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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Memes--you can't blog without 'em.

[Update II--D'Oh! I conflated celebrities and authors. Corrected.]

Dave Pawlak tags me with this one:

If you could meet and have a deep conversation with any five people on earth, living or dead, from any time period, who would they be?" (Explaining why is optional.) Name five people from each of the following categories:Saints, Those in the Process of Being Canonized, Heroes from your native country, Authors/Writers, celebrities.


The following are in no particular order.

1. Saints.

a. Teresa of Avila.

b. Thomas Aquinas.

c. Thomas More.

d. Paul.

e. Robert Bellarmine.


2. To be canonized.

a. Ven. Solanus Casey. He's a Detroiter.

b. Bl. Marco D'Aviano.

c. Bl. Giovanni Palatucci.

d. Leo XIII (not sure of his status, but doesn't get enough credit).

e. Ven. John Henry Newman.


3. American Heroes.

a. Lincoln.

b. Gen. George H. Thomas. *The* underrated general of the Civil War. Thomas was a Virginian who stayed loyal to the Union and his leadership was indispensible on numerous battlefields in the Western theatre.

c. Gen. Nathaniel Greene. One of the most underrated generals in American history, his leadership kept the Continental Army in the southern colonies together. Also had a grim case of asthma, which I can identify with.

d. Branch Rickey. The general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the man responsible for scouting and signing Jackie Robinson. He told Robinson that the man who broke the color barrier had to "be strong enough *not* to fight back."

e. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Yeah, I know--PP, moral failings, etc. To which I reply thusly: Yadda yadda yadda. His leadership and example ensured that America's struggle over racial issues would be fought with paper, not bullets. In most times and places, it hasn't worked out that way.


4. Authors/Writers.

a. Oriana Fallaci. Yes, I'd basically just sit there and let her hold forth.

b. Steve, OFA. It would, after all, be cool to speak in person. I'll even buy the first couple of rounds.

c. Philip K. Dick (is dead, alas). Now that would be a trip.

d. Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn.

e. G.K. Chesterton.


5. Celebrities.

a. Steve Yzerman. I have half a shot at this one--he's a Michigander.

b. Muhammad Ali. Without the scourge of Parkinson's, the stories he could tell.

c. Curt Schilling. The bloody sock, politics and his wargaming company. Break out the microbrews.

d. Johnny Cash.

e. Russell Crowe. Sure wouldn't be dull.


[Update I--Oh, right. You have to hit people with the meme. Okey:

My nearest and dearest

Chris Johnson

Zach

Terry

Tom Fitzpatrick

Anyone else so inclined (leave notice in the comments box).]
A Meeting At Corvallis Update.

I have it on unimpeachable authority that it is out. I haven't been able to find a copy on the shelves, as of yet. Look for a review in a week-ish. Mr. Stirling reports that Entertainment Weekly will be reviewing it, too, so keep your eyes open for that.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Please note that this piece is not datelined "United Kingdom."

Lingerie Wrestling Video Causes Queen To Resign.

Ah, yes. Those moments every father anticipates for his little girl. Starting school, getting her ears pierced, starting driver's ed, the prom, defending her kinky videos in a regional newspaper...

Though I will admit, Kim Akkerhuis proffers a most creative defense of his daughter's terpsichorean muse:

Posing with her court Aug. 12, the newly crowned Danish Festival queen looked the part: beaming, proud, holding a flower bouquet.

The reign of Carissa Akkerhuis ended less than two weeks later as word leaked she had appeared in videos clad in lingerie and fighting or wrestling with men or other women.

The 19-year-old's resignation Thursday is the first time in anyone's memory a festival queen has quit under such circumstances. The four-day festival -- Aug. 17-20 this year -- annually draws as many as 75,000 people to Greenville.

"I don't believe it has happened before," Danish Festival President Norice Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen would not comment on the reason for Akkerhuis' resignation, but noted pageant contestants sign a contract agreeing to represent the festival and community as a role model.


The local contest is affiliated with the Miss Michigan pageant, with the winner competing at the state level for the chance to compete in the Miss America competition.

The loss of the crown also means Akkerhuis relinquishes more than $2,000 in scholarships.
Greenville resident Kim Akkerhuis said he stands by his daughter "100 percent."

"She did absolutely nothing wrong," said Akkerhuis, who considers the videos a legitimate way to teach self-defense techniques. "If it's immoral to protect ourselves in martial arts, then where are we going with this?"

The videos are produced by a Grand Rapids company and distributed through various Web sites.

[Link via my currently non-blogging friend at Trot's Splits.]

Monday, August 28, 2006

Always call retreat.

I hate--hate--HATE introductions to the Sunday readings. The only place I have ever heard them is in--wait for it--the Diocese of Saginaw. Ham-handed displays of quasi-scholarship, none of which seems to have gotten past circa AD 1981 (see also the introductions and footnotes to the various iterations of the NAB), they are the usual histo-crit article. Heather says they invariably make her feel talked down to, as though she is unable to get anything from the reading without being sufficiently innoculated by the intro first.

My personal peeve is that they give the listener (far too many of whom are the clueless victims of the same catechetical system that gives us the Dan Brown Fan Club) every reason to tune the reading out, if not dismiss it outright.

For example: last week, the second reading was from St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. So, natch, the apparatchiks at the Chancery had to assert, with the usual metaphysical certitude, that Ephesians wasn't really written by Paul, but rather by some later writer. How this unproven (not to mention unprovable and a thesis contrary to every Church father who commented on the letter)hypothesis contributes anything to the understanding of the reading and its application to the Christian life is, of course, beside the point. The really important thing is that the author of the introductions has a couple of credit hours in sacred scripture, likely from the local pastoral institute, and therefore Knows More Than You. Snockered on Jagerbultmann, he can't stop himself from demonstrating his junior college erudition to the unfortunates who compromise his captive audience. And, of course, immediately after this hokery, the audience is faced with whiplash as the lector announces "From the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians."

Thanks, twerp.

This week: Second verse, same as the first.

But since this week involved that worrying submission passage, the audience really, really, really needed to have the lectionary passage whited out in the worst way.

They've had documented examples of fainting episodes where women have heard the long form of Ephesians 5, you know.

So we got quite the introductory paragraph this week: "The writer" was commenting from "a culturally-conditioned viewpoint," and "the important thing is not to attempt to recreate ancient social patterns." No, "the greater point is to understand the love we are supposed to have for each other in Christ."

Oh, but that's not the really pathetic part. You see, after spending a paragraph preparing people to dismiss the passage...they used the short form--which emphasizes the husband's self-sacrificial duty to his wife.

Brilliant!

The jackass tergiversations gave the husbands in the audience the license to dump that passage, too! Wasn't that "culturally conditioned," too? Not something we are supposed to recreate for our times? Hard to interpret it any other way.

How's that 50% Catholic divorce rate working for you?

In a culture that has managed to embrace all of the hideous vices of the ancient pagans, invent a few more and refuses to embrace the old pagan virtues, we might just want to start listening to the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Instead of impatiently waving him off.

Friday, August 25, 2006

At 26P.

We are on our well-deserved and long-overdue annual vacation (typically, we take it around July 4).

Have been since 5pm, August 18.

Enjoying ourselves immensely, thank you. If you've emailed me, expect responses next week.

I finished reading Trifkovic's Sword of the Prophet Wednesday--my grim joke since has been to call it "The feel-good book of the year." Seriously--go, buy, read. Now. It will be the most important book you read in 2006. It's neither perfect nor a complete overview, but it is absolutely essential reading.

Ignorance is not bliss. Far from it.

[2008 UPDATE: I don't feel the same way about SotP these days, and cannot give it a whole-hearted recommendation. While still valuable, it is uniformly and unfairly negative about Islam as a whole--for example, I don't recall an acknowledgment of Islam's undeniably artistic and architectural achievements. Also, he doesn't handle the Islamic texts in the necessary detail (Robert Spencer is much, much better on those points.]

Friday, August 18, 2006

Another Book Recommendation Bleg.

As Heather winces and wonders where we'll put them...

I'm looking for solid works on Islam--history and theology. I'd like something that is neither soft-pedalling nor polemical, and preferably well-sourced and footnoted.

I have Geisler's Answering Islam (which is fine as far as it goes, but is mostly theological) and Trifkovic's Sword of the Prophet (which seems good but very uneven, and the footnoting is causing serious teeth-grinding).

Thanks in advance.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A near-instant cure for depression?

Michael Fumento indicates that clinical trials offer real hope.

I know some people who suffered from major depression, too--it's as grim as it gets. One person said they had an insight into perdition afterward: "Hell is a place where the only sound you can hear is your own voice."

Churchill had dark bouts his entire life, calling it his "black dog" and confiding that he stayed back toward the wall at train stations for fear he might throw himself on the tracks.

Anyway, back to the good news:

This is what’s so exciting about a treatment conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). It’s an injection, not a pill (No, that’s not the exciting part) of a substance called ketamine. Since 1970, ketamine has been used as a general anesthetic for both humans and animals. Given in doses too low to cause anesthesia, it relieved depression in as little as two hours.

The study, appearing in the August Archives of General Psychiatry, comprised 17 depressed patients randomly assigned to receive either an injection of ketamine or a placebo. For 71% of those receiving the real deal, depression improved within a single day. Indeed, 29% became nearly free symptom free. Thirty-five percent of patients who received ketamine were still feeling better a week later. Patients receiving the placebo reported no improvement. No patients had serious side effects.

A week later, in a cross-over study, participants were given the opposite treatment unless they were still benefiting from the ketamine. Those with no benefit from the placebo were now helped while those who had received the real thing the first time but the fake stuff this time had no improvement.

More spectacularly, these were all treatment-resistant patients. They had tried an average of six medicines each without relief.

Quiet bombshell in archeology.

The site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered was likely a pottery factory, not an Essene monastery.

[Link via Titusonenine.]
Anathema Sit!

That describes my view of the new planet-counting proposal offered at the International Astronomy Union's General Assembly this week.

If it passes, I hereby declare I will become an Old Solarist, and acknowledge nine--and only nine--planets.

Twelve is right out.

Henceforth, anyone who tries to call Ceres a planet or makes reference to "plutons" will be cast into the outer darkness (a/k/a the Oort Cloud).

So let it be written, so let it be done.

[H/t to Todd for the link].
Care for more scorpions, Tommy?

Tastes like chicken.

Uncle Di gives us an example of the assured result of modern biblical criticism: namely, agnosticism.

The arid wasteland that is Catholic biblical scholarship at the beginning of the 21st Century is nothing short of astounding. Far from opening the book to the faithful (as called for by the Second Vatican Council), this sort of thing slams it shut, essentially telling the reader he can't trust his lying eyes.

Moreover, it puts a gnostic elite between the lay reader and the Bible: the scholars are the ones who know what it really means, you poor benighted ignoramus. You need to run through the gauntlet, get swatted on the fanny with Bultmann, Wellhausen, et al and genuflect before the altar of form criticism before you can understand it. Preferably by spending lots of kaysh and writing a hardwood-smiting otiose dissertation that only the Ph.D committee will ever have the displeasure to read. But taking a formation program that feeds the results to the unfortunates in Alpo chunks will do just as well.

Either way, you're a fundy if you dare disagree with it.

I've always liked Diogenes' challenge to the scholar: "All right, fine. Then tell me how it would read differently if it had actually happened."

It's a nice way of telling His Imperial Majesty that he should at least consider a mansiere.
From the Some Men Are Strictly a Pleasure to Hang file.

They have arrested a suspect for the Ramsey murder.

In Bangkok. No doubt there for the chess.

He is also facing a child p**n charge. Odd, that.

He knew details not available to the public.

Yes, innocent until proven guilty.
Good on Rep. Jindal!

One of my favorite future candidates for President delivers his own son.

I only hope I could be as calm in the same situation.

"You need me to what?"

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Memo to self #5478.

It should be anticipated that the evening Mass on August 15 at a place called "Assumption Grotto" just might run past two hours.

That is all.
If you are a faithful Christian with a prayer life and you still read Andrew Sullivan after today...

I'd like to hear the reason why.

He used to be a daily read, but that ended in early 2005. Any feeble interest in returning to his site was killed dead by his coining of "Christianist," which if you hear it used unironically is a sure sign that you are dealing with a brain donor.

Even though I haven't read him for a while, I can picture his reaction to the firestorm: no apology, followed by several posts (including supportive e-mails from donors) saying that his larger point--the dread "Christianist" "theocrats" metanarrative--is still valid, whatever his "hyperbole" in this case might have been.

Those of you still willing to sup from his daily crock need to find healthier hobbies. Like starting that Magical Nose Goblin Collection you've been dreaming of.

Monday, August 14, 2006

For all your Mighty Mac information needs.

Links for your edification on the Mackinac Bridge:

The official website (including photo gallery), and

A useful Wikipedia entry, which includes the interesting tidbit that the Mackinac's chief engineer made sure to account for engineering lessons learned from the infamous Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse.

Good thing, that.
Lighter moments.

Courtesy of the offspring.

(1) Rachel is developing her own singing style. Unfortunately, it can be best described as The-Wiggles-Meets-Motorhead.

"La-baaa, la-la-GAGEEEEARGEEAAAAAAADHAAAAAAA, la...."

(2) Oh, and she can identify bulldozers--"Buda-budas." Drives D3 nuts--he's a perfectionist when it comes to the identification of heavy machinery.

(3) Speaking of Trip--he's becoming quite the rebutter.

Me: "OK--time to go outside to play."

D3: "I have a better idea--how about we do something else?"

(4) Oh, and like all boys, his "Why" chromosome is showing. As in "Why?" after every explanation.

"Son, did I ever tell you the story about The Boy Who Asked Too Many Questions?"

(5) I don't know if these fellows have any retail products, but if they do, buy.

They are the engineers working on a road project up the street. Heather took the kids up to watch, and one of the engineers gave D3 the company baseball cap right off his head.

He's wearing it everywhere.

Thanks, Black & Veatch.

(6) Maddie's sense of decorum is somewhat trying of late. If she relays a fact in your presence, but you don't know it's not for you, she lets you know. In the heavy, accented tones of tried patience:

"I wasn't talking to you, I was talking to Rachel."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Buy and Cell--Update.

The three cell phone-buying entrepreneurs from Texas have been indicted on terrorism charges. The hearing is set for Friday.

Apparently, there is cause to believe they were surveying a potential target: the Mackinac Bridge.

It will be interesting to see how this one pans out.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Traditude.

Or: You Know, Traditionalists Do Have a Legitimate Gripe.

Der Tommissar provides us with a prime example of episcopal tone-deafness from Santa Fe, where the Indult Mass parish is put on the same level as Fools Rush In chapels where the weddings are presided over by Elvis impersonators.

(That would be the fat, sideburned Vegas Elvii, not the '68 Comeback Special version.)

There's only so much you can take before you start developing that look...
Welcome Back!

To Mike Inman and Steve Skojec, two of my favorite sources of Pure EEEEEEvil (naturally--they're traditionalists).

And they're both off probation since neither asked for my leave to depart from blogging in the first place. All is forgiven.

Don't let it happen again.

On second thought: in Mike's case, mostly forgiven--now you tell me...

On a down note, Seattle Catholic is folding up shop. Though I could have done without the parting recommendation of the other Matt newspaper.
Buy and Cell.

Getting disposable cell phones in bulk sure seems to be the way of the youthful entrepreneur these days.

This one comes from shouting distance of my old home town, and involves three young men from Texas.

Via Pakistan, but anyway.

The problem with the "resale" technique is that you are driving all over the continent on gas that runs at $3 a gallon, for an $18 margin on each phone. And why would you chuck the other accessories?

Getting weirder and weirder.
The separation of Church and academy continues apace.

To my knowledge, the only current member of the Catholic Theological Society of America whose books sit on my shelf is Scott Hahn.

For quite a while now, I've thought that was just as well. Once again, that opinion has been thoroughly vindicated.

[Update: Don't take my word for it--consider this inspired bit of woodshedding by Avery Cardinal Dulles, as recorded in a March 1998 issue of Commonweal:

My own conclusion (not, I hope, a purely individual or unreflective one!) is that the 1997 convention of the CTSA confirms the presence of severe fault lines in contemporary American Catholicism, especially in the theological community. The CTSA, apparently driven by an urge for theological self-assertion against hierarchical authority, widens the gap and constitutes a kind of alternative magisterium for dissatisfied Catholics. It tends to impose an orthodoxy of its own. Graduate students who hope to find university teaching positions, and younger faculty seeking promotion and tenure, feel almost compelled to attend the CTSA and to refrain from vocal criticism.

Theologians are faced with a drastic choice: whether to follow the directions represented by the CTSA or to adhere to the tradition as taught by the popes and councils. Church authorities are faced with a similar choice. Can they recognize the CTSA as Catholic? Can anything be done to clarify or restore its Catholic character? Or must some new theological agency, more committed to Catholic principles, be established?]

Update on the Kids and Mass Issue.

First of all, thanks for the great, helpful comments--they have been much appreciated. Big hat-tips to Fr. Brian Stanley--that was a tonic for us both. If it weren't for $3 a gallon gas....

Second--a clarification: Heather already does keep our children toward the back of the Church, though we think the open space in that area may be part of Rachel's problem--she thinks there's room to roam.

Third--the actual update. A bit of a mixed bag, alas. First of all, she went. That was decided Tuesday. Not going to be exiled that easily. Mary A rode shotgun for Heather today, sitting with her and actually moving her closer to the altar. Rachel was better today, FWIW. The other two were their usual well-behaved selves.

As to the gentleman who approached Heather on Tuesday--it would be great to say he apologized. He did the next best thing, though--he sat near Heather and actually smiled and interacted with the children. Which earned him a shush-glare combo from Mary--"Don't complain about the kids and then get them laughing!"

I assure you, folks--he is a sweetheart of a guy who appears to have had a Kenny Rogers (the Tigers pitcher, not the singer) moment. Sometimes actually saying the words is the toughest thing.

The one down note was our current pastor's suggestion (relayed second-hand)--for Heather to sit back in the women's coat room as a "compromise." The room in question has two doors that open out into the church proper--but it's the worst of all worlds. First of all, you can't see much of anything. And second of all, the open doors don't muffle any noise.

I don't care much for this suggestion (and it is just that), and neither does Heather. Still trying to process what it means.

Finally, we are going to use some of the gentle suggestions (prayer for the individual(s)) offered the next time someone comes up with a complaint. If that doesn't shame them, Heather's handing the complainer my business card and advise them to call me directly.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Scenes from the suburbs.

I know the foiling of the terrorist plot in Britain is the big news, but keep your eyes on these stories, originating in my backyard:

Two 20 year old Dearborn men were arrested in Ohio with hundreds of disposable (making them untraceable) cell phones, $11G and detailed airport security documents and passenger lists.

The founder of the successful (and excellent, truth be told) Michigan restaurant chain La Shish is being investigated for his ties to Hezbollah, which is wildly popular among Lebanese Muslim immigrants.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Now, to serious matters.

Such as college fight songs. Jay Anderson offers up the SI list of the top five fight songs, and says it's only 40% crap-free.

I'm inclined to agree in large part with him.

(1) Notre Dame's fight song is worthy of a silver medal--in fact, I'm willing to concede it is a somewhat close second to The Victors. It was, after all, my high school's fight song. And by any objective standard, it's a good one. Almost anyone can sing the chorus, which is the sign of an enduring classic.

(2) I'll dissent slightly on Anchors Aweigh, too--it is another song that has entered into the popular culture, at least as a tune. I think part of the problem with the ranking is that none of the service academies have particularly serviceable sports programs, with a partial exception of the Air Force in football.

But the song is still a classic.

Definitely chuck the other two. I invariably sing "Barry Switzer/Barry Switzer..." every time I hear "Boomer Sooner." And "Rocky Top"? Yeesh. Hail Saban or whatever it is that the sofa-burners in East Lansing sing is light years better.

Put another way--your college fight song should not make a seamless transition to bands featuring guys puffing into moonshine jugs and picking away at 3-string banjoes.

Jay also had an earlier post with some interesting fodder, too.

My offering for a good fight song is On Wisconsin--underrated. And lousy for jug bands.

Oh, and in other college football news: Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Buckeyes.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Toddlers and Mass Attendance.

I'm about to break a big rule of mine--commenting about incidents at my own parish. I think it's generally a good rule to avoid talking about one's own, unless some gross outrage or news spotlight is involved. I definitely think discussing parish politics and personalities should be off limits, unless CNN shows up on the doorstep. I'll explain my reasoning later, but essentially, it's counterproductive.

Here's an exception, and I'm breaking that rule because I need some insight/advice.

Heather takes the kids to daily Mass on Tuesdays and Fridays. For those of you who don't know, our children and their birthdays are as follows: Madeleine, 9/6/01; Dale III, 2/24/03; and Rachel, 9/16/04.

[For some reason, our jointly-written guide, Child-Spacing: A Proven Method! continues to experience sluggish sales.]

She's been doing this for a while now. Daily Mass at our parish skews to retirees (though there is a homeschooling family of eight there on a regular basis, and Rachel's godparents also attend periodically). But, ultimately, it's an older crowd.

Unfortunately, Heather was confronted by one couple a few months back who told her that the kids shouldn't be coming to Mass. Heather was crushed by this, only to get an apology from the same couple a few days later. You see, Heather had confided in Mary A., one of the mainstays at daily Mass, a marvelous dynamo of Balkan heritage who went from calm to incandescent in three seconds, told Heather she was doing the right thing by bringing the kids to Mass, and made a point of sitting with Heather and the kids at the next few Masses. We don't know what happened after this, but we have reason to believe the apology Heather received was prompted, shall we say.

I'm not going to pretend that the children are perfect at Mass. But the older two are pretty good. Rachel--she's not so good. But Heather takes her out if she's a problem. And I don't know how many times she or I have heard from others that it's so nice to see kids at daily Mass. Often coupled with acknowledgements that they don't expect perfect behavior.

Our old associate Priest, Fr. Wojciech (an immigrant from Poland during the late '80s), went further--"Oh, let the children run. It's so good to see them here." Fr. Wojciech insisted that they ring the consecration bells--after Mass was over. [Great meat and potatoes priest and all around good man--we miss him.]

No, there are no cry rooms--that was the Irish founding pastor's firmest architectural requirement--"the kids belong in church. If I can't handle a crying baby, it's my problem."

Well, it happened again today. But this was worse--this time, she was confronted by another of the daily Mass mainstays, a gentleman we like, who bluntly asked why she brought the children to church, said they were getting nothing out of it, and further said they were disruptive. Now, it's true that she had to take Rachel into the foyer three times, but again, the older two were fine.

Mary A overheard this and again told Heather she was doing the right thing.

I'm looking for input on this one because I'm hovering somewhere near fusion temperature in my gut reaction. I also suspect nobody would have the clockweights to complain in my presence, but feel free to open up on a young mother, but that's another matter.

Thoughts?
Islamic reform?

Someone's taking a crack at it--in Turkey. An official Islamic body is attempting to delete some of the more offensive of the hadiths. Rather surprisingly, there's been only minimal grumbling and no protests. It has the the full backing of the Turkish government, too--which is currently dominated by an openly Islamic (and rather conservative) party.

Here's hoping.

Oh, and because I can't resist OTOH, consider this Freedom House report on Saudi hate literature found in American mosques [scroll down for the link].

Something to keep in mind as my humble suburb gets its first mosque, due to open in 2007.

Oh, and Bernard Lewis, a respected authority on Islam and the Arab world, has taken notice of significance of August 22.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Chloe--there's no time!

OK--for those of you who have suspected that there's something else underlying the fits-and-starts nature of the blogging in these parts...

...you are correct.

Since Chris Johnson's let the cat out of the bag, I might as well own up--I spend a lot of time aiding fellow crusaders in the blogosphere in rooting out nefarious doings in matters ecclesiastical.

Get the whole scoop in four installments: First, Second, Third and Fourth.

[Many thanks to Chris, who honors me greatly with his adventure installments.

It's almost like fanfic.

Editor: You'd need "fans" for that.

Ah--fair point.

I did say "almost."]
Long past time to start worrying about real theocrats.

As opposed to the ubiquitous and well-compensated hysterics about the fake ones in America.

Mark your calendar, folks--the Shia messianist in Tehran said he'd give the official response to the European Union's ultimatum about the Iranian nuclear program on August 22.

Uh-oh.

Long past time, but I know I'm dreaming on this one.

Oh, go ahead and hit the snooze bar.

"Fight the real enemy!" as Sinbad so famously and bravely said on Saturday Night Live.

Anyway, I'm sure Pat Robertson's up to no good, too.

Or that guy Falwell--remember, he has his own university.

[Cue ominous music.]

They probably teach intelligent design there, too.

And that's just as bad as a rogue unsupervised nuclear program, when you think about it.

Because all fundamentalists are the same, right?

Right.

Whew--glad's that's over.


Say, what do you think's on Bravo right now?

Friday, August 04, 2006

How Not To Defend Liturgical Reform--Exhibit A.

Fr. Jan Larson of the Archdiocese of Seattle shows you how, in a tidy 766 words.

I was recently watching a part of the daily televised liturgy on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network).

You know--them. No doubt Father had a snifter of vermouth handy and had already taken the precaution of slathering himself with a topical cream to pre-empt the hives.

The liturgy there is an odd mix of English and Latin, while following the texts of the current Roman Missal.

And so Fr. Larson begins his anthropological examination of this strange relict population ("odd mix", whatever that is). The difference being that this particular anthropologist wishes his subjects would get themselves extinct, posthaste.

The priest and ministers of the liturgy look way too somber and serious.

What--no balloons, streamers and spandex? Oh, that's right--this band of unreconstructed Alabamans still believe in that "Holy Sacrifice of the Mass" hokery.

How quaint.

[If you are wondering why the Brompton Oratory/Assumption Grotto/Saint Agnes/Irondale approach is still an isolated phenomenon seen only at a handful of stubborn enclaves, here's your sign, as Bill Engvall would say. Note that Fr. Larson is a "liturgical consultant." 'Nuff said.]

The ritual is performed with all the exaggerated exactness of the pre-Vatican II Latin liturgy. The Mass is overly formal and mechanical.

Come on, lighten up--warm the crowd up with some jokes, funny stories about your visit to the proctologist and supermarket, and extemporaneous commentary during the consecration--we're an Easter people, don'tcha know? I'm sure the Last Supper was more of a roast, anyway, with Peter goofing on Jesus always picking up the check and such.

It's probably the real reason Judas got all ticked off and left. He was too much of a rubricist and thought everything should be more solemn. In fact, I think I read a biblical scholar saying that somewhere once.

Needless to say, there are no women allowed in the sanctuary area,

They even read the long form of the second reading for August 27th! [Cue hissing]

there is no procession with the gifts,

Because the 35% of the audience that is composed of XYs really need to see that brunette in the spaghetti straps bounce up with the wafers. Talk about "conscious participation"!

Ba-da-boom!

OK, I exaggerate. Abuses probably aren't good enough reason to eliminate it in their entirety. But they aren't a bad argument...

no Sign of Peace, and, of course, no Communion from the cup for the lay people who are present.

OK, I can see the gripe on these. So long as the former isn't a tooth-grinding enforced Hugfest, I've never understood the grousing.

And complaints about making the cup available to the laity have zero--zero--traction with me. Unless you are talking about barely-catechized Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion not understanding the fuss about "spilling the wine."

Apart from that, communion under both kinds is a fuller sacramental sign, folks.

The liturgy, in effect, is unlike anything that Catholics experience in the vast majority of Catholic parish churches.

And that's.............bad? Oh, of course.

Diversity for me but not thee.

I am certain that the planners of these liturgies would explain their differences from parish liturgies with the familiar refrain that the post Vatican II liturgical reforms have taken too much of the mystery away from the Holy Mass.

Not that I've actually ever tried to talk with one of them, of course. What are you, nuts? No, I just know what they're thinking. You know how they are.

Certainly, they say, allowing the congregation full, active and conscious participation in the ritual is what empties the rites of their mystery, so the further we keep the secular congregation away from the clerical activity and space, the better to preserve the liturgyÂ?s mystery.

Well, of course that's what they say: Strawy the Sockpuppet is my ever-helpful foil! Right, Strawy?

[Strawy nods.] "You got it, Fr. Jan. You good guy liturgists illumined by the Holy Spirit have seen through our hateful charade again! That's exactly how us preconciliar sexist troglodytes think and speak! Curses, foiled again!"

Thus the need to eliminate any personal touch with the lay folks, and, by all means, do not allow them to communicate with each other, even to wish oneÂ?s neighbor the peace of the risen Christ.

Strawy: "Damn, but you're good, Fr. Jan. Can't fool you!"

(One wonders what these people think of the pope as he hugs and kisses the children who present him with the gifts to be offered, giving each of them a small gift as a remembrance of the liturgy. Perhaps it is all right for the pope to be warm and personable during the liturgy, but inappropriate for lesser souls.)

Strawy: "The bright face--it burnsss us, burnnnsss us. Nassssty liturgissstt! Gollum. Gollum!"

Time for more topical cream, Fr. Jan. Oh, hell--just dump the vermouth all over yourself.

All we've managed to learn thus far is that a liturgical consultant for the Archdiocese of Seattle ["Welcome to Hunthausen Country--Hope You Like Your Felt Banners in Teal!™"] doesn't like EWTN much.

Cotton, I feel shocked...

I think the folks responsible for these stuffy

Smiles, everyone--Smiles! Welcome...to Liturgy Island!

liturgies are confusing mystery with mystification. Rites that express mystery will invite people into the unknown, into what lies beyond the action of the ritual. Liturgy done well this way will cause people to ask, 'How does this ritual which I can see, and in which I am participating, lead me more deeply into the beyond, into life of the God of mystery whom I cannot see? Mystification, on the other hand, leads one to ask,What on earth does that mean, and why in God's name is he doing that?'

Which explains perfectly, of course, why the average American parish liturgy has all the mystery and sacramental transcendence of the annual company picnic.

Complete with sack races.

Luke Timothy Johnson, author of The Creed and other works, wrote recently in Commonweal magazine about the concerns of many conservative Catholics that paying attention to one another during the liturgy (what he calls horizontal values) have distracted us too much from the vertical values-our relationship with God and Christ.

So much easier to have someone else do your thinking for you. Actually, I often like LTJ--I own and have profited from reading two of his books. But he's talking out his condescending tailpipe here.

He writes:

Critics who complain that these horizontal values have been realized at the cost of vertical ones, that mystery and a sense of the transcendent have disappeared among all the folksiness, need gently to be reminded of the difference between mystery and mystification. We who grew up in a Tridentine liturgy and who witnessed the travails of reform can bear an important witness to those of a younger generation who hanker after the good old days.

OK. Being a troglodyte and all, I'm not one to discount out of hand the wisdom of my elders. But, having heard enough hyper-emotive carping from a certain segment of those elders, I am not particularly impressed by the bottom line content of the complaining. Yes, Sister Mary Margaret Flagrum and her rosary belt and all that--but that doesn't mean you are in a position to tell the rest of us "shut up." Methinks all too many of you giddily tossed the baby with the bathwater.

The griping sounds like the Catholic liturgical equivalent of having to walk to school ten miles each day, uphill both ways, having to chop wood on recess and writing the daily lessons with a broken pencil on scraps of cardboard you collected while spending the remaining 26 hours of each day working in the salt mines so you could have fresh kelp on your dry toast every third Sunday. Not...particularly persuasive.

Some fear they have missed the solemn richness of Catholic piety,

We haven't "missed" it--it's been hidden from us by people who think they know better. And have given a lot of crap excuses for the hiding. See, e.g., Lynch, Bishop Robert N.

believing that the reformed liturgy comes dangerously close to Protestant worship, and that the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is the essential expression of authentic Eucharistic theology.

Well, some would argue that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is essential. But what did he know (scroll to No. 25)?

But we are in a position to state that for every example of splendid monastic liturgy in the old days there were countless examples of parish worship that appeared meaninglessly mechanical.

Like it too often isn't today? Behold the Haugen-Haas Four Hymn Sandwich, coming to your parish this Sunday. And I'd be willing to bet a substantial portion of my next paycheck that, if you pick any parish at random out of the directory, you will not hear the Roman Canon this Sunday.

We know that birettas and fiddle-back chasubles, mumbled (and often mangled) Latin, and truly execrable renditions of Gregorian chant were no more aesthetically than theologically impressive. Having lived through speed-typing Masses guaranteed to last no more than twenty minutes, we can point to the greater seriousness, even greater solemnity, of parish worship today. Those who call contemporary worship insufficiently sacred literally do not know what they are talking about.

Oh, of course not. Why believe our lying eyes and ears when we can just take the voice of experience at face value?

Fine--I buy that way too many of the masses in the 50s were slapdash mumblefests, that the music was treacle (plus ca change) and that too few understood what was going on.

"But everything's just great now--trust us"? Sorry. Not buying at any price. I've been to too damn many masses featuring the precious/stupid/cutesy/ego-tripping and, yessir, the flat-out heretical. All of which do a fine job of obscuring the transcendent features of the Mass--that mystery stuff--and turning the liturgy into the vehicle for a different agenda.

So, yes, I do know what I'm talking about. And Houston, we have a problem.

As for the growing similarity among the Eucharistic celebrations of Catholics and Protestants, we should rejoice that Catholics now feel at home at Lutheran, Methodist, and Episcopalian worship,

Every last one of those churches is bleeding out by the hour, but yeah--rejoice....

Would that this were entirely the case, though--after all, my old Methodist Church (built in 1912) had altar rails and stained glass with Catholic themes (Peter being crucified upside down). My current parish has neither, of course.

and that our Protestant neighbors have gained much through our process of renewal and reform.

Such as? Whatever it is, it sure hasn't caused them to worry about SRO every Sunday.

The Catholic form of worship remains a strong motivation for conversion among adults. As we have known all along, God works powerfully through the words and gestures of the liturgy; the hard work of renewal has served to make God's work plain and public each Sunday when we gather as 'church.'

Yes, it can. But the exact same thing can be said for the Catholic liturgy before the 21st ecumenical council, too. The fact remains that there is the strong and growing sense among many of the faithful that something has been lost--something is missing--since the reform of the liturgy in 1970.

And sneering "Look at the EWTN freakshow" or "Shut up, Junior, I know better" isn't a response.

It's denial.

Still, whatever helps you stay smug at night.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Pie in the sky, by and by.

Madness. A complete disconnect from reality.

Those are the words that come to mind in reading former American ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn's commentary on the war in Lebanon, published in the most recent issue of the National Catholic Register.

I don't say that lightly. As someone who hopes the Democrats come back to their Truman/Kennedy/Humphrey/Scoop Jackson senses (and who has a yard sign for a local Dem on his lawn), I have always liked Ray Flynn. He is a connection to a Democratic past that is a whole lot more palatable to me than their Koss-ack/Deanie Baby/Fun with Blackface present.

But this offering from Flynn is nothing short of blinkered. And worse.

A few words beforehand. First, what many non-Catholics fail to recognize in the Church's positioning on the war can be summed up in one word: Maronites. As in the Maronite Catholic Church, whose home is in Lebanon. Consequently, the Vatican can hardly be sanguine about a shooting war taking place in the neighborhood of her largest and healthiest Church in the Levant, and rightfully so. Analysis of the criticism by Rome needs to keep this indispensible fact in mind.

And no, I don't regard Israel's military actions as above reproach, including an early targetting package that seemed calculated to do as much damage to the Lebanese government as to Hezbollah. Israel is a civilized Western nation that has to be held to a civilized standard.

But, but, but.

Look carefully at Flynn's piece. Look for the following words: Hezbollah, Islamic, and terrorist.

Total running tally: one--for terrorist. And it's a quote, not Ray Flynn's own word.

Instead, we are treated to a caning of Israel--and Israel alone. Along with "political extremists" and "special interest groups."

For which the only sensible reading in the context of the essay is "Jews," of course. Which adds a faintly sinister cast to the piece as well, I'm sorry to say.

Not a shred of the essay shows the slightest awareness of the existence of the puppetmasters in Syria or Iran. Instead, Israel is the bully.

This failure to understand the basic facts on the ground would be amazing if it weren't so utterly sickening.

Would Flynn be so detached if the Republic of Ireland had struck back after the Ulster Volunteer Force had raided into County Monaghan, killing and kidnapping Irish troops? Would he be telling the Republican Irish that they needed to forebear while the UVF lobbed Katushyas into Ireland in a belt from Mayo to Wicklow?

Sure, no analogy is perfect, but in that case I doubt we'd be hearing words about the Irish lobby's pernicious influence on American politics and tarring of the U.S.' reputation as an honest broker.

A tragic misstep from an otherwise sensible man--but one that needs to be repudiated nonetheless.
Melovision.

Hopefully, the last word on L'Affaire Gibson--I steer you over to Victor Morton's essay (the permalinks aren't working--scroll down).

Good stuff to ponder, including the details on Mr. Gibson's BAC.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mel's Der Sturmer moment.

Grim--and more than a little embarrassing, given the pixels I emitted defending him and his film project in 2003 and 2004.

As I've said in the past, the anti-Semitic cast of too many traditionalists is one thing that repels me from joining their ranks.

A couple of things to keep in mind, though:

(1) I'm not sure how far the fruit can fall from the tree, but remember what he was raised with. Yes, he loves his father (with many good reasons), but his father is, to put it charitably, a Jew-hater. Being raised around such views is unhealthy, to say the least. But--we have to judge Mel by Mel's actions, not Hutton's. His public (and near as we can tell, private) behavior is light years from that of his father.

(2) In vino veritas is mostly, if not totally, bullshit. Getting hammered on alcohol makes you a staggering, slurring id machine--it does not reveal "the real you."

I've been blind, stinking drunk on a few occasions, none in the last 10-12 years (with age comes some painfully earned wisdom). Least memorably, at one Christmas party held by the grocery store I worked at in the mid-80s to early 90s. I say "least memorably" because I remember nothing of the last two hours, culminating in a dignity-affirming bout of barfing all over myself. I have it on eyewitness authority that I was a belligerent jerk who had to be rescued by co-workers from a pending fistfight. Apparently, I ordered a less-inebriated gentleman to vacate "my seat," liberally using the f-bomb. Naturally, I hadn't sat in that seat at any point during the evening. The only reason I didn't get clocked was, and I quote: "Even though you were acting like a jackass, the other guy is an asshole sober. Everybody hates him."

To make a long story short, the drunken thing I was that evening wasn't the "real" me. The only thing people really learned about me that night was that I can't handle clear spirits.

Likewise with Mel Gibson--the only thing we have learned about him is that he is an alcoholic in need of help.

Oh, and that he avoids passive-voice non-apologies for appalling conduct, too.
The heat index is supposed to hit 110 today.

I mowed the lawn early Saturday morning (just before my fantasy league live draft, which turned out "eh"). My mother in law (no a/c) has been living with us for the past three days, and will probably be with us until Thursday. The pets go out on a timer (but at least our stupid dog does the Dixie hound thing and hides under the deck after composting the yard).

Ominously, the Detroit power grid is creaking some, as businesses have been asked to modify their air conditioning temperatures, turn off any equipment not being used for more than an hour at a time and to use window blinds.

The heat wave can leave now.
Prayers for John Miesel and family.

The husband of Sandra Miesel is dying of cancer.

Any prayers or good wishes you can offer would be greatly appreciated.