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Monday, May 26, 2003

The Good, the Nun and the Ugly.

Back, and on Monday, too. Sorta. Travelling with two kids under two years of age causes certain delays.

First, il cattivo: the northern Michigan weather offered plenty of rain, and the temperature never left the 60s during the day. At night--let's just say I was glad for the furnace. Frankly, though, I've come to the point where the weather is nearly irrelevant to my vacations. As long as (1) I and my loved ones arrive intact, and (2) power doesn't get knocked out, it can snow for all I care.

In addition, I've forgotten how bad broadcast TV can get in tiny markets. Care for an infomercial or thirty? And could someone provide me with timely news and sports updates, please? On the bright side, there's Saturday Afternoon Horror Theatre, which offers classics on the order of "Scream, Blacula, Scream!" No, really. At least the station had SAHT in the past. Didn't catch it this time around, though.

Now, il buono. Northern Michigan is flea market/garage sale central during tourist season. I've always had this hope that I would find the Great Big Catholic Book Sale at clearance prices, and snap them up for a song. It's been a vain hope.

Until Sunday. At an estate sale I found a feast of Catholic (and WW2 history) books being offered at ridiculous prices: 7 books for $5. The only catch is that the Catholic ones largely appeared to be from Hutton Gibson's bookshelf. Not all of them, though. There was a hardbound 1992 Catechism. Ka-ching. Two fiction books from Ignatius--O'Brien's "Father Elijah" and McInerny's "The Red Hat." Nothing wrong with either (I've read the first and got them both) but they certainly feature Bishops Behaving Badly. This theme would be continued. There were plenty of TAN publications, heavy on Protestant Reformation-era histories. Grabbed 'em. Yes, yes--almost certainly polemical, but at $0.70 a copy, I'm not going to pass them up. In addition, there were a couple of novels by Robert Hugh Benson (no, not Lord of the World, unfortunately), and several uncontroversial reprints from Roman Catholic Books and Neumann Press. More purchases. E. Michael Jones' "Cardinal Krol and the Cultural Revolution." Ring it up. Three of four volumes of Emmerich's "Life of Jesus Christ" also got into the cart (the fourth was missing).

After this, the selection got more--shall we say "fragrant"? Malachi Martin was well-represented, and I succumbed and bought "Hostage to the Devil" and "The Jesuits." Again, I know: not an inherently reliable chronicler of things Catholic, but an entertaining writer. There was a strong representation from the Feeneyites, including a dissertation-length attempted exoneration of Fr. Leonard of Boston. I passed.

Then there were the massive, unblinking tomes about all sorts of Masonic conspiracies. Again, no thanks. Yes, my car keys come up missing frequently, but I'm almost certain my wife is the guilty party, not the Handshake Guys.

At the bottom was the self-published or small-press stuff: cheaply-bound screeds about apostasy, Bishops Behaving Unimaginably Badly (believable in this climate, but the books were nearly incoherent with rage and unsupported innuendo), and flat-out sedevacantism in the form of something called "The New Montinian Church." No thanks. Not even at $0.70. Not for free, which the manager at the sale was on the verge of suggesting. I was afraid a few books might have gone before I got there, but from his demeanor, I was about the only guy buying anything.

In the realm of history and politics, he had several books that I snapped up: two hardcover volumes of "The Gulag Archipelago," an analysis of the Battle of Jutland, Alan Clark's "Barbarossa" and Alexander Werth's "Russia at War." There was also a memoir of the Spanish Civil War which I couldn't resist, either.

Once again, there was a disturbing whiff in the history selection: cut-rate Spenglerian rants about the Asiatic hordes, the decline of Western civilization, Reds Under the Bed, and an obsessed focus on the German side of fighting on the Eastern Front, with SS memoirs and unit histories. In addition, I found a pamphlet from a Nazi-sympathetic publisher "bravely" trying to show the "true" history of the "German Revolution." Yeesh. The pamphlet came complete with a warning that materials ordered could be confiscated in some countries. Danger, Will Robinson, danger! However, one of the books appeared to be an uncontroversial, if prosaic, analysis of German agricultural policy from 1928-1945, probably carried to add a veneer of respectability.

I imagine this field of endeavor is a show-stopper at the cocktail parties of academia:

"So, what do you teach? History--splendid! Your specialty? 'Agricultural policy in Nazi Germany'? Ah. Well. Hmm. Uh, I imagine you dominate your field. You are your field? I see. No, no--not too surprised. Sorry, I'm going to refresh my drink now."

Finally, il bruto.

Thank God for children. Were it not for my kids, I would not have received the Eucharist this weekend. I would have reported that it was another bad Sunday at the House of Heterodoxy that is our vacation parish home. Instead, I was busy chasing around our wound-up daughter for the better part of the Mass, and was too distracted to notice most of the problems with HoH's Eucharistic Celebration, all stemming from the determination of the silly parish administrator to play "priest." I went in resolved to leave if something was ridiculously amiss. Oh, there were the usual problems I noticed: the PA starting the opening blessing, giving the homily, standing at the altar with the retired priest during the consecration, lifting the chalice, etc. and so on. If I resolved to leave at the first deviation, I'd never get past the first minute. However, I've tried to look past it, and find the good.

Sometimes it's a real quest.

This time, there was a renewal of vows for a couple celebrating their 30th anniversary, a ceremony which I have always liked. Well, nothing seemed particularly amiss, and I was able to return to my seat with HyperToddler near the end of consecration. If nothing else, the homily had been helpful evidence that ordaining women won't necessarily improve Catholic preaching. It was an unremarkable discussion of "love," how it should not be understood in the gooey sentimental sense, but rather should be understood in a gooey communitarian sense. Heather later told me I seemed quite calm. Well, that was because I missed the obvious HoH idiocy: after the renewal of vows, the PA led the congregants in something called the "Saginaw Blessing," which puts a rather unique spin on the Irish Blessing, which itself is derived from Numbers 6:24-26. The second verse ran:

May The Lord bless you and keep you.

May she let her face shine upon you, and be gracious to you

and give you her peace.

Sing a new church, indeed. At the first "she," my wife stopped singing. She also ground her teeth at the grammatical stupidity, muttering in the Venture afterward how gender-neutering is virtually impossible in French. No, I hadn't heard it. Because if I had, I would have left. That was not the PA's first offense along these lines, and consequently it was our last mass at HoH. There's a decent Church about 30-40 miles away (different diocese). Inconvenient in some ways, but not in the most important: It's difficult to worship while I'm in the process of achieving low earth orbit.

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