Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy by Anna Politkovskaya: Upside-down church-state relations also have a lot to do with this story.

Hope Abandoned: Something Rotten in Putin’s Russia Besides Nemtsov’s Corpse

"Killing Hope in Putin's Russia" could be one of the most depressing reads of the year if you know nothing about Russian history.Nemtsov’s allies were divided on whom to blame for the murder. Some pointed a finger at the Kremlin, since the crime took place literally just outside its walls, swarming with guards and security cameras. Others suspected the hand of rogue zealots like the Moscow-born former east Ukraine militia leader Igor Strelkov, who returned from Donetsk vowing to wage war a … [Read More...]

Jesus and his Jewish religion was not born in London, Berlin, Paris, or Rome. (Rembrandt, Young Jew as Jesus, 1648; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100)

The West Was Never Western: Creative Plagiarism, Rome, Tracing

I was recently reminded of a quip in Woody Allen's Annie Hall. His character says: I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me. I believe this episode of copying is fruitful for thinking about what so-called Western culture really is and is not.The quip came back to me yesterday during Sam Rocha's Catholic Philosophy 101 lecture at the University of Washington's Newman Center (part 2 comes next Wednesday 7PM) when … [Read More...]

Do contemporary Christians fear martyrdom as much as they fear silence.

On Lent and the Martyred Copts: Can Water, Silence, and Desert Coincide?

Lent is the seasons of going off into the desert and facing temptation. In the Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Lent (MK 1:12-1) the Spirit drives Jesus after his baptism into the dry wastes for forty days where he faces off against the Devil. Jesus resists the temptations of the desert by not becoming drunk with the power the Devil offers him.The early eremitic monastics saw this episode as the key to Christian life. They left the busy cities with their bureaucracies behind them and … [Read More...]

There are several forms of reflection. After being forced into choosing Ida chooses the most unpresupposing one.

Ida and Avoiding Silence at Any Cost

My initial reflections upon Ida concentrated upon the historical context of the film, about what it reveals about Polish history. This is not to say what the film is all about. It might be even possible that all the discussions about the film, or even the reason why it earned its Oscar, have totally missed the mark of the film's aim. This is because its real subject is much more perplexing than can immediately countenanced, since it goes against the most basic habits that form our everyday … [Read More...]

Paul J. Willis says this book is "not only a highly engaging murder mystery but also a metaphysical page-turner."

What’s the One Novel You Need to Read This Year?

Death Comes for the Deconstructionist lays out the set of confounding problems facing us in the wake of the overwhelming victory of French theory in America's academia. The plot revolves around the protagonist Jon Mote being called to investigate the death of his former grad school mentor, the deconstructionist, Richard Pratt--something of an academic star a bit past the peak of this popularity.One of Derrida's most famous dictums was that "there is nothing outside the text," that every me … [Read More...]


1 Thing Nobody Noticed about Oscar Best Foreign Film Winner Ida

Great art always shows you more than you are prepared to see.While watching Ida the viewer naturally gravitates toward the main protagonist. In this film Ida's struggle to recover her Jewish identity takes center stage. She ultimately discovers her family was killed by the Catholic Polish family that had sheltered them--either out of fear of German reprisals, or hoping to profit from it somehow, or both, or neither.If you want the complexities of Polish history, then there you have them: … [Read More...]

G.K. Chesterton thought that "Hope" by George Frederick Watts ought to be called "Despair." (Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100)

Repentance is the Daughter of Hope and the Refusal to Despair

An excerpt from Archbishop Sartain's A Lenten Pilgrimage that hits all the right notes: Every Lent in the monasteries of the Orthodox Church, a seventh-century work by St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, is read aloud to the monks. With the exception of the Bible, there is no book in Orthodox Christianity that has been studies, copied, and translated more than The Ladder.John Climacus presents holiness as a ladder of thirty steps. Each rung of the ladder reflects a lesson, v … [Read More...]

Szybist unveils a kind of noli me tangere in Botticelli's Annunciation.

Incarnadine: Playful Poetic Sadness on the Edges of Religious Hope

Poetry is meant to be performed out loud, just like the liturgy—the connection between these two forms of human expression probably goes to the roots of human history. They are the oldest forms of communication and frequently liturgy was poetry, and poetry was liturgy.This lesson learned and filed away came back to me on my birthday. Mary Szybist was in Seattle doing a reading from her collection Icarnadine sponsored by IMAGE Journal on February 11. This day is also the World Day of the Sick. … [Read More...]


Cardinal Burke Dissents: Ashed Foreheads are a Sign of Feminization

This post might be labeled "comedy," but it's serious. Its seriousness flows from a frivolous question. The frivolous question came from a Quebecois Jansenist.It went something like this: "What is it with you Americans and your ash porn on Ash Wednesdays? Normal countries sprinkle ashes onto the hair."I thought to myself, yes, I do come from one of those normal countries, Poland, and the normal people there sprinkle it in the hair as do the Italians and the French.What is it with … [Read More...]

Faith is everywhere.

What Does The Wolf of Wall Street Teach Us About Faith and Lent?

Scorsese caught a lot of flack for The Wolf of Wall Street. The critics said that he made the life of blue-collar crime seem too fun and sexy. I bought into the criticism. That's precisely the reason why I wanted to see them film.My analysis of ISIS probably suggested to you that the ex-seminarian Scorsese's films are an obsession of mine. It's true. They are marked, to borrow the title of a favorite cinema criticism book, an afterimage of Catholicism. All the mafiosi, drug dealers, and … [Read More...]