Friday, January 27, 2006

Insurance Breaks for the Religious

According to a featured article on the pro-life search website, some insurance companies may be offering benefits for customers who attend religious services regularly.

Click here to read the article.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Gospel of Wealth

Great story in the NYTimes about the resurrgence of prosperity theology among some Protestants in New York and other cities. It teaches, as can easily be surmised, that material wealth and success is directly tied to religious devotion and God's favor:
It is a theology that is excoriated in many Christian circles but is
becoming increasingly visible in this country, according to religious scholars.
Now, it is beginning to establish a foothold in New York City, where capitalism
has long been religion.


"There's no question that almost every Christian leader - reformed,
Pentecostal, however you want to call it - sees it as a blight on the face of
Christianity," said Timothy C. Morgan, deputy managing editor at Christianity
Today, an evangelical magazine. "Yet it's so seductive."

The theology taps into the country's self-help culture, said William C.
Martin, a professor emeritus of religion and public policy at Rice University in
Houston. "One of the goals of America is for you to become prosperous," he said.
"For the church to put a blessing on that and say, 'God wants you to be rich,'
is quite appealing."

Not surprisingly, the story notes that the preacher and the church focused on in this story received an 'F' for financial transperancy by an evangelical Protestant watchdog group, which also advises people not to give money to this church.

Contrast the prosperity gospel with what Pope Benedict said today in his Angelus message: "Being a disciple of Christ: this is enough for the Christian." (via Amy)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I'm Not As Think As You Drunk I Am

The NYTimes on the Brits and their booze:

For Britons, alcohol is a relaxant, an emollient, a crutch, an excuse. In
her book "Watching the English," the social anthropologist Kate Fox argues that
drinking does not turn English people into unattractive louts, but rather allows
them to express the unattractive loutishness latent in their character: in other
words, they drink so that they will have license to behave badly.

"By blaming the booze, we sidestep the uncomfortable question of why
the English, so widely admired for their courtesy, reserve and restraint, should
also be renowned for their oafishness, crudeness and violence," Ms. Fox writes.
Their antics have earned them a notoriety across Europe, from northern cities
where boozed-up Britons go on bachelor weekends to southern resorts where young
people on cheap package tours disgust the local residents by their fighting,
vandalism and public displays of vomiting and al fresco sex.

Our Lady of Victory

No, Really?

The NYTimes just can't believe that when you pump women full of hormones they don't need so that you can be irresponsible, it hurts women.

Science: Ignored by the proprietors of the culture of death when it serves to shed light on their destructive forces.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Misogyny Alive and Well in America

The NYTimes even takes the tongue-in-cheek approach to it.

He may be wrong about a lot of things, but in his essay "On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love," Freud's thesis is that prostitution can only exist when there is a hatred of women. The porn film industry wasn't around when he wrote that paper, but I think he'd apply the same standard there.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I just registered for graduation. It's coming up on May 21. That's only 4.5 months away. Hence the picture above.

If you think of it, please say a quick prayer to St. Joseph for me as I discern about where I'm going to live and find a job. Thanks.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Disney is Dumb, and Other Thoughts on 'Hunchback'

I just finished reading Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I started it in the summer and got about halfway through it before school started and eliminated time for leisure reading.

I still can't figure out why the geniuses over at Disney thought this would make a great animated film. Let's see, we've got: Murder, attempted murder, attempted rape, fornication, public humiliation of a disabled man...Yeah, that'd be great for 6 year olds! Of course, they did soften the plot a bit, but I still think it was quite inappropriate as a family film. I'm all for introducing kids to good literature early, but this just doesn't make sense.

As for the book itself, it is a beautifully written piece about what happens when we let our disordered desires defeat our better judgement. The consequences of this pride and selfishness (which manifests itself in a host of grave sins) serve not only to hurt us, but those we love, most especially the innocent and simple, if for no other reason than that they are ignorant of the "ways of the world." There was actually one scene in the book that reminded me a lot of that scene in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith where Anakin is talking to Yoda about the dreams of Padme dying and Yoda warns him about doing evil in order to protect her.

Two thoughts on Hugo now that I've read Hunchback and Les Miserables. First, he is an amazingly captivating writer, and I think his style was captured very well in the "Signet Classics" translations I read. I set both books down for a period of a few months and with both I was able to jump back into them immediately where I left off. The prose, especially in Les Mis, keeps you reading even as he goes off on his sometimes obscure political tangents and you're wondering why you ever picked up a book that is 1,500 pages long.

Second, both books contain central characters who are idolized as young, virginal girls. Hugo really revels in their purity and modesty and condemns its defamation as a true evil. In one scene in particular in Hunchback, when Esmerelda is being led into a crowded square to make penance for a crime she did not commit, Hugo comments repeatedly on her fruitless efforts to shield her bare legs from the eyes of the men present. She was humiliated at that moment, the author notes, not because she was a thought of as a witch and criminal, but because she could tell from the looks of the men in the crowd that she was thought of as a sexual object. I don't know much about Hugo's faith, but from his writing it seems evident he valued virginity a great deal.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Twelfth Night

Posted by Picasa
Today, the Feast of the Epiphany, officially kicks off the Carnival season. It will culminate this year with the February 28 celebration of Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday.

Mardi Gras is a very Catholic celebration. Find out more about that here.

Since it's Twelfth Night, that means you can start eating king cake. Yum. I myself prefer the plainer, non-filled kind. Otherwise it's too rich.

The cake itself has a lot of symbolism. It is circular or oval, to represent the circular route the Three Kings took to avoid Herod as they made their way to honor the Christ Child. The colors that top it - and that are present throughout Carnival season - are purple, green and gold. The purple represents justice, the green faith and the gold power. In New Orleans, it became tradition to hide a small plastic baby toy inside the king cake, just as Christ was hidden from the sight of the world at His birth. You are supposed to search for the baby as the Wise Men did. Whoever finds the baby (without choking on it!) gets to throw the next Mardi Gras party.

My dad went and bought us our first kind cake of the season this morning. You can order them anywhere in country from Randazzo's (my favorite) or Gambino's.

Find out more about Mardi Gras here (from The Times-Picayune) and here (from Arthur Hardy, the authority on all things Mardi Gras).

Laissez les bons temps rouler, y'all!

March for Life 2006

Just a reminder: The 33rd annual March for Life will be held on Monday, January 23 in Washington DC. I did the march for the first time last year and it was amazing and such a fun, prayerful way of affirming life. Anyone who is in the DC-area or who has a parish/group making a trip there, please come! You won't regret it.

And, if you can, I also encourage everyone to attend the Vigil Mass for Life on Sunday, January 22 at 8 p.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I went to this Mass last year as well and it was probably the most beautiful Mass I've ever been to. Christ does hear our prayers so powerfully in the Mass and it is the surest way of defending life and defeating abortion.

On Monday, Jan. 23, there are two Masses you can attend. One is a Mass for Life at 7:30 a.m. at the Shrine. The Archdiocese of Washington has for the past several years also sponsored a Rally for Life and Youth Mass the morning of the walk at the MCI Center. Find out more about that here.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

191 Years

That's how long that the Ursulines have kept their promise to hold a Mass of Thanksgiving in honor of Our Lady of Prompt Succor to thank her for hearing their prayers and helping General Andrew Jackson and the Americans defeat the British and save the city during the Battle of New Orleans. It was held for the first time in 1815 and is now celebrated every Jan. 8 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, with the current archbishop of New Orleans (now Archbishop Alfred Hughes) presiding. OLPS is the patroness of the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. I've never been to the thanksgiving Mass before, but I think I'll go this year. Here's what the Ursulines have to say about this year's celebration:

Every year, since 1815, a solemn promise has been kept to honor Our Lady in a
Mass of Thanksgiving on January 8 celebrated by the Archbishop of New Orleans in
the National Shrine. This promise has been kept, without fail, for that many
years, and is attended by many devotees from across the Nation. This coming
year, on January 8, 2006, this Mass will be celebrated, albeit with
generators and compromised lighting. No problem, we’ll use candles.

Ursuline Academy, the oldest Catholic school in the nation (it opened in 1727) and the oldest continually-operating school for girls in the country, just opened back up Tuesday after having been closed since Aug. 29 for Katrina.

The Cuteness Factor

NYTimes story on the year of the adorable and what makes something cute:

The human cuteness detector is set at such a low bar, researchers said,
that it sweeps in and deems cute practically anything remotely resembling a
human baby or a part thereof, and so ends up including the young of virtually
every mammalian species, fuzzy-headed birds like Japanese cranes, woolly bear
caterpillars, a bobbing balloon, a big round rock stacked on a smaller rock, a
colon, a hyphen and a close parenthesis typed in succession.

The greater the number of cute cues that an animal or object happens to
possess, or the more exaggerated the signals may be, the louder and more
italicized are the squeals provoked.

Cuteness is distinct from beauty, researchers say, emphasizing rounded
over sculptured, soft over refined, clumsy over quick. Beauty attracts
admiration and demands a pedestal; cuteness attracts affection and demands a
lap. Beauty is rare and brutal, despoiled by a single pimple. Cuteness is
commonplace and generous, content on occasion to cosegregate with

My sister actually bought me The March of the Penguins on DVD for Christmas. We watched it on Sunday and then asked my mom if she would buy us an emperor penguin for next Christmas. She said something about it being too warm in Louisiana for penguins. I replied that we could house them in the bathtub and fill it with ice. She said she didn't think that'd work. I told her I knew it would. I read Mr. Popper's Penguins. Twice.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Spiritual Songs

I love country music. Who wouldn't!? Why just look at this sample list of actual country songs and you will see how faith is often tied in with songs of this genre:

"Thank God And Greyhound She's Gone"
"Would Jesus Wear A Rolex On His Television Show?"
"Are You Drinkin With Me Jesus?"
"Are You on the Top 40 of the Lord?"
"Drop Kick Me Jesus (Through The Goal Posts Of Life.)"
"I Been Roped And Thrown By Jesus In The Holy Ghost Corral"
"I Don't Care if it Rains or Freezes 'Long as I Have My Plastic Jesus Sittin' on the Dashboard of my Car"
"Oh, Lord! It's Hard To Be Humble When You're Perfect In Every Way"

For more fun (not necessarily spiritual) country song titles check out
My personal favorite was "
She's Got Freckles On Her, But She's Pretty."

Made in the 80's

Who can forget the 80's? Big hair, big pants, and little Care Bears. Not to mention slap bracelets, side ponytails, and break dancing (I always wanted to learn to do that...). Check out this site to view more fun 80's fads (and fads from other decades).

My personal favorite is jelly shoes. Quite honestly, if I could find a pair of those in Target tomorrow they would soon be mine. Not only were they comfortable, but they go with everything! If they get wet--no problem, they're plastic with holes to breath. Versatility is everything when it comes to smart shoe shopping.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

'The World Caught a Glimpse of a Great Soul'

Colleen Carroll Campbell writes in NRO about the "top religious story of 2005", the birth into Heaven of the beloved patron of this blog:

In the anguish of that moment and the agony of his last days, the world
caught a glimpse of a great soul. John Paul had spent a lifetime testifying to
the sanctity of human life and the redemptive value of human suffering. Now he
was bearing that witness in his very body. Identifying himself as "a sick man
among the sick," John Paul embraced his suffering and, in doing so, encouraged
us to embrace the sick and suffering around the world and in our own homes. He
sat before us, broken and frail, and invited us to look upon his weakness with
love, to mourn with him the tragedy of death, and to celebrate with him the
promise of resurrection. As George Weigel writes in his new book, God's
Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church
, "It was his
last, great paternal lesson. The response was beyond anyone's imagining."

That response included the descent of millions of mourners on Rome for
the pope's funeral and an estimated two billion viewers who tuned in at home.
The unprecedented outpouring of grief for John Paul confirmed the power of his
personal witness, a witness that had begun long before his physical decline.
John Paul's death captivated the world because it was a consummation of the
message he had preached throughout his 26-year pontificate: that the dignity of
the human person is not dependent on his age or his condition, his attributes or
his achievements. It is an everlasting and irrevocable gift from God, one that
shines all the more brightly when all else has been stripped away.

Though shrouded in the silence of Parkinson's, John Paul had still managed
to speak to a hurting world about the meaning hidden in suffering, the strength
perfected in weakness, and the hope that defies even death. His lessons could
not have been more timely. As we look to the new year, may we learn well from
the example he left us in 2005. And may John Paul the Great rest in peace.

Via GodSpy.

Here's the official site for the cause for beatification and canonization of JPII. And the prayer asking for graces through his intercession:

O Blessed Trinity, We thank You for having graced the Church with Pope John Paul II
and for allowing the tenderness of your Fatherly care,
the glory of the cross of Christ,and the splendor of the Holy Spirit, to shine through him.
Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary,
he has given us a living image of Jesus the Good Shepherd,
and has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure
of ordinary Christian life and is the way of achieving eternal communion with you.
Grant us, by his intercession, and according to Your will,
the graces we implore, hoping that he will soon be numbered among your saints. Amen.

NYTimes Pride and Prejudice

NYTimes' John Tierney has an interesting column about what he calls a modern day "pride and prejudice:" Men are more willing to marry up financially than women are to marry down financially. Which, of course, can create a problem. Especially, as Tierney notes, when in a few years the ratio of women to men studying for undergraduate degrees will be 60 to 40. (Note: the article is behind the evil subscription firewall. I read it for free through the university's LexisNexis account).

Tierney does seem to have a bit of his history wrong, though. I believe the whole idea of "traditionalist" men feeling emasculated by their wife's superior income is really a mid-20th century phenomenom. Why did medieval and Renaissance people draw up contracts for marriages? It was as much to secure a man's well-being by marrying into a good, wealthy family (and, what's more, to one of the older daughters who would have a larger dowry) as to secure a woman's well-being by marrying into a good, wealthy family. In my British history class this fall, one of the things we talked about was that as the British industrial middle class grew in the 19th century and the wealth of the landed elite declined, many British gentlemen turned to America to find rich heiresses to marry so that they could keep up their estates and lifestyle. Even in Austen, which Tierney cites, men are loathe to marry down. That's why Darcy and Bingley's sister encourage Bingley not to marry Jane, and it's one of Darcy's original problems (his "pride") with his interest in Elizabeth. That's why (in part) in Sense and Sensibility Willoughby abandons Marianne for a wealthier woman.

Of course, those are women who were wealthy by inheritance. What Tierney is talking about is women who are wealthy through their own personal knowledge and labor. Which, I can understand, would make "marrying down" a problem for women. Because the latter form of wealth, unlike the former, depends on the woman working. But what happens when she wants to stay at home, at least for a while, when the kids are young? Will the man be able to support that living arrangement? Naturally, families who would like one parent to stay home shouldn't expect a lavish lifestyle to be maintained (nor should we as Christians particularly desire that, anyway). But feeding, clothing, educating kids costs money.

Plus, as Tierney points out, if men are making a considerable amount less than their wives, it probably means their wives have a superior education - which could make things quite dull for the woman. I supposed men aren't as concerned with an educated partner as women are, I don't know (since I'm not a man). But I know that one of the definite things I'm looking for in a guy is an intelligence level at least equivalent to mine - not meaning that we're smart in the same things, necessarily, but that we have the same level of intelligence.

Here's Tierney's conclusion:

It's understandable that women with good paychecks have higher standards
for their partners, since their superior intelligence, education and income give
them what Buss calls high ''mate value.'' They know they're catches and want to
find someone with equal mate value -- someone like Mr. Darcy instead of a
dullard like the cleric spurned by Elizabeth Bennet.

"Of course, some women marry for love and find a man's resources
irrelevant,'' Buss says. ''It's just that the men women tend to fall in love
with, on average, happen to have more resources.''

Which means that, on average, college-educated women and
high-school-educated men will have a harder time finding partners as long as
educators keep ignoring the gender gap that starts long before college.
Advocates for women have been so effective politically that high schools and
colleges are still focusing on supposed discrimination against women: the
shortage of women in science classes and on sports teams rather than the
shortage of men, period. You could think of this as a victory for women's
rights, but many of the victors will end up celebrating alone.

Monday, January 02, 2006


My personalized g-mail homepage has just informed me that the word of the day is plenary.

5 points if you can tell me why that would be relevant to Catholicism. :)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Crusade for the Church

Some of you may know (since we told you) that one of our contributors, Lacy, was on the American Life League's Crusade for the Defense of the Catholic Church pro-life walk this summer.

Well, in case you haven't heard, that group of young people broke from ALL in December because of ALL leadership's insistence on maintaining one of the most uncharitable and unsuccessful public relations campaigns in the Catholic Church in the U.S. - insulting bishops by name in half-million dollar ads in national newspapers (I don't know, maybe that money could have actually been spent on women in crisis pregnancies?...just a thought).

Anyway, the young people have formed a new group, the (similarly named) Crusade for the Church, to continue the original mission of prayer, fasting and education about the pro-life cause and our responsibility toward it as Catholics. They could sure use whatever support, including prayers, you can lend them. Their new website is here and they have a new blog here. Stop on by.

Father Matrix

We got quite a bit of traffic at this little blog when we posted over the summer about the vocations poster above.

In December, Matthew Lickona - author of the very beautiful Swimming with Scapulars: True Confessions of a Young Catholic and whose wife just gave birth to baby #5 - wrote about the poster and the idea of priest as hero in an article for GodSpy. He asked:

Is it so terrible to use a cultural icon to make a valid point: that the priest
is a special sort of someone, a Chosen One called to a special sort of service?
More generally, must we reject any admixture of worldly interest in our priestly

That'd Be a Great Name for a Rock Band

Dave Barry proclaims 2005 "The Year of the Woman" in his always hilarious end-of-the-year column.

Some highlights...

FEBRUARY: On the social front, Prince Charles formally gets engaged to
Camilla Parker Bowles. The British public responds with sincere and heartfelt
wishes that the happy couple will not reproduce.

MARCH: ...In a related story, a California jury finds that actor Robert
Blake did not kill his wife. The jury also rules that John Wilkes Booth had
nothing to do with the Lincoln assassination and that bears do not poop in the
woods. In other celebrity legal news, Martha Stewart is released from prison.
The next morning, in a chilling coincidence, all of the witnesses who testified
against Stewart wake up and discover, to their utter horror, that their sheets
no longer match their pillowcases.

MAY: In other show business news, millions of middle-aged people without
dates wet their Luke Skywalker-model underpants with joy as they view the final
installment of the beloved "Star Wars" series, "Star Wars: Episode MXCVII:
Enough Already." Fans hail it as the least tedious Star Wars in decades; many
are stunned by the surprise ending, when it turns out that Darth Vader is
actually Robert Blake. Director George Lucas announces that, having fulfilled
his artistic dream, he will now retire and learn to write dialogue.

JULY: In sports, Lance Armstrong rides down the Champs-Elysees, raising his
arms in a triumphant gesture, which causes the French army to surrender instantly.
No, sorry; that was a cheap shot. One unit held out for nearly an hour.

Dave's blog.

Mary the Dawn

Mary the dawn, Christ the Perfect Day
Mary the gate, Christ the Heavenly Way!

Mary the root, Christ the Mystic Vine
Mary the grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!

Mary the wheat, Christ the Living Bread
Mary the stem, Christ the Rose blood-red!

Mary the font, Christ the Cleansing Flood
Mary the cup, Christ the Saving Blood!

Mary the temple, Christ the temple's Lord
Mary the shrine, Christ the God adored!

Mary the beacon, Christ the Haven's Rest
Mary the mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!

Mary the mother, Christ the mother's Son
By all things blest while endless ages run. Amen.

Mary, Mother of God

A very happy solemnity of Mary, Mother of God to all of you and wishes for a very blessed New Year!

I spent New Year's Eve at my brother and sister-in-law's house. Before we had food, champagne and fireworks, the pastor and parochial vicar from the parish where my brother is youth minister came over and offered Mass for us. It was really beautiful (and, btw, Father told us that according to canon law, the vigil for a solemnity cannot count for your obligation for Mass if the vigil Mass is said in a private home).

Anyway, it was beautiful. Father's homily was all about the Eucharist and Our Lady. He said that to live a Eucharistic life, we have to live a Marian life because the Blessed Mother is so intricately tied to Our Lord in the Eucharist. He emphasized that she was the first tabernacle and that any attacks on her or our devotion to her are attacks on Christ Himself.