Monday, April 30, 2007

A Tale of Two Commissioners

Yesterday I got promoted.

It wasn't at the office, unfortunately. After all, it happened on a Sunday. And the folks at the agency seem to think I'm doing such a bang-up job staying exactly where I've been for the last 26 years.

It happened in Scouting. I was asked by the local District to be an Assistant District Commissioner.

The role of the Commissioner dates back to the earliest days of Scouting. By the time General Baden-Powell established the Boy Scouts Association headquarters in London in 1908, boys were snapping up copies of his book Scouting for Boys. They were forming patrols all over England, whether on their own, or with the help of church societies or the YMCA. But they had no guidance from the top. So trained leaders called "Commissioners" were sent out in the field to guide the fledgling movement at the grassroots level. Eventually, in countries like the USA, a corps of paid professionals arose in the form of the Executive Service. But the Commissioner Service remains the volunteer component of field workers for the Scouting method.

At the lowest rung is the Unit Commissioner, who is assigned up to three units (Cub packs, Scout troops, and/or Venturing crews) to visit periodically, and anticipate any particular needs. They report to an Assistant District Commissioner, one of several who reports to a District Commissioner.

Now, since I've been in school, I haven't had a lot of time for this. But it seems I was conspicuous enough to be raised a notch. For my money, the ideal Unit Commissioner is a guy who has had some years of experience with a unit, probably with his own sons, until they "age out" of the program, but the guy still wants to continue with Scouting in some capacity. Since my son never was in Scouting -- which is another story for another day -- I never had that going for me, so I had very little sage wisdom to impart. It is just as well, then, that I be able to delegate the task to others.

There could be a lesson here somewhere about the circumstances of my day job.

Any ideas?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sermon for Shut-Ins: Easter IV

His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, reflects on Jesus the Good Shepherd and vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

[NOTA BENE: Cathedral Video, the media production company of the archdiocese, has decided to continue this well-received program, following the return of His Eminence from a brief sojourn in Rome. mwbh will continue to show this series for the foreseeable future.]

Friday, April 27, 2007

In case you missed it earlier this week, CNN provided living proof that this white guy can dance. Click here to see for yourself. Be sure not to miss the drum solo.

Rock on.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

From Brownsea to Baghdad

Illustration by Tomer Hanuka, Outside Magazine, October 2004
Illustration by Tomer Hanuka, Outside Magazine, October 2004

When I put the Scout uniform back on in the summer of 2004, after a hiatus of over thirty years, one of the first guys I met was an ex-CIA man named Chip Beck. He was working in the "Green Zone" in Baghdad, I don't remember for whom. An article in Outside magazine gives his story, but to make a long one short, Beck was a key player in the revival of Scouting in Iraq.

Earlier this week, I had a chance to pass along this video clip to my local colleagues in Scouting, including Beck, of Iraqi Scouts preparing for an upcoming Jamboree. There's also an interesting story about them, in light of the current troubles there. Many countries have separate Scout associations along ethnic or sectarian lines. (Israel, for example, has a national scout federation with eight separate associations; one for Jewish scouts, one for Arab Christians, one for Druze scouts, and so on.) I once asked Beck if the Sunnis and Shi'ites wanted to do the same. He said no, they wanted to work together as one.

It all adds new meaning to the phrase, "Boys will be boys." Someday, these boys will be men. Should they become the future leaders of Iraq, they will carry with them the lessons first taught by Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell, on Brownsea Island off the English coast, one hundred years ago this August.

We can only hope.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

You know it's a slow news day...

...when the big story is Rosie O'Donnell announcing that she's leaving that dumb-@$$ Chatty Cathy Club for culturally bankrupt homemakers, officially known on ABC as "The View." But it's just as well. I've always said that people who don't know what the hell they're talking about, only make life more difficult for those of us who do. Allahpundit of Hot Air will keep everybody up to speed on the unfolding drama.

I've got other things to do, like bone up on CSS-based web design, with Javascript thrown in for good measure.

And if it all works out, there may be a few changes around here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"...for the Bible tells me so."

As often as not, Mark Shea of Catholic and Enjoying It will simply link one of his trademark clever witticisms to a story elsewhere. (I've met the man, and yes, he is most clever. Upon hearing that my birthday was the 28th of December, he immediately replied, "Holy Innocents, Batman!" Now, that's clever.) But when he has something to say, he doesn't hold back. Yesterday's "Fun with Biblical Criticism" is no exception, as he takes on a self-identified "Agnostic Ex-Catholic" about the authenticity of John's gospel.

"Many scholars today believe..." is the standard pseudo-intellectual opening for debunking anything long held dear, and the method of choice for the rhetorically-challenged. After all, there is little intellectual rigor involved in tearing down a case, as opposed to building one. (We cannot help but notice, for example, how the same holds true for, well, buildings!) So one may employ this method at a parish "adult education" lecture, and still come off sounding like an expert. You don't really need to be an expert, though, merely one step ahead of your audience. You can even affirm that Jesus Christ never intended to found a Church, even though most of the written evidence we have, in living rooms and on hotel nightstands everywhere, suggests that He most certainly did.

Besides, if He didn't, why the hell are we sitting in a church hall on a weeknight listening to this bozo, when we could be home watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond?

Copyright 2001 King World Studios West Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used without shame, to say nothing of permission.
Copyright 2001 King World Studios West Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used without shame, to say nothing of permission.

Me, I'd sooner stay at home and read a good book. What better way to actually know what you're talking about?

But hey, maybe that's just me.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Saint George

Image courtesy of Matthew Alderman.

Today, the western Church remembers the Feast of Saint George. Matthew of Shrine of the Holy Whapping takes a good look at the feast, and the legends surrounding it. St George is also the patron saint of Boy Scouting, and in the UK and elsewhere, it was common for Scouts young and old to hold a "St George's Banquet" in his honor.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Obligatory Earth Day Post

Who made this? Guess who... (Wikipedia.)
Who made this? Guess who... (Wikipedia.)

Kathy Shaidle is an occasional columnist for the Toronto Star and the Catholic Register, and the author of books on the Faith, including A Catholic Alphabet and A Seeker's Dozen: The 12 Steps for Everyone Else. Her weblog, Relapsed Catholic, was in operation before there was such a thing as the "blogosphere," never mind "the Catholic blogosphere." It was the very first weblog discovered by yours truly in early 2002. She had already been at it for a couple of years by then.

Most of the audience for Catholic blogs -- to say nothing of the Catholic press -- runs like a flock of lemmings over a cliff, toward the same very short list of those entering the fray at a later time (and you know who you are, dah-lings!). Shaidle stands out as the true grande dame of Catholic blogging, especially among the other heirs apparent, if for no other reason, than for committing the ultimate high crime of having something original to say. (By original, I don't just mean clever or witty; I mean staying on her own bandwagon and not jumping on everybody else's.)

Unfortunately for her (and anyone interested in an original thought now and then), playing Thoreau comes at a cost. This past week, she breaks the bad news of having to resign as a regular columnist for the excruciatingly-middle-of-the-road weekly periodical Our Sunday Visitor, who wanted a nice, safe, huggy-bear approach for Catholics and the celebration of Earth Day.

Shaidle had other plans. Those plans became a deal-breaker, and the result was published in full this past week, in the one place where no one could object:

Did your children celebrate Lenin's birthday in school last week?

Don't answer "no" right away.

The first Earth Day "teach-in" was celebrated on April 22, 1970, to protest the Vietnam War, pollution, and littering -- and to commemorate what would have been the 100th birthday of one of history's most notorious villains...

Oh yeah, I can see how quoting two distinguished Cardinals, never mind the Catechism of the Catholic Church, would really create mayhem among the faithful. And while I don't necessarily agree with Ms Shaidle that "recycling is BS," it is worth pointing out that the gluttony for consumption in the "First World" is hardly a sign of virtue.

But hey, maybe that's just me.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Another fantastic video from Travis, this one featuring the Egg. I don't get it, but it has romance, comedy, tragedy... who could ask for more?

Moment of Silence

People embrace as they look at a memorial for the shooting victims at Drillfield on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, Thursday, April 19, 2007. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
People embrace as they look at a memorial for the shooting victims at Drillfield on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, Thursday, April 19, 2007. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

This past week will always be associated with tragedy in America, as we have commemorated the anniversaries of Waco, Oklahoma City, Columbine, and now, Virginia Tech. (For what it's worth, Adolf Hitler was born on this day in 1889). And yet, to believe that God became man through Christ, is to believe as Saint Paul tells us, that good will, in the end, triumph over evil.

For Virginia Tech alums and friends in the DC area, a special gathering will convene tonight at The Liberty Tavern on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia, near the Clarendon Metro Station. Phone 703.465.9360. Call to confirm details.

"So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Blacksburg Revisited

The news continues to come out of Blacksburg, Virginia, home of Virginia Tech, where the deadliest shooting in USA history occurred this past Monday. We learn more about the troubled lone gunman, who took his own life after taking those of 33 others.

We learn of heroism, of a professor, a Holocaust survivor, who barricaded the door so students could escape out the windows, before being killed himself. We hear the stories of students who survived, who knew those who were killed, and those who are lucky to be alive.

We wonder why these things happen. As long as there is evil in the world, these things will at least be attempted. But have we learned how to avoid them? Dom at Bettnet tells of a similar incident at the same school a year ago.

We hear a lot of talk about healing. To the average Catholic, some of it sounds vaguely familiar. We've known of tragedies in some parishes, followed by the bishop coming in and talking about "healing." Sometimes you wonder if it isn't another word for "denial," or "damage control," or "make it go away."

It wouldn't be the first time. After the Kent State shootings in 1970, KSU administrators sponsored memorial tributes for only a few years, and have worked to play down its significance in their history. In the years that have followed, most tributes have come from parties independent of the university. Memorials to the four slain were finally erected in 1990, of rather modest size, and after much controversy. (I was told by people there that the site of the shootings was covered by subsequent building projects. Somebody wanna get back to me on that?)

Closer to the present, you have to wonder whether the school will ever learn its lesson. This would require an honest view of those affected. At an interfaith convocation yesterday, officials invoked Allah, Buddah, the Dalai Lama, and God, but not Jesus Christ. This, in a city which is predominantly Baptist. Wanna bet most of the students are Christian? If they are, wouldn't school officials make their needs a priority, over putting on appearances for the politically-correct elite?

Michelle Malkin said it very well: "Instead of teaching students to defend their beliefs, American educators shield them from vigorous intellectual debate. Instead of encouraging autonomy, our higher institutions of learning stoke passivity and conflict-avoidance... And as the erosion of intellectual self-defense goes, so goes the erosion of physical self-defense."

Kathy Shaidle, in a particularly blunt editorial on the aftermath, also wrote: "[Y]ou will still feel as empty as you did before, maybe more so, and wonder why."

There is no quick fix for what happened, and everybody from the university president, down to the freshman caught in the crossfire, had better get used to the idea. It may not occur to someone until days, weeks from now. They'll start sobbing uncontrollably for no reason, or a sudden noise on the street will startle them more than it should. They'll wake up in the middle of the night from the same nightmare.

You can't fix an injury that you don't acknowledge is there. And you can't acknowledge what you don't know. And yet, in times when men become tepid in the face of overwhelming Evil, one man stands in its way, in a final act of defiance so that others might live. In that small corner of Darkness, the forces of Light stood up and fought back.

And so, the late Liviu Librescu, Professor of Engineering Science and Mathematics at Virginia Tech, gets the Tip of the Black Hat for this week. It's the very least we can do.

[UPDATE: More insightful commentary and lively comments from Bill's Bites and Confederate Yankee.]

Librescu, in a 2000 photo from Bucharest, Romania, as obtained by the Kansas City Star.
Photo/Kansas City Star

Monday, April 16, 2007

Black Monday In Blacksburg

Emergency personnel carry injured victims out of Norris Hall at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, on Monday, April 16. A shooting took place on the fourth floor of the West Ambler Johnston dormitory; the gunman then went to Norris Hall, an engineering building. (Photo by Alan Kim/The Roanoke Times)
Emergency personnel carry injured victims out of Norris Hall at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, on Monday, April 16. A shooting took place on the fourth floor of the West Ambler Johnston dormitory; the gunman then went to Norris Hall, an engineering building. (Photo by Alan Kim/The Roanoke Times)

Brian Hollar of Thinking on the Margin, an alumnus of Virginia Tech, provides an analysis of the scene, and his own reflections on what has become the deadliest shooting in recent USA history.

B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

Pope Pius XII, in coronation robes and wearing the 1877 Papal Tiara, is carried through St Peter's Basilica on a sedia gestatoria. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Pope Pius XII, in coronation robes and wearing the 1877 Papal Tiara, is carried through St Peter's Basilica on a sedia gestatoria. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The weather was cloudy and windy over the weekend in the eastern USA, with threats of flooding in low-lying areas. But the sun was out this past weekend in Rome, as over one hundred thousand of the faithful began to gather, for today's celebration of the eightieth birthday of Pope Benedict XVI. While viewing the proceedings on television in the wee hours, "Ken88" of Hallowedground had a vision...

Somehow, in my subconscious mind, I had the crazy idea he brought back the Sedia Gestatoria, and was wearing an old Roman style chasuble, and everyone was covered in brocaded vestments, lace, and all the “Old Triumphalism.”

Of course, the portable throne upon which Popes have been carried for centuries, has not been employed since John Paul I had his arm twisted to use it in 1978. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have eschewed it in favor of the "popemobile." But in a city like Rome, little things like this have significance as to the direction a pontificate may take. Yes, even the Pope's wearing of red slippers with white stockings.

The Daily Telegraph tells of major reforms to be announced in the coming weeks. "[T]here are many nervous bishops at the moment - especially in this country." They are referring specifically to the UK. They may just as well have been referring to the USA.

In March, Benedict issued the post-synodal exhortation on the Eucharist entitled Sacramentum Carititatis. While ignored by many bishops in North America and Western Europe, it called for the greater use of Latin and Gregorian chant. The forcefulness of this document was lost in the midst of rather tepid "official" translations, including the English edition, which rendered such admonitions to the level of mere suggestion.

A closer examination reveals otherwise. Father Zuhlsdorf has written at length about deficiencies in the official English translation. He sheds light on one passage in particular:

A section of paragraph 62 is rendered in Latin thus:

"...exceptis lectionibus, homilia et oratione fidelium, aequum est ut huiusmodi celebrationes fiant lingua Latina."

In the initially released English text, this read:

"...with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, such liturgies could be celebrated in Latin."

This passage, among others, has since been corrected...

"...with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, it is fitting that such liturgies be celebrated in Latin." a manner that certain initiatives appear less as an option, and more an understanding of what is proper.

The difficulty in obtaining accurate translations betrays a larger problem in explaining the message of the Church in recent decades, that of a diminishing role of a proper understanding of Latin. As the official language of the universal Church, to understand Latin is to understand what the Church is trying to say when it comes to the details. In the November 2006 issue of New Oxford Review, Father Daniel B Gallagher of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, explains why seminarians need to learn Latin, in a piece entitled "Apologia pro Munere Suo ('A Defense of His Work')." (Subscription required to read entire article.)

ABC News also reports that the Holy Father is set to announce the appointment of a number of key bishops in the USA, a move which is already long overdue, as roughly two dozen American prelates are near or at retirement age. The resulting turnover of personnel will inevitably lead to a paradigm shift in the functioning of the Church in America, if appointments of the last two years are any indication.

Of course, there is also the "motu proprio" (a document released on the Pope's own initiative, without concurrence of any curial departments) which has been signed and is expected to be released at any time -- the latest bets are on next month -- which will allow for greater use of the pre-conciliar form of the Roman Missal, the so-called "Tridentine Mass." Presumedly, priests would be able to exercise their own discretion regarding its use, rather than await the approval of the local bishop (a scenario which, on a practical level, this writer would consider easier said than done). This would occur in addition to a revised English translation of the reformed Roman liturgy, the one in normative use throughout the Catholic world, expected by the end of the decade.

The onset of more sacral language and reverent conduct, and the subsequent increase of theological precision in official worship, will result in a fundamental change in how Mass is celebrated in the average parish -- regardless of which set of books are used. One effect will be to force some in the intellectual elite to either accept the situation, or create one of their own. Either way, there is no getting around it.

Things should get interesting, eh?

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force is looking for a few good men. (Yes, this is a real advertisement.)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Critical Mass: Cinco de Mayo

According to a reliable (no, make that a reasonable) source, Dr Alice von Hildebrand has said that the Pope told her the Motu Proprio will be issued, on the same day in which the citizens of Mexico commemorate their victory over French occupation forces in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

Then again, it could be just another excuse to dance in the streets and drink beer. Some of us could do worse.

A typical Cinco de Mayo Baile folklórico celebration in Gardena, California. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
A typical Cinco de Mayo Baile folklórico celebration in Gardena, California. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

"Saint" Stephen's Day

"Why Steve Jobs Is Not A Saint" is the title of a recent piece by Alexander Billet of Dissident Voice, on how iPod technology has changed the musical recording industry.

"[A] little less than a decade ago, the idea of an mp3 had record execs shaking in their Pradas. The minute Napster came to everyone’s attention, groups like the RIAA screamed bloody murder, claiming that downloading would take money from hardworking artists; a laughable notion coming from an industry that is only willing to pony up 15% of each album sale. What scared the stuffed suits the most was the idea that artists and fans might have a forum to share their work without the say-so of corporate greed."

It gets better.

Billet is on to something, and not just the conventional notion that Jobs is more of a marketing genius than he is a techno-wizard. Most recording artists are lucky to see a dollar for every compact disc that is sold. By dealing directly with the consumer from their own website, the playing field is radically altered. They might end up commanding a larger share. Many of them are, especially in the niche genres like bluegrass or Celtic, are not necessarily getting rich in this line of work. I know this, because I know some of those guys.

Chains like Tower Records were bound to go down the tubes as a result of this. But bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders will likely retain their foray into the recordings market for the foreseeable future, having succeeded in marketing to the specialty label audiences -- classical, folk, jazz, opera -- the kind of people who like to read the liner notes and the little booklets that come with the disc cases.

It is now up to guys like me, to figure out where they're going to store over a thousand recordings, whether as compact disc, audio tape, or good old-fashioned vinyl.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

By the way, does anybody know what happened to Jack?

Hey, lady, grow the h*** up already!

When you give aging flower children with time on their hands a glorified title, this is what happens. (Image from

Last September, mwbh did a piece entitled "Playing Priest," in which the problematic role of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist was analyzed, and a scenario for its reform was imagined. There has been a lot of news about parish closings and mergers, and out of the Boston area comes this story at Bettnet about a protest at a closed parish in Lynn, Massachusetts. A review of the local press, namely The Daily Item, reveals this gem of a quote: "Lois Bragan, a Eucharistic minister from St Pius Church, consecrates the host on the steps of the closed St Michael’s Church during Good Friday services."

Visiting the website of St Pius, one is introduced to the two priests under the title of "team ministry." Now, it takes laypeople to make a parish, but it takes a pastor to serve them as well. This is more involved than merely being a vending machine for the sacraments. But when the liturgical act itself becomes a rallying point for an ideological struggle, right or wrong, it is no longer an action of the entire Church, just the ones who agree with the actors. If you don't know that, it becomes easy to say, oh, so-and-so is a lay minister, you know, and she can do this. They could have simply conducted a Way of the Cross around the parish grounds. Alas, that would have been too easy.

And not as good a photo op.

It doesn't matter whether the woman in the picture is holding a consecrated host or not. If so, she is committing a sacrilege. If not, she is engaging in false worship of a wafer. Either way, she betrays her misunderstanding of the Eucharist, and so disqualifies herself to ever perform this role again. Beyond that, what is made manifest here, is the problem of a generation now entering its twilight, one which has been indulged to the hilt by the society around them, and remains steadfast in its refusal to grow up.

The above only reinforces this writer's contention, that the role of the "eucharistic minister" has gotten way out of control in the USA (to say nothing of elsewhere), and needs to be seriously curtailed on a massive scale, if not eliminated altogether.

Monday, April 09, 2007

And now, a moment of irony...

ABC's evening news program "World News Tonight" did a story on global warming following a piece on the record cold. Just goes to show what can happen with a limited attention span.

Easter Monday

Throughout the Catholic blogosphere, the buzz is on three things.

The first is the question of how Holy Week and Easter went in your parish. Did you hear the full splendor of the sacred heritage of the Church at your parish for the Pasch, or was it Father Feelgood's "new look for spring?"

The second is how burned out everybody is who had anything to do at all with preparations at that same parish, or any other for that matter. Last week and this week are generally the busiest. I remember how it was in my sacristan days, although for me personally, Christmas was the worst, since I was the only one on duty during that holiday. In all likelihood, the pastor is sleeping late and limiting his appointments. All I'm saying is, if he has to get out of bed before noon because somebody needs the Last Rites, then by cracky, they'd better mean business!

The third is what people DON'T talk about; how the "motu proprio" calling for broader use of the 1962 Missale Romanum (the "Tridentine Mass") was NOT issued by the Holy Father. So now the smart money is probably going to be on Pentecost, or Corpus Christi. (UPDATE: For readers of Rocco Palmo, the target is the Feast of Pius V, who codified the unified Roman Mass in 1570, and who is commemorated on April 30 on the General Roman Calendar, and/or May 5 on the Gallo-Germanic calendar, whatever that is.) I checked the blogs from this time a year ago. One was giving THREE UPDATES as the day went on. That's just in one day. Truth be told, I feel a little silly giving it as much attention as I did.

Meanwhile, beyond the buzz...

Every year, I prepare a giant Easter basket that is blessed by the priest at a Byzantine Rite liturgy the night before. This year's was the biggest ever, certainly the heaviest. Then I go downtown the next morning to a large old church and distribute the goods to the kids there. I had fewer than the usual amount, but the ones who did show up said they'd been talking about it for two weeks. For the first time, we had a lot left over. I think we're going to stick with the kielbasi and hard salami and forego the giant ham from now on. But having at least two bottles of sparkling cider to toast the risen Christ was definitely a good idea.

I missed Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments, complete with Yul Brenner strutting around. It would have been a better choice than the 1961 production of King of Kings, which in my estimation was pretty bad. Zefferelli's Jesus of Nazareth was better.

I guess I'll be having ham and cheese sandwiches for the rest of the week. Good thing I like ham and cheese.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

It was on an Easter Sunday...


...and all in the morning,
Our Savior arose, and our heav'nly King.
The sun and the moon, they both did rise with him,
And sweet Jesus, we'll call him by name.

+ + +

An Easter Homily of St John Chrysostom

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

+ + +

His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, gives a brief reflection on the meaning of Jesus' Resurrection. Christus resurrexit, sicut dixit, Alleluia!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Tenebrae: Oratio Jeremiae Prophetae

Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; behold, and see our disgrace!
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to aliens.

We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows.
We must pay for the water we drink, the wood we get must be bought.

With a yoke on our necks we are hard driven; we are weary, we are given no rest.
We have given the hand to Egypt, and to Assyria, to get bread enough.

Our fathers sinned, and are no more; and we bear their iniquities.
Slaves rule over us; there is none to deliver us from their hand.

We get our bread at the peril of our lives, because of the sword in the wilderness.
Our skin is hot as an oven with the burning heat of famine.

Women are ravished in Zion, virgins in the towns of Judah.
Princes are hung up by their hands; no respect is shown to the elders.

Young men are compelled to grind at the mill; and boys stagger under loads of wood.
The old men have quit the city gate, the young men their music.

The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned!

For this our heart has become sick, for these things our eyes have grown dim,
for Mount Zion which lies desolate; jackals prowl over it.

But thou, O Lord, dost reign for ever; thy throne endures to all generations.
Why dost thou forget us for ever, why dost thou so long forsake us?

Restore us to thyself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old!
Or hast thou utterly rejected us? Art thou exceedingly angry with us?

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, turn again to the Lord your God.


The Prayer of Jeremiah, from the Dominican Office of Holy Saturday, is presented here by the English Blackfriars at Oxford. (H/T The New Liturgical Movement.)

Friday, April 06, 2007

It was on a good Friday...

...and all in the morning,
They crucified our savior, and our heav'nly King.
And was not this a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus, we'll call him by name.

His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, reflects on the Passion and death of Our Lord and its meaning for humanity, as we commemorate Good Friday.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

It was on a maundy Thursday...

...and all in the morning,
They planted a crown of thorns on our heav'nly King.
And was not this a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus, we'll call him by name.

His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, offers a brief reflection on the meaning of service and the Eucharist, as we commemorate Holy Thursday. Meanwhile, Father Zuhlsdorf reports on the Chrism Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It was on a holy Wednesday...

...and all in the morning,
That Judas betrayed our heav'nly King.
And was not this a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus, we'll call him by name.


So this coyote walks into a sandwich shop...

...actually, a Quiznos Sub Shop in the heart of downtown Chicago. The species has been migrating further into the eastern USA in recent years, so it was only a matter of time. Yahoo! News reports, complete with video from ABC News.

Thankfully, the animal control unit arrived in less than an hour. No one was hurt, including the coyote.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Opening Day

Anyone who knows jack about baseball knows that the real Opening Day game can only take place with the Cincinnati Reds, and in their hometown. Of course, people in places like Boston don't believe this, but they already think they're the center of the known universe anyway, so why listen to them? (And don't even get me started on New York City.)

I remember in the fourth grade, when I delivered papers for The Cincinnati Enquirer. If I got five new customers, I got two tickets to that glorious annual event. This prize was considered an acceptable excuse to get out of class, which I did. Dad and I went, and a good time was had by all. There I was at the old Crosley Field, a place I'll never forget. I even remember when the organ played "My Old Kentucky Home," and a few older people from across the river stood up with reverence from their seats. And then there were the best hot dogs I ever tasted...

Anyway, back to the present. Mayor Mark Malloy threw the first pitch -- if you can call it that. The Enquirer provides his ten excuses as to why it was so bad. Meanwhile, a more believable scenario follows starring Abbott and Costello, passed along by our fellow-Catholic Dad at Kyrie Eleison.

From the folks at

Clean Livin’ and Fancy Footwork

[The following was published in the spring of 2005. In light of some dioceses going on record as "winking" at variance from correct practice for Holy Thursday's footwashing -- my hometown jurisdiction of Cincinnati appears to be a case in point -- it seemed a good time for a reprint, with slight editing for clarity or sudden inspiration.]

"Mandatum novum do vobis: ut diligatis invicem, sicut delexi vos, dicit Dominus. Beati immaculate in via: qui ambulant in lege Domini..."

("A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, says the Lord. Blessed are the undefiled in the way: who walk in the law of the Lord...")

For the Christian world (both East and West this year), Holy Week is upon us. As with every year, the Mass of the Lord's Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday (this year on April 5), will be highlighted by the Washing of Feet.

The traditional number of participants with the priest is twelve, and the rubrics are specific that they be men (in Latin, viri selecti). Since most liturgical functions of the laity are open to both men and women, the significance of this restriction is lost on the general Catholic public. What's more, the exception is difficult to justify or explain at the parish level, and even "conservative" parishes are known to allow women to have their feet washed.

Defenders of the practice, in addition to underscoring the need for fidelity to Church discipline in and of itself, are quick to point out the significance of the apostles' all being men, thus the connection with the institution of the ministerial priesthood is reinforced by only men's feet being washed.

While such an opinion is worthy of merit, it may suffer from an error, given the present developments in liturgical law.

It should be pointed out that the sanctuary, or presbyterium, as the place of presiding, was traditionally limited to men only. Since a typical parish church did not have the benefit of a complement of minor clerics, men and boys of the parish would act as legitimate surrogates. (Some can still remember when a layman would be pressed into service at a Missa Solemnis as a "straw subdeacon.") Strictly speaking, and in the present ceremonial books, this is still the case. It is only by legitimate indulgence in certain parts of the world (including nearly all of North America), that women perform liturgical functions -- such as reader, acolyte, and so on -- within the sanctuary. These indults were not instituted all at once, but on a case-by-case basis over the last few decades of official liturgical reform.

Once exceptions were made (beginning with women as lectors, at the celebrant's discretion, in 1971), it was only a matter of time before others would follow, whether at the initiative of the Holy See (as in the case of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, where a female Religious is actually preferred over an unconsecrated male), or an acquiescence to prolonged disobedience. What some defenders of the current directive fail to recognize, is that the connection to the ministerial priesthood was the traditional justification for all liturgical functions being restricted to men. This even applied officially to choristers until 1925, and ushers until 1969. (By the way, how often do we see female ushers at the parishes using altar girls?) The only significant exception that has not been made, is a practice that occurs only once a year, on Holy Thursday.

As to why the current practice of washing only the feet of men is still recognized as proper, the reasons vary. One is the perception that a change would be one more reinforcement of "caving in" to those who violate liturgical directives in Catholic worship. This sends the wrong message to those who endeavor to be compliant, whatever the discomfort. The allowance of female altar servers in 1994, which is said to have occurred against the Holy Father's privately expressed wishes, is a case in point.

There is also a matter of propriety. Depending on the setting, even the age of the priest, it may be considered inappropriate for a man to wash the feet of a woman with whom he is not on sufficiently familiar terms, let alone in public. Again, the sensibilities of those assembled may vary from one region to another, even one parish to another.

Meanwhile, some parishes apparently feel the need to prove something to the world, and will substitute the men-only footwashing with a Washing of Hands amidst the entire assembly. This is rather troubling symbolically, when you consider that it was Pontius Pilate who ceremoniously washed his hands in the presence of the crowd, to declare his resignation of Our Lord's eventual fate.

If symbols are to have any enduring power, their meaning must be inherent, as opposed to being subject to whatever spin their manipulators wish to impose on them. Or have we forgotten what happened to the Emperor who listened to his tailor, at the expense of his own good judgment?


Monday, April 02, 2007

Full Pink Moon

From the Old Farmer's Almanac: "...also known as the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon. Historically, Native Americans living in what is now the northern and eastern United States kept track of the seasons by giving a distinctive name to each full Moon. This name was used to refer to the entire month in which the Moon occurred."

Decline and Transit

The Smart Fortwo, a new two-seater that has gained popularity in Europe, with an American version coming out for the 2008 model year. For more information go to (Photo from Car and Driver magazine.)
The Smart Fortwo, a new two-seater that has gained popularity in Europe, with an American version coming out for the 2008 model year. For more information go to (Photo from Car and Driver magazine.)

The other day, I got into a lively discussion with "Sal" over personal transportation.

In the Philippines, private ownership of automobiles is no more unusual than it is here in the USA. However, at least in and around Metro Manila, not only is the traffic is as bad as any major American city, but the streets are narrower. So people usually always hire an on-call driver for their own car, even if they have a license.

It's a different story here, so she's had to learn to drive in the States.

She'll be getting her drivers license soon, and will have less call for her personal driver. (That would be yours truly.) Our discussion centered around what kind of car to drive. On top of the usual assumption that a man just has to tell a woman all she needs to know about cars (mea culpa, mea culpa...), she wants to get a big-@$$ American four-door. I made a case for a smaller car. She maintained that a car that holds little more than the driver is "selfish." Fortunately, we were on the Interstate going into town when this came up. I invited her to look out the window. Virtually every vehicle we saw, regardless of its size, held only one passenger.

This may have been what The Discalced Yooper saw as well, while being inspired to write a recent post entitled "Decline and Transit (I)." The Roman numeral suggests the beginning of a series. We can only hope...

"[O]ne of the more fascinating corollaries is the corrolary between middle class decline and the rise of private transport. Additionally, you see the poorer become poorer as you track the rise of private transport."

For any household with two cars, this writer would consider it prudent that one be large enough to hold the entire household and provide adequate comfort on long trips, while the other be as small as possible for singular use, especially when driving through town. The ability of the model illustrated to meet that need, makes it one to watch in the coming year.

But hey, that's just me.

Holy Week

Father Martin Fox over at Bonfire of the Vanities (THE place to go if you wanna know what a parish priest does all day) put it best: "If there's some special project you really think your pastor, or your parish music director, needs to get on board with, this week and next might not be the time to bring it to them...."

As a bit player in the so-called "Catholic blogosphere," this is the week to set aside the usual nonsense, which I will likely do come Wednesday.

I have always taken of on Good Friday. I used to take off Holy Thursday too, but not in recent years. For the last decade or so, my routine for the Paschal Feast has been fairly consistent. More on that this coming "Spy Wednesday."

Meanwhile, this is the moment to remember what happened exactly two years ago today.