Friday, February 29, 2008

Today is the 29th of February, a day which occurs only once every four years. This is to compensate for the fact that it takes 365 1/4 days for the Earth to revolve around the Sun. In his book Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year, David Ewing Duncan describes how the ancient Egyptians developed the system, of how in 238 BC, Ptolemy III ordered an extra day added to the 365-day calendar every four years, roughly two centuries before Julius Caesar ordered the same for the Romans. For today’s Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy, we find a town in Connecticut inhabited by people embroiled in a debate over whether the practice should be continued.

If the Egyptians were to develop a system of measuring time after listening to these morons, they would be hard pressed to reach a conclusion, as neither side makes much sense. Indeed, we might still be having problems with our calendar today. Fortunately, these otherwise hearty New Englanders probably don't venture away from the house much.

Thus civilization marches on with confidence.

“If nominated, I will not run, and if elected, I will not... hey, wait a minute!”

By the time you read this, submissions for nominations for the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards will be over, as of 12:00 noon North American central time today. A number of blogs solicited for support from their readers this year, including those who need the advertising like a hole in the head. This year, I decided not to.

In past years, I cited what I believed to be a faulty premise about the whole idea, which was basically that if you weren't already a famous Catholic writer or speaker, or a priest, you didn't stand much of a chance of nomination anyway. (This was due to a phenomenon to which I have referred as "the formula." If you're in the business of radio, you don't have to ask what that means.) I realize that may be a little harsh, and that the people of CyberCatholics who operate this program every year have nothing but the best of intentions. In fact, they deserve a lot of credit for earning the respect that comes with such awards as this. But this is less about them, than it is about the medium itself. And if that medium is going to be an opportunity for new voices to be heard, we need to stop using the criteria which can only benefit of the same old ones. In other words, we need to level the playing field.

To that end, I'm happy to report that the year of Our Lord 2007 made a liar out of me, as it was a landmark year in the Catholic blogosphere. Several of the most prominent bloggers took a significant change of direction. Amy Welborn, usually touted in Catholic press articles as "the queen of Catholic blogdom" (someone else's quotation, not mine), re-named her blog, and got out of the business of being the perennial source of "church chat" for the rest of us. The result was fewer and even more thought-provoking commentaries, less activity in her comboxes (with a few notable exceptions), and the ability to further concentrate on a successful writing career. The combox of Dom Bettinelli has seen less activity this past year as well, as he distanced himself from reporting on ecclesiastical intrigue, given his new position with the Archdiocese of Boston. Father James Tucker was transferred to the largest parish of his diocese. Besides being a more demanding assignment, he realized that the rest of the Catholic blogosphere was doing what he himself had set out to provide, thus it was time for him to move on. Finally, Toronto writer Kathy Shaidle, who was blogging before blogging as we know it even existed, renamed her own, and took it in a whole new direction. More social-political commentary, less "church chat." Different focus, same bite.

All of these bloggers to this day command the respect of their peers. But after five years of what is affectionately known as "Saint Blog's Parish," and with time marching on, there emerges in their place a new status quo, one less dependent on the conventional publishing media for affirmation. This is a clear sign that the weblog is emerging as an effective means of Catholic witness in its own right.

With the release of the Holy Father's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, the classical form of the Roman Liturgy (popularly known as the "Tridentine Mass" or the "Traditional Latin Mass") is now part of the regular, if juridically extraordinary, worship of the Roman church. Three examples of blogs that specialize in this somewhat arcane subject, have been the source of very timely information, not to mention very lively combox exchanges. One is a group effort headed by my Close Personal Friend Shown Tribe known as The New Liturgical Movement. Another example consists of writers operating under pseudonyms (which seems to bring out the intemperate side of most people, this crowd and their regular commenters being no exception), entitled Rorate Caeli. Last but not least, there is the indefatigable Father John Zuhlsdorf's own What Does The Prayer Really Say? (WDTPRS). And so, we're seeing the continued rise of the "niche blog."

Last year, I gave a very pointed assessment of the Catholic blogosphere:

[T]ry to find an article on "Catholic blogs" that does not mention the same one or two individuals (and you know who you are, dahhh-lings!). My point -- and it is my ONLY point -- is that one cannot claim the internet has come on its own as a tool for getting the Catholic message across. Not when it is predominated by those who are already well established in other related media. And once you concede that, you also have to concede that an award for excellence in that medium may not be saying much.

Ain't I a stinker?

What's more, and with tongue planted firmly in cheek, I used that occasion to give reasons why my readers should NOT vote for me. Despite my pleading, I was nominated (just barely, in some cases, with only my own vote plus one other equally enlightened soul), in eight categories. Since even one vote put you in the hopper, it was nice but... well, you know. Apparently the good people who manage the annual awards do too, as I believe they may be raising the bar this year.

Now, while I've been known to tout my own blog, I generally don't use this occasion to promote anyone else's. This year will be an exception, because a new player has emerged in the Catholic blogosphere, one that breaks the previous conventions, raises this medium to a new level, and manages to be a class act in the process. Creative Minority Report is the creation (was that a pun?) of Matthew and Patrick Archbold, two brothers from Philadelphia with journalistic backgrounds. Now, anybody can link clever one-liners to a story in the Catholic press, and there are some very popular blogs that do, with the usual gaggle of combox junkies. What sets the guys at CMR apart is, they do it WELL. But for that little stint in Cincinnati, where they were guests on the talk show of a Catholic radio station, the Archies don't have a constant book-and-lecture-tour going. In fact, until they cooked up this idea, they were pretty much unknown in the Catholic universe, and they're likely to stay that way, inasmuch as self-aggrandizement is the last thing on their minds. And as if this endeavor were not enough, Patrick appears to have more time on his hands, thus inspiring another blog entitled Summorum Pontificum, devoted strictly to news related to the papal decree for which it is named.

Come to think of it, I can't imagine how these guys make a living while doing such a consistently good job with this Creative Minority thing. Every weekday, every weekend, brings us something new, something fresh, something... well, damned original. They deserve more attention from the rest of you clowns than they already get, quite frankly. Maybe some of the combox junkies can either get a life or get on board the Creative Minority train. They might learn something.

Who knows, if we all keep reading, maybe we'll ALL learn something.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The National Review has noted the passing of its founder, the distinguished conservative columnist William F Buckley. He died while working in his study in Stamford, Connecticut. While the cause of death had not been determined, he had been known to be suffering from both diabetes and emphysema.

Following World War II, Buckley served briefly in the CIA. In a November 2005 editorial in the Review and with his usual erudite witticism, Buckley reflects upon that part of his life:

When in 1951 I was inducted into the CIA as a deep cover agent, the procedures for disguising my affiliation and my work were unsmilingly comprehensive. It was three months before I was formally permitted to inform my wife what the real reason was for going to Mexico City to live. If, a year later, I had been apprehended, dosed with sodium pentothal, and forced to give out the names of everyone I knew in the CIA, I could have come up with exactly one name, that of my immediate boss (E Howard Hunt, as it happened). In the passage of time one can indulge in idle talk on spook life. In 1980 I found myself seated next to the former president of Mexico at a ski-area restaurant. What, he asked amiably, had I done when I lived in Mexico? "I tried to undermine your regime, Mr President." He thought this amusing, and that is all that it was, under the aspect of the heavens.

In a 2002 editorial, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver reflects: "When Pope John XXIII’s encyclical [Mater et Magistra] first came out, the conservative author William Buckley, who didn’t like the Pope’s economics, wrote a famous column called, 'Mater si, Magistra no!' – mother yes, teacher no. That led Louise and Mark Zwick to characterize him in the Houston Catholic Worker as 'the inventor of cafeteria Catholicism and the pro-choice stance (at least in economics), who accepted encyclicals he agreed with and rejected others.' I think they’re right." [NOTE: It has since been brought to our attention, that there is more to this account than is generally disseminated, as can be found by clicking here.] Be that as it may, Buckley later lamented the changes to the liturgy, and the loss of the sacred, in the years following the Second Vatican Council.

This writer's favorite aspect of Buckley's legacy was the PBS news-talk program Firing Line, in which scholars and statesmen alike were counted among his guests. A notable feature of his program would be that of the "Designated Challenger," in which a journalist or pundit, often of distinctly liberal persuasion, would interview Buckley from amidst the audience. It was a mark of intellectual courage and honesty, so rare in the mainstream media today, for a man to permit being grilled with such vigor on his own show.

He proved his mettle in other fora as well, as can be seen in a 1968 ABC-TV appearance with Gore Vidal. [NEXT-DAY UPDATE: The original clip showing Buckley vs Vidal was removed, due to concerns over certain expletives spoken in the heat of the moment, for which our subject might not wish to be remembered, as he meets his Maker. Featured in its stead is this one-hour retrospective produced by Charlie Rose just last year. It shows highlights of several Buckley interviews, some with additional guests, all in the spirit of witty reparteƩ.]

In addition, we are pleased to feature Agent Intellect, who reflects on WFB, in a piece entitled "William F Buckley Jr on Jesus’ Resurrection." It is well worth reading.

Buckley was 82 upon his death. He was preceded last year by his wife, the former Patricia Taylor. He is survived by a son, Christopher, and two grandchildren.

Monday, February 25, 2008

How Then Shall We Live?

You may notice a new link with "The Usual Suspects," entitled "Building Catholic Communities." While I did not come up with the idea myself, it is the potential culmination of an endeavor that I have researched over the last fifteen years.

Jeff Culbreath makes a formidable case for the resettlement of traditional Catholics, seeking a way of life in harmony with their Faith, in a revived post from his former El Camino Real, now republished at Catholic Restorationists. He explains what needs to be done, and why. He is less clear as to how. This is to be expected. It is a lot like "belling the cat." All the mice agree on the need to be alerted as to the feline's presence. But the wise old mouse among them calls their attention to the obvious: who will place the bell around the cat's neck?

One very telling remark in the comments to this post quoted C S Lewis from an essay entitled First and Second Things: "Every preference of a small good to a great, or a partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice was made." To put it another way, "You can’t get second things by putting them first: you can get second things only by putting first things first."

As with most achievements in life, there is an element of risk. Every now and then, a Catholic lifestyle discussion list would make what they ironically refer to as "a modest proposal" in order to "build community" and what-not. But nothing ever came of these proposals. A few years ago, a serious one was fielded by yours truly, on such a list. Out of over one hundred participants, only one response was received, from a guy who said it would never work. At the time, he was right.

Even so, there is on occasion where one ambitious homesteader relocates his growing family to a rural location, declaring that he has found the solution for himself and his kin. While this is a noble endeavor, it fails to take into account the need of living within proximity to others. We can migrate in our converted vans from one parish to another in search of the sacred, like so many Lost and Homeschooled Children of Israel. But at the end of the journey, we have returned to our suburban homes, safely tucked away amidst the cul-de-sacs. From our attached garages, we transition safely to our homes, never having to see or meet our neighbors, with the added insulation of our half-acre lawns, which usually produce little more than pollen. From within these manicured walls, we pat ourselves on the back for having thrown the television away, secure in the knowledge that we have defeated the enemy in the culture wars. But there we are, complaining of how our surroundings, our schools, our parishes, are harming the souls of our children, even as we are loathe to give them up by relocating.

In an article published some years ago for the Society of Saint John, writer Thomas Storck pointed out the difference between European farming settlements and their American counterparts. In Europe, a farming village is established for those who till the soil, surrounded by their fields. This is consistent with a Catholic mindset of interdependency as a form of communiity. In America, where the Protestant "me and Jesus" mentality prevailed during the westward expansion, farms were settled in isolation from one another. A man's own stake in the land effectively kept his neighbors away. How then to serve his neighbor at such a distance?

In Denmark, people who were disillusioned with the state of post-industrial housing in their country, developed a concept in the 1960s known as the "bofaellesskaber," or "living community." Residents would maintain private homes, but would have common facilities for the sharing of meals, childcare, workshop equipment, and the like. In the early 1970s, two California architects named Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett visited several of these developments. Upon their return to the states, they published a book entitled Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves. Far from a pie-in-the-sky concept, there are now nearly eighty cohousing developments already completed in the USA, and another one hundred in the planning stages.

The very idea of cohousing could draw upon Catholicism for its inspiration. In his 1517 book Utopia, St Thomas More describes such an arrangement, with a group of hosueholds sharing child care and other tasks.

There are several characteristics that distinguish cohousing from other types of housing developments. It is generally a collaborate effort; conceived, designed, and constructed with the involvement of the future residents themselves. There is a large "common house" in a central location. The settlement is "pedestrian-friendly," as houses are grouped so that people can walk from one place to another, with automotive traffic arranged at a safe yet convenient distance.

Cohousing does not require official ecclesiastical sanction, and if groups of aging hippies with little in common aside from a vague spirituality and some sort of "vision" can do it, so can traditional Catholics who have a whole way of life to bind them. In fact, the needs of home school families for a "co-operative" are more than satisfied in this arrangement. In addition to a common house and workshop, there may also be erected a private oratory, in the hopes that it may one day be used for the celebration of Mass. Even if this never happened (and the realities of the role of the local Church make this unlikely), it would demonstrate the proper focus that is to permeate a society, even at such a scale as this.

Imagine if you will, a village of two or three dozen households, some with large families. Their children are taught at home, but they meet in the common house for the weekly "co-op." While some breadwinners commute to the city during the week, there are numerous cottage industries and others who work out of their homes. Some families have one- or two-acre farms in the land surrounding the village proper. During the week, they operate a roadside produce stand. Every Wednesday, people from the surrounding area converge for a weekly "farmers market." On Friday evening, the residents meet in the oratory for Vespers. On Saturday night, there is an Irish ceili or a swing dance in the common house. People come from the vicinity, attracted to an alternative to the bars and saloons in town. The grownups celebrate together, while the younger children play, and the older children gather and kibbutz however they wish. On Sunday, unless they must attend a nearby parish, Mass is held (only once) in the oratory. The rest of the day is devoted to... well, rest. In late afternoon, dinner is held in the common house, and everybody pitches in.

What has been described here is not theoretical or a pipe dream. In one form or another, it already exists throughout North America. But it is not without its pitfalls. The drive for consensus building that is native to cohousing is in constant tension with progress. Some communities might find themselves adjusting their leadership models accordingly. Even with a strong leadership, there have been earlier attempts at creating a "Catholic community" that have failed. The charismatic "covenant communities" in Ann Arbor and Steubenville developed a role for lay "elders" that ignored a Catholic understanding of the autonomy of the family, and devolved from a Catholic milieu to one resembling a cult. The Society of Saint John, while they were still located in Pennsylvania, effectively proposed to recreate Tuscany on a hillside in the Poconos, without regard for the agrarian base essential to the building of Christendom in the Middle Ages, including such places as Tuscany. There was also a need for millions of dollars for the infrastructure, which to some degree ignored the value of human capital. Why build your own civilization, if you can simply hire someone to do it for you, and never get your own hands dirty? At present, a grand scheme in Florida for building a "Catholic town" adjoining a university, is in fact little more than a high-priced suburb, bearing little if any resemblance to a "town" in the traditional sense. For all the obsession over whether contraceptives or pornographic magazines would be sold there, the question that was never asked was: why would there be a demand for either in a "Catholic" community to begin with?

Detractors will make much of the resemblance to "communes" associated with bohemian types of the late 60s and early 70s. Such people did not invent the idea of living in common. Nor is cohousing as much like a hippie commune as an intentional neighborhood. Many towns and villages throughout the USA were settled in a manner that is not dissimilar to what is explained here. We simply got used to developers doing it for us.

The result is a society of people who have to get into a car and drive two miles to pick up a quart of milk. Sticking a Romanesque church in the middle of it all, surrounded by a Wal-Mart-sized parking lot, will do nothing to change such a wasteful way of life.

Be all that as it may, I submit that the cohousing model represents the most effective one for the rebuilding of a Catholic society at the human scale. Such an endeavor has been unrealized until now for various reasons. What these reasons have in common, perhaps, are a disregard for what it means to love our neighbor. So we clog the discussion lists and the blogosphere with wishful thinking, that we can somehow "build community" without breaking a sweat, or changing the way we live.

One wonders how any civilization worth preserving ever got off the ground in the first place.

Moving Day

I had just gotten over a cold or flu or whatever it was, and our office has been told that its renovation is imminent.

We moved into this space back in 1990. Since then, the network could use a serious upgrade. Our individual workspaces could be a little larger and more efficient, and the common-use area needs to be more spacious. The previous "experts" didn't know jack about planning space for a commercial studio. But we finally got the right people's attention.

So I've spent the last three or four days packing away books, software, and other equipment. I found personnel records dating back fifteen years, back when this place wasn't exactly a Garden of Eden. It's funny to look back on all that now, knowing it could never happen again. Closer to the present, today I take down the computer. For two weeks starting tomorrow, I'll be working from home. That's when I cough up the funds for a combination copier/printer/scanner for the home. A colleague recommended them, and they're quite affordable now. It will be nice to finally have a printer in the house.

Meanwhile, I'm slightly behind the eight-ball here, so...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

Walter Burghardt SJ

Rocco Palmo reports on the passing yesterday, of the Jesuit priest Walter Burghardt, a former professor at Woodstock and Georgetown University. He was 95.

His funeral will be this Wednesday at Holy Trinity Church, also in Georgetown, which is staffed by the Jesuits. Burkhardt was a regular fixture there. I was a sacristan at Holy Trinity in the early 1990s, and he was one of the many priests whom I served. I cannot defend his lack of fortitude regarding certain "hard teachings" of the Church. He once lamented to me that people would take him to task for not speaking more forcefully against abortion; I used that moment to ask him, well, why don't you? In spite of his human failings, he was a gentleman of scholarly bearing, which is more than I could say for at least a few of his Companions. Inasmuch as the parish was going through a bit of turmoil in those days (which author Jim Naughton later described in a book, Catholics in Crisis: An American Parish Fights for Its Soul), he was one of the better-behaved priests around at the time. It was a pleasure to serve him.

He is deserving of our prayers. He could probably use them. Like most of us.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Obligatory Valentine’s Day Story

The gals in my class were commenting that more women than men get presents on this day. They insisted that this is the way it should be. Who am I to argue? I was lucky to be in class at all. I've been out sick the last couple of days, and thought I'd risk avoiding the usual "unexcused absence." I'm not sure it was a good idea. "Sal" came over later today, and made a tea from boiling ginger root. It might have worked.

Those for whom today is just another day, may find comfort in a recent editorial by Nancy Gibbs for TIME Magazine:

[T]he idea of 8-year-olds' celebrating a holiday that shimmies into view wearing a negligee does seem odd. But consider the huge commercial stakes... For this we can thank Esther Howland, an entrepreneurial 1847 Mount Holyoke grad, whose father owned a stationery store and who came up with the idea of mass-producing valentines. The Mother of the Valentine never married but did get very rich, racking up annual sales equivalent to more than $2 million today.

It gets better.

(Illustration by Hadley Hooper for TIME. Used without permission or shame.)

Monday, February 11, 2008


I only watched some of it last night. Wasn't quite as pathetic as last year, but just pathetic enough to ignore most of the Skank-a-polooza. Granted, it was less so than in previous years, if only because of the flashbacks to performers like Frank Sinatra, and tributes to veterans who are still with us like Tony Bennett. [UPDATE: I forgot to mention Kanye West's unexpected tribute to his mother. Didn't know the man had that much class. Such is the power of motherhood. God bless them all!] Whatever happens the night before, I check the winners in the news the next day. Until now, I could never find a place where the nominees were listed along with them. But here it is:

As usual, Jimmy Sturr won Best Polka Album. It's been like all but one or two of the last almost-thirty years now. Nice to see David Bromberg showing up in the Traditional Folk category again. Personally, I would have preferred Geno Delafose over Terrence Simien for Best Cajun/Zydeco Album (a fairly recent and most welcome category), now that Simien has sold out and become more of a show band than a dance band. (I can always tell.) It's encouraging to see as many categories for Classical and Opera as there are. When I was a kid, they got at least five or ten minutes of airplay on the show. Now they're lucky to get grips-and-grins in a slide show. Of course, this year they added a new twist, as two budding young violinists and an equally budding young celloist were auditioned for the crowd to text message their vote -- for what, I don't know. But unless I'm mistaken, this was the cello player.

Pretty awesome, huh?

Career Examen

Lent is usually associated with giving up something, like candy or pizza or other indulgences of the appetites. But it is also a time for self-examination. Yesterday was the First Sunday of Lent. In the Roman Calendar, the Gospel of that day tells us of how Christ is led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the Evil One. Our priest-celebrant yesterday mentioned how St Thomas Aquinas tells us, that the three temptations which Our Lord faced, sums up all temptations that befall our human condition. Be that as it may, we usually categorize our serious wrongdoing into seven categories, known as the "seven deadly sins." Each has a corresponding virtue. For example, the worst of the deadly sins is pride, as it leads to the other sins. The corresponding virtue is humility, which leads to the other virtues.

Pride is also one of the "seven career killers" described in a recent article: "At least seven 'deadly workplace sins' detail key emotional offenses professionals should avoid at all costs to better assure upward career mobility. A few common sense tips will help aspiring pros get on the path to the ever-elusive paycheck promise land." Author John McKee is founder and president of, and is the author of "Career Wisdom - 101 Proven Strategies to Ensure Workplace Success" and "21 Ways Women in Management Shoot Themselves in the Foot." He might be on to something; among the pitfalls listed are pride, envy, anger, and lust.

They can be found on at least one other list.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Obligatory Response to Hillary’s “35 Years of Experience”

"I think America's ready for a woman president... just not THAT woman. Being married to somebody doesn't make you good at THEIR job. I've been with my wife ten years now. If she got up here right now, y'all wouldn't laugh. At all. You get on a plane tomorrow, you want the pilot's wife flying you?"

-- Chris Rock, during the comedian's New Year's Eve performance at Madison Square Garden, as quoted in the February 2008 premiere issue of Townhall magazine.

Friday, February 08, 2008

I'm going to be at CPAC tomorrow morning, just to see what's going on like I did last year, maybe finally meet those wild and crazy guys at Hot Air. Meanwhile, for our Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy, David Letterman does Mitt Romney.

What more is there to say?

If you scroll to the very bottom of this page... obviously don't have anything better to do. But you'll also find a new feature here at mwbh, in the form of a "Quote of the Day" that is changed... well, daily.

Does the English language really need the letter X?

In the midst of the burning issues of politics and religion in our time, only a publication as bold as The Christian Science Monitor has the conviction to wade through the flotsam in the mainstream media, and challenge us to ponder the things that impact upon all of us:

When pirates unfurled their treasure maps, it was X and not Q that marked the spot. And when a phenomenon exists, or is postulated to exist, which defies the imagination or is, at first, poorly grasped, we use an X to denote the limits of our understanding: X-rays, planet X, The X-Files.

There are those things that affect our daily lives, in ways we cannot imagine. Especially when there's nothing better to think about.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Misery Me!

Today, Christendom in the west begins the great fast known as Lent, on this day which is known as Ash Wednesday.

If you ever wonder about the origins of the old English expression which entitles this piece, you need look no further than Psalm 50 (or Psalm 51 in the, uh, Protestant numerology). The renowned setting of "Miserere Mei, Deus" was composed by Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), and is a Lenten staple of fine choirs around the world. This one is presented by the Schola Romana Ensemble:

Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness:

Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.
According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et peccato meo munda me.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

Ecce enim in inquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam: et exsultabunt ossa humiliata.
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dele.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Ne projicias me a facie tua: et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

Redde mihi laetitiam salutaris tui: et spiritu principali confirma me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Docebo iniquos vias tuas: et impii ad te convertentur.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae: et exsultabit lingua mea justitiam tuam.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

Domine, labia mea aperies: et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique: holocaustis non delectaberis.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum, et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion: ut aedificentur muri Jerusalem.
Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

Tunc acceptabis sacrificium justitiae, oblationes, et holocausta: tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.
Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

Everything you could possibly want to know about this composition can be found at Ancient Groove Music. A "sing-along" edition, in two parts, has been assembled by Michael Lawrence at The New Liturgical Movement. As to the English corruption mentioned earlier, it may be found in the song "I have a song to sing Oh!" from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeoman of the Guard...

Heighdy! heighdy!
Misery me — lack-a-day-dee!
He sipped no sup, and he craved no crumb,
As he sighed for the love of a ladye!

...if you're into that sort of thing.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Two Big Days (for the Price of One)

Today, Christians around the world, especially Catholics, anticipate the beginning of the Lenten season with Shrove Tuesday (the origin of which can be found here), also known in French as "Mardi Gras," or "Fat Tuesday." In New Orleans, and in smaller cities throughout Louisiana, the festivities began on the weekend. (The latter, especially in the southwestern part of the state, tend to be more family-oriented affairs, as opposed to the decadent celebrations in the Big Easy.) In South America, major cities have been reveling in "Carnival" for several days now. I used to take Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning off, for what I listed as "pre-Lenten religious observances." It hasn't been as convenient these days. C'est la vie.

Here in the USA, today is also "Super Tuesday," where in roughly half the states of the union, the political parties choose delegates for the various candidates for the Presidency. Virginia is not one of them, or I'd be putting my vote in for the lesser of several evils, which would be Ron Paul. Don't sound so surprised. It's only because Fred Thompson dropped out, and besides, I voted for third-party candidates in 2000 and 2004 anyway. That's what I do when the other two guys are too much alike.

I forgot to wear beads today, so my Director gave me some of his. I have a whole box of them back home, though, including some with flashing lights. It would have created quite a stir in class, eh?

Meanwhile, let's watch James Carville and Bill Frist, two of the more animated Beltway boys, try to get along in this ad that ran during the Super Bowl.

Monday, February 04, 2008


You could write it off as the consequence of growing up... well, socially challenged. But while as a boy, I played baseball, football, and basketball in the neighborhood with all the other guys (and a few of the girls), I was never particularly good at it. Nor was I knowledgeable in the finer points of any of the games, much less conversant on the subject of professional competition. But last night, I watched the Super Bowl along with nearly 100 million other viewers. At first, it was to see the commercials. Not only have I always been interested in this highest form of creative advertising, but we've been talking about it in class this term. But then the rest of it got interesting.

I did manage to see the New York Giants more memorable moments, like when number 72, whoever that was (or was it Micheal Strahan?), sacked Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady in the third quarter, as if nothing in the world could stop him. And who could forget that completion in the end zone by Plaxico Burress, with only seconds left in the game, that finally clinched the title for the Giants?

Some would call the victory one of poetic justice. The Patriots had been the subject of a cheating scandal early in what would be an undefeated record. A win in the Super Bowl would have been the second perfect season since the Miami Dolphins in 1972. On the other hand, New York got creamed in their first two games, such that the owners were ready to throw out a coach with a heretofore winning record, until his impassioned speech to them persuaded them otherwise. Everybody in the Giants skybox was glad they backed that horse before the day was done.

Most of us forget the role that football has played in the American Catholic heritage. But Gerald Korson of Catholic Online remembers, and has shared with us the top ten Catholic heroes of the great match: "Professional football was long considered a 'Catholic' sport, drawing rugged players from the working class blue-collar immigrant families of which a good percentage were at least culturally Catholic." (h/t to Rich Leonardi.) When Saint Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth, in a city where the Greco-Roman games were immensely popular, he compared the quest for victory over eternal death with preparing for an athletic match. The discipline, the training, the anticipation, the honor of meeting an adversary on the field of battle -- these are the things that inspire one to greatness, both on and off the field.

Let's roll that clip one more time -- maybe not a "Hail Mary pass," but at least worthy of a "Glory Be!!!"

(POSTSCRIPT: The best place on the internet to review all this year's Super Bowl commercials, as well as see how they rated with the audience, is at USA Today. You can also see them at YouTube, as well as at a special My Space page.)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Candlemas Day (or, Why Punxatauney Phil is a Catholic)

[The following is a reprint from 2003. Keep in mind that the occasion in question fell on a Sunday that year. Hey, there's midterms to study for, so we're cutting a few corners around here. What's a poor boy to do??? -- DLA]

"When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord."
(Luke 2:22-24)

This coming Sunday, February 2nd, the Roman Calendar observes the Feast of the Purification of Our Lord (Candlemas), exactly forty days after Christmas. In some traditions, the Christmas season officially ends with this day, and preparation for Lent can begin. Throughout the Catholic world, the faithful will process in and around their churches bearing lighted candles, which are blessed for the coming year.

About once every eleven years or so, the observance falls on a Sunday. (That means, Padre, that there's no excuse for you to slack off this year. Give these folks a dog and pony show worth remembering!)

The origin of this feast is described in detail, in this excerpt from the classic work of Dom Prosper GuƩranger entitled The Liturgical Year.

In addition, Duncan Maxwell Anderson of HMS Blog provides guidance on customs of the season, as well as suggestions for family celebrations. Included are some fun facts about the real origins of Groundhog Day:

"In Catholic Europe, they say that if Candlemas is clear and bright, there will be six more weeks of winter. In Germany, this idea became, 'If the bear comes out and sees his shadow, he will grumpily go back into his cave, and winter will last another six weeks.'

"Then this feat of prediction was ascribed to German badgers.

"And since badgers are not found in the eastern U.S., German immigrants to this country were obliged to depend for meteorological guidance on a species of marmot called by the Indians 'weejak' or woodchuck, also called... the groundhog.

"This Sunday, if Punxatawney Phil sticks his nose out, you tell me if he isn't carrying a candle-holder. He's Catholic, you know."

You just can't argue with reasoning like that, eh?

Friday, February 01, 2008

In real life, Metronomy is Joseph Mount, an electronic artist from Brighton in the UK. In live performances, he is joined by Gabriel Stebbing (bass, keyboards) and Oscar Cash (saxophone, keyboards). He also does some remix work in his spare time. For this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy, we catch our three wonder boys in a colorful mood, on a cloudy rainy miserable day before Groundhog Day. "The sun'll come out... tomorrow."

Talkin’ ‘Bout Your G-G-G-Generation!

If you're between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, are enrolled full-time in college (especially if it's an art or design program), and you're reading this right now, maybe you can help me out with something.

My classes at the Art Institute have taken an unfortunate turn. For the first three years, the camaraderie was great. But then most of them graduated. The past year has consisted mostly of guys who barely speak a word to me, and gals who don't even know I'm there. That takes a certain amount of effort when the average class size is a dozen, and you're having critiques of each other's work at one time or another. The last quarter was the worst. I had an instructor whom I've come to respect over the years. But the class was disrupted by one fellow who kept coming in late, arguing with the professor, and laughing in her face when she tried to correct him. For an experienced professional with a desire to learn, it was unbearable. At one point, I attempted to intervene, threatening to take the matter "to the next level" if it didn't cease. (I did not specify what that meant, nor did I have to.) The professor got defensive with me and left the room, but later came back and apologized (for which she gets credit where it's due), the troublemaker found a way to blame ME for the incident (and should consider a career selling oceanfront properties in Arizona), and one of his classmates could only say, "Dude, you'd better watch the way you talk to her, man." As a sign of my great benevolence, Surfer Boy left the class that day with a full set of teeth.

Did I mention I have a 3.6 GPA?

That's when I decided to drop the associate's degree program, in favor of the diploma option. I love the assignments I'm doing, and I enjoy the prospect of a career transformation in midlife. I have nothing but disdain for professors who demand from me what they cannot demand from themselves, and hide behind their piss-ant titles when they're (politely) called on it. Do they think I'm some punk-ass kid who's still wet behind the ears? I was cutting my teeth as a designer when most of them didn't know a point from a pica. Yet in class, I give them the deference and decorum their position requires. (No, I don't lord my experience over my classmates; that would be too easy.) But my patience with their bureaucratic buffoonery is wearing thin. One less year of this crap, and I can move on by this time next year. But not before...

This quarter I'm enrolled in a class taught by another department entitled "Marketing Basics." The instructor is the Advertising department head, she actually loves the subject and teaches it like she knows it, and the twenty other people in the class are mostly women. Most of them actually talk to me as if I am just another student, and they laugh at most of my jokes (completely unaware of what a sucker I am for any woman who does that). After we split into groups of four to role-play as competing ad agencies, two of the women came up to me and said they would have wanted me in their group. (???) I'm actually enjoying myself, I don't have to take extra medication before walking into the room (Don't ask!), and I don't wake up with a start in the middle of the night.

Paul (who's reading this now and shaking his head, for reasons known only to him) tells me a number of his friends read this blog from time to time. I hope they're reading this now, because I'm talking to them too. It doesn't happen often, but it's from them as well that I could use a little guidance here.

NOW... here's my question: Is it me, or is it them?