That curious time when every pope wore a beard

Owing to both papal and canonical disapproval, beards have been underrepresented in the Latin church. Whereas Orthodox hierarchs have long been barbate and bushy, Latin clerics have typically preferred naked cheeks and smooth chins. The Catholic Encyclopedia offers some background for this bias, but it's fun to consider a period when this prejudice was sorely tested.By my reading of things, it all starts with the papal election of 1455. The conclave had whittled down its options, and one … [Read more...]


I'm taking a breather. I've tried a noise fast unsuccessfully in the past: no social media, broadcast media, etc. I couldn't hack it.This time I'm going to do it a bit differently. I'm going to put my blog on hiatus for a bit (longer than Phil Robertson's benching) and discontinue use of social media. No Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram for a while.In the meantime, I'm going to read novels, listen to jazz, and ride my bike. If the world blows up or the pope becomes Hindu, send a pigeon. … [Read more...]

Why moving stinks and staying is better


Ben Franklin once said that "three removes is as bad as a fire. . . ." He might have been understating things.Megan and I found a wonderful house, much closer to our church, family, friends, and familiar haunts. Happily, we had a contract on our own home in a very short period of time. The realtor was a rock star. The movers were great, too. But then it got crazy.I realize mortgage companies caught a lot of flak for offering loans to underemployed golden retrievers in days past. … [Read more...]

Read the Bible if you’re going to have an opinion about it

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has a list of books you should read. His selection concerns works of profound and lasting influence, such as On the Origin of Species and The Wealth of Nations.Topping the list -- not too surprisingly -- is the Bible. But curiously Tyson slanders the book. Why read it? "[T]o learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself," he says.It reminds me of a comment by Fr. Tom Hopko: If you're going to h … [Read more...]

A quick lesson in effective communication from Basil the Great

Basil the Great effectively communicating with and Prince Vasili III

Remember that time you confused Hemingway with Basil the Great? I was reading something by St. Basil the other day and was amused by the overlap."[T]he excellence proper to discourse is neither to hide the things signified in obscurity," said Basil, "nor to be redundant and empty, turning in all directions while overflowing randomly."Clarity and economy. The thought reminded me of Hemingway's comment on writing as architecture.In his day, Basil was a popular writer and … [Read more...]

Fun things you find at a Christian publishing house

Old book of Russian Orthodox canons

Earlier today I walked into a friend's office and saw a very old book. It was leather over boards with broken brass clasps. Here's a picture."What is it?" I asked."A Bible, I think," said my friend, Rod, adding that his wife picked it up on a sojourn in Russia.I asked for a gander, and he graciously set the book on the desk in front of me. It didn't exactly look like a Bible, but I didn't know what to make of it. It did look Russian -- Slavonic. But that's where my smarts … [Read more...]

Meanwhile, St. Basil describes the Christian blogosphere

This morning I cracked open Basil the Great's slender book, On the Holy Spirit. Writing during a period in which the nature of the trinity was hotly contested, Basil started by describing the state of the debate. Addressing his treatise to one Amphilochius, he says,I admire your proposing questions not for the sake of testing, as many now do, but to discover the truth itself. For now a great many people listen to and question us to find fault. . . . [T]he questions of many contain a … [Read more...]