Monthly Archives: October 2017

Musical Breviary!

Some kind person has put up links to all the breviary tunes for Lauds and Vespers, for each week. The music is chanted in English by a gentleman’s voice.

The site is set up as a blog, for whatever reason, but it seems to work out well.

So visit

Radio Maria broadcasts the Liturgy of the Hours, too.

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O Son of God in Galilee

Heard this hymn on EWTN today. A very nice hymn for the eve of All Hallows’ Eve! Written by a Lutheran lady from Wisconsin.

O Son of God, in Galilee (AKA O Thou Who Once in Galilee)

Lyrics: Anna B. Hoppe (1889-1941)

Tune: LEWIS-TOWN, William Billings (1746-1800); or TALLIS’ ORDINAL, Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)

O Son of God, in Galilee
You made the deaf to hear,
The mute to speak, the blind to see;
O blessed Lord, be near.

Oh listen to the silent prayer
Of your afflicted ones.
Oh bid them cast on you their care;
Your grace to them make known.

The speechless tongue,
the lifeless ear, you can restore, O Lord;
Your “Ephphatha,” O Savior dear,
can instant help afford.

Meanwhile to them, the list’ning ear
of steadfast faith impart,
and let your word bring light and cheer
to ev’ry troubled heart.

Then in your promised happy land
each loss will prove a gain;
All myst’ries we shall understand,
for you will make them plain.

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Vogue Article on Rejecting Birth Control Never Mentions Religious Reasons

Amazingly, it’s not all that safe to jam a bunch of random female hormones down a growing girl’s throat, or to stop a woman’s reproductive system from working as directed. If you’re the kind of person who worries about artificial everything, maybe you should worry about your constant pilltaking first.

UK Vogue reports this, along with a new major study showing that birth control causes depression in a lot of women, as well as weight gain and all sorts of hormonal seesaws. Shockingly Enough!

Vogue also reports that A SMART WOMAN has invented a TOTALLY NEW approach.

You measure and chart your body temperature changes, and that tells you when you could have a baby!

Why, who woulda thunkit?

Of course, the entire article never mentions anything about religion, or about how this measuring and charting thing used to be TOTALLY TERRIBLE and OBSOLETELY OLD-FASHIONED. Also, this comes with a phone app called Natural Cycles, and an automatic algorithm. That makes it different. (And of course it’s got to be considered birth control, instead of self control.)

They do mention that the NHS is in favor of it now. Of course, it’s because the NHS is desperately trying to cut costs and never prescribe anybody any kind of care that isn’t self-paid. But even a blind squirrel can find the odd nut.

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Recycling Old Fake News

This example is from The New York Times. In a late-breaking news story, they allowed an essay pointing out the Times’ refusal to report things like the Communist-made Holodomor famine in the Ukraine.

At the bottom, however, they linked to “The Lost Children of Tuam.”

Accompanied by moody black and white photos (including a cheesy animated GIF of trees blowing in the wind), the Times reporter proceeded to rehash Ireland’s best Victorian era, private religious order, funded on a shoestring, try at providing a home for unwed mothers and their kids — who’d been dropped by their families and had nowhere else to go. The story admits that the kids went to the same public schools as other kids, and that the doors of the homes were never locked.

It has been proved that, although there were abuses typical of large charitable organizations, most of the homes were safe and healthy, and many of the surviving denizens look back with affection at their time with the nuns. It was careless and stupid to lose track of one of the home-associated cemeteries. But it happened a bunch in England with Victorian stuff, and you don’t hear fantasies about serial-killer bureaucrats slaughtering entire secret cemeteries full of kids.

(If you want to have nightmares, though, the English “baby farms” will do it.)

Kids and moms who died at the homes died of the same things that killed kids living on farms or in towns: tuberculosis, influenza, measles, diphtheria, and so on. But everywhere in the world, including the US, kids died at a higher rate in charitable establishments. Why? Because they were full of kids whose moms weren’t healthy, spreading germs to each other; and because the more kids you have in one place, the less care each one is going to receive. (Need I mention American daycare, where the ratios and numbers are lower, but the illness incubation and dirt is endemic?) You also had a situation where the more you followed progressive medical ideas, the more likely you were to do harm inadvertently. (It was dangerous to be warm in the winter, don’t you know?)

Now, all that said… there is actually something behind all this that was worth being upset about. It turned out that there were over 300 swaddled bodies of babies and toddlers that had been buried in a repurposed septic tank out back of the Tuam home. It is not clear whether the septic tank had been properly consecrated as a tomb, or whether the children received proper funeral Masses. If everything was carried out properly, it was done in a hole-and-corner way without proper records and markers. (Or the records were destroyed, in an excess of bureaucratic discretion.) Forgetting about them and building around them was definitely wrong.

However, it does appear that proper death records were kept for these kids, and the local government properly notified. So if they weren’t keeping tabs on the kids’ burials, they bear a good chunk of the blame. My county does better than that, with all the pioneer cemeteries that require tending and protection.

But it’s easier to shift blame to the dead, or to ignore your own sins.

PS — There is a nice picture of olden days Irish First Communion kids. No, the girls aren’t wearing veils. Instead, they are wearing fitted frilled bonnets, with little strings tied in a bow.


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A Pronounced Difference

A few months back, a new reporter joined WHIO-TV. His name was announced as “James Buechele.”

Like many people in the area, I already knew a Buechele.* In fact, she was a kindergarten teacher. Her name was pronounced “BEEK-lee.” Easy to say, easy to remember.

Then Mr. Buechele came on the air, and announced that his name was pronounced “BOO-klee.”

My brain stuttered to a stop, lurched, and then acknowledged that of course, there are different parts of Germany that pronounce umlaut vowels differently.

He’s from Western Pennsylvania, which has a different German immigration pattern than Dayton, or the rural areas of God’s Country north of us. It’s a lot more like Eastern Ohio, and the names reflect that. So his accent may sound like ours, but it’s not really the same area; and his ancestors came from Somewhere Else.

For a few months, everyone at WHIO valiantly tried to say “BOO-klee.” But the longer they had lived in the Dayton area, the more often they were having to stop and correct themselves.

They’ve had all summer to get used to it. I think they really have tried hard. But in the last couple days, I have heard two of the newspeople unhesitatingly pronounce the man’s name as “BEEK-lee.” They are adjusting his name to what the local German mind thinks it should be, rather than changing their mental map to include two pronunciations.

Ve have talk to make your vays….

* The name apparently derives from “Büchelin,” meaning “beech grove.” People named Buechel usually come from Saxony up in northern Germany; people named Buechele come from somewhere in southern Germany. The problem is that “somewhere in southern Germany” covers a lot of territory, often including places that are part of Switzerland, Austria, and northern Italy today. So there’s lots of room for pronunciation differences.


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Buy Tolkien’s Honeymoon House!

The Tolkiens’ first house as a married couple is now for sale. So if you’ve got the cash and want to live in a nice Edwardian place, check it out.

Nice Irish wolfhound etching as a bonus….

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My Brother’s Audiobook Is Out!

The Sculpted Ship by K.M. O’Brien now has an audiobook out, published by Tantor. The narrator is Tanya Eby. You can buy it on Audible or Amazon!


Kevin recently updated his ebook version online, and that’s the version in the audiobook. I think you will find that there is a lot of good stuff waiting for you.

(If your ebook version says “Sixth Revision” in front, and has a bunch of stuff about the Falls, you have the newest revision.)

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Times When Michelle Obama Dressed Well

Melania Trump is a model First Lady, thus far, doing more with less budget. She also has the advantage of being a fashion leader with a model’s body, and a striking Slavic face. Of course this causes jealousy.

This is particularly noticeable because the previous First Lady, Michelle Obama — whose looks and body were not those of a model, but which were perfectly presentable — had a really difficult time with fashion. Not makeup. That was always fine. It was just clothes that she didn’t seem to understand consistently. (And that is definitely not typical for an African-American woman. Michelle’s mom always looks nice, too, so it’s very strange.)

Michelle Obama is tall and broadshouldered. Her bust is not particularly big, and her butt is as big as you’d expect from a middle-aged woman of sedentary habits. Her waist is not particularly nipped in. None of this is a crippling fashion problem, and a lot of it is an advantage, if you know how to work it. She also has really long legs, which many women would kill for. If you aren’t ashamed of your height and statuesque qualities, you work it with long lines.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Obama kept trying to dress like somebody other than herself, until quite late in the day. (Possibly it is relevant to note that her mom moved into the White House rather late in the Obama presidency.)

InStyle Magazine did a retrospective piece on Mrs. Obama’s best outfits during her husband’s presidency. Sadly, many of them are either horrible outfits (in which she is a victim of Evil Fashion Designers), or nice outfits that look horrible on the wrong person. Busy prints and busy lace were fatal for her.

But there were times when she looked quite good.

Phoenix Awards Dinner. Gold leaf on black tulle evening dress. There’s a slight pattern to appease her print-loving soul, but it provides visual interest instead of seeming busy.  The bodice is cut skillfully and well-fitted, so as to avoid the “linebacker shoulder” effect given by some of her sleeveless gowns. (#8)

Pennsylvania Conference for Women, 2017. Notice the vertical lines and the knee-length hem, which are both flattering for her. (#1)

Democratic National Convention, 2016. Royal blue dress, slightly below the knee. The belt is the same color, so as not to break up the line. Would have looked better a skosh longer, but not bad. (#10)

White House State Dinner, 2016. Versace Atelier “chainmail” evening dress in a warm and flattering rose gold. A little too drapey, but probably that’s the pose in the picture. (#4)

Ezeiza, Argentina. I’m not into the orange thing, but the dress shape worked for her.

Canadian prime minister’s visit to DC, 2016. See, she could wear suits. The trick is not buttoning the jacket/coat.

The other thing I wish she would do is to avoid outfits with waists, belts, etc. at her natural waist. She needs a waist either very high, right under her breasts and pulled in; very low, right about the level of her hips or lower; or nonexistent, to maintain the long line. Downward-pointing belts might also work.

Fashion has no absolute rules for all bodies. The trick is not to wear clothing that will look bad on you specifically, but rather to emphasize your own individual good looks.

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Some Authors Should Not Read Their Own Audiobooks

I checked out an audiobook from my local library: Lafayette and the Somewhat United States, by one Sarah Vowell.

She allegedly works for radio.

She does not have a voice for radio.

I make allowances for the Northern Cities dialect, as heard by someone like myself, who speaks Midlands and hears a lot of Southern accents. I really do make allowances. There are plenty of people who are from New York or Chicago or Milwaukee who use their accent and vocal qualities pleasantly.

So trust me when I say that this woman has the whiniest, most annoying voice I have ever heard. When she’s not whining, she sounds flat, but in a whiny way.

Her voice also has that weird little girl quality, which can be a handicap to a middle-aged woman. Most people I’ve met who have that vocal quality strive to have a pleasant and perky personality.  This person is trying to sound snarky and funny. Unfortunately, she sounds like a Halloween movie about evil dolls.

The audiobook publishers really did their best. They had actors read all the quotes. They’ve got a yummy French voice for Lafayette, a Southern voice for Jefferson, etc. But the other actors are so good, or at least so reasonably pleasant, that they make Miss Whiny sound even worse.

Listen to a voice sample on Audible. (This section is actually not as bad as the beginning chapter, to which I briefly subjected myself.)

I can listen to some pretty crappy narrators. Material and storytelling ability can overcome vocal problems or awkwardness.

What makes this audiobook so special is that she calls the Fathers of Our Country “terrorists.”

In the first paragraph or so. And she is proud enough to do it in her own whiny voice. Ugggggh.

On the dark side, my taxpayer money paid for this piece of library audiobook crap. But on the bright side, it was on Overdrive; so the county library system is only renting the crap temporarily. Someday, it will be gone!

There’s a better, recent biography out there: The Marquis, by Laura Auricchio.


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By the Bones of St. Nicholas!

Back in the day, the Greek colony of Myra was a prosperous port town in Asia Minor, at the mouth of the Myros River. The town stretched along the river for quite a ways. There were some suburbs further from the sea and the river, but they were unimportant.

Somewhere around Emperor Constantine’s time, it had a bishop named “Nicholas” who was famed for generosity. Sailors made him their patron, and they made pilgrimages to his basilica in the main town, close to the harbor. There were also legends of how St. Nicholas saved young boys and maidens from terrible fates. As time went on, his feast day, December 6, became the focus of some fun things for kids in the midst of that time of pre-Christmas fasting, Advent.

In the early Middle Ages, the port silted up. Then there was a huge river flood which buried the riverside parts of the town in silt and mud. The basilica was dug out again, but most of the town was abandoned. (What remained, in the high rocks around the old harbor, was renamed Andriake.) The people who stuck around moved to the suburbs, which became the rural farming town of Myra. Another shrine church was built for St. Nicholas in the new town, and his bones were moved there.

And then… there was another flood, an earthquake with a river tsunami. The old Myra, including the basilica, was buried twenty feet deep in goo. Farmers eventually made their fields over the roofs of a great ancient city.

It was about this time that the Turks invaded. A bunch of worried sailors from Bari, Italy showed up and stole the more solid bones of St. Nicholas, taking them home to preserve them from the Muslim Turks, but leaving behind the smaller bone fragments so as not to be greedy. A new shrine church was built at Bari, but was made defensible for use as a fortress against the fleets of the Ottoman Empire. A

s is true of many Eastern saints and quite a few Western ones, St. Nicholas’ bones are said to exude a myrrh-like substance. In St. Nicholas’ case, it consists of a transparent water condensate with a sweet smell, which the Italians call “manna.” (Which is fitting, because of course that’s Hebrew for “What is it?”) On the feast day of his bones’ arrival in Bari, St. Nicholas’ casket is opened in the presence of many dignitaries, the liquid is collected, and (after dilution with normal water), it is given out in vials to the faithful who need healing.

A few years after Bari built their church, a bunch of Venetian sailors showed up in Myra and attempted to steal the bones of St. Nicholas by threatening to kill everyone, but apparently got the bones of a later Nicholas — St. Nicholas of Sion, bishop of Pinara, who was a local monk in Emperor Justinian’s time — as well as a few other sets of local bones from nice-looking sepulchres in the church, like those of St. Nicholas of Sion’s uncle. But they also took the bone fragments that they had initially rejected as obviously not St. Nicholas’ bones. Just in case. Back home in Venice, though, the local hierarchy realized that the bone fragments were indeed the most valuable of the relics, and they enshrined them. The other sets of bones seem to have been entombed honorably, but of course there’s no telling which one is who.

Venetians. What you gonna do?

So there’s a church of St. Nicholas in Venice, too — San Nicolo al Lido. It’s from this church where the Doge used to sail for Venice’s “Wedding with the Sea” ceremony. The Venetians say their bone fragments also exude “manna.”

Myra still had other, non-bone relics of their great saint, so they weren’t totally deprived while under the Ottoman Empire’s Muslim rule. But they stopped being a pilgrimage spot — not that anybody was going to travel there much during a time of Mediterranean Muslim piracy, of course. But yup, this is One Of Those Things that is a grievance between East and West.

(Although there was also a lot of relic-stealing and royal appropriation in the East by folks of various Eastern churches. But this you don’t hear much about.)

The new Myra remained a Greek Christian town until the twentieth century, when Turkey expelled all Greek Christians to Greece. A new population of Turkish farmers moved into the existing town, taking over the locals’ buildings and farms. The current name of the new Myra is “Demre.”

The Turkish government and local organizations from Demre (“The Santa Claus Peace Council,” run by local Muslim boosters such as the Muslim guy who has the keys to the church) have periodically pressured Italy and the Vatican to have the bones of St. Nicholas repatriated from Bari. But since it’s still a Muslim country, and since only a tiny number of Orthodox Christians have been allowed to move into Myra and have very occasional Masses at the shrine, nobody is very interested in depriving Bari of St. Nick.

OTOH, the rivalry between Venice and Bari came to a surprise ending in the twentieth century, when it was discovered and confirmed by various tests that the bones and bone fragments all belonged to the same guy.

Over the last decade or so, archaeologists have been digging out the buried city of Myra, focusing on the old basilica. The archaeologists recently sent out a press release, announcing that with ground-penetrating radar, they have found the area which was once St. Nicholas’ shrine. Good job!

However, they have allegedly announced that they have found St. Nicholas’ bones, which seems… unlikely.

Probably what they have is yet another set of local bones in a nice sarcophagus, probably of some local dignitary who wanted to be buried close to St. Nicholas. When the locals deconsecrated the church, they didn’t deconsecrate the crypt burial areas; so they didn’t feel the need to pull out every set of sarcophagi and bones.

In fact, Turkish archaeologists didn’t even announce what the newspeople are saying they announced. All they said was that they found a crypt under the old Byzantine basilica floor in the old Myra, and that they want to get in there carefully, without damaging the mosaics on the floor. Everything else they said was labeled as pure speculation. So once again, you can’t believe what you read without checking a lot of other sources.

The situation is complicated further, because although some Muslim sects (like the Wahhabist Sunni of Saudi Arabia) think that the graves of saintly people should be destroyed as a distraction from Islam, a lot of other Sunni and Shia Muslims believe that graves of saintly people should be visited and given honor. And mosques, because obviously anybody saintly who wasn’t a Muslim must have really been a Muslim anyway. Further, some sects are totally okay with sharing a holy site with Jews and Christians, but the general tendency is to stop Jews and Christians from getting anywhere near the graves of patriarchs and saints that are revered by Muslims.

So with the “Santa Claus Peace Council,” the locals in Demre and in their province of Antalya have a big plan to make a new development, the Santa Claus Peace Village, where people of all nationalities and religions can live in peace and honor St. Nicholas. And this is where they wanted St. Nicholas’ bones to be put. But in today’s atmosphere of Muslim radicalism and Erdogan’s anti-everything, this is an extremely idealistic plan.

The group also gives out an annual “Santa Claus Peace Prize” (actually, “Noel Baba”, which is the equivalent of the French “Papa Noel”) with a highly unusual list of recipients. (The Google Translate version of Sr. Jeanine Gramick’s speech is interesting, to say the least….)

The other dumb thing that media people are saying is that “Ooh, don’t tell the kids that Santa Claus is dead!”

Well, I admit that this is a hazard if your kids aren’t from a tradition that believes in the souls of saints being alive and active in the Body of Christ, and perfectly capable of performing infinite amounts of miracles and good deeds from beyond the grave. (Which is why the stuff about Santa being a Time Lord or a jolly elf is supposed to be a joke, not an explanation.) But most Catholic and Orthodox kids are perfectly aware that Santa has bones, and that said bones are in a specific church in Italy. Even the Orthodox celebrate the translation of his bones to Bari as a feast day. “St. Nicholas’ bones!” was a pretty common medieval way to cuss.

But since St. Nicholas never married in any of his legends, Mrs. Santa Claus is Right Out.


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Ornery Saints Vs. Ornery Popes

If you read a lot of Church history, you notice that popes were usually respected by the saints, and their maintenance of good doctrine was praised to the skies. But on temporal matters, or at times when good doctrine was in danger?

Well, let’s just say that a lot of saints quoted St. Paul, and “withstood Peter to his face.”

One of the more unusual examples of an ornery saint was St. Clare of Assisi. Sweet, gentle, kindly, and a big pope fan. When Princess Agnes of Bohemia wanted to join the Poor Clares and live their rule, the deceased St. Francis’ old friend Cardinal Ugolino had become Pope Gregory IX, and he was a friend of St. Clare, too.  So the princess consulted the pope… who told her to become a Benedictine instead.

St. Clare wrote a very nice, very pretty, very heartfelt letter to Princess Agnes… telling her not to let anyone stand in the way of her vocation to the Franciscan life. Anyone. And if you need advice from a guy, write Brother Elias — who was then the head of the Franciscan order — and obey him.

Clare never explicitly says, “Don’t obey the pope in this, because it’s none of his business,” but that was the strongly implied gist. (And heck, St. Clare had already disobeyed her parents and her entire family when they overreached their authority over her.)

Medieval Catholics had a very strong sense of obedience to superiors, as far as their right to command extended. But right after that point, they had no hesitation telling their superiors where to go.

Now, there are a lot of saints out there who did obey their superiors on matters that weren’t their superiors’ business. But it was their choice to obey, as a form of ascetic mortification. And usually it was the superiors who were being taught and tried by it.

In all times that the popes have lived in Rome, the Roman people have regarded it as their special task to let the popes know if they are messing up. Their attitude is reverential in regards to papal liturgies and processions, but they have always reserved the right to talk about the popes however they feel like, and to talk to them with great freedom, including anonymous nasty poems and drawings, and even the odd riot. He is their bishop, after all, and they know they should be able to talk freely to their spiritual father, no matter how much drama it takes.

Many of the popes have not particularly appreciated this. But Pope John Paul II acknowledged it in a sidelong way, when he ostensibly asked for them to correct his dialectal grammar, but actually talked about them correcting him. But then, he was too savvy to fight against the sensus fidelium of his own local flock.

Which brings us to the recent correctio filialis. Of course priests and bishops have a right to correct Pope Francis, or to ask for him to clarify his words and stop confusing the world on doctrinal matters. They don’t have fewer rights than laypeople on this subject.

In modern life, obeying and supporting the pope in general is still very important. But if the pope is being unfair or not doing a good job, it is — and always has been — the right and duty of good Catholics to let him know.


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