How to (Not) Destroy Catholic Art

  Catholic art is destroyed at the exact point in which it becomes necessary to have "Catholic" art.*The surging liturgical movement in the Roman Catholic Church over the past decade, often called "traditionalism," is not so much evidence of the strength of Catholic liturgy today but, instead, of its remarkable weakness. We do not see "traditionalists" emerge unless (a) there is no tradition to begin with or (b) until a real tradition is in danger. Otherwise, traditions, real ones, are s … [Read more...]

The Tree of Life: An Overview

   Characters: Father: Brad Pitt. Mother: Jessica Chastain. Adult Eldest Son: Sean Penn. Eldest Son (Jack): darker-haired, big eared, occasionally mean boy. Middle Son: dirty blonde, artist (guitar and painting), gentle boy. Youngest Son: sandy brown hair.   Scenes, in sequential order: The Two Ways: A prism flame in the darkness. Voice: “Brother. Mother. It was they who led me to your door.” The way of grace and the way of nature.Grief: Mother finds out that middle son has bee … [Read more...]

Reviewing The Faithful Traveler, on EWTN

  Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows that I strongly dislike two things: EWTN television and radio programming and Matthew Kelly's shoddy and sentimental Catholic give-away books.Diana von Glahn (above), host and co-creator of EWTN's The Faithful Traveler, surely knew this. She contacted me anyway, offering me a full preview of the latest season that will air from February 17-22, at 6:30 pm (and 3 am), featuring sites from the Holy Land.She called me out. I don't know h … [Read more...]

Something Remarkable in Steubenville

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I attended Franciscan University of Steubenville from 2001 to 2005; I used to play music most Thursday nights in the back room of the The Spot Bar, to a group of students. The "townies" stayed at the front end of the bar, segregated by class, custom, and self-importance. We shared the gross bathrooms. A stinky solidarity.I played two benefit concerts for The Harmonium Project this past October and, in the process, I got to know the core group of young visionaries working there. I saw their … [Read more...]

On Rigor

(The late David Foster Wallace's 2005 "This Is Water" Kenyon College commencement speech drones in my headphones and Rebel Without a Cause plays on mute in the corner; it is chilling to listen to DFW speak descriptively about suicide and I am arrogant to enough to find it all quite underwhelming, in a very comforting, soothing, and self-assuring way.)A young professor from Fordham showed up late to my talk in New York a month ago. He asked me a very serious question though, one of those … [Read more...]

The Educational Significance of Advent

Liturgy is mystogogical. In other words, one role of liturgy is to teach and form the faithful, to catechize us both in and out of formal liturgical events. If our home is a "domestic church," then it should look, sound, and feel like a church, especially if we live with children. Why? Because churches are decorated and arranged for more than ornamental purposes. The pictures, colors, structure, style, and order of a church are all deeply catechetical. The images teach and show. The form of the … [Read more...]

Art Perfects Nothing: Review of “The Thorny Grace of It”

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Joseph Bottum puts it plainly, here at Patheos: "Forget the culture-wars crap."He's right, and his urgent, huffy tone is appropriate.  I wrote something similar, almost a year ago, and since then I've had countless conversations with likeminded Catholics who are doing the creative work it takes to move beyond the culture wars.One such Catholic is Brian Doyle.His recent book of essays is a pleasure to read most of all because it is refreshing to read the words of someone who clearly … [Read more...]

Disposable Pleasures

When my children see a movie they like, they want to see it again. Immediately. And again. Same with stories and books and most of life's pleasures."Read it again!"I love going to the movies. Always have. There is something about the whole ritual of movie-going. Add to that, I can afford to go, and get a drink and popcorn if I want to, when not too long ago I couldn't.This is what being rich is for me. Able to eat out and go to movies. Order pizza. Fishing, when it's warm. … [Read more...]

Boredom is Laziness

We live in a culture of boredom. It may seem odd that, within the most overstimulated society in human history, there is such rampant boredom, but I am not sure that this is quite as odd as it seems. These apparent --- and delightful --- contradictions are riddled across the flux of  life, in all of its forms.The real question is simpler and more direct. What is boredom and what can be done about it?Here is the situation: My two sons are generally occupied without interruption, but they … [Read more...]

“A Tell-All Insincerity…”

"A tell-all insincerity..." --- this phrase has prevented me from writing here lately.A dear friend, whom I respect enormously, thinks that most blogs are afflicted with, as he puts it, "a tell-all insincerity."He's right, of course.The quandary for me is that I also value self-disclosure. I've been obsessed with Augustine's Confessions for going on four years now. The response to my friend's challenge is not to shut down. The question is how to self-disclose and confess well, with … [Read more...]


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