Omnivory and Christianity

I am a troubled omnivore. Or more precisely: I am a troubled, Christian omnivore. I eat meat, but I do not do so without caution and without doubts; and it is my Christianity that is responsible for much of this caution and many of these doubts. I find the relationship between the Christian and food a very complicated one. On the one hand, the Christian is uniquely situated to recognize the sacramentality of the eating act (and with it, to take his food with a heaping portion of delight and … [Read more...]

Like a Child

As the oldest of seven kids, I’ve done my fair share of wiping dirty faces, checking for closet monsters, and speculating as to why the sky is blue. But I also grew up in a church that encouraged “child-like faith.” In that church, this phrase was often shorthand for, “We don’t have answers for this, but having questions and worrying about it shows a lack of faith.” Sometimes “this” was a problem the Church has struggled with for ages, such as the problem of suffering, but … [Read more...]

Winter’s Humbling

Cuttings of yellow forsythia bloom on my coffee table as March threatens its last (fingers crossed) snowstorm... Finally. I confess a sigh of relief at the resurgence of sunshine, warmth and colors other than brown, gray and white. Winter's grip on the Earth is growing weak in the face of spring's insistent return, yet its bleak work has primed me for the impudent  joy of crocuses blooming beside melting snowdrifts. Like winter's firm discipline has prepared the tired earth for sprouting seeds, … [Read more...]

A Brief Theology of Coffee

w-Giant-Coffee-Cup75917

  The season of Lent has come, and I’ve spent the past weeks watching my more liturgical friends drop off Facebook and refuse beers, chocolate, and Netflix references. This season leaves me feeling guilty, not so much because I’m not giving up anything for Lent, but because I didn’t remember that it was Lent until I saw a friend post “Ash Wednesday” on Facebook. My spiritual calendar has been reduced to social media posts, which I now feel guilty about reading anyway. To … [Read more...]

Jesus of Nazareth: A Savior with a Hometown

Marys-Well-Nazareth-The-spring-of-the-Virgin-Mary

  Seamus Heaney. Wendell Berry. William Wordsworth. Robert Frost. In my childhood exploration of words and books, I discovered these poets weaving tapestries of grandeur with the homespun yarn of the mundane. They unearthed to me the vastness of space in the soil beneath their toes and the glorious weight of people, time and place in the familiarity of walls, wheelbarrows, and water. Recently I opened a book of prose that paints a similar picture of the practical and profound. Reading … [Read more...]

Call the Midwife

index

  Jennifer Worth’s The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times chronicles the author’s experiences as a nurse and midwife amid the appalling conditions and unrelenting poverty of London’s East End in the 1950s. The book, which is part of a trilogy of bestsellers in the UK, is known mainly in America as the inspiration for the PBS show that “Downton Abbey” fans have turned to when they need their next costume-drama fix. Unlike that gorgeous Edwardian melodrama, Call the … [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 … [Read more...]

Epic Mentality

434809

  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 … [Read more...]

The Liberal Arts and the Call to Die

          A week or two ago, I saw a friend post a link to a discussion between Robert P. George and Cornel West on the liberal arts. Having spent my time in certain intellectual circles, I was correct in assuming that Professor George would provide a robust and well-articulated commentary on the liberal arts from his Catholic, natural law understanding. Not being familiar with him outside of his appearances on The Matrix and The Examined Life, I was mostly watching to hear Professor … [Read more...]

“Be Perfect”

In his reflections on February 23rd’s Gospel reading from the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:38-48), Carl Olson draws attention to the ease with which a priest and his congregation glossed over Jesus’ words: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Perfectionism can lead to pride and personality disorders.  Better to acknowledge our limitations, and try to be “the best policeman, or fireman, or Indian chief, that we can be,” Olson’s priest advised in his homily.  … [Read more...]