Thursday, November 30, 2006


"Master, where dwellest thou?" "Come and see."

St Andrew Boys Choir, 1966

For over a quarter century, a mural entitled "The Call of Andrew" graced the wall behind the main altar at the parish where I grew up, which was named for that saint whose feast day is today. (I'm the third kid from the right.) It depicted the Apostle known by the Greeks as "The First-Called," at the moment when he was. The face of Andrew on that mural was none other than that of the late Father Andrew Creager, who was pastor in the early 20th century, and the longest-serving on record. It was he who commissioned the building of the church where I worshipped as a boy, and his priestly vocation which was commemorated, when the church had undergone renovation in the mid-1960s.

Sadly, another renovation in recent years covered up the mural with drywall, leaving only a blank surface. Despite the premise that it would never be used any other way, out of some respect for the original benefactor of the mural, a large crucifix now hangs there. While I would normally consider this decision to be most fitting, I miss that image I knew growing up. True, it was not exactly haute couture. Still, this did not take away from its significance, or its own kind of beauty. Besides, a little bird told me the archbishop never cared for it much anyway.

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

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

Liturgical musician Bobby Fisher, 2006

"The times they are a-changin'..."

Monday, November 27, 2006

Scrollin', scrollin', scrollin' down the sidebar...

I couldn't resist that one. Sorry.

Speaking of "the little Greek Catholic church that time forgot, and the decades need not improve," I met one of my parishioners yesterday. Stephen Braunlich has launched a coalition of Catholic bloggers from The Old Dominion known as the "Virginia Catholic Alliance." Since they have a reciprocal link arrangement, I am obliged to include them in the sidebar near the bottom. Like me, Stephen is an Eagle Scout. Unlike me, Stephen is a veteran of the staff of Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. It's a place I never got to visit as a boy, and so it's on the short list of things to do in semi-retirement. That way, I get to spend summers doing this:

Photo courtesy of Stephen Braunlich
Photo courtesy of Stephen Braunlich

I could do worse.

Bah Humbug!

We come once again to that time of year, when I get to tell the world once again why I hate Christmas.

I don't hate "Christ Mass" as the birth of Our Savior. Every year I attend Midnight Mass at the little Greek Catholic church that time forgot, and the decades need not improve. No, it's the Hollywood and Madison Avenue hype that precedes it, and which suddenly disappears on the 26th of the month. And it started earlier this year. Not content to wait until "Black Friday," the infamous day after Thanksgiving, many retailers opened their doors to the onslaught on Thursday evening. That's not as inconvenient as it sounds, considering that in the last five years, more restaurants are staying open on Thanksgiving Day.

IHOP came to the rescue that morning, as Paul was gracious enough to let me take him out for breakfast. This left him free as a bird the rest of the day, bless his heart. "Sal" and I were treated to Thanksgiving dinner that evening at -- you guessed it -- a fine restaurant, by her home care patient. A good time was had by all. Since I have enough turkeys in my life as it is, I settled for the prime rib.

Now, back to why I hate Christmas. In a word, Saturday. Sal got her present already, after going to three Macy's locations in search of the perfect matching set of luggage. Truly a woman to be admired, she handles the mall experience better than I ever could. This is for her thirty-day trip back to the Philippines in February. She's worth every penny of it -- assuming she comes back. Fortunately, since Tower Records is closing its doors by the end of the year, I was able to get a few good deals on some recordings I was seeking out for awhile anyway. They say the downloads on MP3 players are taking over. Personally, I think that applies mostly to the pop/rock market, while the specialty genres will still keep the music departments alive at book dealers like Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Thankfully, the madness will get easier after this. I already know what I want, and where it can be found. And I'm not hard to please. A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and Christopher Hogwood's recording of Handel's Messiah featuring the original Baroque instrumentation. Between all that and the right company, I'm in hog heaven. There might be a little vacation at the end of December. We wanted to see Williamsburg this year, and since I'm off school and it's not far away, we'd be back in time for New Year's Eve.

There will be more reasons why I hate Christmas in the weeks ahead. But I'd love to hear your reasons as well. After all, my devoted readers don't need convincing. But the rest of you might.

Humbug! It's humbug, I tell you!!!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving Thanks

Tavin's got so much to be thankful for this year. I'm getting homesick just listening to him.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The "Race" Is On

Comedian Michael Richards, best known as "Kramer" on the popular "Seinfeld" TV comedy series, stunned his audience at The Laugh Factory in West Hollywood last Friday night, when he responded to hecklers with a flurry of racial epithets. Richards' rampage included repeated use of "the N word," and other profanities. Many in the audience left that night. Richards has a public apology already in the works, but it's possible his career will never be the same. He won't have "the Seinfeld curse" to blame anymore.

In watching the tape on the internet (and if it happens in the world, somebody's gonna "YouTube" it soon enough), some people of color in the audience responded by referring to Richards as a "cracker." One could excuse this as the result of an obvious provocation by Richards. Then again...

The use of racial slurs, whether for comic effect or for other colloquial usage, is in fact quite common in America, even among the politically-correct and socially-enlightened. But it doesn't work both ways. And you have to know what's okay and what's not okay. Walk through a student lounge one day, and listen to young black men refer to "my n****," or refer to a white student as a "cracker," either in jest or as an insult. As a Scout commissioner visiting local units, I've encountered young black men refer to themselves using "the N word," which obviously runs counter to the spirit of fraternity that is supposed to transcend race in Scouting. It doesn't always pan out that way.

And then there's "cracker." This reference to whites is common on cable and late night television, not to mention the movies. Apparently it's okay to hurl racial slurs at whites, perhaps as part of a payback. This being the case, we must assume someone is keeping score. This would beg a fair question: when will we all finally be even?

Of course, as if to complicate matters, apparently it's also okay for blacks to use racial slurs against Asians. Watching the movie "Rush Hour," starring Jackie Chan, we hear the supporting black actor, playing an LAPD detective, referring to "Mister Rice-a-Roni" and exhorting a Chinese rival to "get your sweet-and-sour-chicken a**" somewhere or other. We can't be sure just what the quarrel is on the part of African-Americans toward Asians.

Is it because they're opening convenience stores in black neighborhoods? Is that it? Is that question offensive? Is it offensive because they are upset by the phenomenon, or because they are not?

Beats the hell out of a "cracker" like me.

(Can I say that?)

UPDATE: Above is a public apology issued by Richards, through the courtesy of Jerry Seinfeld's appearance on David Letterman.

Loving My Inner Curmudgeon

I suppose it's a sign I'm getting on in years, that I am becoming increasingly intolerant of the introduction of novelty to my Sunday worship. Now, as Catholics, we should think that most things are pretty well spelled out. But as many of us have discovered over the years, that does not appear to satisfy certain people with time on their hands, and the inability to leave well enough alone. Now, you probably think we in the Diocese of Arlington are spared this malaise. It is true that we are spared much of it. On the other hand, like most people, you might be confusing "orthodoxy" with a form of anal retention.

As the late Cab Calloway once sang: "'Taint necessarily so."

Witness this little gem I received today, an excerpt from a memo for the lectors at my parish:

"[D]espite what you may see others do, we should proceed to the altar to receive the handshake of peace. Simply begin to make your way up the altar as the Celebrant is reciting the rite of peace. Then share it judiciously with those seated around you. The only exception is in those situations when the number of people around the altar would cause the lector's entrance to distract preparations for Holy Communion. These crowded situations do sometimes arise when the Bishop celebrates."

I thought my old man was the only guy who ever called it "the handshake of peace." Someone should remind whoever comes up with these ideas, that inasmuch as the priest is not supposed to be leaving the sanctuary to greet people, and that the Holy See has gone to some trouble to point this out (Redemptionis Sacramentum, 72), it is reasonable that people should not be entering the sanctuary for the same, particularly when they have to turn right around and leave anyway.

I wish these visionaries went to half as much trouble to train those devoid of personality to proclaim the Scriptures well, not read it as if it were a grocery list. Several of them are so lackluster, I do declare that the finest public address system in all the land could not redeem them.

Sal and I share the "holy kiss" with one another*, then I put my nose back into my missal where it belongs. This would appear to be a prudent application of what is an optional practice to begin with -- that's optional as in, not required, eh? -- which is why I'm going to (politely) ignore the above communique. And if some duly-appointed reprsentative decides to make an issue of it, I'll be having a little chat with The Guy In Charge.

Whatever the outcome, kiddies, Rome is sending us all a message of late: There's a new sheriff in town. The party's over. GROW THE HELL UP!

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* In the classical Roman rite, the sign of peace was conducted at the Solemn High Mass by the priest extending a light embrace to the deacon, saying "Pax tecum," to which the deacon responded "Et cum spiritu tuo." The deacon then extended the same to the subdeacon, then the subdeacon to the master of ceremonies. The closest thing we have to this in the world is the form of greeting in Spanish-speaking countries known as the "Latin kiss." Such is likely what proponents of the liturgical movement would have intended for this gesture, as it is a far cry from the glad-handing that occurs at the typical parish Mass shortly before Communion.

Crossing the Thames, But Not the Tiber -- Yet

Recently, two historic Episcopal parishes in northern Virginia have been moving to leave the Episcopal Church of the USA; Truro in Fairfax, and The Falls Church in (where else?) Falls Church. They are expected to align with a new Anglican Province under the mantle of an African bishop. The Washington Times carries the most recent coverage to date.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Animated music video for "Children of the Universe" by James and the Rainbros: "Tim Treadwell is kidnapped by rabbit scientists, transformed into a bear, cloned, and then sent to a far away planet to fight an alien." Whatever.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Milton Friedman

...who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1976 with his free market theories, winning for himself the ear of three presidents, died today. He was 94.

Featured here is an archived video from a program called "Open Mind." In the words of Allahpundit of Hot Air: "The person who posted it [on Google Video] calls it 'the best case for limited government ever made.' His passing at this particular moment, with the Republican leadership in the state that it is, is fitting."

In Friedman's own words...

Meanwhile, in an ironically related story, Jerry Bowyer of TCS Daily explains "Why I Like Deficits."

The Buzz at St Blog's

There have been some happenings in the Catholic blogosphere of late. Six weblogs of a particular variety have stopped publishing, two or three others of similar ilk may be joining them.

What do these all have in common? They are more-or-less identified as "radical traditionalists" or "radtrads" -- those who believe that Vatican II was a mistake, even heretical, and that the "New Mass" was a mistake, even heretical, certainly a major cause of the mayhem in the Catholic Church in the last forty years.* Reports of an impending "universal indult" gave them a lot to talk about, and the comboxes were filled with all the usual suspects saying all the usual things -- over and over again. One of the commenters, namely yours truly, raised a few hackles with the suggestion that this saturation of coverage on the return of the traditional form of the Roman Mass, was like an itch that they couldn't stop scratching.

(How dare I suggest that these luminaries are as subject to the human condition as the rest of us. Have I no shame???)

At some point, though, you run out of things to say, especiallly when you didn't have much to say to begin with. It would be unfair to characterize them all that way, though. Some have given us a fresh new look at some forgotten ideals, including aspects of dating, courtship, conduct within marriage. It is possible that some customs which transcended several centuries and diverse cultures had staying power for a reason, and were discarded too quickly. It is said that much of what Western civilization has brought to the world -- from the Gregorian calendar, to double-digit accounting -- is owed to Catholicism. To wit, there is more yet to be written. There are plans here at mwbh to highlight some of those issues in the coming weeks.

The problem at this end lately, is not a lack of things to say, but a lack of time in which to say them well. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to visit Dom. All the really cool people go there. Stay tuned...

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* Since the "mayhem" actually preceeded the Council by several decades, and only came out in the open alongside a revolution in the popular culture with a life of its own, and is largely confined to North America and Western Europe, the latter claim is a bit of a stretch. Alas, it all happened before most of them were born. That would explain what makes them experts on the subject, n'est ce pas?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bishops in "Balmer"

Today the US Catholic Conference of Bishops began their annual meeting in Baltimore -- not in Washington, as they have done in the past. The most public reason given is for the re-dedication of the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore, once the location of the "primatial see" of America. Having been restored to its original splendor as Benjamin Latrobe had designed, it is a suitable location for major liturgical events of the American bishops en masse. (Rocco gives the lowdown.) But then there's the other reason, only now becoming more public, that the need to reduce operating costs -- in addition to organizational shifting and staff cutbacks -- precipitated an indefinite move. Keeping the annual event in Baltimore is a good sign, as it may herald (finally!) a serious re-focus of priorities for the conference, in favor of the issues that don't cave in to a secular political agenda.

I used to attend the conference, albeit waiting in the wings with press privileges, for several years. It was in the hotel lounge that I would meet with other reporters and various interest groups. Once I interviewed for a spot as a regular columnist for a major Catholic periodical, a job I didn't get. It was okay, though; I was keeping my day job anyway. Anyway, my last attendance was in 2002, after which my priorities had to be shifted elsewhere.

My "career" as a writer had to be tabled. Then this whole weblog thing came along. You know the rest.

There is continued coverage on the public events live on EWTN, including live streaming audio and video on the internet. [UPDATE: Or, you can read what Amy wrote about it. Like everybody else.]

Saturday, November 11, 2006

To honor our veterans...

The following came from Marshall Karp, by way of Allahpundit of Hot Air:

"My father was in the US Army and stationed at Hickam Field, which was next to Pearl Harbor. This is his testimony of December 7, 1941."

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, John at The Inn at the End of the World reminds us that the best stuff for "Armistice Day" can always be found at Irish Elk.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Just when you thought only Republicans suffered from foot-and-mouth disease, along comes Charlie. What a doofus! (Thanks, Michelle.)

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I was up last night talking to a cousin out in Kansas. I've been learning some rather eye-opening accounts of my mother's side of the family lately, and wanted to check them out. Stuff going back years. (Pat, if you're reading this, have I got a whopper for you!)

Other than that, the big story here is the midterms.

No, not my midterm grade at the Art Institute. Not that getting an "A" is so bad. It's what I usually get. Deo gratias.

The midterm elections are over, and it appears the Dems are taking over the hill. Even the Senate. That's only because they appear to have the lock on Virginia, where George Allen managed to shoot his mouth off one too many times, making Jim Webb look better. Webb ran an ad featuring the voice of President Reagan, over the objections of Reagan's widow, Nancy. He not only kept running it, but refused to apologize. What a cad! As for Allen, I personally never got the whole "macaca" thing. There was more reporting on the backlash than on what was actually said. I'm not even sure he knew what it meant. Maybe he thought it was a type of burrito. (At least that was my first guess.)

Meanwhile, in the Nation's capital, there is little shock over the thought of a black Democrat becoming the mayor. (yawn!). Adrian Fenty was already being touted in the local press as "the presumed mayor" or even "mayor-elect" (Washingtonian magazine, November issue, I'm not kidding!) weeks before the vote was cast. No wonder his Republican opponent got only five percent. No wonder I can't even remember the poor loser's name.

But I'll bet he was a good loser. Most of the Republicans who lost are not contesting the elections. Even the close ones. It's a refreshing change from the crybaby Democrats, who managed to get a soundbite with every wimper in the last two Presidential elections.

On the bright side, initiatives to enshrine same-sex marriage were defeated in six states, including Virginia, where the local ABC affiliate insisted on referring to it as "the gay marriage amendment," when in fact it wasn't. (I should have gone into that line of work. Sure doesn't take much smarts. Just read what's in front of you and have an expression going from half-smiling to half-serious.) What's more, the press makes it sound like there's going to be a lot of shuffling back and forth, with people moving out and moving in all over town. For a mid-term election, that only happens around Capitol Hill in the office buildings. The housing market has two more years before some serious turnover.

Maybe Donald Rumsfield can get a job with some consulting firm on K Street. Or out with the "Beltway bandits." Wonder who would consult him.

We'll provide updates on unique post-election insights from throughout the Catholic blogosphere later in the day. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Day of (In)decision

As Americans go to the polls for mid-term elections, we here at mwbh would like to pay tribute to the worst and the best of the political ads. The first demonstrates just how LOW you can GO....

...while the second is a man we can all get behind, if for no other reason than that we couldn't do any worse.

Vote happy.

Monday, November 06, 2006

"Don't Vote. It Will Only Encourage Them."

Back in the 1970s, I saw a button that said that. In the Virginia race for the US senate, I have to choose between the lesser of two evils. I'm hoping there's an independent candidate on the ballot.

Arlington County is unabashedly Democratic. There are no Republicans on the County Board of Supervisors (in Virginia, a county's executive form of municipal governance), which doesn't seem to bother anyone. But some taxes keep going up, and more poor- and middle-income people are displaced by the Next Big Lifestyle Development. I honestly don't think it would be worse under the Republicans. What could be worse than this?

Meanwhile, as I hope my change of address form got through in time for going to the polls, the word is out in the blogosphere...

"Hot Republican girls want to talk to YOU."


"My bishop is a jerk!"

(A continuation of our occasional "Catholics Are Stupid" series.)

The late Jesuit Father John Hardon made a dire prediction for the Church in North America. He observed that whole sections of the country were already lost, as bishops were leading their people astray, and that only a few truly orthodox shepherds remained. He warned that, in due time, the Church would be reduced to a mere faithful remnant. Now, there are a good many bishops who can "talk the talk." They can bring down the house at a Communion breakfast. They can say all the right things, make all the right moves, play the part to a tee, until there's trouble. That's when more than a few of them choke on it. People wonder why a diocese with a "conservative bishop" can't stop a problematic catechetical program from infesting his diocese, or a few bad apples within the presbyterate from improper handling of either parish funds or pubescent boys -- or both.

The late John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of New York, once lamented how many bishops were, in his words, "morally bludgeoned" by their staffs. This is a difficult thing even for devout Catholics to understand, as they are likely to assume that a prelate can simply give an order and know that it will be followed to the letter. That only happens when the follower has enough to lose by not following. Such a prospect is less likely when that follower cannot simply be "fired" and replaced by someone off the street.

It's much easier to talk a good game at a Knights of Columbus dinner than to clean out the rat's nest at an aging chancery. Especially when you have to depend on a few of the latter to get the day-to-day things done, and you've spent the first year just figuring out who you can and can't trust -- and the results aren't always pretty.

Added to that, is the potential for character weakness in the man himself who would be a bishop. If twenty-five-plus years in the Nation's capital has taught me anything, it is that most people in the public eye appear to have quite a different personality than the one they show one-on-one. A man might know what is right, and find it easy to talk about to a large and adoring crowd, and still be a jerk when the cameras are off. A lot of bishops would appear to fall into that category, having been constantly "handled" by others with their own designs from the moment of consecration. Eventually, these men stop being themselves, and become what their handlers want them to be.

Then one day they wake up and forget who they really are. That's when doing the right thing becomes a lot harder.

Some things can't be delegated. Like being your damn self.


Thursday, November 02, 2006



On this day fifteen years ago, Bartholomew I (born Demetrios Archontonis February 29 1940) was designated the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and thus "first among equals" in the Eastern Orthodox Communion. He has been active in promotion of dialogue and eventual unity with the Roman Catholic Church throughout his reign, despite considerable opposition from other Orthodox hierarchs.

Meanwhile, Caelum et Terra asks: "Is Orthodoxy Part of the Church?"