Thursday, June 30, 2011

C G P Grey Explains “The Alternative Vote”

Most Americans assume that the people elect their President. They do not; the States do. The people make their choice known indirectly, in the form of electors. It is an "electoral college" which chooses the President, as the framers of our Constitution wished for the smaller States to have parity with the larger, more populated States. That is how one who wins the popular vote might actually lose a Presidential election. An alternative, known as "alternative voting," or "instant-runoff voting," is already used to elect the Presidents of India and Ireland, and in legislatures of Australia, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea. In the USA, it is used in elections in five major cities. In the UK, its broader use is a hot topic.

Guitar Workshop: Beside the Music

Earlier this month, the music world was saddened to hear of the loss of tenor saxophonist Clarence "The Big Man" Clemons, for nearly forty years the backbone of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. Though unassuming about his fame, he was a fixture in the legacy of his frontman.

In the world of popular recorded music, whether pop, rock, or country, single-name recording artists are often only as formidable as the regular group of sidemen who back them, whether in studio recordings or in live performances (often one and the same). This is no less true of guitarists in the supporting role. In the world of country music, one outstanding example is Donald Eugene Ulrich, better known by his stage name of Don Rich (1941-1974). He was best known as the lead guitarist and fiddler of The Buckaroos, the backup band for Buck Owens, that "born and bred, cornbread fed, California Okie" who originated "the Bakersfield Sound." A fixture on the road as a teenager in the early days of rockabilly, Rich stayed with Owens from 1960 onward, even as other sidemen came and went. From rambling in a pickup truck from one dance hall to another as the fiddler, to national television appearances as Owens' guitar player and co-author of their signature Telecaster twang, Rich carved his own place in the world of country music.

Rich died tragically in a motorcycle accident in July of 1974, about a month shy of his thirty-third birthday. Owens was never the same after that, and neither was country music. Rich's legacy survives today in his recordings, and in videos of TV appearances, such as this one in 1969, from the syndicated "Hee Haw" show, where Rich plays a Fender Silver Flake Telecaster given to him by Fender Guitars in 1966.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

C G P Grey Explains How Scotland Joined Great Britain

So, you've been watching this daily series on the Mother Country, and you're asking yourself: “Gee whiz, O Master of Black-Hattedness, how was it possible for England to take over Scotland. Like, duuude, they had William Wallace!” Ah, my dear minions, yes, but that was not enough, as you will see in this informative video provided by this Grey fellow I've never heard of (but who just made me end a sentence with a preposition, clever one that he is).

Tomorrow we feature an aspect of the British electoral process, over which Americans couldn't care less, but which may provide an answer to some nagging issues we face with every national election.

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Barbra Streisand “The Minute Waltz”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

The Waltz in D flat major, Opus 64, Number 1, popularly known as The Minute Waltz (Valse du petit chien), is a waltz for solo piano by the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849). Although the term "minute" means "small" (pronounced "my-NOOT"), most people assume it refers to sixty seconds. Actually, the piece runs anywhere from one and a half to two and a half minutes. But that doesn't stop some pianists from trying. Nor did it stop television writer Lan O'Kun from writing lyrics for the tune to reflect the notion, as demonstrated by Barbra Streisand, both on her 1966 Columbia album Color Me Barbra, and on a CBS Television special that same year.

In the sixth grade, Katie McDermott led a few of the girls in serenading me with this number on the school playground. Don't ask me why.

Sometimes you feel like a nut ...

[The following was originally published on this date in 2006. -- DLA]

Today, the Christian world celebrates the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. In the reformed Roman calendar, it is recognized as a solemnity, and is a holyday of obligation in many countries (if not the USA). The traditional Roman calendar notes it as a double octave of the first class. Either way, it's up there on the food chain.

And speaking of food ...

The Catholic blogosphere has plenty of meditations on this day. This writer has decided on a different approach:

At the train station in Naugatuck, Connecticut, candy and ice-cream shop owner Peter Paul Halajian used to meet the commuter trains carrying baskets full of fresh hand-made chocolates. The most popular of his candies was a blend of coconut, fruits, nuts, and chocolate that he called Konabar ...

Eventually Peter Paul merged with Cadbury, which later merged with Hershey. Not only is there a recipe for the Mounds and Almond Joy confections on the internet, but you can also bake a cake out of them, with recipes to be found here and here.

Of course, to learn about the Feast itself, what better place to recommend than the guy who's smart enough to recommend me -- TrueRestoration. But for me, I can't think of a better way to celebrate this feast than to bake a cake out of something that says "Peter Paul," unless the gang at Fisheaters has a better idea.

But hey, that's just me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dude, the Pope is on Twitter!

Today it was reported that the Pope sent his first "tweet" (I still hate that word, but what the hell ...):

Dear Friends, I just launched Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI

So now we here at mwbh are following the Pope on Twitter. And you can too. Send him a tweet (arrrgh!) at @news_va_en.

C G P Grey Explains the History of the Union Jack

We seem to be developing a pattern here. If that's what you're thinking, you're probably right. Every day until the Fourth of July, we will feature one of C G P Grey's explanations about things British. If you're not careful, you might learn something(s) you didn't know about America's mother country.

Meanwhile, we should probably find out more about this Grey chap, don't you think?

Or don't you?

“It’s (still) the economy, stupid!”

I learned it the hard way when I got out of college in 1978. When there is uncertainty in the direction of the economy, business and industry are reluctant to invest in anything remotely long-term. Even in the worst of economic times, you will still have a small percentage of people who are untouched by the downturn, no matter how much you tax them (and the fact is, a very small percentage of Americans contribute a disproportionately high percentage of the American tax revenue). But the more you do, the less they have to invest. Give them incentives for investing in domestic jobs. Otherwise, get the hell out of their way.

Monday, June 27, 2011

C G P Grey Explains The British Empire

... or at least what's left of it. Ever wonder the difference between references to England, Great Britain, and/or the United Kingdom. I don't, but that's because I read books, unlike some of you combox junkies out there still trying to create your own empire in the form of Farmville. Keep living the dream, though, at least until you wake up and find out it all may as well be so much vaporware. Vaporware. Remember that term? Of course not, but I do, but that's because I read books, unlike some of you ...

Young Country

... is a song written and recorded by Hank Williams Jr in 1988. Released in February 1988 as a single from his 1987 album, Born to Boogie, it reached number two in the USA and Canada. This video from the song won "Top Video of the Year" in 1989 from the Academy of Country Music. The term "Young Country" was also associated with the wave of rising country music stars of that decade. They were influenced both by the "new wave" of rock, and the old hillbilly and rockabilly sounds of the early- and mid-20th century, displacing the "countrypolitan" sound (Deo gratias!) in the wake of 1970s disco.

Another reason to miss '80s music. (sigh!)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lauda Sion Salvatorem

On MISSION ROAD, the GRAMMY award-winning male vocal group Chanticleer - renowned worldwide as an orchestra of voices - performs a selection of authentic, rich vocal repertory from the Mexican Baroque canon and other musical treasures of New Spain. The music explores what native Californians would have heard 200 years ago, both inside and outside the mission walls, and is from a series of acclaimed concerts celebrating Chanticleer's 30th anniversary that were performed at nine historic California missions in 2008. The final concert took place at San Francisco's Mission Dolores, where Chanticleer staged their very first concert in 1978.

A fascinating contemporary realization of early music from El Camino Real, the audio CD's highlights include: Friar Juan Bautista Sancho's Misa en sol (Mass in G); premieres of selected works by Mexican Baroque master Manuel de Sumaya - America's Handel - only recently discovered in the archives of the Mexico City Cathedral; and various vocal compositions (introit, processional, alleluia, and recessional) by anonymous Spanish/Mexican composers of the late 18th century, including pieces that were originally part of the pageantry for feast days. On a number of selections, Chanticleer is accompanied by instrumentalists, blending folk and traditional idioms.

The DVD presents the 34-minute film Mission Road: Our Journey Back, a behind-the-scenes chronicling of Chanticleer's mission era-inspired journey with concert footage, one-on-one interviews and a stunning collection of mission landscapes. Sonically and visually, MISSION ROAD is an extraordinary way to experience the music of the mission era, with its rich sense of discovery and faith, performed in the context for which it was composed centuries ago.

Sion, lift up
    thy voice and sing:
Praise thy Savior
    and thy King,
Praise with hymns
    thy shepherd true.

All thou canst, do
    thou endeavour:
Yet thy praise
    can equal never
Such as merits
    thy great King.

See today before us laid
The living and life-giving Bread,
Theme for praise and joy profound.

The same which at the sacred board
Was, by our incarnate Lord,
Giv'n to His Apostles round.

Let the praise be loud and high:
Sweet and tranquil be the joy
Felt today in every breast.

On this festival divine
Which records the origin
Of the glorious Eucharist.

On this table of the King,
Our new Paschal offering
Brings to end the olden rite.

Here, for empty shadows fled,
Is reality instead,
Here, instead of darkness, light.

His own act, at supper seated
Christ ordain'd to be repeated
In His memory divine;

Wherefore now, with adoration,
We, the host of our salvation,
Consecrate from bread and wine.

Hear, what holy Church maintaineth,
That the bread its substance changeth
Into Flesh, the wine to Blood.

Doth it pass thy comprehending?
Faith, the law of sight transcending
Leaps to things not understood.

Here beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things, to sense forbidden,
Signs, not things, are all we see.

Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine,
Yet is Christ in either sign,
All entire, confessed to be.

They, who of Him here partake,
Sever not, nor rend, nor break:
But, entire, their Lord receive.

Whether one or thousands eat:
All receive the self-same meat:
Nor the less for others leave.

Both the wicked and the good
Eat of this celestial Food:
But with ends how opposite!

Here 'tis life: and there 'tis death:
The same, yet issuing to each
In a difference infinite.

Nor a single doubt retain,
When they break the Host in twain,
But that in each part remains
What was in the whole before.

Since the simple sign alone
Suffers change in state or form:
The signified remaining one
And the same for evermore.

Lo! bread of the Angels broken,
For us pilgrims food, and token
Of the promise by Christ spoken,
Children’s meat, to dogs denied.

Shewn in Isaac's dedication,
In the manna's preparation:
In the Paschal immolation,
In old types pre-signified.

Jesu, shepherd of the sheep:
Thou thy flock in safety keep,
Living bread, thy life supply:
Strengthen us, or else we die,
Fill us with celestial grace.

Thou, who feedest us below:
Source of all we have or know:
Grant that with Thy Saints above,
Sitting at the feast of love,
We may see Thee face to face.

Amen. Alleluia.

(Text for documentary provided by Chanticleer, and is used here without permission or shame.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

FAMW: Weird Al Yankovic “Perform This Way”

We made reference to this video just this past Wednesday. “Weird Al” Yankovic has long been known for avoiding obscenities and other mature themes in his music and videos. He still does with this one, but ... well, maybe we were never too impressed with Lady Gaga's work to begin with, although she was really nice to that kid from Oklahoma who went viral on YouTube doing one of her songs; okay, that was really very gracious of her. Really.

As to our current feature, you can take it or leave it for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy (but if you decide to leave it, try this one, it's better).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Corpus Christi Reconsidered

They called it “a Eucharistic flash mob.” Uh-huh.

Three weeks ago today, on Ascension Thursday, a group of Capuchin monks appeared on the streets of Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom. A small team of Catholic evangelists mingled with the crowd, handing out cards and explaining what was going on. Here are some of the reactions....

"What is this about? What is happening? What is this about?"

One young girl said: "I've not seen anything like this since Church."

"Are they doing this all day? ... Will they be doing it again? ... Are they doing this any where else?"

"Is it religious? What is inside that thing?"

A man said: "What is that guy doing?" An old woman with him replied: "That's Jesus. Show respect."

Oh? Putting the Sacred Host in a monstrance and carrying it around in a duffel bag isn't my idea of respect either. Usually for such public displays, the Blessed Sacrament is accompanied by a procession. At the very least, the priest is preceded by a member of the faithful bearing a lighted candle, ideally added by another one ringing a bell, to alert others to the Real Presence. But that wouldn't have had quite the effect now, would it?

"This is so moving! It is the first time I have seen it done outside. I can't wait to tell my parish priest!"

If you do, I hope he has more sense. I believe their good intentions and apostolic zeal got in the way of their good judgment. Still, it is very touching in its own way.

Usually the feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. But many countries, including the United States, have had the permission of the Holy See for over a century, to celebrate it as an "external solemnity" on the following Sunday. This is to facilitate the possibility of Eucharistic processions, in parts of the world where Catholicism does not predominate. We'll have one at Saint John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia, this Sunday as well. Y'all come.

Until then, you can feast your eyes on last year's commemoration of this solemnity.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Men For All Seasons

Today the Roman Church (reformed calendar) commemorates the martyrdom in 1535, and later the raising to the altar as saints, of both Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher. More was Lord Chancellor under the English King Henry VIII, who refused to choose loyalty to him, and his authority over the church of England, over that of the Pope of Rome. In this first clip, the 1966 epic film A Man For All Seasons, is summarized in less than three minutes. Along with some semblance of a plot, it features the best lines, groans, and grunts, from the epic (yes, we said it twice) film that won an Academy Award for Best Picture that same year.

While More was awarded the crown of martyrdom on July 6 (the date when he and Fisher are remembered, ironically, as "saints and heroes of the Christian church" in the Anglican Communion), it was todayin 1535 that Fisher entered eternal life, as the only Catholic bishop in England to remain Catholic, while the others fell into line with the crown. This scene is from the Showtime miniseries The Tudors. Would that all of us should meet our deaths with such humility and heroism.

Doesn't look easy, though, does it?

[NOTA BENE: In some local dioceses, likely in the UK, More is commemorated on July 6, the date of his martyrdom. In the traditional Roman Calendar, More is commemorated on July 9. Don't ask me why.]

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Murray Head “One Night In Bangkok”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Last week, while we were strolling through some video masterpieces from the 1980s (perhaps our favorite decade for pop music, if only because it saved us from disco), we were reminded of this memorable performance from 1985. The song is from the 1984 concept album and the musical Chess, with music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus (ABBA) and lyrics by Tim Rice (Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar).

The song is performed by British actor/musician Murray Head.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Because he’s, like, totally epic, that’s why!

That, and I really wasn't doing anything else. I especially like that "four horsemen" thing going on at the end. Totally a classic. Also, he just got approval from Lady Gaga for his parody of "Born This Way." Wasn't that sporting of her?

And, as always, 100 percent potty-mouth free. Maybe HE was born that way, don't you think?

Or dont you?

Nine Years Later: “Have I run out of things to say?”

On this day in 2002, it was a time when scandals in the Church were the catalyst for new voices. Or something. Several well-known weblog authors (or, more accurately, two bloggers who got tired of me sending them my stuff) urged me to start my own weblog. And so I did.

People get its name wrong all the time. This page is titled for the object of many a compliment, my signature chapeau ...

man with black hat

Let's go over that again, shall we?





Four words, all one syllable each. And all lower case, like that poet e e cummings. What kind of excuse did he have that I don't?

I ask because people get it wrong:

Man with the Black Hat.

Man in a Black Hat.

Arrogant son of a b ...

Well, you get the idea. And it's not just amateur bloggers who screw up something so simple, but alleged professionals. Spero News got the title wrong. Twice. (Guys, if you're reading this, that's only one of two reasons I stopped writing for you.) It was supposed to have a ring to it, similar to "Dances With Wolves" or some other Native American name. Or epic movie.

Sometimes I think I should have come up with something more clever, a name which by itself would draw a crowd if I did nothing but post images of puppy dogs and kitty cats. "The Crescat." Ever see anyone misspell that one? Of course not. And she can post videos from Family Guy and all the good Catholic boys and girls are okay with it. "The Curt Jester." Nice little play on words, that one, and he gets invited on radio talk shows. (I don't listen to radio talk shows. Reading what someone has to say is always faster than listening to them, especially when the guy in the next cubicle keeps yelling at you to turn it down. I hate when that happens.) "The Cafeteria Is Closed." Now that's what I call a catchy title. Imagine where I'd be today had I used that one. (sigh!)

In the past year my following has grown. It is hardly a phenomenal growth, or I'd still be showing pictures of a recent trip to Rome that never happened. I know that other blogging and news sites do peruse my pages from time to time. I am referenced on (which got the title correct), and have been featured on It is an honor to know that opinion makers and well-known bloggers are aware of my work, and even make note of it themselves. It's like that little-known singer-songwriter, the one whose work is performed by megastars, but only the really cool people know who he is. Yeah, it's kinda like that.

Alas, the demands on my time have not lessened in recent months. Occasionally our work is published late, which is to say it may be dated Monday evening, but doesn't actually get "posted" until Tuesday morning. Unlike many "famous" bloggers who get to live off either generous book royalties or rich husbands, I have a day job, one where I am sufficiently overpaid. This is necessary, of course, if I ever expect to live in or near a city like Washington, DC, where six years ago, no mortgage lender would stoop so low as to do business with anyone wanting to borrow less than half a million dollars. (Ever wonder why the housing market tanked? What does that little fact tell you? It wasn't just overspending or bad credit risks; it was greed, plain and simple. In spite of all that, I found one willing to deal for one-third of a million dollars. Don't be too impressed. You should see my mortgage payment. But, I digress ...)

The point is, my audience has dropped in recent weeks, just a little. Part of this can be attributed to the summer, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. But there is a change in the wind, in readership trends, in blogging itself. According to The Neilsen Company, as of last February, there are over 156 million blogs in existence. In the so-called "Catholic blogosphere" alone, there are probably well over three thousand so-called "Catholic blogs" in the English-speaking world alone. They run the gamut. News blogs. Social/political blogs. Prolife blogs. Spiritual blogs. Ecclesiastical gossip blogs. Mommy blogs. Personal journals chronicling personal sojourns. People who have something to say. People who have to say something. So many blogs, so little time to read them. Even I don't read blogs as much as I used to.

So why read this one?

You tell me. The answer may be as varied as the numbers who read it. To be a Catholic is more than adherence to a set of beliefs or a system of do's and dont's. It is what the Greeks call a "phrenoma" -- a mind-set, a way of seeing the world, and one's purpose therein. The good nuns used to direct us to the answer in the old Baltimore Catechism:

“God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.” (Volume 1, Number 6)

In the past year, we (and by "we" I refer to myself, my blog, and my capable staff of research assistants, posing as the voices in my head) have expanded into Facebook and Twitter, not only to promote this work, but to occasionally draw attention to other pieces, accompanied by a few words of comment. There are plenty of places to go if all you want is "church chat" and Photoshopped images of Pope Benedict riding a surfboard. We don't avoid talking of the Faith here at mwbh; we simply go beyond it.

This author hails from a family of hardy souls who, in the immortal words of Winston Churchill: “Never give up. Never.”

And so it goes, onward and upward, for another year. Stay tuned, dear reader, and (by all means) stay in touch.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Sidney is your very typical Midwestern small town. The seat of Shelby County, in west central Ohio, the clarion bells in the county courthouse still chime angelic hymns every Sunday afternoon. In its shadow are the businesses and merchants surrounding the town square, including a bank building designed by the famous American architect Louis Sullivan, and a hamburger joint simply known as "The Spot." The town is the subject of the 2009 documentary 45365, named for its zip code, and produced by two native sons, Bill and Turner Ross.

The town is a prominent landmark at one end of a five-county region known as "The Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches." By the 1840s, the area once home to the Miami Indian nation, was settled and parceled by immigrants of French and German origin, most of them Catholic. The edifices that were built as testimony to their Faith, under the guidance of missionary priests from the Society of the Precious Blood, punctuate the landscape, marking the little hamlets where their people settled. It was out of that broad, flat, agrarian land, not far from the log cabin where Annie "Get Your Gun" Oakley was born in 1860, that Leonard Alexander and Viola Barga* began their married life, settling in the town of Sidney, where the husband found work at a tool and die factory.

PHOTO: Holy Angels Church, Sidney, Ohio.

Leonard had been a teetotaler before getting into "the family business" operated by his mother, the former Ann Katherine Grilliot (Grillot), a feisty and formidable woman, who produced a byproduct of corn in the bathtub of their farmhouse, and had husband and sons on the payroll of her enterprise. But over time, and with end of Prohibition, a taste of the spirits was getting the best of him. Work at the Sidney Machine Tool Company was not always steady during the Great Depression, and Leonard was not above self-medicating, and taking his troubles out on his boys, and in particular, on his wife. The older boys grew to despise their father, and in a house without certainty, and without peace, found solace among the more "spirited" youth (as Paul would refer to them later) that roamed the streets of that town in the heartland.

But Paul was different. He found his solace in anything that could keep him out of both the house, and the sort of trouble that occupied his older brothers. The good Sisters of Charity ran the Holy Angels School. They knew the real story behind "the friendliest man in Sidney." Paul was given any number of tasks, from cleaning blackboards and hallways, to learning to play the clarinet and the french horn for the school band. He also loved to play "fast-pitch" softball, and was the best catcher and clean-up batter in Shelby County. His team, sponsored by The Sidney Dairy Company, won the county title in the summer of 1940.

PHOTO: Paul at his desk in high school, Latin textbook at the ready, Saint Gregory Minor Seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio, circa 1940.

Paul found companionship in a mentor, a young assistant priest named Father William Goldschmidt. The pastor wasn't the easiest man to live with either, so the young father and his spiritual protege went on hikes and other outings together. It was likely from this experience, that Paul felt a calling to the priesthood. So upon graduating from the parish school, he left home for Cincinnati, one hundred miles to the south, to Saint Gregory Seminary, the preparatory school and minor seminary components of the Athenaeum of Ohio.

In later years, he would call them "the best of years of my life outside of being married." He was an outstanding student, and the best man ever to stand at the plate staring down a pitcher during pickup games. Through classmates with families living nearby, he spent his weekends getting a taste of family life as it was meant to be, at least relative to his understanding. It was in these years that he found comfort and the sense of order and stability for which he craved. Paul completed high school, and went on to the college program. By the end of the third year, however, something changed. It has never been clear to anyone other than Paul or his spiritual director, one Father Charles Murphy, just what it was -- he told his children later that the first sign was "I stopped getting straight A's -- but there was an understanding that he did not have a calling to priestly life after all. Father Murphy helped him find work, mostly janitorial duties at various parishes in the city. He stayed at The Fenwick Club, a Catholic men's boarding house located downtown, and completed his studies at the Jesuit-run Xavier University. He majored in Latin, if only because he had more credits in that subject than anything else by then.

PHOTO: Paul in his cassock as a college student, Saint Gregory Minor Seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio, Spring 1944
One of the priest-professors cared little for this non-Jesuit interloper, and appeared determined that Paul fail his final oral examination. On the appointed day, Divine Providence intervened, and the would-be antagonist came down with a fever. Paul graduated from Xavier University in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Languages. He sought work as a high school teacher in the comfortable eastern suburbs. In the fashionable district known as Mariemont, he was rejected for being a Xavier graduate, which was to say that no Catholic would ever get a job teaching children in that thoroughly Protestant enclave. His search took him across the county line -- without a car, he was not above thumbing a ride to get anywhere -- into the farmland east of the city. He eventually taught English and Latin in a wide spot in the road known as Fayetteville.

By the end of the 1940s, when he wasn't teaching school, he was driving the bus and refereeing basketball games. (He detested the latter duty, especially the catcalls over every decision he made against any player.) He loved teaching, and found himself quite good at it. Any cocky young farm boy who thought he could best his teacher, found out very quickly that Paul did not suffer fools gladly. One student said later, "There was no messing with Mr Alexander; you knew exactly where you stood with him."

PHOTO: Paul's high school faculty portrait, 1950.

In time, Paul won the respect of his students, and even had an easy rapport with one group in particular. Among them was a girl named Dorothy Ann Rosselot. She was very attractive, but not as frivolous or outgoing as the other girls. She was smart, sensible, and hard working. Paul was a man of disciplined habits, and could not imagine any intentions toward one of this students. Be that as it may, a few weeks after graduation, he called upon the young girl, and asked her out on a date. Two years later, on the 14th of June, 1952, they were married.

By this time, Paul had already signed up for reserve duty, with the 123rd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron of the Ohio Air National Guard. His seminary deferment had kept him out of the latter years of the war, but even in the years that followed, a young American man simply viewed enlistment as the continuation of duty to country. No sooner had he been married, however, than his unit was called to active duty, and the young Air Force sergeant was promoted to second lieutenant, and sent with the occupation forces in Germany as a payroll officer, leaving his new bride to live with her sister in an apartment in Cincinnati.

PHOTO: Paul on his wedding day, June 1952. He would leave for active duty with the American occupation force in Germany shortly after this picture was taken.

Upon his return, and convinced he could never support a growing family as a schoolteacher, he took some business classes at night, and got a job at Procter and Gamble, the world's largest manufacturer of consumer and household products, which was headquartered in Cincinnati. There was not position at the front office at that time, so he was sent to Cleveland. By the end of 1954, at Saint Ann's Maternity Hospital on the east side, his firstborn, yours truly came into the world at about seven in the morning.

Eventually the young husband and father found a position with P&G in Cincinnati, closer to extended family. They bought a starter home in a small yet growing hamlet on the eastern outskirts known as Milford. There they raised four children -- boy, girl, boy, girl, in that order.

Paul was a man of his time, and the changing of those times was not accepted easily. A devoted husband and father, and a devout Catholic, he had built for himself and for his own, a world where there was a place for everything, and everything was in its place. His children were encouraged in their talents, each to his or her own path. He was a civic leader, an elected public official, and at one point, a Scoutmaster. His was the generation that defeated an evil bent on world domination, and there was nothing they could not do if they banded together for a common cause. But the social and political upheavals in the 1960s were a threat to that perfect balance, that common cause. If the world was going to spin out of control, he was determined that it would never touch his sphere of influence. Paul was a strict disciplinarian, but as time went on and his children grew older, he found himself losing that grip on his surroundings. The world of order and serenity he had sought his entire life, the world he believed he had finally found, was crumbling around him.

Paul was losing control -- of his career ambitions, to where others of average talent were promoted ahead of him; of his temper, to the point of uncontrollable rage; of his health, to where he would see doctors for his nerves, and they would prescribe Valium. Indeed, it was his health that was getting the best of him. One thing went wrong, then another, and later something else, without a conclusion from his doctors. This went on for several years, while his frustration grew with it, and his wife and children bore the brunt of that frustration. In the fall of 1970, shortly after his forty-fifth birthday, the doctors finally gave his affliction a name -- multiple sclerosis.

PHOTO: Downtown Milford, Ohio, as it appears today.

It was two or three years before Paul learned to accept the limitations that came with MS. His wife Dorothy summoned her courage, knowing that faithfulness to her marriage vow meant forsaking a retirement of leisure. That there was no question of her love and devotion to Paul, and to the children she bore him, did not make this any easier, and for her, the early years of that affliction were of melancholy, culminating in quiet resolution. By the time Paul left the business world on disability, on his fifty-second birthday, he and his wife reached an understanding. Over time, the "balance of power" in the household would have to accommodate a shifting of responsibilities. This was not the variety of MS that was "relapsing-remitting," for which there was often medication or treatment. It was the "progressive-degenerative" variety. Short of a complete cure, or a miracle, Paul would never get better, and Dorothy's life would never get easier.

The children came of age, each in their own way. The oldest began college in the fall of 1973. He was ordered to get a haircut "off the neck, and off the ears," the weekend before starting classes. The young man was almost nineteen. It was the last time Paul would issue such a directive. By the time the firstborn neared his twenty-sixth birthday, he had graduated, struggled to retain employment in a weak economy, and eventually left everything he knew, for a new life in another city, five hundred miles to the east. He was the only one of the four to leave Cincinnati.

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In light of the above, what can I say I learned from my Dad? The answer to that is the other side of the story.

PHOTO: The author with his mother and father at a parish Oktoberfest, October 2010.

In our lives we meet people with many gifts, some greater than our own, some of which never reach fruition. Talent can be wasted with a lack of discipline. Intelligence can be subverted by pride or bad judgment. Wealth can be squandered by mere foolishness. It is perseverance that covers a host of sins. During Dad's first years at Procter and Gamble, he was fortunate to leave Cleveland when a position opened for him in Cincinnati. He found himself reporting to a man who made his life a living hell. The man thought that if he made Dad miserable enough, Dad would go away. Eventually, he did -- to a dead-end position elsewhere in the company, anywhere but under his nemesis. It was there that he bid his time until a very promising position opened up in the main headquarters building, as a Sales Assistant in the Soap Products Division. He would be the "detail man" providing administrative support for sales representatives in the field. Dad had an incomparable eye for such detail -- no "I" would go undotted, no "T" would go uncrossed, not on his watch -- and it was in those years that his reputation among the movers and shakers of the corporation flourished. It was here that perseverance ruled.

Dad was a man of uncommon generosity. For years, he quietly offered financial and material support to a single mother of five children abandoned by Dorothy's cousin, who like his own father was an alcoholic. Dad expected no reward, and as the woman's fortunes improved, he got none. She eventually ceased any and all contact with our family. Dad would not have done anything differently. It was a corporal work of mercy, therefore the right thing to do, and that was all that mattered.

When I was in Scouting, Dad volunteered as Scoutmaster when no one else would. This was quite a challenge for a man who was not accustomed to the outdoor life. He soon won the able assistance of those who were. Dad was eventually pressured to approve the Eagle Scout award for two sons of a wealthy man. These young men did not endeavor to meet the service requirements of such an honor, and Dad held firm in his refusal. Their father proceeded to destroy Dad's reputation, to the point where the veterans' group that sponsored our unit "accepted" his resignation. Dad continued to encourage my progress toward Eagle, even as he was banned from Scouting; ironically, for the unspeakable crime of upholding its ideals.

But even these were not his greatest achievement.

To a man who considered himself obligated to control his entire universe, even to assume that he could, God bestowed what C S Lewis called "the gift of suffering." Those who do not suffer bear the illusion that all is well, that they have no need of God, thus they do not seek Him, thus they do not find Him. The hardest lesson for Dad, was to learn that it was not he, but God, who was in control. Thus pain became "a megaphone to rouse a deaf world." God spoke, and His servant listened. When my marriage was falling apart, it was the end of my world. The man who once lost his temper at the drop of a hat, became the wounded warrior, to lead the way through the pain of divorce, the occasional setbacks in my professional life, and for a time, the estrangement of my only son. He was the father I never had, when I needed him most of all.

His example has inspired an entire household. The house on the street where I grew up was transformed into a nursing home with only one client, extensively renovated to meet a special set of needs, with Mom taking care of Dad, and two daughters -- one a geriatric nurse, the other a homemaker who gave up a lucrative career -- assisting Mom. The other son manages his parents' financial and other affairs, and any one of six grandsons (not to mention a daughter-in-law) have a share in the yard work. In the heat of summer, the Alexander lawn is the greenest on the block.

Dad has been blessed with a long life. He will turn eighty-six come this September, which is better than average even for a much healthier man. In the summer of 2012, he and Mom will have been married for sixty years. His reward in the present world is that which was promised years ago, when a priest stood before him and his bride, and prayed the Nuptial Blessing.

O God, who by Thine own mighty power, didst make all things out of nothing: who, having set in order the beginnings of the world, didst appoint Woman to be an inseparable helpmeet to Man, made like unto God, so that Thou didst give to woman's body its beginnings in man's flesh, thereby teaching that what it pleased Thee to form from one substance, might never be lawfully separated ... and come to the repose of the blessed and the kingdom of heaven. May they both see their children's children to the third and fourth generation, and may they reach the old age which they desire.

There are no doubt many tributes to fathers published on Father's Day. They are written by grateful sons and daughters, who cannot say enough good things. But there are no manuals that come with newborn babes, and mothers as well as fathers are left to fend for themselves, both to learn by what they know from their past, and as they go along in the present. Their children are usually well into adulthood before they learn, that their parents are no less subject to the stumbling of human frailty than they are themselves. The best thing I can say about my Dad, is not only that he was a great father, but that he was a great father in spite of himself.

I cannot ask more of a man than that. I only hope my son expects no more of me.

UPDATE 06/16/2013: Closer to the present, click here.

[Special recognition must be given to my sister, Patricia Alexander Drybala, for compiling photos from Dad's early years. Thanks, Pat. -- DLA]

Friday, June 17, 2011

FAMW: Coco Does Dartmouth

Conan O’Brien, whom The Washington Post has called “the most intelligent of the late-night comics,” was the keynote speaker at Dartmouth College's 2011 Commencement exercises on Sunday morning, June 12.

Things start to get serious about two-thirds into the clip, and even yours truly found something useful for his own life starting at about 20:00. Such is a rewarding conclusion to a major snark-fest, for which our subject received an honorary degree. Not a bad idea for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

[CONTENT WARNING: Single instance of expletive at 09:31. Hit the mute button for a second and get on with your life already.]

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Still Walking On Air

Last Saturday night, Paul “Fender Splendor” Alexander was part of the halftime entertainment at the 2011 US Air Guitar DC Regional Championships.

Of course, we all remember back in 2009, when he rocked away with the big title in the Philadelphia Regionals, and placed sixth in the National Finals. While he never obtained the press coverage of other more experienced contenders who finished ahead of him, his up-and-coming performance earned their respect, and his theatrical prowess continues to be the stuff of song and legend.

This coming Saturday, after a 2010 hiatus, our young hero makes his triumphant return to the City of Brotherly Love, as one of the judges for this year's Philadelphia Regionals. Meanwhile, feast your eyes on last weekend's splendorific event. Paul enters the scene at 3:21. His two most memorable moments occur at 3:56, for the Big Knockout -- don't do this at home, kids, these guys are professionals -- and at 4:26, for the Water Spray of Vengeance.

You go, boy!

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: “Puttin’ On The Ritz”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

This number was originally performed by (who else?) Fred Astaire, in the 1946 movie Blue Skies. This 1982 reprise, from an Indonesian-born Dutch singer named Taco Ockerse, also known simply as “Taco”, was played widely in the USA by the late summer of 1983, topping at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as number one on Cashbox.

This is the original version of the video, which includes the infamous "blackface" that was removed for mass consumption. After a heated discussion, the staff here at mwbh, repulsed at the very thought of political correctness, decided to include the whole thing given the context. Or that the Dutch might not know any better. (It can happen.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why I Didn't Watch CNN Last Night

I don't expect presidential debates to be substantive. Going back to the first one ever televised in 1960, those who listened on the radio actually thought Nixon did better than Kennedy. That should tell you something about the effect of television on being substantive.

Try telling that to CNN, who ran last night's event as if they morphed into the Game Show Channel. (Don't take my word for it, check out Ed Morrissey's early post mortem as well as his later summation of each candidate.) From what little I have read so far (and I have this day job that keeps interfering with my news clip reading), Romney came out on top, Bachmann was the dark horse who placed at the photo finish, Pawlenty more or less stumbled out of the gate, Cain prefers deep dish pizza over thin crust -- just saying it makes him sound more manly -- and Ron Paul was ... well, thankfully, the "game" isn't over yet.

I'll give Romney credit where it's due; he knows the issues closest to people's hearts, as seen near the end. Adding insult to injury, CNN is stingy with embedding its videos. Click here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mikey Bustos: Filipino Skin Tutorial

Filipinos can hardly be considered one ethnic people, especially when there are 171 distinct languages spoken there* (not counting the four of which there are no living speakers), all of the Malayo-Polynesian family. It is reasonable then, that a people so united as kababayans would nonetheless comprise a vast and varied melting pot.

Sal is rather light-skinned for a Filipina. She is one-fourth Chinese, and one-half Spanish on either side. Filipinos of Asian/Caucasian mixed race are known as a “mestizo/mestiza” (the male/female terms, respectively). This ethnic mix is common to television and movie personalities, lighter skin and more Western features being considered a sign of beauty and prestigious lineage, as opposed to a darker-skinned, Malay-Polynesian or other aboriginal mix. That said, it is also a double-edged sword, as it may not only account for Spanish colonial heritage, but having been sired (generally outside of wedlock) by an American serviceman once stationed there.

Whatever their ethnic origins, Filipinos are known for having very beautiful skin, as Mikey Bustos explains, in yet another tutorial on Filipino culture.

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* There are two official national languages in the Philippines. English is the most common for national and international business and other formal interaction. Filipino is a standardized version of Tagalog (a contraction of "taga ilog" meaning "native of the river" or simply "river dweller"). Its original form is native to the area around the Pasig River, including the capital city of Manila, while the modern Filipino (popularly known as "Tagalog" in any case) incorporates much Spanish and English in its vocabulary.

Alice Revisited

Some of you may remember our post of last Wednesday, the story of a fifteen-year-old girl in the UK with terminal cancer. It was published late that evening, and on the following day, we had a daily record of 495 visits here at mwbh! There are entire weeks in the summer when we are lucky to get that many visitors, but ONE DAY???

For once, we must have been doing something right. Maybe just finding a good story. We should try that more often, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Heart Has Its Reasons

Tonight, the inscription over the doorway of Chez Alexandre is erased, as the Feast of the Pentecost has come upon us, and we remember the birth of Mother Church, and the work that has been ours to complete until the end of time.

For the last nine days leading up to the Feast, we have contemplated the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. People will talk of "the movement of the Spirit" as being a guiding force in the Church. Whether adherents of the charismatic movement, or progressive Catholics speaking of "reforming" everything and everyone but themselves, this can be very misleading. In the second century, Saint Ireneaus, Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, was a spiritual disciple of Saint Polycarp, who was in turn a disciple of Saint John the Apostle. He noted very early in the history of the Church, numerous errors in teaching and practice, the refutation of which were compiled in his great work Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies). It is well known that he attacked the errors of Gnosticism. What is less well known, is that among those errors was the misuse of claims to certain "gifts of the Spirit."

It is with some trepidation, therefore, that I lay claim to one of my own.

From when I was in high school, I have suspected that I possess the ability to detect a diabolical presence. I do not merely refer to someone doing evil, or a particularly unpleasant or mean person or incident. I am referring to to the Prince of Lies, to the Evil One, to Satan himself, manifest in some person, one who might appear benevolent, or otherwise harmless. This is not implausible, as throughout human history, the greatest acts of man's inhumanity to man, were committed by those who were perfectly at peace with themselves about it.

The first time was at a high school retreat, with a priest who, I believe, attempted to be inappropriately familiar. (This was described in a 2002 piece entitled "My Charismatic Moment.") But there have been others. There was the man who claimed that God was calling him to lead others to establish an agrarian colony in western Ohio, who appeared meek and mild-mannered, but who frightened me to death just being alone in a car with him. There was a pastor who refused to assist me when I was in genuine distress, and justified it by belittling my situation. He was only a pastor for two years, before being unceremoniously removed. That was nine years ago, and he has not been a pastor since then.

These are the significant instances, but there have been others. They have provoked a fear that I cannot for the life of me explain.

We have spoken of the nature of evil in this journal before, as described by the late Dr M Scott Peck in People of the Lie. People commit horrible, unspeakable acts, and manage to sleep perfectly well at night. We may call upon the Holy Spirit for guidance, but the response is a highly personal one, applying only to us, and not a clarion call to gather a following. There is a danger in attributing such credence to private revelations, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church is very clear on the need for caution. But I do believe that, for myself, such guidance has saved my life on at least one occasion, and has led to peace of mind on others.

To know of its power is surely not to boast, but to be cautious, to pray often, and to be ever mindful of the true Source of that power, and its limits in the confines of our fallen nature.

Let the deep song be hidden in the deep
Pulse with our lifeblood, waking or asleep.
Yours is the knowledge earth can never know.
Let not its mockery hurt you. Ah sing low.



Novena: Postlude

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium.
Amen. Alleluia.

Give them virtue's sure reward;
give them thy salvation, Lord;
give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.


Come, O Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, And enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V: Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created,

R: And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Oh God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Ghost, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise and to ever rejoice in His consolations, through Jesus Christ Our Lord.


June Weddings and Other Clichés

[The following was first published on this day in 2006. As the month of June is a favorite for weddings, we here at mwbh thought we'd reprise it for your consideration. -- DLA]

As a sacristan for a Jesuit parish in the early 1990s, we did a booming "business" in weddings -- 10 am, 12 noon, and 2 pm every Saturday, and more often than not, all slots were filled. After all, what better place for a haute couture Catholic wedding than in Georgetown? I had quite a time fifteen minutes before the second or third wedding telling the couple from the previous blessed event, that the photo shoot in front of the altar was directly in the way of the next blessed event. The parish prided itself on catering to the "progressive Catholic" in the population, and yet with one exception (and I do mean only one), every wedding procession culminated with the bride being "given away" by her father, uncle, or any older male relative with a pulse. They can purge all the male pronouns they want, and call God their "Mother" till they're blue in the face, but she's still "Daddy's little princess" in the end.*

I thought of those days recently, while reading a post by Mary Alexander (no relation) entitled "The Tawdry Bride":

Hours before her son's wedding in New York City two years ago, Lisa Brettschneider was a little taken aback by the scene in the suite of her daughter-in-law-to-be at the Mandarin Oriental hotel... When the family got the proofs, Mrs Brettschneider deemed a few images inappropriate for public consumption, including one of Alison's favorite shots, which showed her G-string and back tattoo. "My in-laws weren't too happy about that," says the bride, now 29, who owns a women's clothing showroom in Manhattan. "But it was such a cool shot." Adds her mother-in-law: "I kept saying, 'You're going to have to show them to your kids one day ...'"

As I remember my first wedding twenty-four years ago, it wasn't all that extravagant. My brother was the best man, and for the bachelor party, some of the guys brought their wives along. I don't think they would have broken up anything anyway. The ceremony itself was a Byzantine Rite wedding, so we as the bride and groom were led together to the altar by the priest as a matter of course. The bridesmaids wore cocktail dresses suitable for re-wearing in public. The men of the party wore "morning coats," as God forbid they should wear black tie before six in the evening (a lesson universally lost on the would-be fashion plates in Georgetown). A choir from my own Roman Rite parish sang two of my favorite motets (Mozart's "Ave Verum" and Durufle's "Ubi Caritas"), the bride and I wore matching flower wreaths on our heads during the reading of the Gospel, and we had to stand for two hours. The reception was at the Evans Farm Inn in McLean, a lovely pastoral setting since closed down to make way for luxury townhomes (for reasons totally beyond me). We wanted chicken cordon bleu for the sit-down dinner, but Papa K didn't want anyone to think he was cheap, so it was prime rib at the get-go. Oh, and nothing less than an open bar! A square dance band played, and the bride and groom danced the "Salty Dog Rag" well into the night.

Ten years later, she filed for divorce after running off with some guy who dumped her soon afterwards. C'est la vie, c'est l'amour, eh?

At the risk of not sounding like the Roman Catholic poster boy a few of you may still think I am, I don't miss the marriage. By now I would have had a heart attack, or would have "gone postal." But I'm grateful that the union produced a fine and talented son, who has been cracking me up since he was a toddler. And I had a rather colorful set of in-laws. We lost Papa in '91, and Nana passed away only a few months ago. I used to call her once or twice a year for Mother's Day, Thanksgiving, that sort of thing. And I'm still in touch with some of the others to this day. It drives my former wife crazy, as if I give a rat's behind.

Still, it's a fate I don't wish on anyone. And to those who marry this month, or at any month, let me give you this solemn assurance, that no one will care how much above the national average you spent on the big day. Skip the limo and get a live band; music is usually best in its natural state, and deejays are usually obnoxious as a rule. Remember that it's not just about the bride, which may not mean much now, but there's a message there somewhere. If involving the groom reduces the chance of the event resembling a cotillion, it will be worth it later on. Go to the pre-Cana program. Don't fall asleep. Find a priest who's not about to apologize, either for being one, or for what he has to say. In summation, avoid any excess or novelty at all costs -- in the case of the latter, unless you want to be embarrassed by your wedding album ten years from now.

For all that went down the tubes, I'm still not embarrassed by mine.

* In the Catholic Rite of Marriage, the rubrics actually call for the bride and groom to process down the aisle together. The practice of "giving the bride away" is a concession to a Protestant culture. No kidding.

Veni Creator Spiritus

When the princes of Rome assemble to elect a new Pope, when bishops are consecrated, when priests are ordained, when churches are dedicated, when kings are crowned with the blessing of Mother Church -- at all such solemn occasions, there is the chanting of this “most famous of hymns.” Attributed to Rabanus Maurus in the ninth century, “Veni Creator Spiritus” implores the Holy Spirit to dwell among those who raise their voices in its melody and phrase.

Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
Ignite them with celestial fire;
Spirit of God, you have the art
Your gifts, the sev'nfold to impart.

Your blest outpouring from above
Is comfort, life, and fire of love.
Illumine with perpetual light
The dullness of our blinded sight.

Anoint and cheer our much-soiled face
With the abundance of your grace.
Keep far our foes; give peace at home;
Where you guide us, no ill can come.

Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And you, of both, to be but one
That, as the ceaseless ages throng,
Your praise may be our endless song. Amen.

(Featured lyrics from a translation by John Cosin, 1594-1672. Chanted by the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of Saint Maurice and Saint Maur, Clevaux.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Novena Day 9: The Fruits of the Holy Ghost

Da tuis fidelibus
in te confidentibus
sacrum septenarium.

On the faithful, who adore
and confess thee, evermore
in thy sevenfold gift descend.


The gifts of the Holy Ghost perfect the supernatural virtues by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to divine inspiration. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God under the direction of the Holy Ghost, our service becomes more sincere and generous, the practice of virtue more perfect. Such acts of virtue leave the heart filled with joy and consolation and are known as Fruits of the Holy Ghost. These fruits in turn render the practice of virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the service of God, to serve Whom is to reign.


Come, O Divine Spirit, fill my heart with Thy heavenly fruits, Thy charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance, that I may never weary in the service of God, but by continued faithful submission to Thy inspiration, may merit to be united eternally with Thee in the love of the Father and the Son. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Novena Day 8: The Gift of Wisdom

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
melt the frozen, warm the chill;
guide the steps that go astray.


Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written “all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands.” It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Savior: “Take up thy cross and follow Me, for My yoke is sweet, and My burden light.”


Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, power and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all passing joys and satisfactions of the earth. Help me to attain them and possess them for ever. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Novena Day 7: The Gift of Counsel

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
on our dryness pour thy dew;
wash the stains of guilt away.


The gift of Counsel endows the soul with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must be done, especially in difficult circumstances. Counsel applies the principles furnished by Knowledge and Understanding to the innumerable concrete cases that confront us in the course of our daily duty as parents, teachers, public servants and Christian citizens. Counsel is supernatural common sense, a priceless treasure in the quest of salvation. “Above all these things, pray to the Most High, that He may direct thy way in truth.”


Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide me in all my ways, that I may always do Thy holy will. Incline my heart to that which is good; turn it away from all that is evil, and direct me by the straight path of Thy commandments to that goal of eternal life for which I long. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

Gone Fishing

As this is published, Sal is returning from the Philippines. From the arrival gate at Dulles Airport (courtesy of Korean Air, which sure took their sweet time about it), we will head to an undisclosed location near the border with West Virginia, for 48 hours of deprogramming and re-assimilation. During this time, only the Novena leading up to Pentecost will be published, and little else. Then, come Saturday the 11th, we return to our regular programming -- such as it is.

I love it when a plan comes together (or in this case, the actual singing in the video, which begins at 2:11).

My Pompous Circumstance

Simcha Fischer has published what she would give as a commencement address, if called upon to do so. That got me to thinking ...

In May of 2007, the Seattle Times reported that the speaker booked for commencement exercises at The University of Washington had to back out, and with only a few weeks before graduation, UW was having a very hard time finding another one. So I wrote to them and offered my services, even telling them I had a "step-uncle" on the faculty who could vouch for my character.

I never heard back. But I take these kinds of things seriously, especially when an honorarium of $10,000 is involved, and travel and living expenses are covered so I wouldn't have to mooch off my Aunt Shirley again. So I got my cap and gown out of mothballs, and prepared that which would have been shared with the University of Washington Class of 2007, at their commencement just four years ago today:

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President X, members of the Board of Regents, distinguished faculty and benefactors, [pause briefly and look over] Aunt Shirley and Uncle Bud, [pause briefly and look forward] and most important, the men and women of the Class of 2007.

I'm under no illusions that you couldn't do better than this. But as I told the lady from the committee over the phone, it doesn't get any better than this for me either [make gesture in reference to where you are], so we're even. [applause, we can only hope] Be that as it may, it would appear that I have not made the sort of mark on the world that would send the organizers of this event knocking on my door. But, I heard they were in a bit of a jam, and my schedule was pretty clear. That was when I knocked on theirs first. So, here we are.

What possible bit of wisdom could someone who is not a public figure, other than your parents and loved ones, pass along to you on such an auspicious occasion? Well, I thought about that. Mostly, I thought about two things.

First, for the past twenty-six years, I've been working in that other Washington you hear about, the one that is called upon to solve everybody's problems when no one else either can or wants to. We do not give them much credit for the ability, but at the prices you are about to be paying for the rest of your life, it never stops us from demanding it of them. And when it comes to who's going to be in charge, we assume that one side is the nation's savior, and the other one is the devil incarnate. When you stop and think about it, your view of which is which, is probably exactly the same as that of everyone around you. Go ahead. Take a look around you if you don't believe me. [pause and nod head] See what I mean? [anticipate uneasy murmur in crowd]

Now [shake head slightly and hold hands out in assurance] rest assured, this is not at all unusual. And this is the second thing that occurred to me. Most people, when they hear an idea, do not ask themselves, is this true? Should I believe this? No. They ask themselves, what kind of company will this put me in if I do believe this? The mainstream media knows this, and sometimes they go along with this so you will listen. Anyone in the entertainment industry whom you would rather see up here than yours truly, wouldn't be lost on them either.

But there is one problem with each of the conditions I described -- respectively -- waiting for the government to solve your problems, and following the crowd. No one in America has ever achieved greatness, never mind the right to stand up here and address such a distinguished collective as yourselves, by doing either.

Over there across the lake is a man who, at the very least, has made a rather comfortable living for himself. [turn and cup hand to mouth as if to confide] He got to speak at Harvard this year. [nod head to anticipated groans, pretend to calm the crowd with hands] Now I realize I'm not from around here and maybe I just don't know better, but it seems to me he could have saved himself a lot of time by crossing the lake on his yacht and coming over HERE. [applause, naturally, while nodding head emphatically] But being sought after in that way, by being among the wealthiest men in the world is not what made him famous. In fact, early in his career, there was a very good chance that he wasn't going to amount to anything. One day, when he was not much older than most of you, he visited the offices of a giant in the electronics industry which shall remain nameless. It is just as well, because your parents probably heard more about them than you ever will, and you will find out why in a minute. You see, this man had an idea to pitch to them, an idea of a set of coded instructions, what was called [enunciate as if a new concept] an operating system [continue] designed to run a computing device that would be small enough to sit on some one's desk. It would be the perfect thing for a small business, or even some one's home. These people did not buy the idea for a minute. After all, they knew for a fact -- they did their homework on this, you see? -- that there could not possibly be any market for such a thing. A pocket calculator that could do esoteric mathematical functions [mimic use of device with hands] for engineers and scientists, perhaps. But a computer for the home? To do what? Write letters? Figure out the household budget? [mimic use of device with hands, again] Play silly little arcade games??? [shake head casually] Not a chance.

You know the rest of the story, right? He developed an even better operating system that 98 percent of you sitting here take completely for granted. And you do, because back then, he could not afford to. And NOW [pause] he can afford anything he wants.

But most important, he avoided the two areas of conventional wisdom I mentioned earlier. He did it, [speak slowly here] by being the change he wanted to see in the world. He did not do it to be famous, he did it because it was what he loved doing, and because no one else would. There is not one person sitting out here today, who cannot do the same thing for the same reasons. Your families, your loved ones, they believe it. If you run into them later today, ask them. They believe it [point to others at platform], or they would not have let you in here to begin with. And that other guy I talked about? He didn't even FINISH college. If you ask him, he would probably say you have a leg up on him already.

Now, I've spoken for [pause to look at watch], uh, fifteen to twenty minutes, like it said on that paper they made me sign, and I'm sure all of you have much better things to do now, and for the moment, I don't mean looking for a job. [the usual whoops and hollers] This is the part when I'm supposed to leave you with some final inspirational thought. But you already know what it is, and what you have to do, at least after today. [lower voice as if to confide] You already know what you have to do tonight, right? [more of the usual] You've got the rest of your lives for that other thing [motion with thumb behind oneself], and don't forget where you learned how. Thank you, God bless you ... and [raise right fist in the air] GO HUSKIES!!!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Alice’s Bucket List

I was just packing to head out of town for a couple of days, when I came across this account.

I'm 15 and I have terminal cancer. I've created a bucket list because there are so many things I still want to do in my life ... some are possible, some will remain a dream. My blog is to document this precious time with my family and friends, doing the things I want to do. You only have one life ... live it!

Click on the blockquote to learn more about Alice. Or follow the trend: #alicebucketlist

Novena Day 6: The Gift of Understanding

Sine tuo numine
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.

Where thou art not, man hath naught,
nothing good in deed or thought,
nothing free from taint of ill.


Understanding, as a gift of the Holy Ghost, helps us to grasp the meaning of the truths of our holy religion. By faith we know them, but by Understanding we learn to appreciate and relish them. It enables us to penetrate the inner meaning of revealed truths and through them to be quickened to newness of life. Our faith ceases to be sterile and inactive, but inspires a mode of life that bears eloquent testimony to the faith that is in us; we begin to “walk worthy of God in all things pleasing, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”


Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation; and may merit at last to see the eternal light in Thy light; and in the light of glory to have a clear vision of Thee and the Father and the Son. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Plains Milky Way

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

For the month of May, photographer Randy Halverson shot Milky Way timelapse in central South Dakota, when he had the time, and the weather cooperated. The biggest challenge was cloudy nights and the wind. There were very few nights, when he could shoot, that were perfectly clear, and often the wind was blowing over 25mph. That made it hard to get the shots he wanted. He kept most of the shots low to the ground, so the wind wouldn't catch the setup and cause camera shake, or blow it over.

Ten seconds of the video is about 2 hours 20 minutes in real time.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

(Psalm 19:1)

(H/T to Ricky Vines.)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Novena Day 5: The Gift of Knowledge

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.

O most blessed Light divine,
shine within these hearts of thine,
and our inmost being fill!


The gift of Knowledge enables the soul to evaluate created things at their true worth -- in relation to God. Knowledge unmasks the pretense of creatures, reveals their emptiness, and points out their only true purpose as instruments in the service of God. It shows us the loving care of God even in adversity, and directs us to glorify Him in every circumstance of life. Guided by its light, we put first things first, and prize the friendship of God beyond all else. “Knowledge is a fountain of life to him that possesseth it.”


Come, O Blessed Spirit of Knowledge, and grant that I may perceive the will of the Father; show me the nothingness of earthly things, that I may realize their vanity and use them only for Thy glory and my own salvation, looking ever beyond them to Thee, and Thy eternal rewards. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...