Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mass Report: St. Leo the Great (Fairfax, VA)

Talk about a tale of two services! Where the Mass at Parish X was rushed, impenetrable, and in a dark little building, the Mass today at St. Leo the Great's was, well...great, being reverent in tempo, easily accessible, and in a bright, beautiful building.

I'll start out with the not-so-great things to get them out of the way. The microphones could have used a little work: in a brick and stone building, the acoustics can be distorted a bit if people don't speak very clearly. The sermon had a lot of good points, but they seemed to get repeated several times and so the sermon went about twice as long as necessary. The stained-glass windows were of a weird kind where there seemed to be more leading than actual glass. The choir music didn't always perfectly match the words in the hymnal. Okay, done.

As I mentioned before, the building itself was beautiful and bright (as opposed to Anglican churches, which tend to be beautiful and dark, or too many Roman Catholic churches, which tend to be dark and dreary). There was an actual choir loft...although no choir. I'm pretty sure the semi-folkish music was piped in, but the cantor (cantress?) was a girl perhaps slightly younger than me with a beautiful voice. There were poinsettias and lit Christmas trees in the front, but they did a good job of helping to set the mood rather than being distracting. Overall, it was very tastefully and reverently done, in a way I don't think I've seen done before in a Roman Catholic service.

However, my favorite part occurred while everyone was kneeling as Communion was being distributed. A very young girl (maybe four years old) turned around and looked at the girl about my age who was kneeling silently a few feet away from me (the two didn't know each other). The little girl put her finger to her mouth and noiselessly indicated that she knew people had to be quiet. The young woman near me mimicked the gesture encouragingly and the first girl turned around, satisfied. It was all I could do not to burst out laughing; I settled for smiling really broadly.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Just Once...

...I'd like to watch a modern TV show or movie where the "good guy" character can keep his pants zipped and not cheat on his wife/girlfriend.

Really. Is that so much to ask for?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Gun for Christmas

That's right, I got a gun for Christmas. In breach of my normal policy of not announcing what gun(s) I own or whether I'm carrying at any given point in time, I'll say that it's an Auto-Revolver. To be precise, it's a blued Mateba Unica 6 in .44 magnum with an 8 3/8ths inch barrel. Although any gun could be used for self-defense (or crime), this is one that's more useful as a target pistol, possibly useful for hunting (or animal defense), and excels as a conversation piece. When I took it out at the gun store near me a crowd of five guys instantly formed around me.

What's so unique about the gun? Firstly, it fires from the "six o'clock" position, meaning that it's the bottom, rather than the top, chamber in the cylinder which gets fired when you pull the trigger. The other thing is that it's a semi-automatic revolver: that means that when you pull the trigger, the recoil causes the top part of the gun to slide back and rotate the cylinder and recock the hammer like an "automatic" pistol. Traditional revolvers were either single-action or double-action. Single-action is the "Old West" type of gun such as the Colt "Peacemaker" (which revealingly has the official designation of Single Action Army). To fire a single-action revolver, you have to cock the hammer with your thumb before each shot. Double-action revolvers, such as Dirty Harry's, are more modern and are the type you usually see for sale. You can fire them like the single-action revolvers, but you can also simply pull the trigger and it rotates the cylinder and cocks (and then drops) the hammer as part of the process. This sounds like what the Auto-Revolver does, except that the downside to firing double-action is that it's much harder to pull the trigger and so your accuracy suffers.

I first found out about this handgun while reading about Trigun, an anime series that I really liked. One of the things you first notice is that the protagonist's gun is both really big and that it fires from the bottom chamber. Further research led me to discover that a similar gun was made (although the cylinder swings out instead of having a break-open action) and I would occasionally look at pictures of it when the mood caught me. I later found out that Mateba went out of business in 2005 and thus the guns have been discontinued. I sent an email to one company that claimed to sell them and was informed that they were about to receive their very last shipment soon. I figured that it was now or never, and so I'm the proud owner of one.

On one hand, I'm attracted to it's uniqueness and am sure that it will keep its value and perhaps even appreciate. On the other hand, I'm tempted to have it nickled and polished, have a custom black grip made, and saw off the compensator. I probably won't, although it sure is tempting.

The gun itself feels both well-made and delicate. It's got a European complexity to it, and the manual lists at least seventy parts! After getting it home I did what should have been a simple take-down to properly clean and oil things. Instead, the hammer and trigger jammed, the takedown pin would hardly budge, and the tiny screw which secures the takedown pin got lost several times and then wouldn't go in until I lined up things just right. That said, the gun is well-designed; it just has a relatively steep learning curve. One helpful thing that I did notice, however, is the presence of a back-up tiny screw in a little housing in the trigger (don't ask); that's really helpful because I'm sure that at some point I'll lose the first one.

I haven't fired it yet, but hope to within the month. When I do, I'll post a report and let you know how it handles and how many people came over to investigate.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

This really is my favorite time of year. May God bless each of you and your loved ones this Christmas and this coming year. May there be peace on earth, goodwill toward men, and may the Prince of Peace Himself return in His perfect timing.

Also, what would Christmas be without music? You know the song; it's off Relient K's album Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Movie Recommendation

I watched Yours, Mine, and Ours this afternoon. It's from 1968 and stars Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, with the premise being that she's a widowed nurse with eight children and he's a Navy widower with ten children (you get one guess as to their religion, and I'll give the hint that it's not Mormon). I don't know what to say except that it's funny, cute, clean, and even has positive messages (gasp). They kind of overdo the constant use of military terms by Fonda's character, but the brilliance of the script and camera work, Fonda's skill as the "straight man," and Ball's outstanding physical comedy were fantastic.

I don't know what to tell you except to say that the movie brightened my day and that I'd gladly see it again.

Attending a Latin Mass

It's always worse when you have high hopes for something and have gone out of your way to do it. So how was the Latin Mass I attended today in the Diocese of Arlington?



I wanted to walk out half-way through it. The priest talked a mile a minute, the altar servers were in creepy harmony as they responded, and the pre-Motu Latin/English guide had apparently nothing to do with the actual Mass. Even knowing the order of the Mass and the basics of the Kyrie, Credo, Agnus Dei, Gloria, and so on, I got really lost very quickly and the fact that 75% of what was said was said silently (with most of the rest being obscured by kneeling benches being put down as the priest faced away from the congregation). Some awful-sounding overly-loud bells got rung every few seconds as well. Is this really what all the fuss has been about for the past forty years? I'm baffled as to what anyone sees in this form (especially as hardly anyone in the crowd would have even have hit adolescence by the time of Vatican II). By the end I wanted to declare my own Reformation.

This is why Catholicism is so poorly-regarded in English-speaking countries: the Novus Ordo is like a subpar Methodist service and the Latin Mass is impenetrable. I'm starting to understand why there was so much trepidation about Kennedy becoming President. If I wanted to come up with something designed to horrify Protestants into the belief that they should be suspicious of Catholics are secretive foreigners, I couldn't do a better job than the Latin Mass. The beauty of Palestrina's and Byrd's sung Masses were utterly absent; it was just a dark ampitheatre with plaster statues and a priest speaking a foreign language while we looked at his back. About the only thing I can come up with to commend it was that the presence of hair lace among the women let's me report that there was a scintilla of mantilla present.

This is why it's so important that the Holy Catholic Church find a place for Anglican worship. Evangelicals are going to be less-than-enthusiastic about Novus Ordo folk Masses and creeped out by the Latin form. Mainline Protestants are going to be horrified. The culture gap is just too wide. There was a chance back when everyone's stereotype was of folks like Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Catholicism was seen as being Anglo-American with an Irish brogue, but ecclesiastical Latin sounds menacing to my English-language ears. An Anglican form or Rite would give English-speakers (by this I mean as a culture, not as a language group) something to latch onto. The Episcopal Church is going down in flames, but Episcopalianism/Anglicanism offers something that Catholicism doesn't have: a sort of familiarity that allows it to at least get its foot in the door with Protestants and Evangelicals. An Anglican High Mass is a truly beautiful thing (if you're ever in London, attend the one at St. Paul's Cathedral) and even a Low Mass has a certain dignity to it that speaks well. It's not a matter of content, but how it's communicated.

For whatever reason (pick your favorite), Catholicism in this country pretty much only expands through reproduction, marriage, and a very small number of people who study history and theology enough to decide to convert. Evangelicals (including Pentecostals/Charismatics) may not keep as many of the folks the draw, but at least they get them in the door.

I'll probably give the Latin Mass another shot at a different parish; it's entirely possible that I simply was there on an off-day. However, what does it say when someone who knows what's going on and is inclined to give as much benefit of the doubt as possible comes away from a service upset and even slightly angry? For those who suggest that new Catholics might like the various Eastern rites: I'm not being blasphemous here, but for the love of God don't send them there. If the Latin is this atrocious, what chance do they have with Greek, Russian, or Syriac?

Monday, December 17, 2007


I just had my Criminal Law final today, and I have my Civil Procedure final on Wednesday. No one call anyone else a peepee-face while I'm gone (this happened to me in kindergarten; you can see that I'm still traumatized).

Life Imitates The Shawshank Redemption

Maybe Escape from Alcatraz, too. I'm thinking a certain jail has egg on its face right about now.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Revolting Post over at Mark Shea's

Yeah, I know it's seeming like every other post here is on that topic. Maybe I have Shea Derangement Syndrome. His blog really has become like finding out that a hoard of jewels has fallen into a septic tank. Do you avoid it and let the valuable bits remain buried? Do you risk getting yourself befouled?

Keep in mind that I once had a job where I had to clean the cages of dogs and cats with , ahem, digestive problems, using a spray bottle and paper towels. If I remember correctly, there were times when I had to work both morning and afternoon on New Year's (and it's Eve), the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. You can guess which of the two approaches above I tend to take.

What's of concern to me is that Shea routinely vilifies his opponents and spreads gossip and libel about them, demonizing them for "tiptoeing up to the line" on issues such as torture and sexuality where people are genuinely trying to find a solution that lets them both obey God and prevent the deaths or serious injury to their fellow man. Not only is does this render him a horrible witness for his views and the Holy Catholic Church, but it bring Shea himself into dangerous territory with regard to sin. As great as his apologetics writing tends to be, his blog and many of the commenters there definitely played a major role in it taking so long for me to finally decide that I belong in the Holy Catholic Church.

You don't see bloggers like Amy Welborn (ladies first), Jimmy Akin, Chris Burgwald, Bob Catholic, or TS O'Rama (alphabetical by last name) acting that way. Meanwhile, Shea's almost certainly started a blog war with Dean Esmay, a recent convert. As much as I've been anticipating the clash of these two, this isn't a very promising start.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's a Strange World...

...when folks like Mark Shea use Andrew Sullivan's writings as a cudgel (perhaps a shillelagh in this case, given their last names) to bash Bush. Come to think of it, Shea has seemed willing to bash Bush with anything he can find.

Of course, in this case, it seems that the CIA had received legal advice that they could destroy the tapes they'd made in 2002 of interrogations. Shea also unquestioningly accepts a story that Abu Zubaydah was insane and gave no information; maybe mentioning that former CIA Director George Tenet claims that Zubaydah gave important information was too much for him to write. Perhaps the claims from a former al Qaeda operative that Zubaydah was a major player weren't worth notifying his readers about.

No, Mark Shea has gone from an entertaining source of news and apologetics to a spiteful, foul-mouthed, incoherent victim of Bush Derangement Syndrome. He's already declared George W. Bush the "Worst President Ever" and Dick Cheney the "Worst Vice President Ever;" what are the odds??? In doing this he breaks rule after rule that he himself has coined, including the "What Could It Hurt/How Were We Supposed to Know" and "Consequentialism on Parade." He goes after those who support the War for counting Christopher Hitchens as an ally while himself quoting Andrew Sullivan with aplomb.

Shea apparently doesn't have the decency to hold back; in his enraged mind George W. Bush is the root cause of all problems. He'll post anything, no matter how slimy, if he thinks it'll hurt Bush. When it is pointed out that his reasoning doesn't make sense or that his examples have been disproven (don't bother waiting around for a retraction, by the way), he's as likely as not to respond profanely and with insults.

For a grown man, a husband and father, a well-known Catholic apologist, and popular blogger to act this way is sickening, and he should be well and truly ashamed of himself.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Yeah She Does

Amy Welborn keeps it real.

(Full Disclosure: I have Amy's book Prove It! Church. A good resource, although geared more toward "Cradle Catholics" than converts and non-Catholics.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Should I Heart Huckabee?

Ben Domenech shines in his analysis of Mike Huckabee's run for the GOP nomination, and Mark Byron has been liking Mike from Day One.

My personal preference based on issues and style is for Fred Thompson; he's solidly conservative and seems to have been the only one paying attention when they talked about federalism in Civics class. His campaign, however, has been pretty disappointing. The problem is that most of the rest of the field seems marginal. Giuliani, anointed by the media as the frontrunner, is pro-abortion, pro-homosexual marriage, and is scandal-plagued (I can probably come up with more problems involving hyphenation if pressed). McCain is tough-talking and Romney has proven experience as a manager, but neither of them is quite trustworthy, flip-flopping on issues. Besides, McCain is pretty old and Romney is just too slick. Hunter and Tancredo are marginal, although I agree with them on immigration and hope their views receive proper consideration. Then there's Ron Paul. The less said about him, the better.

Huckabee is soft on immigration and federalism. He has executive experience as Governor of Arkansas and seems to have done a good job of it. He's a sincere Christian with a dose of charisma; he's also nicely low-key as compared to most of the Democrat candidates. As far as I can tell, he's willing to continue the War on Terror. Basically, I get the impression that he's like a copy of George W. Bush; in my book that's a good thing. I'd vote for Bush again if I didn't think that too much power for too long isn't a good thing. While an energetic Thompson might give the top Democrat candidates a run for their money, I think that Giuliani, McCain, and Romney would probably get pwnt by Clinton or Obama (or, *shudder*, Edwards).

As for the Democrats, Richardson is the only one I can stand. Not that I like him on the issues, but he alone among them seems like a decent person (maybe Obama, too, on this) who actually has experience in government. I think it was the Clinton campaign that said (apparently without irony) that running for President isn't actually a credential when it comes to running for President; Obama has virtually no experience. My theory has been that he's running for President in 2012 or '16, possibly as Vice President under Clinton. As for Edwards, I'm not sure there's a politician I detest as much as the former senator from North Carolina (watch this, compare it with this, and see who's classier). I think there are also a bunch of Northeastern senators who always run; they can be safely ignored.

So what's this all mean? I don't know. The election is still a long, long way away, even if the obscenely-early primaries are just around the corner.

Whether True or False, Mark Shea is Irresponsible (at Best)

As good as Shea's blog can be, there's been a really high noise-to-signal ratio for the past, oh, year or more. Today, it's not missing an opportunity to diss the Bush administration over some unsubstantiated claims. In the comments, it's pointed out that the woman making allegations of gang-rape wasn't exactly set upon by a pack of jackals; rather, she had a history of trading sex for favors, got black-out drunk with men who weren't her husband, and woke up to one of her "assailants" lying next to her in bed (how she can remember that this man was one of her attackers but also have to question him as to what happened that night is beyond me). Maybe she was raped; on the other hand, maybe she just got drunk and stupid (not necessarily in that order, either). We don't know; all we have are her allegations.

Shea's post is, at the very least, an offense against charity. He uses a story with a tangental connection to the administration (the woman's employer used was a division of Halliburton, Cheney used to run Halliburton, Cheney is evil and controls Bush like a marionette; you know the drill). He tries to use the weasel words "If true," but it's clear that this is, at most, a CYA move. He knows better, and should be ashamed of himself.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Two Thoughts

I'll get back to these later (maybe after finals...):

1. Instead of stepping on the Second Amendment right to bear arms, why not step on the First Amendment's freedom of the press and forbid stories about mass or serial murders (seeing as apparently the Constitution is a Create-Your-Own-Adventure document).

2. Is a university a place of public accommodation? If so, can I sue my school if a gunman shoots up William & Mary (God forbid)? Can I seek equitable relief to force them to hire and station trained security guards around the campus or, alternatively, to disallow those holding Concealed Handgun Permits from being subject to "academic discipline" should they be found to have a firearm or ammunition on campus?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I Can't Think of a Good Title for This Post

Do you ever just feel crushed by the weight of suffering, injustice, pain, sin, and lies around you? (Not to say that those things are never in my life, of course.) I'm not despairing; it's just that sometimes it sends you reeling and it takes a moment to regain your balance.

I had a moment like that recently. Some of us had gone to a restaurant as a study break; I knew about half the people there and was in some of the same classes with the rest, although I hadn't talked to most of them before. We were all swapping stories and, as a side note to one story, a certain detail about a girl with whom I'm friends came out. It wasn't flattering to her at all, and what made it worse was that the girl telling the story had originally left my friend's name out. A few people wanted to know who it was (I didn't know at that point, but didn't ask), others said "Oh, do you really have to ask? You know exactly who it is. It's ______," to which no one else expressed any surprise and the original story continued on, back on track after the quick detour. I was completely shocked and very saddened, although I think I hid it well enough.

With that detail revealed, a lot of what I knew about my friend began to make sense and, again, it broke my heart to realize it. Like many girls, she'd been taken advantage of before in her life and had taken the lies that come with that as the truth. She's a sweet girl and should have been treated better. Heck, let me be nonspecific: people should be treated better. I'm not perfect; I'm sure I've been like a bull in a china shop with people's emotions before, rampaging around without a second thought for what I leave behind. The guys that take advantage of people like my friend are too often simply acting out on what they've been taught: self-first. They simply don't know any better. Some do, and that's reprehensible, but I think most of the time it's at least a mixture of the two. The girls buy into it and end up not only falling prey to it over and over again, thinking that this time will be different, but even end up enticing guys into the role of user until you have a massive furball of people competing to use each other, thinking only of themselves and not realizing how much hurt they actually cause.

At Kids Across America the highest award that they gave out was the "I'm Third" award. The idea was "God first, others second, and I'm third." I never received this award, and that's probably a good thing: I'd be inclined to rest on my laurels. I don't always put myself third, and too often I put myself first of all. It's something I keep in mind, though, as a goal of how I'm to live.

I don't know what I mean to say by all of this. Treat people better. Be more considerate. If you can't go out of your way to help someone, at least be aware of what's going on around you. Pray for each other (and pray for me, too!). Don't just withdraw from the world; Jacob Joseph running naked from Potiphar's wife was a last-ditch effort.

I'm no better or worse than those around me except that I have a relationship, through Christ and with the aid of the Holy Spirit with God the Father. I am being transformed into a new man. I may be the closest thing a person sees to a reflection of the Living God; how can I let grime and rust obscure that light, or hide myself away lest I be tarnished?

It's scary and it's frustrating. Sometimes I want to simply break down and sob for those around me, both men and women, who have bought into lies and built their lives around them. There is victory in Christ, though, and crying's not going to solve anything.

When Seconds Count, the Police Are Only Minutes Away

Negron said every available officer in the city was sent to the mall, and it took six minutes from the time of the call for the first officers to arrive.

There was a shooting at a mall in Nebraska the other day; if I understand it correctly nine people plus the gunman were killed and five more were wounded. It's tough not to be bitter at those who insist that this sort of thing isn't likely to happen again, that we should be disarmed, and that the police can protect us. Even given the best of intentions, the police can't be everywhere (nor should we want them to be). We as citizens continue to abdicate from our responsibilities, with an ignorance of how to defend ourselves being but one example.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that some pregnant mother should have pulled out a knife and charged the man as he was shooting (although I do think that pregnant women would be smart to carry a firearm, seeing as they're very vulnerable). However, someone nearby who a basic understanding of what to do could have saved lives.

In a similar vein, I was driving back from Norfolk to Williamsburg earlier this week. It was getting dark and I noticed that the van ahead of me was periodically swerving halfway into other lanes and generally driving erratically. Knowing that we still had a few miles to go until we got to the tunnel that connects Norfolk with Hampton, I called the Norfolk police and told them about the guy, warning them that the guy was seriously endangering other cars and that in the tunnel there would be very little room to maneuver. The police didn't come.

I stayed a moderate distance behind him, honking whenever he swerved into the right lane or looked as though he were about to crash into the left barrier. Cars found themselves forced onto the shoulder or were cut off. Here's where things go from bad to worse: right before the tunnel some sports car cut me off and then began tailgating the drunk guy. Once we got into the two-lane tunnel, an SUV would periodically pull up next to the guy...but not drive on past. It was the craziest thing: two cars boxing in a drunk guy in a van bigger than either of their vehicles while in the middle of a tunnel, going 55mph. I was praying throughout the whole thing and somehow no accident occurred. Shortly afterwards the van took an exit onto one of the regular streets. I called the Hampton police and told them about the drunk driver and where he'd turned off; they said they'd keep an eye out.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

And in Other News...

The King of Thailand is apparently a saint.