Monday, May 30, 2005

Fun With SiteMeter

I got SiteMeter a few weeks ago for the blog. This handy little website allows me to track how many hits we get by hour and also allows me to see where people are being referred from and what Google search terms they entered that led to their getting to the blog. Here's some of the highlights of Google search results from the past couple of weeks (and to the people who are visiting the blog because of them: You are always welcome here. Please come back!)

*Is Hayden Christensen Catholic? We certainly hope so, as that would immediately raise his standing from simply "good looking" to "attractive" (see post "A Trip Inside the Female Psyche" from a few days ago.) I've read nothing that says Hayden Christensen is Catholic, but we'd love to have him stop by the blog and find out why he should be if he isn't. So just in case Hayden Christensen Googles his name (as we all know we do ours for fun), I simply have this to say: Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen (should be Catholic). Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen (should be Catholic). Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen (should be Catholic). Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen. Hayden Christensen (should be Catholic).

*Can a girl leave Catholicism for marriage? Yes, but why would you want to? I'm guessing if one is considering leaving the One True Faith for someone else that means they don't particulary have a great love for the One True Faith, maybe including because they see the Church as oppressive of women (when it is, in fact, the opposite). If that's the case, isn't it more than a bit ridiculous that some guy is harassing a woman he supposedly loves to leave her faith to make him happy? This isn't to say that marriages between non-Catholics can't be good ones, but leaving the Church to marry someone will, I assure you, make that marriage more difficult and less fruitful, especially as it could be that the marriage may not be sacramentally valid. How about encouraging him to explore Catholicism? Seriously, whoever he is and however much you love each other, he just isn't worth it - especially considering the Church has the Eucharist.

*How to ask a Catholic girl out. This is my favorite. A couple of thoughts on this search: 1) I'm impressed you like this girl enough to take the time to think about how to ask her out. 2) I think your time would be better spent, however, in actually talking to her in person to discover the kind of person she is and what things she might be interested in doing on a date. 3) We Catholic girls are a pretty diverse group and there's no one surefire way of being successful at asking us out. I would suggest, however, that like all women (and probably more so than the rest of them), we respond to respect, chivalry, attention, flowers and candy (especially chocolate). 4) I think a really romantic Catholic date would be if you go over to her house at about 3 a.m. (with her parents' permission!), wake her up, take her to a parish with Perpetual Adoration and just sit there in silence together in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour or so, maybe praying a Rosary together, then possibly getting her some ice cream before dropping her off back home just as the sun is rising (I mean it's not like I've thought this is how I want to be proposed to or anything).

You Know What's Amazing...

About this Washington Post story on France's rejection of the European Union constitution? I covered the same stories as Post reporter Craig Whitlock last year when I participated in UMD's Capital News Service, a graduate-level program I did as a sophomore in which I reported full time for a semester from the Maryland State House in Annapolis. Craig was in Annapolis last spring covering the slots debate. Immediately after the end of the 2004 session last April, he was transferred to Germany, where I believe he is still based. I remember sitting in the speaker of the house's conference room last year with Craig and 4 or 5 other statehouse reporters (including the AP's Tom Stuckey, who's covered Maryland politics for about 30 years or so and is the dean of the Annapolis press corps) talking to Speaker Mike Busch about the slots showdown going on. Most of the interview was off-the-record. But it's cool to think that I covered the same stories as someone who's now covering major international news (I know Craig also did stories on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, some stuff in Saudi Arabia, etc.) I also got to work alongside other Post reporters ( including Lori Montgomery - who's now covering the DC City Council for the Post) and Sun reporters (including David Nitkin, who was one of the two reporters in Gov. Ehrlich's utterly ridiculous news ban).

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Book Meme

Thanks to Cacciaguida, who's been very good to us since discovering our blog a couple of weeks ago, we've been tagged to give our rundown of the Book Meme.

1. Total Number of Books I've Owned: I'd say about 450. I wish it were more, but since I'm only 21...About 150 or so of those would be juvenile literature, with the greatest chunk of that being from my Baby Sitters Club days back in the 4th grade or so, when I had about 65 of the regular books, plus another 30 of their super books, mystery books, junior books, etc. I've probably bought about 100 books for college classes, though many of those I've sold back (I need the money).

2. Last Book I Bought: When I got back to Slidell last weekend, my dad, sister and I went to Barnes and Noble that same night and I got three great books for the summer: PJP's Memory and Identity and Chesterton's Orthodoxy and Everlasting Man. I started M&I a few days ago and hope to get to Chesterton soon.

3. Last Book I Read: Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. It was assigned reading for my Holocaust history class this semester, but I encourage everyone to pick this book up. It's pretty small - only about 170 pages - but is a beautiful work. It is impossible to imagine what life was like for Nazi victims in the concentration camps, but this work comes closer than anything I've ever read or seen to describing it for those of us who didn't live through it. I also recently finished PJP's Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way, which was a beautiful reflection on his life as a bishop.

4. Five Books that Mean A Lot to Me:

*Story of A Soul: St. Therese is my Confirmation patroness and this book I first read Story of a Soul in my sophomore year of high school, about 5 years ago. It taught me so much about her, and about myself. It is nothing short of extraordinary and I recall her writing in my head and heart whenever I face a spiritual question or concern.

*Jacob Have I Loved: This book, by juvenile literature queen Katherine Paterson, was my favorite book growing up; I think I read it about 6 times in 2 years. It might be a book for middle school kids, but when I was in middle school, I could relate a lot to it - the issues of sibling rivalry, of competition for attention, of children's wishes and dreams and how they relate to the reality of our lives. It is an amazing little work of fiction. It is set on a fictional island in the Chesapeake Bay and I must tell you that coming to Maryland from Louisiana, it held ac certain spell over me. Even last month, when our Catholic Daughters court was driving back to College Park from Ocean City, as we drove over the Bay Bridge, I looked out the window, out over the water and thought of this book.

*The Three Billy Goats Gruff: Actually, this isn't a book. You can find book versions of it, but I love it more told aloud as a story; namely acted out by my dad. My dad is a great connaisseur of books and stories of all sorts and when my brothers and sister and I were little, he read to us and told us stories all the time - including doing amazing voices and sound effects. This was my favorite of his stories that he did. I was always afraid of the troll (his voice for this was perfect) and every time I heard it was really nervous that the goats would be eaten. I credit my dad's love of books and stories for my love of books and stories.

*Sense and Sensibility: I love Austen. S&S is not her best story; Pride and Prejudice is. But I connect more to S&S. In high school, I connected to Colonel Brandon because Willoughby says of him what I thought people thought of me when I was in high school: "He's the kind of person everyone speaks well of, but nobody remembers to talk to." I don't see myself connecting that way to Brandon anymore, but I've shared Marianne's broken heart (which I think is the best description of one in any piece of literature I've ever read) and can now identify with Elinor in many ways.

*Les Miserables. I bought this book on Bastille Day in 2000 after taking two years of French and wanting to read great French literature (though I have an English translation of the work). I didn't actually start reading it until July of last year, lying on the beach in Cape May, New Jersey with my then-boyfriend. I finished the 1,400-page epic in January of this year, lying on my bed at home in Slidell, no longer with my boyfriend and a very different, more mature person. The story is wonderful and Hugo does an amazing job of keeping your attention the entire book with captivating prose. But the real reason this means a lot to me is everything that happened in my life between reading the book's first sentence and reading its last.

5. Tag 5 People to Have Them Do This: I think most Catholic bloggers have already done this, so I'll tap most of my fellow Catholic Student Center bloggers: the men of Catholicae Testudines, Mike of the Easy Distraction and Joey of Beneath Wayne Manor. Hopefully my fellow CGTers will post some of their favorite books, etc. too.

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Here's a beautiful reflection on the Eucharist, I believe from St. Thomas Aquinas and taken from the Liturgy of the Hours Office of Readings:

O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.

It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was on the point of leaving the world to go the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his
passion. It was the fulfillment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Thanks to the Sexual Revolution

Ads like this* (story via the WashPo) make me feel like a liberated woman. I mean, not only do we get to grab men's attention by being almost naked and performing lewd dances, but we do it all in the service of bringing them two other things they love: cars and food. And we don't even say a word, because we all know that men like their scantily-clad women to shut up and be "empty vessels." Now if only that darn Catholic Church will stop being so oppressive of women, more of us will be able to be sex objects for men to sell them food.

*Not-so-chaste picture included.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Ten Percent Off

A conversation I had last week with Justin, one of our great Catholic Student Center alumni seminarians, got me thinking about how many young Catholics today often don't give enough money to the Church. Yes, they are very dedicated and give so much of themselves in many ways, but they're often squimish about handing over money (and I admit that though I do contribute, I don't usually tithe). But the institutional Church cannot function without funds. The electric bill can't get paid, ministries can't be supported, education cannot be given without the financial contribution of the Body of Christ. This sacrifice of one's treasure is an important component of being a member of the Church. As Scott Hahn points out in The Lamb's Supper, the fact that during the Mass the collection is brought up to the altar with the bread and wine during the presentation of the gifts is a very imporant one. We sacrifice financially to offer ourselves more totally in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And yes, it is supposed to be a sacrifice - it's supposed to hurt a little. We're not supposed to contribute only when we have a little extra money, or when we get that higher-paying job or when we get out of school; we're supposed to do it now.

I was wondering whether to post these thoughts, but then I went to Mass on Tuesday and this was the first reading, from the Book of Sirach:

To keep the law is a great oblation,and he who observes the commandments sacrifices a peace offering. In works of charity one offers fine flour,and when he gives alms he presents his sacrifice of praise. To refrain from evil pleases the LORD, and to avoid injustice is an atonement. Appear not before the LORD empty-handed, for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the precepts. The just
one's offering enriches the altar and rises as a sweet odor before the Most High. The just one's sacrifice is most pleasing, nor will it ever be forgotten. In a generous spirit pay homage to the LORD, be not sparing of freewill gifts. With each contribution show a cheerful countenance,and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy. Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously,
according to your means.

For the LORD is one who always repays,and he will give back to you sevenfold. But offer no bribes, these he does not accept! Trust not in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion. For he is a God of justice,who knows no favorites.

So, I have a proposition for everyone this week. This Sunday is the glorious Feast of Corpus Christi, when we celebrate that Christ left us the total gift of Himself in the Eucharist. So let us offer something back to Him: Let's actually tithe this week - let's all drop 10 percent of our last paychecks in the collection basket. Don't give the money to some other charity, however worthy it may be. Let's support the Church. And if for some reason we have problems with giving to our own parish, then I suggest the money be sent to Catholic Relief Services, an arm of the USCCB that does amazing work in the world.

A New Father

I ask all readers' prayers today for Deacon Tom Woods, who will be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington on Saturday morning. Soon-to-be Father Woods will be an amazing priest. He served at the Catholic Student Center on Maryland's campus this year and was a great blessing. Not only did he help out Fr. Bill, but he helped all of us students learn more about the priestly vocation and the amazing grace Christ pours out to those He calls to this ministry. He's sarcastic, funny, holy, sarcastic, down-to-earth, a wonderful preacher, sarcastic, a great resource for all sorts of questions, and is totally devoted to Our Lord (oh, and did I mention he's sarcastic?)

Deacon Woods told me one of the few things he kept in his room in seminary was a statue of St. Therese of Lisieux because "St. Therese loves priests, man." So I ask that all pray through the intercession of St. Therese (who was the spiritual companion of a couple of young seminarians and priests in her lifetime) that Fr. Woods' priestly ministry be a holy and fruitful one.

Chastity is for Lovers

A few weeks ago, our very own Sierra (who's listed as a contributor on this blog but who has actually never posted anything...) asked me if I wanted to go to California with her in August. "For what?" I asked. "For an abstinence conference," she said. "But not abstinence for married people, right?" I asked. "Because it wouldn't be good if married people are abstinent."

That conversation, along with Thomas' post at CT about sex ed got me thinking about the words "abstinence" and "chastity." If we are to embrace the full meaning of our human sexuality, we must not be abstinent - we must be chaste. Chastity encompasses every vocation in the life of the Church and it gives meaning and proper order to each vocation. Abstinence does not do the same. One can be abstinent without being chaste (i.e. impure thoughts), and one can be chaste without being abstinent (i.e. engaging in the marriage act with their spouse). We must strive for chastity; it is the higher calling. Abstinence means nothing else than that we do not have sex. But if that is the scope of our understanding about sex and sexuality, then that understanding is poor indeed. To be chaste means to understand and accept your sexuality as a gift from God and give glory to Him through it by exercising it appropriately according to your vocation.

Abstinence is an Old Testament word;chastity is a New Testament Word. Abstinence is like the Ten Commandments; chastity like the Beatitudes. Abstinence is a habit; chastity is a way of life. Abstinence is a denial of one's self; chastity is an embracing of one's self.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Trip Inside the Female Psyche

Peter of Catholicae Testudines asked about a “hunks” spot on the blog after I included a photo of Hayden Christensen, whom I identified as “good looking,” in a post a few days ago. Anne also commented on that post by saying that he was not good looking and that his evil tendencies in Sith removed any attraction she would have for him.

With those two stimuli, I will now address what I see as the differences between being “good looking” and “attractive,” since they are, in fact, two different things. This might be a shallow post, yes, but it is summer and I don’t start my job until tomorrow.

Good Looking: This is the more objective of the two categories and implies that I think you are a beautiful human being – that you have nice physical features. Noticed I said “more objective” as it is not completely objective. I might think someone is good looking while Sierra or Anne or Lacy might not. Fair enough. I do think most people fall into the good looking category, though some can be considered more good looking than others. Good looking implies that the relationship is platonic and that each party wants it to remain that way. This means, of course, that one can consider a member of the same gender good looking without one being homosexual.

Attractive: This is the more subjective of the two categories and implies that you are attracted to the other person – as in interested in being involved in a romantic relationship with him/her. This is a necessary component of a romantic relationship and the level of attraction is usually parallel to the love you have for the person and the respect you have for their non-physical traits. For example, I could find John good looking, but because Suzy loves him, she is attracted to him. Or I could not find John good looking, but because Suzy loves him, she finds him both good looking and is attracted to him.

Of course, people who indulge their sexual desires in an unchaste way screw all this up, but you get the point. Now Anne wasn’t attracted to Hayden because his character on the screen was evil. That’s a good reason to not be attracted to someone. Or for an example from me, I think Colin Farrell is good looking, but the fact that he’s such a womanizer and parties so hard leaves me totally un-attracted to him. Personally, a guy often only moves up to the attractive category for me if he’s a good Catholic who I think could complement me well; because that’s what I’m looking for in a husband, that’s what I’m attracted to.

A qualifier: People can move between and in and out of the two categories. For example, I could be friends with Joe Schmoe for a long time and think he is good looking but not find him attractive. And then voila! - one day I fall in love with him and be attracted to him. Or that could just be a silly crush and he soon moves back to the good looking category.

Summer Reading

Calling all CGT readers! Join Catholic students and alumni of the University of Maryland in a summer reading club. Here's the rundown so far (details may change):

The mistress of this humble blog, Mary, along with a contributor of our brother blog, Catholicae Testudines, Peter Terp (a doctoral student in English literature, btw) will administer the book club with help from our fellow CGT and CT contributors.

We're reading one book each month of the summer - June, July and August. Books should be read by the 15th of each month and from the 15th through the end of each month, we will post commentaries/reflections on the blog and hope our readers will jump into the discussion.

Here's what we're thinking of: Pope John Paul's Memory and Identity, one of Pope Benedict XVI's books from when he was Cardinal Ratzinger and a piece of fiction. Please leave suggestions as to what book from the then-Cardinal Ratzinger we should read (shouldn't be too long but give us a good taste of him and his writing) and also what piece of fiction we should read (though Peter will have the final say on this one).

If you want to join the book club, shoot me an e-mail at catholicgirltalk@gmail.com and I'll send out e-mails with more details. Thanks!

Listen to His Wife

Matt Miller, a guest columnist for the NYTimes while Maureen Dowd is on book leave (if only that were permanent. Sigh.), says his wife, Jody, has found the solution to balancing your family and job:

It's hardly news that the issue vexing talented people is the struggle to balance their professional lives with time for fulfilling lives outside of work. The shock is that after decades of wrestling with these tradeoffs, the obvious answer is the one everyone has been too skeptical or afraid to explore: changing the way top jobs are structured.

In a world where most people are struggling, the search for "balance" in high-powered jobs has to
be counted a luxury. Still, there is something telling (if not downright dysfunctional) when a society's most talented people feel they have to sacrifice the meaningful relationships every human craves as the price of exercising their talent.

If the most interesting and powerful jobs are too consuming, Jody says, then why don't we re-engineer these jobs - and the firms and the culture that sustain them - to make possible the blend of
love and work that everyone knows is the true gauge of "success"? As scholars have asked, why should we be the only elites in human history that don't set things up to get what we want?

Here's the deal: this isn't a "women's" problem; it's a human problem. Yet for 30 years women have
tried to crack this largely on their own, and one thing is clear: if the fight isn't joined by men (like me) who want a life, too, any solutions become "women's" solutions. A broader drive to redesign work will take a union-style consciousness that makes it safe for men who secretly want balance
to say so.

The first step in any tough transformation is what A.A. famously teaches: admit that we're powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable. It's time workaholic males took up this cause, because top jobs will never change unless we do. Jody even has an incentive plan. In Aristophanes' play "Lysistrata," the women withhold their charms until the men agree to stop making war. Jody thinks that's a promising model. Talk about unreasonable.



It's a Great Day in the History of American Catholicism

That's because on this day in 1793, the first priest - Fr. Stephen Theodore Badin - was ordained in the United States. Here's some info from Catholic Encyclopedia:

[Father Badin] was the first Catholic priest ordained within the limits of the original thirteen States of the Union, pioneer missionary of Kentucky, b. at Orléans, France, 17 July, 1768; d. at Cincinnati, Ohio, 21 April, 1853. Educated at Montaigu College, Paris, he entered the Sulpician Seminary of his native city in 1789. He was subdeacon when the seminary was closed by the revolutionary government, in 1791, and sailed from Bordeaux for the American mission in November of the same year, with the Revs. B.J. Flaget and J.B. David, both destined in God's providence to wear the mitre in Kentucky. They arrived in Philadelphia on the 26th of March, 1792, and were welcomed at Baltimore by Bishop Carroll on the 28th. Stephen T. Badin pursued his theological studies with the Sulpicians and was ordained a priest by Bishop Carroll, 25 May, 1793. His was the first ordination in the United States. After a few months spent at Georgetown to perfect himself in English, Father Badin was appointed to the Mission of Kentucky.

Here's some info from The History Channel:
In Baltimore, Maryland, Father Stephen Theodore Badin becomes the first Catholic priest to be ordained in the United States. Badin was ordained by Bishop John Carroll, an early advocate of American Catholicism, and appointed to the Catholic mission in Kentucky.

In colonial America, there were few English-speaking Catholics outside of Maryland, which was established in 1634 as a haven for Roman Catholics persecuted in England. In 1735, some 100 years after the establishment of Maryland, John Carroll was born in Baltimore into a prominent Catholic family. As secondary Catholic education was forbidden by the British colonial
authorities, Carroll traveled to Europe, where he was ordained in 1769. Returning to America, he was sympathetic to the Patriot cause during the Revolutionary War and in 1790 was chosen by the Vatican to become the first bishop of the American Catholic Church.

Carroll supported the separation between church and state, and advocated an autonomous American clergy that would elect its own bishops and carry out its own training. In his early years as bishop, he endorsed the use of English in the liturgy, and on May 25, 1793, presided over the first ordination of a Catholic priest on U.S. soil. Although the American Catholic Church grew substantially under Carroll's leadership, it was the mass emigration of Catholics from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the Balkans during the 19th and 20th centuries that made Catholicism a major force in U.S. religious life.

Thanks, St. Joe

So I was a little worried about finding a summer job here in Louisiana because I couldn't seem to find much in fields that interest me and I was nervous I'd spend all summer languishing in some job I hate just so I could make money to pay for the final year of school and next year's spring break pilgrimage to Rome (which, by the way, if you'd like to help me pay for, I'd be most appreciative!)

So I prayed to St. Joseph to help me find a good job. He came through, as usual. I got one on the first interview I went on. I'll be a teacher's aide in a 6-year-old classroom (that's the age of the kids, not the actual room) at Kinder Haus Montessori in nearby Mandeville. I knew I had the job when I walked in to the director's office and she had a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on her desk.

So thanks, St. Joseph!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Researchers Find Sarcasm Sensor

The story via YahooNews (I'm trying to think of an appropriate sarcastic statement that is not utterly offensive to brain-damaged people to fit in here. I'll update if/when I think of one):


Many of you don't go a day without dishing out several doses of sarcasm. But some brain-damaged people can't comprehend sarcasm, and Israeli researchers think it's because a specific brain region has gone dark.

The region, according to the researchers, handles the task of detecting hidden meaning, a crucial component of sarcasm. If that part of the brain is out of commission, the irony doesn't come through, the scientists report in the May issue of Neuropsychology.

The researchers think lesions in several parts of the brain can contribute to an inability to understand sarcasm. But, they wrote, this particular area is important because it draws on your innate recognition of the emotions of other people -- empathy -- and past experiences to comprehend a speaker's intentions.

Brian Knutson, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, said the findings make sense because the brain's cortex handles a variety of sophisticated tasks, and sarcasm could be on the list.

This is for Thomas of CT

Barbara Nicolosi of Church of the Masses is working on a script about the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne - nuns who offered themselves on the scaffold as a sacrifice to end the Reign of Terror in revolutionary France. If I'm correct, the terror stopped within days of their deaths. While they were mounting the scaffold, however, they started chanting the "Veni Creator". Barbara wonders what song we modern Catholics would sing if we were being led to our martyrs' deaths:

“Hey! That sounds stupid,” complains one martyr to be. Like the weeds that never die, the music minister still has a few minutes left to be patronizing, “God judges the heart, not the voice.”

Meanwhile, the lambs getting readied for the slaughter are getting scared. Somebody tries again, “How about Be Not Afraid? We all know that don’t we?” A bald-headed guy at the end of the line shakes his head. “We used the Gather hymnal at our Church.” The lady next to him nods, “We just added those. Now, we have the old Glory and Praises stacked in the pews because they both don’t fit in the hymnal racks.” The lady from the Diocese of Arlington sniffs, "We use the red Ritual hymnals."The thirty-something lady closest to the scaffold looks back at her fellow oblates with pleading, “Can’t we sing something, PLEASE?”

So, then, a voice somewhere in the middle of the crowd starts a high-pitched wail, "And I will RAY-HAY zhim up…."And the others join in, screeching and straining, "And I will RAY-HAY zhim up…."

An overweight, gray-haired lady in sensible shoes, and soon to be a martyr, makes a face, “I’m not going to die singing sexist language!”And the other, weary martyrs nod, and then, continue with submission,”And I will RAY-HAYZ YOU uh-up on the lah-hast day.”

And then, as we start to sing the refrain again, the persecutors will shoot us all down on the spot for our horrible music. And this will wreak havoc with our beatification processes, because it won’t be clear if we died for Jesus, or to spare our persecutors having to listen to our dreadful music.

Women and Competition

A new study, written about by the NYTimes' John Tierney, shows that women are less competitive than men - even in tasks they're great at - and therefore shy away from taking opportunities/jobs to move up the corporate ladder:

You can argue that this difference is due to social influences, although I suspect it's largely innate, a byproduct of evolution and testosterone. Whatever the cause, it helps explain why men set up the traditional corporate ladder as one continual winner-take-all competition - and why that structure no longer makes sense.

Now that so many employees (and more than half of young college graduates) are women, running a business like a tournament alienates some of the most talented workers and potential executives. It also induces competition in situations where cooperation makes more sense.

The result is not good for the bottom line, as demonstrated by a study from the Catalyst research
organization showing that large companies yield better returns to stockholders if they have more women in senior management. A friend of mine, a businessman who buys companies, told me one of the first things he looks at is the gender of the boss.

"The companies run by women are much more likely to survive," he said. "The typical guy who starts a company is a competitive, charismatic leader - he's always the firm's top salesman - but if he leaves he takes his loyal followers with him and the company goes downhill. Women C.E.O.'s know how to hire good salespeople and create a healthy culture within the company. Plus they
don't spend 20 percent of their time in strip clubs."

Still, for all the executive talents that women have, for all the changes that are happening in the
corporate world, there will always be some jobs that women, on average, will not want as badly as men do. Some of the best-paying jobs require crazed competition and the willingness to risk big losses - going broke, never seeing your family and friends, dying young.

Blogs Weapon of Choice in China

Very interesting NYTimes Op-Ed piece from Nicholas Kristof about the role blogs are playing in the dissent movement in China:

The Chinese Communist Party survived a brutal civil war with the Nationalists, battles with American forces in Korea and massive pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square. But now it may finally have met its match - the Internet.

The collision between the Internet and Chinese authorities is one of the grand wrestling matches of history, visible in part at www.yuluncn.com.

That's the Web site of a self-appointed journalist named Li Xinde. He made a modest fortune selling Chinese medicine around the country, and now he's started the Chinese Public Opinion Surveillance Net - one of four million blogs in China.

Mr. Li travels around China with an I.B.M. laptop and a digital camera, investigating cases of official wrongdoing. Then he writes about them on his Web site and skips town before the local authorities can arrest him.

Another of Mr. Li's campaigns involved a young peasant woman who was kidnapped by family planning officials, imprisoned and forcibly fitted with an IUD. Embarrassed by the reports, the authorities sent the officials responsible to jail for a year.

All this underscores how the Internet is beginning to play the watchdog role in China that the press plays in the West. The Internet is also eroding the leadership's monopoly on information and is complicating the traditional policy of "nei jin wai song" - cracking down at home while pretending to foreigners to be wide open.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Some Prayers Would Be In Order

About this, via the WashPo:

Amid intensifying controversy on Capitol Hill over judicial appointments, the Supreme Court today took on another abortion-related case.

Specifically, the court said it would consider whether laws requiring parental notification before a minor can get an abortion must make an explicit exception when the minor's health is at stake.

At issue in today's case is a New Hampshire parental notification law that did not make an exception to protect the health of the minor and was therefore struck down by the 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which cited what it considered an unbroken line of Supreme Court precedents on the subject. A major issue in the case is also the standard to be used by the courts when reviewing such controversies.

The attorney general of New Hampshire argued that a law such as New Hampshire's must be upheld unless a challenger can show that "no set of circumstances exists" under which it would be constitutional.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of Northern New England, which challenged New Hampshire's law, argued that the operative test is the less formidable one established by the Supreme Court of whether the law places a "substantial obstacle" or "undue burden" on the right to an abortion.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Didn't some Maryland students or seminarians go to this? Maybe you can leave some insights in the comment box. Here's a run down from the WashPo:

For Bush, yesterday's breakfast was an opportunity to thank Catholics, who gave him 52 percent of their votes in November, compared with 47 percent for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a Catholic who supports abortion rights. Bush told the crowd, as he does at all religious events, that he was grateful for their prayers, and he reiterated his support for "a culture of life" that rejects abortion and euthanasia.

"Pope Benedict XVI recently warned that when we forget these truths, we risk sliding into a dictatorship of relativism, where we can no longer defend our values," Bush said. "Catholics and non-Catholics alike can take heart in the man who sits on the chair of Saint Peter, because he speaks with affection about the American model of liberty rooted in moral conviction."

The keynote speaker was Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who said during the presidential campaign that voting for a candidate who supports abortion rights would be a sin that must be confessed before receiving Holy Communion.

"When a public official claims to be Catholic but then says he can't offer his beliefs about the sanctity of the human person as the basis of law, it always means one of two things: That person is either very confused or he's very evasive," Chaput told the prayer breakfast. "All law is the imposition of somebody's beliefs on somebody else."

Housekeeping

First of all, welcome to Anne who's just joined the blog as one of our commentators. Hopefully she'll post more than Lacy and Sierra have.

Second, welcome to all Cacciaguida readers!

Third, this is my last night in College Park before heading back home to the Camilla City - Slidell, La. My computer is going into storage for the summer, so I won't be able to post for another day or so until I get home. I'll probably be posting a lot then, but it might take a while because my parents still have dial up andwith one phone line.

Fourth, keep Pat of De Gaudio and our very own Lacy in your prayers as they walk through much of the U.S. as part of the American Life League's Crusade for Life.

And finally, a very big thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Daniel for storing my junk in their basement for the third summer in a row. Y'all are so great!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Some More Thoughts on Star Wars


I'm posting this photo because Hayden Christensen is good looking. Welcome to Catholic Girl Talk, folks.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT.

First, go check out what Peter at Catholicae Testudines says about the film's pro-life message. Hopefully he'll post a more complete review soon.

Second, John Tierney of the NYTimes says the political message of the movie is a descendent of Adam Smith's thought:

[Anakin] says he could never betray the Jedi because they're his family, but then the chancellor puts the family question in perspective: "Learn to know the dark side of the Force, Anakin, and you will be able to save your wife from certain death." Anakin promptly recognizes the
limits of altruism, just as Adam Smith did in the 18th century.

Smith knew that some people professed love for all humanity, but he realized that a man's love for "the members of his own family" is "more precise and determinate, than it can be with the greater part of other people." Hence his famous warning not to rely on the kindness of strangers outside your family: if you want bread, it's better to count on the baker's self-interest rather than his generosity.

This has never been a popular bit of advice because selfishness is not admired in human societies any more than among Jedi knights. We know it exists, but it feels wrong. We are born with an instinct for altruism because we evolved in clans of hunter-gatherers who would not have survived if they hadn't helped one another through hard times.

The result is an enduring political paradox: we no longer live in clans small enough for altruism to be practical, but we still respond to politicians who promise to make us all part of one big selfless community. We want everyone to be bound together with a shared set of values, a yearning that Daniel Klein, an economist, dubs the People's Romance.


Third, did anyone else but me have a problem with Padme's depiction in most of the film? I mean , I know she's pregnant, but she IS a senator and they are in the middle of a war, so shouldn't she be doing something more for most of the film besides staying in her apartment fixing her really bad hairdos? (BTW, it's weird that they're sharing an apartment together when they're secretly married. Isn't that kind of obvious?) I did think her part is redeemed at the end when she goes to the volcano planet to meet Anakin. "You're breaking my heart," she says. That made me want to cry. Really. And then she tells him, "I love you." And then, when she's on her death bed/delivery table, she tells Obi-Wan there's still good left in him. Yay for women not giving into despair and emanating hope instead.

Fourth, was it just me, Gina and Sierra talking in the ladies room at 1 a.m. yesterday after the movie got out, or does Yoda remind you of Pope John Paul II? They were both old, wrinkly, wise, patient, good leaders and teachers and both could kick some major you-know-what.

Jedi = Catholic Priests

Or so says Pundit Guy, who has this to say about Sith's connection to Catholicism. Generally, I agree with him:

When a woman comes between a Jedi, a wedge is driven between the Jedi and
his fellow Jedi's. The will of the council cannot be done. The mission of the council cannot be completed. The Jedi who is involved with a woman focuses completely on her, and not on the needs of others. As she demands more from him, he begins to think only about her and his life with her. He is unable to think and care for others in an equal way. He has become selfish and cannot be a Jedi Master.

There are some problems with his analysis, however. He mentions that there are no women on the Jedi Council. But there could be, right? I mean, there are female Jedi, so I'm assuming they could be elected/invited to the Council. Also, he seems to be saying that there are no women on the Jedi Council because they're needy and demanding. OK, maybe we are, but that's not the reason we can't become priests.

Also, he seems to be implying that only homosexuals are predator priests, which, if you've read the John Jay Report, is not the case.

I definitely agree with his link between the Jedi Council and the celibate priesthood, but I think Pundit Guy thinks all parallels must be perfect ones. This one, as close as it may be, just isn't.

Hat tip to Amy Welborn.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Ugh....And Then There's This

From The NYTimes:

In what scientists say is a stunning leap forward, a team of South Korean researchers has developed a highly efficient recipe for producing human embryos by cloning and then extracting their stem cells.

Writing today in the journal Science, they report that they used their method to
produce 11 human stem cells lines that are genetic matches of patients aged 2 to 56.

"It is a tremendous advance," said Dr. Leonard Zon, a stem cell researcher at Harvard Medical School and president of the International Society for Stem
Cell Research, who was not involved in the research.

The method, called therapeutic cloning, is one of the great hopes of the stem cell field. It produces stem cells, universal cells that are extracted from embryos, killing the embryos in the process, and, in theory, can be directed to grow into any of the body's cell types. And since the stem cells come from embryos that are clones of individuals, they should be exact genetic matches. Scientists want to obtain such stem cells from patients to study the origin of diseases and to develop replacement cells that would be identical to ones a patient has lost.


Hey, I have a great idea that will help many, many people who need transplants. Why don't we just kill people we don't like and then take their organs? I mean, they did it in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.

Wait, what's that you say? It's inherently evil to take innocent human life like that?



In Case You Missed This in The Post Today

A bill that lifts the current limitations of federal funding of embryonic stem cell research could be passed by the U.S. House as early as next week. You might want to contact your congressman/woman and senators and tell them what you think of this:

Emboldened advocates of lifting current limits on embryonic stem cell research appear within reach of a breakthrough victory in the House as early as next week, a vote that would put fresh pressure on the Senate and White House to funnel significant federal money into the emerging field.

Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), a co-sponsor of the measure, said that if the vote on the bill were held today, it would pass. Nearly four years after Bush used his first nationally televised address to announce a decision limiting federal research to previously existing embryonic stem cell lines, some opponents speculate that the congressional showdown could lead to the first veto of his presidency.

But as lawmakers prepare to cast their first votes on the sensitive issue of broadening the research with taxpayer money, opponents have begun a vigorous eleventh-hour campaign to defeat the legislation. Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore condemned the legislation on Tuesday as "destructive and morally offensive."

"Government has no business forcing taxpayers to become complicit in the direct destruction of human life at any stage," wrote Keeler, chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "Nor is there any point in denying the scientific fact that human life is exactly what is at stake here."

Pope Benedict on the Holocaust

The Holocaust was the topic of much discussion the other week here at CGT. Pope Benedict XVI addressed it today after watching a movie about Pope John Paul's days in Poland under the Nazi regime.

Pope Benedict, in his first major address about the Nazi era in his native Germany, on Thursday condemned "the genocide of the Jews", and said humanity must never be allowed to forget or repeat such atrocious crimes.

Speaking exactly one month after his election, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger also quoted from a famous phrase of reconciliation between German and Polish Catholic bishops issued in the 1960s: "We forgive and we seek forgiveness."

He spoke of "the repression of the Polish people and the genocide of the Jews", branding both "atrocious crimes that show everyone the evil that the Nazi ideology had within it".

During the three-hour-long film the Pope watched pensively as the Nazis blew up a synagogue, rounded up Polish Jews and university professors and took them to crematoria at Auschwitz.

In his address, parts of which were read in an emotional voice and drew repeated applause from the crowd, the Pope said the Nazi period illustrated the "abysses of wickedness that can hide in the human soul".

He added: "Remembering such aberrations can only prompt in every upright person the commitment to do everything in their power so that episodes of such inhuman barbarism are never repeated."

"As time passes, memories should not be allowed to pale," he said, speaking in Italian. "They must instead serve as a stern lesson for our and future generations. We have the duty to remind people, especially young people, what levels of unheard of violence the contempt for man and the violation of his rights can reach," he added.

Benedict, who will travel to Germany in August for World Youth Day, said he believed it was "part of the divine plan of providence" that two successive popes -- John Paul and himself -- had lived through the horrors of World War Two on opposite sides of the same border.

You Thought 'Sith' Was Already Getting Lots of Publicity


Via the AP and Amy Welborn.

Pope Benedict XVI catches a 12:01 AM showing of The Revenge of the Sith with a few friends.

(The film the Pope saw in the Vatican's vast audience hall -- "Karol --the man who became pope," tells of John Paul's early days and his later life as a priest and bishop under communism until he became Pontiff in 1978.)

Need a TAN?

Catholic bloggers have been buzzing the last week or so about the Catholic publisher, TAN Books, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. If they don't show a profit soon, they'll be liquidated. So everyone's been encouraging everyone else to buy TAN Books.

But let me tell you why I - a young, devout Catholic who loves to read - don't buy TAN Books. Why not? Simple. In my experience, they're not very good products. That's hard to say about an established Catholic business that's in trouble, but I think that may be one of the reasons they're in trouble. Here's the main problems I have with their books (or, at least, all of their books I've read):

1)The translations aren't good. Now, I don't speak lots of foreign languages (I'm at an intermediate level in French), but I can tell good translations from bad (especially when I've read more than 1 translation of a particular work). In my experience, they've all been bad. Either that, or the saints really aren't as eloquent as I thought they were.

2) Sloppy copy. I continuously find spelling and grammar mistakes in their books. I lose confidence in the author and publisher when I see that and it makes me want to stop reading. If you can't even spell stuff right, why should I trust you know about matters of faith? Seriously, no matter the size or wealth of an operation, there is no excuse for sloppy copy.

3) Design. Hello, guys, it's 2005, so stop designing your books like it's 1973. Seriously, TAN has some of the worst designs out there. It's like they're designing covers and jackets on some antiquated version of Microsoft Publisher. I look at their designs and I think, "This is the cheesiest thing I've ever seen." And then I don't want to read it. Also, they have very bright white pages, which throws me off. Also, the font they use for their books is not a good one. It gives me a headache while reading.

I know TAN Books does really good work and all Catholics should be appreciative of that, but if you can't present a good package, you're never going to sell your product.

The other reason why I think TAN is not doing so well is actually a heartening one: Mainstream publishers are publishing Catholic works now. They always have, of course. But who's the biggest American Catholic author right now? Scott Hahn. Who's his contract with? Doubleday - a huge, mainstream publisher. Pope John Paul's publisher in the U.S. is Warner (as in TimeWarner). Now, mainstream publishers aren't going to publish lots of traditionally Catholic titles, but it's exciting that they'll publish Hahn and JPII.

Finally, a recommendation: I saw a friend of mine the other day reading St. Therese's Story of a Soul. Except it was the John Beevers translation. Boo. If you're going to buy Carmelite-related materials, get them from ICS (Institute of Carmelite Studies) Publications. It's headquartered in DC and run by Carmelites themselves. The publisher, Fr. John Sullivan, I met a few years back when he gave a conference on St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) at the Carmelite Convent in Covington, La. He was really helpful in sending me materials and giving me tips on how to read Carmelite works. Not only are these Carmelites excellent translators and scholars in their fields, but they also live the Carmelite charism - which is helpful when you're publishing Carmelite works.

I don't mean to dismiss TAN Books. They do lots of good work and I hope they're able to show a profit soon. But people like me won't buy the books unless they're publishing improves. I hope it does soon.

Black Squirrel Attack!


Black squirrel on University of Maryland's campus. Courtesy of the The Diamondback.

If you've ever been to Maryland's campus, you've seen these disgusting, aggressive rodents all over the place. Today the Washington Post chronicles the history of the black squirrel in and around Washington.

Because the history of Washington has been written by humans, nobody has
paid much attention to the fact that 18 Canadian squirrels were released at the
National Zoo during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.

But, if the capital's story were ever told by its rodents, few events would
be more prominent than this one.

That's because those 18 squirrels -- whose coats of lustrous black set them
apart from the native animals -- were the beginning of a shift that has changed
the complexion of Washington's backyard critters. Now, probably because of a
slight evolutionary advantage conveyed with a black coat, the descendants of
these squirrels have spread all the way into Rockville and Prince William
County.

Here's The Diamondback story from a few years ago on black squirrels.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Friendship


This is my favorite picture of our late Holy Father, whose 85th birthday would have been today, and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. It is also the photo the Missionaries of Charity used to commemorate Mother's beatification

This Is Cute


Aurora Olayos, 6, left, dressed as Queen Amidala, shares a laugh today with sister Ariel Olayos, 9, dressed as Princess Leia, outside the Lloyd Cinemas in Portland, Ore. (AP photo)

P.S.: Woohoo for learning how to post pictures to the blog. I'll probably be doing it a lot.

Brits Upset About American Purchase of MU

From the NYTimes:

How do English soccer fans hate Malcolm Glazer, the billionaire businessman
who this week took control of Manchester United, one of the world's most famous
soccer teams? Let us count the ways. ....

As far as anyone can tell, Mr. Glazer, 76, has never been to a Manchester
United game, or possibly even to any soccer game. Which might not be so
surprising, according to his sister Maria. "He has never liked sports," she told
The Daily Mail.
And then, of course, Mr. Glazer, who made his fortune in real estate and investing and has owned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League since 1995, is an American.
So the news that Mr. Glazer - a man said to know so little about any kind of football that he once cheered for the wrong side during a Buccaneers game - was buying their beloved team was bound to upset people. It is as if a Japanese tycoon had suddenly swooped in and bought up the Yankees, using millions of dollars worth of borrowed money.

A New Name

So I was telling Peter over at Catholicae Testudines how I like playing the devil's advocate in many circumstances. I don't do it with the Absolute Truths or with dogmatic matters of faith, but in other areas. I like seeing people squirm a little bit and I like asking questions (maybe that's why I'm a journalist). For example: If you say you like regular Coke, I might say diet is better because it doesn't have as many calories. But if you say you like diet Coke, I might say regular is better because its taste is superior and it has no cancer-causing agents. So Peter gave me a new nickname: The Rhetorical Tomboy. I like it.

P.S. - Regular Coke really is better. But Dr. Pepper is preferred.

And I'm Posting More 'Sith' to Bring Male Readers Back

Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post reviewed it today and loved it. Quite a well-written review, too.

The movie tracks with almost clinical attention the noble Anakin sinking
deeper into turpitude, until finally he commits an act so desperate and vile
that it all but exiles him from the community for all time. Thus we see in his
embrace of evil the forgetting of his own moral culpability, the drowning of his
own memory, the escape from his own demons. Surely that is a great theme: How
men purge themselves of sin by giving themselves over to a cause with all their
hearts. It explains how you could fly a plane full of mothers and babies into a
skyscraper and think you were going on a date with 72 virgins, or how you could
goose-step your way toward conquest and genocide while singing schmaltzy oompah
music.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Got New Commenting Thing

I just subscribed to Haloscan, which I think will overall be better for comments. In the meantime, however, it wiped out all previous comments. I haven't figured out how to recover them yet, but if anyone knows, please leave a comment here. And if you commented on previous posts and had your comments erased by would like them known, please re-post until I figure out how to recover old ones. Thanks!

Wednesday Would Have Been...

John Paul the Great's 85th birthday. Let us continue to ask his intercession, pray for his beatification, pray for his successor and, most of all, pray that we continue to learn from him through things like the Year of the Eucharist, the Mysteries of Light and the Theology of the Body.

Miracles, Then and Now

When I was little, my parents gave me and my brothers and sister a Children's Book of Saints, which was awesome and which I read all the time. My favorite saints were the early Church's young virgin martyrs, you know - St. Cecilia, St. Agnes of Rome, St. Lucy, St. Agatha - the power squad of Eucharistic Prayer I.

Anyway, I was thinking about them a lot a few weeks ago when an agonstic friend of mine asked me why there aren't more modern-day miracles. I told him that to be canonized, two miracles must be attributed to a person's intercession, so there's actually an abundance of modern-day miracles. But he wasn't talking about medical miracles (which those for saints' causes now often are), but amazing, undeniable ones - he mentioned God's appearance in the Burning Bush.

I was thinking about how St. Lucy, when she was turned in for being a Christian, was going to be taken to a brothel, but when they came to take her away, she became so heavy and stiff they could not move her. And for St. Agnes, when a man looked at her with impure thoughts, he was struck down with blindness and appeared dead.

I then compared that to St. Maria Goretti, a modern day saint, whose neighbor tried to lure her into having sex with him and, when she resisted, he stabbed her 14 times to death. He wasn't struck down from on high. She didn't become untouchable. St. Maria Goretti tried to preserve her virginity just like St. Lucy and St. Agnes, so why no miraculous intervention for her?

St. Maria's story doesn't end there. She forgave her murderer before she died and one night several years later, when he was in his prison cell, she appeared to him and handed him 14 lilies - one for each of the wounds he had inflicted upon her.

I think the difference in these stories tells us something about our world today. To show His power in the early Church, God performed amazing miracles like striking down a man who looked the wrong way at St. Agnes and made St. Lucy heavy and stiff so she wouldn't be taken to a brothel. But in the 20th century, He showed us His power through forgiveness - the forgiveness St. Maria Goretti and her family offered to her murderer and the forgiveness the Church offered him by welcoming him into Her fold.

For so many people today, signs and wonders won't convert them. But forgiveness - the power of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation - will. It is what they need. That's pretty amazing.

Peeping Toms at UMD

A good fried of this blog, Mattaeus Evangelista, has a good post over at his blog about the recent occurrence of peeping Toms in Maryland's dorms and how Pope Paul VI predicted a society like this.

Vader at the National Cathedral

A likeness of Darth Vader is sculpted into the side of Washington National Cathedral. For real. Check it out.

Hat tip to Jimmy Akin.

The 'Sith' Sense

That's the title of Washingtonpost.com's own Star Wars blog? See it here.

This Day in History

1792: NYSE founded
1875: Aristides wins the first Kentucky Derby
1954: U.S. Supreme Court hands down ruling on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, ruling that separate but equal is inherently unequal.

via NYTimes and History Channel

Congrats, Patrick!

My big brother, Patrick, will confirmed tonight and will be taking the Confirmation name Joseph. Please say a quick prayer to St. Joseph for him.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Kuwaiti Women Gain Suffrage

Check out the NYTimes story about the historic decision. Yay, Kuwaiti women!

Parliament met Monday to discuss legislation introduced two weeks ago
allowing women to run in city council elections. But in a surprise move,
members of the cabinet opened the session by proposing a complete amendment
of the country's election law, which had permitted only men to take part in
the country's powerful Parliament.

The government also invoked a rarely used "order for urgency" to push through the legislation in one session, despite heated debate by Islamist members. By Monday evening, legislators had passed an amendment that removes the word "men" from Article 1 of the elections law, with 35 voting in favor and 23 against. But Islamist legislators, apparently trying to appease their conservative voting base, included a requirement that "females abide by Islamic law." The implications of that clause were not immediately clear, though women's advocates were saying it might just mean separate polling places for men and women.

I Don't Know What to Say About This Photo

Stars Wars Stuff

Check out this post at Get Religion about Star Wars' religious and political themes. Here's some excerpts:

The big question: What if the religion in the Star Wars canon was totally and
utterly screwed up, a mixmaster blend of everything that is out there filtered
through the Baby Boomer perspective of a man who has no idea what he believes?

Will the Culture Wars — accurately defined — show up in the new movie? At some
point, will Sith and a Jedi superstars point fingers at one another and say that
the other is on the side of George W. Bush and the Religious Right?

Here's the NYTimes review:

"Revenge of the Sith"... ranks with "The Empire Strikes Back" (directed by Irvin Kershner in 1980) as the richest and most challenging movie in the cycle. It comes closer than any of the other episodes to realizing Mr. Lucas's frequently reiterated dream of bringing the combination of vigorous spectacle and mythic resonance he found in the films of Akira Kurosawa into American commercial cinema.

To be sure, some of the shortcomings of "Phantom Menace" (1999) and "Attack of the Clones" (2002) are still in evidence, and Mr. Lucas's indifference to two fairly important aspects of moviemaking - acting and writing - is remarkable. Hayden Christensen plays Anakin Skywalker's descent into evil as a series of petulant bad moods. Natalie Portman, as Senator (formerly Queen) Padmé Amidala, to whom Anakin is secretly married, does not have the range to reconcile the complicated and
conflicting demands of love and political leadership. Even the more assured performers - Samuel L. Jackson as the Jedi master Mace Windu, Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jimmy Smits as Senator Bail Organa (note the surname) - are constrained by their obligation to speechify.

Newsweek Formally Retracts Story

This afternoon Editor Mark Whitaker issued a one sentence statement retracting a story about U.S. guards at Guantanamo Bay flushing a Koran down the toilet, a story which led to deadly riots in Afghanistan. Now, some people need to be fired, including the reporter, his immediate editor and possibly some other higher ups.

Everyone Loves the BVM

The Blessed Virgin Mary, that is. See this story on how Anglicans and Catholics agree she's essential to Christian life.

Hat tip to Amy Welborn.

Darn Capitalists!

NYTimes to start charging subscription fee for online access to Op-Ed page work starting in September.

$50 a year! That's ridiculous. My Norton Anti-Virus subscription doesn't cost $50 a year. I wonder why they're only charging for Op-Ed work (not news, features, sports, etc.) My guess is because, taking a look from their most e-mailed articles link on the side of their homepage, that the Op-Ed page of their website gets the most traffic. Good thing being on the university's server allows me to use LexisNexis and I can still get this stuff for free.

Hat tip to Amy Welborn.

Reflection on Our Lady

If you say the Rosary faithfully until death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins 'you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory.' - St. Louis de Montfort

On This Day

I think I might exploit the NYTimes and the History Channel and bring everyone some history lessons by using their "On This Day" pages to tell you, well, what happened on this day in history. Here's the NYTimes page and here's the History Channel page and here's some interesting happenings in history on May 16:

1717: Voltaire imprisoned in the Bastille
1770: 14-year-old Marie Antoinette married 15-year-old future King Louis XVI of France
1866: Minting of the nickel authorized
1868: U.S. Senate failed by one vote to convict President Andrew Johnson of one of the 11 charges of impeachment against him (he was eventually acquitted of all charges)
1920: St. Joan of Arc canonized
1943: Warsaw Ghetto uprising ends
1990: Muppets creator and university alumnus Jim Henson died at 53

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Month of Mary

May is the Month of Our Lady, and though I realize we're already halfway into it, for the rest of the month every day I will include a reflection/prayer/quote about Our Lady since she is our most powerful ally and we should never cease turning to her.

To serve the Queen of Heaven is already to reign there, and to live under
her commands is more than to govern. - St. John Vianney

Catholic Simpsons Wrap Up

I didn't see the episode tonight, but Amy Welborn has a wrap up of the episode and some commentary on her blog.

Newsweek and Afghan Riots

As I'm writing this post, I've got another window open on which I'm writing my journalism ethics final. So now I present some links to stories on how Newsweek magazine is unsure about if a story it ran on the desecration of the Koran by guards at Guantanamo Bay actually happened. See the Reuters story here and the IHT story here. Basically, Newweek reported that Americans had flushed a copy of the Koran down the toilet to make prisoners talk. In reaction to that report, some people in Afghan have started deadly riots. It is unclear now if the desecration took place.

The stories actually say two different things about how Newsweek got this information in the first place.

The Reuters story said Newsweek got the information from a knowledgable government source who had seen government reports saying it had happened. Before you run a story like that with that source, you must have a copy of the verified government report in your hand and should corroborate it with 1 or 2 other sources. Apparently, the government source later said he wasn't sure where he saw the story, but it's unclear from the Reuters story if the source said that before the story ran (in which case Newsweek should have pulled the story immediately) or if that's what led Newsweek to a partial retraction after the story was printed.

The IHT story, on the other hand, implies Newsweek got it from the notes of Marc Folkoff, who is representing some of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. If that is where Newsweek got its information, it got is from a biased source. If Newsweek were to run with the story from this source, it should have had the information corroborated from at least two other sources. You NEVER run a story like that based only on one source, especially a biased one. Even then you have to have concern about the potential effects the story would have (in this case, deadly rioting) before deciding if it was newsworthy enough to print.

Heads should roll at Newsweek, and a lot of them, probably. If not, Newsweek certainly needs to get its priorities in order. I expect some resignations/firings over this in the next couple of weeks.

Pentecost Sunday Birthday Blowout

Today is Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, came upon the Apostles and Our Lady. It is also the Church's birthday. Happy Birthday, Church! Woohoo! Still looking good after nearly 2,000 years. And thanks to the Holy Spirit for leading us on the path of life.

Today is also my little sister Claire's 18th birthday. Happy Birthday, Claire! She's my best friend - a funny, intelligent, beautiful young woman I'm happy to call my sister.

Abortion and Premature Births

A study found that women who have had abortions are almost twice as likely to have later babies born prematurely.
Dr Moreau said: "Clearly there is a link. The results suggest that induced
abortion can damage the cervix in some way that makes a premature birth more
likely in subsequent pregnancies."

Tradition and Legal Precedent

In the comments on Dawn Eden's post referenced below, lots of people complained that we shouldn't have to believe Our Lady was Ever Virgin simply because Tradition holds that she was Ever Virgin. And it's not simply in reference in Mary's virginity that people dismiss Tradition.

What these people who scorn Tradition forget, however, is that we have something parallel in the American judicial system - legal precedent. Now, Church Tradition and legal precedent are not equivalent things, but they are similar. U.S. judges often rule on an issue the same way their predecessors did. You'd be a horrible lawyer if you didn't research previous cases and present a judge/jury with examples of legal precedent in favor of your argument. And many legal cases are unwinnable if they don't have legal precedent. Continuity is necessary in the American justice system or cases would be decided arbitrarily. That's not to say that if something needs to be changed, judges won't go against precedent to change it, but they do hold precedent in very high regard because it connects us to our past and allows us to learn from our elders. Tradition does much the same thing.

Protest at Loyola Graduation

Some pro-lifers protest Loyola University's law school graduation because they awarded honorary degress to the Landrieu family, whose members Mary (a U.S. senator) and Mitch (lt. gov. of Louisiana) support abortion rights. Archbishop Alfred Hughes refused to attend the commencement because of the honorary degrees.

I'm an Old American

Darnnit! I'm 5 years too old and not British, Irish, Australian, Kiwi, South African or Canadian, so I can't go to this special reading by JK Rowling of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Check Out This Pro-Life Website

Sierra designed this website for Option Line, which directs women in crisis pregnancies to the proper pro-life resources.

Gilchrist Heads to NBA

Terps' point guard and junior John Gilchrist has signed with an agent to enter his name in the NBA draft.

We here at Catholic Girl Talk could not care less. Not because we don't like basketball (we do), but because Gilchrist was whining and complaining all year without providing real leadership for the team.

Additionally, we CGT women have been formed in our thinking about Terps basketball by DeMatha men; Travis Garrison is our guy.

For some blogging by DeMatha men, go here.

The Ever Virgin Mary

Dawn Eden had a good post the other day about Our Lady and how her example of chastity teaches us that chastity is a positive, self-sacrificing virtue, not one of negativity or unbearable burdens. The accompanying comments, sadly, broke down into an ill-informed debate over whether Our Lady was Ever Virgin. It started out with Protestants who didn't understand the issue in the first place, was defended by some Catholics (including me) and then screwed up again by Catholics who don't know the difference between the Immaculate Conception and the Incarnation. Some suggested that if Mary and Joseph never consummated their marriage, it was invalid and an aborration to the Catholic view of marriage.

What these people don't understand, of course, is that the sexual act within marriage is a reflection of the union of Christ with our souls. It is the best reflection we have, but in the face of the Divine action, it is simply a poor reflection. Christ's desire to unite Himself with us is not a reflection of sex, sex is a reflection of Christ's desire to unite Himself to us.

Mary and Joseph were certainly a special case and I don't claim to know the theology behind it, and for basically all other marriages, consummation is necessary to make the marriage valid. But Mary is Theotokos - she carried Christ Himself within her womb. Joseph was Christ's father on earth and had daily interaction with God Incarnate. They were completely united to Our Lord in a way that would make human sexual union unnecessary. There was no need for an imitation of the Divine Union when Mary and Joseph had completed it by having Christ Himself in their home. Why would they settle for an imitation when they had the Real Thing?

Hits the Spot

I think we've found what we are really looking for here at CGT - a page this is crisp, clean, feminine (but not girly) and one that allows you to read a good portion of a post before having to scroll down.

Hat tip to Pat at De Gaudio for helping me learn HTML color coding.

Pure Evil

NYTimes story about the Savannah cat - the offspring of the wildcats the African serval and a domestic house cat and which are illegal in most states.

The cats - which can cost from $4,000 to $10,000 - are visually striking
with their long necks and oversized ears, and they can be intimidating. They
look like little leopards and grow to more than twice the size of normal cats.
They love to leap and splash in water, and they don't mind taking long walks on
a leash. Some people describe them as dogs in cats' bodies.

The Information Super Highway

NYTimes story about the University of Texas' undergraduate library going all digital. Maryland no longer has a strictly undergraduate library (I think Hornbake used to be it, but now it's for nonprint media). McKeldin used to be only a graduate library, but it's used by everyone now. But we are moving to something like what UT is doing. This year, for the first time, professors could reserve materials for courses on E-Reserve and they could be accessed online anytime from any location, instead of having to go to McKeldin to check out books on reserve for 2 hours at a time. This is convenient, but the materials on E-Reserve are simply PDF files of photocopied book pages so they're incredibly difficult to read.

Whaddya Think?

They say you should move furniture in your house every 6 months. I decided to change the Catholic Girl Talk blog template in 2. I was just getting a little annoyed with the other one. So I moved to this one. I still want it to look a bit more feminine than the plain template does, but I recognize the purple font from the previous template doesn't look too good here, so I'll try to find another suitable color. You may see posts in several different colors over the next couple of days. Let us know if you have any suggestions.

The Vatican and the Holocaust

Professor Arthur Hertzberg has this piece in the NYTimes today about how the overtures Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI are making to Jews cannot make up for the Vatican's silence during the Holocaust, which Hertzberg blames on the doctrine of infallibility.

First, I don't think Hertzberg understands infallibality completely. While he points out that it applies only to matters of faith or morals, he doesn't understand that those infallible pronouncements must come ex cathedra - from the chair of St. Peter - and not from the pope's individual response or the individual responses of local bishops.

Second, I did take a Holocaust history class this semester and we were supposed to talk about the Vatican's response (as well as the response of other nations), but we didn't get to it because we fell 3 or 4 lectures behind. I don't know enough about the Vatican's response to say Pope Pius XII should have done more. But my history professor pointed out that the Vatican was simply trying to protect the Church, that statements from the top denouncing the Holocaust were putting thousands of Catholics in harm's way. She added that the Vatican hid many Jews in Vatican City and around Rome during the Holocaust and that then Cardinal Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, while the Vatican's ambassador to Turkey and Greece, personally helped saved tens of thousands of Jews and called him "one of the great heroes of the Holocaust."

Finally, should the Vatican have done more? Probably. Would that have helped? Not at all. With what army, exactly, was the Vatican supposed to defend itself and local churches against the well-trained, well-equipped and bloodthirsty Nazis? Would Hitler, Himmler, Eichmann, etc. seriously have decided that a major stand by the Vatican was enough for them to drop their plans to slaughter all of Europe's Jews? Hardly.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Another Reason I Hate Wal-Mart

The company thinks local zoning restrictions = Nazi censorship

They also think local zoning restrictions = religious persecution.

Glad you've got your priorities straight, guys, thanks.

For My Male Readers

Don't Throw Out Your Papers

Amy Welborn - who has 5 kids ranging in age from 6 months to 22 years - gives some anecdotal evidence as to why it's important to keep your papers and the bad things that can happen if you don't.

And can I just say she's one of the coolest people around and I want to be like her when I grow up. She's a well-educated, well-read, eloquent, thoughtful woman who is a mother of 5 and happens to be a well-respected journalist, author and blogger.

JPII and B16

This is a pretty cool editorial from the National Catholic Register (via the Curt Jester):

When humble, gentle Benedict appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s for the
first time, young nuns in habits shrieked with glee. Young American seminarians
pumped their arms in victory.
How is it possible that a reserved classical pianist who loves cats gets that kind of reception? How is it possible that young people in the 21st century were delirious with excitement to find out that the new Pope had taken the name of a fifth-century monk?
Pope John Paul II made it possible.
If he hadn’t rallied the crowds, set fires in their hearts and anchored them firmly to Peter, then Benedict would be facing a far more difficult task than he faces now.
But if the successes of John Paul’s pontificate made Benedict’s pontificate possible, it may also be the case that Pope Benedict made John Paul possible. John Paul’s pontificate may find its fulfillment and completion in Benedict.


And it concludes:

If John Paul’s background made him eminently suited to fight foes outside the
Church [communism, materialism, the sexual revolution], Pope Benedict’s
background has prepared him to defend the authentic character of his new
homeland, the Church, from enemies within.

Santo Subito

Pope Benedict XVI opens beatification process for his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, on May 13, Feast of Our Lady of Fatima and anniversary of the day she saved JPII from death from an assassin's bullet.

Hat tip to Amy Welborn.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

This is Really Freaky

Check out this website for WomanWell.

Scientist and cosmologist Brian Swimme says that "we're the center of the
journey." We've entered into an on-going event - not a
place.

Here, at Woman Well, we celebrate the process which leads us
toward a deeper fullness of life. And we join in the revolution first
identified by feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir, of woman giving birth to
herself.

This most important fact about this "ministry" is that it is sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. I'd think women whose mission is to constantly adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament would have something better to do with their time than this - please excuse my French - crap. But I guess the fact that their website says, "In recent years, members of FSPA's lay community have joined in the vigil, and the congregation today has 76 prayer partners. " Now, I'm all for lay people adoring the Blessed Sacrament, but that sounds awfully like the Sisters themselves abandoning Adoration for "ecospirituality" or whatever it is they endorse in their Direction Statement and letting lay people fulfill their mission instead.

Here's a one-act play I just made up. Actually, it's more of a scene. Plus, there's no stage direction.

GOD: Knock, knock, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

FSPA: Who's there?

GOD: Jesus.

FSPA: Jesus who?

GOD: Um, the Jesus Who is in the Blessed Sacrament and would like all of you to adore Him perpetually.

FSPA: Oh. Are we supposed to do that or something?

GOD: Yeah, it's in your name.

FSPA: Oh. Well I think since we are Franciscans, St. Francis would rather us focus on ecospirituality.

ST. FRANCIS: Sorry, sisters, no. In case you never learned anything about my life, the Eucharist was the center of it. It should be the center of your's too, and of all Franciscans'. I loved the animals and all, but even they had the good sense to Adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

FSPA: Wait, Simone de Beauvoir never wrote this. Brian Swimme promised us we're the center of the journey. We're confused.

Hat tip to a commentator at Church of the Masses.