Why We Need Monks

 Religious communities serve as icons of the Christian life. Today more than ever, we need their witness of poverty, chastity, and obedience to counteract our contemporary excesses.“Fathers and teachers, what is a monk?” asks the Elder Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov. “In the enlightened world of today,” he says, referring to Dostoyevsky’s Russia, “this word is uttered in mockery by some, and by others even as a term of abuse. And it gets worse and worse.”Though monasticism is s … [Read more...]

Latin in the Summer, or Learning to be Attentive

I am twenty-three years old, and I am spending my summer taking Intermediate Latin at Notre Dame.  I’m not even doing it for credit; officially, I’ve fulfilled my Master’s program’s ancient language requirements, having already taken Latin I and II.  I question my decision at times, especially when I am sitting on my back porch in the summer evenings, covered in a blanket of crumpled notes on participles and infinitives and deponent verbs and semi-deponent verbs, attempting to translate Cicero’s … [Read more...]

The Ear of the Heart

A friend recently gave me the autobiography of a Benedictine nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut, entitled The Ear of the Heart.  In the first part, Dolores Hart, also known as the girl who first kissed Elvis, tells how she left a promising career in Hollywood, and broke off her engagement to a great guy, in order to enter the convent.   The decision looked dramatic, but from Dolores’ perspective, it was a simple act of attention to the Voice that she could no longer ignore.  Over th … [Read more...]

Learning to Want What We Want

During the course of a homily on the virtue of faith I heard this Sunday, the priest gave an anecdote from his teenage years. I can’t quote him verbatim, but this is essence of what he said: As a teenager, I thought that Heaven was essentially a mass that never ended. The very idea of sitting through a never-ending series of church hymns repulsed me. Nevertheless, I wanted to want this because I believed I should. His experience of wanting Heaven despite his visceral repulsion to it is an e … [Read more...]

Keep Calm and Contemplate On

 “Keep Calm and Carry On”: It’s our culture’s latest mantra. The phrase applies in all kinds of contexts—political, social, economic. Oppressed by government? Keep calm and carry on. Hurting from a break-up? Keep calm and carry on. Out of a job? Keep calm and carry on.Though it’s been popularized in myriad forms (personally I prefer “Keep Calm and Pet Cats”), it’s worth considering what this slogan really means, and whether we should embrace its message.Maxims like this one are a … [Read more...]