Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Order of Brilliant Bloggers

This is a grassroots group of excellent bloggers dedicated to recognizing and sharing sites and posts of others in efforts to support great work. They have blog awards voting running from January 1-5.

I am surprised and pleased to say that Happy Catholic was nominated for the December's Best Spiritual Blogsite excellence award (thank you Miss Cellania!).

It is an interesting site as they evidently have awards for all categories on a monthly basis. Go by and check it out.

Friday, December 30, 2005

I'm Not Funny ... But I Know Who Is...

Tom at Disputations is taking it to the edge before 2006 (and maybe over). Check out his 3-D faith-mapping diagram.

Just looking at it hurts my head and Tom kindly gives us the necessary precautionary measures.

Thanks for reminding me. Everyone: you'll need to get a pair of anaglyph stereo glasses (the kind with red and blue lenses) by Monday. To get the full effect, it would also help if you practiced blinking at 15 Hz.
You have been warned.

Plain Jane is All That

Just a Catholic band (yes, I said CATHOLIC ... heck I'd have settled for Christian) that totally rocks. Found by Darren. I think we're music soul-mates considering our mutual devotion to DC Talk.

Go check it out, along with some of the other great music he's turned up. Darren thoughtfully has posted samples of these bands (I also like Cheer Up Charlie, but Plain Jane rules.)

He's promising more tune samplings soon. I'm gonna hold him to it.

It's the Little Things

That make life worth living, right? I'm so thankful for those little things that all add up to a big and happy life for me right now. Specifically right now...
  • Rose wanting to fix dinner. She picks very different meals than I would. And it's fun to cook with her.
  • Hannah's responsible use of her new freedom now that she has her license. She always calls to let us know what's up and has been early (!) for each deadline we've set.
  • Tom using his laptop for work so that he could watch the Battlestar Galactica miniseries with us last night ... also his little sarcastic comments that let me know he was enjoying the show.
  • Email conversations with friends, especially blogging pals, about nothing much ... but so much fun nonetheless.
  • Pandora which provides my work music — jazz yesterday (Louis Armstrong "channel") and bluegrass today (The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn by Union Station "channel").

Just For the Record ... Limbo is Not Catholic Doctrine

And it never was.

I don't know why it keeps popping up. It was theological theory, nothing more. Never part of the Church's teachings.

So let's move along, there's nothing to see here ...

I thought that everyone had been as inundated as I had by mentions of Pope Benedict preparing to eliminate teaching about Limbo. Evidently not, so for those who hadn't seen the reason for this post, this'll help explain.

More 2006 Patron Saints

Over at A Catholic Life where Moneybags and his friend are valiantly trying to keep up with demand (over 60 requests so far) as people request special patron saints for the new year. I so appreciate what they are doing and want to extend my special thanks to them for this ministry.

In the meantime, Rose was chosen by Saint Peter of Verona. I'll be curious to see if there is a connection or if she's going to be exposed to something entirely new for 2006.

New Year's is Coming ... Favorite Movies

Yikes, I thought I posted this yesterday ... better late than never though.

Favorite Movies of 2005
(in no particular order ... some of these may be older movies but I saw them for the first time this year)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Gazing Into Her Crystal Ball

The Anchoress is making predictions for 2006. Some are more believable ...
9) Somebody’s gotta get serious with Iran. W will do it. Ungrateful Europe and leftists will curse him for it, while wiping their brows in relief before driving to their next Bush-bashing engagement.
... than others (at least I hope so!)
12) Rick Santorum will lose his bid for re-election. He will enter a seminary program for the permanent diaconate in the Catholic Church, and write books.
Hmmm, good idea. I am going to ponder predictions and get back to y'all.

It Ain't Necessarily So: Nuclear Power

So let's look at nuclear power in a new series of excerpts. Actually I have no idea if this information will upset anyone. Most of it didn't seem like anything earth shattering to me. However, I honestly didn't realize this ...
In 1979, Columbia Pictures released The China Syndrome, starring activist actress Jane Fonda... Two weeks later, there was a real nuclear accident, at Three Mile Island outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania...

Not surprisingly, fact and fiction became blurred in the public mind, and today, few people seem to realize that disaster was averted and no one in the plant or the Three Mile Island neighborhood was hurt. There was a small release of radioactivity, but the average dose received by a nearby resident was nine millirems — far less than received in a chest X-ray...

Seven years later a Soviet reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine, exploded and about fifty people died. There were no confirmed deaths outside the plant itself. Radioactivity spread to the immediate area, and there were reports of thyroid cancer. But there was also an iodine deficiency — a risk factor for thyroid cancer — in the area. Today, the background level of radioactivity at Chernobyl is lower than that emitted by the granite of Grand Central Station...

[Theodore Rockwell summarizing the latest findings from the UN's Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation] :
"Some people died from the original explosion, some from fire, and I don't doubt some died from radiation. But they were all inside the plant. So it was an industrial accident, and we have seen far worse. As to the general public, they checked for iodine in the thyroid, and sure enough they found 1,800 children with thyroid nodules. But that part of the world is iodine-deficient — they were already having a serious public-health problem. Two kids with thyroid nodules were brought in and they died. But it turns out they were nowhere near the radiation. A third child died of something else entirely. As to the 1,800 people, they did not correlate with radiation dose at all. Some high-dose kids had no nodules, some low-dose did have. So it's not at all clear that they were ever related to the radiation, and the chairman of the original UN committee doesn't think they are related."

Rod Dreher Likes It, He Really Likes It!

Brokeback Mountain, that is. This editorial with Rod Dreher endorsing Brokeback Mountain as a work of art was both surprising and also welcome (I like to see people who will find out for themselves if it seems indicated).
My friend Victor Morton turned me around. On his "Right-Wing Film Geek" blog (, Victor wrote a long, impassioned post that said, in effect, Don't believe the 'Brokeback' hype, from either side! The film is good, not great, Victor argued, but what makes it worthwhile is its fidelity to the tragic truth of its characters, not its usefulness to anybody's cause.

Intrigued, I found on the Internet a link to the Annie Proulx short story on which the movie is based and was shocked by how good it was, especially at embodying the "concrete details of life that make actual the mystery of our position here on earth" – Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor's description of what true artistry does. Though director Ang Lee's tranquil style fails to capture the daemonic wildness of Ms. Proulx's version, I came away from the film thinking, this is not for everybody, but it really is a work of art.
Will I go see it? Nope. I don't like sad stories and I often don't care about "art." Do go read the entire editorial. Free registration is required but don't let that stop you.

Tom Kelley likes Rhonda Lugari's referral for this article so well that he urges me to put it on the main blog ... so here ya go!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Getcha Saints Right Here!

Actually, not right here, but over at A Catholic Life there is a new post with more saints' selections of people to be special patrons for in 2006.

If you have requested a saint and don't see your name there, Moneybags' friend is struggling to keep up with the unexpected demand. This is when we all have to practice that patience that is such a virtue, right?

My Catholic Reflections

Darren just started up a few days ago but already has an interesting place set up. Drop by and welcome him to St. Blog's Parish.

New Year's is Coming ... Favorite Fiction

Favorite Fiction of 2005
(in no particular order)

  • Anansi Boys : A Novel by Neil Gaiman
    The best thing he's written since Neverwhere and that's saying something. About the sons of one of my favorite "tricksters" ... Anansi the Spider.

  • Magic Street by Orson Scott Card
    I'll never look at A Midsummers Night Dream the same way again.

  • Valley of Bones by Michael Gruber
    We all remember how excited I was by this book right?

  • Tropic of Night by Michael Gruber
    The precursor to Valley of Bones and just as excellent (and complicated) but with a major voodoo emphasis instead of Catholicism. However, the theme of mercy is still very much emphasized. I found it to be very "Christian" under everything.

  • Home to Harmony by Philip Gulley
    Like the stories from A Prairie Home Companion but better and told from a Quaker minister's point of view. Very cozy.

  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley
    Baking, vampires, a quest ...

  • Our Lady of the Lost and Found: A Novel by Diane Schoemperlen
    A writer who lives a quiet life walks into her living room one day to find Mary (yes, the Blessed Virgin) standing in her living room with a suitcase. She needs a vacation to rest up before May begins with all the celebrations devoted to Mary. I think of this as a story of what Mary does in "ordinary time."

  • Corpse de Ballet : A Nine Muses Mystery: Terpsichore by Ellen Pall
    More depth than the average mystery and a fascinating look behind the scenes developing a ballet.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I'm Laughing Already

There is a custom among us of drawing by lot, on New Year's Day, special Patrons for ourselves for the whole year. In the morning during meditation, there arose within me a secret desire that the Eucharistic Jesus be my special Patron for this year also, as in the past. But, hiding this desire from my Beloved, I spoke to Him about everything else but that. When we came to refectory for breakfast, we blessed ourselves and began drawing our patrons. When I approached the holy cards on which the names of the patrons were written, without hesitation I took one, but I didn't read the name immediately as I wanted to mortify myself for a few minutes. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my soul: "I am your patron. Read." I looked at once at the inscription and read, "Patron for the Year 1935 - the Most Blessed Eucharist." My heart leapt with joy, and I slipped quietly away from the sisters and went for a short visit before the Blessed Sacrament, where I poured out my heart. But Jesus sweetly admonished me that I should be at that moment together with the sisters. I went immediately in obedience to the rule.
Excerpt from Divine Mercy in My Soul, the Diary of St. Faustina"
This was part of an email received by Moneybags at A Catholic Life that spoke of choosing a saint at random to be your patron for the year ... or actually of letting the saint choose you. Moneybags then offered to let others have their patron for the year "chosen" as well.

I was intrigued by this idea since my experience with any of my favorite saints definitely has been of them making themselves known to me, rather than the other way around.

I looked at this as a way to have God match us up ... to let this saint show me things that I need to learn. So I asked Moneybags to have the emailer pull a saint's name. Then I asked God to send me the saint he wanted me to get to know over the year.

It was definitely with a feeling of amazement that I read that the saint that chose me was Saint Vitus. The patron saint of comedians.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. God has quite a sense of humor.

Could this matchup be any more perfect?

Well, yes it could.
Saint Vitus is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, who, as a group, are especially venerated in France and Germany. The Holy Helpers were believed to possess especially efficacious intercessory power. The relics of Vitus are said to possess many healing properties, especially when epileptics prayed before them.
I never heard of the Fourteen Holy Helpers until last year when Yurodivi's wife was diagnosed with cancer and he alerted us to them as intercessors. To see them brought up again like that, so seemingly at random, got my Spidey senses tingling.

I believe Saint Vitus was sent to be my special patron this year.

A year spent with a saint who brings laughter and good will. Sounds good to me.
Prayer to Saint Vitus

Dear Vitus, the one thing we are certain about is that you died a martyr's death. In early times, churches were dedicated to you in important places. In the Middle Ages, your intercession obtained cures from epilepsy so that this disease came to be called "Saint Vitus' Dance". Inspire comedians to make people dance with laughter and so bear goodwill toward one another. Amen.
Read more about Saint Vitus here.

Moneybags is happy to pass on the request for your special patron of saint for 2006. All you have to do is hop over there and leave a comment.

New Year's is Coming ...

... and that means it's time for those delightful "best of" lists. Hey, it amused me to make them so their purpose has been served. If it amuses anyone to read them, well it is doubly served.

Favorite Nonfiction of 2005
(in no particular order)
Cookbooks and food writing will be covered in a separate post.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Blessings

We all got wonderful gifts and had a delicious meal (if I say so myself) with our loved ones. Tom's brother drove his mom to Dallas so we made rather more merry than usual with large family gatherings three nights in a row. Totally fun.

However, God trumped it all (as it should be) at Christmas Mass.

Advent had been really rich for me and had been building toward a Christmas Day climax of which I was totally unaware. I felt such joy at the promise of the Messiah being fulfilled, such as I have never felt before. For me that means tears and we must have been quite a lachrymose looking trio with me, my sister-in-law tearing up thinking of her recently sick grandmother, and my mother-in-law shedding tears of joy thinking of how my deceased father-in-law would have loved seeing three of his sons attending the Mass together. Because, lo and behold, to my great surprise when we had extended the Christmas Mass invitation to two of Tom's brothers everyone present accepted. (Only Tom and one other of his four brothers are still in the Church, and these two were some of the fallen-away).


Our deacon's homily was as if tailor-made to speak to them ... really outstanding (and he's always good). I could feel the Holy Spirit flowing. What an experience.

Simultaneously, in the face of the glory and joy of the incarnation of the Word made flesh, I also was humbling myself and offering myself as his servant (once again ... wouldn't it be nice if I didn't have to keep revisiting and just stayed humble?). Knowing how I am when actually faced with that whole servant thing, I told him to trample all over my feelings and objections and just get me doing what he wanted. To use me as his servant.

After Mass, the deacon asked me to wait for a second and then offered me an opportunity to volunteer for something. Well, you can't say that God is a slacker, can you? He gets right down to business.

It is a ministry that I have been campaigning about to both our priest and deacon for some time. However, it also is one that I frankly didn't think I'd have any sort of input about. I have spent the past couple of years praying for this ministry to happen in obedience to what they told me (with a little pestering on side, just to keep my hand in, ya know!). It is also not in a form that I ever would have expected.

You know what that means, right?

It's got God's fingerprints all over it. Exciting! And intimidating also. I'll be contacting someone tomorrow about getting involved.

Because, for the moment at least (and as long as I can hang onto it), I am His humble servant.

I am more grateful than I can say.

Thanks be to God for prayers answered.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

C'Mere, You Big Lug

The original King Kong is one of my favorite movies of all time so Peter Jackson and I have that in common. I was predisposed to like it merely because I knew Jackson was such a fan. And I did. In fact, we all did.

Jackson kept things moving along so well that it really didn't seem like three hours, although partway through all the monster fighting on the island I was ready for things to move along more quickly. Tip to the squeamish: when they show the guys who fell off the log? If you don't like bugs, then don't look ... no matter what. (This was my strategy and it worked well.)

The regular movie critics have pretty much covered it all ... you'll either like it or hate it.

We especially enjoyed the character development which the first movie lacked. It gave all the characters much more reason for what they did later on. Jack Black was particularly good as the megalomaniac who was going to make that movie come hell or high water ... or giant gorillas.

This King Kong is the most sympathetic yet and I had tears running down my cheeks at his ending (as always I'm usually rooting for him to take down the planes and hop a steamer back to Skull Island). However, Rose put it nicely for all of us when she said that it would have been nice if Jackson had made a little further delination between Ann Darrow's love for King Kong as a pal rather than as something more. As it was, we felt that poor Jack was getting King Kong's leftovers.

HC rating: 9 Thumbs Up!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Defending the Faith: Instructing the Ignorant

Another source of confusion about allies and enemies is a misunderstanding of the Church's teaching on invincible ignorance and non-Catholics. Some apologists ... think that once Catholicism has been explained to the intelligent Protestant, for instance, he can no longer be invincibly ignorant of it. If he remains a Protestant, he cannot be saved. His remaining a Protestant in such a situation only proves to some apologists that he is not a good man. He is, they think, an enemy, not an ally, of truth.

We should be clear: those who hold this view do not deny that non-Catholics can be saved. They simply think that reasonable non-Catholics who have heard the case for the Catholic Church can no longer be invincibly ignorant. If such a non-Catholic fails to convert, it must be because he is, in his heart of hearts, stubbornly opposing the truth, and, therefore, stubbornly opposing God himself...

The trouble with this scenario is that it does not accurately represent Catholic teaching about ignorance and culpability. Invincible ignorance does not mean one is merely ignorant, through no fault of his own, of what the Catholic Church teaches; it means one is ignorant of its truth -- of the fact that it is true -- through no fault of his own ... after all is said and done, after the Catholic apologist has framed the best arguments he can and after the Protestant has investigated Catholicism honestly and to the best of his ability, the Protestant may still (erroneously and mysteriously, perhaps) think that Catholicism is false or less than completely true. If the Protestant were to become Catholic under those circumstances, he would be embracing what he thinks is untrue. And that would amount to sin, not salvation for him.
Again we see the great tribute paid to conscience. If someone is following theirs truly even if they don't agree with you, then they have the right to be wrong (as, indeed, we should have in their eyes).

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Finishing Up Global Warming

I grow weary of this subject and I bet everyone else has also, so I will merely recommend that anyone with a remotely open mind go read this excellent speech by Michael Crichton who, I have been told by a reliable source, started to write a book about the dangers of global warming and ... well ... wound up with this speech.

A book recommended by the Politically Incorrect Guide is "Global Warming's Unfinished Debate" by S. Fred Singer; Oakland, CA: Independent Institute, 1999.

Next up, probably after Christmas ... nuclear power! I can't wait to see the comments boxes on that one.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It All Depends on Where You Stick That Thermometer

According to the most reliable summaries of the earth's surface temperatures for the whole globe, which go back no further than 1861, there was a warming period in the first half of the twentieth century, lasting from about 1910 to 1940. That was followed by a cooling period from 1940 to 1975. Since 1975, we have experienced a slight warming trend. The three periods combined give us a surface temperature increase of perhaps one degree Fahrenheit for the entire twentieth century.

But there is a problem. Satellite measurements of atmospheric temperatures do not agree with these surface readings. Satellite measurements began only in 1979, and they have shown no significant increase for atmospheric temperature in the last century. Balloon readings did show an abrupt, one-time increase in 1976-1977. Since then, however, those temperatures seem to have stabilized.

Environmentalists believe that the twentieth-century warming was caused by human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels...

The [Greenhouse] effect itself is not disputed by scientists, but whether man-made carbon-dioxide emissions have been sufficient to cause measurable global temperature increase over the last thirty years is a matter of fierce debate ...

The surface data itself suggests that man-made carbon dioxide has not been sufficient to increase global temperatures. Consider the period 1940-1975, a time of considerable fossil fuel consumption. Coal-fired plants emitted smoke and fumes without any Green party or environmental ministers to restrain them. Yet the Earth cooled slightly. Also, if manmade global warming is real, atmospheric as well as surface temperatures should have steadily increased. This has not happened. Increases were recorded only in the late 1970s, but these were probably caused by a solar anomaly, not by anything man was doing.


General global warming thinking would be that the warming of the troposphere (red) results in the stratosphere (blue) being cooler. However, several times on the chart both are warming (like the summer of 1997).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Blogger Meeting Photos

Left to right: Tom and psyguy

Left to right: Happy Catholic and epiphany

If I'd have remembered photos would be taken I'd have spruced up a bit!

Defending the Faith: Ecumenism

Some apologists have trouble here because when it comes to dialogue with non-Catholic Christians, they have only half of the equation. These apologists rightly want to present Catholic truth as the fullness of the Christian faith, but they do not necessarily know how to discuss their faith with non-Catholic Christians without entering into full-blown apologetical arguments. They may be great when it comes to arguments, but they seem to be lost when it comes to ecumenism. Among other things, ecumenism means stressing (and valuing) what we Christians have in common, as well as discussing our differences. Both elements are needed if we are to attain the full unity Christ wills for his followers. And both elements have a role to play in the Church's mission...

According to Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, Catholics must make "every effort to eliminate words, judgments, and actions which do not correspond to the condition of separated brethren with truth and fairness and so make mutual relations between them more difficult." Yet how often do we hear Catholic apologists mischaracterize Protestant theology or fail to distinguish among the various Protestant positions on certain subjects? Often, the underlying attitude is this: since the Catholic Church is ultimately right and Protestantism of whatever stripe is ultimately wrong, what does it matter if the Catholic apologist confuses Reformed doctrine with Methodism, or Baptist beliefs with Presbyterianism? Who can keep straight all the varieties of Protestantism anyway? But difficult or not, correctly representing non-Catholic beliefs is part of the Church's ecumenical teaching.
I honestly cannot think of a way to insult someone more than to say, "Oh whatever. You Protestants are all alike anyway. Because you're wrong!" Gee whiz. Way to be charitable! Of course, it would be so very nice to say that I have never encountered that lack of understanding (which I prefer to think of as charity) from Protestants. Sadly I can't. How can you properly discuss anything with someone unless you understand their point of view also? Or are at least willing to let them explain it to you?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Cindy Sheehan, Mr. Post, and Me

Actually, there is very little of me in this post at all, except for this introduction which I realize is very long (so perhaps there's more than just a little of me in here).

Rose said, "Look who Rolling Stone picked as their "Maverick of the Year" and held the magazine up to show us a closeup of Cindy Sheehan, her face twisted in sorrow.

*collective eye roll from everyone in the house*

I haven't said much about Cindy Sheehan here because I really haven't much to say except that I feel great pity for her. I believe she is unbalanced by her sorrow and being taken advantage (by the media if nothing else). As I was expounding on that for the umpteenth time, Rose burst out, "Even Mr. Post doesn't like her ... and he's a liberal!" (Bishop Lynch is a conservative bastion and the "liberal" teachers all are well known.)

She then pulled this editorial from the school newspaper and began to read it aloud. At that moment her ride showed up and after she left, I was so interested that I continued reading it aloud to Tom.
Cindy Sheehan And I

Hmm. This is exasperating. Frustrating. Infuriating. Maddening.

Cindy Sheehan and I.

I have read a good bit on her, since that is what I do. I read a good bit in a good bit of publications about a good bit of people and a good bit of subjects. I am an American intellectual with the academic pedigree to anchor it, the didactic curiosity to sustain it and the confidence to flaunt it.

We have next to nothing in common, Cindy Sheehan and I. She is from the West. I am from the East. She is a woman. I am a man. She likes wine. I like beer. She appears to be unemployed. I work a million hours a week. She has bad hair. I have no hair. She alludes to the "treasonous deviltry" of the right and the "conniving greed" and "commercial manipulation" by the Jews to cause this war. I encourage sober evaluation of Conservative reasoning and teach the historically justified trepidation of the Jews. And yet, due mostly to the irresponsible promotion of her by the media and the carelessness for which most Americans cultivate their judgments, we are the same.

Exactly the same, Cindy Sheehan and I.

You see, Cindy Sheehan and I oppose the war in Iraq. She has been presented by the mainstream media as the symbol of the anti-war movement by lending ridiculous amounts of air and print time to her funky, contrived protest in Crawford in which she demanded the politically impossible: a face to face talk with our Commander in Chief about why her son was killed in the conflict. So we have formed an invisible and yet impenetrable bond with each other, Cindy Sheehan and I.

Because of her of the war eventually ends with me being defensive and dismissive about Cindy Sheehan and her neo-hippie polemics about why we are in error for waging this conflict. I do not have the space allotted in this forum to properly elucidate the salient arguments, be they ultimately right or wrong, that provide the ballast for my opposition.

But trust me on this one -- or come by any time at the end of Heritage Hall and we can advocate our contentions in person -- I have absolutely lucid, rational, informed and intellectually honest rationale.

Cindy Sheehan does not.

I can trace, for instance, in whatever detail you desire, the complex, serpentine path of Al Qaeda commencing with the Afghanistan resistance to the Soviet Union invasion in the late seventies, to last weeks arrest in Bali of 4 money launderers in a second tier sleeper cell supported by a convoluted terrorist network of shady operatives like Butheiana al-Haj Saleh and Rafkik Bashar al-Semak.

Cindy Sheehan can not.

I can tell you the dynamics and peculiarly American reluctance to embrace Imperialism that has led us through a long trail of disappointments that includes the Post-Spanish War Philippine revolution, to complications in the artificial construction of sovereign countries in post-WWI Europe, to systematic flaws in Cold-War Domino Theory initiatives like the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam, to the precarious and dicey nation-building effort in Iraq today.

Cindy Sheehan can not.

I can effortlessly engage in lively and multi-faceted discussions on a variety of levels about the ramifications of our dependency on crude oil. I can highlight the diverse commentaries of Thomas Friedman, David Broeder, Noam Chomsky and George Will as to the critical element of oil in the ultimate outcomes of our goals and aspirations as the leader of the free world.

Cindy Sheehan can not.

If, by this stage of this rant you have attained the glazed over look of the typical American consumer of journalism, than you have confirmed my claims.

And yet Cindy Sheehan, because of the media's obsession with her honestly motivated but ultimately trite, goofy mission, and the determination of Americans to insist on cursory analysis, she has become the talisman of the anti-war movement. Preposterous.

Is the media wagging the electorate? Is the government wagging the media that is wagging the electorate? Is the pedestrian American, groomed on a steady and relentless diet of 60 second sound bites on the occasional evening news, wagging the media who is wagging the government?

That my friends, I do not know. But guess what? Neither does Cindy Sheehan.


I suppose, than, in the end, we do have something in common after all, Cindy Sheehan and I..
Mr. Post is another of the excellent teachers Hannah has been fortunate enough to have at Bishop Lynch. He teaches U.S. Government and is a tough grader. As mentioned above, he's a known liberal (quelle horreur!) and this makes the kids wary when they take his class. Hannah also found him to be intelligent, humorous, and extremely fair.

The Anchoress has often reminded us of her liberal friends with whom she does not agree often, but with whom she is still friends regardless.

Mr. Post's editorial reminds me of this and also makes me think of my very good friend, Toby, who is one of the few liberal leaners with whom I can have a rational conversation about politics and religion without either of us going for the throat. We respect each other's beliefs, intelligence, and ability to reason ... even if we also believe that the other person is generally wrong. (Ahhh, but we all have the right to be wrong about politics as well as religion, do we not?)

This is a truly rare quality. I am lucky to find it in Toby. Hannah is lucky to have seen her teacher exhibit it so consistently. And I feel lucky to pass this editorial on to y'all, even though I do not agree with Mr. Post about the war in Iraq. Should we ever discuss it (Heaven forfend ... I have the distinct notion he'd argue circles around me), I somehow feel that he and I would have much more in common than Cindy Sheehan has with either one of us.

Nothing to Fear Except Fear Itself

Has it ever occurred to you how astonishing the culture of Western society really is? Industrialized nations provide their citizens with unprecedented safety, health, and comfort. Average life spans increased 50 percent in the last century. Yet modern people live in abject fear. They are afraid of strangers, disease, of crime, of the environment. They are afraid of the homes they live in, the food they eat, the technology that surrounds them. They are in a particular panic over things they can't even see -- germs, chemicals, additives, pollutants. They are timid, nervous, fretful, and depressed. And even more amazingly, they are convinced that the environment of the entire planet is being destroyed around them. Remarkable! Like the belief in witchcraft, it's an extraordinary delusion -- a global fantasy worthy of the Middle Ages. Everything is going to hell, and we must all live in fear.
Michael Crichton, State of Fear, quoted in
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science
You know, that never had occurred to me, although I recognized it as soon as I read it. Remarkable indeed.

Why is this? Tom blames the media for their desire to sell with alarmist headlines and sound bytes. I agree although I also would include the experts who constantly are chiming in about the dire consequences of not following recommendations whether it is about child care, household products, the environment, or voting. Is it any wonder that we are so cynical about what "everybody knows" in our household?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

2005 Weblog Award Results

Find them here. None of my favorites won though The Anchoress came in second in the Best Conservative Blog category. It doesn't really matter as the true honor in any of these awards (IMO) is being nominated. Like a lot of the awards listings, this is a good source to check out the favorites in the blogsphere.

Friday, December 16, 2005

It Ain't Necessarily So: Stem Cells

SEOUL (Reuters) - Key parts of a landmark paper from South Korea's most renowned stem cell scientist were fabricated and the researcher is seeking to have the work withdrawn, a close collaborator told South Korean media on Thursday...

Roh told media nine of the 11 stem cell lines that were part of the tailored stem study paper were fabricated and the authenticity of the other two was questionable.

According to recent reports in South Korean media, some of the photographic images of the stem cells lines may have been manipulated to make it appear as if there were 11 separate lines.
Skipping ahead a bit in the The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, this quote seems prescient when taken into account with the happenings above.
For years it was not stem cells but gene therapy -- the idea of fixing a disease by mending broken DNA -- that seemed to be the ultimate expression of molecular medicine. Cures, we were told, lay just around the corner. Unfortunately, success turned out to be much harder to achieve in people than to diagram on a chalkboard ... Realization that the promised cures were years away finally burst the bubble. Today, a disappointingly small number of hardy investigators remain in what was once medicine's most highly anticipated new area of research.

Is this going to be the fate of embryonic stem cell science in five or ten years? I hope not, and yet it's also not very difficult to imagine this happening. Already newspapers are filled with extravagant claims of progress and cures. These reports belie the very slow rate of true scientific advancement. Add to this the explicit expectation of rapid clinical progress ... and you have a recipe for trouble.
David A. Shaywitz,
Harvard stem cell researcher,
Washington Post, April 29, 2005
UPDATE: Get Religion has a good story with links about the cloning superstar's "feet of clay."


For all these years I had thought of doubt and faith as mutually exclusive opposites. Also faith and reason, faith and despair, faith and fear. I had thought that as long as I still had doubt, I could not have faith. For all these years, I had assumed that god did not want to hear from me until I had resolved my doubts and vanquished my uncertainty.

But that Thursday night in April with the Virgin Mary sleeping in the room next door, it suddenly occurred to me that I was wrong. Maybe this endless internal monologue need not be a monologue at all. Maybe it was meant to be a dialogue. Perhaps, for all these years, I had not needed to be talking to myself. Perhaps, for all these years, I could have been talking to God. Perhaps that night, when I thought I was thinking, really I was praying.

Perhaps it was more important to ask these questions than to have all the answers. Perhaps God was just as interested in hearing about my doubts as anything else. I finally understood that just as, according to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, a system is changed by the observer, so I, too, was being changed forever by asking the questions in the first place. I finally understood that my uncertainty and my doubt were gifts that made me the perfect candidate for faith.
Our Lady of the Lost and Found
by Diane Schoemperlen
Because the person who keeps questioning and looking will be answered in the end. Seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened. People who think that God expects certainty and perfect faith and therefore turn away don't understand that doubt and questions are the human condition. Good thing for us that God knows it. And He never gives up on us. Never.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Peddling Fear

Stanford climatologist Stephen Schneider, winner of a MacArthur Fellow "genius" award in 1992, was quoted as saying: "We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This 'double ethical bind' we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means both."
Discover, October 1989, quoted in
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science
This seems to me to be a rare moment of unguarded honesty in how much of science operates today. Perhaps something we should all keep in mind?

I Just Can't Put This Book Down

Garlic and Sapphires : The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl

I tried Reichl's first two memoirs attracted by the food writing connection but, let's face it, I just don't like the grittiness that comes with some memoirs and Reichl's were of that sort to me. This book, however, is nothing like that as Reichl is telling about her struggles to stay "under cover" as when it is announced she will be the next NY Times food critic her photo is plastered all over restaurant kitchens throughout the city. She also tells about her struggles to change the sorts of restaurants that the Times covers, including a hilarious recounting of her interview where she tried her hardest to be so outrageous that they wouldn't offer her the job. I am only partway through but this book is a great read for anyone interested in food writing ... or any writing.

Defending the Faith and Contentiousness, IV

Previously on Happy Catholic ... part I.
You may ask, "What do you do when your opponent utters nonsense against Christ or the Church?" It is easier to say what you should not do. The general rule the Catholic Evidence Guild followed was never to make a joke at the expense of someone who offers a question or comment, even a hostile or foolish one. The best advice in that regard I ever personally received came from Karl Keating, who said, "Let your opponent's foolishness speak for itself. Your job is to present the truth as winsomely as possible." After all, what do you really accomplish in a battle of wits with a food. If you belittle or make jokes about him, it probably will reflect badly on your and your message...

... When Catholic apologists become contentious, their good sense sometimes disappears and too often with it, any consideration the non-Catholic might have given to the faith. Here the apologist would do well to remember 1 Peter 3:15 and 16. "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you," Peter writes, adding, perhaps with the contentious apologist in mind, "yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Global Warming and Volatility

Yesterday's post, which was an excerpt of three bullet points about global warming from the Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, certainly set off some interesting comments. I appreciate everyone's civility in that exchange of ... I can't say ideas ... science beliefs might be the better term.

I think what I find more fascinating than anything else is how three little bullet points with no other details set off negative commentary that spoke as if they knew what the author's support for those points was ... without ever asking questions for further information or reading the book themselves to see if there was, perhaps, evidence that these people hadn't considered.

That, more than anything, showed me what ingrained beliefs we hold about these scientific theories. As I mentioned in my mini-review I know that stunned feeling at seeing "what everybody knows" challenged and I can empathize with the desire to do the best thing that motivates people on both sides.

Previously I was just going to post the provocative bullet points that lead each chapter (yes, I was "poking" to see what happened). However, I believe I will give a few more excerpts than I intended just to give a sample of where the author is coming from. I am not taking any of these theories up as causes to promote, although I do find the author's information to make sense in many cases. This is just because I found the information interesting and thought provoking. I am hoping that people will ask a few more questions and be a little inclined to consider the possibility that "what everybody knows" ain't necessarily so.

Think of health information and how often it changes. For example, I recently saw a study where scientists are now saying that the "glass a day" of wine may not be a good idea after all. This is after we have been told with surety that a glass a day is the way to good health and long life. And before that concept was promoted that we were told the sure way to health and long life was no alcohol at all. So I do not find it mind boggling that scientific theories about other disciplines could easily have led both scientists and the public astray.

If nothing else I certainly now appreciate the scientists who have gone on the record as having a different theory. It shows me how sure they must be of their theories to risk such ridicule from their peers. They are putting their professional reputations on the line. I am doing nothing more than risking becoming known as the "Flat Earth Catholic" or some other clever name.

The question is, are we open minded enough to explore the possibilities ... whether they turn up as dead ends or as valid theories?

Ordinary People in History

... Imagine all the chronologists making their lists and checking them twice. Imagine every single thing that has ever happened falling into place and staying there.

When I began to read about Mary after she left, I turned naturally enough to these chronologies. I already knew that she was reported to have made more than twenty thousand appearances in the past two hundred years. But I found that in these books she made few or no appearances at all. In a chronology of women's history, she was listed only five times, as having given birth to Jesus in 1 A.D., as having given rise to a cult-following by 1100, as having appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531, to Catherine Laboure in Paris in 1830, and to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes in 1858. She was not mentioned at all in any of the other books.

How can this omission be explained in light of the fact that Marian veneration has flourished around the world ever since her death in the first century? How is it that the most influential, inspirational, and significant woman in the history of the world is not accorded a single mention in most standard history books?

Despite having been thus rendered virtually invisible by most secular historians, Mary has not become a quaint and feeble anachronism. She has remained an important and ongoing part of history. Like most people, she has continued to exist as both a part or and apart from history.
Our Lady of the Lost and Found
by Diane Schoemperlen
Maybe that is why Catholics love Mary so much. In spite of being the Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception (which means that she was born without sin not that she didn't have a human father, by the way) ... in spite of her pure holiness, she was an ordinary woman in an ordinary time in history. She has been largely ignored by the historians just the way we all will be (no doubt). But she shows us how to live a holy life and she shows us her son. The historians don't care about that. It is hard to measure. But we care and that is a big part of why we love her.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Guess What: Global Warming

  • Environmentalists not so long ago believed the earth was cooling.
  • The earth surface temperature suggests that manmade greenhouse emissions have not been sufficient to increase global temperatures.
  • The Kyoto Treaty, which bound signatories to reducing greenhouse emissions, would have caused a depression in the United States.

Monday, December 12, 2005

It Ain't Necessarily So

1,500 years ago, everybody "knew" that the earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody "knew" that the earth was flat. And 15 minutes ago, you "knew" that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll "know" tomorrow.
This interesting book looks at the effects of scientists becoming more politicized and how it has affected what "everybody knows."

I still remember a few years ago when I read the evolution had a few holes in it (for example that chart with the little horses becoming big horses is conjecture not based on fossil findings) ... it truly rocked my world's foundation because I thought it was rock solid, proven, and settled. The same thing happened a year or so later when reading about global warming. By the time I read an article disputing "common knowledge" about overpopulation I was more prepared.

However, this book takes on more than these subjects. For instance, the chapter about DDT rocked my world again. As well as the chapter about AIDS in Africa. The amount of conjecture that takes place with studies then done to support those findings is staggering. Also, the role of media in refusing to publicize conflicting studies is appalling. Often this happens even when the new studies are done by the original scientists as a follow up and published to refute or clarify earlier findings.

This sounds like a crank book, I admit. However, one of its strengths is that it is written by a journalist, not a scientist with a specific point to prove. It also serves more as an overview of these subjects, leading the reader to more indepth works on the various subjects if they are interested.

I encourage y'all to check this book out, if only to make us more aware that the government and general scientific consensus aren't always based on solid studies. The days when we can blindly accept scientific findings are gone thanks to the way science has abused our trust to get government funding. A healthy skepticism is called for and, if nothing else, this book helps remind us of that fact.

Naturally, I'll be posting interesting bits every so often.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego on Tepayac hill near Mexico City on the 9th of December 1531 to ask for the construction of a church there in her honour. After the miraculous cure of his uncle, Bernardo, this Indian peasant brought to his Bishop some roses that he received from Our Lady as a sign of her request. As the flowers fell from his cloak to the ground before the astonished Prelate, the image of the blessed virgin, which is venerated in the Basilica of Guadalupe to this day, was miraculously impressed on the simple garment before their eyes.

What has always fascinated me is the symbolism of the image that was on the cloak. TSO says:
One of the interesting things about the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is its teaching potential. Though she looks glorified, with stars and rays of sun coming from her as was predicted in Rev. 12, she is no goddess. Her hands are folded in supplication, her posture indicating that she is interceding for us at the throne of the God.
Indeed, he is right. There is so much in that image that speaks to Catholic hearts through symbolism.

However, there is much more to Our Lady of Guadalupe's image than that. As with all good Catholic images there is abundant symbolism that was specifically designed to speak to the hearts of the people to whom she brought her message ... the Aztecs. I remember when our priest put out a flyer about this and I was just knocked out at how meaningful every single thing in the image is. I really like this explanation.
The miraculous image produced on the apron or tilma of Blessed Juan Diego is rich in symbolism. The aureole or luminous light surrounding the Lady is reminiscent of the "woman clothed with the sun" of Rev. 12:1. The light is also a sign of the power of God who has sanctified and blessed the one who appears. The rays of the sun would also be recognized by the native people as a symbol of their highest god, Huitzilopochtli. Thus, the lady comes forth hiding but not extinguishing the power of the sun. She is now going to announce the God who is greater than their sun god.

The Lady is standing upon the moon. Again, the symbolism is that of the woman of Rev. 12:1 who has the "moon under her feet". The moon for the Meso-Americans was the god of the night. By standing on the moon, she shows that she is more powerful than the god of darkness. However, in Christian iconography the crescent moon under the Madonna's feet is usually a symbol of her perpetual virginity, and sometimes it can refer to her Immaculate Conception or Assumption.

The eyes of Our lady of Guadalupe are looking down with humility and compassion. This was a sign to the native people that she was not a god since in their iconography the gods stare straight ahead with their eyes wide open. We can only imagine how tenderly her eyes looked upon Blessed Juan Diego when she said: " Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief -- Am I not here who am your Mother?"

The angel supporting the Lady testifies to her royalty. To the Meso-American Indians only kings, queens and other dignitaries would be carried on the shoulders of someone. The angel is transporting the Lady to the people as a sign that a new age has come.

The mantle of the Lady is blue-green or turquoise. To the native people, this was the color of the gods and of royalty. It was also the color of the natural forces of life and fecundity. In Christian art, blue is symbolic of eternity and immortality. In Judaism, it was the color of the robe of the high priest. The limbus or gold border of her mantle is another sign of nobility.

The stars on the Lady's mantle shows that she comes from heaven. She comes as the Queen of Heaven but with the eyes of a humble and loving mother. The stars also are a sign of the supernatural character of the image. The research of Fr. Mario Rojas Sanchez and Dr. Juan Homero Hernandez Illescas of Mexico (published in 1983) shows that the stars on the Lady's mantle in the image are exactly as the stars of the winter solstice appeared before dawn on the morning of December 12, 1531.

The color of the Madonna's dress is rose or pale-red. Some have interpreted this as the color of dawn symbolizing the beginning of a new era. Others point to the red as a sign of martyrdom for the faith and divine love.

The gold-encircled cross brooch under the neck of the Lady's robe is a symbol of sanctity.

The girdle or bow around her waist is a sign of her virginity, but it also has several other meanings. The bow appears as a four-petaled flower. To the native Indians this was the nahui ollin, the flower of the sun, a symbol of plenitude. The cross-shaped flower was also connected with the cross-sticks which produce fire. For them, this was the symbol of fecundity and new life. The high position of the bow and the slight swelling of the abdomen show that the Lady is "with child". According to Dr. Carlos Fernandez Del Castillo, a leading Mexican obstetrician, the Lady appears almost ready to give birth with the infant head down resting vertically. This would further solidify her identification with the woman of Rev. 12 who is about to give birth.
You can read about this apparition of Our Lady in more depth here.

Some more about conditions in Mexico at the time Our Lady appeared as well as a prayer for abortion victims from Jean at her new blog, Ave Maria. She also provides a link to further symbolic information.

God or the Lottery?

"The funny thing about lottery tickets," Mary mused as we waited in line at the cash register, "is that people keep buying them even if they never win. Week after week, month after month, year after year, still they never give up hope. But if they pray for something two or three times, they expect immediate results, and if it doesn't happen, then they say that God is unfair, disinterested, or dead. Why is it easier to keep believing in the lottery than in God?"
Our Lady of the Lost and Found
by Diane Schoemperlen

Sunday, December 11, 2005

See Ya Soon, Raccoon!

I'm going to stay off the computer until Monday. Comments and e-mails will be returned then. Enjoy sunday, y'all!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Little Useless Information

Words with all the vowels in alphabetical order:
  • Abstemious
  • Abstentious
  • Arsenious
  • Caesious
  • Facetious
  • Fracedinous

Friday, December 9, 2005

Want to See One of the Winners in the Great Cookie Swap?

Yes, you're lookin' at her.

Well, you would be if you were over at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen. Go check it out. And they have a real prize for winning. I must say the food blogs know how to have a good time.

I Don't Care Enough

Steven Riddle has been writing about prayer. Go read this.

Bottom line. In my heart of hearts, I know this. Every time I choose something else over "prayer time" (which is all too short as it is), I am telling God that I don't care enough.

This flows perfectly into Fr. O's homily from yesterday when he talked about God walking in the Garden of Eden calling Adam. "Where are you?"

He then went on to say that God is always calling us to him the same way.

It made me think that God has been calling us to him always. God knows where we are. God calls us so that we will think about Him, think about where we are and how to get to Him.

Fr. O. went on to say that we have to get our hearts to a place where we hear Him, where we answer Him, where there is nothing keeping us from Him.

Which, for any good Christian, leads to examination of conscience. And, for any good Catholic, very often leads to the confessional.

God already knows everything we have done, good and bad. For us to take the steps to examine our consciences and see what is keeping us from answering is not telling Him anything He doesn't already know. We aren't telling the priest anything he hasn't heard before. We are the ones who need to say it, who need to hear it.

To do otherwise, is to turn our backs to Him, to refuse to come when He calls us. To not care enough.

Here is what I will be using ... an Advent examination of conscience from Word Among Us.
The following examination of conscience is meant to help you prepare for Confession. Take your time as you answer these questions. Let the Spirit’s still, small voice speak to you words of hope and mercy.

Believe that Jesus didn’t come to condemn but to forgive. So let him wash you clean. Then, you too will be able to say, “We have seen his glory” (John 1:14).

“ ‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, do I seek.” (Psalm 27:8)
  • Does God hold first place in my life, or have I become the servant of something or someone else?
  • Have I given priority to God on Sundays and holy days by attending Mass and making a special effort to seek him?
  • Do I safeguard my time of prayer and Scripture reading so that I can open myself to God’s love and direction every day?

“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one . . . so that the world may know that you have sent me.” (John 17:22-23)
  • Have I pursued unity in my relationships with others, or have I eroded it by my words, attitudes, and actions?
  • Have I lied or gossiped about other people in a way that tarnished their reputation?
  • Do I give appropriate honor and respect to my parents and all legitimate authority?
  • Is there anyone I need to forgive? Is there anyone whose forgiveness I need to ask?
  • Do I treat my body with respect, or have I abused it through the willful misuse of drugs, alcohol, or food?
  • Am I following Jesus’ teachings on sexual morality? Do I indulge in lustful thoughts and sexual fantasies? Have I committed sins of impurity?

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
  • How have I shown compassion and concern for the poor, less fortunate, sick, and suffering?
  • Am I helping to build a culture of life?
  • Have I resisted the Spirit’s invitations to speak the truth or spread the gospel out of fear of what others might think?

What other areas of my life does the Holy Spirit want to cleanse so that I can be transformed into the image of Jesus, “from one degree of glory to another” ?(2 Corinthians 3:18)?

Lord, let your glory be revealed—in the world, in your church, in me!

Heroes, Anti-Heroes, and Underdogs

So, about that school assignment that had Rose watching Payback ...

I thought this was an intriguing way to get the kids to actually think about the role of heroes in movies and in our society today. Rose's English class has just finished reading and discussing The Odyssey. To take it a step further the teacher had them write a paper about one of three categories, each containing five movies, how they are targeted to their audience, and how they handle heroes. They discussed the major themes of the categories in class. The categories were:

Children's Movies
(Rose says that the class never came to a definite conclusion in their discussions of this category but it seems pretty clear that it looks at the underdog who rises above adversity to become heroic ... which would make perfect sense for appealing to children.)

Lady and the Tramp
The Sword in the Stone
Lion King
Robin Hood

Teenage Movies
(Examines the anti-hero whose main feature is that they are extremely loyal to their group, not nearly as bad as the people they are overcoming, and there is a high level of coolness.)

Die Another Day
The Italian Job
The Matrix
Ocean's Eleven

Oscar Winners
(This category focuses on the epic hero.)

The Last Samurai
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Saving Private Ryan
Interesting assignment eh? The only problem with the whole thing is that I think the teacher missed two of the picks for the Teenage category.

Payback is rated "R." That in itself is a disqualification for being aimed at a teenage audience who couldn't get in to see it. Also, although Porter fits the anti-hero category (just squeaking in with one or two good traits), there is very little to admire. Neither he nor the movie exudes the element of style needed to be cool enough for mere looks to attract a teen audience either. The teacher admits this is one of his favorite movies (and I can see why) but I think he forced it into that category.

The Matrix does try to paint Neo with a touch of anti-hero at the very beginning of the movie. But that is so little touched upon and so quickly abandoned in favor of the young hero-in-training that it is soon forgotten. Throughout most of the movie Neo is a Christ-figure and a hero. Period. It's totally cool enough but that alone doesn't justify it's inclusion in this category (rewatching this with Rose I realized I had forgotten just how freakin' cool it was).

Hannah maintains that a better choice than The Matrix would have been Equilibrium and I agree that it's a better movie, though I liked The Matrix better on this second viewing than I did the first time around. However, I am pretty sure few of the kids have watched Equilibrium and Preston also is not an anti-hero because as soon as he realizes the truth he starts righting wrongs.

So what would have been better choices?

Instead of Payback, how about Matchstick Men a similar "flavor?" You don't get much more of an anti-hero than Nicholas Cage's character. As for style, granted it is that of the 60's more than today but that is more than compensated for by the sheer attraction of watching the con go on. Another choice that seems to fit would be O Brother Where Art Thou. Anti-hero and old-time charm carried by wit and ... wait for it ... a story inspired by The Odyssey itself.

Replacing The Matrix is even easier. Going for the sci-fi angle we can see that either X-Men or X-2 has Wolverine who barely even fits into his own group because he is such a rebel. Even better, but not out until Dec. 23 on DVD, would be if the teacher considers Serenity ... the ultimate cool anti-hero sci-fi story. The captain plays by his own set of rules and often is hardly sure what they are. Indeed, he is taken to task by his own first mate at one point for his inhumanity. His loyalty is to his group and that alone. Throw in the action, adventure, and humor and it's a tale of anti-hero triumph that any teen loves ... and all that I know did (ok, I did too but what can I say? Y'all know I'm a little backwards a lot of the time!)

More Holiday Baking

Check it out at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Defending the Faith and Contentiousness, III

Previously on Happy Catholic ... part I.
The core of Catholicism is an affirmation, not a denial. It is the Triune God and God's self-donating love and mercy toward us. It is communion with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. That, ultimately, is what being a Catholic is all about. We Catholics should defend the Church, because we believe that the Catholic Church is the divinely established sacrament of communion with the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. But we should not be defensive. We must earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3) without being contentious (cf. Titus 3:9, 1 Pet. 3:15). ...

Defending the faith is not supposed to be about us but about God and his truth. We should not defend Catholicism because our Church is being attacked; that is the attitude of the nationalist or sectarian. Still less should we be defensive because our personal beliefs are challenged -- as if the Catholic faith were merely a matter of our private philosophy of life or personal theology. No, we should defend the Church because we love God and the Church belongs to him, and because we love our neighbors, and the Church -- on the Catholic view -- is the God-given means of bringing people into full communion with Christ, the only Savior. If we truly belief that, then charity compels us to share the truth of the Catholic faith with others.
To be continued ...

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Immaculate Conception: In the News

The Holy Father's Immaculate Conception homily. Thanks to Bender for bringing this to my attention. Here's a bit but go read it all.
Yes, we can say Mary is closer to us than any other human being, because Christ is man for mankind and all his being is a “being for us”. Christ, said the Fathers, as Head is inseparable from his Body that is the Church, making a sole living subject together with it, so to speak. The Mother of the Head is also the Mother of all the Church; she is, so to speak, totally expropriated from herself; she gave herself entirely to Christ and with Him she is given as a gift to all of us. In fact, the more a human being gives of himself, the more he finds himself. <>The Council intended to say this: Mary is so interwoven in the great mystery of the Church, that she and the Church are inseparable just as she and Christ are.

The Feast of the Imaculate Conception at Mary's House. I never thought about this but how cool would that be to celebrate this feast day at Mary's house? Wow! Read it here. Thanks to The Anchoress, who has a great post up about this feast day, for calling this to my attention.
IZMIR, Turkey -- Not many pilgrims will be clambering up the slopes of Bulbul Dag (hill of the nightingale) where the "House of the Blessed Virgin Mary" is found. It could be because now summer is over, winter has crept in and groups of foreign tourists have melted away; or it may be because Dec. 8 is just another working day in Turkey; then again, perhaps it is because Orthodox Christians and Protestants do not recognize the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Yet, Dec. 8, precisely because there will be no vast crowd of people, is sure to be a privileged day for the handful of Catholics who will go there to celebrate Mass with the community of Capuchins and sisters who are custodians of the house.

What Is Your Life Worth?

Porter knows his worth. $70,000. That is the amount that his erstwhile partner, who now works for the syndicate, stole after double crossing and leaving him for dead. And that is the amount Porter wants back. No more, no less. He will do whatever it takes to get it.

So begins the grittiest movie I have ever seen Mel Gibson in. The director said that he wanted to make a movie in which the protagonist was a bad guy who didn't make excuses. He certainly achieved that. Porter is the anti-heroes "hero" so to speak, a guy who has only one goal and only one redeeming quality, which is his love for Rosie, the requisite hooker with a heart of gold. I suppose he actually could have two redeeming qualities, the second being his stubborn determination to take only the money that was stolen from him. One of the elements that becomes a comic refrain is as he works his way up the chain of command at the syndicate people repeatedly say, "You're doing all this for $140,000?" Porter disgustedly corrects them, "$70,000." And the other bad guys have even less to redeem them.

One of the interesting elements of this movie is that the "bad guys" (which would be everyone) all assume that Porter must have a fairly sophisticated approach hidden behind his tough-guy front. No. What you see is what you get. And when they get used to the idea that Porter is very direct then they assume that he isn't smart. Wrong again. Part of the fun is watching them react to those realizations.

This normally is the sort of movie that we never would enjoy. Tom started watching after happening upon Rose watching it for a school assignment (more in a different post about why Rose was watching an extremely violent, "R"-rated movie for school) and got hooked by the old-style detective narration and film noir atmosphere. We watched the whole thing that evening and by the end were amazed that we watched it ... and loved it. The only conclusion that we could come to is that Mel Gibson pulled it off. He somehow invests his character with a touch of lightness without ever breaking out of character.

HC Rating: **** 9 Thumbs Up!

Housekeeping as an Action

... Mary seemed to approach housekeeping as an action, rather than a reaction. As she worked, it was clear that she was involved not in a process of negation (of dirt, dust, and the inevitable debris spawned by every activity of daily life) but of creation (or order, shiny surfaces, perfectly aligned towels, floors to which your feet did not stick). She seemed to have no doubt that what she was doing was important. She had faith, obviously, in the restorative power of domesticity.
Our Lady of the Lost and Found
by Diane Schoemperlen
I hate housekeeping. It is boring and always has to be redone. Maybe that's why this excerpt stuck with me. Housework as a positive. That's what the ubiquitous Fly Lady would say, as a blessing to your home (I hate her writing style but I gotta admit she had some good ideas). And that makes all the difference.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Congratulations to Paul!

I didn't see this until today meandering through the various categories but Thoughts of a Regular Guy is a finalist in the 2005 Weblog Awards for Best Blog Ranked 2501 thru 3500 in the TTLB Ecosystem. Way to go, Paul!

I am voting daily for The Anchoress for Best Conservative Blog, Flos Carmeli for Best Religious Blog, and Thoughts of a Regular Guy ... and also for Manolo's Shoe Blog in Best Culture/Gossip Blog (though it seemed to me that it should have been in the humor category).

Christmas Music Coming Up

I was sent a promo for this CD but I haven't heard it. Usually we buy a new Christmas album every year. I like all varieties of Christmas music from Nat King Cole to Ringo's Christmas to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra ... and this looks as if it has all sorts of variety on it. If anyone has this album let us know how Coming Home for Christmas is.
  1. O Holy Night – MercyMe
  2. A Christmas To Remember – Amy Grant
  3. Little Drummer Boy - Lonestar
  4. (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays – Olivia Newton-John w/ Vince Gill. The London Symphony Orchestra
  5. Snowflake – Jim Brickman
  6. Jingle Bell Rock – Daryl Hall & John Oates
  7. Someone Is Missing At Christmas – Anne Cochran
  8. White Christmas – Michael Bolton
  9. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Mulberry Lane
  10. Christmas Canon – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  11. Celebrate Me Home – Kenny Loggins
  12. Silent Night – Take Three
  13. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire ) – John Denver
  14. Happiest Christmas – Michael W. Smith
  15. Coming Home For Christmas – Kristy Starling

Quick Reviews: Light and Fluffy

Neither of these took more than a couple of days to read. Although they are fluff, both were amusing fluff and sufficiently entertaining to keep me reading to see what would happen next.

Food critic Marc Basset is known for merciless but clever restaurant reviews. Then one day a chef commits suicide after reading Basset's review of his cooking. When Basset apologizes to the widow he has an epiphany. There is a wonderful release from a sincere apology that is sincerely accepted. Soon Basset is apologizing to everyone he can remember ever wronging. This leads him to a job at the United Nation's new apology division where he finds himself apologizing to countries on behalf of his nation. Lots of food talk as well as an endlessly inventive tale that makes you wonder where all this apologizing will end. I never laughed out loud but I was amused the whole way through. Tip: read the copyright page and see the apologies interlace in the legalese. Very clever.

I picked this book up after reading in the DMN religion section that the series was enjoyed by real-life pastors. Written by an actual Quaker minister, Home to Harmony is actually a set of short stories connected by the narrator, Quaker minister Sam Gardner. He enjoys nothing more than the peace of his small hometown, Harmony, and is practical enough to see the quirks and foibles of the other town characters for what they are. This is reminiscent in a way of the Mitford books by Jan Karon but is told without the sappy sweetness that can be cloying in that series. Prairie Home Companion listeners will also find these tales to be a familiar style but Gulley writes these in a way that I found much more readable than when Garrison Keillor attempts to jot down his narratives. I don't usually enjoy short stories but these also left me wanting more and pulled me through the book. Sweet, gentle, and with an easy to swallow moral at the end of each chapter.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness

Our priest had such a wonderful homily about this ... too bad that he won't let anyone transcribe the tapes to actually write down what he said. He's just as stubborn as I am and that's really saying' somthing.

It's doubly too bad because not only would all of us like the chance to revisit his words, but we sit in the middle of a gaggle of old ladies. They all sit up front but still can't hear what he says. They all ask each other afterward, "What did Fr. L. say that was so funny?" And no one knows ... except us and we can't transcribe from memory, sadly enough. Then they all ask each other why Fr. L. doesn't have these written down. And we all shake our heads at his humility ... which costs them the chance of getting the homily and the rest of us the chance to benefit additionally from his words.

But enough of my complaining ... (finally! I hear y'all saying).

He made a point on Sunday that was vivid enough for me to remember and pass alone.
These are not rhetorical questions!

Who here remembers the first time they saw Star Wars? I want a show of hands.

Remember when we saw all those people moving around in the corridor? And then there was an explosion and the tall man all in black came in? Was there any doubt in anyone's mind that he was the villain? Did anyone think, "Well, maybe he just likes to make a big entrance." No one doubted that he was the arch villain, did they?

Was there any doubt in anyone's mind that the fresh faced young man in white was the hero? We all knew he was the hero.

Now this question is just for you ladies (directed to the Catholic Daughters of America who were all sitting up front and had an average age of 70).

Do you remember the beginning of The Lone Ranger on TV? We saw the man on his white horse. We heard the William Tell Overture in the background. Was there any doubt that he was the good guy? Even though he wore the black mask, we knew he was the good guy, right?

And that is how it was with John the Baptist.

He wore very odd clothes, he ate an unappealing diet of locusts and wild honey. He told the people that they needed to repent. He lived in the desert. The Israelites knew that living in the desert didn't just mean it was a sandy, hot place. They knew that the desert was a place of testing, of trial, of getting closer to God.

All those things were unmistakable. John the Baptist was a prophet. He was there to tell them what God wanted them to hear.
And, darn it, that's all I can remember because Fr. L. made a big entrance into the homily and ... neither Tom or I can remember any more.

However, it does dovetail nicely with Disputation's commentary about the Sunday Gospel reading ... so just duck over there next (if you've hung on this long) and see what he says about prophets in the desert.