Praying for Jennifer Fulwiler and Breaking the Gadget

Readers: When I wrote this piece, all the news I’d received on Jennifer Fulwiler’s condition had been encouraging. For that reason, I gave myself leave to take a detour from the ongoing drama of her illness to broader questions of how social media affect the way people interact. However, since then, I’ve learned she’s taken [Read More...]

Melampus, the Nativity Basset Hound: Finale

With the death-smell filling his nostrils, and Acantha’s heartsick whine still filling his ears, Melampus found it urgent to distract himself. Now that the strange aroma had withdrawn to the very limits of his tracking powers, he discovered he was able, for the first time, to puzzle over its source. Oils, incense, and milk: do [Read More...]

Melampus, the Nativity Basset Hound: Part Two (of Three)

“Slow and steady wins the race,” Aesop wrote. So often had Melampus heard the words quoted in reference to himself that he’d adopted them as his personal motto. In the first weeks of his journey, he seemed, once again, to be proving the wisdom behind them. The delightful bouquet beckoned due south; after a night [Read More...]

Melampus, the Nativity Basset Hound: Part One

Historians trace the basset hound back to the pack raised by St. Hubert of Li├Ęge, who was an avid huntsman. But even forefathers have forefathers. If you’re willing to put your trust in folklore, then the breed’s remotest ancestor — what Wotan was to the Germanic tribes and Oghuz Khan to the Turks — was [Read More...]

The Hidden Drama of Prayer

Yoking modern technology and oogedy-boogedy devotional practice, the website for the santuario in Nettuno, Italy, invites visitors to e-mail requests for intercession addressed to St. Maria Goretti. Every day, whoever’s in charge prints out the requests and stacks them in a corner of the urn where the saint’s wax-covered bones are on display. Whether the [Read More...]

A Plea for Responsible Gun Non-Ownership

“We can’t tolerate this anymore” has got to rank among the scariest expressions in the English language. As President Obama made this promise to the nation, he pledged to support a reinstatement of the assault-weapon ban. White House press secretary Jay Carney has said there are “other elements” of gun legislation, including a ban on [Read More...]

Can A Mass Murder Mean A Church-World Truce?

Only something unthinkably bad could make Slate and National Catholic Register cover the same story in the same tone, featuring the very same image. It may be time to start thinking, ’cause that thing has happened. Now that a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has claimed 27 lives, 20 of them belonging to [Read More...]

Murder, We Posted

I was out when news of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School first hit the online media. When I got home, I made some effort to catch up, but quit after about 20 minutes. It just seemed pointless. There’s a depressing sameness to these shootings. The shooter’s almost always a boy in his [Read More...]

“We” Ennui and the “I” Revolution

For all I know, Catholic social critics would do away with adolescence and young adulthood altogether. You know, keep it simple — when kids turn 12, pack the boys off to sea as powder monkeys and marry the girls off to moneylenders or estate bailiffs with wattles and gout. But, as of this writing, the [Read More...]

Ship of No Fools

To the guard patrolling the big parking lot at Tempe Marketplace on the night before Thanksgiving, I must have seemed less Rosa Parks than Ignatius J. Reilly. When he spotted me from his golf cart at the beginning of his circuit, I was sitting on the bench outside Pier One Imports; by the time he [Read More...]

Skype: the Open Confessional

The Pope’s on Twitter. The secular press is running profiles of Catholic bloggers. It’s starting to look like the new media have been baptized, confirmed, and maybe even canonized. (Isidore of Seville serves as patron saint of the Internet, at least while Elizabeth Scalia’s above ground.) Before all this aggiornamento gives the Church a bad [Read More...]

Avoiding the Advent Trap

The worst thing about being robbed by crystal meth addicts is having to walk them through the robbery. They’re jumpy and scatterbrained, tweakers are. You’ve got to talk to them as you’d talk to five-year-olds. Unless you explain, “Here’s my WALLET. Here’s my CELL PHONE. Here’s this OTHER CELL PHONE that hasn’t worked since I [Read More...]

To the Pit Crew on My Faith Journey

So I check Facebook this morning and see that Joanne McPortland has posted a link. I click it and discover she’s written a piece listing all the people who’ve distinguished themselves as guides and fellow travelers on her faith journey. Just for a joke, I checked for my name; like a perfect punch line, there [Read More...]

Stupid Pie in the Sky

One afternoon, when I was 14 and visiting Paris with my mother and her boyfriend, Bob, we stopped to picnic. I forget exactly where we were and what kind of cheese we ate. Here’s what I do remember: after we’d finished up, my mom reached into a white paper bag and handed each of us [Read More...]

Back in the Fold

If Susan Pevensie from the Chronicles of Narnia were a real person (or if I were a fictional one), we’d probably have ended up together, at least for a while. I can see us now: zipping through London on my Lambretta, gobbling leapers and thrashing rockers to a soundtrack by the Who, until Profumo got [Read More...]

The Bull of Gubbio

A priest I used to know hated St. Francis bird baths. He was Italian-American; judging by his stature and complexion, his ancestors hailed from one of those places south of Naples that the American popular imagination was once quick to associate with malaria and the mob. His rejection of Franciscan kitsch, then, might have formed [Read More...]


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