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Friday, December 23, 2005

"Why Can't Every Day Be Like Christmas?"
Elvis asked that question in one of his Christmas songs "If Every Day Was Like Christmas". It hit me this morning that every day can easily be like Christmas is we take some effort and appreciate what happens.

Christmas is the day we celebrate Christ coming into the world. The same thing happens every time a valid Mass is performed. On the first Christmas, Christ came in the form of a newborn infant. At Mass, He arrives also, but hidden behind Bread and Wine. Christ comes every day and we can receive Him if we approach his Body and Blood worthily. His appearance at Mass can be an even greater gift than his appearance in the manger since we can receive spiritual sustenance from his Body and Blood.

The King of Kings has a simple message for the King of Rock'n'Roll: If you want every day to be like Christmas, go to Mass!

(This came to me while reading a meditation from Saint Katherine Drexel in the Magnificat this morning. Subscribe now! It's well worth it.)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Investigating Shakespeare's Hidden Catholicism
Shakespeare: Secretly Catholic.
Shakespeare's early comedies take a resolutely lighthearted view of the sectarian struggle, portraying an optimistically happy outcome; the plays and poems of the mid-1590s reflect the increasing persecution, but recommend patience rather than rebellion, repeatedly staging the ideal Catholic scenario of a successful rescue attempt from abroad.

After the death of his first patron, the dissident Lord Strange, Shakespeare's hidden plays reveal the influence of the opposition party of the Earl of Essex, a magnet for Catholic as well as Puritan dissenters. This involved a change of course; rebellion was now an option.

"Hamlet" is on one level a play addressed to the influential but timorous "don't knows" of Elizabeth's England: those who loathed the Cecils but shrank from outright rebellion.

The 1601 Essex rebellion was expertly defused, and Shakespeare's remaining plays appeal for toleration directly to the monarch -- or, in the case of King James I's son, Henry, to the heir to the throne -- or else address a dispirited Catholic resistance movement, divided and weakened by pressure from without and within.

Like the resistance leaders, he now stresses inner, spiritual solutions to the Catholic dilemma rather than direct political action. He remains committed to the end. The hidden level of the finale of "The Winter's Tale" pays unmistakable homage to the Mass and to those who preserved it under persecution.

Benedict XVI Urges Rediscovery of Christmas Traditions
This is the point I was trying to make to Anna White. (She of "Buy Nothing" fame.) You can't just say to people "Hey, stop buying so much stuff." You need to offer them something in return. And what's a better exchange than the Christ Child?

Pros and Cons of the North Pole Santa
Interesting article on a question I've wrestled in the past: is it a lie to tell your kids that Santa Claus is real? Fortunately, I don't have to make this decision yet.

Amy Welborn on Christmas on National Review Online
The discussion about Christmas in our society is endless and loud. The self-proclaimed defenders of Christmas go about daring salespeople to wish them "Happy Holidays," boycotting businesses that sell "Holiday Trees," and reminding one and all that Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

Which he is. But I say that many of the Defenders of Christmas have it almost as wrong as the secularists. Their vision of Christmas — centered on words, a rather generic baby, and nostalgic visions of families and fireplaces — actually gets no closer to the real Real Meaning of Christmas than do generic wishes for peace and joy in this holiday season.

What they forget, neglect or conveniently ignore is what we can not-too-dramatically call the Dark Side of Christmas.

The really traditional Christian remembrance of the Nativity is not about sweetness. It is about awe, fear, and trembling, and it is shot through with hints of suffering to come.

Mary, with a scandalous pregnancy. Joseph, courageous enough to take her on despite it. A birth among farm animals. The threat of death, from the very start, necessitating flight. Mary, told by the prophet Simeon that because of her son, her soul will be pierced by a sword (Luke 2:35).

We view the elements of the story in a nostalgic haze — how sweet to be born with the goats. But is it? Is it sweet? Would you want to give birth among goats?

How charming that Mary and Joseph had to wander before and after the birth of the child. Charming until you remember the reasons why, the doors shut in the face of a heavily pregnant woman, the threat of death from a jealous king.

Look at it closely, with clear eyes. At every turn in this story of this baby there is threat and fear and powers circling, attempting to strike at the light.
Glad tidings of comfort and joy, and Merry Christmas indeed. But without awareness of the risk of discipleship, and the reality that the baby in the manger ends up hanging on a cross, those words have about as little power to change the world as "Happy Holidays."
Amy Welborn for my money is the best Catholic blogger out there.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The "War" on Christmas
DelaVoice's post on how the phrase "Happy Holidays" doesn't bother him (?) got me thinking about why it does bother me.

I by no means believe that the majority of people who say "Happy Holidays" are part of some anti-Christian plot. Most of them are just trying not to offend those who don't hold to Christian beliefs. However, it's gotten to the point where even among Christians "Happy Holidays" in the norm. People who know me well, certainly well enough to know which holiday I celebrate, wish me "Happy Holidays." I usually respond with "Merry Christmas" to remind them, but sometimes I let it go by.

Bot who exactly are we trying not to offend? According to statistics in the News-Journal the other day, 80% of Americans are Christians. There's virtual unanimity among those people in favor of celebrating Christmas. (The only exception I'm aware of is Seventh-Day Adventists.) Among the remaining 20%, a huge percentage of those people celebrate Christmas. (A statistic I saw somewhere said that over 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas.)

And how many people are going to be offended by someone wishing them good will. As Delavoice points out: it's better than being told to "Have a Crappy Month." So why shouldn't Christians wish others a Merry Christmas? Is there any higher greeting we can give others at this time of year? We're essentially wishing them the blessing of Christ? How can someone be offended by that?

The only way they can be offended by that is if they're anti-Christian. And who needs the blessings of Christ more than them?

Whether or not we're in a "War on Christmas," Christians refusing to say Merry Christmas is still unilateral disarmament. So, Christians, take pride in your faith and give others the greatest greeting you can! Don't be afraid to use the "C-word!"

The Decade's Midpoint - In 2005 America's economy grew while Kofi Annan shrank
Pete duPont, Delaware's greatest Governor, reviews the past year.

Christmas Quote-a-palooza
"How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments." —Benjamin Franklin

"More than 2,000 years ago...mankind received its Savior, and to those who had dwelled in darkness, the light of hope had come. Each Christmas, we celebrate that first coming anew, and we rejoice in the knowledge that the God who came to Earth that night in Bethlehem is with us still and will remain with us forever. Christmas is a season of hope and joy, a time to give thanks for the blessing of Christ's birth and for the blessings that surround us every day of the year.... [This] Christmas, we pray [especially] for freedom, justice and peace on Earth. We remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and for our freedom, and we ask for God's blessing on their loved ones. We ask God to watch over all of our men and women in uniform. Many are serving in distant lands, helping to advance the cause of freedom and peace. Our entire Nation is grateful to them and prays for their safe return. Laura and I send our best wishes for a blessed and merry Christmas." —President George W. Bush

"He rules the world with truth and grace." —Isaac Watts

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." —Charles Dickens

"The Incarnation...illuminates and orders all other phenomena, explains both our laughter and our logic, our fear of the dead and our knowledge that it is somehow good to die, and which at one stroke covers what multitudes of separate theories will hardly cover for us if this is rejected." —C.S. Lewis

"Regarding not the day, let us give God thanks for the gift of His dear Son... If it be possible to honor Christ in the giving of gifts, I cannot see how while the gift, giver and recipient are all in the spirit of the world... [B]ut we have a Christ gift the entire year." —Charles Spurgeon

"The concerted effort to minimize Christmas has resulted in it being our national Happy Holiday holiday. The Christmas season is now the holiday season. Christmas parties are now holiday parties. Christmas is a time for giving and receiving presents and in many homes, nothing more. Who is this fellow, Jesus Christ, anyway?" —Lyn Nofziger

"Holiday and Holy Day, Christmas is more than a yule log, holly or tree. It is more than natural good cheer and the giving of gifts. Christmas is even more than the feast of the home and of children, the feast of love and friendship. It is more than all of these together. Christmas is Christ, the Christ of justice and charity, of freedom and peace." —Francis Cardinal Spellman

"More than any gift or toy, ornament of tree, let us resolve that this Christmas shall be, like that first Christmas, a celebration of interior treasures." —Ronald Reagan

Townhall.com :: Columns :: The consumer rip-off by Walter E. Williams
Since allegations of oil company price-gouging have become topical, let's look at real price manipulation. Suppose a dairyman wants to sell a gallon of milk for 25 cents less than his competitors, would you want him fined or jailed? Federal Milk Marketing Orders would do just that. Americans pay four times the world price for sugar as a result of tariffs and quotas on foreign imports. That leads to higher profits and wages in the sugar industry and higher prices for sugar products.

Peggy Noonan on John Paul the Great on National Review Online
Good interview with Peggy about John Paul the Great.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Proposed Bumper Sticker
Impeach Bush. Cheney for President.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Media Bias Is Real, Finds UCLA Political Scientist... 12/14/2005
Basically, in order from liberal to conservative:
1) Wall Street Journal (newspages, not editorial section)
2) CBS Evening News
3) New York Times
4) LA Times

Others worth mentioning:
The Drudge Report is slightly left of center, due to the number of links it provides to liberal newspapers
Fox's "Special Report with Brit Hume" is as conservative as ABC's "World News Tonight" is liberal
NPR's "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" is the most centrist
Yet another finding that contradicted conventional wisdom relates to National Public Radio, often cited by conservatives as an egregious example of a liberal news outlet. But according to the UCLA-University of Missouri study, it ranked eighth most liberal of the 20 that the study examined.

"By our estimate, NPR hardly differs from the average mainstream news outlet," Groseclose said. "Its score is approximately equal to those of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report and its score is slightly more conservative than The Washington Post's. If anything, government‑funded outlets in our sample have a slightly lower average ADA score (61), than the private outlets in our sample (62.8)."
I think they misunderstand the source of conservative disgruntlement with NPR. It's bad enough that it's liberally biased (which this report confirms). It's worse that it's done with our tax dollars, so we're funding liberals with conservative's money.

"But the nature of Christianity—the creed of Christmas—is about unpleasant realities like human deficiency and humbling ones like redemption: all in accordance with divine directives. To be wished a Merry Christmas is to be wished a closer walk, a nearer relationship, with the God whose only begotten Son...came to earth at this season. The manger thing, you know—angels, shepherds, wise men. Oh, so entangling! As it was meant to be. Oh, and, by the way, Merry Christmas." —William Murchison

"[A] father asked the principal, 'What is that tree down the hall?' The principal beamed proudly. 'That is our friendship tree.' 'Why don't you call it what it is: a Christmas Tree?' the father asked. 'Oh, we're trying to make sure we don't offend people. It's better to call it a 'friendship tree,' the principal replied. Thinking back on the incident a few months later, the father took a grim satisfaction that he had changed the outlook of the principal of this expensive private school in the New York City suburbs. But not by argument or persuasion. 'I told him if that tree wasn't a Christmas tree tomorrow, I would be taking my son out of the school, and I would be making certain the other parents I know, who also pay tens of thousands of dollars to the school, would learn how their children were being taught incorrectly. We all know what a Christmas tree is, and I want my son to know what a Christmas tree is. I have no idea what a friendship tree is and I'm [quite] certain that principal didn't either." —John Gibson

"Our coins bear the words 'In God We Trust.' We take the oath of office asking his help in keeping that oath. And we proclaim that we are a Nation under God when we pledge allegiance to the flag. But we can't mention his name in a public school or even sing religious hymns that are non-denominational. Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel and reindeers but there must be no mention of the Man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas." —Ronald Reagan

"Republicans have learned that shoveling out dollars is a lot more fun than pinching pennies. In the 1995-96 session of Congress, for every bill introduced to reduce outlays, there were two bills to increase outlays. By 2003-04, the imbalance had become positively grotesque—with 24 spending bills for every one bill to cut spending. Republicans deserved a lot of the credit for the surpluses of the 1990s, which came about because they forced President Clinton to agree to balance the budget. Regrettably, that achievement turned out to be as fleeting as a Florida snowfall. In real terms, the deficit is bigger now than it was when they started. Rhetoric aside, most Republicans in Washington secretly share the sentiment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay...who said in September that there was nothing left in the budget to cut because 'after 11 years of Republican majority, we've pared it down pretty good.'... [There are] more than 100 programs that could be reduced or eliminated, from farm subsides to the National Endowment for the Arts to Social Security, saving $380 billion a year. Those cuts would not be politically easy. They might be politically possible, though, if Americans understood that they are the only way to put the nation on a sound fiscal footing, avoid huge future tax increases and spare our children an immense burden of debt. Republicans may no longer worry about such matters, but someone should." —Steve Chapman

"With all the recent hype and demagoguery about gasoline price-gouging, maybe it's time to talk about the basics of exchange. First, what is exchange? Exchange occurs when an owner transfers property rights or title to that which is his. Here's the essence of what transpires when I purchase a gallon of gasoline. In effect, I tell the retailer that I hold title to $3. He tells me that he holds title to a gallon of gas. I offer to transfer my title to $3 to him if he'll transfer his title to a gallon of gas to me. If this exchange occurs voluntarily, what can be said about the transaction? One thing we know for sure is that the retailer was free to retain his ownership of the gallon of gas and I my ownership of $3. That being the case, why would we exchange? The only answer is that I perceived myself as better off giving up my $3 for the gallon of gas and likewise the retailer perceived himself as better off giving up his gas for the $3... Game theorists recognize this as a positive-sum game—a transaction where both parties are better off as a result. Of course there's another type of exchange not typically sought, namely good-bad exchange. An example of that kind of exchange would be where I approached the retailer with a pistol telling him that if he didn't do something good for me, give me that gallon of gas, I'd do something bad to him, blow his brains out. Clearly, I'd be better off, but he would be worse off. Game theorists call that a zero-sum game—a transaction where in order for one person to be better off, the other must be worse off. Zero-sum games are transactions mostly initiated by thieves and governments." —Walter Williams

Body Language
A few weeks ago I happened across Oprah’s web site and noticed that her show that day was called “Why do men do that?” I’m not a regular Oprah viewer, but I tuned in that day to see a panel of “experts” on male behavior, including Jay Leno, explain why men look at pornography, go to strip clubs, and cheat on their wives.
Women don’t simply want their husbands to direct their lusts exclusively towards them, as if this made a man “faithful.” As our late Pope John Paul II once pointed out, a husband can commit “adultery in his heart” with his own wife if he treats her as nothing but an object for his selfish pleasure.

I know it’s a cliché, but why do so many wives claim “headache” when their husbands want sex? Could it be because they feel used rather than loved? Marriage does not justify lust; it is not a ticket to treat a spouse as a means of selfish pleasure. A woman who is the object of lust soon realizes, “You don’t love me; you don’t need me. You’re only interested in a means to your own gratification, and you can get that anywhere.”

When the name of the game is self-gratification, any outlet will do. In this view, the Church’s teaching on sex seems tailor-made to “keep me from having a good time.” But when the name of the game is self-donating love, everything the Church teaches seems tailor-made to help me overcome lust and learn to love as God intended in the beginning. Bingo.

The Word From Rome December 16, 2005
Interesting discussion of Opus Dei and common misconceptions about it.

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