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...]

A Slight Shift in Direction

Over the past week, I’ve produced one current-events analysis of just over 1,000 words, and two personal essays, each running about 2,000 words. I found the personal essays much more enjoyable to write. For me, the fun of writing comes from turning a nifty phrase, thinking up an apt simile, using words to paint an [Read More...]

Christianity and Islam: an Alliance of Civilizations?

When the Cairo embassy’s statement condemning the film Innocence of Islam was mis-attributed to President Obama and mistakenly reported as a response to the murder of diplomats at the Benghazi consulate, Obama reacted in a commonsensical way. “It came from people on the ground who are potentially in danger,” he said. “And my tendency is [Read More...]

Rusty the Cat: A Love Story

I think I first realized I’d lost my heart to Rusty when I saw him lay down the law with a pomeranian. He was sprawling on his side on a bench by the mailboxes, scooping up his own creamsicle-colored fur by the tongueful. He took no apparent heed of the dog, which was trotting toward [Read More...]

How I Almost Committed An Act of Religious Violence

To an uncanny degree, the last two pastors of my old parish — barring an interrim guy who deserves more attention than I can afford him here — resembled characters from HBO’s adaptation of Generation Kill. Fr. F, dead ringer for J.P. Ransone’s wired Humvee driver, yielded his place to Fr. R, long-lost twin to [Read More...]


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