Friday, April 30, 2010

FAMW: Fritalian?

I used to order it with cream and sugar. Then I'd go through periods when my stomach just couldn't handle it when it's too strong, so I'd switch to hot tea. I still do that sometimes. But when I go to a coffee bar, I'll order a latte. Some days I don't go, if only because three to four dollars for a cup of coffee is just insane. That's when I go to the 7-11 on the next block.

But the worst part is the names for the sizes. "Tall" is actually the small size at Starbucks. The medium and large sizes are "grande" and "vente" respectively. Who the hell are they trying to impress? So when a coffee-and-donut chain which is starting to get way too expensive so I don't go there anymore without coupons decides to up the ante, they find what sounds like an R.E.M. tribute cover band to lay in the soundtrack.

The result is not too shabby for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A New Constellation

The flag of the United States had its birth, officially, on June 14, 1777, when the Second Continental Congress passed the Resolution stating: "Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."

Many interpretations of the 1777 Resolution were created in one part of the colonies or the other, until things settled down; you know, the Revolution and all that.

Personally, my favorite has long been the so-called "Bennington Flag" because it has that nostalgic folk-arty thing going on. Or something. The story goes that Nathaniel Fillmore carried it away from the Battle of Bennington (Vermont), and it was passed down through the family, at one point in the possession of his descendant, Millard Fillmore, our 13th President (1850-53). It was later donated to the Bennington Museum.

Closer to the present, it was reported today, that the House of Representatives passed a resolution by a vote of 223 to 169, which could lead to Puerto Rico rejecting its commonwealth status, and possibly becoming the Nation's fifty-first state. Of course, the island would have a long way to go before this happens, and Puerto Ricans are somewhat divided on the issue. But never mind all that, because the question you all want to ask is: "Yo, Righteous Black Hat Dude! What will happen to our Flag?"

Well, for one thing, they'll have to add another star. How is this done, you have the unmitigated gall to ask?

Ah, my inquiring little minions, there is a government entity that is actually devoted to this nagging issue. The United States Army Institute of Heraldry provides heraldic services to the Armed Forces and other government organizations, including the Executive Office of the President. They actually have designs on the drawing board for arrangements of up to fifty-six stars. Our second illustration is their proposal for a 51-star flag -- a staggered star arrangement of three rows of nine stars, alternating with three rows of eight stars.

Not to be outdone, the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico has forwarded their own design proposal, which is our third illustration -- a circular design with the stars collectively forming a star-like pattern within a circle. I actually prefer this one, although I admit schoolchildren will find it much harder to draw.

There is another matter to consider. If Puerto Rico becomes one of the several States, it could no longer enter the Olympics as a distinct entity under its own flag, but under the banner of the United States.

I hear they have really good baseball players.

IQ Test

If I were Father Z, I'd create a poll and put it to a vote.

Any ideas, people?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


PHOTO: Author tries to stay awake during procession. Palm Sunday, 2009. (Sarah Campbell)

We here at man with black hat (mwbh) would like to welcome any new readers to this corner of the blogosphere, especially those who found us through the "On Faith" column of the Washington Post, as well as our learned Jesuit colleague from Seattle who is the author of Liturgy Reflections. We should also welcome readers of, as well as @tweetcatholic. If you read our tagline above ("the daily musings ..."), and that part of the sidebar entitled "Reason D'Etre," you have an idea of what this endeavor is about.

Whatever has brought you here, we hope you enjoyed the piece on the recent Pontifical Mass at the National Shrine here in Washington, entitled “Stairway to Heaven”, which may be one of the few insider accounts of the event in the Catholic blogosphere.

mwbh is not like a lot of so-called "Catholic blogs," in being devoted exclusively to "church chat." There is more to being Catholic than either being in church or talking about it. This is also not the place to find the same stories that five or six other bloggers are writing. If we write about whatever is current in the Church and in the world, we want you to find a semblance of insightful commentary that you will not find elsewhere. Insight takes time. It also takes place most effectively after some of the noise dies down elsewhere.

We hope you like it that way. Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

5 Second Theatre: Ways To Say No (And Still Be Cool)

This is a set of four short films, as part of our regular Wednesday midday feature. For more information on how to be drug-free and radicool, call the Hennipen County Kool Kidz hotline at 1-800-700-6000 or mail in for their weekly newsletter!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You read it here FIRST, d@##it!

Earlier this year, I made a rather bold forecast regarding the scandal of clerical sexual abuse, one which I had already been sharing with others for several years. It was completely ignored by the entire Catholic blogosphere.

I predict that in the coming decade, bishops will no longer limit themselves to turning on their priests, but will begin to turn on one another.

I was quite shocked, to be perfectly honest, that no one else would even link to this news. But here is what has happened since.

Those of you who followed events related to the recent Pontifical Mass at the National Shrine here in DC, are aware that His Eminence Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos was originally slated to be the celebrant. Then a letter was disclosed to the press from 2001, wherein Cardinal Castrillón commended a French bishop for refusing to turn a priest over to authorities, who had been engaging in impure behavior with children. The outcry from both victims advocates and the press was sufficient, that in the space of less than one week, a decision was made for another prelate to come in his place. (Father Zuhlsdorf at WDTPRS has already reported extensively on this story.)

Now, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter (the only journalist in that rag worthy of the job title) has discovered an unsettling trend.

Over the last two weeks, the rush among church leaders to distance themselves from Castrillón has turned into a mini-stampede.

First up was the Vatican itself. In a rare case of "rapid response," the official Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, had a statement out to reporters almost immediately after stories broke in France.

The letter, Lombardi’s statement said, offers "another confirmation of how timely was the unification of the treatment of cases of sexual abuse of minors on the part of members of the clergy under the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith." ...

After Castrillón’s appearance in Washington became a bone of controversy, Archbishop Donald Wuerl likewise put space between himself and the Colombian cardinal. Through a spokesperson, Wuerl let it be known that he would not attend Saturday’s Mass due to a scheduling conflict. There was no statement of support for Castrillón, no complaint about unfair media coverage ...

It may not be happening quite as I had predicted, but it is happening.

This is not my occasion to assess the Cardinal's judgment in the matter, nor do I approve of anything less than that clerics engaging in pederasty must be removed from ministry and brought to justice. There is also the broader context of such decisions to consider, as is explained beautifully in the Allen piece. Yet I find it troubling that, as little old ladies who have been teaching catechism for their entire adult lives, must now be fingerprinted as if they were common criminals, many of our shepherds continue to blame everyone but themselves.

Even at the expense of one of their own.

The Making of Florida One

And now for something completely different ...

Florida One is a custom-detailed Boeing 737-700 constructed especially for Southwest Airlines (my personal favorite), one of seven featuring the flag of a particular State, in this case Florida. It is also one of fourteen specially decorated craft operated by the airline. The Dallas News has more on the story, as does Southwest (which features a view of the other custom-painted craft in the fleet).

The little kids in the house would enjoy seeing how an airplane is put together. Being a kid at heart, I rather enjoyed it myself.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stairway to Heaven

PHOTO: The faithful at the National Shrine before the Pontifical Mass begins. (Tina Hertz Evans)

Yesterday, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was the setting for a Pontifical Solemn High Mass, according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the first Traditional Mass to be celebrated at the Main High Altar in nearly half a century. I was there to assist at the altar as one of several dozen altar servers, gentlemen of all ages. My particular role was that of a "paten bearer" -- one who assists a priest in the administration of Communion. A liturgy of this scale required sixteen of us in that role.

All this had been in the works for some time. Until now, I have written nothing of it here. And there's a reason ...

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PHOTO: Rehearsal at the throne.

But to begin, for those unfamiliar with the term, what is a Pontifical Mass?

The term is derived from the Latin "pontifex," meaning "high priest," It is the highest form of the Mass, one in which the bishop presides, and one from which the Solemn, the High, and the Low Mass are derived. As he possesses a fuller share of the ministerial priesthood than a priest, there is a corresponding elevation of ceremony to the role of a bishop in the Mass ...

... the dignitaries, of whom the first acts as assistant priest, in copes, those of the sacerdotal order in chasubles, those of the diaconal order, of whom the first two act as assistant deacons, in dalmatics, and the subdeacons in tunics over the amice and the surplice or the rochet. In addition a deacon and subdeacon in their regular vestments and a master of ceremonies assist the bishop. Nine acolytes or clerics minister the book, bugia, mitre, crosier, censer, two acolyte candles, gremiale, and cruets, and four minister in turn at the washing of the bishop's hands. Mention is also made of a train-bearer and of at least four and at most eight torch-bearers ...

PHOTO: Local servers are prepared for the role of Torchbearer, by the Master of Ceremonies.

Everybody still with me?

Of course, for a production of this scale, the principal functionary must dress for the part ...

The ornaments worn or used by the bishop, besides those ordinarily required for Mass, are the buskins and sandals, pectoral cross, tunic, dalmatic, gloves, pallium (if he has a right to use it), mitre, ring, crosier, gremiale, basin and ewer, canon, and bugia. A seventh candle is also placed on the altar besides the usual six.

PHOTO: Buskins waiting in the sacristy.

"Buskins" are the silk stockings that are worn. A "gremiale" is a long cloth of the liturgical color placed on the bishop's lap when he sits on the throne. The "canon" is the type of missal with texts only used for a pontifical Mass. It is used at the altar in addition to the missal. The "bugia" is the candle which accompanies the bishop with the canon. There is an attendant to carry each of these things.

The above quotations are excerpted from the website “” sponsored by the Paulus Institute. As it is really quite informative, I will leave them to tell that story, while I tell mine.

PHOTO: Vesting at the "secretarium" before Mass, at which time the Office of Terce is read. (MCITL of A Priest Life)

Obviously a lot of altar servers had to be assembled, and they were selected from the best among five local parishes. But the real high-priced talent among us were a group of high school guys with prior experience, mostly from a parish in New Jersey, one administered by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. It was the "Jersey Boys" for the most part, who attended to the celebrant at the throne. One of our own gentlemen at Saint John the Beloved was an acolyte, who not only carried the candlestick in the processions, but assisted in vesting the bishop at the "secretarium," the vesting chapel, before the Mass itself began.

PHOTO: The processional party waits for the main entourage in the crypt.

There were nearly two hundred priests, deacons, seminarians, servers, and papal knights and dames waiting in the crypt during the time of vesture of the Celebrant, before the main procession began. As the main entourage arrived, we came up the steps, into the vestibule, through the great doors, into the presence of several thousand people assembled. As the mighty organ played a triumphant processional, I remember how it felt to emerge with my comrades in the sight of the crowd, to discreetly notice those of my acquaintance standing in the pews, to gaze at the scene bathed in light and the focus of the assembled.

VIDEO: The procession of papal knights and dames, followed by servers and clerics in choir. Yours truly appears at 1:07.

The Church teaches us that every Mass is a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy, in the sight of the Triune God, with His angels and saints. Ascending the stairs past the sanctuary rail, then another set into the choir section, stopping just short of the final steps to the Altar of Sacrifice, one is overtaken by the sense that entering heaven may be something like this, only ever much more so.

There were perhaps a hundred priests and laymen "in choro" during the Mass, flanking the central action on either side. We joined quietly with the priest and his ministers in the prayers at the foot of the altar:

Introibo ad altare Dei,

I will go in unto the altar of God,

ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.

to God who giveth joy to my youth.

Judica me, Deus,
    et deiscerne causam meam de gente non sancta;
    ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me.

Judge me, O God,
    and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy;
    deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man.

Quia tu es, Deus, fortitudo mea: quare me repulisti,
    et quare tristis incedo, dum affligit me inimicus ...

For Thou, O God, art my strength: why hast Thou cast me off?
    and why do I go sorrowful whilst the enemy afflicteth me ...

PHOTOS: Above at right, clergy and servers in choir. Shown here, Bishop Slattery at the Throne. (MCITL of A Priest Life)

The celebrant for the Mass was the Most Reverend Edward James Slattery, Bishop of Tulsa in Oklahoma. His homily was exactly was the faithful needed to hear, when they needed to hear it.

We have much to discuss, you and I ... much to speak of on this glorious occasion when we gather together in the glare of the world’s scrutiny ...

(NOTE: The text for this homily was first published by Diane at Te Deum Laudamus. It is also available via podcast at WDTPRS.)

There are those who would say that the Latin language is incomprehensible, therefore unsuited to the prayer of ordinary people. In cultures throughout the world, from time immemorial, the use of an arcane and uncommon language when addressing the Divine has been the norm. Even Christ on earth with His apostles prayed in Hebrew according to the Law, as they otherwise spoke Aramaic on the streets. There are those who would say that the traditional form of the Mass does not facilitate the participation of the faithful. They should have heard thousands of voices raising the roof, while singing the Gregorian chant of Credo III from the "Missa de Angelis."

PHOTO: “Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi ...” (Sophia Guerra of AlwaysCatholic .com)

For communion, the paten-bearers ascended the steps to the High Altar, to receive the Body of Christ from the Bishop himself. We then proceeded to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel off to the side, where we queued up to be assigned to a priest*, whom we led to a designated station assigned to us that morning. My station was the side altar and chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, just to the left of the great sanctuary.

There were young parents each leading several small (and totally adorable) children. There was a developmentally challenged boy, who had to be dissuaded from licking the paten before he received. There was a young man in a wheelchair, in a reclining position, with an IV tube and an oxygen tank. All were weary and heavily burdened, all came unto Him with those burdens, and to receive the Bread of Life.

VIDEO: For those who cannot get enough, including Mama, the author appears one-third of the way through the clip.

When the event was over, and we processed out of the church and down the great steps, we were saluted by a color guard of Knights of Columbus. There was jubilation in the greeting of friends, both old and new. (I gotta tell ya, I've never been saluted by that many guys in uniform in my life. They looked so sharp, I actually forgot they were wearing black tie before six in the evening.) There was a "blognic" (a term to describe a blogger's picnic or soireé, usually at a bar or restaurant) at The Dubliner near the Capitol downtown. A good time was had by all.

PHOTO: Dinner at The Dubliner. Yours truly at left, Father Zuhlsdorf of WDTPRS on his best behavior at right. Great minds eat alike. (Tina Hertz Evans)

The entire event was broadcast on EWTN. I was told after it was over that I may have had a disproportionate amount of "face time" during that broadcast. I can't help it if I have a pretty face. But as I walked behind the main altar after Communion, to return to my place in choir, it is fortunate that I chose not to take a picture of the bishop at the altar with my camera phone, as I returned to my place in choir. Someone else's camera would have caught it.

Once the DVD comes out, I'm sending a copy to Mama. She still thinks I'll be a priest someday. (Hey, a girl can dream, right?)

PHOTO: A close-up from the EWTN broadcast. (Sophia Guerra of

Now, the question that occurs to all of you: “Hey, Mister Black Hat Guy, why didn't you tell us you had a piece of the action, so we could be totally glued to our sets with high-end cable?”

Ah, my little minions, I wish I could tell you, but most of what I could say to that subject, is either really boring, or doesn't bear repeating. But I can tell you this: I only learned two or three weeks earlier that I was in for any action, period. I was on a list two months ago, associated with a parish where I used to work, and I hadn't heard anything, until an e-mail came out of the blue early this month. So it was just dumb luck, really. Besides, who among us isn't expendable, know what I mean?

In fact, I was so thrilled, I went out and ordered a new cassock, as my old one was wearing thin. Not one of those cheap ones that clutter sacristy closets for the kiddies, mind you, but a nice one like the priests wear, with buttons, cuffs, and a tab collar to hide whatever's unsightly. Plus a banded cincture to take about one to two inches off the hem until I can get it tailored. (Yes, tailored. I'm in this for the long haul, people.) I tried it on for the first time last Tuesday night. As I looked in the full length mirror, I almost had myself convinced that ... uh, never mind.

PHOTO: Bishop Slattery greets His Eminence William Cardinal Baum, Archbishop of Washington Emeritus.

Now then, what with all the high-priced talent in town for the weekend, two priests from the Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius in Chicago, were the celebrant and subdeacon for a Solemn High Mass at my usual gig. Sure, a more prestigious position at the Pontifical Mass would have been nice, but I'm pretty well set every Sunday as it is.

(POSTSCRIPT: A number of people contributed resources to this story, and they are properly referenced or linked in this narrative. A special acknowledgment goes to Sophia Guerra, Research Assistant at mwbh, and author of All photos are provided by the author, unless otherwise listed.)

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* I was not introduced to the priest assigned to me, and with his dark habit covered by a white surplice showing only his cowl, I found myself addressing him in passing as "Friar," believing him to be a Capuchin or Carmelite. I have learned since that he was not a friar, but a Benedictine monk, one Father Ananias of Saint Vincent's Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and one whom I had met back in 2007. Silly me.

Friday, April 23, 2010

FAMW: The Geezinslaw Brothers

Sammy Allred and Dewayne "Son" Smith are a country music comedy duo based in Austin, Texas. In nearly half a century, they have recorded a dozen albums, and four hit singles, the last of which is this gem from 1992 (which actually starts at 0:21). In 2005, The Austin Music Awards inducted them into its Hall of Fame.

They're a just-plain-country comedy team in the classic sense, complete with Sonny as the straight (and silent) man, and Sammy telling the same old jokes you heard as a kid. (The one he told on Ralph Emery's show about the ill-fitting suit -- man, I wish I had that on DVD, cuz I'd like to steal it myself.)

It's been a pretty busy week here at the Black Hat Corral, so we dug into the cavalcade of old favorites for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Remembering Arbor Day

Does anyone ever wonder whatever happened to Arbor Day?

You may remember that was how the 22nd of April was commemorated before we all decided to get desperately hip. Meghan Cox Gurdon remembers:

Arbor Day, inaugurated in flat, treeless Kansas in 1872 (until paling into insignificance under the Earthy onslaught), involved the lovely, human-scale practice of planting saplings.

Actual people dug real dirt and planted genuine trees that would grow to give shade and color and to hold the soil together in heavy rain. The observance of Arbor Day yielded something beautiful and tangible, and the first time it happened participants planted nearly a million new trees ...

ABC News reports tonight that, while the USA was using 50 percent of the earth's natural resources in 1970, we're down to only 25 percent in 2010. That's not too shabby when you think about it. But think about the dire predictions made forty years ago ...

“The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.” -- Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

... and you cannot possibly look at the warnings about "climate change" the same way again.

Science marches on.

The REAL Earth Day

In the book of Genesis, we read of how the LORD told man to "fill the earth and subdue it." Such was the original call, not to deplete the resources of the earth, but to be their proper stewards. Naturally, it helps to be able to live to fulfill that task. Such is the right of humanity to life, one which must by definition supersede all others. appears to be succeeding with their own special "Earth Day" campaign.

Meanwhile, in the Eastern Church, the prayer of Great Vespers, as well as the Vigils through the night, begins with Psalm 103(104).

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
    You are very great, O Lord my God!

Clothed in pomp and brilliance,
    arrayed with light as with a cloak.

Stretching out the sky as a tent-cloth,
    covering your lofty walls with water.

You make the clouds your conveyance,
    You surge upon the wings of the wind.

You make spirits your messengers
    and flaming fires your attendants.

You settle the earth on its firm foundation:
    it shall stand unmoved from age to age.

The abyss covers it like a garment;
    waters stand over the mountains.

At your rebuke, they will take to flight,
    at the peal of your thunder they will fear.

They hurdle the hills and run down the dales
    to the place you have chosen for them.

You have set up a boundary not to be passed:
    they shall never return to cover the earth.

Down in the gullies You make springs to rise:
    waters shall go down between the mountains.

They shall give drink to the beasts of the field:
    wild asses will seek them to quench their thirst.

The birds of the sky will abide by them:
    from among the rocks they will raise their song.

From your lofty halls You refresh the mountains;
    the earth shall be fed with the fruit of your works.

You make green pastures for the cattle
    and food-plants for the service of man,

So that bread may be brought forth from the earth
    and wine that gladdens the heart of man.

So that oil may put a gleam upon his face
    and that bread may strengthen the heart of man.

The trees of the plain will be satisfied,
    the cedars of Lebanon that He planted.

The sparrows will build their nests in them
    and the herons will call them their home.

To the deer belong high mountains,
    to rodents the shelter of the rocks.

You have made the moon to mark the seasons;
    the sun knows the time of its setting.

You establish darkness and it is night
    wherein the forest creatures prowl around.

Young lions roar for their prey
    and call out to God for their meat.

As the sun rises they will come together
    and lay themselves down in their dens.

Man will go out to his labor
    and work until eventide.

How great are your works, O Lord!
    In wisdom You have wrought them all:
        the earth is filled with your creatures.

Even the wide and open sea itself:
    within it there are countless creeping things,
        living beings small and large.

Upon it there are ships a-sailing
    and that great beast You made to have fun.

All of them look up to You
    to give them their food in due time.

You provide and they gather up;
    you open your hand and they are full.

You hide your face and they cringe,
    you suspend their breath and they die
        and return to their dust.

You send forth your breath and they live:
    You renew the face of the earth!

May the Lord's glory endure forever,
    may the Lord rejoice in his works.

He looks upon the earth and makes it quake,
    He touches the mountains and they smoke.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live,
    I will praise my God as long as I last.

Would that my thoughts be pleasing to Him
    and I will rejoice in the Lord.

May the sinners vanish from the earth
    and may the wicked be no more.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

The sun knows the time of its setting:
    You establish darkness and it is night.

How great are your works, O Lord!
    In wisdom You have wrought them all.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
    now and always and forever and ever. Amen.

To be a Catholic, is not to praise creation, but the Creator.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Five Second Theatre: Ironman

Remember when we were discussing "method acting" last night? Well, here's one for the books. Ironman has been a favorite of the Marvel Comics parade of superheroes for years. And who better to give it the right edge than Robert Downey Jr?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

“Speak, Lord, thy servant is listening.”

Today is the eighty-seventh birthday of Rita Antoinette Rizzo, known better to the world as Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation.

Or maybe just Mother Angelica.

Hers is a remarkable story. Most people who endured what she did would have ended up hating the Church. But not Miss Rizzo. She knew what really mattered, despite everything.

The American bishops started the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America in the early 1980s. They spent a gazillion dollars in YOUR collection plate money to keep it going. At about the same time, Mother Angelica started the Eternal Word Television Network working with a single video camera out of a converted garage. Guess which one eventually tanked.

It was not easy for the bishops to watch their own creation flounder while EWTN won the admiration of Pope John Paul II. Adding to their chagrin was their inability to get Mother Angelica to switch to a new interfaith satellite network. As to her own operations, Mother Angelica did not take kindly to those clerics who questioned her authority to showcase some bishops, but not others. "I happen to own the network," she instructed. When told that this would not be forever, she let loose: "I'll blow the damn thing up before you get your hands on it."

That's my girl.

Read more about her in the book by Raymond Arroyo, entitled Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve and a Network Of Miracles. An excerpt from the book can be found here.

Art Imitates Life: Revisited

Allahpundit posted this at Hot Air, and we can't resist showing it here.

There is a type of acting which is known as “method acting” or simply “the method.” This is where the actor puts something of his own personality into the part, or vice versa. It's more than just acting; the actor integrates with the character. Clint Eastwood and Al Pacino are two such examples. But if you wonder why many Americans consider Ronald Reagan to have been a great President, watch the six minutes that follow. Ask yourself if there would not be a giant leap from this scene, to when he said three and a half decades later:

“Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”


Who “pyx” the right answer?

Yesterday, we challenged our readers to find the tabernacle on this altar at a Byzantine Rite parish church. We were met with a record-breaking onslaught of two guesses from one individual, and the second guess was the correct one. As to the first guess, the table to the side is for the "proskomedia" (from the Greek word for "offering"), or preparation of the Holy Gifts, which occurs immediately before the public portion of the Divine Liturgy. The dove suspended over the altar has a opening in its belly, in which is contained a smaller container for the Blessed Sacrament.

The dove itself is known as a "pyx" (from the Greek word for "box"). In the Roman church, we use that term to identify the little receptacle that looks like a pocket watch, which is used by the priest to carry the Sacred Host on sick calls. But in the early church, especially in the East, such a container as seen here was common in churches for reservation of the Eucharist. They were also found in southern France and in Spain, where they were known by the Latin "peristerium" (shown here at left). But they never caught on in Italy, which is probably why they were never adopted as the Roman Rite became the standard for the Western church.

We're just a wacky, walking wikipedia here at mwbh. Congratulations to "Nod" for getting it right, eventually. Now then, I don't see Mark Shea giving out cash prizes, so why should I?

Miss me yet?

“Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum! Habemus Papam!” (“I announce to you a great joy! We have a pope!”)

I didn't follow a lot of news while I was out, but it had come to my attention before leaving town over the weekend, that five years ago yesterday, the honorary clergy of the Diocese of Rome (that is, the College of Cardinals) elected one from among their number to be Bishop of Rome.* By virtue of that election, this bishop also became Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, (and most important), Servus Servorum Dei -- Servant of the Servants of God.

Personally, I was pleasantly surprised by the appointment. The man once known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wanted nothing more than to retire to Bavaria, where he could continue writing and lecturing. Not a bad life. Then again, his colleagues (and possibly the Holy Spirit), had other ideas.

We could do worse.

* Technically, this is what actually happens. The rest is just part of the package.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Life on Duke of Gloucester Street

Like I said, "Sal" has been after me to take her to Williamsburg for over a year. After all, now that she's an American citizen, she wants to take in the full experience of her newly-found heritage, as well as add to her refrigerator magnet collection. But it's not my fault. She just loves taking on extra work, including weekends. Maybe if I had gone without her on one of those weekends, she would have gotten the hint.

Nah, maybe not.

But about a month ago, she managed to find a crowbar to dig into her schedule for an opening, and I made the arrangements. So when this weekend came, there was no turning back. Williamsburg is less than three hours from DC with a good tailwind, and more than three hours if everybody else has the same idea as you do. This weekend was a beautiful one, so they did.

Williamsburg is one of three small towns in the Tidewater region of Virginia, east of Richmond, which includes Jamestown and Yorktown, which figure prominently in colonial American history. It was also the capital city of the Virginia colony, until it was moved to Richmond during the Revolution. The place was gradually allowed to go to ruin in the decades that followed, until the early- to mid-20th century, when I believe one of those Rockafellers decided to bankroll its restoration. Others followed, and now a private foundation is dedicated to preserving it.

If you stay at the Marriott Residence Inn just northwest of "See Dubya" (the locals' term for the historic district), you are greeted in your suite by a swan fashioned from a towel, by one of the more talented members of the housekeeping staff named Vanessa. (You go, girl!) Of course, we arrived early in the afternoon, a little late to be catching a lot of the sights. Fortunately, we passed by a Prime Outlets shopping complex, and Sal never met an outlet mall she didn't like.

Come Sunday, we headed into town. Duke of Gloucester Street is the main drag in "Colonial Williamsburg." It doesn't cost you anything to watch the fife and drum corps doing their marching thing on the lawn near the Magazine (which is what they call the armory; don't ask me why), or to walk through the lovely gardens in the yards of the restored homes. But if you want to go into the historic tradesmen's shops, you have to get one of those day passes. I managed to convince my travelin' buddy that we should both get them, in light of what was to follow. I had already convinced her that the natives were friendly. What young man wouldn't want to pose with the likes of her, I ask you?

About three in the afternoon, they cordoned off the east end of Duke of Gloucester Street, letting in only those with passes. Hundreds of us would be immersed in a dramatic presentation of "A Colonial Williamsburg Adventure: Revolutionary City."

Sunday's edition is entitled "Citizens at War, 1776-1781" and takes place at various spots around the Old Capitol. This grand building was once home to the original Virginia House of Burgesses (freedmen serving as representatives), the predecessor to the Virginia House of Delegates, the oldest legislative body in these United States.

The story begins on the west side with a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence from a town crier.* Then some guy gets up on a soapbox and extols the heroism of one colonial General Benedict Arnold at Saratoga, New York. Then the scene moves to the south side, where General Arnold rides in with a detachment of British soldiers and Royalist volunteers, as we discover he has had a change of heart. He makes his case to the crowd (which I attempt to incite by shouting "Shame! Shame!" with limited success). After he leaves, the huddled masses head to the backyard of the Coffeehouse, just northwest of the Capitol, to hear the Negro Baptist preacher Gowan Pamphlet give a rousing sermon on reaching the Promised Land that is Freedom.

The final scene takes place just down the block on Duke of Gloucester Street, in front of the Raleigh Tavern, where following a routine by the fife and drum corps to stir up the troops -- that would be us -- General George Washington rides in on his horse to rally the spirits of those assembled, for the impending, and final, victory at Yorktown.

If you're proud to be an American, you can't help but be moved by the whole scene. How much more so to one who is a new citizen, and who has dreamed since she was a little girl, of one day reaching the "land of opportunity."

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And now, for a final footnote. Nearly three years of assisting at the Traditional Mass almost exclusively has succeeded in spoiling me, and we attended the Divine Liturgy that Sunday morning, at the Byzantine Rite Parish of Ascension of Our Lord, which thankfully was located less than a mile from where we were staying. I never thought it would come to this, but with very few exceptions when traveling, I will attend either the Traditional Latin Mass, or an Eastern Rite Divine Liturgy.

I have not reached the point of attending an rogue "traditionalist" chapel -- yet.

Anyway, I'll end this with a closeup of the altar at Ascension Church, and a challenge for you, dear reader. Can you find the tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is kept? Trust me, it's there.

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* As I listened to the Declaration being read, I found myself wondering whether history was repeating itself, and found a certain appreciation for those who have protested the current political situation in America. Click here, dear reader, and judge for yourself.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Road to Williamsburg

Now that “Sal” is an American citizen, she wants to take in the whole experience that can only come with discovery therein. She has been after me to take her to the ancient capital of colonial Virginia for some time now, and we finally got the break we were waiting for. So we're hitting the highway tomorrow morning, and won't be back for 48 hours after that. If we have any highlights to share, you know where to find them.

You never can tell what a girl will take away from an experience like this.

Know what I mean?

FAMW: Brothers of Other Mothers

Everybody remembers Hanson, right?

Those three youngsters from Tulsa, Oklahoma who, in 1997, had that huge pop hit "MMMBop" which received three Grammy nominations. They were at their peak with that one. (I've listened to a release of their early garage band stuff. Trust me on this.) Anyway, a new single is available on iTunes on the 27th, entitled “Thinking ’Bout Somethin’” from their equally new album “Shout It Out.”

But hey, let's be fair to these kids for a moment. Sometimes a band can start out rough and artistically immature, and end up actually amounting to something. That said, it's possible that half of what's good about this song is the video, which you will note, bears an uncanny resemblance to this classic scene from the 1980 movie “The Blues Brothers” which featured the late great Ray Charles. Coincidence? I don't think so. But we here at mwbh consider that movie one of the great cinematic gems of all time, with a stellar cast that makes up for a mediocre plot. And the Hanson remake is a great performance, which makes up for ... well, uh, anything that might NOT be great, I dunno.

We can only hope that video doesn't kill the radio star, and that the voice of the drummer of this trio finally grew to manhood. And while we're packing for a weekend road trip, you can enjoy yet another Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

UPDATE: I just looked at the video again, and I figured out what they needed: MORE COWBELL!

(H/T to L’Angelus.)

Busy Day

ahaha.gif... here at The OK Corral, once everybody with a title remembered this was the last day of the workweek. So there won't be anything until the usual Friday afternoon feature, which we promise is gonna be special. Meanwhile, stay tuned to our Twitter account ( for more random and heretofore unpublished thoughts. We're not going anywhere -- yet.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Where have you gone, Oliver Wendell Holmes?

Before you run to the Post Office tonight to mail those tax forms before the midnight deadline (or in the case of some locations, early closure to cut costs that are not relieved by paying MORE taxes), we hope you have the opportunity to watch this one-minute tribute to the system of taxation that has made America what it is today. You might also want to ponder why politically-conscious singer-songwriters and running-off-at-the-mouth rap artists were never outraged over the scene depicted at 0:46 in the first clip.

People like to complain about government getting too big. I've always asked my readers this: What are you willing to give up for smaller government? It's the question that has to be asked of everyone who ever attended one of those "tea parties" at one time or another. Whether it's keeping your grandma's Medicare benefits just the way they are, or subsidizing that highway extension to the new Walmart where you and the wife and ten homeschooled kids can be seen every Friday night, there are some choices to be made.

Or we can keep things just the way they are. What's it gonna be, America?

Guitar Workshop: Gettin’ Rhythm

You remember in last week's installment of Guitar Workshop, where we explored ths music of North Carolina fiddler Tommy Jarrell, and we said: “Many a guitar player can work his way into a jam session ... [b]ut first, they need to know how to follow along.” This week's session will introduce you to a classic country tune, one that is not only simple to play, but has potential for an intermediate or advanced player to jazz things up.

We introduce you in this lesson, to what is known as the “Carter lick”, named after “Mother Maybelle” Carter (1909-1978), who with “The Carter Family Singers” was a pioneer of country music in the early days of radio. The technique is also known as the “thumb brush” or the “Church lick” or even the “Carter scratch”. It involves picking the meloldy or bass lines on the guitar at the bass strings (E, A, and D), alternating with the strum on the treble strings (G, B, and high E). The example above can be heard by clicking here.

The best example of this method is in the classic tune, “Wildwood Flower”, based on “I'll Twine 'Mid the Ringlets”, written in 1860 by Maud Irving and Joseph Philbrick Webster. The first video clip is from a television segment in the late 1960s on The Johnny Cash Show, wherein is heard the story of its early recording. You'll notice Maybelle doesn't use a flatpick, but "scratches" the treble strings with her fingers. Others prefer using a flatpick in an up and down motion. This comes in handy when throwing in more complex melody runs. You get an indication of that in the second video clip by instructor Ken Middleton, who breaks down the tune for the viewer. For the first part of the clip, he shows only the left hand technique, before moving on to the right hand.

This technique may not seem like much, but Maybelle was among the first to use the guitar as a lead instrument. It was the major step in taking the guitar out of the parlor and onto the big stage. All those city slicker pickers with a lotta slicker licks than me, owe a debt to Mother Maybelle. Suppose, then, that they want to take it to the next level.

Meet the guy who can show how it's done. "Banjo Ben" Clark provides an excellent introduction to bass runs and country licks that sound terrific, without having to go beyond the third fret. With slight variations on the major scale, and an occasional blues feel, you can hold your own when it's your turn at the spotlight during a jam session. The evolution from simple accompanist to blazing soloist is demonstrated here.

Summer is coming, of course, and with the fair weather, a fair number of weekends with the highway callin'. For my money, the West Virginia State Folk Festival in Glenville, West Virginia, is one of the best. It's both a long-running annual event, and intimate in scale, in a little college town where it's the only thing that happens all year.

Better start packin' for some on-the-road pickin'!

(Source material courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Good-O-Meter

I remembered an episode from religion class in the mid-1960s. I must have been in the fourth or fifth grade. We were told that on the Day of Judgment, everyone on Earth would see themselves exposed for all their human failings, and would be horrified to discover the extent to which each of them were unworthy of Heaven. Such would be that horror, that we would fail to notice anyone else's nakedness but our own.

I don't know what made me think of it today. It is a more believable scenario than the one depicted here, but the ending is about the same.

Five Second Theatre: Keeping You Safe

I was watching the interview on Fox News the other day, with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Now that's a guy with major testicular fortitude, if you get my drift. Whether you agree with him or not (and you really should), it is definitely "must-see" TV. I thought of Christie today when I saw this promotion, for some guy who appears to be running for Parliament in the UK.

Don't know his party affiliation, though. Not sure it matters, but he's from "West Bromwich East" which sounds like a contradiction in terms.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Res Ipsa Loquitur

(H/T to Father Z of WDTPRS.)

Life on Earth

Thomas Peters of American Papist (the one who is "not your average Catholic" and I have no idea what that means), and his parent site, is engaged in an ambitious and vigorous campaign to eliminate legalized abortion in the USA.

According to Peters:

I’m gradually coming to agree with those who strongly believe that, in my lifetime, we will see Roe v. Wade overturned. So I am beginning to try to prepare for the national debate that reversal promises to spark.

Why do I think we are being successful in killing abortion? Let’s take a quick tour ...

This campaign will culminate on Earth Day, the 22nd of April, when Catholics will be called upon to take a break from dancing naked in a circle around the Goddess Tree to celebrate the usual Earth-Mother-Spirit-Rising, and “celebrate Nature's Greatest Gift.” Gloria.TV reports: “The authors hope this will create a positive conversation about the relationship between caring for the Earth and caring for the most vulnerable on the earth – like the unborn who will be the future custodians of the Earth.” The transit bus billboards should be appearing in Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Any day now.

(UPDATE: More about the video at

Ron Paul: The Voice of Reason

It is possible that Ron Paul could have been a contender in the last Presidential election. He continues to do very well in Republican straw polls, and when presented in a fair and balanced manner to young people (we have a special program in mind that was on MTV in 2008), he does better than the "mainstream" candidates. He also won early support from many traditional Catholics.

To hear some tell it, he seems to become unhinged when he starts talking about matters that smack of conspiracy theories, the stuff of people wearing tinfoil hats. It is a shame, because it is at this point that the issues take a back seat to perception, and perception leads to the victory of style over substance. Is it the media or the status quo of the GOP, that is Ron Paul's worst enemy? Or is it Ron Paul?

In this clip, Paul explains how the mainstream media's criticism of the "Tea Party movement" is completely overblown. Or should we say, unhinged?

Read more about it at

Monday, April 12, 2010

Angel Voices

Pie Jesu is a motet based on the final verses of the Sequence Dies Irae. Many of the composers of Requiem Mass settings -- Duruflé, Fauré, Rutter, among others -- include a piece based upon this text in those settings.

Pie Jesu Domine,
    Sweet Jesus Lord,
dona eis requiem ... sempiternam.
    grant them rest ... everlasting.

Some of the early polyphonic settings of the Mass were actually developed for men's and boys voices. With the trend toward more worldly, more operatic settings by the Baroque era (the early- to mid-18th century), women's voices began to take the place of boys. The revival of interest in pre-Baroque "early music" settings by the 1980s, including original instrumentation and voicing, may have contributed to the renewal of interest in boys' choirs. In the above clip is a profile of Oliver Putland of the British boys' choral ensemble Libera.

It is something I wish had been more popular when I was a boy, as I continued to sing in a parish children's choir going into the eighth grade -- an avocation that came to an end, when it was learned that I could sing my part a full two octaves lower.

You can bet I never tried a stunt like that again.

Just Another Manic Monday

For those of you who follow the news (specifically here in the States), there is a Nuclear Summit Conference in Washington today and tomorrow, being held at the Washington Convention Center, located just northwest of the Capitol. Obviously they assume that anything that can happen, will. So the area has been cordoned off, and Federal workers were encouraged either to take annual leave, or telework from home. The scare really worked, because the commute was way too easy for a Monday morning, and there's hardly anybody here at the office.

I'm located not far from the World Bank, so every year when they decide to hold a big soiree, we go through the same drill. And what for? So less than one hundred bohemian rich kids can walk down Pennsylvania Avenue carrying signs protesting the ill-gotten gains by corporate giants against the poor that pads their trust funds and keeps Mummy in botox, surrounded by nearly TWO hundred policemen, cameramen, and reporters.

Say what you will about it, I love this country. HOO-rah!

Gloria.TV News Revisited

“Praised be Jesus Christ ...”

Eight days ago, viewers of man with black hat were given access to a daily videocast of Catholic news from around the world, in the form of Gloria.TV, “the Catholic pulpit on the internet.”

Little did we know that they would decide to take the week off. Well, it was Easter. We couldn't exactly blame them.

Fortunately, we have had some very pleasant correspondence with the staff, and we can report that they fully expect to be back to work starting today. As reported before, the videocast is refreshed daily, Monday through Friday, at approximately 1500 hours (3:00 pm) Greenwich Mean Time, or 11:00 am Eastern USA Daylight Time.