Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

Embed from Getty Images 

  I like to be lighthearted on this here weblog, but when serious issues rear their heads, I have to deal with them as well. So it is with January 22, which is the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision on Roe v. Wade. The Catholic Church has taken this anniversary and turned it into a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. Pro-life events are taking place all over the country this week, including the March for Life in Washington D.C. on January 24. Even though this is a major march on Washington, you probably won’t hear about it much in the secular news. In contrast to that, EWTN will be covering it all day.

On EWTN’s program Scripture and Tradition on January 21, Father Mitch Pacwa was talking about the importance of standing up for truth. He recalled once when an African-American politician admonished preachers with something like, “Don’t you ministers go preaching against abortion, now!” Father Mitch decried the idea that ministers of Christ’s Gospel should be admonished to keep silent about a moral issue, and noted that it was ministers – such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – who spoke out in defense of civil rights, often at great expense. He also pointed out that a disproportionate number of the babies aborted in the U.S. are black, even though African-Americans make up 13 percent of the population. Good points, Father Mitch.

I don’t know why it is so hard for so many people to come to understand that unborn children are human beings and should have the same right to legal protection of life as anyone else. Too many people will deny the humanity of a child and fall back on talking points which talk of abortion as though it is merely a medical procedure. It certainly is not health care.

Coincidentally, the Gospel passage for today’s Mass for Wednesday of the second week of Ordinary Time had the Pharisees watching Jesus to see if he would violate their idea of the Sabbath by curing a man with a withered hand. He asks them which is more appropriate – to do good or do to do bad? To save life, or to destroy it? I surmise that many who deliver homilies today will tie that in with the special day of prayer that today is.

The Church’s position on abortion rights is not popular with the mainstream; but I reckon that’s part of the cross of Christ that his followers are supposed to take up.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued a statement saying that the faithful should help moms-to-be in need. To that end, beginning this March, parishes are invited to join in a nationwide effort entitled Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service. This initiative is intended to be a way of reaching out to as many expectant mothers in need as possible, so that they know that there is a community of people who care. This way, they do not have to come to the conclusion that the only solution is to abort the child. That is always, always a tragic decision.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Random ramblings

The Senate had to sit quietly during the impeachment presentations, or risk going to jail. Does snoring count as making noise?


Does anyone really, really buy Valentine's Day candy this early? It has been in the stores since probably the end of December. By the way, Spangler bought the Necco brand and they have the original Sweethearts candy back in stores. I hope Necco wafers will be back.


It's supposed to snow a bit today in the New York Metropolitan area. After Mass today, one of our devout parishioners said that if the snow comes, we'll bless it; another said it is a gift from God. A good way to look on the bright side of something that you don't really like. I still hope that I don't have to clean up any of it.


2020 isn't any better than 2019. The Bachelor is still on.

Monday, January 13, 2020

New year, new conflict, new prayer request

Unfortunately, not a week into 2020 we were thrust into a crisis as these tensions with Iran started. It's as though the new year signaled this new crisis that we have to deal with. New year, new threat of war.

It’s interesting that this happened not long before the Catholic Church celebrated the Epiphany on Sunday, January 5. The Epiphany commemorates the visit of the magi to the newborn child Jesus. The magi were from Persian, which is basically modern-day Iran.

After the U.S. killed
Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, many Iranians were loudly protesting and saying “Death to America.” However, now that Iran carelessly shot down that Ukrainian plane that they thought was a missile, there are many Iranian protesters angry over that – even tearing down Soleimani's pictures and demanding that the Ayatollah step down! Usually, we only hear of people in the United States protesting their own government; it is refreshing to see this being done in another country – especially in the Middle East.

Of course, Iran is partially blaming the United States because after the death of 
Soleimani and their retaliatory missile strike, they were apparently on high alert for a missile attack.

What we do know that these passengers on that airline were innocent victims of these tensions and violence. It goes to show that as reckless as some of the anti-war rhetoric can be (seeing as how we do have to fight evil when it is necessary), the fact is that war and violence takes innocent lives, and tensions are much better not started in the first place.

We still don’t know whether posed an imminent threat. We may never know. President Trump says he did, but the president says a lot of things, both in speech and in tweets, that we all have to take with a grain of salt. I do wish we hadn’t done this.

I want to urge anyone reading this to take the time to pray for peace in the world. Even if you don’t usually take the time to pray, there is no better time than now to get cracking with it. A relationship with God and a prayer life isn’t exactly going to hurt you. And it can have worldwide effects.

In fact, Pope Francis’ prayer intention for January 2020 just happens to be on behalf of world peace – tnat Christians, those of other religions, and all people of good will promote world peace. That’s a good prayer. 

Here is a prayer request from Archbishop José H. Gomez. The full statement can be read here.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Lee Mendelson: He was a good producer, Charlie Brown!

Embed from Getty Images

Producer Lee Mendelson really started something when he produced A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965. It is, therefore, quite remarkable that he died on Christmas Day. Especially since he wrote the lyrics to "Christmas Time Is Here," which Vince Guaraldi set to music and which since has become a Christmas standard. 

The network disliked A Charlie Brown Christmas at first, and only put it on because they had committed to it. But the public and critics alike thought it most refreshing and inspiring, and it won an Emmy Award. This led to many more specials based on Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts comic strip, as well as feature films and a television series, over the next four decades.

Mendelson produced a lot more programs as well, many of them likewise having to do with newspaper comic strips. He produced Garfield television specials as well as the animated series Garfield and Friends. He also produced a series based on Mother Goose & Grimm. Another Mendelson production was the 1968 special The Fabulous Funnies, which I saw a few times in syndication and which I really enjoyed. It basically celebrated the history and legacy of the newspaper comic strip, with songs, comedy bits, and animation.

Mendelson's association with cartoonist Charles M. Schulz began shortly after the producer completed a documentary on baseball legend Willie Mays entitled A Man Named Mays. Mendelson was reading Peanuts one day, and Charlie Brown was dealing with another baseball loss. Mendelson got the idea that since he had just produced a documentary on the world's greatest baseball player, why not produce one on the world's worst -- Charlie Brown? So it can probably be said that if not for Willie Mays, the Charlie Brown specials may not have been made.

Mendelson arranged interviews with Schulz, and filmed him at work and at play. He got jazz musician Vince Guaraldi to do the music, and animator Bill Melendez -- who had worked with the characters previously in commercials for Ford -- to produce some animated bits. Since the previous special had been called A Man Named Mays, it made sense to call the new film A Boy Named Charlie Brown. The film was made and sent out to various sponsors -- but no one was interested. (Below is a clip from the documentary, which is available on DVD from the Charles M. Schulz Museum.)

But eventually the effort paid off. Coca-Cola, who had seen the special, called Mendelson in 1965 and asked if he could put together a Charlie Brown Christmas special. There were only a scant few months left to get it all done, but they managed it. Melendez and Guaraldi were back on board. Along with Schulz, they came up with a classic animated work and an inspiring witness to the true meaning of Christmas, as opposed to the commercialization of it. 

In the clip below, Melendez tells of his work with Schulz in making the special. Interestingly enough, he says that he thought nothing problematic about the sequence in which Linus quotes from the Christmas narrative in the Gospel of Luke. In other accounts, he and Bill Melendez relate how they were scared to death that the religious aspect would be terribly controversial, and that, fortunately, Schulz prevailed on them.

As for the documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown, it was slightly updated and re-titled Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz, and this program aired on CBS in 1969. Mendelson wrote a tie-in book with the slightly modified title Charlie Brown and Charlie Schulz. The title A Boy Named Charlie Brown was used for the first Charlie Brown theatrical feature film, released later that year.

Considering the large number of animated Charlie Brown television specials and feature films, A Charlie Brown Christmas seems to be one of only a few of them that has remained so much in the national consciousness so as to be the subject of a lot of pop-culture attention. Paradoxically in our largely-secular society today, the special continues to air every year, so audiences continue to enjoy Linus' recitation of St. Luke's account of the angel's proclamation to the shepherds of Christ the Savior's birth. Here it is, in an official upload from Peanuts LLC. This sequence will remain one of the most classic scenes in the history of television. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year from the 1950s

Did it ever occur to you that we would be ringing the year 2020? I wish all of you a year of clear vision, both physically and spiritually. (I won't be the first to make such a medical reference in regard to 2020, I'm sure!)

Before we move ahead, let's go back to the 1950s and enjoy some New Year's theater greetings.

Happy New Year! God bless. 

May you all have a happy 1936!

Embed from Getty Images

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Christmas continues!

As I hope you know, even though all the Christmas music has disappeared from stores and radio stations, the Christmas season isn't over yet. In fact, it only began the late afternoon of December 24. The Christmas season goes on for a little while. In fact, on the day after Christmas, the liturgy of the Catholic Church begins celebrating some major days. As a priest in my parish said a few times, after we celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25, the Church begins to "unpack" what it means to accept this Messiah into our lives.

It begins, stunningly enough, with the feast day of St. Stephen, who was stoned to death for teaching that Jesus was the Son of God (as related in Acts of the Apostles chapters 6 and 7). This story is read at the Mass that day, along with Matthew 10: 17-22 which has Jesus telling his disciples that they will be handed over, scourged, and brought before the courts; and and that families will even hand each other over to be put to death! Talk about a wake-up call. It bids us remember that not everyone is going to love our value system if we are following Christ properly. After all, Christ himself was put to death!

On December 27, we commemorate the apostle and evangelist St. John, who wrote a beautiful Gospel and two wonderfully-written letters. Read the beginning of John's Gospel and the beginning of his first letter. Aren't they beautiful? John starts his Gospel with the same words that begin the Genesis creation story, "In the beginning." It has been said that this marks a new beginning in salvation history -- a new creation. That part of the Gospel also notes how "the Word became flesh" and lived with us (John 1:14), which of course is what we celebrate at Christmas. 

On December 28, we commemorate the Holy Innocents, the babies who were killed as a result of King Herod wanting to make sure the newborn "King of the Jews" is gotten rid of, as related in chapter 2 of Matthew. Jesus' life was in danger from the moment he was born! Joseph was warned in a dream to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt to escape. This ties into two current issues of our time: 1) Jesus, Mary and Joseph were refugees, which underscores our obligation to treat refugees with kindness. 2) The deaths of the Holy Innocents mirrors the tragic loss of millions of children to abortion, in the United States and elsewhere. We need to pray that we reflect the love of Jesus in every aspect of our lives, even in regard to the "political" issues of our times, because thes issues have to do with human rights.

And we're not done! The Sunday after Christmas always commemorates the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, emphasizing the importance of families -- "domestic churches" they are called, and they can be, if family life is done right! New Year's Day is always the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church. We start the year off by acknowledging that because Mary is the mother of Jesus, she is the Mother of God. The following Sunday we commemorate the Epiphany of the Lord, and we hear the story of the Magi, visitors from the East, coming to visit the newborn Messiah. This emphasizes that Jesus came for Jews and Gentiles alike. And then the following Sunday, we commemorate the Baptism of the Lord by John the Baptist, which starts off his public ministry. So we are in for some exciting days. Enjoy them. The celebration is not over!

Friday, December 27, 2019

"Twas the Day After Christmas

‘Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the town,
All the people were stirring and running around.
It was work day as usual for most everyone,
Because, for the most part, their Christmas was done.
It had been a late night, but the morn was now here,
And had brought the antithesis of Christmas cheer.
They’d feasted on egg nog, on cookies and cake,
And now all they had was a bad tummy-ache.
And now here they were rushing, a most sorry lot,
‘Cause the office was beckoning, like it or not.
No time for much breakfast; just eat on the run,
It is time to play catch-up – there’s work to be done.
But what of the children? They’re still on vacation,
That old school board’s oblivious to your situation.
Got to take them to day care, for most of the day,
‘Cause if you cannot sleep late, than neither can they!
Forget all the presents; forget all the joys,
It’s a morning of “cranky” for all girls and boys.
Time again for the traffic, time again for the strife,
Time again for the rushing, the “normal” in life.

It’s funny, of course, but it’s really a shame
That after one day, things are once more the same.
Christmas isn’t just one day; it’s only begun.
It goes on for days; it’s not just fleeting fun.
Of the twelve days of Christmas, I’m sure you have heard.
It’s the season to celebrate God’s living Word.
The Word was made flesh, the Savior, you see,
Whom God sent to this old world for you and for me.
And even when Christmas vacation is finished,
When the gifts are forgotten, the snow is dimished,
If you truly know Christmas, and know truly its reason,
Then you’ll keep Christmas with you, no matter the season!

Sing-a-long: "Bring back"

It’s sing-a-long time! I first posted this in 2017. These words can be sung to the tune of “Bring Back My Bonnie to Me” (original music and lyrics by Charles E. Pratt, new lyrics by yours truly):


For Christmas I got a new barbecue,
Though I’m on the seventeenth floor.
The socks that I got are too skimpy.
I’m bringing them back to the store.

Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back those presents that we can’t use.
Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back those presents today.

My neighbor, she bought me pajamas.
They’re scratchy and they are too small.
I’d rather a new set of headphones,
So now I am off to the mall.

Bring back, bring back,
Oh, bring back those presents we cannot stan.
Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back those presents today

When my loved ones pick out my presents,
It’s like we just met on the street.
So whenever they give me my presents,
I make sure I get the receipt.

Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back those gifts that you’ll never use.
Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back those presents today.

Though all of this stuff I’m returning,
My friends and my family are ace.
Their love is a gift that I cherish,
And that I can never replace.

Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back the gifts ‘cause they’re only stuff.
Bring back, bring back
‘Cause sometimes just love is enough.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

My Christmas present to you

Some of you might consider the impeachment to be the best Christmas gift you ever received. Others of you may feel the same way about your favorite pair of socks. But my Christmas present to you is this lovely video clip which you must watch. A little deaf girl interprets Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (a.k.a "T'was the Night Before Christmas") in American Sign Language. If this doesn't make you smile, please have your smile mechanism checked.

And as a bonus: the true meaning of Christmas (the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ), as depicted this episode of EWTN's Life on the Rock. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Your host, Vanna White

The Vanna White-hosted Wheel of Fortune programs, made during Pat Sajak's medical leave of absence, have been airing. She does a good job, and yes, I'll bet that wheel is heavy! On the episode that I saw, Mickey was up there at the letter board, but he didn't have to touch the letters -- they appeared all by themselves!! I'm blown away.

Minnie gets to keep her dresses and Vanna doesn't. Well, that's understandable. When you've been in the business for 91 years, you get certain perks.