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...]

Charity Toward All…Even the Uncharitable

A number of Catholic media outlets have chosen this week to issue their regularly scheduled calls for civility and charity. They’re right to do so — when anathemas are flying hard and fast, the easiest way to hate or mourn for the Catholic Church is to read or write about it. But it makes sense [Read More...]

Comments Policy

I hate rules and generally think they’re made to be broken. My comment policy, therefore, won’t be much of a policy at all — just a few general guidelines that I trust you readers will do your level best to observe. Because I’ll refrain from defining the boundaries too precisely, each of you will have [Read More...]

Goodness, Holiness and Fr. Groeschel

In an oft-quoted line from a German play, a character says, “When I hear the word ‘culture,’ I take my Browning off ‘safe.’” Well, I don’t own a Browning, or any firearm of any brand. But I swear, every time I hear the words “good” and “holy” used in close conjunction to describe a living [Read More...]

On the Side of “Boys on the Side”

It was around Veterans’ Day, 2003, when Larry Flynt announced he had photographs of former POW and memoirist Jessica Lynch cavorting — I believe that was the very word the news services used — topless before a group of male soldiers. Very much to its credit, the greater share of the American media and public [Read More...]

Confessions of a Lowbrow

Frank Sinatra made a more convincing priest than Bing Crosby ever did. Call it blasphemy — with my eyes fixed on heaven, I’ll mount the scaffold confessing it. Fr. Paul, the character Sinatra plays in Miracle of the Bells, is no wise-cracker, and amazingly, no singer; instead, he’s a straight-faced, rather aescetic-looking pastor who executes [Read More...]

Drawing A Line on SB 1172

When considering California’s Senate Bill 1172, which, if passed and signed into law, would prohibit counselors from subjecting minors to “all sex orientation change,” it’s important not to see it purely as a campaign in the ongoing culture wars. It fits into another context, namely, a growing popular suspicion of mental-health quackery, particularly where the [Read More...]

Security Guard Appreciation Day

“When I worked at FRC (2006-2008) I would have happily swapped jobs with almost any other employee – except for Leo.” So writes a man named Joe Carter of Leo Johnson, the security guard at the Family Research Council’s headquarters who took a bullet from gunman Floyd Lee Corkins, wrestled him to the ground, and [Read More...]


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