Recently in Odds & Ends Category

Defect in form


A Vatican Secretariat of State press release came out over the weekend. It's a policy statement about a relatively minor matter: organizations named after Popes.


Recent years have witnessed a great increase of affection and esteem for the person of the Holy Father. There has also been a desire to use the Pope's name in the title of universities, schools or cultural institutions, as well as associations, foundations and other groups.

In light of this fact, the Holy See hereby declares that it alone has the right to ensure the respect due to the Successors of Peter, and, therefore, to protect the figure and personal identity of the Pope from the unauthorized use of his name and/or the papal coat of arms for ends and activities which have little or nothing to do with the Catholic Church. Occasionally, in fact, attempts have been made to attribute credibility and authority to initiatives by using ecclesiastical or papal symbols and logos.

Consequently, the use of anything referring directly to the person or office of the Supreme Pontiff (his name, his picture or his coat of arms), and/or the use of the title "Pontifical", must receive previous and express authorization from the Holy See.

(emphasis added)

Here's what I find odd: that a statement from the Vatican is using a modern word such as "logo". I feel as if the word were invented practically yesterday. As it happens, "logo" only dates to 1937, which seems way too recent for an institution with 2000 years behind it.

Surely there should be some rule that the Vatican doesn't use words that aren't at least 100 years old.

2008-06-12-blender.jpgCall me Savonarola, but the outdoor blender powered by a two-stroke gasoline engine might be something you don't really need.

Kathy Shaidle blogs about the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a washed-up teaching order whose 200 remaining members have an average age of 86. They haven't let that statistic stop them from undertaking a $56 million eco-renovation on their headquarters near Detroit.

At this point, they owe $37 mil on the construction costs, and Heaven knows if they can ever foot the bill. I certainly wouldn't want to be their creditor.

The sisters seem to be very progressive-minded, but may have overlooked a possible justice issue somewhere: taking on debts that you know you can never repay. Or is this a sort of reverse mortgage, where the sisters get to enjoy the loan now and pledge to give up the property later?

Eventually the building can be sold and converted into a Museum of Dead Religious Movements or a John Cardinal Dearden Cultural Center. (Oh; same thing.)

Update: Here's another angle on this: if you have $56M to spend, consider the option of not spending it. Conservatively invested, it would generate about 10% a year, or $5.6M. You can do a lot of building maintenance with that, and still have money left to buy some carbon-credit indulgences.

My suburban church is hit by lightning



Here's an audio transcript of the event:

[The Saturday afternoon Mass is in progress, and the congregation is singing.]

Cantor and congregation: Here I am, Laud...


Priest drives a fast car

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A motorists' association in Portugal is writing to the Pope to complain about a priest with a souped-up Fiesta. Offhand, I doubt the letter will get much sympathy in Rome. Isn't driving fast practically mandatory in Italy?

LISBON (Reuters) - A Portuguese group campaigning for safe roads has asked the Vatican to ensure that a priest who owns a souped-up Ford Fiesta "resist the temptations of speed."

Father Antonio Rodrigues, Portugal's only owner of a 150-horse-power Ford Fiesta 2000 ST, has boasted of his car's rapid acceleration to 130 miles per hour and "thanked God" for never being fined, the Association of Motorist Citizens said in a letter to the Pope.

"I am no speed freak," daily Correio de Manha quoted Rodrigues as saying Monday. "I have a car that I like but I drive with prudence."

The association's letter, which was published on its Web site (, cited the priest as saying he uses the car to take youngsters for spins and to zip around to "arrive on time to the three parish churches."

"We ask Your Holiness to help this unfortunate priest to ponder the gravity of his acts and the immodesty of his words and to resist the temptations of speed and boasting," the letter to the Pope said.

Homes for hard-core Tolkien fans

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Well, this is just a tool shed in the development, but you get the idea.

Church in Rome "eats" air pollution

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I suppose that makes it, ahem, a Roman Catalytic Converter....

Advertising for Killer Spinach!

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Stopping by the local Giant supermarket yesterday, I saw this curious juxtaposition:

(Click to see a slightly larger view.) It's a warning about tainted spinach that has sickened hundreds and even killed at least one person. Next to it is a Halloween decoration with a pile of skulls. I don't think it was a warning or a joke. But it sure is funny, at least in a macabre kind of way.

A few weeks ago, the NYT offered the fascinating story of a group of jungle-dwelling people in Colombia that decided to give up its nomadic life and come out of the bush.

Alas for the Nukak, introducing aboriginal people into settled life brings risks to their culture, their health, and even their mental health. They came out to "join the white family" for their own safety, as Communist guerrillas and coca growers are operating in their area.

(via The Confessionator)

The well-known homilist Fr. Robert Altier is under orders from his Minnesota bishop to stop distributing his talks via internet. We don't know the rationale for this yet, so I have snapped up a copy of his audio files (without his knowledge, of course) and saved it at my home machine (subject to change). I haven't listened to much there, but I'm favorably impressed so far. The audio files use a proprietary commercial format called DSS, so you'll probably need to install the "Olympus DSS Lite" player.

Note to downloaders: Limit your downloading to one connection at a time. A guy in Florida is currently reading five files at once and eating my home machine's entire bandwidth.

Even our prime minister has admitted that Canada's government will likely fall within the next month, if not weeks. I've been asked to take on some pretty heavy local responsibilities in this election. This comes as I am putting the final polish on lectures for a distance education course on canon law that Catholic Distance University invited me to write (and for those who are interested, teach this January -- there are still some open spaces if you sign up before December 1st). Therefore, I would ask you to please spare any prayers you can send Canada's way. Additionally, this also means a leave from blogging as well as day-to-day private emails over the next couple of months. Thanks for your understanding.

Stand. Sit. Kneel.


Where might one purchase a clicker? Not a neon-green dog trainer's model, you understand, but a real real-nun certified version?

(I'm not planning shenannigans at the local Trid Mass, by the way, or, for that matter, shenannigans anywhere.)

Sign of trouble


A co-worker overheard this dialogue in a Las Vegas casino:

Wife: Let's go find an ATM.

Husband: What do you need money for?

Wife: I need to win back what I lost.

Nothing wrong with indoctrination


At a two-day training class I attended a couple of weeks ago, the students were mostly civilians, but there was a large contingent of Navy medical officers. In one session, groups of students had to hammer out a strategy for a fictional company we supposedly worked for. In the course of the discussion, one of the officers suggested that "indoctrination" would be a good idea for line workers.

The civilian half of the group assumed he was either joking or revealing himself as a crypto-fascist, but he was doing neither. "Indoctrination" is often used as a pejorative, but that is not its primary definition:

1 : to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments : TEACH
2 : to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle

Or as one weapons instructor said to us in boot camp, "Indoctrination doesn't mean brainwashing." Immersing yourself in "fundamentals or rudaments" doesn't mean you have to amputate your faculties of reason; if you're really ingesting what you're learning, the opposite is true.

Fear of "indoctrination" is, I think, at the heart of why adults today are reluctant to teach kids firm principles. But the only way you can get kids to learn something is to repeat it until they understand, and then reinforce it frequently. Kids don't want, much less need, fine distinctions -- they crave clarity. When they want a fuller explanation as to why it's wrong to clobber your brother with a mallet, you can provide it when they are ready. Until then, mallet-clobbering is bad because it's wrong to hurt people, period.

Church hunting


I'm off to Las Vegas for a conference, so I may go to Mass Sunday
at this striking-looking church (once a shrine, now the cathedral); or maybe this shrine.

Since I'm interested in Latin Masses, I checked for one, but it doesn't appear there's a licit T-Mass in the diocese. There used to be a 1970 Latin Mass at this shrine, when it was a chapel of Discalced Carmelite nuns, but alas for the city, the Carmelites moved to Lincoln, NE. The chapel itself looks rather nice, but I'll have to see the sculpture out front in person to get a real sense of it: I assume it's a recent addition, since the place became a Vietnamese shrine-parish.

Isaiah sings the Wild Grape Blues

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Let me now sing of my friend,
my friend's song concerning his vineyard.

I cleared myself a vineyard, on a fertile slope o' ground;
Built a wine-press and a tower, and the choicest vines I put down;
But I went to look at harvest-time, (don't cha know) only wild grapes I found.

So neighbors, judge between me and this vineyard of mine:
Could I have worked it any better? Why don't it give me good wine?
I went to look for sweet grapes, but only wild grapes on the vine.

I'm gonna tear down all the fences, let the cattle trample through;
Let the sheep and goats graze on it: yes, that's what I'm gonna do;
Tell the clouds to hold the rain back, not a single drop of dew.

So hear: the house of Is-rael is the vineyard of the Lord;
and he gave the vine of Judah all the care He could afford (which is everything, don't cha know)
But the bloodshed and injustice means His word has been ignored.

(Oh, yeah.)

It has been revealed: Cindy Sheehan, mother of war hero Casey Sheehan, is the fraternal twin of the Prince of Wales, His Royal Highness Charles Windsor Castle. Either that, or they are siblings, at the very least. Below is the proof (with links to the original sources, lest you think I photoshopped anything):

Prince Charles

Cindy Sheehan

Previous entry about Sheehan here.

Best sig I've seen in a while

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From a signature on Slashdot:

"There's no point in questioning authority if you aren't going to listen to the answers."

Can't watch this


Everything gets turned into an entertainment, a media presentation, a show; even the sacred, even the dead.

Funerals used to be religious events in which one would pray for the repose of the deceased and the good of the bereaved; then it became fashionable to turn them into "memorial services" of a celebratory quality in which family and friends tell stories and jokes, and sing or listen to inspirational songs. That is, to turn them into shows presented for a human audience, rather than acts of worship offered to the divine, who deigns to grant us an audience. Is the TV tombstone part of this trend?

I'm wondering what will happen when the tech hobbyists start figuring out how to "hack" these devices and replace Aunt Becky's Kinkadian five-minute video with a clip from MTV. Already I know what video should appear on Bill Gates' screen.

From my inbox


Resumes That Didn't Work
*Compiled from actual resumes by Robert Half International*

I demand a salary commiserate with my extensive experience.
I have lurnt Word Perfect 6.0, computor and spreadsheat progroms.
Received a plague for Salesperson of the Year.
Reason for leaving last job: maturity leave.
Wholly responsible for two (2) failed financial institutions.
Failed bar exam with relatively high grades.
It's best for employers that I not work with people.
Let's meet, so you can ooh and aah over my experience.
You will want me to be Head Honcho in no time.
I Am a perfectionist and rarely if if ever forget details.
I was working for my mom until she decided to move.
Marital status: single. Unmarried. Unengaged. Uninvolved. No commitments.
I have an excellent track record, although I am not a horse.
I am loyal to my employer at all costs. Please feel free to respond to my resume on my office voice mail.
I have become completely paranoid, trusting completely no one and absolutely nothing.
My goal is to be meteorologist. But since I possess no training in meteorology, I suppose I should try stock brokerage.
I procrastinate, especially when the task is unpleasant.
Personal interests: donating blood. Fourteen gallons so far.
Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Midwest chain store.
Note: Please don't misconstrue my 14 jobs as job hopping. I have never quit a job.
Marital status: often. Children: various.
Reason for leaving last job: They insisted that all employees get to work by 8:45 every morning. Could not work under those conditions.
The company made me a scapegoat, just like my three previous employers.
Finished eighth in my class of ten.
References: None. I've left a path of destruction behind me.

Summer photos

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He's at it again!

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Victor Lams has started releasing some of his newer songs at Catechism Rock. Real Purgatory takes a while, but Victor's "Purgatory" is a minute-thirteen of fun.

No surprise here: B16 is one of us cat people.

Hugh Hewitt, currently a fallen-away Catholic (the doors are still open, my friend!), links to my conversion story that Catholic Answers published six years ago. Hugh refutes a sneering Tina Brown article implying that religious people have never encountered Mozart. I would love to corner Ms. Brown and ask her what her three favorite Mozart pieces are, and why.

(If you want to read my conversion story, it's here.)

Some notes


So we are all sedevacantists now!

Not only will Pope John Paul's successor have a difficult act to follow, the papacy itself has been made into a bigger job by the long-vigorous and much-traveled polyglot Pope.

Section 1. The President shall have the authority to designate certain legal proceedings as "celebrity trials." These celebrity trials shall be known from the public attention they receive, and the nonexistent impact they have on the Nation's day-to-day life.

Section 2. The provisions of the First Amendment to the Constitution regarding these trials shall be considered null and void.

Section 3. The President shall direct the law enforcement agencies to suppress any publication or broadcast mentioning these celebrity trials. Any citizen attempting to publicize these trials shall be displayed in a public place with shackles and a sign reading "I find pleasure in humiliating others."

Section 4. No one shall ever mention Michael Jackson of Santa Barbara, California, ever again. No, not even his family.

Random question of the evening


Does anyone else get Bernie Mac and Cedric the Entertainer confused?

A bruised, weakened Reid

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Modern public speaking is a dessicated, joyless art, and it's probably unfair to single out one public speaker for special criticism. But I think Senator Harry Reid of Nevada can take it. Reid, who for some reason is the Senate minority leader, gave one of the most pathetic speeches I've seen in a long time. When giving a TV speech, Tom Daschle always sounded like a sex criminal denying his crimes, but Reid makes Daschle sound as entertaining as Chris Rock. His joke about a kid from his hometown of Searchlight was as flat as a pancake. It got worse from there.

You know, today is Groundhog Day. And what we saw and heard tonight was a little like the movie "Groundhog Day" -- the same old ideology that we've heard before, over and over and over again. We can do better.
Funny, I had just finished telling my wife something similar: that Harry Reid could have given the same speech 10, 15, even 20 years ago. In fact, I remember some grumpy Democrat in 1988 criticizing Reagan's speech for containing "ideology." He didn't mention "Groundhog Day," probably because the movie was still several years in the future. But otherwise, I'm pretty sure it was the same speech.

He goes on:

Will we be able to tell young people, like Devon back in Searchlight, that America is still the land of the open road and that you can travel that open road to the place of your choice?
This came right after Reid dumped on the idea of letting people keep some of their own Social Security money. Because to the Democrats, "the open road" and its destination must be provided by the government, and any threat to government confiscation of wealth must be attacked.

Bethlehem's inns, which had no vacancies for the birth of Jesus about 2,000 years ago, are largely empty this Christmas season, according to a United Nations report that found tourism to the West Bank town has fallen 92 percent in the past four years.

Location is everything

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When I visited the top of St. Peter's Basilica in '84, the Daughters of St. Paul had a gift shop up there, and it's an ideal spot to provide pilgrims with religious articles. But why stop there: the roof now also features a coffee bar. Now that's a nice idea: is it time for a pilgrimage to St. Biscotti's?

Retreat house suggestions?


Does anyone know a retreat house with good vegetarian cooking? A friend of mine is looking for a weekend meeting place for a group she belongs to, and a fair number of the members are veg. She doesn't happen to be a Catholic, so feel free to suggest places run by other religious communities or even non-religious conference centers.

Please reply in the comments; thanks.

PS: I forgot to specify a geographical range. Anywhere in the Northeast should be OK: say, from Maine to Pennsylvania. Thanks to the reader who asked.

Often, when I'm looking for something at CVS, I notice the aisle containing something called "Family Planning." I've looked at the contents, and except for the ovulation detectors, it's all about contraception.

Shouldn't the aisle thus be called "Family Prevention"?

How's Catholic life in VA?


A reader in Massachusetts sent a note the other day looking for some advice. She's thinking of moving to Virginia, together with her husband and their several little kids, and she'd like to know if she can find strong and sound church life there. Can our Virginia readers and writers recommend places to live or schools to attend (Catholic or public)? How the Commonwealth is doing in regard to Catholic issues? (Probably better than Massachusetts.)


"My local post office leaves the front door open all the time now so that people can buy stamps through a vending machine in the lobby.

"I put a bulky envelope on the scale, punched in the zip code, slipped in a credit card, and got back a label to stick on the piece. Then the machine asked, 'Do you want to buy stamps?', and I figured, 'Don't mind if I do.'

"I pressed the button for 'yes' and got a packet of eighteen first-class stamps, at a price of -- uh, 18 times 37 cents, that's... $6.66. My soul shuddered.

"Later, the stamps squealed lightly as I burned them."

Robert Merrill, RIP

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I missed the news that Robert Merrill died last Saturday at the age of 87.

He was one of the greatest baritones of all time. Here's an appreciation.

Flu Shot


Can I hear from visitors to this blog if the flu shot shortage is a concern to them? I'm having trouble understanding the whole bruhaha around the shortage, Dick Cheney getting a shot, shot lotteries, etc.

Isn't this what editors are for?


This could be the worst newspaper sentence I've ever read.

The Curse of the Bambino, that amalgam of jinx, superstition and despair that has dogged the Boston Red Sox for nearly a century, was reduced to just so much human imagining on Wednesday night by a scruffy lot of ballplayers who cared more about their hair than they did about history, except for the kind they were determined to make.

And you might be surprised from whence it comes.

¿Cristo de los inmigrantes?

Statue of Jesus found in the Rio Grande

In Eagle Pass, Texas, Border Patrol agents found a five-foot figure of our Lord washed up from the Rio Grande, and devout faithful are welcoming it.

Today's fashion tip


No, it's not a scene from an Indiana Jones movie or some hip-hop music video.

The Oriental potentate in the pic is the real-life Crown Prince of Brunei with his Swiss-born wife, a commoner, at their wedding service. The pièce de résistance in the bling department is, you'll note, the "bouquet" of gold and diamonds.

Funny all by itself


Thou shalt not steal

Especially not from German nuns.

One of the enduring mysteries of St. Blog's Parish has been revealed, and quite by accident, it seems. Film writer Barbara Nicolosi has disclosed the name of the anonymous proofreader Nihil Obstat. He's the editor of an anthology of 20th-century Christian poetry. Ah, well, there goes the mystique.

(Via Victor the first.)

Not good for the state's image


Maybe I'm being a bit too much of a snooty Yankee, but I'm sort of disappointed that there even is a town in Florida with this name.

What's wrong with this picture?

Occasionally local governments get embarrassed when they let unsavory private organizations sponsor roadside clean-up projects. I guess it happens to parishes too. What's going on when one of the landscaping sponsors at a Catholic parish is some outfit called "Spiritual Readers"?

Anti-Americanism has grown steadily since the end of the Cold War. A large part of this is resentment towards American economic success; some of it is resentment toward Hollywood's slime machine (no argument there).

An overlooked cause of anti-Americanism is our success in sports, particularly our surprisingly good showing in the 2002 Winter Games and our stellar medal count in this year's games. Remember a few years ago when the American team did really well in the World Cup? If we had won, we would have been hated with a furious passion by most countries when they realized that most Americans don't even care about soccer.

So to assuage this sentiment against our fine country, I suggest that instead of sending our athletic supermen to Beijing in 2008, we should send our Special Olympics team. Then the rest of the world can high-five each other when they beat the Americans. The Special Olympians will just be happy to compete. Everybody wins, and it advances the national interest. What do you guys think? Do we give them a chance?

When I meet a man who obviously spends way too much time making his hair look pretty, I instinctively mistrust him. I'm not saying I'm a hair expert -- I don't even own a comb -- but it does say something about a man when he feels the need to apply several unguents to his head every day.

I associate this with falsehood because in my professional life, the people who pay excessive attention to their appearance are the same people who think looking good is equivalent to being good (or doing good). They would prefer to do something flashy or impressive, rather than quiet and intelligent, just because it might raise their status within the organization.

Hair gel might not cause venality or superficiality, but it does seem to be a sure indicator of those qualities. Has anyone else noticed this? Were there any saints with great hair?

A blog by Joshua LeBlanc, one of our faithful brethren from Front Royal, VA.

And let me say at this time:

Hooray for faithful Catholics from Front Royal!
Hooray for Christendom College!
Hooray for the communion rail in the chapel at Christendom College!

The Village


The latest movie by the director of "Signs" and "Unbreakable" (and who's name is nearly Unpronounceable) looks pretty bad to me. The previews seemed all spooky for no reason.

But then I read this review and I'm tempted to see it. After all, how many movies have a Village Simpleton these days?

The USCCB doesn't have a movie review up yet.

And this topic bests the question: should Catholic Light have a Village Simpleton?

Stephen Sanchez, a Catholic Light reader, asked us to post information on this conference. (The text below is taken from the online promotional flier. I have no idea if there will be anyone there who is "cooler than me," though it wouldn't surprise me.)

What: Ars Conference Where: South Bend, IN When: Aug. 7-8, 2004 Who: High School Teens and their Families How Much: $75 with discounts for families

This conference is gonna be sweet! It's named after the Cure of Ars, St. John Vianney and stands for America Returns to the Sacraments. The story goes that the Fr. Vianney was travelling to his first parish assignment (Ars) when he got a little lost. He found two shepherd boys out in a field and he said to them "My sons, show me the way to Ars and I will show you the way to Heaven." So this Conference is all about getting to Heaven, baby!

It's got Matt Smith from the Real World, Fr. Pontifex of Phatmass phame, the Pete Cornelius Band and Fr. Dan Sheidt who is so cool, there just aren't words for him.

Seriously, if you live near South Bend, IN (that means Chi-town all the way to Indy and back up to Cleaveland and around Detroit to Grand Rapids) you should make it a point to be at this Conference. It's gonna be great. I'm gonna be there. And well, a bunch of people cooler than me. Check it out!

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

You write, we post
unless you state otherwise.


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