Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spy Wednesday

It was on a Holy Wednesday, and all in the morning
When Judas betrayed our dear heavenly King.
And was not this a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus, we'll call him by name.



It is known as “the liturgy of darkness”.

Tenebrae has traditionally been celebrated on any early dawn of the Triduum. However, the revival of this venerable practice in recent years has found it most commnly celebrated on Wednesday evening. “The distinctive ceremony of Tenebrae is the gradual extinguishing of candles while a series of readings and psalms are chanted or recited.” (Wikipedia)

In this performance of The Sixteen, directed by Harry Christophers, we contemplate the Antiphon and Responsory of the Matins (Vigils) of Holy Saturday, composed by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611).


O vos omnes qui transitis per viam:
O all ye that pass by the way:
attendite et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus.
attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.


O vos omnes qui transitis per viam, attendite et videte:
O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see:
Si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus.
If there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.

Attendite, universi populi, et videte dolorem meum.
Attend, all ye people, and see my sorrow.
Si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus.
If there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.

AlwaysCatholic has more.

5 Second Theatre: Signs

Signs was one of the most popular movies of 2002, starring Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, and Abigail Breslin. Producer Frank Marshall described it as being “about human emotions set in motion by a supernatural event.”


And speaking of Mel Gibson, what with this being Holy Week, we here at mwbh thought about bringing you The Passion of the Christ, which Gibson directed. But after an explosive meeting of the program staff the other day, where a number of heavy objects were thrown around the room after viewing the proposed five-second version, we decided to go with the next best thing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Joseph Sobran: The Words and Deeds of Christ

In contemplating the great literary works of the ages, we come to appreciate those of the Lord of All Ages.

Great as Shakespeare is, I never lose sleep over anything he said. He leaves my conscience alone. He is a tremendous virtuoso of language, but much of his beauty is bound to be lost in translation. (I apologize if this offends our German readers; Germans believe that Shakespeare in English was really just raw material for Schiller’s great translations.)

By the same token, nobody ever feels guilty about anything Plato or Aristotle said. They spoke important and lasting truths often enough, but never anything that disturbs us inwardly. We are never afraid to read them. We aren’t tempted to resist them as we are tempted to resist Christ. The sayings of Confucius and Mohammed haven’t carried over into alien cultures with anything like the force of Christ’s words. They may be very wise at times, or they wouldn’t have endured for many centuries; but still, they are only human.

But all this raises a question ... Yet [Christ] said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” And so far this certainly appears true ...


Holy Week: Ad Random

amusing.gifThere are a number of stories on the back burners this week, just waiting for the right moment. Then again, there's Holy Week.

This is the one time of the Church year when things should come to a stop, or at least a crawl. It isn't necessarily so for many of us. When I was a sacristan in Georgetown years ago, I was amazed at the number of people who came to the church door on the Saturday evening before Easter, around five o'clock, asking whether there was a regular Mass at 5:30.

Once I attended a conference given by a liturgical institute, where some priest got up and proposed that a liturgy be "designed" (or whatever term he used), which would combine the three great feasts of the Paschal Triduum -- that would be Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil -- rolling them into a single celebration in one sitting. I spoke to him afterwords, suggesting the danger of people eventually attending only that liturgy. His response: "Yes, but at least they would come."

Maybe they should just stay home, for all the difference it makes.

Imagine a whole segment of the "practicing Catholic" population not even knowing what the whole notion of a "holy week" really means. A secular society cannot possibly prepare us for that, the idea of sacred time. Not that the American bishops are much help, what with moving the feasts of the Epiphany and Ascension to the nearest Sunday. They'd probably even move Christmas if they thought they could get away with it. (This is what happens when you run out of ideas for pastoral letters.)

I traditionally take Holy Thursday and Good Friday off. You can be sure that mwbh will be here to keep you properly focused, as we explore the question we posed this past Sunday: “Why is this week different from other weeks?”

Monday, March 29, 2010

If You’re Not Catholic ...

Someone once asked the late Msgr Ronald Knox, the great nineteenth-century English priest and convert from Anglicanism, what he thought of married priests in the Church of England. He replied that it was really none of his business.

Closer to the present, Joe Bob Briggs may be way off base when he uses the Bible to justify sodomy -- hey, Joe, we've heard it all before, okay, buddy? -- but there are moments when he makes pretty good sense. This is one of those moments:

The last time I checked, the Vatican was not a county commissioner's board in South Dakota ... So why does the media cover it like it's a legislative body answerable to the public? I doubt that they'd do the same thing if the Pentecostals were huddling in Springfield, Missouri, to debate the rules on speaking in tongues.

Obviously, he's never been to Steubenville. But not to worry. You can read his “redneck haiku” on Twitter, and we'll be bringing more of Joe Bob's homespun wisdom real soon.

Really. Soon.

Not Too Strange, But True Anyway

The Catholic Telegraph Photography Project is the work of Rick Barr, Multimedia Editor of The Catholic Telegraph of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which is the oldest continuously-published Catholic diocesan newspaper in the United States. This project features items from the vast photo and illustrative archive of the periodical, giving the reader a glimpse into the rich Catholic heritage of one of the great cities of the Midwest. Our illustration at right, which appeared in the March 22, 1940 issue, is from a series that ran in the early- and mid-twentieth century entitled "Strange But True" by M J Murray. Click on the image for a closer look.

Weird Science

Have you ever been called a dork, a dweeb, a geek, or a nerd? Do the labels of your misspent youth still keep you up at night?

Daniel Foster of National Review Online maintains: "I'm a geek. It's science." Now you know how he knows. Which means you know too.

Well, whaddaya know!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

“Why is this week different from other weeks?”

Father Thomas Rosica answers this question for us in contemplating the Scripture readings for this holiest of weeks in the Year of Grace.

“Only when someone values love more highly than life, that is, only where someone is ready to put life second to love, for the sake of love, can love be stronger and more than death. If it is to be more than death it must first be more than mere life. Jesus’ total love for men, which leads him to the cross, is perfected in total stepping-over to the Father and therein becomes stronger than death, because in this it is at the same time total ‘being held’ by him.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

Sunday Matinee

The weather turned dreary in the Nation's capital today, and at some point I have to get in the frame of mind for Holy Week. But not yet.

First, let's check out the trailer for the new movie version of “Marmaduke” whom everybody knows as the popular comic-strip Great Dane. Directed by Tom Dey (Failure to Launch, Showtime, Shanghai Noon), it features the voices (or more, in some cases) of Owen Wilson, Lee Pace, William H. Macy, Judy Greer, George Lopez, Kiefer Sutherland, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Ron Perlman, Steve Coogan, and Fergie.

We're making our widescreen video clips just a little bigger these days.

Halfway through the clip, we hear a great tune from 1980 by a band known as “The Romantics” from out of Detroit. “What I Like About You” reached #49 in the US, #12 in the Netherlands, and #2 in Australia. The song remained a "power pop" staple throughout the 1980s in a number of television commercials. It has a raw energy that best exemplifies the Detroit rock sound, and the unique "garage band" sound that typifies the band in its earlier years. Case in point is a great rhythm guitar part, which we'll have to study someday for our Guitar Workshop series.

Won't we?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

People Get Ready

Someone once asked Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, for what should a good Scout be prepared. He replied, "Anything." Closer to the present, an unnamed expert on emergency preparedness, author of a site known as "Code Name Insight" (, actually produced a list of 25 things to always have with you. (Click here.)

I'm not sure "firearm and ammo" is always possible. I'm pretty sure I can't take it to work, but I usually carry about a third of this stuff with me everywhere, and I could raise that to two-thirds with very little trouble.

What's more, we have an excuse to bring you Curtis Mayfield. Preach it, brother!

Friday, March 26, 2010

FAMW: Who Stole The Kishka?

For today's edition of the usual Friday feature, we take advantage of our polka fetish from earlier this week, to focus on one of the burning issues of our time.

The word “Kishka”, in most Slavic languages, literally means “gut” -- more specifically for our case, intestines, which is combined with blood and grain meal to make sausage. (A real "blood and guts" kind of treat, you might say.) Our video clip was produced by some kid named Ryan Balton of Syracuse, New York, around Thanksgiving of 2007. The soundtrack is the crowd-pleasing polka classic for which this piece is named. “Who Stole The Keeshka” was composed by Walter Dana (1902-2000) and Walter Solek (1920-2005), and has been recorded by many polka bands. The most popular version is the 1963 recording by the undisputed king of polka, Frankie Yankovic. (No relation to "Weird Al." No kidding.)

But we're not using that version, because we're still stuck on Brave Combo, so we're using the one from their 1987 album "Polkatharsis" (my very first recording from that band of miscreants). The lyrics vary slightly from the Yankovic original, but who cares? When we think about our aforementioned description of kishka, we are reminded of the old saying about the two things people shouldn't see being made: laws and sausages. After the kind of shenanigans we've had in Washington of late, such is all the more fitting for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Now, will someone please bring back my kishka?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hey, it’s not like she was carrying aspirin, ok?

PHOTO: Ballard High School, Seattle, Washington

If you are a young parent whose child attends a public school, you have never really had your intelligence insulted, until the administration of that school tries to tell you that, with their experience in teaching and caring for hundreds of children, they know better than you what's good for your own child. But that's exactly what happened to us when Paul attended Oakton Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, in the late 1990s. (Sometimes I'm just in the mood for naming names. Deal with it.)

So I shouldn't really be surprised, when I read stuff like this:

When she signed a consent form, Jill figured it meant her 15 year old could go to the Ballard Teen Health Center located inside the high school for an earache, a sports physical, even birth control, but not for help terminating a pregnancy.

“She took a pregnancy test at school at the teen health center,” she said. “Nowhere in this paperwork does it mention abortion or facilitating abortion.”

Jill says her daughter, a pro-life advocate, was given a pass, put in a taxi and sent off to have an abortion during school hours all without her family knowing.

The deal was, if she kept the parents out of it, the whole thing would be paid for. Ed Morrissey of Hot Air believes that the school put pressure on the girl to get the abortion. He thinks he has an idea how.

But wait, this gets better.

T.J. Cosgrove of the King County Health Department, which administers the school-based programs for the health department, says it's always best if parents are involved in their children's health care, but don't always have a say.

“At any age in the state of Washington, an individual can consent to a termination of pregnancy,” he said.

The most adamantly pro-choice among us should be outraged at the school, and at the system that enables it. Even if you think abortions should be free for everybody for any damn fool reason, and completely paid for by tax dollars, the fact remains that it is an invasive medical procedure that is not without some risk. Just ask the several hundred women in the USA who die from LEGAL abortions every year. (Oh wait, that's right. They're dead. Never mind.) Any institution that has that kind of control over your own children, is an institution that is unaware of any limits to its domain. You can NEVER assume that you will be okay with every decision they make. Indeed, such an institution is either to be feared, or stopped, even to the point of shutting it down.

Hopefully, some stalwart pro-life attorney will take the parents' case to court pro bono. It's a long shot, because taking on the public school, means taking on the state. Even in cases like this. Even in cases where your kid gets roughed up in the locker room. Even when it's the coach of the freshman football team at Oakton High School during the 2000 season. (Go Cougars!)

Besides, every lawyer who's ever felt his heart quicken at the sound of an ambulance knows, that the real money is in going after Catholic schools.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Inner Polkamaniac

VIDEO: "Weird Al" Yankovic appearing live at MTV's New Years Eve 1987 Party.

I can't explain it, but I was in the mood for listening to polka music this morning. Yeah, that happy, snappy music. Oh, to be in Cleveland, now that spring is here!

When I was married, we loved to polka. Our Byzantine Rite parish consisted mostly of families from Eastern Europe, often by way of Pittsburgh, Scranton, and other major cities and little coal towns in the Rust Belt. They'd have dances at the parish hall, where we were introduced to a thriving subculture -- the bands, the CDs and tee-shirts for sale, the beer and kielbasa flowing freely. Right around that time, in the early- and mid-1980s, was when punk rock bands discovered polka music, as well as the accordion that made it run. An instrument that was once the most popular in America until Elvis showed up, enjoyed a new popularity. (Even I've got one in the closet somewhere, waiting for me to learn it. All in good time ...)

VIDEO: Live footage of Brave Combo performing "The Denton Polka" at Dan's Silverleaf in Denton, TX. Produced by Joshua Butler & directed by Christopher Largen.

One of the most enduring bands of the "punk polka" phenomenon is Brave Combo (, a band out of the north Texas college town of Denton. Having experienced some turnover in over thirty years of existence, the inspiration of guitarist/keyboardist/accordionist/mad genius Carl Finch holds as its greatest mainstream claim of fame, the Grammy Award for "Best Polka Album" of both 1999 ("Polkasonic") and 2004 ("Let's Kiss"), edging out such polka giants as Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra, who has won the title for most of the last gazillion years.

Over the years, I've heard of a curious phenomenon in the Great Lakes region known as a "Polka Mass." Apparently there are parishes where the service music and hymns are set to polka melodies. I suppose I might be curious about something like this. Then again, it is more likely that I'd show up at a parish where this is done and start laughing my @$$ off hysterically. I'm not taking any chances.

That's because polka is a genre that does not invite ambivalence; you either love it or you don't. Me? I know where I love it, and where (and when) I don't.

Five Second Theatre: Lord of the Rings

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

I have the entire trilogy on DVD at home. After years of putting it off, I finally watched "Return of the King" about a year ago, which is the third part of the trilogy. Oh, so THAT'S what happened to the ring! I could have watched this exciting edition of "Five Second Theatre" and saved myself the trouble. Probably.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about the ending, especially after Frodo and Gollum kept me in suspense forever with these endless mind games. I mean, just decide which one of your split personalities you wanna go with already, you little troll! They probably should have used this one.

Then again, maybe Tolkein would roll over in his grave. Or something.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Annapolis in the Rain

... didn't stop yours truly from heading down the road to the capital city of the state of Maryland (and temporary capital of the United States from November, 1783, to June, 1784), to meet the lovely couple known in the blogosphere as "Darwin" and "Mrs Darwin" the co-authors of the weblog Darwin Catholic. Driving all the way from Austin, Texas, to visit family, they brought along their three cute little daughters, and their adorable eighteen-month-old son, Jack.

Now it's great to meet others in the "Saint Blog's Parish" community when they come to town. It's also great to see their kids. I love kids. Yeah, that's me; kids, dogs and cats. But I digress ...

Annapolis is a great place to visit, and I wouldn't mind living there, right in town in one of those overpriced rowhouses. (Hey, I own one now in Arlington.) It's also the perfect place to take a family that's burned out from visiting the Nation's capital the day before, especially on a Monday, when you can probably find street parking in or near the historic district. The grownups had a lot to talk about over lunch at the world-famous Chick & Ruth's Deli. But my favorite part was after lunch, when they needed someone to hold on to Jack. He was little for his age, had blond hair and blue eyes, and was hard to keep still -- just like Paul was. When I picked him up and put him over my shoulder, he rested his head right away. So I carried him for awhile as we walked down to the docks.

Fortunately, I hate stealing a young dad's thunder, so I gave him back.

So, let's all wish a big Tip of the Black Hat to the "Darwin" family, for sharing their afternoon, and their little ones, with the Catholic blogosphere's premiere curmudgeon-in-the-making.

Y'all come back now, y'hear?

FAQ for the HCR

I like reading Slate. It's a well-done web-based magazine of liberal commentary, that doesn't engage in ad hominems against conservatives to make a point. (If an idea is worth considering, it doesn't have to.) They also have conservative writers on occasion. One story that interested me, was a list of "frequently asked questions" about the new health care reform bill. My interest was piqued by one question in particular:

The Virginia attorney general has promised to file a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that it can't compel Virginians to buy health insurance. His supporters say health care reform violates the 10th Amendment. Does it?

Probably not. The 10th Amendment states that "[t]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." The federal government, however, can claim two Constitutional justifications for mandating health care. One is the right to regulate interstate commerce, which includes any business that operates across state lines. (Even if not all health insurance companies operate in more than one state, Congress can still regulate them as long as that regulation is part of a comprehensive interstate scheme, according to the Supreme Court.) Congress also has the Constitutional right to tax. Just as Congress taxes polluting companies for imposing a burden on other people, it could tax Americans who don't buy health insurance for doing the same. As if to emphasize the point, the fine for not buying insurance is levied by the IRS.

With respect to what constitutes "interstate commerce," I was recently told a story of a farmer during the Depression, who was fined by the Government for growing enough of his own wheat, that he could feed his livestock without having to purchase feed grain. The courts ruled that this interfered with his having to engage in interstate commerce through the purchase of wheat from someone else.


Attende Domine

We are heading toward the end of the Great Fast known in the western Church as Lent, as this Sunday we remember the entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem, and the fate that awaited him. It is as good a time as any to introduce this Mozarabic litany from the tenth century, the cry of the sinner who calls unto God to receive his mercy.

R. Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.
R. Hearken, O Lord, and have mercy, for we have sinned against Thee.

Ad te Rex summe, omnium redemptor, oculos nostros sublevamus flentes: exaudi, Christe, supplicantum preces. R.
Crying, we raise our eyes to Thee, Sovereign King, Redeemer of all. Listen, Christ, to the pleas of the supplicant sinners. R.

Dextera Patris, lapis angularis, via salutis, ianua caelestis, ablue nostri maculas delicti. R.
Thou art at the Right Hand of God the Father, the Keystone, the Way of salvation and Gate of Heaven, cleanse the stains of our sins. R.

Rogamus, Deus, tuam maiestatem: auribus sacris gemitus exaudi: crimina nostra placidus indulge. R.
O God, we beseech Thy majesty to hear our groans; to forgive our sins. R.

Tibi fatemur crimina admissa: contrito corde pandimus occulta: tua Redemptor, pietas ignoscat. R.
We confess to Thee our consented sins; we declare our hidden sins with contrite heart; in Thy mercy, O Redeemer, forgive them. R.

Innocens captus, nec repugnans ductus, testibus falsis pro impiis damnatus: quos redemisti, tu conserva, Christe. R.
Thou wert captured, being innocent; brought about without resistance, condemned by impious men with false witnesses. O Christ keep safe those whom Thou hast redeemed. R.

It is chanted by Doina Buzut and Lucia Starinski of

Monday, March 22, 2010

John Boehner Explains It All For You

Today, in the wake of the passage of the health care reform bill, we are submitting for consideration, the entire address last night, of Congressman John Boehner, Republican from Ohio and House Minority Leader, also a graduate of Cincinnati Moeller High School (Go Crusaders!). Be advised, he uses the "H" word a few times, and gets booed by some ruffians who will never have to live with the decision they would impose on the rest of us.

“Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, I rise tonight with a sad and heavy heart. Today, we should be standing together, reflecting on a year of bipartisanship, and working to answer our country’s call and their challenge to address the rising costs of health insurance in our country. Today, this body, this institution, enshrined in the first article of the Constitution by our Founding Fathers as a sign of the importance they placed on this House, should be looking with pride on this legislation and our work.

“But it is not so. No, today we’re standing here looking at a health care bill that no one in this body believes is satisfactory. Today we stand here amidst the wreckage of what was once the respect and honor that this House was held in by our fellow citizens.

“And we all know why it is so. We have failed to listen to America. And we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents. And when we fail to reflect that will – we fail ourselves and we fail our country.

“Look at this bill. Ask yourself: do you really believe that if you like the health plan that you have, that you can keep it? No, you can’t. In this economy, with this unemployment, with our desperate need for jobs and economic growth, is this really the time to raise taxes, to create bureaucracies, and burden every job creator in our land? The answer is no. Can you go home and tell your senior citizens that these cuts in Medicare will not limit their access to doctors or further weaken the program instead of strengthening it? No, you cannot. Can you go home and tell your constituents with confidence that this bill respects the sanctity of all human life, and that it won’t allow for taxpayer funding of abortion for the first time in 30 years? No, you cannot.

“And look at how this bill was written. Can you say it was done openly, with transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals, and struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people? Hell no, you can’t! Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager’s amendment? Hell no, you haven’t!

“Mr. Speaker, in a few minutes, we will cast some of the most consequential votes that any of us will ever cast in this chamber. The decision we make will affect every man, woman and child in this nation for generations to come. If we’re going to vote to defy the will of the American people, then we ought to have the courage to stand before them and announce our votes, one at a time. I sent a letter to the Speaker this week asking that the ‘call of the roll’ be ordered for this vote. Madame Speaker, I ask you. Will you, in the interest of this institution, grant my request? Will you, Mr. Speaker, grant my request that we have a call of the roll? Mr. Speaker, will you grant my request that we have a call of the roll?

“My colleagues, this is the People’s House. When we came here, we each swore an oath to uphold and abide by the Constitution as representatives of the people. But the process here is broken. The institution is broken.

“And as a result, this bill is not what the American people need, nor what our constituents want. Americans are out there are making sacrifices and struggling to build a better future for their kids. And over the last year as the damn-the-torpedoes outline of this legislation became more clear, millions lifted their voices, and many for the first time, asking us to slow down, not try to cram through more than the system could handle. Not to spend money that we didn’t have. In this time of recession, they wanted us to focus on jobs, not more spending, not more government, certainly not more taxes.

“But what they see today frightens them. They’re frightened because they don’t know what comes next. They’re disgusted, because they see one political party closing out the other from what should be a national solution. And they are angry. They are angry that no matter how they engage in this debate, this body moves forward against their will.

“Shame on us. Shame on this body. Shame on each and every one of you who substitutes your will and your desires above those of your fellow countrymen.

“Around this chamber, looking upon us are the lawgivers – from Moses, to Gaius, to Blackstone, to Thomas Jefferson. By our actions today, we disgrace their values. We break the ties of history in this chamber. We break our trust with Americans.

“When I handed the Speaker the gavel in 2007, I said: “this is the people’s House – and the moment a majority forgets this, it starts writing itself a ticket to minority status. If we pass this bill, there will be no turning back. It will be the last straw for the American people. And In a democracy, you can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it. And if we defy the will of our fellow citizens and pass this bill, we are going to be held to account by those who have placed us in their trust. We will have shattered those bonds of trust.

“I beg you. I beg each and every one of you on both sides of the aisle: Do not further strike at the heart of this country and this institution with arrogance, for surely you will not strike with impunity. I ask each of you to vow never to let this happen again – this process, this defiance of our citizens. It is not too late to begin to restore the bonds of trust with our Nation and return comity to this institution.

“And so, join me. Join me in voting against this bill, so that we may come together anew, and address this challenge of health care in a manner that brings credit to this body, and brings credit to the ideals of this nation, and most importantly, it reflects the will our people.”


Hey, how about those checks and balances?

Over the weekend, the most pro-choice President in history, made a deal with a pro-life Democrat, that he would sign an executive order maintaining the status quo on restricting funding for abortions. Well, it's safe to say that our pro-life Democrat is pro-life no more. The Susan B Anthony list announced that our wheeler-dealer is losing his "Defender of Life" Award. (He didn't get it yet, so he doesn't have to mail it back.) And as of last night, proponents of the health care legislation had the votes they needed.

Now, here's the catch. The President doesn't make law; Congress does. And where the executive order conflicts with the law, the law prevails. We heard a lot about this abuse of power in the last major election. I don't know about you, but I found this guy very convincing.

This ain't over yet, kids.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Father Paul Marx, OSB (1920-2010)

One night in 1989 there was a phone call. A priest was trying to reach an attorney in Louisiana. How or why, I don't know, but what he got instead was me in Virginia. "You have the wrong number, Father, but I know about you, and you're work. I just wanna say, keep standing up to those bishops." His response was matter of fact, if not downright adamant: "I'm just telling them the truth."

Benedictine Father Paul Marx founded Human Life International in 1981, in a warehouse in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Today it is "the largest international, pro-life, pro-family, pro-woman organization in the world." He stood up to the American bishops, at a time when only one of them, New York Auxiliary Austin Vaughan, was willing to go to jail for the unborn, and damn near all the rest of them couldn't stop salivating over some drivel about a "seamless garment." We can see today how many shepherds are willing to stand up for life, but if you're Catholic, and you are the least bit informed about prolife issues, you know that Father Marx was the early standard bearer.

His diligence was not without cost. His superiors thought he was mentally unbalanced, and attempted to silence him. (Don't deny it, losers. You SO wanted to get this guy!) Many in the prolife movement found his style of management to be a challenge. The latter may have been his undoing as the previous century was coming to a close, but even after stepping down from the leadership of HLI, he pressed on, founding the Population Research Institute (PRI), situated in the same building as the present HLI headquarters in Front Royal, Virginia.

Father Marx was born just ten days before Karol Wojtyla, who as Pope John Paul, told the priest he was doing "the most important work on earth." He fell asleep in the Lord yesterday morning, shortly before his ninetieth birthday. Few will remember the contentious episodes in his life, but this writer submits that they bear retelling, if only to remind us of the continual snares of the Evil One in confounding our good work on Earth, and the warning of our Lord Himself that "many will hate you because of Me."

Steven Mosher, President of PRI, has said: “We are told by those at his bedside that, at the moment of his death, Father raised his arms towards Heaven and said, ‘Take me home.’

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 3:30 pm this Friday, at Saint John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. Tributes to the good Father can be found at the HLI website here.

(h/t to Mary Ann Kreitzer. Hey, thanks for the photo.)

Judica me, Deus ...

“Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et doloso eripe me: quia tu es Deus meus et fortitudo mea.”

“Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man: for Thou art my God and my strength.”

Today the Roman church celebrated the beginning of a season within the Lenten fast known as "Passiontide." The Introit (Entrance Antiphon) for the Mass of the day -- in both the traditional and reformed usage -- begins with the prayer which is traditionally prayed by the priests and his ministers at the foot of the altar. It is taken from Psalm 42(43), which was composed to inspire during a time of tribulation for the Chosen People. Not only does the Psalmist plead with God for justice upon himself, but against his enemies.

Amidst the cry for help, there is more. There is a longing.

“Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam: ipsa me deduxerunt et adduxerunt in montem sanctum tuum et in tabernacula tua.”

“Send out Thy light and Thy truth: they have led me and brought me unto Thy holy hill, even unto Thy tabernacles.”

Just as Elijah would climb the heights to await the still small voice, just as Christ led the Three to the height of Mount Tabor for a glimpse of His majesty, just as the priest would begin at the first step of his pilgrimage to sacrifice -- so too the Psalmist prayed to be led up to the mountain of God, that he might dwell with Him in His holy place.

Such was the prayer of the Church today, as Her faithful children are beleaguered by persecution in the public square.

Today, the legislative branch of the US government will vote on an unprecedented health care reform bill. While ostensibly meant to provide access to health care for all Americans, including the millions currently without any such care, the bill would have the effect of expanding the role of government even farther beyond the intent of the Founding Fathers as enshrined in the Constitution. It would force Americans under pain of monetary fine to purchase goods and services, an act which can only be seen as a form of tyranny, regardless of its outcome. It would further the availability of abortion services, thus adding to an already staggering death toll. Finally, it would leave the decision in the hands of bureaucrats, to decide whether someone's life is worth saving.

We should have seen this coming. It will get worse before it gets better. In the aftermath of the most recent Presidential elections, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver rendered a sad appraisal of our state of affairs:

November [of 2008] showed us that 40 years of American Catholic complacency and poor formation are bearing exactly the fruit we should have expected. Or to put it more discreetly, the November elections confirmed a trend, rather than created a new moment, in American culture ...

Some Catholics in both political parties are deeply troubled by these issues. But too many Catholics just don’t really care. That’s the truth of it. If they cared, our political environment would be different. If 65 million Catholics really cared about their faith and cared about what it teaches, neither political party could ignore what we believe about justice for the poor, or the homeless, or immigrants, or the unborn child. If 65 million American Catholics really understood their faith, we wouldn’t need to waste each other’s time arguing about whether the legalized killing of an unborn child is somehow ‘balanced out’ or excused by three other good social policies ...

We need to stop over-counting our numbers, our influence, our institutions and our resources, because they’re not real. We can’t talk about following St Paul and converting our culture until we sober up and get honest about what we’ve allowed ourselves to become. We need to stop lying to each other, to ourselves and to God by claiming to “personally oppose” some homicidal evil — but then allowing it to be legal at the same time.

We went in the space of one week from “Laetare Sunday” as a respite of rejoicing during the Great Fast, to “Judica Sunday” a call for the verdict of a Just Judge. Have the sins of a nation come to visit her inhabitants? How would her children respond?

“Judge me, O God ...”

VIDEO: Inspired by the Antiphon for the Magnificat of Second Vespers: “Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see My day; he saw it, and was glad.” (John 8:56)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sunday Showdown: The Lowdown

In order to bring you up to date on the current health care reform bill being debated in Congress as this is written, we found this video clip produced by the National Republican Congressional Committee. We here at mwbh don't like to use something so obviously partisan. But it's concise, and it's hilarious, so we'll give it a pass.

Speaking of which, a procedure known as "deem and pass", which essentially presumes a vote for one thing to be a vote for something else altogether -- you get to vote for something without being blamed for voting for it; neat trick, huh? -- is being dropped by one congressman after another like a hot potato. This after Michael McCConnell, the pre-eminent constitutional scholar from Stanford University, published an opinion in The Wall Street Journal calling it unconstitutional. (That, and you'd have to be a major weasel!) Even supporters of the bill are backing away from it.

Access to health care remains a problem for a large segment of the American people, even some with full time jobs. My son is 24 1/2, and hasn't had it since he became ineligible for my plan at 22. It was different for me at his age. As a free-lancer just out of college, I was able to obtain major medical insurance from an independent insurance agent. He hasn't been so lucky. There is some consolation that he's young, but other than that ...

It shouldn't be against the law to elect not to buy something. In fact, it's probably against, say, the Constitution, maybe? But the current health care reform legislation being considered by Congress will do precisely that. And despite what some people want to delude us into thinking, it will fund abortions. That's right, a form of birth control which even Margaret Sanger condemned -- really, I looked it up -- will be on the American taxpayer. (It may not be explicit, but there's a "back door" way to for it to happen, and our staff is working on bringing it to you. Soon.) Bret Baier of Fox News tried to get an answer to some of this in an interview with the President (see clip below). But the President doesn't like to be interrupted when he's ducking a hard question.

But he didn't duck this: “I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what the rules are.” This from a guy who taught constitutional law for ten years.

You still with me? Here comes the good part.

We here at mwbh were able to obtain a copy of a letter that appeared in The Indianapolis Star. Doctor Stephen E Frazer is an anesthesiologist in Indianapolis. He wrote this to Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, who recently announced he will not be seeking another term.

Keep in mind that this guy isn't some crank who sits at a computer in his pajamas all day writing a blog. He went to medical school. We've added our own emphasis in a few places.

Senator Bayh,

As a practicing physician I have major concerns with the health care bill before Congress. I actually have read the bill and am shocked by the brazenness of the government's proposed involvement in the patient-physician relationship. The very idea that the government will dictate and ration patient care is dangerous and certainly not helpful in designing a health care system that works for all. Every physician I work with agrees that we need to fix our health care system, but the proposed bills currently making their way through congress will be a disaster if passed.

I ask you respectfully and as a patriotic American to look at the following troubling lines that I have read in the bill. You cannot possibly believe that these proposals are in the best interests of the country and our fellow citizens.

Page 22 of the HC Bill: Mandates that the Govt will audit books of all employers that self-insure!!

Page 30 Sec 123 of HC bill: THERE WILL BE A GOVT COMMITTEE that decides what treatments/benefits you get.

Page 29 lines 4-16 in the HC bill: YOUR HEALTH CARE IS RATIONED!!!

Page 42 of HC Bill: The Health Choices Commissioner will choose your HC benefits for you. You have no choice!

Page 50 Section 152 in HC bill: HC will be provided to ALL non-US citizens, illegal or otherwise.

Page 58 HC Bill: Govt will have real-time access to individuals' finances & a 'National ID Health card' will be issued! (Papers please!)

Page 59 HC Bill lines 21-24: Govt will have direct access to your bank accounts for elective funds transfer. (Time for more cash and carry)

Page 65 Sec 164: Is a payoff subsidized plan for retirees and their families in unions & community organizations: (ACORN).

Page 84 Sec 203 HC bill: Govt mandates ALL benefit packages for private HC plans in the 'Exchange.'

Page 85 Line 7 HC Bill: Specifications of Benefit Levels for Plans -- The Govt will ration your health care!

Page 91 Lines 4-7 HC Bill: Govt mandates linguistic appropriate services. (Translation: illegal aliens.)

Page 95 HC Bill Lines 8-18: The Govt will use groups (i.e. ACORN & Americorps to sign up individuals for Govt HC plan.

Page 85 Line 7 HC Bill: Specifications of Benefit Levels for Plans. (AARP members - your health care WILL be rationed!)

Page 102 Lines 12-18 HC Bill: Medicaid eligible individuals will be automatically enrolled in Medicaid. (No choice.)

Page 124 lines 24-25 HC: No company can sue GOVT on price fixing. No "judicial review" against Govt monopoly.

Page 127 Lines 1-16 HC Bill: Doctors/American Medical Association - The Govt will tell YOU what salary you can make.

Page 145 Line 15-17: An Employer MUST auto-enroll employees into public option plan. (NO choice!)

Page 126 Lines 22-25: Employers MUST pay for HC for part-time employees AND their families. (Employees shouldn't get excited about this as employers will be forced to reduce its work force, benefits, and wages/salaries to cover such a huge expense.)

Page 149 Lines 16-24: ANY Employer with payroll 401k & above who does not provide public option will pay 8% tax on all payroll! (See the last comment in parenthesis.)

Page 150 Lines 9-13: A business with payroll between $251K & $401K who doesn't provide public option will pay 2-6% tax on all payroll.

Page 167 Lines 18-23: ANY individual who doesn't have acceptable HC according to Govt will be taxed 2.5% of income.

Page 170 Lines 1-3 HC Bill: Any NONRESIDENT Alien is exempt from individual taxes. (Americans will pay.) (Like always)

Page 195 HC Bill: Officers & employees of the GOVT HC Admin. will have access to ALL Americans' finances and personal records. (I guess so they can 'deduct' their fees)

Page 203 Line 14-15 HC: "The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax." (Yes, it really says that!) ( a 'fee' instead)

Page 239 Line 14-24 HC Bill: Govt will reduce physician services for Medicaid Seniors. (Low-income and the poor are affected)

Page 241 Line 6-8 HC Bill: Doctors: It doesn't matter what specialty you have trained yourself in -- you will all be paid the same! (Just TRY to tell me that's not Socialism!)

Page 253 Line 10-18: The Govt sets the value of a doctor's time, profession, judgment, etc. (Literally-- the value of humans.)

Page 265 Sec 1131: The Govt mandates and controls productivity for "private" HC industries.

Page 268 Sec 1141: The federal Govt regulates the rental and purchase of power driven wheelchairs.

Page 272 SEC. 1145: TREATMENT OF CERTAIN CANCER HOSPITALS - Cancer patients - welcome to rationing!

Page 280 Sec 1151: The Govt will penalize hospitals for whatever the Govt deems preventable (

Page 298 Lines 9-11: Doctors: If you treat a patient during initial admission that results in a re-admission -- the Govt will penalize you.

Page 317 L 13-20: PROHIBITION on ownership/investment. (The Govt tells doctors what and how much they can own!)

Page 317-318 lines 21-25, 1-3: PROHIBITION on expansion. (The Govt is mandating that hospitals cannot expand.)

Page 321 2-13: Hospitals have the opportunity to apply for exception BUT community input is required. (Can you say ACORN?)

Page 335 L 16-25 Pg 336-339: The Govt mandates establishment of outcome-based measures. (HC the way they want -- rationing.)

Page 341 Lines 3-9: The Govt has authority to disqualify Medicare Advance Plans, HMOs, etc. (Forcing people into the Govt plan)

Page 354 Sec 1177: The Govt will RESTRICT enrollment of 'special needs people!' Unbelievable!

Page 379 Sec 1191: The Govt creates more bureaucracy via a "Tele-Health Advisory Committee." (Can you say HC by phone?)

Page 425 Lines 4-12: The Govt mandates "Advance-Care Planning Consult." (Think senior citizens end-of-life patients.)

Page 425 Lines 17-19: The Govt will instruct and consult regarding living wills, durable powers of attorney, etc. (And it's mandatory!)

Page 425 Lines 22-25, 426 Lines 1-3: The Govt provides an "approved" list of end-of-life resources; guiding you in death. (Also called 'assisted suicide.') (Sounds like Soylent Green to me.)

Page 427 Lines 15-24: The Govt mandates a program for orders on "end-of-life." (The Govt has a say in how your life ends!)

Page 429 Lines 1-9: An "advanced-care planning consultant" will be used frequently as a patient's health deteriorates.

Page 429 Lines 10-12: An "advanced care consultation" may include an ORDER for end-of-life plans. (AN ORDER TO DIE FROM THE GOVERNMENT?!?)

Page 429 Lines 13-25: The GOVT will specify which doctors can write an end-of-life order. (I wouldn't want to stand before God after getting paid for THAT job!)

Page 430 Lines 11-15: The Govt will decide what level of treatment you will have at end-of-life! (Again -- no choice!)

Page 469: Community-Based Home Medical Services = Non-Profit Organizations. Hello? ACORN Medical Services here!?!)

Page 489 Sec 1308: The Govt will cover marriage and family therapy. (Which means Govt will insert itself into your marriage even.)

Page 494-498: Govt will cover Mental Health Services including defining, creating, and rationing those services.

Senator I guarantee that I personally will do everything possible to inform patients and my fellow physicians about the dangers of the proposed bills you and your colleagues are debating.

Furthermore, if you vote for a bill that enforces socialized medicine on the country and destroys the doctor-patient relationship, I will do everything in my power to make sure you lose your job in the next election.


Stephen E. Fraser, MD

We know that Senator Bayh isn't planning to run again, so the last threat may be an empty one. But he may find successor candidates backing away from his endorsement, depending on what goes down. Even now, attorneys are spending the weekend preparing to take this to the Supreme Court on some pretty obvious constitutional grounds. And even if that doesn't work, there is reason to believe that most state legislatures will try to block this. So it could be months before this bill is implemented.

Most of the American public is against this bill, and yet in the next 24 hours, it could go either way. Is that an indication of our elected representatives truly representing us?

You may wish to call your senator and/or representative in the next 24 hours and remind them.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Celebrating Diversity

... can have unintended consequences when confronted on a national scale. Syndicated columnist Patrick Buchanan cites the recent history of parochial interests as an impediment to national unity.

Ethnonationalism, that relentless drive of peoples to secede and dwell apart, to establish their own nation-state, where their faith is predominant, their language spoken, their heroes and history revered, and they rule to the exclusion of all others, is rampant.

In China, Tibetans fight assimilation and the mass migration of Han Chinese into what was their country, as do the Uighurs in the west who dream of an East Turkestan breaking away and taking its place among the nations of the world.

In speaking of the rising tribalism abroad, Schlesinger added, "The ethnic upsurge in America, far from being unique, partakes of the global fever."

Indeed, separatism and secessionism seem to be in the air.

Examples from around the world, and from the last century, provide for a cautionary tale.

FAMW: Politizoid

The mainstream media is full of instances where remarks are taken out of context. Since this has been dubbed an acceptable form of journalism by the intelligentsia, let's run with that for the moment. Take the usual self-absorbed banter and complaining and what-not, that you are likely to hear from political leaders, and combine it into a statement along the lines of a now-defunct TV situation comedy, one devoted to self-absorbed banter and complaining and what-not. The result is courtesy of the YouTube channel for “Politizoid”. Given the current top news stories of late, it was the least we could do for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Go To Joseph

Today, the western Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, and foster-father of the Christ Child.

The scriptures say little about him. We know him to have been "a just man," who when learning that Mary was with child during their betrothal, was prepared to divorce her rather than have her punished for adultery by stoning. But an angel came in a dream and set him straight. Catholics believe that "he did not know her until she bore her firstborn son," but the word "until" in this context does not imply that they consummated their union afterwords, thus Mary retained her perpetual virginity, and they essentially "lived as brother and sister." The last we hear of him was when Jesus was twelve, and Joseph and Mary found Him in the Temple after thinking He was lost.

An ancient legend says that Joseph was an old man of ninety years when he married Mary. She was likely only sixteen, maybe even fourteen, which would not have been unusual for the time. Another legend says that Joseph was a widower when he married Mary, and that he had four sons and two daughters from the previous union, one of those sons later becoming an apostle, "James the brother of Jesus." While upheld as a pious tradition by Orthodox Christians (who remember Joseph on the Sunday within the octave of Christmas), James was most likely a cousin of Jesus, such distinctions within a household being uncommon back then.

Joseph was a carpenter in Nazareth, a remote village (what we would call a "hicktown" today) in Galilee. There is some indication that Jesus learned His father's trade. It is likely that Joseph died at some point during Jesus' early adulthood, leaving Him to take over His father's trade, and care for His mother alone until He began his public ministry at thirty years of age.

Devotion to Saint Joseph is very popular among traditional Catholics. You can learn about customs associated with his feast at You are also welcome to listen to a homily given by Father Franklyn McAfee on March 22, 2009, entitled "Go To Joseph." As is customary for a Traditional Mass, the Gospel is read in the vernacular preceding the homily. (If the audio track does not appear on your browser, click here.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guitar Workshop: Have Guitar Will Travel

My last trip by air was in the summer of 2003, to Ohio, from there to Seattle, and back to Ohio, all in a two-week period. I actually drove to the airport a day in advance, showed them my travel-size guitar at the counter, and specifically asked them if it was okay for carry-on. They said okay, and indeed it all turned out okay, as my guitar fit easily into the overhead compartment.

But that was then, and this is now.

Recently the Washington Post came out with a piece in its travel section on traveling with carry-on luggage, with some emphasis on those who travel with guitars. ("Airlines, passengers squabble over baggage fees", 02.21.10) I recommend it for anyone and everyone who, like me, has a long-standing tradition of limiting oneself to carry-on luggage. As far as I'm concerned, any business that can damage your property with impunity is not to be trusted as a matter of course. (That said, I have no choice but to trust them to fly the plane.)

The experience has been a nightmare for a professional guitar man named Dave Carroll. Jimmy Akin gives the lowdown.

Basically, here's what happened: United Airlines baggage handlers recklessly damaged his $3,500 Taylor guitar and then the company refused to pay for repairs. After exhausting his options with United, he told them he would write three songs and put them on YouTube. Reportedly, he was told, "Good luck with that one, pal."

The first has eight million views, one million of which happened in the first week of release. He was quickly contacted by United with an offer of compensation in hopes of his pulling the video. Reportedly, he replied, "Good luck with that one, pal."

When I first heard this story, I wondered if his friends put on a benefit for him. Musicians can be like that for one another. Like when Willie Nelson lost many of his belongings to the IRS for back taxes, and his friends all showed up for the auction and bought his stuff back for him. It seems Carroll had a happy ending, or at least he made one out of it. (Catch him on Twitter by clicking here.)

But for many working guitarists, the treatment of their instrument by the airlines is no laughing matter. The world's air carriers are notoriously unapologetic when one of their employees damages someone's means of making a living, and insurance doesn't always cover that damage. Articles appear in guitar periodicals with some regularity. The latest is in the April 2010 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, where Chris Smither talks about "Flying With A Guitar"...

There is no anxiety quite like that of the guitar player as he or she approaches the gate and prepares to board a plane ... The purpose of this piece is to share some tips and observations that can make you a major leaguer when it comes to getting your ax on board.

There are even outer cases specially designed to protect your guitar case and its contents from the neanderthals that airlines usually hire as baggage handlers. That's right, a case within a case. If you are a professional who travels a lot, travels light, and your guitar is worth several thousand dollars (especially if it's a vintage piece worthy of a collector), the expense may be justified.

With the travel season gearing up, I'd recommend Southwest. If you've ever flown them, you know they have a style of customer service all their own, and they seem to hire budding stand-up comics as flight attendants, including during the safety lesson: "For those of you who are traveling with small children, what were you thinking?" If you read the Post chart for "Maximum combined linear measurement of carry-on luggage", you will find that most travel-sized guitars will fit the requirements for most airlines. If you have a problem competing with some idiot's ski equipment (and I wouldn't have believed it I hadn't seen it), remind the flight attendant of your compliance, and appeal to his/her sense of reason.

On the other hand, if you still have to travel with a full-size axe, be sure and catch the fourth video clip, where a representative from Taylor Guitars gives some very helpful insights (and that happy ending I was telling you about). There is one that he neglects to mention, though: avoid O'Hare at all costs, especially if you have a connecting flight.

Happy trails!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Another “No Spin” Zone

I was going to wait on this, but NBC News and the National Catholic Reporter can't seem to help themselves today, in spreading drivel that has already been authoritatively refuted. A segment of this video clip, from today's edition of News, is enough to set the record straight.

Below is a transcript of what is said in the second segment of the report (beginning at 00:47), for the attention-span challenged among our readers. Stay with me now ...

Germany: Journalists have used a sex-abuse case in the Munich archdiocese in order to form a direct link to Pope Benedict XVI. But emerging details of the case show that the future Pontiff was not involved in appointing the accused molester to do parish work. The priest in question belonged to the Essen diocese, when he was first accused of sexual misconduct in 1980. At the time then-Cardinal Ratzinger was Archbishop of Munich. He approved the priest’s transfer to Munich. The journalist did however not report the crucial fact that this transfer did not imply parish work but entrance into a counseling program in Munich. The priest was given a parish assignment in September 1982 - 7 months after Cardinal Ratzinger had left to Rome to become the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

You wanna speak truth to power, fine, but do it WITH the truth.

UPDATE: Jimmy Akin gives the lowdown in the National Catholic Register, in a piece entitled “Pope Benedict Transferred Paedophile?”

Beyond Breastplates

Anima Christi was my favorite prayer as a little boy, about second or third grade, the one I always turned to after receiving Communion.

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632- 1687), an Italian (Florentine) composer in the court of King Louis XIV, composed a petit motet for three sopranos and basso continuo under this name, and musicians such as Giovanni Valentini performed it.

Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
    Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
    Body of Christ, save me.
Sanguis Christi, inebria me.
    Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.
    Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
    Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O bone Jesu, exaudi me.
    O good Jesus, hear me.
Intra tua vulnera absconde me.
    Within Thy wounds hide me.
Ne permittas me separari a te.
    Separated from Thee let me never be.
Ab hoste maligno defende me.
    From the malicious enemy defend me.
In hora mortis meae voca me.
    In the hour of my death call me.
Et iube me venire ad te.
    And bid me come unto Thee.
Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te.
    That with thy saints I may praise Thee.
In saecula saeculorum. Amen.
    Forever and ever. Amen.

I cannot be certain, but it appears to have been inspired by part of an ancient Gaelic prayer known as the Faeth Fiada, or the Lorica (Breastplate) of Saint Patrick. When Christendom College has its annual Saint Patrick's Day celebration, for all the good clean fun kind of ruckus that ensues, it is preceded by the proclamation of this poem (followed in short order, naturally, by the “Forógra na Poblachta” or 1916 Proclamation of Irish Independence). I have seen many versions. The following appears to be the longest.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

I don't think I'll be hitting the bars tonight. After all, "Sal" will be out with the girls, probably singing "Danny Boy" in Tagalog on the karaoke machine. But without her running interference, I can't keep the lasses from begging me to dance with them. So I may stay home and have a slice of that corned beef brisket, touched off with sauerkraut out of a can. (Obviously still a bachelor at heart.) Oh, and I'll watch Braveheart. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Scalia (aka The Anchoress) calls attention to a poetic version of the prayer, which would be very easy to memorize.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
    Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
    Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
    Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
    Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.


My Annual Über-Celtic Moment

Longtime readers of man with black hat have read most of this before, but we have some new people in our audience.

So the rest of you, humor me.

Today the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Patrick (387-493), the patron saint of Ireland. It is on the Emerald Isle that the day was traditionally a religious holiday, when the bars would close and the churches would be full out of obligation. Only in recent years has the Irish feast seen a more rebellious spirit, complete with parades and green beer, which is definitely an American influence. (I can't imagine why Europeans hate us so much, can you?)

Growing up in a postwar Catholic environment, we were told that there were two kinds of people; those who were Irish, and those who wish they were. There were even Irish nuns who favored the Irish kids. This included the notorious Sister Mary Mel, who wasn't above calling some miscreant a "jackass." My own family fell into neither category, and I came to dismiss the whole notion of St Paddy's Day -- indeed, the whole notion of being Irish -- as a license for certain people to be more arrogant and obnoxious than they already were.

Then I went to college, where I discovered Irish music. I mean the real thing, not the over-romanticized "Christmas-in-Killarney-on-St-Patrick's-in-June" that passed itself off as genuine the whole time. I simply could not get enough of it. I used to watch the St Patrick's Day parade in Cincinnati, which included the carrying of the statue of the Saint, which the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians would "steal" in the middle of night, from what was once the German parish in Mount Adams. (Long story.) There was also the local Irish dance school, with boys and girls who never imagined that, a quarter century later, they could do this for a living in shows like "Riverdance."

Who knew?

By the end of the 1970s I spent Sunday evenings working at a coffeehouse, and I helped broker a deal that brought Clannad to town on their first American tour. I even gave harpist/vocalist Máire Brennan (pronounced MOY-uh) a ride back to where she was staying. Otherwise shy and aloof, she managed to laugh at my jokes. That seemed to matter at the time.

I saw Máire again in 1987, in a music video on VH1, for a song entitled "Something to Believe In." She was also the haunting voice in the Volkswagen commercials. Naturally she's world-famous now, and probably wouldn't return my calls. Although she did write me a long and possibly heartfelt note when she autographed my copy of their album. I say "possibly" because it was in Gaelic, so I'll never know for sure, but she obviously went to some trouble. Máire also came out with a book in 2001 entitled "The Other Side of the Rainbow." She continues to tour and so on, but I knew her when.

(Sigh ...) Anyway, back to the '70s.

While the whole world (including "Sal") was going bonkers over disco, the feast became an annual ritual, of spending most of the accompanying weekend hanging out at Hap's Irish Pub in the Hyde Park section of Cincinnati, or Arnold's Bar and Grill downtown. Even when I moved to Washington in 1980, I learned Irish dancing (if not quite what appears in the above video), Irish folk tales, and the like. But the upscale bars in the Nation's capital weren't as quaint as the neighborhood pubs in my old hometown, and I was under no illusions that this heritage was one that I could claim for my own.

In 1982, that claim became even more elusive. I married a gal whose grandparents came over from Slovakia, and who grew up hearing Slovak around the house. This pretty much killed any enthusiasm for all things Irish around our house. By the time eastern Europeans came to America in the late 19th and early 20th century, the Irish were the big fish in the little blue-collar pond, and didn't mind letting the "hunkies" in the coal towns and factory neighborhoods know it. This latency got a reprieve when the marriage tanked in 1990.

Then one night -- it was about 1998, I think -- I was interviewed for a writing job by a priest who edited a major Catholic periodical. A native of Dublin, he reminded me of what really mattered:

“Patrick was not Irish, and on his Feast Day, we do not celebrate being Irish; we celebrate being Catholic.”

I always knew that my father's side came from a small town near Verdun, in the Lorraine province of France. But in recent years, we learned that before the 18th century, the Alexandre line was expatriated from Scotland, a result of the Rebellion when England overtook them. I was later to find out, that the man known as Maganus Sucatus was of a Roman family, born in Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in that part of Great Britain that is now Scotland. Sooooo... if not being Irish were not enough, Patrick -- as he was known in later years, being of the Roman "patrician" class, and a "patriarch" to his spiritual charges -- might well be claimed by the Scots as one of their own.

One highlight of the day will be the Annual Irish Poetry Reading, which is basically when I call my folks in Ohio on this day every year, and with the speakerphone on, recite the following piece by Benjamin Hapgood Burt in a very bad Irish brogue:

One evening in October, when I was one-third sober,
    An' taking home a "load" with manly pride;
My poor feet began to stutter, so I lay down in the gutter,
    And a pig came up an' lay down by my side;
Then we sang "It's all fair weather when good fellows get together,"
    Till a lady passing by was heard to say:
"You can tell a man who 'boozes' by the company he chooses"
    And the pig got up and slowly walked away.

Today, those who are Irish, or who wish they were, will dine on Irish lamb stew. When I can ever find it amidst my stuff, I use this occasion to wear a button with the words of William Butler Yeats: “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.” I will listen to Celtic music the entire day, and get a take-out order of corned beef and cabbage from an Irish pub (although, according to the video on the left, I should know better). Then tonight I'll probably watch Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Who cares if William Wallace was Scottish? No one cares if Patrick is, do they?

After all, "The Apostle of Ireland" is properly claimed by Catholics everywhere, whether the Irish like it or not.

“Agus fagaimid siud mar ata se.”