Friday, October 30, 2009

Who's Afraid of Halloween?

In the original version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (or rather, in the original version of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) the entry for Earth consisted of one word: "Harmless".

In the revised edition, it was amended to: "Mostly harmless".

Much the same could be said of the evolution of my attitude toward Halloween.

When I was a lad, I can't recall having any awareness that Halloween was about anything other than innocent fun.

Then, at some point in childhood, I remember hearing some news report around Halloween time about Devil's Night in Detroit. That's not good, I thought.

And now, for the past several years, I've grown increasingly aware of the impossible-to-miss anti-Halloween sentiment among many Christians, both Catholic and Protestant.

This astounds me.

To be sure, the rampant commercialization of Halloween is not exactly a crowning cultural achievement, and there are ample examples of costumes that one would be hard pressed to argue are not imprudent to wear (for one of various reasons).

But to argue that any sort of observance of Halloween per se is wrong is not a little ridiculous, especially considering that Halloween is, yea, a Christian holiday -- and, even more specifically, a Catholic holiday.

I'd be hard pressed to come up with any clearer thoughts on the day than those Sean Dailey articulates here:

Anyway, today is Halloween, a most glorious holiday. A good Catholic holiday, for this is the day that we honor the age-old truth that the devil, like all who are besotted with pride, cannot stand being mocked. So we mock him, with silly costumes and mischievous pranks and door-to-door begging, and have a wild old time doing so. Tomorrow we go to Mass to honor the saints in the Church Triumphant and ask their intercession for us in the Church Militant; and we will spend the rest of November offering up suffrages for the poor souls in Purgatory -- the Church Suffering. But tonight, we celebrate our mortality ... while not forgetting that even in death we retain hope in the Resurrection.

Today I also came across an eminently sensible article by Helen Hull Hitchcock that is well worth a read. Therein, she offers some historical background about Halloween customs and traditions, and thoughtfully addresses some of the common prudential concerns many Christian parents have regarding Halloween.

Perhaps needless to say, our kids will be going trick-or-treating tomorrow night, because, as Hitchcock rightly points out, it's simply "fun".

And I should also point out that they are also participating this year in what is commonly offered by many Catholic parents as an "alternative" to Halloween: to wit, a Saints Party.

I'm planning to post pictures of them in both sets of costumes next week.

[Cross-posted at Catholic Dads]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Parish Websites

Fellow Catholic Dads blogger Rob Kaiser writes:

Let’s face it, most parish websites are pretty awful – and I don’t mean full of awe. A lot of it has to do with throwing up an online billboard or having created a site 5 to 10 years ago and not having updated it. Whatever the reason, a lot of our parish websites are in need of help.

So here are questions for you to help change the situation. Answer as many or few as you are able.

1. What are some parish websites that did it right?
2. How is your parish website? What does it do well? How could it be improved?
3. What is required for a parish website to be considered “good”?
4. What should a parish site definitely avoid?
5. What has a parish site done that really made you say “Wow!” – good or bad?

Please don’t be shy – your answers could help parish website developers as they search the web for answers.

I commented thusly:

When I visit a parish website -- either my own or one I've never visited before -- there is usually one of two reasons (or both, I suppose) why I do so:

1. To find out Mass and confession times
2. To find out about upcoming events

I'd be willing to bet that a not insignificant percentage of people who visit parish websites do so for the same primary reasons.

In my opinion, then, a parish website should display these things on their home page in such a way that they're impossible to miss.

Now, on the other hand, I have numerous pet peeves about certain website features generally, which I think should be avoided. Here's a partial list:

1. Intro pages -- useability studies consistently show people don't like them.

2. Pages/features that don't load properly in Firefox (due to the webmaster only testing them in IE). Friends don't let friends use Internet Explorer.

3. Flash animation -- it's annoying. Plus, for users who have Flash Block (a Firefox add-on), it doesn't show up.

4. Playing music (even if it's good music) immediately upon opening a page -- far more annoying than Flash animation.

5. Dead links due to the webmaster moving a page and failing to include redirect code on the old page -- I'm told this is one of the cardinal sins of web design. This has happened to me twice recently whilst looking for articles on Catholic Exchange, and I find it maddening. (After that I tried the Wayback Machine, but struck out there too.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fire Found to Be Very Hot

How could anyone have ever known that there's a connection between early exposure to TV and later problems with attention span?

Call it the perfect storm of parenting. Who doesn’t want to believe that there is a magical, wondrous, no-parental-guidance-required product that will turn their kids into Mensa members? The combination of our lack of time, our paranoia over our kids performance, and our faith in technology primed this generation of parents to accept the clever advertising around "Baby Einstein" as truth...

I've never seen any of the Baby Einstein DVDs, and as far as I know, our kids haven't, either.

We did buy one of the Holy Baby DVDs a few years ago when our two oldest girls (now ages 5 and 6) were younger, but it was only watched a few times—largely, as I recall, because they weren't much interested in it.

Just as well.

[Cross-posted at Catholic Dads]

Monday, October 26, 2009

Law & Order: "Anti-Choice Propaganda"?

Last week I found out via my friend Jill Stanek (you know, Jill "Worst Person in the World" Stanek) that Friday's "ripped from the headlines" episode of Law & Order was to deal with the murder of a late-term abortionist in his church.

For several years, I used to watch Law & Order quite a bit, until I realized that there are Much Better Things To Do than watch TV with any frequency. But since this episode dealt with work, I decided to watch it.

Now, bearing in mind the Gomer Pyle Axiom of High and Low Expectations, I'm of the opinion that whenever the MSM deals with abortion, we have to set the bar very low.

That said, going into it, I feared Jill would be right—i.e., that "the show will throw ideological bones to both sides but ultimately come down favoring pro-aborts".

Yet after watching it, I don't think pro-lifers could have expected to have as many bones thrown to us as there were. I posted a comment on Jill's blog indicating as much, and noted that I'd also be curious to see what strident pro-aborts have to say about it—suspecting that the episode may cause not a few of them to work themselves into a lather about how Law & Order is "selling out" or something.

Sure enough, today, in a post titled "Is Pro-Life the New Gay?" (which includes the episode itself) Jill notes that indeed, some pro-choicers aren't happy.

Quoth Kate Harding at Salon:

"Law & Order's" anti-choice propaganda

On Friday night's "Law & Order," the abortion debate was represented by two separate, yet equally important, groups: The anti-choicers, who believe fetuses' rights trump women's, and the pseudo-pro-choicers, who are conveniently persuaded to agree with them by the end of the episode.

That sound? It's my head exploding.

To which Jill responds:

Kind of like a late-term baby being aborted, Kate? Not quite. Read Kate's review for descriptions of more surprising pro-life apologetics in the show, even on minor rape.

What's up? In a town bent on stirring controversy, does Hollywood now think the pro-life view is in, hot - the new gay?

Or perhaps NBC is trying to recoup lost mainstream viewers?

Or most likely, since L&O's previous 2 episodes dealing with abortion slanted way left, this was its attempt at balance?

Whatever, I'll take it.

Me too.

Friday, October 23, 2009

More Questions Than Answers

Regarding my post on Bishop-elect Sirba earlier this week, Anonymous commented thusly:

I hope that Bishop-elect Sirba is an inclusive leader, and not exclusive, as so many of the church hierarchy seem to be leaning. What is his position on Vatican II, and is he a forward thinking bishop, not backward, as in this world of changing demographics, a leader in the Catholic church must be to be effective, not living with his head in the sand, and moving towards excluding parishioners who do not fit the stereotype of a 1965 Catholic.

I'd have to say that Anonymous' comment has me asking more questions than giving answers.

First, I'm not sure what is meant by the hope that Bishop-elect Sirba is "an inclusive leader, and not exclusive". And what recent specific actions or remarks by what individuals in the American episcopate are supposedly "exclusive"?

What is Father Sirba's position on Vatican II? I'd venture to say that he, like most other priests ordained during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II — who, as a bishop, was himself so instrumental in the Council, and whose papal writings are thoroughly imbued with the 16 documents of same — is firmly committed to upholding the truths articulated by the Council Fathers therein.

What's more, I can't think of a single American bishop who believes Vatican II to be anything other than "a great gift to the Church", as John Paul II himself rightly called it. (As an aside, I'd also recommend this fine article by George Sim Johnston titled "Open Windows: Why Vatican II Was Necessary".)

I'm also not sure what is meant by the hope that Bishop-elect Sirba "is a forward thinking bishop, not backward". Taken at face value, by itself, this is a sentiment that I (and, one hopes, every Catholic) would share. But I'm not sure what exactly this comment is getting at.

Finally, at the risk of sounding obtuse, I must admit that I'm not sure what are the stereotypical features of a 1965 Catholic. If Anonymous had said a 1955 Catholic, I think I would have had a pretty good idea of what he/she meant.

But as it is, I'm left scratching my head.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Everything You Know about the Catholic Church, Science, and the Middle Ages Is Wrong

Mark Shea introduces this post, titled "The Age of Unreason", thusly:

Mike Flynn is like a walking encyclopedia of arcana about medieval science and philosophy. Yesterday, I read aloud to my wife and son most of his reply to some dude who was emitting the normal credal agitprop about the Dark Ages and Christian hatred of science and reason. If it had been a boxing match, the ref would have stopped the fight. You come away, not just laughing, but shsking your head thinking, "Poor Mr. Walker really deeply believes in his own intellectual superiority. Yet... how? What conceivable reason can he have, if he read Flynn's evisceration of his astoundingly ill-argued regurgitation of Atheist Triumphalist Talking Points, to feel anything but humiliation, embarrassment, and a driving urge to remove that wretched excuse for an essay from the web and recant in sackcloth and ashes for the sin of just pure ignorant wrong dumbness and arrogance?

My 14 year old is taking a writing class. He asked, "Why do I need to know how to argue about stuff?" I tell him, so you won't serve as a warning to others like Mr. Walker here. The man's gutted corpse is hanging from a tree branch and he's still talking as though he is Way Smarter Than You. You don't want to look a fool like that.

Thou wouldst do well to read it.

I must admit that I laughed out loud when I read that Flynn characterized Giordano Bruno as "the L. Ron Hubbard of his day". I also had to chuckle at one of the comments posted by someone else:

You didn't mention St. Macrina and automata.

I love St. Macrina. As she was on her deathbed, she cheered up her little brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa, by holding a Socratic dialogue with him. He later recorded this as "On the Soul and the Resurrection", as well as in The Life of St. Macrina.

Anyway, in the middle of all this, St. Greg points to how atheists of his day said automata proved there wasn't God or a soul, and St. Mac went into how automata indicated there was. Awesome moment in girl geek history.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bishop-elect Paul Sirba

I learned last week that Father Paul Sirba has been named the Bishop of Duluth by Pope Benedict XVI.

Father Sirba officiated at the wedding of some good friends of ours ten years ago, and later served as the pastor of Maternity of Mary Parish in St. Paul, MN, where my parents were married, and where one of my aunts currently serves on the Parish Council. I have heard nothing but good things about him. All indications are that he is a holy priest who will be a holy bishop.

Apropos of this, we had Mass offered at our office's St. Joseph Chapel today, and one of the intentions the celebrant offered was for our bishops, "who have such a difficult job".

And how.

It's so perilously easy to complain about "the bishops" — especially when it's to say they're not doing "enough" (whatever that means).

But how often do we pray for them?

[HT: Michelle at made for JOY]

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Twofer Tuesday

Because I haven't much time to write today, and because I'm over a month late in plugging my friend and co-worker Matt Yonke's latest article at Called to Communion, I shall (mostly) forego the former and wait no longer to do the latter.

Titled "Hermeneutics and the Authority of Scripture", it's about, well, hermeneutics and the authority of Scripture. Check thou it out. He also talks about the article in a podcast here.

I also happened to reread a post on Matt's blog recently about an apparently up and coming evangelical pastor named Mark Driscoll who preaches a "high octane Calvinism" that leads to an "uber-masculinity that ends up beating up anything that does not find its essence in Dudeness" (both quotes are Matt's words), which ends up getting some things dreadfully wrong, especially about sex. It's also worth a read.

Another Bubble Zone Update

We learned on Friday that Mayor Daley intends to sign the free-speech choking Bubble Zone ordinance.

In an attempt to justify his decision, the Mayor remarked, "There has to be some civility left in our society."

How ironic. The mission of sidewalk counselors is to try to prevent mothers from having their children killed — and, in the process, sparing them a lifetime of pain and regret — and they're the ones who are uncivil?

Watch No Greater Joy, our documentary on sidewalk counseling, and judge for yourself:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bubble Zone Update

The City Council passed the Bubble Zone ordinance yesterday by a vote of 28-13. It will go into effect November 17 unless Mayor Daley vetoes it.

Since last week, we've been encouraging people (regardless of where they live) to call his office and ask him to oppose it. So many people have called that when you call his office now, instead of having a real, live person answer the phone, it goes to an automated menu which asks you to press 1 if you're calling about the Bubble Zone. It then allows you to vote no by pressing 2.

You can — nay, should — make your voice heard by calling 312-744-3300 between 8:00am and 5:00pm CDT.

Here's the video of the press conference at the conclusion of our protest yesterday — at which 150 people showed up:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

If You Happen to Be Near Chicago City Hall Tomorrow

Join our Bubble Zone protest!

"Do You Support a Woman's Right to Choose?"

Note: I had intended to cross-post the following entry on Friday (I had originally posted it on the Generations for Life Blog that morning), but in my exuberance at the big news of the day, it slipped my mind. So I'm posting it now.


This morning as I was waiting to catch the train to get to work, I was approached by a guy named Robert Marshall, who is planning to run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Roland Burris. He asked if I would sign a petition to put his name on the Democratic primary ballot.

So I asked him the first question I ask anyone who tells me he's running for office:

Do you support a woman's right to choose?

The first question I used to ask was: "Are you pro-life?" But I soon realized that this is the wrong question to ask, because

Monday, October 5, 2009

"What Went Wrong?"

In the post-mortem following the crashing and burning of Chicago's doomed Olympic bid, the question a lot of people are asking is, "What went wrong?"

It seems to me the answer can be summed up in four words, à la James Carville:

It's the corruption, stupid.

John Kass offers a slightly longer explanation, and in so doing offers manfully to take the blame.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I would be doing cartwheels right now, but for the fact that I'm incapable of doing cartwheels without looking like a complete idiot.