Thursday, February 28, 2008

February 28: Bl. Villana de Botti

Here is a beata that interests me, in no small part because she could possibly be one of my long-lost Italian relations (my mother is a Botti).

A Florentine of the mid-14th century, Villana de Botti ran away to a convent at the age of 13; however, she was rejected, and had to return home to her family, which quickly married her off. After her marriage, she gave herself over to idleness, vanity and worldly entertainments; then, one day, while she was primping in front of a mirror, she suddenly saw a hideous, demonic creature staring back at her in the mirror. Going from mirror to mirror, she saw the same awful reflection. Struck by the realization that she was seeing the state of her soul, she tore off her fancy dress, put on simple clothes, and went running to the Dominican fathers. She became a Dominican tertiary and devoted herself to her vocation as a married woman, to prayer and to penance. Although her zeal to atone for her formerly dissipated life sometimes led her to excesses which drew ridicule and slander, she was a mystic and a prophet, and reached a level of sanctity that even her detractors eventually had to acknowledge. She died on January 29, 1361 at the age of 29, and was beatified in 1829.

Prayer in Honor of Bl. Villana de Botti

O God, our merciful Father, you called Blessed Villana back from the emptiness of the world and aroused in her a spirit of humility and true penitence. Recreate in our hearts the power of your love and, filled by that same spirit, may we serve you in newness of life. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

R.I.P.: William F. Buckley, Jr.

There have been hints in his writings over the last two or three years: comments about the 2004 presidential election being the last he would live to see; hoping someone would do or say some particular thing in his memory in ten years; how he had given up skiing, and playing the piano; most alarmingly, how his pants had fallen down at some function, and nothing he could do would keep them up around his apparently fleshless waist. Then there was the letting go of his trusty sailboat. And the appearance on Rush Limbaugh's radio program on the release of his autobiography, Miles Gone By, when he couldn't seem to stop coughing. And the end of his public speaking engagements. And in April of last year, the death of Pat, his beloved wife of 57 years. The signs were unmistakable and inescapable, even when I wished him many more happy birthdays a year and a half ago. Though he continued to turn out his columns, the loss or the jettisoning of one after another of his loves and occupations pointed to an end not long to be delayed.

And now the end has come. Ill with diabetes and emphysema, he died at home this morning, apparently in harness, working in his study. May he rest in peace.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Yeah, Whatever

It's the 80th annual Academy Awards, but unfortunately for the movie biz, nobody seems to give a silver-plated rat's padoo about this landmark occasion in motion picture history. Can this have anything to do with the fact that Hollywood has long ceased to have any respect for its audiences, from its anti-Christian and anti-American story lines to the openly sleazy lives of its "stars"? (Yeah, a lot of the stars of yesteryear -- notice the absence of scare quotes -- also led sleazy lives, but at least the morality clauses in their studio contracts kept many of them from flaunting their sins publicly.)

I quit keeping track of the Academy Awards years ago; today, I doubt I could pick most of the nominees out of a lineup. Since a lot of people have also lost interest, I thought this might be a good time to reminisce about Oscar's Good Old Days.

Best Picture Oscars

The first Best Picture Oscar, in 1928, actually went to two movies; and the award wasn't called Best Picture. Wings (which I once got to see at the Egyptian Theater) got it for Best Production, and Sunrise got it for "Unique and Artistic Picture," a category never again repeated. Wings, starring Buddy Rogers (onetime husband of Mary Pickford) and Clara Bow (the "It" Girl) is a comic, romantic tragedy about two World War I flying aces. An extremely young Gary Cooper appears in this movie, but he lasts about as long as an ordinary crewman on an episode of Star Trek. Wings has the distinction of being the only silent movie to win Best Picture (or its equivalent).

These are my favorite Best Picture winners:

Casablanca (Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Paramount, 1942). I love the defiance of this film at a time when World War II could really have been lost, and was in fact going badly for the Allies. My favorite scene -- and one that gives me goose bumps every time I see it -- is the one where Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) makes the band strike up La Marseillaise and everybody stands and sings along, and drowns out the Nazi tune. This movie also has some of the most quotable movie lines.

Going My Way (Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Paramount, 1944). Made back when Hollywood respected Catholics. I can't watch this without a huge box of Kleenex.

All About Eve (Bette Davis, Ann Baxter, George Sanders, 20th Century Fox, 1950). This is the one where Bette Davis utters her signature line: "Fasten your seatbelts: it's going to be a bumpy night!" It beat out one of my other favorites, Sunset Boulevard (Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich von Stroheim, Paramount, 1950). It held the record for the most nominations (14) until 1997, when Titanic also garnered 14 nominations.

A Man for All Seasons (Paul Scofield, Wendy Hiller, Leo McKern, Highland Films, 1966). How could I leave out a film about my patron saint, with one of my favorite actors (Leo McKern) as a bad guy?

Best Acting Oscars

Some of my favorite winners (or I should say, winning performances):
  • Joan Crawford (as Mildred Pierce, 1945). Ann Blyth was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for playing her disgustingly snotty and evil daughter Veda.
  • Bogie (Charlie Allnut in The African Queen, 1951). Starred opposite Katharine Hepburn, who holds the record for the most Best Actress Oscars (4).
  • William Holden (J.J. Sefton in Stalag 17, 1953). This is one of the great war movies, though it has no combat scenes.
  • Charlton Heston (Judah Ben-Hur in Ben Hur, 1959) (though I liked him even better as Mo-o-o-o-s-e-e-e-s in The Ten Commandments).
  • Katharine Hepburn (Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, 1968). Katharine Hepburn actually claimed to be a descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine; given the number of children Eleanor had, this probably put her in company with a great many people.
  • Richard Dreyfuss (Elliot Garfield in The Goodbye Girl, 1977). Although this movie involves shacking up, and although the dialogue in Neil Simon movies tends to be just this side of too-clever-by-half, I really like this movie. I like the fact that Elliot loves not only Paula but also her daughter. And Richard Dreyfuss'...shall we say, unconventional portrayal of Richard III is hysterical.
  • Sissy Spacek (Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter, 1980). Spacek sang all the songs; it wasn't dubbed. Beverly D'Angelo, who played Patsy Cline, also sang. Neither, of course, is the original, but I can't say it sounded terrible.
  • Cher (Loretta Castorini in Moonstruck, 1987). "A wolf without a foot!"
  • Jack Nicholson (Melvin Udall in As Good As It Gets, 1997). Surprised to see one so recent? So am I! But I found very compelling the treatment of the redemptive power of love. I just loved it when Melvin tells Carol that great compliment he has for her: "You make me want to be a better man."
And of course, there are plenty of good movies and actors and actresses who haven't won Oscars, or even been nominated. I guess that includes some that were not nominated this year, which might be another reason nobody's watching the Oscars tonight.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Brianna: Prayers Needed Again

Brianna, the granddaughter of one of our Third Order Dominicans, needs prayers again. Last year, she was diagnosed with colitis, which she has been managing; now, however, she is having a very painful attack. Please pray for her.

O God by whose Will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that, the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened, she might think without ceasing on You alone: be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant, Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. This we ask in humble submission to God’s Will, for His Honor and Glory and the salvation of souls. Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory Be…

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Total Lunar Eclipse

See the total eclipse of the Moon last night -- the last one until 2010? It was in the east this time, and visible from the Middle East to North America.

Unfortunately, my area had a cover of mist in the east last night, from which the Moon did not emerge until just after totality; during totality, it looked like a watery orange-gray ball. But it did stir up pleasant memories of the last total eclipse, on August 27th of last year.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Whatever Remains, However Improbable, Must Be the Truth

Several times in this space -- August 1, 2006, August 24, 2007, and September 23, 2007 -- I declared the death of the hirsute tyrant whose idealized, hippie-manufactured portrait appears (appropriately enough) to the left, citing as evidence the fact that his Communist government insisted he was still alive, and even paraded a scrub-brush-faced old man in front of the cameras to prove it.

Now it has been announced that Castro will step down from his post as thug dictator President of the Glorious Cuban Revolutionary Island Paradise, thereby most likely leaving his little brother Raul in charge.

Whereas back in August of 2006, a groveling western media was grieving on behalf of the poor Cuban public, soon to be bereft of a leader they almost had a right to expect would live forever, this time, patronizing attention is turned to the Cuban exiles in Miami's Little Havana. While Castro's abdication apparently touched off some celebrating in the streets, AP reports that "the community's reaction to the news, long expected to spark vibrant celebration, was filled with caution." Of course it was filled with caution. The exiles are realistic enough to know that a new Maximum Leader doesn't necessarily entail a change of regime. What Cuba needs is an end to, and a repudiation of, the Glorious Revolution, and restoration of property rights and other basic human freedoms, pronto.

AP solemnly advises us that "Most exiles view Fidel Castro as a ruthless dictator who forced them, their parents or grandparents from their home after he seized power in a revolution in 1959," leaving us to conclude that this is a mere matter of their opinion which, given their obvious lack of disinterestedness, need not be taken seriously. "Police said they were 'keeping a sharp eye' on Little Havana, but no disruptions had been reported. The Coast Guard said it did not expect a mass migration or see a need to increase patrols off Florida." So I guess the drive-by media, which doesn't seem to see a need to protect our borders and shorelines from Al Qaeda, does see a need to safeguard America from dangerous hordes of Cuban exiles -- who had spent decades leading productive lives in this country -- seeking to go back to Cuba to reclaim what they had been despoiled of. And they're disappointed that the Coast Guard doesn't also see that need.

Now it's tough to know, really, whom or what to believe. How does the Principle of Communist Opposites apply in this case? A statement comes out that Castro is relinquishing power, which we are supposed to take to mean that he is now no longer in power. Planted in that statement is the assumption that Castro is still living. It seems the Commies are finally admitting Castro is no longer in power -- a state of affairs that has clearly been going on for about the last two and a half years -- but are not yet prepared to admit that he has assumed room temperature, much less when. In cases where a Communist statement appears to coincide with reality, it must always be remembered that such coincidences are nearly always self-serving. So it appears, then, pursuant to the Principle of Communist Opposites, that Castro is still in power, but dead. True, it sounds incredible; but remember what Sherlock Holmes said in The Sign of Four: when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

In (what purports to be Castro's) letter announcing his abdication, it is reported that Castro declares that he had hoped "to discharge my duties to my last breath. That's all I can offer." Well, no. Assuming you haven't been dead for two and a half years, Fidel, that is NOT all you have to offer. If you really want to offer something meaningful, cease and desist discharging the "duties" you have been discharging for the last half-century, and get your little brother and your band of thugs to do the same. Then you might just begin to make some small reparations for all the damage you have done.

Monday, February 18, 2008

President's Day

The trouble with "President's Day" is that not all Presidents deserve to be honored. Washington, the Father of his country, and Lincoln, its Preserver, unquestionably deserve holidays in their honor; the same, however, cannot be said of certain other Presidents. This seems to be all part of the culture of "equality," when mediocrity or even badness shares the spotlight with excellence, thereby degrading the latter while doing nothing to exalt the former. I wish we would get away from this business of celebrating all Presidents, whether they deserve it or not.

Unless we're going to start instituting holidays for the days when certain Presidents' terms end; in which case, I could go for that.

(I have a feeling we're going to be celebrating the end of the next administration, whichever candidate wins.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ixnay on Asonry-May

News flash: Catholics are STILL forbidden to join the Masons. I bring this up because I personally know some Catholics who belong to the Masons, and who persist in being Masons -- despite having been warned -- on the grounds that the Code of Canon Law no longer explicitly forbids membership.

Well, the Code of Canon Law should not need to forbid Masonry by name, any more than it should need explicitly to forbid Catholics from joining the Church of Satan or the Communists or any other organization openly hostile to the Catholic Church; two seconds' thought should take care of the whys and wherefores. But human nature being what it is, canon law does forbid Catholics to join organizations that plot against the Church (see Can. 1374). As for the Masons in particular, here's the straight, official dope on the subject from Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, now you-know-who:

Declaration on Masonic Associations
Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

It has been asked whether there has been any change in the Church's decision in regard to Masonic associations since the new Code of Canon Law does not mention them expressly, unlike the previous code.

This sacred congregation is in a position to reply that this circumstance is due to an editorial criterion which was followed also in the case of other associations likewise unmentioned inasmuch as they are contained in wider categories.

Therefore, the Church's negative judgment in regard to Masonic associations remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and, therefore, membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful, who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion. [Emphasis added.]

It is not within the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above, and this in line with the declaration of this sacred congregation issued Feb. 17,1981. [1]

In an audience granted to the undersigned cardinal prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this declaration which had been decided in an ordinary meeting of this sacred congregation.

Rome, from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Nov. 26, 1983

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger Prefect

Father Jerome Hamer, O. P. Titular Archbishop of Lorium


1. Cf. AAS 73 (1981) pp. 240-241.

Thus, although I have been loftily informed to the contrary, it is not merely my opinion that Catholics may not also be Masons. Even if it was my opinion, those who insist they can at one and the same time be faithful Catholics and good Masons are operating on the basis of their opinions; if opinions are the only guides we need, then to what authority can they appeal to show that their opinions should prevail over mine?

H/T Fr. Gonzales at Overheard in the Sacristy.

Cum More-than-a-Grano Salis

Wikipedia is quite a useful website for the gathering of information on some topics, and especially as a starting point for online research. I like to mine it for images and anniversary dates, and I use it to put together my year-end wrap up posts for December 31st. Because anybody can write a Wikipedia article, or change articles, it is often said that materials on Wikipedia should be taken with a grain of salt.

But I needed about three-quarters of a ton of salt when I saw the following entry in the list of events for February 16th:
1568 - The entire population of the Netherlands - three million people - was sentenced to death by the Roman Catholic Church for heresy; see Eighty Years' War.
If this is a joke, it's not funny. But somebody, having made this assertion, has thereby assumed the burden of proving it (unless I'm missing something, not even the heavily biased article on the Eighty Years' War mentions the allegation). I'm waiting to be convinced.

UPDATE: As of February 16th, the above calumny has disappeared from the list of events.

Unanswered Prayer...?

Herewith some excerpts from the writings of St. Claude de la Colombière on trustful surrender to Divine Providence.

It is a strange fact that though Christ repeatedly and solemnly promised to answer our prayers, most Christians are continually complaining that He does not do so. We cannot account for this by saying that the reason is because of the kind of things we ask for, since He included everything in His promise -- All things whatsoever you shall ask. Nor can we attribute it to the unworthiness of those who ask, for His promise extended to everybody without exception -- Whoever asks shall receive. Why is it then that so many prayers remain unanswered? Can it be that as most people are never satisfied, they make such excessive and impatient demands on God that they tire and annoy Him by their importunity? The case is just the opposite. The only reason why we obtain so little from God is because we ask for so little and we are not insistent enough.

Christ promised on behalf of His Father that He would give us everything, even the very smallest things. But He laid down an order to be observed in all that we ask, and if we do not obey this rule we are unlikely to obtain anything. He tells us in St. Matthew: Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice and all these things shall be given to you besides.

We are not forbidden to wish for money, material well-being and whatever is necessary to maintain us in our position in life, but we must wish for these things in their proper order. If we want our desires in this respect to be met without fail we must first of all ask for the larger things, so that while granting them He may also add the smaller ones....

If then this is the order God observes in the distribution of His benefits, we must not be surprised if our prayers have so far been unsuccessful. I confess that I am often moved to pity when I see the eagerness of some people in giving alms, making vows of pilgrimage and fasting, or having Masses said for the success of their temporal affairs. I am afraid the prayers they say and get said are of little use. They should make their offerings and vow their pilgrimages to obtain from God the amendment of their lives, the gift of Christian patience, contempt for the things of the world and detachment from creatures. Then afterwards they could pray for return of health or success in business. God would then answer these prayers, or rather He would anticipate them; it would be enough to know their desires for Him to fulfill them....

What has been said of benefits can also be said of the ills from which we wish to be delivered....You have secret ills far greater than the ills you complain of, but you do not ask Him to deliver you from them. If for this purpose you had said half the prayers you have said to be healed from your outward ills, God would have delivered you from both a long time since....It would be hating you, not loving you, to take away your cross before giving you the virtues you lack. If God found some desire in you for these virtues He would give you them without delay, and it would be unnecessary for you to ask for other things.

It is clear then that we do not receive anything because we do not ask enough. God could not give us little, He could not restrict His liberality to small things without doing us grave harm....I am not saying that we offend God if we ask for temporal benefits or to be freed from misfortune. Obviously prayers of this kind can rightly be addressed to Him by making the condition that they are not contrary to His glory or our eternal salvation. But as it is hardly likely that it would redound to His glory for Him to answer them, or to our advantage to have them answered if our wishes end there, it must be repeated that as long as we are content with little we run the risk of obtaining nothing.

Let me show you a good way to ask for happiness even in this world. It is a way that will oblige God to listen to you. Say to Him earnestly: Either give me so much money that my heart will be satisfied, or inspire me with such contempt for it that I no longer want it. Either free me from poverty, or make it so pleasant for me that I would not exchange it for all the wealth in the world. Either take away my suffering, or -- which would be to Your greater glory -- change it into delight for me, and instead of causing me affliction, let it become a source of joy. You can take away the burden of my cross, or You can leave it with me without my feeling its weight. You can extinguish the fire that burns me, or You can let it burn in such a way that it refreshes me as it did the three youths in the fiery furnace. I ask You for either one thing or the other. What does it matter in what way I am happy? If I am happy through the possession of worldly goods, it is You I have to thank. If I am happy when deprived of them, it gives You greater glory andmy thanks are all the greater.

This is the kind of prayer worthy of being offered to God by a true Christian. When you pray in this way, do you know what the effect of your prayers will be? First, you will be satisfied whatever happens;.... Secondly, you will not only obtain without fail one of the two things you have asked for but, as a rule, you will obtain both of them. God will give you the enjoyment of wealth, and so that you may possess it without the danger of becoming attached to it, He will inspire you at the same time with contempt for it. He will put an end to your sufferings and even more He will leave you with a desire for them which will give you all the merit of patience without having to suffer. In a word, He will make you happy here and now, and lest your happiness should do you harm, He will let you know and feel the emptiness of it. Can one ask for anything better? But if such a great blessing is well worth being asked for, remember that still more is it worth being asked for with insistence. For the reason why we obtain little is not only because we ask for little but still more because, whether we ask a little or we ask a lot, we do not ask often enough.

BY THE WAY: Today, February 15th, is the feast of St. Claude de la Colombière. I didn't realize this at the time I felt the urge to post the above; and the post had been up for some time before I did realize it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Red Red Rose

The main problem with finding the poetry of Robert Burns via Google search is that Google has the temerity to try and correct the (correct) spelling of words in Burns' Scots dialect. But I still got what I wanted anyway.

O MY Luve 's like a red, red rose
That 's newly sprung in June:
O my Luve 's like the melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune!

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry:

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile.

Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Hair-Raising (and Not Just on Martin Sheen's Head) Movie

It's 1999. The Fourth Vatican Council has just convened; the Church has repudiated, among other things, the Sacrament of Confession, the doctrine of transubstantiation, and the good of the soul over material goods; negotiations are under way to meld Catholicism and Buddhism. This whole house of cards stands threatened by a handful of monks in an island monastery off the coast of Ireland who calmly continue to offer the Tridentine Mass, to which people from around the world flock. And young Father Kinsella (Martin Sheen) has come all the way from Rome to put the kibosh on the whole thing.

Such is the stuff of The Conflict, originally released on television as Catholics, and based on the novel of the same name by Brian Moore, a fallen-away Catholic (who, ironically, died at the beginning of the year in which the story takes place). Martin Sheen, with his big hair, intense stare, Roman-collar-less black shirt and military jacket, looks every inch the messenger of Satan that he in fact is, both objectively and to the monks of Mork Island who have preserved the Sacraments and the Mass in order not to tamper with the people's faith.

Father Kinsella, plenipotentiary of the superior general of the monks' order, cannot convince the boatman sent to ferry him to the monastery that he is a priest, and so must call in a helicopter to drop him off on the island -- the first landing of an aircraft on that island in history. He is greeted by Father Abbot (Trevor Howard), and then by Father Manus (Cyril Cusack) -- first seen offering the outlawed Tridentine Mass on windswept rocks on the mainland, with contraband vessels and vestments -- who, unable to brook dishonesty even in the name of courtesy, lays into the young know-it-all with a prophetic (in 1973) speech about everything that is wrong with a Mass in which the priest turns away from God, talks to the people, and provides an entertainment. The rest of the monks are downright hostile -- none of which matters much to Father Kinsella, who is so much more "with it" than they. Still, he misjudges Father Abbot -- though Father Abbot himself has an Achilles heel that is not without consequences.

The DVD version of this movie is somewhat spoiled by the lousy editing (some scenes that would have been helpful to understanding the plot are cut out of the beginning) and cheesy credits, and the story is limited by its author's lack of faith, particularly in the inerrancy of the Church and the primacy and infallibility of Peter (it is simply unthinkable that Rome itself would turn Protestant). Then there are the silly and completely unnecessary faux pas (e.g., no one is "ordained a monk"; and the name of the order of monks sounds most uncomfortably close to "Albigensian"). Plus, the company that wrote the copy for the disk jacket demonstrates an ignorance of and contempt for a Catholic audience by propping us up to sympathize with liberation-theology-loving Father Kinsella and his diabolical mission. Yet it provokes thought (albeit imperfectly owing to the author's lack of faith) on the reach and limits of obedience, particularly the obedience owed by religious to their superiors; and on the primacy of conscience, that much-misused doctrine upon which so much abuse has rested since Vatican II.

Most of all, in the afterlight of thirty-five years, the movie overall turns out to be astonishingly prescient. There is virtually nothing in Father Manus' predictions about the results of the new Mass that has not in fact come to pass. And Father Kinsella is a walking prophecy all on his own: the very type of the decades of priests who have given up priestly garb; sacrificed the salvation of souls on the altar of materialism; substituted political activism for the Sacraments; and dabbled in transcendental meditation. In short, he is the epitome of many worldly priests with no faith -- polite and civilized, even affable, hanging by a thread over the abyss of Hell, burdened by the weight of the many souls they are dragging down with them. Nice people can and do go to Hell.

Overall, for all its faults, I have to give this movie a thumbs-up. Hat tip to the Caveman, who first recommended it, thereby getting the Redoubtable Marcus Magnus to order it, thereby giving me a chance to see it. It's worth it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

"I Am the Immaculate Conception"

Thus the Blessed Mother identified herself to Bernadette Soubirous, less than five years after the Church formally defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception; Bernadette had never heard the term before, and did not understand what it meant. Yet this simple, uneducated girl was privileged to receive 18 visits from the Blessed Mother at Lourdes, beginning on February 11, 1858, when she was 14 years old, in an area that had previously served, among other things, as a garbage dump.

lthough Bernadette did not understand the Immaculate Conception -- at least at the time she first heard the phrase -- she did understand that the healing spring she dug at Our Lady's command was, in the end, not for her; plagued by illnesses all her life, she died of tuberculosis of the bone on April 16, 1879 at the age of 35. Her incorrupt body is still on display in Nevers, France.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why They Call It "Practicing" Medicine

When 35-year-old Michelle Stepney of London, England went to the hospital showing signs of having miscarried her twins, the doctors discovered cervical cancer. So far from having miscarried, the babies in their vigor had kicked loose a tumor in their mother's womb, thereby cluing doctors in to a condition they might not otherwise have discovered in a timely manner.

So naturally, the docs told Michelle she would need to abort her twins in order to survive. This she refused to do. "I knew I could have an operation straight away and it would cure me of the cancer," she said, "but that would mean getting rid of my babies and I couldn't do that. I had two lives inside me and I just couldn't give up on them -- especially after they had saved me like this."

And events bore her out. Instead of undergoing an abortion, Michelle opted for reduced chemotherapy to prevent the cancer from spreading, with constant monitoring of the twins' health. Alice and Harriet Stepney were delivered by C-section in December of 2006, underweight and hairless, but otherwise healthy; they are thriving today. And their mother, who underwent a hysterectomy a month later, has been cancer-free ever since.

Thus is proven wrong yet another authoritative pronouncement by doctors on the side of death -- and they do frequently seem to err on the side of death in our post-Hippocratic-Oath world. This is an age of astounding advances in medicine; yet doctors are still fallible human beings with faulty moral compasses, just like the rest of us. And so there is no need to accord unconditional obedience to doctors, whether they are telling you you must die in six months, you must have embryonic stem cell research to live -- or you must abort your child. There's a reason they call it "practicing" medicine: they haven't got it right yet.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

For Those Troubled in Mind

Please offer this prayer up for a friend of mine who especially needs it.

Prayer to St. Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr

Lord God, Who has graciously chosen Saint Dymphna to be the patroness of those afflicted with mental and nervous disorders, and has caused her to be an inspiration and a symbol of charity to the thousands who invoke her intercession, grant through the prayers of this pure, youthful martyr, relief and consolation to all who suffer from these disturbances, and especially to those for whom we now pray. (Here mention those for whom you wish to pray.)

We beg You to accept and grant the prayers of Saint Dymphna on our behalf. Grant to those we have particularly recommended patience in their sufferings and resignation to Your Divine Will. Fill them with hope and, if it is according to Your Divine Plan, bestow upon them the cure they so earnestly desire. Grant this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

An Unfortunate First

This morning, an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department SWAT team was shot and killed while responding to a hostage crisis -- the first Los Angeles SWAT officer to die in the line of duty in the team's 41-year history. Officer Randy Simmons, 51, was shot in the neck by a man who had just murdered his father and two older brothers in a house in the 19800 block of Welby Way in Winnetka, just west of Reseda. The shooter, a gang member with a criminal record and a history of mental problems, was himself later shot in the head by a police sniper. Another SWAT officer, James Veenstra, also 51, is in critical condition after taking gunshot wounds to the face and jaw, but is expected to live.

I was born and raised in these suburbs, and in the 25 years I lived there before moving to Idaho more than a dozen years ago, I watched them, and all of Los Angeles, deteriorate steadily under entrenched liberal leadership. During that time -- and especially since the Rodney King riots in 1992 -- it is the Los Angeles Police Department, and not the establishment liberals at City Hall, that has been taking it on the chin for everything that has gone wrong in that city. Whenever cops use any kind of force in the line of duty, however justified, both they and the Department are going to be descended upon by a swarm of drive-by media types, idiot actors, race hustlers, leftist lawyers, and even the very officials who are supposed to be backing them up. Commissions are going to be convened; lawsuits are going to be filed; and pretty soon, the Department is going to be buried under a fresh avalanche of stupid rules and regulations, saddled with new oversight committees, and smothered in new layers of bureaucracy. The cops are treated like criminals, and the criminals are treated like saints; then everybody wonders how the criminals dare to ply their trades so flagrantly and so fearlessly.

The LAPD gets so much bad press that everybody takes it for granted they're just a bunch of Brownshirts. It is a wonder, in such a climate, that anyone should be willing to go out and take on the dangerous job of beating back the assault of crime and street thuggery. Yet despite all the flak they take day in and day out, guys like Officers Simmons and Veenstra still get up, go to work, put on their uniforms, and go out and put their lives on the line every day. And some days, like today, they lose their lives.

Officer Simmons leaves behind a wife and two children; Officer Veenstra is also a family man. Pray for these brave men and their families.