Monthly Archives: September 2006

One of Jesus’ Hard Sayings

You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have?

Of course, He also says elsewhere that “Vengeance is Mine”, and that the day of vengeance is coming. So evildoers shouldn’t get too comfy.

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Church Renovation the St. Naile Way

From the Irish manuscript Betha Naile (The Life of St. Naile):

Naile remained behind ordering the fair church, and levelling its cemetery, and strengthening its oratories, and ennobling its altars, and making ready its monuments, and consolidating its crosses, and cleansing the side of its fountains, so that thereafter it was a church angelic, golden-belled, heavenly, noble, of sacred beauty, divine, charitable, intelligent, hallowed.

Btw, here are some of his clerical colleagues:

Tigernach the long and fair of side, prompt to recite his hours; Ronan of the appropriate speech, graciously acute; Sinell of the mild appearance, prompt in genuflection; fair Senach of the liberal arts; and Fergus of the clear-judging advocacy; and Comgall the intelligent of the sacred bells, and many other saints, in this general council.

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Somebody’s Not Getting the Point of This Exercise.

I don’t know why I find this so bemusing and amusing, but I do.

Apparently, there are some people out there, in other places, who think that planting an American flag for every person in the military who’s died in Afghanistan or Iraq is intrinsically anti-war. (Similarly, I recall an anti-war project with boots.)

However, the natural assumption in these quarters, in a town full of military people, is that a field full of American flags is a touching memorial and a high honor to those who’ve given their all. And not particularly anti-war.

(Also, somebody around here heard about the boots project, decided to do his own, and got all the neighbors to donate their own army boots. It all came out as a very proud display of American courage and devotion. I think this was perhaps not what the originator of the idea had in mind.)

Obviously, somebody is not getting the point here. But who? :)
(Anyway, the Precious Blood Sisters out at Maria Stein are putting up just such a field for the 9/11 victims. A lot of folks are apparently doing something similar. I hope we can all agree that this is a very nice idea.)

Here’s another interesting example. The US Air Force Museum is someplace I’ve been visiting since I was little. It’s one of the most peaceful places I know — a sort of inspirational cathedral of aviation. If a cathedral were ever designed to show the Air Force as one of the summits of salvation history, and the Wright Brothers as God’s prophets, leading the way to the promised land of air power. :) Heck, there’s even a chapel upstairs with a very nifty space theme.

But the folks at the page above seem to think the museum’s spooooooooky. Sigh.
The POW exhibit — how is that the worst part of the museum? It has all those cool drawings, and the mousetrap made of cans, and the radio, and all the other cool stuff! It’s a happy place! If they’d just get the lighting a little better, I could stay there for a good half hour! And all the planes are neat. How could you not like them? I’m telling you, if there are ghosts in the Air Force Museum, they’re all friendly ones.

I’d be a lot more worried about the real solid problem the museum had with a curator who was a thief. If there are really all these ghosts around, how come they didn’t stop that curator from selling their stuff, huh?

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How Not to Promote Vocations

I attended the University of Toledo for four years. I was a member of the campus parish for all those years, and I did in fact go to Mass every Sunday, barring accident or sickness. I was also a cantor and music minister for two and a half of those four years. As university parishes go, it was pretty orthodox back then.
I don’t recall us ever having a vocations talk (other than, “You should pray to figure out your vocation. Lay vocations are good. And getting married. Oh, and there is something else.”). We certainly never had members of any religious order come to recruit anyone, or even had the priests recommend the priesthood to the guys that I ever heard. But I never realized quite how bad the campus parish was, about vocations, until today.

See, it turns out that there’s a monastery of contemplative nuns about a block from the Scott Park side of campus.

Nobody ever thought to mention this, or raise funds for the nuns, or sing Christmas carols over the wall.

In four years.

Not that my home parish did any better, of course. But at least all the convents were downtown or on the other side of town, not a mile away.

I can’t figure out if it’s that the older generation of Catholics hated us, or they just thought we should never have to know these offensive and horrible persons existed. I mean, you’ve got a campus where the majority of students are Catholic, and half of ‘em are women. Of course they’d rather model themselves on female professors of varying moral qualities and the latest stars rather than nuns. Of course they would have no desire to spend time with ladies who aren’t centering their lives around men and grades and temporary things. Of course not.

Worse, I had a friend, a convert who thought she might have a vocation. At school, she soon fell away from the faith entirely. Even if she didn’t have a vocation with those nuns, she could really have used them as a counterweight, a reminder, and an encouragement that living for God was possible and a good idea.

And when my soul felt like it was being torn apart by all the unbelievers and crazy stuff believers and and Catholic haters blaming me for the Spanish Inquisition and Holy Communion that I kept running into, and I couldn’t get the campus priests to advise me, and I couldn’t find anyone to talk to who didn’t find the very idea of mystical prayer intimidating, much less get advice on spiritual dryness — I really could have used a consultation with specialists.  Really. Like, “it’s a good thing I didn’t kill myself over it, but I could have”, really.
I probably never had a vocation to the sisterhood, and probably most of the other girls didn’t, either. But sheesh, how were we supposed to explore this stuff after high school and college, when we’d be stuck with rent and jobs we couldn’t ditch and a life that’s already been set in stone? Why hide it from us before then? Shouldn’t we at least have been offered the opportunity and the choice?

Fast-forward to today. The university parish now has a building (courtesy of Fr. Vosko, yuck — oh, well, it’s better than a college auditorium) and actual Bible studies (only of Sunday lectionary readings, but at least it’s there). But there’s no acknowledgement of the fact that there are religious around. There’s a link to the diocesan website’s vocations section — with eentsy-beentsy links to orders that don’t reveal where said orders even are. (Although this one at least reveals whether they’re inside the diocese or not.)

It makes me tired. Everybody is all “Ooh! Vocations crisis!” Yeah, well… I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Every company on Earth would have an ‘employee crisis’ if they tried to get employees the way most of the Catholic Church in the US ‘tries’ to get vocations.

Dioceses and orders that get serious — heck, individual priests that get serious — get vocations. Those that don’t, won’t, unless by the grace of God. It’s as simple as that.

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Women Are Territorial, Too

I remember a few years back when scientists discovered that men also had their own sorts of monthly cycles of hormones and body changes, and their own sorts of biological clocks.
Everybody talked about male menopause for a while, but then it disappeared from our
minds. Didn’t fit our cultural scheme or something.

I think I’ve found another thing we don’t like to think about. Male animals and men are constantly discussed as being territorial. All kinds of jokes are made about marking territory and so forth.

But female animals, and women, are also extremely territorial creatures. And no, I don’t
mean “about their men”, though that’s true, too. I mean that women mark and defend
territory, too.

Think about it. We like to have our own homes, and within them, we like to have our own
rooms. We like to have everything in those spaces arranged and done exactly the way we
like it to be done. If anyone else does anything, even basic cleaning, without asking
permission or finding out our guidelines first, it makes us feel very unhappy. Also, if
thieves break into a house, women say again and again that they feel almost as if they
themselves were raped.

House=self. Um… isn’t that rather territorial?

This all comes up because I was home watching Dr. Phil with my mom yesterday. (I know, I know….) That part of the show was about a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law who couldn’t get along, mostly because they lived in the same house and neither party had a space which was exclusively her own to hold and care for. The young woman’s husband hadn’t figured this out, wasn’t doing anything about it, and thought that creating some kind of separate apartment within the house would be hostile. Nor was he working on getting his bride out of his mom’s house.

He was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Still, this made perfect sense in pack
structure. A male fears putting his nose into a fight between alpha females. :)

It made me smile wryly, because my mom still has trouble seeing that I don’t get along
with her better because I am so much older and wiser, but because we aren’t constantly trespassing in each other’s space any more. I think my sister-in-law shies away from my mom because she fears the same thing — though, honestly, if you don’t live in the same house, it’s not a problem.

There’s a weird borderland between the help you need and the help you can accept, versus a mother’s need to feel useful and demonstrate love and her urge to exert a little alpha female dominance. I think a lot of mothers and daughters have trouble defining that line, especially when the daughters aren’t given much opportunity to feel useful themselves in return. (Or when the opportunity is given, but only in a very defined way which doesn’t involve things the daughter’s good at.)

I deal with the whole problem by trying not to worry about it, and try to gradually induce others not to worry, either. (Or maybe I’m just lazy enough to forget about this stuff whenever it’s not in my face….) But my mother’s a natural worrier, and so are many of my female relatives. They can’t leave the problem alone and wait for things to settle out. They must be doing something.

(Still, I must admit that watching this kind of show also makes me appreciate my own family’s comparative sanity.)

The show also made me think of the old Chinese ideograph story — that “trouble” was written by a sign showing two stylized women under one roof.
My point is that there are times when women don’t give men credit for being more than animals. But women have their animal side too. The strong impulse to dig out and defend a den territory, like the need to protect children, is not something we need be ashamed of. But it’s certainly an irrational side of women’s personalities that women, in particular, should know better than to ignore.

(And if men want any peace among the women in their lives, they shouldn’t, either. Just say no to moving your wife into your mom’s house. Much less polygamy.)

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A Wild Life and a Merry One

Steve Irwin has passed away, killed by a stingray. He wasn’t even poisoned or anything! (Stingray poisonings usually just hit the ankle, because they usually happen when someone accidentally steps on the stingray. But the poison’s pretty nasty; the links will fill you in.)

No, the barb in the tail punctured his heart, and as far from trauma hospitals as they were, that was pretty much that. He’s not the first guy this has happened to — but it doesn’t happen often. Between 1989 and 1992, of the 55 Australian fishermen who died in work-related accidents, only one was hit in the chest by a stingray barb. (2% of 55 guys is 1 person.) The Guardian says this is only the third fatal attack in Australia ever; other sources say the second, with the first back in the forties. (Guess they didn’t read that fishery death report.)

For those of you who didn’t know, the “Croc Hunter” persona was just that — a persona. Irwin was naturally something more of a gentle science nerd. But he made up that persona and made it his own to grab human attention at his family’s zoo and teach them something about animals. It worked. And a large chunk of the money he earned went to animals. He also worked in a business where he could spend a lot of time with his wife, which was a blessing for both of them.

The Lord loves a cheerful giver, and hates the lukewarm. Surely Steve Irwin’s life pleased Him. May He wipe the tears from the eyes of his wife and two children, and all those who knew and loved Irwin. May the Lord also look after all his employees, as this is not only a grief to them but a reason to worry about where their next meal is coming from.

(Oh, geez. His wife Terri is trekking in Tasmania away from any phones or outgroup contact. She doesn’t know yet. She might not know for days. And their poor kids… Terrible’s too small a word.)

Aussie Tim Blair has a post with moving and informative comments from readers.

“The best and hopefully not the last, Australian right wing greenie. He cajoled, prodded, sweet-talked or did whatever he thought necessary to promote his passion for the understanding and welfare of our native fauna. But all in good humour….”

“FWIW, my brother in law lives just down the road from Steve and said that he was a lovely bloke in real life. He was just a sincere, nice guy. Just thought that some of your readers might like to know that.”

“He was a great man and a great ambassador for Queensland. Poor bugger… Rays are extremely dangerous…There is a good reason why I’ve ALWAYS cut my line when I jag a ray. Some people like to bring rays to shore or on board the boat and when they do I make myself scarce.”

A doctor’s comment on what one might do:

“Show me, Oh Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days,let me know how fleeting is my life.” Psalm 39:4
So I got home, logged on to smh.com.au, and whoa! Like being kicked in me guts.

We have all been to his zoo. We watched him perform and entertain us. Scolded us. Advised us. Made us laugh. No longer.
My medical mind can’t help but think. Died so quickly? The stinger went through his heart. A stab. Pleural effusion? Cardiac tamponade. Cardiogenic shock. Giving CPR would’ve been futile. Instead, jabbing a 16G needle upwards from his xiphisternum would have made a difference. Could his rescuers have foreseen it? Did they carry such a needle in their first aid kit? If I was one of the rescuers, would I have thought of it? Even if they did, time isn’t on his side.

As a medico, even though I am familiar with death. It’s still not easy to deal with…

Look up at the sky! See! It is still blue, and the birds, they still sing.

A less scientific tribute:

Steve Irwin. What will the ocean be like without you swimming in it? What will the outback be like without you running around?

Even if I stopped watching ‘Crocodile Hunter’ more than a year ago, I’d still stop and smile when I saw I would see it on Animal Planet. Man, I’ll miss your show, your stunts, your accent, your grin, and your boundless energy.

We lost an icon. I thought you’d grow old like your Dad, go croc-hunting with your grandchildren, and that you’d be ther to entertain my children… Well, you left a pretty good legacy. I don’t care about the thing with your baby and the crocodile; you knew what you were doing. I’ll always remember the good things.

I always thought that you were immortal. Now I’m sure you are.

I hope you’re having a blast up there. Down here, it’s “Danger! Danger! Danger!” forever. :D

From an article on CNN:

“The world has lost a great wildlife icon, a passionate conservationist and one of the proudest dads on the planet,” his friend and producer John Stainton told reporters in Cairns, according to The Associated Press. “He died doing what he loved best and left this world in a happy and peaceful state of mind. He would have said, ‘Crocs Rule!’ “

Godspeed Steve! Crikey, we’ll miss you!

Elsewhere on the Web, Aussie webcomic artist David Morgan-Mar is very much in my thoughts. Morgan-Mar’s long-running Irregular Webcomic, an exceedingly regular daily of Lego gags and obscure science and math puns, also includes several long-running story arcs — one of which focuses on “Steve and Terry”, two Australian TV naturalists. Steve has always been a thorn in the side for serious scientist Jane (Goodall), but a worse one for the various obscure Deaths which always fail to keep him dead. (Not even Cthulhu could keep him down, in fact.)
As luck would have it, just such a strip ran today. As Morgan-Mar put it:

“I feel weird, like I’ve created some strange alternate reality where Steve Irwin has woken up in a hospital bed, rather than now being the subject of grief and obituaries.

“I’d swap my moderate success with this comic for that other reality in an instant.”

With most comics, I’d expect the character to retire. But Irregular Webcomic has always had a bittersweet mood to it. So this didn’t disappoint or surprise me:

“I have always publicly denied that the character of Steve is based on Steve Irwin. The fact that Steve (the character)’s wife’s name is Terry, whereas Steve Irwin’s wife is Terri should be abundant evidence that they are different people and any resemblance is pure coincidence. So while we will miss Steve Irwin, Steve and Terry will continue.

“I think he would have wanted it that way.”

I think this is the right decision for Morgan-Mar, though I’d be worried about it elsewhere. The crazy “Croc Hunter” persona will continue making crazy science jokes and teaching humans a few things, and I believe that would indeed please Irwin.

But like Morgan-Mar and the Head Death, I want a word with the Death of “Stung in the Chest by a Stingray”.

(Prediction — several editorial cartoons showing Irwin being carried by angels, with him saying, “Will you look at the size of these wings! Beauuuutiful plumage!”)

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Artemis Fowl Alert!

Obviously, I’m still anxious to get my copy of Some Golden Harbor by David Drake and watch the season premiere of House M.D. (both coming out Tuesday). Also, one could hardly miss the huge display for the last book in A Series of Unfortunate Events, coming out in October. But now I find out that the next Artemis Fowl book, Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony, comes out next week! Ack!

How our favorite little criminal mastermind is going to save or threaten the world this time, heaven only knows. But I’ll admit to being interested.

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DiC Controls the Vertical, DiC Controls the Horizontal….

Gather ’round, children, as we tell you the latest chapter of the DiC Saga.

DiC Entertainment is a company that started with a dream — a dream of providing wholesome, fun entertainment for little children — and making money, of course! It has produced classic series and aeh series. It has been bought by Disney and sold back to its founders again. It has produced so many shows under license that you could float an ocean liner on ‘em — but it’s done original in-house concepts, too. In short, it’s been around.

And it has the knack of making every show it produces look dorky. At least initially. So the fans of their shows tend to be… isolated, yet loyal.
So now, another thrilling year of DiC history is about to begin. This time, they’ve managed to buy… convince CBS to let them syndicate their Saturday mornings. This has to be something of a coup, as CBS previously had a deal with Nickelodeon or somebody for their Saturdays aimed at tiny kids. DiC’s concept is entirely different. They want the preteen girls, and they’re apparently willing to fight hard.

Dance Revolution — a live action dance competition for kids. (Though this would have gone over better a couple years back with the teenagers, the preteens probably aren’t done with it yet. But the songs are American and original to the show. Pray they aren’t dire.)
Horseland — an animated show about ponies and riding. “….set in the greatest stable ever where kids and their horses compete and have adventures, and the horses and other animals can talk to each other — about the humans!” Based on an online multi-user ponybreeding game I never knew existed, which is just as well for me.
(Truly, this is a gimmie. Heck, given the massive sucker I was and am for Star Hill Ponies, I admit that I will probably be watching this at 9:30 AM this year. Maybe the live action Wildfire fans will be, too.)

Cake — a live action drama about a kids’ public access craft show. Oooookay….

Madeline — one of those classic DiC series. Cute and perfect for little ones.

Sabrina: The Animated Series — ditto. Savage Steve Holland and his writers made it good.

Trollz — Pencil toppers. Bleh. But it’s gotta be better than Slu… er, Bratz.

Meanwhile, DiC is finally producing box sets of some of its cartoons, like C.O.P.S. and Inspector Gadget. Unfortunately, not any of the ones I want. *pout* The UAV Corporation was releasing some of the ones I like, but given that their website is now announcing the cancellation of their employees’ 401K plan, I’m thinking we won’t be seeing much from them.

But DiC moves on. They’re developing a finance-based kids’ adventure show starring Warren Buffett as a mentor, in which a group of kids form a secret investment club to save their clubhouse from foreclosure. Well. Yeah. Sounds like it’s either going to be really innovative and helpful in teaching money smarts, or really dorky.

No, this is DiC. It’ll be both. :)

[My prediction for their next show? Atlas Shrugged: The Animated Series. In which an Ayn Rand heroine actually becomes a well-adjusted, non-masochistic woman who doesn't need to hang on a man, and doesn't feel guilty or put upon about helping the helpless. Heh! Watch Ayn Rand spin in her grave....]

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Ice Cream, the Liquid Nitrogen Way!

If you don’t have any acquaintances, friends, or family who play with liquid nitrogen on a regular basis, you’re probably wondering how you make ice cream with liquid nitrogen instead of ice and a churn.

Wonder no more. This site has video. (Scroll down a loooong way.)

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A Town Named Sioux

The rumor was funny enough, but the Vatican press release confusing the diocese of Sioux Falls (South Dakota) with the diocese of Sioux City (Iowa) was hilarious!

So for further Vatican reference, these are also separate towns:

Sioux Center, Iowa

Sioux Creek, Wisconsin

Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada

Sioux Narrows, Ontario, Canada

Traverse de Sioux, Minnesota (not there anymore)

There are Sioux Counties in Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota.

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The Truth about Choir

Fr. Martin Fox and I apparently were thinking along the same lines this week. (Probably because it’s the start of choir season.)

The truth about choir is that you don’t need a ‘good voice’. (A good-enough voice is more than good enough.)

What you need is the willingness to show up for practice and work hard, and the ability to listen and try to blend. That’s it.

Learn your part and stick with it — that’s work, not a natural gift. Bend your ego to the choir as a whole and the director — that’s work, too! Show up and sing with your whole heart to God when you don’t feel like praying — well, there’s a reason prayer’s classed as a work….

Now, there are choirs so lucky as to be able to include only folks with marvelous voices and wondrous sightreading skills. But in most church choirs, this is not so. (Though if you can sightread well, everyone in your section will want to sit by you. Popularity!) So if you’ve ever wanted to join a choir, and you mostly sing on key (I know some diva-types who don’t….), your choir director will probably welcome you with open arms.

(Btw, Fr.’s blog also has another interesting thread about hymn recommendations.)

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The Rest of the Story

A couple weeks ago, I asked you gentle readers to pray for an old student of my mom’s, who was undergoing brain surgery to stop his grand mal seizures. He’d been having seizures for a long time, and they thought they were probably part of his cerebral palsy. The surgeon hoped for good results, but warned that mucking around in the hippocampus is generally not ye safest thinge to do.

So what happened? you ask.

I’m happy to say that he hasn’t had any seizures, grand mal or otherwise, since his surgery. But wait, there’s more! When they were digging around, they found a large black mass in his hippocampus that had no business being there. The surgeon removed the mass, which turned out to have been pressing on several important things. When my mom’s old student woke up, they found that, for the first time since he was little, he could control movement on the bad side of his body and walk without a limp.

Initially, when he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby, the doctors didn’t think it would affect his movement all that much. His mom now recalls that when he was a toddler, he ran into a wall outside. It didn’t seem to have much effect at the time, but now it seems that he must have sustained some kind of brain injury, the effects of which were then misdiagnosed as just a worsening of the cerebral palsy. (Of course, given how iffy the surgery was now, you have to wonder if they could’ve done anything at all to help him back in the eighties.)
Whatever the whys and wherefores, the fact is that someone I’ve known for a long time, who’s done a lot of struggling, has suddenly had his life change for the better. Thank you for joining your prayers with those of his friends and family. May God be praised! (And the surgeon, too!)

UPDATE: From MaxedOutMama, a personal account of God’s care.

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40 Days

“For my 30th birthday,  I gave myself some time away from it all.”
It’s on YouTube. It’s short. It’s good. Go see it!

Via Mirtika.

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Quote of the Day

First, some explanation.

The justly-famed webcomic Megatokyo has a very active set of online forums. Fred Gallagher, who draws and writes the comic, permits the fans to engage in an activity known as “rescript”, in which they take one of his comics, erase the speech and thought balloons, and add their own captions. The other day, a fan challenged folks to use lines from Shakespeare in their Megatokyo rescript. (The results were quite striking.)

In the ensuing discussion, a gentleman known as Zahooee noted that Shakespeare is durable and powerful, and that one doesn’t see people doing such things with Hemingway.

A.R.C.C. Impulse replied:

“I enjoy Shakespeare immensely, but I could never get into Hemingway. My English teachers were so stingy about how every little detail had to be interpreted a certain way to be understood as a certain metaphor, with no margin for a different perspective or (Gasp! Blasphemy!) literal interpretation, and ruined any chance of enjoyment I could have derived. Of course Hemingway had a lot of literary talent and used plenty of symbolism, but God forbid a man should be allowed to write anything straight-faced in his lifetime. No wonder he committed suicide.

It’s my firm belief that on Judgement Day, when the furies sweep down from the sky to devour the wicked, all the great authors of history, including Shakespeare, Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Twain, Cervantes, anybody who was ever involved in writing a religious text ever, and in general anybody who shows up on this list will come swooping down to wreak grim justice upon the English teachers, professors, and other people who have abused them and their legacies over the centuries.

And Hemingway, his saber raised high and glowing with the flames of divine wrath, will be leading the charge.”

This of course doesn’t apply to the non-abusive, so those gentle readers in such professions (who obviously have good taste enough to be here) need not phear. :)

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