Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: The Year That Was

3: The Hawkey Cauci. B. Hussein Obama wins the Democrat caucus, and Mike Huckabee wins the Republican caucus.
8: John McCain wins the Republican primary in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton wins the Democrat primary.
14: Bobby Jindal is sworn in as Governor of Louisiana. He is the first person of Indian (i.e., from India) descent to hold a U.S. governorship. He is also Catholic and conservative, giving him one of the highest coolness factors of any governor in the nation.
19: The Jesuits elect Adolfo Nicolas as their 30th Superior General.
28: George W. Bush delivers his last State of the Union address.

Deaths: Fr. Marcial Maciel (founder of the Legionaries of Christ); Margaret Truman Daniel (daughter of President Harry S Truman -- and the absence of a period after the "S" is deliberate); Gordon B. Hinckley (president of the Mormon church); Suharto (second President of Indonesia); Christian Brando; Heath Ledger; Suzanne Pleshette; Sir Edmund Hillary; Carl Karcher (founder of Carl's Jr.); Johnny Grant (honorary Mayor of Hollywood).

2: Murder spree, Tinley Park, Illinois: gunman shoots five people to death in a clothing store, then flees on foot.
5: 58 people die in an incredible tornado outbreak in the southern United States.
7: Murder spree, Kirkwood, Missouri: shooter kills five and wounds two before being shot to death by police.
8: The Nebraska Supreme Court rules that the electric chair "violates" human dignity and is therefore unconstitutional.
12: The Writer's Guild of American votes to end its three-month-long strike. The difference is unnoticeable.
13: The U.S. Senate passes legislation prohibiting the CIA from using, on suspected terrorists, water-boarding, which is used on American soldiers in survival training. President Bush will veto, and the House will fail to override.
14: Murder spree, Northern Illinois University: shooter kills five and wounds 18, and is himself killed.
19: Fidel Castro "retires" from office.
24: Raul Castro "succeeds" Fidel.
25: My mother's [CENSORED]th birthday.
29: Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, is kidnapped. He will later be found murdered and buried in a shallow grave.

Deaths: William F. Buckley, Jr. (no introduction necessary); David Groh (Valerie Harper's husband on Rhoda); Roy Scheider; Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (confidence man who served as "guru" to, among others, the Beatles).

3: Padre Pio's remains are exhumed, later to be placed on display for public veneration. Murder spree, West Palm Beach, Florida: shooter kills one, wounds three before turning the gun on himself.
6: NASA announces the discovery of rings around Saturn's moon Rhea.
10: New York governor Elliot Spitzer is linked to an international online prostitution ring.
12: Murder spree, McComb, Mississippi: shooter kills two people at a bank, kidnaps and murders his wife, then turns the gun on himself.
13: The Redoubtable Marcus Magnus celebrates his [CENSORED]th birthday.
25: Murder spree, Sitka, Alaska: man with a knife murders four and wounds one before being stopped by police.
27: Murder spree, Columbus, Georgia: shooter at Doctors Hospital kills three and is himself wounded by police.

Deaths: Lazare Ponticelli (last surviving French veteran of World War I); Dith Pran (Killing Fields survivor); Richard Widmark; Sir Arthur C. Clarke; Paul Scofield (Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons); Ivan Dixon (Kinch in Hogan's Heroes).

9: Tiny Sark, one of the British Channel Islands, resigns its feudal system of government after 450 years, under pressure to comply with Europe's human rights laws people, proving nothing is too small to escape the EU's officious attention.
14: The United States takes possession of its new embassy in Iraq.
16: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that death by lethal injection is not cruel and unusual punishment.
20: Brazilian priest Adelir Antonio de Carli goes missing after taking flight under a cluster of balloons; the lower half of his body will be found floating in the sea in July.
28: A spate of tornadoes hits the state of Virginia, causing property damage and injuring more than 200.

Deaths: Charlton Heston; Joy Page (Bulgarian bride Annina Brandel in Casablanca); Stanley Kamel (character actor; played the shrink on Monk); Fr. Adam Stuzinski, OP (chaplain of Polish forces during World War II).

1-2: Killer tornado outbreak leaves seven dead in Arkansas. Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Nargis makes landfall in Burma (Myanmar) on the 2nd. Despite the pleas of President Bush, the Burmese government will dink around about accepting foreign aid for this worst natural disaster in the nation's history. The death toll is at least in the six figures.
10: A tornado hits Picher, Oklahoma, killing nine.
18: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown endorses a bill to allow the sick practice of research on human-animal hybrid embryos.
19: A bill to ban the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos goes down to defeat in the British House of Commons.
24: More than a dozen tornadoes hit Kansas, killing two.
28: By gubernatorial fiat, the state of New York recognizes gay "marriages" from other jurisdictions.
30: Murder spree, Hazard, Kentucky: shooter murders a magistrate and a county employee at a convenience store, then turns the gun on himself.

Deaths: Lorenzo Odone (at age 30, world's oldest surviving adrenoleukodystrophy patient; portrayed in the film Lorenzo's Oil); Harvey Korman; Franz Künstler (last known surviving Central Powers veteran of World War I); Sydney Pollack; J.R. Simplot (Idaho potato magnate); Dick Martin (of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In); Alexander Courage (Hollywood composer, probably best known for the theme from the original Star Trek); Mildred Loving (with husband Richard, co-plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, which struck down anti-miscegination laws).

5: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others detained at Club Gitmo are charged with crimes related to the 9/11 attacks.
6: The Diet of Japan recognizes the Hairy Ainu, who resemble Caucasians, as a people indigenous to Japan.
9: Pursuant to the Great Tomato Salmonella Scare, McDonald's stops serving tomato slices on its hamburgers.
12: The Supreme Court rules that Club Gitmo detainees have standing to challenge their detention in U.S. courts.
16: California's court-mandated adoption of gay "marriage" officially takes effect.
20: NASA announces that the Phoenix Lander has discovered water ice on Mars.
25: The Exxon Valdez case: the Supreme Court rules that the damages award of $2.7 billion was excessive, and reduces it to $507 million. Murder spree, Henderson, Kentucky: shooter murders five, wounds one at a plastics plant before turning the gun on himself.
26: District of Columbia v. Heller: the Supreme Court rules strikes down a D.C. gun control law on the grounds that it violates the Second Amendment, holding that the prefatory clause of the Amendment does not restrict the scope of the operative clause.

Deaths: George Carlin; Cyd Charisse; Tim Russert; David Brierly (British actor; the voice of K-9 on the old Dr. Who); Jack Lucas (WWII veteran, youngest Marine to win the Congressional Medal of Honor); Bo Diddley; Mel Ferrer; Yves Saint Laurent.

1: The investigation into the disappearance of British three-year-old Madeline McCann, which took place in May of 2007 in Portugal, is closed without results.
2: A Palestinian in a bulldozer goes on a rampage in Jerusalem, killing three and injuring dozens of others before being shot dead by police. On July 22, another Palestinian will go on a similar rampage with a backhoe, injuring 16 before being shot dead.
3: NASA announces the discovery of water in the atmosphere of Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.
4: Murder spree, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: an anonymous shooter murders four at a street party.
7: The governing body of the Church of England votes to allow women to become bishops.
10: The iconic Capitoline Wolf statue, depicting Romulus and Remus being nursed by a she-wolf, is found to be, not an Etruscan work, but one dating only from the 13th century.
13: Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Sydney, Australia for World Youth Day.
15: Three-year-old Caylee Anthony is reported missing in Orlando, Florida.
21: Pope Benedict offers a special Mass in Sydney for victims of clergy sexual abuse.
23: Hurricane Dolly makes landfall on South Padre Island, Texas.
Barack Obama delivers an America-bashing speech at the Tiergarten in Berlin, Germany.
27: Murder spree, Knoxville, Tennessee: a shooter kills two and wounds seven at a Unitarian Universalist church. The shooter was tackled and arrested.
30: NASA confirms the discovery of a liquid lake on Titan, Saturn's largest moon.
31: NASA announces the discovery of water on Mars.

Deaths: Greg Burson (cartoon voice actor); Estelle Getty; Eric Dowling (British World War II P.O.W., participant in the real Great Escape from Stalag Luft III); Patricia Buckley Bozell (founder of Catholic Journal Triumph and sister of William F. Buckley, Jr.); Tony Snow; Dr. Michael DeBakey (world-renowned heart surgeon); Larry Harmon (Bozo the Clown); Elizabeth Spriggs (Mrs. Jennings in Emma Thompson's film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility); Jesse Helms.

4: Conservative commentator Robert Novak retires after 45 years, due to a brain tumor.
8: The 2008 Summer Olympics open in Beijing. The world will rise to its feet in indignation when it turns out the little girl who sang the patriotic song was lip-synching another little girl, who was rejected for the part on account of her teeth. Also: outbreak of the South Ossetia War between Georgia and Russia.
13: Bill Gwatney, chairman of the Arkansas Democrat Party, is murdered at his headquarters; police later kill the shooter during a pursuit.
21: A freshman murders a sophomore at Central High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. The shooter is charged with first-degree murder.
23: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announces plans to implement a regulation that would protect the jobs of health care workers who refuse to carry out morally objectionable duties, such as performing abortions and dispensing contraception. In other news, Barack Obama picks Joe "Hairplugs" Biden as his vice-presidential running mate. The world yawns.
27: The Democrat National Convention begins. The world fails to grind to a halt.
28: Barack Obama formally accepts the Democrat nomination, becoming the first black in American history to be nominated by a major party as its candidate for President of the United States. In other news, Mexico's Supreme Court upholds, by a wide margin, the Mexican Federal District's act legalizing abortion.
29: John McCain picks Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential nominee. The conservative base is electrified, though, after years of McCain's "maverick" defeatism, it proves to be too little, too late.

Deaths: Jerry Reed (country singer and actor); Jeff MacKay (character actor: Magnum P.I., Black Sheep Squadron); Sandy Allen (world's tallest woman); Isaac Hayes; Bernie Mac; Bernie Brillstein (big movie and TV producer); Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

1: Sarah Palin's teenaged daughter is revealed to be pregnant out of wedlock. The liberals, otherwise huge fans of sex outside of marriage, let loose a blistering avalanche of calumnies against Governor Palin and her family. Also: Hurricane Gustav, after tearing through the Carribean and causing seven deaths in the United States, weakens to a tropical storm. The drive-by media are downcast at not having a repeat of Hurricane Katrina.
2: Murder spree, Alger, Washington: shooter murders six, including a sheriff's deputy, and wounds four in various locations before surrendering to police. Mental illness appears to have been a factor.
4: John McCain officially accepts the Republican party's nomination for President.
8: A certain Dominican lawyer blogger celebrates her [CENSORED!!!]th birthday.
11: The Pentagon Memorial to those who died at the Pentagon on 9/11 opens to the public.
12: 24 are killed and 135 injured in a collision between a Metrolink passenger train and a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth, California. Also: North Korea's pot-bellied dictator, Kim Jong Il, is reported to be gravely ill after skipping his country's anniversary celebrations, an event he never misses.
13: After a devastating run through the Carribbean, Hurricane Ike makes landfall in Galveston, Texas.
23: A shooter murders 10 people at Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences in Kauhajoki, Finland, then turns the gun on himself.
27: Mathematicians at UCLA announce the discovery of a 13-million-digit Mersenne Prime.

Deaths: Richard Wright (founding member of Pink Floyd); George Putnam (Los Angeles TV news reporter); Don LaFontaine (voice-over actor); Paul Newman.

1: The Supreme Court of Russia exonerates Czar Nicholas II, the Czarina and their five children of alleged crimes cited to justify their massacre at Yekaterinburg in 1918, and ordered that they be recognized as victims of Soviet repression.
2: Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin kicks liberal ass in the debate against Democrat candidate Joe Biden, despite having a debate moderator that is not only in the tank for Obama, but has a financial stake in his presidential victory in virtue of her forthcoming book about his speculative administration.
3: Subprime mortgage crisis: President Bush signs the Armageddon Avoidance Act into law. Also: 13 years to the day after being acquitted in the murder of his wife and her friend Ron Goldman, O.J. Simpson is convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping. He faces life in prison.
10: The Connecticut Supreme Court discovers a right of gay couples to marry.
12: Pope Benedict canonizes St. Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, India's first woman saint.
14: Ohio double murderer Richard Cooey loses his battle to avoid execution on the grounds that his obesity made lethal injection cruel and unusual punishment.
19: Media liberals lapse into a collective orgasmic coma when Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama for President.
22: The Indian Space Research Organization launches Chandrayaan, an unmanned lunar exploration mission.
24: Actress and singer Jennifer Hudson's mother and brother are murdered, and her seven-year-old nephew is kidnapped. He will later be found murdered.
26: Murder spree, Conway, Arkansas: two are killed and one is wounded by four shooters at the University of Central Arkansas. Three of the shooters are captured, and the fourth later turned himself in.
27: Sen. Ted Stevens (R.-Alaska) is found guilty of seven counts of making false statements on Senate financial documents.
28: North Korea threatens to turn South Korea into "debris" if South Korea doesn't stop so-called "confrontational activities."
29: 100 people are killed in a 6.5 magnitude earthquake in Ziarat, Pakistan. Also: the government forces $125 billion in "bailout" money on nine banks, some of which tried to turn it down.
31: A 12-year-old boy is shot to death in Sumter, South Carolina while trick-or-treating with his family; his father and brother are wounded.

Deaths: House Peters, Jr. (prolific actor best known as "Mr. Clean"); Lloyd Thaxton (television personality); Peter Vansittart (British novelist); Levi Stubbs (the Four Tops); Gil Stratton, Jr. (sportscaster and actor; "Cookie" in Stalag 17); Mr. (Richard) Blackwell (fashion critic); Louis "Studs" Terkel (author and broadcaster); Delmar Watson (former child actor; member of the renowned Watson family of Hollywood); Estelle Reiner.

3: Sarah Palin is cleared of all wrongdoing in the alleged "Troopergate" "scandal" in Alaska, connected with her dismissal of her sleazeball brother-in-law from his post as public safety commissioner. Also: Barack Obama's declaration of intent to bankrupt the coal industry finally makes it into the mainstream news.
4: Barack Obama wins the presidential election.
5: Proposition 8, outlawing gay "marriage" in California, passes.
10: Circuit City files for bankruptcy under Chapter 11.
13: For the first time, the existence of extra-solar planets is visually verified. Also: the Montecito Tea Fire ignites, the first in a series of disastrous wildfires that whips across southern California, destroying hundreds of homes.
14: General Ann E. Dunwoody becomes America's first female four-star general.
19: The California Supreme Court agrees to hear a challenge to the newly-passed Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman, thereby overriding a contrary state supreme court decision.
21: To no one's surprise, Hillary Clinton agrees to be Secretary of State.
23: Mahmoud Abbas is named "President of Palestine."
24: U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown announces plans to increase the income tax rate for the first time since 1975.
26: Islamist terrorists begin a four-day attack on the Indian city of Mumbai, murdering 172 and wounding 293.

Deaths: John Leonard (liberal protege of William F. Buckley, Jr.); Michael Crichton; Miriam Makeba (South African singer); Arthur Shawcross (the "Genessee River Killer"); Edna Parker (the world's oldest living person, age 115); Rev. George Docherty (Presbyterian minister; helped get the words "under God" added to the Pledge of Allegiance); William Gibson (playwright, author of The Miracle Worker).

2: Sen. Saxby Chambliss wins the runoff Senate election in Georgia, thereby ending Democrat hopes for a supermajority in the Senate.
5: O.J. Simpson gets 9 to 33 years for kidnapping and robbery in Las Vegas. He will be 70 before he is eligible for parole.
6: Anh "Joseph" Quang Cao defeats corrupt congressman William Jefferson (D.-Louisiana), becoming the first Vietnamese American to be elected to the House of Representatives. (Plus, he's Republican, and a devout Catholic.)
9: The FBI arrests Democrat Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges, including trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat.
11: The remains of Caylee Anthony are found near the child's home.
15: In the latest manifestation of global warming, an ice storm strikes New England and leaves thousands without power in Maine, Massachusetts, New York and New Hampshire.
16: The Illinois House of Representatives votes to get the ball rolling on impeaching Democrat governor Rod Blagojevich.
27: Israel begins the launch of air strikes, code-named "Operation Cast Lead," against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
28: The United States vetoes a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at stopping Operation Cast Lead.
31: Whatever huge event happens after this post goes up.

Deaths: Paul Benedict (actor, Harry Bentley on The Jeffersons); Sunny von Bülow (heiress; alleged victim in infamous Klaus von Bülow case); Alexy II (primate of Russian Orthodox Church); Nina Foch (actress; "Bithia" in The Ten Commandments); Van Johnson; Majel Barrett Roddenberry (actress and widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry); Paul Weyrich (conservative commentator and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation); Avery Cardinal Dulles; Bettie Page (1950s pinup model); Jack Douglas (British comedian and star of the Carry On films); Eartha Kitt; Dale Wasserman (playwright: Man of La Mancha and One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest).

Here's to 2009. May the New Year be an improvement over the old one.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Today in History

Just can't think of anything to post right now; but since this is the end of the year, and everybody is feeling in more or less a nostalgic mood, I thought a this-day-in-history piece wouldn't be bad. Incidentally, the figure pictured to the right is Clio, the Greek muse of history.

1460: The Battle of Wakefield, a major battle in the Wars of the Roses, takes place. Richard Plantagenet, Third Duke of York and claimant to the throne, is killed. Although his death in battle comes betwixt the coronation and his hopes, two of his sons (Edward IV and Richard III) become kings.

1640: Death of St. John Francis Regis, patron of lacemakers and founder of the Confraternities of the Blessed Sacrament.

1862: Sinking of the U.S.S. Monitor, the U.S. Navy's first ironclad ship.

1865: English writer Rudyard Kipling is born.

1884: Hideki Tojo, Japan's wartime prime minister, is born.

1905: Former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg is assassinated at his home in Caldwell by a bomb on his gate. Steunenberg's statue stands directly in front of the State House, across Jefferson Street.

1919: Lincoln's Inn, to which St. Thomas More belonged, admits its first female member.

1928: Bo Diddley, who died in June of this year, is born.

1942, 1945: Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones, two of the Monkees, are born.

1975: Tiger Woods is born.

1979: Richard Rodgers, of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame, dies.

1993: The Vatican opens diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.

1996: Death of actor Lew Ayres.

2006: Saddam Hussein kicks the bucket at the end of a rope.

See? At least now you have something you didn't have before: some more trivial information for use at cocktail parties.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

December 28th: Feast of the Holy Family

Prayer to the Holy Family

O most loving Jesus, Who by Thy sublime and beautiful virtues of humility, obedience, poverty, modesty, charity, patience and gentleness, and by the example of Thy domestic life, didst bless with peace and happiness the family Thou didst choose on earth, in Thy clemency look down upon this household, humbly prostrate before Thee and imploring Thy mercy. Remember that this family belongs to Thee; for to Thee we have in a special way dedicated and devoted ourselves. Look upon us in Thy loving kindness; preserve us from danger; give us help in time of need, and grant us the grace to persevere to the end in the imitation of Thy Holy Family; that having revered Thee and loved Thee faithfully on earth, we may bless and praise Thee eternally in heaven.

O Mary, most sweet Mother, to thy intercession we have recourse, knowing that thy Divine Son will hear thy prayers.

And do thou, O glorious Patriarch, St. Joseph, assist us by thy powerful mediation, and offer, by the hands of Mary, our prayers to Jesus. Amen.

Friday, December 26, 2008

When Jokes Come True

Remember in Ninotchka, when Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas are at the top of the Eiffel Tower looking out over the city lights of Paris? He asks her if it isn't a beautiful view; after agreeing that it is, she delivers the other shoe, with a perfectly straight face: But it's a wa-a-a-aste of electricity.

Now, the line in question is very funny. It's funny both because of the deadpan delivery, and because the misplaced focus of attention on electrical consumption in the face of so much beauty is absurd. Nowadays, though, you have to wonder how many people would still find this funny. Unfortunately, too many people that are being looked up to as authorities have no sense of the absurd; and, even more unfortunately, too many people who should know better are taking them seriously.

And so it is that the Australian press -- also with a perfectly straight face -- vouchsafes us a story under the following headline: Scientists Warn Christmas Lights Harm the Planet.

"CSIRO [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation] researchers said householders should know that each bulb turned on in the name of Christmas will increase emissions of greenhouse gases," the story solemnly intones. Since Australia's electricity comes from coal, the evil of using Christmas lights to celebrate the birth of the Redeemer means an increase in "greenhouse gas emissions." Bottom line: Christianity is killing the planet.

But since the planet-destroying plebes are not willing to give up their primitive religious holidays and superstitions -- and the equally primitive desire for illumination during long winter nights -- the CSIRO has come up with helpful hints on how they can minimize their impact on our fragile ecosystem, until such time as they can be made to adopt the enlightened sterility of their betters. Timers, "energy-efficient bulbs," solar-powered lights, or "sourcing your electricity from verified green power suppliers" are all proffered as ways to avoid choking the globe on unnecessary Christmas emissions.

Well. Most people have no problem with timers, since they like to save on their electric bills, especially during tough economic times that are brought on in no small part by the meddling of the global warming people. In fact, WalMart, that citadel of white-trash consumerism and exploitation, sells timers, and even outdoor timers with light sensors, so you can have your lights come on at dusk and set them to stay on for just 2-6 hours. As for solar powered lights, there is frequently not enough sunlight to charge batteries in winter, so the net effect of solar-powered lights is likely to be little or no lights at all, which is what the global warming scaremongers are really after anyway.

And energy-efficient Christmas bulbs are the pits. Back when they used normal Christmas lights on the Idaho State Christmas Tree, you could see the Tree on the Statehouse steps all the way up Capitol Boulevard. Then the state started doling out Christmas cheer by the teaspoon, and switched to energy-efficient bulbs. The tree looks pretty in pictures, but the pictures don't convey the sad reality that you have to practically be standing underneath the tree to see it.

We live in a world that is long on violence, oppression, tyranny, hatred, and coldness, and short on kindness, gentleness, freedom, charity and warmth. It is made more so by the global warming Scrooges of the world, the new Puritans who can never rest easy as long as a spark of joy or innocent pleasure remains unextinguished anywhere on earth. If these sourpusses will not turn away from their perverted disgust with Christmas, then let them at least stop trying to drag the rest of us down into their private hell.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Visit from St. Nicholas

Herewith a little Christmas Eve fun: a Thomas Nast illustration of Santa Claus (1881)...

...and "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement Clark Moore (1823).

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Morning Commute

I just learned something new this morning: Franklin Road between Cole and Vista, and most of Capitol Boulevard, qualify as "back streets" not worthy of snow and ice removal. There was not one grain of sand or drop of de-icer even in the intersections: it was a skating rink all the way into downtown. Coworkers slipping and sliding in from various parts of the valley reported similar conditions.

The Ada County Highway District is in charge of winter road maintenance. No wonder so many people have signs in their front yards showing "ACHD" in a circle with a line through it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Advent

From today's Office of Readings: from a commentary on Luke by Saint Ambrose, bishop

When the angel revealed his message to the Virgin Mary he gave her a sign to win her trust. He told her of the motherhood of an old and barren woman to show that God is able to do all that He wills.

When she hears this Mary sets out for the hill country. She does not disbelieve God's word; she feels no uncertainty over the message or doubt about the sign. She goes eager in purpose, dutiful in conscience, hastening for joy.

Filled with God, where would she hasten but to the heights? The Holy Spirit does not proceed by slow, laborious efforts. Quickly, too, the blessings of her coming and the Lord's presence are made clear: as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting the child leapt in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Notice the contrast and the choice of words. Elizabeth is the first to hear Mary's voice, but John is the first to be aware of grace. She hears with the ears of the body, but he leaps for joy at the meaning of the mystery. She is aware of Mary's presence, but he is aware of the Lord's: a woman aware of a woman's presence, the forerunner aware of the pledge of our salvation. The women speak of the grace they have received while the children are active in secret, unfolding the mystery of love with the help of their mothers, who prophesy by the spirit of their sons.

The child leaps in the womb; the mother is filled with the Holy Spirit, but not before her son. Once the son has been filled with the Holy Spirit, he fills his mother with the same Spirit. John leaps for joy, and the spirit of Mary rejoices in her turn. When John leaps for joy Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, but we know that though Mary's spirit rejoices she does not need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Her Son, Who is beyond our understanding, is active in His mother in a way beyond our understanding. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit after conceiving John, while Mary is filled with the Holy Spirit before conceiving the Lord. Elizabeth says: Blessed are you because you have believed.

You also are blessed because you have heard and believed. A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the Word of God and acknowledges His works.

Let Mary's soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let her spirit be in each to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith. Every soul receives the Word of God if only it keeps chaste, remaining pure and free from sin, its modesty undefiled. The soul that succeeds in this proclaims the greatness of the Lord, just as Mary's soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. In another place we read: Magnify the Lord with me. The Lord is magnified, not because the human voice can add anything to God but because He is magnified within us. Christ is the image of God, and if the soul does what is right and holy, it magnifies that image of God, in whose likeness it was created and, in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Alternatives to Sacramental Confession

For those of you who would rather eat a bucket of bugs than confess your sins to a priest, consider the story of Rebecca Hancock of Jacksonville, Florida, whose church is threatening to take up the matter of her illicit sex life with the congregation.

Hancock, who has been having sex with a man to whom she is not married, left Grace Community Church because the church "harassed" her over the illicit relationship. Although Hancock is no longer a member of the church, the church has advised her in writing that they are bound to broadcast her sins to the congregation. Citing Matthew 18, the church states that it been left "with no other choice but to carry out the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ" and "tell it to the church." The pastor of Grace Community Church has declined comment, but some other local pastors defend this practice on the grounds that the Bible says to punish persistent sinners.

This story does not state explicitly whether Hancock was sinning secretly or openly and notoriously, though one gets the impression that the authorities at Grace Community Church were threatening to disclose something that was not widely known. But set aside for the moment the fact that Rebecca Hancock's activities are no longer private, now that she has told them to the media. Set aside, too, the fact that she apparently continues in a sexual relationship with a man to whom she is not married, although it might pay the church authorities to ask themselves whether their methods did not serve to make her dig her heels in.

The real question is: is public disclosure of sins, or the threat of such disclosure, really a preferable alternative to sacramental confession? Consider the facts about confession:

1. Confession removes the burden of sins. Provided you have purpose of amendment, you can be certain that when the priest says, "I absolve you of your sins," those sins are gone.

2. Confession gives you the grace to avoid sin in the future. It drags sinful tendencies out by the roots. And most of all, for our present purposes:

3. What is revealed in confession is absolutely secret. Nothing you tell the priest in confession will ever be repeated, much less broadcast to every man, woman and child in the congregation. The priest cannot repeat what he hears in confession for any reason whatsoever. Not even to save a life. Not even to save Western Civilization. Not even to prevent a meteor from striking the earth. He cannot drag out your sins and set them before the whole congregation, even if you are confessing the same sins for the 4,785,983rd time.

Confession was instituted by God. Any other method of dealing with sin was invented by men, and is about as effective as man is himself. Which ain't saying much.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Must Be Caused by Global Warming

So it's 22 degrees and overcast right now in Boise, and we're not expected to break freezing for at least the next week. People are breaking out the heavy winter gear all over the country. Vegas just got snow for the first time in 30 years.

Didn't Al Gore just say something funny about global warming?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Boy Who'd Rather Be Named "Sue"

That will be three-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell, as soon as he's old enough to understand.

Yep, you read that right: Adolf Hitler Campbell of New Jersey, whose parents launched him into notoriety by rushing to the media over the fact that a local grocery store would not write the boy's name on a birthday cake.

Heath Campbell -- who got to grow up with a sane name -- says he was taught that whites and minorities should never associate socially or romantically, but that he plans to raise his children differently. As a first step to this process, he and his wife Deborah named their oldest child Adolf Hitler Campbell, and then went on to name his younger sisters JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell.

Heath Campbell inanely explained that he named his son after Adolf Hitler because he liked the name and because "no one else in the world would have that name." Did we also mention that on at least one previous occasion, the proud parents also wanted a swastika on the cake?

Ah. Well. Seeing that the Campbells have three children, and, being young, may well have more children; and seeing also that they run the risk of running out of "unique" names for their kids, I'd like to pitch in with some suggestions -- all along the lines of the theme they have already chosen, of course:

Magda Goebbels Childkiller Campbell
Adolf Eichmann Auschwitz Campbell
Pol Pot Killing Fields Campbell
Idi Amin Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular Campbell
Madame Mao Cultural Revolution Campbell
Mephistopheles Beelzebub Gehenna Campbell

Admittedly not all white people; but after all, evildoers are all brothers under the skin.

Monday, December 15, 2008

News Flash

I expect to be very, very busy this week, so I may not post much. I hope to resume my usual rate of postage when this busy week passes.

Meanwhile, I have built up a considerable archive. Check it out!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Third Sunday of Advent

From today's Office of Readings: from a sermon by St. Augustine, bishop.

John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word Who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word Who lives forever.

Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? Where there is no understanding, there is only a meaningless sound. The voice without the word strikes the ear but does not build up the heart.

However, let us observe what happens when we first seek to build up our hearts. When I think about what I am going to say, the word or message is already in my heart. When I want to speak to you, I look for a way to share with your heart what is already in mine.

In my search for a way to let this message reach you, so that the word already in my heart may find place also in yours, I use my voice to speak to you. The sound of my voice brings the meaning of the word to you and then passes away. The word which the sound has brought to you is now in your heart, and yet it is still also in mine.

When the word has been conveyed to you, does not the sound seem to say: The word ought to grow, and I should diminish? The sound of the voice has made itself heard in the service of the word, and has gone away, as though it were saying: My joy is complete. Let us hold on to the word; we must not lose the word conceived inwardly in our hearts.

Do you need proof that the voice passes away but the divine Word remains? Where is John's baptism today? It served its purpose, and it went away. Now it is Christ's baptism that we celebrate. It is in Christ that we all believe; we hope for salvation in Him. This is the message the voice cried out.

Because it is hard to distinguish word from voice, even john himself was thought to be the Christ. The voice was thought to be the word. But the voice acknowledged what it was, anxious not to give offense to the word. I am not the Christ, he said, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. And the question came: Who are you, then? He replied: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness is the voice of one breaking the silence. Prepare the way for the Lord, he says, as though he were saying: "I speak out in order to lead Him into your hearts, but He does not choose to come where I lead Him unless you prepare the way for Him."

To prepare the way means to pray well; it means thinking humbly of oneself. We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory.

If he had said, "I am the Christs," you can imagine how readily he would have been believed, since they believed he was the Christ even before he spoke. But he did not say it; he acknowledged what he was. He pointed out clearly who he was; he humbled himself.

He saw where his salvation lay. He understood that he was a lamp, and his fear was that it might be blown out by the wind of pride.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Update: Goofball Atheist Sign Sprouted Legs

Wailing and gnashing of teeth broke out in Olympia last Friday when the atheist sign parked next to the nativity scene at the state capitol in Olympia, Washington disappeared. According to CNN, the sign, which drew complaints to the governor's office at the rate of 200 calls an hour -- was later found in a ditch.

By far the most fascinating aspect of this story is the torrent of absolute drivel that has issued from the atheists in the wake of this incident. Some samples:

-- From Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-founder: "I guess they don't follow their own commandments. There's nothing out there with the atheist point of view, and now there is such a firestorm that we have the audacity to exist. And then [whoever took the sign] stifles our speech." It's interesting that the atheists want to get the benefits of the Ten Commandments without actually being bound by them. But as for them having their speech "stifled," that's just a damn lie. I don't know what planet Annie Gaylor has been living on, but nothing in our society is more in-your-face than the atheist point of view, which manifests itself by filing lawsuits to clear crosses, Ten Commandments monuments, nativity scenes and other Christian symbols and images from public property and city seals or, when that's not possible, by putting up stupid signs that disparage religion.

-- From Dan Barker, another Foundation co-founder and ex-Evangelical preacher: "It's not that we are trying to coerce anyone; in a way our sign is a signal of protest. If there can be a Nativity scene saying that we are all going to hell if we don't bow down to Jesus, we should be at the table to share our views." If that's really the message Dan Barker gets from the Infant Jesus and His mother, then he's already in his own private hell.

-- Another gem from Dan Barker: "Most people think December is for Christians and view our signs as an intrusion, when actually it's the other way around. People have been celebrating the winter solstice long before Christmas. We see Christianity as the intruder, trying to steal the holiday from all of us humans." Too stupid for comment.

Call me a cynic, but: is there the slightest possibility that it was the Freedom from Religion Foundation itself that disappeared the sign, in order to provide a further excuse for attacking Christians and scare up more publicity for its cause?

Naaah...not with their big attachment to the Ten Commandments and their dedication to the truth.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Over-the-Counter Abortion

I never knew there was an over-the-counter "morning after" pill -- until I saw the ads on the internet radio station I listen to Christmas music on at work. If your regular birth control fails, says the ad, just relax: you've always got "Plan B" to fall back on.

Euphemistically called "emergency contraceptives," "Plan B" levonorgestrel tablets are "not intended to replace regular birth control," and should only be used in "emergencies." They are available without a prescription, unless you're a minor, in which case they're available with a prescription. They work by preventing the fertilized egg (i.e., the newly-conceived human being) from implanting in the wall of the uterus.

So this is an over-the-counter abortion. What a wonderful advance in medical science. Now you can have all the benefits of abortion without all the muss and fuss of vacuums, dilation and curettage, needles, saline solution, and bloody pieces of little baby all over the place. You just pass the baby and flush it down the toilet. It dies in the sewer, and you are spared a major inconvenience.

And, incidentally, what a wonderful thing to look at while listening to "Away in a Manger."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Charge of the Light Brigade

For all you pacifists: what you would call rank militarism.


Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.


Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.


When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Monday, December 08, 2008

December 8th: Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Some of you are willing to accept that Mary needed a great deal of faith in order to carry out her mission as the mother of Jesus. And this is true. She ran the risk of being taken for a woman of loose morals who got pregnant out of wedlock, but she left it to God to inform Joseph of the divine origin of the infant she was carrying. She and Joseph had to run all over Bethlehem looking for lodgings when she was on the point of giving birth. She had to hear holy Simeon tell her that her Child would be a sign of the rise and fall of many in Israel, and that a sword would pierce her own soul. She had to fly into Egypt to save Jesus' life when Herod was out for His blood. She had to endure the agony of losing Him for three days when He was twelve, before finding Him in the temple. She had to meet Him, bruised and torn and bloody, on His way to Calvary, and stand beneath the Cross during His Passion. She had to endure the piercing of His Heart with the lance and His being taken down from the Cross, and the sealing of His Body in the tomb. Mary would have had to have an unbelievable and unparalleled faith in order to endure all of this perfectly, and to resign herself to God's will, no matter how much it pained her, and to depend entirely on God's providence through it all.

Some of you are willing to concede this. Some of you who are willing to concede this are also willing to admit that sin hinders us in the exercise of any virtue, including faith.

And yet you are not willing to concede that God must have given Mary an unparalleled grace in order to meet her need for unparalleled virtue in order to carry out her unique mission.

You know that God can do anything, and that God never gives us a mission without also giving us what we need to accomplish it. Why, then, can you not believe that, in anticipation of the merits of Christ's Passion, God preserved Mary from the least shadow of sin from the moment of her conception? Plus, it is ludicrous to think that the God who was so particular and demanding on the least details having to do with His temple, and the purity of His priests under the Old Law, and who could and who could not enter the Holy of Holies, would not also have insisted on the utmost purity for the living tabernacle of His Son, namely, the woman who was to carry Him for nine months, and then live with Him for the next 30 years.

Mary's purity is not due to her own merits. The Church has never taught that it is, and no orthodox Catholic believes it. We do believe that Mary never committed the least sin, and it was a special grace from God that made this possible. That is the doctrine that we celebrate today.

Which is, by the way, a holy day of obligation. So:


December 8, 1941: America Declares War on Japan

Herewith the Day of Infamy Speech, delivered 67 years ago today. Despite all the ruinous policies and practices that FDR has to answer for, even an unreconstructed conservative like myself has to admit he could deliver a stirring speech -- and this one is a fine specimen of the kind of powerful, straightforward rhetoric that is practically extinct in our present mealy-mouthed age.

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that Nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State of form reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government had deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our Nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces -- with the unbounded determination of our people -- we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Second Sunday of Advent

Second reading from today's Office of Readings: From a commentary on Isaiah by Eusebius of Caesarea, bishop

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. The prophecy makes clear that it is to be fulfilled, not in Jerusalem but in the wilderness: it is there that the glory of the Lord is to appear, and God's salvation is to be made known to all mankind.

It was in the wilderness that God's saving presence was proclaimed by John the Baptist, and there that God's salvation was to be seen. The words of this prophecy were fulfilled when Christ and His glory were made manifest to all: after His baptism the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove rested on Him, and the Father's voice was heard, bearing witness to the Son: This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.

The prophecy meant that God was to come to a deserted place, inaccessible from the beginning. None of the pagans had any knowledge of God, since His holy servants and prophets were kept from approaching them. The voice commands that a way be prepared for the Word of God: the rough and trackless ground is to be made level, so that our God may find a highway when He comes. Prepare the way of the Lord: The way is the preaching of the Gospel, the new message of consolation, ready to bring to all mankind the knowledge of God's saving power.

Climb on a high mountain, bearer of good news to Zion. Lift up your voice in strength, bearer of good news to Jerusalem. These words harmonize very well with the meaning of what has gone before. They refer opportunely to the evangelists and proclaim the coming of God to men, after speaking of the voice crying in the wilderness. Mention of the evangelists suitably follows the prophecy on John the Baptist.

What does Zion mean if not the city previously called Jerusalem? This is the mountain referred to in that passage from Scripture: Here is Mount Zion, where You dwelt. The Apostles says: You have come to Mount Zion. Does not this refer to the company of the apostles, chosen from the former people of the circumcision?

This is the Zion, the Jerusalem, that received God's salvation. It stands aloft on the mountain of God, that is, it is raised high on the only-begotten Word of God. It is commanded to climb the high mountain and announce the Word of Salvation. Who is the bearer of the good news but the company of the evangelists? What does it mean to bear the good news but to preach to all nations, but first of all to the cities of Judah, the coming of Christ on earth?

Remember Pearl Harbor!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Oh! Uh...Just Testing the Spirits, Father Abbot!

According to Wikipedia, this monk doing "quality control" in the wine cellar is a late 13th-century illumination from Li Livres dou Santé by Aldobrandino of Siena.

Many illuminated manuscripts came from monasteries. This one is too funny not to have come from a monastery. (It's a mistake to think monks and nuns check their sense of humor in at the monastery doors.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Prestige WITH Merit

It's been a long time since a priest has been raised to the rank of Monsignor in this diocese. But now we have several new Monsignors -- and one of them is
-->Fr. -- whoops, I mean, Msgr. John Donoghue above, about whom you have previously read in this space. Msgr. Donoghue has been a priest for well over half a century, and served as the administrator of our diocese the last time we were between bishops. The man has come near to death several times in the last year or two, but the fight has not gone out of him yet. He still offers Mass weekday mornings at 7:00, even though he is now too weak to make it to the church without help, needs a walker (not only to walk, but also to carry his oxygen tank), and must celebrate sitting down. (Take note, all you young priests and seminarians who don't like getting up early.)
Congratulations to Msgr. Donoghue on this well-deserved honor. Even though we know he doesn't set nearly as much store by this as he does by the even greater honor he hopes to win when he finally reaches the end of his labors.

Prestige WITHOUT Merit

P.J. O'Rourke once said in an interview that politics is basically about prestige without merit. At that time, the paragon of prestige without merit was Bill Clinton, about whom O'Rourke asked: would he be worth a s**t doing anything else?

Now we have a new paragon of prestige without merit as -- before he even lays hand on Bible and swears the oath -- our illustrious President-Elect has a county holiday named after him. Barack Obama Day will henceforth be observed in Perry County, Alabama on the second Monday of November, on which day county offices will close, and county workers will get a paid holiday. The resolution to create the new holiday passed over the objections of county commissioner Brett Harrison, who disputed the wisdom of this new paid holiday in one of Alabama's poorest counties. Harrison was, however, quick to point out that he is a Democrat, and to declare that "the recognition is certainly well-founded."

Yes, recognition of a man who blundered into victory because his main opponent during the primaries was hateful, and because the opposing party ran a weak candidate, is certainly well-founded. Recognition of a man who is filling his administration full of Clinton retreads is certainly well-founded. Recognition of a man whose Vice-President-Elect is an idiot and plagiarist who once made a racist remark about him is certainly well-founded. Recognition of a man whose major accomplishments include supporting legalized infanticide, distancing himself from his longtime, rabidly racist pastor, garnering Fidel Castro's endorsement, and muzzling his loudmouth wife and blithering running mate in the weeks leading up to the election, is certainly well-founded.

On the other hand, paying county employees to do nothing is certainly a fitting tribute to the man who is poised to swell the federal government to proportions hitherto imagined.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

More of the Devil's Vain and Empty Works

What you get when you let the Supreme Court referee the contents of public Christmas displays: an atheist manifesto posted next to a Nativity scene at the state capitol building in Olympia, Washington.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the sponsor of this farcical display. The Foundation has lavished large quantities of money -- which, no doubt, could otherwise have gone to feed the poor -- on a "jaunty 'Reason's Greetings' billboard" in Olympia, as well as an engraved plaque to be erected near the capitol Nativity scene. The plaque reads:
At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.
"Our sign is a reminder of the real reason for the season, the Winter Solstice," says Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, adding fatuously, "The Christians really stole 'Christmas,' but we nonbelievers are willing to share it with them!"

The Foundation claims that its objective is to bring "some freethinking cheer" to Olympia. However, there is in fact nothing more depressing than the idea that there is no Heaven, and that this screwed-up world is all there is -- unless it's the eternal prognosis for people who refuse to believe there is a Hell.

Atheists find it irritating when people pray for them, even though they profess to believe that prayer is pointless. So: irritate an atheist today!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Practicing What They Preach

30-year-old husband Claudaniel Fabien and his new bride, 28-year-old Melody LaLuz teach abstinence at the public schools in Chicago. Proving that it is not unrealistic to expect kids to wait until marriage to horse around, the couple were never alone together in the same house before they were married on Saturday; and their first kiss -- ever -- was at the altar.

Call me naive, but this story brings to mind certain things I just don't get about marriage and sex and continence in today's society:

-- Where did we ever get the idea that it's "unrealistic" to expect kids to wait until they're married before having sex? There was a time -- still within living memory -- when waiting was generally expected, at least in respectable society. And many people throughout human history have waited until marriage -- probably most, at least during periods where this was a societal norm. In fact, for the last two thousand years, priests and monks and nuns have been proving that it is possible to live quite happily without sex for life.

-- When more people have ruined their lives and the lives of others through too much sex with too many people than through the lack of sex, where did we ever get the idea that continence was "aberrant" behavior?

-- On the KTVB website where I found this story, it comes under the heading of "Strange News." Why does a story about a couple waiting until their wedding to kiss for the first time qualify as News of the Weird? I don't understand this, any more than I understood what was so funny about a 40-year-old virgin when the movie of the same name came out.

Good for the Fabiens. They are far more likely to have a lasting, happy marriage than those who think waiting to kiss until you're married is weird.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Possible Liturgical Shakeup: Move the Sign of Peace?

Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (and, incidentally, one of my favorite Princes of the Church), has revealed that the Pope is considering a change to the liturgy, namely, moving the Sign of Peace to before the Offertory.

"In order to create a more meditative atmosphere as we prepare for Communion, moving the sign of peace to the offertory is being considered. The Pope has consulted the bishops, and later he will decide," says Cardinal Arinze. "Often the full significance of this gesture is not understood. It is seen as an occasion to shake the hands of our friends, when in reality it is a way of saying to the one next to us that the peace of Christ, truly present on the altar, is also for all mankind."

Hooray for anything that fosters reverence at Mass. But a question arises. Does this possible change actually seek to eliminate the problem of the full-blown chaos that too often erupts during the Sign of Peace, or does it just represent the liturgical equivalent of "containment" and "peaceful coexistence"? Is there a need to resign ourselves to a circus atmosphere at any point during the Mass? Under our present Holy Father, I have no doubt the answer is a resounding negatory.

To bring back a sense of where we are and what we're doing at Mass, I'd like to see the following:

-- A return of all tabernacles to their rightful place in the church, namely, front and center and on the altar.

-- The priest facing away from the people, to emphasize that God is supposed to be the center of worship, not our precious selves.

-- A return of the communion rail and the reception of Communion in a kneeling position (excepting, of course, those who are physically unable to kneel: nobody has ever been forced to kneel who physically could not).

-- A return of the crucifix to the sanctuary (the suffering Christ, not the Resurrifix)

-- A return of the kneeling posture to the Agnus Dei (in my diocese, we have to stand for this).

Maybe if we did these things, the problem of turning the Sign of Peace into Old Home Week would eventually take care of itself.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Sunday of Advent

From today's Office of Readings: From a catechetical instruction by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop.

We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom.

In general, what relates to our Lord Jesus Christ has two aspects. There is a birth from God before the ages, and a birth from a virgin in the fullness of time. There is a hidden coming, like that of rain on fleece, and a coming before all eyes, still in the future.

At the first coming He was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At His second coming, He will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming He endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming He will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels. We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. At the first coming we said: Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord. At the second we shall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord.

The Savior will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom He was judged. At His own judgment He was silent; then he will address those who committed the outrages against Him when they crucified Him and will remind them: You did these things, and I was silent.

His first coming was to fulfill His plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of His kingdom by necessity. Malachi the prophet speaks of the two comings. And the Lord Whom you seek will come suddenly to His temple: that is one coming.

Again he says of another coming: Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the day of His entry, or who will stand in His sight? Because He comes like a refiner's fire, a fuller's herb, and He will sit refining and cleansing.

These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: The grace of God the Savior has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await.

That is why the faith we profess has been handed on to you in these words: He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.
Our Lord Jesus Christ will therefore come from Heaven. He will come at the end of the world, in glory, at the last day. For there will be an end to this world, and the created world will be made new.

November 30: St. Joseph Marchand

St. Joseph Marchand was a French priest, sent as a missionary to Vietnam in 1830, the year St. Catherine Labouré received the Miraculous Medal. Although he was offered the headship of the Foreign Missionary Seminary in Paris in 1832, he chose instead to remain in Vietnam.

Which turned out to be a fateful decision for the young priest. The following year, he was arrested pursuant to a royal decree against all European missionaries. He languished in prison in Saigon for 18 months, after which he died a horrible death, being torn apart by red-hot tongs. He was beatified in 1900, and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

Here is a link to the Litany of the Martyrs of Vietnam, including St. Joseph Marchand. This Litany was composed by my good friend Mike Turner, OPL, and was approved for publication by our bishop in 2007.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

George M. Docherty, R.I.P.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
In a shocking breach of the sacred Berlin Wall of Separation Between Church and State, school children have been reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with the words "under God" for more than half a century.

It was the Knights of Columbus of New York City who first adopted the practice of adding the words "under God" to their recitation of pledge in 1951, citing to the Gettysburg Address, in which Abraham Lincoln spoke of this nation, under God, having a new birth of freedom. The following year, the Supreme Council of the Knights took up the banner and launched a campaign to lobby Congress to universalize the change.

Rev. George M. Docherty, a Presbyterian minister and recent Scots immigrant to the United States, also liked the idea of adding the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. It was the custom at that time for Presidents to attend New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., the same church Abraham Lincoln himself attended, on "Lincoln Sunday," the Sunday nearest Lincoln's birthday. Knowing that he would have President Eisenhower's ear on Lincoln Sunday, and that President Eisenhower had recently become a Presbyterian, Rev. Docherty preached a sermon on the subject of adding the words "under God" to the Pledge on February 7, 1954. On February 8th, President Eisenhower got his friends in Congress to introduce a bill to make the desired change. The bill was signed into law on Flag Day, June 14, 1954.

Rev. Docherty passed away at his home in Alexandria, Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving Day. He was 97. Requiescat in pace.

Scared Straight (And Other Methods of Reaching Sinners)

Herewith some dramatic conversion stories. If you've ever wondered what a "signal grace" is, these probably qualify:

St. Lucian (martyred c. 250). Lucian started out as a devil worshipper. One day he tried to cast a spell on a Christian woman, who made short work of it just by making the Sign of the Cross. That straightened him up, and he spent the rest of his days preaching against his former errors.

St. Genesius of Rome (d. c. 303). Genesius was a pagan Roman actor. While onstage in a play that mocked Baptism, he was suddenly converted, and refused to finish the play. He was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian, and his memorial is August 25th.

St. Mary of Egypt (c. 344-c. 421). Spoiled, cynical and rich, Mary ran away from home at the age of 12 and launched on a 17-year career as a dancer and prostitute in Alexandria, Egypt. Then, one day, she tried to enter a church but found herself physically unable to open the door. This moved her to repent and call upon the intercession of the Blessed Mother, who told her to cross the Jordan River in order to find rest. From that point forward, she lived a solitary life of penance. Her memorial is April 3d.

St. Hubert of Liege (656-727). Hubert was a dissolute young courtier whose passion for hunting led him to disregard solemn holy days. While out hunting a stag on Good Friday, he saw a crucifix between the stag's antlers and heard a voice warning him that if he didn't straighten up, he would soon find himself in Hell. When his wife died, he gave up all his worldly goods, became a priest, and was eventually made bishop of Maastricht. Known for his preaching and his charity toward the poor, he is titled the Apostle of the Ardennes. He died reciting the Our Father in 727, having predicted the date of his death. His memorial is November 3rd.

St. Vladimir I of Kiev (956-1015). Vladimir started out as a bad guy. A really, really bad guy. He was not only a keeper of numerous wives and concubines but also a fratricide and a thoroughgoing pagan who may have actually participated in human sacrifices (he is the patron of murderers -- obviously for their conversion). He educated himself about Christianity for purposes of preparing to wage war against the Graeco-Roman Empire, and tried to extort the Byzantine Emperor into giving him his sister in marriage in exchange for not marching on Constantinople. When the Emperor replied that his sister could only marry a Christian prince, Vladimir agreed to accept Baptism. Baptism led to a host of astounding changes. Vladimir married the princess, got rid of the excess wives and the concubines, destroyed all the idols in his country, and underwent a dramatic character change. By the end of his career, this previously ferocious prince was well known as a mild and compassionate ruler. His memorial is July 15th.

Bl. Villana de Botti (1332-1361). As a young girl, Villana ran away from home to enter a convent, but was refused admittance, sent home, and then married off. After this, she became lazy and worldly, and gave herself up to the pursuit of pleasure. One day, while she was getting dressed for a party, she saw the vision of a hideous demon in her mirror. Running to all the mirrors in the house, she saw the same thing in each one, and realized that she was seeing the state of her soul. She promptly gave up frivolity and ostentation, became a Dominican tertiary, and led a life of holiness. Her memorial is February 28th (the order celebrates it on January 29th).

St. Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel (1557-1595). Philip, the son of Protestants, was a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I, where he distinguished himself in the field of libertinism. He was present at the trials of martyr priests, including St. Edmund Campion who, though physically weakened by torture and imprisonment, and denied materials with which to prepare for trial, nevertheless succeeded in captivating most of his listeners. His witness and and that of other priests haunted Philip until he finally made his peace with the Church. Philip would go on to be condemned to death himself for the Faith, though instead of being executed, he was kept languishing in prison, never knowing which day would be his last. What must have been the supreme trial of his faith came toward the very end, when the queen offered to grant him his only remaining request, namely, to see his wife and son one last time, if only he would return to Protestantism. He refused, and died shortly thereafter. His memorial is October 19th.

Fr. Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne (1814-1884). Alphonse Ratisbonne, the scion of a Jewish banking family, was a worldly-wise and wise-assed youth who drifted from atheism to agnosticism, and who, after his brother Theodore converted and became a Catholic priest, conceived a rabid hatred of the Church. During a tour of Europe, shortly before he was to have married his own niece, Ratisbonne found himself in the company of a Catholic nobleman who predicted that he would become a Christian, and challenged him to wear a Miraculous Medal and recite the Memorare. The use of this medal and the recitation of this prayer, coupled with the prayers of the nobleman and his friends, culminated in a vision of the Blessed Mother, during which Ratisbonne received the gift of infused knowledge and understanding of the Faith. Within a fortnight, he received Baptism and Holy Communion, and afterward became a Jesuit priest. Later, with permission from the superior general and the Holy See, he left the Jesuits in order to assist his brother Theodore, founder of the Congregation of Our Lady of Zion, whose mission was to promote the conversion of the Jews. In 1855, Ratisbonne moved to Palestine, where he lived out the rest of his life as a missionary. Unfortunately, the Congregation -- at least in the American/Canadian province -- has now abandoned its mission, becoming little more than a society of middle-aged female social workers.