Facing Calvary

12820770544_c702bd9450_mThere’s a line from last year’s thought-provoking film, Calvary, that’s uttered by a young French woman. She has just lost her husband in a senseless car wreck somewhere along an Irish country road. After Father James (Brendan Gleeson) gives the last rites, he goes to sit with the woman for a time. Their subsequent discussion is the difficult one that follows all such traumatic events, when the comforting banality of the world has imploded, and the unmoored psyche bobs about in a world without physics.

Except there is a difference here, as the woman proves unlike any of the other people in the priest’s life. Instead of being enraged, vindictive, and accusatory, she remarks upon the good marriage that she’d had with her husband. She speaks with a marvelous repose.

I loved him, and he loved me. We were happy together. And now it’s over. It’s not unfair. It’s just what happened. [Read more...]

The Soul of the Law

e7eccc8e1b84a088At the beginning of the old Norton Anthology of English Literature (4th Ed.) appeared this account from the medieval chronicler Gerald of Wales:

The Lord of Chateau-Roux in France maintained in the castle a man whose eyes he had formerly put out, but who, by long habit, recollected the ways of the castle, and the steps leading to the towers. Seizing an opportunity of revenge, and meditating the destruction of the youth, he fastened the inward doors of the castle, and took the only son and heir of the governor of the castle to the summit of a high tower, from whence he was seen with the utmost concern by the people beneath. [Read more...]

Saving the World: A Reflection on Germanwings Flight 9525

A couple of weeks ago, a German man decided to kill himself. There are thousands of such occurrences every day, except this time the man was a pilot, and in the process of his self-destruction, he also killed everyone on the plane along with him. Nobody seems to know why—he was depressed, disillusioned, etc.—but not to the degree that anyone thought him capable of such an act.

The black box of the smoldering wreck reveals the co-pilot’s pounding on the bolted cockpit door, and the screams of the 149 lives soon to be obliterated in a firebomb amongst the French Alps. Who knows what was racing through the mind of the man who had doomed the innocent along with himself. Was he lost to all sense, or was he impossibly indifferent? G.K. Chesterton considered the suicide a type of mass murderer: “The man who kills himself kills all men. As far as he is concerned, he wipes out the world.” [Read more...]

My Only Begotten Sin

11087699415_16fe60c2bb_zBecause I remain restless and impatient even in middle age, I am often only halfway listening to important things spoken of in church. Therefore, I can mishear what the priest is saying, sometimes to comical effect.

Like Bart Simpson, “In the Garden of Eden” becomes “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” I have heard “sex” for “sects” and “possums” for “apostles.” When I was a boy, for the longest time I thought “Agnus Dei” was the name of the woman up front who played the choir organ: “Agnes Day.” [Read more...]

God in the Godforsaken Places

1834413480_3f2cfbf078_bI live in the shadows of Washington, D.C. It’s a big place and said to be a very important one in geopolitical matters. I trust them on that. But I’ve found that in most cities its size—in most cities of any size, for that matter—many of the citizens share a rather parochial disposition about the rest of the country.

The other day, a longtime resident who comes to this metropolis by way of an even larger one was telling a story at work. Though an educated man, and a world traveler, he didn’t really know where the action in his narrative took place. So he gestured towards the west with a dismissive flip of the hand and named a few states, randomly: “Kansas, or Nebraska, or some other Godforsaken place,” and went on to finish the tale.   [Read more...]


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