Ray Bradbury Lives Forever

martian_chronicles_250On Labor Day weekend in 1932, a twelve year-old boy from Waukegan, Illinois, having just emerged from a family funeral, noticed a carnival tent by the shore of Lake Michigan and went to investigate. He had heard of a magician there named Mr. Electrico, who sat with a sword in hand on an electric chair with current passing through him, making his hair stand on end.

When Mr. Electrico stood up to knight the boy, making the current pass to him, he shouted: “Live forever!”

Ray Bradbury told this story about his childhood hundreds of times, insisting that the experience set him on the path to becoming a writer-magician, a teller of fantastic tales.

On one level this is a story about vocation—a baptism by electricity—but it is also a story about time and eternity, death and resurrection—themes that would preoccupy Bradbury over a writing career that spanned seven decades.

In all the tributes that have been paid to Bradbury since his death in June 2012—from lengthy newspaper obituaries to blog posts—one aspect of his life and work has been conspicuously missing: the centrality of faith. [Read more...]

The Thing Itself: Art and Poverty, Part 2

Continued from yesterday.

 

picasso1How should we treat the poor?

Among those who work on behalf of them, it has become a truism that our first obligation toward our less fortunate brothers and sisters is to first recognize and celebrate their humanity. What is less often recognized is the vital role that art can play in such a process. Roberta Ahmanson in the interview she gave recently for Image spoke about how she, as a patron of the arts, has worked to serve homeless families through a nonprofit called Village of Hope:

I think people might say that the Village of Hope doesn’t need stained-glass windows; they need food, job training, tutoring, beds for the babies. But Jim [the founder] intuitively understood that the places you bring people to speak to them about their own value. When you…put them in a box like a prison cell, you have just said, “We think you are a prisoner.” [Read more...]

The Thing Itself: Art and Poverty, Part 1

The following is adapted from a presentation given at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley in January 2015 during a convocation on the topic “Blessed Are You Poor: What Does It Mean to Be a Poor Church for the Poor?”

 

pop__frugal_mealI am profoundly grateful that the witness of Pope Francis has spurred so many of us to rethink our relationship to the poor and marginalized. There are a dozen directions to take this topic, depending on how we define poverty. We have spoken of it as an evil—a condition to be ameliorated whenever possible—and we have spoken of it as a virtue—a habit that embraces simplicity, freedom, and sacrifice.

It is, of course, both.

[Read more...]

Lorenzo the Magnificent

LorenzoHe liked to be called El Santo (Spanish for “the Saint”). In almost anyone else on the planet it would be considered a sort of spiritual vanity or pretension. But in the case of Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete it was both a joke and a piece of deep theological wisdom.

Come to think of it, just about everything Lorenzo said or did was both a joke and a theological truth.

I think he liked being called El Santo because he was making fun of his own status as a beloved priest and leader in North America of the international lay Catholic movement known as Communion and Liberation. He knew that faces lit up when he entered the room.

But it probably didn’t hurt that another “El Santo” was a wrestler who, in the words of Wikipedia, was “one of the most famous and iconic of all Mexican luchadores.”

Like a luchador, Lorenzo wrestled fiercely—in his case, with life’s deepest questions, including the nature of the human heart, the relationship between reason and emotion, the meaning of suffering, and how to become a free person—the latter being the destiny of every saint.

[Read more...]

The Saint John’s Bible: Back to the Future

9-st-john-depicted-as-a-scribe-from-bodleian-library-ms-auct-d-1-17The story of how the text of the Bible was set down and transmitted is one we all know by heart.

Once upon a time, ancient scribes set the sacred words down on papyrus, followed a few centuries later by monks in dimly lit scriptoria putting ink and gold leaf on richly illuminated pages of vellum. Then came the revolution of Gutenberg’s printed books and finally the digital age dawned, giving us the Bible in myriad forms, from searchable online versions to verses that we have texted daily to our smartphones.

This narrative has also typically been imbued with a clear moral: the Word, once captive to economic, technological, and cultural limits that enabled a small elite to hoard and control it, eventually succumbed to democratizing forces that enabled scripture to become the prized possession of every individual believer.

Needless to say, it’s hard to argue with a tale of liberation from oppression. Who’s going to pick the empire over the rebels? [Read more...]


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