Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Word Of God: NEW! IMPROVED! 30% MORE ABSORBENT!

I can't, in good conscience, call myself a good Catholic, for the same reason I can't call myself a star-nosed mole. It would be disingenuous. So there's a case to be made that I shouldn't have anything to say about the new Catholic liturgy.

But I do have a small, yappy dog in this fight, because I am a language lover. And I believe that whenever possible words should stroke the ears on the way to the brain. I'm even okay with their not making it to the brain as long as they stroke the ears. There have been endless attempts to improve on God's word over the years, but once King James got his stamp on it, they should have quit. "Consider the lilies of the field: they toil not, neither do they spin" is fine just the way it is. No reason to change it to "look at those lazy fucks."

The liturgy encompasses many things, including the call-and-response part of the mass wherein the congregants can demonstrate to God that they are still awake. It isn't necessary for them to be paying attention. That's why it was serving its purpose even when it was in Latin. Anything repeated over the course of a lifetime is going to register as aural wallpaper anyway. We're not thinking about it. We're reciting it while thinking about a lot of other things we'll probably have to confess later. If we had all been taught in school to recite "one nation, underpants, Indianapolis, with slippery anchovies for all," we'd be fine with it. But if someone decided to change it, suddenly everyone would get all het up. We need these civic and sacred buoys to anchor our minds to, and we don't want them coming loose and bobbing around.

Still, the liturgy undergoes periodic changes for various reasons. Or no reason. It's like when a new supervisor comes aboard in the post office and announces we all have to start sorting letters with our left hands. He just has to think he makes a difference, just has to shake things up so people can tell he was there. It's the same reason infants splat their strained peas all over the floor--to demonstrate their thereness. So every now and then a pope comes along and stirs the pot just to keep the church from becoming liturgid.

In the old post-Latin liturgy, that used to be the new liturgy, the priest intones "the Lord be with you," and the congregants fire back with "and also with you." I mean, why stop there? Why not say "same back atcha?" The proper way--which is to say the way I learned it in the Lutheran church--is "the Lord be with thee...and with thy spirit." So now the Catholics have come back around. Now they're going to say "and with your spirit," which is good, although for my money, "thee" and "thou" have more stained glass and reverence in them.

There are other changes. Instead of saying Jesus is "one in Being with the Father," he is now "consubstantial with the Father," which improves nothing. Worse, instead of positing that Christ died "for all," now he only died "for many." I know what that means. That means I'm out. Anyone can tell I'm out because of all the shit I write. But I'm only following in the proud tradition of Martin Luther, when he nailed his ninety-five feces to the door of the church.

Martin Luther had a lot of good ideas, notably that one should not be able to buy one's way out of one's sinful behavior. He raised such a stink about that that the church made him go over to a Diet of Worms. That must not have sat well, because lo, he descended into dickishness, even advocating the wholesale destruction of Jews. You could call that being ahead of his time, but I think it just supports my contention that people who are absolutely sure they're right are not to be trusted.

Which brings us back to the Catholic Church. In the late 1800s, a young woman named Marie-Julie Jahenny suddenly presented with classic stigmata: wounds to her hands, feet, side, and bruises on her shoulders where one might have carried a cross, along with rope burns and head punctures. And instead of taking her to a hospital and notifying the police, the Catholic Church put her on their first string and offered her a deferred compensation package in the form of sainthood after her death. No offense, but this is not a trustworthy organization.

Many Catholics are pretty steamed about the changes in the liturgy. They see it as an attempt to tinker with God's word. Of course, God originally spoke Aramaic, but he picked up some other languages later on. Most folks couldn't do that at his age, but he's God. Anyway, some think that changing God's word is the work of the Devil. Marie-Julie Jahenny predicted that some day someone would try to mess with the liturgy, and sure enough, in the '60s someone did, translating the Latin mass into the vernacular and bringing about the collapse of the church, with the number of priests and nuns plummeting and hordes of the faithful embracing birth control. And many people think the change in liturgy is what done it.

I think it was the good birth control.

78 comments:

  1. I also have no true position here, not being Christian. (Though I agree the birth control did 'em in; get out of people's bedrooms!)

    But I have read an explanation of the liturgies -- whatever religion -- that just get repeated automatically, without thinking. If you think of them as a mantra, you can meditate on your own concerns while voicing the words of your congregation. There is a certain value in being part of a community, but only if they allow you to be yourself.

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    1. I distinctly remember meditating on the boy in the next pew.

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  2. One of my favorite ministers of all time called himself a "recovering Catholic." Isn't that priceless? Loved this post. Funny and infuriating at the same time. The changes you mentioned that really got me by the boo-boo are the "consubstantial with the Father" and " died for many." Can you imagine how kids will screw up that first tongue twister? As for the second, I'm speechless. Well, not really. I'm hardly EVER speechless. But still. That is so wrong on so many levels. They gonna start having tests before every Mass, so some "judges" can weed out the "undesirables"?

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    1. I don't know--I'm still enjoying "got me by the boo-boo."

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  3. I absolutely loved this piece- giggling all the way through in and quoting you to my co worker on instant message.
    I'm from NC and the Baptists are big here and fight for KJV because you know, "his people were the only Godly people who could translate." As if we've grown stupider and translation abilities have worsened over the last 300 years. I think it all boils down to superstition, honestly..

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    1. Wow! I'm a huge KJV fan, but not for that reason. BTW, I've heard you grow big Baptists over there.

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  4. Speaking of The Word of God ... or maybe it's just The Word of Angels. The funniest funny in the comics this morning was two angels, standing on a cloud looking down (presumably at Earth). Angel 1 says to Angel 2 "Punishing them with plagues or floods was too messy, so now He just tells a few of the nuttiest ones to run for President."

    That would not surprise me in the least. Congratulations on "liturgid". I like it even if autocorrect doesn't. And I agree with you that those who are 100% convinced they are 100% right are not to be trusted. Those who confess to no doubts should be looked at with a very squinty eye.

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    1. Autocorrect has never been on my side. But I'm not afraid to smack it down.

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  5. Consubstantial? Con-sub-stan-shul? WTF? This sounds like double-talk if ever I have heard it. Yes, I know that are trying to express a concept that is slightly more complicated than string theory and quantum physics, but somehow I don't think being polysyllabic is going to do a better job.

    Yes, the liturgy needs to change because the language changes. There are people who honestly don't understand the language of King J. But"Consubstantial" is not an improvement.

    As for reciting sound without meaning, didn't you ever have "Hail Mary" races in Catholic school? How fast can YOU get through the rosary?

    I think you are an adorable little star-nosed mole.

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    1. Roxie, I think it's just the Mormons who are polysyllabic.

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  6. I'm glad I walked my little strike sign over here, and that you don't post only on Wednesdays!

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  7. You can leave your strike sign down on the left corner and pick it up when you're done. Welcome!

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  8. Oh, Murr. I've been snorting in the background for months, but today I must stand up and declare my love. Thank you for this brilliant blog.

    I was in elementary school when the underpants bit was added to the Pledge of Allegiance; it took us years to get back in unison.

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    1. Actually, Anonymous, I always thought you were one of my most frequent commenters.

      And if I keep picking on religion, ALL my commenters are going to be anonymous! Can't be too careful.

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  9. Love your Frances Willard impression there at the top, Murr. (Although I'm sure her hair was always under rigid control.) A HUGE portrait of the indomitable Miss Willard graced the Sunday School room of the church I grew up in, and the eyes followed you everywhere. We didn't have nuns, priests or popes. We had the WCTU. She was my image of God until I was big enough to understand the whole gender thing, and even then it was hard to imagine that he could be any more formidable in aspect than she. Give her image a Google and you'll see what I mean.

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    1. I do see what you mean, and are we quite certain she didn't have a penis?

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    2. Are you implying that God does? Because that never came up in Sunday School. It was simply a matter of pronouns.

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  10. Anglican here, but we share some of the fancier traits with the Roman Catholics (and to an Anglican, it's always Roman Catholics, because we consider ourselves "Catholic" too -- but that's a different story).

    But that's not what I meant to say. And actually, I'm not really an Anglican, but it was the church I was mostly brought up in, except on that one day in Spring each year when the clocks moved forward, but we'd forget and go to church one hour late, which is when the Baptists across the road started their service, so we'd pop over there instead. (In the Fall, we'd just stand around waiting for our church to open, because there were no churches nearby that started their services an hour earlier.)

    But that's not what I meant to say. Basically, I am of the Anglican tradition -- although to be absolutely honest, when I was a minister it was in the Disciples of Christ church, but that's under the umbrella group of Church of Christ, which also includes the Anglicans, as well as the United Church, but the United Church doesn't really count, does it?

    But that's not what I meant to say. What I meant to say was "And with thy spirit" is the way God intended it, and anything else is blasphemy.

    Unless you're United, in which case they don't really care anyhow.

    Oh, and also? Brilliant post. You continue to intimidate me, which can only mean that your eventual damnation is assured.

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    1. Oh, Frankly, you're still here! I'm so happy now. I'll have such good smart company in hell.

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  11. I could tell from the picture at the top that you're not a good Catholic. You're looking way too severe and unhappy. If you were a good Catholic, you'd be smiling. And practising birth control (if necessary).

    If religious people don't smile, I immediately get suspicious. What's the burr under their blanket?

    That's why I laugh a lot. And smile a lot. And joke a lot. (Yes, puns are jokes; really!)

    Blessings and Bear hugs to you, Murr. May you get back to smiling really soon (good Catholic or otherwise).

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  12. Good thing God's penis didn't come up in Sunday School.

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  13. Grand post! Love it.

    I also, like your first commenter, am not a Christian, but I also have a good word to say about liturgy: while it's true that it becomes wallpaper, it's nice to have the wallpaper of your mind say something like "May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness," As opposed to, say, "Here on Gilligan's Isle!" or "ring around the collar, ring around the collar!" After all, most of what our minds do never really registers up there in the tiny "Fully Approved and Conscious Thoughts Control Room" up at the tiptop of the cerebral cortex. In fact, I'm not sure any of the controls up there actually work.

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    1. Oh fine. Guess what's going through my mind now?

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    2. What we really need to do is set the Heart Sutra to the tune of Gilligan's Island, eh?

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    3. Oh you wacky Buddhist. True confessions here: you did not manage to jam Gilligan into my brainspace. No, for some reason I am now whistling "Fab washes clean clear through, and deodorizes too."

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  14. I'm really behind here. Back when I was attending Catholic mass, it was still in Latin and there was none of this talking back to the priest stuff. And no turning and chatting up your neighbor with the whole "blessings be upon you" stuff either. That was the priest's job. I like to think of myself as a "recovering Catholic," but that, of course, would be a contradiction in terms. Another fine post you're written here, Murr.

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  15. Oh, I really hate sharing the peace. Wasn't the whole point of having pews in rows facing the same direction to avoid all that?

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  16. I got kicked out of Sunday school when I was about 4. Srsly, sent home with a note and asked not to come back as my questions were too disruptive. So any churching I did after that was peripatetic and depended on who my best friend was at the time. But I am solidly with you, Murr: if you're going to do it, do it with graceful language which slides over the ears with stained glass and incense. A soupcon of mystery is always nice too. Even a born again pagan like myself can appreciate the finer points of the incomprehensible delivered in a chariot pulled by fine verbs, decorated with glittering adverbs and sparkling with glorious adjectives.

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  17. What's all this talk about God's penis? I'm so Bible illiterate. As a bona fide jack Catholic, it's all liturgid to me.

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  18. What you said. Really, I am in awe of any four-year-old who can manage to get kicked out of Sunday school. What were some of those questions?

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    1. Well, I asked why Jonah didn't get digested in the whale's gastric juices. Mom had just explained what happens to our food when we eat (yes, I had asked), so I thought a whale would have BIG gastric juices and wanted to know how Jonah escaped. The Sunday school teacher had no grasp of metaphor and kicked me out.

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  19. New, improved, and 30% more absorbent? I would totally buy it butt for the chafing.

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  20. Like you say, someone has to change-up the liturgy (which means "work of the people") every now and then. Blame Martin Luther, he made use of the new-fangled printing press, translated the Latin into the language of the people (German) and rewrote hymns using tunes of drinking songs. No wonder he got the boot.

    I had to look up consubstantial. The war that's surrounding it at the Merriam-Webster site is: it shouldn't be a new word for Catholics. It's in the Catholic catechism 10 times.

    I guess, I'll go back and read my Lutheran catechism...who knows what I skipped over and what they'll change for us next year?

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    1. I figured "consubstantial" had something to do with God a mighty fortress being.

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  21. Ohhhhh my!!! My take is that I survived all the furor over Vatican II and I will survive this incarnation of Catholicism, too. Like you, I'm a language (and not just English) person and I always loved the Latin mass even as a child. There was a majesty in it. That said, these days I'm not going win any prizes for devoutness. I have always been a renegade Catholic and I always will be -- although my priest tells me that I'm prolly a better Catholic than I think I am and that scares me.

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  22. I've only been in a Catholic church for a funeral and a wedding, but I'm pretty sure I'd be way better off with a Latin mass. Hm. What is your priest getting at, there?

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  23. I remember my early years at Catholic mass.. I never knew what people were doing. Stand up.. oops, no we're kneeling.. Ok kneel, uh no, genuflect (false kneel). I was always watching the person next to me like a guy in a chorus line who hadn't memorized the routine yet... always a move behind. I got so I could slide from the pew to my knees without people noticing that I wasn't doing it the way THEY were doing it.

    I never learned Latin so I never had a clue what was going on. The good part is nobody missed me when I stopped showing up.

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    1. When it comes to religion, Robert, you always were a step behind. Ahead. Whatever.

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  24. Consubstantial? I thought it was Istanbul!

    (Shows you how long it's been since I attended Mass!)

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  25. Nothing beats the KJV. Nothing. The Catholics insist on not using it, more's the pity...

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  26. Hi Murr, When I was a kid the mass was in Latin and the Priest said "Doninus vobiscum" and we replied "et cum spiritu tuo". Which they said meant "the Lord be with you" and we replied "and with Your spirit". So they went back to where I left off. Eileen Belanger

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  27. Whenever Faith and church try to be consubstantial there's trouble. Consider the Misery Synod. They thought contemporary services with rock and roll hymns would be a positive change. Faith is better off on her own.

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    1. I know. We had Bach and a big-ass organ and somebody thought what we needed was guitars. There's no accountin'.

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    2. Oh, wow! I love this- I play a little ass organ, and piano and harp but never at the same time, at a UU church, and am wiping the tears as I type... How do I quit being anonymous and put my handle 'n picture on without joining one of the facebook, etc. thingies?

      BC

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    3. Okay, since you didn't hyphenate "little-ass," I read that as you playing a little Ass Organ. Which I thought was a delicate way of phrasing a favorite activity around here. I'm with the program now.

      What I suggest is when it gives you the opportunity to "comment as" one of various things, including Anonymous, you click on Google, and follow the trail to setting up a Google account, which is painless, quick, and doesn't seem to get you in any trouble down the road. Just a name and password and you're in. From then on you just click on signing in on your Google account and it's all taken care of.

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    4. Oops- consider that an error of a brand- new, never-before been on a blog, little-ass organ player. Little-ass as in it's in a (sorta)church-like place but would fit in a home. I can see that my UU-ness will fit in here, yay!

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    5. I swear I didn't put "delete" up there- ?

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  28. "consubstantial"?? clearly that is a word invented by Washington DC bureaucrats.
    Small wonder that the youth of today have terrible grammar and tiny vocabularies -- they never had to sit through church services and try to decipher the language. As a child who sat through endless Episcopal services, when someone in French class said "second-person-singular", I immediately knew they were talking about "...and with thy spirit". And I also amused myself in church by taking apart all the archaic words and memorizing their roots.....

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    1. Actually, almost everybody today has terrible grammar and a tiny vocabulary.

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  29. Yummy for my tummy and brain :) Forwarded to waywards and wannabe immortals. They need to laugh too.

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  30. The immortals need to laugh esPECIALLY!

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  31. Your talent is aweinspiring. Thank you. Lots.

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  32. I don't know which I love more, Murr, your blog or the comments that follow. I am thrilled to know there are still a few intelligent, erudite people left in this world, especially after having to listen to the endless, mindless pratings of the folks who fancy themselves able to govern this country. OMG, what was the prayer the monks in Ireland used to recite when faced with raging Vikings? "Lord, deliver us from the fury of the Northmen". And BTW, what does KJV mean? It's driving me nuts!

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    1. KJV = King James Version

      You're welcome (typo the first try)

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  33. Count me among the ranks of the Lapsed Catholics, who only go to mass when someone croaks or gets hitched. Still, I miss the Latin mass, which sounded spooky and grand and pushed all the right buttons. Plus, it pains me to think of all the Catholic kids who've grown up completely unaware of God's phone number: Et cum spiritu tuo.

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    1. land line...yeah, but it's more like the two dixie cups & long string version. if you're close enough, it works surprisingly well.

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  34. I like the KJV too. For sheer peotry it is unbeatable. Job 28th chapter is my favourite.
    As a highschooler in the dark ages, I was a protestant in a Catholic school. Latin was the language of the day. I thought it added mystery to the Mass, though if you didn't speak it, the only difference between a wedding and funeral was no long dusty drive to the cemetery.
    Christ died for MANY? Good god. He either died for all or none. What the hell are they thinking?
    And Roxie was right on with "a concept that is slightly more complicated than string theory and quantum physics". There is a topic for your next religious blog post.

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  35. You know perfectly well what they're thinking. Some of us are not going to make the grade.

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  36. Murr, thanks for this splendid break from my afternoon of editing drudgery and for making me roll on the floor in fallen-Methodist glee.

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    1. Methodists don't have that far to fall, do they?

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  37. How do I love thee, let me count the ways!

    I almost didn't make it into Lutheran Catechism classes because my folks hadn't attended church, but when the minister inquired if this heathen child could stay in the classes, a deacon asked, "Does she know anything about the Bible?" the minister (who loved his Ford car above God, frequently, from the pulpit) had to answer that I did. I was well read. I asked uncomfortable questions all summer long, too.

    I'm still reading, seeking and wondering what it all means, and I guess I'm pretty much back where I started. A sort off heathen pagan kid, and about to risk getting kicked out again.

    Seems reading the above, I'm in good company.

    Oh, Lordie! You are sure funny!

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    1. You're so advanced. I didn't question all that much. I was mostly in it for the music. When religion began to interfere with sleeping in, it was an easy choice.

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  38. I am going to try and comment again, had a tough time!

    The form of birth control that Paul and I practice pretty much guarantees that we are going to hell.

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    1. Where I look forward to meeting you!

      I've heard from several people who are having trouble with the new comment system (which I didn't install--it just showed up), and I don't know what to do about it. Everyone who's having trouble please leave a comment. Oh wait.

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    2. Ta Da! It is specifically a problem with Internet Explorer (some versions) and the new "threaded" comments. I am using Mozilla now and no problems. This has been reported to Blogger. I had so many funny comments to leave on your blog, and now all I have are tech tips :(

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    3. Yay! I'll pass the word on. We love tech tips!

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  39. I am so disappointed that no one has commented on your clever "ninety-five feces." Although I know they weren't yours, personally. No I'm not really disappointed because I get to be the one to highlight it and claim cleverisity, which I'm sure is Latin for smarty pants.

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    1. Hey. They could have been mine. I'm prolific. That's Latin for regular.

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  40. Bring back flagellation, I say, and 47 Hail Marys to follow.
    And King James should never have interfered in the proper Latin Bible; who was he to meddle?

    The age-old responses were all home made; pity they are untranslateable.

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  41. All hail flagella! If they're good enough for sperms, they're good enough for me.

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  42. I have fond memories from my youth of Sunday mornings spent attending church with my family, or more precisely of Sunday mornings spent laying in the middle of the sunny field behind the church reading Thoreau's Walden.

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