January 22, 2021

The Saturday Monks [Christmas] Brunch: December 23, 2017

There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy
As we pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie
It’ll nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives
These things are the wonderful things we’ll remember throughout our lives

(Sleigh Ride, Leroy Anderson)

From The Legal Genealogist:

Nathaniel Currier was born 27 March 1813 in Massachusetts, son of Nathaniel and Hannah Currier. James Merrit Ives was born in New York in 1824; his father had been superintendent of Bellevue Hospital.

The two men met for the first time in 1852 — and the rest, as they say, is history.

Between the founding of the firm and its dissolution in 1907, Currier & Ives produced more than 7,500 different lithographs that sold more than a million copies.

Persistently used for greeting cards and more, avidly sought after by collectors, Currier & Ives lithographs are among the truly iconic images of an America gone by. [I would add — especially in our Christmas imagination.]

Except for the Leroy Anderson original, this is my favorite rendition of Sleigh Ride, by another American classic:

• • •


VATICAN CITY (AP) — Cardinal Bernard Law, the disgraced former archbishop of Boston whose failures to stop child molesters in the priesthood sparked what would become the worst crisis in American Catholicism, died early Wednesday, the Vatican said. He was 86.

…Law was once one of the most important leaders in the U.S. church. He broadly influenced Vatican appointments to American dioceses, helped set priorities for the nation’s bishops and was favored by Pope John Paul II.

But in January 2002, The Boston Globe began a series of reports that used church records to reveal that Law had transferred abusive clergy among parish assignments for years without alerting parents or police. Within months, Catholics around the country demanded to know whether their bishops had done the same.

Law tried to manage the mushrooming scandal in his own archdiocese by first refusing to comment, then apologizing and promising reform. But thousands more church records were released describing new cases of how Law and others expressed more care for accused priests than for victims. Amid a groundswell against the cardinal, including rare public rebukes from some of his own priests, Law asked to resign and the pope said yes.

This article at Crux explains why the Vatican thought his funeral mass at St. Peter’s was the right thing to do, despite objections from many on this side of the Atlantic who are still furious over the abuse scandal.

• • •


Also at Crux:

VILNIUS, Lithuania – Lithuania has given Pope Francis a Christmas present invisible to the naked eye: a Nativity scene where baby Jesus is smaller than a human cell.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite on Friday looked through a microscope to see a replica of the crib at Vilnius’s downtown Cathedral Square, a copy of the nativity scene that was given to Francis by Lithuanian diplomats earlier this month.

She said it took three months for Lithuanian scientists and students to create the minuscule crib from a 3D scan of the life-size crèche, reducing it 10,000 times.

• • •


One of the most beautiful Ave Maria settings that I enjoy at Christmas time is the contemporary version written by Franz Xaver Biebl.

Biebl was a German composer of classical music. His best-known work is his Ave Maria (1964), which sets portions of the Angelus as well as the Ave Maria. The piece was brought to the United States by the Cornell University Glee Club in 1970. The ensemble met Biebl while on tour in Germany, during a recording session at a radio network where Biebl was music director.

Here is Cantus singing this glorious, moving piece, to the honor of the Theotokos:

• • •


The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads

A Visit from St. Nicholas, Clement Moore

Boy, will their grandkids be mad! I don’t think it was “sugar-plums” the kids were dreaming of.

An elderly couple, Patrick Jiron, 80, and Barbara Jiron, 83, from northern California, were on the road to Boston and Vermont when they got pulled over by sheriff’s deputies in Nebraska. Noticing a strong odor, the deputies asked if they could search the truck. The couple consented, and when they did, they found over 60 pounds of marijuana, as well as multiple containers of concentrated THC worth more than $300,000. The Jirons said they were transporting the pot to be given as Christmas presents. And you thought your grandparents were cool.

Needless to say, the old folks are in trouble, the contraband was confiscated, and the grandkids will be disappointed.

• • •


ROME — If the paragon of all Christmas trees is the one in front of the Rockefeller Center in New York — first erected, mind you, by an Italian in 1931 — the prize for most pitiful must go to the one that stands in Rome’s Piazza Venezia this year. Just days after it was put up, it began to gray and shed its needles, and soon it had become nearly see-through. The tree cuts so sad and forlorn a figure that it has been nicknamed Spelacchio, or Mangy.

Spelacchio arrived in Rome early this month from the Trentino region, near Italy’s border with Austria, and what with transport expenses and decorations, the 70-foot fir is estimated to have cost Italian taxpayers 48,000 euros, or $57,000. It’s not clear what has ailed it. Maybe Spelacchio was unsettled by the trip; perhaps it was ill on departure. By way of explanation, Antimo Palumbo, a tree historian who was standing by Spelacchio’s side on Friday morning, pointed at the concrete all over its roots. “You see that?” he told me. “They decided to pour the concrete to keep it steady, but that killed it instead.”

There isn’t enough time, money or political will to replace the tree, and so Spelacchio the Mangy will stay in Piazza Venezia through the holidays, and for many locals it has already become a metaphor for what’s wrong with the city, and the country.

• • •


• • •


From The Jagged Word

…Christmas is wherever Christ is. Wherever Christ is, it’s impossible for it not to be Christmas! For only with Him come the gifts of Christmas: forgiveness and eternal life, peace and hope. He didn’t come to perfectly happy families where nothing ever goes wrong. He came bring life to deserts, water from rocks, joy to mourners.

Wherever Christ is, there is Christmas. Wherever a Christian tells someone alone and ashamed that they are forgiven, there is Christmas. Wherever a brother in Christ holds the hand of the dying and gives them the body and blood of Christ, there is Christmas. This can happen everywhere and anywhere and anytime! Wherever Christ is doing His thing, that is, His Church is doing His thing, there is Christmas in all of its splendor and glory!

…Christmas is wherever Jesus is.


  1. Susan Dumbrell says

    I must be first??

    As you all know by now, I am in Australia, hot and humid or hot and very dry depending which part of our amazing land we live in.

    I do love the cold Winter atmosphere I see on this site and as my son is in London I share with him and my grandchildren the wonder of a snowy Christmas.

    This does not make our Christmas celebrations in Australia any the less. The Birth of our Lord is still so special and amazing to us all who call ourselves Christians.

    We do not need frost bite to say Christ is born.

    Our Church is amazing at Christmas, I would love to share the joy and celebration we all share at Christ’s birth.
    Our Church is moderately High Anglican so we do things with candles, bells and smells. How else to remember Christ’s birth. Very joyous.

    We are such a warm, friendly and inclusive congregation. I would not wish for better people and our Priest to share this amazing remembrance of our Lord ‘s birth.
    Our Priest asked me home to share with him and his wife and children a Christmas Dinner. How generous. He is much admired in our Parish.
    I will have Christmas Dinner with my husband in the nursing home so had to decline his kind invitation.

    To all Imonkers, wherever you travel to or celebrate Christmas, I wish you all the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in your homes and Christmas blessings.


    • Susan, you should be first because our post is first class and hopefully set the tone for Christmas comments.. For some reason your having Christmas dinner with your husband reminds me of O’Henry’s short story, The Gift of the Magi , which is one my favorite Christmas reads and stories. It use to be a Christmas staple on TV but not as much now, which is sad as the story is timeless. Your husbands wonderful Christmas gift will be your presence and love at Christmas and all year. I live in Florida and because of the song White Christmas I cannot help but think that snow “adds” something to Christmas but I know it does not as you state so well. It is still possible and indeed easy to focus on the real meaning of Christmas if that is what your heart truly desires. Many of my good , well meaning friends lament the commercialization of Christmas , which while indeed true, can be overcome easily by following your faith and belief. So thank you for a sincere , heartfelt and good message. God Bless you and Merry Christmas

      • Susan Dumbrell says

        Thank you John,
        Christmas has its hard elements for me. This will be my third Christmas without my husband. He sometimes recognises me, but………

        I look in him to see the Babe of Bethlehem who hold me fast in difficult circumstances.
        We see Christ in our fellow man, (or husbands)
        I appreciate your kindness.

        All is forgiven?? I hope so.
        I have bad days. No excuse I know but some days are very trying for me.
        I wish you and yours the blessings of Christ the Babe, and the very best for the Christmas season.


        • Susan, My Mother in law had Alzheimer for quite a while before she passed. The last 3 years of her life we did not really know what she thought as the terrible disease took its toll. My wife was very dedicated and visited her almost every day. Many people including many of the nursing home staff told my wife her Mom would not know if she were there but my wife always felt that she would know she was there even if her Mom did not, she was right. I believe that Alzheimer is perhaps the cruelest of all afflictions as it is so hard on the loved ones who have to handle the terrible decline of their loved one. You have your love and true faith in God and what appears to be a great church family. Can you imagine going though life without that? You have no need to offer any excuses to anyone or apologize for being human and dealing with a very stressful situation. If you were addressing me personally I have no need to forgive you for anything as if you or I are guilty of anything it is being human. I think You are a more gentle, kind and peaceful nature than I and that attest to the glory of God. I was going to say smarter but that is probably obvious and need not be stated. We are different in many areas as it adds to our enjoyment and excitement of this world. You take vows seriously ” in sickness and in health, in poverty or in wealth, til death do us part” is the traditional vows in my faith, I can only imagine how much your husband would bless and thank you for being so caring, loving and faithful to him if he could convey his feelings, someday he will. We cannot buy love or salvation, it is freely given. You make this a better world and add worth to it. God Bless and Merry Christmas.

          Roses are red
          Violets are blue
          You have a nose
          Like a kangaroo

          Poem I remember from second grade and being you “down under” it is my Christmas gift to you. The author is unknown which is a good thing, I think it might have been someone in the third grade with a keen intellect. Only poem I can remember.

  2. Susan Dumbrell says

    I can’t resist, for all you chilly people shivering and not wanting to rise!

    warm coffee cures all
    back to bed and sip slowly
    soon toes will be felt.


  3. 3:16 for god so loved the world he gave his only son…….Ect….. who has not heard it. Said I would never comment again but I’ve been awake for 96 hours and I cannot go to sleep.It just keeps going through my mind…… for God so loved the world is the first part and the second is he gave his only son. I think of the son that works with me and the love we seemed to have always shared through the dark times and the good. I want to celebrate my baby just as I should. Okay some might have heard it but it is how we should look at loved ones.

    God did this for me…………………..Awe C’mon ……..ME…..I”d rather give up my life for his creation then it be this way.
    I lost 3 of my best friends all to cancer in the last couple of months. Rip my heart out of my chest and I’ll help you and stomp on it. It would not hurt as bad. Why didn’t he take me and leave them here for ever and ever. Yet he says He loved the world.

    Then I look over in the work truck and see my son and realize he’s a lot like me. A song echoes in my mind kinda like this Old man look at my life I’m a lot like you were. Okay Cats in the cradle and the silver spoon could be another one.

    Bye you all……I’m done……..For God so loved the world…….it is Him in perfect Harmony with the one He loves and the Perfect one who loves back the same way. I hope I made it clear somehow because I was really trying.

    I’m not trying to be mean in anyway but I must add almost everyone I read commenting here are spoiled putting it bluntly…….Does anyone know how good it is to be living in the middle of USA and even to Celebrate the baby ………..I need to praise you like I should…..

    If you want you can……. I was so poor I lived off of old bread and 3 dozen eggs most of a week starting out.
    No furniture and a TV I found that rolled and I got a station….lol….Man it is mind blowing at times and how it happened I have no idea but I live at 125 manor Street Harrisburg PA 17011. You can look it up……Just to be sure I am afraid of no men and only a few animals

  4. Shivers from the Cantus.

  5. My wife works tomorrow, I work Monday, so today is our Christmas. Presents, Bananas Foster waffles, Christmas jazz playing all day, French Onion Soup and sausage rolls for dinner. We don’t have a fireplace, unfortunately, so we’ll have to put a looping fireplace video on YouTube. 😉

  6. it looks likely to
    snow or rain for Christmas Day
    blessings in either

  7. If I had to choose between going to that Mega Church Christmas “Pageant” or not going to a church service at all at Christmas, I would choose the latter. Please.

    • ditto
      The only thing missing is Ryan Seacrest hosting the “Rockin’ Christmas Eve”
      I wonder if they had a manger drop countdown.

      • I didn’t actually watch the whole video, and I didn’t listen to any of it. I can’t deal with Las Vegas entertainment values at any time, but especially first thing in the morning. They assault my senses and mind. Was this an actual service, or an event held at the church at an other than regular service time? I find the latter less problematic, though I still would not attend.

    • It was rather appalling, wasn’t it.

    • Steve Newell says

      Is it a church service or a TSO concert?

      So do Christians want to worship or be entertained?

  8. “By way of explanation, Antimo Palumbo, a tree historian…”

    Tree historian…I couldn’t bring myself to read anything past that lol!!!

    • David H. , I hope “when in Rome” does not apply to arborist I am not sure if we are being played. . Surely tree historian is a very specialized calling with many branches to its teachings. I am sure the historian when out on a limb by going public and his source is well planted in fact. Tree historians can run rings around those ignorant of tree history. Rome was not built in a day but it looks like the tree died in a day. Those who do not know tree history are doomed to repeat and replant it and someday will be cut down to size. Of course Mr. Antimo Palumbo favorite mini series title is Roots. Perhaps Mr. Palumbo can partner with his American cousin Columbo to uproot out tree violence. . If they are not careful , many trees, especially in California will end up on the ash heap of history. It is true , tree historians are not honored in their life time or even the tree’s. I was going to quote famous tree historians but the only one that came up was Antimo Palumbo, he has cornered the market.

      • +1

        I can’t add anything to that excellent response, other than – and with a nod towards Mike the Geologist and his ilk – that a rock historian, on the other hand, might also be known as a minerologist.

        • Trevis , thanks for the feedback . It seems that many tree historians have logged on and created a log jam that needs to be cut down to size. Some tree historians of course have a narrow view of history and cannot see the forest for the tree they are studying, this is an occupational hazard. Another hazard is close attachment to the tree being studied leads to a sentimental some say sappy view of tree history. Mr. Antimo Palumbo work leaves little to debate but at times it creates a buzz saw of comments. . One of his famous followers of course is Twiggy, the famous? model from the 60’s who has since branched out. Of course one of the little know fact that the history of tree has been grafted into music with the beautiful Lemon Tree song by Peter, Paul and Mary, followed by the Sweet Heart Tree nominated for a Academy Award and the ole western classic Hanging Tree. And who said tree history is boring? Actually I think it was Antimo Palumbo who said that but that was in the past.

      • I believe it’s quite clear who won the internet today! Well played…

        (On a side note, for those who don’t wish to remain ignorant of tree history, there are apparently college courses offered on the subject.)

      • “Why don’t you make like a tree… And get out of here.” -Biff Tanner


  9. I ask for prayers for my wife. She is in the midst of trying to recover from an acute case of bronchitis, with a depressed immune system, and has three Christmas Eve services for which she must play organ/piano and direct the choir tomorrow. The best thing for her health would be to stay home, but “the show must go on”, especially at holidays like Christmas, is strongly inculcated in church musicians by professional education and church culture, and since it’s far too difficult and late to get a substitute in this season, the only way she wouldn’t play these services is if she were in the hospital. I just pray that she doesn’t end up in the hospital after them.

    • Robert F. Certainly prayers for you wife that she can do what she must love to do and feels so committed to. I am always amazed how in almost every church I am aware of , God provides a skilled piano player, a musically talented person or someone to provide the music that adds to the service in my opinion. Almost always the musicians in a congregation are the most dedicated and faithful at least in my experience. I have had bronchitis and it was very hard to recover and takes time, I coughed so much my ribs actually hurt, so your wife is a trooper for sure. Again another example of the really good people who make this world better by their unselfish and unaware, unassuming actions actions. No way will your wife “call in sick” unless it is physically impossible for her to be there for the Christmas Eve services. Then maybe she can start one of the cures ——-rest.

    • Absolutely! Prayer for her!

    • Susan Dumbrell says

      I will pray for her this morning.

  10. What makes the issue of what might or not be appropriate for Cardinal Law’s funeral rites complicated is that child sexual abuse in the Church is not a matter of a few, or even many, bad apples among mostly good ones, but of a culture that k knowingly provided shelter and cover to predators, and willfully chose protection of perpetrators over the interests of their victims. This means that in treating Law with the high respect that is thought to come along with his office of Cardinal, the Church is also treating itself with the same high regard, and appearing to the world, and to many Christians, to be yet again exhibiting a blindness to its own culpability. Which raises the question of whether or not the culture has changed enough to protect potential future victims.

    • Precisely. Well put. The most remarkable achievement of the papacy of Pope Francis by far has been to change the subject. While there are certainly many admirable individuals in the Church, as far as I;m concerned the Roman Catholic Church as an organization has no moral authority whatsoever and its pronouncements on matters of ethics and faith can be safely ignored. Repentance THEN restitution THEN forgiveness. Isn’t that how it works?

      • As a Barth-influenced Protestant, I believe that forgiveness is an apocalyptic reality which precedes all else, without regard for order. But restitution should not mean that the forgiven perpetrator should end up in a better place, with more power, than before; it should not have meant that Law would get to retire to Rome, where he could attend all the meetings of the Congregations to which he retained membership, and have far more influence than cardinals not living in Rome; nor that he should’ve been honored by being appointed as archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maggiore by Pope John Paul II. Why should he not have been compelled to retire to a monastic order somewhere, and court as much anonymity as possible in the most modest and humble circumstances, forgotten by the world and inconsequential in the Church power structure? Then maybe the Church itself would’ve indicated that it understood the gravity of its own sin; as things are, it has not shown that it understands or admits that, just the opposite.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Oh, it was covered on morning drive-time radio out here.
      How the funeral meant Church approval of “Cardinal-PEDOPHILE Law.”
      Past coverage has included such phrases as “Patron Saint of Child Molesters” and “The Reason they’re against birth control is to have more boys for the priests to molest” as well as appending “-PEDOPHILE” to every church title.

  11. I’ve been to the extravaganza at Prestonwood. Live camels, flying angels. Bit of a circus/broadway atmosphere. A little over the top but well produced. A fairly big attraction in this neck of the woods. Once was enough for me but many go year after year.

    • If they had live angels and flying camels, then they’d have something. 😛

      • They tried that. Camels were freaked out by the live angels. Chaos and subsequent bans for both led to the current lineup. Forward thinking but logistically unfeasible.

      • Eeyore,

        Birdie , Birdie in the sky
        Why did you do that in my eye
        but I don’t care and I won’t cry
        I am just glad cows can’t fly

        Mrs. Jennings fourth grade class favorite poem
        Camels are nasty animals for sure, surprised they work with them

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