Friday, November 30, 2007

And now, our Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy returns, after a brief hiatus.

Baltimore is the place to be (at least for me) two weeks from this Sunday. The video explains everything. The "gal" who got me mixed up in this can be seen in the leopard skin outfit. (Her husband is loaded, but I'm still betting it's fake.) The whole she-bang is for a good cause, so this would be a good day to make the drive up to Charm City and sample some of their... well, charm.

"Sal" will be there too -- dressed to kill, and ready to dance.

Calling All Minnesotans!

It is said that legions of the faithful praying the rosary were enough to prevent Austria from staying behind the "Iron Curtain" after World War II. It this is true, it just might do the trick for the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St Paul.

This coming Sunday, at the Cathedral of Saint Paul, members of the faithful are asked to convene at the Selby Avenue entrance at two in the afternoon. For the next hour, they will process around the Cathedral, praying the Rosary, The Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and as many Litanies as they can fit in during the route. The intentions will be for the newly-appointed Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt, and for what a spokesman for the event calls "the affliction and plaque of homosexuality, especially in Minnesota."

Now, this next part is not for the squeamish...

Be advised that another group will be assembled in the vicinity at the same time. They have made a public statement as well. Here is the kind of genius you are up against: "Do you encourage and support your lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) family members, and friends who accept and express their sexuality? If so, you're 'cooperating in a grave evil,' according to Archbishop Nienstedt. If you find yourself in disagreement with the archbishop's views and would like to see the Church's teaching on homosexuality reformed in light of credible science and the lived experiences of LGBT people and their families, then you're invited to a Vigil for Solidarity..." They'll be meeting on the front steps of the cathedral at the very same hour. So you'll have them surrounded. They haven't considered that. Nor have they considered what manner of "credible science" supports the ability of one man to put his @#$%& into another man's %$#@ without any harmful side effects.

(To whomever asked me to post this: I'll expect a full report on Monday, got it?)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

South of Eden

Dawn Eden is author of The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On!, which testifies to the sad consequences of her footloose-and-fancy-free life as a pop music journalist and "stage door Jane," as we used to call them, before her conversion to Christianity, and eventually to the Catholic Faith. Her weblog "The Dawn Patrol," is an account of her travels while promoting her book, and proclaiming the cause of virtue in an over-sexed world, and college campuses in particular, on behalf of The Cardinal Newman Society. It is also sprinkled with "grips and grins" of luminaries from the pop music industry. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) A transplant from New York City, she lives here in Arlington, about two miles north of my house.

No, I've never seen her in person. Yet.

Once she did a reading of her work for a book-signing at a local Borders. I wanted to take Sal along, but when I showed her a YouTube clip of what to expect, she went "Ewwww!!!" and declined. Must be a Filipina thing. Apparently some people have a problem talking about this part of their lives in public. Obviously there are others who do not. Must be a New York thing. Today's blog entry is a series of clips featuring her among a number of what she calls "chastity all-stars." From what I've been able to glean, her presentation is well worth reviewing. But I'm asking myself, what makes them "all-stars" anyway; retaining their virtue for a higher purpose, or making a living talking about it? I'm also wondering which begs an explanation more, on the part of millions of young ladies throughout America, not to mention the world, who save themselves for their future husbands without notoriety, save the honor of walking down the aisle wearing a white gown honestly.

But hey, that's just me.

(Images of Ms Eden were created by Matthew Alderman and J D King respectively. Video was produced with the assistance of a fellow-curmudgeon from Cleveland, who goes by the name of "Saint Kansas," and who should really post more often. All are used here without permission or shame.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day...

...was really brought to America by the Catholics, more than half a century before those Protestant upstarts in Massachusetts.

Robyn Gioia is a fifth-grade teacher from St Augustine, Florida. She has recently published a book, America's REAL First Thanksgiving. An article in USA Today elaborates...

What does REAL mean? Well, she's not talking turkey and cranberry sauce. She's talking a Spanish explorer who landed here on Sept. 8, 1565, and celebrated a feast of thanksgiving with Timucua Indians. They dined on bean soup...

Of course, she didn't discover this on her own. The article is worth reading, and worthy of reflection for those who underestimate the Catholic heritage in what is now the USA. It might be one more by-product of a growing Latino population, that on the birthday of Our Lady, we have all the more reason to give thanks -- over a bowl of bean soup, perhaps.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving Thanks

If you live in DC, and there's one day you don't want to be on the freeway unless you have to, it's the night before Thanksgiving. Something about the holiday brings out the wanderlust from inside the Beltway. Already it's Wednesday morning, the office is quiet, and they'll probably send us all home early. I remember when Paul was growing up, and we would try to make it out before the early rush to get to Cleveland. The mountains are lovely this time of year, and Nana got out the third set of china for occasions like this, but other than that...

We'll probably go to Sal's family out in the western suburbs for the afternoon. Filipinos have embraced the best of American culture -- we'll deal with the worst some other day -- including Thanksgiving Day. They even celebrate it on the same day, don't ask me why. But they spread a lovely table, and I don't understand most of what they're saying. So I'll probably bring my portable DVD player, and pretend I'm in the corner reading a book, when I'm really sharing "The Chronicles of Narnia" with the kids.

There are reasons this writer would have for giving thanks, as opposed to, say, five years ago. I still have my health, what's left of it. Paul has gone in five years from being what my old man would call "spirited," to an honor student in college who can discuss serious literature that isn't required reading (like Plato's "Republic" as a high school senior). The masters of ceremonies at a place where I used to serve the Old Latin Mass once called me "slow and untrainable." Now I'm first master of ceremonies at a large suburban parish, with over thirty young men on my watch, and I get to work with some really great priests. Fortunately, I'm still unworthy, which is all the humility I need right now, thank you very much.

Life is good. Benedicamus Domino.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


In light of a comment recently submitted at mwbh, certain remarks made in two earlier posts (here and here), both dealing with one subject in particular, have been removed. This decision was reached in the interests of prudence and charity, and does not reflect any change in the position dealt with in those writings.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ken Revisited

I was reminded today of a story, one that I heard while studying graphic design in college thirty years ago...

"The Professor" was head of our department. Naturally, he was a man of scholarly bearing, but also carried himself with an air of sophistication. Freshmen were in awe of him, while upperclassmen found him to be effete and overly priggish. One day, an upperclass studio was having a critique of their work. Determined to unsettle his demeanor in some way, they devised a plan in anticipation of his arrival. He walked into the classroom, to find the entire membership of the class just sitting there calmly, with brown paper bags over their heads. Without so much as blinking an eye, he took no notice of this prank, and commenced to offer commentary on each piece hung on the wall. One by one, the students gradually -- and it should be conceded, sheepishly -- removed the bags from over their heads.

For some cultures, saving face is paramount in social discourse. This is particularly so among Asian Pacific peoples. In the Philippines, the term "pakitang tao" literally means "show people," and describes the perceived need to "keep up with the Joneses" for appearance's sake, even when one cannot afford it. They also tend to avoid speaking bluntly to another without sufficient cause, so as not to shame them in front of others.

Some people just know how to save face through their own efforts. It is possible to do so while admitting one's errors, which is a sign of great character. It is also not an easy thing to do, which is why so few of us ever master it. However righteous our cause, none of us are immune from the human condition. The saints knew this all too well, and would consider themselves the worst of sinners.

Several weeks ago, a weblog known as Traditional Latin Mass Arlington published two entries at the expense of two priests of the Diocese of Arlington. The entry of one in particular was inaccurate, if not slanderous. Here at mwbh it was necessary to come to the defense of one of those priests, and to call out the author of such outrageous claims.

It is difficult to determine whether there was ever a change of heart on the part of "Ken," the aforementioned author of at least one of the pieces. But there has been a change at the blog. There is an affiliated e-mail list, where residents of northern Virginia may share or receive notice of local celebrations of the traditional Mass. I saw a value in receiving such notices, so I took a chance and sent in my address. To my great surprise, it was accepted. Surely they must have known who I was. But it didn't seem to matter. What did seem to matter to a few of the listmembers was determined while reading the message archives. It seemed that such rancor was unacceptable to them, and they requested that the list restrict itself to sharing news about the Old Mass. And so that became the rule. Then in the past week, the two offending entries on the blog were removed. (As this is written, an excerpt of one of them is elsewhere on the internet.) One cannot help but notice the lack of an apology on the blog, on the part of its moderators, for ever publishing the offensive material to begin with. Presumedly they would be the heralds of some great Catholic restoration, in which case there is reason to be concerned. Were they sorry they published such nonsense, or were they sorry for getting caught?

Meanwhile, "The Professor" underwent a transformation of his own in due time. After I graduated, he encouraged me to submit a portfolio of my work to the civil service, which was engaged at the time in a government-wide search for aspiring designers, illustrators, and photographers. It was that portfolio, and his accompanying recommendation, that secured me the position in Washington which I hold today.

Closer to home, the disposition of "Ken" is yet to be determined. But if he would be so kind as to render an apology to the good Father whom he offended publicly, and whom I defended in kind, I would offer to buy the fellow a drink, and explain to him why this priest meant enough to me that I would take an unprecedented stand in this forum.

Then maybe someday, I would learn to write with shorter sentences. May hope breed eternal for all of us.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Skanks Go To College

Mary Katharine puts the Hammer down on O'Reilly: "Ladies, Daddy's not gonna bankroll your Beams and Cokes forever. You need to get a job eventually, and this ain't helpin'."

Of course, this could never happen at Steubenville, right guys?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The early start of the Christmas season is not new; it simply has a different set of priorities these days.

Today, Christians of the Eastern Churches celebrate the Feast of Saint Philip the Apostle, brother of fellow-Apostle Andrew "The First-Called." Tomorrow is the beginning of the "Saint Philip's Fast," known among the Slavic people by the above title. While a preparatory season for The Nativity can be dated roughly around the eighth century, the forty-day season of fasting known as the "Phillippian Fast" (Filipovka) made its actual appearance by the mid-12th century.

You can learn more about the customs associated with Christmas in the East at

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Details Before Mass

“Try to imagine for one solid year of my life... I spent all day comparing Merati & Martinucci & Le Vavasseur, to find out where the thurifer ought to stand before the Magnificat, who takes off the bishop's left glove, what sort of bow you should make at the Asperges. I had to look serious, and discuss the arguments for a ductus duplex or the other thing, whatever it is called, at each candlestick, when you incense the altar. Conceive a man, said to be made in the image of God, spending his time over that kind of thing. Even now that the burden is over it fills me with rage to think of those days. I could have learned a new language easily in the time. I could have gone every day to the cinema. I could have read the complete works of Maria Corelli. My cat was spending his time in sane and reasonable pursuits, chasing birds in the garden, climbing trees, or sleeping in his basket, while I was describing the conduct of the second MC at pontifical Vespers not at the throne. And they affect to believe that we lead a nobler life than the beasts...”

-- From a 1918 typewritten letter of the Rev Dr Adrian Fortescue, author of Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, as provided by the St Edmund's College Archive. It gets better.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Viva la French Fries!

Hey, I never called them "freedom fries." What the hell is that anyway? Did they think that this form of potato was actually invented in France and they had to prove something? Oh, well, so two heads of state get along now, where a different set of them didn't before. Our love/hate relationship with France dates back to the Revolution, and it hasn't changed much. I'm just glad I was working at home today so I didn't have to spend an extra hour trying to catch a bus home because the Secret Service blocked traffic for that amount of time, and all for a stupid ten-minute motorcade.

It can happen.

Catholic Schools Revisited

In the past week, there have been combox discussions across the Catholic blogosphere about the parochial school system -- at California's The Cafeteria is Closed, Ohio's Ten Reasons, and Virginia's Catholic Matriarch in my Domestic Church aka Catholic Mom. This past January, during Catholic Schools Week, I gave my own spin on the subject, entitled Heard any good news lately? Here's what I recently told Mom:

"If you find a good one, more power to you. But it really comes down to the parents as primary educators of the Faith. If a Catholic school facilitates that, fine. If it doesn't, and a public school's limitations can be overcome, you're better off saving your money for a good Catholic college. Two years of a solid classical liberal arts curriculum, and they can go anywhere, and go far."

In most of North America, Catholic schools have become, in my estimation, a lost cause. Often it's not the fault of the schools themselves. Good teachers can be hamstrung by theologically-bankrupt administrators, who in turn can be victims of shenanigans from the chancery. And all, regardless of who is pastor or who is bishop, are part of the same decaying subculture that emerged with a vengeance in the late 1960s and early 1970s. On top of that, the drop in teachers from religious orders, combined in more recent years with state requirements for equipment and administrative overhead, have pushed the cost through the roof. Even with tuition, a parish school can comprise as much as half of a parish's operating budget. With the advent of independent "academies" started by parents' groups and eventually getting a bishop's approval, it is only now turning around.

Just barely, mind you. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

My “Bruce Hornsby” Moment

“While no one was lookin’ on the old plantation
He showed her what they do down the long valley road
She came back around like nothing really happened
And left him standing on the old valley road...”

Walk on.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ben Stein Explains It All For You

[The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary. It was sent to me in the usual way -- by a group e-mail. I usually ignore these, but I like Ben Stein so...]

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.

She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.

Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says . Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd , crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in. My Best Regards.

Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cell Phones

We've all seen advertisements for a certain wireless phone provider, the one that appears in the form of a cell phone user, followed anywhere and everywhere by an entourage of support personnel. To this day, I hear people boast with some pride of how, even today, they do not have a cell phone. Until just a few years ago, I was among them. By then, I certainly knew people who had cell phones, but it was a crap shoot whether to call them that way if I really had to. Would they bite my head off for using up their limited number of minutes? Why the hell did they give me their number if this was a problem?

But their very existence can be a problem as well. We have all sat in church and have listened to someone's phone go off. We have sat in crowded buses and have listened to some twit prattle on about intimate details of their pitiful lives with others, in such a manner that they never would were that person sitting next to them. Oh, the folly of becoming one of that number!

In the summer of 2004, two events occurred that led me, despite everything, to get a cell phone. One was when Sal had to go to California to find work temporarily. It was clear by that time that we would be in regular contact regardless of where she was, the location in her case being uncertain. The other event was Paul's graduation from high school. No sooner did the child support run out, than her mother eloped and left the area for Cleveland with her new husband, leaving her newly-emancipated son on the street to fend for himself. My thirteen years of financial support relegated me to a small studio apartment in the basement of a family home. I simply had no place to put him, even to sleep for the night. So he stayed with one set of friends or another. That's when I got a cell phone; both for myself, and the two people who meant the most to me. Until his twenty-first birthday, Paul's phone was free of charge. It was the least I could do.

This device became a good means of keeping up with things, not only with friends and associates while out of town, but with my e-mail. Being a writer, and having a number of activities in which people depend on me, it has been a critical factor in being all the more dependable. Yes, I'm at the corner of This Avenue and That Street, so it should be ten minutes. Have this or that ready when I get there. I'm at the exit for the airport. You say you're standing at Gate 7? Is that you in the blue jacket? See me flashing my lights three times? No, I'm not at home, but if you go here and ask for Whats-His-Name, he can help you out. I'm in Ohio all this week, but I'm glad you called. I'll need that thing ready when I get back, and everybody we both know will thank you for it.

And so, the wheels of progress in my universe, for which I am the Wingnut of Choice, keep right on turning.

And my use of it is rarely an annoyance to others. For one thing, I usually keep it on the "vibrate" setting. And when I do have the ringtone one, it is the most innocuous choice I can possibly make. I see no need to broadcast to the rest of the world that someone is trying to get a hold of me, or that I have to be alerted to the news with a digital merengue tune.

There is one other thing. Are you ever speaking with someone, who decides the moment their phone goes off, that you aren't worth talking to? Well, whoever calls me, barring a genuinely anticipated emergency, has to get in line behind the real live person. The pull of technology does not have to be at odds with civility.

When I upgraded to my current provider about a year ago, the service got much better, being the result of careful study. I rarely lose touch with people, nor they with me. My plan also gave me the luxury of not having to be miserly with minutes. It also gave me access to news and weather and what-not, which is very handy when you're standing on the bus and have only one hand free. I can tell someone, okay I'll be picking you up in ten minutes at such-and-such a spot, and it can happen like clockwork. And when Paul is too busy to talk (and running from home to college to his job puts him on the road a lot), I can send a text message, and that's much more convenient than catching him at a bad time, which I otherwise always seem to do. Once or twice, I've amused a young child on the bus, traveling with a parent who has picked them up from day care, with a selection of cartoons on the video channel. I don't use that often, as it doesn't work with a headset of "Bluetooth" earpiece. Would that it did, I'd never carry a book to read. Perhaps it's just as well.

Eventually, it got to where, unlike most people, my cell number was the first number I would give out, and not the last. My home number has become a repository for fly-by-night mortgage companies and people who hang up when I answer. I'm beginning to wonder why I even have a land line at all.

I found out today.

This morning, my cell phone was tucked away in its case, clipped onto my belt, as always. I reached into my cassock and shut it off before proceeding with my duties at Holy Mass. I believe that is the moment when it met its doom, for when I got home today and checked the case, it was gone. Maybe it was the result of carelessness in putting it back into the case while wearing a cassock. Perhaps it was caught in the folds of the garment, and the case did not close securely, in which case I should be more careful. In the meantime, I was able to get to a retail outlet of my provider, where my lost phone has been shut off, and my replacement will be here in a couple of days. By Wednesday morning, all will be as it was before, but for a host of numbers and other data to be re-entered. I learned that I can pay an additional service charge to have any future information stored at a server in some office building somewhere.

There were video clips of some young people dancing a "tinikling" at a Filipino wedding, an outstanding guitar performance of a favorite artist, and "Sal" doing the limbo at a pool party this past summer. Perhaps some thoughtful janitor or Altar Society lady will be moved by Saint Anthony to find it on the floor of the sanctuary or sacristy, and return it to the rectory, where the good Father has already been informed. Otherwise, these memories are gone. I should have sent them to my e-mail inbox as backups. But alas, the convenience of technology has a price, one where we become dependent to the point of a bittersweet return, if any.

After all, how could I tell such a mind-numbing story were it not for this medium? I may yet think of something more intelligent to say. Stay tuned...

[UPDATE: Apparently something like the above did happen. Someone called my cell phone, and a lady from the parish school answered. This discovery was relayed to me, and by Wednesday morning, all was back to normal. Once again, Saint Anthony, the patron of lost items, was on the job.]

Friday, November 02, 2007

Requiem Revisited

November is the month in which the Church devotes herself especially, to the remembrance of those who have died in the previous year. As we remember the communion of saints already "raised to the altar" in Heaven, we also pray for those among the righteous of this life, who nonetheless part from this earth with sufficient imperfections, so as to remain in a state of purification, at the end of which they are released to witness the Beatific Vision, to see their God face to face in Glory. And so, as is said in the Book of Maccabees: "It is a good and holy thought to pray for the dead." The chorus of both the "Church Suffering" (the souls of purgatory) and the "Church Triumphant" (the saints in heaven), along with the choirs of angels, are among the assembled at every Mass with the "Church Militant" (the rest of us).

As we celebrated the Requiem High Mass this evening at Saint John the Beloved, as we listened to Duruflé's Requiem, and the chants foretelling of "that great and terrible day," it brought to mind a tale from my childhood...

The story is told of a man who is dying. His family calls for the parish priest, an old and dear friend of the man. The priest intones the sacred words over the man, who suddenly realizes the end is near. In desperation, he begs the priest, "Father, please, you must remember to pray for me." The priest assures him, "Friend, you know I will." With this assurance, the man breathes his last.

Some time later, the priest is at the altar celebrating Mass. It was in the days when it was common for the priest and the assembled to face the altar in the same direction. They would not have seen the astonishment on the priest's face, as the image of his deceased friend appears before him, and says to the priest, "Father, it has been ten years, and still you have not prayed for me."

The priest, still in amazement, replies, "But, friend, you only died yesterday."

Requiem for the Masses

Another Catholic moment from the 1960s, brought to you by The Association, courtesy of The Smothers Brothers.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

In case you were wondering...

Now that the voting for this year is over, this writer can now tell the awful truth.

You think that's a sad story? This poor man lost all his points when the judges found out that people were voting for him more than once, so he had rally his troops and start over.

Have you people no shame???