Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stuff Happens

So much has happened in October, our heads are still spinning.

Here's the latest: We got a new vehicle - a 2004 Ford Expedition. Our phat minivan was on its last leg: It smoked constantly and refused to start O so often. I had taken to calling it the Old White Dragon for all its smoking and stinking. It needed to go. We've put a couple thousand into it for the past two years just to keep it running and there was no way it was going to make it through all our traveling during the holidays - especially through the Virginias on the way to Michigan.

Now, the Expedition is sweet and I never thought I'd own one due to its price tag, but we had to have something to meet the needs of our family. I'm still unsure whether we'll be able to afford it, but I can eat ramen noodles and potatoes for a while. The minivan was packed like sardines with five kids in it - not to mention luggage and what not. The Expedition is roomy for our family and still has an extra seat just in case our gracious Lord blesses us with another child. We considered going to a 15-passenger van, but thought this would be a nice compromise until we absolutely had to go Mammoth. The gas mileage isn't great, but then it's not much different than our minivan was running and would be comparable to a 15-passenger van.

Laura suggested that it was somewhat of a status symbol, which if you knew our "status" is a knee-slapper. I said it might be a status symbol if we had only two children. Since we fill up the thing, it's a symbol only of our fecundity and not our finances.

The vehicle was not in our lava-stone driveway for 15 minutes before Will had succeeded in falling out of the back of the truck onto his head. A rock gashed him nicely and earned him an all-expenses-paid trip to the ER. He received two staples in his head. Such is life with small monkeys and curious raccoons.

He is doing quite well and seems, if possible, more rambunctious than usual - causing my heart to flutter into spasms and yet even more of my hair to shock into white.

I've considered shaving that patch of his head and making the staples visible for Halloween - then we could go in the direction of zombie or Frankenstein's monster quite nicely. But I suppose the hair does protect the wound and I probably ought to leave it alone. Man, that would be a sweet costume though. It might be worth an infection or two.

Anyway, that is my News of the past three days - October has been full with days like that. The good news is that fall temperatures have finally reached us and we even had a week of rain. I may need to mow that lawn yet.

Enjoy your Halloween celebrations. We'll be spending a good chunk of our day crafting and eating candy. I think I'll have to make up some "ghoul-ash" for supper tonight.

St Symeon the New Theologian

"See, O Christ, my anguish,
see my lack of courage,
see my lack of strength
and see, too, my poverty,
my weakness,
and have pity, O Word, on me!
Shine upon me now as in former times
and enlighten my soul, illumine my eyes
to see you, light of the world:
You, the joy, happiness, eternal life,
you, the delight of angels;
you, the Kingdom of heaven and Paradise,
crown of the just, their Judge and King.
Why hide your face?
Why depart from me, my God,
you who never desire to depart
from those who love you?
Why flee from me, why burn me,
why wound and crush me?
You know well I love you
and with all my soul I seek you.
Show yourself according to your word ...

"Open wide the doors
of the wedding chamber, my God;
ah! do not close to me the door
to your light, O my Christ!

'... Do you think to move me
with your words, O sons of men?
What are you saying so senselessly:
that I hide my face?
Do you suspect me, however slightly,
of shutting doors and entrances?
Do you suppose that I could ever
distance myself from you?
What have you said?
That it is I who inflame you and burn you,
I who destroy you?
How unjust your words
and no more just are such thoughts!
Listen, rather, to the words
that I myself am going to say to you:
"I was light even before I had created
all those things you see.
I am everywhere; I was everywhere
and, when I had created all things,
I am everywhere in them all ..."

'Consider my blessings;
contemplate my designs;
learn what are my gifts!
I was manifested to the world
and I manifested my Father;
on all flesh I poured out
abundantly in truth
my most holy Spirit.
I have revealed my name to all men
and through all my works
that I am the Creator,
the author of the world.
I have made it known and now I show you
all you have to do.'"

St Symeon, pray for us.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

St Elizabeth Ann Seton

"O Jesus, sure joy of my soul, give me but a true love of you. Let me seek you as my only good."

St Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.

Monday, October 29, 2007

St John Bosco

"Instruction is but an accessory, like a game; knowledge never makes a man because it does not directly touch the heart. It gives more power in the exercise of good or evil; but alone it is an indifferent weapon, wanting guidance."

"Frequent Confession, frequent Communion, daily Mass: these are the pillars which should sustain the whole edifice of education."

St John Bosco, pray for us.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

St Augustine of Hippo

"Those trifles of all trifles, and vanities of vanities, my one-time mistresses, held me back, plucking at my garment of flesh and murmuring softly: 'Are you sending us away?' And 'From this moment shall we not be with you, now or forever?' And: 'From this moment shall this or that not be allowed you, now or forever?' What were they suggesting to me, O my God? ... I hesitated to shake them off and leap upwards on the way I was called: for the strong force of habit said to me: 'Do you think you can live without them?' But by this time its voice was growing fainter. In the direction towards which I had turned my face and was quivering in fear of going, I could see the austere beauty of Continence honorably soliciting me to come to her and not linger, hands full of multitudes of good examples... 'The Lord their God gave me to them. Why do you stand upon yourself and so not stand at all? Cast yourself upon Him and be not afraid; He will not draw away and let you fall. Cast yourself without fear, He will receive you and heal you.'"

St Augustine, pray for us.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

St Thérèse of Lisieux

"Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises, in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles in the way and a host of illusions round about it, my poor little mind soon grows weary, I close the learned book, which leaves my head splitting and my heart parched, and I take the Holy Scriptures. Then all seems luminous, a single word opens up infinite horizons to my soul, perfection seems easy; I see that it is enough to realize one's nothingness, and give oneself wholly, like a child, into the arms of the good God. Leaving to great souls, great minds, the fine books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because 'only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.'"

Little Flower, pray for us.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Last week I mentioned briefly the allegations that have been brought against my pastor, Fr Al, allegations about something that happened, if it happened, 50 years ago. I want to speak some more about my feelings on the issue. And I also want to state unequivocally, at the outset, that I believe my pastor is innocent of the allegations.

My bishop celebrated Mass this past weekend at my parish and his care for the parish is and has been a blessing. I decidedly respect and love this man. And this is some odd Catholic thing, that at the thought of certain men in the Church, I grow deeply emotional. And I hold them in my hearts with gratitude and respect, and I feel a deep, deep love for them even though I do not know them. (Show me your ring, Holy Father, that I might kiss it. - Yes, it's quite bizarre. It's quite difficult for my brain to work out, but my heart knows the truth of it.) It must be because I identify them and their ministry in the Church with Christ. Not that they are Christ literally. But as St Ignatius of Antioch said - where the bishop is, there is the Church, there is Christ. And of course Papa Benedict is our dear sweet Christ on Earth (and, no, I don't mean that blasphemously or idolatrously).

But I'm digressing. This post is about my pastor, Fr Al, whom I love though he has only been my pastor for three months, and though he has been accused of sexual misconduct. I don't believe he's guilty. And if he is, for I certainly do not know what has transpired in the life of this man I don't know, I will stand by and guard his reputation nevertheless. I am for him. First, because, while I cannot know, he is my pastor. Second, because if he is guilty, I am still called to love him deeply - and he has been forgiven. And if he proves to be guilty, and let me state as strongly as possible that I do not believe him to be so, I will be honored to have stood by his side nevertheless. Third, when his good name is restored and it is shown that I have not stood with him, how would I ever again be able to stand in his presence?

We shy away from our commitments to relationships because of our being burned in the past, or because of all the tawdriness from our leadership in the past and in the news. And so we trust no one, living in suspicion of everything and everyone, not realizing that our distrust is antithetical to our very faith. And if I keep my pastor at arm's length because he might be guilty then I am no kind of Christian. And if I keep my pastor at arm's length if I discover that he is guilty, then I am no kind of Christian. You see, as a Christian, I can only properly give one reaction to an allegation against Fr Al - and that is by offering my faith and hope and love. So what if it all turns to dung and I'm left standing there holding my faith, hope, and love? I don't care. Let them think me a fool. I stand where I stand, because if I refuse affection and loyalty then I don't just turn my back on Fr Al, I turn my back on all relationships.

For none of us are trustworthy. And I have my own sins.

In no way am I suggesting that the awfulness of pedophilia (or whatever misconduct is alleged) and the ruin it effects in the lives of all involved be covered over. But Fr Al is my pastor. And Jesus has risked far more than his reputation for me. And though the Church has dragged Jesus' reputation through the mud, yet Jesus is faithful - "If we are faithless, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny himself" (1 Tim 2.13, RSV). For you see the Church and Christ are the whole Christ - as St Joan of Arc said at her trial, "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter."

I cannot judge. I can only love. I can only show mercy because it is mercy I seek from the hand of the Father. So I pray and I ask for your prayers.

St Ambrose of Milan

"Omnia Christus est nobis! [Christ is everything for us!] If you want to heal a wound, He is the physician; if you burn with fever, He is the fountain; if you are oppressed by iniquity, He is justice; if you need help, He is strength; if you fear death, He is life; if you desire heaven, He is the way; if you are in darkness, He is the light. ... Taste and see how good the Lord is. Blessed is the man who hopes in Him!"

St Ambrose, pray for us.

St John Chrysostom

"We say to ourselves: 'My master is delayed in coming.' The faithful and wise steward has no such thoughts. Wretch! using the excuse that your Master is late, do you imagine he won’t come at all? His coming is certain. Then why don’t you stay on your guard? No, the Lord is not slow in coming; this lateness is purely in the imagination of the wicked servant."

St John Chrysostom, pray for us.

By the way, most of the icons I've been posting in this litany, which are excellent, come from the Orthodox Church in America's site. Their "Lives of the Saints" section provides exceptional information and icons of the saints. I would encourage you to browse through it sometime.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

St James the Just

"Behold, we account them blessed who have endured. You have heard of the patience of Job, and you have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is merciful and compassionate."

St James Adelphotheos, pray for us.

St Macarius the Elder

"Leave everything that happens, good or bad, in God's hands."

When counseling on prayer, St Macarius said that the best prayers are not always those that are long or eloquent. Short ones are equally pleasing to God, like "O God, come to my assistance"; or "Lord, show me mercy as you know best." This absolute mildness and patience communicated itself, and was responsible for many conversions.


St Macarius was not spared trials from without. At one point the heretical bishop of Alexandria [Lucius, an Arian] exiled him and his monks to an island in the Nile. But the exiles lost no time, and converted the pagan islanders. At length they were released. The people loved them too much to allow that to happen again.

St Macarius ... advises us: "Do not fear false accusations: God always knows the truth."

St Macarius, pray for us.

Excerpted from Fr Robert F McNamara

St Clare of Assisi

"Live and hope in the Lord, and let your service be according to reason."

St Clare, pray for us.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Like Dull Narcotics, Numbing Pain

My six-year-old daughter arrived home from school today with a red ribbon on her dress. My eight-year-old daughter said, "Did you win something, Anna?"

"No," she said.

"Then what is that ribbon for?" Sophie said.

"I don't know," said Anna.

Hey, School, message received.

"Dumbledore Is Gay."

So J.K. Rowling announced to a bunch of munchkins last week. I'm not sure why she announced it, since it adds nothing to either the character or the story and risks losing so much, risks distracting so much. It puzzles me as a writer. It's surely no "Baldur is dead!" kind of announcement.

So move along, people. Nothing to see here. Further up and further in.

St Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland

"I am Patrick, a sinner, most uncultivated and least of all the faithful and despised in the eyes of many."

St Patrick, pray for us.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

St Peter Claver

"Man's salvation and perfection consists in doing the will of God, which he must have in view in all things, and at every moment of his life."

St Peter Claver, pray for us.

Fun with Mormons - BYU Vocal Point

St John Vianney

"The soul can feed only on God; only God can suffice it; only God can fill it; only God can satiate its hunger. Its God is absolutely necessary to it."

St John Vianney, pray for us.

Friday, October 19, 2007

St Ignatius of Loyola

"The Lord wants our limitations and weaknesses to find their support in his strength; he wants us to hope that his goodness will make up for the imperfectness of our means."

St Ignatius, pray for us.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

St Gregory of Nyssa

"Ideas create idols; only wonder leads to knowing."

St Gregory, pray for us.

The Weekend

It has been a busy week. The end of last week was the yellow-haired child's fifth birthday. (Blows me away, but I don't have time to get into it.) My parents also came down for the weekend. Sunday, before Mass, we learned that our priest had been accused of molestation some 50 years ago, before he was a priest. (Hey, come be Catholic, Ma, Pa!) According to the Church's charter to protect children, he's been removed from administrative duties (removed from our parish) while the investigation plods forward. Please pray for Fr Al, our parish, and our diocese as we bear this cross. And, while we don't believe the allegations to be true, pray for the man bringing them - that he might be drawn nearer Christ and find peace, regardless of what may have happened in his past.

St Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)

"Nobody merits anything in this world; it is the Lord who grants us everything out of sheer kindness and because, in his infinite goodness, he forgives all things."

Padre Pio, pray for us.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

St Brigid of Ireland

On Heaven...

"I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings. I would like to be watching Heaven's family drinking it through all eternity."

Amen and amen.

St Brigid, pray for us.

Sophie is supposed to dress up like St Brigid for All Saints' Day. Now I'm not sure how to dress her.

St Jane Frances de Chantal

"Oh, how happy is the soul that freely lets herself be molded to the liking of this divine savior!"

St Jane Frances, pray for us.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

St Ephrem the Syrian

"O Jesus, in that hour when darkness like a cloak shall be spread over all things, may your grace shine on us in place of the earthly sun."

St Ephrem, pray for us.

Friday, October 12, 2007

St Athanasius the Great

"It is the Father's glory that man, made and then lost, should be found again; and, when done to death, that he should be made alive, and should become God's temple."

St Athanasius, pray for us.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

St Irenaeus of Lyons

"The glory of God is man fully alive."

St Irenaeus of Lyons, pray for us.

St John of the Cross

"You considered
That one hair fluttering at my neck;
You gazed at it upon my neck
And it captivated You."

St John of the Cross, pray for us.

With Tears

There is probably no blog that so regularly edifies me as Fr Stephen Freeman's, Glory to God for All Things. I "share" his posts so often that I sometimes feel like a groupie; I'm certainly a junkie. Fr Stephen is an Orthodox priest. What does that mean? Well, whatever else it means, it means this much: If I were to meet him, we could not receive Holy Communion together.

I had a dream the other night that my family went to a Baptist church and the people of the church tried to force me to take communion with them, which I refused. It was one of those dreams; it bothered me throughout the day.

Sometimes the oddest things will get me thinking about the oddest things.

There are many of you, many whom I dearly love, with whom I cannot receive Holy Communion. We are separated, here, at the Lord's Table.

And I'm struck by how casually we discuss our separation - should I even be able to speak of it, let alone argue about it, without tears?

I cannot receive Holy Communion with friends.

I cannot receive Holy Communion with family.

And the reason we cannot share in Holy Communion is because our separation, this wound, is the reality in which we live. (And I know my part in it. But there are some places one must go regardless of the cost. Aren't there?)

I'm not sure I intend anything by writing these words. I was simply reading Fr Stephen's blog when I saw his picture and imagined meeting him.

You and I, we are brothers and sisters, separated. It is not as though there is no unity, of course, but we are not one as we ought to be. And how can we speak of our disunity, our brokenness, with anything but tears?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

St Justin Martyr

This month's Magnificat has a brief litany of the counsel of the saints down through the centuries. It encourages us to meditate on them and "pray for a deeper personal participation in their sanctity," which, of course, means a deeper participation in the sanctity of Christ. The litany is included in the publication for our anticipation of All Saints' Day on November 1. I've decided to post one quote per day for the rest of this month - or attempt to. On some days I may also include a thought or two, but I'll keep it limited.

The saints are windows into heaven. They show us Christ.

"The greatest grace God can give someone is to send him a trial he cannot bear with his own powers - and then sustain him with his grace so he may endure to the end and be saved."

St Justin Martyr, pray for us.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Dog-Days of October

"Yes, it feels like summer, Avery, but you can't wear bathing suits all day."

Blah, blah, blah, blah. Ten minutes later I'm brought another bathing suit for her to put on. She's found a nice terry cloth cover now that she's taken to wearing as well. After all, what do daddies know about fashion? So we sleep and eat and take walks and pick up Mommy, all in a bathing suit. Even when she's wearing shorts and T-shirts or a dress, she's got a bathing suit underneath. Last night she wore footed pajamas, with a suit on underneath. I make her take the bathing suit off for Mass, but that's all I can manage. I imagine next week it will be something different, though equally incomprehensible to her daddy.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Jennifer at "Et Tu?" and Handmaid Mary-Leah, an Orthodox Christian, have also posted on covering their heads during Liturgy in the past couple of days. Jennifer just posted hers. Handmaid Mary-Leah posted hers on Saturday - thoughts from St John Chrysostom.

I read them, but I'm pretty sure neither of them read me.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pigs and Angels, Veils, Liturgy, and Our Blessed Mother

Women wearing veils during prayer and worship is quite new to me as it concerns the Roman Catholic Church. But oddly, as I thought about this practice, it triggered a slew of other issues that I am struggling through with Catholicism. And that's why, and the only reason why, I brought up the issue in my last post. I'm not simply writing about veils - if you choose not to wear one, I will not be upset.
     So what follows is an odd jumble of thought and emotion, and I hope, for your sake, I can tie it together to some degree. It has a lot to do with modernity and Church teaching and parish life in the Catholic Church, and probably not so much to do with veils. It's been a struggle to put down in words all that I'm feeling and this weekend I've erased and edited and started over more times than I care to admit. I'm tired, but let's start.
     At Catholic parishes I've attended, many of the young women dress inappropriately. The same thing happens in Evangelical churches. Inappropriate and immodest dress in church isn't new to me. But last weekend, when I went to a rather staid street festival in a very conservative Southern town it again struck me how many of the women (the majority of younger women) were dressed immodestly. Then I saw a woman, in stark contrast, walk by in a sari and I was struck by the pure dignity, modesty, and beauty of her dress (not the sari itself, though it was beautiful, but of how she was dressed).
     She stood out as particularly feminine. And she did so because she treated her body honorably. She looked more like a woman than the other women at the festival.
     My point here is not to say that women cause me to lust by what they wear and, therefore, they ought to put more clothes on. I'm not saying that. I have learned, though imperfectly, to control my eyes and my thoughts. I am also not saying that women can never relax and throw on shorts and T-shirts and enjoy a festival. But then, T-shirts and shorts are not what I necessarily mean by immodest either.
     My point here is to say, however, that women have lost something because of the sexual revolution, because of their "liberation." They have allowed their own objectification. And men, the objectifiers, are largely to blame for their situation.
     That horse has already, perhaps, been beaten past recognition. But let me tie it in with my thoughts on veils.
     Veiling oneself in prayer, it seems to me, offers a woman dignity and honor and authority. Such an act is subversive in a culture that objectifies women. I say so even while many would point to the hijab, and perhaps especially the burk/qa, and cry subjugation. I don't see the hijab as subjugation, but I can understand that if a woman has experienced oppression and associated it with a hijab that she can and perhaps should, at least for a while, set aside the thing.
     Adding to my thoughts on veils, this past week we celebrated in the Catholic Church the feast days of the archangels and of our guardian angels. So angels have been on my mind. Which brings, of course, 1 Corinthians 11 to mind - that women should cover their heads "because of the angels." How or why a woman covering her head is done for the angels' sakes is not the question here. But according to the Scriptures a woman covers her head for the angels' sakes - for when we worship, heaven is opened and we worship in their midst. What bearing does that have on our lives? Can it be called a cultural teaching? Can a teaching or practice be dispensed with after 1,900 years? Can and should the Church change these teachings or practices?
     Now my comments may say one thing to Protestants and another thing entirely to Catholics or Orthodox. In Protestant circles I may be seen as an ultra-conservative, a fundamentalist extremist, for suggesting that women start covering their heads during worship. In Catholicism and Orthodoxy, on the other hand, there are different associations that are tied to the veil - and some are not pretty. But many Catholic women today see the veil as an opportunity to express their devotion to or love for Christ as, perhaps, someone in an Evangelical church might lift their hands in worship. And perhaps the difference arises because it hasn't been that long ago that many (the majority) of American Catholics, and even American Orthodox, have laid aside the veil.
     There is something right and beautiful about women being veiled while they pray. I don't know how to develop that thought past my feelings at this moment - perhaps it's St Paul's exhortation to the Corinthians, perhaps it's the growing awareness of angels, perhaps it's the gold-ring-in-a-pig's-snout. Whatever it is, the veil seems to me to fit the spirit and reality of the Liturgy.
     I do not see a head covering as a statement or a symbol of a woman's subjugation, but rather of her authority, of her emulation of our Mother.
     I'm rambling, quite circuitously, about veils not because of veils so much as my frustration with parish life in the Catholic Church in America. I have paid dearly to become Catholic, too dearly to be happy about Catholic parishes behaving Protestantly. (And that is no attack on Protestants, forgive me if it seems to be.) I want to be Catholic. And I want parish life to reflect Catholic belief and practice rather than rise up against it in protest.
     I don't know if women laying aside their veils is a sign of modernity's erosion on the Church's life and practice. But modernity has eroded parish life and made it something less than it was and something frustratingly less than it could be again. This is what deeply concerns me. Modernity's reach is frighteningly long. And the Church must reject it if she wishes to survive, if she wishes to be the Church.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


I don't particularly have time to address this topic this morning, but it has been on my mind and I want to throw out a question for consideration. (I'll tack on some qualifications at the end of this short post so I don't lose my female readership overnight [and they have the lion's share of it].)

Now, for the question: What do you think about women wearing veils during Mass?

I love icons and after seeing Mary veiled for so long, I've begun to consider the idea. I have never seen a woman with her hair covered at Mass, so if veiling during Mass is a requirement, I'm at a loss for words.

Anyway, I'd like to address this topic more fully later. Lash away as you see fit. But before you do, let me jot down a few considerations and qualifications in order that you still might love me as a brother in Christ.

  1. I haven't made any decisions about this issue as of yet, and I would certainly not condemn anyone who disagrees once I do "come to a decision" - however permanent or temporary that might be for me.

  2. I'm not talking about top-to-toe burkas (though some burkas and saris are beautiful and give a woman more dignity than advertising themselves with ... well, I'll stop there). In fact, I'm not advocating anything. Just thinking out loud.

  3. I understand the "rights issues" this immediately brings to mind for many women. I am not advocating the subjugation of women in any manner, and hope I would never do so. This is not about that.

  4. Let me make it abundantly clear, I am not advocating anything at this point.

  5. Please be patient with me, I'm just thinking out loud about this issue due to some experiences in my life recently, which I'll talk about more later.

  6. I haven't talked to Laura about this issue, so all my thoughts can and probably will change on the matter after such a discussion.

The picture is of Iraqi (or Jordanian?) Catholics worshiping.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Remedies and Brilliant Kicks

A couple of notes about some recently purchased music:

For the If It Ain't Christian, It Ain't Cool crowd there is, newly released, Remedy by David Crowder* Band. My personal opinion is that in the world of CCM, no one is doing it better right now than David Crowder. And while I don't think that Remedy is as complete or as full an offering as A Collision, it's still a worthwhile purchase. The title track, "Remedy," is beautiful and the lyrics throughout achieve much.

It's a good album. If you don't have any Crowder and are going to purchase only one album, however, go with A Collision, it's my personal favorite and what made me a Crowder head. B Collision has more of a bluegrass feel to it - and I love that - but loses the narrative that A Collision accomplishes.

For those of you who like to change things up and aren't afraid of murder ballads and an occasional f-bomb, I'd recommend Okkervil River. This band's sound is, perhaps, my favorite at the moment. Will Sheff's voice pours out of him. Their new release The Stage Names is brilliant. And brilliant following the darkness of Black Sheep Boy. Perhaps it is Black Sheep's darkness that makes this album seem all the more brilliant.

That being said, I need to interject a word of caution. While The Stage Names sheds the violence, the "Pan's Labyrinth-ness" of Black Sheep, it's still got some language. And it's still, thankfully, moody at times. But if you can't stomach buying the entire album, try buying one song.

"Unless It's Kicks" makes even a fat man want to crank it up and shimmy and shake all night long. It propels. Inspires. It makes my heart beat faster and threatens to throw out my back. There is no cussing in this song and no violence. But it kicks.

Spend $0.99 and shimmy and shake with a fat man, miles and miles away. (I know, it's tempting. Am I right?)

It'll make you happy to be alive ... at least for about five minutes.

"what gives this mess some grace
unless it’s kicks, man—unless it’s fictions,
unless it’s sweat or it’s songs? What hits
against this chest unless it’s a sick man’s
hand, from some midlevel band? He’s been
driving too long on a dark windless night,
with the stereo on, with the towns flying
by and the ground getting soft.

And a sound in the sky, coming down
from above, it surrounds you and sighs
and is whispering of what pulls your body
down, and that is quicksand. So climb out
quick, hand over hand, before your
mouth’s all filled up. What picks you up
from down unless it’s tricks, man? When
I’ve been fixed I am convinced that I will
not get so broke up again.

And on a seven day high, that heavenly
song punches right through my mind and
just hums through my blood. And I know
it’s a lie, but I’ll still give my love. Hey, my
heart’s on the line for your hands to pluck

What gives this mess some grace unless
it’s fiction—unless it’s licks, man, unless
it’s lies or it’s love? What breaks this heart
the most is the ghost of some rock and roll
fan, floating up from the stands with her
heart opened up. And I want to tell her,
“your love isn’t lost,” and say “my heart is
still crossed!” I want to scream, “hey, you’re
so wonderful! What a dream in the dark—
about working so hard, about glowing, so
stoned, trying not to turn off, trying not to
believe in that lie all on your own.”