. Priests get up and talk around issues and not at them."
I also had took counsel with a friend in the building security trade, who explained the dark and ambiguous territory otherwise known as "probable cause." In our post-9/11 world, I wonder at what point that "probable cause" will come to mean whatever someone with a toy badge and a testosterone overdose says it is. (Ah, another subject for another day.)

It might have all made sense even then, given that there were members of Congress on the premises, and they couldn't be too careful. You'd think I would have given the planners of the event plenty of ammunition to come right at me and say: "You'll never attend a prayer breakfast in this town again."

But I didn't -- apparently.

Act Two

I was still waiting for such a pronouncement, when I got a letter in the mail from the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. "I thank you for your generous contribution... Our records indicate that you paid $50 to NCPB for one seat... If these figures are in error, please contact us immediately."

So, I did.

"Hello, Mr Cella. My name is David Alexander. I received your letter dated March 18, and there must be some mistake. You see, I was not allowed to attend last year's event, even though I paid for it." His curiosity piqued, I proceeded to tell him all that happened. It was then that he seemed to remember who I was. He was rather contrite, which certainly surprised me, and offered to allow me to attend this year's event for free. But I told him I wished an apology for how I was treated. He explained that his group was not responsible for the hotel's security policy. I reminded him of what (and possibly who) set them off in the first place. In describing the supposed "threat" I made, I had to explain it at least twice, as he could not believe it. Then I let him have it: "Sir, I am not one of your Beltway insiders on the fast track to papal knighthood. I'm just an ordinary Catholic in the pews. And if we're who we say we are, and doing what we claim to be doing, what was done to me wasn't right, and needs to be dealt with, as the worst thing I could be accused of is being a pushy guy!" Whew. I was out of breath for a moment. He suddenly realized (again?) that he had me mixed up with someone else, and he would have to talk to the Board of Directors and get back to me.

Well, he didn't. Not for at least a month. Finally, I called him. The first time he was boarding a plane, and would call me back. A couple of days passed. I left another message. He called me back on my home voice mail, on April 27 at 5:43 pm, with the following:
"David, it's Joe Cella getting back to you. I spoke with the Board of Directors, and in light of last year's circumstances, the decision remains as I previously discussed, and we just can't allow for any such behavior to occur at this year's Prayer Breakfast. So that is the decision that stands, and I hope that clarifies matters. Thank you. Bye."
Well, it didn't clarify much of anything. Maybe he still has me confused with someone else. Maybe I'm just not welcome. Inasmuch as no breakfast is worth all this, I could live with that. As if that wasn't confusing enough, less than two weeks later I received a formal invitation in the mail, officially inviting me to the second annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

Now, if I was such a threat to anyone, why did I receive an invitation to this year's event? And if I wasn't a threat, why couldn't they offer a simple apology for the misunderstanding?


As I tried to explain to Mr Cella in that phone conversation, this is not what we are about. Ecclesia semper reformanda est. The Catehism of the Catholic Church makes it clear that the Church is on an everlasting pilgrimage, a straight and narrow path to perfection (769). It may be likened to a procession in a grand basilica, every one of us moving towards the Holy of Holies, following the cross ahead -- eyes forward, keep walking, keep praying, all of us. Or, as the late Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote: "Of course the Church 'should do this, should do that.' She 'should do' everything, and much more than she is ever capable of doing. But should not the words 'the Church should do this' mean 'I should do it?'" (from Elucidations, 1971) All I really wanted was what I paid for, and an apology for how I was treated. No lawyers, no press conferences. To that end, I appealed to Mr Cella, and to our common faith that we share as brothers.

But instead I am left to wonder, if this Catholic Prayer Breakfast -- my interaction with its Board of Directors being any indication -- can ever be a spiritual gathering, as opposed to just another political organizing event with the trappings of the First Estate.

Or is it instead a disturbing commentary on those who would claim leadership in the apostolic work of Catholic laity? This is critical in light of recent scandals amidst the clergy, and in the face of mounting attacks on Catholic belief and practice under the guise of a "reform." At times like these, our faith can be shaken, and we are inclined to look to those who would rally us to the defense of Mother Church. We can rarely go to the mailbox without being asked to donate to some worthy cause of theirs. Therein, amidst a steady listing of photos and endorsements of Catholic luminaries, we are assured that our generosity will further the renewal and the work of the Church.

Or will it?
"There was the same hearty cheering as before, and the mugs were emptied to the dregs. But as the animals outside gazed at the scene, it seemed to them that some strange thing was happening. What was it that had altered in the faces of the pigs? Clover's old dim eyes flitted from one face to another... Yes, a violent quarrel was in progress. There were shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials... Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which." (from Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1946)
At what point do we sacrifice our convictions of faith on the altar of politics? At what point do we begin to "make a deal with the devil" to further our ends? What are the dangers if we do not heed this distinction? At least one person who attended last year went on record to wonder the same:
[A] few politicians who spoke at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel admitted to some inner turmoil.

"I'm a publicly elected official who's a Catholic and a Democrat," said Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan. "It seems that in recent weeks that we've been confused as to which comes first: a Catholic Democrat or a Democrat who's a Catholic. Depending on how you look at it, it can be both a blessing or a curse."

His father, Mr. Stupak said, "would often say, 'Bart, always remember that the bum on the street may be your boss tomorrow.' No truer words were ever spoken for those of us who choose to serve in elected office."
Indeed. Sounds like good advice for a lot of us -- both inside and outside the Beltway. You don't have to live in the Nation's capital very long to observe, as the saying goes: "Oh how the mighty have fallen!" If an article in the The American Spectator is any indication, attendees at last year's event might have gotten a foretaste of that lesson:
IN THE QUARRELSOME WORLD of Beltway conservative Catholics, Deal Hudson was both powerful and reviled. In the infighting over this year's first ever National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, I heard several insults flung at him that you wouldn't want to repeat in front of your mother. Or your father...

The Catholic League's Donahue told the New York Times that Hudson had become "the point man" for conservative Catholics to communicate with the Bush administration...
"The point man." Yes, Mr Hudson was an influential man, until a piece in the National Catholic Reporter exposed a past indiscretion with a young coed while a professor at Fordham. Now, Mr Hudson has done some excellent work, taking a faltering Catholic publication like Crisis magazine and building it up. But how has that saved him from scrutiny? And what of the rest of us? How many people supposedly flinging insults that day, ever imagined the same thing happening to them? Are any of them on the Board of Directors?

Act Three???

To this day, no one representing this event has ever told me for the record what I have done wrong! And if they haven't done so before this exposition, it is reasonable to maintain that any explanation of theirs would be found wanting. Barring that, whatever they claim to be, whatever endorsements from unsuspecting high churchmen they may appropriate now or in the future, I am left to wonder why I'd ever want to break bread with them in the first place.

Even if I never do, the event was a lesson in humility I could probably afford. Because if pride is the greatest of all sins, then its opposing virtue is a remedy for any man. And this man did not forsake it by standing up for himself. The deal is done, and I can move on. In fact, life demands that I do so, as for God's forgiveness to mean anything, we must learn not only to forgive others, but ourselves -- even as we demand respect for ourselves.

And so, as this is being posted, the Elect will meet this morning at another of this city's finer hotels. Even the President himself will be able to attend to say a few words, presumedly in gratitude for the Catholic vote (an unprecedented overture, I should think). All the same, I would sooner have breakfast in a local soup kitchen, and simply hand my fifty dollars over to those in charge. I would be serving no less a worthy cause.

What's more, I would probably be dining with a better class of people -- an observation not without precedent:
"I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." (Matt 8:11-12)
Bon app├ętit.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

My Personal Interregnum

Has anybody noticed I'm back yet?

Nope, didn't think so.

I wish I could say that the new appearance is the result of a careful market research, and a re-examination of the mission of MWBH. The fact is, I had simply outgrown the old template, and this one appeared to be sufficiently unique in my little corner of the cyber-universe. I could have done this sooner, having finally gotten someone's attention at Blogger technical support (Thanks, Christine, wherever you are!). But then one thing led to another. Finally, I bit the bullet, and in response to many requests for my return -- and in spite of the millions who didn't notice -- I have returned.

Not to say that the world stood still. Seems we have a new pope now. The election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger should not have surprised anyone who knows better, which for once would include me. The pundits have already pontificated about it by now, but I will leave you with this article from the Italian journal L'espresso, which I believe best summarizes what we can expect from the new papacy:

Benedict XVI: The Pope and His Agenda

Sometime after my tech problems arose, I published a tribute to his predecessor entitled "Reverend Uncle": An Encomium. My friend Kathy Shaidle was kind enough to publish it for me on the day of posting on her weblog relapsed catholic. Thanks, Kath.

And speaking of looking around the Catholic blogosphere, we've got a few new players who won't appear in the St Blog's Parish Directory. But we'll give some of them a mention in due course.

In addition, I'm also writing occasionally for the culture desk of SperoNews, an interfaith news site started up about a month ago. My first entry can be found by clicking here.

Finally, there are other things that have happened, but we'll get to those soon enough. Thanks to all who inquired regarding my absence, and thanks especially to nihil obstat for not putting me on his "ZZZ" list.

And so, the journey continues. Stay tuned...