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...]

Privilege, Repentance, Forgiveness

Identifying privilege offers insight into grace and allows us to take responsibility for both our own responses and the needs of others.Since graduating from college, I have received countless emails asking alumni for donations, most of which I have ignored. After the umpteenth solicitation, I started to think about why I should “give back” and reflect more deeply. “What benefits had I received from my elite education?” There were some obvious answers: social prestige, higher income, intell … [Read more...]

The Summer Pop Culture Found Religion

Behold the summer where pop culture (or at least its high priests) found religion. Two of the biggest, most influential albums to drop this summer place religious questions and symbols at their core. More importantly, both promise to be memorable works. One, Modern Vampires of the City, marks the critical and commercial highwater mark of indie-rock impresarios Vampire Weekend. The other, Kanye West’s Yeezus, has received rave reviews and, given the artist’s current pop culture ascendance (cf. “Ki … [Read more...]

Father Brown and the Reality of Sin

I have now read about half of the total collection of stories featuring Father Brown, GK Chesterton’s erstwhile detective. Chesterton describes him “as commonplace a person as could be seen anywhere, with a round, brown-haired head and a round snub nose… clad in clerical black.” He is very short and is elsewhere described as “ugly.” Most people who don’t know him pay very little attention to Father Brown. He neither collects fingerprints nor tails suspects, and unlike Sherlock Holmes, he dons no … [Read more...]

Apollo and the Unmerciful Hermit

[This delightful story is one of many given in Benedicta Ward's translation of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, which makes excellent Lenten reading.]There was once a brother who was very eager to seek goodness.  Being very disturbed by the demon of lust, he came to a hermit and told him about his thoughts.  The hermit was inexperienced and when he heard all this, he was shocked, and said he was a wicked brother, unworthy of his monk's habit because he had thoughts like that.When the br … [Read more...]

The Shock of Benedict’s Resignation

Two days ago, on Ash Wednesday the faithful all over the world conducted their business with an ashen cross on their foreheads to remind them that from dust we were made, and to dust we shall return. This is a jarring and almost grotesque practice to a culture where youth and vitality are purchased at a high price, and embargoes against discussing death are one of the only social taboos remaining.  Yet only a few days prior, on February 11, the world was given an even more high-profile reminder … [Read more...]