Is Anybody There?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Another Year Over - 2006

As I write this there is less than 40 minutes left in 2006 for the Central Time Zone of the USA. It doesn't seem possible that this year is over. In fact it still doesn't seem possible that we are now almost 7 yrs out from the start of the millenium (if you count 2000 as the start, not the real start of 2001).
A lot of people will be commenting on all the events of the past year. & there isn't much I can add to it. So, I will just put down a few thoughts about what I think were the high points of 2006.
The trip of Papa Benedetto to Turkey has to be 1 of them. There were many threats against his life, yet he didn't let them stop him from going there. It reminded me of Paul in Acts 20. As Paul was heading to Jerusalem it was prophecied that hardship & imprionment lay ahead. Some people tried to discourage him. Yet Paul knew it was God's will that he go to Jerusalem. So he did. Papa Benedetto knew it was God's will he go to Turkey. As I said in a post about the trip he knew that whatever awaited him there he knew he needn't fear. He was more concerned with obeying God's call to be shepherd.
Depending on your political view the 2006 election results were either a high point or a low point. I was anything but happy with most of the results. Although a friend, Steve Luken, did get reelected to the Iowa House, most of those I supported lost. This election was a lesson for the Republicans, stay true to your roots. Stop spending like a drunken sailor. It seemd like a setback for the Pro-Life Movement, but it wasn't all bad. Most marriage referendums passed. & the vote wasn't as much a vote against the Pro-Life stand (many Democrats presented themselves as Pro-Life) as it was against the spendthrift Republicans.
On a personal level this was a very interesting year. It wasn't without its struggles or sorrows. Yet I have to say that it was truly a good year. It has been a fun year surfing the blogosphere. I've found some new friends. I've discovered a lot of interesting sites, some I agree with, some that I don't. I've seen the good, the bad & the ugly. Definitely not boring.
As for 2006 I can sum up my feelings thus: "Thanks & praise to God for all His blessings!"

Recomended Reading 2006

Here are a few books I read, reread, or have started to read this year (anyone who knows me knows that I often juggle several books at once) that I recommend:
Godless: The Church of Liberalism Ann Coulter
Crown Publishing Group ISBN: 1-4000-5420-6
Ann Coulter is probably the conservative liberals love to hate the most. She is the most outspoken person out there, not worrying about who she does or doesn't offend. & while I like a lot of what she has to say, at times she even comes across to me as abrasive. That aside, this book is probably the best expose of secular liberalism & THE RELIGION THAT IT HAS BECOME that was ever written. This book will probably be remembered as the book that attacked the "Jersey Girls", the 4 "9-11 widows" who have turned their tragic loss into a cottage industry. She does a good job of showing how liberalism is using them & other victims to stop debate on issues because, as she puts it: "you can't respond to them because that would be questioning the authenticity of their suffering." (I have experienced the truth of that 1sthand. However I also found that that only applies if you use your victimhood for a liberal cause.)
But the book does so much more. As I said it shows that liberalism meets the definition of a religion. It talks about their sacrament, abortion; its clergy, public school teachers (NEA); etc. She does so by documenting her claims with plenty of evidence. This evidence is better documented & supported than the evidence for evolution. This is a book for those who are rational thinkers who are willing to look at the evidence with an open mind. (Caution to liberals: This is a book to avoid for those of you of the "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with facts" crowd.)
Why Politics Needs Religion: The Place of Religious Arguments in the Public Square Brendan Sweetman PhD
InterVarsity Press ISBN-10: 0-8308-2842-7 ISBN-13: 978-0-8308-2842-5
Each sememster at Loras College where I work the Philosophy Department puts on a Classic Philosophy Lecture. This last Fall the speaker was Dr. Sweetman who spoke on the place of religion in the political arena. That speech was a distillation of this book.
He takes the view that secularism is a religious point of view (notice a theme in these 1st 2 books?) & if it is allowed a place at the table then so should religion. He supports this by proving that much in secularism is just as much, if not more based on faith as is religion. He also shows how religion is based on rational evidence to support its right to enter into the political discussion. (I have not finished reading this book. In fact I have barely started.) The talk he gave had some weaknesses that might have been there because of time limits that I expect to see better dealt with in the book. This book is also recommended by The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, Editor-in-Chief, First Things whose book Catholic Matters is also on my list.
The Spirit of the Liturgy Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
Ignatius Press ISBN: 0-89870-784-6
This book was written by Papa Benedetto several years ago when he was still a Cardinal. He got his title from a book of the same name written in 1918 by Romano Guardini. (That book is on my 2007 must read list.)
Here is a book that will give the reader insight into Papa Benedetto's views on how liturgy is to be celebrated. But it is much more, it is a guide for proper implimentation of Vatican II's call to renew the liturgy. As then Cardinal Ratzinger put it: "My purpose here is to assist this renewal of understanding of the Liturgy. Its basic intentions coincide with what Guardini wanted to achieve. The only difference is that I have had to translate what Guardini did at the end of the First World War, in a totally different historical situation, into the context of our present-day questions, hopes and dangers. Like Guardini, I am not attempting to involve myself with scholarly discussion and research. I am simply offering an aid to the understanding of the faith and to the right way to give the faith its central form of expression in the Liturgy."
Cardinal Ratzinger succeeded in doing what he set out. This book isn't too technical. Rather it helps the average person understand why the Mass is celebrated the way it is. It shows why the priest has no right to change things just because he doesn't like how it is done. The words prayed at Mass mean something, they are ment to teach a truth & changing them can change the meaning & thus undermine the truth being taught. Those who want to change the teaching of the Church will hate this book because it undermines their whole agenda to destroy the Church.
Celebrating the Holy Eucharist Francis Cardinal Arinze
Ignatius Press ISBN: 1-58617-158-5
I have to start by saying I have only read parts of this book & have yet to finish it. However I have found what I have read as both easy to understand & at the same time bringing new insights into my understanding of Liturgy.
Cardinal Arinze heads the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. This alone gives great authority to what he has to say. Like Papa Benedetto's book this book will give fits to those moonbats who see Vatican II as a licence to anything goes when it comes to liturgy. Cardinal Arinze outlines the proper role for both the layperson & priest in the Liturgy. He makes it clear why the roles exist & why they must be kept distinct. He gives instructions to Bishops on how they should fullfill their responsibilities in protecting the purity of the liturgy.
Cardinal Arinze & Papa Benedetto are clearly of 1 mind when it comes to the proper implimentation of Vatican II & these books are a good guide to the direction we will see true Liturgical Renewal go in the years ahead.
A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist Abbot Vonier
Zaccheus Press ISBN: 0-9725981-0-3
This book was originally written by Abbot Vonier in the 1920s. Vonier was a Benedictine monk at Buckfast Abbey in England. He set out to write a book about the Eucharist thas was a theological treatis the average lay person could understand. He doesn't simply launch into the Eucharist. Instead he starts by laying the groundwork of a general understanding of sacrament. He places the Eucharist as a sacrament into this context. He then goes on to devote a whole chapter on St. Thomas Aquinas' "idiom" of sacrament. Then he goes on to develop the sacrificial meaning of the Eucharist & how it relates to Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. As a part of this he deals with transubstantiation. Then he deals with the Liturgy. Even with the post-Vatican II Changes in the Latin Rite this chapter is still very relevant. Then he goes on to talk about the Eucharistic Banquet (a theme taken up by Vatican II).
While he does aim this at the lay person there were a few times when he got a little technical that could be a bit confusing to someone who doesn't have a good basic grasp of basic theology. Even so, over all he succeeds in the goal he aimed at. This book is an excellent resource for someone who wants a deeper understanding of all that God is doing through the Eucharist for His Church. (This is 1 of my 2006 rereads.)
Our Lady and the Church Hugo Ranier SJ
Zaccheus Press ISBN: 0-97259-811-1
This book was 1st published in 1961. In it Fr. Ranier looks at the early centuries of the Church's understanding of Mary & itself & how the 2 are intertwined. This book is an excellent primer on the development of Mariology & Ecclesiology in the Church. This book answers those who doubt that current Marian doctrine is Biblical or even needed. Reading it left me wanting to learn more about the early Church Fathers teaching on Mary & her role in the Church. I have come across a couple more quotes from the Apostolic Fathers & would like to see a more book that gathers the teachings together in a way that would provide the average Catholic a suitable resource to defend the Church's teachings on Mary.
This book comes highly endorsed. Avery Cardinal Dulles had this to say: "With engaging clarity, this pioneering study sets forth the vast range of biblical metaphors the Fathers applied to Mary and the Church: ark of the covenant, valiant woman, treasure-laden ship. This rich theology of poetry and image has much to say to our more prosaic age." While still Cardinal Ratzinger Papa Benedetto said the following about the book: "Hugo Rahner's great achievement was his rediscovery, in the Fathers, of the indivisibility of Mary and the Church. This marvelous work is one of the most important theological rediscoveries of the twentieth century."
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization Thomas E. Woods Jr. Ph.D
Regnery Publishing Inc. ISBN: 0-89526-038-7
Too many people see the Catholic Church as opposed to science, learning &as having done harm but no good to civilization. Not true! Dr. Woods proves that without the Church all that is good & positive in Western civilization wouldn't even exist & as a result neither would Western civilization. The Catholic Church not only preserved learning in what was the dark ages it found new ways to pass it on. Our modern university system was invented by the Catholic Church as the means to do so. Not only that, modern sciences owe their existance to the work of Catholic priests & monks. Canon law laid the foundation for our modern law system. The respect for human life isn't a modern invention but has always been a part of the Church's teaching.
But probably 1 of my favorite parts is what he has to say about economics. For most free-market economists Adam Smith stands out as their founder. Not so, the real roots of free-market economic theory were developed by Catholic priests 5 centuries before Smith came on the scene. & all those who think that John Paul's encyclical Centesimus annus was an scathing attack on capitalism better reread it. While it rightly criticized the excesses & abuses done in the name of capitalism, it fit well within the over 900 yr Church support of it instead. (In fact I would bet those who so read it that way also ingore the fact that the same encyclical is supportive of private property & is opposed to socialism, something they would support.)
(This is a book I have yet to finish reading.)
Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth Fr. Richard John Neuhaus
Basic Books ISBN-10: 0-465-04935-4 ISBN-13: 978-0-465-04935-6
This could actually be considered 3 books in 1. The openning & closing parts are the 1st. It is Fr. Neuhaus' diaty of his time in Rome while he was covering the funeral of Pope John Paul the Great & the election of Papa Benedetto for EWTN. The 2nd book would be his autobiography. It tells how he went from a Lutheran minister to Catholic Priest. The 3rd book could be his view of the state of the Church & how to answer those on the right & left who, while they see themselves as opposites are really on the same side, those who would destroy the Catholic Church that Jesus founded & has been with for 2000 yrs. Fr. Neuhaus takes what could have been those 3 books & blends them into a whole that is much better than the sum of its parts.
This is another book that those moonbats who see Vatican II as a licence to do whatever you want as well as those moonbats who think Vatican II is an aberation & should never have happened will hate. Fr. Neuhaus rightly points out that what the Catholic Church proposes is "that fidelity and continuity, not autonomy and novelty, are the paths toward a more promising future." He clearly puts forth the teachings of the Church. Fr. Neuhaus may be an intellectual, but he doesn't fall into the trap of writing above or writing down to his readers.
John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father Peggy Noonan
Viking Adult ISBN-10: 0-670-03748-6 ISBN-13: 978-0-670-03748-3
Simply, this book is the story of Peggy Noonan's journey to "serious Catholicism" and "deepened belief" intertwined with the story of Pope John Paul's papacy. She credits Pope John Paul's witness by his life & teaching as the source of inspiration for her journey. She sees him as a father who guided her & helped her to grow into a deeper faith than she ever was looking for.
While this book looks at the good things Pope John Paul did & the effect on her life she doesn't let her repspect & love for him keep her from honestly evaluating those areas he could have done more in. This includes the abuses in the area of liturgy as well as the area of clergy abuse. While I have long respected Peggy Noonan this book has given me a deeper respect for her.
Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles Raymond Arroyo
Doubleday ISBN-10: 0-385-51092-6 ISBN-13: 978-0-385-51092-9
I 1st met Mother Angelica in the mid 1980s when she came to Dubuque to give a talk & I served as 1 of her bodyguards. Then in 1989 I got a chance to go down to Birmingham & visit EWTN. There I got to see more of Mother Angelica than what viewers saw every week on her show. Here was a woman who deeply loved Christ & His Church & took her faith seriously. But she also knew how to celebrate. While I was down there 1 of the sister's was taking her vows. I was able to participate in the celebration. I also saw an impressive network set up for 1 purpose only, to proclaim the Gospel. Over the years I got to know bits & pieces of Mother's story. But no where near all that Raymond Arroyo put into this book.
Raymond Arroyo is tne News Director for EWTNews & hosts The World Over Live. But this is not a book that only shows the positives. He presents an honest look at Mother Angelica flaws & all. It tells the story of her childhood in Canton, Ohio. Rita Rizzo (her birth name) grew up in a broken home. She was raised by her mother Mae in the home of her maternal grandparents Anthony & Mary Gianfrancesco. It was not a happy childhood. Nor was Rita a very devout Catholic, until she met a mystic who changed her life. Eventually Rita joined a cloistered order of Poor Clares in Ohio. The book goes on to tell of how she ended up in Birmingham & the fight with a local TV station owner that God used to start EWTN.
But not all went smoothly. There were struggles to get on the air, problems with several bishops & cardinals, & failures in some endevors. Mother had a temper that she often struggled with. I came away from this book with agreater respect for a very real person who was not perfect, but willing to let God use her, much like Moses, Peter & others found in the Bible. When Raymond Arroyo set out to write this book he said that he would only do it if he could have "unfettered access" to all the records, associates, etc that he needed. He got it & the result is an excellent book that is well worth the time to read.
God's Choice : Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church George Weigel
HarperCollins ISBN-10: 0-06-621331-2 ISBN-13: 978-0-06-621331-6
I have to start out by saying I had the opportunity to meet George Weigel when he was here at Loras a few years ago to give a lecture. I was part of a group who had a breakfast meeting with him. I found him very personable. He aslo has a deep knowledge of the Church & its history. That is evident in this book.
This book is both a look at Papa Benedetto & an evaluation of the Church at this time as well as the direction he sees Papa Benedetto taking the Church. The 1st part of the book is a summary of Pope John Paul's reign as Pope. Then he looks at the conclave sharing exerpts from his diary (shades of Fr. Neuhaus) as well as the observations of others. The last part is the evaluation of where the Church is & how he sees things developing. While you may not agree with everything he says here it is well thought out.
But I Have Called You Friends: Reflections on the Art of Christian Friendship Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C.
Ignatius Press ISBN: 1-58617-080-5
(This is a book I recently got & have only skimmed.) Mother Mary Francis was the abbess of the Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Roswell, New Mexico.
This book is a series of conferences given by Mother Mary Francis to the novices of the monastery in the early 60s. From what I have read as I skimmed this book seems to hold some good insights into how to grow in being the kind of friend Christ calls you to be.
Update: 1 Jan 2007 (I knew I'd forgotten 1 but I can't believe it was this book!)
The Constitution in Exile: How the Federal Government Has Seized Power by Rewriting the Supreme Law of the Land Judge Andrew P. Napolitano
NelsonCurrent ISBN: 1-59555030-5 ISBN-13: 978-1-59555030-9
Most people are familiar with the Judge from his appearances on FoxNews where he serves as their senior judicial analyst. He got his Juris Doctor from the University of Notre Dame. 1 of his professors there was Dr. Charles Rice, who has his own series on EWTN, The Good Code - The Natural Law. At the start I have to say that I can see Dr. Rice's good influence on the Judge.
This book is a follow up to his 1st book Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws. In it the Judge continues his look at the original intent of the United States Constitution & how it has been undermined by the courts. The Judge points out the fact that our Consttution is firmly based on the principles stated in the Declaration of Independence & how the Declaration is firmly grounded in natural law. (Now you know why I say Dr. Rice had a good influence.) The Judge clearly outlines what I consider the right basis for understanding how the Constitution is supposed to work.
There is 1 chapter on the states right to seceed that I agree with in theory. But his saying that it was met at the start of the Civil War is something I'm not sure I agree with. I don't think that it came up to the level stated in the Declaration of Independence. I would like to have seen him go into more detail &/or have a personal discussion with him about that to better understand his position. Other than that, this book, along with his 1st are excellent summations of what our current status of Constitutional law is, what it should be & a guide to getting us back on track.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Death of a Dictator - Saddam Hussein

Sometime shortly before 6:00 am Iraqi time Sat, 30 Dec 2006 Saddam Hussein came to the end of his life & went to face his eternal judgement. He was hung for his role in the deaths of 148 Shiite Muslims in 1982. Those deaths that he caused were in revenge for an attempt on his life.
I was watching the news coverage on Fox News. I have to be honest, I have mixed feelings about his execution. & not because I am opposed to the death penalty. Rather, it was because by human standards I knew that there is no way his loosing his life once would make up for all those lives he was responsible for ending. Human justice would never be enough, but it was the best we could do. I realized that true justice for his victims could only be achieved by Hussein's standing in judgement before God.
I do not pretend to know what Hussein's final thoughts were, nor will I condemn him to hell. I can't. I can only pray that he repented in his final moments. Until the Final Judgement none of us will actually know. I do know that unless he did repent & turn to Jesus he will have to pay for his sins in Hell.
I do know that I want to see Hussein pay for his crimes, not out of vengance, but out of justice for his victims. & despite my personal opposition to the death penalty, because of the official teachings of the Catholic Church respects the state's right to use the death penalty (Par 2267 Catechism, Q 469 Compendium) I have to respect Iraq's right to use it. I would have prefered that Iraq hadn't used it. & while I respect those Catholic leaders who speak out against it, I wish they would accurately represent the Church's teaching in doing so. A prime example of this was Cardinal Renato Martino's mistatement. His statement made it sound like the Catholic Church has issued a blanket ban on the death penalty. It hasn't. I would advise the Cardinal to go back & reread the Church's teaching.
What needs to be remembered in all this is that what Hussein did was evil pure & simple. He is on a par with Hitler & Stalin in the evils he did. & he needed to be stopped. He has been stopped. I wish that in stopping him we could permanently put an end to evil of this sort. History shows otherwise. Until the 2nd coming there will be men & women who will give themselves over to evil. We will need to always be vigilant & battle it, both with physical & spiritual weapons. Prayer is important, so is proclaiming the Gospel, but there will also be times when we will be left with no recourse than to defend the weak & oppressed by the use of war (under Aquinas' Just War Theory criteria being met).
Saddam Hussein is dead. He paid the price for his crimes. I am saddened by his death because it came about as a result of his choice to do evil. & I cannot rejoice in what evil does. But, I can rejoice that his reign of terror is at an end. I can thank God that now there is an opportunity to build a democratic society in Iraq. It won't be easy, but it can be done. & we all need to pray for it to come about.
(See's Saddam Hussein's Atrocities for a list of the evils I refered to above.)

Gerald R. Ford 1913 - 2006

He was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. He grew up to become Jerry Ford, the 38th President of the United States of America. His legacy includes the Warren Commission, helping to make Chevy Chase a star, the 1st (& so far only) person to become VP under the provisions of the 25th Amendment & then go on to become president as a result, & being the longest living person to serve as president of the USA. Not bad for a kid from Grand Rapids, MI? & this is only a part of the things he did that guarentee him a prominant place in history. He will probably be best known for the fact that he pardoned his predecessor, Nixon, for his role in Watergate. & the right or wrong of it will be discussed, & debated for a long time to come.
Watching the coverage Wednesday on Fox brought back a lot of memories of the mid 70, my college days, a time that saw our country at an all-time low as a result of Vietnam, Watergate & a poor economy. It also reminded me how much my opinion of him has changed for the better in the past 30 yrs since all this.
At the time of Nixon I was a staunch Democrat & gald to see that crook go. I thought Ford was a nice guy but not really capable to be president. & the 2 worst things he did was to pardon Nixon & then run for President in 1976 after initially saying he wouldn't. Clearly he couldn't be trusted to keep his word. I thought he deserved to loose the 2006 election.
However, as time has gone on & I looked back I began to see that he did the best he could with the poor hand that had been dealt him. He had to step into the Vice Presidency after Agnew was forced to resign in shame. He became the 1st VP not elected to the office to have to become the president. I had no problem with that, then or now, everything was done according to the 25th Amendment & said to me our Constitution works.
What I had the major problem with was the pardon of Nixon. I am sure he did what he thought was the right thing to heal our nation. I'm still not totally convinced it was. Part of me thinks we needed to go through the pain a trial for Nixon would have brought because the pardon kept the whole truth from getting out. & it wasn't fair that Nixon got off when so many of his staff didn't. But, I do respect him for trying to do what he thought was right despite the fact it cost him votes in the 76 election.
Then there was the Warren Commission. I'm not 1 of those conspiricy nuts. But, I do think some things were covered up & the Commission Report is flawed. Thus his association with it does taint him.
All that aside I see him as a much better president now than I did then. Like I said, he inherited a bad hand. & many of the problems , like those with our economy needed a longer time to be dealt with than he had in office. Remember the WIN (Whip Inflation Now) buttons? (Sadly, Carter, whom I supported from the 1976 Iowa Caucuses on has left me even more disappointed in the long run by what he did.)
It also took courage to let his press secretary Ron Nessen go on Saturday Night Live & esp for him to make a cameo voice over intro. Chevy Chase owes a lot to him. As did a lot of other commendians. While not being the klutz they portrayed him as, his couple of incidents did provide a lot of dodder for jokes, & a lot of laughs for me. Even Bob Hope used his golfing accidents as a kick off for his bicentennial comedy album America Is 200 Years Old...And There's Still Hope! (A stray golf shot by Ford sends Hope back in time 200 yrs a la Twain's A Connectecut Yankee.) Ford was able to laugh along & took the jokes well.
Then there are the what ifs? Like the fact that Nixon was considering Ronald Reagan to replace Agnew. Or Reagan nearly choosing Ford As VP in 1980. Or if Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme or Sara Jane Moore had suceeded in their assasination attempts. But they didn't. So, there are no real answers to any of these what ifs.
The next few days will see the pomp & circumstance that goes with a state funeral. (For more on that go to the Gerald Ford Memorial website & click on funeral services. There you will find more on presidential funerals in general as well as the unique specifics about President Ford's funeral.) The retrospectives, good & bad, will appear in print & on air, friends, colleagues & enemies will be interviewed, in a year a stamp will be issued in his honor etc.
Was he among the best, no & there was no need for him to be. But he was the right 1 for the time & circumstances which means he was definitely up there as 1 of our better presidents. & for all he did, he deserves America's Thanks.
(For more on President Ford check out the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum website.)
(In 1 of life's little ironies he died on the same day as Jack Benny who died on 26 Dec 1976 when he was president.)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Holy Innocents

28 December is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. They are the about 15-20 Jewish males younger than 2 yrs old in the Bethlehem area that were murdered by Herod the Great in his attempt to eliminate the "Newborn King of the Jews". The story of this event is found in the Gospel of Matthew: "Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not." (Matt 2:16-18)
According to a report by Macrobius, when Emperor Augustus heard about the fact that among those killed was Herod's own son he is supposed to have said: "It is better to be Herod's hog [ous], than his son [houios]." & this was just 1 of Herod's minor cruelties during his reign.
In recent years the Holy Innocents have come to be the unofficial patron saints of the unborn murdered in the womb by abortion in its various horrific forms. & in my opinion Herod could very well be considered the patron of Planned Parenthood.
Herod knew that his whole reign was a fraud. He wasn't a descendant of King David, in fact he wasn't even of Jewish ancestry, he was Idumæan. they were forced t convert to Judiasm in the 2nd Century BC. He kept control by fear & terror. He wasn't above eliminating anybody that he considered undesirable. In other words, he was very much like like Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood (PP). Margaret Sanger supported eugenics, was a fan of Adolph Hitler & promoted the sterilization of undesirables such as blacks, southern Europeans (including Italians) & practicing Christians. (More about Margaret Sanger & the real goals of Planned Parenthood can be found on American Life League's (ALL) STOPP (Stop Planned Parenthood).) Is Planned Parenthood's support of partial birth abortion any different than what Herod did?
Herod thought he would eliminate the threat to his throne, but in the end he died & had to answer for his actions. His dynasty has vanished from the face of the Earth, Someday the cruel reign of Planned Parenthood will actually come to an end. They know that they are on the loosing side, jsut as Herod did. They will do anything they can to try & keep themselves in power, lies, threats fraudulent surveys. A good example of this is the recently released report by Planned Parenthood's propaganda arm, The Guttmacher Institute. It claims that 95% of all Americans (going back to the 1940s) have had premarital sex. Besides the fact that my own experience proves different, there are many flaws in the study. (See the Wednesday STOPP Report, 27 Dec 2006 for more info.)
As Jim Sedlak, VP of ALL, points out in an article for "We all remember the 'studies' of the tobacco industry telling us how safe and non-addictive smoking is. Now comes another report, from another industry lapdog, claiming federal funding for its products are needed, and we are suppose to believe it? It is time Americans understood that Planned Parenthood produces these reports for the same reason the tobacco industry produced its purportedly scientific studies -- to increase its profits."
I am sure that all the millions of victims of abortion are joining in with the Holy Innocents & pleading in Heaven before God for an end to abortion. & I know that someday soon God will see that it is ended. In the meantime, each of us needs to do our part to bring this day about. Part of that is supporting the various Pro-life groups listed in the right-hand column of this blog, financially, by doing volunteer work & esp by prayer. & our reward? I think former Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois put it best: "When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I've often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God - and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there'll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world - and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, 'Spare him, because he loved us!'"

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Serendipity of Blogging & Surfing

Every so often you come across something that you aren't looking for at the time but are pleasantly pleased when you accidently find it (serendipity). This is 1 of those stories.
I was reading 1 of the blogs I regularly read, Thoughts of a Regular Guy. As I was scrolling down I noticed a sticker that said his blog was a finalist for the 2005 Weblog Awards. 1 of the other finalists name caught my eye, Mixolydian Mode. Scrolling down I came across an entry entitled Duck Amuck and beyond. It had a link to The 50 Greatest Cartoons (City Rag). So, this became my next link on my surfing safari. That blogger talked about an article he had found, The 50 Greatest Cartoons (Wikipedia).
The article talked about a 1994 book, The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals. The cartoons were limited to those produced in North America (Maybe a worldwide survey somone?). To be eligible for inclusion they had to meet the following criteria, they had to be under thirty minutes in length and cel animated (hand drawn on animition cels & not done by computer animation.)
I recognized most of the cartoons on the list. Many were favorites of mine, some I wanted to see but have never had the chance. Like any list based on opinion, it is somewhat subjective. There are some I would place elsewhere, others I would omit & replace with some I'd rather see on the list. Overall, I am happy with the selections.
The City Rag blogger was able to find links to all but 6 of them. Here are a few of my favorites. Enjoy.

1. What's Opera, Doc? Proof that Wangerian Opera doesn't have to be boring, or long.

4. Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century Daffy battles Marvin the Martian for Planet X

12. Rabbit of Seville Bugs & Elmer's 1st assault on opera that proves they have the chops for it.

20. Minnie the Moocher Cab Calloway's classic meets Betty Boop

38. Bambi Meets Godzilla Probably the shortest on the list, but when you see it you'll know why

Monday, December 25, 2006

Papa Benedetto - Urbi et Orbi CHRISTMAS 2006

"Salvator noster natus est in mundo" (Roman Missal)
"Our Saviour is born to the world!" During the night, in our Churches, we again heard this message that, notwithstanding the passage of the centuries, remains ever new. It is the heavenly message that tells us to fear not, for "a great joy" has come "to all the people" (Lk 1:10). It is a message of hope, for it tells us that, on that night over two thousand years ago, there "was born in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:11). The Angel of Christmas announced it then to the shepherds out on the hills of Bethlehem; today the Angel repeats it to us, to all who dwell in our world: "The Saviour is born; he is born for you! Come, come, let us adore him!".
But does a "Saviour" still have any value and meaning for the men and women of the third millennium? Is a "Saviour" still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which knows no limits in its pursuit of nature's secrets and which has succeeded even in deciphering the marvellous codes of the human genome? Is a Saviour needed by a humanity which has invented interactive communication, which navigates in the virtual ocean of the internet and, thanks to the most advanced modern communications technologies, has now made the Earth, our great common home, a global village? This humanity of the twenty-first century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs.
So it would seem, yet this is not the case. People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism. Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination, and by political interference and physical or moral coercion with regard to the free profession of their faith. Others see their own bodies and those of their dear ones, particularly their children, maimed by weaponry, by terrorism and by all sorts of violence, at a time when everyone invokes and acclaims progress, solidarity and peace for all. And what of those who, bereft of hope, are forced to leave their homes and countries in order to find humane living conditions elsewhere? How can we help those who are misled by facile prophets of happiness, those who struggle with relationships and are incapable of accepting responsibility for their present and future, those who are trapped in the tunnel of loneliness and who often end up enslaved to alcohol or drugs? What are we to think of those who choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life?
How can we not hear, from the very depths of this humanity, at once joyful and anguished, a heart-rending cry for help? It is Christmas: today "the true light that enlightens every man" (Jn 1:9) came into the world. "The word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14), proclaims the Evangelist John. Today, this very day, Christ comes once more "unto his own", and to those who receive him he gives "the power to become children of God"; in a word, he offers them the opportunity to see God's glory and to share the joy of that Love which became incarnate for us in Bethlehem. Today "our Saviour is born to the world", for he knows that even today we need him. Despite humanity's many advances, man has always been the same: a freedom poised between good and evil, between life and death. It is there, in the very depths of his being, in what the Bible calls his "heart", that man always needs to be "saved". And, in this post-modern age, perhaps he needs a Saviour all the more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious. Who can defend him, if not the One who loves him to the point of sacrificing on the Cross his only-begotten Son as the Saviour of the world?
"Salvator noster": Christ is also the Saviour of men and women today. Who will make this message of hope resound, in a credible way, in every corner of the earth? Who will work to ensure the recognition, protection and promotion of the integral good of the human person as the condition for peace, respecting each man and every woman and their proper dignity? Who will help us to realize that with good will, reasonableness and moderation it is possible to avoid aggravating conflicts and instead to find fair solutions? With deep apprehension I think, on this festive day, of the Middle East, marked by so many grave crises and conflicts, and I express my hope that the way will be opened to a just and lasting peace, with respect for the inalienable rights of the peoples living there. I place in the hands of the divine Child of Bethlehem the indications of a resumption of dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians, which we have witnessed in recent days, and the hope of further encouraging developments. I am confident that, after so many victims, destruction and uncertainty, a democratic Lebanon, open to others and in dialogue with different cultures and religions, will survive and progress. I appeal to all those who hold in their hands the fate of Iraq, that there will be an end to the brutal violence that has brought so much bloodshed to the country, and that every one of its inhabitants will be safe to lead a normal life. I pray to God that in Sri Lanka the parties in conflict will heed the desire of the people for a future of brotherhood and solidarity; that in Darfur and throughout Africa there will be an end to fratricidal conflicts, that the open wounds in that continent will quickly heal and that the steps being made towards reconciliation, democracy and development will be consolidated. May the Divine Child, the Prince of Peace, grant an end to the outbreaks of tension that make uncertain the future of other parts of the world, in Europe and in Latin America.
"Salvator noster": this is our hope; this is the message that the Church proclaims once again this Christmas day. With the Incarnation, as the Second Vatican Council stated, the Son of God has in some way united himself with each man and women (cf. "Gaudium et Spes," 22). The birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, as Pope Saint Leo the Great noted. In Bethlehem the Christian people was born, Christ's mystical body, in which each member is closely joined to the others in total solidarity. Our Saviour is born for all. We must proclaim this not only in words, but by our entire life, giving the world a witness of united, open communities where fraternity and forgiveness reign, along with acceptance and mutual service, truth, justice and love.
A community saved by Christ. This is the true nature of the Church, which draws her nourishment from his Word and his Eucharistic Body. Only by rediscovering the gift she has received can the Church bear witness to Christ the Saviour before all people. She does this with passionate enthusiasm, with full respect for all cultural and religious traditions; she does so joyfully, knowing that the One she proclaims takes away nothing that is authentically human, but instead brings it to fulfilment. In truth, Christ comes to destroy only evil, only sin; everything else, all the rest, he elevates and perfects. Christ does not save us from our humanity, but through it; he does not save us from the world, but came into the world, so that through him the world might be saved (cf. Jn 3:17).
Dear brothers and sisters, wherever you may be, may this message of joy and hope reach your ears: God became man in Jesus Christ, he was born of the Virgin Mary and today he is reborn in the Church. He brings to all the love of the Father in heaven. He is the Saviour of the world! Do not be afraid, open your hearts to him and receive him, so that his Kingdom of love and peace may become the common legacy of each man and woman. Happy Christmas!
[Translation of the Italian original distributed by the Holy See]
© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Papa Benedetto - Midnight Mass 2006 Homily

Saint Peter's Basilica
25 December 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
(Dan Lacey - faithmouse)
We have just heard in the Gospel the message given by the angels to the shepherds during that Holy Night, a message which the Church now proclaims to us: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Lk 2:11-12). Nothing miraculous, nothing extraordinary, nothing magnificent is given to the shepherds as a sign. All they will see is a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, one who, like all children, needs a mother’s care; a child born in a stable, who therefore lies not in a cradle but in a manger. God ’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty. Only in their hearts will the shepherds be able to see that this baby fulfils the promise of the prophet Isaiah, which we heard in the first reading: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder" (Is 9:5). Exactly the same sign has been given to us. We too are invited by the angel of God, through the message of the Gospel, to set out in our hearts to see the child lying in the manger.

God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is the baby. God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendour. He comes as a baby – defenceless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts and his will – we learn to live with him and to practise with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him. The Fathers of the Church, in their Greek translation of the Old Testament, found a passage from the prophet Isaiah that Paul also quotes in order to show how God’s new ways had already been foretold in the Old Testament. There we read: "God made his Word short, he abbreviated it" (Is 10:23; Rom 9:28). The Fathers interpreted this in two ways. The Son himself is the Word, the Logos; the eternal Word became small – small enough to fit into a manger. He became a child, so that the Word could be grasped by us. In this way God teaches us to love the little ones. In this way he teaches us to love the weak. In this way he teaches us respect for children. The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze towards all children who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn. Towards children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world; towards children who have to beg; towards children who suffer deprivation and hunger; towards children who are unloved. In all of these it is the Child of Bethlehem who is crying out to us; it is the God who has become small who appeals to us. Let us pray this night that the brightness of God’s love may enfold all these children. Let us ask God to help us do our part so that the dignity of children may be respected. May they all experience the light of l ove, which mankind needs so much more than the material necessities of life.

And so we come to the second meaning that the Fathers saw in the phrase: "God made his Word short". The Word which God speaks to us in Sacred Scripture had become long in the course of the centuries. It became long and complex, not just for the simple and unlettered, but even more so for those versed in Sacred Scripture, for the experts who evidently became entangled in details and in particular problems, almost to the extent of losing an overall perspective. Jesus "abbreviated" the Word – he showed us once more its deeper simplicity and unity. Everything taught by the Law and the Prophets is summed up – he says – in the command: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Mt 22:37-40). This is everything – the whole faith is contained in this one act of love which embraces God and humanity. Yet now further questions arise: how are we to love God with all our mind, when our intellect can barely reach him? How are we to love him with all our heart and soul, when our heart can only catch a glimpse of him from afar, when there are so many contradictions in the world that would hide his face from us? This is where the two ways in which God has "abbreviated" his Word come together. He is no longer distant. He is no longer unknown. He is no longer beyond the reach of our heart. He has become a child for us, and in so doing he has dispelled all doubt. He has become our neighbour, restoring in this way the image of man, whom we often find so hard to love. For us, God has become a gift. He has given himself. He has entered time for us. He who is the Eternal One, above time, he has assumed our time and raised it to himself on high. Christmas has become the Feast of gifts in imitation of God who has given himself to us. Let us allow our heart, our soul and our mind to be touched by this fact! Among the many gifts that we buy and receive, let us not forget the true gift: to give each other something of ourselves, to give each other something of our time, to open our time to God. In this way anxiety disappears, joy is born, and the feast is created. During the festive meals of these days let us remember the Lord’s words: "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite those who will invite you in return, but invite those whom no one invites and who are not able to invite you" (cf. Lk 14:12-14). This also means: when you give gifts for Christmas, do not give only to those who will give to you in return, but give to those who receive from no one and who cannot give you anything back. This is what God has done: he invites us to his wedding feast, something which we cannot reciprocate, but can only receive with joy. Let us imitate him! Let us love God and, starting from him, let us also love man, so that, starting from man, we can then rediscover God in a new way!

And so, finally, we find yet a third meaning in the saying that the Word became "brief" and "small". The shepherds were told that they would find the child in a manger for animals, who were the rightful occupants of the stable. Reading Isaiah (1:3), the Fathers concluded that beside the manger of Bethlehem there stood an ox and an ass. At the same time they interpreted the text as symbolizing the Jews and the pagans – and thus all humanity – who each in their own way have need of a Saviour: the God who became a child. Man, in order to live, needs bread, the fruit of the earth and of his labour. But he does not live by bread alone. He needs nourishment for his soul: he needs meaning that can fill his life. Thus, for the Fathers, the manger of the animals became the symbol of the altar, on which lies the Bread which is Christ himself: the true food for our hearts. Once again we see how he became small: in the humble appearance of the host, in a small piece of bread, he gives us himself.

All this is conveyed by the sign that was given to the shepherds and is given also to us: the child born for us, the child in whom God became small for us. Let us ask the Lord to grant us the grace of looking upon the crib this night with the simplicity of the shepherds, so as to receive the joy with which they returned home (cf. Lk 2:20). Let us ask him to give us the humility and the faith with which Saint Joseph looked upon the child that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit. Let us ask the Lord to let us look upon him with that same love with which Mary saw him. And let us pray that in this way the light that the shepherds saw will shine upon us too, and that what the angels sang that night will be accomplished throughout the world: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased." Amen!


I think this says it all:


Sunday, December 24, 2006

St. Irenaeus on Jesus' Incarnation & Mary's Role in Our Salvation

1. Those, therefore, who allege that He took nothing from the Virgin do greatly err, [since,] in order that they may cast away the inheritance of the flesh, they also reject the analogy [between Him and Adam]. For if the one [who sprang] from the earth had indeed formation and substance from both the hand and workmanship of God, but the other not from the hand and workmanship of God, then He who was made after the image and likeness of the former did not, in that case, preserve the analogy of man, and He must seem an inconsistent piece of work, not having wherewith He may show His wisdom. But this is to say, that He also appeared putatively as man when He was not man, and that He was made man while taking nothing from man. For if He did not receive the substance of flesh from a human being, He neither was made man nor the Son of man; and if He was not made what we were, He did no great thing in what He suffered and endured. But every one will allow that we are [composed of] a body taken from the earth, and a soul receiving spirit from God. This, therefore, the Word of God was made, recapitulating in Himself His own handiwork; and on this account does He confess Himself the Son of man, and blesses "the meek, because they shall inherit the earth."(Matthew 5:5) The Apostle Paul, moreover, in the Epistle to the Galatians, declares plainly, "God sent His Son, made of a woman." (Galatians 4:4) And again, in that to the Romans, he says, "Concerning His Son, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was predestinated as the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 1:3-4)

2. Superfluous, too, in that case is His descent into Mary; for why did He come down into her if He were to take nothing of her? Still further, if He had taken nothing of Mary, He would never have availed Himself of those kinds of food which are derived from the earth, by which that body which has been taken from the earth is nourished; nor would He have hungered, fasting those forty days, like Moses and Elias, unless His body was craving after its own proper nourishment; nor, again, would John His disciple have said, when writing of Him, "But Jesus, being wearied with the journey, was sitting [to rest];" (John 4:6) nor would David have proclaimed of Him beforehand, "They have added to the grief of my wounds;" nor would He have wept over Lazarus, nor have sweated great drops of blood; nor have declared, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful;" (Matthew 26:38) nor, when His side was pierced, would there have come forth blood and water. For all these are tokens of the flesh which had been derived from the earth, which He had recapitulated in Himself, bearing salvation to His own handiwork.

3. Wherefore Luke points out that the pedigree which traces the generation of our Lord back to Adam contains seventy-two generations, connecting the end with the beginning, and implying that it is He who has summed up in Himself all nations dispersed from Adam downwards, and all languages and generations of men, together with Adam himself. Hence also was Adam himself termed by Paul "the figure of Him that was to come," (Romans 5:14) because the Word, the Maker of all things, had formed beforehand for Himself the future dispensation of the human race, connected with the Son of God; God having predestined that the first man should be of an animal nature, with this view, that he might be saved by the spiritual One. For inasmuch as He had a pre-existence as a saving Being, it was necessary that what might be saved should also be called into existence, in order that the Being who saves should not exist in vain.

4. In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin (for in Paradise "they were both naked, and were not ashamed," (Genesis 2:25) inasmuch as they, having been created a short time previously, had no understanding of the procreation of children: for it was necessary that they should first come to adult age, and then multiply from that time onward), having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man "betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race. And on this account does the law term a woman "betrothed to a man, the wife of him who had "betrothed her, although she was as yet a virgin; thus indicating the back-reference from Mary to Eve, because what is joined together could not otherwise be put asunder than by inversion of the process by which these bonds of union had arisen; so that the former ties be cancelled by the latter, that the latter may set the former again at liberty. And it has, in fact, happened that the first compact looses from the second tie, but that the second tie takes the position of the first which has been cancelled. For this reason did the Lord declare that the first should in truth be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:30, Matthew 20:16) And the prophet, too, indicates the same, saying, "instead of fathers, children have been born unto you." For the Lord, having been born "the First-begotten of the dead," (Revelation 1:5) and receiving into His bosom the ancient fathers, has regenerated them into the life of God, He having been made Himself the beginning of those that live, as Adam became the beginning of those who die. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22) Wherefore also Luke, commencing the genealogy with the Lord, carried it back to Adam, indicating that it was He who regenerated them into the Gospel of life, and not they Him. And thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.

Adversus haereses (Against Heresies) Book 3 Chapter 22

Christmas Eve

(Dan Lacey's faithmouse)

Once again we approach Christmas. Soon we will celebrate the birth of Jesus. Besides often forgetting that it is Jesus' birth we celebrate, it is easy for us to forget why He was born. The carol I Wonder as I Wander* that I've heard on some Christmas albums serves as a good reminder of the real Reason for the Season, JESUS!
I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky
*An Appalachian Christmas carol attributed to John Jacob Niles

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Deck Us All With Boston Charlie

when I was a child 1 of my favorite comic strips was Pogo by Walt Kelly. Every year Walt would remind us that when we sang Deck The Halls With Boughs of Holly we were using the wrong lyrics. So here are the correct lyrics according to that wise sage Walt Kelly through Pogo Possum, Albert Alligator, Churchy la Femme, Mamselle Hepzibah and Howland Owl & the rest of the gang who reside in Okefenokee Swamp.

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley'garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker n' too-da-loo!
Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!

Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloup, 'lope with you!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarum bung-a-loo!

Duck us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an' Polly Voo!
Chilly Filly's name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly's jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, Woof, Woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, Goof, Goof!

Tickle salty boss anchovie
Wash a wash a wall Anna Kangaroo
Ducky allus bows to Polly,
Prolly Wally would but har'ly do!

Dock us all a bowsprit, Solly --
Golly, Solly's cold and so's ol' Lou!

(Official Pogo Website with links to many other good sites with more Pogo info.)

This post is done to honor the memory of Walt Kelly & his work. The above is copyrighted by Okefenokee Glee and Perloo, Inc. & is only used according to my understanding of fair use for reviews etc. & is not intended to infringe or affect any of their legal rights.

Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle

1 of my favorite Christmas songs is 1 that you rarely hear in the USA, Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle. It was written by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori. The literal translation of the title is You come down from the stars. The song is is told from the viewpoint of the singer talking to Jesus & describing how he sees that 1st Christmas. Jesus is born in a cave, trembling from the cold. Jesus has nothing to keep Him warm, no fire, no coat, nothing. But He, the Creator of the world came & was born in this manner out of love. & even more, He was born this way to suffer & die for the sins the singer has done.
Under the video are the Italian lyrics to the the 1st part of the song. They will help you follow along with the video. This version is done in a lighthearted manner, other versions do it more seriously.
Tu scendi dalle stelle O Re del Cielo E vieni in una grotta Al freddo al gelo
O Bambino mio Divino Io ti vedo qui a tremar, O Dio Beato Ah, quanti ti costo L'avermi amato
A te che sei del mondo, Il creatore Mancano panni e fuoco, O mio Signore
Caro eletto, Pargoletto, Quanto questa povertà, Piu m'innamora Giacche ti fece Amor povero ancora
There are 2 different ways of singing it. Some repeat O Bambino mio . . . amato after each verse as the chorus. Here are a couple of links to the full lyrics with approximate translations. Like usual none of them are exact but do give the gist of the meaning.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Papa Santa

Reports of Babbo Natale being sighted early turned out to be false, it was only Papa Benedetto out for a stroll.

Hope SPRINGS Eternal

In 1 of life's sweet little ironies, yesterday, the Winter Solstice (aka 1st day of Winter), saw me find the 1st 2007 seed catalog in my mailbox. With the weather being so nice here in DBQ & feeling more like Spring, it didn't have quite the impact it would have had if there had been snow on the ground.
Actually, this is the earliest I can remember getting the new seed catalogs. But, I'm not complaining. The truth is they are a great connection with my childhood. Where I am at right now, I can't put in a garden, but I can still dream.
What is the real joy of looking at the catalogs is the memories they bring back of the garden my Italian Grandpa always had when I was a child. & his was 1 of the many in the Italian neighborhood of Oelwein. I will admit that I didn't enjoy the chores involved with a garden, nor was I very good at them (probably because I didn't enjoy them.). But that isn't the main thing I think of. I think of the loving care Granpa put into that garden, I think of the pride he took in producing the vegetables that he grew. & the fun of our front yard tomato stand.
Our house was only about 3 blocks from the Chicago Great Western RR roundhouse. So, every evening there would be a good number of men driving by to go home to their families. We would set up a table with a sign that said "Tomatoes, 25 cents a pound". (This was the 60s.) & we would wait for the men to stop. We had our kitchen scale & plenty of paper bags. After we weighed out the tomaotes we would always add an extra tomato. That is something I never see at the Farmer's Market today. Nor do I see any tomatoes anywhere near as red or tasty. Sometimes we would sell peppers as well.
1 thing I can guarentee is the beefsteak tomatoes we sold back then were much better than the pink tennis balls that today's hybreds are. Those tomatoes were each fairly unique in shape, unlike today's uniform shape. In breeding them for shape & shelf life we bred the taste out. Fortunately heirloom tomatoes & other plants similarly overhybredized to the point of no taste are making a comeback.
& those tomatoes made a great tomato sauce for our Sunday pasta. Homegrown peppers were of a decent size to be stuffed & cooked on the stove. During the Summer we went out back to get fresh basil for the sauce, we would trim the tops of the garlic plants & get a taste just as good as you could from a clove of garlic. Going out & gathering new potatoes to make creamed potatoes & peas. Shelling the peas was fun, & at times a contest to see if you could resist eating them raw. Bringing in a zucchini, slicing it, dipping it in an egg batter & frying it is a taste that can't be beat. Many of the vegetables & dishes we called by their names in the regional Italian dialect that would only leave people wondering what I was talking about, so I've been nice & using the English equivalents. After all, how many people would know what I was talking about when I talked about a cacuza, a zucchini or an nickname that could be endearing or an insult depending on the circumstances. On the other hand a patata you might guess rightly is a potato. Vasalico, basilico in standard Italian, you might guess is basil.
The point of all this is simple, a huge part of this Christmas season is the happy childhood memories we have. They are something to be thankful to God for. & a part of those memories are of the foods we enjoyed as a child. Many of the foods I remember are those foods grown by Grandpa. Tomatoes would be canned whole or made into paste or sauce before canning. In the basement we had a whole room with canned goods. There was this huge bin filled with the potatoes we grew, elsewhere, the onions were kept. In the freazer was frozen stuffed peppers as well as corn & peas (besides the canned ones). These memories are of the blessings of God's providence. Memories brought back by that catalog I got yesterday.
I will admit that I did see some neat new variations like the pool ball shaped zucchini, the green & gold corn that reminds me of the John Deere tractors I'd see in the rural Oelwein area or the white & green skinned radish with the red interior. Then there is the bloodshot eye-ball pumpkin.
Winter may just be starting, but Spring is not too far off & with it the promise of fresh veggies once again.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Whole World Awaits Mary's Reply

The 2nd reading from the Roman Rite Office of Readings for 20 December 2006 is a reflection by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) on the Gospel reading from today's Mass, Luke 1:26-38. This is 1 of my favorite reflections on this Gospel. It also is a good example to show how he earned the nickname of Mellifluous Doctor of the Church.
"You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.
The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.
Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.
Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word. Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mr. State Fair - RIP

An Iowa legend passed away this past weekend, Bill Riley, known here in Iowa as Mr. State Fair. He earned that nickname because of his long association with the Iowa State Fair. His association began over 60 years ago when he was a reporter covering the fair for a Des Moines radio station. About 47 years ago he came up with the idea of a talent show. That talent show helped launch the career of opera singer Simon Estes as well as country-gospel singer Carrie McDowell. Several years ago the Fair renamed the stage as well as the talent show for him.
In the 1970s when the Iowa Educational Broadcasting Network (now Iowa Public Television) was starting it began annual coverage of the State Fair. They tapped Bill Riley to host the nightly program. Soon the Fair & Bill Riley became permanently linked together in the minds of most Iowans even if they never made it to the Fair. 10 years ago he turned over his talent show duties to his son, Bill, Jr. This year he was the grand marshall of the Fair parade. He also had his likeness carved in butter alongside the annual butter cow.
Bill Riley was born 7 October 1920 in Iowa Falls, IA. After a stint in the army he began his broadcast career on KRNT radio, Des Moines. Besides the fair & his work in broadcasting he was also involved in a variety of groups including the Iowa Development Commission and the Des Moines Park and Recreation Board. He died on 15 December 2006 in his Winter home of Scottsdale, AZ due to complications from leukemia. Thanks for everything Bill. You made Iowa a much better place.

Thanks for the Yabba Dabba Do

Monday Joe Barbera, co-creator of so many great cartoons like the Flintstones, The Jetsons & Scooby Doo, Tom & Jerry, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear & so many other great icons from my childhood passed away at the age of 95. With him the golden age of animation saw its last great light go out.

From the 1930s when, with his partner, Bill Hanna, he created Tom & Jerry, to this day, his influence on on culture is indisputable. Jerry, the Mouse was dancing with Gene Kelly long before anything Disney did in the 60s. Just check out Joe Barbera's bio on IMDb to see how far his influence spread. He was still working on new projects when he died.

It is hard to know where to start with all the characters & phrases that they created that have become a part of our cultural heritage. In the 50s he brought Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound & friend to TV. In the early 60s he created 2 series that were the groundbreaker for the Simpsons adult oriented humor. The Flintstones were a stone-aged version of The Honeymooners. A couple years later he took us to what was then the future, the early 21st Century, with The Jetsons. (I'm still waiting for my flying car that folds up into a briefcase.) Scooby Doo was the 1st stoned dog ever. & if ever there was a doubt that cartoons weren't educational about the dangers of drugs, seeing how pot affected Shaggy should be proof enough. (OK, I'll admit they never smoked pot in the show, but be honest, how else do you explain them?) Top Cat, Atom Ant, Magilla Gorilla (poor Mr. Peebles), Jonny Quest, Smurfs, Quick Draw McGraw, Harvey Birdman, etc. Let's face it, Cartoon Network wouldn't exist without Hanna-Barbera.
Fred's "Yabba dabba doo!", El-Kabong, "His boy, Elroy!", sprockets, pikinic baskets, Huck's slightly off key "Oh, my darlin'!", smurfy, ". . . and I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for you meddling kids", have all become part of our group memory. I loved Quick Draw's dog who would always demand a treat before searching for the villian, then would hug himself with the thrill of it finally flying into the air & floating down.
I could go on & on, instead here are a few intros , etc, from some of the various shows he did for you to enjoy. (When checking these out I also was reminded of how different things are today. I had forgotten that the Flintstones was originally sponsored by Winston Cigarettes.)
The Flintstones:
(early opening)
(ending, B&W with ad for Winston)
The Jetsons:
Huckleberry Hound:
(early opening, B&W, sponsored by Kellogg's)
(later, sponsored by Kellogg's)
(closing, B&W, sponsored by Kellogg's)
Yogi Bear (& Boo Boo):
Magilla Gorilla:
Scooby Doo
Thank you Hanna-Barbera

Monday, December 18, 2006

The TRUE (?) Story of the 1st CHRISTMAS

Not really. But as I am a big fan of Rowan Atkinson as well as Dr. Who, this is a slightly irreverant but hillarious look at the 1st Christmas through the eyes of a child (like) Mr. Bean.

George Carlin - A Prophet?

This came to me as I was thinking about the cover of this week's TIME Magazine for its article on the Person of the Year. That cover is a computer moniter with a foil mirror screen to reflect back the face of the reader.
I remember a routine that George Carlin did many years ago (when he was funny) that was about the growing narcicism in our culture. He was talking about the changes in the subject of the magazines. He started out saying that at 1st there was LIFE magazine. That covered everything. Then out came PEOPLE, not as broad as LIFE but still pretty brouad. Next was US, even more narrowly focused. He said that 1 day it would get to the point that as our society got so self-centered there would be a magazine that came out that would consist of several foil pages that would simply reflect the face of the reader.
It seems that for once he got it right.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

TIME Magazine Person of the Year: You & Me

If you haven't heard by now TIME Magazine has announced its Person of the Year: You. Congratulations to all of us. So why are we all the person of the year? Simple, because of how we who use the internet are bringing about the change from the elite media controlling the message to a freer exchange of ideas as well as greater access to the truth unfiltered by spin.
As the article states: "And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you. "
I suspect that the editorial staff at TIME had to choke a bit on this. The main stream media hasn't been too happy that its stranglehold has been loosened & that their bias has been uncovered. & being forced to admit we are winning has to be a bitter pill.
I don't think this is a surrender though, I see it as a mere strategic retreat for the moment. They are looking for ways to regain the reins & put all of us out of business. & I doubt if they have any respect for us. In fact I agree with what Paul who blogs in Thoughts of a Regular Guy has to say about TIME's view of the blogosphere: " Time Magazine still holds us bloggers in full contempt. They don't really admit that they've lost the reins of the global media, and they'll cling to them and try to keep them for themselves."
Some of this contempt comes through in what it has to say about us. "Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, you do." (emphasis mine, positive, negative )
Did you notice that most of the examples used are condescending put downs that show their real state of mind toward us? That the emphasis is more on the negative than the positive? If not does this clarify things? "We made Facebook profiles and Second Life avatars and reviewed books at Amazon and recorded podcasts. We blogged about our candidates losing and wrote songs about getting dumped. We camcordered bombing runs and built open-source software. " or "Web 2.0 harnesses the stupidity of crowds as well as its wisdom. Some of the comments on YouTube make you weep for the future of humanity just for the spelling alone, never mind the obscenity and the naked hatred." (emphais mine, positive, negative)
I could go on but I think that makes the point. I admit the criticism has some validity, there is a lot of junk out there as well as some good thought proving stuff, also some just plain old fun entertainment. But, the fact that they dwell more on the negative than the positive tells me what they really think of us wresting control from them even of the internet.
The mainstream media likes to present itself as unbiased. The truth is, it never has been. Go back to the early days of America & even to the days before the Revolutionary War. Papers then were openly Tory or Revolutionary, Federalist or Anti-Federalist, National Republican or Democrat. & there were times when the mud was slung by them better than any of could ever do today. The only difference from then & now is the form of the media. I remember even as a child we considered some papers Republican or Democrat. So, how did we come to buy the myth that the media wasn't biased? & that what it said was the unvarnished accurate truth? Because they said so. Well the fact is we have learned that the emperor has no clothes. The emperor may not be happy. Too bad. A new age has dawned! 1 that is actually a return to the way things have always been, a free for all exchange of ideas that challenges us to think for ourselves & search out the truth. The truth IS out there & it CAN be found. & in searching it out & proclaiming it we make our country & our world a better place, despite the garbage out there. Keep up the good work everyone.
(Speaking of good laughes check out The Onion article on Myanmar dictator Than Shwe's alledged attempt to be TIME's Man of the Year.) Headlines

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