Monday, September 29, 2008

Multiple Personalities: a short film by Michael Desanto

Stumbled across this little piece of black humor. You might find it offensive. I am posting it because after playing it a couple of times, I remain intrigued. It's the film equivalent of a Randy Newman song. I've been listening to a lot of Randy Newman recently.

Pray for Joe Biden, pray for Ted Kennedy

Thomas More is more important at this moment than at any moment since his death, even perhaps the great moment of his dying; but he is not quite so important as he will be in about a hundred years' time. - G.K. Chesterton, 1929

I think Obama is going to win the election. If he does, the pro-life cause has nothing good to expect from him. 

The Democrats do have two influential Catholics in their ranks. These two men, if their minds, hearts, and souls were opened to the truths of the faith they profess, could become powerful witnesses to the sanctity of human life.

Join me in praying for Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy - that they would receive and accept the grace to understand the proper relationship of civil to moral law, as did Saint Thomas More who witnessed to the truth of Christ's teachings through the Church even to the point of death. 
Let us pray:

O Glorious St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, your life of prayer and penance and your zeal for justice, integrity and firm principle in public and family life led you to the path of martyrdom and sainthood. Intercede for our Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers -- and in particular, for Senators Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy -- that they may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life -- the foundation of all other human rights. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I won an award!

Hey folks,

My loyal reader and fellow Pauline cooperator Easter has given me an "I love your blog" award. Thanks, Easter!  Easter runs a lovely blog called Mostly Prayers from the beautiful state of Hawaii, where from time to time she posts pictures like this one from last Advent and this one from July that make me long to visit our fiftieth state and meet the Pauline community there in person.  

And I in turn, as per one hand washing another, nominate these blogs, because I do love them all:

1. Church of the Masses - Barbara Nicolosi's blog. Barb got the title for her blog from this quote she dug up from the 1930's: Quote
Barb is my favorite movie critic, and she has a wicked insider's slant on the love-hate relationship between Hollywood and religious folks. She's also a screenwriter, a teacher, an essayist, a former DSP, and a fun person to be around should you be so lucky. She recently wrote that she hangs out mostly at Facebook these days, so I may have to learn how to navigate that social networking monster. 

2. Christifideles - Eric Ewanco's blog. Eric runs a similarly named e-list that's been around for a long time. Since before the days of blogs. You never know what will turn up on his blog.

3. Catholic Light (NOT Catholic lite!) - I only know one of the four guys who writes this blog, Richard Chonak.  They are a moderately curmudgeonly group, but I love their commentary. Even though I like the St. Louis Jesuits who wrote the folky liturgical songs in the 70's that are still quite in vogue today, and Richard cannot abide them. 

4. Mostly Prayers - Easter's blog. If you are tired of the wrangling and want to luxuriate in the wonder of God's creation and love, come to Easter's little corner of the blogosphere.

5. Pauline Cooperators Blog - Sr. Margaret Charles Kerry, fsp -- SHE THE WOMAN!! RAH, RAH!! She roped me into the Paulines, introduced me to Father Alberione, and for that I will love her forever...

6. Some Have Hats - Karen Hall's caustic wit makes me hope I never get on her bad side. But I love her blog. Like her friend Barbara Nicolosi, she gives me my Hollywood industry fix from time to time.

7. Catholic and Enjoying It. Mark Shea doesn't need my nomination, his blog has been well-traveled and well-known since its beginning.  Mark has my respect and nomination because he almost single-handedly, among conservative Catholic bloggers, held the line against approval of the use of torture by U.S. personnel or their agents in the war against terror. Thank you, Mark. You provided the intellectual support I needed for my own stand against what is to me clearly a violation of human rights. 

Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: an excerpt

I want to promote the new Storytelling in the Catholic Imagination category in the Pauline Book and Media Centers. So I thought I would post excerpts from some of the selections you will find in the new section.  Have a taste of the type of story you will find on the shelves of the PBM stores taking part in the pilot project

Bob awoke with sunlight coming through the mosaic windows in colors of red and blue. Charley was already slugging his feet inside damp boots. Bob slunk up the aisle, looking down pews, until he found Jesse rounded asleep inside his coat, his mouth open, his ankle twitching, a gun in his left hand. Bob then scuttled out of the church in his socks and saw Charley meandering through the cemetery, reading the inscriptions. He ambled over to him with his palms cupping his elbows.
Bob said, "Craig gave me ten days."
Charley considered an angled gravestone and the engraving GONE ON TO GREATNESS. "For what?"
Bob thought a moment, tugging up his right sock as he chose the proper term. "Arresting him," he said.
"You and me," Charley said.
"It's going to happen one way or another. If not us, then some deputy sheriff in Saint Joe, or some Pinkerton man in Kearney, or some simpleton with a pistol on loan like it was in the swamplands when the Youngers were captured. It's going to happen, Charley; and it might as well be us who get rich on it."
Charley scratched his neck and looked across the road to a greening sward where cattle and sheep were mixed. Timberland was a blue smear on the horizon. His sunken cheeks and cruel overbite made him seem to be sucking a mint. He said, "Nobody's going to get Jesse if he's still live enough to go for his gun. He can kill ya with every hand."
"I'll go alone then," Bob said.
Charley glanced at his kid brother disparagingly. "And besides that, he's our friend."
"He murdered Ed Miller. He's going to murder Liddil and Cummins if the chance ever comes. Seems to me Jesse's riding from man to man, saying goodbye to the gang. Your friendship could put you under the pansies."
Charley sighed and said, "I'll grind it fine in my mind, Bob. I can't go any further than that, right now."
"You'll come around," Bob said, and returned to the church, twisting the crick in his spine.
Jesse was by the altar and above the congregation in a pulpit of inlaid wood. He looked both pious and possessed. His face was stern as he flipped pages at the lectern, his fingers clenched the railing, and his blue eyes had silver fire in them as he put them on the Fords. He called, "From now on you two won't go anywhere without me! From now on you'll ask for permission; you'll asked to be excused!"

Friday, September 26, 2008

Help thou my unbelief!

I am reading Henri Daniel-Rops excellent "Jesus and His Times", which has given me a visceral feel for the geography and distances of the provinces Jesus walked during his short years of active mission. Galilee and Judea were separated by Samaria and the Decapolis geographically, and by an even more significant distance culturally. Galilee was a rural province, its inhabitants unsophisticated enough to provoke mockery in the more cosmopolitan cities of Judea (cf. Nathaniel's "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?")

Jesus grew up in the "Slower Delaware" of his region. His accent, like Peter's, was probably instantly identifiable to the "slicker" folks who lived in the towns and cities around Jerusalem.

Of the Galilean period of ministry, Daniel-Rops writes:
Throughout this period of his work Jesus was surrounded by an ever-renewed influx of the sick, the crippled, the scrofulous and the paralyzed. As soon as he left a synagogue or got out of a boat, the "court of miracles" in the most literal sense surrounded him. The blind sought him with their sightless eyes, the deaf-mutes turned their blank faces, there was no wound too disgusting to be shown to him, and he unwearyingly responded. It was enough for him to feel that their hope was genuine, to discern the smallest embryo of faith; he would put out a little of his power to serve these humblest causes.
The italics are mine. On reading that line I was struck by its relevance to Mark 9:24, a line I have pondered much during my persistent bouts of unbelief in times of trouble:

He fell on the ground and kept rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21Then Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He said, “Since he was a child. 22The spirit has often thrown him into fire and into water to destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us!”

23Jesus said to him, “‘If you are able?’ Everything is possible for the person who believes!”

24With tears flowing, the child's father at once cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief."

It was enough for him to feel that their hope was genuine, to discern the smallest embryo of faith; he would put out a little of his power to serve these humblest causes.

That has been my constant experience.  My tiniest flicker of faith draws forth the enormous power of Jesus. Such extravagance of mercy. Such a generous sharing of what was given to him by the Father. Thank you, thank you, thank you! My faithful lord, my resplendently beautiful redeemer! I love you, I love you, I love you! I say it publicly and joyfully and with only a little embarrassment at being so uncool. You're the one. Now and forever. Your Rae

Thursday, September 25, 2008

40 Days for Life: this year's campaign begins

Last year I got shingles out of the stress of trying to organize the calendar for the Delaware 40 Days for Life effort. This year I am a worker bee, not an organizer. This is the second year for 40 Days for Life, an ecumenical effort of prayer, fasting, and community outreach to bring an end to the scourge of abortion in the US.

Jesus spent 40 days wrestling with the devil in the desert. Moses spent 40 years wrangling the people of God through the desert. Let's spend 40 days in prayer and sacrifice, wrestling and wrangling in the desert of fear and hopelessness that chooses death by abortion over life with hope.


Pray for those who work in the abortion industry, and
for those who have repented of committing abortions
and have resolved to defend life.


Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into
your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said
this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing
what had happened, praised God and said, "Surely this
was a righteous man."

-- Luke 23:46-47

REFLECTION by Fr. Frank Pavone, Priests for Life

"Those of us who have participated in the killing of
unborn children are the Centurions of today. We have
dropped our swords against the unborn child. Now we
must recognize the depth of our guilt and deal with
the ramifications... To revitalize our humanity we
need to forgive and be forgiven, to reconcile and be

These words come from a brochure of the Society of
Centurions, an organization for former abortion
providers. These words convey in a beautiful and
moving way what is happening across the nation as
hundreds of abortionists and their staff members
experience repentance, conversion, and healing.

How does this conversion begin? Dr. Philip Ney
writes, "The factors that changed their opinion on
performing abortions, in the following order of
frequency, were: evidence of the infant's humanity, a
spiritual experience, personal distress, evidence of
the mother's distress, scientific articles, being
accepted as a person, a personal relationship with a
pro-lifer, pro-life pickets." (The Centurion's
Pathway, p. 77).

The journey is not easy. But the Jesus who heals us
calls us to face the truth of what we've done, make
restitution where possible, and engage in the hard
work of mending relationships. Let's pray for the
Centurions; may their numbers increase!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Purcell's Chicken Voluntary

Found a cool-looking Catholic blogger-woman, this one out of Australia by way of Tasmania.

I've got no idea what the title means, but the subtitle reads, "The hidden, ordinary life of a Roman Catholic, book-loving, sword-wielding, multiparous, (sometimes - Civil), Domestic Engineer no longer living in exile."

Adding it to my blog-roll.

my prayers for a Catholic literary revival yield novel (sic!) fruit

I am seeing fruit already from incorporating Idyll Press' prayers for a Catholic literary revival into my daily orisons. 

How so?  

I finally finished Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen. That I finished it at all is a fruit of my prayer, I think. It's a slim novel. I should have read it in a couple of days. 

Let me back up a little bit.

When I pray for a Catholic literary revival, it is in part for today's literary scene to discover and read folks like Chesterton, Waugh, Greene, O'Connor, Percy, Tolkien, etc.  I pray for avid readers like myself to discover writers who create worlds peopled by characters whose foibles and triumphs take place in the moral universe in which we all toil -- a Catholic universe, whether we recognize it or not. 

Ron Hansen is a novelist who in his other life is both a professor of literature and a permanent deacon in his parish. Like the best Catholic novelists, his work is published, critiqued (to much acclaim) and read in secular and not religious circles. 

Mariette in Ecstasy is said to be his masterpiece, although it is his Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford that I recommended be put on the shelves of the Pauline book centers who are participating in piloting the new Storytelling in the Catholic Imagination category

So dutifully, when I acquired Mariette while book hunting for my book business, I opened it and began reading.

The prose is achingly beautiful.

But the plot is slow.

I am a greedy reader. I favor genre books. I love good pulp fiction. Murder, mayhem, ghosts and vampires, knights in armor, lots of action. 

Mariette unfolds slowly. But beautifully.

Eventually I put it down. It began to seem like eating vegetables when I really wanted ice cream. 

Then I started my prayer for a Catholic literary revival, having commited myself in email to incorporating it into my daily prayer.

So a couple of days ago I picked Mariette up again. This time I got hooked. It became a page-turner. I lost sleep over it.

I turned the last page this morning, early.  I rose from my bed with that familiar aftertaste of awe, transported and transformed by time spent in another world. 

Ah, fiction. 

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Donal Stabosz!

I had to miss my grandson Donal's first birthday. I was witnessing the marriage of Jackie Naylor and Roger Massa in the wind and rain of a hurricane at the beach in Avalon NJ. 

But here is proof positive that Donal is keeping mom and dad happy and busy.

Happy Birthday, Donal! 

Now I need to post pictures of Zeke and Amelia Norton of Selma, Alabama. I am SO RICH in grandchildren. Deo gratias!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Democrat Jonathan Haidt on why people vote Republican

Jonathan Haidt is an associate professor of psychology at University of Virginia whose field is moral psychology.  A self-declared liberal Democrat, he has written an article based on research in his field titled WHAT MAKES PEOPLE VOTE REPUBLICAN. 

Haidt discusses the evolution of his research from the late 1980's, when he began examining Berkeley professor Elliot Turiel's dominant definition of morality as properly referring to"prescriptive judgments of justice, rights, and welfare pertaining to how people ought to relate to each other." 

Haidt then describes his experiences in a Hindu community in the late 80's and early 90's in a hierarchical society with clearly defined gender and class roles. This gave him insight into why Christians in his own country might be attracted to similarly ordered social structures. 
On Turiel's definition of morality ("justice, rights, and welfare"), Christian and Hindu communities don't look good. They restrict people's rights (especially sexual rights), encourage hierarchy and conformity to gender roles, and make people spend extraordinary amounts of time in prayer and ritual practices that seem to have nothing to do with "real" morality. But isn't it unfair to impose on all cultures a definition of morality drawn from the European Enlightenment tradition? Might we do better with an approach that defines moral systems by what they do rather than by what they value?
Here's my alternative definition: morality is any system of interlocking values, practices, institutions, and psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible.It turns out that human societies have found several radically different approaches to suppressing selfishness, two of which are most relevant for understanding what Democrats don't understand about morality.
He goes on to discuss two models relevant to the way Democrats and Republicans view the world, contractual society as envisioned by John Stuart Mill (Democrats) and an inter-bonded society as envisioned by sociologist Emile Durkeim (Republicans).  He writes:
A Durkheimian ethos can't be supported by the two moral foundations that hold up a Millian society (harm/care and fairness/reciprocity). My recent research shows that social conservatives do indeed rely upon those two foundations, but they also value virtues related to three additional psychological systems: ingroup/loyalty (involving mechanisms that evolved during the long human history of tribalism), authority/respect (involving ancient primate mechanisms for managing social rank, tempered by the obligation of superiors to protect and provide for subordinates), and purity/sanctity (a relatively new part of the moral mind, related to the evolution of disgust, that makes us see carnality as degrading and renunciation as noble). These three systems support moralities that bind people into intensely interdependent groups that work together to reach common goals. Such moralities make it easier for individuals to forget themselves and coalesce temporarily into hives, a process that is thrilling, as anyone who has ever "lost" him or herself in a choir, protest march, or religious ritual can attest.
In several large internet surveys, my collaborators Jesse Graham, Brian Nosek and I have found that people who call themselves strongly liberal endorse statements related to the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity foundations, and they largely reject statements related to ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. People who call themselves strongly conservative, in contrast, endorse statements related to all five foundations more or less equally. (You can test yourself at We think of the moral mind as being like an audio equalizer, with five slider switches for different parts of the moral spectrum. Democrats generally use a much smaller part of the spectrum than do Republicans. The resulting music may sound beautiful to other Democrats, but it sounds thin and incomplete to many of the swing voters that left the party in the 1980s, and whom the Democrats must recapture if they want to produce a lasting political realignment.
In The Political Brain, Drew Westen points out that the Republicans have become the party of the sacred, appropriating not just the issues of God, faith, and religion, but also the sacred symbols of the nation such as the Flag and the military. The Democrats, in the process, have become the party of the profane—of secular life and material interests. Democrats often seem to think of voters as consumers; they rely on polls to choose a set of policy positions that will convince 51% of the electorate to buy. Most Democrats don't understand that politics is more like religion than it is like shopping.
Religion and political leadership are so intertwined across eras and cultures because they are about the same thing: performing the miracle of converting unrelated individuals into a group. Durkheim long ago said that God is really society projected up into the heavens, a collective delusion that enables collectives to exist, suppress selfishness, and endure. The three Durkheimian foundations (ingroup, authority, and purity) play a crucial role in most religions. When they are banished entirely from political life, what remains is a nation of individuals striving to maximize utility while respecting the rules. What remains is a cold but fair social contract, which can easily degenerate into a nation of shoppers.
The whole article is excellent.  I may regain my respect for liberal academics if I continue to see examples like this of folks who can see past the noses on their faces. The world is more complex than those who demonize Christians and Republicans imagine.

Thanks to Eric Ewanco at christifideles for the heads up on this article. 

The Kung Fu School - Episode 2 (part 1)

Even better -- these guys from the kung fu school have been making comedy homages to The Office, complete with stealing the theme song. It's got its moments. A post-partum ban on cake, hilarious!

You'll see my nephew Robbie Lungren in the opening credits, and son-in-law Scott has acting and writing credits. And Mark, Raj, Ron and Cindy I know from the wedding, the school, and my son Ish's live action role-playing game. 

Why did nobody tell me about these videos?  Must I find everything out on YouTube??

Sifu Scott Gregg - a photo for the family album

The things  you find on the Internet! My baby girl Emily has been married to Kung Fu practitioner and  instructor Scott Gregg since February; they are expecting their first child in December.  I needed to include Scott in an email setting up the Stabosz family outing to the latest Coen Brothers film (Burn After Reading) tomorrow.  Going as a family to a new Coen Bros. film is a tradition. 

I never did find Scott's email address, but I did find this photo from his page at the kung fu school where he teaches and trains.  Isn't this a cool pic? 

Only a mother-in-law can get away with this kind of thing.  

My grandson Donal turned one year old last week. I'll be posting proud pictures of him as soon as I get some from the party!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Sarah Palin's little two-step on the Dark Side

Sarah Palin said this on Wednesday:

"Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... he's worried that someone won't read them their rights?"

I liked her speech overall, as I wrote yesterday. She knocked it out of the ballpark, and made herself a credible candidate at a time when even many Republicans were worrying that John McCain had been as stupid as his critics suggested in inviting her to be his VP.

However, I forgot to mention that I found the above statement of hers upsetting. If the US does not stand up for the rights of the accused, what does it stand for?

I hope this does not imply that a McCain/Palin ticket would continue to endorse waterboarding and other forms of torture of captured enemies. War or not, torture is not what America does.

Last year, John McCain said this at Dordt College:
“Anyone who knows what waterboarding is could not be unsure. It is a horrible torture technique used by Pol Pot and being used on Buddhist monks as we speak People who have worn the uniform and had the experience know that this is a terrible and odious practice and should never be condoned in the U.S. We are a better nation than that.”
I certainly hope he continues to believe we are a better nation than that. Our use of torture is to the Republican right what the abortion issue is to the Democratic left – an example of fear and pragmatism overcoming right reason and morality.


I may have to re-think my vote. I have already begun praying that the Republican party come to its sense over the use of torture. 

Thursday, September 04, 2008

On the brou-ha-ha over Bristol Palin's pregnancy

Peter Chattaway over at Film Chat quotes Rod Dreyer, and says it all for me:
As Rod Dreher puts it, "I can't help thinking that in the matter of Bristol Palin and her unborn child, many on the left simply can't stand it that conservatives are failing to live up to the malign stereotypes liberals have of them."
Read all of "Pro-lifers and teen pregnancy," Rod Dreyer's beliefnet blog post. It's a good one. 

Weighing in on Sarah Palin

The Christian Science monitor had my favorite analysis of what Sarah Palin accomplished last night.  I thought I'd weigh in with some thoughts:
  1. I like her. She seems like the real deal to me. And by that I mean not a saint (which is the real deal to me) but a politician who might actually have the capability to govern and administer in a statesmanlike manner.  She can do the whole speak-in-front-of-the-audience thing with poise, and she has governed successfully, however briefly, both at a local and a state level.
  2. She is actively pro-life and a member of Feminists for Life, whose founder Serrin Foster impressed me mightily when I shared pizza with her before she spoke at the University of Delaware last year. My most excellent friend Cat Clark, another outstanding pro-life feminist, now works full-time for FFL. I could become an evangelist for their ideas on how to get pro-life and pro-choice college students to collaborate on projects that are beneficial to women and to each ideology's goals. 
  3. She has a normal 21st-century family, and isn't ashamed of them.  She also isn't ashamed of being a working mother. 
Of course she's a politician, and her speech was calculated to pluck various strings - small town voters from flyover states; mothers of kids with disabilities; soldiers and those who love them; women who are happy to see a modeler of women's equality, especially women like me who are disaffected Democrats and who are not theocrats regardless of what the Christian-fearers believe. 

Bottom line for me -- she is not a token woman any more than Obama is a token black. Both, in their own right, are viable candidates in a country where race and gender are still not non-issues.