Friday, October 17, 2014

When Roots and Branches Collide

Recent events have brought to mind a scene from one of my favorite movies of all time.

The Shoes of the Fisherman is a 1968 American film drama, based on the 1963 novel of the same name by the Australian novelist Morris West. Shot on location in Rome, it was directed by Michael Anderson and released by MGM. In one early scene, Archbishop Kiril Lakota (Anthony Quinn) has recently been released after twenty years in a Soviet labor camp. He has come to visit the man who escorted him to freedom, Father David Telemond (Oskar Werner), where he is congratulated on his elevation to the Sacred College of Cardinals, and to give his reaction to a controversial work penned by Father Telemond, which is undergoing official scrutiny.

Lakota: So your hearing is set for tomorrow, huh?

Telemond: Ten-thirty. Did you have a chance to read my book?

Lakota: Yes, I did.

Telemond: Well, I'm not going to die from the truth.

Lakota: I found very little of the Christian faith as I know it, in your book. For twenty years, that faith alone kept me alive.

Telemond: Go on.

Lakota: I found it ... speculative, dangerous ... and full of ...

Telemond: Heresy

Lakota: It … It challenges the faith. For instance, Jesus Christ speaks of the redemption of the soul. I find not one mention of the word "soul" in your writings.

Telemond: But it's there, only under another name!

Lakota: Why change a name if you're not afraid of it?

Telemond: To express in modern terms ... reality and truth more clearly.

Lakota: Well, Father, if you truly believe that ... why did you remain a priest?

Telemond: Are you accusing me of dishonesty?

Lakota: I'm not accusing you of anything. That is for you to answer. But are you sure you are honest -- with yourself?

Telemond: I'm under a death sentence. I cannot afford to be otherwise. [Pause] May I offer you another drink?

Lakota: No. No, thank you. [Pause] You know, David, for many men, belief is a place to crawl for safety. Of course, they will fear and accuse you. Your writings are a danger to their safety.

Telemond: I'm not afraid of being accused. I'm only afraid of being silenced. You know, even God has not spoken His last word about His own creation. [Pause] Would you like to hear some Shostakovich?

Lakota: That would be fine.

Telemond: Eminence, you are destroying me before the commission does.

Lakota: Oh, David, that was not my intention. No, as a matter of fact, after I read your book last night ... I couldn't sleep. I saw a brilliant mind reaching out to the last frontiers of thought. A place where I wouldn't venture. [Pause] I came to wish you well tomorrow. I will say my mass for you.

Telemond: Thank you.

“I saw a brilliant mind reaching out to the last frontiers of thought.” Think about that for a moment, and consider that, elsewhere in the film, the young priest returns to the point of origin concerning matters of belief.

Lakota: David … I'm feeling lost. I'm troubled by the whole idea of my coronation.

Telemond: Why?

Lakota: I am not prepared to be crowned with the pomp of a prince, while hungry men live in the shadow of death. Because in the emotion of the moment, I may have done wrong to accept the election.

Telemond: “Tu es Petrus.” You are Peter.

Lakota: [Pause] There is one consolation. As pope, I cannot preach error, no matter what folly I may commit. The church will survive.

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Much has already been written about the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, currently underway in Rome. This writer could not begin to provide a comprehensive survey, never mind a complete account of the proceedings. (In this case, it's not the day job, but one-week-plus vacation, and a wee bit of the writer's block.) This piece will be limited to a few highlights, and some random thoughts that may or may not have occurred to anyone else in the Catholic blogosphere.

The secular press, and the more irresponsible corners of the Catholic press, are all over the notion that our Mother the Church is going to be more "welcoming" to those with alternate sexual proclivities, as well as those in invalid marriages wishing to receive Communion.

With the release of a “relatio post disceptationem” (which is Latin for “report after the discussion”), essentially a working draft of ideas (ostensibly) exchanged during the proceedings, all hell broke loose. On top of the authorized edition being in Italian instead of Latin (the former of which, as one of our assistants has observed, is essentially a "gutter version" of the latter), this six-thousand-word document was translated into English, French, German, and Spanish, all in the space of 24 hours. That can only mean one of four things; A) the document was translated very badly, B) the document was prepared ahead of time by certain nefarious parties with an agenda, C) the document was not prepared ahead of time, but was nonetheless dominated by certain nefarious parties with an agenda, or D) some or all of the above.

Let's go with "D" for right now.

Problems with the translation, and the manner of proceedings themselves, have come under fire.

In the English translation provided by the Vatican, this is rendered as: "Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?"

The key word "valutando," which has sparked controversy within the Church, was translated by the Vatican as "valuing."

Italian's "valutando" in fact means "evaluating," and in this context would be better translated with "weighing" or "considering."

The English translation, in contrast, suggests a valuing of the homosexual orientation, which could at least create confusion to those who are faithful to the teaching of the Church.

Some will dismiss this as a distinction without a difference, but one should expect a certain precision in language when defining matters of faith and morals. But the confusion continued in the press conferences, in the form of bobbing and weaving in the face of plain questions requiring plain answers.

5:27: "I must say that it is not easy to answer such an ontological question …"

8:24: "We are now working from a position that's virtually, virtually, when I say, irredeemable; The message has gone out; this is what the Synod is saying, this is what the Catholic Church is saying, and it's not what we are saying at all."


Is an objective disorder integral to our being? Are we nothing more than the sum total of our appetites? And once we determine otherwise, how do we get the genie back into the bottle?

As the week went on, the relatio has stirred open revolt among the majority of the Synod fathers, who also take exception to remarks by Cardinal Kasper, who has arguably been the main antagonist in the entire affair, calling for changes in Church teaching while trying to make it sound as if he is not. In an interview reported by Zenit, Kasper dismissed the exclusion of African bishops from the review panel, saying that the prelates of that part of world "should not tell us too much what we have to do." Even New York's own Cardinal Dolan challenged this: "We in the Church in Europe, the Church in North America, we suffer sometimes from a lethargy, don't we? Not Africa! … The bishops of Africa are prophetic in reminding us that the role of the Church is to transform the culture, not to be transformed by the culture."

He could well afford to learn that lesson himself.

Of course, Kasper denied the Zenit report of the interview, which has been taken down from its page, but the internet is a marvelous environment for chickens coming home to roost. And so, His Immenseness was caught with the goods in short order. Meanwhile, some of the press are already disappointed that the English text has revised some of its language, making it less "welcoming."

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So, some of you might be thinking: “Yo, mighty Black-Hatted One, whatever inspired your reminiscing of this nominee for two Academy Awards while reflecting upon this Synod?”?

When the Angelic Doctor himself, Thomas Aquinas, was using the philosophical approach of a pagan to develop a theological approach for the Church, he presented the arguments of his opponents, even to the point of explaining the merits contained therein, after which he would proceed to defeat them. There is a place for speculation, for posing hypotheses, but at the end of the day, the teaching authority of the Church demands clarity. No matter how far one branches out, one must return to the root, the source. The Synod has seen too much unrooted speculation, venturing into charted waters as if uncharted, and a growing number of the prelates assembled are heeding, if a bit overdue, the warnings posed early this year, by such reasonable voices as that of Father Peter Stravinskas ...

Back in May, I warned our readers that this Synod had the real possibility to be hijacked by special interest groups, rather than being a presentation of the life- and love-affirming teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage and the family … The lay faithful need to inform their shepherds of their intense desire to live the Gospel message with fidelity and to beg their shepherds to assist them in doing just that. We all must also pray that our priests, bishops and Pope have the faith and courage to give a clear signal and unflagging support. If you do this, you will duc in altum.

... as well as observations on pastoral difficulties already prevalent in the mishandling of the message, by Father Dwight Longnecker.

Here is an example: twice in the last week I have had to deal with Catholics in irregular marriages. One woman married outside the church and told me that she thought it was now okay for her to come to communion because, "The pope has changed all those old rules." Another man has divorced his wife and is living with another woman. He also assured me very confidently that it was now fine for him to come to communion because, "Pope Francis has changed the rules." I know you mean well Holy Father, and I admire and like you, but this process on which you have led us is not helping.

Someone who does help is Raymond Cardinal Burke in his EWTN interview where he names names and doesn't mince words. Canonist Ed Peters provides a list of highlights from that interview. If you study nothing else, this interview, and Peters' comments, are worth the half-hour or so of one's time.

Our disorders are not "gifts" to ourselves or anyone else. At most, they are a cross, a concession to our fallen nature, an invitation to accept what C S Lewis called "the gift of suffering." If we do not suffer, we do not need God. If we do not need God, we will not seek Him. If we do not seek Him, we will not find Him. Glossing over the difficulties of life does not remove their consequences, and even as the Church survives the tumult, Her faithful will spend years undoing the damage wrought.

There is supposed to be a follow-up Synod scheduled for next year. If the pastors of the Church cannot leave the situation better than they found it, the lot of them should save us all millions of dollars and just stay home. There will still be plenty of opportunities for damage control in their own back yard.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Got Sins?

got sins? repent em
then try to prevent em
and await the dawn
facin ad orientem

(by Alexandra Kogan, with H/T to Jeff Bedia)

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Rosary: Shedding Light on Mysteries

VIDEO: "The Rosary" composed by Ethelbert Nevin. Recorded 23 September 1951 for The Mario Lanza Show, starring "the most famous tenor in the world" himself, with studio orchestra conducted by Ray Sinatra.

Today, the western Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, established in 1571 by Pope Pius V, to commemorate the victory over Muslim forces at the Battle of Lepanto, saving Christian Europe from the conquest of Islam. In 1573, Pope Gregory XIII changed its title to "The Feast of the Holy Rosary." Originally assigned to the first Sunday in October, Pope Pius X moved it to the 7th of October. Today, if only in the traditional usage, it is referred to as “The Feast of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

While the month of May is devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is October that is specifically devoted to the Rosary.

Tradition says that Saint Dominic received the Rosary from the Blessed Mother in a vision. We cannot be sure of this. What we can be sure of, is that the structure of the Rosary was derived from the number of Psalms, which were the bulk of the Divine Office chanted or recited by monks and clerics during the Middle Ages. 150 Paternosters eventually became 150 Avemarias. The latter in turn was broken down into three groups of fifty each, with every ten Aves punctuated by a Paternoster. Eventually, a brief meditation on the scriptures was attached to each prayer. Because this was easier and more accessible to the average layman, what we know as the Rosary was also called "the poor man's psalter." Popes throughout the centuries referred to it as "The Psalter of Our Lady."

In 2002, Pope Saint John Paul II released the apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, in which he proposed for optional use, an additional five "Mysteries of Light" or "Luminous Mysteries," which focused on key events in the life of Christ, so as to lend a Christological dimension to this devotion. They are:

1) The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan
2) The Wedding at Cana
3) Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom of God
4) The Transfiguration
5) The Institution of the Eucharist

Nearly every mainstream published material on the subject treats the "Luminous Mysteries" as though they are a regular part of the devotion, every bit as much as the other three sets of mysteries. Given the overwhelming popularity of the late pontiff, during his life, the cult of his veneration after his death, and his canonization in short order, I can just hear it now: “Hey there, O Black Hatted One, the pope made the Rosary twenty decades long. Get over it, duuude!”

Well, duuude, there is a problem with this assertion: the Pope never said that. Here is what he DID say:

A proposed addition to the traditional pattern

19. Of the many mysteries of Christ's life, only a few are indicated by the Rosary in the form that has become generally established with the seal of the Church's approval. The selection was determined by the origin of the prayer, which was based on the number 150, the number of the Psalms in the Psalter.

I believe, however, that to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary it would be suitable to make an addition to the traditional pattern which, while left to the freedom of individuals and communities, could broaden it to include the mysteries of Christ's public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion. In the course of those mysteries we contemplate important aspects of the person of Christ as the definitive revelation of God. Declared the beloved Son of the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan, Christ is the one who announces the coming of the Kingdom, bears witness to it in his works and proclaims its demands. It is during the years of his public ministry that the mystery of Christ is most evidently a mystery of light: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5).

Consequently, for the Rosary to become more fully a “compendium of the Gospel”, it is fitting to add, following reflection on the Incarnation and the hidden life of Christ (the joyful mysteries) and before focusing on the sufferings of his Passion (the sorrowful mysteries) and the triumph of his Resurrection (the glorious mysteries), a meditation on certain particularly significant moments in his public ministry (the mysteries of light). This addition of these new mysteries, without prejudice to any essential aspect of the prayer's traditional format, is meant to give it fresh life and to enkindle renewed interest in the Rosary's place within Christian spirituality as a true doorway to the depths of the Heart of Christ, ocean of joy and of light, of suffering and of glory.

Many devout Catholics, including those otherwise well versed in matters of faith, would overlook the careful wording in the document itself. We have highlighted them in red, so as to clarify anything they (apparently) missed. Note the last highlighted passage in particular ...

This addition of these new mysteries, without prejudice to any essential aspect of the prayer's traditional format ...

What is an "essential aspect of the prayer's traditional format," you may ask? It would be its relationship to the Psalter from which its format is derived. If the pope wanted to make the Luminous Mysteries the norm, thus altering the "traditional format," he would have said so explicitly. He did not.

But walk into any Catholic bookstore, pick up any book, leaflet, holy card, or other instruction on the Rosary, and you will see that the new mysteries are given equal footing with the others, as opposed to being listed as an option, or listed separately. This is not so, and John Paul II did not intend it so. And yet, in the world of religious goods and supply, anything associated with "John Paul the Great" (for whom a high school was named with this title, even before his canonization!) is a cash cow. Whatever the pious intentions of those who favor these additional contemplations, it is for certain others, not only about piety, but promotion, whether of oneself, one's goods, or one's cause.

When praying the Rosary from day to day, one does so as one would pray the Psalms in the Divine Office. Traditionally, the entire psalter was covered by praying the complete official prayer of the Church over the course of one week. And so it is with the traditional form of that which was long known as "the poor man's Psalter." The Joyful Mysteries are prayed on Monday, followed by the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday, then the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday. For the next three days of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the cycle would be repeated. Finally, Sunday being the Lord's Day, one prayed the set of Mysteries appropriate to the season of the Church year; the Joyful Mysteries from the beginning of Advent until the final Sunday of before Lent, the Sorrowful Mysteries from Lent through Holy Week, and the Glorious Mysteries from Easter until the last Sunday of the liturgical year. The "revised" method places the Luminous Mysteries on a Thursday, followed by the Sorrowful Mysteries on a Friday, the Joyful Mysteries on a Saturday, and the Glorious Mysteries always on Sunday. The order of prayer is haphazard for at least half the week.

As the saying goes, a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

One may beg the question: WHY DOES IT MATTER?

If one prays the Rosary privately, it does not. When one prays as a group and there is a difference of opinion, the side that invariably wins is the one that says that "the Pope changed it," when in fact he did not. Teresa of Avila once said: “Trifles make for holiness, and holiness is no trifle.” More than any other time in the last several hundred years of Her history, Whether they know it or not, the children of Mother Church rare desperate for clarity; clarity in worship, clarity in teaching, clarity in practice. The secular and even the religious press, enabled by the level playing field that is the internet, has compounded the confusion, by making headlines of every irresponsible utterance of a high churchman with an opinion of every various and sundry topic under the sun. We don't know what to believe, so we are tempted to believe anything. It is at such times that tradition provides the faithful Catholic with a place of refuge, a haven through which to ride out the storm.

To know the Evil One, is to know that he thrives in the spirit of confusion. One of his many names may be translated thus. Is one more novelty in our devotional life (which is to speak less of its existence, than the significance it is afforded but does not have) really worth the collateral effects?

To be sure, there have been variations of the Rosary for centuries. These include any number of chaplets, abbreviated versions of prayer beads, such as the Chaplet of Saint Michael, or the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Mother. These are good and profitable meditations in their own right, but these are not part of the Rosary. These have been recognized as precisely that; variations, not attempts to reinvent that which does not need reinventing. Forty-three encyclicals in the history of Mother Church, written by nine different popes (twelve alone by Leo XIII), mention or otherwise extol the power of "The Psalter of Our Lady." Its basic scheme has been defined among them, in no uncertain terms.

Does a mere suggestion by one pope override the clear declarations of eight of his predecessors, especially when the one never intended to overrule the eight? Is there anything of our Catholic identity that cannot be tinkered with by the tinkerers? Have they nothing better to do with themselves?

Thankfully, not all have lost their senses. At the online store for St John Cantius Parish in Chicago, they offer a three audio CD set on the Traditional Rosary. You can listen to a meditation on each mystery as the decade begins, and pray the Aves while listening to sacred music appropriate for such contemplation. Others may prefer the viewing of the great masterpieces of sacred art on the video screen while contemplating the mysteries. For them, Pro Multis Media offers The Traditional Rosary on DVD. Their shop also has related products of the Rosary on CD and DVD, both for recitation in Latin, as well as the Scriptural Rosary.

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To conclude, the Luminous Mysteries are simply not part of the Rosary, but a separate set of meditations that they have inspired. Does this make them a bad thing (as some of you are already concluding is being said here)? Of course not. No contemplation of the life of Christ, in the context of a popular devotion, could ever be construed that way. That being the case, could the Holy Father make a twenty-decade Rosary in continuity with its venerable tradition? No more than he could add fifty new prayers to the Book of Psalms ... don't you think?

Or don't you?

(H/T to Tina Hertz Evans of Ashburn, Virginia, whose research into the history of the Rosary contributed to this account.)

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Monday, October 06, 2014

Paul: Scrappy in Seattle

My son Paul David Alexander may be suffering under the impression that he can stop the ravages of time. Alas, no amount of knowledge of temporal physics will prevent the inevitable, as was the case at exactly 5:18pm Eastern time today. Try telling him that.

I don't want to turn 29, I've decided. Not happening. Sorry folks. The buck stops here.

He's determined, I'll say that for him. And so, we take this opportunity once again, to extol the triumphs and tribulations, of the young man who will continue the Alexander name -- up to a point (but that's another story.)

This story begins after Paul's graduation fere cum laude from the über-prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design (Atlanta). After staying in the Peachtree City for nearly another year, our wunderkind and his fiancée packed up the car and headed out west, crossing a dozen states for their Mother of all road trips, including one night in Boise, Idaho, as illustrated here.

He arrived in Seattle in May of this year, and after a brief stay at a friend's house, they found the perfect (and almost cliché) loft apartment near the heart of the Capital Hill neighborhood. It was the perfect choice for a twenty-something couple, and close to the bus route that takes him across the lake to Bellevue, the home of Nintendo, Microsoft, and a scrappy little start-up video game design studio known as Camouflaj. The second of five episodes of the epic stealth survival horror video game known as République was released about the time of his arrival, and the third episode is under development.

Despite his busy schedule of nearly all work and nearly no play, Paul still manages to keep in touch with his dear old mac daddy, which would never be complete without his usual biting wit (which he gets from his mother). It doesn't matter if we disagree on politics and religion. In fact, as is shown in this episode with Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, this party via text messaging is just getting started.

D: So, tell me more about this love-hate bromance you seem to have with Jonah Goldberg. If I ever meet him at some right-wing cocktail party and tell him, "Hey, I'm this guy's dad," will he shake my hand and tell me what a f***ng genius you are, or simply run screaming out of the room?

P: There's nothing love-hate about it. that guy is a turd given human form.

D: Yeah, well, I see a pair of turds that are equally matched. Keep it going, will you? I still can't stop laughing.

D: Because if this is the best you can do ... (referring to the Twitter conversation above)

D: ... he is SO gonna whoop your ass!

D: Besides, guys like him never fly coach, so this isn't really gonna be, like, a thing, k?

P: I completely owned him.

D: Oh sure you did. That bit about spitting out his Cinnabun totally made him your b**** in the public square.

P: Lol exactly.

D: You realize you're full of s***, don't you?

D: I mean, why can't you challenge this guy on his opinions? Surely a f***ing genius like you can ditch the Saul Alinsky playbook long enough to skewer his musings in 140 characters or less.

D: Seriously, what kind of a punk-ass son did I raise?

P: I'd rather just make fun of him - no point in arguing with dishonest people. Besides, he wouldn't have a job if it wasn't for his mommy.

P: It's twitter not the damn forensics club.

D: Oh that's a cop out. This is a public venue. You'd have a limitless audience. You could be "trending" inside the Beltway by now. But oh, no, why raise the level of the conversation, when it's easier to be Beavis and Butthead?

As to what followed, as seen in the illustration here, and having read Rules For Radicals, I should have known better. I'll bet Goldberg gets his share of yuppie d-bags and trust fund hippies who think he's a Nazi disguised as a Jew. Or something. But the important part is that dear old Daddio can be the secondary focus of his son's expanding cult following.

Like when he was a kid, his uncle from Cleveland used to call him "Spud Nut." Now, if you're not from Cleveland, you couldn't possibly imagine doughnuts from potatoes. But they've got quite the imagination in that city, so that where it comes from. And after I got tired of being addressed as "Dude," he found an alternative. What a knucklehead. Just imagine him getting nervous about me seeing this conversation and sending tweets to his friends.

Other than sending baby pictures to Camouflaj, he knows I would never do that.

Or would I?

But at the end of the day (including a three-hour delay), he knows that I love him, and that I always will. Ours may not be the typical father-son relationship, but he knows that I brought him into this world, and that I can still take him out. Meanwhile, we close with this video of him and his colleagues making their mark in their chosen profession, on a large screen in a great convention hall.


A boy can dream, and dreams can come true. Here's to his, and to living his vision.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Until we return to our usual programming ...

It's that time of year in the Federal workplace, where we close out the old, and ring in the new. That means everybody wants something at once. As a result, several endeavors which have each required a certain amount of research have sort of fallen by the wayside, for want of a few loose ends tying up.

Fortunately, this little gem wasn't hard to find, or hard to convey. It seems that Hillsdale College came up with a list of “Top Ten Books You’ve Got To Read” for all you bookworms out there.

1. Aristotle’s Ethics
2. Plato’s Republic
3. Euclid’s Elements
4. Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty
5. The Federalist Papers
6. Homer’s Odyssey
7. Augustine’s Confessions
8. Shakespeare’s King Lear
9. Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment
10. C S Lewis’s Abolition of Man

I have to admit, for all the reading I do, I haven't read any of them -- no, not even the seventh one. My son Paul read the second one when he was a senior in high school, and it wasn't even required reading. I have no idea why. I've read other works by the author of the eighth one, but not that one. And I'm contemplating a new year's resolution to study the fifth one. In any case, at least this will placate my dedicated fan base for now (and you both know who you are), while I figure out a way to explain the real reason for this interregnum.

After all, my day job should hardly keep me from pursuing this in my spare time, don't you think?

Or don't you?

(H/T to New Advent.)

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Meditation on a Moon Pie

Great romances and dizzying cathedrals
aren’t the only things you get nostalgic for.
Just now I got that feeling,
a torn curtain dropping behind my eyes,
not from an old song but from a moon pie.

A moon pie in a cardboard display box.

Yeah, sing O Muse, of the dear lost days beyond recall,
the days of looking forward,
our summer house at Nag’s Head,
and the Great Moon Pie Mystery.

We brought a box of them as a joke,
and every morning one would disappear from its box
to be found the next day,
in some attitude of distress
(transfixed with a toy sword to a sand dune,
suspended by a string like the Sybil in her jar).

We figured it out in the end, who was doing it,
but first we launched an Inquisition.

Splendid, the imagination, don’t you think,
if it can pluck a story out of nothing,
make a plot out of a few wet grain of sands on a doorstep?

But even the imagination can’t bring back the past:
so, even the trivial things,
the moon pies no one would ever eat,
the paper doily by the bedside,
the children’s toy swords, become precious,
the most expensive things.

A moon pie, melted on a paper plate,
will last practically forever (I can assure you of this) –

But practically forever is nothing, really,
and so we can only trust that somehow God holds it all,
even the most foolish of things,
in the palm of his hand.

Rebecca Bratten Weiss is a wife, mother, thinker of deep thoughts, and Adjunct Instructor of English, Philosophy, and Honors, at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She writes from her farm near Hopedale, Ohio. The accompanying video clip is a live performance of NRBQ at the Ram's Head Tavern in Annapolis, Maryland, on November 20, 2012.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Dad’s Birthday Edition)


This writer's father, Paul Andrew Alexander, would have turned eighty-nine years old today. This video clip is a scene from a parish Oktoberfest outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, in October of 2010. He passed into eternity in February of 2012. Requiescat in pace.

And now, back to our regular programming.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I was pretty excited when they unveiled the Apple Watch (or “iWatch” as it's been called). But unlike the new iPhone 6 (which I'm getting the minute it's available), the iWatch doesn't actually exist, and won't for at least several more months. It'll probably cost more than my phone, but for my sixtieth birthday, I'm probably worth it. As you can see, Stephen Colbert is pretty jazzed about it too.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

Until the “iWatch” actually exists, we can at least hear from the privileged few who got to wear one for five minutes, which is still pretty good for something that doesn't exist yet. [Gizmodo]

Someone once said it: “In one hundred years, we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school, to teaching remedial English in college.” It does make you wonder … [Mental Floss]

David Letterman has a few burning issues of his own, like the fact that the band can't play any songs by The Eagles on his show. Is that any way to treat some clown who's used to getting his way all the time? I think not!!! [Ultimate Classic Rock]

In an illustration of how you just can't please some people, Facebook went from forcing more than giving us more than fifty choices of "gender" to making us use our real names. Or something. [Gigaom]

If you saw the movie “Jurassic Park” you've probably been wondering ever since if you could outrun a Tyrannosaurus rex; you know, just in case one should ever be created in a lab somewhere and get loose. It could happen. Really. [HowStuffWorks]

Does anyone remember these commercials from twenty years ago? Let's all go into the past for a look at the future, because hey, we're in the future right here in the present. (That almost made sense.) [Vox]

And speaking of the future, we presently have this new “Utopia” show that is actually more like a dumb dystopia, but obviously that's the point. [Paleofuture]

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Oh, Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

Oh, love that will not let me go
I rest me weary soul in Thee
I give You back this life I owe
And in Your ocean depths its flow
May richer fuller be

Oh, light that follows all my way
I yield my flickering torch to Thee
And my heart restores its borrowed ray
And in Your sunshines blaze, its day
May brighter, fairer be

Rejoice my heart
Rejoice my soul
My Savior God has come to Thee
Rejoice my heart
You've been made whole
By a love that will not let me go

Oh, joy that seeks me through the pain
I cannot close my heart to Thee
I chase the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain
That more shall tearless be

Rejoice my heart ...

Oh, cross that lifts and holds my head
I dare not ask to fly from thee
I lay in dust lifes glory dead
From the ground, their blossoms red
Life that shall endless be

Rejoice my heart ...

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The lyrics above are from a hymn written in 1882 by George Matheson (1842-1906), a Scottish minister and hymn writer. Years earlier, upon being informed that he was going blind, his fiancé broke off the engagement, saying that she could not go through life being married to a blind man. Matheson went on to study for the ministry, even as his sight was fading, and it was in the throes of a broken heart, that he was moved to compose this hymn for the occasion of his sister's wedding. He later wrote that it took him only five minutes to compose. The melody and performance is by the Robbie Seay Band.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Song Remains The Same: “Happy” Beyond Pharrell Williams

This month, we present a special interruption of “Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre” which is our usual midweek feature. This special sub-series is named for the 1973 concert film by Led Zeppelin. After showing two very different versions of an AC/DC hit last month, it was decided to delve into the world of pop music remixes.

This first one put an American singer-songwriter, rapper, record producer, musician, and fashion designer by the name of Pharrell Williams on the map, and now everybody's doin' that happy dance, at a time when the world needs it most. There is even a 24-hour version at

You can either watch the "behind the scenes" video above, or you can check the one-hour segments of the 24-hour full monty, whether at 12 midnight, 12 noon, or any hours in between. Meanwhile, everybody is getting in on the act, provided with any excuse for a flash mob. Here's how they get it done in Malaysia.

We have featured Burlington, Ontario-based Walk Off The Earth at Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre before, bringing a unique and off-the-mainstream approach to mainstream pop music, as much fun to watch as they are to hear. And here they are with their friends from Parachute, along with the big brooding fellow, being big and brooding as always.

Our next feature is one you can expect given the fun we have here with á cappella ensembles; in this case, the Brigham Young University-based Vocal Point. Hey, didn't we feature these guys once before? Oh, yeah we did, son of a gun! They seem to have grown in numbers since then, not to mention varied in their wardrobe so they don't look so much like Mormons even though they are, well, you know ...

Of course, we cannot forget the ultimate imitation as a form of flattery, starring none other than Weird Al Yankovic and his rendition of “Tacky.” He features comedian Margaret Cho, actor Jack Black, and some other people we can't seem to name at the moment. (Maybe you can, and the combox is open.)

Now, it's understood that you, dear reader, cannot wait to do your happy dance, so we're calling on choreographer Andrea Wilson to show you the moves, as we move on to our intense research for the next highlight of this special feature of our usual midweek feature.

Maybe if everybody around the world would do their happy dance all at the same time (and a search on YouTube for “pharrell williams happy” will give you quite an idea), we just might all stop killing each other long enough to forget why we ever started, don't you think?

Or don't you?

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Monday, September 08, 2014

“I read the news today, oh boy …” (Mary’s Birthday Edition)

There are more exciting things than watching the grass grow. One of them is watching crayons being made, as we provide yet another excuse for a GIF animation.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

There is what people say, and what people mean when they say it. Here is a list of fourteen such veiled comments. [Thought Catalog]

Speaking of falling for something, there is a new phenomenon on the internet, and her name is “The Food Babe.” This attractive woman appears to know something about what goes into your food, and she can even make dihydrogen monoxide sound bad for you. [Forbes]

Once there was a psychologist whose science experiments on his own children were considered unethical. Nowadays some children don't wait for that to happen. [Reuters via MSN]

It sounds like an urban legend, but a Great Dane underwent surgery to have 43 1/2 socks removed from his stomach. Maybe he was saving that last half-sock for a nightcap. One thing's for sure, if you watch the video, you'll see the story had a happy ending. [The Oregonian]

In a related story, an Indiana judge has ordered an attorney not to appear again in court without wearing proper attire, which would appear to include -- you guessed it ... [AP]

In other potentially scary outcomes (depending on from which side of Hadrian's Wall you hail), the vote of Scotland to separate from the United Kingdom leaves vexillologists and vexillophiles the world over wondering the same thing. [Gizmodo]

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aforementioned wall, somebody may have found Jack the Ripper. [The Daily Mail]

Somewhere is a list of what purports to be the fifteen most loved or hated bands of the last thirty years, depending on where you went to college, what year you graduated, and to which college clique you belonged. [Salon]

Finally, today is the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is a pretty big deal in the Philippines, especially the exotic city of Cebu. Note the priest wearing blue vestments, and the altar servers wearing blue tunics, an indulgence that Mother Church has historically granted to the Spanish colonies (past and present). [Cebu Daily News]

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.