Friday, September 30, 2005

"So There Won't Be a Next Generation"

By Mitchell

That's The Curt Jester's take on NARAL's latest pro-abortion campaign: "It's not just your mother's pro-choice movement."

Ironic, as Jeff points out, for if your mother lived in the "pro-choice" era that NARAL so desperately pines for, you might not even be around...


By Mitchell

Regular readers know I get exasperated by John Derbyshire at NRO, but as Badda-blogger points out today, he can still hit it on the head. Today he points out once again that the difference between the two parties isn't what it used to be, emphasizing two of his particular issues: spending and immigration.

Badda-blogger makes an excellent point along the way:

I hoped that President Reagan's death last year would serve as a reminder of the value of his style of government and leadership. I yearned to see more of it. I still do.

However, I'm willing to ride it out until we have carried out more anti-terrorist activities... even if that's going to be a long time.

And that's it. For many of us who feel the Republicans have left us in all other ways (much as Ronald Reagan and many others felt the Democrats had left them), there's still the war on terror. The liberal Democrats with their "Blame America First" attitude (remember Jeanne Kirkpatrick and that refrain?) have proven how inept they are at providing a reasonable alternative. In their efforts to appeal to virtually every extremist group there is (feminists, homosexuals, diversity-mongers, and the blame America crowd, to name a few), they drive the average Americans further and further away. Having Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, and Al Franken as your poster children is a long way from "Uncle Sam Wants You."

There's always hope, as Badda-blogger says: "The days of small, less intrusive government are (sadly) over. That train left the station quite some time ago. That doesn't mean we can't try to reverse some of the unfortunate trends. It just means that progress will be e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y. . . s-s-s-l-l-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-w."

Especially when neither party provides the engines to pull the train.

R.I.P. For a Pro-Life Philosopher

By Mitchell

Here's an excellent piece by Robert P. George at NRO on the death of the brilliant pro-life intellectual John M. Dolan, a professor here at the University of Minnesota. (HT: Amy)

You should read the whole article, a fine tribute to a great defender of life, but two passages stood out. The first:

Dolan's pro-life convictions were no more popular at the University of Minnesota than they would have been at any other prominent contemporary institution of higher learning in the era of Roe v. Wade, but the sheer power of his intellect elicited the respect (and, in some cases, fear) of his colleagues. He was prepared to take on all comers. Few came.

Which tells me that if you have the courage of your convictions, you shouldn't fear the consequences, for oftentimes (not always, but frequently) the other side is all bluster and intimidation, but they don't know what to do when someone refuses to back down.

And here's the second:

Returning to the practice of Catholicism later in his life, Dolan explained that his lapse from the faith had been caused by arrogance. (This self-accusation was jarring to those who knew him, for he was not an arrogant man.) "I thought I didn't need God," he told me in a quiet conversation one evening after I had delivered the inaugural Hymie Gordon Lecture in the Program in Human Rights and Medicine. "I had everything worked out, I thought I knew everything." (The truth is, he did know an astonishing amount. Here might be the place to mention that on top of all his other interests, he also studied meteorology.) Eventually, he came round to the conviction that all of us are dependent on the God who created us, sustains us, and loves us; he concluded that it was high time for him to get himself to confession and back to mass.

And that speaks to one of the weaknesses that we all confront, one that I constantly struggle with: the ego. I know best! I know best! It doesn't have to be arrogance in the way we often think of it; as George points out, Dolan was a modest man. Humility isn't necessarily the way we carry ourselves with others, but the way we carry ourselves with God. And the root of so much evil in the world, so much sin in our personal lives, can be traced back to that one single word: humility.

And humility is what is needed to carry the day with the Gospel of Life. The humility to realize that embryos are human life and worthy of respect even though they may not be life as we define it, that the unborn have the right to be born and don't derive their dignity simply from our own opinion of their "value," that euthenasia represents the arrogance of assuming that we can define the nebulous term "quality of life." The Founders understood that humility when they stated that certain rights came not from man-made government, but from the Creator.

I pray for humility daily, and often not very well. But I'll continue to do it, as should all of us. For our weakness is what allows us to accept the strength of Christ, which when you think about it is all we really need.

A Bishop Who Gets It

By Mitchell

IngatiusInsight has an interview with Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli of the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware. If that name looks familiar to you, as it did to me, it could be because I quoted him in my post on Corporate America and the indignity of work. Here is an excerpt of what I quoted then:

Workaholism is a specifically American form of spiritual lukewarmness rooted in the consumerism of our culture. Seeing our careers and work life as a way to holiness prevents us from turning our work into an idol that alienates us from our faith, our spouses, our families and ourselves. Workaholism results in a damaging fallout. Marriages fail or are strained. Children do not receive the attention and nurturing they need. Families experience little or no time together. Family meal times rarely occur. Family celebrations are few and far between.

I admired Bishop Saltarelli for his strong stand then although I didn't know much else about him. I admire him even more now, having read this interview. The Bishop has been an outspoken advocate of the Gospel of Life, recognizing the that the problem is visible not only in the conventional struggle against abortion, but also in the growing threat posed by cloning and embryonic stem-cell research. In the interview with Ignatius, he speaks of the challenges in his diocese:

The challenges are maybe universal challenges in trying to proclaim the Gospel of Life and when we are surrounded–using the words of the late Holy Father, John Paul II–we are surrounded and seriously mired in a Culture of Death. We find ourselves sometimes submerged and mired and the challenge is to be able to lift up and proclaim the dignity, the sacredness of life from its conception to natural death. And that doesn’t find easy ears, or ready ears.
Tragically, even some people who call themselves Catholic Christians, I think, in some areas, have compromised themselves. And they have taken on for themselves the ways of the world in which they find themselves; it’s easier. When you try to proclaim life and its dignity and its sacredness, that doesn’t fall on too receptive an audience these days.

Bishop Saltarelli's particular peeve, if I can use so casual a word, is the "pro-choice Catholic":

No one today would accept this statement from any public servant: "I am personally opposed to human slavery and racism but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena." Likewise, none of us should accept this statement from any public servant: "I am personally opposed to abortion but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena."

To that end, Bishop Saltarelli takes direct aim at those who are complicit in this scandal, those most in need of our help and prayers, and in need of conversion:

We’re issuing once again on October 1st for Right to Life month the Litany of St. Thomas More that we composed ourselves. It is a litany for politicians, statesmen, and lawyers. And we hope by getting this prayer into the hands of all of the people of our diocese that they will pray that litany. More is wrought by prayer than by armies and battleships.

Perhaps I'm just more sensitive to this, having written largely about witnessing to the faith the past couple of weeks, but it seems to me as if I can't go anywhere without running into a quote that ties in to that thought. The bottom line is that you can't call yourself a Catholic without believing in the tenents of the Church, and you can't do that without living your faith in both your public and your private life.

Read more of this interview here. You could despair at the problems the Church faces, or you could be encouraged that there are those such as Bishop Saltarelli who have the strength and the courage to stand up for the truth. I prefer the latter.

Bishop Saltarelli concludes the interview with these words:

But He promised one thing: He promised that He’d be with us always. We hold onto that promise and we live that promise. Here in this Eucharistic year we experience that promise magnificently, in the Eucharist. And we don’t need a year to tell us about that, we have Jesus’ words that "I’ll be with you" and here it is, His own flesh and His own blood that remains with us and abides with us forever.

How can one not be optimistic knowing that Jesus walks with us always. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Do we walk with Him?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Readership Drive Continues!

We're in the last week of our readership drive. (See, you haven't been bothered by too many pledge breaks, have you?) If you're just visiting, please come again. If you're a regular reader, we'd appreciate your passing along our blog to some of your friends. Remember, the more the merrier! See the sidebar for more details...

Well Written Paragraphs...

By Mitchell NRO today. First up is Andrew McCarthy's take on critics of "profiling" in the war on terror. Part of the problem, McCarthy suggests, is the refusal of opponents to acknowledge the nature of the war:

The vast majority of the terrorism committed in the world, and virtually all of the terrorism targeted against the United States for the past dozen years, has been spawned by radical Islam.

This is obviously why the interest groups are trying mightily to alter the underlying assumptions of counterterrorist theory. Terrorism, they insist, is a reaction to political conditions; it is not doctrinal in nature. But this conflates context with cause. On the same account, one could argue that, say, mafia racketeering is an economic phenomenon, unrelated to any sort of criminal culture.

McCarthy points out that "just as we know the militants are Muslims, so, too, we know that the vast majority of Muslims are not militants." Properly done, profiling is an important weapon in this struggle; it's time to recognize that we are in a war, and start acting like it.

On a more lighthearted vein, Windsor Mann looks at the aging rockers of the Senior Rock Tour, those fading stars who look for any way to stay in the glare of fame. Their latest trick is bashing Bush without mentioning him by name. (Hey, conservatives buy CDs, too! Ironic that comemrcial interests can trump even political ones. Of course, they've learned well the art of plausible deniability from their political mentors.) There's something almost poignently pathetic about seeing these folks, so desperately trying to keep the spotlight shining on them, looking for any angle to latch onto. But no matter how hard they try, as Mann points out, they're only postponing the inevitable:

Nevertheless, it is probably safe to assume that those who today are "rocking against Bush" are not too far off from the day when the only rocking they'll be doing is in rocking chairs.

As aging hipsters transition from their glory days to their final days, dropping no longer acid but instead Centrum Silver, they should consider whether taking Parthian shots at neocons is really the cure they need. Because, as Francis Bacon once said, sometimes the remedy is worse than the disease. Therefore, rather than spending the remainder of their musical careers searching for hipness, maybe they should start looking for what they really need: hip replacements.


Yes, I Admit It's True (Especially the Useless Part)

By Mitchell

You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every book ever published. You are a fountain of endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and never fail to impress at a party.

What people love: You can answer almost any quesiton people ask, and have thus been nicknamed Jeeves.

What people hate: You constantly correct their grammar and insult their paperbacks.

(Well, maybe I'm not the life of the party, either...)

What Kind of Elitist Are You?

Brought to you by Quizilla

(Thanks to Cyntr for the link.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Does Prayer Really Change Things?

By Mitchell

Also from Roman Catholic Blog, a link to a site that I'm ashamed to say I haven't checked out as often as I should have, The Anchoress. She's constantly linked to by other blogs, and perhaps I've just taken it for granted that most readers would be familiar with her work, so I haven't linked to her much myself.

Read this very moving post from last week, which should encourage us in our faith, even as it makes us ashamed (well, it does me, at least) at how timid our faith can sometimes be in comparison to someone who really does have faith. Do we believe as strongly as she does in the power of prayer? Do we do more than simply pay lip service to the phrase, "you're in my prayers"? Are we content to complain about the way things are, or do we offer up our prayers to change them?

Yes, it makes me feel small (which I know wasn't the purpose of her post), but it also inspires me and fills me with hope that it can be done. As to whether or not I'm up to the task of increasing my faith, making my prayer life more active, or for that matter becoming much more interactive with the spiritual world around me - well, it is a grace for which I must continue to pray.

Is the Tridentine Indult Closer to Reality?

By Mitchell

From Roman Catholic Blog out of Vaticanisti (another one of those horse breeding descriptions) comes this speculation on a universal indult for the Tridentine Mass (with added commentary by Karl Keating).

For those of you who aren't into this liturgical biz as much as some of us, this all refers to the present situation, where the Tridentine Mass (or the old Latin Mass, as you might think of it) is currently allowed only with permission of the local bishop. Under a universal indult, any priest would be free to say this Mass without first having to seek permission. This also could help pave the way for reconciliation with the schismatic SSPX, but that's a discussion for another day.

I'm very hopeful that such a universal indult does come about. Mind you, I'm not one of those who believes that the "only" Mass is the Tridentine. I've attended the local indult Tridentine at St. Augustine in South St. Paul, and love it (especially the silence that exists as such a contrast to the chaos of everyday life). Our regular Mass, as longtime readers know, is the Latin High Mass at St. Agnes in St. Paul, which is not the Tridentine, but is the Novus Ordo (new, or normative) Mass, sung in Latin. I also love this Mass, which proves that whatever shortcomings might exist in the new Mass, it is capable of great beauty and meaning when done right.

My support for the Tridentine indult is simply based upon the notion that people deserve to have this Mass, which speaks to so many centuries of Catholic tradition. It was a great travesty when this Mass was suppressed in the wake of Vatican II. (Although it would also be a travesty to think that the current Mass, as celebrated in many parishes, is what the Second Vatican Council had in mind.) It tore at the hearts of many loyal, faithful Catholics to lose what they had held dear. It is a truer reflection of the Catholic faith than much of the liturgical dreck that so many Catholics are subjected to each Sunday. Were the Mass celebrated as it is at St. Agnes (or Holy Childhood, St. Louis, St. John Cantius, or the other excellent parishes that do exist), there might not be a need for an indult. Sadly, we appear to still be a ways away from that day.

The dream of many of us is to come up with a revised Novus Ordo that incorporates the best of the current Mass with the beauty, majesty and reverance of the Tridentine. Perhaps it's a pipe dream, and possibly none of us today will live to see that day, but if our faith tells us nothing else, it should remind us that we shouldn't be afraid to dream great dreams. After all, faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains, right?

On Following Your Calling

By Mitchell

Appropos of my posts last week on the meaning of being a witness to your faith, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam has an excellent feature on today's Gospel reading from Luke, with commentary from the Navarre Bible:

Our Lord spells out very clearly what is involved in following Him. Being a Christian is not an easy or comfortable affair: it calls for self-denial and for putting God before everything else.


Following Christ, then, means we should make ourselves totally available to Him; whatever sacrifice He asks of us we should make: the call to follow Christ means staying up with Him, not falling behind; we either follow Him or lose Him.


Our loyalty and fidelity to the mission God has given us should equip us to deal with every obstacle we meet: "There is never reason to look back (cf. Luke 9:62). The Lord is at our side. We have to be faithful and loyal; we have to face up to our obligations and we will find in Jesus the love and the stimulus we need to understand other people's faults and overcome our own" ([St J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 160).

Very comforting words, that last paragraph. Doesn't it echo what JPII said about "be not afraid"? Yes, our obligations may be daunting, but with Jesus at our side we will have whatever we need to carry out the mission He has given us.

Anglican-Catholic Dialogue

By Mitchell

Some encouraging news on the inter-faith front, courtesy of Shrine of the Holy Whapping:

Traditional Anglican Bishops Endorse Effort to Seek Inter-Communion with the Roman Catholic Church

The Archbishop of the Traditional Anglican Communion and primate of the largest conservative Anglican Church in the world has received an endorsement from the U.S. and Central American Church bodies meeting in Portland, Maine this week to begin developing a plan for intercommunion and unity with Rome. The Most Reverend John Hepworth, the Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, attended the meeting of the General Synod of the Anglican Church in America during the week of September 20-24. The Church bodies gave him an endorsement of his efforts to re-establish formal unity with the Holy See in Rome.

Read more about it here and here. Very good news indeed, as it's always nice to see people whose minds (as well as hearts) are in the right place moving closer to Rome. (I wonder how much Bishop Gene Robinson has had to do with this?) And, as Andrew points out, this could be an explanation as to why Archbishop Levanda was appointed head of CDF. Reassuring to think that the Pope might really know what he's doing, right? (As if I ever had any doubts!)

Catholic Carnival XLIX

Check out this week's entries from a new host, On the Other Foot. Plenty of bloggers there who've put their best foot forward.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

On Ordaining Homosexual Men

By Mitchell

This is a hot topic in the blogosphere, and I've been reading about it with great interest. I have definite opinions on it, of course, and I'll be sharing those with you shortly.

But not tonight.

Just wanted to let you know I'm not totally clueless about what's going on out there!

Kids Really Do Say the Darndest Things, Don't They?

By Mitchell

Art Linkletter is one of my favorite celebrities - perhaps the last of the true giants from TV's golden age. He's outlived just about everyone from that era, and although he's in his early 90s he still surfs every day (according to an interview he gave with Larry King a year or so ago). I mean, the man has more energy than I ever had! We were playing the game of Life with Hadleyblogger Gary and his family last year, and the paper money used in their very old version of the game had Art's picture and signature on it. Marvelous!

Now, via WI Catholic Musings (with thanks to Dawn Eden) is the story of Art and his wife Lois, celebrating 70 years of marriage. Hats off to them, for their wonderful witness to Christian life.

What caught my attention in this story was a quote that Dawn singled out as an example of what Art and Lois Linkletter have stood for, and how Art has identified one of the big problems that ails our society. It proves once again that encased in humor is the truth we often don't want to face, and that kids have a better way of illustrating that than anyone. It's the answer one youngster gave Art on his old TV show, Kids Say the Darndest Things:

"I asked a six-year-old boy, ‘If you were going to go to heaven, what would you take along with you?’ And he said, ‘My mother and father.’ I asked him why, and he said, ‘Because I think they’d have more time for me up there.'"

I imagine Art paused after saying that, to let the message sink in. Maybe we should all pause after reading it, and see if it sinks in for us.

Happy anniversary, Art and Lois Linkletter, and many more!

"Let Me Go to the Father's House"

By Mitchell

Catching up from last week, Domenico Bettinelli links to the story on the Vatican's official chronology of the last days of Pope John Paul II. I find this kind of thing intensely interesting (why else would I have read The Making of the Popes 1978 by Fr. Greeley, other than the fact that I didn't know any better at the time?) and, in the case of JPII, extremely moving. All it took was a cursory reading and all of a sudden I was transplanted back to those dramatic days in March and April.

It is reported with some authority that the Pope's last words were, "Let me go to the Father's house." (Which, as another commentator remarked - forgive me, I forget who - adds extra meaning to Cardinal Ratzinger's words during the funeral homily.) Would that we could all say that, with our dying breath.

He Shoots, He Scores

By Mitchell

The book: What's My Line?, the story of the world's greatest game show, written in 1978, long out of print.

Cost if purchased on ebay: $111.00

Cost if purchased through rare bookseller: $148.50

Cost when found at library used book sale: $0.50

Feeling you get driving home: pretty darn good

Maxwell Smart, R.I.P.

By Mitchell

Don Adams, who died Sunday, was something for everyone. To the savvy generation of the 60s he was the bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart in Get Smart, the man who succeeded in his mission in spite of himself - a metaphor for America itself in the 60s. For the kids of that same era, like me, he was the voice of Tennessee Tuxedo, the penguin forever hatching grand schemes inevitably doomed to failure. A later generation of children heard him as the voice of Inspector Gadget, whose gadgets might have been the successful product of Tennessee's mind, had the penguin not been in such a hurry to do things his way. In between, he found time to be the commercial spokesman for Aurora games like Skittle Pool. And with advent of nostalgia networks like TV Land, a brand-new audience, equal parts newcomers and returning boomers, saw him once again enter the realm of KAOS, fighting the bad guys for the greater glory of Barbara Feldon. No matter what the show, Don Adams was rarely out of the public eye, providing enjoyment for fans of all ages. R.I.P.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Wish I'd Written That...

By Mitchell

"What puzzles the world, and its wise philosophers and fanciful pagan poets, about the priests and people of the Catholic Church is that they still behave as if they were messengers. A messenger does not dream about what his message might be, or argue about what it probably would be; he delivers it as it is. It is not a theory or a fancy but a fact.... All that is condemned in Catholic tradition, authority, and dogmatism and the refusal to retract and modify, are but the natural human attributes of a man with a message relating to a fact."

G.K. Chesterton, quoted by David Fegerberg in the July/August issue of Gilbert Magazine

Some Notes on Music

Guest Comment

Hadleyblogger Bobby sent along the following very interesting comments on music which we'd like to share with you. He makes some fine points on the state of modern worship music - I'm particularly fond of his comment that the "beat surpasses the message, and the beauty of both the voice and message is replaced by the beat." And Judie, having been a musician herself, has an appreciation for the relationship between the musician and the music.

One final note: Bobby's father is currently battling cancer, and would appreciate your prayers for his recovery.


There is no reason for a singer who has a contract with a pianist to be singing to recorded music. Now I can see where a singer who has such a contract will use the pianist for practice when performing with an orchestra or for an opera, but there is no logic in going to the lowest level of pop music in the form of pre-recorded soundtracks to create a “karaoké,” or empty orchestra, feel (such is the translation of the Japanese term) when a classically trained vocalist understands their personal work with their own pianist matters and there is an extremely crucial discussion between the two parties.

As I learned in the Henry Blackaby study Experiencing God (a Bible study book produced by the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWay division), all pieces must fit together, and as I’ve sung with Marion Sprott (played piano for students at the 2003 and 2004 recitals) and Jami Rhodes, who played for me at my December 2004 recital at my teacher's home, our pieces continue to mold into the perfect team – and the situation is not just music, but everywhere. Things which go together will connect successfully, and things which do not connect well will result in failure. Evidence of such appeared in the American League Championship Series where Jason Varitek was guilty of three passed balls because of his unfamiliarity with relief pitcher Tim Wakefield, who has Doug Mirabelli behind the plate for his starts.

The major reason for going to the pre-recorded pop is the beat, which in many musical cultures has now surpassed message in song. The choral member in question who challenged me on defending church musicians said it is better to be convenient and carry the beat of a tape instead of working alongside a respectable accompanist. But when I sit on a piano bench next to Allison Hilbish and watch a choral group sing, and observe both singer and accompanist, there is no substitute working alongside the accompanist once I saw what happened between singers and pianist.

Furthermore, the music being used in our church’s choral Christmas musical is heavily based from the “modern worship” rock movement. As a classically trained singer, I discover the beat overlaps the message, and technique is sacrificed for the beat, and many times, it means violating principles of singing. A classical singer cannot succeed in a modern worship rock movement, because the beat surpasses the message, and the beauty of both the voice and message is replaced by the beat.

In that Christmas musical, the worship leader had his back facing the audience, and the focus seemed to shine on his back, and his hip-shaking, and not on the choir. A member's mother-in-law was outraged and was crying, and he became the third member of the choir to leave in a few months. Later, at the worship leader's wedding, vocalists sung the last number, a rock worship song, to the same compact disc accompaniment, which had me wondering what had happened. This came just a year after the same leader tossed the choir out of the dedication ceremony of the new building, and replaced the choir with teen pop dancers dancing to a meaningless teen pop song because it had more appeal to youth.

One final byproduct of the switch to tapes has been music leaders switching emphasis from vocalists to teen pop dancers and rock groups, and today's children are like the pied piper, many of who would rather dance to the latest secular pop song than to sing sacred music at church. They don't want the next Christin Owens, Jami Rhodes, Jaeyoon Kim, or Marc Rattray. They want the next generic teen pop dancer who can dance to the latest tune on the radio or to MTV, and the attitude against classical music, a byproduct of the counterculture, has come now where they don't want classical singers singing in church choirs, they would rather have rockers with no technique.

In a Pig's Eye

By Mitchell

Most Minnesotans know that the city of St. Paul started out life as Pig's Eye. (Gee, can't imagine why that name didn't stick.) But now it seems that Pig's Eye would have been a better name for New Orleans, because of all the pork. Herb Ely has a great piece on how pork spending might have contributed to the disaster after the disaster. And for us former Republicans, it's another lesson as to why we aren't part of the GOP anymore: neither of the major parties differs in wanting to spend our money; they only disagree about what to spend it on.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Wages of Sin

By Mitchell

Fr. Zuhlsdorf continued the theme we've been looking at in the readings for this week - the theme of service, of Christian living, of what it means to let your faith work in your life. In his homily this morning, Fr. Z drew out the relationship between the Bible, salvation, and our spiritual family.

The Bible is like a family album. It is the story of our salvation, of God's plan that existed from the beginning of time - even before creation. The characters in that story, the prophets and the saints, are our spiritual ancestors - our family. Today's first reading comes from one of 0ur spiritual ancestors, the prophet Ezekiel.

We've heard it said how sin can weaken one's hold on faith. The more we sin, the easier it becomes. The stronger our attachment to the things of this world, the weaker our grasp of the world yet to come. But we must also realize that our sins don't just affect us. Some call prostitution and drug use "victimless crimes," but we should realize there's no such thing as a victimless crime. Likewise, there's no such think as a victimless sin.

Our sins weaken not just us, but the entire Church, which stands united in faith with Christ. When we sin affects everyone in the mystical body. Just as our prayers and sacrifices can aid those other members of the body, our sins can weaken and damage them as well. Many of us, confronted by temptations to which we succumb, are nonetheless aware of the effect that sin has on us, and the need for reconcilation (a sacrament of which we should make frequent use). But how many of us calculate the damage which we do to the rest of the Christian body? If we were able to do that, if we realized that our sins do have that far-reaching impact, perhaps it would cause us to think twice, to stretch our hands further out to accept the grace which God offers us to resist the temptation.

Ultimately the effect of sin is to weaken society. As Fr. Zuhlsdorf pointed out, the more selfish we are and the more we claim that our behavior is our business alone, the more we weaken our society; and the more society weakens, the more the circumstances become collective. When the abornal becomes normal, when the loss of respect for life becomes the way of life, and when we don't do anything to fight it, then the consequences fall on all of us. It is that which causes empires to crumble, nations to fall, civilized life to collapse. For exhibit one, look at New Orleans in the wake of Katrina.

Therefore, just as Donne writes that no man is an island, Jesus reminds through our spiritual family that no Christian lives in private, that no sin exists in isolation. Lest one think that this is something of a downer, remember that it also means no Christian need live in despair, nor feel that he or she is living totally alone. Our spiritual family watches us, praying and interceding on our behalf. The other members of the mystical body pray for us, offering supplications and sacrifices to aid us. In the Confietor we ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for us, and we must trust that they do, just as we pray for them.

Our Lord Himself, as Paul today reminds us, performed the ultimate sacrifice. Being both God and man, He chose to empty Himself of that which separated Him from us. "He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." He withdrew from the consolations that He could have had while on the Cross, choosing to endure the pain and suffering as a man, so that we could know that He had experienced death in all its horror, and in doing so could identify with our fears. "You don't know what I'm going through," we like to shout out in our despair, but our God does indeed know, for He endured it all - suffering, betrayal, sadness, loneliness, and death - to provide for our salvation.

And having demonstrated that He "felt our pain" far more than any politician's empty promises, and that He would understand our fear of death even though we had no need to fear, He wanted us to know also that if we only die with Him, we will rise with Him also, and enjoy eternal life.

Now, it occurs to me in writing this that almost all of my posts this week have had something to do with the obligations of the Christian life. This is the fourth post on the readings of the past week, readings that indicate to us the importance of living according to the Gospels. But the other posts, ones that have do with role models and corporate responsibility - do they not also involve witnessing to the faith? Living a Christ-like life? And by now do we understand how interlocking this all is, how you can't separate one aspect of your life from another? C.S. Lewis once said that the sinner should be careful in praying for God's help in one aspect of his life; He'll do just that, but He won't stop until He involves Himself in all parts of our life.

Perhaps we realize how infectious the Christian life is. We want to have our cake and eat it too, but we know once Christ enters our life, it becomes harder and harder to keep Him compartmentalized to only one area. And so we fight it, we convince ourselves that we have ultimate control over our lives, that it's an authority we deserve and can be trusted with.

Last night at dinner, the conversation turned to how regular Germans fell under the spell of Hitler, and Hadleyblogger Kristine asked the question how someone could be sure how they'd act it a similar situation. So many apparently good people fell under his spell, she was afraid she would have been one of them. "And that's why you probably wouldn't have," I said. So often it's the people who have absolute confidence that they're in control, that they'll know what to do, who fall short. "Like Peter saying he'll never deny Jesus," she said. "Exactly," I replied. The recognition that we don't know it all, that we need help to live good lives, is the type of humility that Jesus teaches us. That modesty is our best protection against evil, the realization that we need God's help to do the right thing. Paul says that we are strongest when we recognize our weakness, when we realize that our strength is in God.

Faith, humility, witness - it's all part of living the Christian life. It's what we strive for, it's what we pray for. And it's the responsibility we accept when we become followers of Christ.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Who Does He Say That We Are?

By Mitchell

The Gospel reading for Friday contines a series that forces us to reflect on what it means to be a Christian - what it means for us personally, and what obligations we accept because of it.

You'll recall that on Thursday we saw Herod asking of Jesus, "Who is this man?" Today Jesus asks His disciples the same question - who do they say I am? Like Herod, He gets the same answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets. Like Herod, He is not satisfied with those answers. He asks His disciples, "who do you say that I am?" (And I wish more priests and deacons reading this Gospel would emphasize you, for I can imagine that Jesus did, that the question was really a challenge to His disciples - you've told Me what others think, now tell Me what you think.) Of course, Peter makes his confession, and the rest is history.

And this, Fr. Tiffany said in his homily, leads us to the latest in this question of discipleship: if Peter is correct, if Jesus is Son of the Living God, what does that make us?

Among other things, it makes us the bearer of a precious gift, entrusted to us to spread throughout the world. If Jesus is God then we, as His followers, must carry out His command, to spread His Gospel to the ends of the earth. A short, simple lesson to be learned, perhaps. But it makes a nice companion to the readings of the last two days.

Being a follower of Jesus is a great thing; it gives us the instruction manual to life in this world, and it shows us the way to eternal life. In return for our salvation, He asks relatively little of us. But one thing we clearly are called to do is to live the Christian life in all aspects of our lives. As I've said the last couple of days, we do this in different ways, for we are called to serve Him in different capacities. But whether we're in the pulpit or the workplace, whether we come in contact with hundreds or just our families, whether in the public spotlight or the solitude of private life that most of us occupy, our duty is the same. We are the bearers of the gift, and we do not hide that gift. We display it in whatever way we can, overtly or quietly, in our words or in our deeds, in what we do or what we do not do. And we don't listen to those who say that we must put that gift on the shelf when making decisions in the Supreme Court or the Senate, that we do not ignore it in the boardroom or the classroom, that we do not turn it on or off at will, but that we display it and live it 24/7.

When we tell Him who He is, He also tells us who we are. And in telling us who we are - adopted sons and daughters of God - He also tells us what we must do. And we do it. It doesn't take much, but even it if's a little, it's a lot.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Better Not Cross the Red Cross

By Mitchell

Hurricane Rita bears down on the Gulf, and looks certain to cause substantial damage and produce misery for many thousands of people. As was the case with Katrina, we'll be hearing a lot in the coming days about aid agencies rushing to provide help for those affected. Before you give money to the American Red Cross, you might want to consider this story, which comes to me courtesy of the excellent Minnesota website Catholic Newsnet. I reprint it here for your convenience, but be sure to check out their site to keep up-to-date with news on current events, meetings and conferences (some of the information in the Michael Schiavo post below came from their site), and other information useful not only to Minnesotans but to all Catholics.

The Red Cross fired Michael Hartman because he did not want to celebrate Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in June of 2005, which Red Cross Chief Diversity Officer, David Wilkins insisted. Mr. Hartman, who had been a donor and volunteer for over 30 years for the Red Cross, and eventually became an employee, said that this policy was against his religious beliefs and quoted a Bible passage in his e-mail to several company higher-ups, and was fired for this. Evidently the Red Cross does not see the Christian viewpoint as having any value they care to tolerate. As many of us send in our donations for the Hurricane Katrina victims, remember that Catholic Charities are among the many excellent relief services whose efforts serve to aid emergencies. Then send the Red Cross a letter stating why your donation was not sent to them.

Folks, this is a disgusting story, but that last line is what I want to focus on. We can draw a parallel to organizations that support embryonic stem-cell research, and companies that fund pro-abortion groups. It's not enough that you refuse your support and financial contributions to these people; you have to let them know why. It's part of Christian charity to point such things out in the hopes of correcting evil behavior. True, the chances of them changing their policy might be remote, but that's not for us to judge. We must make the effort and then pray for the miracle of conversion; if they choose to ignore the message, the consequences will rest with them.

In the meantime, the next time the Red Cross asks you for money, remember how they dealt with Michael Hartman and tell them you're finding another place for your money to go.

Michael Schiavo in Minneapolis

By Mitchell

Just a reminder that today (September 23), Michael Schiavo is scheduled to speak in Minneapolis at a Euthanasia Conference to be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

The Conference is titled, “33 Years Of Clinical Ethics in Minnesota: Stories of Heroes and Courage.” Schiavo was awarded the Guardian Of The Year from the Florida State Guardianship Association, and is now a public speaker on the issue of euthanasia.

The event is billed as a tribue to Dr. Ron Cranford, who is a member of the board of directors of the Euthanasia Society of America and has ties to the Hemlock Society. In 1997 Cranford wrote an article for the Star Tribune advoc ating assisted suicide as a way to lower the rising number of patients afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The Strib describes the relationship between Schiavo and Crawford, with Schiavo referring to Crawford as " 'a very close family friend' who helped him during the ordeal. 'He's a great man,' he said. Cranford was Schiavo's medical adviser and served as his public surrogate in the media debate about the case last winter."

For his part, "Cranford jokes that he's afraid Schiavo will upstage him. 'He's taken me out of my limelight,' he said." Which is true; Hitler stole the limelight from Mengele as well. (Although, aside from the award as Time Man of the Year, I'm not aware of too many international banquets honoring Hitler during his lifetime.)

What's interesting is that Cranford retired from Hennepin County Medical Center in May after a 34 year career, upon learning that he had cancer. After surgery he now pronounces himself "healthy as a horse," but I'm confused. If the cancer was enough to cut short a career he loved, why didn't he just kill himself? That would seem to be consistent with his philosophy on the "quality of life," wouldn't it? (I know that may be simplistic, but irony often is.)

If you live in the Twin Cities Metro area and are able to get away for a few hours today, it would be worth your time to come downtown and present yourself as a witness to the sanctity of life, and to stand as a counterpart to the evil that is taking a firm hold of our culture.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Role Models and Corporate Roles

By Mitchell

Celebrities as role models is a subject I've written about more than once, so it's no surprise that I was intrigued by the story of model Kate Moss being dropped as spokesperson by the (very trendy) clothing story H&M because of her admission of illegal drug use. There's been an interesting discussion about this over at NRO's The Corner, centering on a conversation between Andrew Stuttaford and Ramesh Ponnuru.

In particular, I'm looking at a portion of Stuttaford's argument in which he says that H&M is justified in dropping Moss only if her presence hurt the company's bottom line. Here's an excerpt from his remarks:

Cancelled contracts. That's up to the companies, so long as their motive was the p&l, not anything else. I'm with Milton Friedman on the 'moral' responsibilities of companies. It's to make money for their shareholders and stay within the law. That's it.

Ramesh responds thustly:

As for your criticism of the companies, the fact that it is based on the moral views of Milton Friedman does not make it compatible with the view that we should refrain from making other people's business ours. Now if Friedman had joined you in issuing (vague and self-contradictory) fatwas against the criticism of Moss, you might be able to say that your errors here were also those of the great man. But under the actual circumstances, I think Friedman should be left alone.

Now, it's getting late this evening, and I'm too lazy to turn around and pull out one of my Friedman volumes to find out in what context he might have made that assertion. I admire Friedman greatly, but if that's what he said, then I disagree with him. As you know from some of my other posts, I'm a great believer that corporations do have a moral responsibility that extends far beyond the bottom line. Where some become confused is in thinking that it's up to the government to determine what that moral responsibility is, and then to impose it on corporations through law.

Corporations are morally neutral, neither good nor bad. It's the actions of those who run the corporation that determine the "morality" of the company. So perhaps in a strict sense Friedman is right in that the corporation (as defined by its board of directors or other governing body) has a moral obligation to run the company in such a way as profits its shareholders. If that's the case, I would add that those board members themselves have a code of morals to which they themselves must live, and that code extends to the types of products they produce (not only regarding quality, but in terms of the effect their production and sale has on society), they way they treat their employees, and so on.

So some of this could be mere wordplay. But there is no doubt that the corporation, however you want to define it, does have a responsibility to the society in which it functions. I happen to believe that part of that responsibility extends to the way in which that company presents itself to the public. If H&M believes Kate Moss casts the wrong light on the company, then I say bully for them. Of course it may have something to do with profits (one could imagine any number of potential consumer boycotts or protests), and certainly there may be something about what H&M sells and how they sell it that might suggest a certain amount of hypocracy in their action - I don't know.

But I've said many times that we're all role models, no matter whether we're celebrities or not. Maybe we don't act that way, but it's part of our calling, and it's something to which we need to face up. Furthermore, to suggest that the moral obligation of the company (however you want to define it) begins and ends with the bottom line is, well, immoral. As Pat Buchanan once said, we must worship at a higher altar than the bottom line.

The Way to Christ

By Mitchell

Speaking of regular visits, Dawn Eden continues the fascinating story of her journey toward Catholicism. Part 12 is up - if you've been following this, you know how captivating a story it is. And if you're just now checking it out, it's not too late to catch up - keep clicking on the links to the beginning, and go from there. Storytellers from Dickens to Spielberg have known that the best tales are the ones that leave the audience wanting more, and at the end of each chapter in Dawn's trip, we await the next one.

Reflecting on the Stations

By Mitchell

Over at The Weight of Glory, Clayton has been offering a meditation each Friday on one of the Stations of the Cross, as written last Good Friday by then-Cardinal Ratzinger. The first two - Jesus is Condemned to Death and Jesus Takes Up His Cross - were posted the last two Fridays. Check out his site tomorrow and every Friday for the next several weeks, to follow Christ on His journey, and to appreciate the beauty and richness of Pope Benedict's writing.

Being the Messenger

By Mitchell

Today's Gospel reading presents what appears to be a curious story: Herod and his curiosity about Jesus. At first there doesn't seem to be much to it, just three verses. Jesus doesn't even appear in the passage. Upon closer examination, however, Fr. Pavlik's homily shows this to be the perfect compliment to yesterday's reflections on St. Matthew.

"Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” Herod asks. Yes, the pull is there, the heart that wants to know more about Him, even in Herod, one of the more despicable characters in the New Testament. "And he kept trying to see him," the passage concludes. Of course, he does eventually see Jesus, under rather strained circumstances, but Jesus remains silent during their meeting, and Herod will die without ever hearing His words.

How many are there today who, like Herod, long to hear His words? How many are drawn to Him and yet do not know Him? Bishop Sheen used to say that the longing for Jesus is something with which we are born, and the satisfaction of that longing is what we strive for throughout our lives.

And who, Fr. Pavlik asks, is going to bring Jesus to these people? That's right - you and me. We are the messengers of the Gospel, the good news which He sought to bring to all people. We were chosen to hear that message, and we are chosen to bring it to the world. Some people will hear the message and ignore it, others will accept it at first but later fall away. But for some, the Word will change their lives, will satisfy that inner longing. We're not meant to handicap the field, we're called to offer it to all.

As I mentioned yesterday, there are different ways of doing it, some more obvious, some more subtle. But good news is meant to be shared, and the joy that news brings makes it almost impossible for someone to keep it hidden. We instinctively want to tell someone about it, to convey a sense of the excitement it gives us, and that joy often becomes contagious.

So, in the end, it's up to us. Have no fear, for Our Lord and the saints will work through us, and the Holy Spirit will guide us. We merely need to be the medium through which the message comes. For somewhere out there is another Herod, wondering who this Man is, trying to see Him. Which one of us will be the one to make the introductions?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

St. Matthew, Evangelist

By Mitchell

Today is the feast of St. Matthew the Evangelist, a good time for reflection, as Fr. Pavlik pointed out in his homily this morning.

St. Matthew earned the title "Evangelist" as author of one of the Gospels. However, as Fr. Pavlik said, in a sense all the saints are evangelists, since their primary route to sanctity was in living and preaching the Gospels. And for that reason, we are all called to be evangelists as well.

Not all of us will be preaching from the pulpit, converting souls, or writing about our faith. For many of us, our evangelization will consist of being a living witness to the faith, in the things we say and do, as well as in those things we do not say or do.

But one of the things we have to combat today, more than ever, is the pressure we feel to renounce our faith in our public lives. Politicians, judges, businessmen and women, artists, schoolchildren - all come under this pressure. It's fine to believe in the privacy of your own home, but if you dare to bring it into the public arena, forget about it.

Well, we can't and shouldn't forget about it. We should not fear living our faith in public, in letting it show even in the quiet ways we go about our lives.

It may be like swimming upstream to take on the secularism and materialism of our increasingly pagan culture, but have courage and faith, and pray to St. Matthew for the strength to be countercultural.

For the strength to be an evangelist to the world.

Monday, September 19, 2005

As a reminder, in honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, all of today's posts are being written in pirate language.

Begad! Be Saved, Mateys!

By Mitchell

Avast , me hearties, and listen up to the words of our fearless cap'n, Fr. Welzbacher. In his here homily yesterday, our fine leader reminded us o' the traps o' that the Prince O' Darkness, Redbeard himself, has set fer ye, as he tries to lure ye inta feedin' the fishes.

'Tis mutiny of which he speaks, mates, and tho' it might seem mighty appealin' at the time, yer sure to find in th' end that yer left walkin' the plank if ye listen to his voice, for he'll make ye addled in yer head. Either that, or the blaggard'll maroon ye fer sure. And then it's the Black Spot for ye, lad, an' yer left sayin' to yerself, "shiver me timbers!" Yer best hope is to use yer deadlights an' call on our ever-present Admiral, who even made the seas obey His voice, to guide ye through Redbeard's bilge.

Jack Ketch couldn'ta taken ye down to Davy Jones' Locker any quicker than ol' Redbeard. By yer deeds be ye keelhauled - but not only by yer deeds. Ye must provide no quarter to that evil one, matey. Ye must remember that th' thoughts in yer head can be dangerous ones, an' that gettin' such ideas in yer brain can leave ya addled. Better to remain pure in yer thoughts an' to keep yer spyglass focused on yer ultimate goal. Them ol' sea dogs, th' saints o' the Church, stand ready to help ye weigh anchor an' sail toward that safe port, where paradise lies. Arrrr!

But lest there be those o' ye who think it's too late, don't fear. Fr. W told us to remember th' story o' the master who offered a doubloon t'th' workers who swabbed the decks. (Matt. 20:1-16) At the end o' the watch, even when the last swabs had been workin' but one bell, each received the doubloon. Some o' them put in a full day, and mighta been thinkin' to splice the mainbrace after work, but then they's hear tell that them last swabs, the ones what been workin' only one bell, had gotten the same doubloon as them. "Sink me!" they say to the cap'n. "It's rope's end for me! How 'tis they get the same piece o' gold that we do, when they work but the last hour?" Well, the master looks right smart when he tells them that it's his pot o' gold, and he'll split it up however he chooses, or would they be talkin' mutiny, maybe? An' then He tells 'em that the last'll be first, and the first last. Well, yo-ho-ho! What he be sayin' is that it's never too late for an old sea dog like yourself to be turnin' over a new leaf, an' keepin' yerself shipshape.

So me moral is don't listen to ol' Redbeard, me buckos. Don't be a rum feller. Listen to our Admiral as he leads his fleet. Ye'll not be at yer rope's end, or hit the reef. Just check yer map, and look fer that buried treasure. And remember, it's the Cross what marks the spot! Arrrr!

Arrrr! Be Sportin'!

By Mitchell

Ahoy, mateys! Be sure to be checkin' out yer favorites today!

These buckos be fightin' their way to th' top!:

And these here'll be givin' yet the cat o' nines fer sure:

Arrr, it's a great day, lads! An' be sure to check out them comely wenches in :

Sure, and aren't ye glad this day comes but once a year?

Wish I'd O'Written That

By Mitchell

"Why couldn't the kids watch the pirate movie? Because it was rated Arrrr!"

(Freely adapted from SpongeBob SquarePants)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Blog Notice

In commemoration of Monday's observance of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, please note that all posts tomorrow will be written in the pirate language.

Thank you.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Head for Headlines

By Mitchell

It's often said that writing newspaper headlines is an art form, and Dawn Eden has to be one of its finest practitioners. You read some headlines and you think to yourself, "I wish I could write that!" But some are so good, you want to applaud because it's so far ahead of what you'd be capable of doing. I still have aspirations to being that good, but in the meantime I'll have to just clap for this one, from Wednesday's Daily News, for "an article concerning small North Carolina towns being alerted to the impending hurricane: 'Hamlets warned of Ophelia threat.' "

If you get it, great. If you don't, it's your loss.

So, Would Kerry Have Been Better Than Bush?

By Mitchell

Last week I posed the question as to whether conservative Catholics, had we known that Cardinal Ratziner would be the next pope, would have felt it as important to defeat John Kerry as we did. At the time a popular school of thought was that a Kerry victory, which would also be a victory for pro-abortion Catholics, would be a blow to the Church. Would a Ratziner papacy have changed that thinking?

I asked Christopher of the excellent blogs Against the Grain and Catholics in the Public Square what he thought, and he's graciously replied with a very thoughtful answer here. The bottom line, as I answer my own question based on Christopher's input, is that it would have remained important for the Church for Kerry to be defeated. As Christopher points out:

  1. The communion scandal would have escalated had Kerry been elected.
  2. Had Kerry rejected the Church's teaching, the moral authority of the Church would have been further weakened.
  3. Damage to the pro-life movement.
  4. The pope might still have delegated responsibility for any disciplinary actions to the local bishops, and we know how effective that might have been.
  5. We can speculate that a confrontation over all of this would have led to liberal Catholics leaving the Church, but in the months of Benedict's papacy we have yet to see that happen, so that would have been by no means a sure thing.

Christopher hopes this answers my question, and it does because it provides me with perspective that it's often difficult for the one asking the questions to have. I haven't really been disappointed with Bush because I didn't expect much from him in the first place, so it would have been quite easy to say that in the long run we would have been better off with Kerry in the White House and us in the opposition. In fact, it would have been much too easy, emotionally, to say that, which is why I wanted to ask someone who could think this through better than I could.

Ah, but as one commenter asks, what about Hilary vs. Rudy?...

Thanks for your time, Christopher! If anyone else wants to chime in, go ahead!

Catholic Faith and the Public Servant

By Mitchell

OK, I said I wouldn't write much about Roberts either, but I'm a sucker for a well-written and thought-out piece, and here's one from Patrick O'Hannigan of The Paragraph Farmer, which appeared this week in the online version of The American Spectator. The question before the house is what role we can expect Roberts' Catholic faith to play in his decision-making. By that, of course, we're talking about abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem-cell research.

In response to a question from everyone's favorite senator, Arlen Specter (thank you, President Bush and Senator Santorum), Roberts says he agrees with John F. Kennedy's statement that "I do not speak for my church on public matters and the church does not speak for me."

Should we be nervous about Roberts' answer? Patrick isn't sure that we should. Everyone knows Specter's just up there grandstanding, and Roberts is giving the answer that's expected of him under the circumstances - an answer that still doesn't commit him to any position on the controversial issues. But although the confirmation hearings are little more than a carnival sideshow, Patrick finds more to ponder in the question of what role Catholic moral teaching should play in the lives of public policymakers. Without passing judgement on Roberts' qualifications as Chief Justice, Patrick concludes:

Anyone so inclined could also read Roberts' answer as a tacit admission of Christian failure. If you accept the twin Catholic propositions that we live in a fallen world and that the church speaks not simply for Christians but also for Christ, then any divergence between what the church says and what individual Christians say, while not necessarily regrettable, is at least cause for pause. Individual Christians (never mind Americans) can't presume to have the benefit of doubt if we've ignored the voice from the clouds saying "This is my Son, on whom my favor rests. Listen to him."

Boy, I really love it when someone comes right out and says this. It's the question that always occurs to me - Jesus gives you the guidelines on how to live a Christian life. We call ourselves Christians, it kind of obligates us to some kind of acceptance of those guidelines. Now, how do you figure that you can decide those rules don't always apply? Might as well throw them out the door then, because I look at it as an all-or-nothing kind of proposition. Isn't that what the "I believe" part of the Creed means?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Triumph of the Cross

By Mitchell

That was today's feast, and one of the times when all four readings - Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle and Gospel - work together to present a united message.

I don't recall exactly when I first realized that the story of Moses and the bronze serpent was a prefigurement of Christ and the Cross; probably just a few moments before Jesus Himself mentioned it in the Gospel reading. At any rate, the imagery is there, and it is unforgettable. It is one of the great desert scenes that foreshadows Christ, another being the Manna from Heaven that kept the Jews alive in the wasteland, reaching its fulfillment in the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, that keeps us alive in this earthly world.

The Cross is the Triumph of life over death, of salvation over sin. We often look at Jesus on the Cross, His arms outstretched as if to take us all in with His loving embrace, His words "It is finished" coming down to us; and one wonders if the Romans were conscious of this in any way, if they thought to themselves, "OK, if you want this so much, you can have it! If you want to hold them all in your arms, we can arrange that!" To them it might have represented the ultimate mocking of His words, and they might have viewed Jesus on the Cross rather sardonically.

I know that Protestants are uncomfortable with the Corpus on the Cross; to them it represents a form of idolatry. We all agree on the importance of the Cross, and yet what does an empty Cross tell us? It is the instrument of our salvation awaiting Our Savior, but until He mounts it the Cross is nothing more than a cross, two pieces of wood held together. And the empty Cross cannot represent the Resurrection; that would more appropriately be the empty tomb.

No, the Cross is nothing without Christ on it, for it is there that He performs the timeless act of salvation for us all. In his homily today Fr. Tiffany reminded us that the Cross is the symbol of both birth and death - in water it is traced on the forehead of the baby at baptism, in water it is traced on the coffin at death. The Cross is with us at the beginning and the end, for as Paul says, when we are born with Christ we shall also die with Him, and if we die with Him we will be raised with Him on the last day. It is why, as Fr. Tiffany said, when we bless ourselves with the water from the font we should do it reverently, remembering the power of the Cross, the price that Jesus willingly paid to get it, and the salvation it bought for us.

As Bishop Sheen often pointed out, without the Cross of Good Friday there is no empty tomb on Easter Sunday - you just can't get there from here without it. Was it St. Francis who said, "We adore Thee, O Christ and we bless Thee, because by thy Holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the World."? I think so, but whoever it was, he had it right.

Forget W. - It's All Tip O'Neill's Fault!

By Mitchell

OK, one more Katrina post. Many times I've remembered Tip O'Neill's famous comment that "All politics is local," but I'd completely forgotten how applicable it is when discussing the mess that is Katrina.

Fortunately, Herb Ely didn't forget about it, and he reminds us how this maxim led to so many problems and so much pain. I like the idea of throwing the words of one of the Democrats' icons right back at them; but what really made an impression with me was the end of Herb's post, a paragraph that links back to a piece of his that I liked very much, discussing Gregory Pierce's "Spirituality at Work":

One of his ten spiritual disciplines is making the system work, i.e. striving to improve our own business, government agency, or non-profit so that it is true to its mission. This means acknowledgeing and asking God’s help in overcoming shortcomings in ourselves and our institutions.

Boy, isn't that the truth! I've gotten in trouble at places I've worked over the years for trying to hold them to that standard, and I've also gotten in trouble at other times by not holding myself to that same standard. Some people think this kind of talk is all empty intellectualizing, but Herb, through his discussion of Pierce's piece, shows how you not only can but must make it a part of life. Would that more people took it that seriously.

Shadow Play in Washington

By Mitchell

Back in the early 60s, there was an episode of the original Twilight Zone called "Shadow Play." It is about a man on death row (Dennis Weaver) with a strange story to tell: the entire proceedings, including his trial and execution, are a part of a nightmare he has every night. The shock of his execution wakes him up and ends the dream, only to begin again the next night. And the District Attorney, the newspaperman, all the main characters in the drama - they're merely creations of Weaver's imagination, existing only in his world of dreams. To prove it, he tells the DA that his wife is making a roast for dinner, which is preposterous - the DA saw his wife put a steak in the oven. And yet, when he comes home, he sees her removing a roast. How could Weaver know this if it wasn't a part of his dream? As the story ends, the DA and the newspaperman are unable to prevent the execution in time, and Weaver dies - but of course it begins again, with the only difference being that the man who was playing the DA is now a newspaperman, the prosecuting attorney is a judge, the jury foreman is the defense attorney, etc. - same cast, same characters, just playing different roles. For Weaver and the those trapped in his dream are nocturnal Flying Dutchmen, consigned to play the same roles over and over and over again - the faces may change, but the lines stay the same.

This helps explain why I haven't written much about either Hurricane Katrina or the Roberts confirmation hearings, and why I probably won't say much about the Pledge of Allegiance decision. At first I said it was because so much had already been said by so many others, but lately it's become something else: to a great extent I've lost interest in both stories. It's not that there isn't drama involved - the loss of human lives, the potential of the Court to shape human lives - it's just that they've become so become predictable, they're boring.

In Weaver's dream the story repeats over and over, with only the faces of the players changing. Likewise, while the headlines in the news change from time to time, we keep hearing the same people saying the same things, over and over.

Is anyone really surprised by anything that members of either party have said about Judge Roberts? They spend more time telling us what they think than asking Roberts to tell us what he thinks. And while there may be one senator somewhere who winds up surprising us, for the most part the roles were preordained ahead of time, the lines written far in advance. Abortion, civil rights, minorities - we all knew what it was going to be like, and we haven't been let down. The special interest groups have all chimed in, as we knew they would, and there are no surprises there either.

It was perhaps dismaying to find Katrina turning political so quickly, but not surprising. To the liberals there could only be one answer - Bush was to blame. It didn't matter what it was, it was the fault of the federal government in general, and Bush in particular. And now we find that race has become a preeminent issue, with a large majority of blacks finding racism inherent in what they see as the slow response of authorities. Politicians for the most part have kept their end of the bargain, pointing fingers every whichway except at themselves. Bush certainly didn't handle this as well as he could have, but at least he took some of the blame, which isn't something you can say for most of those involved.

As I said, none of this is surprising. After all, our culture has embraced those who exist by living off of the divisions they've helped to create. Where would Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton be without racial discord? If they couldn't find something there to complain about, they'd be out of a job. And the politicans are no different. It's a wonder they have to employ speechwriters, since about 95% of what they say has been preordained by the special interest groups whose water they carry. There's really very little imagination employed in this at all.

(Perhaps it's that whiff of Protestant predestination that tends to drive Catholics away from politics. When I was still a Congregationalist I lived and breathed politics; it was only after I converted that I started to see through the whole thing.)

And that's the shame of the whole thing. There will be hearings on Katrina, but as with the Roberts hearings, they'll all be for show. Everyone from politicians to pundits, from lobbyists to gadflies, has their own role to play in the show. It's a role which they've played in the past, and most of what they have to say is just recycled bilge from the last performance. We won't learn much from what happens - it will serve to inflame passions rather than illuminate intellect. (To prove my point, there's this story from NRO on how CNN apparently urged a guest to "be angry" during an appearance. I think we've all suspected this, but it's refreshing nonetheless for someone to come out and suggest it. When I was hosting my cable-access show, I was always after the guests to be more "animated," but there's a difference between animation and antagonism.)

And instead of learning from it, we'll just get angrier and angrier, the natural divides will widen, the man-made fractures will crack and crumble and all we'll hear are the talking heads shouting and hurling epitaphs at each other. How utterly boring.

And we'll be left like Dennis Weaver's character in "Shadow Play," enduring a living nightmare, wondering when and if we'll ever awaken.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Catholic Carnival XLVII - Faith

A terrific week for submissions for my first time hosting the Carnival! The submissions all focus to one extent or another on witnessing to the faith, a theme of particular interest to this blog. Our faith commands us not only to believe, but to demonstrate those beliefs in our everyday deeds.

Hurricane Katrina continues to be a source of reflection. la nouvelle théologie looks at what our proper response should be in the face of Hurricane Katrina. Kicking Over My Traces has been reading what the blogosphere has had to say about Katrina, trying to sort things out, and also finds answers in the words of Our Lord. The Troglodyte looks at Sean Penn's much publicized and ridiculed rescue mission, and finds a silver lining for fundamental hope for NOLA coming out of the tragedy of Katrina

As we reflect on Katrina, we also recall the fourth anniversary of September 11. In a timely reminder, HMS Blog looks at the readings for this past Sunday, and what they tell us about how and why we must forgive.

Our relationship to God aids us in living our faith. CowPi Journal looks at Psalm 139 and realizes that a simple change in pronouns and the insertion of your name makes it a love letter from God to you personally - a letter which, if prayed, can deeply transform your whole sense of being. And Living Catholicism gives us a review of Citadel of God, a book by a man of great faith - Louis de Wohl, about a man of great faith - St. Benedict, our new pope’s namesake

Pro-abortion politicians would have you believe that you can separate your faith from your actions - how can that be? Spurred by an an article on "The Disappearance of Pro-Choice Women" in Glamour magazine, Heart Speaks to Heart offers her own manifesto on "Why This Young Woman is Pro-Life." Of course, even some pro-lifers don't fully understand that you can't separate contraception from this discussion, either - Jay at DeoOmnisGloria excerpts from 50 Questions on the Natural Law that covers the importance of not using contraception to our spiritual lives.

Sometimes living our faith requires us to be patient - to remember that His timeframe can be quite different from our own. North Western Winds shares his experience, after waiting two years for an anullment, of first communion at age 36.

Amidst stories that Bush administration officials are formulating contingency plans for a preemptive nuclear strike to prevent terrorist use of Weapons of Mass Destruction against the United States, the question of the just war criteria of Last Resort and Legitimate Authority. Herb Ely calls for the Bishops, journalists and bloggers to raise these questions before the plans are approved. Herb wants them to prove him wrong, but doubts that will be the case.

Our Lord tells us that we must live our faith not only for our friends, but for those we don't even know. The most delicious-sounding blog of the week, Confessions of a Hot Carmel Sundae, has a response to a Democrat who spoke of refusing a ride to a woman stranded on the road with a baby, because the stranded woman had a "W" bumper sticker. This woman may have lacked compassion, but Dr. Hartline reminds us to be careful of our own motives - are we truly being compassionate, or is it simple self-righteousness? And as Mr. Satire satirically points out, there's no end of people wanting to prove just how righteous they are.

Speaking of faith, did anyone demonstrate living the faith more than our Blessed Mother? Quenta Nârwenion quotes from Venerable John Henry Newman on the glory of her faith. And speaking of glory, one of the great statements of our faith is the Gloria of the Mass. Chris at Veritas casts a careful eye at the real and apparent weaknesses of the approved English translation of the Gloria, and finds that it pays to ask people who know.

Ah, but what does our faith say? Sadly, not all Christians can agree on that. On the Other Foot is weary after constantly dealing with Protestants who treat us as though we were either stupid or deliberately disseminating heresy. But that's not to say that there can't be different commentaries on the Bible - Parableman provides commentary on commentaries on Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. And then there's the ultimate source - The Vatican. The Church Online has an idea on how the Vatican web site and her lengthy documents could benefit from a simple CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) implementation.

Our Lord recognized that obedience must be given to those in lawful authority. In "He Hates Poor People" (a provocative title!), A Penitent Blogger reflects on the importance of praying for those in authority - even the ones we oppose.

Are all faiths the same? Should they be treated the same? Angry in the Great White North talks about Ontario's debacle when they tried to introduce Islamic sharia law into the family dispute arbitration system, all in the name of "consistency."

Again, it's been a privilege to host this week's Carnival, and these terrific bloggers. Check them out, not only today but frequently!

Monday, September 12, 2005

In Praise of Chris Schenkel

By Mitchell

I'd like to take a moment from the more "important" things we face to praise Chris Schenkel, the all-time great sportscaster who died yesterday at the age of 82.

Many of you out there may find it hard to believe that there was a time when sportscasters didn't sound like rejects from MTV or standups auditioning for their own sitcom on Comedy Central. They were there to do one thing - tell the listeners and viewers what was going on - and they did it well.

Chris Schenkel was one of those broadcasters - men like Curt Gowdy, Pat Summerall, Jim McKay, Lindsay Nelson, Vin Scully or Keith Jackson. Whenever you heard Chris Schenkel's voice coming from the TV, you knew you were listening to the big game. The obit talks about his "easygoing baritone," and it was true. Schenkel added to the game, augmenting the action on the field rather than overshadowing it.

My youth is replete with memories of Chris Schenkel's voice on Saturday afternoons, broadcasting college football with Bud Wilkenson or doing professional bowling with Nelson Burton, Jr. There were Sunday afternoons when Schenkel teamed with Jack Twyman and Bill Russell to bring us pro basketball before it descended to the ghetto. He covered the Olympics, U.S. Open golf, and heavyweight championship fights. He told us what was happening, got excited at all the right times, gave the game the sense of drama it deserved, and in the process made us feel like we were watching the game with him.

There aren't many announcers like that any more. There are some good ones - Jon Miller, Bob Costas, Dick Enberg - but they're part of a dying breed. The gimmick now is to be large and loud, to make people forget that the game on TV often isn't worth watching. They have to be entertaining, rather than allowing the game to speak for itself.

I always liked Chris Schenkel. One of the eulogists in the obit called him a "true gentleman," and that's always the impression he gave those of us who listened to him. Fortunately, his voice lives on thanks to ESPN Classic and the DVD market. But despite that, and even though he hadn't been on live TV for some time, I'm going to miss him. R.I.P.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Psalm 129

De profundis.
A prayer of a sinner, trusting in the mercies of God. The sixth penitential psalm.

A gradual canticle.
Out of the depths I have cried to thee, O Lord:
Lord, hear my voice. Let thy ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
If thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it.
For with thee there is merciful forgiveness: and by reason of thy law, I have waited for thee, O Lord. My soul hath relied on his word:
my soul hath hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy: and with him plentiful redemption.
And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

September 1, 1939

By W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


By Mitchell

Today was the finale of one of the great classical music festivals, the BBC Proms. One of the traditions of the final night is the playing of the Charles Parry hymn "Jerusalem," based on the poem by William Blake (with the first two lines by John Milton). As this web site says, it's a uniquely English piece, and over the years it's become a political as well as a nationalistic anthem. However, I thought it would be useful to consider the lyrics of the original Blake poem, based as it was on speculation that Jesus once visited Britain as a teenager in the company of Joseph of Arimathea:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

Interesting, huh? I wonder how deeply people of today read these lyrics, if they understand the deeper meaning than our political times might give them? I can understand how some, particularly the Socialists, have used the lyrics to justify building a heaven on earth (the Labour Party always speaks of the "New Jerusalem" in their campaigns).

However, I think we might consider, among the "dark satanic mills" of our own times, whether or not we should be building a different kind of Jerusalem, one upon which the Divine Countenance shines, a land on which Our Savior and His works might trod? It's not too late, yet.

Friday, September 9, 2005

Remembering Terri

By Mitchell

For those of you in the Twin Cities area, Pro-Life Action Ministries will be sponsoring a prayer vigil on Friday, September 23 outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, the site of a conference honoring Michael Schiavo. According to Pro-Life Aciton Ministries, the conference is being hosted by Hennepin County Medical Center and "leading pro-euthanasia activists."

The vigil starts with public prayer and witness from 8:30 - 9:30 a.m., silent prayer and witness from 9:30 a.m. to noon, and a special time of prayer and fasting from noon to 1:00 p.m. Guest speaker will be Br. Paul O'Donnell, co-founder of Pro-Life Action Ministries and Schindler familiy spiritual advisor and spokensman.

We'll pass on additional details, including hopefully some more information on that conference, over the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Wish I'd Written That...

By Mitchell

"Somehow she believed in God, even after being born with that on her, or maybe that was why she believed, because God was all she had."

Richard Dooling, Bet Your Life

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

One Google Leads to Another

By Mitchell

Yes, I'll admit it - on occasion I'll Google "Our Word and Welcome to It," just to find out if there's any kind of link to us that we should know about. I've found out some interesting things - for example, we occasionally wind up as a link on Patrick Ruffini's 2008 Presidential Wire, whenever one of our posts mentions one of the presidential possibilities. And we'll find links from some of our friends, such as Faithmouse (the first external site to link to us - thanks, Dan!).

And then there's a site that assigns tags to blogs, categorizing them based on their content. And it seems as if we've been tagged as "blog catholic mn neo-traditionalist." Can't argue with any of that, although I am amused by the "neo-traditionalist" tag. Neo? Whatever gave them that idea?

Well, I had to check out the other blogs in the "blog catholic mn neo-traditionalist" category, just to see what kind of company I was in. And that's how I stumbled on Bearing Blog, an interesting site by a fellow Minnesotan. And that, in turn, led me to this interesting piece on Brendan Loy, a blogger and weather-enthusiast who tracked the course of Katrina as it bore down on New Orleans. If you're into the political maelstrom over who was to blame, you might want to read Brendan before you come down too hard on the Feds. True, there's enough blame to go around, but consider this post, written on August 27:

For some reason that I can't even begin to comprehend, the evacuation order for New Orleans is only "voluntary" at this time. The mayor says he might issue mandatory evacuations tomorrow morning, depending on what the forecast says. What is he waiting for??? The forecast calls for a DIRECT HIT! This is the story we've been fearing for decades! And if he waits until 24 hours before landfall to order people to leave, it may very well be too late!

And later:

I can't emphasize enough what a bad decision I think it is for New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to delay the mandatory evacuation order until tomorrow morning. According to the Weather Channel, lots of tourists in the French Quarter are happy the evacuation is only "voluntary," and are planning to stay in town until it becomes mandatory...

Will Ray Nagin go down in history as the mayor who fiddled while New Orleans drowned? Could be.

I don't pretend to be an expert on this, but Ray Nagin strikes me as someone only too willing to use the MSM to point fingers everywhere but in the mirror. Now he's brawling with Governor Blanco, for whom the words "timid" and "tentative" seem to have been coined. (As Chris Regan and Bryan Preston write at NRO, "[E]very state must have a governor who, when under pressure to perform, will not freeze and cry before consulting with lawyers and advisers before freezing up again in a passive-aggressive way that shifts blame to those trying to help."

Regan and Preston go on to say:

New Orleans is a major port of entry and exit for commerce. It's sinking into a bowl and is threatened by a gulf, a lake, and a river. It needed leadership, but what New Orleans had was an old political machine, a corrupt police force, and no real disaster leadership. Since the state knew of the problems with that police force though, the Louisiana National Guard could have had a dedicated special force with a plan to secure the city after the big one. A whole team of fast boats and such could have been training for years and deployed immediately to not just rescue but to keep order. That's the governor's job to think up something creative like that, not the feds. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. And here come the ghosts.

Strong words perhaps, but when combined with the weather tracking of Brendan Loy, it seems to make sense. New Orleans had a plan, they say, for an event like this was only too predictable - they just didn't implement it as it should have been.

As I say, the blame will be sorted out in due course, and we'll separate the hysterical political point-scoring from the serious discussion of what it all means. But in the meantime, we must continue to concentrate on the victims. And with that, I'll defer to the usually hilarious Musum Pontificalis, who offers these heartfelt words of wisdom:

Another important thing is that we keep these children in our prayers, because their suffering will continue long after the news reporters disappear. Not to take away from the importance of the corporal works of mercy, but you can sacrifice in other ways as well. One cannot fathom the good derived from offering sacrifices like fasting for a day or abstaining from a daily pleasure.

Some things to think about, all from a simple Google. I'll have to do that more often.

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