Wednesday, April 30, 2008

When is a lesbian not a lesbian?

I dunno, it's all Greek to me: "A Greek court has been asked to draw the line between the natives of the Aegean Sea island of Lesbos and the world's gay women... Three islanders from Lesbos — home of the ancient poet Sappho, who praised love between women — have taken a gay rights group to court for using the word lesbian in its name..."

Another "we can't make this stuff up" moment from the wires of the Associated Press.


...are the reason I'm not posting much so far this week. If anyone out there needs an excuse to pray for someone, I've got one for you. I don't ask to ace the thing, only to do as well as can reasonably be expected. The subject matter is fascinating, but also very challenging. And there are a few surprises with my final requirements for graduation that... well, we'll see.

Wish me luck.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Der Tommissar: Back In Da House?

[From out of the western frontier, our cries have been heard, our prayers answered. Let the church bells ring, as Te Deums we sing. The Tomminator is alive and well. Deo gratias! -- DLA]

So seriously, back in like January or something, my hosting person sends me an email saying that the servers are barely creaking along and that she's going to send all the people she hosts to a different company that she worked a deal out with.

[That was an awesome sentence. Gaze upon it in wonder.]

So I said to myself, "Ok. I gotta make a note to contact this other company and set up a plan for when my plan expires at the end of the month."

Then, I promptly forgot about it and did nothing of the sort. Now I gotta figure out who I need to pay, and how much, and all this other stuff.

Add on the fact that we just bought a house up here in wonderful Colorado that requires a total interior overhaul and I just didn't have the time or energy to worry about paying someone else more money. Do you own stock in Lowe's? You're welcome. So now I'm going to go and dig through my email and find the stuff I need to get going again. That is, unless I decide to google "Eva Braun's favorite breakfast" or "history of flea circuses". Seriously, what is up with flea circuses? That's something I'd see on old cartoons and have no idea what was going on. By the same token, America's cities were once overrun with Italian men playing music for monkeys? For real? Why isn't this in our history books?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Henry Poole Is Here: “Luke Wilson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Old School), Academy Award nominee Adriana Barraza (Babel) and Radha Mitchell (Finding Neverland) star in a modern day fable about the unexpected wonders of the everyday from director Mark Pellington (U2 3D, The Mothman Prophesies). Henry Poole is Here tells the funny, poignant and uplifting story of a disillusioned man who attempts to hide from life in a rundown suburban tract home only to discover he cannot escape the forces of hope.”

So much for our Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Saint George known to have killed a dragon. The details are a bit fuzzy, since dragons don't really exist. At least not lately. But his Feast Day is today, so his name, and this story, are worth mentioning. He is also the patron saint of agricultural workers; Amersfoort, Netherlands; Aragon; archers; armourers; Beirut, Lebanon; Bulgaria; butchers; Cappadocia; Catalonia; cavalry; chivalry; Constantinople; Corinthians (Brazilian football team); Crusaders; England; equestrians; Ethiopia; farmers; Ferrara; field workers; Genoa; Georgia; Gozo; Greece; Haldern, Germany; Heide; horsemen; horses; husbandmen; knights; lepers; Lithuania; Lod; Malta; Modica, Sicily; Moscow; Order of the Garter; Palestine; Palestinian Christians; Piran; Portugal; Ptuj, Slovenia; Reggio Calabria; riders; saddle makers; Scouts; sheep; shepherds; soldiers; and (whew!) Teutonic Knights. His name is also invoked against herpes, leprosy, plague, skin diseases, and syphilis.

In some countries, Scout groups have their annual "Saint George's Day Banquet" on or near this day. Someday I'll get some time on my hands, and renew the practice in these parts.

I thought I'd graduate first, though. Meanwhile, you can learn more about him here.

"Liberator of captives,
and defender of the poor,
physician of the sick,
and champion of kings,
O trophy-bearer,
and Great Martyr George,
intercede with
Christ our God that
our souls be saved."

(From the troparion of St George in the Orthodox Church. Image of St George from a painting by Gustave Moreau. Used without permission. He won't mind; he's dead.)


Almost Six Years

...since man with black hat began publishing. In the hallway and conference room meetings of our Research and Development Laboratory, we've been giving serious thought to the next six years.

This weblog uses a standard "Blogger" template designed by Douglas Bowman entitled "Rounders 3." It was customized to distinguish it from other bloggers using the same, by changing the entire color scheme, and by strategic placement of images. The result is a page that is reasonably attractive "above the fold" on most monitors. Upon opening, the user will see the title box, the news ticker, the top of the latest post, the green profile box, and the top of the "Raison D'Etre" box.

The "news ticker" near the top was introduced over a year ago. Some blogs get off on little more than linking other people's stories, and getting credit across the Catholic blogosphere for being innovative. Trust me, that's about as innovative as using cream instead of milk in your coffee. We've got better things to do here at mwbh, like... oh, good writing maybe, on critical issues of interest to our readers. (Okay, okay, critical issues of interest to me!) Nevertheless, the news ticker is there, for those of us, er, I mean you who are into that sort of thing.

With all that in mind, we've been looking at some possible changes...

To begin with, the archives ("My Back Pages") do not have a "toggle" feature, which was introduced to the template since we adopted it. This causes the links for each month to be visible upon viewing, dating back to June 2002. That's a lot of unnecessary scrolling. But recently, Blogger has introduced the option for upgrading this template to include this feature. It may require redoing the customization, and so the code from the site as it is now has been preserved. There is also the possibility of further customizing the title box, so that an image appears with the title. While the title itself would stay the same, the image could conceivably change with the seasons of the year.

In other developments, we are looking at the possibility of a regular video-cast, hopefully before the end of next year. It would appear bi-weekly at first, and weekly thereafter. The technology is there, and we have that at our disposal right now. Obviously there would have to be something worth a look-see. The subject matter would have to be consistent with the stated philosophy of mwbh (see "Raison D'Etre"). It will also eventually have to be self-supporting, so we may introduce a PayPal account, and go begging for funds like the celebrity bloggers. (Mark Shea has a lock on the "Pledge Week" thing, so we may avoid that here. That guy's got a family to think about.)

With all this in mind, why doesn't the site undergo a complete makeover? Well, many sites in the Catholic blogosphere view "good design" as the ability to overload the page with fancy images, ornate typography for its name, and other cheap gimmicks. The results are generally just that -- cheap. That such dabbling of dilettantes tends to get awards for "Best Design" only encourages them. No, my friends, I've been a graphic designer for over thirty years, and I'm here to tell you, that's all a crock. Good design is something that doesn't look designed, that gets the readers attention through critical juxtaposition of color, imagery and placement. It also keeps the reader's attention through maximum readability, and minimum effort in searching for critical information. (In other words, don't make the reader have to work for it.) The status quo of "Saint's Blog's" hasn't picked up on this yet, but as audiences get more design-conscious, they'll have to.

Soooo... we're preparing for the next level. Look for a few more changes by the middle of 2009.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Obligatory “Earth Day” Video(s)

"Daniel" and his old lady "Katie" are featured in this video produced by the Art Institute of Atlanta, about a car that runs on used vegetable oil. This is a great idea, until everyone else picks up on it and starts raiding dumpsters behind restaurants. Not a pretty picture, is it? People talk about running cars on ethanol made from corn. That's a great idea too. Problem is, we've killed off the family farm to the point where the USA's entire corn production would have to be turned over to petroleum. Farmers can get a better price from Exxon than from Piggly Wiggly. Who do you think will bear the brunt of that choice?

Then there's this guy who says anybody can make their own electric car. In a clip with incomplete captions (must have been in a hurry), he gives us an idea. In addition, 2006 saw the release of an award-winning documentary entitled Who Killed The Electric Car? The short answer is, the automobile industry. You can watch the trailer, or buy the DVD, and decide for yourself.

Paul has. He says my next car should be a "plug-in" hybrid, or an electric. This is what I need in my life, a son who can solve all the world's problems, so I don't have to. Sure takes a load off. Still...

If you ask me (and who shouldn't?), most of our problem is based on greed, and most of our solutions will prolong it. We have designed our entire transportation infrastructure on the need for a personal conveyance to be able to get anywhere, or to do anything. In order for the rest of the world to live as well as we do, it would require the natural resources of six planets the size of Earth. That's right. Six parallel worlds with no other purpose but to keep our plasma TVs running and our tanks full. Also to keep Al Gore's Gulfstream jet running so he can trot all over the place telling the rest of the world not to live so wastefully. It's an understandable request. If we all live like that, there won't be enough left for guys like him. That's why we need to stop reproducing. Then radical Muslims can repopulate and take over Europe (as they have promised to do), and eventually North America. Then they will bar women from driving cars as they already do in Saudi Arabia. This will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially with the threat of beheading to consider.

So you see, things can really work out for the greater good, if only we listen to the experts, huh kids?

[Content advisory on third clip. Mild language and innuendo.]

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Gypsy Moment

Years ago, I was a "dance gypsy."

At least once a month, I would be on the road, going from one folk dance camp or weekend workshop series to another. I would head up to Cleveland for a swing dance marathon with veterans from the old Savoy Ballroom, or venture to Cincinnati to reconnect with my younger days, or even over the state line to Bloomington, Indiana. Along the East Coast, I went from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, from Rhode Island to Rochester. I was quite the dancer, and like most of the men of my family, an incurable charmer. Sometimes it worked, and I would make the acquaintance of a young lady, who would be my occasional companion for the weekend. I should quickly point out that anything inappropriate would rarely happen, if ever. I wanted a friend. I wanted them to feel safe, to be safe, as the weekend would soon be over, and I would be gone for good. I preferred to be remembered that way.

It was at such an event -- it must have been in Ohio somewhere -- that I met "June." I had seen her over the years on the cajun and zydeco circuit. But whenever I asked her to dance, it was always, thanks but I'm sitting this one out (which didn't stop her from the guy coming right after me), or thanks but I've promised the next one. My fascination with that pursuit didn't take long. It was clear she had a thing for musicians, the taller and more bohemian, the better. But here I was in Ohio, and there she was walking right up to me like a long-lost friend. She had long dark hair, and eyes to die for. After we embraced, she asked me why I never made any effort to pursue her.

I was shocked by this overture, and as I was about to tell her in no uncertain terms, she magically transformed into a gnome-like creature, and turned away. I followed her, as if to press the issue. She would turn and stop, then run the other way. I was starting to get really tired of this when...

...I woke up this morning.

Now, the first paragraph really happened. The rest, only in a certain state of mind. ("June" is a real person, by the way.) But it brought back to mind, a piece I read three weeks ago. Right Wing News did a piece entitled "Interviewing Six Conservative Female Bloggers On Dating." This includes St Blog's own Dawn Eden, who makes a cogent point on the superficial aspects of the mating game: "Anybody can be Mr Love God for one night or one week or one month."

Honest. I had no idea.

I don't care how "liberated" or "career-oriented" she says she is. I don't care how much she complains about not having equal pay (a cliché that stems from the misleading use of statistics). In the twenty-first century, the woman still wants you to buy her dinner, hold the door open, take the lead, give her your place on the lifeboat when the ship is going down, whatever. They've got the best of both worlds, fellas, and they're still complaining. It would be nice if six guys of similar political persuasion got equal time. While we're waiting for that to happen (and for Hell to freeze over), Ace of Spades comes to the rescue, and provides his own analysis:

So, basically, if more women were like female bloggers... I (and most of you) shouldn't be able to leave the house without raincoat & rubbers for all the downpour of female attention and the splashing in puddles of adoring women... Which leads me to believe 1) women bloggers are nothing like normal women or most likely 2) women bloggers are exactly like normal women in that they lie their pretty asses off.

One more reason to give up "dating," in the way our culture defines it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Unreal Time

Another installment in our occasional "Catholics Are Stupid" series.

There was a time when Bill Maher was mildly amusing, if a bit ribald. A good many comedians start out that way, only to sacrifice their good judgment on the altar of bad taste, either as a result of commercial success, or for the want of it. Some of George Carlin's earlier witticisms about growing up Catholic, to give another example, were actually funny. Since then he has simply become more obnoxious with age. Maher's diatribes about the Faith of his childhood never were funny, and they certainly aren't now.

And so, when he uses the clerical sexual abuse scandal to ridicule the Holy Father, even his usually-compliant audience can only manage forced laughter. After all, they went to a lot of trouble to get those tickets. Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly is a foot soldier in the culture wars, who exposes Maher for the lying cad that he is. Labeling the former Josef Ratzinger as an "ex-Nazi" is more than just misleading, as his father's career as a police officer suffered for being outspoken against National Socialism.

Maher should be more than sorry, he should be removed. He has a right to his own opinion. He does not have a right to his own facts, let alone to use the public airwaves to propagate them. And how do we react? Bill Donohue, president of The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, fronts a seemingly lonely crusade against such bigotry, while Catholic intellectuals obsess over supposed excesses of Donohue's personality. So what if he's a little hot under the collar when he's on CNN. Should he be taking this lying down? Every Catholic who even remotely practices his Faith should be offended by Maher. If they are not, they should ask themselves why they go to the trouble of being one.

Because if it makes you think so little of yourself, why is it worth it?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Obama is sending Hillary a message, which can be seen about halfway through this very short clip. The originator of this clip says that the man is "no class and pure trash." Have they taken a good look at Mrs Clinton lately? At least this guy is subtle. For this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy, we submit for your consideration just how nasty the Presidential campaign is getting. And this is just on one side of the fence. Wait till after the conventions. [WARNING: Parental guidance suggested.]

Thursday, April 17, 2008

In Peter’s Footsteps: Breaking News

"In an unexpected and essentially unprecedented move, Pope Benedict XVI met quietly with five victims of clerical sexual abuse this afternoon..."

In Peter’s Footsteps: Papal Mass in DC

The bad news is, that yours truly did not get to the Papal Mass at Nationals Park today. The good news is, that one of his rosaries made it.

I dropped it off in a colleague's mailbox last night. Had I been able to give it to her in person, it would have been my maternal grandmother's old rosary. But I wasn't taking any chances. What has been handed over was held out in the open, shortly before the final blessing, when people were given the opportunity to have objects of devotion blessed "en masse" (get it?) by the Holy Father himself.

I've been watching the Mass on the local Fox affiliate, What is seen in the image here, is the "minor elevation" at the end of the consecration ("Through Him, with Him, and in Him..."). Notice the traditional arrangement of crucifix and candlesticks on the altar, even as the celebrant faces the people. This practice was revived for the reformed liturgy by Pope Benedict, and so is referred to in liturgical circles as the "Benedictine arrangement." The focus on the crucified Christ at the axis of worship, as opposed to the personality of the priest, is part of the Holy Father's overall strategy to restore the sacred to Catholic worship. Note the seventh candle behind the crucifix, which is customary for a bishop in his jurisdiction, or a Pope anywhere he wants. Then there's that fellow just to the Pope's left in surplice and cassock. He is what is known as a "master of ceremonies." I assist the priest in that way every Sunday. You don't miss much from that angle.

The music was very well done, and made for good performance. As an act of worship, it was a bit of a hodge-podge, presumedly to underscore the "diversity" of American Catholics. There are those who would eschew this approach to such a degree (myself among them), in favor of the unitive approach of Gregorian chant as actually called for by the Second Vatican Council (if anyone takes the time to read what the Council said instead of just yammering about it). But it makes for a colorful event just the same. I heard petitions in English, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Igbo.

I also heard a Zimbabwean call to worship during the prelude. I don't get it.

Then there were these songleaders after Communion wearing what appeared to be stoles draped loosely on the left shoulder. I've seen that at St Aloysius on North Capitol Street, a Jesuit parish, wouldn't you know. Somebody wanna tell me what's that about? Is that like a "semi-priest" thing or whatever?

Fortunately, they were followed by Placido Domingo singing "Panis Angelicus." And on that cheery note, "Ite, missa est."

[THIS JUST IN: Blow-by-blow commentary from the indefatigable Father Z.]

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In Peter’s Footsteps: Two Steps Back

I was planning to catch the Pope's parade from the White House to the Vatican Embassy. I got out there after 12:30, only to learn that the parade already went by 17th and Pennsylvania at noon. For once, an event on the White House south lawn moves along with German efficiency; that is to say, ahead of schedule.

Upon learning this, I was pretty bummed out. Here I am, in the heart of the Nation's capital, and I have to wait another twenty or thirty years for the next Pope to show up. Then I ran into this group of young people, with nothing better to do than follow the Pope wherever he goes, part of a Catholic lay movement called "The Neocatechumenal Way." They were on the sidewalk, moving in a circle to the sound of guitars, in sort of a Jewish-Israeli folk dance pattern. Well, if you're going to do "liturgical dance," this is far more appropriate than skinny girls in tights showing off for a passive audience.

Just remember, you're still not allowed to do this at Mass.

Anyway, the result is the first self-produced video clip for mwbh. Too bad the audio (among other things) got lost in the translation. I don't know what they sang, but it ended with "alleluia," or whatever. I know you all love a parade as much as I do. But when things don't work the way we like, we have to improvise, don't we?

Thanks, kids.

In Peter’s Footsteps: My “Dear Pope” Letter

Most Holy Father:

Since every other pundit with the slightest inclination is writing you their "open letter to the Pope," I thought I would do the same. The chances of Your Holiness reading mine are no worse than any of the others. Mine, however, will be far more entertaining, not to mention lacking in the usual pious platitudes that accompany such missives. That said, welcome to the United States of America. You were here years ago while a member of the Sacred College of Cardinals, so you must know that this is a nice place to visit. But it is also an even nicer place in which to live. It must be, since every other person in the world is trying to get in.

But now that you're here, a lot of people want your attention for one thing or another. Since most of those who succeed in meeting you, haven't so much as opened their own car door in years, it is unlikely that you will ever meet many truly ordinary folks, except under the most controlled circumstances, and what's so ordinary about that? Our Lord didn't seem to care about the social class of anyone with whom he broke bread. Sadly, your apostolic mission requires you to be surrounded by those operatives who are preoccupied in just such a way. For them, the modus operandi appears to be a simple one. Your Holiness has been given absolute power over our Mother Church on earth, and their task is to limit how you use it. If you are fortunate, their hearts will be in the same place as yours. Historically, it doesn't look too good.

Your Holiness will never meet those who have suffered most from what you have called the "filth" that has infiltrated the priesthood. Whether that is by your design, or that of those around you, I daresay that it is a mistake. They need to know -- in fact, we all need to know -- that the purification of the Church on Earth is very high on your agenda. Your sheep are surrounded by wolves, and your shepherds are surrounded by lawyers. Reading a prepared statement is all well and good, but I am sure you have discovered in eighty-one years, that people tend to place more value upon what a man does, than upon what he says.

There are times when it is not enough to say the right thing, or to do the right thing, but to be seen doing the right thing. Such an act bears witness to the Truth, and brings hope to the downhearted.

And speaking of the best we can do, at the end of the day, when you're sitting in your private quarters, you may be inclined to watch the television coverage of your visit. If you want balanced and informed reporting, I recommend the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). At least they'll know what they're talking about. The alternative is to watch one of our news channels, which will include the musings of a few people you thought you had silenced, or should have. You can issue a formal decree about fidelity to the Church, and think your job is done, but we're still stuck with paying the bill for the lot of them. What's up with that?

And speaking of being stuck with something, Your Holiness will please take note of the musical repertoire for your celebration of Holy Mass. While some of it is worthy of merit, it will also include numerous examples of the banality that you have criticized in the past, in everything you have ever written about the Sacred Liturgy, before ascending to the Throne of Peter. This is because the majority of the people who administer our parishes, who work in our chanceries, who teach in our seminaries, who train musicians in weekend workshops, still don't get it.

When you issued your motu proprio last summer, allowing the use of the Traditional form of the Roman Liturgy, most of them really did not believe that it had anything to do with them, never mind that you were serious. They still believe they can dismiss the legitimate aspirations of people who request it. They have attempted to act on this belief. The Holy See is expected to issue a clarification on Summorum Pontificum in the near future. I beg Your Holiness to leave the status quo, with the unmistakable impression, that the restoration of the sacred to the official worship of the Church, is an integral and inescapable component of this pontificate, and that ignoring it will not make it go away. Most of us listen to this melodic drivel every Sunday, under the leadership of those with less musical skill than that which you will hear at Nationals Park. Your Holiness, on the other hand, will only have to listen to it once. Okay, maybe twice.

How do people get the message that you might not be amused? Well, you could issue yet another decree for them to ignore. Or you could try a different approach. While you're at Nationals Park tomorrow, you could try appearing to speak off the cuff to your aides, while several reporters are within strategic distance, and in your best English: "Hey, did anybody ever tell this Marty Haugen guy he's no Mozart?"

That oughta perk their ears a bit.

When you're in New York City, you will be able to visit the landmark known as "Ground Zero," where so many lost their lives to an unspeakable act of evil. As you read the oration that was prepared for the event, listen to yourself. Are you leading a prayer to God, or reading a self-affirming statement for the crowd? As you answer that question, remember that as you leave our beloved country, the same people who wrote that prayer, are the ones you are leaving in charge when you return to Rome. You'll know what needs to happen, right?

There's something else you need to know about New York City. When they say to keep off the grass at Yankee Stadium, they're not kidding. They throw people out of the park for stuff like that. If you decide to take your chances, though, just keep that diplomatic passport handy. And the cameras will be rolling.

And speaking of the cameras rolling, there is one last thing. Order a hot dog with everything from a genuine sidewalk vendor. Make sure it's kosher. It would be a single spontaneous act of "joie de vivre," Holy Father, and thus would send its own message. After all, today is your birthday. Trust me, from a distance (which is the most I'll ever see of you), you don't look a day over seventy-one. Ad multos annos!

Know that Your Holiness is ever in my prayers, and that though I am a sinner who is continually in need of the Divine Mercy, I endeavor in the midst of this frailty to remain...

Your devoted subject in corde Jesu,

David Lawrence Alexander
Arlington Virginia USA


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In Peter’s Footsteps: Day One

The Holy Father's plane is scheduled to land at Andrews Air Force base at 4:00pm local (Eastern Daylight Savings) time. From there, he will be driven across town, with the usual fuss, to the Apostolic Nunciature, where his guest quarters have been prepared. Here's how the action sounds in Italian, for those of you who are into that sort of thing. (Video clip from TG24 courtesy of Father Zuhlsdorf of WDTPRS. Used without permission or shame.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Television’s Heartland

This is one of those things you post when you're a renaissance man like yours truly.

As it did elsewhere, television developed quickly in Nebraska during the postwar years. There is a segment is from, of a program entitled "Changing Channels" produced in 1992. But for all the progress in the Cornhusker State, the true epicenter of the new medium in the Nation's midsection was Cincinnati, where much of the Nation's early network programming was actually produced. More of this story can be found at a site entitled "Cincinnati Local Kid Programs."

In addition, last Saturday's edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer did a piece entitled "WLWT blazed a few trails in its 60 years." (PHOTO: "WLWT-TV uses a rooftop camera for Cincinnati Reds’ telecasts from Crosley Field in the 1950s. The station, which broadcast its first Reds game in 1947, was the Reds TV flagship through 1995." Image from The Cincinnati Enquirer. Used without permission or shame.)

Ad Random

You wouldn't know it to look at this page, but I'm about a week behind in virtually all my writing.

My part-time studies at the Art Institute currently involve six hours of class time per week, all on the weeknights. In addition, there are six to eight hours of homework per week expected for each class. That's up to 14 out of 112 hours per week that one is awake (excluding the 56 hours of sleep in a week), or 12.5 percent, which is one-eighth. While I enjoy the work, that one-eighth has the power to throw the other seven-eighths out of kilter. For one thing, it is inflexible. For another, this school has a knack for setting a higher standard for its students than for its faculty. Some of them must realize that there's a downside to this plan in the long run, like when an instructor begins a class and realizes the students learned very little from the prerequisite class. Guess who has to make up the difference on their own time for final portfolio. (Hint: it's not the instructor.) Amazingly, not everyone on the payroll has taken the line of reasoning that far yet. I'm confident that they will, but I intend to be gone by then. On a lighter note, and in a future installment, we'll talk about my introduction to the exciting world of PHP and MySQL, the gateway to database management.

Meanwhile, at St John the Beloved in McLean, we are starting to do weddings according to the traditional Roman Rite. Long ago in days of yore, the altar would be set back some distance from the assembly, whether freestanding, or against the wall. The reason for this, was not to isolate the liturgical action from the faithful, so much as to allow for the needs of various ceremonials and occasional services. An example of this would be a "missa solemnis" (Solemn High Mass), which can require room for three major clerics (priest, deacon, subdeacon), two masters of ceremonies, and a dozen "inferior ministers" (altar servers in supporting roles). In recent times, the altars of many churches have been moved forward to allow for celebration of the priest "versus populum" ("facing the people"). While this single requirement is met, it is often done at the expense of all the others. If the bride has an elaborate gown and train, it may be a challenge to accommodate her in the sanctuary. Parish churches in Europe often had a "choir section" to separate the sanctuary from the assembly, so the bridal couple never had to enter the inner sanctum, a concession that was eventually tolerated in the USA. I have more servers to train for the Low Mass, and our "missa cantata" (sung High Mass) is going to be a "missa solemnis" for Pentecost. The MCs have to learn how to accommodate additional major clerics. The whole entourage may need a rehearsal. Developing...

My townhouse is in need of improvements. The development was built between 1938 and 1941, to accommodate new residents for the growing War Department and related agencies. They were renovated and converted to condominiums around 1982. In my house, the tile on the bathroom floor was laid down on top of the original. This compromise is beginning to show signs of wear, so both layers have to be torn out, and a new one laid in. What's more, there is a leak from the tub down to the ceiling of the kitchen. We've determined that the grouting in the tub tile is the problem. Fortunately, "Sal" is a woman of exquisite taste, and picked out the new tile. Plus she got a guy her family uses to do this sort of thing. They'll be getting down to business this week.

My taxes were electronically filed this year. An amended form may be necessary. We're coming down to the wire to make a decision on this. I'm having to find new and exciting ways to shelter my income. I keep thinking how much simpler this would have been had I never been divorced. My mortgage would have been paid off five years from now. But it's not as if I was consulted in advance.

I haven't picked up a guitar for any serious length of time in nearly three years. That's the longest break in the action since I first learned to play in 1966. Before I hung it up, I had a great thing going with some zydeco bands that were coming up north. That was before the promoters stuck their snotty noses in my business. "People are paying to hear the authentic Louisiana experience," I was told. A bunch of middle-aged, middle-class, white women, are better judges of this, than the guys who live it every day. But I'm making my own contacts now, and we'll see who's being "authentic," right? My son is learning bass, and it would be nice if he and I were to collaborate occasionally. We'd need a third guy at least, maybe a fourth. Don't know what we would do though. I think it's one of those deals where you meet in some guy's garage and go spontaneously from one cover song to the next, until you figure out where your niche is, if you have one.

But first, I gotta see about graduating, preferably with honors.

Friday, April 11, 2008

“Baracky” is the title of this week’s Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy. It looks to yours truly as if Obama has the Democratic nomination all sown up; less for his substance than for his style, and the inevitable implosion of the Clinton campaign. That being said, it is going to get a lot nastier before it is over. Sources close to the situation say the Clintons will go to any length to win.

And if McCain has the presence of mind to pick a running mate like Mike Steele, this race might actually be worth watching.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In Peter’s Footsteps: Greeting

In this clip provided to the media courtesy of Vatican TV, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI reads a message about his upcoming trip to the USA. For most of the American public, this is the first time they are listening to this Pope speaking in the English language.

As a child, I thought that the Pope always had this special charism from God that allowed him to be fluent in all languages. The truth is, most Popes of the last century managed to have learned several languages. Most were members of the diplomatic corps, or spent years in the Curia, which would have put them in an international setting on a daily basis.

This post is the first of what is anticipated to be a series. mwbh won't be at any of the Papal events, with the possible exception of a drive-by on the streets of Washington. But we'll muddle through somehow, won't we?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Coming Soon... Again

Former Republican candidate Mike Huckabee is up to something. He's not saying what it is, but at his website, there is a timer counting the seconds, the minutes, the hours, and the days, until sometime on the 15th of April. That's the day that federal income tax returns (and payments) are due in the USA. Maybe he's got a flat tax proposal, as some have speculated. Maybe he's going to run as an independent. If he does, I'm not sure whether I'd vote for him or not. He's mishandled some positions, like on immigration. Then again, Chuck Norris still supports him, and that's always been a good sign for me in the past. Meanwhile, over at Hot Air, they're speculating out the wazoo!

Anybody got any ideas?

Plug This: June Cleaver After A Six-Pack

[We're back to our occasional series about members of "Saint Blog's Parish" whose work is up and coming, whether the rest of the huddled masses have the good sense to know it or not. And on that cheery note...]

Finally, a girl who doesn't need cheap tricks with Photoshop to show the rest of us a good time:

When I first saw this, I thought, oh great, the title's gonna be clever, and the rest of it will be a soccer mom snooze-fest. Then I started reading it. Hey, I can be wrong. It's just that it happens so rarely, even I get caught off-guard sometimes.

Cris (no last name, unless it really is "Cleaver") is from Woodbridge, Virginia, so we're practically neighbors. She is also "a IRISH Catholic homeschooling mom and an Air Force wife. I believe in children, marriage, friendships, family, laughter and prayer... and the occasional-OK, more than occasinal cocktail." I'll bet she was already hitting the hard stuff, or she wouldn't have misspelled "occasional" when it was already spelled right the first time. I like this gal's priorities. She's probably from Chicago originally, and not just because she roots for "Da Bulls," which endears her to this Midwesterner-in-exile even more. Or maybe that's her (undoubtedly blessed and truly devoted) husband. Same difference, okay?

That which is known as "the Catholic blogosphere" is waiting for the next Erma Bombeck. There are no small number of pretenders to the Septic Tank Throne out there. Our featured domestic diva not only writes well, she actually is FUNNY. None of this resorting to amateur stunts like photos of toddlers walking away with diapers falling off or wearing Mommy's Easter hat. Geez, I can do that with someone else's kids and none of you yokels out there would be the wiser. This girl's got some game. I just don't have the nerve to tell her why St Paddy's Day is not just for the Irish. She'd probably get her kids to toilet paper my front lawn in the middle of the night. My condo association would blame ME for it. And that would be bad.

But underneath the laughter, a complex creature emerges. Like all desperate housewives lost in suburbia, our heroine has a dream:

I just want to be able to clean the kitchen and have it stay clean for longer than 45 seconds. I just want to be able to wash only one head of hair a day (my own) and wipe only one butt a day (again, my own.) I want to be able to run to the store without packing luggage to go with me. I just want to be able to get through a check-out line without little people asking for candy and then screaming at the top of their lungs when the answer is no. I just want to get through one mother-loving day without listening to whining.

(sniff!) I have to stop typing for a minute. (pause of reasonable length, followed by sigh of relief) Okay, I'm back.

Not to be deceived by her great humor, our maven of the minivan is also thoroughly grounded in the Faith. You don't find deep theology like this just anywhere on the internet:

Sure, I pray to the Blessed Virgin for strength... but she only had one child and IT WAS JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF! I ask you, how difficult could He be? I bet He never asked his mother 21 questions after she got off the phone with the Maytag repair man. I bet He never asked for banana pudding and then changed His mind after two bites and cried for the chocolate pudding. I bet He never woke up his mother 3 times in the middle of the night for a glass of water, to go pee and to help Him find his baby doll that He can no longer find (which is laying right beside him). I bet He never once rolled his eyes at His mother or told her she was unfair and ruining His life!

Now, I ask you, could even a Jesuit with an attitude problem argue with reasoning like that?

Her blog includes a playlist, which cranks it up automatically upon viewing the site, and gives away her reasonably good taste in music. Oh, and if that's her in the center of the photo that I stole from her, she's really cute! (Go ahead and click on it. You know you want to.) But most worthy of note, is the thrill, the sense of great satisfaction, from having found a kindred spirit, in the place where one least expects it. Such discoveries are what makes the life of a self-appointed know-it-all so worthwhile. And it gives hope for the future of this promising medium.

Well, enough of this. I don't think she did too well in the CBAs this year (finishing 11th out of a gazillion in the "Funniest" category), but she did a lot better than yours truly. And she's in the running for the "Cannonball Awards" (also doing a lot better than... oh, whatever!). It's definitely a blog worth watching out for, from our lofty vantage point in The Land of the Black Hat. Now the rest of you know why.

Keep it up, Cris. (H/T to Mrs Darwin for the video.)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Has “The Donegal Express” left the station?

I was going to mention this later, in my review of this year's Catholic Blog Awards (coming soon, probably), but for yours truly, this bears mention on its own.

In observing what is considered humorous in the Catholic blogosphere, it would appear (much but not all of the time) to fall into one of two categories. One would be the sort of clever, momentary jocularity, like a Photoshop treatment of the Pope riding a skateboard. (Darn, and I took a course in Photoshop, I coulda thought of that first!) The other is the sort of "ha-ha-isn't-that-cute" funny, the kind of innocent thing you could share with little old ladies -- undoubtedly a large percentage of the blog-reading public. Uh-huh.

There is a third variety which, to this observer, requires more thought and takes more risk. That is the truly ROTFLMAO kind of funny, the art of the well-timed snide remark, a bona-fide smart-@$$. Very few bloggers identified as "Catholic," even the award junkies, are able to pull this off. Mark Shea does it quite well, but it is not his trademark. He's an evangelist first, a humorist later. Caroline Cannonball definitely has her moments, no doubt an outlet for the harried single mother who forgets her meds occasionally. The rest might well be served by coding in a laugh track.

But one of the funniest guys in "Saint Blog's Parish" doesn't need a laugh track. He is a guy who never posted often enough. In recent weeks, he is offline completely, and is nowhere to be found. I'm talking about the young (or so he says) man identified only as "Der Tommissar," author of The Donegal Express.

I first heard from him in response to my November 2005 piece entitled "Nice work if you can get it." In the comments box was only one word: "MASTER!" Linking to his site, it was described as "Greatest. Post. Ever." Obviously I was dealing with a man of distinction, of impeccable taste. I had to know more.

One year, he threatened that if he didn't get the Awards from the CBA that he richly deserved, he would convert his site to "cat blogging." Alas, his bluff was called, and for months afterwards, every post ended with an adorable kitty-cat photo. "I am a man of my word." And so he was.

His most recent entries were a series of "non-endorsements" of presidential candidates. Here is what he wrote about Rudy Giuliani:

You know how in high school he “considered the priesthood”? Let me clue the non-Catholics in here, that’s code for, “I’m a huge dork and don’t want to spend four years getting stuffed into lockers. I know, I’ll pretend I have a vocation. That’ll make the guys hesitate about beating the living hell out of me during my high school career. ‘Dude, what if he does become a priest? He could like, send us to hell or somethin’.” It is the ploy of only the most pathetic loser.

I will also forever treasure other nuggets of wisdom, which he shared in comboxes when he had the time from the many pressing demands of being a husband, father, valiant defender of the One True Faith, and technological wunderkind:

I'd like to thank Mr Alexander for his kind comments about the League [of Evil Traditionalists]. When we come to power, I'm sure I can convince the others to just have him exiled for life instead of being subjected to what we like to call, "The Shea Treatment". I'll even make sure the exile is someplace nice, like Costa Rica.

Now, I don't care what anyone else says. None of you would-be clowns can write stuff like that. Imagine a guy who writes like that most of the time.

Alas, like a thief in the night, our Tommy Boy is gone. We know he moved from Santa Fe recently, to parts unknown, in search of employment, or a Tridentine Mass that doesn't start later than two in the afternoon on a Sunday. If he's reading this, he will most likely respond with a phrase that provokes a misty eye just thinking about it:

"Who do you think you are, my mother?"

That's my boy!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Postwar Parallels

Ed Morrissey of Hot Air show us how we can learn from history.

Imagine, if you will, reading the paper today, and finding this:

It’s what our boys have been doing that worries me... Friend and foe alike, look you accusingly in the face and tell you how bitterly they are disappointed in you as an American... People never tire of telling you of the ignorance and rowdy-ism of American troops... They say that the theft and sale of Army supplies by our troops is the basis of their black market... The time has come, for our own future security, to give the best we have to the world instead of the worst.

Here's the thing. The above is not excerpted from an AP wire story about Iraq, but from a 1946 article in Life magazine entitled "Americans are Losing the Victory in Europe," written by John Dos Passos, concerning the Allied occupation of Germany." The piece was uncovered by Jessica's Well in a 2003 blog post. It also brought another American serviceman's tale to mind...

Dad was a payroll officer (1st Lt) with the US Air Force in 1952-53, during the occupation of Germany. Newly married before he left, and having no apologies for aspiring to a virtuous life, he generally avoided the company of his fellows. To hear him tell it, even the married men among them took to chasing anything German wearing a skirt. While he attempted to learn the language, he rarely fraternized with the locals; less for any regulations on the matter, than for the embarrassment he felt for the behavior of his fellow countrymen in their midst.

He even turned down a chance to visit Paris on leave. He knew he would have been the only officer on that transport, thus responsible for the behavior of every man there, who were unlikely to be visiting “the city of lights” to catch a view from the Eiffel Tower.

Fortunately, Dad found a sympathetic American couple, and he spent his leave time with them touring the German countryside, as well as that of Switzerland and the Netherlands. As I child I remember his slide shows, portraying beautiful color scenes of the mountains, the tulips, and the marketplaces, with life returning to normal. He had a natural eye for photography, and we were quite entertained as children by the images and his equally colorful commentary.

It was a rare opportunity for a young man to broaden his horizons, before returning to the States and starting a family. Now 82, he was never able to return. But he has his memories, and we have his slide show.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

“Behold His Mighty Hand!”

Charlton Heston, the Oscar-winning actor, best known here at Chez Alexandre for his biblical epics on the silver screen -- including his portrayal of Moses in The Ten Commandments, and as Judah in Ben-Hur -- died last night in Beverly Hills, California. Lydia, his beloved wife of 64 years, was at his side. He was 84.

The cause of death was not released by the family. But in August of 2002, Heston disclosed that he was diagnosed with symptoms consistent with Alzheimers: "I must reconcile courage and surrender in equal measure." More recently, there were reports that he had suffered a bout with pneumonia, but this was never confirmed.

Upon his passing, a spokesman for the family released a statement:

"Charlton Heston was seen by the world as larger than life. He was known for his chiseled jaw, broad shoulders and resonating voice, and, of course, for the roles he played. No one could ask for a fuller life than his. No man could have given more to his family, to his profession, and to his country."

Ego sum pastor bonus, alleluia!

Today, a television crew was at St John the Beloved, from Radio e Televisao de Portugal (RTP). They were videotaping for a special about the Traditional Latin Mass, as part of the Holy Father's visit to the USA later this month. Before preparations for Mass got underway, they interviewed the good Father, of course. When I was introduced to the crew, they asked what I did as a "master of ceremonies," and whether I was a priest or a deacon, or whatever. ("No, I'm a layman. You can call me 'sir.'") Then they asked to interview me for a few minutes. It was relatively painless.

They ended up taping the whole Mass. As this was the Second Sunday After Easter in the traditional calendar, Father gave a very moving homily on the Good Shepherd. The altar server crew was up to their usual standard of excellence. We had a First Communion today, which is always a nice touch. I'm not sure to what extent RTP will broadcast (or webcast) this event; whether this is a special on the TLM, or just "b-roll" for the Pope's visit. Whatever it is, it will be aired next Sunday. Readers will be apprised of internet access to the program. Those who can read Portuguese are welcome to visit to the website (linked above) and give us a clue if they find one.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Marianne Meets Midlife

In the early 1990s, I studied the works of Marianne Williamson, author of many books including A Return to Love, and the self-professed prophetess of a New Age bible known as The Course in Miracles (or, as she once referred to herself, "The B**** for God"). I never actually studied the Course, even though a copy of it is in my library. But I used to listen to her recorded lectures. I stopped when she started getting farther out in left field than she already was. By then I was also reading more of Father Benedict Groeschel, who actually knew Helen Schucman, the woman who had "channeled" the text, while he was studying psychology at Columbia.

Her latest book is entitled The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife. I was reading the back cover at Borders today. I was struck by this select quotation, which effectively justifies my transition of the last five years:

Sometimes what we appear to have lost is simply something it was time to leave behind. Perhaps our system just lets something go, our having moved through the experience and now needing it no more. A friend of mine was sitting once with two of his best friends, a couple he'd partied long and hard with during the 1960s. At about ten in the evening, the couple's twentysomething daughter came home, saw them on the couch, and admonished them, "You guys are so boring! You never go out!" To which all three responded in unison, "We were out, and now we're in."

The mind is its own kind of dance floor. If in fact the highest, most creative work is the work of consciousness, then in slowing down we're not doing less; we're doing more. Having slowed down physically, we're in a better space to rev up psychically. We are becoming contemplative. We are shifting from the outer to the inner not in order to begin our demise, but to reseed and regreen the consciousness of the planet. And that's what is happening now: We're going slower in order to go deeper, in order to go faster in the direction of urgently needed change in the world.

Well, that's true, at least for me, I hope. Five years ago, I was out as many as three or four nights a week, vicariously living the Louisiana life at roadhouses and dance halls. I would even drive to Philadelphia, about two and a half hours away, if that's where the party was. Lately, I gave up dancing for Lent, and spend a lot of time with community service work, returning to college to study web design, and directing traffic in the sanctuary as a master of ceremonies. And I haven't been to Philadelphia in over four years. These days, it's all I can do to get up to Baltimore.

Maybe that's my way of "changing the planet." Or whatever.

[NOTE: In his 2004 book The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions, journalist Randall Sullivan includes a discussion with Father Groeschel about meeting Helen Schucman. An excerpt from that book appears in BeliefNet, where Groeschel describes how the Course undermines the Faith. Obviously the above should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the Course.]

Any Given Sunday?

This has been making the rounds, originating in the Catholic blogosphere with Mark Shea.

Some bible-thumper from Panama City, Florida, by the name of James Lyman, tries to disrupt a Mass. In the background, you hear some weenie on the microphone ask an usher to get his license plate number. (Oh yeah, that oughta bring it to a halt!) What follows is how the faithful responded, and were able to subdue him. Personally, I think singing either "Te Deum" or "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" would have been a more distinctly Catholic response. Unfortunately, there are a lot of words in those songs, and raising hands in the charismatic style while singing them loses a lot in the translation. I can see where that might be a problem. (cough!) But my favorite is the one Tim Ferguson shared in the Catholic blogosphere's busiest comments box:

"I was at a similar occasion years ago in St Paul, Minnesota at a downtown parish. One of the 'regulars' was a woman who introduced herself as 'Mary, the Bishop of Montana.' Delusion, but quite harmless.

"Mary would lurk in the vestibule until the procession started and then take her place behind the presider, walking up the aisle and 'blessing' the congregation before taking her seat in the front pew.

"One day, during the homily, a man came in the church, waving a bible and screaming about how Catholics are bound for hell. Poor Father at the altar was dumbfounded for a moment, not knowing what to do, Then, Mary, (the Bishop of Montana) stood up and said, 'Don't worry Father, I'll take care of it. I'll excommunicate him.' She marched to the back of the church, bodily picked the man up and carried him out of the church.

"Father muttered something about two birds and one stone and sent the deacon out after them to check on them."

Of course, this would never happen at the Cathedral of my diocese. The head usher is a former Army Ranger who specialized in black ops. To hear him tell it, he really enjoyed his work.


Friday, April 04, 2008

That‘s right, boys and girls! B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets are coming to town in two weeks. My close personal friends in the Secret Service are positively giddy over the chance to order around mass numbers of innocent tourists, and we're all checking out the Popemobile routes to see where we can catch a look at The Top Dog Himself.

It sure won't be at the Papal Mass at Nationals Park. The bishops on both sides of the Potomac gave out a limited number of tickets to parishes, which were to be distributed by lottery. That's what the Catholic press says. Yeah, right. Trust me, those puppies were already spoken for the minute they came off the press. If you gave up a career teaching in public schools for doing the same at a parish school, if you've been cleaning and pressing the altar linens unselfishly for the last twenty or thirty years, or if you're a wealthy benefactor upon whom Father can depend in the clinch -- well, chances are one of those little gems already has your name on it.

At least that's the word on the street. Personally, I don't have a problem with such patronage. Really, not even a little bit. In fact, I can make a case that all of the above deserve it, since there never enough Papal Knighthood honors to go around. I just wish The Powers That Be were honest about it with the rest of us. Hey, a guy can dream...

For this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy, the folks at mwbh just want to send that cheap shot across the bow. It's our little way of telling them how much we're thinking of them.

And how much we're on to them.

[UPDATE: I found out that our sacristan got tickets for herself and her husband. I couldn't be happier if I got tickets for myself. I probably would have given them to her anyway. Deo gratias.]

In The Name of Love

Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

Forty years ago today, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated outside his hotel room in Memphis. I learned about it on the news, like everybody else. There weren't many blacks living in the town outside Cincinnati where I grew up, and we all got along for the most part. It wouldn't have mattered at the time, though. I had bigger things to worry about.

A few days earlier, for reasons even now unknown, I came down with appendicitis. There is some debate to this day, as to whether it had already burst. It happened on a Monday, whatever it was. I was doubled over in considerable pain all week. By Friday, Mom thought the better of it, and took me to the doctor. Seems I had something to complain about after all. I was dying.

I was rushed to Cincinnati Children's Hospital, in the heart of the medical district. Now, the hospital was just northeast of the University of Cincinnati, and just southwest of the predominantly-black neighborhood of Avondale. The University was having its share of unrest by then, over things like the War, too much homework, the price of food in the student union, whatever. With the assassination of Dr King, Avondale was a powder keg that was ready to go off. And it did. The governor called in the National Guard, and barricades were set up around the neighborhood, and near the hospital.

I was still quite naive when it came to the opposite sex, but I fell for one of the student nurses. In fact, I rather took to all of them. Even after my condition didn't require assistance with a sponge bath, I insisted on being helped anyway, especially by That Special One, who didn't mind a bit, thank you very much. After all, a guy has to make the best of a bad situation. I suspect if my motives were less than innocent, they would have, uh, noticed. Know what I mean?

After about ten days and the loss of eleven pounds, I got out and returned home. For about a week, I didn't have a care in the world. After returning to school, I got jumped by some kid in the playground. I had not even recovered from the surgery. I tried a self-defense move I learned reading Popular Science, and after turning the tables, proceeded to beat the crap out of him.

Meanwhile, here in DC, the area that was devastated by the riots was once a thriving center of Afro-American civic and social life. Blacks and whites together would go to the clubs on U Street and hear Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and the other legends of jazz and swing. Then forty years ago, a people on the crest of a dream saw it shattered, and a community imploded on itself. It would be years before there were signs of recovery. In the last decade, the neighborhood has known a renaissance. Just last year, "Sal" and I went to the famous Bohemian Caverns to hear a jazz trio. It was Valentine's Day, and Sal likes all jazz.

But back then, it was only months later that I learned just how serious things were in the area surrounding the hospital. My mother came to visit every day, braving the barricades and the civil unrest. She was a heroine to a lonely and despondent little boy. And for what it's worth, today is her birthday. I called her yesterday, to tell her I wouldn't call her today and remind her. She appreciated that. Sort of.

She and my sisters still take care of Dad at the house...

In the name of love
One more in the name of love
In the name of love
One more in the name of love

[Photo of Martin Luther King Jr from the Associated Press. Lyrics to "Pride (In The Name of Love)" from the U2 album "The Unforgettable Fire." Both used without permission or shame.]

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Losing My Religion

It is an expression that originates in the South, to refer to losing one's temper or composure, to being at wit's end. We might conclude that civility is a religion of sorts, or at least a way of life.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in a multi-cultural society. One does not compromise the One True Faith, to recognize that there are others in our midst who would beg to disagree. We are obliged to evangelize, to make the case for their conversion. We are not obliged to kill them if they refuse. This may have been a tenet of the Old Covenant, but it is not upheld in the New. The Christian faith was sown by the seeds of martyrdom. That is to say that the Faith was spread by those who were willing to die for it, as opposed to forcing the deaths of those who would not.

Recently, Reuters reported on the Vatican's disclosure that "Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the biggest single religious denomination in the world... Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, who compiled the Vatican's newly-released 2008 yearbook of statistics, said Muslims made up 19.2 percent of the world's population and Catholics 17.4 percent." And while a mosque has been permitted to be built in Rome, a Catholic church cannot be built in Saudi Arabia, the USA's supposed partner in peace for that part of the world. Not to mention a reliable source of oil, upon which we remain hopelessly dependent.

There is no quarrel here with adherents to Islam in America. They are free to worship as they will. But there will be no recognition on this page that "one religion is just as good as another." The most accommodating among them would not embrace that position, and we will not do so here. Still, what cannot be ignored, is that area of belief inherent to Islam, that calls for conversion by force. Unlike Christianity, Islam did not spread through the blood of its own martyrs, but in making martyrs of everyone else.

There are those Muslims who take the most extreme position, one that is upheld without compromise in the pages of the Qur'an. It would be nice if they could sit down with us and we throw them a bone by staying out of their business and that would be the end of it. The problem is, it wouldn't be the end of it. They don't want our friendship; they want our conversion to Islam, or they want us dead. That's what they bring to the table; convert or die. And whatever "moderate Muslims" tell you, they are not the ones calling the shots on this deal. The ones who do have been very clear on what they want, and what they are willing to do to get it.

How can you reason with such people? You cannot. You have to do one of two things. One is to beat them into total submission. Like any schoolyard bully, they won't like it, but they will respect you for it, because it's the only language they understand. The other is to give up your Wilsonian fantasies of empire, and draw a line in the sand that these barbarians would only cross at their peril. (We call such a line "secure borders.") Short of that, hunkering down for long engagements in their home territory is just what they can use to wear us down. They want us to endure discontent at home, with protesters in the streets. This demoralizes the troops, and they all go home making the USA look stupid. Just like Vietnam. Muslims read history books as well, and will remember their defeat over five centuries ago at the Battle of Lepanto, as if it happened yesterday.

So there is a choice to be made. We cannot be bullied by those who will accept no less than complete domination of the world. The nations of Europe paid a terrible price for that lesson in the past century. The generation who witnessed that lesson are living just long enough to see their children fail to remember it. Even now, their leaders are capitulating over production by the Dutch filmmaker Geert Wilders of the movie "Fitna." Death threats have been made against those websites that have shown it. But it is being shown by mwbh, at the top of this piece, and will remain as long as it is accessible for embed. If Islam is a religion of peace, its believers can prove it to the world, by permitting the same latitude for others that they demand for themselves. Should their convictions not permit this, such refusal will come at a price. They will not be accepted.

Let the word go out to those who would threaten us, that they will be called into account. Their actions will be disclosed to the stage of public opinion, for all to see. The full weight of our system of justice will be brought down upon them. There will be no compromise. There will be no standing down.

People genuinely want something in which to believe. Their hunger for it is evident in someone whose message has sufficient appeal to attract them. But as a wise man once said, a man who marries the spirit of the age is soon left a widow. There are things in life worth living for, even worth dying for. Islam is not one of them. Like any tree, it may be judged by its fruits. Mohammed never claimed to be the Son of God, but a prophet. Jesus never claimed to be a prophet, but the Son of God. One of them died and remained dead. The other rose from the dead and still lives.

Who are we to believe?