To Work Is Not Quite to Pray

St. Benedict has often been (mis)quoted as saying, “Labora est Ora”. Or: “To work is to pray”. It is not clear precisely what was meant by this phrase when it first was propagated, but the guiding sentiment seems clear enough: Work - that activity whereby we take up and transform the creation towards some productive end -, can count as an act of worship. The Christian tradition’s attitude towards work would seem to make such a sentiment attractive. For the Christian tradition has, by … [Read more...]

The Doomsday Machine

My wife and I did not see—and have no plans to see—R.I.P.D., The Lone Ranger, Olympus Has Fallen, and various other big budget movie offerings from 2013. However, not long ago, we sat in the comfort of our basement, which is like a home theater, and watched Noah Baumbach’s latest film, Frances Ha—a buzzed-about 2013 black-and-white American comedy-drama that had a semi-wide theatrical release beginning in May. No cars, skyscrapers, or people were destroyed in Frances Ha, but the scene in which Fr … [Read more...]

Social Sin: Who’s Responsible?

Is it possible to take sin seriously when all of one’s collective responsibilities are understood in terms of protecting the individual right to define one’s own responsibilities? I’ve heard it said that one of the great advances in Christian reflection over the 20th century has been the “discovery” of social sin. Consider, for instance, Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous interpretation of Luke 10: On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an … [Read more...]

Religious Experience as an Assault on Autonomy

 There's a fascinating discussion going on right now about the nature of religious experience, which was kicked off by Ross Douthat and has come to involve such diverse writers as Noah Millman and David Sessions. Douthat's initial post was about an aspect of Charles Taylor's A Secular Age. One way to read Taylor is to say that people in a secular age have the same fundamental experiences as people in our religious past and simply interpret them differently. We experience the same realit … [Read more...]

Epic Mentality

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 In my house, my wife Katie and I are hoping that using consistent, relaxing music around bedtime will help to create a sleepy routine for our seven-month-old daughter. You may be surprised to learn that current music of choice is a playlist of peaceful tracks from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. No, we don’t think little Teresa is learning anything from “Into the West.”  (Our parental delusions aren’t that acute.)  But as I listen to the music and recall the stories told by Tol … [Read more...]

Christian Symbolic Action

Regarding my most recent Fare Forward essay, two questions have been repeatedly asked of me. The first: Why think that symbolic action occupies such an important place in the Christian life? And the second: I’m not sure I understand the sorts of symbolic actions you think are so important to the Christian life; could you say more? I debated which of these two questions to take up today, and settled on the latter. My apologies to those more interested in the former.Let me begin by trying to d … [Read more...]

Receiving the Gift of Presence

My first post here at Fare Forward discussed the nature of providing Christlike presence to the grieving. An insightful commenter elaborated, saying,"I have a tendency in my life to close myself off to other people; to deny my friends and even my wife the opportunity to share in my burdens and trials... this is another species of error... those who grieve or suffer must be able to open themselves to this notion of presence." I resonated with his observation, and the question has puzzled me, "If … [Read more...]


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