Fr. Justin Belitz Teachings

Debunking Eddie Russell’s Catholic In Name Only Flame Ministries:

 Eddie Russell fancies himself something akin to a pre-Vatican II-styled avenging crusader, taking it upon himself to expose, correct, and abuse wrong-thinking Catholics. In short, Eddie Russell is a fundamentalist extremist; the type that the late Fr. Andrew Greeley advised against arguing with. However, this is not a polemic meant to engage Russel (which, would fall on deaf ears anyway). Rather, as in with a current political leader, this is holding hostilities and aggression to accountability. Additionally, it’s a heeding against Russell’s online aggrandizing, which is anything but Catholic. His perspective, style, social media rhetoric, and antagonizing springs from fear, paranoia, and assumptions in a way that echoes the bizarre Anti-Catholic propaganda of the notorious Protestant Chick Tracts (founded by the late Jack Chick). Like that infamous fundamentalist organization, Russell’s Flame Ministries, abiding in an either/or arena, propagates half-truths to…

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Carl August Nielsen (1865-1931) is generally regarded as Denmark’s greatest composer. Nielsen is best known for his six symphonies, which composer Robert Simpson described as “Progressive tonality, the practice of beginning a work in one key and ending in another and, in Nielsen’s case, to convey the outcome of a symphonic struggle.”[1] Nielsen’s First Symphony characterizes personal strength. His second symphony, inspired by a painting, is soulful, paralleling the augmentation of the human characteristics: choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic and sanguine “with the dolfulness of Mahler.” [2]

Nielsen wrote two operas, the first of which was “Saul & David” written in 1902 to a libretto by Einar Christiansen. Nilesen sketched the outlined plot from which Christiansen, an accomplished playwright, worked from. Nielsen and Christiansen worked closely together throughout the four months of the libretto’s composition. Christiansen sought to give expression to Nielsen’s ideas. “This great and strange subject stirred and haunted me, so that for long periods I could not free myself of it no matter where I was”[3] said Nielsen.

“Saul & David” has never been in the standard repertoire. Musicologist David Hurwitz offers up a theory, “It’s amazing that this superb biblical opera isn’t better known. Nielsen’s symphonies are firmly in the international repertoire, and given their high level of drama and energy, you would think that his opera would receive at least the occasional performance outside of Denmark. The lack of a conventional female love interest may be what keeps this piece from becoming more popular. Handel solved this problem in his oratorio Saul by giving the David role to a woman, but Nielsen wasn’t into anything that kinky.”[4]

The biblical text appealed to Nielsen both psychologically and aesthetically. Nielsen identified with both figures. The composer had been subjected to an onslaught of professional criticism for his progressive musical experimentation. He saw a mirror-like personality in David, the underdog who came from modest roots and displayed exceptional musical gifts. “The portrait of David is strongly drawn, both brightly shining and lyrical, as he blazes through the opera world of battle, turmoil and love and it is he, who as the opera nears its close, points towards a new epoch.” [5]This description of Nielsen’s David springs from the biblical text of Samuel, “He is a skilled player, a brave man and a fighter, well spoken, good-looking and Yahweh is with him.” [6]

Yet, Nielsen also identified strongly with Saul’s impatience and independence of mind. To Nielsen, Samuel’s anger towards Saul was unreasonable. Saul is on the eve of battle and has been instructed by Samuel to wait seven days to offer sacrifice. However, the text tell us that Saul “waited seven days, the period fixed by Samuel, but Samuel did not come and the army, deserting Saul, began dispersing.”[7] Desperate, Saul sacrifices the burnt offering himself, after which, of course, Samuel arrives. The timing is suspect. Naively, Saul tries to explain to Samuel, “I saw the army deserting me and dispersing, and “you had not come at the time fixed.”[8] Samuel rebukes the king, telling him “You have acted like a fool. You have not obeyed the order which Yahweh your God gave you. Now your sovereignty will not last.”[9] Like Nielsen, it is easy to find Samuel’s anger to be nonsensical. Perhaps Saul thinks so as well since he offers no reaction to this initial rejection and goes to join the warriors.

Samuel rejects Saul a second time. Oddly, the text almost reads like it is the first rejection and the narrative point for the second rejection is unnecessarily repetitive. Saul is told to utterly destroy the Amalekites. He supposedly fails to do so by sparing the cattle and King Agag. Saul explains that he was going to kill the cattle during sacrifice but Samuel is unwilling to listen. We might assume that Saul also intended to sacrifice Agag but, curiously, neither Saul nor Samuel address the presence of Agag, at first. Samuel again acts as the mouthpiece of Lord and rejects Saul as he did before, with slight variation, “Since you have rejected Yahweh’s word, he has rejected you as king.”[10] Despite the incredulous unfolding of angered events, Saul remains humble and repents. Shockingly, Samuel/Lord rejects Saul’s repentance and, after Saul asks Samuel to forgive him, Samuel rejects Saul’s act of contrition. Pathetically, Saul reaches for Samuel’s cloak an unintentionally tears it. Samuel seems to take arrogant pride in the symbolism, “ Today Yahweh has torn the kingdom of Israel from you and given it to a neighbor of yours who is better than you.” [11]Samuel then brutally hacks Agag to pieces in front of Saul, “Samuel then butchered Agag.”[12]

It is no surprise then that Saul begins to go mad. What is surprising is the explanation given by the text, “ An evil spirit from Yahweh afflicted Saul with terrors.” [13]Nielsen psychologically reacts to this text with a dramatic, haunting aria in the opera when Saul sings, “The Lord is evil and evil am I because evil has made me.”[14] Nielsen found much to admire in Saul’s devotion to his people and Lord and, despite traditional painting of Saul as villainous, the actual biblical text supports this characteristic of Saul, “And there, at Gigal, they proclaimed Saul king before Yahweh; they offered communion sacrifices before Yhaweh, and there Saul and all the people gave themselves over to great rejoicing.” [15]Nielsen also identified strongly with Saul’s “impetuous decisions and moody self-doubt. One cannot imagine this impertinence from David, whose less complex character presented the librettist with fewer problems.” [16]

The premiere conductor, Johan Svendsen, intentionally or not, in his assessment of the opera, painted Nielsen in Saul’s independent coloring, “A highly interesting work, “ “bearing throughout the stamp of an independent, gifted artist. The composer goes his own way with clarity, dramatic action, and original characterization.” [17]

However, some critics did not share Svendsen’s appraisal and the four act opera was premiered in 1902 to decidedly mixed reactions. The conservative music critic Gustav Hetsch wrote, “ Ni e l s e n, who seems to compose by virtue of an urge and will matched by no fertile creative gift, should learn from Tchaikovsky to sing from the lungs. If he has something to say, with his talent he should say it straightforwardly, and refrain from seeking the oddest expression, speculating in the most ingenious combinations. He should write music with air in its lungs and blood in its veins, and not sit down to construct contrapuntal exercises. There was much in this opera that sounded most odd, even ugly”

The musical language of “Saul & David” is free of the romantic pronunciations which traditional operagoers were comfortable with. Critic Charles Kjerulf was far more open to Nielsen’s modernist expression, “The sounds of Nielsen’s Saul & David rose stately and passionately and appeared as a tonal painting full of beauty and character. Nielsen is taking a great step forward, for the independence and novelty of this music at no moment turned into the distortion of these grand qualities, as has happened before to the impetuously onrushing composer.” [18]

David’s expressions compellingly contrast to those of Saul. While David sings in melodious articulation, Saul’s arias are sweeping and far more unconventional. It is a fascinating, almost jagged, cubist-like dialogue interaction between the two characters. Although Nielsen’s sympathy for Saul is without question, the composer and librettist are equally clear in their view for the tragic necessity of Saul’s downfall, followed by David’s succession. In this, Nielsen and Christiansen do not ignore the postlude to the Saul and David narrative and they acknowledge that with admiration and a touch of cynicism, “God’s new blue-eyed boy is the perfect combination of selfless bravery and subservience. To the history of civilization the winner, the Davidic dynasty, was attributed with everything from the invention of the harp, the “composition of the psalms, the Temple of his son, Solomon, and the liturgy through to the birth of Christ and thus the New Testament.” [19]

There is exhausting rage in Nielsen’s dying Saul, who acclaimed David and curses God as he, like Mozart’s Don Giovanni on the brink of death, declares his individuality, “Jonathan is Slain! Slain! See how greedily the earth drinks his blood. Soon shall I lie with death’s stone-hard door over my mouth. My Lord and My Tempter! You eternal mocker up there, who laughs at my agony, see now I splatter my blood on your heaven. Wash myself clean of my sin if you dare!” [20]

Saul’s breathy lament is followed by David’s exaltation, “ Strong as lions, swift as eagles were Saul and his son. Israel’s daughters, weep with me. Israel’s pride lies slain. The “Lord is King, high above all men. Honor is his to all eternity, might and power. Children of men are merely feeble clay in his hand.”[21]


[1] Simpson, Robert Carl Nielsen: Symphonist. London: Hyperion, 1979. P. 36.

[2] Ibid. P. 25

[3] Fanning, David Nielsen. United Kingdom: Cambridge University, 1997. Excerpt from Nielsen interview.

[4] Hurwitz, David. “Nielsen’s Saul & David.” Classics Today 1992.

[5] Krabbe, Niels. Carl Nielsen Studies. Ed. Jorgen Jensen. Copenhagen: Royal University of Denmark, 2009.

[6] New Jerusalem Bible: 1 Samuel. New York: DoubleDay, 1985. P. 376

[7] ibid. P. 370.

[8] Ibid.

[9] ibid.

 [10] ibid. P. 375

[11] ibid.

[12] ibid.

[13] ibid. P.369

[14] Krabbe, Niels. Carl Nielsen Studies. Ed. Jorgen Jensen. Copenhagen: Royal University of Denmark, 2009.

[15] New Jerusalem Bible: 1 Samuel. New York: DoubleDay, 1985. P.369

[16] Hansen, Wilhelm. Carl Nielsen Works. Ed. Johan Svendsen. Copenhagen: Carl Nielsen Library, 2002.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Krabbe, Niels. Carl Nielsen Studies. Ed. Jorgen Jensen. Copenhagen: Royal University of Denmark, 2009

[20] Nielsen, Carl. Saul & David. Record. With Aager Haugland and Peter Lindroos. Cond. Neeme Jarvi. Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra & Choir. Chandos. CHAN 8911/12, 1990.

[21] Ibid.

Winky Tinky’s Christmas Adventure!

Winky Tinky’s
Christmas Adventure!

With his hands on his hips Santa stood looking into the mirror. Ho Ho Ho Ho he laughed with glee, as he turned to Mrs. Kringle; his long suffering wife, to show her the results of the three weeks of Viagra. She mused to her self, “Where was that a thousand years ago when I needed it?” There would be no living with him as long as he kept taking those darn pills she thought, as she finished knitting another pair of socks for the Elves. As Santa turn to admire himself again in the mirror, Mrs. Kringle put her knitting away and left the bedroom and made her way down stairs to the Toyshop.

She walked passed benches laden with half assembled toys and long rows of Elves busy constructing them. Until she came to where the chief Elf Bimbo, stood chewing out the littlest of all the Elves, Winky Tinky.

“Now see here Mr. Tinky, I’ve told you at least a hundred times today to put tab B into slot A. If it wasn’t for Christmas being only two weeks away I’d toss your sorry as_… Oh, good morning Mrs. Kringle,” Bimbo said pulling up short.

“Here’s your socks Bimbo,” Mrs. Kringle said. “Try to keep them on your feet this time and off of your pe___…”

Just then a whistle blew marking the lunch hour and ending the conversation as all the Elves began to rush out of the room. Randy little buggers Mrs. Kringle thought to herself as she smiled and slowly shook her head.

Winky Tinky loved ‘Lunch Hour,’ as it allowed him to visit the reindeer. He merrily skipped out the door of workshop and across the compound past groups of Elves waiting in line outside the kitchens. Past the chemical laboratories where white-coated Elves were putting down their beakers and untying their aprons from their work making the “magic dust” that allowed the reindeers to fly. Until he came at last to the big red barn where the reindeer lived. He struggled with a bale of hay until he could climb upon it and pull the latch back that unlocked the big barn doors. He leaped from the bale and scampered through the doors and into the barn.

The smells of hay, barely, oats and reindeer droppings permeated the barn and made Winky Tinky smile. There they all were in their own special stalls…

He watched Dancer and Prancer, nuzzling one another over the bars of their stalls. Dancer had recently come out of the closet much to the delight of that old queen Prancer. Next came Dasher who was busy running in circles in his stall, the result of over dosing on ‘speed’ again. In the next stall was Vixen; the only female reindeer in the group, who was busy counting some money and rubbing her behind from Blitzen, who had just return to his stall from visiting Vixen. Just beyond Blitzen’s stall was a stall surrounded by barbed wire and a reindeer that was tied up to a hand cart with a hockey mask over his muzzle. When Winky came to the stall he moved out into the center of the barn, no need to give Donner the cannibal a chance at him. He stayed out away from the stalls as he passed Cupid who would nail anything that walked. Cupid whistled at him as he walked by and batted his eyelashes. Next came Comet the genius of the group, who was busy working on a j.a.t.o (jet assisted take off) system. Till at last he came to Rudolph’s stall.

Rudolph, beautiful Rudolph. Winky’s little heart skipped a beat as he gazed into Rudolph’s golden eyes. Here was love; here was everything Winky had ever wanted. If only Rudolph felt the same way. But alas Rudolph didn’t share Winky’s feelings. In fact Rudolph could be down right hostile to the littlest Elf. Had in fact tried on several occasions to gore Winky with his antlers. He had even tried to kick Winky with his hooves. Rudolph’s action did nothing to sway Winky’s longings; in fact it had just the opposite effect. Winky yearned even more for Rudolph! Winky stood there with a silly grin on his face as he reached into his jacket and pulled forth a bunch of asparagus.

Asparagus, the one gift Rudolph couldn’t refuse. Asparagus was what Santa used to feed the reindeer after their Christmas flights as a reward. The Reindeer loved Asparagus and would do practically anything to get some. Rudolph stopped his hostility toward Winky and began to wag his little tail and prance around the stall. Winky held out a single stalk toward Rudolph, which the reindeer quickly grabbed and wolfed down then, looked up hopefully for more. Winky shook his head no and waited expectedly for Rudolph to turn around. Rudolph meekly turned around and offered Winky what he wanted. Winky quickly climbed up the bars and then leapt on Rudolph’s back. He threw the stalks of Asparagus onto the ground and as Rudolph grazed Winky started to remove his pants.

Just as he was beginning to mount the reindeer Santa came and grabbed Winky by his collar and pulled him out of the stall. “I thought I told you to stay out of the barn Winky,” said Santa. He put the little Elf down and with a smack on his behind sent Winky out of the barn. Randy little beggars thought Santa. Santa then turned and popped a couple more Viagras as he walked down to Vixen’s stall where he pulled out a bunch of Asparagus. A few moment’s later reindeer screams and Santa’s Ho Ho Hos rang out all across the compound.

Winky was crestfallen; he hung his head low and fought back the tears as he left the barn. Rumple Tweezer; the shop steward turned to Bimbo sadly shaking his head and said, “Poor little Winky, there will be no consoling him again.”

“Yeah,” said Bimbo. “I wish Santa would let him score, I might be able to get some work out of him. Poor love sick little Elf.”

Winky knew that the others Elves were talking about him behind his back, but he didn’t care. Nothing mattered to him anymore, nothing but Rudolph. Those deep golden eyes, the way he pranced, the sinuous curve of his antlers, his cute little tail, his shinny black hooves and that shinny red nose, ohhhh that little red nose. He couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and couldn’t keep his mind on anything, but beautiful Rudolph.

His every attempt to see his beloved Rudolph alone seemed to be blocked. No matter what he tried he seemed to be doomed by kismet to be kept ever apart. Fate seemed to be against him yet his desires drove him on! Once he even snuck out of the Elves bunkhouse for a midnight tryst and got into Donner’s stall by mistake. Winky was still having a series of nightmares about it. Would fate never smile upon poor Winky?

As the days and nights ticked off until Christmas the Elves were kept very busy. Long did they labor at the almost impossible task of assembling the toys and packing them in Santa’s bag, actually a wormhole. Winky almost tumbled in and was only saved by a quick thinking Rumple Tweezer who pulled Winky from the brink of the “Blue Event Horizon” by his lucky charms! On several occasions Santa himself had to sprinkle a little of the magic dust around the shop floor to keep the Elves on their toes. Winky was kept too busy to try and see Rudolph. It seemed that either Bimbo or Rumple Tweezer always had an eye on him. All that the Elves were constantly talking about was who would ride with Santa this year. Soon Santa would choose the very best Elves to accompany him on his Christmas Eve ride. Nobody really wanted to go, for it meant a lot of extra work. While the rest of the Elves were at the PAR TAY of the year, the Elves that went with Santa were incredibly busy delivering billions of presents all around the world in one nights time. It might take a month just to recover from it. Yet it was considered an honor and there was the magic dust; which is why it might take a month to recover, and all those happy children as well. If it would get him close to Rudolph, Winky would do almost anything to go with Santa, if only he could!

Finally the big day arrived; it was the 23rd of December the day that Santa would announce whom his ‘helpers’ would be this year. Would Santa choose Winky this year? Finally Santa and Mrs. Kringle entered the shop just as the Elves were packing the last of the presents for all the good girls and boys all over the world. A hush came over all the Elves as Santa cleared his throat and began. His choices for this year were Larry the dwarf and Rumple Tweezer. Larry the Dwarf was a good choice as Larry was the tallest Elf. Larry was 6 ft 2 in his stocking feet, rather large for an Elf. While Santa wanted the shop steward to work at least one day a year, much to the chagrin of Rumple Tweezer.

The rest of the Elves began to dance and sing the traditional way to show their thanks for not being chosen, and the start of a five day long party that would send most of them to the hospital. All of the Elves except the littlest Elf who was heart broken. Winky Tinky hung his head and began to shuffle back to his lonely bed. He crossed the compound to the bunkhouse and by the time he got there he was already sobbing gently.

Meanwhile the shop floor has been turned into a party pit out of Dante’s Inferno and Mrs. Kringle has packed and left for three weeks in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica for a tryst with a Rasta man. Someone’s found some old Dio and Sabbath discs and is cranking them out at ear splitting volume. Larry the Dwarf and Rumple Tweezer are drowning their sorrows in a Vat of Donnie P ’58. A few members of the pharmacy staff are pouring little bags of magic dust in the punch bowl as the prim and proper Elf sisters Darla and Dora Dumplings take turns sitting atop the office copier machine making copies of their naked backsides for use later on at the party.

As this was going on Winky lay in his bunk and cried his little eyes out over Rudolph. All through the night while the noise level climbed beyond hearing Winky cried and cried. Then just after dawn Winky was shocked backed to reality by the blaring sirens of an ambulance sleigh. Winky sprang from his bed to see what was the matter and saw the medics carrying what had to be Larry the Dwarf. Winky ran across the compound dressed in his night gown to find that Larry had gone to visit Vixen but had gotten into Cupid’s stall by mistake and what remained wasn’t much but he did have a smile on his face. Santa came up dressed in his red delivery suit with a very hung over Rumple Tweezer in tow and demanded to know what had happened? When he found out what had happened he shook his head and smiled to himself and wondered who he should choose now that Larry the Dwarf was out of the picture. Just then Rumple Tweezer whispered something in Santa’s ear and that jolly old Elf laughed out loud and struck Rumple Tweezer on his shoulder knocking him to the ground. As Santa choked on laughter he merrily announced that Winky Tinky would take Larry’s place!

As Rumple Tweezer got back on his feet and dusted himself off Santa told Winky to hurry and get dressed as he was going over to hitch up the reindeer and then they were leaving. As all the Elves cheered, Winky ran as fast as could back to get dressed, while Bimbo led the Congo line of the nearly naked Elves out of the cold and back to the party!

Just as Santa had finished sprinkling the reindeer with the “magic dust” Winky joined Rumple Tweezer in the back seat and they were off. Through the doors of the barn and into the air up and up they went. Higher and higher until Winky thought he would surely feint. As Santa checked the radar and other instruments Rumple Tweezer and Winky opened Santa’s bag and prepared to give out the toys. “Uh oh,” said Santa as adjusted his instruments. “Oh shit, wouldn’t you just know it,” he exclaimed! “The one night of the year I go out and the entire planet is covered in Fog!” If he only had got that GPS system last year. How could he deliver the presents to all the good boys and girls?

Then he motioned for Rumple Tweezer to get in the front seat. They talked for a moment and then Rumple Tweezer got in the back seat and told Winky that Santa wanted to talk to him up front.

When Santa told Winky what he wanted him to do, Winky couldn’t believe his ears. He nodded a quick affirmation and stood and took all of his clothes off and waited until Santa sprinkled some “magic dust” on his “Tinky Winky!” He then leapt over windscreen and onto the backs of the closest reindeer. Winky didn’t dare look down from 100,000 feet and he had to hang on tight in the Mach 2 gale he encountered on the backs of the reindeer. But carefully he leaped from the back of one reindeer to the next, until he came at last to Rudolph! He took no time to make all his dreams come true which caused Rudolph’s nose to glow so brightly that Santa and the reindeer could see to deliver all the Christmas presents, to all the good boys and girls through out the world and Christmas was saved!

PS. Things have quieted down around the North Pole these days. Santa left for Maui until June with the Dumpling sisters. Mrs. Kringle still hasn’t come back from Jamaica and Rudolph and Winky Tinky have a loft in Frisco.
© 1999/2010 Ernest Stewart

Hairy Cannibis To All, And To All A Good Night!


BlueMahler’s intensely subjective and brief presentation of his personally ideal recorded cycle of the Gustav Mahler symphonies.

Arnold Schoenberg claimed all that is representative of Mahler is to be found in his First Symphony and I sure as hell am not one to argue with Schoenberg, so the first is the inevitable place to start.  Naturally, no single interpretation can say everything there is to say, so here are a choice seven performances and I will start with Leonard Bernstein.

Bernstein is to Mahler what Wilhelm Furtwangler was to Beethoven during the war years. Since the days of Bernstein, the recorded Mahler cycle has become annoyingly faddish, but, in the end, Bernstein’s Mahler remains one of the most vital for the ages.  In Bernstein’s DG recording with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, this legendary conductor flings off any idea of a hair shirt; he is buoyant, bright, and contagiously enthusiastic.  After the first two bucolic movements, Bernstein invests the funeral march with humor, aplomb, and zest; a bit like the adolescent enthusiasm for Edgar Allan Poe. Bernstein follows the march with a prophetic finale that literally sears everything in sight.

Rafael Kubelik leads the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in a poetic performance which milks every ounce of color from the composer’s palette. It will wash right over you. The Marketing team at DG knew what they were doing when they chose a painting from Gustav Klimt for the cover.  This performance has had a considerable reputation since its release. It is well deserved.

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The Beauty Of Thy Love

The Beauty Of Thy Love

The tenderest of kisses and caresses,
I send to thee…
To wash all o’er your body
Like the waves upon a beach,
Take my hand,
Take my love,
Take all that is mine to give…
And give in return to me,
Only thy heart.
A treasure,
Priceless beyond all count
For such is the joy and the beauty of thy love!
(c) 2000 Ernest Stewart