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I don’t pay much attention to the randomly-generated spam comments that occasionally make their way on to the sideboard here but this one made me chuckle a bit:

I think that everything posted made a bunch of
sense. However, what about this? suppose you were to create a awesome post title?
I ain’t suggesting your content is not good, but suppose you added a title that grabbed folk’s attention?
I mean On The Venerable Bead | The Port Stands At Your Elbow
is kinda plain. You should glance at Yahoo’s front page and watch how they create article headlines to get people to click. You might try adding a video or a related picture or two to get people excited about what you’ve got to say.
Just my opinion, it would bring your posts a little livelier.

“The Venerable Bead” is “kinda plain”?  My dear spambot, the only reason the Anti-Pun Vice Squad didn’t have me face-planted on the hood of their cruiser, spread-eagled and in full-body cavity search mode over that one is the fact that nobody actually reads this here blog and there’s no such thing as a victimless crime.

As far as Yahoo’s front page goes, in fact I do check on it from time to time during the course of the day just to see what’s going on out there.  And I also almost inevitably recoil in pity, disgust and horror at the Bread & Circuses sensibilities behind most of what I see.  No, thankee – I prefer to carry on here just the way things are.

UPDATE:  Okay, I confess that this post is simply an excuse to laugh at my own feeble wit again, although I swear the spam quoted above is authentic.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Damien Thompson has a good assessment of the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, both in its strengths and its weaknesses.  First, a snippet of what both Thompson and I think Benedict’s main achievement:

Benedict’s central achievement was that he began – but came nowhere near finishing – the “purification” of the Catholic Church that was his most pressing concern. This necessitated the reform both of the liturgy and of the behaviour of the clergy entrusted with its performance. It might seem strange to yoke together the two, but Ratzinger has always emphasised that liturgy – properly orientated worship of God – is the ultimate purpose of Catholicism, requiring a holy priesthood and laity.

This liturgical reform is aimed toward a philosophy sometimes summarized as Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, or “The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief ” and it is central to my own Faith.  (The Catechism speaks of this relationship here, although it runs thematically throughout, as well.)  Indeed, I have often toyed with the idea of nipping over to Father Z’s store and purchasing one of his bumper stickers to this effect.  (Actually, I recently passed on that idea and instead installed a Vatican flag sticker next to my American flag sticker.  Sorry, Padre.)

As for the clerical reforms, Thompson recognizes – rightly, I think – that although Benedict certainly began HMC’s purification, the fact is that he was willing but was in over his head:

The outside world, understandably, is more concerned with the revolting lack of purity shown by countless Catholic priests towards young people. Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, was a hardliner in his wish to see these cases dealt with severely. That does not mean – as he has been constantly reminded over the past eight years – that he acted effectively. He made mistakes himself; he was sneakily opposed by wretched cardinals who wanted to protect their friends; and having a near-senile Pope in office as the storm broke did not help. Once he became Pope, Benedict was quick to punish one of the most rancid sex abusers in Catholic history, Fr Marciel Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, now dead; one can’t help wondering whether Pope John Paul, had he been still alive, would have ignored evidence and beatified the old monster. But Benedict could not cope with the deluge of abuse claims since 2005; he was old, the rotten structures of the curia remained largely untouched, and the world’s bishops seemed to have learned little from previous scandals.

Nevertheless, a message was conveyed, however falteringly. The Vatican realised it had been sinfully negligent in its duties to protect innocent children. Benedict’s own apologies were sincere; he did not shrink from shouldering the burden of the Church’s shame.

And I absolutely believe his sincerity.

I have refrained from the temptation to hope that this or that current Cardinal is chosen over another to succeed Benedict, because such hope borders too closely on mere secular politickal preferences and seems to undercut one’s faith that it is the Holy Ghost who ultimately makes the choice.  I will go so far, however, as to say this:  It is my own personal wish that the next Pontiff installed is neither a celebrity nor a withdrawn scholar, but a Hammer.  JPII and BXVI between them stopped the rot and relaid the foundations.  To me, at any rate, it seems time now for some truly good, old-fashioned Muscular Christianity to see to the rebuilding.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

♦    First, thankee to those of you who are still dropping in even though ol’ Robbo’s flow of quips and quibbles are hardly to be heard in flocks these days, and what he does post tends to be, shall we say, single-tracked.  My site meter and I appreciate the little bumps.

♦     When last I dropped in I mentioned that hive of slimy, drippy hornets setting up shop in my nose?  Well the whole thing blossomed into one of those 48 hour bugs that knocks one absolutely flat on one’s back.  Tuesday morning I managed just enough energy around six ack emma to email into the shop and tell them I wasn’t going to make it to work.  I then rolled over and took what I thought to be a mere fifteen minute power nap.  However, when I looked at the clock again, it was nearly four in the afternoon.   Yes, it was one of those.   Much better now, fortunately.

♦     Anyhoo, today is the first day in which the Chair of St. Peter stands empty.

I confess that I honestly don’t feel the same degree of emotion as some of my friends and colleagues have expressed over this momentous state of affairs.   I don’t think this has anything to do with the depth of either their sincerity of faith or with my own.  Instead, I believe it’s the residual effect of still being a relatively new convert.  While I can fully appreciate things on an intellectual level, my roots just don’t feel quite deep enough yet for me to fully take it in on a more, to keep the metaphor consistent, earthy level.  If that makes any sense.   (The suggestion that ol’ Robbo is, at heart, simply rayther a cold, emotionless fish is, of course, absolute tommyrot.)

Well anyway, there it is.  I am, of course, praying that the Conclave of Cardinals pays close attention to the Holy Ghost in its choice of Benedict’s successor.   He’s certainly going to have his work cut out for him.

♦     On a somewhat related note:  T’other evening I found myself reading the last section of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.  For those of you who might not recall, this is the part of the book where Lewis deals with the pitfalls of trying to get there.   I often think of this part of the book as sort of the inverse of his Screwtape, i.e., a mirror image to  the ease with which we can slide into damnation, and always find it quite as chilling in its own way.

At any rate, later on that evening I had a dream.  In it, the Family Robbo was at what I took to be the Chinese Embassy.  (Well, it was full of Chinese people, anyway.)  We were there, apparently, so that Mrs. R could be honored with some kind of teaching award.  We made our way into a grand banquet room which I recall contained a great many candles.  On the tables there seemed to be a particular emphasis on bread and wine.  Right in the middle of the room was the table of honor designated for us and for what I suppose were the grand pooh-bahs who would be presiding over the award-giving.

As we made our way to our table, the gels and Mrs. R fanned out and duly found their allotted seats.  I, on the other hand, despite furious scanning about, could not find a place-card with my name on it.  Finally, I looked up and noted that there were a few unreserved tables scattered in the corners of the room.  A voice, perhaps Mrs. R’s, said that maybe I should just go sit at one of them.

Instead, I strode out of the room and into the hall in a huff.  Mrs. R followed me out and tried to get me to come back in, but I was determined to skip dinner altogether and have myself a jolly good sulk.

And then, as they say, I woke up.

As the psychiatrist says of Basil Fawlty, “there’s enough material there for an entire conference”.  But you knew that already.  One friend suggested that perhaps it meant the Palies are right after all.  To quote Daffy Duck, “HAR, har.  Hardee-HAR-har.”

♦     So here we are, closing out the second week of Lent.  After some initial flailing about, which I mentioned somewhere below, I think I’ve got my schedule of abstinences down pretty pat.  However, the devil threw me a nasty breaking ball last evening.  One of the things I’ve given up for the season is teevee.  So what was on?  Only the first broadcast spring training game of Robbo’s beloved Nationals, that’s all.  I admit that I had to wrestle with swinging at that one a bit, fighting off all sorts of devious justifications for chasing a bad pitch just this once.   I’m happy to say that I held out.  Not even a check-swing.

In fact, Opening Day is Monday, April 1st, the day after Easter.  I reckon I’ll enjoy watching that game all the more for sticking with my self-imposed discipline now.

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