Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sixth Day: The Gift of Understanding

Sine tuo numine
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.

Where thou art not, man hath naught,
nothing good in deed or thought,
nothing free from taint of ill.


Understanding, as a gift of the Holy Ghost, helps us to grasp the meaning of the truths of our holy religion. By faith we know them, but by Understanding we learn to appreciate and relish them. It enables us to penetrate the inner meaning of revealed truths and through them to be quickened to newness of life. Our faith ceases to be sterile and inactive, but inspires a mode of life that bears eloquent testimony to the faith that is in us; we begin to "walk worthy of God in all things pleasing, and increasing in the knowledge of God."


Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation; and may merit at last to see the eternal light in Thy light; and in the light of glory to have a clear vision of Thee and the Father and the Son. Amen.

Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Most of us good Catholic boys and girls remember when, after the singing of the Agnus Dei ("Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world..."), we would kneel. When the reformed liturgy was promulgated, however, it was left to the territorial bodies of bishops to determine at what point the faithful would kneel -- except for the Consecration, where kneeling remains the universal gesture. Still, many of the faithful would kneel in preparation for Communion, and no one made much of it. Then one bishop, then another, and still another, decided he had to show who was the boss, albeit in the most inconsequential way possible. Making people stand after the Agnus Dei was the ticket. Those catechism-touting, rosary-slinging ninnies, they'll fall right into line like the good little sheep they are... right?

Things haven't always gone according to plan. Not in the little parish of St Mary's by the Sea, in Huntington Beach, California, in the Diocese of Orange, presided over by the Most Reverend Tod D Brown. His appointed lackey, Father Martin Tran, is attempting to force this point on a heretofore traditional parish, in the hopes of bringing them into the feelin'-groovy-spirit-of-Vatican-II era. How does he do this? By warning his spiritual charges that kneeling at the wrong time "is clearly rebellion, grave disobedience and mortal sin."


The local authorities have been such insensitive clods about the whole thing (among other things, for those who have followed developments there), that it is easy to forget that... they're right.

The current universal norm after the Agnus Dei is for the faithful to kneel, "unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise." Well, in Orange County, he has. So why not comply?

There is a saying that goes, when someone lies to you, the lie itself matters less, than that you no longer know whether to believe them. In this instance, if you jerk people around enough about how Vatican II says this and the Church says that, when it clearly is not so, you can just kiss your credibility goodbye -- not to mention any practical authority that goes along with it. Then one day, when you issue a directive, and give all sorts of rationale that clearly offends the pious sensibilities of those whom you serve... well, at some point people might just decide for themselves that they've been jerked around long enough.

And down by the sea, they have. Presumedly, the ranks of the pious are going straight into the Abyss for kneeling in the Eucharistic presence of Our Lord.

Maybe they'll be in good company.

[UPDATE 1: For the record, when I'm at a Mass where everybody stands at the Consecration, I kneel. Anybody tries anything funny, and they'll be on their own knees soon enough.]

[UPDATE 2: Jimmy Akin elaborates on the side of clarity.]

Fifth Day: The Gift of Knowledge

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.

O most blessed Light divine,
shine within these hearts of thine,
and our inmost being fill!


The gift of Knowledge enables the soul to evaluate created things at their true worth -- in relation to God. Knowledge unmasks the pretense of creatures, reveals their emptiness, and points out their only true purpose as instruments in the service of God. It shows us the loving care of God even in adversity, and directs us to glorify Him in every circumstance of life. Guided by its light, we put first things first, and prize the friendship of God beyond all else. "Knowledge is a fountain of life to him that possesseth it."


Come, O Blessed Spirit of Knowledge, and grant that I may perceive the will of the Father; show me the nothingness of earthly things, that I may realize their vanity and use them only for Thy glory and my own salvation, looking ever beyond them to Thee, and Thy eternal rewards. Amen.

Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lake
From the hills
From the sky
All is well
Safely rest
God is nigh.


Back in the day, Scout Troop 120 would assemble at the Legion Hall between the downtown area and the riverside. That was where the parade began. Our scoutmaster was in the Marines, and while he respected the fact that the Boy Scouts were not a military organization, it was nonetheless a uniformed one, and would conduct itself accordingly. We learned to march in more-or-less close order, and to carry the colors. From there we marched up the main street, across town, for just over a mile to the cemetery. There we paid tribute to the fallen.

Not everyone growing up in the sixties was against the War in Vietnam. At least not at first. There was the underlying assumption that, if we were involved, and if it was against Communism, the cause was a noble one, and that was that. It is different now. We are loathe to trust leaders who commit too easily, to causes that do not appear to the casual observer as an immediate threat. Whatever the misgivings, something bred in the bone forbids me to treat lightly the work of those who pay the ultimate price, so that I don't have to.

It's the least I can do. God bless America.

Fourth Day: The Gift of Fortitude

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies,
in fletu solacium.

In our labor, rest most sweet;
grateful coolness in the heat;
solace in the midst of woe.


By the gift of Fortitude, the soul is strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in the performance of duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which move it to undertake without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, to trample under foot human respect, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation. "He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved."


Come, O Blessed Spirit of Fortitude, uphold my soul in times of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weakness, give me courage against all the assaults of my enemies, that I may never be overcome and separated from Thee, my God and greatest Good. Amen.

Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Third Day: The Gift of Piety

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.

Thou, of comforters the best;
thou, the soul's most welcome guest;
sweet refreshment here below.


The gift of Piety begets in our hearts a filial affection for God as our most loving Father. It inspires us to love and respect for His sake persons and things consecrated to Him, as well as those who are vested with His authority, His Blessed Mother and the Saints, the Church and its visible Head, our parents and superiors, our country and its rulers. He who is filled with the gift of Piety finds the practice of his religion, not a burdensome duty, but a delightful service. Where there is love, there is no labor.


Come, O Blessed Spirit of Piety, possess my heart. Enkindle therein such a love for God, that I may find satisfaction only in His service, and for His sake lovingly submit to all legitimate authority. Amen.

Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Second Day: The Gift of Fear

Veni pater pauperum,
veni dator munerum,
veni lumen cordium.

Come, thou Father of the poor!
Come, thou Source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine!


The gift of Fear fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend Him by Sin. It is a fear that arises, not from the thought of hell, but from sentiments of reverence and filial submission to our heavenly Father. It is the fear that is the beginning of wisdom, detaching us from worldly pleasures that could in any way separate us from God. "They that fear the Lord will prepare their hearts, and in His sight will sanctify their souls."


Come, O blessed Spirit of Holy Fear, penetrate my inmost heart, that I may set Thee, my Lord and God, before my face forever; help me to shun all things that can offend Thee, and make me worthy to appear before the pure eyes of Thy Divine Majesty in heaven, where Thou livest and reignest in the unity of the ever Blessed Trinity, God world without end. Amen.

Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Many in the Catholic blogosphere have commented on The DaVinci Code. I wasn't one of them.

It seemed to me that Ms Welborn had that racket pretty well covered. Plus, I didn't wanna steal any thunder from Mark Shea. That guy's got a family to think about. Besides, the very idea of Opus Dei being a formidable instrument of intrigue within the Church is absolutely ludicrous. If the author knew the first thing about Catholicism, he would have assigned that role to the Jesuits.

Anyway, I think the above makes for better adventure. Certainly more plausible. So I leave it with you to watch to your heart's content. For those of you in the States, have a safe holiday weekend. Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Sumer Is Icumen In

On the first of May, the song would be heard across the English countryside...

Svmer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu,
Sing cuccu... Middle English, which is what they would have used in the Middle Ages, right? A more contemporary translation would be rendered thus:

Summer has come in,
Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
Seeds grow and meadows bloom
And the forest springs anew,
Sing, Cuckoo...

As Wikipedia notes, "summer" might be translated as "spring." This link also provides more interesting background to the song. Of course, the heralding of spring/summer/whatever was accompanied by all sorts of merriment, with Morris dancers, drinking, throwing each other over the bridge into the river, in a manner that was depicted in Sir Richard Attenborough's production of Shadowlands, starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.

Of course, here in the States, the Memorial Day weekend is the "official" beginning of summer. For some, the conventions of haute couture will hold sway, as men will put away their wool fedoras for straw boaters, and women... well, do whatever it is they do; something about wearing white more often. I've heard that this Saturday will see dancing in the streets in Front Royal, Virginia, so we might end up going there.

And, yes, the Black Hat gets put away for a lousy three months.

First Day: The Holy Ghost

Veni Sancte Spiritus
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.

Come, thou Holy Spirit, come,
and from thy celestial home
shed a ray of light divine!


Only one thing is important -- eternal salvation. Only one thing, therefore, is to be feared -- sin. Sin is the result of ignorance, weakness, and indifference. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Light, of Strength, and of Love. With His sevenfold gifts, He enlightens the mind, strengthens the will, and inflames the heart with love of God. To ensure our salvation, we ought to invoke the Divine Spirit daily, for "The Spirit helpeth our infirmity. We know not what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit Himself asketh for us."


Almighty and eternal God, Who hast vouchsafed to regenerate us by water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given us forgiveness of all our sins, vouchsafe to send forth from heaven upon us Thy sevenfold Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and Fortitude, the Spirit of Knowledge and Piety, and fill us with the Spirit of Holy Fear. Amen.

Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...

Novena: Prelude

The Church was born on the Jewish feast of the Pentecost, a birth which was preceded by a novena. After the ascension of Christ into heaven, Mother Mary and the Apostles (and according to tradition, a group totalling about 120) remained sequestered in the Upper Room for nine days, awaiting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:14)

From the Latin word "novem," meaning "nine," a novena is a prayer that is repeated for nine days, after which, according to pious belief, special graces are obtained. Fisheaters elaborates on the devotion, and gives a complete listing of popular novenas for any and all occasions.

The novena to Saint Jude may be the most popular, as he is the patron saint of hopeless causes. Many a Catholic has found a holy card or slip of paper in the pew with the prayer written on it, left by a pious soul whose intention was granted. One of them was the late entertainer Danny Thomas, whose devotion to the saint moved him to found the children's hospital that bears the saint's name.

MWBH will present a form of the original novena, that which is devoted to the Holy Spirit, over the next nine days. Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Hail Which Festival Day?

Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who is to be taken up from you into heaven
had to re-schedule his departure
to the following Sunday
in order to accomodate the busy schedules
of the faithful.

Now, get back to work.

(Acts 1:11, dynamic equivalent translation)

Can I get an "Amen" in the house?

[UPDATE: Someone recently brought to my attention, the musings of Sacred Miscellany on this subject. Wish I'd written that.]

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Still Gathering No Moss After All These Years

Robert Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan, turned 65 today. He was born in Duluth, Minnesota, and from the age of six, grew up in the small nearby town of Hibbing. The Free Dictionary gives an account of his life and work here.

Recently I acquired a DVD of the Martin Scorsese documentary No Direction Home, which was the subject of a post I wrote last fall entitled "My Direction Home." After seeing the program on public television, I was impressed by the depth of the old footage and interviews with friends and associates, talking about a man who was, for all that was made of him, quite unassuming.

Starting this month, Dylan will be hosting a show on XM Radio. "Every week, with music hand-selected from his personal collection, Bob Dylan... weaves his own brand of radio with themes, dreams and schemes."

Monday, May 22, 2006

If they're only paid to sing and dance...

Photo by Jill Greenberg for TIME

The latest issue of TIME magazine is out, and the cover article is devoted to a country music trio known as The Dixie Chicks. You may remember when one of them told a crowd in London they were ashamed of their president. (That would be the one in the middle of the photo, at the bulls-eye.) I'm betting very few artists mouth that kind of drivel out of any sense of conviction, so much as to get some mileage in the form of publicity.

Well, they got mileage alright. More than they bargained for. Now some country music stations won't play their music, since these little Chickadees overlooked the fact that country music audiences tend to be conservative and fiercely patriotic. And that's a shame, not because of their astute political wisdom, as they have none to offer -- they don't make their living with it, remember? -- but because they are female artists who actually play their instruments, and play them very well. And that, my little Chicklets, is what is needed in the recording industry today. Women are still treated as "eye candy" by the business, and I daresay the women themselves generally play right into it.* Even these would-be heroines have to admit that. After all, one can't imagine it was entirely their decision to lose the cowgirl garb in favor of the sexy outfits that make them look like everyone else. Nor could it have served to diss the imaginary "Nashville establishment," which is just another transparent marketing ploy, designed to make the alleged miscreants look interesting.

And if it was their decision... well, it only proves the point even more.

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* Mary Chapin Carpenter is one of the few who does not. She even writes her own songs, and doesn't need others' stuff to make the hit parade. You go, grrl!

Getting up on the wrong side of... the web!

Some years ago, before blogs became popular and e-mail lists were more popular than they are now, I belonged to one for practicing Catholics discussing a variety of topics. Such forums attract all kinds of people, so I was no exception. I was the class clown, the book-smart smart-aleck. It was the role best suited to me in real life. Now, most people know, if they have any good sense, not to assume they have a complete picture of someone based on what they write in an e-mail. Emoticons notwithstanding, electronic mail lacks any degree of subtlety. People are known to offend without knowing it, or to be offended for no reason.

But anyway, back to that e-mail list.

On one occasion, some people from another part of the country came here to Washington, and we all got together. They remarked that I was exactly like I was on the list. I took that as a compliment, because people find it easy to pretend in cyberspace.

So, when I started MWBH, I decided I wouldn't pretend. This will likely always be a "B-list" blog, if only because I don't have a book-and-lecture-tour thing going on. Nor have I ever claimed to be for everybody. None of us are. The ones on the web just make it more obvious -- and occasionally, more annoying.

So, when I got this response the other day in a comments box, from some woman who wears her demands for civility in discourse on her sleeve...

"Do me a favour, if we ever agree in public again, don't say it out loud."

...I decided that there would be very little chance of our agreeing in public in the future. I have no idea what offended her (unless it was trying to make a joke in the midst of a tense argument, which is sort of my stock-in-trade), and Miss Congeniality hasn't bothered to tell me.

It probably wasn't very important.

But more important was the idea of civility. What does it mean? I noticed two things when I first came to Washington. One was that people dressed really classy. The other was that they were very civil in public, even if it meant gritting their teeth. Twenty-five years later, they still dress really classy. I suppose it wouldn't be remarkable to say that we've lost it in the present day. But I do believe it is more than just "being nice." We've got plenty of that, usually from people you can't turn your back on.

One example of civility in the blogosphere, that I've learned to admire, is Amy Welborn. Now, you won't find a single piece of journalism about "Catholic weblogs" that doesn't mention Ms Welborn, and her comments box is never at a loss. She can turn it off when she leaves town for a few days, and when she's back, so is the fan base. The point is, such noteriety is not all it's cracked up to be. Amy takes a certain amount on the chin, which is to be expected when you run out of unpublished thoughts. And sometimes she is compelled to give it back in kind. But it doesn't make her uncivil, because when it blows over, she forgets about it -- usually. (I'd say she'll probably make an exception for New Oxford Review.) We don't agree on everything, and sometimes that is out in in the open. And I've met Amy before, and she's quite charming. But most of all, she's just like she is on her weblog. No pretense, and I can live with that.

Now, we can't all have that universal appeal. But real life is much the same way, so it shouldn't matter. Lately I've had to moderate my comments box, because some of them were off topic, and at my expense. People can feel that way, and that's fine, but they can go start their own "David-Alexander-is-an-arrogant-son-of-a-b@#$%" weblog somewhere else. (I've been thinking of doing that myself.) Personally, I have found that some of the best responses I've gotten, are to those posts where I simply took the gloves off.

Some of the funniest guys in the Catholic blogosphere today are part of a loose confederation known as "The League of Evil Traditionalists." Now, I've had experience with "Trad lists" before, and there is rarely a bunch of young men that act more like a bunch of old women. On the other hand, these guys (at least most of them are guys, I think) manage to avoid that trap. In fact, sometimes they really crack me up. But most of all, hardly anyone knows about them. And they're really smart guys, who know when they're right, and can admit when they're wrong.

We can't all do that, but the ones that do it with class -- well, that gets the tip of the Black Hat for this week.

And it's only Monday.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Recent years have seen a trend toward young adults waiting longer before moving out of their parents' home. I have to admit, I lived at home till I was almost 26, so maybe I started a trend and didn't know it. Personally, I think the job market for the Class of 2006, is better overall than it was for the Class of 1978.

Of course, if this is an illustration from real life, I could be wrong...

Concerning Father Maciel

(The Vatican Press Office released the following communiqué today, May 19, 2006. This is an English translation of the Italian original.)


In reference to news reports diffused concerning the person of the Founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the Reverend Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the Press Office of the Holy See communicates the following:

Beginning in 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith received accusations, already in part made public, against the Reverend Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, for offenses reserved to the exclusive competence of the dicastery. In 2002, the Reverend Maciel published a declaration for denying the accusations and for expressing his displeasure at the offense provoked by some ex-members of the Legionaries of Christ. In 2005, for reasons of advanced age, the Reverend Maciel withdrew himself from the office of Superior General of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ.

All these elements were the object of mature examination on the part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and, in accordance with the motu proprio “Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela” promulgated April 30, 2001, by the Servant of God John Paul II, the then-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, authorized an investigation of the accusations. In the meantime, the death of Pope John Paul II happened and the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as the new Pontiff.

After having submitted the results of the investigation to an attentive study, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the guide of its new Prefect, His Eminence Cardinal William Levada, decided – taking account of the advanced age of the Reverend Maciel and his delicate health – to renounce any canonical process and to invite the Father to a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing every public ministry. The Holy Father has approved these decisions.

Independently of the person of the Founder, the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Association is recognized with gratitude.

[Original Text: Italian]

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(The following response was issued by the Press Office of the Legionnaires of Christ.)

The Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement in response to the communiqué of the Holy See renew their commitment to serve the Church

In reference to the news regarding the conclusion of the investigation of the accusations made against Fr. Marcial Maciel, our beloved father founder, the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ offer the following statement:

1. Fr. Marcial Maciel has received during his life a great number of accusations. In the last few years, some of these were presented to the Holy See so that a canonical process would be opened.

2. Facing the accusations made against him, he declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way.

3. Considering his advanced age and his frail health, the Holy See has decided not to begin a canonical process but to "invite him to a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing to any public ministry."

4. Fr. Maciel, with the spirit of obedience to the Church that has always characterized him, he has accepted this communiqué with faith, complete serenity and tranquility of conscience, knowing that it is a new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him to suffer and that will obtain many graces for the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.

5. The Legionaries of Christ and the members of the Regnum Christi, following the example of Fr. Maciel and united to him, accept and will accept always the directives of the Holy See with profound spirit of obedience and faith. We renew our commitment to work with great intensity to live our charism of charity and extend the Kingdom of Christ serving the Church.

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There are those who will say that "Maciel got off easy." Maybe he did, maybe not. Such a conclusion would be based on partial information. Our system of civil law in the USA is based upon English common law, while the canon law of the Church is based upon old Roman law. The latter places a greater role on discretion, both in proceedings, and any disclosure of the outcome. (Let's be honest; if you petitioned for an annulment, would you want the whole world to have access to the transcripts?) For all we know, while standing before the Holy Father, the founder of this prosperous religious order may have gotten the chastisement of a lifetime. This writer has had access to enough information from past cases not to be surprised, were such to be the case.

Those who remain with the Legion, and with their lay apostolate, Regnum Christi, must reconcile the continuation of their mission, with the knowledge that their founder might not have been the man he was made out to be. To do so does not excuse anyone for any misdeeds, but leaves open the prospect that good may prevail in the face of evil.

Such a task awaits all of us.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

It's a girl!

Isabella Marie Bettinelli

The entire Catholic blogosphere says hello to the newest member of St Blog's Parish, Isabella Marie Bettinelli, the newly-born daughter of Melanie and Domenico Bettinelli, weighing in at 7 pounds, 9 ounces. Baby and mother are doing nicely. With any luck, so is the father.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fast Times in Cin City

From Cincinnati's ABC affiliate comes this investigation:

"Thousands of people who volunteer and coach at Catholic schools may be at risk for identity theft, thanks to a bad hire by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

"In 2003, the Archdiocese began fingerprinting and criminal background checks of all church and school volunteers. but the I-Team finds the person they hired to conduct criminal background checks -- was a criminal himself."

There is also a video playback of the live report, which is worth the watch. (RealPlayer required.) The only guy I know personally is the pastor of a parish mentioned, Father Pat Crone. He took over at St Andrew's in Milford a few years after I left.

I was alerted to this the night before last by Dom of Bettnet. It comes as no surprise that a man with a criminal history might be able to extort assistance from a personnel director with something to hide. Apparently you don't have to be ordained to pull that kind of a stunt.

There's more from Cincinnati weblogger Rich Leonardi of Ten Reasons, who posts an e-mail sent out by the personnel director.

More on this one as it develops.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sow the wind, reap the "Wuerl" wind.

It was announced today that the Most Reverend Donald Wuerl, Bishop of Pittsburgh, would succeed the retiring Theodore Cardinal McCarrick as Archbishop of Washington. People have speculated over varying degrees of changes to the archdiocese, and an improvement in bearing public witness to the Faith.

I have to admit, I was troubled by statements Cardinal McCarrick made, about not refusing Communion to Catholic politicians who favored "a woman's right to choose" (which generally means choosing abortion, as opposed to what car to drive), and prayerfully invoking the name of "Allah" in the context of a meeting with Muslims. Now, Wuerl has published some excellent catechism material, and he usually says the right things. If he does nothing else, maybe he'll use a bit more sense than the last guy.

Then again...

Wuerl has been asked if he would refuse Communion to pro-abortion politicians. "I think that the first task of a bishop is to teach," was his reply. Asked about warning against seeing movies like "The Da Vinci Code," he said he was "'not in the business' of telling people what entertainment was right or wrong for them."


There is a story of an incident at the ancient Olympic games. An old man arrived late, and was looking up and down the rows of the arena for a seat. In the midst of a group of men from Athens, a lone viewer from Sparta recognized the man's plight, and offered his seat to the old man. His gesture was met with applause by those around him. The elder looked upon them and replied, "Yes, you Athenians know what is right, but it takes a Spartan to do it."

Call me a cynic, but I'll believe what a man does.

[UPDATE: There are reports coming in. One is found in the comments at Rorate Caeli, where "Sacerdos15" (a priest who is forced to remain anonymous, as he holds an important inside-track position in his diocese), gives a balanced summary of Wuerl's recent history. "Brother Alexis" refers to a page from the Christ or Chaos newsletter (scroll nearly halfway down), which is a scathing yet detailed review of Wuerl's performance in Pittsburgh. Matt Abbott has more. But perhaps the most blogospheric coverage -- hey, I just made up a new word! -- comes from American Papist.]

Spring Cleaning

There are a couple of changes here at MWBH. To the right of the postings, below "The Usual Suspects," some of you have already noticed the listing of daily Mass readings and reflections from the reformed Roman calendar, provided courtesy of

Also, as a result of anonymous posters who are oblivious to their proper place in the Universe (and you know who you are, bucko!), all anonymous posts are now moderated in advance. If you cannot act as a proper guest at my weblog, and still refuse to identify yourself, you probably don't have anything worth saying.

Some weblogs (including those at St Blog's) are known to permanently ban posters for a lot less than I endured yesterday.

Now, let's all play nice and I won't have to kick anybody's @$$.

[UPDATE: In response to questions I've been getting: It is not unheard of for weblog authors either to moderate comments, or to place restrictions on anonymous posts. I am pleased that responses are on the rise in the past year, so additional measures are to be expected. I do not reject comments on the basis of disagreement. I do reject comments that attack me personally, whatever the reason.]

Monday, May 15, 2006

Verbum Domini

Yesterday I did my first stint as a lay reader, at the Cathedral Parish of St Thomas More in Arlington.

It's one of those things for which I submit the reformed Roman liturgy is an improvement over the classical. Strictly speaking, there is nothing in Catholic tradition to prevent a layman (specifically, a male who is not ordained) from proclaiming the Scriptures preceding the Gospel, as the priest doing so regularly in the classical Roman rite is the result of the "low Mass mentality" that developed when private Masses became the ceremonial benchmark by the Middle Ages. (This is the short explanation; I'll link to a longer one later.) Besides, the Orthodox and Eastern Catholics have been doing it for generations, and no one ever accuses them of taking tradition lightly.*

Anyway, I usually sign up for this at whatever parish I am stationed, provided there is only one lay reader for the Mass instead of two. The dilettantes that pass for "experts" in these settings will insist, that it makes the two readings more distinguishable from each other. For the average reader, this may be true. But I started at an early age, like around twelve, and always seemed to distinguish myself in this function. (Grandpa Rosselot heard me at a funeral once, said I should have been a priest. Go figure.)

So I don't waste my time in those places. But hey, that's just me.

They make a big deal in this parish out of the lay readers refraining from calling undue attention to themselves. This despite the practices of 1) waiting till the last damn moment to rush up there, 2) going all the way back to the pew for the Psalm between the readings, 3) going up to the altar for the Sign of Peace (a practice which isn't officially encouraged in higher places, so I declined), 4) applauding the former head reader upon his retirement and receiving a plaque, and 5) a guy in the choir balcony over the sanctuary waving his arms to get everybody to sing.

Come to think of it, maybe I'll go unnoticed after all. Good thing I'm a snappy dresser.

+ + +

* The practice of "tonsuring" readers in the Orthodox churches, even those not formally invested into minor orders, is a common practice. It does not exist among the "uniates," as far as I know.

Friday, May 12, 2006

To Mother, with love. (Parental guidance suggested. Good thing my mom's already a parent, eh?)

Status Quo Suprema Lex

"In causis translationis applicentur praescripta canonis 1747, servata aequitate canonica et prae oculis habita salute animarum, quae in Ecclesia suprema semper lex esse debet."

"In cases of transfer the prescripts of canon 1747 are to be applied, canonical equity is to be observed, and the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one's eyes."

(Code of Canon Law, 1752)

+ + +

Over at the Closed Cafeteria, Gerald Augustinus comments on the situation in the Twin Cities, citing Dom Bettinelli's report of same. The focus is on one priest in particular, who gets reassigned to what could be construed as an undesirable assignment, after (coincidentally???) commenting publicly on a rather explicit "family life education" program for children in diocesan schools. This, in a diocese where one parish, St Joan of Arc, is able to maintain objectionable, even heretical practices, without interference.

Now some people want to know, why do the good guys get a raw deal, while nut cases get to run around loose? Many of the pundits in the Catholic blogosphere can't seem to figure this out, but it's not that hard, really.

In both cases, it's the path of least resistance.

Father Altier is an obedient, faithful priest. He will stand on his head in the corner if his bishop wants him to, and offer it up for the Poor Souls. Archbishop Flynn is a first-class weenie, afraid of his own shadow, but he's not stupid. He knows this about Father Altier.

And that's not all. Archbishop Weenie could conceivably assign a priest to Joan of Arc who's halfway orthodox, but who will spend the first year doing nothing but fighting the staff, the parishioners, the lay preachers, the clowns and dancing girls and I-don't-know-what-all, the attention from the press every time they get tipped off, and calls from the chancery (probably a minion who's sympathetic with the parishioners and staff) wondering why their little problem in the suburbs isn't solved yet.

The "problem" is that faithful Catholics like to behave. If you're a bishop and you need to close a dissident parish to merge it with another to help pay for all the stupid things your predecessor let happen, the aging trust-fund hippies who run around loose in the place will throw a tantrum called a sit-in, because they know it will get bad publicity for the bishop, who will do anything to keep the peace. On the other hand, if you close a parish whose only mission is the Old Latin Mass and a few little old ladies, they'll complain, they'll get a write-up in The Wanderer. But in the end, they will leave quietly, kissing your ring (or whatever else you expose for veneration) on the way out. Because staging a sit-in just isn't their style, even if they COULD work it around their jobs.

In both cases, you keep the peace, and the money rolling in. (That sound about right, Your Immenseness?)

Now, some of these bishops may well wish to do the right thing and restore a sense of Catholic order. But they think it's hard. The truth is, it's easy. It's not what you do, it's what you STOP doing.

You have to stop trying to preserve the status quo.

Because, once you decide that being a suck-up artist is expendable, it's as easy as it would have been for the average bishop fifty years ago at the slightest hint of trouble. Guys like Bruskewitz, Finn, Vasa, and a few others -- they gave up caring what the world outside the Vatican walls thinks about them a long time ago. Bruskewitz has to let the jokes from fellow-bishops wash off his back like a duck at annual meetings. (As a guy with a press pass a few years ago, it wasn't hard to spot.)

He takes it like a man.

We'll get more, not fewer of them, in the years ahead. Don't expect them all at once, though. Just sit back and watch, because the opera's just beginning, and the fat lady's still in makeup.

(UPDATE: The Roamin' Roman wants to shed some light on the re-assignment in question, which could very well be routine. In fact, the priest in question may have asked for it. I probably would have too. Some guys actually want a backwater assignment when things downtown get bad enough; they get to be left alone! Meanwhile, I'd remind the would-be Voices of Reason, that many of our bishops used to have what one of them called "the benefit of the doubt" -- about one and a half billion dollars ago.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Kansas City: "They've gone about as far as they can go!"

The word is out, on the pages of the National Catholic Reporter, and all over the Catholic blogosphere. In the Diocese of Kansas City - St Joseph, Missouri, there's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Robert Finn.

This bishop is cutting back on bloated programs, and affirming the Catholic identity of those that are left. And that's just in the first week! Now, a lot of the status quo roaming the halls of the chancery are in a daze. All their efforts in the last umpteen years or so are down the drain, as they brace themselves for the coming Reign of Terror.

Which is exactly what you do when you're a bunch of crybabies.

Ever notice how I never mention my employer on this weblog? Anyone who lives in this town and reads my description of my relative location during the day could probably figure it out, but there's a reason they're left out of it. In a word: LOYALTY.

This is the thing which you learn is indispensable when you hold down a real job, as opposed to the land of make-believe that comprises much of the Church infrastructure.

You see, boys and girls, it goes something like this. When someone makes it possible for you to put bread on your table and a roof over your head, in return for your services rendered, they are pledging their loyalty to you. And when that happens, then dammit, you give it back to them in kind, if you know what's good for you. If you can't, you don't call a press conference and whine about it, you take your sagging derriere elsewhere.

Obviously, it takes more than a masters in theology to figure this out. It takes the sense God gave to a duck. Then again, as we all know, God didn't give a duck a whole lot of sense. You gotta wonder where some highly-educated people left theirs.

So, this week's tip of the Black Hat goes to the Most Reverend Robert W Finn. When the smoke clears at high noon, Mon signeur, may you be the last man standing!

You need to round up a posse, sheriff? You know where to find me.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The News From Home

Photo by Bill Stockland: 'The Main Street that once contained grocery stores, pharmacies, and hardware stores is now dotted with antique shops.'

I've lived and worked in the Nation's capital for twenty-five years now, and it's only in the last four or five years that I could really call this home. Even so, I still hear the call of Milford, Ohio, the little town east of Cincinnati where I grew up, and "where I'll be when it's said and done." One of the town's oldest buildings caught fire last year, and though the damage wasn't that severe, they tore it down anyway. If that were not enough evidence of how little the town leaders think of their own heritage, consider that the municipal offices were themselves moved from the "historic" downtown, to a building vacated by the local Baptist church.

Some news I get from reading an online edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Then there is the more obscure news. For that I have Bill Stockland, I guy I've never met, but who set up some of the Milford High School alumni sites, and maintains one devoted to our common hometown, from his own place of exile in Florida. We've also corresponded in the past. Here is what he wrote yesterday:

"Cincinnati Ohio officials are contemplating fining an 84 year old widow a thousand dollars because she fled her home 23 hours past the city deadline! Her home was taken by eminent domain by the city to expand a neighboring business (a hospital). The woman is reported to have been in tears as she gathered her belongings and left the home she had for 47 years. Keep in mind, this is the same Cincinnati that is now one of the most dangerous cities in America. Shootings, robberies and rapes are commonplace but 'By God we won't take no crap off no little old lady defending a home full of memories.' A famous local activist was recently gunned down in front of City Hall. The mayor now travels with a bodyguard. The county sheriff has started sending police patrols to do the work local police were apparently not doing. The quality of life in Cincinnati is pathetic. The town has recently had what have been described as 'race riots' over the shootings of unarmed suspects by police. The schools are falling further behind. This area is getting quite the reputation. One suburb, Loveland, attempted to prosecute a woman for overlooking an earnings tax debt of $1.16. Milford/Miami Township didn't think they had enough of a problem being represented by Jeanne Schmidt in Congress, they made sure a young boy couldn't keep two pet goats that he earned as a reward for overcoming obstacles in school. Traffic and pollution are a joke throughout the local counties. The area has tried to organize a vote to select a village idiot but the ballot was 58 pages long!"

Actually, it was an "unarmed suspect" who didn't stop running away when an identified police officer told him to, but instead just had to reach into his pocket. But who am I to quibble? Other than that, Bill's a good egg, so I keep reading. I can't vouch for his command of local history, though. He should have published some of the more verifiable accounts. They're a lot more colorful.

One would be the guy who served as police chief back in the day, Earl Conrad. Now there was a piece of work. I can still remember watching that big guy waddle into the Big Boy restaurant in civilian clothes with a holstered pistol. He was the law in them parts, of course -- a point said to have been lost on his own son, who was... well, a rather spirited young man, as my Dad would have said.

One of these days...

Catholics are stupid!

Oh yes, we really are. I can prove it too.

Many of the people reading this weblog, and countless others on the internet, hold down a job of some sort. Most of us show up for that job regularly, earn our just compensation, pay our bills on time, raise our kids, and do all those big things that grown-ups do.

But one day a week, many of us go to a special public meeting place, where we watch a guy in a robe make a complete @$$ of himself, declare things for which he has no basis whatsoever -- save his own opinion, and that of those with whom he shares a mailing list. Then at some point, we all hold hands across the room, and eat a little piece of bread, which most of us think is just that and nothing more. We'll wash it down with a sip of wine, which most of us think is just that and nothing more.

For this, we get up early on Sunday morning -- which, for what I've described so far, seems like an awful waste of time.

Oh, and that guy in the robe? We sit there in rapt attention while he lies to us through his teeth. We look the other way, as he squirrels away enormous amounts of money for his car, his beach house, and his, uh, video collection. We are flattered that our son or daughter is one of the "special kids" who gets to hang out in the rectory, stay for overnighters, or go on trips to that beach house I was telling you about. All in all, we let the guy in the robe behave in a matter that we would not begin to tolerate from any other adult.

When he's caught doing something wrong, we are outraged, and insist that we should be more involved in running things.

All this we do, because we cast aside our intelligence and good sense, and are prepared to believe anything we are told. Therefore, as Catholics, we are stupid. I can prove it too -- and on a regular basis, I will. Each month, this weblog will devote a piece proving the assertion that when it comes to our Faith, to the very meaning of life itself, most of us are not the intelligent, reasonable people we pretend to be elsewhere. This is not merely to say we are a people of sin, and in need of redemption, which we would be anyway. No, this is to submit that we have little or no idea what being Catholic actually means.

For this segment in particular, comments are especially welcome. Especially if you disagree. Better have your facts straight, though, because I never write anything here that I can't prove.

Friday, May 05, 2006

photo courtesy SharkJumper

May I have your attention, please? You are all under arrest! Lay down whatever you are carrying and put both hands in the air!!!

Now... let's all do the wave, shall we? But first, our National Anthem!!!


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"Elephant in the Sanctuary" Update

photo courtesy

In last Sunday's piece on the inaugural "Trid Mass" in Arlington, I devoted about half the piece to the question of which "altar" to use. Now, there are older churches that have beautiful historic high altars, that also added free-standing altars to facilitate "versus populum" celebration. St Mary's in Washington DC, St Mary's in Cincinnati OH, and St Boniface in Pittsburgh PA are three lovely examples that come to mind. But while both the St Marys have movable free-standing altars, the one in Pittsburgh is fixed. So it sits there, like an over-engineered rood screen, while the Ancient Rite is celebrated at the beautiful historic altar behind it. Obviously, the situation differs from one place to another.

But St Lawrence in the Arlington Diocese is a different case altogether, as one correspondent was uniquely qualified to explain:

"The 'old' altar in St Lawrence is newer than the 'new' altar. I was the pastor who renovated that church. In the renovation the sanctuary was enlarged and marbelized and the altar was designed in trapezoid shape and made out of Italian marble. When I was pastor I celebrated a NO Latin mass each week facing with the congregation. My successor put in the other altar to be used as an altar of reservation. It was not meant for liturgical celebration although it is large enough for it. The free standing altar is fixed, dedicated, and has relics placed within it, the altar against the wall has none of these."

In other words, people, what is up against the wall... is not an altar. Not by the traditional understanding of the term. No dyed-in-the-wool, take-to-the-ramparts, traditional Catholic worthy of the distinction could argue otherwise, anymore than he would refrain from insisting on three altar cloths in preparing it.

Why am I making so much out of this? Good question. I finally found a market in the Catholic blogosphere I could corner.

It's a dirty job, and someone's gotta to do it.

(FOOTNOTE: I'm told that St John Cantius in Chicago has removed the free-standing altar from their sanctuary, and that all Masses are celebrated on the magnificently go-for-Baroque High Altar -- Old Missal, New Missal, Latin, or otherwise. Keep it up!)