Sunday, March 30, 2014

“Laetare, Jerusalem!”

Today, the Western church celebrates the Fourth Sunday of Lent, also known as “Laetare Sunday” for the opening of the Entrance Antiphon (Introit) of the Mass: “Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis sam ...” (“Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her ...”) Amidst the desert that is the penitential season of Lent, our Mother the Church offers us a brief oasis, wherein the vestments of purple are given a dash of white, to produce the color known as rose (not be be confused with pink). Traditionally, the Holy Father commissions roses to be made of pure gold, which are presented to random heads of state each year. That which was given by Pope Paul VI is reserved today at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.

The sanctuaries of churches are permitted to have flowers on this one day during the Great Fast, and the organ can be played in a manner other than to support the singing.

Flowers preach to us if we will hear:--
The rose saith in the dewy morn:
I am most fair;
Yet all my loveliness is born
Upon a thorn.

The poppy saith amid the corn:
Let but my scarlet head appear
And I am held in scorn;
Yet juice of subtle virtue lies
Within my cup of curious dyes.
The lilies say: Behold how we
Preach without words of purity.
The violets whisper from the shade

Which their own leaves have made:
Men scent our fragrance on the air,
Yet take no heed
Of humble lessons we would read.

But not alone the fairest flowers:
The merest grass
Along the roadside where we pass,
Lichen and moss and sturdy weed,
Tell of His love who sends the dew,
The rain and sunshine too,
To nourish one small seed.

-- Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

And so we rest in preparation for the severity of Passiontide, which comes upon us the following Sunday.

Friday, March 28, 2014

FAMW: Everything You Hate About Advertising In One Fake Video That’s Almost Too Real

It was the hope of this writer, early in his profession, to pursue a career in advertising, specifically on the creative side. It probably had to do with being raised in a "P&G family." But those hopes were dashed upon meeting just enough participants in the "ad game" to be weary of the prospect. That, and no one offered a job.

But a certain fascination has remained to this day, such that a recent article in Adweek about a so-called “Generic Brand Video” was too good to pass up. It seems that people who watch enough creatively assembled stock footage can be made to believe anything, which is food for thought, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Loose Lips in the Loggia (St John Damascene Edition)

“This video is unlisted. Be considerate and think twice before sharing.” Okay, so I thought about it once, then I thought about it again, then I shared it anyway -- because, yeah, Cardinal Burke really does name names.

Meanwhile, here's what's bouncing around the bandwidth of Believers lately:

Another bishop, Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, has asked Catholics to use Lent to repent of sins against charity committed on social media, citing the words of Saint John Chrysostom: “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of bloggers.” (No, it wasn't bloggers, actually.) [The Catholic Herald]

In a related story, you have to give credit to Taylor Marshall for knowing a trend worth following, now that we're all ashamed of labeling our fellow Catholics. (Speak for yourself, Doc.) [Taylor Marshall]

Speaking of which, Carol McKinley says that “if you are a Catholic blogger, keep your distance from the Chancery.” What follows is a cautionary tale of the need to be "clever as snakes" as well as "meek as doves." We report, you decide. [The Tenth Crusade]

In a case of chastity pledges gone terribly wrong, this one designates Daddy as his little girl's "boyfriend," while she is still married to God until the real thing comes along. Should God, Daddy, or the little girl be the most creeped out? Discuss. [The Daily Mail]

In a related story (or maybe not), a cardinal helped a boy ask a girl to the prom. Yep, it's that time of year again, and some guys will try anything. [The Deacon's Bench]

And now, more of that theology-of-the-body action, as The Remnant gets everybody all stirred up. [Catholic Stand]

As second President of the United States, John Adams was so virulently anti-Catholic, that he wanted them all deported from the young Nation. Closer to the present, another former President, also a Protestant, attacks the Catholic Church, and we're supposed to care. []

Finally, this was going to happen sooner or later, and it happened today: “[T]he encounter has been charged with the politics of the world’s most powerful nation and one of its most influential religious movements, and by a pair of men who have sought to change the public character of the institutions they run.” (Washington Post, March 27, 2014) [National Catholic Register]

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, March 26, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: The Gregory Brothers “Happy Sad Songs and Sad Happy Songs”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Those wacky Gregory Brothers (and their equally wacky wife/sister-in-law) are at it again. In this work just released today, they experiment with major/minor key changes and how it affects songs, both new and ancient.

Among other things.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Angelus ad Virginem

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation. It commemorates when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, and she was conceived by the Holy Spirit to give birth to the Savior.

Angelus ad Virginem (or its English title, Gabriel, From Heven King Was To The Maide Sende) was a popular medieval carol, whose text is a poetic version of the Hail Mary and the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. Probably Franciscan in origin, it was brought to Britain by French friars in the 13th century. It is said to have originally consisted of 27 stanzas, with each following stanza beginning with the consecutive letter of the alphabet.

Surviving manuscripts may be found in a circa 1361 Dublin Troper (a music book for use at Mass) and a 13th or 14th century vellum Sequentiale that may have been connected with the Church of Addle, Yorkshire. Its lyric also appears in the works of John Audelay (perhaps a priest, he definitely spent the last years of his life at Haughmond Abbey, where he wrote for the monks), in a group of four Marian poems.

This video is of a recording by the Celtic ensemble Anuna. The historical notes are from ... where else?

Monday, March 24, 2014

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Saint Gabriel the Archangel Edition)

Did you know that a recent study showed that 95 percent of all grandfathers who got their first and only job by walking right up to the top guy and asking for one? Sure brings back memories. (Sigh ...)

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

A Florida zoning board member brought a community meeting to an awkward halt when she used a stiff-armed gesture to compare a village official to Hitler. Apparently she's a Democrat, which means she pulled it off by blaming George Bush (which still works, by the way). [Western Journalism]

In the world of fashion, young men are starting to wear something called "meggings," which is leggings for men. They can call it whatever they want, but what it needs is a well-hung codpiece, and then you're all set for the next Renaissance Fair. [Elite Daily]

It started in Crimea, and the world's got a fee-vah, and the only cure is secession, and it's spreading to ... Venetia. (Sorry, we had to make it rhyme.) [Daily Mail]

The "MacGyver Emergency Toolkit" is reminiscent of those survival kits we made in Boy Scouts using metal tins that contained throat lozenges. Pretty cool. [Gizmodo]

Finally, a woman is found on a deserted island after being stranded for seven years. You'll never guess how. [NewsHound]

• THIS JUST IN! Well, guess who says the above is a hoax. Here's a clue; they're not always right. We report, you decide. [Snopes]

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

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Faith Among the Ruins

I found this documentary at New Liturgical Movement. The urban parish of Saint Peter, in Omaha, Nebraska, has been brought back to life through a revival of its own heritage, and a restoration of the sacred.

People lament the demise of historic church buildings. They like to blame the diocese, and the local bishop. But the fault really is our own. WE decided to move out of those neighborhoods. WE decided that a life in the suburbs, where we would need a car to go damn near everywhere, was a testimony to our prosperity. WE decided that it was better than walking down the street under our own power. WE let drug dealers take over the old neighborhoods. WE let their property values go down. In the Omaha case, an interstate highway split the neighborhood in half.

It's always something. And only WE can take them back.

WE can move back to those neighborhoods. WE can restore the houses, one address at a time, one block at a time. WE can be the reason for a convenience store or a restaurant to open down the street. I know this, because over time, it happened in my own neighborhood. As long as I'm in the DC area, I wouldn't live anywhere else.

On the other hand, if you're the Bishop of Cleveland, you'll even close urban parishes that are well-attended and financially viable, because when your episcopal office is a license for running roughshod over the faithful, that's what comes naturally. And over the years, you get so used to the idea, that eventually even Rome cannot support your habit of liquidating real property for a fast buck to the detriment of the faithful, and you end up looking ... well, like the Bishop of Cleveland did when that happened, and more than once. So, while a number of old parishes in Cleveland have been closed or "clustered," some have remained open, against all odds.

Thankfully, this was not necessary in Omaha, at least not this time.

Another positive trend is the rise of a variation of the "flash mob" phenomenon, known as the “Mass Mob.” This is where word is spread through social media to converge on one dying urban parish for one particular Mass on a given Sunday. You know that has to shock the bejeezus out of a discouraged pastor now and then. If the monasteries were the cause of establishing Christendom in Europe in the early Middle Ages, the grand edifices where our forebearers once worshipped, can herald the rise of Christendom in the city, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Friday, March 21, 2014

FAMW: Ben Aaron Does The Dance Walk, Baby!

This is one of those things that a) could only happen in New York City, and b) my son Paul would do on a dare, and if serious money was involved. WNBC-TV personality Ben Aaron shows us the new as of two years ago dance craze he calls “Dance Walking Fitness” while getting complete strangers to join him, if only for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Loose Lips in the Loggia (Vernal Equinox Edition)

The twisted dance goes on in the world of Catholic new media, as various subgroups among the faithful turn on one another. Whether it's speaking the Truth in Love, or just whoring for attention, there's no reason we can't just sit back and have a little fun with it.

Meanwhile, here's what's bouncing around the bandwidth of Believers lately:

Earlier this week, the planet's axis did a slight realignment. If you felt it, it was right about the time Mark Shea congratulated Michael Voris for the release of the latter's statement against openly attacking the Holy Father. [Catholic and Enjoying It]

In a related story, there is concern that Mark is becoming more like Mike, and Mike is becoming more like Mark. In the midst of this unexpected love fest, who do you suppose wants a piece of the action? [The Tenth Crusade]

Elsewhere, there are more than lies and falsehoods getting trapped and exposed, and David Gray is searching for the meaning of it all. (Good luck with that, by the way.) [Catholic Stand]

In other news ...

If you're looking for an alternative to macaroni and cheese, you'll never guess what else qualifies as seafood. The Friday night fish fry just got a little more interesting. [Catholic News Agency]

Lent is also a time to reflect upon the lives of the saints, especially the weird ones. [Mental Floss]

Given all of the above, is it time for bishops and bloggers to meet at the table, once they agree on a committee to organize the seating arrangements? Don't hold your breath. [Catholic Herald]

Finally, and on an uplifting note (for a change), we bring you a web-based documentary on the “Cristo Redentor” (Christ the Redeemer) in Rio de Janiero. With arms wide open, and in spite of ourselves, He awaits us. [BBC]

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, March 19, 2014

Ite Ad Ioseph

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Tale of Two Popes

From the wires of the Associated Press, via USA Today:

The man who serves two popes has revealed that retired Pope Benedict XVI wrote four pages of critique and commentary on Pope Francis's landmark interview in which he blasted the church's obsession with "small-minded" rules.

Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, Benedict's personal secretary and head of Francis' papal household, was quoted by German broadcaster ZDF as saying that Francis had solicited Benedict's input.

The revelation is further evidence of the remarkable and unprecedented collaboration between the two popes ....

Click here for more on this supposed obsession over which Pope Francis supposedly blasted.

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Annual Über-Celtic Moment

Today the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Patrick (387-493), the patron saint of Ireland. It is on the Emerald Isle that today is traditionally a religious holiday. At one time, the bars would close and the churches would be full out of obligation. Only in recent years has the feast seen a more rebellious spirit, complete with parades and green beer, which is definitely an American influence.

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

"Hail glorious Saint Patrick dear saint of our isle
On us thy poor children look down with a smile —"
But I'm not singing hymns and I'm not saying prayers
No, I'm gritting my teeth as I walk down the stairs
And into the street with these louts fiercely drinking
And screeching and lurching, and here's what I'm thinking —
They're using a stereotype, a narrow example,
A fraction, not even a marketing sample
To imitate Ireland, from which they don't come!
So unless that's just stupid, unless it's plain dumb,
All these kids from New Jersey and the five boroughs
And hundreds of cities, all drowning their sorrows,
With bottles and glasses and heads getting broken
(Believe me, just ask the mayor of Hoboken)
All that mindlessness, shouting and getting plain stocious —
That isn't Irish, that's simply atrocious.
I've another word too for it, this one's more stinging
I call it "racism." See, just 'cause you're singing
Some drunken old ballad on Saint Patrick's Day
Does that make you Irish? Oh, no — no way.
Nor does a tee-shirt that asks you to kiss them —
If they never come back I surely won't miss them
Or their beer cans and badges and wild maudlin bawling
And hammered and out of it, bodies all sprawling.

They're not of Joyce or of Yeats, Wilde, or Shaw.
How many Nobel Laureates does Dublin have? Four!
Think of this as you wince through Saint Patrick's guano —
Not every Italian is Tony Soprano.

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

Who knew?

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

I saw Máire again in 1987, in a music video on VH1, for a song entitled "Something to Believe In." She was also the haunting voice in the Volkswagen commercials. Naturally she's world-famous now, and probably wouldn't return my calls, although she did write me a long and possibly heartfelt note when she autographed my copy of their album. I say "possibly" because it was in Gaelic, so I'll never know for sure, especially since it was among my collection that was stolen from my apartment in Georgetown back in 1994. (Bob, if you're reading this, tell your rich white trash buddies that I'd really like to have it back. And before you get defensive, the neighbors all thought YOU did it!) Máire also came out with a book in 2001 entitled "The Other Side of the Rainbow." She continues to tour and so on, but I knew her when.

(Sigh ...) Anyway, back to the '70s. While the whole world (including "Sal") was going bonkers over disco, the feast became an annual ritual, of spending most of the accompanying weekend hanging out at Hap's Irish Pub in the Hyde Park section of Cincinnati, or at Arnold's Bar and Grill downtown. Even when I moved to Washington in 1980, I learned Irish dancing (if not quite what appears in the above video), Irish folk tales, and the like. But the upscale bars in the Nation's capital weren't as quaint as the neighborhood pubs in my old hometown. I was under no illusions that this heritage was one that I could claim for my own.

VIDEO: The Largest Céilí Band in the World, Thank Yous & Dances. Cork Folk Festival, County Cork, Ireland, October 2013.

In 1982, that claim became even more elusive. I married a girl whose grandparents came over from Slovakia, and who grew up hearing Slovak around the house. This pretty much killed any enthusiasm for all things Irish around our house. You see, I learned a piece of American Catholic history that the mostly Irish-American church historians didn't exactly wear on their sleeves. By the time eastern Europeans came to America in the late 19th and early 20th century, the Irish were already the big fish in the little blue-collar pond, and didn't mind letting the "hunkies" in the coal towns and factory neighborhoods know it. Going up the food chain, it got worse. Catholics of Eastern Rites -- with customs and liturgy similar to the Orthodox, but in communion with Rome -- had married priests. The mostly-Irish bishops assumed they were either schismatics, or worse. Their wives couldn't be treated in Catholic hospitals, and their children were barred from Catholic schools. Confused as these bishops were, they concluded that the faithful would be even more confused by the presence of married Catholic priests. Thus, by the 1920s, The (Irish-)American bishops pressured Rome to bar the (legitimately) married priests from coming to America, let alone ministering.

It has been shown that most of the growth of Eastern Orthodoxy in North America can be attributed to the stubbornness and downright ignorance of the (Irish-)American bishops of the time. (Hey, guys, nice work!)

This latency towards all things Irish got a reprieve when the marriage tanked in 1990. Then one night -- it was about 1998, as I remember -- I was interviewed for a writing job by a priest who edited a major Catholic periodical. A native of Dublin, he reminded me of what really mattered:

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

VIDEO: When a film crew arrives at an inner city Dublin National School to record the children, the result is a warm, funny and spontaneous animated documentary, featuring young children telling the story of John the Baptist, The birth of Jesus, the Crucifixion, Saint Patrick and others. Give Up Yer Aul Sins combines simple humour with clever animation to create films with a timeless quality and appeal to a family audience.

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

For years, one highlight of the day would be the Annual Irish Poetry Reading. This was when I'd call my folks in Ohio on this day every year, and with their speakerphone on, recite the following piece by Benjamin Hapgood Burt in a very bad Irish brogue:

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

Alas, it won't be the same now that the Old Man has passed on.

Today, those who are Irish, who wish they were, or who don't give a rat's @$$, will dine on Irish lamb stew. When I can ever find it amidst my stuff, I use this occasion to wear a button with the words of William Butler Yeats: “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.” Usually, I listen to Celtic music the entire day, and at an opportune time and place, I dine on corned beef and cabbage. This is admittedly an American innovation for the Irish, as poor immigrants from the "auld sod" found corned beef (a substitute used by their Jewish neighbors in place of bacon) to be much cheaper than lamb.

This year, with eight inches of snow on the ground, and difficulty getting around, I'll probably resign myself to a Guinness float. What is a Guinness float, you ask? Well, you take vanilla ice cream in a large glass or tankard, and instead of mixing root beer ...

Hey, no kidding, it's delicious!

Anyway, unless I'm out on the town that evening, I'll also probably watch Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Who cares if William Wallace was Scottish? No one cares if Patrick isn't Irish, do they? After all, "The Apostle of Ireland" is properly claimed by Catholics everywhere, whether those "micks" like it or not.

“Agus fagaimid siud mar ata se.”

Sunday, March 16, 2014


He said, write down the vision
    that you had,
    and I wrote what I saw.

I saw the world
    kissing its own darkness.

It happened thus:
    I rose to meet the sunrise
    and suddenly over the hill
    a horde appeared
    dragging a huge tarpaulin.
They covered unwary land
    and hapless city
    and all sweet water
    and fields.
And there was no sunrise.

I strained my eyes for a path
    and there was no path.
I bumped into trees and the bushes hissed at me,
    and the long-armed brambles cried in a strident voice:
    never through here!
But I struggled on, fumbling my beads of no.

I came to a dark city where nobody knew
    that there was darkness.
And strange! though there was no light I still coud see
    what I did not want to see:
    people who moved to the loveless embrace of folly.
They ate her gourmet foods; they drank her wine,
    danced to her music that was crazed with rhythm,
    were themselves discord though they knew it not,
    or if they knew, cared less.

Outside the city wall I stood in thought,
    parried a moment with a frieghtening urge
    to court the darkness;
    but I held back, fearing the face of love.

Crossing a field I wandered through a desert
    when suddenly behind a rock I found
    a little sagebrush where a fire was burning,
    shining and dancing. After my first amazed
    worship of silence I was loud with praise.

I watched with fear the darkness circling it.
    lunging against it, swirling a black cloak
    to suffocate the light,
    until the shades broke loose and one by one
    in terror fled.

The flame burned on, innocent, unimperiled.
There was no darkness that could put it out.

-- Jessica Powers, aka Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, OCD

Thursday, March 13, 2014

“You’re infallible. Don’t blow it.”

One year ago today, the (honorary) clergy of Rome elected one of their number, Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, as Bishop of Rome. By virtue of this election, Cardinal Bergoglio also assumed the titles of: Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, and my personal favorite, Servant of the Servants of God.

In other words, the Pope.

Asked by what name he would be called, he chose that of Francis.

It would behoove many of the faithful, to reflect upon a piece written fourteen years ago tomorrow, by the late Joseph Sobran, who passed into eternity in September of 2010.

If I were Pope — not that I'm seeking the office, or being considered for it -- I'd keep a slogan on my desk ...

... which inspires the title of this piece.

The rest applied to an earlier pontificate, but is still very timely, and a reminder of what we must understand, and often fail to understand, about the nature of whichever man wears "the shoes of the fisherman."

Much has been written about Pope Francis. Most of it falls into one of two categories.


The first, and most prevalent, would have us believe that Francis is the first pope within living memory to demonstrate any sense of humility, disdain for ostentation, or would otherwise purport to be a man of the people. Early in his pontificate, Francis was photographed walking into the papal audience hall, and sitting in one of the common chairs. Some well-intentioned and ill-informed pundit wrote: "What does this say about his humility?" Well, it doesn't say anything. What it does say is that he is seventy-eight years old, has two hip replacements, one working lung (which is why he spoke rather than chanted his first blessing to the crowds upon his election), wears specially-made orthopedic shoes, and was very very tired on that day. Francis has refused to move into the papal apartments (which are not nearly as palatial as some would believe), choosing instead to live in a dormitory with others. He has cited "psychological reasons." Merely observing him, it would not surprise this writer to learn that the pope struggles with at least a mild case of clinical depression, and is best aided in this challenge by the company of others. (Full disclosure: This writer was diagnosed with the same condition nearly twenty years ago.)

Making this out to be the first gettin'-down-with-the-hoi-polloi pontificate in modern times is utter nonsense.

• Pope Pius X (born 1835, reigned 1903-1914), upon arriving for his coronation, shocked his entourage by wearing a pectoral cross made only of gilded metal, which he insisted on keeping. Not only did Pius X refuse to grant titles of nobility to members of his family (much to the disappointment of his sisters, who were counting on being, uh, countesses), but refused to dine alone, a custom dating to Pope Urban VIII in the 17th century. The man once known as Guisseppe Sarto would walk through the slums of Rome, giving children candy, and testing them on their catechism.

• Pope Pius XII (1876, 1939-1959), who has been accused of being indifferent to the plight of the Jews during World War II, was in fact personally responsible for hiding thousands of them in the halls of the Vatican. Such was the extent of his compassion (noted at the time by the New York Times, Golda Meir, and Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum) that the Chief Rabbi of Rome converted to the Faith, and eventually died estranged from his family. After the bombing of Rome by Allied forces, the man who was born as Eugenio Pacelli was driven to the ravaged section of the city, and met with the crowds personally to comfort and encourage them.

• Pope John Paul II (1920, 1978-2005) led bands of youth groups on hiking and camping trips while a priest, and enjoyed kayaking and downhill skiing even as a bishop, and went hiking in the mountains even after his election. The man once known as Karol (Charles) Wojtyła still received old friends (including his Jewish ex-girlfriend, by then married) even as pope, most of whom still addressed him as "Lolek" (roughly translated as "Charlie").

• Benedict XVI (1927, 2005-2013), who brought about a reprise of some trappings of ecclesiastical pomp and ceremony to the papacy, was often seen while still a cardinal, walking across St Peter's Square, and stopping to speak with young people. He was a favorite encounter of seminarians studying in Rome, groups of which would know his schedule, and would wait in the square by the busload. The man once named Josef Ratzinger, whose diligence as the Church's chief guardian of doctrine earned him the nickname "God's Rotweiller," was a most capable classical piano player, and enjoyed a game of bocci with the elderly men who lived near his apartment.

Exit question: To draw so much attention to anyone's show of humility does not exactly help them with it. If Pope Francis insists that he is as human as anyone else, is it possible that he is trying to remind us?


There is also the other class of pundits when it comes to Pope Francis.

Would it have killed the new pontiff to wear the red velvet-and-ermine-trimmed mozzetta, with the red-and-gold papal stole, as he first appeared on the balcony following the election, as did most of his predecessors for many years?

Probably not, but he refused just the same. Few can say why. When presented with a selection of papal accoutrement, he has opted for the least demonstrative. That would not be bad in itself, but even his namesake from Assisi admonished the priests among his band of brothers, to spare no expense in resorting to the finest in vessels and vesture when offering the Holy Sacrifice. And yet the man who now bears that name as Vicar of Christ celebrates Mass wearing vestments which, while not necessarily ugly, hardly show an appreciation for finery, and tend to be rather plain. Eschewing ostentation for oneself is one thing. Doing so as alter Christus? That is another matter, one that justifies concern for many faithful Catholics.

To be a Catholic is to inherit a birthright that converges the Truth with beauty, if only to show the foretaste of the Heavenly banquet, wherein lies the source of all Truth. Ours is a Faith of signs and symbols that form our identity, that remind us not only of who we are, but what we do, and why.

When you add all that up, it's not about him. There's a lesson to be found there, and it's not only one for him.


We may benefit from a closer look at the man once known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

He is the first pope in nearly two millennia of the Church's existence, to hail from the Western Hemisphere. More than that, he is the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere, wherefrom in short order, the majority of the world's one-billion-plus Catholics will reside. This alone suggests a world view that sets a precedent for the kind of man who bears the papal office. For example, in one of his first interviews, he insisted that "I am not a right-winger." That means one thing to American and European audiences, but quite another to most South Americans, including his home country of Argentina. To us in the States, it refers to a form of political and/or social conservatism. To him, it may imply support for the so-called "dirty war" of military dictatorship in Argentina during much of the latter 20th century.

All told, it should come as no surprise to anyone, that the first Pope from the other side of the world, is going to have a different view of it. The same could be said of anyone coming from the other side of most anything.

Equally significant, is that Francis is also the first member of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, to reign as the Successor of Peter. Since their establishment in 1534, the Jesuits have traditionally been known as the "intellectual shock troops" of Mother Church. Devoted to zealous missionary work in the most dangerous and remote of places, Jesuits are less men of contemplation than they are of action. They were the first religious community to recite, rather than chant, the Divine Office in common, and so have traditionally been indifferent to the details of liturgical ceremony. (This despite the wealth of Jesuits among the great liturgical scholars of the past century.) Many are devoted to teaching and scholarly research, especially the sciences, while being preoccupied with little else. The Vatican Observatory has been operated by Jesuits for much of its history. Francis himself was a chemical lab technician before entering formation, and afterwords, was a teacher of literature, psychology, and theology, and later a master of novices, and head of the Argentine province. And while parishes around the world are administered by Jesuits, it is not parish work for which the Society is best known, thus their appeal to those of the faithful who do not easily fit into conventional parish life.

And so we have a man whose life has formed an intellectual bubble of sorts, and one for whom the only foreign country he has ever visited up to now is Italy. Were he never elected the Pope, we might relegate him to the place of absent-minded professor, one whose musings, while not intending to promote error outright, are nonetheless off the cuff and perhaps wanting for clarification. That such a man would one day become Pope does not make such habits go away easily.

With this way of viewing the world, and one's place therein, John Hathaway, OCDS, has made his observation.

Pope Francis's consistent problem in just about every "controversy" [is that] he assumes that his audiences, especially non-Catholics, know the background in theology, ecclesiology, liturgy, philosophy, spirituality and/or church history (recent or long-term) to contextualize whatever his comments are. Maybe the laity in Argentina are better formed than the rest of us, or maybe he's just a bit more naive than people want to think. I've found that to be a common problem of priests of his generation: they were well formed by their own pre-Vatican II parents, saw the "problems" in what [the German theologian and philosopher] Dietrich von Hildebrand called the "ossified" church, stuck with the Church optimistically while others left after the Council, and entered the otherwise secluded enclave of priestly life, while others were fighting in the trenches against the fruits of postmodernism.

Francis' worldview may presume too much in the way of freedom to speculate, to reach out into the last frontiers of thought on matters of heaven and earth. This is acceptable enough within the realms of academia, but the problem arises once outside those ivy-covered walls. One might be attuned to the nuances of meaning in such speculation, but if you are not (and the vast majority of the faithful are certainly not), it is very hard to tell. So when someone begins an assessment of a life devoted to the misuse of the gift of human sexuality by saying “Who am I to judge?” it matters little what follows. That is what people will remember, with shameless promotion by those whose limited vision will serve to proclaim it, to the exclusion of its context.


Pope Francis says that he wants a church that is for the poor. She always has been. Would he appear to eschew the financial resources of the Church, which has several hundred facilities around the world devoted simply to giving away free health care? Again, he is from a part of the world which has a much broader disparity between haves and have-nots than countries from, say, the other side of the world, that from which every other Pope has come until now. To understand such remarks as these, is to understand that, as opposed to any fears of him giving away the store.

Pope Francis has called upon us not to isolate ourselves, but to go out into the world and evangelize. This is not a new concept. When he alludes to a preoccupation with rules and regulations, he surely does not wish to forgo them, but to go beyond them, to live them, as if to say to us ... something like ...

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)

Pope Francis has given several interviews. He has openly expressed regret for at least one of them, at one point lamenting that if one says enough, he will be misunderstood.


In any communication, the first responsibility is not that of the receiver, but the transmitter. If the transmitter is misguided, the disposition of the receiver is irrelevant; the message is wrong, and the onus is on the messenger. If the receiver is misguided, then the transmitter has nonetheless conveyed his message. Whenever someone has to begin an explanation with "What the Holy Father actually meant was ..." then it is not up to the faithful to try and figure it out, but up to the Holy Father to think twice before saying it even once. It is the least that is expected of any one of us, and thus is neither unreasonable, nor a personal attack.

That being said, those who expect him to be a carbon copy of any of his predecessors are going to be disappointed. Do we pray for him enough? Yours truly has actually seen prayers composed by those frustrated with the difficulty of understanding him, and so wish for his early demise. We do indeed have a problem, and it is more serious than any Pope. It is a sickness of those whose faith is so dependent on a personality cult, that failure to meet certain expectations brings out the worst in them.

Who among us implores Our Lady, the Seat of Wisdom, to come to the aid of a man who is so devoted to Her, who would listen to the still, small voice that is Her Son? Do we always wish ill of those who fail us? Never mind Pope Francis; what does that say about us?


It is one thing held in common, both by those who faun over every utterance of Pope Francis, and those who are convinced he's out to destroy the Latin Mass and flush the Church right down the toilet. It is the failure to understand the sad reality that ... Popes say stupid things.

That's right, they do, all the time, if only because they are just as inclined to human foibles as the rest of us. This includes the first one, who within twenty-four hours of insisting that he would follow Our Lord to the bitter end, repeatedly denied ever knowing him just to save his own skin. This even after Christ assured him: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)

If you remember, that was when all but one of the Apostles -- the first bishops -- went running scared at the first sign of trouble. Most of their successors have been running scared ever since, and often over far less. Even now, Pope Francis is being blamed because some German bishops have called for divorced Catholics who remarry outside the Church to be able to receive communion. Has this Pope endorsed this view from the German bishops? We tend to forget when the English bishops, save for one, broke allegiance with Rome for the sake of King Henry. We have the benefit of hindsight when we remember such episodes in our history. What is it in the current day that would prevent those errors from happening again? Do we blame the Pope at that time for what they did? No, we blame the errant bishops, who stood by and watched while one of their own, John Fisher, was put to death. And what of now?

We forget that this Pope already refuses to administer communion to the general public at Papal Masses, lest he be exploited as a photo op for political leaders who support abortion. Has any Pope before him done this? Are we innocent of selling him a little short in at least one respect?

In the last two thousand years, Popes have been exiled, imprisoned, executed. They have been given to poor judgment, weak constitution, even sexual voyeurism. Closer to the present, after having a "rock star" for a Pope, followed by a scholarly giant, we have someone who is either not all that glamorous (and who, by whose own admission, makes no claim to be), or is being repackaged as such, perhaps to serve some other purpose, or simply fill time on a newscast. If this is the worst we can say about Pope Francis, then do tell, in the total scheme of things -- and we're talking two thousand years worth here -- how bad can he possibly be, and in only his first year on the job?

Put not your trust in princes,
    in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
When his breath departs he returns to his earth;
    on that very day his plans perish.
Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the LORD his God ...
(Ps 146:3-5)


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Only Boys Aloud “Calon Lân”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Only Boys Aloud is a group of boys from Wales, mostly from troubled backgrounds, and areas of chronic unemployment, and lack of opportunity. An appearance on Britain's Got Talent introduced them to the world, with this stunning rendition of a Welsh hymn “Calon Lân” (“A Pure Heart”), one with a marked Christian theme, but which is rarely heard in churches, and is most closely associated with the Welsh national rugby team.

Calon lân yn llawn daioni,
    Heart that’s clean and filled with virtue,
Tecach yw na'r lili dlos:
    Fairer far than lilies white,
Dim ond calon lân all ganu
    Only pure hearts praise God truly,
Canu'r dydd a chanu'r nos.
    Praise him all the day and night.

And so it goes.

Monday, March 10, 2014

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Forty Holy Martyrs Edition)

Next year is 2015, the year depicted in the movie Back To The Future II. And just when we thought we'd never see an affordable flying car by then, this crackerjack team of tech nerds developed a hoverboard like the one used by Marty McFly in the movie. It promises to be the greatest technological breakthrough since the Prius.

Or is it?

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

We've all heard the stories of how hairpins can be used as a handy tool in a pinch. Maybe men should keep one handy as well as women. You never know when you might have to pick a lock. [Gizmodo]

Last week, you discovered our story about the woman who had proportions like a Barbie doll. You wondered how that was possible, didn't you? You're not alone, which is why someone has developed a Barbie-like doll with more realistic expectations ... [Time]

... and someone else takes a moment out to explain why. [The Huffington Post]

In another story about expectations, we move from the realistic to the unrealistic, as a more to come [The Libertarian Republic]

Finally, we want to pay an appropriate tribute on the fourth anniversary this week, of what may be the most stupid words ever uttered by a Speaker of the House. [Independent Journal Review]

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

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Loose Lips in the Loggia (Saints Perpetua and Felicity Edition)

For those of you who have entirely too much time on your hands and have been following recent events in Catholic new media, this past week has been a doozy. Bones of contention surround us, nations warring upon nations, our own nation at war with itself, clowns and puppets at Mass, you name it.

But no matter, as the Lenten season has begun. The time for contemplation and penance is upon us, when we receive ashes on our foreheads to remind us of the need to repent, and take pictures of ourselves with our smartphones to remind them how we are reminded. Or something. Yes, there are some big stories, two in particular that are too big for this little occasion. They will both be treated to a big occasion of their own in due course.

Meanwhile, here's what's bouncing around the bandwidth of Believers lately:

If you think the young lass featured above looks happy, it's because she didn't get her ashes from a certain parish in County Cork, Ireland. That's one reminder that will last the whole forty days. [The Irish Independent]

Recently, the world of Catholic new media has a new place for all the kewl kids to hang their blogospheric shingle, known as “Strange Notions.” Is that like Patheos without the pathos? We report. You decide. [Strange Notions]

The organization dedicated to the reform of everybody but themselves in the Church is very disappointed in Pope Francis, for supposedly overplaying any progress the Church has made in dealing with clerical sexual abuse of children, and that other institutions have done poorly by comparison. [Voice of the "Faithful"]

Finally, and speaking of whom, while he's from Argentina, Pope Francis' parents were Italian. You would think he'd be up to scratch with it. But, when speaking the other day, the word “caso” for “case” was accidentally pronounced “cazzo” for ... well, something else entirely. Listen for it at around 00:07. [CONTENT ADVISORY: ... maybe if you're Italian.] [The Daily Caller]

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, March 05, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Persecuted

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature. (We told you this was coming late last week, remember?)

In this movie, (FULL DISCLOSURE: I didn't write the rest of this paragraph, okay?) nationally acclaimed evangelist John Luther (Daniel Lusko) is the last obstacle in the way of sweeping religious reform in the States. When a US Senator and Luther's own supporters abduct and frame him in the murder of an innocent teenage girl, an unprecedented era of persecution is unleashed. Out on personal recognizance, Luther escapes police surveillance in search of the truth. And suddenly, a once-normal life is targeted by a team of ex-military operatives who wage a relentless campaign to eliminate the incriminating evidence. As evangelist turned fugitive, Luther vows to expose anyone involved with or profiting from the girl's murder; a mission that brings him face-to-face with the coming storm of persecution that will threaten the entire Christian community in America.

Former senator and Presidential candidate Fred Thompson plays the guy that Luther turns to for help -- a Catholic priest! (And don't forget, his name's Luther, huh?) If what is happening in America today is not reason enough to see this movie, that alone is reason enough to see this movie, which opens in theaters on May 9.

“I’m (still) on a mission from God!” (or, Why I Am Once Again Not Giving Up Blogging For Lent)

“Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.”

By now, any number of participants in the Catholic blogosphere have announced, with some measure of fanfare, that they are giving up blogging and other forms of social media for Lent (or, in one case, announcing giving up blogging, and then spending more time on social media, and you know who you are, Skippy!). We're supposed to admire them. They're welcome to the exercise if they'd like (and in reading some of them over the years, they'd be doing us all a favor), but as for me, what follows is why I'm not giving up blogging for Lent. In addition, while not a complete treatise on the subject, this piece will serve to clear up some heretofore little-known aspects of the season.

The Christian calendar has traditionally had numerous periods of fasting in anticipation of great feasts. In some parts of Europe, the "Saint Martin's Fast" would begin on the 11th of November ("Martinmas"), and continue until Christmas. Officially, however, the Roman (Latin) tradition would not begin the penitential season until the four Sundays before Christmas, the time of which is known as "Advent," or "the Coming." There were also the "Ember Days," three days of penance each occurring on a quarterly basis throughout the year. But it was the season of Lent which is known as "The Great Fast" of the Year of Grace.

People assume that Lent is the only time for giving up anything, when it isn't. People also assume that giving up anything involves making a big to-do about it, when it shouldn't. Attending daily Mass is a popular exercise, and in most major cities where there are urban parishes near a business district, there will be an extra scheduled weekday Mass -- and extra time for confessions -- during the season. These things don't always call attention to themselves. They shouldn't.

But don't take MY word for it.

At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

And speaking of the season, it doesn't necessarily start right away. The traditional Roman calendar precedes Lent with three Sundays collectively known as "Septuagesima" (literally "seventy days" but actually "within the octave of seventy days"). They were termed "Septuagesima Sunday," "Sexagesima Sunday," and "Quinquagesima Sunday," respectively. As with Lent, the priest wears violet vestments, the Gloria is not sung, and the Tract replaces the Alleluia before the Gospel. But unlike Lent, the musical accompaniment is not restricted, and flowers and other suitable decor can be placed on the reredos behind the altar, as normally done during the year.

This is also the inspiration for the pre-Lenten celebration known as “Carnival” (from the Latin for “farewell to meat”).

Meanwhile, on the eastern side of the tracks, the Byzantine Rite has five special Sundays preceding their "Great Fast": "Zacchaeus Sunday" (if only in the Slavic churches), "The Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee," "The Sunday of the Prodigal Son," "Meatfare Sunday" (or "The Sunday of the Last Judgment," when the faithful begin abstaining from meat), and "Cheesefare Sunday" (when the faithful begin abstaining from dairy products, which for them would include eggs, don't ask me why). The following day is when the the Fast begins in the East, and is generally known as "Clean Monday."

In addition, there was a time when weddings were not permitted during Advent or Lent, unless there was a serious reason. And if one was allowed, the altar and sanctuary could not be decorated as it could otherwise be for the occasion. (Try that today, and see a young lady get in touch with her inner Bridezilla, eh?)

So right now you're saying, “Pray tell us, O Black Hatted One, as you are a veritable fountain of arcane and useless knowledge, how does it explain why you're not giving up blogging for Lent?”

Well, my little minions, there is much, much more to Lent than giving up things, never mind making a big-@$$ whoop-dee-do out of it. There is a significance in the marking of sacred time, something lost on a people whose solemnities all get moved to the nearest Sunday. But you wouldn't know all that if there was no one to tell you along the way, now, would you? Duh, guess not! Besides, I had to work in all that arcane and useless knowledge somehow.

To the extent that man with black hat identifies itself as "Catholic," its author is engaged in what could be considered a propagation of the Faith. And in case it isn't obvious by now, you don't give up an apostolate for Lent, you big dummy!

But still, you must be wondering if yours truly is actually giving up anything for Lent. Well, yes, and it's something really important.

And I'm not tellin.'

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

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

Did the Oscars you wanted to win win? Yeah, welcome to reality. Uncle Jay explains how Hollywood is sort of the best way to think of the news. If only world problems could be solved in two hours. He says he'll be back next week with another edition. (Uh huh, just like he told us about last week.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

It's on the record, folks. The finest restaurant in America is in Hawai'i. “I wanna go back to my little grass shack in ... ” no, not Kealakekua. [Sploid]

Speaking of bargains, if you think college costs too much, Dom Bettinelli has a deal for you at only sixty grand. [Bettnet]

Meanwhile, far from the aforementioned little grass shack, there's a donut shop that won't sell donuts. What's up with that? [Huffington Post]

Elsewhere in academia, you can learn the secret of getting total nonsense into a respectable scientific journal. And you thought "global warming" was the only scam going. [Slate]

Public schools are becoming more draconian every year. A school in Idaho decided to crack down on overzealous parents by banning cheering at a youth basketball game. (Video included, just not here.) [Fox News]

In another big move, there's a proposal to split California into six parts, maybe to make it harder for it to slide into the ocean. You can almost hear people in the northern counties say it now: “Goodbye, San Andreas, it’s somebody else's fault.” [Aleteia]

Sorry, this one simply defies description. [NY Daily News]

Finally, who would have thought that IKEA sold billboards? Well, they don't, but if they did ... [DesignTaxi]

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

Monday, March 03, 2014

Not Dead Yet!

With six or more inches of snow on the ground, a sheet of ice on every road, and federal buildings closed in the DC area, it gives a man time to think. That's when I put the regular feature for today on hold, and also when I came across this:

At age 90, Ralph Hall is the oldest sitting member of the House of Representatives in U.S. history — a World War II veteran who exercises regularly, drives himself to campaign events and has voted in sync with his conservative Texas constituents for 33 years.

But as Hall enters the final stretch of what he says will be his last campaign, whether he makes it back to Congress could boil down to one question: Is 18 terms too many?

John Ratcliffe, his lead opponent in Tuesday’s GOP primary, believes voters will agree that Hall has been in Washington long enough ...

Yeah, that's possible, but that could also be said about damn near everybody on the Hill that's been there for more than two or three terms. They come to Washington for the first time, wanting to be the next Mister Smith. They arrive at National Airport, with that free parking spot, a ten-minute limousine drive to the office, free haircuts at the office, the ability to tear up parking tickets in an officer's face, and let's not forget that private bowling alley ...

But this isn't about that.

Unless you're rich and/or famous, divorce affects most of us financially. Go through it once, and you spend the rest of your life paying for it, especially if children are involved (which there was), and especially if the former ball-and-chain gets half of your pension upon retirement (which she won't). The way I've figured it out, the earliest I can leave is at the end of the year of Our Lord 2020, with forty years of service, when I will have just turned sixty-six. But I may stick around for four more years, in which case I would retire at seventy. Now, just saying that seems shocking. Why would anyone want to work until they're seventy?

Here's my answer: Why would the same people not ask the same thing of a public figure who is pushing ninety?

Oh, sure, there are people saying that, including this John Ratcliffe guy who wants the old man's job. But if you thought the Gentleman from Texas was one of your heroes, you'd just as soon keep him there until he turned one hundred, no questions asked. Keep fighting the good fight, pops. But we don't do that right off the bat. And we assume that everybody who retires is just like the couples in those commercials for financial companies who want to help you plan your retirement. There's a few people like that, but most would rather stay home and tend to their garden, or enjoy their grandchildren.

Me, I'll probably keep writing, or maybe play more guitar. Maybe get paid for it. Or something.

The men in my family tend to live a very long time. My father was eighty-six years old when he left us, and he had suffered from multiple sclerosis for the entire second half of those years. Hell, even the drunks in my family live into their eighties. So unless I get hit by a bus, the odds for me are pretty damn good.

Dad once told me that most men don't like what they do for a living. Dad worked at Procter and Gamble for twenty-four years before leaving on disability. His occupation at the world headquarters was "Sales Assistant." He was a detail man, essentially, for "Packaged Soap and Detergent" (or "PS&D"). His job was to keep track of the doings of sales guys in the field -- what they delivered, how much they delivered, how much arm-twisting they did to get a retailer to move so much product for so much of a price break per unit, stuff like that. Every eye was dotted, every tee was crossed, every jot and tittle accounted for. Dad didn't particularly like what he did for a living. He just happened to be very, very good at it.

After more than thirty years as a graphic designer, I decided that I had gone as far as I was going to go creating new varieties of landfill (publications). Five years of part-time studies in web design ended when there was a regime change at the office, and a subsequent refusal to let me finish, just short of the one requirement for getting the diploma, a requirement I later learned was dropped, thus screwing me out of a diploma -- thanks a lot, Art Institute -- seemed to spell out another dead end.

But even a curmudgeon-in-the-making can find a silver lining. I had worked with video cameras before, and had learned enough about animation software at the Art Institute, to transfer that skill to video editing software. So I did, and wowed the Powers That Be. I still wow them, and I'm happy for it, since it got me out of that black hole of an occupation I was in for so many years.

When you get a new lease on life in mid-career, you either go for it, or you're gone. I used to watch older people at the agency, hanging around with nothing to do, their jobs made obsolete by new developments or new technology, and the management just couldn't take them out and shoot them or force them to retire, much less fire them. So those geezers hung around, looking listless, and useless. I was determined to never be one of those guys.

And so, tomorrow, if there's any chance at all of going into work, that's what's gonna happen. God has been good. I love my job. It's the least I can do, don't you think?

Or don't you?