Thursday, July 31, 2014

Loose Lips in the Loggia (St Ignatius of Loyola Edition)

Sometimes, someone just has to say something out loud to whomever they are convinced is completely clueless. Now, this writer won't say that the object of this rant fits that description, at least not yet. In fact, many Catholics have a naive overestimation of how much power a Pope really has. Not just since Vatican II, mind you, but historically, at least since they no longer had an entire army to go out and kick some other country's @$$. But hey, she's a judge, which means she probably thinks that's gonna matter. Remember, every judge was once a lawyer, and you know how lawyers are. So, this week, we feature yet another smarty-pants whose name we'll all forget by … well, by now.

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

An archbishop in Iraq (probably the last one left for all we know) tells us the biggest factor in the present conflict, and it's not the "Mohammedans." [Spero News]

Patrick Archbold comments on the cottage industry that has arisen around natural family planning. It is not clear from the account he cites, why so many people worry about how often any woman on any given day is checking their … well, you know. [NCRegister]

THIS JUST IN: There are reports that Pope Francis is the first pope in the two-thousand-year history of the Church to walk across St Peter's Square to visit the dentist, probably because he's so f@#$ing humble. Film at eleven. []

Before leaving for the dentist, the Pope suspended ordinations of a diocese in Paraguay because His Holiness is the sworn enemy of Catholic tradition, and not because the local bishop is harboring a credibly accused pedophile priest as his vicar general who escaped from the United States until the heat died down. Are we clear on that? [The Eponymous Flower]

Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden has decided that permeant deacons can wear the clerical collar in public, so that people might think their ordained, and they are ordained, but it has to be with a gray shirt, so that permanent deacons don't get confused with first-year seminarians who also wear the collar, but who are not ordained. The preceding just made sense to some people. [The Deacon's Bench]

The American bishops' conference is receiving government funding to send bibles to undocumented immigrant children currently being cared for by said government. At least it's not the Qur'an. [The Christian Post]

Finally, we are sad to note the passing of one of our dear sisters in the Catholic blogosphere. Sarah Harkins, also known as "The Clay Rosary Girl," passed away on Monday, along with her unborn child, Cecilia, after suffering a brain aneurysm. “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.” [The Clay Rosary Girl]

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Maddie & Tae “Girl In A Country Song”

Time once again for our usual midweek feature.

In a recent interview, country music recording artist Collin Raye lamented the current state of country music.

There appears to be not even the slightest attempt to “say” anything other than to repeat the tired, overused mantra of redneck party boy in his truck, partying in said truck, hoping to get lucky in the cab of said truck, and his greatest possible achievement in life is to continue to be physically and emotionally attached to the aforementioned truck as all things in life should and must take place in his, you guessed it ... truck.

He's right, of course, except for one thing. If you ask the women, the real obsession is even worse than the one with trucks. A duo on the Republic label named Maddie & Tae are pleased to elaborate, in this latest viral video.

My cousins in the country were never like this. Then again, we tend not to marry our cousins.

Monday, July 28, 2014

“I read the news today, oh boy …” (Rudy Vallée’s Birthday Edition)

Today is the 113th birthday of the original teen pop idol, Rudy Vallée, who introduced the "crooner" style of singing (that is, not loud enough to hear without a microphone or megaphone) to the world, and to the recording industry. This is a scene from the 1929 film “Glorifying The American Girl” wherein he sings “I'm Just A Vagabond Lover.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

The State of California plans to have four governors in four days. Maybe it's a trial run for the prospect of splitting the state into five states, an issue on the ballot in two years. (Yeah, good luck with that one.) [AP]

Elsewhere in California is a couple who are in a no-win situation. They should just pay the City of Glendora the five hundred bucks up front and get it over with. [Newser]

Speaking of raising the dead, have you ever missed the websites of days gone by? Yes, the internet's been around just long enough for us to reminisce. Here are seven reasons that come to mind. [Gizmodo]

It seems that yet another town out West is for sale, this time in Wyoming. It has a bar, a general store, a restaurant, even a post office -- and maybe a few disadvantages. [Gilette News Record]

Finally, if yours truly were in Ohio at just the right time, he would actually stop by for this. There's no shame in being who you really are, even if it is … well, you know. [WBNS-TV]

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Of Aloe Plants and Pelicans

Have you heard the tale of the aloe plant,
Away in the sunny clime?
By humble growth of a hundred years
It reaches its blooming time;
And then a wondrous bud at its crown
Breaks into a thousand flowers;
This floral queen, in its blooming seen,
Is the pride of the tropical bowers,
But the plant to the flower is sacrifice,
For it blooms but once, and it dies.

Have you further heard of the aloe plant,
That grows in the sunny clime;
How every one of its thousand flowers,
As they drop in the blooming time,
Is an infant plant that fastens its roots
In the place where it falls on the ground,
And as fast as they drop from the dying stem,
Grow lively and lovely around?
By dying, it liveth a thousand-fold
In the young that spring from the death of the old.

Have you heard the tale of the pelican,
The Arabs’ Gimel el Bahr,
That lives in the African solitudes,
Where the birds that live lonely are?
Have you heard how it loves its tender young,
And cares and toils for their good,
It brings them water from mountain far,
And fishes the seas for their food.
In famine it feeds them—what love can devise!
The blood of its bosom—and, feeding them, dies.

Have you heard this tale—the best of them all—
The tale of the Holy and True,
He dies, but His life, in untold souls
Lives on in the world anew;
His seed prevails, and is filling the earth,
As the stars fill the sky above.
He taught us to yield up the love of life,
For the sake of the life of love.
His death is our life, His loss is our gain;
The joy for the tear, the peace for the pain.

(A selection from Streams in the Desert by Lettie Burd Cowman, 1870-1960)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Loose Lips in the Loggia (Vigil of Saint James the Greater Edition)

In the coming week, we commemorate the centennial of the outbreak of the First World War, referred to in its day as “The World War” or even “The Great War.” It was supposed to be "the war to end all wars," but instead it was the war that changed the world forever, and heralded the shape of the century to follow. In this excellent nineteen-minute documentary by the Catholic News Service, experts discuss the legacy of the conflict that changed faith and society in the West, including the role played by the Church.

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

New Catholic offers a brilliant commentary for the video above, including an oft-overlooked legacy of the aftermath of the conflict. [Rorate Caeli]

Ben Conroy is a guest columnist on Patheos Catholic Channel, who discusses the relationship between Catholicism and those with same-sex attraction who seek a virtuous life. [The Anchoress]

For the first time in forty years, the Diocese of Rochester finally gets the remedial catechism lesson it so richly deserves, starting with the obvious. [The Deacon's Bench]

Ever meet anyone who is "spiritual but not religious"? You just want to knock some sense into their heads, or ask them what the hell that could possibly mean. Or you could share what Jon Sorensen has to tell them. [Catholic Answers]

Scientists have discovered that atheists might not exist. No, seriously, a few of them are really, uh, serious. [Science 2.0]

Finally, Sherry Antonetti wants to know “what does it mean to be a Catholic blogger?” She lives not far from yours truly. All she had to do was ask. [Chocolate For Your Brain]

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Weird Al Yankovic “Word Crimes”

Time once again for our usual midweek feature.

The latest album by “Weird Al” Yankovic is entitled “Mandatory Fun” and is the inspiration for his long-awaited mainstream acceptance, especially for his parody of Pharrell William's song “Happy” entitled “Tacky.” ABC News announced its "discovery" of the phenomenon last Monday night. And the aforementioned video includes a few mainstream comedic celebrities. Yeah, that song is okay, but the one featured here is our favorite from off that album.

Sure, all the cool kids know him now. But the REALLY cool kids were listening to him do "Another One Rides The Bus" in the late 1970s on syndicated radio's "The Doctor Demento Show." And yours truly went to his concert thirty years ago.

That puts us ahead of the curve, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Monday, July 21, 2014

“I read the news today, oh boy …” (Stonewall Jackson Edition)

We have often highlighted the rapier wit and commentary of Jon Stewart in this Monday morning feature. We do the same today, except for watching Megyn Kelly rip it apart, as she lays bare the truth behind the Supreme Court decision on provision for contraceptive products in Hobby Lobby's employee health benefits plan. Watch for six minutes, and all shall be revealed!

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

The big story? Archie Andrews was shot dead last week while saving his gay best friend who was a senator calling for gun control. Exit question? Who gets to choose between Betty and Veronica now? [International Business Times]

A seven-year-old girl may indeed be "daddy's little princess," and every once in a while, somebody's daddy takes this to heart. In this case, he'd better have an army. [The Telegraph]

MSNBC lays yet another sizable egg, complete with the usual lambasting in the twittersphere. [Twitchy]

"I used to be a big supporter of the streetcar until I started riding it every day." Well, boo hoo! [Small Dead Animals]

He only wanted ten dollars for ingredients to make potato salad, but a 31-year-old Ohio man has amassed four thousand supporters, and at least fifty grand via Kickstarter. He could've just called my Mom. [Reuters]

In an unrelated story, authorities in New Mexico captured an inmate who was trying to break out of jail by hiding in ... [AP]

Finally, on this day in 1861, at the First Battle of Manassas (that's Bull Run, for you Yankees), the unrelenting vigor with which Confederate General Thomas Jonathan Jackson held his position inspired a general nearby to rally his troops with the cry: “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall.” The rebel forces carried the day. [National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution]

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

TGIF: JustSomeMotion “All Night”

Thank G-d it's Friday, and here it is, your moment of whimsy ...

This video was totally viral about three or four weeks ago, a time for levity in the loft of a young man identified only as “JustSomeMotion” on YouTube. His fancy footwork is set to the tune of “All Night” by an Austrian musician and DJ named Parov Stelar.

And so it goes.

(H/T to Mel Curtis.)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Loose Lips in the Loggia (Saint Alexius Edition)

This is one of the Pope's closest collaborators. For years he worked with the Vatican's Secretariat of State. In 2006, he was named a master of pontifical ceremonies. Things changed for this Argentinian when the Pope (who is from Argentina, duh!) was elected. So now we get to follow him for just another day at the office.

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

House majority leader and former Speaker Nancy “Ardent Catholic” Pelosi considers the American bishops to be really swell when they agree with her. Naturally, this isn't very often. [The Daily Caller]

In other turns of events, the administration of the precariously-postured Fisher More College may no longer be able to play the “Bishop Olson Hates The Latin Mass” card, after he attended "in choro" at a Solemn High Mass, and gave the homily. [A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics]

Meanwhile, get ready for the new generation of Cardinal, as the new Archbishop of Vienna is known to be "less dogmatic" and "theologically conservative" at the same time. Now, if we could just figure out the point of this explanation. [Reuters]

Katrina Fernandez has the perfect solution in the face of confusing statements by Pope Francis. [The Crescat]

Bill Donohue may come off on the 24/7 news channels as … well, a bit high strung, but sometimes he calms down enough to where he makes really good sense, in this issue ripped from the headlines. [Catholic League]

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Misadventure of Divorce

My wife left me twenty-four years ago today, and it is hardly an endorsement of the phenomenon to submit that it was one of the best things that ever happened to me -- eventually. That being said ...

You can find any number of television dramas that paint a picture of divorce as a sort of dark-comedy type of adventure, where one approaches middle age with a reprise of adolescent discovery, only knowing now what you wish you knew then. To enter the world of the post-marital meltdown is to descend into a sort of parallel universe, one that operates in the same physical space as the world of well-tailored soccer moms and well-manicured cul-de-sacs, with the latter demographic taking no notice of the former (and to a certain extent, vice versa). One can occupy this world for the rest of one's life -- the equally-wayward friends, the late-night parties, the torrid liaisons -- or, if one is fortunate, and with adequate recourse to Divine Grace, one can eventually evolve beyond the "need" for such diversion, the illusion that there is an escape from the consequences of one's past.

On a day like this, two articles are worth mentioning. One is my own, written for this occasion just four years ago.

It was twenty years ago today, that I came home from work, and found a note in the place of my wife and son. If you want to know the extent of the damage that divorce can cause, you can read this piece ... or I can tell you what it cost me.

The other is a piece by Austin Ruse for Crisis magazine, entitled “The True Face of ‘Happy Divorce’ is Quite Ugly.” He describes a recently released movie, The Way Way Back, the story of a teenaged boy who spends the summer at a beach house with his divorced mother and a coterie of equally-dysfuntional adults of a certain age.

There’s lots of drinking and some pot smoking and silly cavorting on the beach. All the adults act like adolescents while the real adolescents are disgusted. They are disgusted not simply in the way adolescents might always be disgusted. They have a reason for their disgust, which is the way the adults are.

Liam James stars as Duncan, the boy lost in his mother's faux-fantasy, and who is taken under the wing of a water-park operator named Owen, played by Sam Rockwell with just the right amount of attitude. According to the Catholic News Service (CNS), the movie “is to be commended for portraying the friendship between Owen and Duncan as natural and innocent, a surrogate father-son bond that is mutually beneficial. It is devoid of the sordid sexual content one half-expects from Hollywood these days.” The film earned a percentile rating of 87 from Rotten Tomatoes after its premiere one year ago this month, and last fall became available on DVD and Blu-ray. All told, it should serve as an effective cautionary tale for those who would glamorize life in what was once called a "broken home."

The CNS classification is A-III (adults), and the MPAA rating is PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned -- Duh.)

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Jenny Lewis “Just One Of The Guys”

Time once again for our usual midweek feature.

The American singer-songwriter-musician-actress Jennifer Diane “Jenny Lewis” wrote this song upon the death of her father and the breakup of her indie band, Rilo Kiley. She is joined in the video, which sort of speaks for itself, by actresses Anne Hathaway, Brie Larson, and Kristen Stewart. The album is due out on July 29.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Numbered List of Numbered Lists

People use lists to remember things. They do come in handy, don't they? So handy, that even a book can be simply an elaboration of a list, as in the Stephen R Covey classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Catholic writers are no exception, and those whose domain is the world of Catholic new media have provided their share of such lists.

And why shouldn't they? They are handy enough that they get attention. They convince you before examination, that what follows is simple enough to count on one or two hands. A reader can remember the bullet points, and refer to them in detail if need be. And so, in the last several months, I began to collect these lists. What follows is by no means exhaustive, but I thought, maybe just give the reader a safe number; say, twenty, enough to count on all fingers and toes.

And so, the following is my list of numbered "Catholics lists," in (more or less) chronological order:

01) Mary: Perpetual Virgin? 6 Biblical Arguments [Dave Armstrong, Seton Magazine, undated]

02) 5 Old Testament Models for How to Live [Stephen Beale, Catholic Exchange, 05/19/2014]

03) 7 Reasons Why Christ Died on a Wooden Cross (from Saint Thomas Aquinas) [Dr Taylor Marshall, Taylor Marshall, 03/27/2013]

04) 100 Simple Ways To Improve Your Life [Sarah/Marcel, Mary's Aggies, 05/29/2014]

05) 24 Words That Have A Totally Different Meaning When You’re Catholic [Javier Moreno, BuzzFeed, 06/04/2014]

06) 5 Quotes on Pentecost from Pope St John Paul II [Tom Perna, Tom Perna™, 06/08/2014]

07) 7 Saints for Pentecost [Stephen Beale, Catholic Exchange, 06/06/2014]

08) Ten Ways to Open Up to the Holy Spirit [Fr Ed Broom OMV, Catholic Exchange, 06/10/2014]

09) 10 Ways to Give the Internet a Soul [Danielle Bean, Momnipotent, 06/10/2014]

10) Pope Francis Announces He May Renounce the Papacy One Day: 6 Things to Know and Share [Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 06/13/2014]

11) Seven Proofs for the Natural Immortality of the Human Soul [Tim Staples, Strange Notions, undated]

12) 20 Fun Facts about Papal Elections in Church History [Dr Taylor Marshall, Taylor Marshall, 03/12/2013]

13) Seven Disciplines of Evangelization [Msgr Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington, 06/19/2014]

14) Ten Ways to Fall in Love with the Eucharist [Fr Ed Broom OMV, Catholic Exchange, 06/24/2014]

15) Six Practical Ideas for Integrating our Catholic Faith with Work [Randy Hain, The Integrated Catholic Life, 06/26/2014]

16) Five Facts of Faith from the Life of St Peter – A Homily for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul [Msgr Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington, 06/28/2014]

17) New Videos: The 12 Mysteries of the Mass (according to Thomas Aquinas) [Dr Taylor Marshall, Taylor Marshall, 07/01/2014]

18) 50 Things You'll (probably) Never Hear Catholics Say [Katie O'Donnell, FOCUS, 06/18/2014]

19) Loving The Unlovable [Nicole DeMille, Invisible Woman, 07/02/2014]

20) Please Don’t Say These Six Things at My Funeral [Chad Bird, Flying Scroll, 07/11/2014]

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm hard at work on my own list: “Seven Ways to Give Your Spiritual Life a Good Swift Kick in the …”

You get the idea.

Monday, July 14, 2014

“I read the news today, oh boy …” (Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Edition)

We begin this week's Monday morning feature with what is ostensibly serious news, if it didn't involved House minority leader and former Speaker Nancy “We Have To Pass The Bill To Find Out What’s In It” Pelosi. She makes a number of blatant factual errors, which are called out by that goddess of the 24-hour news cycle, Megyn Kelly of the Fox News Channel, and from which she (Pelosi) has already backed away, by digging an even deeper hole trying to get out of it, than the one she dug trying to get in.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

There's a growing trend of commentators for professional sporting events doing candids of people in the crowd and making remarks about them. Usually it's a very attractive wife of a player, but I guess these guys had a little too much time on their hands. [NESN]

Speaking of being on the job, how's that proposal for a four-day work week coming along? Anybody??? [CBS News]

Either it was a clerical error, or the Selective Service System had a demand for zombies in the draft pool. Of course, if these guys had served already ... [Fox News]

Someone once said that "the old days ain't what they used to be." And so we return to those thrilling days of yesteryear, whatever year (or decade) that was for you. [FiveThirtyEight]

If you live in Sacramento, be careful watering the lawn with neighbors around. Wait for the middle of the night, unless they're out doing it. [KOVR-TV]

Finally (and perhaps on a more serious note), this week's segment was almost called the "Bastille Day Edition." There's a reason why it was not. [Laudem Gloriae]

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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I slipped His fingers, I escaped His feet,
I ran and hid, for Him I feared to meet.
One day I passed Him, fettered on a Tree.
He turned His head, looked, and beckoned me.

Neither by speed, nor strength could He prevail.
Each hand and foot was pinioned by a nail,
He could not run and clasp me if He tried,
But with His eye, He bade me reach His side.

For pity's sake thought I, I'll set you free.
"Nay -- hold this cross," He said, "and follow Me.
This yoke is easy, this burden light,
Not hard or grievous if you wear it tight."

So I did follow Him Who could not move,
An uncaught captive in the hands of Love.

POEM: Attributed to Venerable Fulton John Sheen, 1895-1979.
Crucifixion, 1960s undated, Boris Vallejo, 1941-.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

That Was The Week That Was

... was the name of a comedy show on British television in the 1960s, a tongue-in-cheek review of world events lampooning the establishment and political figures. There was also an American "copycat" version around the same time with the same name. But, that's another story.

As you can see, we're pretty excited around here at The Black Hat Corral.

This week saw the largest audience in one day in the twelve-year history of his venue. On Monday, we commemorated the seventh anniversary of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum with a link to our most popular work ever from September of 2012: “The Latin Mass: Why You (Still) Can’t Have It.” We received 1522 visits on that day. But it didn't stop there. The next day was even bigger, as in the wake of that reprise, there was published a recent event of yours truly, “My ‘Almost An Emcee For The Pope’ Moment.” (Yeah, I broke down and wrote something original rather than relive past glories. Go figure.) On that day we got an all-time daily record of 1865 visits! As this is written, we are at over 5000 visits for this month so far, making it already our second biggest month -- EVAH!

Now, for a guy who a) is not on the Patheos Catholic Channel, b) does not have a gut-wrenching conversion story parlayed into a book deal and earning Catholic celebrity status, c) has to keep his day job, d) is not a priest, and e) is not Mark Shea ... that's not too shabby.

This writer's thanks go out to the many people who wrote very thoughtful comments at these entries, and a number of priests (and one bishop, by the way) who gave kudos to the Latin Mass piece. Thanks also to Kevin Knight at New Advent for giving us a bit of double-header of a boost this past week.

Because occasionally, we have something to say, as opposed to having to say something, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Friday, July 11, 2014

TGIF: Introducing Zhang Junhao

Thank G-d it's Friday, and time for your moment of whimsy …

The mainland of China may still be "Red," but they're also starting to loosen up just a bit, including Western-style entertainment in the form of a talent search show called Amazing Chinese. This episode a couple of months ago featured three-year-old Zhang Junhao, who loves to do what he calls his "random dance."

“When I dance, my mom laughs. My mom says laughing is happiness.”

If the country ever relaxes their "one-child" policy, they'll have more reasons for dancing.

And so it goes.

(NOTE: What was once known as our Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy has been rebranded, since our regular features are now published in the morning, local time. We thought we'd go with something obvious.)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Loose Lips in the Loggia (Seven Holy Brothers Edition)

The Bishop of Mosul in Iraq has announced that his diocese no longer exists, as for the first time in twelve hundred years, the Holy Mass was not celebrated there, with Muslim forces overrunning the country, and the massive persecution of Christians. But hey, we've got bigger things to worry about, like which pope's native country is going to win the World Cup. #priorities

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

Today the Western church remembers the seven sons of Saint Felicitas, who watched them receive the crown of martyrdom before her very eyes circa 150 or 165. One of the brothers, San Marziale (Saint Martialis/Saint Marshall) is remembered with a festival typically held on July 10th or near that date in Philadelphia. [SQPN]

“All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place. Let us build a house where love is found in water, wine, and wheat …” Hey, could we sing something even more trite, and who let Michael Voris in here? [Standing On My Head]

Speaking of which, will somebody tell a certain Catholic in Brooklyn that, if your parish is going to name something with the word “Pride” in it, as a pretext to speaking the truth about Church teaching (as opposed to ignoring it so everybody thinks you're swell), something is bound to get lost in the translation? [Catholic in Brooklyn]

Some priest in the UK who (apparently) only goes by the name of “Ches” wonders with Father Ray Blake where all the Catholic bloggers have gone. Maybe getting into stupid arguments on Facebook. [The Sensible Bond]

Finally, has anyone thought about who HE might want to win the World Cup? Just sayin'... [sportsgrid]

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

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Crosby Stills Nash & Young “Fancy”

Time once again for our usual midweek feature.

In this clip, Neil Young performs the hit song by Iggy Azalea. He is joined by three old guys who resemble his old bandmates, Stephen Stills (formerly of Buffalo Springfield), Graham Nash (formerly of The Hollies), and David Crosby (formerly of The Byrds). Neil does a great job of making a mainstream pop song his own, and the three impersonators look almost like the real thing, right down to the fat, aging, stoned-out geezer who impersonates Crosby.

Watch it all the way to the end. Seriously.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

My “Almost An Emcee For The Pope” Moment

[NOTICE: The following essay contains a plethora of minutiae associated with the details of official Catholic worship, which the reader might find to be too arcane for their taste, unless one is into that sort of thing. You have been warned.]

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As (both of) my regular viewers know, I am the Senior Master of Ceremonies for the Traditional Latin Mass, at the parish of Saint John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia. While a most rewarding experience in itself these past nearly-seven years, it occasionally leads to other opportunities. They do not always involve the traditional form of the Roman Mass, and I do not always mind that.

His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle is the Archbishop of Manila, and de facto Primate of the Philippine Islands, a position he has held since December of 2011. He was given the "red hat" (that is, elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals) nearly a year later, making him the second youngest of the honorary clergy of Rome at the time, having then just turned fifty-five. He enjoys a reputation for a commitment to social justice, and solidarity with the poor in the Philippines, while opposing the Culture of Death, in particular the recently passed Reproductive Health Bill. Popularly known as the "Pope Francis of Asia," Cardinal Tagle was considered by many Vaticanologists to be "papabile" (Italian for "likely to be pope") during the most recent conclave in 2013.

PHOTO: Sal does her part to make Cardinal Tagle feel right at home for his birthday celebration the evening before the Mass. Photographer unknown.

Late last month, on the 28th of June, His Eminence was principal celebrant for the Annual Filipino Pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The following day, on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, he celebrated a Pontifical Mass at St Columba's Church in Oxen Hill, Maryland, a parish whose members are predominantly of Filipino origin, and is the only one in the area with a regular Sunday Mass in the Tagalog language. I had offered my services to their pastor, Father Gary Villanueva, upon learning of the event two months earlier. In the middle of the week prior to the event, I was told that I would be co-emcee with one Jeff Bedia, a lay brother with the Oratory-in-Formation in Washington DC. We met on Saturday morning before the event, and went over the details.


Many devout Catholics who have a fondness for the Traditional Mass, would be surprised to learn that there is much in the way of codified or otherwise established ceremonial detail in the celebration of the reformed liturgy -- the "Novus Ordo Missae," that which was promulgated in 1969 by Pope Paul VI. The main instructional text for a Pontifical Mass in the "ordinary form" is the Caeremoniale Episcoporum (Ceremonial of Bishops), the English-language of which was most recently published in 1989 by Liturgical Press. It is also helpful to have on hand, the post-conciliar equivalent of Adrian Fortescue's classic work, namely Msgr Peter Elliot's Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, 2nd Edition. In the final days before the main event, I read the relevant sections of both works several times over.

PHOTO: The author assists His Eminence with donning the vestments for offering sacrifice.

While not quite as elaborate or detailed as its Traditional equivalent, there is nevertheless much tradition behind the details of ceremony, the main challenge being that liturgical formation for priests and deacons has only become truly comprehensive (and more consistent with official norms, with an emphasis on the sacred) in the last twenty years or so, simply due to the still-ongoing nature of the post-conciliar liturgical reform. There are also the limitations that come from being a regular parish, as opposed to a cathedral, basilica, or monastery. As a result, a few details are often laid aside as a matter of expediency.

For example, the ideal is to have four deacons in a Pontifical Mass; a Deacon of the Word who reads the Gospel and the General Intercessions, and a Deacon of the Eucharist who assists the Celebrant at the altar. In addition, there can be two Assistant Deacons, who attend to the Bishop-Celebrant at the Chair. The First Assistant (to his right) assists with imposing of incense in the thurible, while the Second Assistant (to his left) assists with the miter and (where applicable) the crosier, or pastoral staff. In our case, there were only two deacons to perform their separate functions for the Mass itself, as would be the norm for a parish setting. This left the two Masters of Ceremonies to attend to His Eminence at the Chair, which is also acceptable.

And of course, you could forget about the celebrant processing in before Mass wearing the cappa magna.

The First MC has the primary responsibility of overseeing the choreography of the Mass, anticipating what is to happen next, and ensuring that the proper functionaries are ready to attend. At larger celebrations, a Second MC (yours truly, in this case) has the task of concentrating on those who wait on the Celebrant, whether bringing the thurible to the Chair for imposing incense, or the Acolytes bringing the water and wine to the altar. This allows the First MC to more easily attend to the Principal Celebrant, and the Concelebrants as need be. Upon looking into his bonafides, I learned that Jeff had more experience with pontifical events than I, and is well acquainted with His Eminence, so I was all too happy to take Second position.

Whichever form of the Roman Mass is celebrated, there can always be differences between what it says in "the book" and what happens in real life. It just happens to be more the case with the post-conciliar form, and here is where the experience of a Master of Ceremonies comes into play, one who understands the general principles of the celebration of Mass.

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus!

PHOTO: From the Heritage Mass by Owen Alstott: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of goodwill ...”

By the time His Eminence arrived in the sacristy, we had already briefed the young men who would serve; a Thurifer, a Crucifer, and two Acolytes bearing candles in procession. In addition, there would ordinarily be a mitre-bearer and a crosier-bearer. Walking behind the bishop in procession, each wears what resembles a white humeral veil around his shoulders, bearing the coat of arms of the prelate at its center, and which is known as a "vimpa." These servers will hold the accoutrement of the episcopal office when not being carried or worn.

For whatever reason, His Eminence chose not to wear his pallium, a yoke worn by a metropolitan archbishop over his vestments. And although as a cardinal, he enjoyed the universal privilege of carrying the crosier (pastoral staff) outside of his immediate jurisdiction, he eschewed that as well. So we only used one server as the mitre-bearer (or "vimp," some generic term I had never heard before) for the occasion. We found a white humeral veil to use as a vimpa, with the image of Christ the King embroidered upon it. Personally, I found this fitting, as it was mindful of a traditional processional hymn for a bishop, "Behold The Great High Priest."

The church was packed to the point of standing-room-only, with dozens of phone cameras, and even iPads (which can be rather conspicuous being raised above a crowd), to capture a grand moment for the local Filipino community. There were three priest-concelebrants and two deacons to attend to the liturgy, all processing in following a cloud of incense. As the Second Master of Ceremonies, I took up the rear. The choir led hymns in English, Latin, and Tagalog, including a polyphonic arrangement of Ubi Caritas that was reminiscent of Duruflé. (Note to self: Find out the composer of that motet.)

What’s In A Name?

The homily for the Mass was quite entertaining, and was about the call of Simone bar-Jona by Our Lord to discipleship. Would not a rough and unlettered fisherman be a rather poor choice with which to start a movement? It would seem unlikely for Simon, who then became Peter and at one point was called Satan, all this in a very short period of time, if not for drawing attention to how Christ did not come for the holy, but for the sinner. His Eminence said that if he were God, he would not appoint Peter as representative of the Church, but more likely Paul, the intelligent scholarly one who lived a life of humility. He said that if he were God, he will not place Luis Antonio Tagle in his position, nor the deacons or priests who were in attendance. He would more likely choose "a Chinese businessman who sells insurance," a quip that earned him his biggest ovation. (It's a Filipino thing.) And yet, their presence and their appointments were through God’s grace, every bit as much as Peter was "the Rock" upon which the Church was built.

Although he enjoys considerable religious and political influence as occupant of his nation's primatial see, he is also a mild-mannered, unassuming and personable man, who enjoys his connection to the faithful. This was most evident immediately after Mass, as everyone with a camera phone wanted his picture, and all at the same time. The vestibule was quite a madhouse for more than half an hour, before we finally had to repair to the sacristy, to put things away and join the reception.


It seems that I was "important" enough to sit at the head table with His Eminence and the rest of the clergy in attendance. The Filipino cuisine was very well prepared, and the good sisters brought their board of fare directly to those at the head table, instead of having them wait in line (which doesn't happen to yours truly every day). There was also a performance of traditional Filipino folk dancing by a troupe of four young ladies. Their first selection was a "Muslim dance" that was native to the southern region of Mindanao. The second was more common to the northern region of Luzon, a Spanish-inspired dance, featuring colorful "Maria Clara" gowns, and the holding of fans as if to communicate the language of courtship -- "fan language," as it is known.

Black Hat Meets Red Hat

As he was leaving, I had one chance to say something to him, up close and personal; either that or make a total fool of myself, or both. And so I did, while referring to his homily ...

"Your Eminence, if by some chance they ever decide to name you Peter -- well, call it being in the wrong place at the wrong time, if you will -- I will have a story to tell my grandchildren. Until then, I can only tell anyone who asks, that this is the closest I will ever come to emceeing for the Pope."

He was sufficiently amused, if embarrassed by the prospect of yet another "promotion," and mentioned his impending meeting with the Holy Father, no doubt to discuss the latter's upcoming visit to Asia next year.

And so it goes, a memorable day in the life of an aging altar boy.

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(Our thanks go out to Father Gary Villanueva, with the other clergy, the staff, and volunteers of St Columba's Parish in Oxen Hill, Maryland, as well as Jun Mararac of Waldorf, Maryland, who made notes of the homily. Unless otherwise noted, photos are courtesy of Roland Escalante Jr, and are used here without permission or shame.)

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Latin Mass: Why You (Still) Can’t Have It

It was seven years ago today -- the date was 07/07/07, by the way -- that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI announced the removal of all restrictions to the celebration of the Traditional form of the Roman Mass, in his motu proprio (that is, on his own initiative) decree Summorum Pontificum.

Given the availability of a priest in good canonical standing who is competent to celebrate it, and given the desire of the faithful themselves to assist thereupon, there is no permission required of the local bishop. We refer, of course, to the so-called "extraordinary form," that which dates in its general appearance to the time of Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century, and which, after a millennium of cross-cultural evolution, was codified by Pope Pius V in 1570, and with minor alterations in the centuries to follow, was in normative use in the Western church until 1964, with the first measures to (ostensibly) reconcile the Ordo Missae with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council. And yet, after seven years …

… if you can't imagine why you don't have access to the Traditional Latin Mass in every gosh darn parish in the universe, as of one day after the Pope said you could, or you want to know what has to happen to have one anywhere at all, you should read this.

Then you should read it again. Slowly.

… and all will be revealed.

“I read the news today, oh boy …” (Post-Fireworks Edition)

We've been hearing a lot these days about the War On Wimmins. Now one of the wimmins is tired of hearing about it. That's wimmin for ya! Can't live with 'em, and they can't … uh, never mind.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

"I say old boy, where do you hang out?" That's not a recent form of slang, but dates back to 1836 in Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers. OMG! (That's not new either. Did they have text messaging back then?) [The Guardian]

Speaking of increasing learning, science has discovered a remedy that everyone can live it. I don't know; I think I'm going to have to sleep on it. []

In Stevens Point, Wisconsin, a woman found new meaning to the excuse that "the dog ate my homework." [WAOW-TV]

Want to go into business with a friend? Here are five questions to ask yourself, before you make the best or worst decision of your life. [Forbes]

Finally, in beautiful Eau Claire, Michigan, they know the meaning of the old Midwestern expression, "spitting distance," and one family has a lock on it. [AP]

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

Friday, July 04, 2014

Keeping America Awesome

Why is America so awesome?

Is it because we almost always win our wars? Is it because we consume a disproportionately high percentage of the world's natural resources? Is it because we appear to rule the world, getting into everyone's business whether they want us to or not? Is that what makes us so great?

No, not really.

We did not originally intend to be one big-@$$ country, but rather a union of “free and independent States.” Even as the Constitution provides for a strong central government, the several States are not merely arbitrary administrative jurisdictions. They enjoy limited sovereignty over their internal affairs. Each and every one of them has been the place of refuge for people from all over the world. The best, the brightest, the most ambitious, the greatest dreamers the world has to offer -- all come here, more than anyplace else. (Yes, even you, Canada.) Even Sal, who came here from her native Philippines twelve years ago, and became an American citizen five years later, says to this day that her adopted homeland is “the land of opportunity” for the likes of her, one that was worth leaving behind her home, her family, her standing in the local high society, and a considerable fortune of her own making.

So today, there will be hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, and families headed to the pool. And tonight, here in the Nation's capital city, there will be fireworks on the National Mall. Over a hundred thousand people will be on the grounds surrounded by police in full tactical gear to make sure no one has too much fun, watching a concert with top-name stars, one that they could just as easily see on public television without being surrounded by police in full tactical gear. The celebratory display will be repeated, if on a smaller and humbler scale, in great cities and little hamlets "from sea to shining sea." Together, they will celebrate a great experiment, an idea, one that still works, still draws the world to itself, in spite of everything.

And what of those who were the architects of that opportunity? Were they just a bunch of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants who conspired to preserve their fortunes in a strange and faraway land? No, they were White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (and one Catholic, Charles Carroll of Maryland) who made a choice they initially were loathe to make, that of breaking allegiance with the British crown. Nor was it a decision reached lightly, having pledged “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” John Hagee explains in the video above how much they had to lose, and how much many of them DID lose.

When the Nation's founders finished their work, someone asked Benjamin Franklin what had been created. “A republic, if you can keep it.” In a recent general election, Americans frustrated with the current political situation still looked for a savior, someone with all the answers, someone who can give them more "free stuff" than the other guy. But we can no longer deceive ourselves like we've been doing for the past six years. We must concede that the work of keeping America as a great nation will not be one of a single-person-as-panacea. It will be that of each and every one of us. If our "free and independent States" are less free, less independent than they were intended to be lately, it is because we sat back on our expanding posteriors, and allowed someone to take that freedom away from us, and because we lack the resolve to take it back. Are we going to settle for that in the next general election?

The intentions of Harry Truman aside, the buck no longer stops in Washington anymore; it stops with who we see in the mirror. We must ask ourselves if we are a republic worth keeping. Remember that before you get your hopes up, America.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Truman

Time once again for our usual midweek feature.

This week we present the 1995 HBO film Truman, starring Gary Sinise as Harry S Truman, the haberdasher from Independence, Missouri, who became the 33rd President of the United States, and Diana Scarwid as his wife, the former Elizabeth Virginia “Bess” Wallace. As the Nation approaches its 238th birthday, this remarkable account, which runs for two hours and eleven minutes, provides an account of a critical era in our history, and the response of a man who had greatness thrust upon him.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

My Canadian Moment

Today is Canada Day for some reason having to do with the British Crown deciding to throw them a bone that resembled self-determination, which they accepted without much of a fuss. I'm actually not sure, which is to be expected, since Americans know so little about their neighbors to the north, while they in turn are so completely on to their southern neighbors (that is, "neighbours").

Personally, I never met a Canadian I couldn't get along with (but for two exceptions, both from British Columbia, one of them an old Scout leader who spends too much time in the woods to develop a sense of social grace on the internet, the other a Catholic writer who spends too much time lecturing others about civility on the internet to practice it herself, but those are each another story ...). This video is a completely false but not necessarily misleading account of the story of this great and generally-more-polite-than-American nation, as told by Will O'Neill.

Tonight I'll raise a glass to them all, probably Moosehead. It's the least I could do.