Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April 28-30: Dominican Triple-Hitter

We have had three -- count 'em! -- THREE Dominican feasts/memorials in a row this week! This week's gallery of distinguished children of St. Dominic:

St. Louis Marie de Montfort (1673-1716), Dominican tertiary and, like St. Dominic a great apostle of the Rosary and of the Blessed Mother. His two greatest works are The Secret of the Rosary and True Devotion to Mary. His great contribution to the faith is the total consecration of oneself to the Blessed Mother as the greatest act of devotion to God and the surest path to Heaven. All the great saints, he points out, have walked this path; it is the surest, because Mary keeps nothing for herself, but gives to God everything that is offered her -- and she knows how to give gifts to God free of imperfections, and in the manner that He will find most pleasing. St. Louis' writings are clear, straighforward, engaging and easy to understand. The cause to declare St. Louis de Montfort a Doctor of the Church is underway; he would be the fourth Dominican to be so honored (the tenth, really, if you count St. Thomas Aquinas in all his fullness).
St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Dominican tertiary and Doctor of the Church. She was the 23d of 25 children; she had a twin who died at birth. She was a mystic and stigmatist. When there were three claimants to the Throne of Peter, Catherine adhered to the true Pope, who was then at Avignon, and convinced him to return his administration to Rome. She left a great body of literature, of which the greatest work is the Dialogue of Divine Providence.

Pope St. Pius V (1504-1572), Pope and Dominican. The Council of Trent, convened in response to the Protestant break with the Church, ended just three years before Pius ascended the Throne of Peter; upon his election as Pope, it became his job to enact the Council's reforms. Under his leadership, a new breviary and missal were published; his great legacy was the Catechism of the Council of Trent, whose value five hundred years have not diminished. A small yet highly visible legacy: it was Pius V who began the papal tradition of wearing white, owing to his white Dominican habit.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense

Fifty-five years ago today, Queen Elizabeth II made Winston Churchill a member of the Order of the Garter, the United Kingdom's highest and most exclusive order of chivalry. It is also the oldest order, founded about 1348 by King Edward III. The motto of the Order, "Honi soit qui mal y pense," is medieval French and means "Shame on him who thinks ill of it." There are only 24 members ("Companions") of the Order of the Garter at any given time, not including the Sovereign and the Prince of Wales. Winston was the fourth Churchill to receive the high honor of admittance to this Order.

It is said that Winnie refused the honor the first time it was offered him -- after his election defeat in 1945 -- explaining that he could hardly accept the Order of the Garter when the nation had just given him the Order of the Boot.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pope Benedict Blesses Ground Zero

And anything the Pope blesses is blessed indeed.

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.

We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here --
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hold It Right There!

Ole Q over at L.A. Catholic reported the other day on the twitter the L.A. Times sent forth against the Holy Father's roar on April 15th, criticizing his past public speaking performances and giving him tips on how to avoid future blunders, like, say, oh, preaching the Gospel to every nation, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The perfect response to this effrontery was provided a couple of days earlier by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, in a call-in interview program with Raymond Arroyo. In response to a caller who wanted to know if the Pope was going to "take advantage" of his visit, and what he was going to say about the war in Iraq, the good Archbishop said:
If I may instruct the listener: Please don't ask-a the Pope-a to say what you want heema to say, but listen to what the Pope-a have-a to say.
So there, L.A. Times. Put that in your pipes and smoke it. Take the crack out first.

H/T Norm de Plume.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

About Telemarketers

Recent events compel me to say a few words about telemarketers and telemarketing, a job that I myself have actually done, and which I rank as one of the Two Most Repellent Jobs I Have Ever Held (it runs neck-and-neck with a job I once had pulling weeds at a long-neglected, dreadfully overgrown condo complex). Herewith some helpful facts and hints about telemarketers for the targets of annoying sales calls:

1. For all you business owners out there: if you're really serious about putting the kibosh on all sales calls for all time, quit advertising your business. Sales calls are part of the price you pay for publicity. Also, next time you go to a sales or trade convention, don't sign up to get free information about anything. Last time you went to the Acme Annual Shower Curtain Ring Sales Convention in Vegas, you took a few too many spins at the roulette wheel, downed a few too many highballs, and then signed your name to a few too many lists. That may be a huge factor in why you are now being besieged by telemarketers trying to get you to sign up for a free subscription to a trade magazine. Booze and mailing lists just don't mix.

2. That pestiferous person on the other end of the phone line, trying to push something on you that you don't need, or pester you with survey questions about your medical conditions, is not annoying you for his health. It is his job -- possibly the only crummy job he could get at that particular moment in history. Some telemarketers have been in the business for years, and love it. You mustn't grudge them that, since it enables them to earn their keep and get through their workdays in peace -- a considerable benefit not only to them, but also to their families and friends and everybody who has to put up with them in person. Others, however, are just struggling, and would jump at the chance to shovel out stables, scrub floors with a toothbrush, clean bedpans, or do just about anything else besides telemarketing. Telemarketers' time is highly regimented and closely monitored by computer: they get dinged for being five minutes late to work; they get only 20 minutes for lunch; they can spend a total of no more than 12 minutes a day on bathroom and drink breaks; and they put up with all this in exchange for peanuts. That person you are about to tell to go take a flying leap may be a lifelong housewife whose philandering husband suddenly left her destitute, or a young widowed mother, or just a kid trying to earn his way through school. Your real quarrel is not with the working slob making the sales call, but with the company that hired the telemarketing firm he works for to push the magazines or take the surveys. Or maybe, the person you really should be mad at is yourself -- see Point No. 1 above.

3. The telemarketer has no control over whom he calls, and has no way of knowing that you have been called three or four times today already. The calls are all placed by computers, into which have been fed your contact information, which was provided by the telemarketing company's client, which in turn came from -- well, you (see again Point No. 1 above). The telemarketer just sits in front of a computer screen, waiting for the calls to come up. The calls are sent to whichever telemarketers are logged in and have their phones on: they must be logged in in order to get paid, and they are not allowed to turn their phones off without a good reason. If you keep getting unwanted calls, it is not the fault of the person on the other end of the line.

4. The telemarketer reads his sales pitches from scripts. He is required to read the script as written. After you have said no, he has another script that he is required to read, and then another script that he is required to read after you have said no again. He has to do this, however annoying you find it, and even though you tell him not to bother. All his calls are monitored and recorded, so if he makes a habit of not following the scripts, and especially of not making his second or third effort, he will get canned.

5. If you want the telemarketers to stop calling you, you can (a) put yourself on the National Do Not Call Registry; (b) sign up for the free subscriptions the telemarketers are hawking; or (c) ask them to stop calling you, at which point they will put you on the do-not-call list (which may or may not actually end the calls immediately, depending on the company's system and procedures). Don't just tell them you're unavailable or too busy, because then you won't be taken off the call list. Just hanging up on them is also not a sure-fire way of stopping the calls. Threatening to press charges will have no effect on the telemarketer, who is not ultimately responsible for your being on the call list in the first place (see again Point No. 1).

Telemarketing is a plague and a nuisance, a sure sign that we have not, and will not, achieve Paradise on Earth. The only good thing that can be said about it is that it at least provides a sort of financial lean-to for some who otherwise would find no shelter at all against the economic storms that batter their lives. Telemarketers are merely annoying, not sinful. Cut them some slack.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Pope's Not Coming to Idaho...

...but a little part of Idaho is going to the Pope. Next week, Fr. Jorge Ramirez, Lucky Stiff and priest of the Diocese of Boise (and, incidentally, my parish) is going to be capping off his annual retreat by concelebrating a Mass with the Holy Father in New York.

Fr. Jorge, a native of Colombia, is a man of modest bearing, quiet demeanor, and complete adorableness. Although in his early forties, he has only been ordained for about a year and a half ("I'm just a baby priest," he says). He is very interested in the Tridentine Mass and is in the process of studying the rubrics. Fr. Jorge has a keen appreciation for what really matters. "I am not conservative," he once insisted; "I am Roman Catholic!" He, like his boss, Fr. Francisco Flores, is proud to be a priest and proud to have people know it: he is literally the first one I have seen in more than a dozen years who wears a cassock. One morning, he approached me at a Knights of Columbus breakfast wearing street clothes and his K of C cap and jacket; when I told him I didn't recognize him at first, he immediately disappeared, then reappeared in clerical attire. His humility by no means rules out an awareness of the high dignity of his office, or the need for visibility.

Fr. Jorge asks for prayers for his journey. And from this quarter, he gets them. He's definitely a keeper!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Our German Shepherd

And Saul said to David: Thou art not able to withstand this Philistine, nor to fight against him: for thou art but a boy, but he is a warrior from his youth. And David said to Saul: Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, or a bear, and took a ram out of the midst of the flock: And I pursued after them, and struck them, and delivered it out of their mouth: and they rose up against me, and I caught them by the throat, and I strangled and killed them. For I thy servant have killed both a lion and a bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be also as one of them.

1 Kings 17:33-36

Could this be the problem the liberals have with Pope Benedict -- and have in fact had with him since he was just plain Cardinal Ratzinger: that he is a slayer of lions and bears and uncircumcised Philistines? Are the liberals' leading lights in fact the lambs and sheep they hold themselves out to be?

Father Down Under, by the way, at Homilies and Reflections from Australia, has some very good thoughts about warriors for peace; this is a contradiction only to those whose idea of "peace" is the absence of opposition to evil.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Charlton Heston, R.I.P.

Charlton Heston passed away last night at the age of 84. He is survived by Lydia, his wife of 64 years, his daughter Holly, and his son Fraser (who played the infant Moses in The Ten Commandments).

V. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
R. And may perpetual light shine upon him.
V. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Prayer to St. Genesius, Patron of Actors

Dear Genesius, according to a very ancient story, when you were still a pagan, you once ridiculed Christ while acting on the stage. But, like Saul on the road to Damascus, you were floored by Christ's powerful grace. You rose bearing witness to Jesus and died a great martyr's death. Intercede for your fellow actors before God that they may faithfully and honestly perform their roles and so help others to understand their role in life and thus enabling them to attain their end in heaven. Amen.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Birthday Bunch

I can't really think of anything much to blog about right now, so I think I'll shine a tiny spotlight on some of the interesting crowd of people who (at least according to Wikipedia) are celebrating birthdays today (or would be if they were still living):

Joseph Lister, the guy who made the connection between dirt and infections, and brought us the wonderful world of antiseptics.

Booker T. Washington, a freed slave who became a prominent teacher.

Spencer Tracy, one of the great actors and portrayer of Fr. Flanagan in the Boys Town movies.

Melvyn Douglas, another great leading man, my favorite of whose movies is Ninotchka, opposite Greta Garbo.

Bette Davis, a great movie villainess (though she also played some great good guys too).

Gregory Peck, Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (which was one of my favorite books as a kid).

Michael Moriarty, Ben Stone on Law and Order, who is outspokenly pro-life.

Max Gail, who played Stan "Wojo" Wojeciehowicz on Barney Miller (I know that's before some of your times).

And it also happens to be the feast (i.e., birthday in heaven) of Vincent Ferrer, a Dominican saint of extraordinary coolness.