Saturday, January 31, 2004

Today is the Memorial of the great St. John Bosco 

From Saints of the Roman Calendar by Enzo Lodi via CatholicCulture.org and the Patron Saints Index at Catholic-Forum.com.

John Bosco was born near Castelnuovo in the archdiocese of Turin, Italy, in 1815. His father died when John was only two years old and it was his mother Margaret who provided him with a good humanistic and Christian education. His early years were financially difficult but at the age of twenty he entered the major seminary, thanks to the financial help received from Louis Guala, founder and rector of the ecclesiastical residence St. Francis of Assisi in Turin. John Bosco was ordained a priest on June 5, 1846, and with the help of John Borel he founded the oratory of St. Francis de Sales.

At this time the city of Turin was on the threshold of the industrial revolution and as a result there were many challenges and problems, especially for the young. Gifted as he was as an educator and a leader, Don Bosco formulated a system of education based on "reason, religion and kindness." He worked with youth, finding places where they could meet, play and pray, teaching catechism to orphans and apprentices, and also served as chaplain in a hospice for girls. In 1868 there were 800 students involved in this educational system. To ensure the continuation of his work, Don Bosco founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales (Salesians), which was approved in 1869. Also, with the help of Sister Mary Dominic Mazzarello, he founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Auxiliatrix.

In 1875 a wave of emigration to Latin America began, and this prompted the inauguration of the Salesian missionary apostolate. Don Bosco became a traveller throughout Europe, seeking funds for the missions. Some of the reports referred to him as "the new St. Vincent de Paul." He also found time to write popular catechetical pamphlets, which were distributed throughout Italy, as was his Salesian Bulletin. This great apostle of youth died on January 31, 1888, and was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934. Pope John Paul II named him "teacher and father to the young."

Sadly, in this age of "witchhunts" against priests who dedicate themselves to work with youths, John Bosco would undoubtedly be treated with unwarranted scrutiny by many today. I feel the de facto shackling of 21st century priests to reach out fully to the youngest members of the Faith due to the cloud of suspicion precipitated by the abuse scandals is going to have negative consequences on the future of the Church. A relative few corrupt clerics compared to the vast number of those who are pure men of God do not warrant putting every priest who works directly with childen under the microscope.

St. John Bosco is patron saint of apprentices, boys, editors, Mexican young people, laborers and students.

Incidentally, there is an inspirational film on the life of St. John Bosco entitled Don Bosco, which I would highly recommend.

Photo from http://www.catholicculture.org
St. John Bosco, Pray for Us

There's No Accounting For Taste 

According to Yahoo, this is currently the most popular "Oddly Enough" news story of the past few days. It's fascinating, it's disgusting, and it's a story I refuse to post photos of, for obvious reasons. If you are not overly faint of heart, click on this link from the Associated Press via Yahoo News: Whale Explodes, Showers Innards on Town.


The Other Mars Rover 

In yet another case of the American media's fascination with downfall and disdain for redemption, there has been practically no news of the Mars "Spirit" Rover since the flurry of reports that it was having technical troubles. This may be in part due to its getting overshadowed by the landing and subsequent successes of its twin "Opportunity" rover, which landed last Saturday night in a previously unexplored and rather exotic part of the red planet.

I'm almost always one to root for the underdog (this year's Super Bowl being a notable exception), and so here is an update on the recuperating "Spirit" rover, which is getting back into the groove again. The information comes from the Mars Exploration Rover Homepage from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasedena.

NASA's Spirit rover on Mars has resumed taking pictures as engineers continue work on restoring its health. Meanwhile, Spirit's twin, Opportunity, extended its rear wheels backward to driving position last night as part of preparations to roll off its lander, possibly as early as overnight Saturday-to-Sunday.

Spirit shot and transmitted a picture yesterday to show the position of its robotic arm. "The arm is exactly where we expected," said Jennifer Trosper, mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. It is still extended in the same position as when the rover developed communication and computer problems on Jan. 22. A mineral-identifying instrument called a Mössbauer spectrometer, at the tip of the arm, is positioned at a rock nicknamed Adirondack.

In coming days, scientists plan to use Spirit's rock abrasion tool to grind the weathered surface off of a small area on Adirondack to inspect its interior. Later plans include examining a nearby whitish rock, then driving toward a crater nicknamed Bonneville that's about 250 meters (820 feet) away. Researchers will use the rover to search for rocks that may have been excavated from below the surface and tossed outward by the impact that dug the crater. If Spirit can reach the rim, scientists hope to see outcrops in the crater walls.

Engineers are continuing to restore Spirit to full health as the rover makes scientific observations, said JPL's Dr. Mark Adler, mission manager. They plan to delete from the rover's flash memory a large amount of information stored before landing, then resume operating Spirit in a normal mode that uses flash memory.

For more on "Spirit", click here or here.

Here's a shot from "Spirit", flexing its robotic arm.
Photo from http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov

As for "Opportunity", its finding out some way cool stuff on the other side of the planet. It rolled off its landing platform this morning, and is now rolling on the Martian surface. NASA is planning a press conference for early this evening at 6:45(EST) on "Opportunity".

Here's a shot from "Opportunity's" rear-view cam taken just after rolling off.
Photo from http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov

Friday, January 30, 2004

Top Ten Least-Popular Medieval Penances 

I haven't posted a top ten on this blog in quite a while, and due to copyright laws, I won't post this one directly, but I will provide the link to it. It comes from Patrick Madrid of Envoy Magazine. It's his TOP TEN LEAST POPULAR MEDIEVAL PENANCES.

My favorite is number three: "wasp licking".

And If You Aren't Up For The Big Game... 

...you might want to hit the movie theater or the video store this weekend. I've been meaning to post this list from the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops all months, but am just now getting around to it. Here are their top ten best films of the past year.

Their film classifications are A-I – general patronage; A-II – adults and adolescents; A-III – adults; L – Limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling and O – morally offensive.

*Big Fish - An enchanting fable about a father and his estranged son and the power of storytelling to engender a magical sense of life’s wonder. A-II (PG-13)

*In America - Director Jim Sheridan’s life-affirming, semi-autobiographical drama set in the 1980s about an impoverished Irish immigrant family struggling to survive in New York City and heal the emotional wounds inflicted by the loss of a young child. A-III (PG-13)

*Mystic River - A gripping, well-acted drama set in a working-class Boston suburb about an unspeakable crime, the devastating effects of which come full circle only years later, as three childhood friends are reunited by a brutal murder. A-III (R).

*The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - The final and shining jewel in the crown of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic good vs. evil fantasy trilogy, completing the quest of the tale’s unlikely hobbit hero to destroy the Ring of power, and save Middle-Earth. A-III – adults. (PG-13)

*Seabiscuit - A feel good, fact-based Depression-era film about an undersized bargain-basement racehorse with the heart of a champion who transforms the lives of its owner, trainer and jockey while lifting the sagging spirits of a nation. A-III (PG-13)

*Secret Lives: Hidden Children - An inspirational documentary chronicling the bitter-sweet war stories of Jewish children saved from the Nazis by the heroism of non-Jewish families who, at great personal risk, took them into their own homes. A-II (not rated).

*Spellbound - An uplifting documentary celebrating the kaleidoscope of the American experience about eight students from diverse backgrounds competing for all the marbles at the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. A-I (G).

*Together - A beautifully crafted film from China about a young violin prodigy and his simple-minded father whose travels from a backwater town to Beijing teach them valuable lessons about the bonds of love and family. A-II (PG).

*Whale Rider - A touching coming-of-age story set among contemporary New Zealand Maoris, which explores the role of community and change through the relationship of a determined 12-year-old girl and her tradition-bound grandfather. A-II (PG-13).

*Winged Migration - An awe-inspiring documentary, which, thanks to spectacular photography, charts the annual journey of various migratory birds over stretches of thousands of miles from the tropics to the Arctic. A-I (G)

I'd also throw in my own recommendation for Pirates of the Caribbean - From the U.S.C.C.B.: Entertaining swashbuckler about a lowly blacksmith who must set sail with a brazen buccaneer in order to rescue his love from an evil rival pirate who, along with his crew, is under an ancient curse. A-II -- adults and adolescents. (PG-13)

You Knew It Was Coming To This Blog Eventually... 

Photo from http://www.wallpapermadness.com


Photo from http://www.newtown.k12.ct.us

We slop through the sewers with the Bruins and Celtics every year. The Red Sox bring us to the edge of sports ecstacy annually, and then drop us like a bad habit at the last moment. Just let us New Englanders have this one thing...please?

Thursday, January 29, 2004

The President on Catholic Schools 

Here is a transcript of President George W. Bush's Remarks to the National Catholic Educational Association in the East Room of the White House on January 9, 2004. The text comes from the White House's official website. The text in bold is my emphasis. It's a little late getting onto this blog, but just in time for Catholic Schools Week.

Photo from http://www.whitehouse.gov

"The last 100 years, the leadership of the National Catholic Education Association has been vital in advancing the work of Catholic schools around the nation, and therefore has been vital to the hopeful future of America. I'm honored to join you for celebrating your 100th anniversary. And this is a fitting place to celebrate the anniversary.

Catholic schools carry out a great mission, to serve God by building knowledge and character of our young people. It's a noble calling. It's an important part of the fabric of America. By teaching the Word of God, you prepare your students to follow a path of virtue and compassion and sacrifice for the rest of their lives. And by insisting on high standards for academic achievement, Catholic schools are a model for all schools around our country.

I was hoping to run into a fellow Texan today. His Excellency Gregory Aymond is the Bishop from Austin, Texas. He is -- I'm glad there's only a handful of Texans here.

The Bishop is the board chair of the National Catholic Education Association, and I want to thank you for joining us.

I appreciate Michael Guerra. Michael Guerra is the president of the National Catholic Education Association. Michael, thank you. And thank you for all the board members who graciously had a picture taken in the Blue Room with me. I appreciate you doing that.

His Excellency John Cummings, who is the Bishop Emeritus of Oakland, California, is with us. His Excellency, thank you for being here, sir.

I appreciate Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and Dorian for joining is today.

I'm sorry my neighbor, His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, is not with us, a decent man. I really, really am proud to call him friend. He's a really good guy, as we say in Texas.

I appreciate you all coming, I really do. Thanks for being here.

Catholic educators share the basic conviction that every child can learn, and every child can learn to lead a life of service. That's a pretty good mission statement, isn't it? Let us teach every child to read and write and add and subtract and, as we do so, let us teach every child to serve a cause greater than self. The whole nation benefits because of the good scholars and good citizens who graduate from Catholic schools. That is a fact.

Through your faith in every child -- and I emphasize "every child" -- Catholic schools have overcome challenges and experienced remarkable results. It is well known that Catholic schools operate on small budgets. The per-pupil cost in a Catholic school classroom is substantially below the per-pupil costs of many other schools -- public or private.

And, yet, the results are astonishing: 2.6 million students who attend Catholic schools will graduate -- that's 99 percent -- and almost all go to college. Even though the per-pupil expenditure per classroom is low, the results are extremely high. And it says something is going right starting with the fact that Catholic schools have high expectations. You challenge what I call the soft bigotry of low expectations. You believe in the worth of every person and every child. You believe that inherent in every child is the capacity to learn. And you refuse to quit on any child.

The Catholic schools understand that love and discipline go hand-in-hand. The Catholic schools are willing to change curriculum if it doesn't work. The Catholic schools sometimes meet longer hours than some would expect is the norm. Take LaSalle Academy, a Catholic school in Philadelphia. Students attend classes from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and the school year is several weeks longer than average. Whatever it takes to make sure no child is left behind, the Catholic schools do.

In addition to learning to read and write, students take courses in computers and music and art. As David McDonough, the principal of the school said this, "We bombard them" -- that would be his students -- "We bombard them with love, attention, and work -- and they thrive."

An important part of the Catholic education is the commitment to serving what our society calls the disadvantaged student, regardless of religious affiliation. I appreciate that a lot. These are the students who sometimes in the public school system are deemed to be uneducable, and, therefore, are just moved through the system. The Catholic schools have done our country a great service by a special outreach to minority children, who make up 26 percent of the enrollment of our Catholic schools. This is a great service to those children and their parents and our country.

Catholic schools have a proven record of bringing out the best in every child, regardless of their background. And every school in America should live up to that standard. We want our public schools to live up to the standard you have set in Catholic schools.

I signed what's called the No Child Left Behind Act. It is the most historic education reform in a generation. It actually passed with bipartisan support, which is unusual for Washington these days. Let me tell you a little bit about the philosophy behind the law, and I think you'll find it to be reminiscent.

First, the law assumes that every child can learn, and therefore expects every child to learn. We've increased federal spending and now, for the -- at the federal level, primarily for Title I students, many of whom would be -- go to your schools, if they went to the -- would be eligible for this program if they went to public schools, many of your students would be eligible for this program. But in return we now expect results. See, we believe every child can learn and, therefore, we're saying to states, you must measure to show us whether a child has learned to read and write and add and subtract. And if not, let's solve the problem early, before it's too late.

In other words, we've introduced accountability into the system for the first time, insisted upon accountability. And then said, let's have enough money available to correct problems. And so now the states must test regularly, every year. And if the curriculum isn't working, you change it. And if it is working, there will be plenty of praise. If the math programs aren't working, change them. Because we now expect results. Because like the Catholic schools, we believe in the worth of every child. We're challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations by raising the standard and refusing to accept the status quo when our children are not learning.

We've also done something different as well. We've insisted that these schools post results. It's an interesting phenomena to see a parent react when the expectation isn't met for a public school. In other words, everything may be fine, and all of a sudden the test scores are revealed and, oops, my school is not doing like I thought it was doing and, therefore, I, a parent, should become more involved in my child's school when I see failure.

But even beyond that, we've begun introducing to the system for the first time at the federal law the capacity to take federal money and spend that money in the private sector to get special tutorials. In other words, if a child is trapped in a school which is failing and won't change, after a reasonable period of time, there is some money that follows the child and the child can take that money, the parent can take that money and get his or her child additional tutoring -- at a public facility, private charity or at a Catholic school.

And so all of a sudden the No Child Left Behind Act not only demands accountability, but we've also started to empower parents to make additional choices for their child when the child is trapped into a school that won't change. And that includes, by the way, not only private tutoring but also additional public school, a different -- in other words, what we're trying to do is introduce parental involvement through accountability standards.

Parents, I believe -- and I believe we ought to expand this opportunity further, which we're trying to do here in Washington, D.C. And I want to describe to you right quick what this administration has done, where you can help a little bit in perhaps influencing the process, to begin what I think is a major reform.

As you know, the government is responsible for much of the education in Washington, D.C. And so working with people in Congress we decided to expand on the spirit of the No Child Left Behind Act and introduce school choice here in Washington. Under this program the federal government would provide what's called scholarships to low income families with children in under-performing schools -- these families whose children clearly need better choices; if you're going to an under-performing school, you need a better choice -- would receive a scholarship of up to $7,500, federal money, to help meet the cost of tuition at any school of the parents' choice, a private school or a Catholic school, for that matter.

I suspect that this program would have a lot of takers when we can get it funded, because I think some parents, any parent, regardless of his or her income status, wants the best for their child. And when they begin to feel like the school isn't meeting the child's needs, it's just natural that they be looking for an alternative. The Catholic school system here in D.C. provides a really good alternative. And the federal government is now willing to help fund that alternative.

The good news is education is a priority in D.C. The mayor, a good fellow and a strong leader, recognizes the advantages of having a school choice program. Mayor Tony Williams is a strong supporter of the initiative we put forth on Capitol Hill. The House passed a bill that provides $14 million for this $7,500 per child scholarship program. It is a part of the Senate omnibus bill -- that's what we call it, an omnibus bill -- that has yet to be passed. The omnibus bill contains a lot of other parts of the appropriations process. The Senate is getting ready to come back into town. For the sake of educational excellence and for the sake of trusting parents to make the right decision for their children -- for the sake, really, of helping to begin a change in education around the country, for the sake of helping the Catholic schools in the D.C. area fulfill their mission, meet their obligation and to continue doing the excellent work they're doing, the Senate needs to pass this bill and make school choice in Washington, D.C., a reality.

I want to build on this vital reform. I'm going to ask Congress to provide $50 million new dollars in this year's budget for what we call a national choice incentive fund. The program would award federal grants to communities and organizations that help students, especially those from low income families and those trapped in under-performing schools, to find a better education; become seed money for additional programs like the D.C. choice program I just described to you.

The initiative has a simple goal, yet it's a profound goal, to help more parents to send their children to the school that is best for them, no matter what kind of school it is. When parents have more control over their children's education, children have a better chance to learn, schools have a better incentive to improve.

Much of what is behind the No Child Left Behind Act, the spirit and the philosophy of the No Child Left Behind Act came from the examples set by the Catholic schools. It's a sense of what is possible. It is a sense that everybody has worth, that each soul matters. And, therefore, we will not accept systems that just shuffle people through.

Everyone involved in the National Catholic Education Association can look back with pride over 100 years of excellence. And that's what we're here to celebrate today, 100 years of excellence. You are serving God by serving our children. You are making America a stronger and more compassionate country, one child at a time. Congratulations and thank you.

AIDS in Africa and the Catholic Church 

I'll try to stay off my soapbox today about the ravages of AIDS in Africa being the greatest underreported humanitarian disaster of the new millenium. I've gone on and on several times before about what a scourge this disease is on the continent of Africa, and how the media in the U.S. seems to be sweeping it under the rug. While solutions to the crisis are not simple or clear-cut, I think most of us can agree that much more needs to be done to help those affected by it.

Today, the Catholic News Service reports that the Vatican is embarking on two new initiatives with the intention of bringing at least a little comfort and mercy to those suffering from the AIDS pandemic in Africa, particularly the orphans created by it.

Vatican announces two initiatives to help African AIDS orphans by Carol Glatz of the Catholic News Service.

From the article: "At the request of the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum', the Vatican's coordinating agency for Catholic charitable agencies, the Vatican post office issued a stamp dedicated to children with AIDS.

At a Vatican press conference Jan. 29, Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the council, said all proceeds from the sale of the stamp, which will sell for .45 euros, or about 56 cents, would be donated by Pope John Paul to a new project aimed at helping AIDS orphans in Kenya.

The Vatican also announced it was setting up a special bank account for Italian citizens to donate money for the project."

Best Editorial Cartoon of the Campaign 

This is by cartoonist Mike Keefe of The Denver Post, and was published originally on January 11, 2004. It illustrates nicely why I am disappointed greatly by Howard Dean's fade in the Democrat primary race, despite the fact that I wouldn't vote for the man for president if a gun was held to my head. If Dean isn't the Democrat nominee, the pure entertainment factor decreases tremendously.

Photo from http://www.portlanddiocese.net

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The Words Of The Bishop Of Portland 

Bishop Joseph J. Gerry, OSB, the retiring bishop of Portland, is a good leader but a very low-key and media-shy kind of guy. Consequently, there doesn't tend to be a lot of eloquent public pronouncements coming from him that are all that blogworthy. There was a notable exception recently, as Bishop Gerry addressed the hundreds who gathered at the "Hands Around the Capitol" rally in Augusta on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Here's what the bishop had to say.

"First let me say that I am pleased to be numbered among you today as we stand together, once again, in solidarity and in support of life from conception to natural death. It boggles the mind to think that millions and millions of babies have never seen the light of day, have never been able to exercise their choice because someone else chose to end their life. But as Pope John Paul has reminded us so often, “the slaughter of the innocents” is no less wrong or destructive simply because it is done in accord with man-made laws.

Before her death, Mother Teresa, now Blessed Mother Teresa, spoke to us Americans about abortion. She told us that as a society we are actually squeezing the human out of our people. She warned of the evil consequences that we shall inherit Abortion, she said, “kills not only the child but the very consciences of all involved. It leaves people with no center; it leaves people without the ability to judge the rightness or wrongness of their actions. It destroys human society.” For me too, the killing of the human conscience is without doubt one of the worst side effects of the Supreme Court’s decision.

We must never forget. There is such a thing as truth. There is such a thing as right and wrong. Again as Pope John Paul has stated unambiguously: “Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery.” I am convinced that a society that loses its point of reference to God, loses its very soul and its way. The history of the 20th century clearly demonstrated this.

For all that you do in the name of life; I thank you and praise you. We need now to work together to create a civilization that acknowledges and respects the dignity and sacredness of life, a civilization that is in awe with the Giver of life, and in love with the marvelous gift of life itself.

Photo from http://www.portlanddiocese.net

Let us pray:

Father in heaven, giver of all life and of all good things, we praise you the source of all we are and have, and the goal of all creation.

We beg you to look with kindness on all here present: continue your providential care of them; sustain them as they proclaim the dignity and sacredness of human life. Father we also plead with you to open the minds and hearts of all to your truth and wisdom.

We acknowledge that you have entrusted us with the awesome duty to respect and protect the sacredness of all life especially the lives of the most vulnerable and defenseless. May your vision of life become known and loved and respected.

Through the gift of your Spirit assist all citizens in coming to know the truth about you and life, for only in the truth will they come to be free and work toward building a society based on truth and justice and liberty for all.

As always we ask you to hear our prayer in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen."

The Thin Line 

Border access sought by father, son to reach isolated house in Maine from the Bangor (ME) Daily News.

It seems that the Department of Homeland Security is implementing a system that meets a 1986 law requiring people enter the U.S. only through staffed and open border ports and stations, according to a department official. Consequently, cement barricades have been placed on the road between the town of Lake Frontier in Quebec and Township 12 Range 17 in Maine to block the unmanned port of entry.

Lead: When Camille Beaulieu, 87, turned off the electricity to his remote Maine home, he couldn't legally check to see that the electricity actually was turned off. That's because the electricity box is in Canada, while his house is in Maine.

"My father shut the power off, but to be legal, he couldn't [walk across the border to] see if the electricity was literally off," Beaulieu's son, Barry Beaulieu, 47, said recently.

"You'd have to drive 60 miles all the way around to see if the lights were off."

Also from the article: When the Beaulieus still lived in the house, they typically crossed the border several times a day for food and other necessities, church services and social events. Canadian residents crossed the border into the unorganized township to provide personal care services in the Beaulieus' home.

Now, because of the barricades, whenever they leave Lake Frontier for their home, the father and son have to drive 60 miles over poorly maintained woods roads instead of the 500 yards from the border to their home.

This is a tricky situation. I have always been a strong advocate for the goverment staying the heck out of our lives as much as possible, and what these men are dealing with is silly. On the other hand, given the threat of international terrorism, I do feel that the government has a responsibility to be sure that our borders are secure. There must be some way they can figure out a way to grant border crossing access in this unusual situation while still maintaining the integrity of the border's security.

A mounted closed-circuit camera trained on the woods road in question, a required phone call to the Border Patrol prior to crossing the border and a regularly scheduled check-in with Border Patrol agents maybe?

Ayuh, It's Been Wicked Quiet Downeast This Winter 

From the "Uniquely Maine" file: Rescue of stranded seal in Addison 'biggest thing to happen all winter' from the Bangor (ME) Daily News.

Somebody wire those people for cable TV!

Didn't Wile E. Coyote Try This On The Roadrunner Once? 

Giant Snowball Stops Train in Its Tracks from Reuters via Yahoo News.

I'm not at all condoning this action due to the obvious dangers and illegalities, but as a kid, isn't this something you would have loved to have accomplished?

Devoutly I Adore Thee (Adoro te devote) 

This fairly well-known prayer, popular during Eucharistic adoration, is originally attributed to the pen of Saint Thomas Aquinas, translated to English by E. Caswall.

O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore Thee,
Who truly art within the forms before me;
To Thee my heart I bow with bended knee,
As failing quite in contemplating Thee.

Sight, touch, and taste in Thee are each deceived;
The ear alone most safely is believed:
I believe all the Son of God has spoken,
Than Truth's own word there is no truer token.

God only on the Cross lay hid from view;
But here lies hid at once the Manhood too;
And I, in both professing my belief,
Make the same prayer as the repentant thief.

Thy wounds, as Thomas saw, I do not see;
Yet Thee confess my Lord and God to be:
Make me believe Thee ever more and more;
In Thee my hope, in Thee my love to store.

O thou Memorial of our Lord's own dying!
O Bread that living art and vivifying!
Make ever Thou my soul on Thee to live;
Ever a taste of Heavenly sweetness give.

O loving Pelican! O Jesu, Lord!
Unclean I am, but cleanse me in Thy Blood;
Of which a single drop, for sinners spilt,
Is ransom for a world's entire guilt.

Jesu! Whom for the present veil'd I see,
What I so thirst for, O vouchsafe to me:
That I may see Thy countenance unfolding,
And may be blest Thy glory in beholding. Amen.

Today Is The Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas 

One of the Catholic Church's great thinkers, Thomas Aquinas, is remembered on the Church calendar today. Here's a little about him, from Catholic-Forum.com's Patron Saints Index:

Thomas was the son of the Count of Aquino, born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples. Educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples, he secretly joined the medicant Dominican friars in 1244. Thomas' noble family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight, and attempted to "deprogram" him, but he rejoined his order in 1245.

He studied in Paris from 1245-1248 under Saint Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne. Thomas was ordained in 1250, and then returned to Paris to teach. He taught theology at University of Paris, and wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard's Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and proceeded to teach in several Italian cities. Thomas was recalled by king and university to Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the "Summa Theologica".

On December 6, 1273, he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons with his health broken by overwork.

His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. Thomas Aquinas was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.

Among Thomas Aquinas' patronages are: academics, against storms, against lightning, apologists, book sellers, Catholic academies, Catholic schools, Catholic universities, chastity, colleges, learning, pencil makers, philosophers, publishers, scholars, schools, students, theologians, universities, and the University of Vigo.

This is Catholic Schools Week, and Thomas Aquinas is patron of Catholic Schools. I can't help but wonder if the timing of Catholic Schools Week is intended to coincide with Thomas' memorial.

Photo from catholic-forum.com
St. Thomas Aquinas, Pray for Us

It's Kerry In The Granite State 

By now, you probably already know that Senator John Kerry of the People's Republic of Massachusetts won the New Hampshire presidential primary last night. One wonders if Kerry's profile being so similar to that of the now-defunct New Hampshire icon "The Old Man of the Mountain" may have inspired some Granite Staters to give him the nod.

Here are the results, for those of you have been asleep through it all:

1. John Kerry 38% (winning 13 delegates, big time front-runner status, and a lozenge)

2. Howard Dean 26% (winning 9 delegates and a bottle of Prozac)

3. Wesley Clark 12% (winning no delegates, but the satisfaction of squeaking past John Edwards)

4. John Edwards 12% (winning no delegates, but receiving some nice hair products)

5. Joseph Lieberman 9% (winning no delegates, but receiving a sympathetic phone call from his friend ALF)

6. Dennis Kucinich 1% (winning no delegates, but receiving the phone number of a lady in Keene who would like to meet him)

7. Al Sharpton 0% (winning no delegates, but receiving a year's supply of Rice-A-Roni "The San Francisco Treat", and some other fine parting gifts)

I have to admit, I am kind of disappointed that Howard Dean didn't mount a comeback, or that the race in general was a bit closer. At this point, it looks like John Kerry is going to coast through the rest of the primaries, and much of the suspense and drama will be gone. Dean has reportedly rearranged some of his top strategists, and I hope it keeps the life in what has been an interesting campaign to this point. We haven't had a real horserace running through primary season in a long, long time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Even More Catholic Trivia 

Focusing on food & drink again, from http://www.st-ignatius-loyola.com:

Thank a Catholic for Champagne! It was invented by accident when Dom Perignon, a 17th century Benedictine monk from the Champagne region of France, began stuffing corks into the bottles of wine produced at his abbey. Unlike traditional cloth rag stoppers, which allowed carbon dioxide to escape, corks were airtight and caused bubbles to form. Amazingly, Dom Perignon thought the bubbles were a sign of poor quality - and devoted his entire life to removing them; but he never succeeded. King Louis XIV took such a liking to champagne that he began drinking it exclusively; thanks to his patronage, by the 1700s champagne was a staple of French cuisine.

A Catholic monk may have been responsible for inventing it, but don't hold him or the Church accountable if you overdo it with the bubbly, especially the morning after. That's your responsibility.

These Things Do Tend To Come In Threes 

The other day it was the passing of Captain Kangaroo, Bob Keeshan.
Today comes news of the death of Johnny Carson's predecessor on The Tonight Show, Jack Paar.
Who will be number three?

I just pray that the celebrity body count isn't as high in 2004 as it was in 2003.

It's Cold 

How cold is it, you ask?

Pelicans Suffer Frostbite in Va. Cold Snap from the Associated Press via Yahoo News.

Now that's pretty cold, but you know it's really cold when the penguins get frostbite.

Full Text of the Pope's Greeting to Vice-President Cheney 

Also from good old Zenit.org

Mr. Vice President,

I am pleased to welcome you and your family to the Vatican and to receive the cordial greetings which you bring from President Bush.

The American people have always cherished the fundamental values of freedom, justice and equality. In a world marked by conflict, injustice and division, the human family needs to foster these values in its search for unity, peace and respect for the dignity of all.

I encourage you and your fellow-citizens to work, at home and abroad, for the growth of international cooperation and solidarity in the service of that peace which is the deepest aspiration of all men and women.

Upon you and all the American people I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

Photo from CNN.com

The Pontiff and The Veep 

Pope Meets Cheney and Asks International Cooperation for Peace from Zenit.org.

The Holy Father and Cheney met privately for a brief while, and then a ceremony was held, where speeches were made, gifts were exchanged, and photos were taken. What the pope and the vice-president talked about has not been specificially disclosed, the papal spokesman said John Paul's central message to him made reference to the responsibility of the United States. We can surmise that the discussion was similar in content to Cheney's later meetings with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for relations with states.

From the article: "During the course of the conversations there was an exchange of opinions on the international situation, with special attention to the peace process in the Middle East and to developments in the situation in Iraq," Joaquín Navarro-Valls, director of the Vatican press office said.

There "was also an examination of the moral and religious problems that touch upon the life of states, especially relative to the defense and promotion of life, the family, solidarity and religious freedom," the Vatican spokesman said in his statement.

(As far as I can tell, no breakdancing was done by anyone at the Vatican during today's meetings, although Mr. Cheney is rumored to have been quoted as saying that he'd like to, quote "do some poppin' an' lockin' for his homeboy JP2". Mrs. Cheney is said to have discouraged this inclination.)

Monday, January 26, 2004

Axl Dean? 

Special thanks to Pete Vere at Catholic Light for pointing out Deangoesnuts.com. It's a hilarious site that takes Howard Dean's post-Iowa caucus "I Have a Scream" speech and twists it into even more bizarre forms. Pete points out that the speech, its cadence and timing are eerily in synch with Guns-n-Roses' Welcome to the Jungle. If you want some chuckles, check it out!

By the way, am I the only who Howard Dean reminds of a burned-out junior high school teacher who hates his job and kids? I think he's the same guy who taught phys. ed. in my hometown in the mid-1980s.

Josh over at Saint Some Days blog has a knack for finding and posting satirical photos that make me laugh to the point of needing to visit the rest room. This is his best find yet!

Photo from NASA/JPL/Cornell <br />

Postcards From Mars 

Photo from NASA/JPL/Cornell 
<br />
A color image of the Opportunity Rover's landing site on Mars.

Opportunity has landed in a crater, and hits scientific jackpot with views of first rock outcrop ever seen on Mars.

Outlook improves as engineers currently believe that software "file management" problems may be source of Spirit's troubles.

For more information, go to NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission Homepage.

Whatever Floats Your Boat 

Even by Maine standards, it has been downright COLD this winter, presenting a challenge for many Mainers. For few have the challenges been greater than for those who live year-round on their small boat, moored in Portland Harbor. The Portland (ME) Press Herald newspaper has an interesting article about these people, which I thought had a "uniquely Maine" flair. Check it out here: Floating though winter

This quote from one of the subjects of the article sums up the "why" of it all rather nicely: "Everyone gets cabin fever. But in the middle of July, when the grandkids are here and everyone's out on deck and enjoying themselves, it's like, what winter?"

The Story Is Okay, But It's The Headline That's A Real Attention-Grabber 

Elvis, Castro Visit Last Saddam Hideout from the Associated Press via Yahoo News.

THIS, On The Other Hand, HAS Gotten Secular Media Coverage 

Break-Dancers Perform for the Pope from the Associated Press via Yahoo News.

AP Photo/Osservatore Romano, HO

Maybe if Vice-President Cheney spun on his head on the marble floor, his visit to the Vatican would get on the news.

High-Level Stuff, Scarcely Covered 

Pope-Cheney meeting comes as U.S.-Vatican rebuild relationship from Catholic News Service.

This meeting has not been mentioned in the secular media at all, to my knowledge. It is expected that the meetings between the U.S. vice-president and the pope and his officials will focus mainly on combatting terrorism and rebuilding Iraq.

In the shadow of the New Hampshire presidential primary, I doubt we'll hear much about the outcome of these meetings in the secular media. I'll do what I can to root out some news about it from other sources when it becomes available.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Catholic Schools Week, January 24-31, 2003 

This is Catholic Schools Week, a week which I remember being a big celebration when I was a parochial school student years ago. It was during this week that opwn house programs were held to attract kindergarteners and transfer students for the following school year, the school's winter carnival was held, and a special Mass was celebrated in thanksgiving for the special gift of our school.

I consider myself very fortunate for having been afforded a Catholic education, though I didn't realize how lucky I was at the time. There is no doubt that I benefit from the results of my Catholic education every single day.

Though my old school is no longer open, there are still 21 Catholic schools (and one Catholic college) doing great works every day here in Maine. They are:

St. Dominic Regional High School, Auburn

St. Peter & Sacred Heart School, Auburn

St. Augustine School, Augusta

St. Mary's School, Augusta

All Saints School, Bangor

St. James School, Biddeford

St. John School, Brunswick

Holy Cross School, Lewiston

St. Joseph School, Lewiston

St. Agnes School, Pittsfield

Cathedral School, Portland

Cheverus Preparatory High School, Portland

McAuley Preparatory High School, Portland

St. Joseph School, Portland

St. Patrick School, Portland

Ss. Athanansius & John School, Rumford

Notre Dame de Lourdes School, Saco

St. Thomas School, Sanford

Holy Cross School, South Portland

Mount Merici School, Waterville

St. John the Baptist School, Winslow

St. Joseph College, Standish

If you are looking for more information on Catholic education in the state of Maine (there have been lots of search hits on that topic here lately), I would suggest this link to the Diocese of Portland's website.

Saints Ursula and Thomas Aquinas, patron saints of Catholic Schools, pray for our schools, their students, teachers, and administrators.

Hey Officer! Can You Pass the Doritos, Man? 

Fumes Force Cops to Leave Work from the Associated Press via Yahoo News.

Lead: "The fumes from several tons of marijuana stored in an Israeli police station were so strong that officers had to leave their work place."

No wonder they couldn't keep the snack machine filled lately!

The Men Who Would Be President: Gay Marriage Positions 

Again, I report, you decide.

Wesley Clark (D)--Backs civil unions with full rights; leave "marriage" label for states

Howard Dean (D)--No public position, but opposes DOMA and backs civil unions

John Edwards (D)--Leave same-sex marriage to states; supports partnership benefits

John Kerry (D)--Against gay marriage, backs benefits, rights for gay couples

Dennis Kucinich (D)--Backs same-sex marriages, with all economic benefits

Joe Lieberman (D)--Opposes same-sex marriage; supports domestic partnership laws

Al Sharpton (D)--Backs marriage rights for gays

George W. Bush (R)--Opposes extending marriage rights to gay men, lesbians

SOURCE: http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/index.html

The Men Who Would Be President: Abortion Positions 

I report, you decide.

Wesley Clark (D)--Supports abortion

Howard Dean (D)--Supports abortion

John Edwards (D)--Supports abortion

John Kerry (D)--Supports abortion; planning resources

Dennis Kucinich (D)--Supports abortion

Joe Lieberman (D)--Supports abortion

Al Sharpton (D)--Supports abortion

George W. Bush (R)--Opposes abortion, except cases of rape, incest or to save woman's life

SOURCE: http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/index.html

A Slowly Spreading Movement? 

Madison Bishop Backs Burke on Pro-Abortion Politicians: Wisconsin Prelate Agrees With Denying Them Holy Communion from Zenit.org.

If practing Catholic, pro-abortion politicians in the U.S. haven't started worrying yet, it's high time they started, methinks. More importantly, as Catholics seeking office for the first time in 2004 start out on the campaign trail, they ought to make certain that they are running on what they truly believe when it comes to abortion, and not merely on the position that will earn them the most votes.

Results of Last Week's Poll on the Masons and the Catholic Church 

The question was: "In general, do you think today's Masons as an organization still hold the anti-Catholic sentiments attributed to the Masons of the 1800s?"

The results:

*Yes, though their anti-Catholicism is much diminished. (53.3%)

*Yes, nothing has changed. (33.3%)

*No, they've changed their organizational beliefs entirely. (13.3%)

*No, because they weren't anti-Catholic then and they aren't now. (0.0%)

For the first time in a while, I voted with the majority. I don't think the Masons are as actively and overtly anti-Catholic as they once were, but I think the sentiments are still there in the background, and probably more prevalent behind their closed doors. I also feel that their reduced anti-Catholic stance is not of their own choosing, but the result of the pressure from western society over the past century as outward discrimination against religious groups has become increasingly taboo. They changed their tack in order to avoid being lumped in the the Ku Klux Klan and others of that ilk.

I don't think that most members of the Masons are Catholic-haters, but I think the tenets that are written in the organization's doctrines still bear an anti-Catholic stance. Mind you, this is based on extrapolation from my own knowledge of fraternal organizations in general, and not from any specific research on the Masons of today in particular.

Let us pray that if their beliefs do indeed still hold anti-Catholic sentiments, they will soon eliminate them.

Standard disclaimer: This is not a scientific poll, just a snapshot of the sentiments of visitors to this blog in the past week who have chosen to take part. You may only vote once from a given computer, and neither the polling service nor I can track the origins of votes.

They've Already Discovered a Construction Site for a new Wal Mart 

Things seem to be going swimmingly up on Mars, as NASA's second rover "Opportunity" landed successfully on the red planet just after midnight. It's twin, "Spirit", was having some very worrisome moments earlier in the week, but NASA is now reporting that it has a handle on the problems and is working to fix them. This is much more promising than the diagnosis for some other recent Mars exploration failures, most notably the British "Beagle" probe, which just disappeared on the Martian surface on Christmas Day.

Some links for space enthusasts (geeks?) like me:

Spirit Condition Upgraded As Twin Rover Nears Mars from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

First Images Of Opportunity Site Show Bizarre Landscape, also from the Jet Propulsion Lab.

Raw Photgraphic Image from "Opportunity" Rover:
Image from http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov
I don't know what it is either, but it's cool.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

New Feature! 

In the sidebar, you'll notice that I've added a general discussion message board for this weblog. It's wide open for discussion of postings, polls, related issues, or tangents that flare in your mind when you visit. Assent and dissent are equally welcome. The only rule for the discussion board is to be mature, civil and polite. Don't write anything that you wouldn't say in mixed company. I'd really like to see some dialogue and maybe a even a little community grow in the M.C. & B. message board.

Change Is Good 

I was getting way tired of the orange melieu of this blog (blue is my color anyhow), and it was having major trouble loading in its entirity lately too, so I decided to go with a new template. The font is larger and easier on the eyes, although I can see that formatting my text so it looks okay will take some practice.

At any rate, I would encourage you to repost any comments you have made on the current postings. The feedback I get from you, the readers, in the comments and the polls is a big part of what makes it so enjoyable for me to blog.

Today is the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales 

The following comes directly from the excellent http://www.catholicculture.org.

St. Francis de Sales image from http://www.catholicculture.org
St. Francis de Sales, Pray for Us

Francis was born on August 21, 1567, and ordained to the priesthood in 1593. From 1594 to 1598 he labored at the difficult and dangerous task of preaching to the Protestants of Chablais and effected the return of some 70,000 souls to the Catholic faith. In 1602 he became bishop of Genf. His zeal for souls is attested in 21,000 extant letters and 4,000 sermons which exemplify how he applied St. Paul's words: "I have become all things to all men." You may epitomize his character in two words, kindliness and lovableness — virtues that were the secret of his success. His writings reflect his kindheartedness and sweet disposition.

Most widely known is the saint's Introduction to the Devout Life , which, with the Imitation of Christ, is rightly considered the finest outline of Christian perfection. Francis' introduction proves to the world that true piety makes persons amiable, lovable and happy. A renowned and holy friendship existed between him and St. Frances de Chantal. In cooperation with her he founded the Visitation Nuns in 1610. Out of love for his own poor diocese, he refused opportunities for advancement, including the cardinalate. In recognition of the Introduction and his other writings, Francis has been declared a doctor of the Church.

How Francis developed a gentle and amiable disposition is a story in itself; he was not born a saint. By nature his temperament was choleric, fiery; little was needed to throw him into a state of violent anger. It took years before he mastered his impatience, his unruly temper. Even after he became bishop, there were slips, as for instance, when some one rang a bell before he had finished preaching. The important point, of course, is that by constant perseverance he did in time attain perfect self-mastery. Wherein lies a lesson. —The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Patron: diocese of Baker, Oregon; archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio; Catholic press; diocese of Columbus, Ohio; confessors; deaf people; deafness; diocese of Wilmington, Delaware; educators; journalists; writers.

Symbols: Bald man with a long beard wearing a bishop's robes holding a book, heart pierced with thorns or picture of the Virgin.

The Legacy of Captain Kangaroo, Bob Keeshan 

On MSNBC.com today, freelance writer Linda Holmes has written the best tribute to the late Bob Keeshan I have seen or heard so far. Her thoughts encapsulize for me the man's charm and impact on generations of children. If Captain Kangaroo touched your life at all, I would strongly urge you to read it here: Captain, My Captain: The late Bob Keeshan knew that sometimes kids just need to laugh

A couple of excerpts:
"'Captain Kangaroo' was about a good, trustworthy adult who told jokes, brought friends over, and didn’t think you were boring just because you were too little to tie your shoes."

"I miss the joyful idleness and effortlessness. The guy had shaggy hair and a funny mustache, and for lack of a more fully PhD-vetted phrase, he hung out. Sure, he read books, but sometimes, he was just there to play with you. There’s a time for learning, after all, and there’s a time to have ping-pong balls dropped on your head."

Friday, January 23, 2004

I'll Need To Upgrade My Visa Gold Card For This 

Victor Lams over at the Et Cetera blog has discovered that there is an actual, honest-to-goodness 1944 British Colossus Class Aircraft Carrier up for bid on EBay from a seller right here in Maine. You don't believe me? The link to the EBay page is right here, check it out for yourself.

Minimum bid: $7,000,000. I wonder if that comes with a trailer with which to tow it to the lake? My friends would be way jealous if they saw me tooling around in that!

Things I Learned BEFORE It Was Too Late, Installment #1 

If you have a weblog hosted by Blogger, go into your template and "copy and paste" the entire thing into your word processor and SAVE IT! This will save you a lot of grief later on, especially if you are a blog tweaker like me.

Think Twice Before Shooing Your Little One Back to Bed 

Paul Harvey read this story on his program the other day as I was listening during lunch, and I found it online here from the Associated Press via Yahoo News : N.Y. Burglar Was No Monster in the Closet.

Luckily, no one was hurt and it has a happy ending. I laughed out loud when I heard it. Give it a read and I bet you will too.

Rest in Peace, Captain 

One of the greatest influences on my education prior to entering school was television. Fortunately, I was a preschooler in an era when there was not nearly as much competition or commercialization in children's programming, so in general the quality was higher. I was also lucky enough to have parents who monitored carefully what I was viewing. There were four daily programs that I watched without fail from my earliest recollection until I was around seven years old: Captain Kangaroo every morning (when CBS had something worth watching during the breakfast hour, remember?), and the PBS triumvirate of Sesame Street , Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and The Electric Company in the afternoons. There is no question in my mind that my regular viewership of these programs was partly responsible for giving me a strong educational footing as I began my formal schooling.

Of course, Fred Rogers passed away last year at about this time, and today comes word that Bob Keeshan, the man known to millions of Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers as Captain Kangaroo has died at the age of 76 following a long illness.

One of the things I admire most about both Bob Keeshan and Fred Rogers is that they were truly in tune to the developmental and emotional needs of their young viewers. They put children ahead of commercial interests, and millions of us benefitted from it. Off screen, these men were fierce advocates for the emotional needs of young children, and strongly condemned the direction that society in general and children's television programming in particular had taken in recent years. Children could not have asked for stronger advocates in the public forum than Bob Keeshan and Fred Rogers. One could clearly see Christ in the words and actions of Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers.

Among my fondest memories of the Captain Kangaroo program are from its incarnation in the early to mid-70s. Remember the Captain getting tricked and the result being hundreds of ping-pong balls falling on his head? I've never seen a ping-pong ball without thinking of that. I also fondly recall Keeshan's narration of classic children's books on the show (a forerunner of the idea that made Reading Rainbow such a success later) , with Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day standing out most in my mind. Remember the animated Simon shorts, which were done in chalk, as I recall? And of course, there were the supporting characters, like Mr. Green Jeans, Baxter, Painter, Bunny, and my favorite, Mr. Moose.

Captain Kangaroo image from http://www.austinchronicle.com

The full story of Bob Keeshan's passing can be found here: Bob Keeshan, Captain Kangaroo, Dies at 76 from the Associated Press via Yahoo News . May his soul rest in the peace of God's arms. He will be missed.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

So Did He Say It Or Not, For Pete's Sake?!?! 

Peggy Noonan writes about whether the Pope did or did not say "It is as it was" after viewing Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ , and the controversy swirling around the quote.

In my view, it's the "keystone cops approach" to addressing the media that Curia bureaucrats and other members of the hierachy have taken since the pope himself has been infirm that makes it harder and harder for many of us to believe with any degree of certainty any statements that come out of Vatican City unless they come directly from the mouth of JPII himself.

Either the Vatican needs to keep to its long-standing policy of tight-lipped secrecy when dealing with the press, or just open up to the media entirely. This "secrecy one moment, candor the next" approach is just confusing everybody.

Maybe it's time for Joaquin Navarro-Valls to step aside in favor of someone more savvy in dealing effectively with the modern media?

John McCain is America's Greatest Politician 

In my opinion, the greatest political leader in America today is Sen. John McCain of Arizona. He's nobody's lapdog, quite the maverick, and rejuvenated my Republicanism during his 2000 primary run. I would vote for him over President Bush today if I had to make the choice. He is about the only person I would choose above "W." for president.

Sen. McCain has spoken out against the FY '04 Omnibus Spending Bill before Congress on the Senate floor as only he can, and has issued this excellent statement on his website.

Some excerpts:
"Mr. President, here we go again. Another omnibus appropriations bill - and this one really takes the cake. Obviously the New Year’s Eve parties didn’t end for Congress on January 1st. We’re on a spending bender and this bill proves it."

"It appears that the big spenders in Washington have all but stolen the credit card numbers of every hard-working taxpayer in America and gone on a limitless spending spree for parochial, pork-barrel projects, leaving the taxpayers to pay and pay. These big spenders view the federal budget as a virtual shopping mall where they can buy their way to re-election. Please join me as we walk through this shopping mall. On the right we have $1.8 million for exotic pet disease research in California. On our left you’ll find $50 million for an indoor rainforest in Iowa, and directly in front of us, you can see $250,000 to build an amphitheater at a park in Illinois. It’s high time that we put an end to this rampant “theft.” I’m sorry to have to call it theft - but that’s how I see the situation - the sum of these political indulgences is enormous and growing and amounts to the theft of our future and the theft of our economic recovery."

"Mr. President, there is over $11 billion in unrequested, unauthorized, run-of-the-mill pork projects contained in the 1,182 pages of this conference report. Let’s go through some of the more interesting provisions:

• $200,000 to the West Oahu campus of the University of Hawaii to produce the “Primal Quest” film documentary.

• $225,000 to the Wheels Museum in New Mexico.

• $450,000 for the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center in Ohio.

• $100,000 to the State Historical Society of Iowa in Des Moines for the development of the World Food Prize.

• $200,000 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, for the Rockin' the Schools education program.

• $1 million for Mormon cricket suppression in Utah.

• $450,000 for an Alaska Statehood celebration.

• $225,000 for a Hawaii statehood celebration.

• $175,000 to a city in Missouri for the painting of a mural on a flood wall.

• $225,000 to Traverse City, Michigan, for the restoration of an Opera House.

• $250,000 for the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.

• $200,000 to the Town of Guadalupe, Arizona, for the construction and renovation of a shopping center.

• $325,000 to the City of Salinas, California, for construction of a swimming pool.

• $100,000 to the city of Macon, Georgia, for the renovation of the Coca-Cola building.

• $100,000 to the City of Atlanta for the renovation of Paschal’s restaurant and motel.

• $900,000 to an economic development association in Idaho to continue the implementation of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial commemoration plan.

• $175,000 to the City of Detroit for the design and construction of a zoo.

• $238,000 to the National Wild Turkey Federation. Speaking of Wild Turkey - you almost need a bottle of it in order to swallow the lack of fiscal discipline in this bill.

• $200,000 for the City of North Pole, Alaska, for recreation improvements. I guess Santa had a tough year and the elves need a little help from the American taxpayer.

• $100,000 for restoration of the Jefferson County Courthouse Clock Tower in Washington State. I’m sure that this is a beautiful clock tower, but probably not what most taxpayers have in mind when they think of economic development, as this project is characterized.

• $220,000 to the Blueberry Hill Farm in Maine for renovations. For $220,000, I can only presume that somebody will be getting their thrill on Blueberry Hill!

While many of these projects may sound comical, they illustrate a badly broken system in need of serious and comprehensive reform."

Well said, Senator McCain! I am proud that one of my own senators, Maine Republican Olympia Snowe, along with Colorado Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell stood up with Sen. McCain against this bloated spending bill. I don't want to pay more taxes than I have to, and I want the ones I do pay to be spent with care.

Image from http://www.jedinet.com
John McCain for President in 2008! May the Force Be With Him!

Disclaimer on Advertisements on this Blog and in the Comments Boxes 

I am cheap. Yep. It runs in the family, I guess. Both the hosting site for this weblog and the commenting system are "free" versions. I use the word free in quotations because nothing in life is really free. The tradeoff is that the providers place their ads in the blog and the comments box. The ads are usually related to some key words found in the postings, however they are not always taken in context. For example, imagine my chagrin upon seeing a "Howard Dean for President" ad at the top of my blog the day after I posted a serious fisking of the mad doctor.

I have no control over the ads that appear at the top of this blog or the new ones that appear as links in the comments boxes. (Links I support are found in the sidebar.) Most of the time, the ads placed by outside sources here are fine, but sometimes they are not. Therefore, I do not endorse any of the outside ads, and caution you to approach them at your own risk. (Especially the Dean 2004 ads!)

Embattled Catholic School In Louisiana Causes Tensions 

There's been a battle going on in Labadieville, Louisiana, where a parish is split over their pastor's attempts to close their small parish school. It came to a head on January 6, when the Rev. Keun Lee of St. Philomena's Parish summarily fired principal Toni Hare. Hare said Lee walked into her office and read a statement saying her contract had been terminated. Lee added that Hare could either resign or be fired.

Hare chose not to resign and Lee fired her, giving her 20 minutes to pack her belongings and leave the premises.

Hare said that no specific reason for her dismissal was given by Lee, but she believed it had something to do with her determination to keep the school open and his desire to close it.

The Baton Rouge Diocese unanimously voted last Thursday afternoon to reinstate fired St. the fired principal Toni Hare and later in the day voted that the school had met criteria for staying open next year.

School officials said that the school had 133 students pre-registered for 2004-2005, which met the minimum requirement of 130. They added that the school had a $3,000 budget surplus to comply with the diocese’s second requirement of having a balanced budget.

So it looks like little St. Philomena's School is safe for another year, but there is a very bad taste in the mouths of many in the parish. Due to the Rev. Lee’s decision to fire Hare and apparent attempts to shut down the school, some supporters of the school are planning to visit other churches for Mass while some say they will attend Mass at St. Philomena but not contribute money to the church.

The closure of the parochial school I attended came in 1996, and was a terribly sad event. I pray that St. Philomena's will be able to continue its mission of providing a Catholic education to Labadieville's children for years to come, and I also pray for healing in the parish of St. Philomena's. I don't believe there are any "bad guys" here, just some strong differences of opinion.

You can read more about this situation at the following links from the Thibodaux
(LA) Daily Comet

Support St. Philomena School (11/21/03)

St. Philomena School’s future is uncertain (12/9/03)

Worried about school’s future (12/24/03)

School needs people’s support (1/5/04)

Deadline for school Thursday (1/7/04)

Principal’s firing angers parents (1/7/04)

Diocese hires Hare back as principal (1/9/04)

Some will not attend Mass (1/9/04)

Time is now for parish to heal (1/14/04)

Map from Yahoo Maps at http://maps.yahoo.com
Labadieville, Louisiana is represented by the red star on the map.

We've Got Spirit! Yes, We Do! We've Got Spirit, How 'Bout...oh, wait a minute. 

Mars 'Spirit' Rover Goes Unexpectedly Silent from Foxnews.com.

NASA calls it "a serious anomoly". That's governmentspeak for "deep doo-doo".

They think it's either a hardware problem or a software problem. NASA should have known better than to have loaded Windows XP on that thing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

A Question Thrown Out to Tolkien Readers 

I just finished reading Return of the King, even though I saw the movie several weeks ago. The chapter near the end entitled "The Scouring of the Shire" was intentionally left out of the movie by Peter Jackson (thank goodness, or the ending would have been even longer!), but reading it made me stop and wonder: Was Tolkien using this chapter as an allegory for the rise of Communism that followed World War II, or for the industrialization of the English countryside in the first half of the 20th Century? Any thoughts? I haven't found many people in my little corner of the world with whom I can discuss the allegorical aspects of LOTR in any depth, and I am just chomping at the bit to do so.


Report Says Internet Voting System Is Too Insecure to Use from the New York Times via The Drudge Report.

This is kind of interesting but it doesn't really surprise me at all. I think voting for public officials via the Internet is inevitable, but I am predicting that it won't become widespread until 2012 at the earliest. Technology moves very fast, but the security and general logistics of such a voting system is is a very, very tall order to fill.

People Really Steal Them On Purpose?!?! 

Hospitals Plead for Their Clothes Back from Reuters via Yahoo News.

Lead: "Western Canadian hospitals are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year as staff pilfer medical uniforms that have become a fashion statement thanks to U.S. television shows 'ER' and 'Scrubs', officials said. "

I always thought they looked like glorified pajamas. Would someone really want to wear them outside of a hospital or their bedroom?

Part Of A Growing Trend? 

Another US Bishop Warns Pro-Abortion Politicians from Cathnews.com.

Bishop Raymond Burke of Wisconsin proposed a ban on reception of Holy Eucharist by pro-abortion politicians, and now an Archbishop from Louisiana is giving a similar warning, though not taking it as far as Bishop Burke.

It should bring to mind Matthew 6:24 for Catholic politicians: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other."

If they are serving man by serving the will of God, and made it clear that they would be doing so by their stated positions in their election campaigns, then they shouldn't have any conflicts between their faith and their office.

Today is the Memorial of St. Agnes 

Today is also my niece's first birthday, and Agnes is the saint to whom I pray for intercession before God on her behalf. She is believed to have lived in the third century (St. Agnes that is, not my niece), and therefore any historical information about her is sketchy. I've gotten the fact that follow from the Patron Saints Index at Catholic-Forum.com.

At age 12 or 13 Agnes was ordered to sacrifice to pagan gods and lose her virginity. She was taken to a Roman temple to Minerva (Athena), and when led to the altar, she made the Sign of the Cross. (This did not go over well.) She was threatened and then tortured when she refused to turn against God. Apparently Agnes was quite beautiful, since several young men offered her their hand in marriage wihle she was in captivity. She said that to do so would be an insult to her heavenly Spouse. Agnes declared that she would keep her consecrated virginity intact, accept death, and see Christ.

Her end did indeed come as a martyr, though how exactly is unclear. Historians differ on whether Agnes was beheaded and burned, or tortured and stabbed to death, or stabbed in the throat in January of either 254 or 304 (sources vary) at Rome. She is buried beside the Via Nomentana in Rome

Agnes is mentioned in first eucharistic prayer. On her feast day two lambs are blessed at her church in Rome, and then their wool is woven into the palliums (bands of white wool) which the pope confers on archbishops as symbol of their jurisdiction.

Agnes is patroness of bodily purity, chastity, Children of Mary, Colegio Capranica of Rome, crops, engaged couples, gardeners, Girl Scouts, girls, rape victims, diocese of Rockville Centre in New York, and virgins.

Image of St. Agnes from http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints
St. Agnes, Pray for Us

TANGENTIAL SIDENOTE: Today is also the memorial of St. Lawdog. There are four churches in the diocese of Saint David's, Wales that are named for this 6th century saint. No information about him has survived, but he has a way cool name.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

News Like This Needs More Of The Spotlight 

Jews, Catholics Unite to Fight Anti-Semitism from the New York Daily News.

Lead: "Jewish and Catholic leaders from around the world gathered yesterday in Manhattan for a groundbreaking symposium with an ambitious goal: putting an end to growing anti-Semitism."

More News Out of Iowa 

DeWitt, Iowa to Get Catholic Radio Station from the Clinton (IA) Herald newspaper.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record: When do we in Maine get ours?

On Last Political Comment For Today 

PREDICTION- The day after Election Day 2004, all the political pundits are going to be saying a variation of the same thing: "The Democrats should have known there was no way they could win the White House with a northeastern liberal at the top of the ticket. They won't make that mistake in 2008."

Reasons Why Howard Dean Needs to Go Back to Vermont and Stay, Installment #3 

Plain and simple, the man is nuts. If you've seen a video clip of his post-caucus speech last night, you can't help but agree with me at least a little bit. Plus, that scream in the middle sounded an awful lot like Kermit the Frog. Twins separated at birth? I think Matt Drudge should look into it.

Who looks more presidential to you?

An article by Byron York on his unpresidential demeanor can be found here at National Review Online: Dean Loses It

"States of Stuff" 

Tonight, President George W. Bush will give his State of the Union speech to the nation, and Maine Governor John Baldacci will give his State of the State speech to Mainers. In the spirit of this, tonight I am hereby giving my State of Me speech:

(Open to wild applause and a standing ovation)

Thank you.
(More wild applause)

Thank you very much.
(Still more wild applause)

Ladies & gentlemen, honored guests, webbots, trolls, good evening.
(Applause dies off, people take their seats)

My feet have been hurting lately as the result of spending more time on my feet at work, but other than that and a little twinge in my back from shoveling off the deck yesterday, I'm feeling okay. The flu shot I got last fall seems to be holding, and I haven't even had a cold in as along as I can remember. My appetite is good, though I try not to overdo it. I could stand to lose a few pounds, and hope to start doing a little regular exercise, which ought to take care of it.

Spiritually, my faith is strong and my dedication to the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church is rock-solid. I attend Mass every weekend, every holyday, and go to daily Mass as often as I can. My prayer life is fruitful, rewarding and growing. Thanks be to God.
(Applause and standing ovation)

On the fiscal side, it could be better, but things are much improved from where they were this time last year. I am not adapting to being a corporate hack very well, and would jump ship if another, more rewarding opportunity came along, but for now, it pays the bills and keeps me busy.

Among my accomplishments in this past year are brokering a peace accord between the Israelis and Palestinians, single-handedly capturing Osama bin Laden and bringing him to justice, banning abortion, and leading the campaign that re-elected President Bush. I also went on a successful tour playing guitar with the Dave Matthews Band, and starred in the successful sequel to the hit film Pirates of the Carribbean.
(Scattered, half-hearted applause and much muttering and shaking of heads)

Oh, wait...those are my notes for NEXT YEAR'S speech. Sorry.

At any rate, the state of me is "fair to middlin'". Here's hoping it at least stays that way, and that it will hopefully get much better in the coming twelve months. God bless you, and God bless St. Blog's.
(Wild applause)

When You've Got That Many Clowns Piling Out Of A Car, Something Interesting Is Bound To Happen 

The Democrat race for the presidential nomination has become very much worth watching all of a sudden, at least for one interested in politics as I am. The unstoppable Howard Dean came in third in the Iowa caucuses, John Kerry actually won, John Edwards didn't blow it big time, and Dick Gephardt is out of the race. Wesley Clark and Joseph Lieberman are lying in wait back in New Hampshire, and Dennis Kucinich's campaign at least seems to be improving his love life. If only Al Sharpton would step up and do or say something typically looney, this would be world class entertainment.

I am a card-carrying member of the Elephant Party, though I have never been one to vote a straight ticket. In every political election, I hear out the candidates on their positions and choose the best man or woman. However, I can't imagine any circumstances that would cause me to abandon "W." in 2004. Nonetheless, I am fascinated by the process, and watch the primaries and caucuses of the Donkey Party with great interest. My biggest regret is that the candidate in the Democrat primary race that I think is the best of the lot, Sen. Lieberman, is not looking very strong.

Here's how it all shook out in Iowa last night:

*John Kerry: 38%
*John Edwards: 32% (I feel this is a bigger surprise than Kerry's win.)
*Howard Dean: 18%
*Dick Gephardt: 11% (Dropped out to look for his eyebrows.)
*Dennis Kucinich: 1% (and a date with a lovely lady from Sioux City)
*Al Sharpton: Two James Brown fans from Cedar Rapids and his cousin Phyllis
*Wesley Clark: Did not run
*Joe Lieberman: Did not run

On to New Hampshire, fellow political junkies!

Monday, January 19, 2004

Just a Question 

Is anyone else getting anti-Catholic tracts e-mailed to them lately by a "Ben Grimm"? Has anyone else put a spam filter on this creep? If not, why not?

Anyone who has read this blog for more than two days would know that a few spam e-mails are certainly not going to cause me to question the Faith that fills me entirely and sustains me from day to day.

Get a new hobby, Ben. Your pathetic e-mail blather is a waste of your time and bandwidth. What takes you half an hour to type takes me two seconds to delete.

The Pope and the Wedding at Cana 

This past Sunday's gospel reading was the story of Jesus first public miracle, turning water to wine at the wedding at Cana. For years, I took the story at face value, as merely the kick-off for His earthly ministry. When Pope John Paul II introduced the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary in 2002, the Wedding at Cana was included as one of them, and it caused me to contemplate it further. Still, I found it hard to get beyond the literal. Then I heard a reflection on the wedding at Cana by Pope John Paul in a homily he delivered at Knock, Ireland back in 1979, and that helped cast it into a new and brighter light for me.

That helpful reflection, I have since learned, reflects a theme he has carried throughout his pontificate. That being Mary's instructions to the waiters at the wedding banquet: "Do whatever He [Jesus] tells you." Pretty wise advice.

The excellent website Godspy has posted an excerpt from a similar homily the pope gave in Rio in 1997 as a means of elaborating on this past Sunday's gospel reading. I feel that Pope John Paul's wise words are worthy of meditation and deserve to be spread as far as possible, so I am reprinting them here.

Image from http://magnificat.ca

"Today the liturgy brings us to Cana in Galilee. Once again we participate in the wedding which is being celebrated there, and to which Jesus was invited together with his mother and the disciples. This detail makes us think that the wedding banquet took place in the home of his acquaintances, because Jesus too grew up in Galilee. Humanly speaking, who would ever have thought that such an occasion would, in a certain sense, have represented the beginning of his messianic activity? And yet this was the case. It was in fact there, at Cana, that Jesus, at his mother's request, worked his first miracle by transforming water into wine.

...The miracle worked at Cana in Galilee, like Jesus' other miracles, is a sign: it shows the action of God in human life. It is necessary to meditate on this action to discover the deepest meaning of what took place there.

The wedding banquet at Cana leads us to think about marriage, whose mystery includes the presence of Christ. May it not be legitimate to see the presence of the Son of God at that wedding feast as an indication that marriage should be an effective sign of his presence?

...As we read in the Book of Genesis, a man leaves his father and mother, and is joined to his wife in order, in a certain sense, to become one with her (cf. Gn 2:24). Christ drew on these Old Testament words in speaking to the Pharisees, who had asked him questions about the indissolubility of marriage. They were referring in fact to the prescriptions in the law of Moses which permitted, in certain cases, the separation of the spouses, that is to say, divorce. Christ replied to them: "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Mt 19:8). And he quoted the words of the Book of Genesis: "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one' So they are no longer two, but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mt 19:4-6).

Therefore at the basis of all social order we find this principle of the unity and indissolubility of marriage - the principle on which the institution of the family and of all family life is founded. This principle receives confirmation and new force from the elevation of marriage to the dignity of a sacrament.

And what great dignity, dear brothers and sisters! It is a participation in God's life, that is, sanctifying grace and the countless graces that correspond to the vocation of marriage, to being parents and to the vocation of the family.

The event at Cana in Galilee seems to lead us to this as well: that wonderful transformation of water into wine. So water, our most common drink, acquires a new character through Christ's action: it becomes wine, therefore a drink that is in a certain sense more valuable. The meaning of this symbol - the water and wine - finds its expression in Holy Mass. During the offertory, by adding a little water to the wine, we ask God, through Christ, to share in his life in the Eucharistic sacrifice. Marriage, parenthood, motherhood, fatherhood, the family, all this belongs to the order of nature, since God created man and woman; and all this through Christ's action is raised to the supernatural order. The sacrament of marriage becomes the way to participate in God's life. The man and woman who believe in Christ, who are joined together as husband and wife, can, for their part, confess: our bodies are redeemed - the marital union is redeemed. Parenthood, motherhood, fatherhood are redeemed, and all that bears with it the mark of holiness.

...This is why the Church never ceases to present the doctrine of Christ on marriage in its entirety, with regard to its unity and indissolubility.

Mary, most holy, Hope of Christians, gives us the strength and confidence necessary for our journey on earth. For this reason we ask her: Be our guide, because you, O Blessed Mother, know the ways and paths that, through your love, lead to the love and glory of God.

Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ!"

Lots to think about here, not only in giving ourselves totally to Christ and trusting totally in Him, but also in the sanctity of marriage, so threatened in this day and age.

More Catholic Trivia 

Astound your fellow parishioners by your endless trough of useless knowledge! The following comes from http://www.st-ignatius-loyola.com. The italicized parentheticals are my own commentary, of course.

*The first Catholic Mass in an airship took place on the Hindenburg on May 7, 1936. (Somebody must have forgotten to blow out the candles afterward. Whoops!)

*The first pontiff to fly in an airplane: Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) in 1964. (I wonder why the site specifies "airplane"? Did we have hangliding pontiffs prior to Paul VI?)

*Amen is a Hebrew word that can mean "certainly," "truly," and even "so be it." (Yes, but is it correctly pronounced "ay-men" or "ah-men"?)

*Longest name in the Bible: Mahershalalhashbaz, the second son of Isaiah. (And the scripture reading including his name will inevitably come up at the Mass when your parish's least confident lector is proclaiming the Word.)

*The American Bible Society has distributed more than a billion Bibles since 1816. (I bet 98% of these are in top drawers of dressers in hotel rooms.)

*On average, 47 Bibles per minute are sold or distributed around the world every day. (Take THAT, Harry Potter!)

*Pope John Paul II is the first non-Italian pontiff since Adrian IV (1522-1523). (And consequently, Chef Boyardee hasn't been to Mass in protest since 1978.)

*Every pope since Sergius IV (1009-1012) has changed his name. (But none has ever changed his name to "Bob" for some reason. Wouldn't it be cool to have a Pope Bob? Or a Pope Phil?)

*Top four countries with the most Catholic saints: Italy, Spain, France and Korea. (The U.S. has a looooong way to go, and at this rate, I don't think we'll be getting into the top four any time soon.)

*The United Nations declared the Vatican City a "war-free zone" in 1960. (Now if they could just do the same thing for my family dinner table at Thanksgiving.)

*Between 800 and 1,000 people live in Vatican City; roughly 4,000 people work there. (And even more are actually employed there! *rimshot*)

*The Virgin Mary's parents were named Joachim and Anne. (You don't meet many Joachims these days. Whatever happened to that name?)

*The pope's white skullcap is called a zuchetto. (It's not intended to cover a bald spot, although that's been a side benefit for many of our most recent pontiffs.)

*Famous forgotten date: November 23, 1964, the last mandatory Latin Mass. From that day on, most Masses were celebrated in the vernacular. (For many, a date that will live in infamy. For me, I'd like to see more Latin at Mass, but I wouldn't want the whole thing in it. I like the blend that Our Lady of the Angels parish on EWTN has going on.)

If someone ever cooks up a Catholic version of "Trivial Pursuit", you are now prepared to kick some butt!
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