A Palm for Romero, A Finger Wagged at the World

The Church’s decision to beatify Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez as a martyr shows just how relevant it can keep itself by investing ancient words and concepts with new meanings. True to the popular understanding of martyrdom, the Salvadoran archbishop died a violent death. On March 24, 1980, an assassin belonging to a right-wing death [Read More...]

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: All out of Mercy?

For me – and, I suspect, for many people – defense witnesses’ pleas for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s life made for a nauseating spectacle. Tsarnaev got the best America can offer – an education, a future, a wide circle of admiring friends. He threw it away to become a cold-blooded killer, a religious fanatic, and a living [Read More...]

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A Strange New Rosary

A few years ago, a homeless woman named Karen began turning up in my apartment complex at intervals of a few months. Some mental illness had left her with the conviction that she was the illegitimate daughter of Robert Francis Kennedy. Though I can’t remember how Karen and I first found each other, she took [Read More...]

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New Arab Saints: A Fountain of Virtue to the Thirsty

The careful reader will note something forlorn in the words “Pope Francis presided over the canonizations…before a congregation of tens of thousands of people.” Josemaria Escriva’s canonization drew a crowd of 300,000 – and his popularity was, as everyone knows, far from universal. By St. Peter’s Square standards, “tens of thousands” just doesn’t add up [Read More...]

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Sic Transit Gloria Basset Hound

Once puberty concludes its mad career, the aging process slows. After building itself up in a frenzy, the body breaks itself down in its own sweet time. For that reason, when preparing to meet an old friend after a long separation, we can predict, more or less, how the person will look. It’s a simple [Read More...]

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Splitting the Difference on the Mercy Logo

Yes, the logo for the Year of Mercy is an eyesore — and that’s if you’re smart enough to look away after giving it a quick glance. Woe betide those who look twice: they run the risk of being hypnotized. Jesus‘ limbs seem to be made of rubber. Dainty pinpricks represent the wound he sustained [Read More...]

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Unfriending Jack Without Friending Bill

If the AA chapter had been a little more upscale, I might just have gone back. But – surprise, surprise – the one nearest me turned out to be the absolute bottom of the line. All the people who gathered that Sunday morning had cracked skin and spoke in cracked voices and dressed in clothes [Read More...]

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Revenge Porn for the Righteous

In its Christmas, 2014 issue, the Catholic literary magazine Dappled Things published a link to “Thank You for the Light,” a story submitted by F. Scott Fitzgerald to The New Yorker in 1936. In only 1,200 words, Fitzgerald recounts how Mrs. Hanson, a “pretty, somewhat faded woman of forty” who sells corsets and girdles, faces [Read More...]

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I Have Heard You Calling in the Night

The voice came in the quietest part of the night, and it was loud enough to pull me out of my sleep. “Threat has been detected,” it said. I couldn’t place it. It belonged to a woman, which, in this apartment, made it a novelty. It seemed to be coming from the living room. Then [Read More...]

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Phoenix and the Prophetic Life for Beginners

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece titled “Heaven in the Jungle” about the archaeological digs along the east bank of the Jordan River. According to a great deal of expert opinion, these include the very spot where John the Baptist met and baptized Jesus. I omitted one observation that fairly obsessed me [Read More...]

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Hooray for Cheap Grace!

After I flew back to Phoenix and claimed the keys to my new apartment, one of my first acts of settling in was to pay a visit to the Motor Vehicle Department. My passport was my only remaining valid form of identification. Rather than afflict it with new creases and sweat stains, I thought I’d [Read More...]

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Special Attention: Conclusion

The agent’s booklet contained the address of the Department of Homeland Security’s official website. After installing myself and my laptop in the apartment my mother shares with Bob, her husband, I paid the site a visit. There I learned that Homeland Security had created something called the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, or DHS TRIP – [Read More...]

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Special Attention: Part I

On my way home from Turkey, I stopped in Kyiv — the auld sod, more or less, for the Lindenmans. I ended up spending about two hours there, all of it in Boryspil Airport, but I have a hunch a lifelong memory was made for me. Just as I’d reached the head of the line [Read More...]

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Coda: Jordan, An Unpretentious Little Palace

It happens all the time in Jordan: You’re cruising on some road, gazing up at the looming hills, when, without warning, the ground on one side falls away. Right then, you realize that you’re actually creeping along an impossibly steep palisade, and that the real view is in the ravine below. That was the experience [Read More...]

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In Petra: A Bedouin Girl Leans In

She had a winning smile. As an 11-year-old who had years to go before growing into her adult teeth, she could hardly help that. But, at least in the beginning, she also had a winning sales strategy. “A gift for you,” she said as she trotted alongside me on the dusty path through Petra. She [Read More...]

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Stuff Melkites Like

Like “fundie” and “papist,” the label “Melkite” began as an insult. Deriving from the Arabic and Syriac words for “royal” or “imperial,” it was coined by Syriac and Armenian dissenters to poke fun at those Christians who accepted the dictates of the government-approved Council of Chalcedon. Its meaning boiled down to “those who kiss the [Read More...]

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