Lent for the Reluctant Ascetic

I grew up in the days before Velcro. By persisting to the age of five or six in not knowing how to tie my shoes, I drove my mother to desperate measures. One morning, she snatched the bowl of Life cereal out of my greedy little hands and informed me that I would not be getting breakfast until I learned to tie my shoes once and for all.O reader, how I wish I could report to you that I bent over my Trax, double-knotted the laces like a little champ, and strode forth (having precluded any … [Read More...]

How to Lose A Marathon

I spent roughly the first 15 miles of Phoenix’s PF Chang’s Rock and Roll Marathon eavesdropping on – you should excuse the pun – a running monologue. A young woman was recounting her life story for her companion, a young man whose acquaintance she’d apparently made not long after the starting gun had gone off. And what a life story it was! Deciding out of the blue to take up running, she’d quickly mastered the discipline. Next, she’d taught herself to swim.At that moment, uncertain whet … [Read More...]

In Defense of “Sob-Signaling”

Spectator columnist Julie Burchill is ordering her readers: “Please spare us the sob signaling over David Bowie.” Burchill never explicitly states what people are trying to signal with their sobbing, but she seems to despise it generally because it’s memelike, which is to say lemming-like, and expre … [Read More...]

Farewell to Miss Florence King (1936-2016)

The late Gore Vidal began his last set of memoirs: “As I move – I hope gracefully – to the door marked Exit…” Florence King, who died on January 6, one day after her 80th birthday, can justly claim credit for a graceful exit. The great humorist and cultural critic worked almost to the very end, pub … [Read More...]

Is It Time for A Moral Panic over Pornography?

This past November, the Bishops’ Conference published a pastoral response to pornography titled “Create in Me A Clean Heart.” The document reviews the entire “structure of sin,” from masturbation to human trafficking, for which porn forms the foundation. Though the drafters maintain a measured tone … [Read More...]

Girls at the Altar: Decompressing A Condensed Symbol

Yesterday, Michelle Arnold, a Patheos colleague, wrote in defense of altar service by girls and women. She reminds us that its history extends all the way back to the antebellum South and culminated in an endorsement from St. John Paul II, the same pope responsible for restricting the sacramental … [Read More...]

Modesty for Men

A few months ago, I had a Skype conversation with a Catholic writer who is a woman. Though impressed by her work, I had also found it a bit dour in spots. Consequently, I expected to find myself screen-to-screen with a frump.Rarely have I guessed so wrong. Land o’ Goshen, she was a looker – … [Read More...]

The Witness of Larycia Hawkins: Too Much Solidarity, Not Enough Clarity

Last Tuesday, political science associate professor Larycia Hawkins was placed on administrative leave by Wheaton College for posting the following message on Facebook:I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis … [Read More...]

In Defense of Serena Williams

Kathy Schiffer, my Patheos stable-mate, has made it into The Washington Post for observing that tennis great Serena Williams has made herself look “like a hooker” on her Sports Illustrated cover, and by doing so “took feminism back a generation.” Like Williams' vampish pose or not, we should take it … [Read More...]

Why Grow Up When You Can Be Christian?

“One cannot really be a Catholic and grown-up,” wrote George Orwell in an essay on Evelyn Waugh. Orwell never finished the essay; the remark appears in a collection of fragments jotted down for explication at some moment that never arrived. But it seems to refer to the deathbed scene in Bri … [Read More...]

An Evening with Our Lady of Guadalupe

It’s been six years since I’ve gone away overnight on retreat. The last time was so weird in every respect that it might just last me a lifetime. The retreat’s purpose was vocational discernment; with my convert’s enthusiasm still in full bloom, I indulged the fantasy that God was calling me to joi … [Read More...]

Remembrance of Sins Past: Book 341

The thing about him that struck me first was his mode of dress, which was like a grown-up’s. Because of the heat, which persists through December, at least in midday, Arizonans tend to dress like college freshmen, in shorts and t-shirts, whenever they can get away with it. Forced into handouts l … [Read More...]

Advent’s Lesson: Redemption Ain’t All Cyrus and Second Temples

If you were in peril of your life, with your last hope slipping away, and you had to choose a Bible verse to help jolly you up, you’d probably reach for the Book of Isaiah. At least you would if you were a character in a 1940s war movie – and the results wouldn’t disappoint you.In Northwest Pa … [Read More...]

A Maverick Marian Moment

Yesterday evening, I planned to write contra Trump, to damn him for a mountebank, an incandescent gasbag, an American Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Just as I was starting to despair of saying anything beyond the obvious, I experienced a flash of grace so startling in its suddenness and clarity that it … [Read More...]


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