Saturday, August 31, 2002

Dale: Hail! To the victors valiant! Hail! To the conquering heroes! Hail! Hail! To Michigan, The Leaders and Best!

The process of shaping my infant daughter into a Michigan Wolverines fan continues. As my father made me a Michigan fan, so shall Madeleine follow the Maize and Blue with devotion. She's getting there (Heather, for mysterious reasons, is a State fan). A truly magnificent game, the kind the Wolverines invariably end up on the short end of. But not today...

Nope. Nor did my gift for negative prophecy come through, either. As kicker Philip Brabbs (0 for 2 field goal attempts on the day, and not remotely close on either one) came on to the field, with five seconds left and 44 yards facing the kick, I put my head into my hands. I then turned to my wife and said, in frustration: "He's going to miss. He can't kick [crap]!" Mercifully, the ball sailed right down the middle of the uprights, with room to spare. A few seconds later, I called my dad, who answered the phone with a shouted "Go Blue!" It's his birthday, and a better present couldn't be had. He got the stuff from us earlier this week.

Hail! Hail! To Michigan, Champions of the West!

Friday, August 30, 2002

Dale: Won't you please help?

Finally: a cause that can unite all of humanity, regardless of creed.
Dale: Proof of evolution?

MLB's owners and players grow brains--just in time.

The bad news is we'll have to watch the Tigers flail around like turtles on their backs for a few more weeks, but at least Ernie Harwell will get a proper send off.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Dale: I am noodling a story line for a film, a sort of religious/action hybrid. Stay with me.

Here's the idea:

The Lord, sick of rampant heresy in His Church, decides to confront it with a novel and very direct approach. He commissions St. Pius X to return to earth in the flesh, armed with a matte-finish wrought iron crozier and mirrored sunglasses. The mission is simple: the heresy-fighting Pope is to confront the heterodox personally, call upon them to repent, and if they refuse to do so, beat the snot out of them with the crozier.

I call it The Excommunicator.

SCENE: A swanky NY apartment at night.

[TE knocks on the door of said apartment]

TE: Frances Kissling?

FK: Yes?

TE: Abortion is a mortal sin, Miss Kissling. Catholics can in no way be a part of this hideous practice. Repent.

FK: Oh, great. Another nutjob.

TE: Wrong answer. [Wham!] Arrivederci, baby.


But it probably won't work as a film. Even with the slam-bang ending (a no-holds barred confrontation with the NCCB at its annual meeting, complete with Matrix-style special effects), I think it's probably a tad too...parochial, appealing only to a certain segment of Catholics. The scene from Blazing Saddles, in which the villains consider assorted plans to get rid of the residents of Rock Ridge (who are interfering with their plans for a railroad expansion) probably applies here:

Taggart: I got it.

Hedley Lamarr: What?

Taggart: Let's kill every first-born male child in Rock Ridge.

Hedley Lamarr: [pausing] Nah, too Jewish.
Heather: I just had a Mommy Moment that brought tears to my eyes.
We've had dinner and are waiting for Dale to finish something before we head out on our evening walk. Maddie and I are in the living room, she investigating her Disney's First Baby Books and I reading one of my own ("Mitten Strings for God," which, if I never pick up again, I'll have gotten my $4 worth out of and I'm only on page 30 or so).
I see her crawling among her toys scattered on the floor. She finds her Madeline doll, the one that goes with the story books. She picks it up, says with quiet surprise, "Bay bay," and cuddles it right to her. Then she picks up her other soft baby doll and cuddles that one under the other arm.
Where did she learn this, to cuddle a baby so? Have we been that blessed?

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Dale: And let perpetual light shine upon him.

Two Sundays ago, after Mass ended, Dan Maleski, I and our spouses walked in St. Mary's parking lot enjoying the bright afternoon sunshine. He showed me his new Buick LeSabre while his wife Karen spoke with Heather and Maddie. We checked under the hood, marvelling at the heady V-6, and examined all of the other features of the loaded vehicle: leather, a CD player and a trunk you could stuff a side of beef into with room to spare. Yes, the vehicle had a lot of miles, but as Dan pointed out, his van had almost 220,000 miles, and he had a buyer lined up for it. Trust me--the buyer is getting a vehicle that should be good for another 200,000 miles. We talked some more about the usual pleasant topics, including the vacation he and Karen were about to go on and shook hands as we parted. Dan took special care to say goodbye to Maddie, and wished us luck on our impending child, which he had just learned about 20 minutes earlier after asking Heather "So--When are you having another one?" We vowed to have lunch again the next time we were up in Alma, and this time I would buy. Or at least try to.

Wednesday I saw his casket lowered into the ground at Riverside Cemetary. Dan was 44, and died after a massive heart attack while on that vacation.

What kind of guy was Dan? He was a doting husband to his wife Karen and father of two grown children, Angie and Andrew. He had a ready smile, firm handshake and a great sense of humor, which came in handy when forced to deal with me. Angie just graduated from Smith College and was married six weeks ago. Andrew works at a car dealership and helped us get our minivan. Andrew's getting married in the next 18 months.

Dan was, in the sterile words of obituaries, "active in his parish", which understates his faith by several orders of magnitude. A better sign can be seen from the Rosary service held during the Tuesday evening visitation: it was nearly impossible to find a parking space within a block of the funeral home. The director was astonished at both the afternoon and evening visitor totals--in excess of 250 (there are only 10,000 people in Alma). One of St. Mary's former priests arrived at the visitation in tears, apologizing that he wouldn't be able to preside at Dan's liturgy because of the death of another one of his friends.

Dan worked for a company that manufactures die sets (as in tool and die), and had done so for 17 years. He wasn't in management, although he was a foreman. The company has 9 facilities across the U.S. What did the company think of Dan? The CEO attended Dan's funeral, cutting short a trip to the plant in California to do so.

The funeral procession leaving St. Mary's in Alma was over a half mile long, with attendance at the funeral mass rivaling the weekend masses.

And, mercifully, the presider at the funeral (a different priest who also had been at the parish for several years before being rotated out) knew Dan and his family personally, and was able to talk about what a joy it was to watch Dan's faith come alive as he started to participate in various parish ministries, which included being an Extraordinary Minister and a member of the Knights of Columbus.

Another one of those ministries was the "Adopt an Alma College Student" program, whereby St. Mary's parishioners meet an out of town Catholic student and act as a surrogate family for that student--having them over for dinner, picking them up for mass and so forth. In 1989, the student the Maleskis adopted was Heather. At that point, Heather had not gone through Confirmation, believing that she had not been ready in 9th grade. Now, tentatively, she thought she was and asked the priest if she could get confirmed in Alma. Father said "absolutely" and entered her in the RCIA. Dan was her sponsor, and ensured she made it to the classes and to Mass.

In 1993, Heather's father suffered a massive heart attack, from which he died a week later. It was Dan and Karen who had the grim duty of telling her that horrible news, and Dan took her down to the hospital in Warren in the middle of a nighttime snowstorm, a 140 mile trip one way and two and a half hours on a good day. He got back to Alma in time to go to his scheduled shift at the plant.

I wish I had known Dan longer, but I am thankful to have known him, period. I am also thankful for the role he played in keeping the embers of Heather's faith glowing. Who can say where we'd be without the actions he took? We can't know, but with hope we will find out. I strongly suspect that many, many people came to Christ or stayed in Him because of Dan Maleski.

I want to see God and, in order to see him, I must die.--St. Teresa of Avila, Life, Chapter 1.

I trust that if you haven't seen Him already, you soon will. Rest in peace, good servant.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Dale: Another Installment in a Seemingly Endless Series of Lunch Blogs.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out to you the weblog of I. Shawn McElhinney, Rerum Novarum. Given that I'm a big Leo XIII fan, he starts off with a big lead at first, so to speak. (P.S., any links to information re: Pope Leo's canonization cause will be greatly appreciated.)

But then there's the substance...

I've known Shawn mostly through interactions with him on Steve Ray's message board. Let me say this: he's one of the most thorough and charitable Catholic writer/apologists I've had the pleasure to read. When you read one of Shawn's essays, bring a lunch--he's comprehensive. But he also manages the difficult balancing act of being readable as well as thorough, which is no mean feat.

In short, you'll find no better traditional Catholic defender of the Second Vatican Council, its legitimacy and actual reforms (as opposed to the dread "Spirit of Vatican II (TM)" variety) than Shawn.

Which is a roundabout way of referring you to a series of his reflections on L'Affaire Dreher [remember who coined that first :) ] that Shawn published yesterday, calling for a ceasefire in one of the bloodier skirmishes. Start at the link, and scroll down, not up. I agree with the insights, and thank him for the kind references to me and my (tiny) role in the discussion.

Finally, to amplify the statement in the reflections: despite my criticisms of yesterday, I definitely appreciate Stephen Hand's work. Mr. Hand does something seemingly unique for an orthodox Catholic: he emphasizes that Catholic social teachings are also part of the heritage and tradition of orthodox Catholicism, and refuses to cede them to so-called progressives. This determination is seen in his links to articles on Dorothy Day, testimonies by those who serve Christ at Catholic Worker facilities, and (gasp!) criticism of Catholics who seem a touch too comfortable with unbridled capitalism, to name but a few examples. This is commendable, and ought to be imitated.

Dale: Thanks, Heather.

The love of my wife humbles me: a living sign of God's love, and a fountain of grace.

I'll leave it at that.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Heather: Dale posted a link to Amy Welborn's recent blog, and in there she said something like: "This condescension toward converts has got to stop." (My apologies if I misquoted.)
I couldn't say it better myself.
I was raised a pretty nominal Catholic. Yeah, we went to Mass regularly on Sundays and for Christmas up through high school, but I'd never heard of holy days of obligation until somewhere in college (I think). We observed a lighter Lent (we were let off the hook on Sundays) but none of us three kids got confirmed until adulthood.
I guess I was the most observant of us kids as, when I was home from college, I would go to Mass with my mom the once a month minimum that she asked without a lot of gnashing teeth or whining. I never saw her or my dad ever go to confession. The closest is when my mom goes to the communal penance services during Advent and Lent, though she doesn't take advantage of the opportunity for individual reconciliation.
So I was Catholic, I guess. I would have called myself "a recovering Catholic" if you'd asked.
Somewhere along the way, though, it started to matter. Dale and I had been dating about six months and I was talking about him with a friend's mom. Mind you, she's not Catholic but is a very devout Christian (evangelical, I think). She had some words of wisdom for me: "Heather, have you talked about religion with him? I know your faith means a lot to you." Actually, I hadn't realized it did until that moment. You can take the girl out of the Church, but you can't take the Church out of the girl.
I asked Dale about religion and we agreed that it was important for a family and children. We agreed that both parents should be the same faith to avoid confusion for the kids. My next question, a little nervously, was, "Would you be willing to be Catholic?" (He was raised more loosely Methodist than I was Catholic.) His reply? "I can think of worse things," in such a tone that he'd be willing to investigate it.
Investigate it he has and continues to do. Yes, I'm the cradle Catholic but he's the one I go to with questions. He has no less than 8 two-inch binders of information he's printed up from the Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic Answers, and other sources in answer to his questions. He has accumulated at least 7 shelves of books to explain things he wondered. He goes to confession every other week or he does not take Communion in Mass. He can tell me what was decided at the Councils of Trent, Nicaea, et cetera and when those occurred. He is a paragon of Catholic example and here's the stunning part for Father McCloskey: he's the convert! Not I!
HE has motivated ME to investigate beyond "We just do it that way because we always have;" my 1970's formation classes of crayons and glitter; my former indifference to the music and sacrament and liturgy; my crumbled distrust of the Catholic "patriarchy." HIS knowledge, curiosity and respect have taught me so much!
It hurts me sometimes when I think about his offhand mention that sometimes he feels shortchanged. We've both heard of the days of "smells and bells," lots of drama and awe, whispered rosaries and covered heads. Now we come to Mass with teenagers in spaghetti straps and jeans, chewing gum with their hands in their pockets. We see 9- and 10-year-old kids standing on the pews, leaning on grandparents who read the bulletin during the homily. We see the (maybe?) ten people coming for confession every week and the sparsely populated Holy Day masses.
Still he comes. I come as much out of habit; he comes out of love. That's why the converts are so vocal, Fr. McCloskey. THEY are not coming out of habit but out of love.
Dale: Lunch Blog Redux, Part II. This time, mercifully, it's not scandal related.

James. Lileks. Rules.

The funniest writer on the internet belts Opie and Anthony (thanks to Amy Welborn for the link).

P.S. Warning--the language is a bit coarse, so avoid if you're easily offended.
Dale: Lunch Blog, Redux. Unfortunately, it's scandal-related.

"It's a cradle thing, you wouldn't understand"--The Sequel.

Hoo, boy. More condescension, this time from Fr. John McCloskey. Sorry for stinking up your Church, guys. Maybe if you spoke louder, more slowly and enunciated more clearly, we Donatist chowderheads would finally understand...

Good Lord. I guess when it comes to opinions about the scandal, no converts need apply.

Update: The profound irony, of course, is that Fr. McCloskey is known for his involvement in the conversion of influential people in Washington, D.C.--most recently, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Make of that what you will.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Dale: A Clash of Virtues.

Jack over at Integrity argues that the firestorm caused by Rod Dreher's WSJ article is the product of a clash between advocates of compassion and reason. In the former camp are those like Rod Dreher, Amy Welborn, et al who argue that no action has been taken to address the root of the problem, namely complicit bishops (I count myself a member of this group). In the latter group (the reason camp) are those who argue that what has been done (namely ZT policies) is imprudent, and that we are not, or perhaps not yet, in a position to judge whether the refusal to remove bishops is incorrect. Jack takes pains to point out that he does not regard those in the first category as irrational, and also makes clear that those in the second do not lack compassion, but I still think the description is flawed.

Rather, what we are seeing here is more explicable in classic Catholic terms: it is a clash between the cardinal virtues (justice, fortitude, prudence and temperance) and the theological ones (faith, hope and charity). Those of us in the first camp emphasize justice for the victims, prudence inasmuch as the scandal cripples the Church's Gospel mission, etc. Those in the second stress faith (sometimes going so far as to question that of the other side) in the ultimate triumph of the Church, the need for hope as expressed in renewed prayer, penance, and so forth.

The differing emphases to some extent result in the parties talking past each other. To those in the second camp, the members of the first sound harsh, abrupt and judgmental. To those in the first, people in the second sound pedantic and pietistic--"pray, pay and obey" reborn.

Who's right? Well, like Jack, I believe those who share my views on this are more correct, even though the other side raises good points. And they aren't called "cardinal" virtues for nothing, either: to have any real world meaning, the theological virtues have to be anchored on justice, fortitude, prudence and temperance. Otherwise, it simply sounds like pious sloganeering.

The solution? Well, speaking from the first side, I'd like to hear a little more outraged justice from the other side. A recognition that justice has not been done, that the status quo is not only unacceptable, it's annihilating the moral authority of the Church in America. Finally, I'd like to hear an acknowledgement that in criticizing the handling of the scandals, I'm not a bad/ignorant Catholic wounding my Church.

In return, I will pray more, do penance, look to the Cross with hope and perform charitable acts, and ask others to do the same. I've started already.

Daniel Maleski, 1958-2002. Eternal rest, grant him O Lord.

I'll let Heather tell you about this good Catholic, husband, father and friend. Please pray for the repose of his soul, along with his wife, Karen, and his children, Angie and Andrew.

Saturday, August 24, 2002

Dale: The Detroit Lions are playing their first ever game at Ford Field, their new stadium. It's just an exhibition game, but I still wanted to see the new digs, and the local Fox channel is showing it live. The Lions got the football, and wonder of wonders, drove 74 yards down the field for the first-ever touchdown at FF.

I said "Touchdown!", and Maddie, in the middle of lunch with Heather in the kitchen, raised both her hands in triumph! Cool, but I've advised her to not get used to it. Maybe the Wolverines will have a good season...
Dale: Is there a Bishops' Select Committee for Antagonizing the Faithful?

If so, then this is clearly a directive from it.

Actually, the ruling makes sense, at least in terms of appropriateness. Given that so many of the congregants have been taught that they are going up to a table for a meal which represents a big celebration of "us," kneeling as part of that process certainly seems out of place.

Nice to see such pressing "problems" addressed with determination and speed.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Dale: It's Amy Welborn's world. I'm just a squirrel trying to find a nut.

She addresses the Catholic scandal debate here, here, and here.

In this corner: Madeleine Price, the 11 month old "Zweiback Smasher", still not quite able to walk on her own, but awfully mobile and fueled by plenty of God-given baby energy.

In the opposite corner: Dale Price, the 33-year old "Graying Lawyer," able to walk on his own, but not quite as mobile as he used to be and fueled by plenty of Maxwell House.

Prediction: Maddie in a knockout. Down goes daddy!

IOW, I have a day off and am home supervising my daughter. It's fun, except for one thing: This is Heather's first day back at work. Maddie seems to know Mommy's gone, and is clingy. Heather hates it, to put it mildly. It's not to say she doesn't like teaching (she loves it), it's just that she desperately loves being a mom. A tough day, indeed.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Dale: Welcome, Mark Shea readers! Take a look-see around the place, kick the tires, whatever. It will soon become obvious to you that Heather's the brains of this outfit.
Dale: Who says war never solves anything?

This is from James H. Toner, Professor of International Relations and Military Ethics at the U.S. Air War College in Alabama. He wrote the following in a letter to First Things magazine:

"A number of years ago, while teaching at a university in Vermont, I was invited to join a public affairs panel to discuss just war issues. I soon discovered that I was the sole supporter of that notion, and I was getting much more than I was giving. Indeed, the audience seemed hostile, not only to the concept of just war, but also to me. An elderly man in the rear of the audience stood and said something to the effect that he wanted to support my views on just war; he added that he was a classical musician. I remember thinking to myself that there was one person in the room who agreed with me—and that he was probably a nut. “I want to tell you,” the man continued, “what is the sweetest music I have ever heard.” I was still mentally cringing. “Although I have heard wonderful music thousands of times, the most beautiful was the sound of U.S. Army tanks. You see, they were coming to [the death camp which then held him as a young man], and that sound meant that I would be able to grow up.” The audience and I had the grace to sit in silent reflection for a few moments, and I felt rather like Edward Everett must have at Gettysburg."

Dale: Lunch Blog, Part II.

It's almost football season, so it must be time for The All-Maddie Team! Our daughter raises her hands in the air whenever I say "touchdown!" Since we live in Lions country, and her dad is (for mysterious reasons) a Lions fan, that means she'll get rusty on Sunday afternoons. Alas.

At least my fantasy football team should be good. I'll spare you the details, as it may make my beloved ill.

Dale: Lunch Blog, Part I

A/k/a, No-Scandal Radio. I have to keep my blood pressure down somehow.

What I've been reading lately: The Works of G.K. Chesterton. It's poetry, and when he's on, G.K.'s work enthralls.

Yes, the above title is out of print, but there are plenty of collections available on Amazon. "Ballad of the White Horse" and "Lepanto" are epic standouts, although his lesser-known compositions are also enjoyable. If I had to describe his style, I would use this comparison: if you like Kipling, you'll like Chesterton.

A Landscape With Dragons by Michael O'Brien (of "Father Elijah" fame) is a useful diagnosis of the problems with popular culture aimed at children. Even where you find yourself disagreeing with him, you have to concede that his argument is well-presented. The recommended reading list at the end alone is worth the price. A must for parents.

Catholic Christianity, by Peter Kreeft. Everything by Kreeft is good, and this is no exception. A beautiful survey of the Catholic Faith, well-narrated.

Good reading!

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Dale: This, to put it charitably, sticks in my craw. It's a cradle thing, you wouldn't understand. Essentially, Thomas Hoopes at the National Catholic Register takes on Rod Dreher of National Review, targeting Mr. Dreher's not-yet-available-online article on the Pope and the Scandals. I don't know anything about Mr. Hoopes, and I've only had a couple of brief but pleasant exchanges with Mr. Dreher (can I call you "Rod"?). I admit to bias: I've read just about everything Rod's written about the scandals, and I agree with him almost 100%.

Actually, the first three points of Mr. Hoopes' commentary are essentially unobjectionable, although #3 becomes problematic in light of number 4. 4 is where the problem erupts, and Hoopes blasts those who have publicly criticized the bishops and the Pope. Here it is in full to avoid questions of context:

"Arguments like Dreher's are very much a product of precisely the circumstance he criticizes: There is a lack of solid Christian formation. It seems that people who came into the Church (I don't know how Dreher did) through apologetics were totally unprepared for the current scandal. They believe because the Church is eminently believable; it makes sense intellectually. But when faced with sinful pastors, the intellect isn't enough to hold the faith together. Apologetics alone produces a weak faith. Catholic faith has to be based on love for a person, Christ, and trust in him and the knowledge that he is at the heart of the Church, which is his body. That requires prayer. When you know him you aren't as scandalized by some of the things that happen. You know that he is the Lord of the wheat and the tares (and this parable not only applies, it is in the Gospels in order to speak directly to today's situation as much as any other), the Lord who chose Peter and Judas, the Lord who made sinful men and not angels the ministers of his sacraments, the Lord whose ways we can't fathom. You believe with St. Catherine that his popes and bishops should be confronted privately, not publicly, you believe with St. Paul (and Christ in Revelations and JPII) that his erring churches need to be set straight through exhortation."

I don't think there is any other way to read this attack but this way: if you publicly disagree with the way the scandal has been addressed by the bishops and the Pope, your faith in Christ is weak. Excuse me? There's even a whiff of an accusation of Donatism flung at the critics ("the Lord who made sinful men and not angels the ministers of his sacraments..."). It's hard to read this sort of thing charitably. I, like Mr. Dreher, am a convert. Like him, I came from an increasingly relativistic mainline Protestant denomination seemingly bent on self-destruction. I came to the Catholic faith because of Jesus Christ, and for no other reason. To argue that (entirely unlike those more fully grounded in Christ) I'm upset at the scandals simply because I'm a badly catechized convert with a head full of soundbites from "Catholic Answers" tracts is patronizing crappola of the highest order. Explain to me how one privately remonstrates with shepherds like Mahony, Law, McCormack, or Daily--men more attentive to liability concerns than governance in persona Christi. And lest we forget, Paul acted sternly against immorality within the congregation. See 1 Cor. 5:1-13 for an illuminating example of St. Paul going well beyond mere exhortation. No, St. Paul is no help on that score. To be absolutely clear, I am not scandalized by "sinful pastors." Like me, all pastors are sinful. No, I am scandalized by monstrous pastors, men who used their collars to prey upon children. I am scandalized by the knowing inaction of their bishop superiors who allowed them to run free for decades. Bishops who remain, and will remain, securely in office, with all of the privileges thereof, until they retire.

And I don't appreciate the pietistic finger-waving that dismisses these well-founded criticisms as the product of the weak faith of converts. There are more pungent phrases that better convey my anger, but I'm trying to curb my language.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Dale: Well, that didn't help. Cardinal Keeler claims that the "Reflections" document was just some ecclesial brainstorming:

"Cardinal Keeler, the U.S. Bishops' Moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations, said that the document, entitled Reflections on Covenant and Mission, does not represent a formal position taken by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) or the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA). The purpose of publicly issuing the considerations which it contains is to encourage serious reflection on these matters by Jews and Catholics in the U.S."

Ooookay. Um, then why say this in the original Reflections document:

"Participants examined how the Jewish and Roman Catholic traditions currently understand the subjects of Covenant and Mission. Each delegation prepared reflections on the current state of the question in each community." (emph. added)

Here's how Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines "reflection": ...4. a fixing of the thoughts on something: careful consideration." In other words, in most understandings of English, a "reflection" is the product of careful thought, of ideas long weighed. It's not something you do to get the pot bubbling.

Ultimately, the "Reflections" document is indeed what the Catholic participants believe about the relationship between Christ, Christian evangelism and Judaism. That's what's so distressing. I'm not saying that the Jewish people and Jewish thought don't have a special relationship to Christianity, worthy of deep consideration. I'm certainly not saying that evangelism is a not profoundly sensitive issue with respect to Judaism, nor that Jewish people should not be approached with profound sensitivity and respect, especially for their freedom of conscience. Yes, there ought to be a recognition that they deserve some "space", given the hideous treatment endured at the hands of so-called Christians. However, contra Reflections, that does not mean that the Gospel is not for them. Not if the New Testament is to have any meaning.

The problem is the eagerness of our titular shepherds to abandon the Christian mission on the basis of no authority whatsoever. What else are they willing to toss aside after due "reflection"?
Dale: Yes, an excellent day. A red letter day. Couldn't beat it.

And, to think that Heather wanted me to take yesterday off instead.... Actually, that idea made sense, extending the weekend and all. Given the insane, non-stop busy previous week, it was tempting. Only one problem--an unavoidable deadline at work. The good news was that I could make the deadline, so I did. That left today free, and the unexpected thrill of hearing our baby's heart beat for the first time. 180 beats per minute. That means girl.

As prospective parents, we received all sorts of folk advice as to how to determine the sex of our child. There was the "how sick are you" test (always posed to Heather--like dad's never ill or something). If the mother's sick a lot, that's supposed to mean it's a girl. Then there's the "how does she look from behind" test, one fraught with enormous (no pun intended) peril for the husband. If mom looks the same as she did before she was pregnant, that means "boy." Prospective dads: she looks the same. It doesn't matter how she looks: she looks the same.
Another one of the proposed scientific tests was the ever popular "how's she carrying the child" test. If mom's carrying the child high, that means boy. Or girl. We heard both. Science! Then there was the pendulum swing test, which involves hanging an object on a string over the womb as mom lies on the floor. If the pendulum swings lengthwise (along mom's body), it's a boy. Perpendicular, it's a girl. All of these tests pointed to "boy." It really didn't matter to me. By this time, I was regretting the fact we hadn't let the damned ultrasound determine our child's sex. Even the unsolicited self-proclaimed psychic (a nice woman who claimed her talents were from the Lord--and hey, she didn't make money off it, so what the heck?) said boy. All of the accumulated folk wisdom and insights, and we got Madeleine.

The one test that seemed semi-scientific was heartrate, which was high during the visits. It was high this time, too. Plus, my gut instinct (also scientific) says girl. Hey, it was right the last time! We even have the name lined up.

Anyway, today was a great day. We weren't prepared for the heart monitor. If we'd thought about it, we'd have taken the tape recorder with us. It doesn't change that moment of wonder, though, when you realize there's another person growing, another child being given to you. I really can't describe it, but the feeling never goes away--it grows along with your unborn child.

Afterwards, I did my best to get Heather eating more, as we drove through McDonald's. The iced tea, added to my five cups of coffee (I couldn't bear to through my good friend Mr. Coffee through a window) woke me up for the trip to the Detroit Zoo.

We arrived at the parking garage, where Heather and I discovered we were now card-carrying members of the Venture Party, a/k/a Minivan Nation. Two thirds of the vehicles in the garage were either minivans or SUVs, tending strongly toward the former. I've also never seen so many strollers being broken out. We fit right in. I also saw a significant number of dads for a Tuesday morning, which was impressive. Lots of kids, lots of young families. The only real danger was that, at the end of the day, I would be standing before a pewter Chevy Venture, pushing the unlock button and getting frustrated because we couldn't get in. You see, we passed three other vans identical to ours on the same floor.

The zoo is well maintained, and worth a stop if you're in the area. If you want to see the whole thing, budget five hours. The high points (since the camels didn't spit on anyone) were the primate areas, and the Arctic Ring of Life, as described by Heather. Maddie was intermittently amused, but more by us than the animals. We were too pooped to go to the petting zoo at the end, which she probably would have liked. At that point, we'd been there three and a half hours. We limped back to the Venture, drove back, and Daddy decided he needed a nap. Plus, he got to watch one of his favorite Babylon 5 episodes, "Endgame." I'll go into the glories of the finest sci-fi series ever made at another time. Suffice it to say it's a magnificent episode in a magnificent series, surpassed only by "Severed Dreams" in Season Three, and "Sleeping In Light" at the very end. Spoken like a true geek, I know.

The best part was that my daughter fell asleep on me as I rested on the couch, and pretty soon I was out, too. Heather snapped a picture, which I'll treasure as a momento of a blessed, blessed day. Thanks be to God.
Heather: This could be from either of us, but I won the coin flip.
Madeleine took her first step yesterday, toward her daddy (how I wanted it). She promptly collapsed into his arms but she really did take a step on her own. It won't be long until we're chasing as fast as we can run, I know, and we'll still have to carry her all over the planet as she requests. I was deathly afraid that she would wait and take her first steps next week, after I was back at work. I missed her start crawling--that was at Misty's. At least we have this.
She took her second step this morning at the doctor's office, this time toward me. It was my second prenatal visit, which sounds kind of weird as I still have no signs besides amenorrhea. I'm barely 11 weeks along.
When the nurse asked about signs (swelling, weight gain, sensitivity, etc.), and I said, "Nothing, not a blessed thing," and Dale concurred, she was a little concerned. Dale was able to make this appointment as he had a bonus day off; he wanted to take it when both of his girls would be there.
So after taking my weight (I've actually lost 3 pounds--chasing an infant can do that) and blood pressure (102/80) and showing us to the examining room, she came in with the Doppler. I wasn't expecting it, as last pregnancy it was my third visit. Given I've had no symptoms, even though they took blood and urine last time and would have called if I wasn't, she wanted to be sure. She even forewarned that she might not be able to get heart tones as it's still so early. Well.... she got them. Loudly.
That's a strong little heart in there, audible at 11 weeks, going about 180 beats a minute. It wasn't easy and at first it was in the background, but then she got them so clearly... now the little one growing in me seems so much more real. The tests weren't wrong and God has seen fit that our love overflow again to a second child. I got tears in my eyes.
We proceeded to the zoo and I was on a not infrequent basis hugging my tummy, where this whole separate person is growing fingers and toes. Maddie wasn't terribly impressed with the animals but I think she had a good time. She was asleep through the coolest part (no pun intended)--the Circle of Life Arctic Exhibit. There's this plexiglass tunnel, over and beside which is the polar bear pool. One swam right up to it and then was walking on it--right over my head! Dale caught my attention for it. That was just awesome, though a polar bear's backside isn't the most aesthetically pleasing thing I've ever seen. Their feet are enormous!
So today has been a good day. We heard the coming baby's heartbeat four weeks earlier than we were expecting, Maddie took her second step, we had a wonderful day at the zoo, it's not quite 6 PM and daddy and daughter are dozing on the couch in front of one of his favorite TV shows (one of his favorite episodes, even). Does life get much better than this?

Sunday, August 18, 2002

Dale: Train to Rantburg, Now Boarding.

There are certain irritations in life with which I seem almost forced to interact. First, there is the "Beastmaster" syndicated television series, a profoundly stupid fantasy program featuring cheesy CGI, laughable-to-nonexistent plotlines, and the worst acting this side of community theatre. The lead "actor's" sole talent seems to be an indefatigable ability to smirk in any situation. I say "forced to interact" because syndicated television means that you can be ambushed by this crap at any viewing hour of the day. And I find myself mesmerized by its train-wreck awfulness. "Look, honey--he's smirking again! And this time, he doesn't have the ferrets stuffed in his pants!"

Second is Northwest Airlines, which has a deathgrip on airline travel out of the major Detroit airhub. Northwest, too, is run by people with elusive talents, only two of which repeatedly manifest themselves: (1) the ability to understaff the ticket counter at peak hours, and (2) the little-known fact that they've hired Penn and Teller to work part-time in the baggage department--always when I'm flying.

The final irritation is much more serious. This irritation is the bishops of the Catholic Church in the U.S. Unlike the first two, I can't change the channel or fly another airline with these guys. Nor, does it appear, that there's a chance in hell that I'll get new ones, either through resignation (ha!) or removal (double ha!). Today, I attended a Mass presided over by Bishop Kenneth Untener, the bishop of Saginaw. Even though I have enormous problems with the Bp., (I regard him as a veritable pinata of error-soaked platitudes), he's not the target of my scorn this week.

In light of two events last week, I'm about to propose to the National Spelling Bee that "c-a-t-h-o-l-i-c-b-i-s-h-o-p" be allowed as an acceptable alternate spelling for "incompetent." Or "prevaricator." Or "clueless." The problem is, as has been pointed out on other blogs, that the bishops in this country have not viewed themselves as ordained shepherds to the apostles or shepherds of souls for many decades. Instead, they behaved like corporate executives. Some claim that they behave like CEOs, but I don't think so. Being a CEO entails much more responsibility than these gentlemen are willing to assume. Instead, they've behaved like corporate vice-presidents, with most of the perks and pay, but almost none of the responsibilities. They have managed to turn the Catholic Church in America into a going concern called "God, Inc." (Motto: "Why God? Because Mentioning Christ Makes People Nervous.") Henceforth, as long as they insist on behaving like VPs, I'll be referring to them as veeps.

The first source of my disgust is the deposition testimony of Cardinal Law in the Shanley case. Not only has the buck never stopped anywhere near Cardinal Law during his career, he's not even sure what a dollar bill is. What a load of crap. Until this week, some part of me had felt a slight degree of sympathy for him, considering his undeniable good work for civil rights, immigrant issues, the poor, and his proposal for a new Catechism. This seemed to, in a very limited sense, make Law into something of a tragic figure, and in the classic sense of the term tragedy. This always fell far short of my sympathy for the dozens of victims of his priests, but it was there. Now, the only tragedy is continued tenure in office, and his blinkered determination to stay there. Would it kill one of the veeps to stand up and admit "yes, I failed in my Christ-ordained duties. Yes, I let a pervert/perverts run loose on my watch. I repent utterly of my actions. Please forgive me"? Apparently, it would. Meanwhile, the Church burns as they wiggle, shamelessly.

The second source of anger is a mission statement coming from one of the veeps' subcommittees. Actually, given what it says, "non-mission" statement is more accurate. Essentially, the veeps' subcommittee said that the Gospel is not for the Jews. No, really. The document has a couple of points buried in the Catholic section: the need to be respectful of Jewish tradition, and to avoid stupidity in witnessing to Jewish people. After all, there's a river of blood between Christians and Jews. And most of it, horribly, is Jewish. Plus, Judaism occupies a special place in Christian thought--as Peter Kreeft says, biblical Judaism is the only religion that Christianity regards as completely true. Still, that history, and that position, do not require us to abandon our Christian tradition. Which, unfortunately, the document does. Here's the money phrase:

Thus, while the Catholic Church regards the saving act of Christ as central to the process of human salvation for all, it also acknowledges that Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God.

This is the line that trumps all the others. All of the other gasbaggery about "witnessing" to Jewish people, the duty to evangelize all people, welcoming Jewish converts, etc.--has to be read in light of the above sentence. Why in God's name would Jews ever convert to Catholicism? According to "the Church", they are already IN a saving covenant. There's no point. Not unless you are really moved by hearing "Gather Us In" accompanied by a ukelele and an oboe.

What a slap in the face to Jewish converts, and the painful struggles they went through. Someone call Cardinal Lustiger and let him know--guess what? You didn't have to go through all the trouble after all--the theological giants on a USCCB subcommittee have spoken!

Here's a helpful hint before the next time you guys do a reflection--consult that last section of your Bible--that "New Testament" thing--before you put pen to paper. And consult it as the Word of God, not something to be explained away in embarrassment for the sake of interreligious dialogue. Romans 11 might have helped you prepare the Catholic response better. It certainly would have prevented you from giving the Gospel away.

It's not enough that I have to be uncertain about the safety of my children in the Church. It's not enough that I have to put up with bowdlerized liturgies, gutted churches, and the goofy errors supposedly mandated by the spirit of V2 (the council, not the missile). Now I have to wonder whether the Gospel itself is going to be compromised. Thanks, veeps.

Saturday, August 17, 2002

Dale: I'm back after a week spent in Arlington, Virginia. I was attending a training conference with 40 other people, and I barely had time to come up for air. We were working all week. They put us up at the Key Bridge Marriott, a truly pleasant and expensive hotel. Most of my vacations have cost less than the price of a two-night stay in my room. I think it has something to do with the overall costs of staying in the central Washington DC Metro area--nothing's cheap there. Still, if you can afford it (or someone else is paying), I recommend it.

I kept up with the world--sort of. I was able to follow a few stories, including (for once) a happy ending to a child kidnapping. It's good to be back. I had so much coffee last week I half-joked to Heather that I was going to throw our pot through the nearest closed window after I returned. The good news of the trip (besides the valuable training) was that I managed to find a Catholic Church in Arlington County with a very late Mass for the Assumption, and, through a combination of the DC Metro, a sufficiently detailed Arlington map obtained from the Marriott concierge, and nicely maintained walking trails, I arrived in good order. St. Ann's (located in Arlington's Ballston neighborhood) is a wonderful place, and it was nice to stop thinking about legal matters for a few minutes. More or less.

I was never so happy to see Heather and Madeleine as I was when I rode the escalator down to the baggage claim area at Metro Airport, and saw them waiting for me. That was moving beyond words. We ate at the local Olive Garden, where Maddie charmed several dozen more strangers.

And then I had a chance to get caught up on Church news, and have been stewing since. More on that later.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Heather: Hey, twice in a row! is this some kind of record or what?
I'm blogging now, about a month early, about September 11. I don't think about it much because I so quickly start thinking of all of the innocent people who died, seemingly without purpose. After the first plane hit, how many people listened to the announcement to go back to their desks? How many of them could have gotten out?
I think of Lisa Beamer, a mom who lost her brave husband. I can easily picture Dale, or my brother, or his, doing something like that. I think of her daughter Morgan who will never be held by her daddy who gave his life for an unknown number of people he probably never met.
Madeleine was 5 days old when it happened. She was in her bassinet; I was in bed. Dale called and told me about the three planes; before we got off the phone he told me he was on his way home. I never really had a chance to worry even though it took him so long to make the commute. I called his parents and left a message that he was okay and on his way home; he left a message once he arrived. All I wanted to do during that hour or so was hold her, possibly so close I could put her back inside (hey, she was still little). When Dale got home, I knew he'd want to hold her so I handed her over.
He talked with his dad that afternoon, but I made sure he called back and talked with his mom that evening. I knew I'd want to hear from my own children. I was so proud of myself--a mom for only 5 days and I knew how to reassure another. We have a picture taken that evening while he was on the phone with his mom.
I can look at Madeleine and not automatically think about it because she's changed so. A friend reassured me this would happen; their daughter was born the day of the Columbine shootings. I found myself a basket case ("disastered out" is what I called it) by the 14th and I called her in tears. She was right, thank God.
But when I think about the events of September 11, I remember how tiny and vulnerable she was, how helpless it made me feel thinking how little I could do to protect her from evil such as that. Did the WTC have a child care center like the Murrah building in Oklahoma City? Did all of those babies get out?
As I said, I can't think about it much.

Friday, August 09, 2002

Heather: I know, it's been a while. Frankly, Maddie is just so darn entertaining that I would rather hang out with her than the computer. Now she's asleep, though, and watching her sleep is a beautiful thing and all, but...
I head back to work in two weeks. The word "dreading" is too weak; "nauseous and studiously avoiding" would be more accurate. (And the nausea is unrelated to the coming child.) However, only 125 more days of not being with Maddie before I'm done, done! Hooray! God willing, of course.
It was 185, barring snow days, but I know I'll get 60 for maternity leave when the new Price goes into effect. I've already started saving from current paychecks to cover the time I'll be out unpaid. Part of me is really looking forward to it, as I had so much fun--or at least felt so right--at home with Maddie, but I know I won't be able to take all of the naps I did the first time around. The books said, "Sleep when the baby sleeps," and I did. Hey, you didn't have to tell ME twice I was exhausted! This second one will prove more of a challenge, I think. The way a freight train challenges a penny on the tracks...
For a girl's name, we've sort of settled on Rachel Anne. I think I said before, I got the lion's share with Madeleine so Dale got to pick this time around. I have veto power but I like his selection. A boy is easy; we already knew we'll name him after his daddy.
About the only issue in the news I'm trying to keep up with is las Maritas, the twin Guatemalan girls that got surgically separated this week. The reports haven't changed: "As well or better than we hoped, but not conscious yet." They look about the same age as Maddie and that's what pulls at my heartstrings. I keep them in my prayers.
The Moms' Club from church met last week. It's really good and fulfilling for me to get out and spend time with other moms, especially ones I know share some of my views on parenting. Example: one young mom asked about getting her son back on his sleeping schedule; it had been thrown off by a trip to Tennessee. A more experienced one, Lucy, answered that whenever one of her kids had trouble sleeping she and her husband just brought him or her to bed with them. It was a tremendous relief to me, and another said that it's awful crowded for them with 5 in their bed. I had just kind of figured that bringing Maddie to our bed was, like breastfeeding, just one more thing on the long and growing list of things that I'm doing differently from my mom. The only other one I knew who did it was my brother and sister in law. I don't know if I'll ever quite find the words to tell them I don't think it's as wrong as I once did, but they might already know.
Dale likes it when I come home from the club. I'm happy, I'm at peace, I know he's had some time alone with his daughter (which he cherishes quite a lot), I've gotten out... All around good things.

We got Maddie's pictures from Sears today, so we'll have them for her first birthday. I think we can post a link but I'll let Dale have the fun with that. She was quite grumpy as it was getting close to naptime, but the sunflowers were a hit.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Dale: Gross clerical stupidity from our neck of the woods. Scroll down till you get to Attn: Cardinal Maida! Here's a priest who could do with shutting up. I heartily concur with the sentiment. I have two suggestions for reading this fatuous bongload of pseudomoral bloviating. First, substitute "Paul Shanley" for the candidate's name, and I very much doubt that Fr. Ortman would be so sanguine about "absolute freedom", yadda yadda yadda (not that I'm equating the actions of the two persons--I know I'd prefer to live next door to Granholm, in a heartbeat. But the actions each defends are both horribly destructive). Second, while the Lord recognizes the capacity of His creatures to choose, He makes quite clear which choices are correct. See Deuteronomy 30:19 for the preeminent example.

As far as disciplining the priest in question? I'm sure nothing will happen. The mouthpiece for the Archdiocese, Ned McGrath, will deflect it, like he does with all such questions, and eventually people will forget. Fr. Ortman will continue his seemingly permanent career track as an associate priest (I know of him, as he used to be an associate at our parish), and nothing more will be said.

What we can't forget is that such false assuaging of consciences allows Catholics to vote accordingly.

Saturday, August 03, 2002

Dale: I was going to entitle this, "John Vennari, Griping."

But that would be redundant.

[I edited this blog, which was much longer until today. I was feeling particularly grumpy when I wrote it, and it seemed unusually peevish and sarcastic. It really doesn't belong here. If/when I get dalerant.blogspot.com (or whatever) going, I'll put similar commentary there.]

For a contrary perspective, try columnist David Warren at the Ottawa Citizen. Night and day, eh?
Dale: Don't forget the beans served in the mess halls.

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