Friday, July 22, 2005

I've been trying to reach Paul for a few days now. He did mention something about a big convention this weekend for young adults in recovery. I sure would love to hear from him just the same.

During the following week, posting here at MWBH will be light, if at all. Maybe a sentence or two here and there.

Over the weekend, I'll be in Gettysburg, with cassock and surplice at the ready, to serve Mass at the site where Father William Corby, CSC, gave absolution to the soldiers before the great battle. The annual project is sponsored by a local association known as The Workers of Saint Joseph.

During the week, I'll be at home (where I am currently not online) preparing for the big move in late August. Things are coming together on the lending side, and it's time to start packing the contents of my legion of bookshelves.
"Goin' to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come..."

When I read the latest post at Dappled Things, I suddenly got the urge to break into a Broadway show tune:
Ev'rythin's up to date in Kansas City
They've gone about as fur as they c'n go!
They went and built a skyscraper seven stories high
About as high as a buildin' oughta grow
Ev'rythin's like a dream in Kansas City
It's better than a magic lantern show!
Y' c'n turn the radiator on whenever you want some heat
With ev'ry kind o' comfort ev'ry house is all complete
You c'n walk to privies in the rain and never wet your feet!
They've gone about as fur as they c'n go

-- from the musical Oklahoma by Rogers and Hammerstein
Oh, what a beautiful mornin.'
Hey, who you callin' a pinhead???

A group of Marylanders who comprise the weblog Catholic Testudines have linked to an essay, on the medieval debate of how many angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

Guys, here's the short answer: all of them!

Angels are spiritual beings, without matter; therefore they take up no physical space; therefore there's room for the entire heavenly host in the smallest of corporeal confines.

(People should really consult with me sooner before they go off like this.)
Roberts Revisited

At TCRNews, Thomas Storck comments on the nomination of John Roberts to the US Supreme Court:
"I cannot get excited about Roberts' nomination. If he votes to reverse Roe, very good. If he doesn't, I won't be much surprised. And if he also votes to remove or weaken worker and consumer protections, it will simply prove again how politics in America seem always constructed in such a way that Catholics must abandon their principles to participate."
He could be on to something.

She first appeared in the Gospels after having been freed by seven demons. She was one of the women who stood with Christ as He hung on the cross. She was the first to witness him after He rose from the dead. In early Christian writings, she is known as "apostle to the apostles."

Today the Church remembers Mary Magdalen, so called as she was said to have come from the town of Magdala, which is near Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The tradition in western Christianity identified three different Marys in the Gospels as one and the same -- the one identified as "Mary the Magdalene," the "sinner" of Luke 7:36-50, and the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Luke 10:38-42 and John 11). The eastern tradition distinguishes the three. Modern conventional wisdom favors the latter.

As to the time after Christ's Ascension, the eastern tradition says she retired to Ephesus with Mary and John the Apostle, where she died. In France, it is said that she traveled with a company that included Lazarus of Bethany, to convert the whole of Provence. Her remains were buried thereabouts, and eventually moved to the town of Vézelay, where a Romanesque basilica stands that bears her name. Her supposed relics have since moved elsewhere. (See link above.)

Today, with the popularity of the recent hallucination entitled The DaVinci Code, Mary Magdalen has taken on a renewed popularity, on account of an alleged romance, and subsequent marriage, to Christ Himself.

Mary is depicted in portraits and statuary holding a jar of ababaster ointment. She is also the patroness of apothecaries; the towns of Atrani and Casamicciola in Italy; contemplative life; contemplatives; converts; druggists; glove makers; hairdressers; hairstylists; penitent sinners; penitent women; people ridiculed for their piety; perfumeries; perfumers; pharmacists; reformed prostitutes; sexual temptation; tanners (don't ask me why!), and... women.

Meanwhile, there is a website going online today...

...for all your Mary Magdalen needs.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

“They also serve...”

"I used as a child in the innocence of faith to bring myself out of bed through the cold lucid water of the Cumberland morning and to serve at the altar at earliest lonely Mass... and there between spread hands the body and the blood of Christ was created among words and lifted before God in a threshing of triplicate bells..."
In 1994, the Holy See issued norms allowing a diocesan bishop to permit females to serve at the altar. Presently, in two dioceses in the USA -- including Arlington, Virginia -- it is still restricted to males.

The local chapter of Call to Action has an initiative which allows people to put "funny money" in the collection basket, which stipulates that the real thing will be used once the local bishop allows little Suzy to serve.

But why not allow her?

In July of 1999, a pastor was ordered by the Most Reverend Paul Loverde, Bishop of Arlington since March of that year, to cease using girls as altar servers. Father Horace "Tuck" Grinnell, of St Anthony's in Falls Church, informed his parishioners that the bishop "intends to make a final decision.... sometime before the end of his first year as Bishop." Six years later, His Excellency has not changed the practice. Many suggest this is at the urging of the growing ranks of younger priests of the diocese. While this writer could make a case either way, what follows is the case for retaining the current practice. This is tailored to the situation in Arlington, but could be applied elsewhere as well. The reasons fall into three areas.

1. The Priesthood

If we are going to talk about serving at the altar, we must be clear as to what it is, as well as why it is.

But first, let us be clear as to what it is not. The acolyte (or altar server, as those terms are used interchangeably for our purposes) does not exist as a living ideological statement for the rights of women, or the laity -- or anyone, for that matter. The only purpose of the acolyte is to serve the priest at the altar. They do so at his pleasure -- not the liturgy committee, not the "expert" on the parish staff, not the parish council. Therefore, no one -- man or woman, boy or girl -- has a "right" to serve Mass. It is a privilege, which was a point once driven home to many an altar boy now over the age of fifty. "Justice" or "equality" have nothing to do with it.

Most liturgical roles open to the laity can legitimately be performed by women. Historically, they originated in the minor clerical orders, which were limited to males preparing for priesthood. But while the other liturgical functions serve the assembly, only the acolyte serves the priest. There is an interaction, a reinforcement of the masculine icon of priest -- who in turn is an icon of Christ -- that is not operative in any other relationship within the sanctuary. Small wonder, then, that service at the altar inspires vocations to the priesthood.

The lack of said reinforcement, amidst the push for ordaining women, is therefore problematic as a teaching model -- and not only for the children.

2. Pastoral Judgment

The majority of those who serve will be of early and preadolescent age. Since girls begin to mature ahead of boys at this time, it is no surprise that girls soon overshadow them. (Anyone care to comment on this "injustice" imposed by Mother Nature upon the innocent?) Even the Chicago Sun Times reported on the growing trend: "In many churches, girls now outnumber boys, who historically had a lock on the job." (06/21/99)

Allowing female acolytes would lend credence to the sort of dissension that brought them about elsewhere, and which already accompanies attempts to allow them here. (A case in point is a parish in south Arlington that allows female crossbearers, appearing to have found a "loophole," which in fact does not exist.) Commenting on objections raised to their unauthorized use, Grinnell wrote in his parish bulletin, "I assumed that these letters [to the bishop] could only have come from some of the retrograde clergy of the Arlington diocese (who seem to be permanently "out to sea" on this issue)... he [the bishop] had also received some letters from lay people. I understand that some of my brothers are living in another world..." (07/11/99)

As if it were not enough that our children be rendered pawns in an ideological debate, the good Father sees fit to insult his confreres -- not to mention others of like mind. (That any priest might behave this way publicly, without retribution, is a subject for another day.)

3. The Common Good

Whether saying Mass, hearing confessions, or comforting the dying, priests do not exist for themselves. They are called by God to exist for us, both men and women. Certainly more priests would be better than less priests -- again, for both men and women. We cannot question the good intentions of those young women who legitimately serve at the altar in their localities. But we in Arlington must ask ourselves, while we still have the opportunity, is it worth cutting short those men called by Our Lord in their formative years? Can we honestly say, that even the young women themselves are served by this indulgence?

The full effects of a change in practice would be felt slowly but surely. Pastors might be forced to use girls with boys equally. (This is an improper interpretation of the law; the use of males alone is still normative, and specifically encouraged in the original decree, while the use of females is an indulgence.) Some priests might respond by not using acolytes at all. The benefits of their use would be gone forever. Then again, the decision might be left to the individual pastor. Imagine the effect on the continuity of parish life, when a new pastor has more to rearrange upon his arrival, than furniture in the sanctuary.

Either response would widen the gap between "conservative" and "liberal" parishes, thus reinforcing what this author observes to be the growing "balkanization" of the diocese. No longer would parishes be identified with those for whom they are established. Style would reign over substance, and personal whim over pastoral need. We would eventually experience many of the problems already affecting parishes elsewhere in North America. The role of acolyte as an inspiration for priestly vocations would effectively end, and the Diocese would see its distinction in this area diminished.


The final decision rests where it always has, with the Bishop of Arlington. On one hand, he has the wants of a few, perhaps the many. On the other, the needs of all. It is one thing to recognize a clear choice, quite another to make the right one.

It is usually the harder of the two.
"Roe, Roe, Roe your boat, gently down the..."

President Bush nominated John Roberts to the Supreme Court (see NYTimes article here. All day Tuesday, everybody thought it was going to be... uh, some gal from Louisiana named Edith (I can't find her name anywhere online; talk about disappearing from the radar!). By the end of the day, Bush decided otherwise. His positions in past litigation have been unfavorable toward Roe v Wade, and yet he has been quoted as saying: "Roe v Wade is the settled law of the land... There's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent." Well, in a sense, there's no contradiction. It is the law of the land as of now. And who's to say what would happen in "applying that precedent"? Certainly nothing to indicate that Roe would remain standing. Remember, we're looking at a guy who's obliged to join the High Court without preconceived notions, and the conviction that the Constitution is NOT a so-called "living document," but one with specific intentions on the part of the Founding Fathers. Those intentions did not include a so-called "right to privacy" as such (and you will find those words nowhere in the Constitution). Besides, even outgoing Justice O'Connor has conceded that Roe is bad law. So it's only a matter of time before a case appears before them, and Roe gets overturned -- not because Roberts or anyone else wants it that way, but because of the recognition that we are a nation of laws, as opposed to personal judicial whim. (That'll be the day, huh?)

Whatever the effect on Roe v Wade, this much is beyond dispute; if appointed, Roberts will be the first member of the High Court to actually be younger than... moi!!!
Ad Random

My job has me on an "Alternative Work Schedule," or "AWS" in Fed parlance. That means I work a nine-hour day, and get one day every other week off. Mine was yesterday.

•  I spent the afternoon at Dulles Airport, as one of the "ambassadors" for arriving Scouts and Scouters to attend the 2005 BSA National Jamboree. I spoke with a group of female Venture Scouts from Fort Worth. We talked about how much the town had changed since I had a job on the road in that area in the summer of '75. (Another story for another day).) We also had people from Alaska, California, Idaho, and Illinois.

•  President Bush nominated John Roberts to the Supreme Court... (Update: This item moved to a separate post.)

•  This time, it's Scotty who's getting beamed up. James Doohan, who played the chief engineer on the original "Star Trek" TV series in the late 1960s, died yesterday at his home in Redmond, Washington. The cause of death was pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease. He was 85. According to, his ashes will be sent into space.

•  We have another passing worthy of note. The inventor of the TV dinner died last Monday at 83. "Gerry Thomas... was a salesman for Omaha, Nebraska-based C.A. Swanson and Sons in 1954 when he got the idea of packaging frozen meals in a disposable aluminum-foil tray, divided into compartments to keep the foods from mixing. He also gave the product its singular name."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

New Directory

From the beginning, I have relied upon the list provided by Gerard Serafin for "St Blog's Parish" Directory. With his untimely departure from this life last November, and a recent surge of new kids on the block, I have transferred the link to an updated directory with over 500 listings prepared by "Gen X Revert."

Blessed repose to Gerard. Thanks for steppin' up, Gen.
Critical Mass

Regular visitors to St Blog's wouldn't know it to read this weblog, but I'm a specialist of sorts in matters liturgical. That is to say, over the last twenty years I've read too much on the subject for my own good. For example, I've got reports on liturgical translations that most parish priests never see. And when the latest proposed English draft came out, I was one of a few outside the press that got a hold of it before it got snatched off the web. (Seems they're playing the cards closer to the chest these days.)

I've read a commentary at Amy Welborn's site recently, with references to other sites contained therein. I could easily join the frey.

The problem is, I wouldn't know when to stop. Really.

But I did pull something out of the closet that I wrote about six years ago, when Arlington got a new bishop, and everybody in the pews was salivating over two things; the Old Latin Mass, and altar girls. I did a commentary on the latter, in defense of the traditional males-only practice that prevails in Arlington, as well as one other diocese in the USA. It'll be up later in the week.

After that, and when I get up enough nerve, I'll write something on that other hot button issue. Stay tuned...
The Harry Potter Thing

Amy Welborn explains it all for you (or at least finds someone else who can).
An old Eagle Scout passed away yesterday.
The View From Manila

In the past twenty years, two presidents have been unceremoniously removed in the Republic of the Philippines. The first, Ferdinand Marcos, kept martial law in effect just little too long, and was forced out in a bloodless "people power" revolution. The second, Joseph Estrada, resigned as the result of a scandal, one of a number of corrupt politicians who seem to permeate life in that troubled land.

The current leader, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, faces charges of impeachment over attempting to unduly influence the outcome of the election. Oh, she's not guilty of that, she says; merely of "very poor judgment." This much was learned from a wire-tapped phone conversation. (Now what do you suppose they were discussing?)

The Washington Post reports: "Nearly a third of Filipinos live in poverty, according to government statistics. Among the countries of Southeast Asia, the Philippines has one of he most visible divides between rich and poor."

So, within a twenty-year period, the island nation could have a third leader forced out. Doesn't sound like much of a loss, does it?
"What if God was one of us?"

They may be cancelling Joan of Arcadia on CBS, but you can get the first season on DVD, and never skip a beat while waiting for syndication. I used to love the show, except that it usually fell on Friday nights, and... well, I'm just not home, know what I mean?

Monday, July 18, 2005

"WE' show the world that we're not afraid of what happened in London, and that the world is a better place without fear."
"The hills are alive, with the sound of... DIE, HERETIC!!!"

Bishop Williamson of the wannabe-in-union-with-Rome-but-gotta-do-it-our-way-first Society of Saint Pius X wrote a scathing commentary on a perfectly innocent musical a few years back -- which only goes to show what happens when your imagination is allowed to run to far from reality.

Next he'll be picking on Bing Crosby in Going My Way, and that's where I draw the line! Stay tuned...
Welcome to my Near Occasion of Sin

From the Old Oligarch, we learn that best wishes are in order to a young woman, identified only as "The Chevalier," who is author of the weblog The Return Curve. Barely six months into her authorship, she has decided thus:
Because of our courtship and engagement, I have been blogging a great deal less. Also, I intend to cease blogging upon entrance into the Sacrament of marriage. Renewing the culture only comes about through action in real life, from which blogging detracts. However, I must say I have received encouragement from encountering the many traditionalists out there in the "blogosphere."
Now, I'm happy for the young couple, don't get me wrong. My problem is with the statement:

"Renewing the culture only comes about through action in real life, from which blogging detracts."

Oh, it does, does it?

Is that just for her personally, which is within her capacity to judge for herself? Or is it equally problematic for the rest of us, in which case she can be especially grateful to all otherwise good Catholic "traditionalists" in the blogosphere who endangered their immortal souls while providing her with "encouragement." (Is this where the "double effect" comes in?)

Marriage changes everything, no question about that. But what are the things that constitute it? I presume they will (if they are like most) both continue to work for a living, until such time as her obligations require her to work within the home -- you know, childbearing, that sort of thing. Even then, it is more incumbent upon the Lucky Man to continue being potentially distracted by the demands of his work. (As I recall, Mom rarely spent time on the phone during the day with Dad while he was at the office. "When I'm at work, young man, I'm in another world," I often heard him say.) And let's not forget bowling on Friday nights, a round of golf on Saturday, or the many other things that could "detract" from a marriage.

When we marry, we bring who we are into the union. But the necessary dying to one's self is not to be confused with changing who we are, for it is who we are that the other party has embraced. Each party has interests and endeavors that form the whole person.

I'll give an example from my own "real life." I play the guitar. I've been playing for nearly forty years, and have no intention of stopping. When I played and sang ballads to my young son before bedtime, did my outside interest "detract" from my responsibility to him? If I spent an evening serenading his mother at the end of a hard day, did this outside interest not bear fruit in the marriage? (Not enough, apparently; see earlier entry today.) And so, the act of surrender takes that whole person, and in cleaving to the other, becomes greater than the sum of its parts -- a resultant state which, in German, can be translated as "gestalt." As it does, and given the grace-filled state of the union, God is truly there, thus reinforcing the "gestalt."

My act of typing on a page cannot be construed as being outside the bounds of "real life." It is by living one that I have something upon which to comment here. My discourse with other similarly engaged is an act of sharing that life, which bears fruit inasmuch as virtue or other goods may be derived from it. The same can be said of the workplace, or the bowling alley. This hardly "detracts" from anything.

Because, if it does, my colleague Ms Welborn is in more trouble than I am. The statement rendered by "The Chevalier," considered by itself as an absolute, presumes to speak for the rest of us. It shouldn't have to.
From our bulging "What Took You So D@#% Long?" files:
8 July 2005

Mr. William Cotter
Post Office Box 870037
Milton Village, Massachusetts 02187-0037

Dear Mr. Cotter:

On behalf of Archbishop Seán P. O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap. I write to acknowledge receipt of your 8 June 2005 letter regarding Reverend Walter Cuenin, the pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians parish in Newton. I note in your letter and in the material that you sent specifically the point that you bring to the Archbishop's attention is Father Cuenin's bulletin announcement inviting parishioners to participate in the "Gay Pride" parade.

Please know that the Archbishop is very disturbed by the information that you, along with others, have sent to him regarding this event and the involvement of Father Cuenin. He wishes to assure you that he is in the process of addressing this whole matter.

With my prayerful best wishes, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,

(+ Richard Lennon)

Most Reverend Richard G. Lennon
Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia
(Hey, is this the part where I get to hold my breath?)
Antics With Semantics

Our fellow-blogger "jCecil" is undaunted. The following is an excerpt from our exchange:
What you are saying is not the teaching of the Church. This is not merely my opinion - as you can see from Father Tucker's affirmation of my post, and from the anonymous theology professor who also affirmed it. But you can also consult the CCC or your local bishop or the writings of Pope Benedict if you don't get it.

You wrote:

That one is forced against one's will to participate in a sinful act (as in the bank teller) does not make the act itself (as in the one willfully committing the act) any less sinful on the objective level.

That is incorrect according to the Vatican.

The wording should be as follows, according to the Vatican:

That one is forced against one's will to participate in a evil act (as in the bank teller) does not make the act itself (as in the one willfully committing the act) any less evil on the objective level. However, it does reduce culabability for sin such that there may be no sin whatsover involved.

You wrote:

Abortion, for example, is the killing of an innocent human life. That is always a mortal sin.

Again, this is incorrect according to the Vatican. What you should have written according to the Vatican is something like the following:

Abortion, for example, is the killing of an innocent human life. That is always a grave and intrinsic evil. When knowingly chosen with free consent, it is a mortal sin.
He's right about one thing; I don't get it. The difference in our statements would appear to be in the degree of elaboration. (Note to Jack: Can you look at the transcript of our discourse and get back to me?) A case in point is elsewhere in his response, where he says: "And though many priests say things like 'Masturbation is a mortal sin,' the Vatican, itself, would say that the correct terminology is 'Masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered act and therefore can be a mortal sin when knowingly engaged in with free consent.'" In fact, the former statement is not incorrect, given the proper understanding of the term "mortal sin," which implies the condition of "knowingly engaged in with free consent."

My original question remains unanswered: "Thomas Aquinas would say that every action in life is either a plus or a minus. When is sodomy or abortion a plus?"

Take your time.

Fifteen years ago today, I came home and, instead of finding my wife and nearly-five-year-old son, there was a note:

"Do not attempt to contact me & especially Paul before our court hearing or I will have you arrested."

One year ago last month, in the space of two weeks, he graduated from high school, the support check stopped coming, she got remarried by a justice of the peace, and left town with the new husband. Oh, and my son was out on the street.

He's doing better now, though. To say nothing of his old man.
House of Cards

When it comes to explaining moral theology, "jCecil" goes to tremendous lengths to build upon a false premise, in order to justify his own opinions (and opinions is all they usually are). While in many ways a sincere fellow on his pilgrim-journey, someone needs to sit his @$$ down and explain a few things, before he confuses a lot of other people besides himself.

(Update: Father "Don Jim" Tucker appears to find value in the above, and the distinctions it renders. I suppose he read it more carefully than I did. Maybe he's right. But if I have to read through confusing passages to get to what there is of value (and the good Father points out just a few of them, and whatever he opins, they do get in the way of understanding the point), I'd just as soon wish some bloggers had editors. Barring that, and in this case, there remains confusion, which helps no one; I don't care what good things a guy has to say.)

Saturday, July 16, 2005


I was in the fourth grade in the spring of 1965, when our class was "enrolled" with the Brown Scapular. We were also given a "scapular medal" for when wearing a piece of woolen cloth around our necks was impractical. Since then, I have lost both the original scapular and the medal. But supposedly I'm still enrolled. By following the devotion properly (as opposed to simply wearing the object as a mere talisman), one is as a matter of pious belief, eligible for Our Lady's Promise: "...whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire."

This is of particular interest, as on this day the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It is most admirably celebrated in villages throughout Italy, as well as in "Little Italy" neighborhoods throughout the USA. Perhaps the most memorable in America occurs every year in "Little Italy in the Bronx." As I understand it, the venerable statue of Our Lady is carried on a platform by the older boys of the neighborhood, and their participation in this ceremony serves as a manly rite of passage.

Friday, July 15, 2005

So, I hear the Pope is a cat lover.
"Do you believe in magic?" -- John Sebastian

This past week, I've been on the phone taking care of the preliminaries involved in arranging financing for buying a house. Anyone who's done it in the past three years knows what a can of worms that is. If it's been much longer than that for you -- stay where you are.

That, and I've been working for a living. Most of that has been getting the kinks out of my new computer system. The Macintosh G5 is great. But setting it up and transferring files is the easy part. The real test is getting everything else on the network to play ball. Things like printers, for instance. You don't want to wait until a deadline looms to find out that your fonts don't work in a particular application (which has happened lately).

Meanwhile, in the Catholic blogosphere...

Much virtual ink has been spilled about a comment then-Cardinal Ratzinger made about the Harry Potter novels. Apparently he was less than impressed. Now that he's known as Pope Benedict XVI, every utterance is treated as a mark on stone tablets on Mount Sinai. Oh, and he doesn't like rock and roll either. (By the way, some years ago, the official Latinist in the Vatican, as part of his job to expand the vocabulary as called for by the needs of the times, came up with a name for that genre: musica dissonia. Cute, huh?)

When we were kids in the 50s and 60s, we watched Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, and Mary Martin in Peter Pan, oblivious to the dangers of New Age thinking that might have lurked beneath the surface. But with the advent of the 21st century, it seems a kid has to have his imagination micromanaged. Perhaps it's one of the by-products of a culture that has erased the distinction between fantasy and reality. Either that, or we all need to lighten the hell up.

On the other hand, when God is treated as a mystery, as opposed to the Pillsbury doughboy to be molded and shaped at will, it becomes easier to appreciate mystery for what it truly is, as opposed to what someone wishes it would be. Perhaps it is when our sense of the cosmos -- and who's really in charge -- is so threatened by misguided forces, that it only takes a children's novel to upset us.

I suppose that's why I find Cacciauida's approach to the subject to be... well, very novel.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Today... the feast of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the "Lily of the Mohawks" (1656-80), who was converted by the Jesuit missionaries in her native Quebec. Her faith caused her to be abandoned by her family, and she relocated to a settlement of converted Native Americans. It is said that, upon her death, her skin turned as white as snow, a tribute to her purity of virtue. She was beatified by John Paul II in 1980. also Bastille Day, or the national day of independence, for the French Republic. In the wake of this revolution, there was established a godless republic that executed not only members of the nobility, but many devout Catholic clergy, religious, and laity -- a period known as the "Reign of Terror."
Kilroy was here?

You see the face coming eastbound over the Roosevelt Bridge (US50/I-66) toward the District, emerging from the corner of an overhead sign pointing the way to Constitution Avenue. This, and other graffiti like it, has been the work of an artist heretofore identified only as "Borf."

According to Urban Pioneer, "It figures... he probably is some 18 year old... who lives in a million dollar plus house in Great Falls and does this for fun."

Alas, John Tsombikos of (wouldn't you know it?) Great Falls, Virginia, and two others were arrested in the District yesterday morning. They face charges of defacing public property.

Maybe they can do murals for community service.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

"Paul and Silas bound in jail, all night long.
 Paul and Silas bound in jail, all night long.
 Paul and Silas bound in jail, all night long.
 Who shall deliver poor me?"

It was an old spiritual I learned years ago at a guitar workshop. It came to mind as I was checking out the website of St Paul's on K Street, a well-renowned Anglo-Catholic parish here in Washington. It seems that today is the feast of Saint Silvanus -- better known as Silas -- on the Anglican calendar. (He appears elsewhere on both the classical and reformed Roman calendars.) A companion of St Paul, Silas is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (15:22) as being one of the "leading men among the brethren" in Jerusalem. He is also believed to be one and the same with "Silvanus" mentioned in the second epistle to the Corinthians, both epistles to the Thessalonians, and the first epistle of Peter.

For what it's worth, "Silvanus" was also the name of the Roman god of the forests and fields.
What would you do?
Our "Pro-Life" President

A Republican president has demonstrated (again!) what many in the pro-life movement (outside the boot-licking-fancy-dinner-fund-raising crowd) have been saying for years. Last December, "Dubya" signed a Title X funding increase for this year, to a record $288.3 million. According to the linked source: "Title X is one of two major federal government funding sources for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation's largest chain of abortion centers (murdering over 244,000 unborn human beings per year by surgical abortion alone)."

Right before the election, a priest active in the pro-life movement was quoted as saying that a vote for a third-party candidate would take away a vote for Bush, which would help Kerry, and therefore would be co-operation with evil. I actually had an argument with some pro-life lobbyist, who was concerned for my eternal salvation if I voted for a third-party candidate instead of Bush. Geeeeez!!!!!

Republicans have taken the pro-life vote for granted for nearly a quarter century. And like lambs to the slaughter, they still fall for it. It's almost as bad as Catholics who voted for Clinton, then Gore, then Kerry, simply because their grandparents voted for Roosevelt. After all, many of their deceased relatives are still registered Democrats, aren't they?

Is anyone paying attention???

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My most recent website project this past winter received an endorsement, from a Cincinnati West Side gal (and it doesn't get better than that), at DarwinCatholic.
And speaking of Jack...

I wish he'd been around when I wrote this.
"I read the news today, oh boy..."

•  Maverick Stands Tall! The town of Norman, Oklahoma, may have a ten-foot statue of their favorite son, if a group of local fundraisers have their way. Actor James Garner, born there in 1927, was the star of the TV western drama "Maverick," as well as the detective series "The Rockford Files." (You da man!)

•  After all, it's the oldest profession, right? According to the London Telegraph (29 Jan 2005), "under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take any available job -- including in the sex industry -- or lose her unemployment benefit." With prostitution having been legalized in Germany in recent years, a 25-year-old former waitress faces the prospect of losing public assistance for refusing a job providing "sexual services" at an evening establishment in Berlin. (Courtesty of New Oxford Review)

•  No more pencils, no more books! A high school in Vail, Arizona, is getting rid of textbooks. The School District is going wireless, as all students will be required to carry laptops to access electronic and online material; all this, in place of the print media, and simply going from one end of the textbook to the other every year. (When I was in school, we never got all the way through the textbook anyway.)

•  How about just calling it "The Thing"? The town council in Yelm, Washington, is faced with a permit application from Wal-Mart, to build one of its retail stores within its boundaries. As is happening across the country, the neighbors beg to differ, and have let the council know about it. The town council, after hearing endless calls for "a moratorium on big-box stores," decided that the words "moratorium" and "big-box stores" would be banned from their proceedings. The ACLU is challenging the ban. (Meanwhile, the people of Yelm could refer to an "invasion," couldn't they?)

(All stories courtesy of the Associated Press, unless otherwise stated.)

Monday, July 11, 2005

I'm in a different mood today,
And I found a station up Baltimore way.
It's "Rockabilly Radio," and I just found out,
I got another reason to scream and shout!

We've been hearing a lot lately from a fellow identified only as "Jack." It made me wonder...

Anglo-American folklore is rich with legendary tales and assorted misadventures of "Jack," and was the object of storytellers on both sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps the most renowned narrator of "Jack Tales" has been Ray Hicks, an elderly man who still lives in the hills of North Carolina. Folk Legacy Records has recorded his finest works in "Ray Hicks Telling Four Traditional 'Jack Tales.'" A sample from "Jack and the Three Steers" is available by clicking here. (mp3 player required.)

Today is the feast of Saint Benedict, the founder of western monasticism. His order's religious houses were a key player in the re-civilization and Christianization of Europe after the fall of Rome. "Don Jim" Tucker gives an account of this saint, including a detailed description of the St Benedict Medal. I've thought of becoming a tertiary for years (a lay brother of a religious order, with limited obligations). A friend once told me I had the theology of a Dominican, and the spirituality of a Benedictine. So it could go either way at this point -- a subject for another day.
"Vas you effer in Zinzinnati?"

Apparently, Amy Welborn was. She hit some of the high spots, and comments stirred up some memories of home. They can be found here. My own "anti-tourist view" of the Queen City of the West can be found here.

Friday, July 08, 2005

I'm going up to Baltimore this weekend. Gotta be careful, you know?
Between Us Hats

Karen Hall didn't get the memo:
And another thing. Queer Awareness Week? We're back to queer? Note to minorities: would everyone please decide what the hell you want to be called and stick with it? Who can keep up with what everybody wants to be called when it changes every week?
You too, kiddo?
Because... you'll believe anything.
Around the corner I have a friend,
In this great city that has no end
Yet the days go by and weeks rush on
And before I know it, a year is gone.

And I never see my old friends face,
For life is a swift and terrible race,
He knows I like him just as well,
As in the days when I rang his bell.

And he rang mine but we were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men.
Tired of playing a foolish game,
Tired of trying to make a name.

"Tomorrow" I say! "I will call on Jim
Just to show that I'm thinking of him."
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
And distance between us grows and grows.

Around the corner, yet miles away,
"Here's a telegram sir," "Jim died today."
And that's what we get and deserve in the end.
Around the corner, a vanished friend.

-- Anonymous
"If at first you don't secede..."

Somebody asked about a secessionist movement in Montana. Can't find anything specific, but a post in a discussion forum of the Sierra Times gives a good run-down on such movements around the country, along with some constitutional basis thereof.

It seems there's more to this than a few crazy guys with gun racks.

(Update: More information on secessionist movements in various states can be found at the website for the American Secession Project.)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

"Not less we praise in darker days
 The leader of our nation,
 And Churchill's name shall win acclaim
 From each new generation.

"For you have power in danger's hour
 Our freedom to defend, Sir!
 Though long the fight we know that right
 Will triumph in the end, Sir!"
Some aging rocker in his mid-thirties...

...wants to establish a schola on Cincinnati's east side.

It couldn't hurt.
A State of Mind

Last night I had dinner with my son Paul. Amidst our discussions of family, philosophy, politics, and religion, he apprised me of a movement known as the Christian Exodus, which endeavors over the coming years for its supporters to populate the state of South Carolina, to the point of predominating social and political life towards a Christian/Constitutionalist milieu, and quite possibly seceding from the Union. (It wouldn't be the first time for the Palmetto State, as the incident at Fort Sumter will attest.) It sounds similar to the movement of libertarians into New Hampshire, except the latter has no plans to secede.

Which apparently brings us back to Texas.
The Missing Missa

In the early- and mid-1980s, I was part of a choir at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown, DC, where I was able to learn many of the great choral works of Catholic tradition. It became the experience by which I have judged choral singing at any parish. Among other creations, I learned a Mass setting by Hermann Schroeder (1904-84), based on one of the Gregorian Masses. For twenty years I have searched for it -- a recording, sheet music, anything. Finally, I may have found it. Its title is the Missa Gregoriana, and an audio track of the Kyrie may be sampled here: (RealPlayer required.)

I'm still looking for a complete recording of the setting, as well as a copy of the sheet music for my reference library. I've been on Google, I've been to Amazon. No luck.

Any ideas?
God Bless Texas!

What I'm listening to today:
The death penalty is not immoral in all cases... why is this idiot pretending that it is?
"Bishop Skylstad asked Mr. Bush 'to consider jurists who are also cognizant of the rights of minorities, immigrants, and those in need; respect the role of religion and of religious institutions in our society and the protections afforded them by the First Amendment; recognize the value of parental choice in education; and favor restraining and ending the use of the death penalty.'"
I don't get it.
There goes the house at a time.

I stepped out of my basement studio apartment this morning to catch the subway. As I looked out toward the house behind us, I noticed that the house next door... wasn't there.

Instead there was a bulldozer, going over what was left of it. Now, this house appeared to be in perfectly good condition from the looks of things. I remember seeing the neighbors out on the deck one evening only recently, having a barbeque or whatever. But in its place was only rubble -- and a sign advertising the firm that was building a new one where the old one stood.

This neighborhood has been mostly gentrified, with a few pockets of resistance. And new houses do go up on empty lots, or those of houses that should have been condemned long ago. But this wasn't one of them. What it is, I believe, is another case of American greed, as made manifest in the current real estate boom. The eighties didn't teach us anything. That was then; we're much too smart these days to lose our shirts over somehthing the price of which is artificially inflated.

We shall see. Meanwhile, my own search for a townhouse later this summer has begun in earnest. An agent is scoping the territory, and the lender is getting my information. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Good Intentions
"Oh, it doesn't matter what they say in the papers
'Cause it's always been the same old scene
There's a new band in town but you can't get the sound
From a story in a magazine
Aimed at your average teen..."
Many of us have heard of Bono, the lead singer for the Irish rock band U2, and of his philanthropic efforts on the part of the those living in poverty in Africa. He has implored the government of the USA, already the greatest provider of humanitarian aid in human history, to do more to relieve the suffering. The USA, having had some experience with this sort of thing since before Bono could talk, wants to be sure the material it sends actually gets to the people in need, as opposed to the privileged in government positions for their own ends, or the black market.

While Bono is waiting less than patiently, he may wish to turn his attention closer to home, to his own "Live8" concert, which was slated to raise money for this worthy cause:
"While they preached charity and love on stage at Live8, the celebrity backstage area was all about warring egos..."

"Sir Paul McCartney, who both opened and closed Live8, made sure every one knew exactly whose show it really was by continually strolling up and down the backstage area with his entourage of six in tow."
(Hey, wasn't he supposed to be The Quiet Beatle? Or was that George? Oh, whatever...)

The point of this is not to doubt Bono's sincerity. It does, rather, consider the prospect that, like many in the public eye, he has gradually built a glass bubble around himself, through which he believes he can see the world clearly. This has served him up until now; it continues to serve those who work for him and who otherwise have something to gain from this place in the spotlight. But what of life outside the bubble? How much is Bono willing to give up for his convictions?

Could any of us do the same?

Whispers in the Loggia also has a few thoughts on the man would would save a part of the world. And yet, as with any reformation, it has to start from oneself. Otherwise, it's merely fodder for the tabloids.
"It's the next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways
It's still rock and roll to me."
And so it goes.
Someone's written an icon of this guy already.
The Fourth

There's something distinctly American about the way we celebrate our birth as a nation. In the small towns and big cities across America, it always comes down to family, flags and fireworks. From my home in Arlington, across the river from the Nation's capital, I could see the grand pyrotechnical display from over the rooftops. But the day was over for me by then, and after being on the road most of the weekend, it was time to get a better view on public television. (Besides, I can always re-create my own here.)

The night before, we went to Wolf Trap to see Michael Bublé, a Canadian singer of so-called "traditional pop" in the vein of Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone, and the like. The Washington Post said of him: "Clearly, the Vancouver native is better off swinging, though sometimes even that tack isn't fail-proof... Buble's breezy musicality and pop enthusiasms can't always compensate for what his voice lacks -- in a word, personality." (July 1 2005) But what the hell do they know? They'd probably fall all over Rod Stewart pulling the same schtick. That being said, I wasn't sure what to expect from Bublé. I mean, Sal had to talk me into seeing a guy whose main audience is a bunch of women who swoon over his boyish appearance and a voice that -- the Post notwithstanding -- is a shoe-in for Jack Jones. But when Bublé introduced himself by thanking all the husbands and boyfriends who came to see him, he had my attention after that. Of course, from way up in the back of the lawn section, we had people's attention for a few minutes as we couldn't stop swing dancing on the picnic blanket. My favorite was a piece he co-wrote on his latest CD "It's Time," a tune entitled "Home":
Another summer day
Has come and gone away
In Paris and Rome
But I wanna go home
Okay, the Madonna number wasn't bad either. The audience played their part very well. Bublé knew how to show his gratitude. After commenting on how he must have looked like an ant to the people out on the lawn, he proceeded to run off the stage and head for... you guessed it. What a trooper!

I celebrated the Fourth itself by fulfilling a promise to a gal who'd been in this country for three years and still hadn't fulfilled a long-held wish. I took Sal to Luray Caverns -- yet another installment of our "search for the real America." I had last been there when I was a kid nearly forty years ago. They've fixed up the place real nice since then.

(UPDATE: Bublé comes off better after the fact, in a Washington Post review to be accessed here).

Friday, July 01, 2005

As part of a continuing effort to be known officially as the Resident Smart@$$ of St Blog's Parish (one does what one can with what one has, after all...), today MWBH introduces a new weekly Thank-God-It's-Friday feature. With each installment, a new and exciting slice of whimsy.

That being said, we're outa here!!!
"O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command..."

Today is Canada's birthday, for all of us arrogant Yankees who pay little attention to our good neighbors to the North.

It was on the 20th of June 20, 1868, when the Governor General of Canada, Lord Monck, called upon his countrymen to join in celebrating the first anniversary of the union of all provinces, in what was known before as "British North America," under the name of "Canada" (from an Iroquois word meaning "village"), on July 1st. The holiday was known as "Dominion Day" until 1982.

Recently, a reporter for the Toronto Star went roaming amidst the streets of that city, posing as a friendly American tourist. The natives were not quite so friendly:
"They brag too much, don't they? They boast. They have this and they have that. (If they spent less) time doing that, they'd just get their problems solved, eh?"
Then again, he might have a point.
Keeping Vigil

Close to home, a father waits. His beloved wife was stricken with a brain tumor, and lay in a hospital, essentially brain dead -- while pregnant with their second child. He has opted to do the right thing, even if it hurts. And so his wife is being kept alive until the expected date of delivery, in the hopes that at least one of them can come out of this alive. He was on Larry King last night:
"Well, there is, you know, at the very beginning, there is always a moment of hesitation, because you know how hard it is going to be. You know, when we came into the hospital, we were looking at a minimum of ten weeks. But I know that Susan would want us to do as much as we could for her child. And so it is absolutely a moral and ethical question. But I think if you have the chance to save the life of your child, you take it."
Donations can be made to The Susan M Torres Fund.
Ebony and Ivory

Well, Oprah is on a tear again. Seems she tried to get into Hermes, a fashionable boutique in Paris, after they closed. And just because she saw other people in there, she claims she wasn't let in because she's black. Of course it's all crap. (Remember we're talking about Paris here, not downtown Birmingham.) Those people were in there to plan a private event, and the management has come out with a statement to that effect. And even if they weren't, it's not unheard of for needing to clear out the last customers after the door is locked at the appointed time.

That would placate most of us, but not Oprah.

I've worked for the Feds for nearly 25 years. We are committed to equal opportunity to all employees regardless of race or gender. And I'm as much in favor of that as the next guy. Still I have to admit, I've wondered (to give one authentic example) why some people who put in a five-hour day for years at a time end up getting promoted ahead of me -- until I take one look at them. Then I'm sorely tempted to draw certain conclusions.

That could change though. There was a rash of retirements and "early outs" about ten years ago, and most of the old-white-boy network left. Thankfully, the workforce is now more diverse. But I would maintain it's still possible (but not automatic) for a less qualified individual to be promoted ahead of a Caucasian male because they're neither Caucasian nor male. The older generation, I can understand their beef; they can remember having trouble getting into a restaurant, even here in Northern Virginia. But the ones under forty, especially under thirty -- what the hell do they know?

Getting back to Oprah, boiled it down to this:
"A show about what, exactly? The hurt and rage caused when a boutique refuses to stay open past its hours to accommodate the needs of a celebrity?"
Maybe there's a webcast. Think I'll check her site. Stay tuned...