Thanks for everything

Praying Old Man

Get this scene: A monk sits on a train. A fellow passenger approaches and offers him a cigarette. Monks aren’t much known to smoke, but this monk was once a soldier and gratefully accepts the gift. Holding the slender item, the monk suggests to his benefactor that they should make the sign of the cross before they smoke. The man is torn. Isn’t it, he asks, improper to make the sign of the cross before smoking? The monk answers that if an activity doesn’t square with the sign of the … [Read more...]

One trait every Christian leader needs

St. John the Baptist

Line up Moses, King David, the Apostle Paul, and John the Baptist, and you will see leaders who had countless differing characteristics and personality traits. You’ll also find that they shared several in common, one being humility. Moses stood up to Pharaoh and led the Israelites out of slavery, yet the scriptures speak of Moses as being “very meek, more than all the people who were on the face of the earth.” David reigned over the unified kingdom and led his people to one victory … [Read more...]

Remember why we work

Remember why we work

They call it a “livelihood” or “making a living” for a reason. Mostly because of the money we earn, but also because of the energies we expend, the sacrifices we make, and the lessons we learn, we depend upon on our work for life. We also resent it sometimes, maybe a lot. (Just typing those words brings to mind the lyrics of David Allan Coe’s most popular song.) Resenting our work is the result of our forgetfulness, according to the Serbian priest and monk Thaddeus of Vitovnica. … [Read more...]

We are not our sins

We are Not our Sins

I recently learned that an acquaintance of mine had announced a pretty significant life change, and not one for the better. As often happens, many people met this revelation with encouragement, impressed by his supposed authenticity and commitment to “finally being true to himself.” While I get the sentiment, I reject the thought. Admitting sin and identifying with it are two very different things. The first is something we all must do. If there is one scripture I recall my dad reciting in … [Read more...]

Be attentive, banish anger

'The Gust'

In the ancient Christian story Barlaam and Ioasaph, the pagan king Abenner has a hot temper, and when he discovers that one of his governors has converted to Christianity and become a monk, he is furious. He orders that the unlikely convert be brought before his judgment seat to explain himself. It takes a while, but the man is finally found living in the desert and is taken to the king. The text says that Abenner was filled with “mingled grief and fury” and spoke “in speech blended of … [Read more...]

Dying to live

Dying to Live

God throws curveballs. As he plays the game, fools become wise, a virgin bears a son, and death precedes life. The order is basic for the Christian. We die in Christ to live in Christ. Sometimes people are struck by this aspect of the faith. The image or concept of death can take on an uncomfortable prominence. Baptism is, after all, a picture of dying. We follow Paul’s advice and “Put to death . . . what is earthly” in us. We sometimes even call our daily sanctification mortification. … [Read more...]

Angels have we heard on high?

The Annunciation

Last Wednesday Pope Benedict talked a bit about the spill he took earlier in July and the broken wrist he suffered. "Unfortunately, my own guardian angel did not prevent my injury," he said. The angel didn't fall down on the job. He was "certainly following superior orders." The upbeat pope added, "Perhaps the Lord wanted to teach me more patience and humility, give me more time for prayer and meditation." I've not really thought much about guardian angels since I was a kid, but I've … [Read more...]

Bishop takes rook

Engraving of Jonathan Mayhew

One of the most fascinating figures I’ve discovered while researching about the life of Paul Revere is Jonathan Mayhew. He was the pastor at West Church in Boston. He is often cited as the first Unitarian, and in his letters you can read him complaining about, among other things, the average Bostonian’s “zeal for Athanasian and Calvinistic Orthodoxy." Paul Revere was more than a decade his junior, but they became friends in Revere’s later teens. Mayhew married the daughter of … [Read more...]

Crooked men in a crooked world

(Photo by Paul Randall, Wikimedia Commons)

“There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile.” — British nursery rhyme So I’m reading Alan Jacobs’ new book, Original Sin: A Cultural History, and several thoughts about human will and intention crisscross my mind: 1. The idea that our heart — in the classic sense, the seat of our intellect and will — is by nature corrupt or prone to corruption is not something that people easily accept. Jacobs covers the clashes generated by the idea since Augustine and even dips back … [Read more...]