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On the phone with customer service


Comcast Account Rep: May I call you Richard?

Me: (silence, and then:)
Me: Well, I hardly know you. It's all right to call me Mr. Chonak; that would be fine.

Comcast Account Rep: Thank you, Mr. Chonak.

Who do these people think they are? Some anonymous schmoe who took my call wants to pretend we're best buddies? Let's not.

Dear Tiger,


The details are none of my business. Thank you.

Signs of having too much money

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This may turn into an ongoing series of posts, come to think of it.

Sign #1: if you're willing to rent the companionship of a dog for four days a month at a rate of $280/month, you may have too much money for your own good.

Well, maybe if it's a five-diamond dog....

News and (haphazard) comment


Today a news story of moderate importance broke. The Vatican Information Service indicated obliquely that Rome was acknowledging a decision the Ukrainian Catholic Church made some months ago: to move its major see from Lviv to Kyiv, and move Cardinal Husar, the major archbishop who presides over that Eastern church, along with it. The VIS announcement simply mentioned that Cdl. Husar had transferred an auxiliary bishop to fill the see at Lviv.

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Archbishop Major of Kyiv-Halyc, with the consent of the Synod of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church and after having informed the Apostolic See, transferred Bishop Ihor Vozniak, C.SS.R., from Auxiliary Bishop of the Archeparchy of Lviv of the Ukrainians to residential Archbishop of the same see.

Gotta do your homework

Now, this is pretty arcane stuff, and normally the Internet's Vatican watchers would jump over themselves to explain the minutiae. Alas, the most vigorous self-promoter among them, the religion blogger Rocco Palmo, stumbled over the story, posting two misleading entries on this one news item.


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French Quarter?! What's he doin', givin' a speech in some French Quarter?!

Good and bad looting


Before anybody gets all outraged about the reports of looting in New Orleans, let's remember that some of the people doing it are hungry people who take food and water for survival and would be happy to pay if the store were open. Nothing wrong with that. Here's a helpful guide:

Soft drinks, chips, and diapers: OK;

Jewelry and DVDs: No.

Sampling the fund-raising mail


Yesterday I got three fundraising solicitations in the paper mail.

What mailing list did the ACLU buy that makes them think I'm a secularist liberal? Maybe the Consumer Reports subscriber roster? I mean, it's not as if I gave to public TV. They're sending me these things routinely now, a phony "survey" with tendentious questions, so I "vote" no wherever they want a "yes", write "Abortion is murder!" on it, and send it back in the Business Reply Envelope. Thanks for playing.

The TFP sent another big picture of their teary-eyed Fatima statue. Our Lady's probably especially sad that this cult-like little outfit (see this 1983 testimony) is using her image to milk money out of devout souls' wallets. I looked up their Federal filings through the charity-reporting site GuideStar, and here they are (PDFs:) 2004, 2003, 2002.

From the 2004 report, it seems they took in $4.6M in donations, and spent $1.76M on "fundraising" and on "direct mail campaigns" to their current supporters: that's 38%, a rather high figure. The statements include a few other interesting details: e.g., that they have a quarter-mil in precious metals. Not a bad investment, eh?

A third solicitation was from the Oblate (OMI) Fathers, prospecting for new donors. They sent out a little money, asking the reader to return it with a check, or at least return it. Now that's the nervy part: they beg the five cents back from you. Why, you'd have to be a heartless buzzard to say no to that. Well, Fathers, take your manipulative little gimmick somewhere else, and thanks for the nickel.

Etymology Today


In a column on, Jeff Mirus ponders the nicknames being given to the new Pope and the wishes people hold for him:

For example, the nickname B-16 reflects the beliefs of some that Pope Benedict XVI will be a strong disciplinarian because of his long tenure as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Do you buy that explanation? I'm skeptical.

Like quite a few other folks, I started calling the new Pope "B16" right away, but it had nothing to do with military planes -- I think that's the reference Jeff has in mind.

He may be dating himself with it: after all, thirty years ago, "B" followed by a number was likely to be the name of a plane, a veteran B-52 or a much-debated B-1. But now, even with a war winding down, aircraft just aren't at the top of everyone's mind.

"B16" is just an obvious and affectionate nickname: it follows the label applied to his predecessor "JP2". Some of you may remember that the globe-trotting Pope was tagged early on as "J2P2", a pop-culture play on the resourceful and occasionally mysterious robot R2D2 of Star Wars. As the film's prominence faded, the shorter "JP2" became more common.

"B16" may be nothing more than a simple abbreviation, but it is the occasion for a little levity, as it sounds like the name of a vitamin, if it's not an out-of-order Bingo call.

Today's peeve


Why does an organization with a non-profit domain name such as send commercial spam? Personally, I don't remember signing up to get ads for wallet-sized rosaries or lame Ray Flynn's political projects. I've sent a note to the contact listed on their privacy page; let's see if they get the idea that this is not a good thing.

I keep seeing the word "perks" to describe special privileges, such as: "A free parking space is one of the perks of the job." It should be perqs, as in "perquisites":

Etymology: Middle English, property acquired by means other than inheritance, from Medieval Latin perquisitum, from neuter of perquisitus, past participle of perquirere to purchase, acquire, from Latin, to search for thoroughly, from per- thoroughly + quaerere to seek
1 : a privilege, gain, or profit incidental to regular salary or wages; especially : one expected or promised
3 : something held or claimed as an exclusive right or possession

Happy Lame-o-ween


In a fit of dementia, I bought about 5 pounds of candy this morning. Teresa had mentioned something about having fun dressing up and handing out candy in the past, and I was at the grocery store and saw Kit-kats, Milky Ways, 3 Musketeers, M&Ms and Snickers on sale. Remembering that the "fun size" was always a big hit when I was a kid, I bought one bag of each.

I got home and informed my wife of the purchase. She frowned and said, "No one comes here. We should be in the basement watching a movie instead of waiting for the kids to show up. But now we have to because if we don't hand out the candy then you will eat it." I assured her I wouldn't eat it but she said didn't really believe me, sort of like Marion Barry telling the cops that the crack had been left in his car by the previous owner.

So around 4pm we started the setup: Candles in the windows (the kind that can light cats on fire), terra cotta pumpkins with candles inside in the walk, and a basket full of candy.

We had the following folks show up:
2 astronauts my wife tried to make small talk with: "Where's your space ship?" "We're just kids in costumes! We don't have a space ship!" (Stupid adults!)
1 tiger
3 teen agers dressed up as disgruntled youths.
1 sort of sailor looking person
A handful of witches.
A girl who described herself as "a gothic person." Even me, in my lame understanding of modern culture, know they are called "Goths" and they just need to be in all black, black hair and maybe an extra-white face. This girl had a black shirt, a little cross and some jeans on.

So Teresa and I started talking about Halloweens of ages past. "How many times did you go dressed as a Hobo" I asked. "At least seven or eight... I bet you can't dress like a Hobo these days... wouldn't be proper..."

I told her my mom used to make our costumes. I was Death one year. I was a hobo on several ocassions, but mom thought the hobo costume needed bells sewn on for some reason... I'll have to ask her about that.

Teresa said her best costume was that she wore her dad's sailor uniform from WWII, and a girlfriend dressed like the Sweetheart he meets dockside when the ship comes back to home port. And when they rang the doorbell, her friend would leap into her arms so that Teresa was holding her up. Now that's an interesting costume.

We've been getting grunts and half-done costumes, and it's not even the time
the high school kids show up.

Before I start sounding like that old dude from 60 minutes, I leave you with this.

I did get to spend some nice time with my wife talking about Halloween's past and I've gotten about 5,000 calories out of the house. Not a bad way to spend the evening, even if I have to answer the door for a "Gothic Person."

Faith of Our Parents


Normally, I think music directors stop singing most hymns after two verses out of laziness and haste, but let's go along this time, and sing just two verses of Fr. Faber:

Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene'er we hear that glorious Word!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free:
And truly blest would be our fate,
If we, like them, should die for thee!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

At my parish we have a very good reason to stop there. The third verse in the Seasonal Missalette runs as follows:
Our mothers, too, oppressed and wronged,
still lived their faith in dignity;
Their brave example gives us strength
To work for justice ceaselessly....
As you probably know, that was not written by Fr. Faber, and it doesn't take a da Vinci to decrypt it as a bunch of feminist code-speak. Just count how many of those 23 words come loaded with whiny left-wing resonances, and you'll get the point.

Ideology was obviously the primary concern in producing that text, because nobody interested in beauty would have written it: just try to wrap your mouth around that word "wronged" and sing it attractively. You can't.

"Welcome to Saint Humbert's Parish. The entrance hymn is number three-hundred-and-one, 'Faith of Our Fathers'. We will sing verses one, two, and four, because verse three is some crock o's--- they put in there to please the feminazis. Please rise and greet our celebrant."

Andrew Stuttaford does not like religious belief. I am sure he likes some religious believers, and some of them are, doubtless, among his best friends. Yet in National Review Online, he makes it clear that the blasphemous movie "Life of Brian" is a Gospel to him.

"The Corner," NRO's blog, is turned over to Stuttaford on most weekends, where he vents about two topics: health puritans, and religious believers who won't get with the secularist program. I am with him on the first point, though his attacks on the no-smoking-and-drinking crowd are tiresome by now.

The second point is the key to his thinking, at least the thinking he contributes to NRO. Stuttaford seems to loathe -- the word does not seem too strong -- the beliefs of Islamists, Evangelicals, and religious believers of all stripes, probably in that order. For instance, he does not merely disparage radical Islamist clerics in his native Britain because they incite murder and undermine civil society. He thinks they need to shut up because the U.K. is a secular nation, and their God-talk has no place in the modern world.

An exaggeration? Here are his words of praise for "Brian": "If there's any type of belief that runs through the movie, it's disbelief, unbelief, a world-weary skepticism." Stuttaford means this as a compliment, though the world needs more skepticism the way it needs more genocide.

"The real target of the movie's satire is not religion as such, but the unholy baggage that too frequently comes with it the credulity, the fanaticism, and that very human urge to persecute, well, someone." I could make the same case about sports fans or science-fiction devotees. Since the Enlightenment unleashed its monstrous crimes, all for secular reasons, religion is a distant second to politics as a raison d'abattre. I've seen drunks come to blows over perceived slights -- and religion is a primary cause of "unholy baggage"? Not human frailty?

Given the massive failure of secularism to make people happy, whether through ascetic utopian scemes (Marxism) or wretched excess (consumerism), it's touching that Stuttaford can maintain his faith in it. To maintain his beliefs, he takes aim at easy targets like Scientology or Jerry Falwell, avoiding more formidable targets like, say, Confucianism or Catholicism, which have vast intellectual traditions that don't fit into his model of religion as "superstition."

He continues: "There's a lovely moment when, appalled by the spectacle of the faithful gathering beneath his window, he tells them that, 'you don't need to follow me, you don't need to follow anybody. You've got to think for yourselves, you're all individuals.' Simple stuff, but, these days, pretty good advice."

But we're not "individuals" in the sense that we are radically separated from everyone else. We rely on others to grow our food, make our electricity, build our houses, and most other necessities. None of us has invented our worldview out of whole cloth; we choose what we believe (hopefully) based on whether it is true or false.

Our species is more interconnected than it has ever been, yet some persist in thinking that we can somehow be "individuals" in the most literal sense. Yet the more disconnected people are, the more miserable they become. When entire societies embrace that philosophy, they begin a slow march toward oblivion, just as Britain and Western Europe's populations are slowly dying.

Belief in the unfettered self is the most superstitious belief of all, and the surest path to self-destruction.

Wine Lovers - Beware the hype


Nothing screams
like this:

J. Garcia Wine Sells Out in 30 Days

Go ahead, set my teeth on edge


I'm tempted to hang it up on the wall, but out of love for the Holy Father, I won't. This certificate came in the mail a few days ago after I sent a few bucks to the Capuchin Friars in Pittsburgh. It was accompanied with a letter that said, "Please accept the enclosed Parchment Blessing and St. Anthony Novena booklet as our gifts to you."

That term "Parchment Blessing" seems to be a sloppy use of language, doesn't it? Obviously it's meant to refer to the bit of decorative -- well, at least, decorated memorabilia they sent me. I can see calling the thing a "blessing parchment", but not the other way around.

By the way, I don't mind a little religious kitsch here and there: it's part of popular piety and in that context, a good thing. I'm just disappointed at the seeming linguistic failure, as much as I'd be disappointed by a moral one.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been four weeks since my last confession. Since then, I have committed acts of solecism twice....

The bad part is that they even put this goofy term in the Pope's mouth: notice the text on the certificate itself:

In grateful appreciation for your generous support of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Augustine, I bestow my parchment blessing on Mr. Richard Chonak.
I really doubt the Pope ever signed any sentence containing the term "parchment blessing". Here, the term is supposed to refer to the blessing itself. Now, a blessing is a spiritual act, a prayer: what on earth would a "parchment blessing" be, then: a parchment prayer? It sounds as if Pope John Paul were being made to say: I bestow on you this (tacky) certificate. (I know, he has been apologizing a lot lately, hasn't he?)

No, no, dear Friars, if you're going to put words in the Pope's mouth, please let them make sense: he's giving us a blessing; you're giving out the parchments.

Back when I was coming into the Church, my old friend Meredith Gillespie Alcock summarized the image of the Franciscans as "dumb but holy". Maybe she was onto something.

Bp. Sean gets a bum rap


Over the weekend, an AP story portrayed Boston's Abp. Sean O'Malley, OFM Cap., as having apologized "to women" for a blanket condemnation of feminism (although he didn't really make one). Also, it portrayed him as backtracking on his (correct) observance of liturgical law at the Holy Thursday Lord's Supper liturgy, where he washed the feet of twelve men, in recollection of the Apostles.

Within minutes, the Internet started to whine with morose comments about the bishop's new spinelessness, but the whines turned out to be unjustified, since as usual, the secular press got it wrong.

What he really said, while explanatory and conciliatory, wasn't an apology: if anything, it was a gentle defense of his words and actions, and very appropriate.

OK, I'm a little disquieted at the Archbishop's suggestion that he will seek a "clarification" about the footwashing rule, as such a promise encourages the disgruntled to keep their demands alive; but I expect that Rome will confirm the discipline currently prescribed.

What you find in the comments


Fr. Shawn says that most of the ongoing argument that readers post in weblog comments isn't worth doing or reading, and he's got a point.

Sometimes people post stuff in the comments that I don't know how to respond to, if at all. Long-dormant weblog entries often get new additions, as for example, by this anti-Catholic dame; or as these folks posting their prayer petitions for their lost marriages, endangered jobs, and serious illnesses, onto web pages that few people will ever read again.

I guess the latter is a reminder that there's a world of hurt out there, folks.

"Every human being, even those marked by sickness and suffering, is a great gift to the Church and to humanity," the Pope said. He said that everyone who is in pain because of illness should find other people ready to provide them with care and concern. Human suffering, he said, "is always a call for the display of merciful love."

The World Day for the Sick should be a reminder of "the important place in the Christian community for people who suffer," the Pope continued. He reminded his audience that while suffering can appear pointless from a human perspective, in the light of the Gospel we should seek its "profound salvific significance."

[via CWN]

Symptoms of 'affluenza'

This is puzzling: is it worse to be wasteful by throwing one's fridge out the window, or is it a sign of detachment from material goods? Heads up!

It's the real thing


Got a card in the mail today from the Archdiocese:

"Dear Mr. Chonak,

Please accept my appreciation to that already extended to you by Bishop Lennon for your generous contribution to The Annual Catholic Appeal...."

Huh? Did the Development Office lay off its highly-paid proofreaders? Or is this some new technique in fund-raising mail: to keep a few solecisms and typos so that we will know the note was written by a bishop? (Exercise for the perfectionistic reader: identify them.)

[Oh, this is too cynical; I should post something more constructive than this.]

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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