Monday, March 31, 2008

Mary in the Qur’an

Robert Spencer of Hot Air provides this account of how Muslims view the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as John the Baptist:

Mary still suffers the pains of childbirth (v. 23) – while in some Christian traditions she does not, since those are the result of the sin (Genesis 3:16) that Jesus is taking upon himself and expiating (I Corinthians 15:22). Here, Mary gives birth to Jesus under a palm tree (not in a manger as in Luke 2:7) as Allah comforts her in her pains with dates (vv. 24-26). A voice cries out from beneath her, “Grieve not! For thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee” (v. 24); Ibn Abbas, Sa‘id bin Jubayr, Ad-Dahhak, ‘Amr bin Maymun, As-Suddi and Qatadah say this was Gabriel, while Mujahid, Al-Hasan, and Abdul-Rahman bin Zayd say it was the baby Jesus, who speaks soon enough anyway (vv. 30-33).

Today being the transferred feast of the Annunciation, it makes for interesting reading. And speaking of Islam, we've got a little surprise tomorrow. Stay tuned...

The Boys of Summer Are Back!

I began my first job when I was in the fourth grade, delivering The Cincinnati Enquirer early in the morning. I must have been out of my mind. But it did have its benefits. If I got five new daily customers early in the year, I got two tickets to the Opening Day game, to watch the Cincinnati Reds play at the old Crosley Field.

In those days, such an opportunity was considered an acceptable absence from school. After all, the first professional team for "the national pastime" were the only ones truly worthy of calling their inaugural match "Opening Day" (the outrageous claims of Messrs Bettinelli and Sullivan notwithstanding). I remember the "red hots," which had an aroma unlike any other hot dogs I had ever known. I remember an older gentleman in a dark suit and tie, who stood up and removed his hat when the organ played "My Old Kentucky Home." There were no big-@$$ video screens, no between-inning dance grooves to keep us in a constant state of amusement. It was only baseball, the way the game was meant to be played, in a place that had the history of the game written all over it.

Last night, the President threw the first pitch at the brand-spanking-now Nationals Field in Washington, DC. Big deal. (People were actually booing him as he walked on to the field. Harry Truman was about as popular.) Last week, I got a call from an old buddy who used to work at my agency, and now he's retired. We're gonna get tickets to watch the Nationals get their @$$es kicked by the Reds. Not that's what I call a night on the town!

And for what it's worth, I've learned to love the big-@$$ video screens. I just hope the Reds get it together this season. I miss "The Big Red Machine" from 1975. "It was a very good year..."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Today is Easter Friday. For this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy, we have an imaginative solution to all that leftover Easter candy hanging around the house. (Kids, don't try this at home, or your parents will come crying to me, which would really tick me off, and that would be bad.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Obligatory “Chelsea Moment”

Chelsea Clinton is on the campaign trail for Mama. She got asked about the Monica thing. Not sure what the question was, but it doesn't matter. “Wow, you’re the first person actually that’s ever asked me that question in the, I don’t know maybe, 70 college campuses I’ve now been to, and I do not think that is any of your business.” Naturally, we believe her when she says it's the "first person." At least until the next video clip turns up.

Now, if Daddy were a private citizen in this context, she would be right. But Daddy was a public servant and on the job during the incident(s) in question. That makes it everybody's business. I should know, because I'm a public servant. if you're an American citizen reading this right now, that makes MY public conduct while on the job YOUR business.

And I'm not even elected. Do you think it applies any less to someone who is???

It would more appropriate to say, “The incident in question concerns a public official while performing the duties of their office. I was only a child at the time. The question therefore becomes a family matter, for which I choose not to comment publicly.” Meanwhile, all the brain-dead people in the crowd cheered her on -- perhaps not so much for her parents, as for the little girl caught in the middle.

Then again, Chelsea is a big girl now, and it's a whole new ball game. If Mama gets elected and manages to serve two terms in office, Chelsea would then be of age to run herself, and this wonderful dynasty over which everybody is so ga-ga, would continue until most Baby Boomers are dead. If this is in the family game plan, our little princess needs to learn how to lie better than her parents.

Who knows, we might actually get tired of making excuses for them by then. (h/t to Hot Air.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Buchanan: The “Isms” That Bedevil Bush

Patrick Buchanan is one of the most brilliant political minds on the American scene. He understands how the past has shaped the present, and how knowing that can assure a brighter future. He understands this as very, very, few of the talking-heads today understand it, which is why I voted for him to be President on a third party ticket in 2000, and why I wish he'd run again.

In this piece from Human Events, Buchanan takes the President to task over his recent complaints from the realm of public opinion: "I'm troubled by isolationism and protectionism ... (and) another 'ism,' and that's nativism. And that's what happened throughout our history. And probably the most grim reminder of what can happen to America during periods of isolationism and protectionism is what happened in the late -- in the '30s, when we had this America First policy and Smoot-Hawley. And look where it got us."

Bush doesn't really do his homework, so he's quick work for someone who does:

First, America was never isolationist. From its birth, the republic was a great trading nation with ties to the world. True, in 1935, 1936 and 1937, a Democratic Congress passed and FDR signed neutrality acts to keep us out of the Italo-Abyssinian and Spanish civil wars. And FDR did say, "We are not isolationist except insofar as we seek to isolate ourselves completely from war." But how did staying out of Abyssinia and Spain hurt America?

Sadly, Pat's not running in '08. I have to choose from the lesser of two (or more) evils. Wish me luck.

Where is Dan Rather when you need him?

I just got word of this account of Hillary Clinton's "experience," courtesy of the Drudge Report. My favorite quotation is that of the guy from Politico. Believe it or not, I usually don't read Drudge. That could change. Developing...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Random Thoughts and Celtic Knots for Holy Week and Beyond

The editor interviewing me looked at samples of my work, and asked me, "So, when do you get to the point here?"

Sometimes I wonder why I have to. That's why they're called "random thoughts." Do I need to make just one point? Can't I have several? Do people really lose a train of thought when a writer (or a speaker, for that matter) goes from one message to another?

Didn't think so.

It has been a week since I've posted. I have a perfectly good explanation. And judging from the results of this year's Catholic Blog Awards, most of you have taken the news very well. The rest of you were probably like myself; too busy during Holy Week to care.

And another thing. Holy Week is also the reason that March 17th was NOT Saint Paddy's Day this year. You see, the Irish merely THINK they have a claim on him just because he's their patron saint. They don't. In fact, the man known as "Patrick" was not even Irish. Maganus Sucatus (his real name) was a Briton of Roman ancestry, born near what is now Dumbarton in Scotland. This would mean that the Scots have more of a claim to him than the Irish, and even that's not saying much, as he was neither a Celt nor a Pict. But he was (make that IS) a Catholic. And that is what we celebrated on his Feast Day. As a Catholic, he himself would defer to Monday of Holy Week. So the feast was moved to the 15th. Or April 1st. Depending on whether you followed the universal calendar or the one adapted to the Dioceses of Ireland. Or the traditional or reformed calendar. And assuming you were paying attention.

Now, about that explanation...

Back in my younger days, I would be prowling the streets of Cincinnati about this time of year, regardless of what was happening in church. Not that I ever missed Mass, mind you. I just had a different set of priorities. And a lot of great friends. I've still got those to this day. The nucleus of Cincinnati's Irish band Silver Arm are Cindy and Steve Matyi (pronounced MAY-tee). We used to hang at places like Arnold's on 8th Street downtown (one of the cities oldest saloons, which to this day is still "authentic" enough not to have air-conditioning), and a little uptown haunt called Hap's Irish Pub, which got super-crowded every year for the big weekend. Anyway, I was at the Matyi's place this past summer. "Sal" couldn't make it, so with the cell phone on speaker mode, we set her up with a chair, and gave her an alternative to karaoke that I'm sure she'll remember. I'd like to think it sounded like The Chieftains performing in a Westport pub owned by a band member. The clip in this paragraph is from a DVD the band made for its "Water from the Well" album.

But alas, this year was different.

For the first time in many years, I forsook the celebration of Easter at the little Byzantine Rite church where Paul was baptized and chrismated. This past week, I was the Master of Ceremonies for Holy Week celebrations at St John the Beloved in McLean. I had to supervise one or two dozen altar boys at any given time, for Palm Sunday, Tenebrae on the night of Spy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday. Tenebrae was the simplest in format, but we had most of the altar servers of the parish there, nearly thirty of them. While the Sunday Masses were in the Traditional Use of the Roman Rite (the "Tridentine," if you will), the celebrations from Wednesday through Saturday used the Reformed missal (commonly referred to as the "Novus Ordo" by people other than myself). But all were celebrated "ad orientem" ("facing East," mistakenly known as "the priest's back to the people), and all used both English and Latin.

(Okay, everybody with me so far?)

Easter Vigil was the most difficult, especially when you have to switch from the Latin to the English missal. The Latin edition of the reformed missal is one I've never used before. As an MC, finding the priest's place at any one time is critical, and I was not used to the layout of this book. Fortunately, I was able to identify the leaders among the young men. Two of the older guys served as my assistants "in pectore," as we discussed personnel and choreography in advance for each occasion. I'd say most of the time we pulled it off, in a manner that would do the Papal Courts proud. For the great Vigil of the Christian year, nothing caught fire that was not supposed to, the giant Easter Candle wasn't dropped, and nobody got hurt. Our pastor is a demanding, no make that challenging taskmaster (who is reading this now, and this isn't news to him), but only because the Greater Glory of God demands the finest.

When it was over, I attended an Easter dinner party, where I finally got to relax.

But not before what happened on Friday morning. I had an interview with a Cajun band from Louisiana. We met at a restaurant. I wish I could tell you more, but the video clip above (the third one) will have to speak for me. It should be coming soon to a webzine near you. As to how Easter appeared in McLean, there are no photographs of which I am aware. But we did have Dvorak's Mass in D, with a full orchestra on Sunday morning. The closest I can find is this performance of the Choir of Lichfield Cathedral. (h/t to Michelle.)

Christus resurrexit, sicut dixit. Alleluia!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Celtic Knots

Today is the 17th of March. But it's not Saint Patrick's Day. To find out why, stay tuned...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bill O’Reilly Explains It All For You

If you don't live in a cave, you have already heard of the resignation of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer last Wednesday, after a scandal erupted involving himself and a high-priced call girl. Leaving aside that the press didn't let a Democrat off the hook for this one (a remarkable sign of even-handedness in itself), Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly reveals the story behind the story, and the man behind the image:

So you're telling me that Eliot Spitzer thought he wouldn't get caught? Sure, and I'm Paris Hilton.

That we are often our own worst enemy, is a universal bane of the human condition.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Problem Is Not In Your Set

Recently, it's been necessary to make some changes, so that mwbh is easier for the typical viewer to load. Reducing the number of days/posts visible on the front page is a start. With the increased use of video clips from YouTube and the like, we've taken to reducing the size of some of them. You'll see that happen more often.

Now, I could use your help with something which occasionally drives me nuts. Two of you in particular.

Gerald Augustinus of The Cafeteria is Closed has recently had his two millionth visitor. That's amazing when you consider he's only been up for just under three years. It's even more amazing when you consider that it takes a gazillion years for his page to load on any given day. (Not today; I got lucky.)

Mark Shea of Catholic and Enjoying It! has what is probably the most pro-active fan base in the history of the internet. When he took time out to write a book a couple of years ago, he didn't post for several months. The last comments box was continuously updated from when he stopped posting, to when he started again. Now if that isn't devotion, I don't know what is. Add to that my having to force-quit my web browser twice this morning, in a vain attempt to bask in his wit and wisdom, and it makes me wish I could visit Seattle more often. (No kidding; Mark is the best tour guide!)

I should be clear that there is no ill will in doing this, but I know of no other way. Both these guys have done a great service in telling the Catholic message, and keeping people informed of events in the Culture Wars. Under the circumstances, I'd just LOVE to know how. Maybe their insights -- and those of their regular viewers -- would be really helpful to me personally. Not to mention anyone else with the same problem.

By the way, I have a Macintosh G4 at home with a broadband connection, and a Mac G5 at the office with a T1 connection. Both operate with MacOS 10.4. The problem ain't at this end, so...

Stay in touch.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Random Thoughts for Passiontide

Today is the Fifth Sunday of Lent. In the traditional calendar, this is the beginning of "Passiontide." In the churches, the crosses and statuary are covered with purple veils. This is in remembrance of the Gospel account read on this day (John 8: 46-59). The Jewish leaders finally corner Christ in the Temple, and confront Him as to His authority. "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I am."

I AM WHO AM. It was the name told to Moses. "Tell them that He Who Is sent you." You and I do not exist under our own power. Only the Creator does. To put it another way, we may exist now, but not yesterday, today, AND forever. The one whom Thomas Aquinas referred to as "the Unmade Maker" exists on his own power. It is only HE who absolutely... IS.

Throughout history, and in most if not all cultures, to address someone by their name implies a familiarity with them. That we are not entitled to this, say, with our parents, is the reason we generally refer to them as "Mom" or "Dad," and not by their first names. To give someone their name, implies authority over them, as when Christ renamed Simone Bar-Jona as "Peter," and when I gave my son the name shared by both his grandfathers, that of "Paul." This is why radical feminists who insist on addressing God as "Mother" are so audacious, as God has made it clear that He is addressed as "Father," and that His Son already has an earthly Mother.

The Tetragrammaton "YHWH" was popularly rendered by English-speaking Christians in centuries past as "Jehovah," and in the 1970s as "Yahweh." But to this day, Orthodox Jews do not speak the name of God, and will only dare to render it as "G-d." (The more prudent of English bible translations will spell it out as "LORD" in all capital letters. That is why you will sometimes see that word in either upper and lower case, or in all caps, depending on whether it literally means "Lord" or "God.") The only time it was ever spoken, was on the one day of the year when the High Priest entered the Temple, stood behind the veil of the tabernacle, and while alone before the Ark of the Covenant, uttered the Name of God -- by himself, and just once. Suffice it to say, then, that by referring to Himself as "I AM," Our Lord was essentially committing blasphemy. So when the Pharisees took up stones to administer the prescribed penalty, Christ hid Himself in the Temple. That is why crosses and statuary are veiled on this day. Later, the image of the Crucified will be unveiled on Good Friday, and the remaining images will be uncovered for the Easter Vigil.

In a recent essay for, Steve Skojec describes his journey to the Traditional Mass:

My discovery of the Traditional Latin Mass... was a slow but logical process rooted in a lifelong desire for a liturgy that was sensible, sacramental, and enhanced by the trappings of orthodoxy... During our engagement and the early years of marriage, my wife and I were drawn to a parish that celebrated the novus ordo in a more traditional way, employing the use of Latin, incense, ad orientem, polyphony, and chant. Our wedding Mass was celebrated in this manner as well... We eventually moved back to Northern Virginia in 2006 and began attending Mass at St Mary, Mother of God, in downtown Washington DC. As our adorable infants grew older and louder, however, I spent less and less time with my missal in prayer and more time in the narthex of the Church in some sort of parent-child version of a cage match... For many young parents who have discovered tradition, this is where the love affair breaks down.

He goes on to express his frustration with taking his young children to Mass, driving a considerable distance so that they end up fidgeting and misbehaving amidst the devout. This can be disconcerting to the surrounding worshippers...

I grew up as the oldest of three, with a fourth added later. While still a wee lad, my Dad would take me to Sunday Mass by himself, and Mom would stay home with my brother and sister. (Whether she went by herself at a later time, I really don't know.) If I was a good boy at Mass, Dad would take me on the grand tour of all the statues and Stations of the Cross. At three years of age, I never got tired of this. I think children can be taught that this is something worthy of their attention. It may take awhile, but a child's missal with interesting pictures is a more constructive diversion than a favorite toy. The altar servers with whom I work are just as typically boys as any other, with interests in sports and hobbies and the like. But when it's before, during, and after Mass, they are completely "in character." This doesn't happen overnight.

My son Paul was raised as a Byzantine Catholic. His mother and I wanted to spare him from the iconoclasm which prevailed in the Western church at the time, and which still hangs on for dear life today. While the Roman Rite is traditionally a dry, somber experience, with emphasis on choreographic and theological precision, the Byzantine Rite is splendrous and embellished, with the priest and people chanting alternatively throughout. The priest comes out from behind the iconostasis at various times, either for a procession, or the reading of the Gospel, or to incense the people. During "The Great Fast," as Lent is known in the East, we would attend Presanctified Liturgy on Friday nights. Essentially it's like penitential vespers with communion. When people prostrate during the Prayer of St Ephraim, they don't just kneel, they hit the ground flat. During most of it, the priest and acolytes are outside the sanctuary, facing the iconostasis. At the end, they would sing three times: "Having suffered the passion for us, O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us," prostrating after each rendition. Paul would get up and go to the front of church standing alongside them. It was adorable.

As a result of the experience, Paul always had something to keep his attention. He was also a big hit on Talent Night when he was older, but that's another story. Let's get back to talking about me...

I used to attend St Mary’s in Washington DC, and I served there for nearly a decade. It is a beautiful church, one that has been spared the iconoclasm that has befallen others. (Thankfully, they were too poor during the 70s to participate in the charade.) But at least every other Sunday morning -- haven’t been there in a while, but this is what I remember -- they opt for the Low Mass. Now, people there generally do not join in the responses to the extent permitted in the 1962 Missal, and most wouldn’t have it any other way. But the result is that any spirited behavior by young children is all the more obvious, in a great hall of a thousand people where you otherwise hear nary a peep.

One of the advantages of St John the Beloved in McLean, is that they have a crying room. True, the Mass doesn't start until noon, but if people are traveling for an hour to attend a Traditional Mass, we've got just the place. And although it employs the “theater-in-the-round” design, subsequent alterations and ad hoc adaptations manage to keep the damage to a minimum.

Hopefully, you can be patient enough while the master of ceremonies stumbles all over himself in the sanctuary.

[PHOTO: St Stephen's Church, Sacramento, California. Courtesy of Father John Zuhlsdorf. Used without permission or shame.]

Friday, March 07, 2008

Sorry, Hillary, but for this week’s Moment of Whimsy, this is the best YouTube can do.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A vote for MWBH is a vote for... well, MOI!

That pretty well sums it up. Then again...

The past year has been the best ever for this weblog, with as many as two hundred visitors a day, up from the measly one hundred a year ago. Yes, some of the big-time players can count thousands in a day. But hey, if all those people jumped off a cliff, would you join them? Of course not. And I can't think of a better reason to vote for yours truly -- by clicking here -- in any one (or all) of the following categories:

Best Designed Catholic Blog
Best Individual Catholic Blog
Best Overall Catholic Blog
Best Political/Social Commentary Catholic Blog
Best Written Catholic Blog
Funniest Catholic Blog
Most Informative & Insightful Catholic Blog
Smartest Catholic Blog

But, of course, if you can't bring yourself to risk fame and fortune going to my head (however remote the chances), then vote for Creative Minority Report, and just I might be able to live with the humiliation.

At least the voters will be doing something original.

Art Imitates Life: The Sequel

From Jammie Wearing Fool via Hot Air, we get this scary thought put to video:

Maybe it's a series of coincidences, or maybe it's more like a case where great minds -- nah, make that birds of a feather -- think alike. But I have noticed how the mainstream media has manipulated the electoral process from the get-go this year. (Don't believe me? Ron Paul did better than Rudy Guiliani in Iowa. When they went off to New Hampshire, who do you think got a lot more press than the other one? I'll give you a hint; it didn't prevent him from dropping out while the other hung in there, how's that?)

Will this election year witness the ultimate victory of style over substance? Are voters (besides Oprah) really that gullible? If they can elect, and then re-elect, a man who lies through his teeth in front of them (that would be Clinton), and if his wife has even a ghost of a chance of winning after being in cahoots with some of his shenanigans (that would be all that "thirty-five years of experience" she's been touting)... well, what the hell's wrong with you people anyway???

It's too bad about The West Wing. I actually liked that show. Then around the sixth season when they started talking about an election campaign, the writing got worse, and it really got boring.

Sort of adds new meaning to the term "lame duck," don't you think?

Or don't you?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Light in the Darkness

I am asking my readers for their prayers, for my Director and his family. His brother-in-law committed suicide last Friday. The man for whom I have worked these past ten years is a level-headed fellow, and the experience of working for him has been a rewarding one. This will no doubt be a trial for him, as his own faith is tested, even as he must be strong for the sake of his wife and family.

There were several years of my life, in the late 1990s, that I refer to as "the long loneliness." I was working for someone else at the time, someone far less reasonable than the man for whom I work now. The office environment was dysfunctional, if not downright hostile. I survived by ignoring most of what was going on around me. And while this is a manageable technique, it does take its toll on a man. I would occasionally have to speak to someone with whom I was working, or for whom I was doing work. I would occasionally have to speak with my superior. (If we never have to speak to one another, it was a good day.) Then I would go home to a little basement studio apartment, fix dinner, watch a little television, do some reading, and go to bed. Aside from business contacts, I could go for days without speaking to anyone at all. This was life in the heart of a major city. Amidst crowds of people -- indeed, millions of them -- I was alone in the universe.

I have known the dark pall that is cast over one's life, the one that leads a man to wonder if life is worth living at all. Thanks be to God, and His infinite grace, that I was led out of that darkness. I found that life, for all its suffering, is still worth living. Why was I so fortunate, and others are not? I do not know. We all ask ourselves when someone is lost to their own despair, why could we not have been there for them? Why didn't he tell us he was hurting? Why couldn't we have stopped him?

The truth is, sometimes we as mere mortals cannot stop another from exercising his free will, no matter who we are, or how close we are to them. No man can fully carry another man's burden. We enter the world alone, and we are just as alone when we leave it. Even if we wanted to rescue that loved one, we are creatures who, by our very nature, are given to self-preservation. In our efforts to save them, we might just as easily be dragged down with them.

My son survived two suicide attempts while still a teenager. They were very lame attempts, mind you, but they were attempts just the same. To take one's own life, is to apply a permanent solution to a temporary problem. That is what our gift of reason tells us. Still, the drowning man will grab even the point of a sword, such is his desperation.

C S Lewis reminds that "pain is God megaphone to rouse a deaf world," that suffering is meant to remind us of our humanity, and that of those around us. We are here to be salt and light to others, to love and to be loved. But to do so, we must be aware of others. To be aware of others, is to be aware of the occasional discomfort that comes with living in this world. And yet, such a world is only what he called "the shadowlands." Life as it really is, has yet to begin.

Something to remember as we approach Calvary in the coming weeks.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Article entitled 'Pierce Pettis: His Life of Crime' as it appears on home page of, March 1 2008

For more than two decades, Crisis magazine was a prominent synthesis of political conservatism and Catholic orthodoxy. It was due to the rising costs of publishing and distribution, and increased competition from other print media and the internet, that it ceased its print edition with the September 2007 issue.

Its internet edition was transformed into An innovator in Catholic periodicals, it includes a downloadable "inside digest" of stories from the previous week, for those who prefer to avoid reading long articles on a computer screen.

My work had come to the attention of editor Brian Saint-Paul, and we began discussions, the fruit of which appears today. My first article as music columnist for appears on the site. "Pierce Pettis: His Life of Crime" is an expanded edition of a piece of the same name which appeared in mwbh last July. While it's still too early to tell, I am hoping to be able to contribute something, at minimum, on a monthly basis.

In the past, I've written for the Arlington Catholic Herald, Catholic World Report, and The Saint Catherine Review. It has been over a decade since I've done any print work. The chance to move outside the blogosphere, and do a regular column via internet or print, has been a dream of mine for quite some time. It is truly exciting to be a part of an undertaking like this one.

I hope this is where the Good Lord is leading me. But if He is, don't you worry, 'cuz mwbh will still be around for awhile.

[THIS JUST IN: Jay Anderson calls Pettis "the Flannery O'Connor of Singer-Songwriters" (hey, good one!), and cites an interview in WORLD magazine, where we learn that Pettis is Catholic. You're right, Jay, it should have been obvious.]