Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Covid prayers for our family

I suppose it was inevitable, but two of my sons have tested positive for Covid.  So far cold like symptoms, congestion and coughing, soar throat and occasional body aches.  I had the same, but tested negative, as has everyone else in the homestead.  

Being a family in close quarters, and two individuals with high risk medical conditions, we're being as cautious as possible.  Everyone knows that we haven't been vaccinated.  Given our record with vaccinations, and the ever evolving story of their efficacy versus side effects, we just didn't feel safe going that direction.

So we'll see.  We'll have to do our best to get everyone through this.  Naturally we're concerned.  As I've said, it isn't as if Covid is no big deal.  But we'll try to use common sense and follow the best advice about tackling this as is available, against that which makes common sense.  

Prayers would be appreciated during this time.  I'll post updates as they occur.  

UPDATE: Two more have tested positive, my youngest and me.  The others appear OK.  We'll keep praying and doing what we can. 

UPDATE II:  We have no way of knowing exactly when we got this.  My two sons tested positive on Tuesday, and my youngest and I yesterday.  It's very much like a worse than normal cold with congestion, annoying coughing and sore throats being the common symptoms.  My wife and mom are living in the west side of the house, and my second oldest staying with his girlfriend's family.  His workplace starts a policy on January that if anyone misses past sick day limits to Covid and hasn't been vaccinated, they'll be fired.  So he must stay away.  We figure it will give them a nice preview of being together in a controlled environment.  Overall things are slightly better today, but only on some averaging out of the symptoms. That is, in a couple certain symptoms are worse.  Other symptoms are better.  I'm probably the worst of the bunch, with a lingering fatigue, but then I'm the oldest.  Oddly the doctor responded with a pretty low key list of suggestion on how to deal with this.  

UPDATE III: Well our second youngest just tested positive, so he'll be coming back.  His girlfriend's family have all been vaccinated, so we'll see there.  I fear this is just going to go through our whole house.  My wife and mom are in isolation, but it isn't as if we're living in a castle or anything.  So we'll see. My mom and wife are the ones we're most concerned about for obvious reasons.  

UPDATE IV: It's official, everyone has it.  Well, we haven't tested my mom.  At her age, we fear the nasal test would play havoc on her and likely not get a good read after several tries.  Given the first signs that the rest of us have had, we'll assume.  So that's that.  The whole household.  Things are ebbing and flowing with us, and those who have had it the longest are sort of on a two steps forward and one step back trajectory.  So prayers will be appreciated, especially for my wife and mom, but really for us all.  Thanks. 

WaPo columnist Kate Cohen would have been happy to be aborted for her mother's freedom

Says so right here.  I chalk this up to the multibillionaire who was born into wealth and privilege saying he wishes he didn't have all that money.  It's easy to say when you have all that money.  Likewise, Ms. Cohen can only make the claim that she would happily be aborted for her mother's freedom for the sole reason that her mother chose not to abort her.  

Proxy martyrdom has become the lifeblood of the modern Left.  The idea that there is no end to the suffering and death of millions of others I'm willing to tolerate for my righteousness is almost a motto of modern liberalism.  The growing push for women to celebrate and rejoice in abortion as the most defining privilege of womanhood thrives on this form of crusading.  

I thought this would be a relevant post for this, the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  Massacring the most innocent of humans in one form or another has been almost as human as free will through the ages.  It was a strange and freakishly odd revelation among the ancient Hebrews that this First Cause we'll know as God would not wish us to sacrifice these most precious of all human lives on an altar.  

Nonetheless, humans have fought against that revelation for eons, and have won significant victories over it in recent generations.  Hence why it's easy to condemn the Christian Europeans for their sins and embrace the pagan civilizations that Europeans wronged.  For all its faults, sanctity of life was a Christian cultural mandate, even if those Christians often failed to live up to the ideal.

For most other cultures and civilizations, on the other hand, the ideal was that human life is generally cheap and easily discarded when it failed to serve the tribe or empire.  Something our modern Left seems to prefer.  Thus the ease with which they openly and broadly celebrate various 'Indigenous Peoples', even if those peoples practiced matricide, patricide, infanticide and even human sacrifice as a matter of course.  

When our civilization is pushing to do the same, we find a common bond with those old displaced cultures.  We don't celebrate them despite their practice of human sacrifice or infanticide.  It's increasingly obvious that we celebrate them precisely because of their practice of human sacrifice or infanticide.  God save us. 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The story of King Wenceslas

And that Feast of Stephen we hear so much about.  Donald McClarey does the heavy lifting so we don't have to.  If I was only allowed to visit five websites, I would make sure The American Catholic was one of them. 

Not that he is writing full historical texts on the subject.  But compared to what passes as historical studies today, his posts about various historical figures and events is practically on the level of doctoral dissertations.  It reminds me of the history as it was commonly presented even when I was a young fellow.  

So enjoy the read and learn a little about someone who comes up in our yearly stock of Christmas carols, but who was so much more. 

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about,
Deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shown the moon that night,
Though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
Gathering winter fuel.
Hither, page, and stand by me.
If thou know it telling:
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?
Sire, he lives a good league hence,
Underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes fountain.
Bring me flesh, and bring me wine.
Bring me pine logs hither.
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear the thither.
Page and monarch, forth they went,
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather.
Sire, the night is darker now,
And the wind blows stronger.
Fails my heart, I know not how.
I can go no longer.
Ark my footsteps my good page,
Tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.
In his master's step he trod,
Where the snow lay dented.
Heat was in the very sod
Which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas!

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  Luke 2.6-7

Friday, December 24, 2021

A perfect Christmas Eve panel

 From simply the best comic strip of all time, Calvin and Hobbes:

No other Christmas panel ever evoked like that.  True, it's not religious in any way.  The strip usually wasn't, and avoided taking sides when religion was mentioned at all.  But it captured perfectly the sentiment of children everywhere the night before the big Day.

I've never felt that it's wrong to have worldly customs or attempt to enjoy life in this world wrapped around the Sacred. Ours is an earthy faith, and as long as things are kept in perspective, I've always thought the natural bonds of human interaction and the traditions they bear have never in themselves offended the Almighty.

Nonetheless, it wasn't difficult to see we did lose perspective as a nation, a society, a civilization.  The panel above would have come out in the late 80s to early 1990s.  By then we were already mighty secularized, but the move had not gone from non-Christian to post-Christian yet.  Links to the past were still in our cultural bloodstream.  You could expect most commercials of the day to look like they were produced at any time in the previous eighty years. Not by the end of the 90s.  By then we were clearly moving from post-Christian into the early stages of anti-Christian.  I can see why some began to think that anything secular was some intrusion upon the sacredness of the season. 

As I've said before, my dad was a railroad engineer.  As such, his schedule was pretty random and at no point in the year could we expect him to be home at any given time.  Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day cookouts were whenever he was available.  Only Christmas, by the later years when he had seniority and seniority mattered, was available to be planned around.

That's likely why of all times of the year, we cram as many traditions into this season as we can.  In fact, the whole of Fall until the end of February (our anniversary) is our family's big scene, with Christmas as the crescendo of activities. 

So speaking of all this time to do things, I'll be scarce in the coming days, owing to those activities.  The boys are still at home, but my one son's relationship with his girlfriend has begun to include whispers of long term commitments.  My oldest is eying graduate school.  Whether it will be online, nearby or somewhere else remains to be seen.  I think he's warming to online schooling, we'll see.  Meanwhile, my other son is bucking for a promotion and will take and go where it takes him if the opportunity arises.  Our youngest, of course, is here for the next few years in any event. As is, God willing, my mom. 

Perhaps one or more will have moved out by the end of the upcoming year. Perhaps they won't. But we all know when it comes to our little family homestead, the evening is near and the days are nearly over. So that precious commodity of time will be spent with the gang as we enjoy the old traditions, do so with new friends and relationships, and even add a couple new to the batch.

So have a blessed and merry Christmas.  I'll pop in and out throughout the twelve days.  TTFN, and God bless!

Speaking of new traditions, we had our go at a gingerbread house, at the request of our youngest.  We cheated, it was a ready-made kit.  We tried doing it from scratch, and the lesson of the house built on the sand came to mind.  

Not only mom and my wife, but even the dog got into the act!

Laura Klassen contuinues to be a bright star in the pro-life movement

And more courageous than most who wear the label 'pro-life advocate.' 

The Pro-Life movement, which is not a heresy, has certainly got its work cut out.  We live in an age where old understandings of human life and its value are being overturned by forces with no concern about human life or its value at all, unless it befits the individual in question.  Hence the nations banning capital punishment are generally the same ones falling over themselves to broaden abortion rights, suicide rights, and flirting with euthanasia for the worst of these. Those who align with this modern culture of death are left with repeating the lies and slanders used by pro-abortion activists against those who would protect the least of these.

One lie is that pro-lifers don't give a rip about poor mothers or starving babies.  As much as I've asked for stats to back up that claim, I've never had anyone provide me with the data to prove it.  And as if to make sure that lie is shown for the BS it is, Ms. Klassen does yeoman's work making sure mothers-to-be of any stripe are taken care of and new mothers and new babies are cared for to the best of our abilities.  

So for instance:

I don't know how to link to the Amazon page.  Here is a link to her Facebook account, and perhaps you can go from there.  It might be a widow's mite.  But it's nice for Christian allies of the pro-abortion movement to remember Christ was rather silent on Rome's various measures used to maintain the Pax Romana.  He did, on the other hand, have great praise for that widow who gave what she could to the cause. So as we celebrate that birth of births, here's a chance to help other births that are precious in the eyes of God, even if they rank lower in our modern godless nation. 

And just because these little gems say what most religious leaders are scared to say, here's another reminder of Ms. Klassen's fine (and witty) work for life: 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

I hate this so much

 But he's right, as far as his being right goes:

True, Mark seems to ignore the myriad cases of leftwing assaults on the meaning of Christmas.  But in this case, he's correct.  This is every bit as bad as any commercial or worldly exploitation of Christmas.  It's as bad as a series of commercials some years ago that featured a guy in a Santa Clause outfit pushing male enhancement paraphernalia.  

I'm quite the fan of President Reagan.  I don't think he was always right, but I think he was a great president.  Likewise I absolutely support the 2nd Amendment and the right to defend ourselves.  But I would never say 'God, Guns, and Reagan. THAT'S what Christmas is all about'. I wouldn't have said that before I became a Christian!  I certainly wouldn't condone it today.

Let's try to be more careful if we are serious about stopping the waves of crazy that are covering our modern world.  Things like this aren't just bad because they give ammo to those pushing the crazy.  They're bad because they're wrong.  And being on the side of right doesn't give us the right to do wrong.

Using your children as liberal lab rats is all the rage

 Even at Christmastime, per this gut wrenching article at Today.

Wow.  In their Holiday card no less!  Because a child too young to use a public bathroom alone can decide she's opposite of her body's gender and it's gospel truth.  This is a demonic madness driven by Hell, and the children being dissected and mutilated to slake our sense of pride are the victims.

Note, by the way, the sleight of hand.  When I was growing up (1970s), we were taught that girls wearing skirts and boys playing with toy soldiers were all due to subjective gender role conditioning.  There was no objective reason for women to wear skirts or boys wear pants.  That was all because of social conditioning.  Note in the story that it was the girl not wanting to wear a skirt that started this.  Not that the skirt was a culturally conditioned expectation that could be solved by wearing pants.  Nope.  It can only mean that not wanting to wear a skirt must mean you're really a man.   We will deserve everything future generations say about us.

It's not enough that we've aborted babies by the hundreds of millions in order to sustain a world of sexual decadence and drug use even as tens of millions have died of AIDS and drugs.  It's not enough that the entire family structure has gone off the rails even as depression, drug addiction, drug dependency and suicide among our youngest generations is off the scale.  It's not enough that we've lived long enough to see the failed theories and ideas about how to really raise children in affirmation and positive reinforcement bear the fruit of massacre and death and misery. 

Nope.  We have to play Frankenstein with an entire generation.  Will there be generations as horribly stupid and evil as ours in the future?  I hope not.  We're fast on track of surpassing everything that ever came before us when it comes to terrible.  

Tell me we're the generation with the right to condemn anyone  in the past.  At times I almost feel bad trashing Nazis.  Unlike them, we have them as our examples to learn from, and look what's happening.  It all makes me remember that the first Christmas was not a Hallmark movie.  It was a sad and insignificant event in a wide world of war, killing, oppression, slavery, corruption, and hopelessness.  We merely learned that out of the world in that day with all its problems, that one small event was the one that mattered. 

Grumpy Note:  It was maddening to read the article because the parents insist on referring to their child in the 3rd Person Plural.  It took me a few to figure it out.  I kept having to go back and reread what I read thinking I missed something.   Well done mental health industry.  Make reality a state of mind and day to day living an insurmountable obstacle achieved only by counseling at 80.00/hour or prescription medications.   All while suicide, drugs and depression continue to go off the scale.  Someone, some day will have the guts to call out this farce for what it is.  Sadly for these children, today is not that day. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021


The Texas Tribune officially wins the unreal prize for the day:

Read it all.  I love reading this: 

Weeks after having sex with someone, he noticed his menstrual period was late. While his hormone therapy affected the consistency of his periods, he worried about the possibility of being pregnant. Winsor anxiously awaited test results, recognizing how limited his options would be if he were pregnant.
Sex with 'someone.'  How slick and vague.  A nation willing to declare squares round, and convince the populace that anyone saying they aren't round should be punished, is a nation that lost its freedoms ages ago. We're just stupid enough to figure since we still get lots of sex and drugs and abortions we must be free. 

This is the country we're leaving our children.  In a godless, nihilistic sense, this is a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.  But from a Christian perspective?   All I can think of is this:

Because that, when they knew God, they have not glorified him as God, or given thanks; but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened.  For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.  And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of four footed beasts, and of creeping things.  Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves, who changed the truth of God into a lie; and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever.  Amen.  Romans 1.21-25

God has cut us loose, and we're heading for the edge.  And it's going to be a bad fall.  One that our children and their children will have to endure. 

A different take on Time

So we were talking the other night as we often do.  A couple of our boys were here and one of them with his girlfriend.  The conversation swung toward religion as it often does.  We were talking about the state of things in the world and where things will go.  

My oldest son then said something I hadn't thought about before.  I'm sure others have said it before, and others have thought of it before.  Perhaps I've thought about it in a vague sense.  But it was the first time I actually thought it through and pondered the idea.

He said what if all of human history so far and up until now is just the beginning?  What if humanity is set to exist for the next million years or so, and all that we have so far - from the most ancient cultures and beginnings, up until today - will be just a small footnote at the beginning of history books a million years from now?

Wow. I hadn't really thought of that.  Like all generations, we tend to have a 'Fourth Quarter' mentality.  We rightly say we're closer to the end than the beginning.  Every day we're at least closer than we were.  That's true.  This was especially common thinking during the Cold War when we imagined it was only a matter of time before the Nuclear apocalypse destroyed the world.

That's why we tend to see history backwards.  We'll cover the history of the Assyrian Empire in two paragraphs, but have the last hundred years dominate a dozen chapters.  But what if all of this is just a pre-game warm up for the real history that is hundreds of thousands  of years away?  What if Jesus really did, once all is said and done, come at the beginning of the human race?  At least that's how those generations hundreds of thousands of years away will see it. 

Again, I hadn't thought of that before.  I imagine we're getting close.  After thousands of years of ancient civilization Christ came into the world, and after a couple thousand years it will end.  A couple thousand years I imagine isn't too far away.  But maybe not.  In a universe measuring time in the billions of years, what's couple million?  Maybe the last 50,000 years is just a warm up for the real history yet to happen.  A history where the last 50,000 years will only be a tiny dot on a vast, endless timeline. 

Made me think.  

For he knoweth our frame.  He remembereth that we are dust:
Man's days are as grass, as the flower of the field so shall he flourish
For the spirit shall pass in him, and he shall not be: and he shall know his place no more
Psalm 102.14-16

Tuesday, December 21, 2021



A singular favorite

I posted on my favorite Christmas songs of the season a week or so ago.  Truth be told, had I written that on another day, the list would be different. Some would still be there, but a couple would have been changed.  

Take the hymn All Come All Ye Faithful.  That is one of the earliest Christmas songs I remember hearing. My sister got a small musical play organ for Christmas when she was little.  It had a couple books of music for it.  One was a book of Christmas songs, and this was on the list.  It was the one she tried to play (and later, I successfully learned to play).

Perhaps because of that, a sort of 'familiarity breeds contempt', I usually don't put this as a favorite.  I've heard it for so many years it's more of less just part of the Christmas canvas.  Especially because it's often played in churches across every tradition but Orthodoxy.   

Nonetheless, there is one version I absolutely love, and if I was writing about which versions of Christmas songs I love, it would be this one:

Andy Williams was a favorite for both my parents.  Along with my dad's other records, he had several of Mr. Williams and I used to listen to them as much as any others.  His powerful yet smooth voice just struck the right chord for me. 

But his version of this standard is one of the best.  The whole builds to a crescendo by the end when he hits the last 'The Lord' in the lyrics, he absolutely sticks it.  Musically speaking, he hits absolute perfection, with both that high note and the lovely fade away.  I don't hear him nail that last note without getting goose bumps.  

I have a couple Andy Williams CDs and albums, and they're staples for our annual Christmas play lists.  But when this one comes on, I stop what I'm doing and listen.  By the end, it's worth it every time.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Because to quesiton Vatican II is to be a racist

Says so right here:

Yep.  I was going to comment, but I realized nothing I could say would make it look worse or less charitable than it already does.  

May the Lord protect faithful Catholics from the pope

By now many have heard the news that Pope Francis has fired yet another salvo at the Latin Mass.  I went to find defenders of Pope Francis trying to spin this, but haven't found any.  In fact, among those I often went to in order to hear 'the other side' regarding support for Pope Francis, I've seen little in recent weeks.  Most defenders seem to have dropped off after President Biden announced to the world that Pope Francis sees a rabid pro-abortion politician as a model of Catholic fealty. I guess that is hard to defend unless you're a post-Catholic modernist. 

Sometimes it's worth remembering that in the days surrounding that first Christmas, the religious leadership was likely no more inspiring than many see in Christian leadership today.  A very unpopular 'king' ruled over the land, but in clear obedience to the power of Rome.  Rome itself had recently seized control of the region and the people.  Things looked dour.  

Like today.  Many are abandoning the Faith because I fear the faithful sparred with the rising modern secularism from a point of naiveté.  They believed there was common ground, and assumed good will and the search for objective truth from anyone but the faithful.  That was clearly wrong.  While we spent generations trying to find ways to evangelize the World, including changing and modifying anything we could to keep up with the World, it was successfully evangelizing us. 

For those who have weathered the storm and strive to remain faithful to the historical, orthodox Catholic faith, future years will prove quite lonely.  As lonely as those disciples who followed Jesus between so many splinter groups who went this way and that in reaction to the spirit of the time in those days.  

Just as thought as I muse on the days surrounding that first Christmas, and the troubling times in which we find ourselves today. 

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child.  Luke 2. 4-5

Saturday, December 18, 2021

I had no idea


Hmmm, why do I already question the historical accuracy of this?  Let me see.

My problem isn't that a black woman is playing the role of a woman who historically wasn't black.  If blacks want to do their own historical productions recounting European history, I'm actually OK with that.

My problem is that at the very same moment, if a white woman played Harriet Tubman or a white man MLK, or Shaka Zulu, you'd have screaming from coast to coast.  Accusations of racism and cultural appropriation would fly like bullets.  That is a double standard based on ethnicity.  And that, of course, is racism.  

Racism has come back to American life in ways we've not seen since Jim Crow.  Furthermore, it's fully endorsed by our educational institutions, our popular culture, our news media and even our churches and religious leaders.  

Those who are aghast at this are divided into two camps:  Those trying to find somewhere to compromise and those who are aghast at this but find little in the way of support for calling it for what it is.

What will come of the future I don't know.  Ten years ago I didn't think a person would be fired for saying there is such a thing as boys and girls.  Nor did I imagine that a growing number of Americans would accept that  all whites are racist, therefore such contributions of old white racists as freedom of speech or equality must be jettisoned.  Therefore I'm not in a position to make guesses. 

I just see that things are happening fast.  Those who insist it's all a big bunch of nothing should fly to Munich.  I'm sure you'll be able to secure peace for our time. 

NBC goes to bat for Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory, which alternately does and doesn't exist, and is being advocated and not advocated in our schools, is given a boost by this propaganda piece.  NBC pulls the ages old trick of finding students whose experience fits with the agenda, ignoring all others.  That is, students who paint a picture of life in their school systems laden by KKK style racism, begging for 'solutions' to their plight. 

File under 'CRT is the hope and salvation for our racist school systems'.  Next week we will likely be told why there is no such thing as CRT, and if you oppose it you're a racist.  That's what comes from our schools working for decades to turn our citizenry into a nation of drugged up, sexed up nihilists.  Only such a nation would fall for this.  

Pray for the racism and evil of BLM

Yes, Black Lives Matter has emerged as not merely a pro-Marxist, anti-American organization, but a racist one too.  It sees whites the way Nazis saw Jews.  Not that this sets them apart from much of what we see today.  The modern Left embraces and embodies many of the gravest evils of the last century.

The only hope to deliver future years from this type of evil is prayer.  God alone can raise up those needed to stop such movements.  God alone can touch the hearts and souls of those who have been swayed by this evil. 

As for Christian leaders, including Catholic ones, who extol the virtues of BLM and equate it with the only acceptable way to embrace the Gospel?  Just remember all those Christians and Catholics who happily draped the swastika over the sanctuary altars.  It's what we believers do when we're not careful, or when we're actively cowards.

In any event, just remember during that first Christmas, times were bleak.  Rome was calling the shots.  Oppression and suffering were everywhere.  Jewish leaders and Jews in general were trying to find ways to suck up to the new power from the West.  It's the plight of the true believer that we must often wade through our fellow believers and even leaders long before we stand poised to combat the latest evil of the day. 

Friday, December 17, 2021

A Christmas fantasy

Can Christmastime be far behind?
Or should I say that fantasy feeling of Christmas.  I grew up in what I call a secular Christian household.  That's why I used the term to describe what I see in the general Faith today. I often see on a grand scale in the modern Church what I experienced growing up.  That is, we were culturally Protestant Christians because of course we were. We weren't Buddhists, Jewish, certainly not Catholic and, as far as I know, weren't Druid.  Therefore Christian.  But more because of what we weren't than what we were. 

My parents were believers, both of them.  Though Dad seldom graced the doors of a church until much later in life.  Mom was baptized shortly after I was born, courtesy of a neighborhood Baptist pastor who bore an uncanny resemblance to Colonel Sanders.  She was following in the footsteps of her mother, who only recently before had entered the Faith as well. 

Nonetheless, despite my mom's throwing herself into church activities, and dragging me along to VBS here or Sunday School programs there, our household was more or less secular.  We didn't pray before meals.  We seldom referenced God unless it was to call down condemnation on the world's latest leap away from traditional values.  A manger scene at Christmas with some Wise Men ornaments, next to that old Children's Bible everyone had back then, was about it. 

And every Christmas, my mom would lament the day we stopped [Spoiler Alert] believing in Santa.  She used to say how the loss of that belief just took away the magic of the holiday.  Yeah.  She got much better in later years, and I'd like to think my conversion and subsequent headfirst dive into vocational ministry helped her along.  But that was what I heard every year once I figured things out - the real magic of Christmas was gone now that we discovered the truth behind Fred Astaire's counterculture version of the tale.

Perhaps that's why, after a few years of hearing that, I began to seek ways to embrace a more magical fantasy feel during the fall and Christmas months.  As early as middle school, I can recall being a little more open to the whole fantasy gig, especially once fall and winter holidays rolled around.  It didn't come easy.  Fantasy wasn't something that was big in my house.  Nor was it big in popular culture during my younger, formative years.  The most I had as a kid was B-sci fi movies on matinee television shows or schlock D-grade horror movies on the Friday night double feature with Fritz the Night Owl.  

But by middle school, my desire to supplant this 'lack of magic' with something couldn't have come at a more fortuitous time.  After all, it was what I call the Great Fantasy Renaissance that was kicked off by the cultural phenomenon that was Star Wars.  All of a sudden, fantasy and sci-fi was everywhere.  

A fine magical mystery story

Through no particular design, I just began to encounter or receive things that pointed me in that direction.  If I didn't receive them, I saw them.  Again, by the early 1980s - my middle school and early high school years - fantasy and science fiction were everywhere you looked.  Toys, games, movies, books, television shows - you name it.  

In just a few years, I received Space Invaders for Atari, as well as Atari's Adventure game.  Without asking, my parents bought me the Dark Tower board game for my birthday.  Of course there was still Star Wars, even if by the early 1980s the 'phenomenon' was finally beginning to wane.  Though it was replaced by some pretty high profile movies of the genre that would have been unthinkable a half dozen years earlier.  Movies like Conan the Barbarian, Dragonslayer, E.T., Excalibur.  There were arcade games aplenty that centered on these themes.  Dragon's Lair, Gauntlet and Crossbow were just a few that I played through the mid 1980s.  

Of course in those days, Dungeons and Dragons was the big fad and hadn't yet been confined to the ghettoes by the media.  Once in my sophomore year, at around Christmas time, I went to a gaming group that met in the basement of our First Federal Bank.  I went to peddle an idea I had for a WWII version of RISK.  While there, I saw D&D (and other similar games) played for the first time, which is probably why I didn't play it much.  Most of what I saw was a bunch of guys fighting and arguing.  I often wondered if it was because the game didn't have a stigma yet.  There were as many jocks and varsity lettermen as there were geeks and dropouts.  Perhaps it was the clash of culture between guys who normally wouldn't be caught dead with each other in school that led to the bickering. 

I dunno.  I just know that when I went it was around Christmas, as it happened to be with so many of the other offerings I've mentioned.  The arcade games were often played in or around Christmas break, when we went to other cities that had such arcade offerings in shopping centers our little town lacked.  The gifts I received, such as the Monster Manual I mentioned here, or Space Invaders, or Dark Tower, were for my birthday (December) or Christmas.  It was the mid 1980s also that my best friend bequeathed me his Christmas gift of Time Life's Enchanted World series.  Or at least the first few books he received. 

In short, by design or chance or both, I found myself swarmed by so many things that were of the sci-fi or fantasy, especially fantasy, genre, even as I was seeking out the same.  And almost always these occured some time around the holidays.  It wasn't just that I was trying to replace some lost sense of magic that my mom talked about.  Some of it was the timing.  It was just part of the cultural fads of the day.  My parents were likely just buying things they saw advertised, and friends were jumping on the latest bandwagon as kids will do. 

But it all conspired to leave imprinted in my mind an odd connection between fantasy and the fantastical at Christmas, even though I never considered myself a big fan of the genre.  It became a connection that stayed through my teen and young adult years, even before I became a Christian after college.  The hidden desire to replace that "magic" that my mom talked about bore fruit, whether I imagined it would or not.  Even if the ways in which it was sated were as much chance or cultural coincidence as anything.  Perhaps. 

Sometimes I think that inadvertent connection between the fantasy, the magical, and the mystical story of Christmas itself managed to keep me, for want of a better word, rooted.  In my most secular days in college, when I strove against logic to be an agnostic or even, dare I say, a full fledged atheist, I always found myself drawn back around Christmastime.  At the time it was likely because of this saturation of 'fantasy magical' that happened to enter my life at different Christmas signposts.  But it was enough for me to dispense with my 'STEM as Alpha and Omega' worldview I was desperately trying to cultivate. A development that, in hindsight, made it a bit easier to take the first step over Jordan once the time came. 

Fantasy and Christmas began to make sense

Thursday, December 16, 2021

I take no pleasure in this

When I did my time at Patheos, in response to the Trump impeachment mob, I pointed out that during the Watergate scandal, my parents were upset at the idea of Nixon being removed from office.  Despite being lifelong Democrats (at least up to that point), they took no pleasure in seeing the president driven out in scandal.  They knew that would be bad for the country as a whole, and so it was.  I won't bother with the reaction from the good readers at Patheos.

I thought of that when I read this rather gleeful story at FOX News, that President Biden was met with jeers as he toured the devastation in Kentucky.  I'm old enough to remember, on the whole, that partisanship happened after tragedies or disasters or other grievous loss of life events.  But it usually took some time.  Give it a week or two.  Sometimes a month or more, before the partisan sharks started swimming.

I won't cast blame.  It isn't as if FOX is doing something uniquely repulsive, or those jeering are in some way breaking from modern tradition.  Immediately rushing in to put a partisan spin while even the bodies haven't been gathered up has become as American as apple pie and racism used to be.  And the last thing I could ever say is that it's those rascally right winger types who are behind it all.  I couldn't say who first decided political exploitation should be our first response.  But if I was a betting man - and I'm not - I'd put it firmly on some progressive activism, like guns and gun violence and rushing to make it about gun control before facts are known or bodies are covered.  

In any event, it shows have far we've sunk as a nation.  The divisions are so deep now I wonder at what point we'll stop, or if we've passed a point of no return.  In any event, I admit that President Biden is on the fast track to being one of our worst presidents ever.  And that's from someone who remembers President Carter, President Obama and President George W. Bush.  Nonetheless, there are times and places, and this is certainly neither.  Not for a nation that has its priorities straight. 

Letting the World win again and again

 Over at The American Catholic, Donald McClarey posted this little gem:

Heh.  As one can expect, his claim is false.  Even though it's a favorite scapegoat for leftwing Catholics, we all know the growing demographic of 'former Catholic' is not due to some post-Trump phenomenon.  The Catholic Church has been bleeding numbers for decades.  As have so many historical religions.  Generally, the more religious traditions try to accommodate modern, progressive ideologies, the faster they die.  Ross Douthat pointed that out some years ago.  He noted that every attempt by a monotheistic religion to accommodate modern liberalism results in that religion's demise.  In this helpful little post from a couple years ago, Brandon Vogt goes to the trouble of laying out the numbers. 

Douthat is right.  That's because while we thought we were compromising and accommodating in order to evangelize the World, the World was zealously evangelizing the faithful.  Even when I was in school (c. 1980s), we learned Christianity was a religion started by Jesus, much in the same way Islam was started by Muhammad, or Buddhism by the Buddha.  That is, a secular anthropological spin on religion where religion is inspired, not revealed.  An enormous difference.

This last semester my son took a Classical Mythology course in college.  The same course that was offered when I went to OSU.  Back then, most of the Bible was taught as historically grounded fiction.  That is, no doubt there was a King David, likely an Abraham, and certainly a Jesus of Nazareth.  But the majority of events in their lives were made up fairy tales and fiction just like all religions.  After all, science has debunked the spiritual and miraculous, and scholarship has long shown all religions were simply invented by ancient man in lieu of modern research.  

Today, however, my son learned that most of the Bible likely never happened at all.  Perhaps there were shadowy kings of ancient kingdoms, but no David or Solomon.  Those were fictional creations no different than Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker.  Jesus?  They weren't so radical as to take the new atheist spin that no such  person existed.  Sure there was some obscure religious figure at that time, but later generations invented the whole 'you'll call His name Jesus' story along with all the rest.  Again, pure myth, fairy tales and fiction.  The next step in the World's great mission.   

And this has been in more than our schools and colleges..  Our media and popular culture have been indoctrinating against the teachings of Christianity for decades.  By the time I came along, Christianity usually scored about a .350 in American society.  That is, about one third of the time a pop culture reference would allude to Christianity in at least a non-negative way.  The rest of the time?  Almost exclusively negative. 

Should we be surprised, therefore that, contrary to Mark's silliness above, the main reason people are leaving the Catholic Church is THEY NO LONGER BELIEVE ITS TEACHINGS?  That is, they're apostates.  They're rejecting the Gospel and rejecting the existence of God Almighty.  They say in their hearts now that there is no God.  They have taken the Gospel and rejected it.  They believe the Bible no more than they believe The Hobbit.  They no longer believe there was a baby in a manger, a man walking on water, or a Messiah crucified by Rome.  THEY DON'T BELIEVE IT.  

It has nothing to do with politics.  Look at how little the abuse scandal has to do with their rejection of the Church.  Less so the Church being vaguely 'too political.'  It's because they have been converted by the World, have rejected the Gospel and God, and are now believers in a godless, Christless reality.  That's why. 

I can't help but think a big part of this is because the Church, and Christianity in general, has spent many generations meeting this Wordily evangelism with compromise, acquiesce, retreat or even surrender.  And that has done nothing but affirm what these modern generations have been taught: That all religion is made up stories and rules by people who make it up as they go for their own interests.  

They might be happy to see the Church declare that it's open to nothing but pleasure beneath the waistline where transgenderism or gay sex is concerned.  But they also know the Church isn't doing this because a bunch of Catholic sages just emerged from years of pouring over ancient tomes and concluded a new development in understanding the Scriptures is warranted.  They know it's because the World stood up like a colossus, smacked the Church, the Church immediately soiled itself and then scurried to change yet another teaching or doctrine because the World said so.  That is why they are leaving.  

To sum up: The generations in which Christians have accepted the World as right, and changed the Faith accordingly, haven't worked.  That's because it was never done in some objective vacuum of non-agendas, with the World just innocently seeking the truth.  The World all along (dare I say, Satan) was feverishly working to convert God's children away from Him, using whatever latest tools were available.  Each time the World demanded change and was met with a willingness to do so, it fed into the World's claims that religion has never been anything but made up tales and rules to begin with. 

As one young wag asked, if religions are willing to admit how wrong they have been about everything visible in this world - human nature, sexuality, justice, social ethics - why would any sane person believe what they had to say about some God or Spirit or Afterlife in the invisible other world?  It's a fair question.  And one the Church had best start pondering before it and it alone ushers any more disciples of Christ out the door and into the outer darkness.  

Now the Spirit manifestly saith, that in the last times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to spirits of error, and doctrines of devils  1 Timothy 4.1  

All hail the Internet!

 So help me I laughed for over twenty minutes:

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Mayor Eric Johnson gets it

Mayor Eric Johnson, Democrat, mayor of Dallas, understands reality.  That is, there are obviously racists in the Democratic Party.  Duh.  Of course there are.  Racism can be anywhere and promoted by anyone, including blacks.  That should be like saying oxygen exists. 

It's a testament to the stupid of our most educated generation that people actually believe good and evil exists along purely Red State/Blue State lines. You can thank the news media for that.  Nobody does 'divide people up into categories and label them accordingly' better than the press.  

I doubt most really believe that.  When my former ethics professor David Gushee said history is divided between the good people on the Left, versus the baddies on the Right, I can't believe he really thought that.  It's just convenient.  We live in an age of truth by convenience.  If it's convenient, it becomes true. Even if we know better.

Likewise, so many Christians who have aligned with the same Left they once openly condemned rest heavily on the premise that liberal Democrats are simply the beautiful people, or at least the better people, unlike Republican Nazis who are always stupid, evil and wrong.  Again, I can't believe they really think something so stupid and demonstrably false.  It's just a convenient excuse to justify aligning with something they once labeled as evil or dangerous.  

The problem is, to keep such a stupid and false narrative - that Blue is beautiful, Red is Satan - one must indulge in some pretty underhanded and duplicitous wrangling. Chief among the tricks to ignore grave evils - such as racism - when it doesn't uphold this little lie of racism on one side of the tracks only.  Sure, the odd minority might be hurt or even killed.  Sure this or that person might suffer.  But the justification for allegiance must be maintained, so turning a blind eye to that inconvenient evil is necessary.

Note, this is not to say there are no racists in the Republican party.  Or that conservatives can't be racist.  Or that we can't sometimes embrace ideas that are prejudiced against others without realizing it.  All of these things are obviously true.   One of the strengths of liberalism has been to point out problems or flaws that obviously exist, but then run forward with solutions that may not be as obvious.  

And it's not to say anyone - conservatives or Republicans or whoever - can't fall into the trap of tribalism and turning blind eyes to the problems in your own camp.  But this is different.  This isn't even willful blindness. It's become a mandatory strategy to immediately downplay, ignore or deny grave evils or human suffering that challenge the stupid idea of Blue Good/Red Bad.  It isn't refusing to admit the evils because we can do that sometimes.   It's having to not only deny, but attack people trying to fix the evils, because the allegiance depends on the lie, and the lie must be upheld at all costs. 

Sometimes I'm glad we went through years of hell to become Catholic

Then there are times like this.  As some of my former ordained colleagues are moving into retirement, ministers emeritus with a pension and healthcare and time to golf, I consider everything we lost and then see the Church drop another rabbit jelly bean under pressure from the World.

At what point will the fracture tear through the Church?  At what point will we see some form of schism between those who take the historical Catholic Faith seriously, and those who are prepared to throw it under the bus to cleave unto the Global Left, I can't say.

It won't be pretty.  Those Catholics selling out will know what they're doing, and those who know they are in the wrong but can't bring themselves to resist are often the most dangerous of the bunch. Think Rolf in The Sound of Music.  

Not that those who betray the Faith will need to go out of their way to cause problems.  The Left has demonstrated an almost pride in broadening the extermination of undesirables all while fomenting race hate, ethnic cleansing, and a desire to eliminate our rights and liberties.  Despite it all, how many continue to fall over themselves to maintain allegiance to this global revolution?  

My strong feeling is to hunker down in prayer, good works and the Sacraments.  Will come a time when something will happen.  Then we'll know.  But until then, drop anchor and pray, fast, and prepare.  

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.  Revelation 2.10

Monday, December 13, 2021

Prayers for Kentucky and the tornado victims across the US

Kentucky is our sort of second home.  Two of our sons were born there.  I went to seminary in Louisville.  I began my ministry proper in Kentucky and southern Indiana.  Not a month goes by that we don't miss our time living down there. Especially our time when we lived in Louisville.

So it was devastating to see that carnage left by those storms over the weekend.  Any disasters the bring such harm and suffering and death are a reminder of the fragility of life.  Those that happen at this time of year make it all the worst.  

Prayers for the victims lost and their families.  May the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, cover their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  

Donald McClarey, at The American Catholic, has a link for those wishing to help beyond our prayers for their spiritual and emotional health.  

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Don't shoot the underlings

So I saw this story float by.  A young social media user claiming that there was no such place as Ancient Rome.  Nope.  The whole thing was a giant conspiracy of Spanish Inquisitors. What?  Welcome to 21st Century scholarship. In the end, she's merely an intellectual underling parroting the level of scholarship that has come to dominate academia in our generation. 

For instance, while scholars who are sympathetic to any attempt to tarnish Christianity gave kudos where they could, many still thought that Candida Moss's assertion that there was no real Roman persecution of Christians in ancient Rome was stretching things a bit.  Her claim is that, save for about twelve years of very limited persecution, the whole story of martyrs to Rome was lies and propaganda.  A twist on Holocaust denial aimed at the Christian Faith.  FWIW, critics say she relies on a torture of the historical record that makes Jack Chick's appraisal of Dungeons and Dragons seem spot on. 

Yet these are hardly new.  My whole life I've seen tabloid scholars chasing after this or that headline under the calling that one must publish or perish.  The best way to do this is to insist you've made some bold discovery that nobody has ever thought of before - whether it is true or not.  Never mind the biases and agendas that can be behind such dribble.  In the age of the Internet, however, something like Ms. Moss's book, or even this misguided child in the above story, can suddenly become prophets of revealed truth - because of course they are.   Remember, what passes for scholarship, research and even science can at times have less objectivity than a poetry reading in Greenwich Village.

Nonetheless, we laugh at such things at our own peril.  After all, the young girl in the story is simply a misfired bullet of stupid that went off a little too early.  If she backed up and said there was no Ancient Roman persecution of Christianity, she could be on her way to awards and honors and doctoral degrees in any one of a thousand of our fine institutions of higher learning today. 

And tomorrow the next generation will begin to catch up with her.  After all, if I went back twenty years and told you people today could risk official retaliation for claiming that there is such a thing as boys and girls, you'd likely have laughed me out of the room.  So much for laughter. 

RIP Michael Nesmith

I saw that Michael Nesmith, one of the members of the band The Monkees, has died.  RIP.

The Monkees were before my time.  Three months to be precise.  They rode the wave of Beatlemania, being put together by studio execs just in time to capitalize on that growing demographic of 14 year olds, especially 14 year old girls, who were being left behind as Lennon, McCartney and the gang donned goatees, mustaches and granny glasses and began the march toward making popular music into a true art form.  

I remember seeing the episode of American Bandstand that showcased a new song by The Beatles, Strawberry Fields Forever.  In included for the first time an actual promotional clip that had been produced for the sole purpose of selling a song.  Later to be known as music videos.  It also featured the first time the Fab Four had made an appearance in several months since putting an abrupt end to their touring at Candlestick Park earlier that year.  They were not the lovable Moptops that their fans had come to adore.  When Dick Clark interviewed a couple young girls about their feelings toward the video, they made their disgust quite clear regarding those old looking guys prancing about. 

This ..... created a need for .... this
That was the target fan base for the Monkees project.  A project that flamed brightly and then fizzled just as quickly.  Beyond a rather shallow premise and limited number of gags, the studios attempted to promote the band as the same band people saw on television.  They weren't.  Two - Nesmith and Tork - were accomplished musicians.  But Jones and Dolenz were merely actors playing musicians.  When word leaked that their albums were recorded by professional musicians and not the four from the series, the group came in for some heavy ribbing. 

Despite fighting the studios for more control in order to elevate their status among the '60s music scene, including a moment when Nesmith was rumored to have punched a hole in the wall out of anger, the Monkees were not able to save the sinking ship.  The show was canceled after two seasons.  The band eventually broke up some years later. 

I saw reruns when I was young, but paid scant attention to them.  Then in 1986, in February of my freshman year of college, news broke that The Monkees were reuniting with a new album, new songs and a world tour forthcoming.  It was the twentieth anniversary of their television debut. MTV played a marathon of Monkees episodes around the clock. The only snag was that Nesmith, likely the most successful of the group in his solo years, would not take part in the reunion.  

That winter and spring semester and the following fall of 1986 were filled with Monkees news, their tour, their new releases, and a few old releases.  For my birthday, I was given a newly released tape of their hits, exposing me to music that wasn't the greatest in the world, but not always altogether bad. A couple hits actually made regular airplay for a bit, including old clips form the Monkees series played on MTV as stand alone videos:

The moment I remember, however, was that Christmas my sophomore year.  MTV produced a video of the three band members who were touring performing bits and pieces of different holiday standards.  Not the religious ones.  I posted here how wholesome it appears, even though it was MTV - the cutting edge of bringing all sex, drugs, orgies and animal behavior into America's living rooms. Today that era of MTV would be too tame for Disney. 

The big 'reveal' of the medley was the end.  Throughout the clip a stumbling, bumbling Santa Clause could be seen in this or that scene being a goofy Clause for laughs.  When the band, the VJs and the MTV crew all gathered for a rousing We Wish You a Merry Christmas finale, only then was it revealed that Santa was none other than Mr. Nesmith himself:

Ah, it seems a universe away.  Mr. Nesmith worked to fashion and improve on those 'promotional clips', and is considered a pioneer of what music videos eventually became.  He is one of several credited with concepts that would lead to MTV.  He was also an early crossover artist, keeping his feet in the pop music world, but fusing that with his love for country music  that was often heard in some of his Monkees selections, as well as his time a a protest singer pre-Monkees.

When fans of the Monkees attempt to build a case for their fandom, credibility by association is often the appeal, with Nesmith being the band member most often cited.  His post-Monkees career is one slot on the resume.  Plus, it was the songs he performed that were often considered the better of the Monkees catalogue (there's even rumors that none other than The Byrds were background musicians on Nesmith's rendition of What Am I Doing Hangin' Round).  Nesmith's composition of Different Drum, popularized by a young Linda Ronstadt and The Stone Poneys, is another oft referenced piece of evidence for the case of liking The Monkees. 

A musician to the core, he never set aside music for his other pursuits, even if behind the scenes dominated much of his career.  He never wanted for money, since his mother patented liquid paper, an indispensable tool for correcting mistakes on typewriters before the arrival of word processors.  Eventually he did join the remaining Monkees and did some touring with them in later years.  But none would enjoy the hype and fame they had in those couple years of the 1960s, or even that brief year of 1986 when I first discovered them. 

So God bless Mr. Nesmith.  May his family and loved ones receive the peace and strength of God through Jesus Christ in the coming months.  And may God receive Mr. Nesmith into His loving arms.  And thanks for the memories. 

Friday, December 10, 2021

NBC and pure racist propaganda

No better example of both racism and race-baiting political propaganda have I seen in recent years than this 'story' about the Spaulding Board of Elections in Georgia.  Read it here.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.


Are you finished?  What did you think?  Having white skin is pretty damn evil, ain't it?  To read the story it sure appears to be.  Note how when the board was majority black skin, all was right with the world.  But now the dreaded and nauseating white skin has a majority, and that's how we know outrage should commence:

"A year ago, Sunday voting had been instrumental in boosting turnout of Black voters.

But this was an entirely different five-member board than had overseen the last election. The Democratic majority of three Black women was gone. So was the Black elections supervisor.

Now a faction of three white Republicans controlled the board"

Wow.  You can almost hear the Darth Vader March playing faintly as you read the words. 

Again, the whole idea that we should look at Caucasians the way Nazis looked at Jews is almost social dogma.  The fact that it's happened almost overnight has to make your head spin.  

For a minute I thought maybe, just maybe, Spalding County - the county in question - has a majority black population.  Since we've pretty much accepted the idea that no white skin should ever presume to teach or in any way hold position over the black skin, that might be why the outrage.  

But nope:

Majority white.  In fact, the racial makeup of the county appears to be reflected in the current makeup off the board of elections (except for the lack of someone representing the other minority groups - but that doesn't seem to matter this time).  Again, it's the nauseating and deplorable white skins who hold the majority.  And what's more, white skins who dare blaspheme the Leftist State.  

Tell me I'm wrong in this over the top rhetoric.  Please.  Go into the comments section and say I've gone too far.  That I represent the gist of the "story" unfairly.  That I'm wrong to say they are clearly judging and appraising based purely on skin color.  That they are strongly suggesting the wrong skin color can only be mitigated by proper political allegiance.  Tell me I'm wrong in these.

If not, then please go back and apologize to all those Germans from the 1930s that we've spent generations tarring and feathering for not doing anything about the obvious.  For this is obvious, as obvious as the nose on Ring Starr's face.  And yet not only are most doing nothing about it, but notice the speed with which so many are jumping on board.  Christian leaders included. 

I swear, on that last day of Judgment, the souls of the Germans from the 1930s will rise up and condemn our generation, and rightly so.  For we have them to learn from, and look what little good it has done. 

Favorite tunes of the Christmas season

In no particular order.  There are plenty of songs not on this list that I love to hear.  On a different day, those might have been on this list.  Today, however, it's these.  Generally, on most days it would be most of the below songs.  

O Holy Night - This was a song I don't recall hearing much growing up.  Remember, I didn't grow up in church.  One day my parents were watching a television special.  It was none other than the man with the golden voice himself, Casey Kasem. In those days, American Top 40, hosted by Mr. Kasem, was required listening, just to make sure you weren't missing out on a song everyone else was buying. This time, the special my parents were watching was a top ten list of greatest Christmas songs ever, narrated by Casey Kasem in the requisite Christmas setting with tree and fireplace.  The list itself was subjectively gathered no doubt.  This song was on the list.  For its segment, Kasem related a story echoing the Christmas Truce in WWI.  The story took place in the Franco-Prussian War, when a French soldier stopped in the middle of a battle and began singing this song.  Soon soldiers on both sides joined in.  Then it was over, and the battle resumed.  Many men would die that night, so said Kasem, as only he could in that smooth, rich voice of his.  That made an impact on me, and I never hear the song that I don't think of that story.  Despite the spiritually uplifting lyrics, it always leaves me a bit sad, and a reminder that Christmas is best appreciated by a fallen world, not a world that imagines itself beyond the need for anything it can't grasp itself. 

Coventry Carol - In 2015, Nationwide Insurance aired what many consider to be the worst Super Bowl ad of all time.  It featured a dead child narrating his death in order to bring awareness to preventable accidents.  Nationwide wanted to 'start a conversation', which it did.  Just not the one it wanted.  That's because in our high tech, STEM saturated world, we draw a thick line between the reality of life and the rather isolated, unreal version that comes to us courtesy of the Internet, Hollywood, streaming services, and other forms of distraction. This is encouraged, since people with lives rooted in lofty matters and real world priorities make lousy consumers.  So it shouldn't be surprising that the version of Christmas so many Americans inherited, courtesy of Sts. Macy, Woolworth, and Rankin and Bass, favor strongly the Currier and Ives, Hallmark, Madison Avenue version of Christmas; not so much the Matthew 2.16-18 version.  In fact, upon becoming Catholic, I was taken by how many feast days of Christmastide center around a martyr for the Faith.  The Christmas story was a nasty business: Poverty, homelessness, tyranny, military coercion, and death, with only that ray of Light pointing to our much needed salvation to bring hope.  Now pass the eggnog and listen to this traditional tune and find a greeting card to match the theme.  I dare you. 

I Heard the Bells of Christmas Day - I've always felt this sums up the plight of Christian pilgrims in this strange land of the World as well as any Christmas song ever.  Most know that the lyrics are based on the Longfellow poem Christmas Bells.  It was written during the Civil War, and reflected the feeling of hopelessness before the ravages of war, yet with the hope of salvation for mankind that only the God can bring.  It wouldn't be set to music until a decade or so later.  Since then there have been a couple different arrangements, though I'm fondest of the original.  In my son's classes, they're taught that there were no good guys in the American Civil War, except slaves and freed slaves.  Both sides were racists bent on bigotry and genocide.  Such a view would have seemed strange to Longfellow, or most in the day.  Heck, it would have been strange until about my time, when professors in the 1980s were already trying to find ways to make it about slavery (bad South), but not about Slavery (bad North).  Somehow they figured out how to make it work so a generation today is sure no American side of anything can be divorced of its total, all defining evil.  In such an age, perhaps, when the sum total of our entire civilization is under assault, maybe it's time to pay more attention the lyrics of this old standard. 

Feliz Navidad  - What can I say?  Despite my appearance as a somewhat dour pessimist, I'm a sucker for exuberance.  How can any human being hear this song and not smile?  The pure, utter joy that José Feliciano exudes when he performs this makes you want to jump up and cheer.  I remember this becoming a big song and, believe it or not, some folks in our rather homogenous little Anglo-white community were none too happy about a 'Hispanic' (we'll go with that term) song intruding its way into the 'classics' - like Rudolph, Frosty and the like, which seemed OK.  Yes, Virginia, America is full of people who can often be good and bad.  Thankfully the more open of the town won out, and soon this was a frequent part of the seasonal lists.  It was especially a favorite among the Spanish classes. By the time I was in high school, one of the annual traditions was Mrs. Clause's Spanish class going around the school, into the classrooms, and performing this gem.  With all of that, plus the sheer happiness in Feliciano's performance, I could never have a list that didn't include this. 

Sleigh Ride (Instrumental)  - In the end, the instrumental version of this song composed by Leroy Anderson is more or less a muzak take on an old standard.  But what a muzak version it is!  There are few times in which  an instrumental or orchestral version of a popular song will surpass the original song.  But this is one of those times.  And it surpasses the original song by leaps and bounds.  Like the original Christmas tune, there are many different versions by many different conductors and symphonies. But it was Arthur Fieldler and the Boston Pops who first recorded the instrumental, and it's their version that remains hands down the best ever.  When this comes on the radio, you can't help but perk up and get ready for a glorious few minutes of one of the best instrumental versions of a popular song ever. 

We'll Sing You a Christmastime - What? What is this song?  Most I know have never heard of this.  But when my wife and I were first married, we received some Christmas cassette tapes for gifts.  One of them was a collection of old Christmas standards with newer interpretations by a wide range of artists.  And it had this, an upbeat and lively tune that weaves a secularized celebration with decidedly Christian religious references.  The first year we played this happened to be the first year we were living in our own home with our oldest son at Christmas.  It would be the first Christmas that he could grasp, being a year and a half old.  He liked this song whenever it played, dancing about and smiling while wearing his little Santa hat.  The next few years he would like this, until it was replaced by Johnny Mathis's version of Sleigh Ride as his favorite childhood Christmas song.  Perhaps it's because of that 'first years as an official family' memory, but my wife and I still smile when we hear this played.  We take a little trip down memory lane with our oldest and the other boys, and relive a little of that bittersweetness that is parenthood as we think about our children through the years. 

O Little Town of Bethlehem - A song my mom always liked.  Early on she pointed me to this song, and so from an early age I paid particular attention to it and its lyrics.  The tune itself is wonderful, and combines a haunting melody with a sense of longing; one that makes you wish you were there all those ages ago in that small village.  The lyrics somehow manage to weave the cosmic nature of the Divine and the supernatural act beyond our five physical senses, with us puny mortals who are so often unaware of what God is up to.  Sometimes I think in the glitter and glamor and shininess of our modern age, we can completely miss that still, small voice.  One of my sons has pointed out that it was the Industrial Revolution that made second hands on clocks so indispensable.  Once that happened, existence became a matter of hourly ledgers, and so did God.  There are still parts of the world where this is not true.  In those areas once called Third World, for instance, people get to church when they get there, and will worship for hours until they are done.  In some parts of the world seasons like Christmas last for months on end, with no particular care about time.  Even in Orthodox churches, Divine Liturgy, if combined with Matins, can last three to four hours a Sunday.  This song reminds me of a world where such observations would have been the rule, not the exception.  

Another Auld Lang Syne - Yes, it seems tacky to put a sappy song like this on a list of such heavy hitters.  But it evokes like few songs do, at least where nostalgia is concerned.  Plus I can personally relate, as I'm sure most can at one point or another in their lives.  The song tells the story of Dan Fogleberg running into an old flame one night and spending a few hours visiting together until parting ways.  Like most no doubt, I had something similar happen to me once.  It was after the birth of my third son.  As it happened, I was in one of my ascension moments in life.  Things were looking good, I was in pretty good shape for a mid 30 year old dad.  I was Christmas shopping at the big Barnes and Noble on Polaris.  Someone called my name and I turned around.  It was a girl from my high school days.  She was a cheerleader back then, the thongs of whose sandals I was unworthy to untie.  Now she was a nurse.  And, for reasons I'll never understand, single to this day.  She hugged me and we talked for a brief time.  She actually said I looked great which, even then in my life, took my breath away. Only 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant' could have had a bigger impact.  Of course Father Time had been kind to her as well.  We went through the checkout line talking of old times, got our purchases, then went our separate ways in the parking lot as it began to rain. That year being one of a string of Decembers where we trudged through snow all month, only to see it turn to rain before Christmas.  I don't hear this song that I don't think of that, and the rush of memoires of youth and childhood that invariably accompany it.  Hence it's place on the list. 

I Saw Three Ships - An odd one for such a list.  Not many top lists I've ever seen have this.  There is a reason for it being here, however.  As I'm sure you've figured out, I typically have reasons for most things I like. I seldom 'just like' something.   I had never heard of this song until first grade.  Then at Christmastime we learned about various carols as we sang them in our class.  We learned Away in the Manger, what lowing cattle were, and a manger, and all the trappings.  And we learned this carol as well, and how it taught the Trinity in recounting the basic story of Jesus and Mary.  The three ships being a Trinitarian reference.  That's secular first grade by the way.  I don't know when it happened, but overt references to Christianity were already disappearing by the time I entered middle school, c. 1980.  We still had Christmas Break, but by high school, that was replaced by 'Winter Break' and our annual homeroom door decorating contest became a 'Holiday' decorating contest rather than Christmas.  But in that Christmas season of 1973, we still learned Christmas songs by name, heard the basics of the Christian faith taught, and heard the holiday wrapped up in the swaddling clothes of Jesus in a manger.  Whenever I hear this song, I think on that and just how far and how fast we've come. 

The Christmas Song (Nat King Cole version) - This was my parents' favorite song, or at least my dad's.  To them, it wouldn't be Christmas unless this song, performed by Mr. Cole, was on the radio.  The song was one of many written by Jewish songwriters wishing to capitalize on the new commercial frenzy that was Christmas, without pointing directly to that babe in a manger.  Last year I saw part of a special on PBS that was all about this fact - that many of those 'commercial hits' were purposefully composed.  Those who were interviewed, including various Jewish songwriters, didn't seem to hold back.  They absolutely wanted to make bank on this, but weren't about to promote the Christian element of the music.  The more people they could get to focus on snowmen and reindeer and chestnuts, rather than angels, mangers and Saviors, the better.  I guess kudos for honesty.  There are a few things about the Orthodox Christians I sojourned with that I admit I liked.  One was they don't suffer from 'Victor's Guilt' as we do in the West.  In their long, torrid, tangled history, there were times of oppressing minorities.  And there were times those minorities, including Jewish leaders, aligned with others to oppress them.  So while they may mourn and repent of the evils done by the Church in history, they don't forget the evils done to the Church, sometimes by groups that in the West have ever and always worn the badge of oppressed minority.  So when things like this happen, they will call it out, rather than be like us in the West who shuffle our feet, cast down our eyes, and let anything happen to our Church for the guilt of it. 

Silent Night - Perhaps the Christmas song against which all Christmas songs are, or should be, measured.  I remember learning the story of its composition around Christmastime in second grade.  Again, different world.  It was a favorite of my grandmother on my mom's side.  It was the goto song we sang when we sang such tunes in school.  It's often the goto for anyone wanting to play an especially Christian song during the season.  I remember the first year I heard Rush Limbaugh.  I caught his sign off right before Christmas Eve.  While giving his goodbye for the year, he had this song on in the background, played by Manheim Steamroller.  In his talk, he rightly said that no other song captured the true spirit of Christmas and what Christmas is all about.  How much of it made a difference in Mr. Limbaugh's life, I can't say. I know he hit it right on the nose, however, and I never hear this song without being swept away in my mind to a late night on the other side of the world all those centuries ago.

Carol of the Bells - As a lad, I remember some store at Christmastime with a commercial that had this as the background music.  An instrumental version at least.  I can't remember the company.  Some woman was shown behind a frosted window and then she turned and pitched the sale, with the music faintly behind her.  The product is long forgotten but, as a lad, that song meant Christmas was coming around the corner.  Plus, my mom once said she placed this, along with What Child is This and O Little Town of Bethlehem, as among her favorite Christmas songs.  So I learned to play it on the piano for her (tougher than it looks), and the tune and the season just became one.  It got bonus points when I saw it was Ukrainian, a far away and exotic name for me back then.  It was when I got my first game of RISK that I learned the basic region in which Ukraine was located (same with Kamchatka).  But a reminder that Christmas was not just an American, or even Anglo-American phenomenon.  It may sound silly, but living outside of the Church's walls can make certain simple truths easy to overlook. 

Honorable Mention: White Christmas - The biggest song of the 20th Century.  For a brief moment of terror, the vomit inducing England's Rose, written by Elton John for the wealthy and celebrity studded funeral of Princess Diana, overtook that title.  But early in the 21st Century, perhaps from attempts to turn the clock back following 9/11, I saw on the news that sales of this song once again overtook that cheap imposter and became the biggie of the century.  Fair enough.  It is about as 'American Christmas' as you can get.  It was written in that mid-Century when America was at once making everything American, and also getting ready to jettison the same.   In some ways, in an odd tangled mess of things, it makes sense that the biggest song, Christmas song that is, would be one having little to do with that Babe in a manger.  Just as England's Rose was a celebration of a superstar celebrity whose personal shenanigans were as big as any charitable work, and whose death brought the wealthiest and most powerful in the world to pay respects.  About that time, St. Mother Theresa also died.  Her funeral was attended by thousands of society's lowliest, the poor, the diseased, the hungry.  Few Hollywood superstars or media moguls attended that little service.  But the ones who Heaven casts its eyes on the most were there.  At some point, America decided where its prioirties were, and this Christmas standard echoes those priorities nicely.  The question is, should we continue clinging to that priority set, as so many of us American Christians have done?