Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent: A Counter-Sign for Christmas

“It’s beginning to look a lot like ...”

... that time of year when we celebrate Christmas for roughly four weeks, beginning in late November, and ending abruptly on the day following that which is actually Christmas. On Sirius XM satellite radio, six channels are devoted solely to Christmas music (and one to Channukah), some beginning as early as now, three ending on (you guessed it) the day after Christmas, and two others ending on New Year's Eve. The Latino channel goes until January 7. Don't ask me why. Needless to say, the stores are already in full swing with holiday decorations and people killing each other at Walmart for a steal on pre-paid cellphones.

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In response to premature but well-intentioned attempts at goodwill, one of my good colleagues once remarked that, even with this overture of light-heartedness in the midst of crass commercialism, “they are committing the same anti-Advent error as the secular culture is. Some counter-sign!”

He's right, but is there an alternative?


It should first be remembered that the Advent season, which begins one week from today, is itself part of the Christmas Cycle, that which traditionally began the liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent, and continued on into the twelve days of the Christmas season, and thereafter into Epiphanytide, up until the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima (the three Sundays that were prelude to Ash Wednesday). To celebrate Advent then, is already to celebrate Christmas, if only to a point.

Is Advent only about doing penance?

Modern dilettantes on matters liturgical like to tell people, at their sophomoric weekend workshops, that Advent is really not like Lent at all, that it is a season of expectation, not penance. Nearly two thousand years of evidence suggests this to be, at the very least, misleading. In the Eastern churches, the forty days preceding Christmas is one of the four seasons of fasting, with what is known in the West as Lent referred to as "the Great Fast." It begins with the Feast of Saint Philip on the 14th of November (according to the Eastern calendar), and is therefore known among the Slavs as "Filipovka." Even in the West, the notion of fasting or abstinence, is akin to the Famine before the Feast. Yes, it is indeed about penance, if for a purpose that is different from Lent, and yet similar to a point.

The time for those of the Domestic Church to stop wringing their hands, and taking matters into them instead, is long overdue. This venue has been active in the same cause for nearly a decade. (Where the hell have the rest of you been?) Parents who complain that their children will grow up learning nothing of Christmas but crass commercialism, and that the 26th of December is the day of the Big Anti-Climax, have an alternative. They'll have to work at it a little. They may even have to find other families of like mind within their parish, whether or not they ask for the pastor's cooperation in putting the kabosh on parish "Christmas parties" in mid-December.

You can almost hear it now.

“But, but, Mister and Missus McGillacuddy, the families will tell me they’ll all be out of town.”

"But, but, Father, that still doesn’t make it Christmas yet, does it?"

On the other hand, we all know what awaits the church bulletin in certain other places, which isn't much better.


Here at Our Lady of Perpetual Mediocrity, we remember the sacred dreariness of the Advent season, with the forbidding of any and all celebrations on parish property, so as not to take away from the 24-hour-maximum joy of the feast of our blessed Savior's birth, not to mention the fullness of the twelve days of the Christmas season (more or less depending on when Epiphany falls on a Sunday; God forbid the Church interfere with your weekdays), when you'll all be out of town anyway.

Yours in Christ,
Father Billy Bob


In dealing with the celebration of Christmas in its proper perspective, we must first remember that what we have now, with endless shopping and carols on the radio in preparation for a single day, appeals to our nature. We have an innate sense of the seasons of the year, the times of our lives. We delight in anticipation, or else the department stores would have nothing to which to elicit the usual response. And yet, we have also led ourselves to believe that taking more than a day off to celebrate anything is somehow excessive unless we leave town over it. We are just as likely to spend over a month preparing to celebrate the second biggest holyday in the Church year on only one day, just like everyone else. So why should the rest of the world take the idea seriously that Advent isn't Christmas yet? We don't behave as if it is anymore than our neighbors, except when we complain about ... well, our neighbors. At least they're having more fun with it than us.

Every year at man with black hat, we celebrate the season before, during, and after the Feast of the Nativity. You and your family can celebrate each day with us. But first, we begin with Advent.


The most popular household devotion of Advent is, of course, the Advent wreath, which originated among the German people as early as the 17th century. What began as the lighting of one candle for each day in December leading to the 25th, eventually evolved into the lighting of four candles to mark the Sundays of Advent, usually at the start of the evening meal. For the first week, one is lit; for the second, two, and so on, until all are lighted up to the eve of the Nativity. The candles are traditionally purple, to coincide with the penitential nature of the season, as seen in the priest's vestments. The third candle is usually pink (or more properly, rose) to mark the mid-season occasion that is Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday.

This display is also popular in parish churches, which is somewhat of an anomaly, as it is not a liturgical practice in the strict sense, but a pious custom more suited to the home. Be that as it may ...

At the beginning, especially if there are children, they may be invited to begin by singing the first verse and chorus of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" as the appropriate number of candles are lit. A portion of Scripture for the Mass or Office of the Day may be read. The devotion culminates with the traditional Collect of the Mass for that Sunday.

V. O Lord, hear our prayer.

R. And let our cry come unto Thee.

V. Let us pray ...

Advent I

Stir up Thy power, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come: that from the threatening dangers of our sins we may deserve to be rescued by Thy protection, and to be saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.

Advent II

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way of Thine only-begotten Son: that through His coming we mat attain to serve Thee with purified minds. Who liveth and reigneth, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.

Advent III

Incline Thine ear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to our petitions: and, by the grace of Thy visitation, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.

Advent IV

O Lord, we beseech Thee, stir up Thy power, and come, and with great might succor us: that by the help of Thy grace that which is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness: Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.

Beginning on Christmas Eve, the violent and rose candles are replaced by white candles, which remain until the end of the Twelve Days. (Devotions associated with the Twelve Days of Christmas will be found within this venue at the proper time. Stay tuned ...)


Another popular devotion is the Advent calendar, which marks the days of December leading up to Christmas, irrespective of the beginning of Advent (which begins anywhere from November 27 to December 3). This practice, which originated among German Lutherans in the 18th century, had origins similar to the Advent wreath, with the lighting of candles to mark the days. Eventually the use of the wreath would evolve into either the wreath, or an elaborate structure resembling a calendar, but with closed compartments each containing a small gift, to be opened one evening at a time until Christmas Eve.

Most of us have seen inexpensive Advent calendars in card shops and church bookstores, but there are some very good ones that can entertain the children of the house, or otherwise remain as treasures over the years. One of our favorites is the Kurt Adler Wooden Nativity Advent Calendar (see image above), which comes complete with 24 magnetic figures contained behind their respective doors. Each day, a figure is removed from its container, and placed appropriately on the empty manger scene, to be completed on the night before Christmas. At a price from Amazon of just under $69 (with alternative distributors selling for a bit less), it may be a bit expensive, unless you consider it as lasting for several years, and passing it down to your children when they have families of their own.

If you order now, it will only be a little bit late.

Barring that, there are numerous alternatives to be found among Traditional Advent Calendars from Germany by Richard Sellmer Verlag.

And yet, what if you want to make your own, and you want it tomorrow? Here's a great idea. The Pottery Barn has this one at a steal for only $143.00. But hey, for a fraction of that, you could go to the arts and crafts store, find twenty-five tiny baskets, the same number of adhesive numerals, and a properly shaped cardboard or particle board, and whip up one of these puppies over the weekend. (Personally, I'd number them starting at the bottom, not the top. But hey, that's just me.)


Another form of the Advent calendar is the "Jesse Tree." This depiction of multiple imagery is that of the ancestry of Our Lord. At its heart is a passage from the book of the prophet Isaiah: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” (11:1) Examples in stained glass of cathedrals date to the 11th century. You can find a cornucopia of examples by clicking here or here, or you can use the image provided here. Simply click on it, print it out at its actual size, paste it on card stock, and cut out the images, hanging them on a small artificial tree on a counter top or kitchen table. This can be a wonderful learning tool for the entire family. Descriptions of various schemes can be found at


There are a number of saints' feast days which occur during the month of December, which have over the centuries developed a close association with the preparation of Christmas; among them, Saint Barbara on the 4th of December, Saint Nicholas on the 6th, and Saint Lucy on the 13th. The customs associated with them will be described as they arise in December, but if you click on the name of the saint, the folks at can give you a head start. After all, at least one of them involves baking cookies.

On a related note, we would be remiss if we did not remind you of the calendar feature at The Old Farmer's Almanac, which will show you the "red-letter days" of December (including saints) on the first of the month.

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It is hoped that the above can provide you and yours with a means of commemorating the season, in a way that will delight your children, and teach them something of their precious Catholic heritage. There will be more depictions and devotions as the season progresses, and we celebrate the Year of Grace here at man with black hat.

Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

(H/T to for their extensive research into Catholic customs, and also to Ryan for presenting us with the challenge.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Joffre the Giant “Feeling Blessed: New Neighbors”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

This writer stumbled upon this observer of the human condition while researching for something else, which happens from time to time. Jeffry “the Giant” is a husband and father of five children (home schooled, of course). “My particular areas of manly expertise include, but are not limited to, the drinking of beer, the smoking of pipes, the playing of rugby, the recitation of poetry, the raising of children, and the loving of women.”

He identifies himself as Presbyterian, but he has much to say to a Catholic, during a month when Catholics are admonished to consider the Last Things, as he muses on the passing of old neighbors, and the greeting of new ones, as one might the changing of the seasons.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Scouting Goes Rogue: Part 1 (Introduction)

Earlier this year, we reported on the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to revise its membership policy with respect to youth members and sexual orientation. The relevant section of the policy up to this time, one that was supported by the 2000 Supreme Court decision in Boy Scouts of America v Dale, is as follows:

Youth membership in the Boy Scouts of America is open to all who meet the membership requirements. Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Varsity Scouting are for boys. Venturing is for young men and young women. (Updated March 15)

The adult applicant must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth. The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle, and abide by the Scout Oath or Promise, and the Scout Law.

While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.

The new policy, voted on at the National Meeting this past May, effective the beginning of next year, is as follows:

Membership in any program of the Boy Scouts of America requires the youth member to (a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, (b) subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and (c) demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and is consistent at all times with the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law. No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.

In the world of Catholic new media, there has been discussion on this topic at one time or another this past year, as would-be pundits advise Catholic families on what they should or should not do. They draw their conclusions with little in the way of hard evidence, that continued association with the BSA, as of the 23rd of May last, is definitive cooperation with an objective moral evil. Or something.

As poorly thought out as this is, at least it heads in the right direction. What's more, it pales in comparison to the vascilating stance taken by the National Catholic Committee on Scouting.

The Catholic Church teaches that people who experience a homosexual inclination or a same sex attraction are to be treated with respect recognizing the dignity of all persons. The Church's teaching is clear that engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage is immoral. Individuals who are open and avowed homosexuals promoting and engaging in homosexual conduct are not living lives consistent with Catholic teaching.

Now, contrast this relatively innocuous position with the official statement by Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Virginia, released last May in the wake of the BSA decision.

As an organization founded on character and leadership, it is highly disappointing to see the Boy Scouts of America succumb to external pressures and political causes at the cost of its moral integrity. Additionally, it seems clear that the result of this policy change will likely not bring harmony, but rather continuing controversy, policy fights, and discord.

The above has probably been the most forthright statement to date by any Catholic bishop on the issue.

We hear a lot about how people with same-sex attraction (and the assumption is that "sexual orientation" is limited to that issue) should be treated "with respect recognizing the dignity of all persons." The reality is, that this is not what the Church teaches on homosxuality; it is what the Church teaches on everything! “In omnia, caritas.” In all things, charity. Our mother the Church does not call us to condemnation, but to conversion. She wants us to unite with the Bridegroom, and be happy with Him forever in Heaven. Hers is a message of love, not of hate. What appears at a distance to be a bitter pill, is simply the Bread of Life.

Meanwhile, we hear little from the NCCS on how unnatural sexual proclivities are "an objective disorder," and are an inclination towards "an objective moral evil." That is most assuredly what the Church teaches on homosexuality. A genuine teaching moment has been reduced to a public relations campaign, trying to assure everybody that we promise to be nice, please don't hurt us. As a result, there is little in the way of authoritative direction. And so, at the local level, pastors decide not to sponsor Boy Scout troops at the end of the year (often without even discerning their own bishop's position, as though the Church operates on a congregational polity), parents pull their kids out of Scouting, in some cases as they are about to be eligible for the Eagle Award -- all this without guidance, without an alternative, without much of anything.

To limit the concern of Church officials to merely explicit sexual activity is morally problematic in itself, not so much for what it says, as for what it does not say. Dr Denise Hunnell is a wife and mother with a long history of involvement in Boy Scouting. Not content to rest on those laurels, she brings up the obvious:

What constitutes sexual conduct? It would be normal for a high school age Boy Scout to post pictures on Facebook of his girlfriend. He might be seen holding hands with her. He might even be seen giving her a kiss. None of this would be considered as inappropriate sexual behavior. Now consider the Boy Scout with a same-sex attraction. Would it also be acceptable for him to hold hands and kiss his boyfriend? This policy opens the door to a Clintonian parsing of the definition of sexual relations. Will the Scout invite his boyfriend to the Court of Honor to share in the celebration of his Scouting achievements? Will other Scouts and their parents be expected to look upon this behavior with tolerance and acceptance? For Catholics, that would be impossible.

Unfortunately, the tepid response that is evident in the NCCS position has been the extent of intellectual rigor among so many Catholic leaders involved in Scouting until now. I have spoken to a number of such leaders at the local level. The responses, including to such as the above, are no less depressing.

A local commissioner who liaises with a Catholic unit: "I don't see the difference here, David."

A decorated Scout leader and recipient of a religious award for his service to Catholic scouting: "I don't have a dog in this hunt."

The scoutmaster of a Troop sponsored by a Catholic parish: "It's above my pay grade."

No kidding. Grown men actually say this stuff.

In the roughly three months this past spring, during what the BSA referred to as a "family discussion," little more than a staged exercise of consultation as prelude to a foregone conclusion, was like a bad remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers once the "pod people" started taking over. I heard more inane and ill-formed observations in two or three months from seasoned and otherwise-sensible veterans of Scouting, than I had in the nine years I had been back in uniform.

The good Doctor, on the other hand, is quite correct to imply elsewhere in her treatise, that the leadership of the NCCS has been naive in its approach to the subject. Even children who prepare for First Communion are taught (or should be taught) the Act of Contrition, that they may make a proper Confession, in which they promise "to sin no more, to avoid the near occasion of sin, to do penance, and to amend my life ..." In other words, it is not enough to avoid sin, but also to avoid those situations which invariably lead to sin. It is what the Jews refer to as "building a wall around Torah." The purpose of the wall (or the fence, depending on your translation) is not only to keep something in, but to keep something else out. To put it another way, in the words of Father Peter Stravinskas: "If you want to avoid the unthinkable, you draw the lines well in advance." Those among the Catholic leadership who advise the BSA do not appear to see this as a problem, which is not about a deficiency in theology, but a more basic level of catechesis -- from bishops, no less, and the intellectual dwarfs who do their bidding!

Over the next few weeks at this time, man with black hat will be laying out the new landscape of the scouting movement in the United States, particularly as it has emerged in the last year.

Part 2 of this series will introduce the reader to what are referred to as the "aims and methods of Scouting," and will give some background on the history of so-called "independent scouting." It will provide a brief glance at how a traditional scouting program would look and operate, and what it would provide, based upon the writings of Lord Baden Powell of Gilwell, the father of the scouting movement, and his 1907 Brownsea Island experiment.

With Part 2 as a basis for comparison, Parts 3, 4, and 5 will each present a possible alternative to the Boy Scouts of America (in the form of Trail Life USA, Troops of Saint George, and the Federation of North American Explorers, respectively). Finally, Part 6 will show why remaining with the Boy Scouts of America, all else notwithstanding, may or may not still be the best alternative over the long haul.

If you are a mother or father of a Catholic household with boys in Scouting, you want to read this series.

If you are a parish or diocesan youth minister, or a Catholic priest whose parish has sponsored a Scout Troop, and you want to know what to do next (while waiting for the diocesan youth ministry office to get it together), you want to read this series.

If you are with a diocesan youth ministry office, or a diocesan Scouting chaplaincy, and are tired of waiting for said dicastery to get it together on this subject, you want to read this series.

Concern is raised in this venue over the limiting of the problem to explicit sexual engagement, when the problem is really broader than that. Most people who think beyond the ends of their noses know, that nobody ever joins Boy Scouting with the expectation of getting laid. (There, I said it.) We must conclude, therefore, that there is more to this issue than the one-dimensional approach employed up to now.

If you agree (or if you don't, and would dare this writer to prove otherwise), you want to read this series.

(NOTE: If you are a parish priest, and need to know a few things sooner rather than later, you know where to find me.)

The thing is, many Catholics with boys in Scouting are willing to listen to anybody with enough initials after his or her name, or enough visibility in Catholic new media, who would accuse them of leading their child down the road to perdition had they not burned his uniform sometime after May 23rd, without even suggesting a viable option. (By "viable," I refer to concept of scouting as described above, as opposed to a Catholic boys club whose members all wear the same polo shirts and pray the Rosary around the campfire.) Maybe it's about time we all brought the conversation up a notch, don't you think?

Or don't you? Stay tuned ...

Monday, November 11, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Martinmas Edition)

This past election proved interesting in Virginia, to put it politely. This video clip from KHOU-TV News in Houston, Texas, reports on an election that was even more ... uh, interesting.

Today, of course, is Veterans Day. By coincidence, it is also the feast of a fourth-century Roman soldier who eventually became a bishop. Today was once popularly known as “Martinmas” as this feast was the Mass of the day.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

The current political climate has also led some to talk of secession, and political divisions within states has led some to talk of splitting off and creating their own. Vermont was created from New Hampshire, and West Virginia was created from Virginia. Most of the time, though, it doesn't go very far. [MentalFloss]

A divorced father in Manhattan discovered is being taken to court for being an unfit parent, in refusing to take his son to McDonalds. Hey, it's not as if he ordered a super-sized soda, is it? [New York Post]

Where in the world is the "F-Bomb" being dropped in social media? Look no farther than to an interactive map created by ... oh, some guy who wants to know where the "F-Bomb" is being dropped. [Gizmodo]

Finally, the hills are alive, with the sound of ... Carrie Underwood? [Entertainment Weekly]

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Loose Lips in the Loggia (Pilot Edition)

The past year in the world of Catholic new media has devolved into a grudge match, with any number of would-be church chat pundits challenging or criticizing other would-be church chat pundits, while their respective minions take to the ramparts that are the comments boxes, or through weblogs of their own.

We have watched this dearth of intellectual rigor prattle on for quite some time, wondering why these yahoos should have all the fun. Then we remembered that old saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, take charge of ’em!”

And so, we here at man with black hat are piloting what we hope to be a weekly review of select highlights from this faith-filled bandwidth of blogospheric ballyhoo, speaking the Truth with Love, until it hurts (anyone but ourselves). You probably won't find any of these weekly segments among the usual collection of "the best of Catholic blogging" or whatever (not that there's anything wrong with that), but we provide more than links here at The Black Hat Corral. We give them our own little twist.

Here's what's bouncing around the bandwidth lately:

Elizabeth “The Anchoress” Scalia is "not into intra-blog smack downs." After all, "it’s ridiculous and small, and also because in eight years of blogging I have made a point of not speaking of other bloggers/new media folk unless I could do so positively." For all that, she'll make an exception for commentator Michael Voris. You can hardly blame her; doesn't everybody else? [The Anchoress]

Speaking of which, Michael Voris may be right about some things, but not when it comes to natural family planning, essentially toeing the rigorist line that NFP is little more than "Catholic birth control" and is too easily used to avoid pregnancy. While this presentation blissfully ignores the teaching of Pius XI in Casti Connubi, and the address of Pius XII to the Italian midwives, there is a voice of clarity from Thomas Storck, one of the brilliant and too-often overlooked minds in the Catholic world. [Crisis Magazine]

The mother of all rhetorical cage fights in the world of Catholic new media took place last month, with Mark Shea debating Michael Voris, at a men's gathering in Saint Paul, Minnesota, known as the “Argument of the Month Club.” An audio recording of the event is slated to be up later in the year. Meanwhile, some guy named Jeff (no last name) was there, and has some thoughts of his own on the event, including which one of the two (he thinks) was left standing. [AOTM/TRCT]

(Wow, we just did three items in a row about Voris. Who coulda seen that coming?)

Rorate Caeli is pleased to report that it is "the most-read traditional Catholic blog in the world." Perhaps they could be equally pleased to explain why they label posts about Pope Francis as "The Bergoglio Pontificate." Getting in touch with our inner sedevacantist, are we, fellas? [Rorate Caeli]

Father Paul Scalia (no relation to Elizabeth, by the way) raises concern “that the Church become not the New Jerusalem, but the New Sparta. And Sparta was known for only one thing: fighting. Ruthlessly, effectively, heroically at times, but only fighting. Sparta produced no great artwork, poetry, plays, or philosophy. It produced only war.” He's right, of course. He usually is. Still, we cannot help but wonder, when Saint Catherine of Siena referred to various prelates as “wolves and sellers of the Divine Grace,” whether she was part of the "Church Militant," or what the good Father calls the "Church Belligerent." You decide. [Catholic Answers]

Well, that's our story and we're stickin' to it. Remember to attend Holy Mass this Sunday. Until the next chattel of church chat, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Of Monsters And Men “Mountain Song”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Of Monsters and Men is a six-member, English language,indie folk/pop band from Iceland, started up in 2010, and with a full-bleed animated splash-page website. Call them a kinder, gentler version of Mumford and Sons if you will, but give them a listen, in this video produced last April at the Fuse/VEVO house in Indio, California.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November ...”

Today is the fifth of November. Right, you knew that. But do you know why this day is remembered as “Guy Fawkes Day” in England? For that we go to (where else?) Wikipedia, from which the following is taken.

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Sir Robert Catesby. The plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament on 5 November, as the prelude to a popular revolt in the Midlands during which James's nine-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was to be installed as the Catholic head of state. Catesby may have embarked on the scheme after hopes of securing greater religious tolerance under King James had faded ...

The character of Guy Fawkes was the inspiration for the mysterious antihero of the 2006 movie V for Vendetta, a dystopian vision of a Great Britain ruled by a totalitarian government, based upon the 1982-89 comic book series of the same name. The film starred Hugo Weaving as the elusive "V" and Natalie Portman as the woman whom he rescues and later befriends.

Plus, that mask is pretty awesome, especially in the climax where everybody ... nah, you gotta get the DVD.

Monday, November 04, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Pre-Election Day Edition)

The staging of events to look spontaneous are hardly a new feature in the world of American political theater. A group known as "Lady Patriots" seems to have found a case in point, in one that was played out recently on national television. Some of the alleged proof may appear coincidental or circumstantial, but in Washington, you learn not to put too much past anybody.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

"Way down, in Columbus, Georgia ..." So goes the song, and the setting for a house fire, where in the course of rescuing those inside, one man braved the flames for what really mattered. At least to him. [WTVM]

In another case of being rescued, a special garment has been developed for one of life's oft-unavoidable situations. [Gizmodo]

Walmart used to be a great company, before Sam Walton died and the spoiled brats that were his children took over. Small wonder that a store employee in Michigan would learn the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished. (He should go work for Costco.) [AP via Huffington Post]

In another story of no good deeds, et cetera, et cetera, some children in Fargo, North Dakota, got tricks instead of treats this past Halloween. [USA Today]

Meanwhile, you'll never believe from whom George Clooney is (honestly) descended. []

Finally, every country leads the world in something that puts them "on the map" -- literally. [Doghouse Diaries]

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Dia(s) de los Muertos

November is the month in which the Church devotes herself especially, to the remembrance of those who have died in the previous year. As we remember the communion of saints already "raised to the altar" in Heaven, we also pray for those among the righteous of this life, who nonetheless part from this earth with sufficient imperfections, so as to remain in a state of purification, at the end of which they are released to witness the Beatific Vision, to see their God face to face in Glory.

And so, as is said in the Book of Maccabees: “It is a good and holy thought to pray for the dead.” The chorus of both the "Church Suffering" (the souls of purgatory) and the "Church Triumphant" (the saints in heaven), along with the choirs of angels, are among the assembled at every Mass with the "Church Militant" (the rest of us).

As tomorrow will be All Souls Day in the western Church, it is also known as "dia de los muertos" (day of the dead) in Spanish-speaking countries. But since the celebration usually would have begun on the eve of All Saints Day (All Hallows' Eve, or Halloween), it is often referred to in the plural, and today's feast would be included in the celebration as well. In former Spanish colonies such as the Philippines, Sal's family still goes to the cemetery where their deceased loved ones are buried, not simply to lay flowers, but for a picnic. That sounds rather bizarre, unless you consider the mayhem we make out of Halloween here in the States. Customs associated with this holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. It is likely that such confections are brought with Sal's family to the graves.

The human skull is a favorite image associated with the feast. Homemade candies in the shape of skulls are given as treats to children, and adults are known to parade in the streets in costumes featuring their faces painted accordingly.

The origins of these customs have been traced back thousands of years, to indigenous observances dedicated to the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl. We can surmise that the Spanish colonizers "christianized" the observance in the manner that we know today.

In the month to come, man with black hat will feature other writings on matters of what Catholic teaching refers to as "The Last Things."