Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Copy vs. the Personality

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia got a black eye in 2007 when the identity of an editor working under the pseudonym Essjay (aka Ryan Jordan) came to light.

Essjay had passed himself off as a professor of Religion with a PhD in Theology and a degree in Canon Law. In truth he was really a 24-year-old college drop-out who used “
Catholicism for Dummies” to edit articles on religion. During his engagement as a Wikipedia editor he wrote over 20,000 contributions.

The Wikipedia folks eventually asked Essjay to resign -- he'd been a paid employee, and he left with a defiant non-apology apology -- but initially founder Jimmy Wales dismissed the matter as no big deal. The false background was deemed to be of small consequence: in JW's view, it was just part of the persona of the pseudonym. Significantly, when Essjay's true identity was revealed, Wikipedia did not ask him to clear out; that came later only after a sustained public outcry.

That Essjay had editorial authority to resolve disputes between contributors -- i.e. he had final say in how a number of articles regarding Catholicism were written -- was of no consequence to Wales and the Wikipedia crowd. That Essjay claimed to be a homosexual theologian espousing liberal Christianity and berated non-liberals was not initially on the radar for them either, though later under pressure from readers they were obliged to admit at least that Essjay had leveraged his fake credentials to bolster his arguments.

Read about the matter
here and here and here.

Wikipedia: the idea is to collaborate on interesting topics, but in the end biased and activist editors who suffer from group-think and liberal peer pressure ("how can a million lemmings all be wrong?") have the final say. You might find accurate information there, but use with caution.

On a potentially positive note, look for up-and-coming rival
Citizendium to make a run at unseating Wikipedia as the go-to site for information down the road: its editors bill it as a credible free online encyclopedia characterized by expert, peer-reviewed content. It could turn out to be just as liberal as Wikipedia, but for now it's being touted as the thinking man's alternative to what the septic and dysfunctional amateurs are doing over at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Face of St. Nicholas

Source

Forensic pathologist Francesco Introna of the University of Bari in Italy commissioned facial anthropologist Caroline Wilkinson of the University of Manchester in England to reconstruct the face and head of St. Nicholas of Myra using the saint's relics -- specifically, his skull.

Forensic Reconstruction of
St. Nicholas of Myra

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Two Knocks

The first knock occurred Monday morning on my way in to the office. I was stopped at an intersection waiting for the light to change. Ahead of me was a police car. Suddenly the car started to back up; he tagged my front bumper on the driver's side. The damage was minimal -- I'd sustained worse in parking lot dings that you just shrug your shoulder at and move on. It's just memorable that for once, the guy in the rear wasn't at fault, and the cause was a police sergeant.

The second knock occurred Monday evening on my way to a friend's house for dinner. A deer ran right in front of me; I slammed on the bakes, but I still clipped the critter, which bounced around a few times and then got up and ran away. I stopped the car, turned on the hazards, and checked for damage, but saw none, so I resumed my journey. For the next half mile I drove very slowly looking for the deer on the side of the road, but I didn't see him; hopefully he made it with just a few bruises. Incidentally, the deer hit my car in the exact spot where the sergeant did. Oh, the rumor that the deer was sporting a sticker that read "Friend of the FOP" is a dirty lie.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Bells

If you're ever serving Mass in a white marble sanctuary, and the high Mass bells that the servers ring get under foot, and you accidentally kick them, and they clang across the white marble tile floor, and careen into the white marble altar, and go bouncing, spinning around -- take if from me -- if you ever do that, it's very loud.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Symbols of the Evangelists

When I was in Dublin in 2002 I visited Trinity college and got a glimpse of the Book of Kells, the finest surviving illuminated manuscript to have been produced in medieval Europe. The book contains the four Gospels.

Symbols of the Four Evangelists
From the Book of Kells

Folio 27 of the book contains an illumination of the symbols of the four Evangelists.

St. Matthew - a Man (upper left)
St. Matthew's Gospel begins with a description of the human generation of Christ; thus, his symbol is the face of a man.

St. Mark - a Lion (upper right)
St. Mark's Gospel begins with the prophecy of Isaias about St. John the Baptist proclaiming the Lord's coming. The Baptist lived many years in the wilderness among lions and other beasts; thus, his symbol is a lion.

St. Luke - an Ox (lower left)
St. Luke's Gospel treats more than the rest with our Lord's suffering and death as a sacrifice for our sins -- and an ox served as a symbol of sacrifice.

St. John - an Eagle (lower right)
St. John is pictured as an eagle because His Gospel soars to spiritual heights in its elevated preaching.

In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, at Deus erat Verbum.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Why God Became Man

Christmas Day

Fr. Knox on why God became a man -- from
The Belief of Catholics:

The hope of eternal life was not denied to fallen man, but it was offered, now, only as the prize of a severe probation. And he must struggle against an internal enemy he found too strong for him, with only such crumbs of uncovenanted assistance as God's mercy might afford. It was not intended, in God's Providence, that this pitiful condition of things should endure as long as the world lasted. Man's fault had been foreseen, and with the fault the Remedy. God became Man in order that, dying, he might atone for our sins, and win us the graces normally necessary to the attainment of salvation.

The coming of our Lord was thus not merely a Revelation to illuminate our minds; it was also designed to rescue man from his impoverishment and his spiritual dangers. It was to win for us, not only those "actual" graces by which, since then as before, God has turned our hearts to himself, but "habitual" grace, the state of "justification," in which we are assured of God's friendship, are enabled, during our lifetime, to perform actions pleasing to him, and at our death, if we have persevered, to attain the felicity of heaven. To achieve such blessings for us, it was needful to make amends for the affront offered by the sin of our first parents to the outraged Justice of Almighty God. Although he could have accepted some lesser sacrifice, he determined to make atonement for us himself, and to make it in full measure by the perfect offering of Death.


The Second Person, then, of the Blessed Trinity became Man for our sakes. Without losing or laying aside the Divine Nature which is his by right, he united to his own Divine Person a second, human Nature, in which he was born, lived on earth, and died. Once more the stubborn tradition of the Church could not rest content until it had fortified itself within these safeguards of definition. To think of Our Lord's Divine Nature as being annihilated, even temporarily, would be nonsense. A mere limitation of it, if that were thinkable, would not make it become truly human. To deny the reality of the human Nature would be false to all our evidence. Nothing less than a personal identity between the Eternal Word and Jesus of Nazareth would constitute a Divine Witness, or a Divine Victim. Every possible substitute for the received doctrine has been tried, and found wanting.


We believe that the circumstances of our Lord's coming into the world were marked by two miracles especially. In the first place, that she who was to be his Mother was endowed with that same gift of innocence which had been possessed and lost by our first parents; and that this freedom from the curse and the taint of "original sin" was bestowed upon her in the first instant of her Conception. And we also believe that both in and after the Birth of our Lord she remained a pure Virgin. From her, nevertheless, our Lord took a true human Body, which was the receptacle of a true human Soul. And in this human Nature he lived and died and rose again; and at last ascended into heaven, where it still persists.


=======

Christmas, the Great Feast of the Son of God Who appeared in human flesh, the feast in which heaven stoops down to earth with ineffable grace and benevolence, is also the day on which Christianity and mankind, before the Crib, contemplating the "goodness and kindness of God our Saviour" become more deeply conscious of the intimate unity that God has established between them.

The Birth of the Saviour of the World, of the Restorer of human dignity in all its fullness, is the moment characterized by the alliance of all men of goodwill. There to the poor world, torn by discord, divided by selfishness, poisoned by hate, love will be restored, and it will be allowed to march forward in cordial harmony, towards the common goal, to find at last the cure for its wounds in the peace of Christ.

- From the 1944 Christmas Message of His Holiness, Venerable Pope Pius XII

Hodie Christus natus est!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Truce

Christmas Eve

The time was Christmas Eve, 1914, and the place was Ypres, Belgium. German troops decorated the trees around their trenches with candles, then sang Stille Nacht. The Brits on the other side of the No Man's Land in between responded with English Christmas carols. When the artillery barrage stopped, the two sides exchanged Christmas greetings and small gifts of chocolate, whiskey, cigars; a few even swapped addresses. The fallen were retrieved from the battlefield and given proper burial. The matter was completely spontaneous.

Here's an account of the matter titled "Christmas in the Trenches."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9coPzDx6tA&feature

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Books to Ponder

On Amazon.com you can create a reading list focused on a theme.

One enterprising customer established a list of Novels with Catholic Spirituality.

The compiler of the novels wrote, "People have asked me to recommend books which include themes of Catholic spirituality or written by believing Catholics. So here are a few."

Some of the books I can recommend (e.g. Sienkiewicz and Tolkien), others I can't (e.g. no Graham Greene for me, thank you). Even so, the list isn't a terrible starting place.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Quiz

Today's blog entry is a quiz of sorts. Your task is to see how many clues you can find in the photo below that indicate it's winter time. You have 30 seconds. Ready? Go!

Sean's Desk

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Known Universe

This film shows our quaint little universe as mapped through astronomical observation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17jymDn0W6U

Every satellite, moon, planet, star, and galaxy is represented to scale and in its correct, measured location according to the best scientific research to date.

Source: the American Museum of Natural History as the Digital Universe Atlas

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Venerable Pope Pius XII

Source

The Vatican announced that Pope Pius XII is to be declared Venerable, which is an honorific that both acknowledges the recipient's holiness and serves as a step on his journey toward beatification.


Venerable Pius XII

Pius was Supreme Pontiff from 1939-1958. He reigned during a period of great persecution against the Church, and he was a tireless opponent of totalitarian regimes such as communism and nazism. In 1950 he infallibly declared that the long-accepted teaching of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was dogmatically certain and true.

These days probably the most discussed period of his pontificate are the war years. Under the direction of Pope Pius, the Catholic Church saved nearly 900,000 European Jews. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, Rome, and Budapest, the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish community, and numerous others praised Pius for his relief efforts and public denunciation of racial persecution -- in fact, work is afoot to have Yad Vashem name him as a "righteous gentile."

Pope Pius died of acute heart failure. His doctor said: "The Holy Father did not die because of any specific illness. He was completely exhausted. He was overworked beyond limit. His heart was healthy, his lungs were good. He could have lived another 20 years, had he spared himself." He died as he lived, not counting the cost, lovingly dedicated to shepherding the flock entrusted to his care.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Scottish Play

Ember Saturday of Advent

An old theatrical superstition has it that saying "Macbeth" inside a theater will cause disaster, so thespians have taken to calling Shakespeare's drama by that name "The Scottish Play."

The Scottish usurper in the production is perhaps the original cause: he toys with witches and their goddess Hecate, and they're all of the sort to lay hexes and predict gloomy fates.

The weird sisters have their own take in the matter -- after all, it's as the title character approaches that one intones:

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
- Macbeth, Act IV, scene i

Thus, as the witches would have it, the author of the play's regicide is the wicked thing.


Macbeth and the Witches
(Henry Fuseli, painter)

Macbeth would have done better to remain small and good as a battlefield hero rather than go for the big and bad ambition that inclined him to reason that failure was worse than murder.

Stage actors who slip and utter the forbidden name can be forgiven by recourse to another superstition, which involves exiting the theater and reciting this line:

Angels and ministers of grace defend us.
- Hamlet, Act I scene iv

It's a worthwhile prayer for all of us.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Soup and Bread

Ember Friday of Advent

In college I put in some time at community volunteer work. I staffed soup kitchens and homeless shelters, put a roof on a Habitat house in Lynchburg, VA, and helped with the Georgia Special Olympics.

I was a decent student, but I didn't qualify for a scholarship; I got by with money from my parents, student loans, and whatever cash I could scrape together doing jobs at school and on my vacations. Plenty of times I had to pass on outings with friends for lack of funds, and more than once I went hungry. I hardly had a bad time of it, however, as my time working with the homeless and the poor illustrated in a dramatic way.

On one expedition I partnered with a few friends from church to help with the local soup kitchen. My duty that day was to serve soup and sandwiches, and I was having a bad time of it: trying to be helpful and cheerful for the sake of people who were down and out -- quite probably for life -- was more than I could manage. I was barely able to manage an occasional "here you go," and there was no way I could look those folks in the eye; though I had less than most of my friends, I still had more than the homeless folks, and I told myself that the disparity was something I was insufficiently appeciative of.

I was on the verge of asking to be assigned to the kitchen where I could make the sandwiches (and not have to face the truly destitute), when I saw my friend Laurie at a nearby table smiling and having a great time with some of the kids. Laurie was from a wealthy family -- her father owned a Mercedes dealership. One time she'd shown up at school with a second Mercedes so that she could "have something to drive on weekends." And there she was, completely at ease.

A new line of thought began in my head: Laurie wasn't self-conscious about her wealth, and it didn't interfere with her ability to work in the kitchen. Why the difference?

Then it hit me: she was grateful for what she had. With all her family's wealth, she had more humility than I did: she'd accepted her blessings from God as such and not something she was entitled to, whereas I'd been in the habit of taking much for granted. My friend's humility and gratitude -- her poverty of spirit -- enabled her to look the world in the eye without blinking.

The Spanish have a saying: "There are no pockets in a shroud;" rendered colloquially, this is our expression, "You can't take it with you." In the end, everything we have -- even our lives themselves -- actually belong to God and not to us. Our role is to be His stewards, trusted for a time to care for what He provides -- and after a time we'll be called to account for how we've done. It's liberating when this truth finally sinks in; Franciscan style, it can even put a smile on your lips.

Beati pauperes spiritu: quoniam ipsorum est regnum cælorum.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Good Do-Gooder is Hard to Find

It's curious to observe the sad efforts of well-meaning northern liberals to improve and modernize the American south.

Estranged from reality by their illusory notions of human nature and purpose, their shallow, sentimental secularism results in their failure to come to terms with the spiritual confusion, race tensions, poverty, and Protestant fundamentalism in the south of the past century.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Red Tide

Ember Wednesday of Advent

Source

Charles Colson is a Baptist chap who, among other things, reports on the forced abortion business in China. According to Colson, hundreds of millions of Chinese women have been compelled to suffer unwanted abortions. His article that I linked to above is the latest among many covering China's forced abortions.

The Chinese government, meanwhile, denies that the numerous reports and stories of forced abortions have any merit, adding that the People's Party does not engage in forced abortions.

For my part, I think the murderous, lying reds are using physical force to make numerous women abort their babies against their will.

Not that many folks will take note: people have had the fable that the world is over-populated hammered into their heads for so long that even horrific abuses in the world's most populous country won't get any significant attention.

For the record:
* There is no world over-population problem.
* There is plenty of land and natural resources to provide for the needs of many, many more people than are currently on the planet.
* People are going hungry and getting diseases because of resource management failures and wide-spread corruption.
* Anyone who says otherwise and wants to encourage or require the curtailment of human reproduction is (optimistically) being taken for a ride or (pessimistically) a dangerous and willing tool.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Education, Reich Style

Source

In
this post I wrote, "The education of children...is chiefly the responsibility of the parents. If the state ever tried to usurp that roll and mandate certain schooling in spite of the parents' desires -- like Robert Reich has done -- I'd vote against that candidate too." I based my remark on Reich's comments made on an NPR broadcast several years ago.

Reich's dream has now become reality in Salzkotten, Germany, where parents are being jailed for refusing to allow the state school to educate their children in objectionable ways. The subject is sex education, and in Germany the instruction is explicit and involves play-acting classes.
Said issue is one of the major reasons why German families choose to homeschool their children; homeschooling, however, has been outlawed in Germany since the fall of the Third Reich. Parents are being punished for their non-compliance with the regime.

Reflection: A world based on secular values will inevitably become depraved because there is no religion to counteract the corruption. Owing to this depravity, moderns hate innocence and purity, which is why they also hate children (i.e. the epitome of purity by way of innocence) and want to remove or minimize them, whether by preventing their birth through contraception, aborting them, or perverting and contaminating their innocent minds with warped ideas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's Spelled "Potlikker"

Sometimes called collard liquor or green brew, potlikker is the liquid left in the pot after you've boiled greens (collard, turnip, etc). It has lots of good vitamins in it, though it tastes best when a bit of salt and pork is added to it for flavor; you can also crumble in your cracklin' bread.

In 1982 then-Lieutenant Governor of Georgia Zell Miller (he later became Governor and then Senator in turn) wrote a piece for the New York Times explaining the proper spelling of the concoction. With his characteristic enthusiasm and more than one jab at Yankees, he described that it's not "pot liquor," it's "potlikker."

Aside: Miller is also a Democrat on record as criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court because it "removed prayer from our public schools...legalized the barbaric killing of unborn babies, and it is ready to discard like an outdated hula hoop the universal institution of marriage between a man and a woman." Get 'em Zell.


A while back I grabbed lunch from the local farmer's market/whole foods: barbecued pork, mac and cheese, collard greens, and corn bread. I was in high cotton.

A short time later I developed a terrible itching in my eyes; I washed them out, but then the itching spread to my hands and feet, then up my arms and legs; next I started to feel a pain in my chest, and the skin over my entire body turned a bright red. I decided to take an aspirin and lie down -- but I had trouble swallowing the tablets: my throat was swollen.

I knew I was in trouble -- I suspected it was something I'd eaten -- and I got myself over to the ER at the hospital across the street.

When I arrived at the desk to the ER, the receptionist gave me a stack of papers to fill out.

Word to the wise: if you ever need to get yourself quickly admitted to a hospital, just bark out one of these magic words:
(1) Heart attack
(2) Stroke
(3) Shock

The last is what applied to me: I was in anaphylactic shock. I was admitted sans paperwork, got a checkup from the doctor who treated the symptoms, and was told to talk to an allergist.

The allergist confirmed that I had developed a food allergy. After testing the various ingredients of the foods I'd eaten the day I went into shock, he concluded that I was allergic to collard greens. I can never eat them again.

It makes a southern boy weep.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Washington's Farewell Address

In his Farewell Address -- made public in a letter of 1796 -- President Washington declared that "Religion and morality" were the "great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens."

"National morality," he continued, precluded the "exclusion of religious principle."

"Virtue or morality," that resulted from the practice of religion, were "a necessary spring of popular government."

The remarks are located in the lower right portion of
this page and continue to this page.

Washington's view was that religion and morality promoted private and public happiness and the nation's political prosperity. That's because religious principles promote the protection of property (7th and 10th commandments), reputation (8th commandment), and life (5th commandment) that are the foundations of justice. A nation's morality cannot be maintained without religion -- thus, Washington reasoned, religion is vital in maintaining the popularly elected government of the United States.

Washington was deeply flawed - the man was no saint, was only a fringe Anglican himself - but he was possessed of natural virtues and common-sense insights.

Washington Portrait
by Gilbert Stuart

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chess and Kings

Wednesday's sniffles turned into Thursday's head cold, so I stayed home from work. Around noon I passed time playing the Chess game that came installed on my home computer.

Computer Chess

It's been college since I played Chess with anything like serious attention, but with time on my hands I thought it would be enjoyable to review my matches with the computer to see where I could improve my game. I was out of luck, however: the Chess software is a simple version that does not allow me to review my matches. Bother.

I did some poking around online and came across an account of the Immortal Game between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky in London in 1851, and was able to see the match played via animated GIF. It was better than nothing.

Anderssen was a 19th Century German Chess champ; curiously, we have the loser Kieseritzky to thank for publishing the account of the game. The Immortal Game was a skittles match which Anderssen won by using combinations that involved the sacrifice of his bishop, both rooks, and his queen.

Kieseritzky was dominating the match, and he became so focused on acquiring pieces that he neglected to protect his king. Anderssen, meanwhile, went for position, and maneuvered with his lesser pieces. Though outgunned and seemingly exposed, Anderssen's king was able to maneuver; Kieseritzky brought out his big pieces early, which meant that his king was hemmed in by his pawn line -- and this cost him the match. Chess players still study the game; it is the stuff of exciting play.

Moral of the story? Perhaps it would be: take care of the King if you want to win.

Viva Cristo rey!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Monday's Fortune

Lunch Monday was Chinese. Usually the fortunes are shallow or banal, but this one was an exception.

Monday's Fortune

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Veni, Veni Emmanuel

Listen to my favorite Advent hymn at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRi1GDoaQu4

Advent: a period beginning with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November) and embracing four Sundays. It is a time of expectation and pious yearning, a period of preparation for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Immaculate Conception

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

In the Constitution
Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Bl. Pope Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."

It was Mary who was conceived immaculately. The birth of Christ, meanwhile, is the
Virgin Birth: his mother Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to him, her virginity remained intact during His birth, and she retained her virginity her entire life.

Original sin is a moral deformity, a permanent privation, a wound in our human nature, transmitted like a birth defect from our first parents, Adam and Eve: it is the chief consequence of their deliberate disobedience of God in the Garden of Paradise.

Its effects include:

* Suffering and death. These are physical evils rather than moral evils.

* The rebellion of the lower appetites over the higher faculties. This is called concupiscence, and it's why we have a desire for forbidden things and a fascination for evil. It's also why we find it easy to do what's wrong and difficult to do what's right. We still have free will; we also still know moral truths with certainty, but with difficulty. Concupiscence is not a moral shortcoming in and of itself; rather, it is the weakness of the intellect and the will that inclines us to fail morally.

* The absence of sanctifying grace at birth. This means we don't have the intimate union with God that we need to be truly happy throughout our lives, both in this world and in the world to come. Baptism restores this grace, which is why it is necessary for salvation.

By being immaculately conceived, the Blessed Virgin Mary always enjoyed sanctifying grace and never suffered concupiscence: her mind was always clear, her will was always under control, and she used both her entire life to love, honor, and serve Almighty God, Deo gratias.



When 14-year old St. Bernadette was visited by our Lady in Lourdes in 1858, she was instructed by her confessor to ask the Lady her name.

"Would you be so kind as to tell me who you are?" Bernadette asked the beautiful woman -- four times in fact.

"I am the Immaculate Conception," was the reply -- or, rendered in the local dialect, "que soy era Immaculada Councepciou."

Bernadette gave the reply to her pastor. He was astonished. "You are mistaken," he said. "Do you know what that means?"

The little girl did not: the title that the Pope had declared for the Mother of God had been solemnly declared only four years before, and news of the matter was still being discussed primarily among theologians and clergy. Further, Bernadette was illiterate, and she was conversant only in the Bigourdan patois of the region. Because of her family's poverty and her own ill health, she
was six years tardy in preparing for first Holy Communion. It was too incredible that she would know the term "Immaculada Councepciou."

But Bernadette was correct, and her pastor finally overcame his surprise to support her to the local bishop.

Our Lady, meanwhile, went about petitioning her Son in Heaven on behalf of those who came to honor Her as the Immaculate Conception, and the thousands of miraculous cures and other miracles at the shrine in Lourdes give testimony that it pleased God in Heaven that His mother should be so honored.

Immaculada Councepciou, ora pro nobis.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Judge for a Day

Source

A man in Superior, Wisconsin was arrested last week for trespassing on his own property.

Jeremy Engelking and his father Jerry have had a long-running disagreement with an energy company who is trying to lay new pipeline across their land. The Engelkings deemed that Enbridge Energy's $15,000 check was inadequate compensation for the limitations that resulted from broadening the scope of the existing easement across their property.

Local judge George Glonek disagreed, and gave Enbridge the green light to proceed over the Engelking's objections. When work resumed last Wednesday, Jeremy happened upon the work site and told the Enbridge crew to pack up shop. The workers consented and made to leave, but at that point Engelking was greeted by taser-wielding Sgt. Robert Smith. Engelking was cuffed and arrested, had his car impounded, and received a lecture from the sergeant for interfering with Enbridge's business.

If I'm the judge who hears this matter, I:
(1) Apologize on behalf of the county to Jerry Engelking.
(2) Direct Sgt. Smith to apologize to Engelking.
(3) Order the police department to compensate Engelking for the $300 he spent to post bail and reclaim his impounded car.
(4) Lecture Enbridge Energy about its arrogance in beginning work on a man's private property before it had settled matters with him.
(5) Advise the Engelkings to get a good attorney because Enbridge will be back to explore its legal alternatives for expanding its pipeline across their land.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

St. Nicholas

Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra, Bishop, Confessor

Today is the feast day of
St. Nicholas (+343), a holy 4th century bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia of Asia Minor (yes, he's the chap from whom our modern Santa Claus is loosely descended).

The saint is renowned for his many miracles, for having endured imprisonment and torture for the Faith, and for steadfastly resisting the errors of Arianism and paganism. He is the patron of sailors, merchants, bakers, travelers, and children; he is also especially popular in Russia.

One pious tale of the saint is that he used his inherited wealth to aid an impoverished family. Butler renders the account thus:

A citizen of Patara had lost all his money, and had moreover to support three daughters who could not find husbands because of their poverty; so the wretched man was going to give them over to prostitution. This came to the ears of Nicholas, who thereupon took a bag of gold and, under cover of darkness, threw it in at the open window of the man's house. Here was a dowry for the eldest girl, and she was soon duly married. At intervals Nicholas did the same for the second and the third; at the last time the father was on the watch, recognized the benefactor, and overwhelmed him with his gratitude.

The story may well be apocryphal, yet one can see how such an episode could give rise to the old fellow of our time who pops down chimneys to leave gifts for children.

The remains of our St. Nicholas were transferred to Bari in southeast Italy some time after Myra was conquered by Muslims. Since the saint's death on this day 17 centuries ago, his remains have continuously produced a transparent liquid endowed with miraculous properties. Called the "manna of St. Nicholas," the liquid continues to flow from his tombs (both the tomb in Myra and the tomb in Bari), and is made available to the pious faithful throughout the world.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

12 Stars

Draughtsman Arsène Heitz of Strasbourg is the author of the Flag of Europe:

The Flag of Europe

You'll recognize it as the banner of the European Union (EU).

Heitz is a member of the Order of the Miraculous Medal; he prays a rosary daily, and has a great devotion to our Lady. In a 1999 interview he related that when he was considering a design to submit for the EU back in the 1950s, he was reading the history of the Blessed Virgin’s apparitions in Paris’ Rue du Bac. The idea for the circle of 12 stars came from this passage in the book of the Apocalypse 12:1: "And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars."

The woman in this case is the church of God, and by allusion is also the Blessed Virgin Mary. The church is clothed with the sun, that is, with Christ; she has the moon, that is, the changeable things of the world, in subjection under her feet; and the 12 stars with which she is crowned are the 12 apostles; she is in labor and pain, while she brings forth her children, and Christ in them, in the midst of afflictions and persecutions. (Challoner)

The 12 stars are the symbol of the Immaculate Conception herself, whose feast day we celebrate next Tuesday -- the 49th anniversary of when the European Ministers' delegates officially adopted Heitz's design for the European flag.

I don't know that there's anything particularly religious about the EU -- it's very much an organization devoted to the self-aggrandizing cult of man. I'm of the view that the lyrics of the EU's official anthem -- the final movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, the Ode to Joy -- better capture its true spirit (source):

Europe is united now
United it may remain
Our unity in diversity
May contribute to world peace.
May there forever reign in Europe
Faith and justice
And freedom for its people
In a bigger motherland.
Citizens, Europe shall flourish,
A great task calls on you.
Golden stars in the sky are
The symbols that shall unite us.

I'm not sure which is worse: this banal doggerel, or the shallow, prosy, rationalistic musings of the Schiller original.

Anyway, I think it noteworthy that with the inclusion of our Lady's 12 stars in the EU's banner, Heaven once again found a way to keep itself on the radar screen of a movement bent of excising consideration of the Divine.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Alps in Time Lapse

Astro-particle physicist and time-lapse photographer Michael Rissi of Zurich, Switzerland created some impressive time-lapse videos of the Swiss Alps.

Take a gander at
http://vimeo.com/7700248

The piece is set to the second movement of Beethoven's seventh symphony, which I've long-enjoyed.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holy Stairs Refurbished

Source

The Scala Santa, or Holy Stairs, in Rome have been cleaned up. View a slide show at the link above.

The Scala Sancta are 28 marble steps that led to the praetorium in Jerusalem where Pontius Pilate interviewed our Lord during His Passion. The stairs were brought to Rome by St. Helena in the Fourth Century. Pilgrims for centuries have practiced the devotion of ascending the steps on their knees; yours truly made the climb in August 2000.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Watermelon Economics

Source

From the source above (scare quotes are in the original):

A tiny clique of politicized scientists, paid by unscientific politicians with whom they were financially and politically linked, were responsible for gathering and reporting data on temperatures from the palaeoclimate to today’s climate. The "Team", as they called themselves, were bending and distorting scientific data to fit a nakedly political story-line profitable to themselves and congenial to the governments that, these days, pay the bills for 99% of all scientific research.

* The Climate Research Unit at East Anglia had profited to the tune of at least $20 million in "research" grants from the Team’s activities.

* The Team had tampered with the complex, bureaucratic processes of the UN’s climate panel, the IPCC, so as to exclude inconvenient scientific results from its four Assessment Reports, and to influence the panel’s conclusions for political rather than scientific reasons.

* The Team had conspired in an attempt to redefine what is and is not peer-reviewed science for the sake of excluding results that did not fit what they and the politicians with whom they were closely linked wanted the UN’s climate panel to report.

* They had tampered with their own data so as to conceal inconsistencies and errors.

* They had emailed one another about using a "trick" for the sake of concealing a "decline" in temperatures in the paleoclimate.

* They had expressed dismay at the fact that, contrary to all of their predictions, global temperatures had not risen in any statistically-significant sense for 15 years, and had been falling for nine years. They had admitted that their inability to explain it was "a travesty". This internal doubt was in contrast to their public statements that the present decade is the warmest ever, and that "global warming" science is settled.

* They had interfered with the process of peer-review itself by leaning on journals to get their friends rather than independent scientists to review their papers.

* They had successfully leaned on friendly journal editors to reject papers reporting results inconsistent with their political viewpoint.

* They had campaigned for the removal of a learned journal’s editor, solely because he did not share their willingness to debase and corrupt science for political purposes.

* They had mounted a venomous public campaign of disinformation and denigration of their scientific opponents via a website that they had expensively created.

* Contrary to all the rules of open, verifiable science, the Team had committed the criminal offense of conspiracy to conceal and then to destroy computer codes and data that had been legitimately requested by an external researcher who had very good reason to doubt that their "research" was either honest or competent.

=======

Reflection: One wonders why they would go to the trouble? Control of political and economic machinery, of course -- but to what end? Perhaps there's something to the thought that environmental groups engage in watermelon economics: green (i.e. superficially organic and natural) on the outside, red (i.e. socialist, communist) on the inside.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cat Head Biscuits

I used to know a fellow from a poor farming family named Brookens. He sometimes talked about growing up on the farm. One story he liked was about the cat head biscuits his mother used to make.

"A cat head biscuit is as big as a cat's head," Brookens said. "You'd take your thumb and mush it down on top, making a big hole in the center. Then while it was still hot you'd pour in maple syrup so that it filled the hole and oozed out all over the biscuit and onto the plate. That's the proper way to eat a cathead biscuit."

Poverty can have an effect on one's perceptions, however.

"We had the cat head biscuits, and the fresh bacon from the slaughtered hogs, and the eggs gathered every morning from the hen house," Brookens said. "But what we all really wanted was the storbought food that the rich kids ate: we wanted Cheerios."


Cat Head Biscuit

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Novena

Feast of St. Andrew

Hail and blessed be the hour
And moment in which the Son of God
Was born of the most pure Virgin Mary,
At midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.

In that hour vouchsafe, O my God,
To hear my prayer and grant my desires,
Through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
And of His Blessed Mother.

Amen

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Keep it Real

The other day I was talking to someone about the recent high-grossing Twilight film, which is based on a young-adult vampire-romance novel. Word had gotten around that the Pope condemned the movie -- which, it turns out, is not accurate; it was other folks in Rome who had expressed reservations about the novels, the movies, and the author because of the dubious morality of the tales and the frequent recourse to occult devices (I wonder if the latter is of concern in part because of the increase in satanism around the globe).

Matters at the Vatican notwithstanding, I'll keep my distance from a story about a vampiric psychopath who manages to control his murderous cannibalistic impulses for love of the young protagonist. Having known a number of women who remained in abusive relationships because they thought they could "help" a boyfriend/fiancé/husband with anger management issues, I don't care at all for dangerously unrealistic love tales in which the animalistic love interest is portrayed as actually a heroic sort if you just get to know him. To put the matter in terms of everyday reality: how many teenage girls are going to internalize the finer points of Meyer's tales by staying too long in damaging relationships, imagining they can change an abuser by their love and fidelity?

The again, another popular show these days is Dexter, which presents audiences with the murderous antics of a serial killer afflicted by perfect possession who preys on other serial killers -- he's a sociopath with a heart. By comparison, one could argue, a bloodthirsty vampire who shows heroic restraint is a step up.

No doubt. More significantly, no doubt a society engrossed with such dark fantasies is seriously out of touch with reality.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Let's Scrabble

I asked Dad whether I should bring his Scrabble board with me when I returned to the hospital to see him tomorrow.

He gave me an incredulous look.

"I fully expect to be trounced," I said.

"As you should," he replied.


Dad's Arena

The Scrabble board is an arena where Dad consistently excels. Colleagues routinely reach for a dictionary when he speaks; his gift for writing is likewise extraordinary.

"Did you know that 'Aa' is a word?" he asked.

"Do you mean as an acronym for Alcholics Anonymous?"

"No, it's a Hawaiin word for a type of volcanic rock."

"Has it made its way into the the standard American lexicon?"

"I don't know, but it is in the Scrabble official dictionary."

"Great," I said.

"The letters 'Ae' and 'Ai' are also words in the dictionary," he concluded.

Upon returning home I confirmed that "Ae" is a Scottish word meaning one and "Ai" is a word for a three-toed sloth. All are considered standard English.

I'm gonna get creamed.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stark Assessment

Source

Cathy Lynn Grossman over at USA Today covered Rodney Stark's God's Battalions: the Case for the Crusades.

Stark, author of 27 books on religion and history, is professor of social sciences at
Baylor University. In his latest book he takes issue with modern revisionist history to set the record straight that the Crusades were not a bunch of Frenchmen making an unprovoked attack on peace-loving Mohammedans in the Holy Land.

"All of a sudden (in the 700s) you had all these Muslims coming out of Arabia and conquering the Middle East and North Africa," Stark observes. "That was most of Christendom -- there were more Christians in the Middle East and North Africa than in Europe at the time." In short, the Crusades were a reaction a few hundred years in the making to unprovoked acts of aggression by marauders who erupted out of the Arabian desert.

Certainly the taking of Jerusalem was an excessively bloody affair.

It almost rivaled the atrocities committed against Christians following their defeat at Manzikert in 1071.

It is far short of the murderous activities of modern secular states.

Aside: I've added Stark's book to
my Amazon.com wish list.

Crusaders in Battle

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Unexpected Money

Today a lady I know said she found $20 in a coat pocket she hasn't worn since last winter. It's one thing to roll your eyes at all the Christmas decorations out early; it's something else when the Christmas gift itself shows up ahead of schedule.

Sparhümpchen

Several years back a man at the parish asked Father whether it was OK to play the lottery.

"Father, if I win, I promise I'll give a third of all the winnings to the church."

Father made a face, then said, "Well, if God wants you to win the lottery, then you only need to buy one ticket."

Me, I once put a dollar in an office pool to buy as many lotto tickets as the pool was good for; any winnings would be split evenly among the contributors. We won enough to buy another ticket; that one didn't net anything, and so the experiment drew to a close. And that was my one ticket; I'm done.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More Masses by SSPX Priests in St. Peter's

The blog "An Honor and a Responsibility" provided a bit of news from an Italian site about the SSPX doctrinal discussions with Rome.

http://honresp-catholicblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/vatican-sspx-talks-are-being-filmed.html

The events unfolding in Rome will be made public one day, and I don't want to speculate on what's happening; for now I commend the matter to prayer.

What I thought was of interest on the blog was this little nugget:

Since all the altars at the Domus are already booked for Masses, the SSPX’s Masses are celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica.

I think it's delightful.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

2,500 Years Later

Source

The remains of the vanished Persian army is found in the Egyptian desert -- 2,500 years after the fact.

One wonders what other military marvels are hidden in the sands of the various middle eastern deserts.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Your Opinion Matters

My employer sent out an employee survey to solicit feedback on job satisfaction. Today an observant colleague noticed this curious scene in the office supply room:

Employee Survey Notice
At least they used the recycle bin

Monday, November 9, 2009

St. Theodore

Today is the feast day of one of my personal favorites, St. Theodore (+ 304 AD), who hailed from the city of Tyre.

Theodore was an officer in the Roman army of the east, and was enjoined by his commander to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods. The young Christian refused, and so was allowed the night to think over his decision. Theodore took the opportunity to sneak out and set the local pagan temple of Cybel on fire. He was subsequently starved, beaten, and tortured, but he stuck by his guns; he was finally martyred by being burned alive. Pious witnesses saw his soul rise to heaven like a flash of light and fire.

Come Holy Ghost
Come, Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Thy love.
V. Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created;
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Souls to Pray for From Ft. Hood

I scanned this image from this morning's WSJ -- souls to pray for from Ft. Hood.

Requiescant in pace...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

360 of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre

This site shows a 360 degree view of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem:

www.360tr.com/kudus/kiyamet_eng/index.html

Click F11 key to get the full screen. Click F11 again to return to the normal window.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Vancouver Man in the News

Source

A Vancouver man has recovered from advanced myositis and necrotizing fasciitis. An Irishman is to be thanked.

Peter Andersen was within hours of dying when he recovered under amazing circumstances from a septic state and organ failure brought on by the flesh-eating bacteria. The recovery is a mystery to his doctors.

After bags full of rotted flesh were surgically removed from his leg, Andersen was visited by his parish priest, Fr. John Horgan. The good Father arrived carrying with him a relic of the Irish-French Abbot Columba Marmion, O.S.B. -- a fragment of his habit.

The priest was gowned and masked and led into Andersen's intensive care unit. While praying that God would spare his friend's life for the sake of his wife and their two adopted children, he took the relic and placed it on Andersen's head, heart, and on the dressing covering his diseased leg.

"I asked Blessed Marmion to intercede with the Lord and bring healing," said Horgan.

At Mass the next day he asked the congregation to pray for a miracle for Andersen, "as this was his only hope."

Five days after he fell ill, Andersen's blood culture came back negative for the bacteria.

He spent the next four months in the hospital. Doctors said he would never walk again or drive a car and that he would likely be brain-damaged.

None of which happened. Although he needs a cane, Peter is walking and driving a car, and he has lost none of his mental faculties. He's also returned to work as the pastoral care director of Columbus Residence, a care facility for the elderly in south Vancouver.

Blessed Marmion

Blessed Marmion was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1858. He entered Maredsous Abbey in Belgium, where he became abbot in 1909. He wrote a number of books, including Christ, the Life of the Soul, that are considered spiritual classics.

From his writings:

"If Grace does not destroy nature, neither does it suppress our personality."

"If, while reading, you feel yourself moved to speak to God, stop for a moment and speak."

"I recommend that you pay great attention to the whispers of the Holy Spirit."

"The crucifix is the most vivid revelation of sin."

"Love is like the philospher's stone which turns all that it touches into gold."

"To abandon the least of our brethren, is to abandon Christ Himself."

"The life of union with God can only develop in a soul filled with peace and joy."

"I became a monk because God had revealed to me the beauty and greatness of obedience."

His motto was "Magis prodesse quam praesse" -- "To serve rather than to rule."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It Made Sense at the Time

Source

Police officers in Carroll, Iowa -- located about 100 miles northwest of Des Moines -- arrested two burglars last week. Identification was made easy for the arresting officers by the fact that the failed robbers had blackened their faces with permanent magic marker.

Crooks as a rule are stupid: if they had brains, they'd have real jobs.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hugs and Kisses

A while back during a conversation with a group of friends, Judy -- a kind and sweet lady -- asked, "Sean, why is it that when we girls get together we hug each other and kiss each other on the cheek and hold hands and smile and laugh with each other, but you guys never do that?"

The answer seemed pretty obvious to me, but I tried to deliver the news gently to my friend.

"Because if we did, your husbands would punch us."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dealing With Spilled Milk

I arrived home from the grocery store this morning, and as I was carrying the groceries into the house I lost my grip on one of the bags and dropped the gallon of milk onto the foyer floor. The milk explosion that followed the impact was, thankfully, more or less contained to the front hallway and half-bath.

Dead Soldier

The exploded milk mess was a novel experience for me, and I had to improvise in a quick cleanup to keep the white river from spreading via the rivulets in my tile floor. In case you ever find yourself in a similar situation, keep these points in mind.

Dealing With Spilled Milk

(1) Go ahead and turn off the house alarm first. No the noise isn't going to hurt anyone, but it is a distraction. In addition, in less than a minute the alarm company will be notified, and it would be best to avoid having to explain to the arriving police officer that he had to check on your safety because you were cleaning up spilled milk.

(2) Grab some paper towels to lie down as an impediment in the course of flowing milk. Even an entire roll of paper towels is unlikely to be sufficient to keep the white flood at bay, but it is a quick and accessible remedy to stop the progression until you can grab more serviceable implements.

(3) Remove your shoes and socks. You're going to be treading all over a milky mess in a confined space, which means you *will* be stepping in it. Soiled footwear is just not helpful in any imaginable way.

(4) If you have a yarn mop, you can get busy sopping up milk. I tried to make some headway with my sponge mop, but its business end was too small to contend with the task at hand, so I had to abandon that remedy for number 5 below.

(5) Retrieve several bath towels and lay them down; this will stop the flow and sop up the liquid. Being in a hurry I managed to grab a pair of hand towels as well, so I went ahead and included them in the mix, but they really were superfluous.


The Ratio of 4:1
Body-Length Bath Towels:Gallon of Milk
Worked for Me

(6) After sopping up all the milk with the towels, mop the floor with hot soapy water.

(7) Promptly launder the towels. The reek of spoiled milk is not for the weak of stomach, so you won't want to leave the soiled towels in the hamper until the next weekend. Fortunately for me Saturdays are already laundry days, so I was able to work this task into my schedule in stride.

Hopefully you'll never need to apply any of this knowledge. If the scenario should arise for you, however, you won't be caught off guard.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Safety Decals

Mark is the chap in my office in charge of office tech support, facilities, and local beer recommendations. This morning he sent around a brief email:

"In order to help make the office a safer place to work (for us and for our clients), the Action Team has posted new safety decals in the team rooms."

Mark is referring to the sliding glass doors on several of our office meeting rooms: we've had a few unfortunate accidents involving people careening into closed sliding glass doors.

With the new state-of-the-art safety decals, hopefully glass door smashups will be a thing of the past.


Chris
The hand was interposed too late to save the face

Brian
Note the astonished look of shock and pain

Kelly
Grateful survivor of a closed sliding glass door incident

Mark
Mr. Tech Support, recovering nicely

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poor China

Source

The handiwork of Chinese mass murderer Mao Zedong -- whose 65 million dead was more people killed than Stalin and Hitler combined -- is in the news a good bit this month.

Red Party propaganda would have it that Chairman Mao was an oppressed hard working peasant dedicated to fighting injustice. In truth he was a loafer who took a job as a party agent to receive “a comfortable berth as a subsidized professional revolutionary.” It's like being a vagabond with a pension.

Like all secular rulers Mao rationalized the unjust and needless death of millions of innocent people, but he added to the mix a policy of deliberate terror to secure his rule: suspected enemies were tortured, forcibly re-educated, brainwashed, and put to death for the flimsiest of excuses, such as using sarcasm (this blogger wouldn't have lasted ten minutes) or telling jokes (make that two minutes). The official government disdain for human life continues today -- e.g. population control through forced abortions is still allowable policy to be exercised at discretion of the local party official.

It leaves one to wonder why:
* White House Director of Communications Anita Dunn praised Mao Zedong’s political philosophy and called him a great defender of individualism.
* The Empire State Building was lit up in red and yellow to commemorate the birth of the PRC.
* A NY Times columnist described the totalitarian regime as "enlightened."

Then again, no, I suppose one doesn't have to wonder so much after all.

The prevailing sentiment of the age favors secularism, which minimizes and removes spiritual and religious considerations from all public policy. Massive numbers of dead and suffering people is the necessary consequence of the policies implemented by secular forms of government.

In a discussion once I was challenged for pronouncing this conclusion. My critic remarked, "What, you prefer all the horrors of the inquisitor's wrack? What about all the religious wars of the Middle Ages? You have no room to pass judgment."

Well, if we go by body count, one has plenty of room to form an objective judgment. The Spanish Inquisition, which is generally perceived to be the most severe tribunal, produced a few hundred dead over the entire life of the tribunal. And if you take the sum of all people killed in several centuries of medieval battles with their crude swords and spears and bows, you'll still arrive at a far smaller number of people killed in one of our modern civilized wars conducted with its guns, bombs, and weapons of mass destruction.

So yes, give me a form of government that publicly recognizes the right of God to rule over the affairs of men. I much prefer that to modern secular, liberal, brutal forms of government any day of the week. And twice on Sundays.

Libera nos a malo.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Colleague's Last Day

The other day a colleague in the Seattle office sent out a note that it was her last day -- she'd accepted a position with another company, it was time to move on, etc.

Lydia and I started on the exact same day a little over five years ago. We worked on a project together when I was in Seattle (beautiful city!) for three weeks. Though we got along great, I felt obliged to point out to her one day that because I was on the east coast and she was on the west coast, being three hours ahead of her I technically had seniority. She took it well.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Natural History

Last week my friend Patti of Minnesota sent me the note below:

"Okay, city boy, time out for a refreshing look at nature.

"For a view alone see:
http://shots-of-the-wild.blogspot.com/

"And for a learning experience see: http://the-outdoor-kid.blogspot.com/

"The first one has a couple of pictures that I got this morning and the second one has an awesome picture of a deer standing on its hind legs, so take a moment from your computer work to see what you think. Nothing like a look at nature to refresh the brain, eh?"

Though I normally describe myself as a guy with a green thumb that can kill kudzu, I will hazard a "yep - delightful" in response.

Friday, October 23, 2009

You Have the Freedom to Do As I Say

Source

The Obama administration on Thursday tried to make "pay czar" Kenneth Feinberg available for interviews to every member of the White House pool except Fox News.

The Washington bureau chiefs of the five TV networks decided that none of their reporters would interview Feinberg unless Fox News was included; the rules of the news network pool simply prohibited it.

To which I say: hooray the networks!

"I'm really cheered by the other members saying "No, if Fox can't be part of it, we won't be part of it,'" said Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik, calling the move to limit Feinberg's availability "outrageous."

"What it's really about to me is the Executive Branch of the government trying to tell the press how it should behave..." he said.

Rep. Mike Pence, chairman of the House Republican Conference, said conservative commentators speak more for Americans than the national media outlets that have targeted them for criticism.

"Goaded on by a White House increasingly intolerant of criticism, lately the national media has taken aim at conservative commentators in radio and television," the Indiana Republican said on the House floor. "Suggesting that they only speak for a small group of activists and even suggesting in one report today that Republicans in Washington are 'worried about their electoral effect.' Well, that's hogwash."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Crusade, Kolbe, Council

In today's installment I've posted the recent Letter to Friends and Benefactors of Bp. Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society Saint Pius X (SSPX), a traditional Catholic missionary society.

=======


SUPERIOR GENERAL’S

LETTER TO FRIENDS AND BENEFACTORS #75


Dear Friends and Benefactors,

The enthusiastic response to the Rosary Crusade we encounter throughout the world fills us with consolation and prompts us to take up this theme once again with you. If we are petitioning Heaven with this multitude of Aves, it is because the hour is indeed grave. We are sure of Our Lady’s victory because she herself foretold it, but the events that have been unfolding for nearly a century -- since this triumph was announced at Fatima -- oblige us to suppose that all kinds of other woes could yet befall mankind before this victory.

Yet the rules given at Fatima by the Mother of God were quite simple: if the world does not convert, it will be punished: “There will be a second war, more terrible than the first.” The world did not convert. And God’s answer was not long in coming. Since the Second World War, the world still has not converted. And if people think Russia has converted, they will have to explain to us in what it has converted, and to whom -- economic liberalism?

Almost one hundred years later, we observe that the world has surely not become better; quite the contrary. The war of the unbelievers rages harder than ever, but it has taken an unexpected turn: the demolition of the Church is being carried out especially by subversion, by infiltrating the Church. Our holy Mother the Church is in the process of being transformed into a pile of spiritual ruins while the exterior façade remains more or less intact, thus deceiving the multitude about its real condition. And it has to be admitted that this subversion acquired an unexpected increase of efficacy on the occasion of the Second Vatican Council. It doesn’t take an advanced degree in theology to figure this out; today it is an historical fact.

What part of the responsibility should be attributed to the Council itself? This is a difficult question, but it is clear that this Council was not without effect, and its consequences have been well and truly disastrous. Because of it, the Church fell in step with the world. “We, too, in fact, we more than any others, honor mankind,” said Paul VI at the Council’s conclusion. And the man-centered orientation of Vatican II was harped on by John Paul II. But this orientation is indeed odd for the Church of God, supernatural in its essence, having received from Our Lord Jesus Christ not only its constitution and means, but first and foremost its end, which is nothing else than the continuation of His own redemptive and salvific mission: “Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.” (Mk. 16:15-16).

And now, here is the tragedy: the divine mission of the Church has been replaced by a purely human one. It is a great mystery that leaves one astounded. Salvation now comes second, to say the least.

Few men -- very few men, unfortunately -- understand that the terrible crisis of the Church since the Second Vatican Council is a chastisement more terrible than any other, for this time the catastrophe is spiritual: what is wounded, what is noiselessly killed in the midst of an indifference worse than death, are souls. The loss of grace in a soul is the most terrible harm that can happen to it because it makes no noise, it is not felt. And the voice of the watchmen has fallen silent. The call to conversion, to penance, to the flight from sin, temptations and the world has given way, if not to indulgence, then at least to sympathy with the world. There is a real will to make peace with the modern world.

The mission of salvation has given way to a new sort of humanitarian mission; it is a matter of helping men of every condition and religion to live well together on earth.

There is no doubt that everything connected in the message of the Blessed Virgin of Fatima, what is referred to as the Secret of Fatima, has not yet come to an end. Certainly, what we are living is per force part and parcel of the events that will end one day, eventually, with the triumph of Mary. What will happen? How will we recognize it? In any case, it will at least entail the conversion of Russia according to the very words of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In 1917 at Rome, the foes of God were celebrating the 200th anniversary of Freemasonry and the 400th anniversary of Protestantism with parades of special violence against the Holy See. The demonstrators boisterously proclaimed the reign of Satan over the Vatican and the Sovereign Pontiff. Maximilian Kolbe, still a seminarian, witnessed these painful events and said:

This mortal hatred of the Church, of Christ, and of His Vicar on earth is not just an outburst of misguided individuals, but rather a systematic action that proceeds from the principle of Freemasonry: the destruction of all religion, but especially the Catholic religion... [Pisma Ojca Maksymiliana Marii Kolbego franciszkanina, Niepokalanow, maszynopsis, 1970; English tr. from The Immaculata Our Ideal, by Fr. Karl Stehlin (Warsaw, 2005), p. 39].

Is it possible that our enemies should deploy so much activity so as to attain superiority while we stay idle, or at best apply ourselves to prayer without getting to work? Might we not have more powerful arms—the protection of Heaven and of the Immaculate Virgin? The Immaculata, victorious and triumphant over all heresies, will not yield to the advancing enemy if she finds faithful servants obedient to her command: she will bring off new victories even greater than can be imagined. We have to put ourselves like docile instruments into her hands, employing all lawful means, getting the word out everywhere by the diffusion of the Marian press and the Miraculous Medal, and enhancing our action by prayer and good example. [Testimony of Fr. Pignalberi reported during the process of canonization].

He founded the Militia of the Immaculata just a few days after the October 13th apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, when the great miracle of the sun took place. It was in fact on October 16, with six fellow seminarians, that he consecrated himself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the purpose of leading the whole world to God by the Immaculata.

One cannot but be struck by the affinity between the message of Fatima and the response of the Polish Franciscan while reading his act of consecration:

O Immaculata, Queen of heaven and earth, Refuge of sinners, our most loving Mother, to whom God deigned to entrust the entire order of mercy, behold I, N., an unworthy sinner, cast myself at Thy feet and humbly ask Thee to deign to accept me completely and utterly as Thy property and possession; and do with me as it pleases Thee: all the faculties of my soul and body, my entire life, my death and my eternity. Dispose of me as Thou willst, so that what has been said of Thee might be fulfilled: ‘She will crush the head of the serpent,’ and also, ‘Thou alone hast vanquished all heresies throughout the world.’ Make of me an instrument in Thy immaculate and merciful hands, which serves Thee, in order to increase reverence for Thee as much as possible in so many fallen-away and lukewarm souls. Thus the benevolent reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will spread more and more. For whatever place Thou enters, Thou shalt implore upon it the grace of conversion and sanctification, for all graces come to us from the Sacred Heart of Jesus only through Thy hands. [Scritti di Massimiliano Kolbe, new ed. (Rome: ENMI, 1997), Vol. I; Eng. version, The Immaculata Our Ideal]

Very dear faithful, it is in this same spirit that we launched the Rosary Crusade. But prayer is only a part of it: let us not forget the other two very important elements, penance and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. By mortification, we wish to make reparation for the insults given to Mary, and in union with her sorrowful Heart we wish to associate ourselves as closely as possible to the sacrifice of the Cross of our Lord, because by it our salvation is effected. Thus we are at the heart of the message of Fatima: "God wishes to introduce devotion to my Immaculate Heart." Perhaps not enough emphasis is given to this aspect, which seems to us even more important than the consecration of Russia and which is the second condition indicated by Mary to the pope for her triumph: consecrate Russia and promote devotion to her Immaculate Heart.

In this month of October we are going to enter into a new phase in our relations with the Vatican, that of the doctrinal discussions. What is at stake is very important, and we recommend them to your prayers. Undoubtedly that also is a part of our Crusade, and obviously this intention is included in the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary we all desire. That also completely outstrips all our own powers, and it would be folly pure and simple to undertake such an enterprise were it not sustained by the power of the supernatural means such as prayer and penance.

We do not want to conclude this letter without also thanking you for your generosity, which enables our work to develop throughout the world. There is one thing, though, that slows us down: the harvest is abundant, but workers for the harvest are lacking. Our Lord has already said it and has shown the remedy: pray for vocations! How we should like to come to the aid of all the faithful who only have the Mass once a month, or only on Sundays, unable to benefit from normal pastoral care...Yet the good Lord has gratified us this year with 27 new priests, and we expect an even slightly larger number next year. But even that is not enough, so great is the demand worldwide.

You are deeply thanked for all your efforts. May God reward you with the abundant graces and blessings we implore on you all, your families, your children. May Our Lady of the Rosary, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, protect you.

On the Feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, October 11, 2009.

+ Bernard Fellay

Superior General