Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Year -- Day

Leap years were invented to make up the difference (about six hours) betwen the civil 365 day year, and the solar year which lasts 365.2422 days. Leap years have been traced back to Egyptian times, but it was Julius Cæsar and later Augustus who successfully introduced them into the Roman calendar by recognising two February 24ths. by a curious quirk of timing, any year whose date is a number exactly divisible by four is a leap year, except those years ending in '00', which must be divisible by 400 to qualify. As might be expected, a number of superstitions surround the leap year which many cultures traditionally regarded as unlucky. It was associated with bad harvests, barren marriages, tempestuous weather and ill-luck for monarchs. Yet all is not bleak: 29 February has long been considered the one day on which it is permissible for women to ask men for their hand in marriage.

So says my invaluable Schott's Almanac desk calendar. There is a mass of further calendrical information at the Wikipedia Leap Year site, some of it understandable even by the mathematically challenged, such as your servant.

And, of enormous significance, leap year is integral to The Pirates of Penzance. Young Frederick, having been apprenticed to a band of pirates, on reaching 21 years of age is out of his indentures and may now "renounce my vile profession." Or so he thought. But as the Pirate King explains:

For some ridiculous reason, to which, however, I’ve no desire to be disloyal,
Some person in authority, I don’t know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal,
Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February, twenty-eight days as a rule are plenty,
One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as nine and twenty.
Through some singular coincidence – I shouldn’t be surprised if it were owing to the agency of an ill-natured fairy –
You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement, having been born in leap-year, on the twenty-ninth of February;
And so, by a simple arithmetical process, you’ll easily discover,
That though you’ve lived twenty-one years, yet, if we go by birthdays, you’re only five and a little bit over!

So you see how dicey leap year can be. So far as I can tell, using this go-by-birthdays rule, Frederick won't be able to get into his I.R.A. without penalty until he's 238 years old.

News Flash: Politician Admits Ignorance

That $4 a gallon remark of W's: I kind of liked it. In this decade-long (or so) campaign season, not one pol seems willing to say "damfino". This is the first. Of course, he isn't running for anything this time. But it's still delightful, a sort glimpse of humanity behind the PR fog.


I realize that I said that it was beginning to look like I would have no one to vote for in November, and I appreciate the suggestion, but this is, to put a kindly word on it, not what I had in mind.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

In Penal Times

Roman Miscellany has an interesting piece this morning on old the Vicars Apostolic and the two centuries just prior to the restoration of the English hierarchy. At one time the London district and its bishop, Dr Challoner (the only one of the vicars I had ever heard of, alas) had jurisdiction over the nascent United States.

Have a look.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Question of Piercing Interest from the Comics

"Who dresses Count Dracula?"


"Well, you have to admit, for someone who can't use a mirror, he's remarkably well put together."

In context.


Mitt Romney's Mormon faith was a leading news story for a while.

Mike Huckabee's Evangelical Baptist faith still is a news story, although less so now that he has no chance of winning.

Barrack Obama's non-membership in the Islamic religion will keep popping up.

But the church Barrack Obama actually does belong to doesn't get much of a look in. Melanie Phillips described its Black Supremacist views in The Spectator last January. You can find it here. Tim Russert brought up the issue again the other night, via the "Farrakhan" question which never got answered. Melanie Phillips reprises her question today and National Review expands on it.

As Miss Phillips put it, "(i)f you belong to a church, it is a reasonable assumption that -- guess what! -- you do not find its values objectionable and most probably you actively support them."

A Rally in Stuebenville for an Anti-Life Candidate

Yes. Another one. This time for Mrs Clinton.

Same result as last time.

Had I been a pro-abortion candidate, I would've given Steubenville a miss. But, hey. That's just me.

"Bike Path!", Starring Harrison Ford and. . . .

So far as I can tell, this is completely serious.

There is an article in this morning's Times on the problems a proposed bike path along the river is having as it passes NBC Universal. NBC Universal doesn't want it anywhere near their property. Why? I quote the Times:

One bike advocate said Universal executives told him they feared that people would use the path to lob unsolicited screenplays onto the studio's nearby production lot - something that apparently happens at other spots when a Universal film scores big at the box office.

You can find the rest of it here, if you're interested. But it's just about bike paths.

I wonder if I flew to New York, cycled by Doubleday, lobbed the novel into the lobby. . . .

No. Probably not.

William F. Buckley, Jr -- 1925-2008

WFB was the lodestar of my political youth. At one period I made a point of acquiring every one of his books. But he kept publishing while I wasn't paying attention and I was left irretrievably behind. The collections of his essays and columns - like the one pictured above - were especial treasures because they saved one the labour of keeping a scrapbook of them as they appeared in the newspaper. Part of my world view -- Credo, if you will -- and habits of mind were learned from his writing and remain to this day. God rest his soul.

National Review Online, as would be expected, has a wealth of tributes today, too many to list separately. The main page is here.

William Buckley had some fairly idiosyncratic ideas about the Catholic thing. (And with the hierarchy in such disarray, who doesn't today?) But he was always a believer and a supporter of Catholic tradition. This is one of his earliest essays at the beginning of the crumbling of the Catholic liturgical edifice. I believe it first appeared in Commonweal but I found it this morning in The Jeweller's Eye. Note that the year is 1967. The main breach with tradition which the Novus Ordo represents will not occur for another two years.

November 10, 1967

In January of this year my sister died, age forty-nine, eldest of ten children, and mother of ten children, the lot of us catapulted into the dumb grief whence we sought relief by many means, principal among them -the conviction, now reified by desire, that our separation from her is impermanent. It was the moment to recall not merely the promises of Christ, but their magical cogency; the moment to remind ourselves as forcefully as we know how of the depths of the Christian experience, of the Christian mystery, so that when one of us communicated with the priest, we asked if he would consent to a funeral mass in the manner of the days gone by, which request he gladly granted. And so, on January 18, in the subzero weather of a little town in northwestern 'Connecticut, in the ugly little church we all grew up in, the priest recited the mass of dead, and the organist accompanied the- soloist who sang the Gregorian dirge in words the mourners did not clearly discern, words which had we discerned them we would not have been able exactly to translate, and yet we experienced not only her family but her friends, not alone the Catholics among us, but also the Protestants and the Jews something akin to that synesthesia which nowadays we spiritually restless folk find it necessary to discover in drugs or from a guru in mysterious India.

Six months later my sister's oldest daughter—the first of the grandchildren—was married. With some hesitation (one must not be overbearing) her father asked the same priest (of noble mien and great heart) whether this ritual might also be performed in the Latin. He replied with understanding and grace that that would not be possible, inasmuch as he would be performing on this occasion not in a remote corner of Connecticut, but in West Hartford, practically within the earshot of the bishop. We felt very wicked at having attempted anything so audacious within the walls of the episcopacy, and so the wedding took place according to the current cant, with everybody popping up, and kneeling down, and responding, more or less, to the stream of objurgations that issued from the nervous and tone-deaf young commentator, all together now, Who Do We Appreciate? Jesus! Jesus Jesus! Je-zus—it was awful. My beloved wife—to whom I have been beholden for seventeen years- and who has borne with me through countless weddings, of my countless relations, who was with me and clutched my hand during the funeral a few months earlier, whom, I had not invited to my church since the vulgarizations of 1964, so anxious was I that, as a member of the Anglican Communion, she should continue to remember our services, as she had known them, in their inscrutable majesty—turned to me early in the ritual in utter incredulity, wondering whether something was especially awry. Hypersensitive, I rebuked her, muttering something to the effect that she had no right to be so ignorant of what had been going on for three years, and she withdrew In anger. She was right; I was utterly wrong. How could she, an innocent Protestant, begin to conceive of the liturgical disfigurations of the past few years? My own reaction was, the protective reaction of the son whose father, the chronic drunkard, is first espied unsteady on his feet by someone from whom one has greatly cared to conceal the fact. Let it be objected that the essential fact of the matter is that the sacrament of matrimony was duly conferred, and what else is it that matters? My sensibilities, that's what.

They do not matter, of course, in any Benthamite reckoning of the success of the new liturgy. Concerning this point, I yield completely, or rather almost completely. It is absolutely right that the vernacular should displace the Latin if by doing so, the rituals of Catholic Christianity bring a greater satisfaction to the laity and a deeper comprehension of their religion. There oughtn't to be any argument on this point, and there certainty isn't any from me —-though I cherish the bodkin Sir Arnold Lunn so deftly inserted in the soft tissues of that argument: "If it is so," he said, arguing along with Evelyn Waugh and others
for one (1) Latin mass each Sunday in the larger churches, "that the Latin Mass is -only for the educated few, surely Mother Church in all her charity can find a little place even for the educated few?" Indeed, when a most learned and attractive young priest from my own parish asked me to serve as a lector in the new mass, I acquiesced, read all the relevant literature, and, to be sure warily, hoped that something was about to unfold before me which would vindicate the progressives.

I hung on doggedly for three years, until a month ago when I wrote my pastor that I no longer thought it appropriate regularly to serve as lector. During those three years I observed the evolution of the new mass and the reaction to it of the congregation (the largest, by the way in Connecticut.) The church holds 1,000 people, and at first, four hymns were prescribed. They were subsequently reduced to three, even as, in the course of the experiment, the commentator absorbed the duties of the lector, or vice versa, depending on whether you are the ex-commentator| or the ex-lector. At our church three years ago perhaps a dozen people out of 1,000 sang the hymn. (It is not much different with the prayers.) That is atypical, to be sure, the church is large and overawing to the uncertain group singer—i.e., to most non-Protestant Americans. In other Catholic churches, I have noted, the congregations tend to in join a little bit more firmly in the song. In none that I have been to is there anything like the joyous unison that the bards of the new liturgy thrummed about in the anticipatory literature, the only exception being the highly regimented school my son attends, at which the reverend headmaster has means to induce cooperation in whatever enterprise strikes his fancy. (I have noticed that my son does not join in the hymn singing when he is home, though the reason why is not necessarily indifference, is almost surely not recalcitrance, is most likely a realistic appreciation of his inability to contribute to the musical story line.)

I must, of course, judge primarily on the basis of my own experience; but it is conclusive at my own church, and I venture to say without fear of contradiction that the joint singing and prayers are a fiasco, which is all right, I suppose—the Christian martyrs endured worse exasperations and profited more from them than we endure from or are likely to benefit from the singing of the hymns at St. Mary's Church. What is troublesome is the difficulty one has in dogging one's own spiritual pursuits in the random cacophony. Really, the new liturgists should have offered training in yogi or whatever else Mother Church in her
resourcefulness might baptize as a distinctively Catholic means by which we might tune off the Fascistic static of the contemporary mass, during which one is either attempting to sing, totally neglecting the prayers at the foot of the altar which suddenly we are told are irrelevant; or attempting to read the missal at one's own syncopated pace, which we must now do athwart the obtrusive rhythm of the priest or the commentator; or attempting to meditate on this or the other proper of the mass, only to find that such meditation is sheer outlawry, which stands in the way of the liturgical calisthenics devised by the central coach, who apparently judges it an act of neglect if the churchgoer is permitted more than two minutes and forty-six seconds without being made to stand if he was kneeling, or kneel if he was standing, or sit—or sing—or chant—or anything if perchance he was praying, from which anarchism he must at all costs be rescued: "LET US NOW RECITE THE INTROIT PRAYER," says the commentator, to which exhortation I find myself aching to reply in that "loud and clear and reverential voice" the manual for lectors, prescribes: "LET US NOT!" Must we say the introit prayer together? I have been reading the introit prayer since I was thirteen years old, and I continue unaware that I missed something—e.g., at the Jesuit school in England when at daily mass we read the introit prayers all by our little selves, beginning it perhaps as much as five seconds before, or five seconds after, the priest, who, enjoying the privacy granted him at Trent, pursued his prayers, in his own way, at his own speed, ungoverned by the metronomic discipline of the parishioners or of the commentator.

Ah, but now the parish understands the introit prayer! But, my beloved friends, the parish does not understand. Neither does the commentator. Neither does the lector. Neither, if you want the truth of the matter, does the priest—in most cases. If clarity is the purpose of the liturgical reform—the reason for going into English, the reason for going into the vernacular—then the reforms of the liturgy are simply incomplete. If clarity is the desideratum, or however you say the word in English, then the thing to do is to jettison, just to begin with, most of St. Paul, whose epistles are in some respects inscrutable to some of the people some of the time and in most respects inscrutable to most of the people most of the tune. The translation of them from archaic grandeur to John-Jane-Gyp contemporese simply doesn't do the trick, particularly if one is expected to go in unison. Those prayers, which are not exacting or recondite—are even they more galvanizing when spoken in unison? LET US NOW RECITE THE TNTROIT PRAYER. Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy; deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man. Judge-me-O-God / And-distinguish-my-cause-from-the-nation-that-is-not-holy / Deliver-me-from-the-unjust-and-deceitful-man/ —Why? How come? Whose idea—that such words as these are better spoken, better understood, better appreciated, when rendered metrically in forced marches with the congregation? Who, thinking to read these holy and inspired words reverentially, would submit to the iron rhythm of a joint reading? It is one thing to chant together a refrain—Lord deliver us/Lord save us/Grant us peace. But the extended prayer in unison is a metallic Procrusteanism, which absolutely defies the rationale of the whole business, which is the communication of meaning. The rote saying of anything is the enemy of understanding. To reduce to unison prayers whose meaning is unfamiliar is virtually to guarantee that they will mean nothing to the sayer. "Brethren: Everything that was written: in times past was written for our instruction, that through the patience and encouragement afforded by the scriptures we might have hope. I say that Christ exercised his ministry to the circumsized to show God's fidelity in fulfilling his promises to the fathers, whereas the Gentiles glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: 'Therefore will I proclaim you among the nations, and I will sing praise to your name.' " These were the words with which I first accosted my fellow parishioners from the lector's pulpit. I do not even now understand them well enough to explain them with any confidence. And yet, the instruction manual informs me, I am to communicate their meaning "clearly" and "confidently." And together the congregation will repeat such sentences in the gradual.

Our beloved Mother Church. How sadly, how innocently, how—sometimes—strangely she is sometimes directed by her devoted disciples! Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you . . . The Lord is with who! Thee to you, Buster, I found myself thinking during the retreat when first I learned that it is a part of the current edification to strip the Lord, His Mother, and the saints of the honorific with which the simple Quakers even now address their children and their servants. And the translations! "Happy the Humble—they shall inherit. . . ." One cannot read on without the same sense of outrage one would feel on entering the Cathedral of Chartres and finding that the windows had been replaced with pop art figures of Christ sitting in against the slumlords of Milwaukee. One's heart is filled with such passions of resentment and odium as only Hilaire Belloc could adequately i have voiced. O God O God O God, why has thou forsaken us! My faith, I note on their taking from us even the canon of the mass in that mysterious universal which soothed inspired the low and the mighty, a part of the mass—as Evelyn Waugh recalled—"for whose restoration the Elizabethan martyrs had gone to the scaffold [in which] St. Augustine, St. Thomas a Becket, St. Thomas More, Challoner and Newman would have been perfectly at their ease among us," is secure. I pray the sacrifice will yield a rich harvest of informed Christians. But to suppose that it will is the most difficult act of faith I have ever been called on to make, because it tears against the perceptions of all my senses. My faith is a congeries of dogmatical certitudes, one of which is that the new liturgy is the triumph, yea the resurrection, of the Philistines.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Google: Ensuring Your Privacy

It's well-known that you can find out almost anything about almost anybody by using the Google search engine.

Alas, not everyone wants everything about them to be available to the world. And now Google has found a way to ensure privacy. If you don't want the world peering over your shoulder all you have to do is say rude things about the U.N. on your web page. It worked for Matthew Lee who runs the Inner City Press website. No doubt, it can work for you, too.

Thank Heaven, For Little Girls

Les petites terreurs.

Although, using the French language in this context may not be just the thing. Those who are quoted in the Times article are named "Awa", "Jenaba", and "Mohammed".

The Language, As She is Spoke

It took me forever to finally get "infer" and "imply" straight. (You imply; I infer.) And English has a trainload of words which don't mean quite what I think they do. I shall probably die of old age still in ignorance of most of that trainload. And there is grammar, syntax, idiom. . . .But progress is being made.

For instance.

I saw the other day a mention of Dick Tuck. (I think it was in Dan Weintraub's column but I can't find the reference at the moment.) Do you remember Mr Tuck? He's the fellow who famously played "tricks" on Richard Nixon's various political campaigns. On other Republicans, too, but it was the Nixon hijinx that put him in the news. And yet another rule of proper usage became clear:

If you sabotage a Republican campaign, you are a prankster, engaged in merry pranks which we all find hilarious. If you sabotage a Democratic campaign, you are a felon engaged in dirty tricks and endangering democracy. We all despise you.

Non-native English speakers must have a dreadful time sorting this stuff out.

Mr Bi-Partisan and the Three-Card Trick

A nifty one from St Obama, explained in a WSJ editorial:

Barack Obama is promising to end partisanship in Washington, and here's a place to start: He could stop playing politics with the Federal Election Commission in a way that could hamper John McCain's campaign against, well, Mr. Obama.

The Illinois Senator is blocking confirmation of one of President Bush's appointees to the FEC, which administers election laws. This has left the agency two commissioners short of the quorum it needs to make decisions -- with the potential for direct harm to Mr. McCain's campaign. As we've been writing, the Arizona Senator took out a controversial $1 million loan that FEC Chairman David Mason has said might lock him into the public finance system for the primary season. Mr. McCain doesn't want to do that because he'd have to abide by spending limits that would reduce his campaigning this spring and summer. Mr. Mason says the FEC needs to rule on the matter, but without a quorum Mr. McCain is left hanging.

Yessiree, ending partisanship. That's what St Obama is all about.

[More on the actual issue at hand here.]

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Traditional Mass in the O.C.

A recent update from the website of Una Voce Orange County reports some new Masses in the Diocese of Orange [CA]:

We are pleased to announce that the Mass of the Ages has returned to St. Mary's By the Sea in Huntington Beach. It is offered at Noon every Sunday. Thanks be to our Lord!

In addition, the Tridentine Mass (a.k.a. "extraordinary form of the Mass) is offered now at St John the Baptist Church in Costa Mesa, every Sunday at 10:30 a.m., St Thomas More Church in Irvine, on the second Sunday of each month at 12:30 p.m., and of course at the Pope John Paul II Polish Center in Yorba Linda every Sunday at 7 a.m. and at Mission San Juan Capistrano Serra Chapel every Sunday at 8 a.m.
Up-to-date information on Los Angeles can be found at the Una Voce Los Angeles site.

Friday, February 22, 2008

What Happens When The Guys in the Back Office "Don't Get No Respect"

Société Générale found out in a big way as we see in one paragraph of this story on the investigation into Jérôme Kerviel's private game of Monopoly using SG's money:

The report said, for example, that officials in the back office often didn't inform their supervisors when they noticed irregularities in Mr. Kerviel's transactions, even when the trades involved abnormally high amounts, "because this was not specifically part of their job description."

"Not in my job description": the war cry of the seriously disgruntled.

Some day I shall try to discover why I find this whole case so fascinating. Perhaps it is because Mr Kerviel didn't try to make any money for himself from his financial legerdemain.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How Did I Miss This?

The Ugly Vestment Contest.

This has some truly astonishing entries. Give it a look. It takes a while to load but the terrifying pictures are worth the wait.

Although, in my occasionally humble opinion, some of them are merely inappropriate rather than ugly. There are a few quite nice shower curtains shown here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An Irony Rich Diet

Don't know if The Times recommends it, but they do provide it.

Here, for instance.

Hmm? You mean I have to explain it?

O.K., see we have here these frighteningly comprehensive health examinations for your CEOs, your big time execs, your VIPs. No organ will go un-X-rayed, no orifice unprobed. They'll run $2,000 to $3,000 a pop and insurance won't cover them. Keeps the riff-raff out.

And who provides these wonderful examinations? Why, Good Samaritan Hospital.

Good Samaritan. You remember the Good Samaritan? That's right. The fellow who picks up wounded strangers from the side of the road and has them taken care of at his own expense.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Step Backward

We've lost one of our new "extraordinary use" Masses already.

The provincial of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary has pulled the plug on the old Mass at St Peter Chanel. The priests there have been informed that the traditional Roman Rite is "not part of your apostolate".

Fortunately, there are other options not too far away. Una Voce Orange and Una Voce Los Angeles give the details. But it's really a great shame as this is one of the really good parishes in the Archdiocese. The combination of their orthodoxy and excellent preaching with the old Mass was, perhaps, too great a grace, more than our decadent corner of the world could handle.


I haven't posted since before Ash Wednesday and haven't said a thing about Lent. (Miserable health is largely to blame. How miserable? Mary went to Costco to buy my cough drops instead of the drug store.) But as always, if you're after a good Lenten read, Recta Ratio is an excellent place to start.

That Stimulus Nonsense

So says Arthur Laffer here, wherein he finds yet another reason to find the "stimulus package" to be Not A Good Thing.

The other reason is Ron Paul's widely quoted amazement that anyone thinks that borrowing money from China to give to Americans to buy Chinese products (pretty much all that's sold in America these days) will help the American economy.

Stream of consciousness take-off from the word "stimulus": St Paul wanted no part of a "stimulus": datus est mihi stimulus carnis meæ, angelus Satanæ ut me colaphizet. IICor.12:vii

Was it ever good?

stimulus~i, masc. 1. A goad (for urging on animals). b (used as an instrument of torture) c soldier's nickname for a spike concealed in the ground; (applied also to spikes as an instrument of torture).
2 Something that causes constant mental torment or unrest, a 'prick', 'sting' (of anxiety, grief, etc.).
3 Something that rouses to fury or passion, to an action, a spur, a goad.
from the Oxford Latin Dictionary

Yes, of course, thoroughly unfair. The "stimulus package" is English and not Latin. Not the same thing at all. Ignore all that "stream of consciousness" bumpf. Just read Professor Laffer's article.


"For urging on animals." "As an instrument of torture."

Latin is such fun.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

TCM: Even More Cynical Than I?

So it would seem. Their prime-time movie this California election night:

Democracy is the theory that the people know what
they want and deserve to get it, good and hard.
--H. L. Mencken

Votin' Day

We went out a few minutes ago and did our best to save what remains of the old republic. A very low turn out so far, but I'm told it will pick up considerably once folks with normal jobs are released around 5:00 p.m. This is the first year that the Republican primary in this state will not be winner-take-all. Dr Paul may pick up a few delegates. We live in hope.

[You can click on the picture and see more detail of the early 19th century American election involved.]

Monday, February 04, 2008

Communion in the Hand

Maybe not such a good idea after all, says Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship. My friend Richard sent me a copy of a Catholic News Service story on the Archbishop's negative view, a practice that was "introduced abusively and hurriedly in some spheres" and only later authorized by the Vatican. But I can't find a link for it. [ADDENDUM: Closed Cafeteria gives the text here.]

But I did find an article on The Remnant's website. Says His Excellency:

Whatever the reasons for this practice, we cannot ignore what is happening worldwide where this practice has been implemented. This gesture has contributed to a gradual weakening of the attitude of reverence towards the sacred Eucharistic species whereas the previous practice had better safeguarded that sense of reverence. There instead arose an alarming lack of recollection and a general spirit of carelessness. We see communicants who often return to their seats as if nothing extraordinary has happened... In many cases, one cannot discern that sense of seriousness and inner silence that must signal the presence of God in the soul.

Then there are those who take away the sacred species to keep them as souvenirs, those who sell, or worse yet, who take them away to desecrate it in Satanic rituals. Even in large concelebrations, also in Rome, several times the sacred species has been found thrown onto the ground.

. . . .

Now I think that it is high time to review and re-evaluate such good practices and, if necessary, to abandon the current practice that was not called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium, nor by the Fathers, but was only accepted after its illegitimate introduction in some countries. Now, more than ever, we must help the faithful to renew a deep faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in order to strengthen the life of the Church and defend it in the midst of dangerous distortions of the faith that this situation continues to cause.
Read the rest of the article here.

"Rescuing me from despair is Ron Paul."

Taki Theodoracopulos's endorsement of Ron Paul. No need to read between the lines for Taki's "real" opinion. The gist of it:

Back in 2004, traditional conservatives were faced with navigating between a Charybdis and a Scylla by the names of Bush and Kerry. On one side lurked something quite monstrous: a self-described conservative who fiddled as the federal government grew to obscene proportions and who allowed sofa-samurai with names like Wolfowitz, Perle, and Kristol to talk him into an unending occupation of Babylon. On the other side swirled the vortex of John Kerry, George Soros, and Michael Moore, all promising big taxes, big government, and plenty of winks and nods to the cultural Left. . . .

. . . .The 2008 campaign might seem to present a similar dilemma. Even after Giuliani has left the race to pursue a career as a mortician and horror-film villain, the top tier of the GOP offers little in the way of change from the past seven years. Among the Democrats, “Billary” would present the country with a fate worse than Kerry, and I’m about as likely to vote for Barack Obama as I am to join Oprah’s book club.

Rescuing me from despair is Ron Paul. Here is a man who makes me believe that the Grand Old Party of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and William F. Buckley might have a second life. Here is a man from Texas, with strong libertarian and conservative values, who has laid out a foreign policy that would put America first. Unlike the rest of them, if Ron Paul ever stood on the steps of the Capitol and swore to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, he’d actually mean it.
Read the rest of it here.

St Andrew Corsini, O. Carm.

Today is the feast of St Andrew Corsini in the old calendar, a.k.a. "extraordinary rite". The Carmelite Order observes his feast in the new rite on January 9th. The Catholic Encyclopædia gives a brief life here. (And manages to call him a Carmelite monk, too. Ahem. It's "friar".) There's a more extensive vita here.

Amavit eum Dominus, et ornavit eum: stolam gloriæ induit eum, et ad portas paradisi coronavit eum.

† Iustum deduxit Dominus per vias rectas.
‡ Et ostendit illi regnum Dei.


Deus, qui in Ecclesia tua nova semper instauras exempla virtutum: da populo tuo beati Andreæ Confessoris tui atque Pontificis ita sequi vestigia; ut assequatur et præmia. Per Dominum. Amen.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Vatican's Legal Representative in the U.S.

Rather surprising, this one. It isn't a thousand-lawyer mega-firm with offices in San Francisco, New York, London, and Rome. It's a sole-practitioner in Berkeley. You can read about him here.

Candlemas Day -- Lumen ad Revelationem Gentium

For Candlemas Day, a final passage from Clement Miles's 100 year old tome Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan. He is, alas, still riding the old 19th century hobby-horse that loves to find a pagan origin in every Christian ceremony. But what harm. It's still a good read.

Though with Twelfth Day the high festival of Christmas generally ends, later dates have sometimes been assigned as the close of the season. At the old English court, for instance, the merrymaking was sometimes carried on until Candlemas, while in some English country places it was customary, even in the late nineteenth century, to leave Christmas decorations up, in houses and churches, till that day. The whole time between Christmas and the Presentation in the Temple was thus treated as sacred to the Babyhood of Christ; the withered evergreens would keep alive memories of Christmas joys, even, sometimes, after Septuagesima had struck the note of penitence.

. . . .

Nearer to the original date of the spring feast is Candlemas, February 2; though connected with Christmas by its ecclesiastical meaning, it is something of a vernal festival.

The feast of the Purification of the Virgin or Presentation of Christ in the Temple was probably instituted by Pope Liberius at Rome in the fourth century. The ceremonial to which it owes its popular name, Candlemas, is the blessing of candles in church and the procession of the faithful, carrying them lighted in their hands. During the blessing the “Nunc dimittis” is chanted, with the antiphon “Lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel,” the ceremony being thus brought into connection with the “light to lighten the Gentiles” hymned by Symeon. Usener has however shown reason for thinking that the Candlemas procession was not of spontaneous Christian growth, but was inspired by a desire to Christianize a Roman rite, the Amburbale, which took place at the same season and consisted of a procession round the city with lighted candles.

The Candlemas customs of the sixteenth century are thus described by Naogeorgus:

“Then numbers great of Tapers large, both men and women beare
To Church, being halowed there with pomp, and dreadful words to heare.
This done, eche man his Candell lightes, where chiefest seemeth hee,
Whose taper greatest may be seene, and fortunate to bee,
Whose Candell burneth cleare and brighte; a wondrous force and might
Doth in these Candells lie, which if at any time they light,
They sure beleve that neyther storme or tempest dare abide,
Nor thunder in the skies be heard, nor any devils spide,
Nor fearefull sprites that walke by night, nor hurts of frost or haile.”

Still, in many Roman Catholic regions, the candles blessed in church at the Purification are believed to have marvellous powers. In Brittany, Franche-Comté, and elsewhere, they are preserved and lighted in time of storm or sickness. In Tyrol they are lighted on important family occasions such as christenings and funerals, as well as on the approach of a storm ; in Sicily in time of earthquake or when somebody is dying.

In England some use of candles on this festival continued long after the Reformation. In 1628 the Bishop of Durham gave serious offence by sticking up wax candles in his cathedral at the Purification; “the number of all the candles burnt that evening was two hundred and twenty, besides sixteen torches; sixty of those burning tapers and torches standing upon and near the high Altar.” Ripon Cathedral, as late as the eighteenth century, was brilliantly illuminated with candles on the Sunday before the festival. And, to come to domestic customs, at Lyme Regis in Dorsetshire the person who bought the wood-ashes of a family used to send a present of a large candle at Candlemas. It was lighted at night, and round it there was festive drinking until its going out gave the signal for retirement to rest.

There are other British Candlemas customs connected with fire. In the western isles of Scotland, says an early eighteenth-century writer, “as Candlemas Day comes round, the mistress and servants of each family taking a sheaf of oats, dress it up in woman's apparel, and after putting it in a large basket, beside which a wooden club is placed, they cry three times, ‘Briid is come! Briid is welcome!’ This they do just before going to bed, and as soon as they rise in the morning, they look among the ashes, expecting to see the impression of Briid's club there, which if they do, they reckon it a true presage of a good crop and prosperous year, and the contrary they take as an ill-omen.” Sir Laurence Gomme regards this as an illustration of belief in a house-spirit whose residence is the hearth and whose element is the ever-burning sacred flame. He also considers the Lyme Regis custom mentioned above to be a modernized relic of the sacred hearth-fire.

Again, the feast of the Purification was the time to kindle a “brand” preserved from the Christmas log. Herrick's Candlemas lines may be recalled:—

“Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
Till sunne-set let it burne;
Which quencht, then lay it up agen,
Till Christmas next returne.
Part must be kept wherewith to teend
The Christmas Log next yeare;
And where ‘tis safely kept, the Fiend
Can do no mischiefe there.”

Candlemas Eve was the moment for the last farewells to Christmas; Herrick sings:—

“End now the White Loafe and the Pye,
And let all sports with Christmas dye,”


“Down with the Rosemary and Bayes,
Down with the Misleto;
Instead of Holly, now up-raise
The greener Box for show.
The Holly hitherto did sway;
Let Box now domineere
Until the dancing Easter Day,
Or Easter's Eve appeare.”

An old Shropshire servant, Miss Burne tells us, was wont, when she took down the holly and ivy on Candlemas Eve, to put snow-drops in their place. We may see in this replacing of the winter evergreens by the delicate white flowers a hint that by Candlemas the worst of the winter is over and gone; Earth has begun to deck herself with blossoms, and spring, however feebly, has begun. With Candlemas we, like the older English countryfolk, may take our leave of Christmas.

Friday, February 01, 2008

St Brigid of Kildare

February 1 is not only my grandmother's birthday but the feast of the great St Brigid of Ireland, "the Mary of the Gael".

Here is a short life from the Catholic Encyclopædia.

And here is a website with all you could ever hope to know about St Brigid. Even a bit of whimsy from Phyllis McGinley:

"The Giveaway"
(from The Love Letters of Phyllis Mcginley, New York, Viking Press, 1957)

Saint Bridget was
A problem child.
Although a lass
Demure and mild,
And one who strove
To please her dad,
Saint Bridget drove
The family mad.
For here's the fault in Bridget lay:
She Would give everything away.

To any soul
Whose luck was out
She'd give her bowl
Of stir about;
She'd give her shawl,
Divide her purse
With one or all.
And what was worse,
When she ran out of things to give
She'd borrow from a relative.

Her father's gold,
Her grandsire's dinner,
She'd hand to cold
and hungry sinner;
Give wine, give meat,
No matter whose;
Take from her feet
The very shoes,
And when her shoes had gone to others,
Fetch forth her sister's and her mother's.

She could not quit.
She had to share;
Gave bit by bit
The silverware,
The barnyard geese,
The parlor rug,
Her little niece-
's christening mug,
Even her bed to those in want,
And then the mattress of her aunt.

An easy touch
For poor and lowly,
She gave so much
And grew so holy
That when she died
Of years and fame,
The countryside
Put on her name,
And still the Isles of Erin fidget
With generous girls named Bride or Bridget.

Well, one must love her.
In thinking of her
There's no denial
She must have been
A sort of trial
Unto her kin.
The moral, too, seems rather quaint.
WHO had the patience of a saint,
From evidence presented here?
Saint Bridget? Or her near and dear?

The French Do It Differently. . .

I was highly diverted this morning to read in the Wall Street Journal that Jérôme Kerviel is still employed by Société Générale. You remember him, surely. He's the fellow who works for the giant French commercial bank who went off on a trading lark of his own and ended up in the red with €4.9 billion of the bank's money. It's made for a very entertaining week of newspaper-reading, not least for the opportunity to pronounce So-SEE-eh-tay Zhen-eh-RAHL several times at the breakfast table. And now, even though he's put them on the hook for billions (with a B) he still technically works for the said Société.

Mind you the bank would dearly love to fire him:

Daniel Bouton, the bank's chairman and CEO, issued an English-language statement, announcing that the "individual in question has been dismissed." But that turned out to be a translation error. The French original said that he had been "mis à pied," which translates literally as "put on foot," but basically means to be suspended or asked to go home.

"They can't just tell him to take his bags and get lost," says Michel Origier, a trade-union representative at the French bank where Mr. Kerviel worked -- and, technically at least, still works.

It seems you have to have a formal meeting, employer and employee, in which the employee is told face-to-face wherein his work product has failed to meet expectations. And they can't do that. Mr Kerviel is under court order not to visit the bank or meet with any bank employees. Poor old Société Général. Poor old Kerviel, if it comes to that. So long as he's still employed, he's not eligible for unemployment compensation.