Lessons from A Modern Family of Introverts

When I say I have no social skills, I mean I lack the flexibility to take part in the Kadesh Operations – the ad hoc alliances, the raids and counter-raids — involved in carving out and holding a place among a large number of fellow humans. In company, I isolate myself until I decide, abruptly [Read More…]

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Bone of My Bone of Contention

One evening toward the end of last year, two fellow teachers and I were walking down the hill from school and talking about what we missed most about home. I named my best friend and his wife, who would invite me over the days after holidays and feed me leftovers. I can’t remember what Rustom [Read More…]

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On Abstaining from Communion

The other week at Mass, I remained in the pew when everyone else got up for Communion. I can’t remember whether I was praying fervently or daydreaming or nodding halfway off — the difference is sometimes academic – but in any case, my eyes were closed. Then I felt a whack on my shoulder. Turning [Read More…]

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Caught up (A Little) in the Francis Effect

A number of readers have offered negative feedback on my last piece. One was my mother, with whom I Skyped yesterday. “I can’t believe you wrote something bad about the pope!” She cried. “Warn me the next time you’re going to do that, because I just can’t stand any negativity where Francis is concerned!” My [Read More…]

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Immune to the Francis Effect

Looking back over this past weekend, I’m not sure whether I can pinpoint the exact moment when I was completely and irreversibly Francis’d out. But that moment did come, and once it came there was no denying it. Thoroughbreds like Allen and Ivereigh could devote the remainders of their careers to mining the pope’s numerous [Read More…]

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Contra Bill Maher

Try as I might, I just can’t dislike Bill Maher, probably because we represent the same unlikely mixing of the tribes. Normally, here in the American melting pot, Jews marry Italians, and the Irish pair off with Germans and Poles till all their kids and grandkids become generic crackers who’ve forgotten how to pronounce their [Read More…]

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Eid al-Adha for the Deaf and Dumb

It was not, initially, my intention to remain all but ignorant of the Turkish language. But the schools where I taught scheduled me for at least 45 classroom hours per week. Because the textbook material proved to be well over the students’ heads, not to mention deathly dull, I had no choice but to write [Read More…]

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“His Holiness and Hizzoner” — Pope Francis and the Ghost of Ed Koch

Dear Blahblah You are an insufferable old bat. I don’t give a tuppeny damn what you think Dorothy Day would have done in my position because, number one, I ain’t her, and number two, you wouldn’t know Dorothy Day’s spirituality if it crawled up your leg. Go soak your head. In Christ, etc. These are [Read More…]

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On Meeting A Young Drunk for the Third Time

The young man whose habitual drunkenness and general air of misery had once moved me to stage a clumsy one-man intervention, looked great — sober and fit. Reading that fact up front might ruin a little of the suspense, but our story winds through such a long spiral that it seems wise to toss it [Read More…]

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The Catholic Church: Destination for Wandering Adult Kids of Divorce

One Sunday afternoon when I was 17, I returned from my father’s house to find two elegantly rolled joints waiting for me on my dresser. In those days, I made a custom – even a tradition, if a tradition can be said to form over the span of six months – of sparking one up [Read More…]

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Pope Francis and the Barbarians

Eager to glimpse the big picture of Francis’ pontificate? Frustrated connecting the dots from soundbyte to soundbyte? Read Constantine Cafavy’s poem “Waiting for the Barbarians,” which Rod Dreher was kind enough to contextualize for readers. Cafavy describes the government and citizens of an unnamed city waiting for the arrival of some unnamed barbarians. Their mood [Read More…]

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My Brain Bug Meets Dem Dry Bones

Hearing Ben Carson quote Proverbs on humility and fear of the Lord inspired me. There he was, a neurosurgeon and liberator of conjoined twins, a former professor of medicine, synthesizing faith and science and burning The Donald with truth in charity. I decided I must find a favorite Bible verse of my own. That I [Read More…]

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For Rosh Hashanah: The Jewish Earworm

Being Jewish isn’t always a picnic. I got my first inkling of this when I was about nine. My father and I were walking near his house in Westfield, New Jersey, when he fell into conversation with a neighbor, a man in his 70s, still strapping, with a snowy, Tip O’Neill quiff and a golf-course [Read More…]

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Blank Slate: Free Tattoo Removal Helps Strip off Badges of Sin

One evening in Moscow, I happened to glance at the hand of the man I was drinking alongside. Tattooed into the fleshy part between thumb and forefinger were five dots, arranged exactly like pips on a die. This guy was the most harmless-looking Russian I have yet to meet – he reminded me of George [Read More…]

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9/11 and Conversion

I’ve tried to tell this story before but I’ve gotten it wrong. So I’ll try again. It’s that important. In August of 2001, more or less on a whim, I visited San Francisco for the first time. My mother and Bob flew out from New York to meet me, so the visit became a family [Read More…]

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“I’m A Christian, but…but Nothing.”

Buzzfeed’s latest viral video, titled “I’m Christian, but I’m Not…,” features five spruce twentysomethings who look ready to hop into the nearest van and solve a mystery. Instead, they profess their faith, but they begin by describing themselves in the world’s terms. “I’m not homophobic,” says one. “I’m not close-minded,” says another, as the rest [Read More…]

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