Thanking God for Crickets Thanking God

Late one evening a couple of months ago, when Valley nights were still sultry, I was walking though Papago Park on my way to L.A. Fitness when I saw a saguaro cactus lying across my path. Even in the moonlight, I could see it was still fresh and green, and I concluded it had been [Read More...]

The Lazaruses Next Door: Finale

Softly, I told Chris I knew he and Laura had fought, that Laura was at my place and wanted her friend to come get her. He nodded, and I realized he had lockjaw. But then, to my surprise, he pried his lips open, and squeaked: “Tell her to give me my car keys back.” Relieved [Read More...]

The Lazaruses Next Door: Part One

I had just about fallen asleep Saturday night when I heard a breaking window, followed by the thumping of a screen being jimmied out of its frame. Thinking that my own apartment was the object of a burglary in progress, I sprang to my feet, glad for the cover of darkness. But then I heard [Read More...]

Fear of An Ambitious Laity

“Bean-counting” is a dead metaphor for most people, but a few years ago, on retreat, I saw it come back to life. I was serving as junior scullery maid, and the two older women who’d squared off over mastery of the kitchen had agreed that I should sift through the black-eyed peas for errant pebbles. [Read More...]

On Meeting a Young Drunk Again

The next time I saw him, it was about six in the morning. He was sitting on the bench in the smoking section with his jaw slack, his eyes nearly shut, and his hair sticking straight up from his head — a state I must have matched point for point. Smokers rarely primp themselves for [Read More...]

On Seeing A Young Drunk

I can never remember his name, but I do remember his job: He’s an employment counselor for the disabled. His duties include putting the mentally retarded and psychiatrically disturbed to work, usually as cashiers. Whether he finds it especially stressful I have no idea, but every time I see him, he’s looped. He found me [Read More...]

The Church and the Cracked Kettle

My parish’s associate pastor comes from the Phillipines. At Sunday Mass, I sit only about one-third of the way back, and church acoustics are topnotch. Nevertheless, when Father takes the pulpit, I count myself lucky if I can catch one word in three. Even these often reflect his cultural displacement. Recently, he compared faith to [Read More...]

Are You A Blessed Imelda?

It was one of those happy misunderstandings I come by whenever I have to speed-read something. Yesterday, in his long and candid interview with America Magazine’s Fr. Antonio Spadaro, Pope Francis turns his critical eye on the leadership style he adopted during his first years as Jesuit provincial in Argentina: To be sure, I have [Read More...]

Is Big Father Watching Us?

In one scene from Annie Hall, Alvy (Woody Allen) finds his argument with Annie (Diane Keaton) cut short by a blowhard who invokes the name and work of Marshall MacLuhan in a harangue he’s delivering to his own date. Fed up, Alvy ducks off-camera and returns with none other than MacLuhan himself in tow. “I [Read More...]

A Humorous Proposition

Never snort coke with a choleric. I learned that lesson during my misspent youth, which is to say my early 30s. But I came by the jargon to express it properly just yesterday, thanks to the Reverend Conrad Hook, author of The Four Temperaments, and to Diane Korzieniewski, who was nice enough to link to [Read More...]

We’ve Got A Live One

The very day I wrote in praise of Catholic doodads, a friend of mine, having reached me on Skype, aimed her webcam at her own morning’s plunder, which included a Miraculous Medal, a Rosary, and a wooden, dashboard-sized statue of Mary as Queen of Heaven. In terms of quality, it was average, the kind of [Read More...]

Where’s Allison Benedikt Leading Us?

Today in Slate, pour ├ępater la bourgeoisie, Allison Benedikt tells her readers: “You are a bad person if you send your children to private school.” Bad American is what Benedikt really means. As far as she’s concerned, our nation’s public school system will have a chance of improvement only given upper-middle class investment. “In many [Read More...]

Miley Cyrus and the Wisdom of Repugnance

Making the rounds on Facebook is a photo of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith and their children taken while they watched Miley Cyrus perform at the Video Music Awards. Everyone looks aghast. Jaden, the son, is wincing like a man who feels a lamb vindaloo dinner coming back to haunt him. This much is [Read More...]

What Bottum Got Right

Joseph Bottum’s essay, “The Things We Share: A Catholic’s Case for Gay Marriage,” is long. Very long. On its way to and from its point, that preventing the legalization of same-sex marriage “ought to come low on [the Church's] list of priorities,” it zigs and zags — from Bottum’s personal history, through recent Supreme Court [Read More...]

In Praise of Light

In In Praise of Shadow, Junichiro Tanizaki…well, praises shadow. He likes how partial darkness creates ambiguity that lets his imagination romp off leash. Tanizaki even prefers his food dark. Eat yokan, or red bean paste, in a dark room from a dark lacquer dish, and “it is as if the very darkness of the room [Read More...]

Rest Among the Catholic Doodads

The Catholic Doodad Shop — not its real name — stands kitty-corner from the L.A. Fitness where I work out. It’s also about two miles northwest of the Pima reservation where I buy my tax-free cigarettes. (Though I’ve driven my monthly intake down below a carton, I still consider the discount worth the hike, even [Read More...]


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