Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Wonder of wonders--I agree with just about every single word of a National Catholic Reporter editorial.
Yes, that's the Reporter I am talking about.
Well-reasoned, thoughtful and absolutely dead on. Except for the national commission idea--I'm pretty well blue-ribboned out (the local I am more open to).
In speaking of the “disclosure of sins” in the sacrament of reconciliation, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the church in order to make a new future possible.”
While that refers, of course, to individual confession, doesn’t the same hold true for institutional sins that block the path to a new future? That understanding of sacramental theology -- which none of us limits to just the encounter in the confessional, but which we also experience daily in relationships in every sphere of our lives -- is deep in our bones. We know that when a bishop asks forgiveness it is an empty request unless we know why he asks.
Monday, October 24, 2005
[Indulge me in a moment of non-contentiousness. It's not like you have a choice...]
Not only is Heather the certified Anne Rice Expert in our household, I think she's in the running for that title for the Midwest. She has virtually everything written by the author, most of it in hardcover. We have an amusing photo of Heather with Anne (at the risk of informality with someone I've never met) at a local book signing (BookBeat--a fine indep. bookstore), seemingly instructing the bestselling author on how to sign her copy. It's not actually the case, but that's what it looks like. Heather reports that Anne is marvelous to her fans, from the get-go flouting an attempted effort to restrict fans to one signed item, namely the newly-published book. Heather had her first edition of The Vampire Lestat signed, gladly. Speaking of pilgrimages, my blushing child bride has even gone to New Orleans in part because of the Big Easy's prominence in the Vampire novels.
In fact, Heather is the one who should be writing this post, and I expect she will have a follow-up of her own shortly. Being something of a wandering Catholic herself, Heather can identify with drifting away from Catholicism and returning to the faith of her birth. That, and I've only read the first three Vampire novels: Interview, Lestat and Queen of the Damned. I've started Tale of the Body Thief, but after the mythic/apocalyptic scope of Queen, it was too "quiet" for my taste. Some day.
But still, what I have read made this interesting story about the first Anne Rice book in two years worth mentioning. Yes, it's the first of a series of novels on the life of Christ.
Contrary to what one might think, there is a moral core to the Vampire novels I have read, and each features a tortured struggle on the part of the protagonists against the compulsion of their vampiric nature and the impact of immortality. In fact, vampirism could be profitably read as a parable of original sin in a world without redemption, or even the essence of Hell--namely, immortality without God. Then again, I can read a Judas-Peter parable into Falling Down, so I recommend a grano salis. Or perhaps the whole block.
Anyway, the most interesting thing (of many, which includes her dead-on assessment of too much of modern scripture scholarship) is the profoundly Catholic approach to the project. For example, consider that Christ is fully God and fully man, and the obvious defense of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Believe it or not, this is not a new facet in her work, as Heather notes that there has been a definite Catholic "drift" in recent novels, especially Blackwood Farm, which has unmistakable and strong sacramental notes. The signs bode very well for Christ The Lord, if you pay attention. A couple more recommendations:
(1) Don't look at this in instrumental terms, as was all too often the case with The Passion of The Christ--i.e., what it will do for evangelism, etc. Like TPOTC, it's going to be a deeply personal expression, and one that very well might not be yours.
(2) On a related note, set the Orthodoxy Detector on its least sensitive setting. All reversions and conversions are pilgrimages, and forming Ye Olde Circular Firing Squad will be...counterproductive, not to mention uncharitable. Don't be the orthodox equivalent of the academic mafia which tried to bayonet the Gibson project in its crib. To repeat: it is a personal statement of devotion. It is not a rewrite of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal by the BCL. By all signs, this is the furthest thing from DVC, Jr., and that should be kept in mind.
That, and the humbling observation that none of us is a finished product.
[Link via Mark.]
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
My son, like most boys his age (3 in February) has a devoted love for all things wheeled or tracked. Lately, he has developed a cult-like devotion to the There Goes A Tractor/Bulldozer/Police Car/Etc. series of videos, featuring the booming authoritative voice and slapstick humor of Dave Hood.
If they aren't played with metronomic frequency, Dale goes into an "Ooooohhh...." funk. Well, last night we promised him he could watch Tractor this morning (he made a request to watch it approximately three seconds before bathtime was announced--his timing is impeccable).
Like all toddlers, he never forgets a promise by Mom or Dad. So, he hops out of the seat after breakfast and runs to the bedroom (changing out of his PJs was part of the deal). Heather is slow to follow. Suddenly, we hear "Right now, Mama! One...two...three..."
Stifling laughter, I peer down the hall, and see him gesturing like a mini-me Mussolini as he slows the countdown.
Never a dull moment.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Bryan notes that it has become an annual feature at this ranter's stump to lament the decay in Halloween costumes. Last year, it was the pimp--as in vintage Huggy Bear/I'm Gonna Get You, Sucka!--costumes which drew my ire.
Is it an overreaction? Perhaps--I've been known to do that, and will do so in the future--count on it.
But, quelle suprise, I don't think so. Say what you will about PimpHorama '04--at least it was full length (well, for the lads) and didn't have the cachet of a $2.5 billion multimedia conglomerate saturating so-called "kids" networks with its endless, relentless ad blitz. This is worse, and a bigger step down the road.
And, as I said last time, consider the change from even just 15 years ago--it would have been unthinkable. This is how the cultural frog gets boiled--slowly, inexorably and by the slow drift of years. What's it going to be like 15 years from now? Will Bratz be considered quaint, even prudish?
Likely so. Believe me, I'd love to see the evidence that I'm overreacting, that things are actually getting better for kids.
It's simply not there.
Monday, October 17, 2005
It's a sports! post.
1. There's a reason Lloyd Carr captains the Maize and Blue and not yours truly. First, I'd be in prison for murdering a few alumni by now, and second--he knows what he's doing and I don't.
Approximately 20 minutes after telling Bryan that it was incomprehensible that Carr was going to continue to forcefeed sophomore slumper Chad Henne into the meat grinder (my precise quote was "Henne simply does not have what it takes to get the job done at crunch time"), the QB wins the game with no time remaining, ruining JoePa's perfect season in one shattering instant. Heather said the look on my face was "Did it happen, or am I still wishing it?"
It's become clear that Carr is not just thinking of saving this season, he's thinking 1-2 years ahead, when he will be able to field an absolute monster, a genuine mythical national championship contender. A confident Henne is essential to making it happen. And he just got a lot more confident Saturday.
Also, not much has been mentioned about his best call--demanding that time be put on the clock after he took the last timeout. It worked: he managed to get two seconds, and he needed both. Good attention to detail on that one, and for some reason local media hasn't glommed on to that.
2. My speech-capable children can do "dammit!" with a distressing clarity. Daddy apologizes--again. Saturday afternoons in fall do not find me at my best.
3. The Lions leave me with a poker face and an English gentlemen's disdain--"The chaps fell short again, what what?" The fan equivalent of acedia long ago set in: Hope peaks at the draft and dies sometime around the bye week. The good news is, the kids only learn how to roll their eyes on Sunday.
4. Sorry--genuinely--to MSU and ND fans. I despise both of your opponents with all I have. Special kudos to the ND ground crew, who are apparently trying to grow winter wheat in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. My lawn looked better, and I hadn't mowed it in two weeks (until yesterday).
5. Not sports--exactly--but close: Grilling season is fast coming to a close in the northern temperate zone. I got some marinated salmon out Sunday. Anyone else? The two packs of frozen brats may have to wait until 2006.
6. Bryan has an interesting discussion about the Sox (and Tigers, in the comment box), as well as good health news about coffee. Check it out. James has been reticent about the Irish--all year, as a matter of fact. Bluejacket fever has apparently taken hold....
Saturday, October 15, 2005
A good friend of ours told us about a costume she saw for Halloween. She was in shock--it was a French maid costume, for little girls. As in pre-school girls.
She's not one to exaggerate--her blog is here--but really? That bad?
Yep-per. It's that bad.
What soulless sacks of anything-for-a-buck dogshit thought this one up?
Why, the same responsible corporate citizens who bring you Bratz, of course.
Just when I thought it was impossible for the adamantine cyst of hatred in my heart for the entire hellish enterprise to grow any larger... Really, a boycott is now in order. Nickelodeon and Noggin, what say you?
Forget what I said at the first Bratz post--you are a bad parent if you tart your daughter up in this "costume." The best thing I could say for you is that you are an abject moral idiot of epic proportions. The worst would be a stream of expletives worthy of an episode of Deadwood.
All I can do is protect my own, and fortunately, my kids are learning. If for some reason I don't happen to notice a commercial for the skankdolls coming on, Maddie will yell: "Daddy--Bratz!" Which is followed by 30 seconds of any form of inoffensive alternative viewing, including test patterns.
For the record, Maddie wants to be a butterfly for Halloween, Dale is going as Bob the Builder, and Rachel is going as a ladybug (her intentions being unclear and the ladybug costume being the best fit). And the parents of kids who show up in Bratz paraphenalia on Halloween will be chased down the street by me, dressed as a torch-and-pitchfork-wielding outraged mob.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Sitemeter recently added a new "World Map" feature, which allows me to see the city and country of origin for the last 100 visitors.
With that in mind, heartiest greetings to readers from:
Nice, France (our household is Francophile, and here's proof: mon epouse parle francais)
Pasig, Republic of the Phillipines
Mount Gravatt, Australia
The usual list of suspect Yanks and Canucks
And, most interestingly, Vatican City--the CDF server. Odd.
[OK, the last one is fake--but the rest are legit.]
Thanks for the visits, and keep 'em coming.
Pretty solid essay by Paul Johnson, who argues that anti-Semitism has all the hallmarks of a form of mental illness. However, I think the comparison with anti-Americanism at the end is an overreach on his part. But still, well worth reading, especially since it has sharp observations like this:
Asked to explain why they hate Jews, anti-Semites contradict themselves. Jews are always showing off; they are hermetic and secretive. They will not assimilate; they assimilate only too well. They are too religious; they are too materialistic, and a threat to religion. They are uncultured; they have too much culture. They avoid manual work; they work too hard. They are miserly; they are ostentatious spenders. They are inveterate capitalists; they are born Communists. And so on. In all its myriad manifestations, the language of anti-Semitism through the ages is a dictionary of non-sequiturs and antonyms, a thesaurus of illogic and inconsistency.
Oh, and a handy warning from your host here: I have no patience with casuists who try to redefine anti-Semitism. Absolutely none. Ditto statements which indicate hatred of Jews, mention of alleged Jewish conspiracy theories and the like, all of which activate my hair-trigger delete and ban policy.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
My longtime readers--who can safely and simultaneously pirouette in a bus stop kiosk with both fists extended--are no doubt asking:
"Hey, if Dale was up north, that meant he was in Saginaw Country again. Did he go to a local parish, or did he do the Long March thing to Lake City? After all, the region has had a new bishop for nigh unto nine months now."
I am happy to answer both persons' questions: We bit the bullet and went local.
Yep, there have been some dramatic changes, too: The PA, while still administering, has vanished from the sanctuary. Reliable reports have drifted back that a stern dressing-down accompanied the reversion to (most) rubrical norms. Kneeling apparently requires further study and/or the translation of the Mass guidebook into Apache (mustn't leave anyone left out), but I've learned to let that one roll off. We kneel, and that's all she wrote.
Fr. gave an interesting homily in which he deployed and explained "permissive will." He also, to our relief, explicitly stated his delight with the presence of crying "babies" and said he hoped to hear more. The plural was a gentle face saver for us--Rachel was the sole culprit, having spent multi-minutes shrieking out some almost indescribable noise.
Think a combination of "the most irritating sound in the whole world" from Dumb and Dumber with the bellow emitted by a pickled Irish midget who was just informed that "last call" was three hours ago, and you're in the ballpark.
[Rachel's short, being weaned, and part-Irish, so I recommend you file all of your complaints about my description here.]
Heather teared up with that friendly acknowledgment, for which we thanked him profusely afterward.
And hey--they even had missalettes, now, too. Not by OCP, either.
All around, a good thing, right? For the most part, yes. Two complaints, though, in ascending order of seriousness:
First, the Dread Saginaw Blessing is now in print, and inserted as a separate sheet in the back of the missalette. The wording is attributed to the late Bp. Untener, but I have no way to verify that, so we should refrain from comment on authorship questions. It could very well be a product of the U Community, and not the ipsissima verbi of the late Bishop, who was the furthest thing from an idiot. And it would be idiocy to instigate a direct clash with Rome on the pronoun used to address the Almighty. Moreover, it wasn't used, so there's an almost "who cares" feeling about it. In fact, it struck me as a kind of "take my ball and go home" pout. Fine--if we can't have the Incredible Concelebrating Nun, then take that!
Second, and more substantively: there's something deeply, fundamentally wrong here. No, no--I'm not griping about the fact positive changes have been made. But here's the bottom line: no bishop should have that much impact on the form and substance of Catholic worship. That's where the concept of collegiality goes flying off the rails and starts to barrel roll.
If he does have that much power, then in a very real sense you are less a Catholic than one of the faithful of the Church of (Arch)Bishop X. Worship changes (or does not change) on his fiat alone. Wait until he gets promoted, retires or passes away, and everything can change. Talk about a quite-literally man-centered religion....
That, I submit, is manifestly screwed and out of whack with any recognizable Christian tradition. Yes, the Orthodox have collegiality, but they don't pretend the bishop has any special mastery over the form and substance of the Divine Liturgy. For them, it's hands off, your excellency. Time to start listening to the wisdom of the East again. And start removing the episcopal "escape hatches" from the liturgy--it sounds good on paper, but in practice...
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
You are related to longshoremen or teamsters. When
people make jokes about nuns and rulers, you
don't laugh; you get that "thousand yard
See you at the next Knights of Columbus social.
Are You A Cultural Catholic?
brought to you by Quizilla
Der Tommissar actually concocted this one--give it a whirl.
Just don't drink anything while answering it.
Apparently, there are new guidelines on safe sleeping for infants. My gut reaction was that the article is a fine way to guilt trip parents who successfully and safely manage to do other than as the official nannies direct.
Not that I disagree with all of it, mind you--much of it is sensible. But the overall thrust is that you are manifestly a Bad Parent if you disagree.
We travelled in our recently repaired Family Assault Vehicle (a/k/a the Venture), and went to 26 Pines. Heather and I invariably feel the stress rolling off of us in waves after we get there.
Favorite moment: Madeleine and I went for a walk early Sunday evening and I stopped and whispered: "Listen--hear that?"
"How quiet it is."
We strained to listen to the glorious absence of noise, punctuated, only distantly and briefly, by the echoing of a dog's bark and the hoot of an owl. There's none of the constant white-noise hum of the expressways and the other clatter of urban living.
It's difficult to leave.
Monday, October 10, 2005
Oh, the questions:
Can a life of preening self-regard, gossipy self-aggrandizement, and laughable pseudoscholarship be made into a drama that isn't "Boy Meets Tractor" agitprop?
Can a spiteful fundamentalist who has traded in one intellectually void worldview for another be a sympathetic dramatic protagonist?
Why not a musical: SpongRock!
More importantly: Can a play close during the first intermission?
We will soon find out. Perhaps the strangest thing is that it's not a one-man play:
At 74, Spong, the retired bishop of Newark, N.J., continues to rile many Christians with his denial of the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus and a God who works miracles and exacts punishment. His critics call him a heretic.
Others, however, say that Spong's defense of ethnic minorities, women and gays as well as his skeptical take on Scripture as the literal word of God bring relevance, rationality and hope.
Now Spong's lifelong quest to wrest himself from what he has called his fundamentalist evangelical North Carolina upbringing to understanding God in a radically different way is the subject of a sympathetic new drama, "A Pebble In My Shoe."The bishop plans to be at Sunday's 5:15 p.m. premiere at the Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St. After the 90-minute performance, Spong will be honored at a reception. He also will sign his latest book, "The Sins of Scripture." Other performances are scheduled for Oct. 15,16, 22 and 23.
Written and directed by Cox, the play is based on Spong's 1999 autobiography, "Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love and Equality." It features actor Stephan Wolfert as the bishop.
Maybe Mr. Wolfert will be able to parlay this stepping stone into a role of true artistic integrity.
Like, say, portraying a satisfied client of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe in a commercial that runs during the middle of Montel.
[Update: My beloved child-bride, who has seen the movie more times than theoretical mathematics can count, gently corrected me, resulting in the change of the post title. She also has a great story about the time she nearly made Molly Ringwald cry in Paris (and still feels awful about it, if you're reading this, Ms. Ringwald), but I'll let her tell it.]
Friday, October 07, 2005
Today is the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, a/k/a Lepanto Day.
Hilary offers salutary, highly-instructive material from the Roman Breviary.
But no October 7 is complete without a recitation of Chesterton's Lepanto:
Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
St. Michael's on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
King Philip's in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
At this rate, I'm going to renounce my Limey/Taffy heritage. But we shouldn't let the Sceptred Isle go down with out a fight--Join the Free Piglet! campaign now.
Strike a blow for insensitivity--you'll be glad you did.
The Roamin' Roman.
It's by the same student who runs Veritatis Splendor--the lucky dog is spending a year studying in Rome.
Lots and lots of pics, which makes for slow loading. But well worth your time.
Also, check out Trot's Splits, by good friend, frequent commenter and BoSox fanatic, Bryan.
For some reason, baseball themes are predominant at the moment.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
A decidedly un-fantastic four overturn altar in a Catholic church during Mass.
Ringleaders are solid Christian folk in a common-law marriage.
"It's the end times, man. The Pope's the antichrist. And while we're opposed to all forms of 'man-made religion,' we'd have gotten killed pulling this stunt in a mosque."
Certain tidbits from the second article are interesting:
Turgeon said his group went inside the church, listened to prayers and watched parishioners take communion before the outburst.
"It was so monotone," Turgeon said. "There was no passion, fire, reverence."
The man turned over the church's century-old marble altar, sending it tumbling down the steps.
Hmm. Wait a minute.
I don't know about you, but I think the defense practically leaps off the page: Mr. Turgeon & Friends were obviously recent attendees of some nearby liturgy conference and were simply trying to put into action some of the principles they had learned. Their mistake--if it can be so harshly described--was the fruit of overenthusiasm, an understandable can-do spirit. They simply did not know the right way to go about things, so why is everyone so worked up? Century-old altars get shattered all the time. It would be a manifest injustice to punish a group of admittedly over-eager renovators.
Free the Decatur Four!
One of those remarkably predictable Catholic reform movements that have cropped up from time-to-time since Vatican II, We Are Church, started in Austria in 1995, has issued a desperate press release showing that they are 20,000 feet up, out of fuel, experiencing turbulence and more than 100 miles from the nearest airport. A whole thirty--that's 30.00-- people showed up at their gab-con, but that's not what made news. It was the spectacle of yet another batch of self-styled Catholics whizzing on their heritage that was noteworthy. The key grafs:
We equally hope that, while professing the mystery of Eucharist and believing the risen Christ is truly present in it, there should be full freedom in philosophical and theological discussions of this mystery, precisely because Scriptures do not explain the "way" of this "presence". This convergence in claiming the "presence" and maintaining freedom in the explanation of its possible "how" is what was envisaged by the ecumenical agreement achieved in Lima in 1981 in the document "Baptism, Eucharist, Ministries", which was also signed by Catholic theologians.
The contrary persistence of insisting upon “transubstantiation" dogma to explain Christ's presence in the Eucharist, as Instrumentum laboris does, triggers and strengthens a magical, materialistic, and legalistic mentality, in which Jesus is seen descending on the altar at the time the priest pronounces the words "This is my body, this is my blood...". That happens at the expense of the invocation of the Holy Spirit, of other holy moments of Eucharist and, obviously, of "convivial" or communal facets.
Translation: "We find the consistent Catholic teaching on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist deeply, deeply mortifying to us as 'thinking Catholics.' Our enlightened Protestant friends keep sniggering at us at all the best parties. Stop it. Stop it now!"
The fact that they have to call for the abolition of transubstantiation is actually a very heartening thing. Why? Because they have to up the ante to garner even a glimmer of attention any more. Having already demanded an "open" priesthood, "inclusive" liturgies and the dismantling of the governing body of the Church--who the hell is going to read yet another interminable presser/harangue about "democratic structures"?--now they have to hollow out the Sacraments to get noticed. Credit where it's due--it worked.
But it won't work next time--a screedy diktat about confirmation is going to get ignored. About the only thing left is the person of Christ Himself. So you can pretty much expect a Haightian rumination about "dead but alive in our hearts" in the near future. When that arrives: turn out the lights--the party's over.
Call To Action, you are on the clock.
[Hat tip to Mark for the heads-up.]
Outgoing Reporter editor-at-large Arthur Jones, finishing his self-indulgent, four-installment written homage to Edward Everett Hale, goes out on a high note:
It takes about 60 years for a socio-ideological cycle to wind down, and we are only 27 years into the conservative-fundamentalist revival that began with the rise to power -- all in a four-year period -- of John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and the Ayatollah Khomeini.
What a turd.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Genevieve at Feminine Genius sent me this heads up last week.
I finally saw it Saturday.
Errrr...No. She's right--it's like no locker room I've ever been in.
If locker rooms had "coaches" like that, the players would never leave.
I guess it'll be popular with the puck bunnies. Perhaps the biggest mystery is why they didn't hire Fabio as the player--he's used to that romance novel lighting.
Maybe he can't skate.
Some of the ladies might like it, but the lads....not so much.
The NHL should have place a call with the ad firm that does the Marine Corps commercials. They probably would have had more of a clue.
An Open Letter to Fans of the Michigan State Spartans:
Last week was almost dreamlike, wasn't it? For the first time in two generations, the football team was ranked above Michigan and favored at home. A team with a potent offense--a veritable gatling gun--headed by an experienced senior QB, facing a shaky, shaky Michigan team unable to score when it counts, and unable to stop a QB with the mobility of a bridge abutment.
Everything was falling into place.
Then there was the joy of being a member of Spartan Nation, with the green and white faithful coming out of the woodwork. Everywhere you looked, proud, confident fans were sporting the white block S on green baseball caps.
Then there was the dreamlike weather, mid-70s with crystalline Michigan skies unspotted by clouds, the tens of thousand of loyalists converging on the banks of the Red Cedar in East Lansing, enjoying tailgates and enthusing over the coming game, jibing at the hated Wolverines and their jackass fans. Some were even looking ahead to the inevitable clash of top-10 teams--MSU v. Ohio State--two weeks later at the Horseshoe.
"Next Year" had finally arrived, and Michigan--hated, arrogant, resented Michigan--was in for an overdue humbling.
At long last. The feeling was as overpowering as it was certain.
Did you enjoy that cresting wave, Spartan fans?
I hope so.
Because it's over now.
Monday, October 03, 2005
We went to Flint yesterday to visit some friends. The plan--foiled by the idiocy of MDOT--was to attend Mass at All Saints. When we informed her that we were going to church in Flint, she said:
"At St. [Home parish]? The Rose Church?"
Me: "No, honey--the church is called All Saints, and it's supposed to be beautiful."
Maddie: [Pause, followed by a quizzical look] But we're Catholics."