Monthly Archives: August 2013

How are you using your “talents”, and *why* are you using your “talents”?

I happened to hear Mass on EWTN this morning, and the Gospel reading was the one that haunts me most, the Parable of the Talents (Mt. 25:14-30). Knowing that this tends to be a proof text for “liberals” that vita activa is superior to vita contempliva, or that it’s used as a proof text for “conservatives” that interest is OK in spite of the many Biblical teachings (including in the Gospels) against it, I tend to dread homilies about it. OTOH, as a passage in itself, I tend to see it as one of the most basic and hard hitting passages for examination of one’s own conscience: Am *I* using my talents the way God wants, or am I making excuses?
The visiting priest gave what turned out to be a very good homily, though it started out sounding like a combination of both the two common uses I alluded to. He began by talking about his lawn mowing business he had in his teens, and how successful he was at it, and the full time job he picked up just out of high school, until God called him to the priesthood five years later. However, it turned out to be about how God challenges us out our comfort zones, how in each stage of his ministry, he’s resisted God’s call, then answered it, then become comfortable in a role only to be called to something else. He talked of how we can become improperly attached even to an apostolate or ministry, a theme I’m constantly revisiting in my own life.
That ties in to the latest brouhaha in the Catholic blogosphere–this time after Michael Voris did a video about the salaries earned by people like Al Kresta and Karl Keating, and the responses to that video, and now the usual back-and-forth of who are truly the “faithful Catholics” versus “professional Catholics” out for money or ambition.
As someone put it in a Facebook thread just now: “There is so much jealousy among the faithful and there really is not reason for it. There is enough missionary millage [sic] to go around. Stop attacking Voris; it is not coming from God!” I agreed with the first two sentences, and then the person totally contradicted herself with the last sentence.
The priest’s homily also applies to more legitimate debates that have arisen in the past few years regarding certain “celebrity priests” who’ve been recalled by their bishops or Orders and responded either in obedience or rebellion.
In all these cases, people rally around their “heroes” who seem to be “under attack” and label the “attacker” as doing the devil’s work. Most of these things could be avoided if when A points something out about B, B is willing to say, “You may be right; I’ll take it under consideration.” C. S. Lewis stepped out of apologetics altogether for almost 10 years after some of his key arguments were refuted by Elizabeth Anscombe at a debate: during which time he wrote _The Chronicles of Narnia_ (which, in turn, got a lot of criticism from J.R.R. Tolkien). However, too often the reaction to such situations in the “New Media” is not humility but petulance and defiance, which results in a back and forth that comes to sound like a fight among children: “He started it!” “No, she did!”
Often, the argument in the comboxes or Facebook is, “X is doing God’s work. He [or she] is the only one speaking the Truth!” [or “the only one standing up for the unborn” or whatever]. That mentality is always a red flag for me and seems to be the salient point in all these squabbles. The phenomenon we have in the Church today is very much what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians:

I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to 5 Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 6 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? . . . Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.(1 Cor 1:12-13, 3:4-9)

Today, it’s “I am of Voris,” “I am of Catholic Answers,” “I am of Fr. Corapi,” “I am of Medjugorje,” “I am of EWTN,” etc. It sounds like the very thing we criticize Protestants for doing. There is only one person in the Church with the charism of infallibility, and that is the Pope, and even then only under specific circumstances. Otherwise, all of us, including the Doctors of the Church, are subject to human error. Some errors may be worse than others, but if we’re constantly looking for heresies under every rock, where does that put our own souls?
I spent most of this past April unconscious, following my aortic surgery, and I had a lot of hallucinations or dreams or whatever. In many of these, I and most of my family ended up in Hell. I even at one point said I would rather spend eternity in Hell with my family than go to Heaven and be “alone,” at which point I realized what a grave error I’d committed (and confessed as soon as I was able), that even if they all ended up in Hell, Jesus should be enough. A month or so later, a seminarian who was interning as a hospital chaplain was assigned to my floor, and he told me a story of his early days in the seminary–when he was lamenting to a classmate about the “loneliness” of their vocation. His classmate said, “Jesus should be enough.” He went to Adoration, felt God’s love surround him, and has never felt lonely since. It was a fantastic inspiration that he chose to tell me that story.
If you’re doing God’s work, you should be primarily concerned with obedience to His will for *you*. That may mean doing a podcast or a blog. It may mean speaking to stadiums full of people. It may mean pro-life activism. It may mean staying at home and praying, raising a family, or being pastor of a parish. As soon as we start thing of yourself (or someone else) as the “only person” doing God’s work, we’re demonstrating a lack of faith in God. “For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Matthew 3:9). Your apostolate isn’t about other people; it’s about you. People say, “God needs us to stop Planned Parenthood.” In some sense, that’s right, but only because God chooses that way. If He wanted to, He could force the conversions of all abortionists while you’re reading this, but He wants us to choose Him freely. The best way we can challenge the disobedience of others–be it the overt disobedience of Planned Parenthood or the more subtle disobedience of our neighbor in the pew–is to improve our own humble obedience.
As Bl. Teresa of Calcutta put it:

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Measuring One’s Life in Coffee Spoons: About Spoon Theory

Image
The “Spoon Theory” is an increasingly popular way for people with chronic health problems to explain how we live our lives.  With no apparent reference to T. S. Eliot intended, it was developed by Christine Miserandino of ButYouDon’tLookSick.com to answer the question, posited by her best friend, of what it was like to have Lupus.  Here is the article in which she tells the story.
She was asked by her best friend to explain what it’s like for her to have lupus–a question she found puzzling given that her friend had been with her through the diagnosis, etc.–until she realized her friend meant experientially. So, after a pause for thought, she grabbed every spoon she could reach. She handed the stack of spoons to her friend and said, “You have lupus.”
She then went on to say that the spoons represented the ability to “get things done.” Most people think of themselves as having limitless “spoons,” but people with chronic ailments are keenly aware of their “spoons”: sometimes there may be more; sometimes there may be less, but when the spoons for the day run out, you’re done. Sometimes, you have to “save up” spoons for a big event or in case of illness. Sometimes, a particularly bad day creates a deficit. Then she went on to explain how it’s not just “jump out of bed and get ready for work”: getting out of bed alone is a huge achievement that costs a spoon or two, then getting breakfast, taking medicine, taking a shower, etc.–what we now refer to in my house as ADL’s–Activities of Daily Living–the key goal in my recent stint in Rehab following my surgery on my descending aorta.
Reading Miserando’s account pretty much describes my experience living with Marfan syndrome, except that for me it’s been a lifelong thing. Even many others with Marfan do not have as severe a manifestation as I do: they were diagnosed as adults and have a lot of problems they’ve encountered in adulthood but weren’t severely effected as children the way I was. Then there’s my aortic root replacement in 1996 which temporarily gave the illusion of “health” (it’s amazing how many health care professionals I’ve encountered in the past few months who are confused by the fact that I’ve had *two* surgeries for aortic aneurysms and/or don’t understand what an “aortic root” is). That was quite a difference from my recent surgery, after which, experientially, I really feel a lot *worse* than I did before it.
People say things like, “Glad to know you’re doing better,” and it’s hard to know what to say. Even the first time around, I was technically “doing better” and just aware of the long term risks I’ve since lived through. This time, I’m not only facing the risks to my remaining “natural” aorta, the two grafts themselves, my valves, and my cerebral aneurysms, but on a day to day basis, I feel worse than I did even in the two years between the dissection and the surgery.
How do you explain that to people who are so optimistic after praying so hard?
When people ask, “How are you doing?” I say, “Let’s put it this way: I’m here.”
My left shoulder was dislocated or frozen or something–I have a week and a half till I see an orthopedic surgeon to find out exactly how badly–but it’s hurt me constantly since April, in a degree that no joint has hurt me before. My left rib cage still hasn’t healed; it constantly hurt and is still swollen.
I have no voice beyond a whisper and occasionally sounding like I’m hoarse, due to a paralyzed vocal cord. A temporary injection that was supposed to last 3 months lasted about a month and a half. It gave me enough sound to hold a conversation, but I still couldn’t sing or speak loudly, and my voice used to be one of my biggest assets (I was a teacher; it was literally my livelihood). Every other person I’ve “talked to” who has Marfan syndrome, had vocal cords paralyzed, and had the repair surgery, said it gave minimal benefit at best. The only person whose seen improvement was a fellow who had his surgery a month before I did, is a paraplegic because of it, and had his vocal cord come back “miraculously” without intervention. So I decided against surgery. Even with surgery, I’m never going to be able to sing or engage in public speaking. The main advantage I’d get is the ability to speak on the phone, for which I don’t have enough “spoons,” anyway.
That’s not getting into the tachycardia, the distinct pain that I know is my aorta–both the throbbing in my remaining arch and abdominal aorta, as well as the “stitch pain” around my grafts–I’m 90% sure there will be at least a few millimeters of growth in both the next time I have a CT scan.
I was very grateful to my attending physician and my physical therapist in Rehab. They actually listened to me, and did their own research on Marfan syndrome. My physical therapist told me that what physical therapists use is the “Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion”, a scale from 6-20, where 6 is “No exertion at all,” and 20 is “Maximal exertion.” 10 is “Light,” and that’s where he told me to stop. It’s a subjective scalle that emphasizes the patient’s perception, but it was nice to have a professional telling me what I already knew, versus pushing me past my limits. In fact, the physical and occupational therapists repeatedly told me that it was nice to have a patient they had to tell to *stop*, since I was so eager to get through my exercises (so I could get home to my family). I saw this in some of the other patients, who would sit there and cuss out their therapists over minimal activities while I was tearing through and saying, “What’s next?”
Most of the time, my sessions would get cut short, and I’d be sent back to bed because my vitals were too high–again, they knew as I already knew that a pulse of 100 is too high for a Marfan, but in ICU they couldn’t get it lower than that.
So I exceeded all the goals they set for me in time for my pre-arranged, insurance-mandated discharge date. Then for the first month, I needed extensive help from my wife and kids for my ADLs. I’ve gotten a bit more independent, but I still have a lot less “spoons” than before, and it’s not likely I’ll get them back.
The thing people don’t understand about a condition like mine is that it doesn’t get better. Even ignoring the aorta, there will always be new problems (like my shoulder) to come along. That doesn’t mean I’m pessimistic or “giving up,” but I just face the facts: it’s what I mean by “36 with a life expectancy of 20.” As I noted earlier, “I’m here.”

11 “Hollywood” Films (and a PBS Cartoon) with Pro-Life Themes

PersonhoodUSA has posted a great piece on BuzzFeed called “10 Hollywood Movies that Accidentally Affirm Life.”
As some commentors have said, many of these are pretty intentionally pro-life (except _Horton_, given that “Dr. Seuss’s” widow sued pro-life groups for quoting the book), and I have blogged previously about _Knocked Up_, _Juno_, and _Waitress_.  However, one that is not on the list and is definitely unintentional is _Finding Nemo_, which includes the title character witnessing the deaths of his mother and “brothers and sisters” while he (along with his siblings) is still inside an egg.  Nemo is, of course, born disabled, and acceptance of his disability is a major theme of the movie.
Another good cartoon (though not a “movie”) that I’ve blogged about before is the _Magic School Bus_ episode “Cracks a Yolk,” starring pro-choice feminist Lily Tomlin. 

You might also want to check out

Hug a Marf Day!

Apparently, today is “Hug a Marf Day”! If you know someone with Marfan syndrome, give that person a hug!



What the [bleep] is he talking about?

Back in the 1990s, my parents and I were attending Mass at a church in a town we were visiting, and the priest gave what I described as 15 fantastic 2 minute homilies. When he finished, my Mom whispered, “What the [bleep] was he talking about?” and, due to the architecture of the building, it came out a bit louder than she’d intended, resulting in chuckles from people around us.
Well the latest controversy in the Catholic blogosphere concerns a “personal essay” that former First Things editor Joseph Bottum has published in Commonweal of all places, on the topic of “same sex marriage.”

As controversy has erupted, Bottum’s response on Facebook has been to say that his critics are misinterpreting his essay because his style is to hide a didactic essay inside a “self indulgence” personal essay. He claims that he develops the argument to go along with the culture only to reject it in the end, but I don’t see where he rejects it. Indeed, when a columnist in The New York Times headlined his response to the article as “A Conservative Catholic Now Backs Same-Sex Marriage,” both Bottum, on Facebook, and Commonweal, linked the NYT review approvingly, yet somehow when other conservatives reach the conclusion that Bottum is saying we should stop fighting same sex marriage, he says we’re wrong.

Bottum overtly makes the argument *for* homosexual marriage, assents to letting “gays” determine the terminology, attacks the Manhattan Declaration for linking same sex marriage with abortion and anti-Christian trends in society, laments the loss of a gay libertarian friend over said friend’s perception of the Church, and suggests that some good may come from redefinition of marriage. He also naively suggests that the negative consequences traditional marriage forces have been worried about may not actually happen, even though they’ve been happening in Canada for years and are happening already since the Supreme Court’s verdict, as “gay” couples are beginning to sue churches and even wedding photographers for refusing to participate in their “weddings”.

Bottum dismisses the fear of traditional marriage advocates, particularly Catholics, that the “gay marriage” movement is not just about letting gays get married but is actually about destroying Christianity. He claims we should presume the best of same sex activists’ intentions, even while admitting that his now former friend thinks that way:

Certainly it will not satisfy Jim Watson, my old friend from New York. How could he accept talk of the Catholic Church’s charity and evangelizing? He wants the church hurt, its tax exemptions and even property-holding rights stripped away until it not only accepts laws allowing same-sex marriage, not only encourages same-sex marriage, but actually performs same-sex marriage. Even that might not be enough; the institutional weight of the history of Catholic bigotry, he thinks, is probably too much for repentance and reformation to overcome. Best, really, if the Catholic Church is systematically outlawed. – See more at: http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/things-we-share#sthash.xCNXUybC.dpuf

Bottum is right that, at this moment, we are on the “losing side” of history. He specifically rejects the notion, proposed by many, including the late Deacon Paul Weyrich and Pope Benedict, of focusing on forming small orthodox communities and setting ourselves apart from the secular world, the way Christians have done in various historical situations, such as ancient Rome (or parts of Asia, where Christians spent centuries living in hiding and passing on their faith in secret). He rightly says we’re losing the fight against homosexual marriage because we never fought against no fault divorce, but he specifically rejects the notion of fighting against *that*.
I’ve long said the Culture Wars were lost at the 1929 Lambeth Conference, when the Anglicans became the first Christian communion to accept artificial contraception. Bl. John Paul II makes clear in _Evangelium Vitae_ (13) that contraception is just as much a cause of the Culture of Death as abortion.
To that extent, I and most of his critics agree: in the short run, we’re going to lose this fight. However, that doesn’t mean we should give up.

What everyone agrees on is that nobody really understands what his point *is*. He tries to dismiss this as a question of his chosen style and genre, but even a personal essay would not justify the numerous sentence fragments and convoluted reasoning process.

“I’m mad that they stole what I stole first”

Earlier, I posted about some of the various issues raised in the conviction of Bradley “Chelsea” Manning for his involvement in Wikileaks and the ongoing pursuit of Edward Snowden, a central figure in exposing the fact that the NSA has been spying on US citizens.
A New York Post columnist, John Podhoretz, insists that the bottom line is “the Snowden material was stolen.” Podhoretz focuses on the fact that contemporary technology makes it more convenient to steal “intellectual property” than, say, carrying a stack of thousands of floppy disks or thousands of file folders, but says it is still “theft.” This raises several questions related to whether what Manning or Snowden did constitutes “theft.”
One problem that has arisen with the Internet, kind of parallel to the Manning and Snowden cases, is that of people who steal pre-release products from factories in China or wherever, then sell them on EBay. I’m aware of this in the toy industry, but I’m sure it happens with appliances, electronics, etc. Others buy these pre-release items for exorbitant sums, usually to be the first to post reviews of them on their blogs and reap the rewards of ad revenue. A few years back, when I was more active in following such matters, there was a bit of a row in the Transformers community about a collector/blogger who was mad that someone hacked into his account and “stole” his pictures of the “prototype” he had bought on Ebay and planned to write about, thus “scooping” his “scoop.” In other words, the guy was mad that someone else “stole” his photos of “stolen” property that he had bought illegally. This is is Pat Buchanan’s take on the matter of Snowden: the government is mad that Snowden “stole” information that the government itself “stole” to begin with!
Is it really theft to steal something back that was stolen to begin with? I honestly don’t know, but that’s certainly a question to ponder.
Was it “theft” for a tobacco company researcher to reveal to the press and in court that the tobacco companies were adding Coumarin, a known carcinogen, to cigarettes? What about the corporate scandals of a decade ago–ENRON, Tyco, etc.–and the “whistleblowers” who “stole” “company secrets” to expose corruption? What about the “theft of information” that has led to the exposure of cover-ups of priestly misconduct within the Church?
While the Vatican has certainly had its own controversy surrounding Wikileaks, and seems to have come down harder on the whistleblowers than on those engaging in the corruption they exposed, some of the same issues are involved. I’m raising these questions for discussion and offering no certain conclusions:
1) Does leaking “private” information about a corrupt governmental bureaucracy constitute a sin against the 8th Commandment, when there is no other recourse? For example, Vatican officials have claimed that the allegations made in the media during the “VatiLeaks” scandal were exaggerated, though Pope Benedict reportedly had the results of his internal audit read to the college of cardinals before the election of his successor, and Pope Francis has since confirmed (albeit, again, in a talk that was “leaked”) the existence of a “gay lobby” at the Vatican.
2) Does such leaking of information constitute a violation of the 7th Commandment?
For example, there’s the question I touched on in my previous post on the subject: are “we” the “enemies” of the government? Regardless of the particulars of how Manning and Snowden did what they did, the result was revealing to “the people” secrets of “the government” via “the Press,” which would seem to be the essence of what our Constitution is about: reminding the “Government” that it works for “us.” Doesn’t information that “belongs” to the CIA or the military ultimately “belong” to the people?
If the shareholders are the real owners of a company, and an employee reveals information about corruption in the company to the shareholders, is that really “theft”?
How do “we the People” keep tabs on “them the Government,” who supposedly work for us, if not for people like Manning and Snowden who are willing to divulge “government secrets” to the press? The use of flash drives certainly makes it more convenient for someone like Glenn Greenwald versus the lengthy investigations of Woodward and Bernstein, but are Snowden and Manning any more traitors or thieves than Mark Felt?
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Are “We the People” the “Enemies” of “the United States of America”?


A few days ago, some former private named Bradley Manning was sentenced for 35 years in prison for selling military “secrets” to Wikileaks. Now, this case raises many questions/issues. One is the problem of whether it’s possible to 99% disagree with someone and then use the person as an example in the 1% where you agree, just as it’s possible to agree with 99% of someone yet disagree with 1%.
So, in this case, I shared he above “meme” the other day, which happens to use Manning’s picture to illustrate a point I happen to agree with. It got several “likes,” mostly from people whom I would expect to give such a response, and angry comments (including one de-friending) from two people I’d have expected to respond angrily. One provided a few facts about the case with which I was admittedly unfamiliar. Earlier that day, when I had replied to one friend’s post on the verdict, I asked who Manning was, and said I couldn’t keep all these Obama scandals straight.
Now, one detail which Angry Commentor #2 pointed out was that Manning *sold* the documents to Wikileaks: this is certainly problematic on multiple levels, including the “principles” to which Wiki/Open Source sites are supposed to adhere. Also, around the time that I had tentatively shown Manning some modicum of support, the “news” broke that “he” considers himself a “she,” and wants to be called Chelsea and given a “sex-change” operation at taxpayers’ expense. So, again, he obviously has some issues of his own. However, the Manning case, like the Edward Snowden case, raises an important Constitutional issue in our present media age, especially in the light of the recent revival of Jane Fonda’s controversial acts in Vietnam.
Once again, I was expecting to alienate a few people in Facebook last week when I questioned why people are protesting Fonda–a Communist pro-abortionist–portraying Nancy Reagan, an occultist pro-abortionist. I can understand and agree with people who protest Fonda in general, but I am a bit perplexed over taking issue with this particular role, as if Nancy Reagan is some sacred person who makes Fonda’s portrayal offensive–such as, for example, if she’d been portraying the *other* Mrs. Reagan, the late Jane Wyman, TOP. interestingly, I’ve seen articles about protests of “one actor” in the movie which show Oprah Winfrey and Michael Rainey in the accompanying picture, making it appear to a causal reader/clicker that the opposition is about one of them and, therefore, “racist.” Anyway, in one discussion of Fonda’s role in _The Butler_, someone claimed she was given a list of names and SSNs by POWs in Vietnam who hoped she’d let their families know they were still alive, but instead turned the information over to their captors, who killed them. This story has been proven a hoax, however. Fonda did actively support the Viet Cong, but she never acted in a way that directly killed POWs–especially since some of those allegedly dead POWs are alive.
Anyway, the allegations seemed to be an interesting parallel to the claims that Manning’s and Snowden’s actions have resulted in the deaths of US soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. At first, I was going to include it as a contrast: that if what Fonda is falsely accused of doing (and, as often gets pointed out, the 8th Commandment still applies to celebrities) is true, it would certainly constitute treason. However, that allegation is of secretly leaking secret information directly to an enemy (in which case, since all the alleged “witnesses” were killed, how would anyone know of it?). Is it really the same thing to release “secrets” to the public?
Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution states:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

In the cases of Snowden and Manning, they were revealing information to “We the people” via “the Press.” As various commentators and memes have pointed out, if they are giving “aid and comfort” to the “Enemies” of the “United States,” then the conclusion must be that the government considers “The People” to be “Enemies.”
My angry interlocutors insisted that Manning deserves the death penalty. While capital punishment was the standard penalty for treason at the time of the Founding Fathers, Article 3, Section 3, Clause 2 clearly modifies the English Common Law practice (“Corruption of Blood” meant that the penalties could be extended to the traitor’s family), and some of the most notorious traitors in US history, such as Aldrich Ames and Robert Hansen, were sentenced to life in prison. In any case, this creates a dilemma for Catholics that my interlocutors were not willing to address (particularly the one who left one comment then defriended me without opportunity to respond): Manning or Snowden may meet the standard for capital punishment under US Law (obviously, the courts decided Manning’s actions did not meet that standard), but do they meet the standards of the Catholic Church?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church was famously revised to reflect adjustments to Church teaching in Bl. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae</em?. Paragraph 2267 of the Second Edition states:

Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”68

Assuming that it was Manning or Snowden’s intention to cause the deaths of soldiers or spies, and assuming it could be proven with certainty that their actions directly resulted in actual deaths, the death penalty could only be justly used if that was the only way of protecting people against further deaths. Since their alleged crimes involved “theft” of information, it is hard to see how either case meets that standard.

That gets us to the second question: is what they did actually *theft*?

Didache Chapter 3

3:1 My child, flee from every evil and everything that resembleth it.
3:2 Be not angry, for anger leadeth to murder, nor jealous nor contentious nor wrathful;
3:3 for of all these things murders are engendered.
3:4 My child, be not lustful, for lust leadeth to fornication, neither foul-speaking neither with uplifted eyes;
3:5 for of all these things adulteries are engendered.
3:6 My child, {be no dealer in omens,} since it leads to idolatry, nor an enchanter nor an astrologer nor a magician, neither be willing to look at them;
3:7 for from all these things idolatry is engendered.
3:8 My child, be not a liar, since lying leads to theft, neither avaricious neither vainglorious;
3:9 for from all these things thefts are engendered.
3:10 My child, be not a murmurer, since it leadeth to blasphemy, neither self-willed neither a thinker of evil thoughts;
3:11 for from all these things blasphemies are engendered.
3:12 But be meek, since {the meek shall inherit the earth.}
3:13 Be long-suffering and pitiful and guileless and {quiet} and kindly {and} always {fearing the words} which thou hast heard.
3:14 Thou shalt not exalt thyself, neither shalt thou admit boldness into thy soul.
3:15 Thy soul shall not cleave together with the lofty, but with the righteous and humble shalt thou walk.
3:16 The accidents that befal thee thou shalt receive as good, knowing that nothing is done without God.

Periodic Reminder about my CD

Sometimes, what God chooses to inspire people with when you’re doing His work is not what you expect. Back in 2009, I self-published a CD/audiobook through Amazon’s CreateSpace Service called (available in CD format for $12 from that link or for MP3 download at $5.99 from this link).

It’s a collection of 30 prayers and devotions over 44 tracks (each of the 15 Prayers of St. Bridget of Sweden gets its own track). The only really long track is the Chaplet of St. Michael (17 minutes). The goal was to create a set of short prayers that can be integrated into one’s day, either in the car or while doing chores, etc. C. S. Lewis said of his fiction that he wrote the books he’d always wanted to read, and that’s the case here. My wife and I have a lot of Rosary CD’s, religious talks on CDs and DVDs, and at this point many MP3s we’ve downloaded from EWTN’s audio archive. Since I first published this audiobook, I got a SmartPhone and downloaded the Android App from the great folks at . On long trips, a whole Rosary can be counter-productive to staying awake in the car. On a short trip, a 20-minute Rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet will usually get interrupted before one arrives at one’s destination, and on CD or MP3, it will restart when we start the car again. Therefore, I wanted something with short prayers that I could theoretically mix with a music playlist, or that would make it easy to pray while doing the dishes, taking a bath, etc.
It’s tough drumming up attention for a self-published work like this, but still I sell a few copies a month and have garnered a few nice reviews on Amazon that show people are getting out of it what I’d hoped, as well as a lot of individual feedback from friends and acquaintances who have found it very helpful in their own prayer lives, including several nuns.
One of the highlights many people have talked of, from our pediatrician to the aforementioned nuns to Amazon reviewers, is the voice of my eldest daughter, then 7, on the Litany of the Saints, and alternating with her mother and me on the Lord’s Prayer’s and Angelic Salutations in the longer devotions. She’s always been something of a Night Owl, like her dad, and, when I was doing the recordings, she came downstairs and said she could sleep. So I said I’d been hoping for her to help me on these recordings, and asked her to say a few prayers with me. By the end of the Litany of the Saints (after a few takes, and after she’d recorded the Pater Noster’s and Ave’s), she was tired, and a few of her responses reflect her fatigue and frustration, which my listeners have said is very fitting and reflective.
When yet another person makes that comment, it always reminds me of Mother Angelica’s pre-1998 story about the woman who came up to her after a talk in Florida and said, “I loved your talk. You changed my life!” Mother said, “I’m glad I inspired you! What was it I said that moved you so much?” The lady replied, “I didn’t hear a word you said.” Mother was like, “OK, Lord, I’ll bite,” and replied, “How did I inspire you if you didn’t hear anything I said?” The lady answered, “You see, I have to wear a brace. And all my friends tell me that it’s because I don’t have enough faith, and if I had enough faith, the Lord would heal me. So I saw you come out on the stage, wearing your braces, and I knew you were a holy woman, and you have to wear braces, so that showed me my friends are wrong. After that, I was so moved, I didn’t hear a word.” Of course, it always made me worry about what that woman thought after Mother was healed in 1998. . . .
Speaking of healing, and the trade-offs that often accompany it (i.e., Mother’s stroke 2 years later), As my wife posted here in April, and I have alluded to both before and after, I had surgery on my descending aorta on March 27 of this year, at Roper St. Francis in Charleston. The timing of my surgery turned out to be highly Providential, if not “miraculous,” and that’s a story I’m working on writing up for a more formal venue. I ended up spending 3 months in the hospital, though I was able to post a few times in June, while still there.
One of the complications of the surgery was paralysis of my left vocal cord. The alternate term “voice box” is probably a bit more accurate to how it works: it’s really more like a valve in our throats, which closes and opens to help us swallow, produce sound and breathe. My right side still opens and closes properly, but my left does not. Therefore, other than some recorded lessons I did as a college English instructor, many of which are not of the best quality, this CD has greater personal significance for me, as a now-former college instructor who had always dreamt of getting on the “lecture circuit” and/or being a professional singer. Barring a miracle, I’ll be confined to writing from now on, as well as to promoting this one recording.
Nevertheless, as Mother Angelica would also say, if just one person gets to Heaven because of my work, it’s worth it. I’m here to serve. I just hope if you’re reading this I’ve inspired you to purchase a copy or two for yourself or for a gift.

“Aunt Ma-ay! Phineas and Ferb are making a crossover!”

Disney Channel is mostly banned in our house, other than watching _Phineas and Ferb_ and the Marvel shows and a couple others On Demand, where the kids can fast forward through commercials, after the debacle about the _Good deLuck, Charlie_ episode featuring a lesbian “married” couple with a child, and depicting the father as a buffoon for apparently a) not realizing what lesbians are and b) not approving. It’s sad because I have really enjoyed that show, and I found it to be at least a relatively decent show compared to the other Disney “live action” comedies that promote bad behavior of various sorts: it’s always been more in the vein of an 80s or 90s family sitcom.
However, we watched the _Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel_ as it aired last night, and, other than the commercials, it didn’t disappoint. Hilarious from the beginning, in which Spider Man comes down over the title and whines, “Aunt May! Phineas and Ferb are making a crossover!” It features the voice actors from the current set of animated series (_Ultimate Spider-Man_, _Avengers Assemble_, and _Hulke and the Agents of SMASH_), though it’s set in the “world” of Phineas and Ferb (I assumed it was going to be some kind of parallel universe thing).

At the beginning, the title characters and their friends have already (by 10:30, it’s noted at one point, as the special follows the series’ running joke about doing everything in “one day”) built a space station and are surfing on asteroids (I guess tidal waves are passe). “Agent P” is also already in the process of thwarting Dr. Doofenshmirtz, who has developed a “Power Drain-inator” to take away his hated brother’s “special mayoral powers”:

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but my brother, Roger, is the mayor. (Perry just gives him a look indicating that he was, in fact, aware of it.) Alright, I may have touched upon the subject from time to time, but, y’know, I figured why not mention it again just for clarity? Anyway, that job gives him all these cool mayoral powers. So I created the Power-Drain-inator to drain all his powers into this canister, and then I, Heinz Doofenshmirtz, get to wield them! Just think, I will have the power to raise taxes, pass legislation and even cut the ceremonial ribbon at openings

Meanwhile, in New York City, Spider-Man joins Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor as they battle Red Skull, MODOK, Whiplash and Venom. The ray from the exploded “Power-Drain-Inator” fires into space, hits the kids’ Space Station, and deflects to NYC, where it drains the superheroes’ powers. Back at SHIELD, Nick Fury has traced the beam back to Phineas and Ferb’s space station, and the space station (which looks like Phineas’s head) to them. As Spider-Man puts it, “Man, that kid’s got a weird-shaped head!”

Doofenshmirtz: Y’know, Norm, the Power-Drain-inator did get one shot off before it died. I wonder if it hit anything.
Gordon Gutsofanemu: (on television) Dateline: New York City. A mysterious ray has drained the power from four of our beloved superheroes. We now return you to Horse in a Bookcase, already in prog–
Doofenshmirtz: That was me! Th-Th-That was me! I drained the power from those superheroes! Winning! Ooh, ooh, I should update my evil blog on the L.O.V.E.M.U.F.F.I.N. site! (sits down at the computer and types) OMG!! I drained all the powers from a group of superheroes in New York , and those powers belong to me now! Happy Emoticon (Typed out as >:D >:D >:D) And send! Norm, let’s get the powers out of the canister so I can start wielding them! I-I can’t wait to fly and run fast and carry a big hammer around for no reason!
Norm: Uh, sir, I hate to be the bearer of empty canisters, but this canister is empty.
Doofenshmirtz: What?! So I don’t have the powers?
Norm: Time to blog a retraction, I guess.
Doofenshmirtz: Uh, y’know, I’m not gonna change it. Everyone exaggerates on the Internet.

Back in New York, Red Skull & co. try to trace the beam as well.
MODOK: I, MODOK, the perfect combination of human intellect and machine, have interfaced with all of the digital information stored on the vast network, the World Wide Web!
Whiplash: I can do the same thing with my phone. Plus I got free roaming!
Venom: Nice!
MODOK: As I was saying, I have found some puny inferior human known as Doofenshmirtz claiming that he has drained the heroes of all their superpowers.
Red Skull: Hmm, Doofenshmirtz. Zat sounds Drusselshteinian. I have a cousin who married a Drusselshteinian. She is dead to me!! So, who is zis Doofenshmirtz?
MODOK: I’m projecting his image now.
(Doof’s image appears.)
Red Skull: He is beautifully grotesque.
Whiplash: All hideous and deformed.
Venom: He must have some backstory.
Red Skull: Vere can we find zis sideshow freak?
MODOK: (showing an image of D.E.I.) He’s in the Tri-State Area, Danville to be precise!
Red Skull: Danville, eh? Gentlemen, it looks like we’re going on an evil road trip.
MODOK: Ooh, shotgun!
Red Skull: YOU DO NOT FIT IN ZE SHOTGUN POSITION!!!!

They arrive, and Red SKull introduces himself and the others to Doofenshmirtz. After a joke about Red Skull’s accent, in which he tries to say, “Show us your devices,” and no one understands him, Doof replies:

Oh, you want to see my inators! Man…Man, you’ve got quite an accent there! Alright, (walks up to an inator) here’s what I’m workin’ on now. Behold, the Slothinator! It will give me the powers of a sloth…which are super-slowness and super-leaf-eating.
Red Skull: (to MODOK) Are you sure zis is ze right guy?
MODOK: MODOK is infallible!
Red Skull: Then he must be toying with us. Playing us for fools! He is even more diabolical than we thought!

That brings us to the SHIELD/OWCA match-up:

Major Monogram: Have a seat, Agent P. (cut to reveal Monogram on an old black and white TV set) Due to the gravity of your mission today, the gentleman on the big screen will be addressing you (Wide shot to reveal Fury on the big screen) while I use this old TV monitor Carl found in the basement.
Carl: (offscreen) Sorry, sir, I couldn’t get the split-screen to work.
Major Monogram: Anyway, this is director Nick Fury of S-H-I-E-L-D.
Nick Fury: That’s S.H.I.E.L.D.! It’s an acronym.
Major Monogram: Oh, like “OWCA”.
Nick Fury: Yes, except it’s cool. Now, where is your agent, Major?
Major Monogram: He’s sitting right there.
Nick Fury: You mean behind the platypus?
Major Monogram: No, that’s Secret Agent Perry the Platypus.
Nick Fury: Is he some kind of super-platypus with super-platypus powers?
Major Monogram: (suddenly wearing an eyepatch) Uh…no.
Nick Fury: Does he have some kind of robotic platypus exoskeleton?
Major Monogram: He, uh, he has a fedora.
Nick Fury: Hey, wait a minute, were you wearing that eyepatch when we started?!
Major Monogram: Oh, this? Uh, yeah. It’s, uh, doctor’s orders. I have a stye.
Carl: (offscreen) He thinks it makes him look cool.
Major Monogram: No I don’t.
Nick Fury: I’m going to proceed as if this were going really well. Agent P, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Spider-Man have lost their superpowers to a mysterious power-siphoning ray, which we believe originated somewhere in the Danville area. We fear a group of supervillains are closing in. We need you to monitor the situation and report back. (Monogram is now wearing eyepatches on both eyes.) Francis, I’m gonna need you to—Now what are you doing?
Carl: (offscreen) He thinks two eyepatches make him look twice as cool.
Major Monogram: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
(Fury groans.)

(Cut to D.E.I.)
Doofenshmirtz: Welcome to my Hall of Inators. Ah, here’s a good one. This is my Oatmeal-to-Porridge-inator. I know. It’s a fine distinction. Don’t get me started. And here’s my Multi-Helio-Tactical-Baboon-Glom-inator. I-I-I think that one is self-explanatory. Oh, and, uh, here’s my Waffle-inator, and the Junk-Mail-inator…
Red Skull: I do not understand. Zees machines are useless. What is wrong wis zis man?
Whiplash: Maybe he is a misunderstood genius.
Red Skull: Or maybe he is a perfectly understood idiot.
Doofenshmirtz: And, finally, my Disintegrator-inator. Pretty impressive, huh?
Red Skull: Vere is ze machine zat took away the powers of the heroes?
Doofenshmirtz: Oh, my Power-Drain-inator! Ooh, that was a cool one! And it was…destroyed by my nemesis, Perry the Platypus. You just missed him.
Red Skull: Perry ze Platypus? Is he a super-soldier platypus?
Doofenshmirtz: No.
Venom: Was he bitten by a radioactive platypus?
Doofenshmirtz: No, he’s, uh, just a regular crime-fighting platypus.

As the villains team up, the Flynn-Fletcher kids and their friends escort the Avengers to SHED (Secret Hideout for Emergency Defects.”

Iron Man: I think we’re gonna need something a little…bigger.
Phineas: Oh, the rustic exterior’s a facade. Wait’ll you see the inside!
(They go inside S.H.E.D. to reveal it is much larger on the inside.)
Iron Man: Oh, man! You guys are good!
Ferb: Just a little British sci-fi technology.
Thor: Iron Man, looks like someone raided your armory.
Phineas: Oh, you like that, huh? This is The Beak Suit Mark 2. We’re still working on the waterproofing so we can’t take it out in the rain.
Iron Man: You know, Stark Industries offers summer internships.
Phineas: Thanks, but this summer’s pretty packed.
Iron Man: Apparently.

They learn where the villains are when an emergency news broadcast announces “Chaos at the Googolplex Mall! An evil entourage of three supervillains and what appears to be a pharmacist and a giant chicken egg with a face are bustin’ up the place somethin’ fierce!”

The episode continues with similar in-jokes to both franchises.
When Perry the Platypus appears in a costume he got from SHIELD, they try to figure out what or who this “masked beaver duck?” is.

Phineas: You know, he seemed vaguely familiar.
Spider-Man: Ya think that was Howard the Duck?
Iron Man: Time is of the essence. We’ve gotta—No, it wasn’t Howard the Duck!

Later, Candace accidentally sabotages an attempt to restore the heroes’ powers and turns Baljeet into a Hulk. Phineas kicks her out, and she walks out sadly to a tune parodying “The Lonely Man” from _The Incredible Hulk_ TV series.

Buford: I’ve always told her: Don’t ever make Phineas angry. You wouldn’t like it when he’s angry.

Buford later shows up as “Bear Boy,” an apparent parody of “Squirrel Girl.”
At another point, Nick Fury tells Agent P that: “the supervillains are holed up in downtown Danville in an oddly-shaped building with its own jingle.”
So, in the climactic scene, when they confront the villains again, Red Skull says the heroes are helpless against them, and Iron Man replies with a parody of Tony Stark’s famous trailer scene from _The Avengers_:

Iron Man: We have a Baljeet.
Hulkjeet: Hulkjeet.
Iron Man: Oh, my bad. Apparently he prefers to be known as “Hulkjeet”. (The Beak arrives.) And this thing.
The Beak: Bacaw!
Iron Man: If it’s a bird, it’s with us, too. (Agent P flies in) The flying duck with a beaver tail. We got him! (Waffles fall from the sky) But I gotta level with ya, I have no idea who’s shooting waffles.
(Cut to D.E.I. to reveal Doof firing waffles from his Waffle-inator.)

“I am the very model of a modern Major General . . . “

Here is “The PowerPoint rant that got a colonel fired”, which says, in part, that what Gilbert and Sullivan parodied in 1879 holds true today.
It is quite good, and Col. Lawrence Sellin ought to have a great career in writing and/or comedy. What he says of the Army is true of most organizations: endless meetings with no clear purpose other than to give jobs to managers and “consultants.”
It makes me think of so many quotations, like Krusty the Clown’s “aren’t ‘paradigm’ and ‘proactive’ just words that stupid people use to make themselves sound smart?” As Sellin puts it:

For headquarters staff, war consists largely of the endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information. Even one tiny flaw in a slide can halt a general’s thought processes as abruptly as a computer system’s blue screen of death.

The ability to brief well is, therefore, a critical skill. It is important to note that skill in briefing resides in how you say it. It doesn’t matter so much what you say or even if you are speaking Klingon.

I was once waiting in line at a fast food place and saw some management poster on the wall, to remember the five principles outlined in the acronym (I forget what it was, so we’ll just call it ACRON). The poster then had an acrostic of the acronym: each letter was the beginning of another acronym! So it really wasn’t “five simple principles”: it was more like 25, and they made about as much sense as Barney Fife’s “There are only two rules. Rule Number One: Obey all rules. Rule Number Two: see Rule Number One.” However, that at least made more sense than most of the “motivational” posters and PowerPoints I’ve seen. Usually, they’re too nonsensical to even remember.
PowerPoint is a powerful tool but is too often abused. To truly convey information, it must be detailed in a manner that makes it difficult to read or to add special effects to. Usually, when I’ve attended meetings that had what I found to be an effective PowerPoint, the information was also provided in hand-outs, and the PowerPoint was a guide, not the center of attention. When speakers focus on making fancy PowerPoints, they create the kind of unintelligible flow charts and acronyms I’ve already referred to. It’s like, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the Dark Side.” “But, Master Yoda, in your first appearance, one of your most famous lines was when Luke said, ‘I’m not afraid,’ and you said, ‘You will be.'”
A typical PowerPoint is something like: Charity -> Stewardship -> Compassion -> Love -> Sacrifice -> Charity.
Or, better yet, the “Greatest Presentation I have ever heard” scene from 30 Rock

(With apologies to all who, like me, are literally dumb or partially so),

Hermeneutic of Papal Discontinuity: Pope Francis is a RadTrad

Since the election of Pope Francis, the media have gone out of their way to paint him as a “liberal” due to his more simplistic style and emphasis on concern for the poor. I’ve complained previously about this false division in terms of the implication that Bl. (soon to be Saint) John Paul II and Benedict XVI have not been as humble or simple as Francis, particularly since B16 resumed some of the more traditional papal vestments that have been discarded by most 20th Century Popes. Because of this slight difference in style, both those of a more “traditionalist” bent and the mainstream media have insisted that Francis is a “progressive.” Pat Archbold responded to this with “10 Quotes that Prove the Pope is a Liberal,” giving quotations from Benedict, and Mark Shea followed suit this weekend with a post giving quotations from Francis on liturgy (more on this later)

Meanwhile, there has been something of a row in the blogosphere about terminology regarding “RadTrads” or, as someone recently suggested, “MadTrads.” Since Vatican II, one of the main “sticking points” has been the Council’s approach to ecumenism. Supposedly, anyone who critiques that approach is a “RadTrad.” In one of his last major statements before announcing his retirement, a reflection on Vatican II, Benedict explicitly criticized the very weakness of _Nostra Aetate_ that most of us would be labelled “RadTrads” for pointing out:

In the process of active reception, a weakness of this otherwise extraordinary text has gradually emerged: it speaks of religion solely in a positive way and it disregards the sick and distorted forms of religion which, from the historical and theological viewpoints, are of far-reaching importance; for this reason the Christian faith, from the outset, adopted a critical stance towards religion, both internally and externally.

But that’s the “traditionalist” B16, right?
On the contrary, Pope Francis has made several statements about the necessity of the Church for salvation, saying that one cannot know Jesus without the Church, and that one cannot know God without Jesus. Go figure: the Pope is Catholic.
Nevertheless, people want to pick on every media-spun statement to try to say otherwise. I don’t think it’s even necessary to “Read Francis Through Benedict,” as “Fr. Z.” has renamed his popular blog: I’d suggest that, the more we get to hear from Francis himself, the more we’ll find him to be perhaps more “traditionalist” than Benedict. There are concerns about the current Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Gerhard Muller, and his relationship with Liberation Theology, but he was a B16 appointee. There were rumors that Francis might be making changes to the Congregation for Divine Worship and to the position of Master of Ceremonies, but one of the quotations Mark Shea highlights in the post I linked above ought to allay those fears:

“See? They say that my Master of papal ceremonies [Guido Marini] is of a Traditionalist mold; and many… have asked me to remove him from his position and replace him. I have answered no, precisely because I myself may treasure his traditional formation.”

More importantly, in terms of ecumenism in the truest sense, and liturgy alike, the following quotation, variations of which I’ve read elsewhere, highlights what I think proves Francis is both a true “Radical” (getting back to the root) Traditionalist *and* in line with the authentic intent of Vatican II (which was to bring back to the Western Liturgy some of the qualities it has lost):

In the Orthodox Churches they have conserved that pristine liturgy, no? So beautiful. We [i.e., the Latin Christians] have lost a bit the sense of adoration, they conserve it, they praise God, they adore God, they sing, time does not count. The center is God and that is a richness that I would like to emphasize on this occasion as you ask me this question.

Once, speaking of the Western Church, of Western Europe, especially the Church that has grown most, they said this phrase to me: “Lux ex oriente, ex occidente luxus.” [“Light from the East, from the West, luxury.”] Consumerism, well-being, have done us so much harm. Instead you keep this beauty of God at the center, the reverence. When one reads Dostoyevsky — I believe that for us all he must be an author to read and reread, because he has wisdom – one perceives what the Russian spirit is, the Eastern spirit. It’s something that will do us so much good. We are in need of this renewal, of this fresh air of the East, of this light from the East. John Paul II wrote it in his Letter. But so many times the luxus of the West makes us lose the horizon. I don’t know, it came to me to say this. Thank you.”

The _Inspector Morse_ prequel series is a worthy _Endeavour_.

My wife and I just watched the _Endeavour_ season finale that aired on Sunday’s _Masterpiece Mystery_, on PBS On Demand. The series
is very interesting in how it’s fleshing out, without direct involvement from Colin Dexter (other than his famous cameos), a character who has never revealed much about his personal life in the books or TV series, so they have a lot of room. They give us an Endeavour Morse who is not yet insisting on being referred to only as “Morse,” who is optimistic rather than cynical, is a believer rather than an atheist, and, in the pilot, is a teetotaler but takes his first drink. So, in the season finale, he just misses being there for his father’s death (their last conversation having been a request from his father to bet on a horse, and his father then saying, ‘I’ve never liked police’), and it closes with Morse alone in his apartment, finishing off a bottle, foreshadowing his future alcoholism, as Barrington Pheloung’s classic theme (the rhythm being “M-O-R-S-E” in Morse Code) fades out (being typically, and annoyingly, cut off by PBS for the _Mystery_ theme–I always preferred watching the original series on A&E, which would play the theme through).
Just as the Agatha Christie Estate declared David Suchet the definitive Hercule Poirot, so author Colin Dexter said that John That’s portrayal of Inspector E. Morse (up until the second to last book and episode, when people would ask “What’s your first name,” like Columbo saying “Lieutenant,” Morse would say, “Inspector”) was so perfect that he didn’t want any other adaptations of his books being made. The TV producers got around this by doing the follow-up series _Lewis_, in which Kevin Whately reprises his role as Morse’s former Sgt., Robbie Lewis, now an Inspector. _Lewis_ has run for 7 seasons, with the final 3 episodes having aired earlier this year in the UK and still upcoming on PBS. There is talk of a possible one-shot in 2014, but both Whately and co-star Laurence Fox (Sgt. James Hathaway) have said they want to do other projects: with 27 episodes in 7 years, _Lewis_ has almost had as many episodes as _Inspector Morse_ (33 between 1987 and 2000). _Endeavour_ has had an additional 5, giving the franchise a total, to date, of 65 two-hour episodes.
Abigail Thaw, daughter of the late John Thaw, plays Morse’s newspaper contact, Dorothea Frazil. When they first meet in the pilot, she says he looks familiar, and asks if they’ve met. He replies that he doesn’t think so. She says, “Maybe in another life.” At the end of the episode, Inspector Thursday asks Morse where he sees himself in 20 years, and Morse looks into the car mirror, where the face of actor Shaun Evans is morphed into that of John Thaw.
Casting younger actors in roles as the “same person” an older actor plays is problematic, as I’ve complained previously about the casting of _X-Men First Class_ (though promo pictures for _X-Men: Days of Future Past_, which will feature both Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy as Professor Xavier, and both Ian McKellan and Michael Fassbender as Magneto, have answered the question: Stewart and McAvoy’s faces blend very well,

but I still say McKellan and Fassbender don’t like anything alike).

Anyway, that said, I’m impressed with the casting of James Bradshaw as pathologist Max De Bryn (played in the 80s by Peter Woodthorpe). Neither of these pictures is in the role of “Max,” but they capture the resemblance between the two actors, who are clearly portraying the same guy:
James Bradshaw

Similarly, Sean Rigby nicely passes as a young Jim Strange (James Grout).
Sean Rigby
James Grout
One of the questions I’ve had about the show is how Strange is just a uniformed Constable when he and Morse meet in 1965, yet by 1987, he’s Morse’s superior, yet one of the premises is that Morse is being considered for promotion relatively early in his career. Evans is in his early 30s, and Morse is supposed to have just recently joined the police force after a stint in the Royal Army, having been quickly promoted to Detective Constable, and now already being considered for the rank of Sergeant. The episode _Rocket_ establishes that Morse was attending Oxford at the time of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, setting his birth year at somewhere between 1931 and 1935, so at the time of his TV death in 2000, he should have been in his late 60s. Actor John Thaw was only in his late 50s at the time, and died 2 years later at the age of 60.
Despite the morphing scene, I find it difficult to see Shaun Evans as a young John Thaw, especially seeing what Thaw looked like in his earlier career:
Shaun EvansJohn Thaw, young
John Thaw, old
In any case, Evans’ portrayal of the character is fantastic. One thing that has impressed me about both spin-offs is that, while they’ve kept some of the tone and themes and methodology of the original series, they haven’t tried to directly copy it. In _Morse_, Morse is cynical and unconventional, a “gentleman detective” in spite of his own working class background (his father was a taxi driver who apparently supplemented his income illegally), and Lewis is by-the-book. Morse is the Oxford drop out with a love for Opera and the classics, while Lewis has typically blue-collar interests (in one early episode, Morse is listening to an opera, and Lewis asks, “Is that from _Cats_?”). In _Lewis_, the roles are reversed a bit: Lewis has adopted his former partner’s methodology, and his awareness of opera has grown. He’s a bit more world-weary following the deaths of Morse and of his wife (early in the series, he has a _Monk_-like quest of finding his wife’s killer, which ends in an interesting manner), but he’s still essentially the same fellow. Sgt. Hathaway, who graduated from “the Other Place” and then dropped out of seminary, is now the intellectual detective, but he’s also the more “by the book” one of the pair, questioning Lewis’s methods the way Lewis once questioned Morse’s. In _Endeavour_, the roles are reversed a bit more: Morse is the intellectual, with his unorthodox detective practices, while Inspector Thursday is a more welcoming mentor (though the season finale puts some tension in their relationship), though due to pressure from Superintendent Reginald Bright, Thursday has to constantly remind Morse to follow proper procedures.
It’s a fantastic continuation of the series, and it would be interesting to see how long it continues both in ratings and the interest of Evans in the role. It would be cool if Dexter changes his mind, and one day Evans stars in remakes of the original novels.
My only other comment is the character of Sgt. Peter Jakes, the intermediary between Thursday and Morse, who resents being pushed out when Thursday feels Morse is better suited to a case. Usually, as Superintendent Bright insists Morse should be performing “regular duties,” Morse stumbles into a murder while investigating an apparent natural death or car accident which, in the fashion of classic “meddling detectives” like Adrian Monk and Jessica Fletcher, he points shows evidence of murder (for example, an old lady who has two settings for tea but supposedly died alone). It would make more sense to me if, again, the position held by Jakes had been held by future Superintendent Strange, or else by the character of Dickson/Dixon, Morse’s foil in the novels (I don’t know if he’s ever mentioned in the shows).