A Nameless Dignity

Am I the only one feeling uneasy about the coverage of Pope Francis and the man with neurofibromatosis? It’s not that I mind seeing the man, whose neck and head are covered with benign tumors resembling boils or giant scales. But I do wish I knew more about him — his name, his nationality, his [Read More...]

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Purgatory-Schmurgatory, As Long As You’re Hopeful

By the Council’s 25th session, when the Trent Fathers finally got around to the subject of Purgatory, they must have feeling tired and grouchy. After affirming that such a state exists, and that “the suffrages of the faithful” and “the acceptable sacrifice of the altar” work to detainees’ benefit, they drew a veil. “The more [Read More...]

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The Ugliest Piece of Religious Art Ever

Here’s a sampling of Facebook comments on Pope Francis’ new ferula: “Okay, I think I know what it looks like: Remember those old magnetic things where there were contained iron shavings, and there was a picture of a guy’s face and you used a magnet pen to move the shavings onto the guy’s face to [Read More...]

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Sick Note to the Saints

To all the saints in the Church Triumphant: Gang, I know this is your big day, and a Holy Day of Obligation for folks like me, but I have a hunch I’m going to have to call in sick. As you all know, I’ve spent the last seven or eight months on a fitness kick. [Read More...]

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Pastoral Care for the Post-Nuclear Family

Unlike most bloggers, I don’t live in my parents’ basement. For that reason, last December, I missed out on my mother’s first wedding in 43 years. For almost 29 of those years, she and Bob, her new husband, have been together at one distance or another. Bob’s contribution to my mother’s life, and to my [Read More...]

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Wherein I Finally Try Tolkien

“You sound gayer than the gayest elf in Mirkwood,” an angry reader once wrote me. I didn’t mind being reminded how waspish I can get — I do work pretty hard at it, after all. But the “Mirkwood” part really hurt. Like most New Yorkers, I hate L.A. Now, at last, I see how far [Read More...]

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Yes, He’s the Burying Kind

We should have buried Erich Priebke. Or rather, since protesters in Albano Laziale effectively derailed Priebke’s funeral cortege, forcing officials to suspend the service, we should have tried. Whatever happened, the effort would have been worth it. Not that Priebke, who died in Rome October 11 at the age of 100, was a warm or [Read More...]

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Who Moved My Chiesa: A Corporate Casualty’s Guide to Getting Along with Priests

Meghan and I are about the same age, but for several years, scarcely a day passed without my checking the Republic for her obituary. When I worked in foreclosures, I scanned our files for her name and her husband’s, praying to learn they’d soon be pitching a tent on the slopes of Mummy Mountain. Meghan [Read More...]

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Confessions of a Conflicted Selfie-Taker

Would Jesus have taken selfies? Probably not. Only one tradition holds that He ever condescended to have His portrait painted, and the image was not exactly a flattering one. In purported replicas, Jesus looks impatient, as though He’s already begun to regret wasting His precious time on such foolishness. Growing up, I could have related [Read More...]

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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...]

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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...]

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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...]

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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...]

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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...]

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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...]

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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...]

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