Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Non-Catholics say the darndest things

At dinner on Christmas night, four friends and I were eating with the five other members of my immediate family. The friends are Catholic, my family Protestant. I started chatting with my friends about where we'd all gone to Mass that day. "Did you go to St. Peter Chanel for Midnight Mass?" "I went to Ss. Peter and Paul; there was a great TLM this morning." "St. Therese has one on New Years' day."

My older brother interrupted: "Are the Masses named for whoever says them?"

When we'd recovered from our surprise and hilarity we explained that those were the names of the churches. But if my brother had been right I would certainly have attended the Mass offered by Saints Peter and Paul!

Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm back!

The four of us had a really, really wonderful time up in Sacramento (of all places). We mainly hung out at an FSSP church, and we also admired Sacramento's cathedral, toured California's capitol, went out to eat, shared one room for three nights, and drove home in one car without injuring each other (much). It was great fun; I'm lucky to have friends who enjoy that kind of thing!

Too tired to elaborate. :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

From cupcakeenvy.com. Boy, do I wish I could chomp into one of those. :) There are some ridiculously good-looking cakes and cupcakes out there on the internet. Why can't I have any friends who make stuff like this? And then give it away? To me? :)

I might not post for a while-- but hey, eight posts today! A record for me. Of course it was mostly done by ripping off other people's stuff. :) I'll be busy all day tomorrow and then the day after some friends and I are leaving bright and early for a four-day road trip to Sacramento. We'll be at an FSSP parish called St. Stephen the First Martyr on the feast of St. Stephen, December 26, and they're going to have a Solemn High Mass at 7 pm for the occasion, which we're all excited about seeing. Our plan for the long drive up there (if they haven't closed the Grapevine) is to listen to a series of lectures by Fr. Brian Mullady and arrive smarter than when we left. Now I'm going to take a break from present-wrapping to go for a walk and look at Christmas lights before they're all turned off. May you all have a blessed Christmas season!

G.K. Chesterton on believing in Santa Claus

"What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it.

It happened in this way. As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good-— far from it. And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me; what we believed was that a certain man did give us those toys for nothing.

And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea. Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void. Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic good will."

When Christ was in His cradle

When I said Mass at Christmas
And candles were aglow,
I saw a white old woman,
Two thousand years ago:
My very great grandmother,
Who spun me flesh and bone,
Who felt my fingers aching
In the atoms of her own,
In whom my eyes were shining,
However far away,
When Christ was in His cradle
And it was Christmas Day!

That's a poem by Fr. Leonard Feeney. The older I get the more past centuries seem to collapse like a telescope until I feel very close to the people who walked the earth when Christ did, and this seems to express it. I used to envy them in a way; now I know that what they experienced was not for them alone. Mary's awe and joy when she first saw His face-- that was for the whole human race.

O little town of Bethlehem

Perhaps nearly every Christian has some kind of thought or image that is especially potent to draw his heart and mind to God.

Mine is Christmas: that late one night, in an inhospitable, sinful world that was in desperate need of salvation, God was born as a baby.

Which is why this is probably my favorite Christmas carol.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wond'ring love
Oh morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently
The wond'rous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven
No ear may hear His coming
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in

Oh holy child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
Oh come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel!

Employee appreciation gifts that do more harm than good

The post below reminds me of a teacher who had to make her children create little signs for her and then turn them into the school office, to receive them back as a teacher appreciation gift. That's right-- she had to go to the trouble of making her own gift happen.

But that's not as bad the nurse I know who received an employee appreciation gift of makeup. Expired makeup.

I'd rather get nothing; wouldn't you?

Christmas gift from my boss

I'm totally fine with someone telling me "Merry Christmas", "Happy Holidays", "Blessed Winter Solstice" or whatever they wish, if the good wishes come accompanied with a nice present. :) But there are apparently those who are easily offended (though I expect they're far, far fewer than the ACLU makes us think.) So what's a boss to do? He's got about twenty techs and grad students and postdocs in his lab, from many different countries and religious backgrounds, and he wants to do something nice for all of them at this time of year by giving each a good bottle of wine. What to write on the thoughtful post-it note attached to each gift?

White elephant gift exchange

(How did it come to be called that, anyway?)

Well, our lab Christmas party included such an exchange and I came away with a tiny LED light that plugs into a USB port. That may seem like just the sort of unitasker this site warns against, but I like it. It's perfect for laptopping with the lights off, because I can't see the keyboard very well in such conditions. And when do I ever use my laptop with the lights off? Why, when I want to enjoy the Christmas lights on my balcony! Here's my new toy in action:

So these gift exchanges can turn out well. But at Rachel's party the specific instructions were, "Bring something that nobody would ever want, ever." And I noticed that one of the packages was huge, very tall and wide.

I have this problem at restaurants sometimes where I order the weirdest thing on the menu just because I'm curious. It nearly always turns out to be bad. Well, my turn to open a present came, and I was curious. I wanted to know what was in the huge package, and I was afraid it might not get chosen (there were more presents than players.) So I picked it. And it was...

A broken fan!

How am I even going to fit that thing in my car? I wondered.

So watch yourself at those white elephant gift exchanges. Few know the horror that innocent-sounding game can produce.

Tacky sweaters

My friend Rachel's aforementioned gathering had a tacky sweater theme, which I was so excited about. I knew where I could borrow a really good one, a holdover from fifteen years ago when ridiculous stuff like this was all the rage for Christmas. Behold!

The fuzzy beards, the hat tassels, the riot of color. I was so certain I'd win recognition as the tackiest person at the party. But then... then this chick showed up:

And I at once conceded defeat. She even made the sweater herself! Look at the random presents glue-gunned to the sweatshirt! The sequins! The fuzzy trim! The bells on her cuffs! And even when she turned around:

I bow to the master.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Severed heads-- desserts don't GET more Catholic than this

My fascinating friend Rachel invited me to a party last weekend, and on the treats table I beheld some Rice Krispies creations which I naively took for Santa Claus heads:

What else could they be, right? Well, then I discovered that Rachel had guarded against any such jolly interpretation with this sign:

"Severed Head Treats." It seems the man she's dating mailed her some of these homemade delectables, and she was so entranced she recreated them for her party. I'd say he's had a macabre influence on her, but it might just as easily be the other way around.

Anyway, I thought the treats were hilarious and I popped a bunch of them in my mouth and delighted the in pools of cherry-flavored blood left behind:

But I was vexed by the question of how I was going to manage to post them on my blog. Obviously they had to be posted, but since they were so explicitly labeled as not Santa heads nor anything having to do with the beautiful Christmas season, what excuse could I make to claim them as Catholic?

And then it came to me in a flash of inspiration which I credit to all the Scripture readings we have at Mass just before Christmas about St. John the Baptist: these are obviously his head!

My sporting friend at once manufactured for me a silver platter:

And there he sits, eerie, mouthless, silently accusing, and oh, so delicious.

I also obtained a picture of Salome and her mother Herodias, grimly triumphant over the (apparently shrunken) head of the prophet who dared to cross them.

(That's actually Rachel on the right and her sister Hannah, and I love that when I asked them to pose with the head they at once wiped their smiles off-- they have an innate sense of the dramatic that makes for excellent pictures, as I've often noticed on Rachel's blog before now.)

If you're not familiar with the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, the version from Mark is below. It's an interesting vignette from the New Testament. He's the archetype of speaking the truth to power no matter the personal cost-- invoke him to pray for our bishops!

For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him. Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, "Ask me for anything you want, and I'll give it to you." And he promised her with an oath, "Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?"

"The head of John the Baptist," she answered. At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: "I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter." The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John's disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Candy Cane Coffee Cake Counts as Catholic 'Cause it's Christmassy

My mom usually whips out three or four of these beauties each December. You roll out dough into a rectangle, cut the edges into strips, pile the middle with bits of dried apricot and candied cherries, and braid the strips of dough over the filling. Then bend it around into a candy cane shape, bake it, ice it and decorate with cherries and mint leaves. These things are always eaten in short order (mostly by me... I'm not sure my roommate even got any before I polished off the one my mom sent me home with.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dispositions for Faith, by Cardinal Newman

The Fourth Sunday of Advent falls on December 21 this year, which is the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle in the old calendar, and the Gospel reading at Mass is about St. John the Baptist. These things also coincided in 1856, and that inspired Father John Henry Newman (not a cardinal yet) to write a sermon entitled "Dispositions for Faith".

Yes, this post is about a sermon! I've been waiting for months to blog it on this day. But if you're leaving now, be sure to return later. Coming up in the next few days, this blog will feature:

1) A more Catholic-y dessert than any I've posted so far! With the possible exception of the St. Nicholas cookies. But this dessert is definitely more... memorable.
2) And another Catholic dessert, not as explicitly religious but still delicious.
3) A story of how a friend of mine used in-your-face Catholicism to save herself from peril! (Potential peril, anyway.)
4) A report of my doings last night-- I met a girl wearing the most obnoxious Christmas sweater I'd ever seen. You'll be shown the amazing pictorial proof!
5) A Christmas poem. Don't whine, it's only eight short lines.

Okay, Cardinal Newman! So I liked his sermon a great deal when I first read it, because it tackled a problem that had been rattling in the back of my mind for years. I'll try to state the problem.

Some have faith in God and some don't. Of the latter, some are happy not to believe in God, but others of those who don't have faith actually wish they did. I knew a woman, a co-worker, who rejected religion as repugnant to reason, yet she still insisted that she wished she could believe it. She saw the comfort that Catholicism gave to her dying grandmother, and she saw the fear suffered by her atheist grandfather when it was his turn to die.

Of course Christians have always taught that Christianity is fully compatible with reason; it might be suprarational but it's never irrational . However, it's true that no one is brought into the Church by reason alone. Faith is required, and you can't flip a switch and give yourself faith. It comes only as a gift of God: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

Moreover, faith is necessary for salvation: "Without faith it is impossible to please God."

And God wants everyone to be saved: "It is not His will that any should perish but that all should come to salvation."

But evidently God doesn't grant the gift of faith to all. He didn't grant it to my atheist co-worker, nor to many others. So in what sense is salvation really available to all, if you need faith to get it and only God can give faith and He doesn't give faith to everyone?

There seems to be a paradox here. Strict Calvinists settle it and greatly simplify Christian theology by denying that salvation is available to all. They teach that Christ died only for some ("limited atonement", the third of the Five Points) and that some people were essentially created for Hell because they were not predestined by God for Heaven.

That view is repugnant to me, but of course my feelings don't prove it wrong. More to the point, the Bible speaks very clearly throughout of the free choice we have to accept God or reject Him, to please Him or not. By God's grace anyone can be reconciled to Him and rejoice in Him forever; this is not unattainable for anybody and God greatly desires it: "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'... Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." The limited atonement idea is wrong wrong wrong, and the Council of Trent agreed and anathematized that view.

But that means we're left with the paradox. And it's not just some esoteric fine point of theology to me, because I know there are plenty of people to whom having a relationship with God sounds as strange as having a relationship with the Tooth Fairy, and that's very sad. How is it that some believe and some do not?

Well, Cardinal Newman's take on that is in his sermon; now if you wish, go read it. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Let them eat Catholic desserts!

Adrienne has given me the Marie Antoinette award-- thank you! I now feel even more imperious than usual and I also have an urge to go on a spending spree. :)

I'm supposed to pass on the award to other amazing and deserving women (I don't mean to exclude you men, but really, would you want this one?) So, Eanah, Megan, and Mary Rose, consider yourselves awarded!

May the Catholic desserts be with you


I wish I could blog the taste right to your mouth. These cookies are buttery and spicy and salty and sweet and I ate twelve of them this morning for breakfast before I got a grip and mailed the remainder off to friends who weren't with us for dinner last night. I also brought some to the lab Christmas party. I'd made a double recipe. :) Gingersnap dough is excellent too, which is why I deliberately keep some unbaked whenever I make these.

Want to make them yourself?

Cream these four ingredients in a blender until fluffy: 
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg

Mix these dry ingredients together and then blend them with the butter/molasses mixture:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Form the dough into small balls. (Maybe 3/4 inch in diameter. Or however big you like.) Roll each ball in granulated sugar. Place balls 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet (they spread out when they bake). Bake at 375 for about nine minutes.

Added tips-- the recipe says to bake for 12 minutes but maybe my cookies are smaller, 'cause about nine minutes is more like it. They should look slightly underdone when they come out of the oven, because they finish setting as they cool down. If you wait to take the cookies out until they look completely done-- they'll be overdone. You could always bake three or four cookies first to see how they come out...

This makes a few dozen cookies. I usually double it (make sure your mixer bowl can handle that.)

To use colored sugar, do the following:

Roll dough in small balls
Dip each ball halfway in white granulated sugar
Dip the other half in colored sugar
Bake with the colored side up.

I've learned that if the bottom of the cookie isn't coated in sugar, or if it's coated in large-crystal colored sugar, it gets a little overdone which alters the taste. It's got to be coated in fine granulated sugar.

After I'd made most of the batch it occurred to me to try two colors. I dipped each ball halfway in white sugar, then just touched it lightly in the first color of sugar, so there was a circle of color on top. Then I dipped the rest into the second color, which stuck only where the first color hadn't already stuck. I think they came out rather well! And if I can, I will so buy blue sprinkles for the Fourth of July. :)

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, Catholic desserts walks into mine

Bakerella specializes in these very Christmas-y red velvet cake balls (you can find her recipe here.) This picture is from her site because I forgot to get any of my own with the cake balls bitten open!

I added Christmas sprinkles to my own effort.

And then the red tablecloth and mini tree with birds, both courtesy of my mom, looked so cute I had to get a shot of the truffles with them.

I enjoyed the truffles, but they're a lot of work compared to cookies and don't taste any better than cookies. They do, however, look more impressive.

If I ever made these again I'd make the cake from scratch. There's a certain artificial play-doh sort of undertone in some cake mixes and the one I used seemed to have it. Just a slight thing... didn't stop the truffles from getting eaten.

Would you like Catholic desserts with that?

An ordinary (by which I mean so delicious I polished off the rest of it single-mouthedly after the guests had gone home) tray of cream puffs becomes a Catholic dessert with the addition of cheap plastic decorations in red and green!

By the way, any dessert that evokes Christmas (which is just about anything sweet served in the month of December) is hereby appropriated as part of Catholic tradition and thus fitting for my voracious blog category.

It is HIGH time for more Catholic desserts!

Not long ago I took it into my head to fast from chocolate for a while, and I let my friends know what I was doing. One night they came over for dinner, bringing big snickerdoodles and butterscotch ice cream with them. It was a delicious dessert, and very thoughtful of my friends to come up with something I could eat. So good it totally took the merit away from fasting. Anyway, if you're one of those people who gives up chocolate for Lent, here's an idea for you. :)

This reminds me of when I was about thirteen and went to a pizza place with two friends, Jovanna and Suzanne. It was Lent but that meant nothing to Jovanna and me; we were Protestants. Suzanne, however, was Catholic and she was fasting from chocolate, her favorite food. So we ordered a pizza, and lo and behold, it came with exactly two free pieces of chocolate ravioli. White chocolate covering milk chocolate. It was delicious. Jovanna and I showed no mercy, but sat on either side of Suzanne and consumed our dessert with exclamations of delight. Looking back on that day, I just know Suzanne was quietly praying, "Oh Lord, please teach Rachel a lesson and make her Catholic too!"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

St. Stephen the First Martyr Parish in Sacramento, CA

St. Stephen's is an FSSP church with (I'm told) an awesome schola and a ridiculous number of altar boys. This is a long shot but are any blog readers members there? If so, brace yourself for the invasion of me and three friends right after Christmas; we're taking a road trip to Sacramento and we will most certainly show up there, especially for the evening Mass on December 26, his feast day!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Man of the worldly mind! Do you believe in me or not?"

My parents' church has a big ol' Christmas concert/play each year, and this year they did Dickens' Christmas Carol. Now if you've read it you know that Dickens somehow managed to write a whole book about Christmas and Scrooge's conversion and yet didn't say a thing about God. (I know, "God bless us, every one!" but Tiny Tim was using a figure of speech.) But this was not a problem for my parents' church. They just tweaked it, writing the Gospel in as it suited them. :)

I think you can't really take a play that's vague on religion, and graft in some explicit lines, and have it sound right. There needs to be a sense of God throughout the whole play so that the explicit lines when they come fit like the last piece of a puzzle that reveals the whole picture. Instead they seemed out of place. Or maybe the problem was that the new lines used modern American Evangelical language and that's not how Victorians of any denomination would have put things. Can't help that; who can write like Dickens any more?

I'm only being nitpicky; it was a great concert and play and I loved seeing everyone (many of whom I knew) in Victorian costume. Particularly this person, accessorizing with chains:

It's my dad! He played Marley's ghost, and as soon as I heard he'd been cast I thought, "Oh, this is going to be good!" He's perfect with the dramatic wails and the deep spooky voice and the scary look. You should have heard him reading to us when we were kids. But I assure you that when he's not in character he's a very nice dad. :)

Monday, December 15, 2008


Hooray! It has arrived: the DVD that the FSSP made to help train priests to say the traditional Latin Mass! I'm only up to the Gloria and already I've learned a bunch of little details I didn't know before, which are satisfyingly meaningful now that I do know them. For example: at Low Mass when the priest turns to descend the steps to begin the prayers at the foot of the altar, he's supposed to step slightly to one side so as to avoid having his back completely to the altar. I'll bring pencil and paper to the TLM next Sunday and note down any small mistakes the priest makes and present him with my score at the end of Mass; I'm sure he'll find it helpful!

(I'm kidding about that last part.)

Obi-wan Kenobi and Father Brown

Last week I watched The Detective, a 1954 movie based on G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories and starring Alec Guinness as the priest who's an amateur detective on the side.

I've seen Sir Alec in only three other movies (that I recall), and those, naturally, were the three original Star Wars movies, in which he played Obi-wan Kenobi.

Has anyone else seen both of those movies? I was happily surprised to find a similarity between the two roles.

Father Brown is a short, vague-looking, clumsy priest whom everyone takes at first for an innocent, sheltered type. Naturally he always proves to be tough-minded, brave, and very knowledgeable in the ways of the world, having learned much from the apparently endless supply of criminals who make confessions to him.

Well, remember how Obi-wan showed up in Episode 4? "He's sort of a crazy old hermit," says Luke, and then when we meet him he seems to be a kindly, simple fellow who takes the time to speak soothingly to R2D2. But of course he's actually way ahead of everybody and he ends up taking out the shield generator and saving the day.

There's a little bit of Father Brown in Obi-wan. Remember how Obi-wan sees Princess Leia's message begging for help, and then he looks at Luke with a sort of smile and says, "You must learn the ways of the Force if you're to come with me to Alderaan." That's a line that could have been delivered forcefully, but Guinness gives it a sort of gentle humor, a bold humility, like Father Brown saying to the latest criminal he's caught, "I am a priest, Monsieur Flambeau, and I am ready to hear your confession." Both characters are so completely secure in themselves that they don't mind appearing silly to others.

Also, they're both members of a religious organization and get to wear cool habits. :)

When Sir Alec was filming The Detective on location in France, there was an incident that contributed to his later conversion to Catholicism. Here it is in his own words from his autobiography:

By the time dusk fell I was bored, and dressed in my priestly black, I climbed the gritty winding road to the village.... I hadn't gone far when I heard scampering footsteps and a piping voice calling, "Mon père!" My hand was seized by a boy of seven or eight, who clutched it tightly, swung it, and kept up a non-stop prattle. He was full of excitement, hops, skips and jumps, but never let go of me. I didn't dare speak in case my excruciating French should scare him. Although I was a total stranger he obviously took me for a priest and so to be trusted. Suddenly with a "Bonsoir, mon père," and hurried sideways sort of bow, he disappeared through a hole in a hedge. He had had a happy, reassuring walk home, and I was left with an odd calm sense of elation. Continuing my walk I reflected that a Church which could inspire such confidence in a child, making its priests, even when unknown, so easily approachable, could not be as scheming and creepy as so often made out. I began to shake off my long-taught, long-absorbed prejudices.

If anyone wants to read some Father Brown, the very first story is The Blue Cross, which introduces the master thief Flambeau. And I like the confrontation between Father Brown and Flambeau at the end of The Flying Stars.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Many businesses timidly say "Happy Holidays"

But check it out-- here's one that says "Merry Christmas" and underlines Christ!

It's Gaudete Sunday!

May the third Sunday of Advent be for you a time of rejoicing in the Lord who is now nigh and close at hand! And may your priest wear the rose vestments.

Update: I missed my church's 8 am Mass, where, I'm told, Fr. Fernando did indeed wear rose, and informed the congregation, "This is an act of humility for me." I think it was very good of him to do it for our sakes. :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Old maids and Catherinettes

When I was a teenager I would eagerly await the bouquet toss at weddings, but since then it's been awkward. I'm up there on display, and for the sake of the festivities and the bride I want to play my part and be happy and try to catch the thing, but for the sake of my pride I don't want to appear too eager, and the whole time I'm hoping no one's pitying me for still being single. If I had perfect humility I wouldn't mind the custom at all. But obviously I don't.

All that is merely a prelude to this. The Shrine of the Holy Whapping has shown me that if a bouquet toss is the worst thing I must undergo as a single woman, I should count my blessings. I might have been a Catherinette:

Catherinettes was a traditional French label for girls of twenty-five years old who were still unmarried by the Feast of Saint Catherine (25th November). A special celebration was offered to them on this day, while everyone wished them a fast end to their singlehood.... Unmarried women, after they turned twenty-five, would attend a ball on St Catherine's Day in a hat made specially for the occasion; to wear such a hat was referred to as "capping St. Catherine" (coiffer sainte Catherine).

The horror! The horror!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Guess who said this

Here's a little quote, just for fun. It might sound old but it's from 2001. Can anyone guess what brave or megalomaniac personage uttered these words? (No fair Googling!)

That girls should not be in universities flows from the nature of universities and from the nature of girls: true universities are for ideas, ideas are not for true girls, so true universities are not for true girls.

Update: thanks for the guesses! The Cellarer came close-- the quote is from a letter by the SSPX bishop Richard Williamson, who in other letters has opined that women really shouldn't wear pants and that the Sound of Music is by no means clean family entertainment: "all the elements of pornography are there, just waiting to break out."

I find stuff like this amusing, but at the same time I can't be too gleeful. This world seems to be short on men who will fearlessly teach what they believe to be the truth, no matter how they're ridiculed or ostracized for it. So it's a shame to see that courage so misdirected in Bishop Williamson's case. If indeed it is courage and not just extreme self-absorption that doesn't care what others think.

(I hasten to add, for anyone who doesn't know, that Bishop Williamson does not speak for the Catholic Church; in fact he's been excommunicated for decades. I need to pray for him...)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

They're blogging about me in Latin now.

That must mean I have vaulted to the ranks of the big-time bloggers. Check it out! (I'm pretty sure someone had to make up the word "photographias".)

An equivalent post in English is here-- but you'll be more impressed with me if you don't know what it's saying.

My friends and I took a road trip to San Diego last Nov. 23 to visit that FSSP parish, and there we met a couple of those Brothers of the Little Oratory and got to see them all celebrate Vespers. It was a lovely and unexpected way to end the day. I wish I'd had time to quiz the Brothers about St. Philip Neri (who founded the Oratory in the 1500's) and Cardinal Newman (who started one up in England in the 1800's). They say of St. Philip Neri that his second favorite book in the world was a joke book, and that when people insisted on treating him as a saint he'd deliberately do ridiculous things to try to put a stop to it. Also his heart was so filled with love that it expanded and cracked his ribcage-- see him trying to hold it in? :)

The church was in the midst of a remodeling because the FSSP had only recently taken it over from the diocese. The first thing they did was move the very heavy marble altar back to the wall, and then they spent hours jackhammering out the cement platform that it had been standing on in the middle of the sanctuary. That NO asthetic dies hard!

Favorite things

I've been tagged by Joe and must list six of my favorite things and tag six people. I might fudge the second part of it. :) In no particular order:

1) Sitting down to dinner at home with a group of friends. We used to go out to eat a lot, but thanks be to God we now have an apartment near church where we can gather, and sit at our ease as long as we please in our own environment, and spend much less on food, and not have to tip anyone!

2) Weekdays at St. Peter Chanel, in between the 6 am Mass and the 7:20 am praying of the Office, there's time to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and make a (short) holy hour as the dark sky brightens to broad daylight. It's so quiet in the church and yet there are dozens of people there, praying before the new day begins, so one has the pleasure both of silent recollection and of like-minded companionship. Often there's a priest or two praying in the church as well, and that seems very good and fitting: priest and people praying together, all facing our Lord (it only just now occurred to me that it's reminiscent of an ad orientum Mass).

I love that time of day, but only when I prepare for it at other times, by going to bed early enough the night before to stay awake during the hour (did you know that I am capable of sleeping soundly while still maintaining a kneeling posture with hands folded piously under my chin?), and by not surfing the internet before leaving for Mass (that gives me too much to think about and distracts me when I'm in church.)

3) Nighttime walks in my hometown of Arcadia. I don't know why more people don't do this, but I'm glad they don't. There's a pleasure I can't explain in walking a neighborhood of lighted houses at night (especially when the Christmas lights are up!), knowing there are people nearby yet having the streets all to myself. It's odd, but that's the time I feel closest to the whole world and everyone in it. When distractions are removed from the immediate environment, there's space to think about and pray for others. Or to imagine I'm President of the United States and I'm whipping everyone into shape... not that I ever do anything as silly as that. :)

4) People who read this blog. :) Shameless kissing up!

5) Giving someone a present I totally know they're going to love. Doing chores for my parents (like putting sermons on my mom's iPod, or printing out photos for them) has something of the same joy.

6) Busywork in the lab or housework at home that keeps my hands occupied and productive but leaves my mind free. I wonder if that's an unusual pleasure? I have several intelligent friends who complain when their work is boring and wish they had more people interaction, or some challenging technical problem to solve, or both. But I like it when my work is easy. Not sure if that's a good thing.

If you like this meme, please consider yourself tagged. And in particular I pick on Hithah, Athanasius, Mary Rose, Adrienne, the Cellarer, Rachel, John, Meg, Andrew, and Megan. But should they scorn my command I'll forgive them.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Boy bishop

I've found a bishop to go with the orthodox young seminarians pictured two posts below! Here he is, austere and dignified:

All right, he's actually a boy bishop elected for the day at St. Joseph's school, in a revival of medieval custom. Here's Fr. Longenecker's post about it, and here's a blurb from Catholic Encyclopedia:

The custom of electing a boy-bishop on the feast of St. Nicholas dates from very early times, and was in vogue in most Catholic countries, but chiefly in England, where it prevailed certainly in all the larger monastic and scholastic establishments, and also in many country parishes besides, with the full approbation of authority, ecclesiastical and civil. The boy-bishop was chosen from among the children of the monastery school, the cathedral choir, or pupils of the grammar-school. Elected on St. Nicholas's day (6 December), he was dressed in pontifical vestments and, followed by his companions in priest's robes, went in procession round the parish, blessing the people. He then took possession of the church, where he presided at all the ceremonies and offices until Holy Innocents' day (28 December). At Salisbury he is said to have had the power of disposing of any benefices that fell vacant during his reign, and if he died in office the funeral honours of a bishop were granted to him. A monument to such a boy-prelate still exists there, though its genuineness has been questioned, and at Lulworth Castle another is preserved, which came from Bindon Abbey. The custom was abolished by Henry VIII in 1512, restored by Queen Mary and again abolished by Elizabeth, though here and there it lingered on for some time longer. On the Continent it was suppressed by the Council of Basle in 1431, but was revived in some places from time to time, even as late as the eighteenth century.
I'm wondering now if that suppression by the Council of Basle is binding in America today...

Happy feast of St. Nicholas!

Here he is looking properly like the bishop he was. (From this site, which appears to have lots more on St. Nick-- I haven't time to check it all out.)

This feast day makes me hungry for cookies.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Earthquake chasing

A little pleasure of mine is to feel a slight sway of the ground beneath me, and then rush over to usgs.gov and keep reloading this page until a big red square appears on the map of California, confirming that what I felt was an earthquake. It happened just a few minutes ago, a 5.5 on the Richter scale.

When I was in elementary school there was a lot of talk about "The Big One", an expected huge earthquake that would devastate Southern California. I used to worry about it. But it hasn't happened yet and now people worry about other things (terrorism, global warming, genetically modified foods...) Everyone thought gas would top $5/gallon and change our lives forever until in the last few months it dropped suddenly to below $2 again. (If I'm understanding correctly, the price of oil these days has more to do with market speculation than with its actual scarcity or the price at which OPEC chooses to sell. First stocks, then houses, then oil. If only someone would tell me what the next market bubble's going to be.) Funny how what we worry about has more to do with fads the media chooses to emphasize than with what's actually most threatening to life and health. Funny how the disasters that do happen are almost never the ones we were expecting. In the end most of us will probably die of mundane cancer and heart disease. And then? I hope everyone sets aside some time to worry about that.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Today's seminarians

I read that there's a new crop of young Catholic seminarians coming up who are very orthodox and should become fine traditional priests.

We'll just have to wait a little while. :)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Old diaries

When I was nine I received a diary for Christmas. It had a puffy cover with a picture of Minnie Mouse and pages of three different colors, but the great selling point was this: it locked shut with little keys!

Not that I had any interesting secrets to write, but I did confide some petty thoughts to that diary which certainly were better kept under lock and key. Apparently at that age I thought I was above my friends. I'm lucky they put up with me.

I kept journals intermittently from that time on and I've got a lot of them now, a long row of books with pages filled. And you know what? I hardly ever read them. Most of the entries I probably haven't looked at since I *wrote* them. They'd be more interesting if I'd written not just about special activities and vacations, but about the day-to-day stuff, what I was thinking and feeling in general, and what the people in my life were saying.

The more recent journals are absorbing, though. Two years ago, after researching and praying about it, I had just made up my mind to become Catholic and had joined the RCIA class at the local parish. There we discussed the Bible in warm fuzzy terms and were taught no doctrine at all. The sermons at Mass were vague and wishy-washy, and the congregation seemed uninvolved. (I realize now that I was judging the congregation by Protestant culture, and Catholics have entirely different ways of showing their piety.) So I wasn't much impressed with my first personal experiences of the faith I believed was the true one. Here I am on 12/4/06: "On Monday morning I prayed to the Lord that Catholicism would become more present and meaningful to me, or something-- I'm convinced in my head but don't love it in my heart."

WOW, did He answer that one! A few weeks after that entry I found a parish where the priests loved the Faith enough to preach it, and in short order I became so fanatically happy to be Catholic that I could not contain myself. And you know what happens with people like that. They start blogging. :)

Monday, December 01, 2008

It's ten minutes to midnight

and I'm about to leave the lab, having finished my work for today. :)

What's more, there are at least two people still here working, and about three others only recently left. I'm here because the scope I needed wasn't free till 9 pm, but I'm not sure what everyone else's reasons are. I think they just prefer to work at night!

I remember my first day on this job, about five years ago. I showed up at 8 am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, only to find that all the rooms were locked and there wasn't a soul in sight. Our boss himself, I soon learned, never turns up before the afternoon.

Well, I left my previous job partly to have more freedom in my schedule, and I got it all right!

Site statistics

I like to amuse myself with my blog's site statistics, which tell me what internet searches have led people to this blog. Here are three recent searches that turned up my blog in the results. Sad to say, I don't think any of these people got what they were looking for from me:
why would need to have your foot infused
white roses for mexican funerals
photographer guardian angel female models
I'm a bit embarrassed that a search for "infused knowledge" in quotes brings up this site first and the Catholic Encyclopedia after it! I'll get over it, though. :)

Saint Charles Borromeo on Advent

Well, less than a day after I wrote that post below, I found St. Charles Borromeo saying the same thing in today's reading! Only he says it rather better:

Beloved, now is the acceptable time spoken of by the Spirit, the day of salvation, peace and reconciliation: the great season of Advent.... In her concern for our salvation, our loving mother the Church uses this holy season to teach us through hymns, canticles and other forms of expression, of voice or ritual, used by the Holy Spirit. She shows us how grateful we should be for so great a blessing, and how to gain its benefit: our hearts should be as much prepared for the coming of Christ as if he were still to come into this world. The same lesson is given us for our imitation by the words and example of the holy men of the Old Testament.