The Elephant in the Pew

In the tangled journey home of this particular returning Catholic, this is one of the toughest times of the year. Tomorrow marks the 39th anniversary of the passage of Roe v. Wade, and everybody I know is--literally or figuratively--on the bus to Washington for the annual March for Life. Most of the Catholics I know and love are on the bus in support of the march and in passionate protest of the right to legalized abortion that Roe established. Most of the non-Catholics I know and love are on … [Read more...]

Girls in Love, Lambs to the Slaughter

It's the Eve of St. Agnes, and it's cold. Cold as the beginning of Keats' long lyric poem, set on and named for this night:St. Agnes' Eve -- Ah, bitter chill it was!The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,And silent was the flock in the wooly fold . . .If you were a young unmarried European woman on this night, in times past, you'd be preparing yourself like Keats' heroine Madeline to receive a rapturous vision of your husband-to-be. The … [Read more...]

The Ugliness of Smart? An Update Foiled

I thought I was going to squeeze out a win for Team Non-Beauty when I saw, at Slate, that The Explainer's 2011 Question of the Year turned out to be Why Are Smart People Usually Ugly? Woohoo! I thought. If we can't be good, we can sure claim the intellectual high ground and devote ourselves to being evil genii. I am Mojo Jojo! You must obey! But Nooooooooo.Turns out, some studies show a general correlation between beauty and smarts, which I should have figured out from the sheer number of … [Read more...]

The Holiness of Beauty?

Two recent posts by friends have me revisiting a philosophical equation that troubles me even more than the ones I struggled with in Algebra I (both times): the original Grecian Formula, placed in the mouth of Sophocles by Plato, that Beauty = Goodness. When I first encountered the Symposium, as a (very, very) late-life Humanities major in the Antioch degree-completion program then called The McGregor School, I had already been as infused with, even pickled in, the Beauty Equals Goodness trope … [Read more...]

Wonder Bread

The essence of faith is that I do not meet with something that has been thought up, but that here something meets me that is greater than anything we can think of for ourselves.~ Benedict XVI, God and the WorldYou wouldn't think that the news that Hostess, the company that makes Twinkies and Wonder Bread, is filing for bankruptcy would trigger a fit of theological reflection. But as someone noted in the comments box of one of the Catholic blogs I've been following lately, there's a very real … [Read more...]

Hit by an Unguided Missal

First Advent always seems to catch me wrong-footed, as the Brits say. Its cool, austere, reflective purpleness follows too hard on the heels of Thanksgiving abundance, like the reverse of Hamlet's observation about the funeral baked meats coldly furnishing forth the wedding banquet. Advent I is a melancholy Dane of a Sunday anyway: all that tryptophan not yet walked off, the Black Friday nonsense still taking us to the roof of the Temple to show us what wonders would be ours if we would just … [Read more...]

Revenge of the Periodic Table

I hate the periodic table. Or I thought I did. That yellowed chart flapping in front of the chemistry lecture room in the "new building" (circa 1934 or so, as opposed to the really old 1906 old building) of Immaculate Heart High School in Hollywood led directly to my having to hear, for the past 40+ years, "Whaddaya mean, you weren't in Honors?" Indeed, I entered high school as a freshman in 1964 in Honors--and that lasted precisely the month or so it took for the periodic table to destroy me … [Read more...]

Passing Through Union

It all started when I ran into a hermit at a party.Turns out it's not as incongruous as it seems. "I'm a hermit, not an anchorite," Friar Rex patiently explained. (I heard his name, initially, as Friar X, which was beyond cool.) He's a diocesan hermit in the Franciscan tradition--a new-as-of-the-late-80s canonical expression of consecrated life in the Church, one that developed While I Was Away. (See Canon 603.) Diocesan hermits profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to a diocesan … [Read more...]