Wednesday, July 30, 2008

School Days: 1958 v 2008

Beginning sometime in the next thirty days, many of us have something to look forward to in the coming year, not all of it good. It wasn't all good "back in the day" either, but it sure was a lot simpler...

Scenario: Jack goes quail hunting before school, pulls into school parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.

1958 - Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack's shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.

2008 - School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.

1958 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.

2008 - Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario: Jeffrey won't be still in class, disrupts other students.

1958 - Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by the Principal. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.

2008 - Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1958 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.

2008 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. State psychologist tells Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has affair with psychologist.

Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

1958 - Mark shares aspirin with Principal out on the smoking dock.

2008 - Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario: Pedro fails high school English.

1958 - Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.

2008 - Pedro's cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a red ant bed.

1958 - Ants die.

2008 - BATF, Homeland Security, FBI called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, FBI investigates parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated, Johnny's Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario: Randy falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Wendie. Wendie hugs him to comfort him.

1958 - In a short time, Randy feels better and goes on playing.

2008 - Wendie is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Randy undergoes 5 years of therapy.

(The preceding is of unknown origin, but has made its way through chat rooms, and across the internet, in recent years. A Tip of the Black Hat is in order, in this case to Mark L of the "Scouts-L" listserv.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Out Of Little Acorns Great Oaks Grow

[What follows is a cautionary tale from the parish of my childhood. It first appeared in the Sunday bulletin of January 18, 1970. There is obviously much more to the story. But the late Father Carl Steinbicker, who was pastor at the time, and whom I first assisted at the Altar of God, saw fit to publish what he did, with emphases appearing then as they do here. The other priest to whom he refers, who shall remain unnamed for our purposes, is now a prominent cleric in the Archdiocese. The incident mentioned at the end was an ongoing labor dispute, where at the time there appeared no end in sight. -- DLA]

A parable about the unsearchableness of God's ways. Once there were two priests, an older and younger one; they lived together in a beautiful house; they said Mass, and preached, and administered the sacraments in a beautiful Church; they had two beautiful schools where they both taught the children about Jesus and His Church; the younger one did a little more talking in the schools than the older one.

And yet, he hardly ever talked to the older one in their home or anywhere else; when asked why by the older one, he said that there was no single subject on which he agreed with the older priest, so there was nothing for him to talk about -- nothing about God, or the Pope, or what was taught in the school, or what was in the papers or in the bible, just nothing.

Of course, over several months this deliberate silence let several little devils in the door -- suspicion, mistrust, unfriendliness, unco-operativeness; they dwelt in that house, and soon got roaming around outside too. The older priest saw them, but could not exorcise them; the younger priest saw them but paid no attention to them. So finally the older priest wrote his Bishop to move him to a little Church where he would be alone.

After several months, the Bishop moved the younger priest! Immediately there was an uproar among all those outside the house to whom the younger priest talked very much; letters were fired off to the Bishop objecting -- "This was a great blow" etc; the older priest was blamed; "He's responsible, he wanted him out" etc. A real revolution was cooking up, when the older priest just quit and went away. And other priests whom nobody knew and who knew nobody came to live in the beautiful house, and to say Mass, and preach and administer the sacraments in the beautiful Church -- and religious life went on much the same as always, as weak as ever!

Moral: Silence may be golden -- but look where it's getting General Electric.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


"At that time, Jesus departing from the district of Tyre came by way of Sidon to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the district of Decapolis. And they brought to Him one deaf and dumb, and entreated Him to lay His hand upon him. And taking him aside from the crowd, He put His fingers into the man's ears, and spitting, He touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, 'Ephpheta,' that is, 'Be opened.' And his ears were at once opened, and the bond of his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak correctly..."

Today is the Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost. In the traditional Roman Calendar, the gospel reading tells of Our Lord curing the man who was deaf and dumb. Today's homily at St John the Beloved reminded us, despite the wealth of technology to facilitate such ends, of our own inability to communicate, and especially to listen. The good Father emphasized the importance of silence in the traditional Roman Mass, especially at the height of the Consecration. One is reminded of "the still small voice" which summoned Elias from the cave.

The message of that lesson was met with a sad irony during the Mass, when at least two particular moments of silence were punctuated by the ringtones of cell phones. Of course, there is rarely a Sunday that goes by when this does not happen. Somewhere in the distance, I smell a notice in the parish bulletin...

There has also been relative silence on this page of late. For reasons unplanned, this writer has taken leave of his constant missives to listen.

Much has been written about the Holy Father's visit to Australia for World Youth Day. To hear the mainstream press tell it, you would think that the only thing that happened, was his apology for the scandal of clerical sexual abuse. Fortunately, some people who were there knew better. Indeed, it was announced "ex post facto" that Pope Benedict met with four victims, inviting them to a private Mass, and speaking to each one for several minutes. The victims, who wished to remain anonymous, were his most ardent defenders when the so-called "reform" groups started belly-aching 1) that they weren't included, 2) that those who were chosen were most likely not to be too critical of the Holy Father, and 3) that it was only talk and no action. These are the same bozos who fawn over the musings of those pseudo-scholars who call for less centralized authority in the Church. Well, here's a question for some of you intellectual giants out there: how can you be "more accountable" as an authority figure when you are less accountable as... well, an authority?

Don't strain yourself too hard trying to answer that one.

Whether you're a Latin-Mass-or-die Traditionalist, or an Eco-Spiritual Earth Mother Goddess Tree Hugger, nothing happens fast enough, or often enough. Nobody listens to your concerns, and the Church is going to Hell in a handbasket. Oh, and don't forget that hallucination known in polite company as "the spirit of Vatican II." Just try and find someone who can tell you what it is. Adherents of fidelity to Catholic teaching are outraged over cranky middle-aged women who think they can ordain priestesses. The iconoclasm reigns on in church renovations, and errors against the Faith continue to be propagated, even by bishops.

Does this surprise anyone? Do they listen closely? If they did, they would hear the final death throes of a generation of aging children, gearing up for a last round of adolescent rebellion. Most of them are now pushing sixty, at least. Ten years from now, they'll be pushing seventy. In twenty years, they'll be at pushing eighty. Their own advocacy of contraception is phasing them out of existence, so who will take their place? If the cry of the psalmist were to be answered, "How long, O Lord," couldn't we narrow it down to about the year 2015 or 2020 at the earliest??? At least we've got a timetable. Most of you reading this could manage to wait that long, especially when the positive effects of Pope Benedict's reign can be felt already, if just barely.

Especially if you're more than ten years younger than I am.

Some days I walk around town, and watch people walk down the street. There are moments when I see several people within a few feet of each other talking on cell phones as they walk. I hear just enough of the conversation, to know that it's not exactly timely. They could wait a few hours, a few minutes, to gossip about who said what to whom and did you hear about when she did this or that. Yeah, it's usually a woman, but I'm not sure what that means. Maybe they should meet for coffee more often. We have coffee bars on every street corner now. What's holding them back?

If I'm on a bus, and my cell phone goes off -- it vibrates, as I rarely use the ringtone -- I'll answer it. My end of the conversation is short, and low key. Sure. I'm on the bus. Five, maybe ten minutes. Yeah, I remember. Get there when I get there. Bye. I've been blessed with some decent human beings on the bus lately. We carry on real conversations. Sometimes it's about more than the weather. There are two ladies who are... well, socially challenged. Maybe I looked at them cross-eyed once, and they can't get past it. Until science finds a cure, I really can't help them.

I've been reading the comboxes on the blogs more often. The same people say the same things. They are easy to refute, because they are so damned predictable. At this point, there is still some sport in setting them straight. It only gets annoying when you find that one dilettante who thinks a little too highly of themselves. Some of them show remarkable stamina. Being a pain in the ass is hard work. I don't know how they do it.

But I do know that, for all our means of communicating, we really don't. That parish volunteer committee made up of people who are no smarter than you are, who won't give you the time of day, are the same people who want to stretch across the aisle and hold hands with you during the singing of the Lord's Prayer. When they're done playing Romper Room, that hand will hold the knife in your back. Until then, at least you know where it's been. You'll also know it's the hand of someone who can't wait for the love-fest to end so they can go back to ignoring you.

But I have something in common with Bianca Jagger (the former wife of You-Know-Who from You-Know-What-Band. See photo above). You see, like her, I can't get no satisfaction. I long for the "smells and bells," to have my senses drawn away from all earthly cares. I want to encounter the Divine, to step through that portal, one that is opened by the actions of a mere mortal who is "in persona Christi."

"...and He charged them to tell no one. But the more He charged them, so much the more did they wonder, saying, 'He has done all things well. He has made both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.'"

Ephpheta. Be opened.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Are there “Dog Days” in July?

If there are, that would explain a lot.

I stole this cartoon from Mark Shea when he wasn't looking. Being the Grand Poobah of the Catholic Blog Universe that he is, Mark is always willing to let a few crumbs fall from the table for a small-timer like yours truly. So have a glass of lemonade, have a cheap laugh at some guy pretending to be presidential, while I desperately try to think of something profound. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Because it’s only a wafer, right?

Less than two weeks ago, Creative Minority Report told us the sad tale of Webster Cook, a student at the University of Central Florida, who tried to leave Sunday Mass on campus in possession of the Eucharist, without consuming it.

"[H]e attempted skulk back to his pew with a consecrated host. The extraordinary minister saw what he was doing and blocked his path until he put into his mouth. However, when he got back to his pew he removed the host. A lady from the Church saw what he done and attempted to get the host back from him by trying to pry his hand open. Cook now claims he is a victim."

After a flood of calls and e-mails to university officials, Cook was appropriately dealt with. For the moment.

Alas, our antagonist is down, but not out. Fresh on the rebound to play "Let's Be A Victim," Cook now maintains, in effect, that the Catholic Church is little more than a one-billion member frat house. Judge for yourself.

"[Cook] filed the hazing charges with school administrators after admitting he took the wafer, considered sacred by Catholics, home after Mass June 29 over the objections of other worshipers... Cook, who kept the wafer in a plastic bag at home for a week before returning it, said the school's anti-hazing policy bans the forced consumption of any food as a condition of admittance or affiliation with an school group."

No, wait! It gets better.

"Cook also maintains the Catholic club violates the school's underage alcohol policy by serving communal wine to minors."

WELL!!! From this little melodrama, we can safely conclude three things.

First, this kid is a total horse's patootie who doesn't have the cojones to admit he screwed up.

Second, having publicly refuted any belief in the Real Presence, he has -- publicly, mind you -- disqualified himself from further reception of the Sacraments until he is reconciled.

And third, if he has a problem with "serving communal wine to minors," he can just forget about being invited to any keg parties from now on!

Revenge of the Gadget Geeks

To know me, is to know I love gadgets -- up to a point.

I wouldn't dream of standing in line to get tickets to a Star Wars movie, or to get in on the first shipment of a new model cell phone. On one hand, I figure people with nothing better to do than make this much out of a material good, can stand a little humiliation, as part of an ongoing program of character development. Then again, it was curiously refreshing to see one of them give a reporter a taste of his own medicine, as this fine gentleman does with KTLA reporter Eric Spillman while waiting in line to buy the next-generation iPhone.

Now, if that had been Dom Bettinelli, our reporter would not have walked away in one piece. On the other hand, Dom wouldn't be in that line, because Dom has a life.

Eh, Dom?

(h/t Allahpundit of Hot Air.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dhimmi: “It can't happen here...”

...but are we seeing the first signs of it in the UK? Here's the latest from the Telegraph:

Two schoolboys were allegedly disciplined after refusing to kneel down and "pray to Allah" during a religious education lesson.

It was claimed that the boys, from a year seven class of 11 and 12-year-olds, were given detention after refusing to take part in a practical demonstration of how Allah is worshipped.

Yesterday parents accused the school of breaching their human rights by forcing them to take part in the exercise....

Yes, thank God that the parents of the students were outraged, and from the way the school is reacting, it probably won't happen again -- for now. But if this is how far a teacher can go, in a country with only an emerging Islamic population, what is to happen were Islam to dominate that nation?

Visitors to Saudi Arabia -- America's partner in peace -- can already answer that.

(PHOTO: Heathcliff O'Malley/ Used without permission or shame.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tony Snow

mwbh mourns the passing of former White House press secretary Tony Snow, who died earlier today of cancer at the age of 53. Snow was a former Cincinnatian, a graduate of Princeton High School in Sharonville. He was a longtime member of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Maryland, where Father Peter Vaghi is pastor. In the video clip above, Brit Hume of FOX News pays tribute to the man and his career.

On May 12 of last year, Snow delivered the Commencement Address for the Catholic University of America here in DC, where he was presented with a degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. A link to the text of that address is presented here, with a hat tip to Right Wing News:

Wherever you are and whatever you do, never forget at this moment, and every moment forward, you have a precious blessing. You've got the breath of life. No matter how lousy things may seem, you've got the breath of life. And while God doesn't promise tomorrow, he does promise eternity.

Let me make a confession: I've never been happier than I am today, not because I got this wonderful, fancy degree. But because the tips that I've been sharing with you are leading me toward my next graduation...

May he rest in peace. Amen.

Thursday, July 10, 2008 a new website venture announced by Thomas Banchoff, Associate Professor of Government, and Director of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University. Its database "tracks religious rhetoric in the campaign by candidate and theme, and features historical and international comparisons." It can be accessed by clicking here.

Professor Banchoff would appreciate any comments or suggestions you have. He can be reached by email: banchoff at georgetown dot edu.

I haven't reviewed the site in any depth, but it appears to fill a much needed gap in this election year, if they can be even-handed about it.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Because sometimes even the tabloids can be wrong...

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- Prosecutors say new DNA tests have cleared JonBenet Ramsey's family in the 1996 killing of the 6-year-old beauty queen...

Obligatory Self-Indulgent Rant

I'm pissed off today. I should be ashamed of the reason, and eventually I will be. Probably by the time you read this.

A local Catholic personality was recently featured in the religious press, and to read it, you'd think they were the next Mother Teresa. Well, I've had some dealings with this person. They'd make a better Cardinal Richelieu. But you can't tell the rest of the world that, including no small number of Catholic bloggers and blog readers. If you're reading this, that probably means you. And I've got just enough sense (which I realize isn't saying much) not to expose them.

I don't want to expose them. I want them to go away.

My attitude is a breeding ground for the sin of envy, one of the short list of seven deadly sins. There's a reason they call them "deadly." Something always dies when they happen.

I should be happy for the rest of the world, for whatever good this person has done for others, despite my being the victim of... well, their less admirable talents. If all good things serve the greater glory of God, then the person doing good is a mere instrument of His, and their achievement is no credit to them. Envy also has a collateral effect. It makes you focus so much on the good fortune of others, that you forget the possibilities for yourself, whether to allow God to work through you, or just to be plain damn happy. After all, if God can raise Sons of Abraham from the stones of the earth, He can always find someone else to do the heavy lifting, rather than rely on those who reject Him.

You would think by now that I'd know, that what goes around comes around. I've lived long enough to see how the mighty have fallen. The ones of which I'm aware all have one thing in common; no one else had to do them in, as they were their own worst enemies. All their great achievements, all the accolades heaped upon them -- all was for naught at the end of the day.

It is possible to speak the truth and live a lie. Even for the most clever and conniving among us, the lie is eventually found. If the misguided soul is lucky, it is found in this life. If it waits for the next one, it's a little late for redemption. I am not unaware that I might even be due for such exposure. Most of us are, if we're really honest about ourselves. And on the Last Day, when all who have existed face the General Judgment of the Almighty, we will see ourselves -- to say nothing of each other -- as we truly are.

I'm overdue for going to confession anyway.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Te Deum: One Year Later

It has been one year since the Holy Father issued the motu proprio (that is, a decree totally on his own initiative) Summorum Pontificum, which allows for the general, if extraordinary, celebration of the classical usage of the Roman Rite (commonly known as the "Tridentine Mass" or simply "the Old Mass"). Much is being written upon reflection among devout Catholics, including Father Zuhlsdorf of WDTPRS, Shawn Tribe et al at The New Liturgical Movement, and Pat Archbold of The Gregorian Rite.

Last October, I began my tenure as Master of Ceremonies for the Traditional Mass at the parish of St John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia. A master of ceremonies is a lower cleric or (in my case) an untonsured surrogate, who assists the priest at the altar, and discreetly supervises the choreography of the other altar servers in attendance. A bishop will typically have and/or make official visits with a designated MC, usually a deacon or a priest. Outside his private chapel, the Holy Father always has one, usually a Titular Archbishop (one with title, but not territory) appointed for the task. It has been a thoroughly rewarding and spiritually edifying experience. Not only am I entrusted with standing at the priest's side on the top step of God's altar giving directions in the missal and all, but I have the privilege of overseeing the training and development of over two dozen altar servers.

Elsewhere in my diocese, despite the full support of our Bishop, the response to the papal decree has been described by one critic as "tepid." There are currently only two other places in northern Virginia that offer the Traditional Mass every Sunday. In most areas of our lives, re-inventing the wheel is hard enough. Learning to say Mass all over again, especially when you're already busy enough, is no exception. But you really can't tell people that. They want what they want, and having been put off for years, often by the lamest of excuses, they want it now. I can sympathize with them to some degree, because I know how thankful I am to have my opportunity.

Still, every Sunday morning, I leave the house at 10:30, drive past the Cathedral Parish where I'm registered, to go eight miles to another parish. I arrive at 11, make preparations, take charge when the previous Mass lets out (on a good day) at 11:30, ring the bell at the stroke of 12, stay on my feet (except for the homily) for ninety minutes, finish clean-up at 2, and finally get home at 2:30.

I'm away from home for four hours. I do this every Sunday. For this, I gave up being a lay reader at a parish where they expected me to step up to the altar before Communion and shake hands with the priest for the "Sign of Peace" (an illicit directive which I politely ignored), and contributing to the inane chatter that characterizes contemporary Catholic worship by making superfluous announcements that were repeated in the bulletin, invariably followed by the celebrant's additional remarks on why they need more money to fix something. Yada yada yada...

Except for a couple of times off during the summer on other pressing matters, I wouldn't miss what I'm doing now for the world.

(VIDEO: Traditional Latin Mass filmed on Easter Sunday in 1941 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Chicago. The film presents the ceremonies of the Missa Solemnis or Solemn High Mass in full detail with narration by then-Msgr Fulton J Sheen. Celebrated by Rev J R Keane of the Order of Servites (hence the white habits and cowls), the ceremonies are accompanied by a full polyphonic choir, orchestra, and fifty Gregorian Chanters. Abridged from original to comply with YouTube file size requirements.)

Friday, July 04, 2008

When in the course of human events...

Today, most of us in America will take it easy, maybe watch a hometown parade, fire up the outdoor grill, and/or go to the local baseball field in the evening to watch the fireworks. From where this writer lives in south Arlington, just west of the Pentagon, it is possible to walk down the main drag and join the huddled masses yearning to view the pyrotechnic display across the Potomac on the Mall. In a moment of respite from that revelry, Ed Morrisey of Hot Air explains some often-overlooked aspects of the Declaration of Independence. In the meantime, whatever you may think of whomever is running for whatever, we here at mwbh want to remind the viewing public of that which is good about America. Many in the rest of the world say they hate us, even as they would do anything to live here. Who can explain it?

The answer comes from no less than The Duke himself. John Wayne breaks it down for us in this video tribute.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Mrs Cleaver Has Left The Beltway

It is one sure sign that this is a week for light blogging. I've got issues, people, issues that interfere with the creative process. It's only temporary, though, and I'm sure I'll get over it. So enough about me, let's look at our surroundings this week.

Earlier this year, June Cleaver After A Six-Pack was the subject of a "Plug This" segment here at mwbh. Since then, our budding Erma Bombeck and her family have moved from the DC area to Nebraska. It probably has something to do with "Mr Cleaver" being in the Air Force, but whatever the reason, she has (re)discovered what other exiled Midwesterners have known all along:

"This morning my husband had to be at an appointment on base at 8 a.m. I set the alarm for 7 a.m. and he was able to shower, have a leisurely and healthy breakfast and arrive at his appointment 10 minutes early. Nice. In DC he would have had to wake up at 5:30 a.m.... Life seems simpler in Nebraska... calmer. I have come to a conclusion as to why life is smooth here and crazy in DC..."

It gets better.