After a Retreat

A Cambridge graduate born to a distinguished English family, Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914) was ordained an Anglican priest in 1895 by his father, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Not long thereafter, he began to question the claims of the Church of England. Over the next several years he joined several Anglican religious communities, but he still [Read More...]

Godfellas– The Movie

Shusaku Endo (1923-1996) was a convert to Catholicism who became one of the leading Catholic novelists of the twentieth century. He is sometimes called the Japanese Graham Greene,” and his 1966 book Silence invites comparison to Greene’s The Power and the Glory. Both novels feature a priest on the run from a government seeking to [Read More...]

Happy Birthday, Cardinal Newman!

Saturday, February 21, is the birthday of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Cardinal Newman (1801-1890). A graduate of Oxford, he was ordained an Anglican priest in 1824. Newman’s preaching and his writing made him one of the rising stars among the Anglican clergy of his day, and that’s why it was such a shock when [Read More...]

McNamara’s Blog on Hiatus for the Weekend

Dear Friends, This weekend, for the first time in over two months, McNamara’s Blog will be on hiatus, as I will be on retreat at St. Ignatius Retreat House in Manhasset. The house was originally the Long Island mansion of the financier and philanthropist Nicholas Brady (1878-1930) and his wife Genevieve. Named Inisfada (Gaelic for [Read More...]

Cardinal Gibbons and the Knights of Labor

Today marks the day that Cardinal James Gibbons (1834-1921) of Baltimore (seen above) issued his defense of the Knights of Labor. The Knights of Labor was one of America’s first labor unions, founded in 1869. By the 1880’s, it was the largest, with nearly 700,000 members led by Terence V. Powderly, a devout Irish Catholic [Read More...]

Georges Bernanos, Catholic Novelist

Today marks the death of Georges Bernanos (1888-1948), one of the leading Catholic novelists of the twentieth century. Born in Paris, he studied at Jesuit schools, and for a while he thought about becoming a priest. Instead, he studied law and literature at the Sorbonne, after which he became editor of a royalist newspaper. Since [Read More...]

Was Dred Scott Catholic?

No matter how long you study a subject, you never know everything. And today I found out something I never knew, namely, that the two main characters in the Dred Scott case are both buried in Catholic cemeteries. I knew that Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney (1777-1864) was born to an old Catholic family that [Read More...]

“The Mission of the Catholic Press,” 1920′s Style

From the thirties through the sixties, The Brooklyn Tablet was considered “the most influential diocesan paper in America.” Jesuit historian James Hennesey writes that few papers “had the spice” of the Tablet, with its hardcore anticommunism and general conservative tenor. No one embodied the image of the pugnacious Brooklyn Irish Catholic better than its longtime [Read More...]

Confederate President Almost Converts

When he was a child, future Confederate President Jefferson Davis attended Catholic school for a short while, the College of St. Thomas near Springfield, Kentucky. (In those days, “college” was a loose term meaning anything from grammar school through junior college.) Founded by the Dominican Fathers in 1812, St. Thomas was the first school west [Read More...]

Children’s Book Features African-American Nun

Sister Anne’s Hands, written by Marybeth Lorbiecki and beautifully illustrated by K. Wendy Popp, is a neat little book about an African-American nun in an unnamed religious order teaching white European ethnic school children in an unnamed city during the 1960’s. When Sister Anne is the subject of a racial comment, she uses the incident [Read More...]