The Life of “An Apostle of Charity”

Antoine Frédéric Ozanam by Raymond Sickinger 412 pages, University of Notre Dame Press $60.00Raymond Sickinger, a professor of history at Providence College, has written an impressive new biography of Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, the mid-19th Century French layman who Pope St. John Paul II called an "apostle of charity" and "a precursor of the social doctrine of the Church." As a 20 year-old student, Ozanam founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a lay Catholic apostolate focused on pro … [Read more...]

Review of ‘The Reckless Way of Love’

My friend the late Fr. Benedict Groeschel once said that if he weren’t Roman Catholic he’d be a Quaker. It is, he said, the only other thing that makes sense. Personally, I’d join the Bruderhof (assuming they’d have me), and I suspect that my hero and model Dorothy Day might have said that, as well.The Bruderhof certainly are fans of hers. One of the latest books from Plough Publishing House, the Bruderhof book imprint, is The Reckless Way of Love: Notes on Following Jesus. It’s a collection … [Read more...]

Lights Coming Back on in Gary

I knew my involvement in civic matters in northwest Indiana would eventually take me to Gary, about 25 miles from my town of Valparaiso. As I’ve driven along Interstate 90 heading to and from Chicago, I’ve often peered down from the expressway into the city’s empty streets and dilapidated neighborhoods. For many long-time residents of the area, the town’s very name is an epithet for a landscape of failure and fear where it’s thought that no one stays who can find a way to leave. I admit I have no … [Read more...]

Junger’s Hunger, And Ours

A couple of years ago, I took some members of a large Rwandan refugee family to a St. Vincent de Paul store nearby. I was accompanied by a Rwandan friend and translator, Jeanette Akimiyimana, herself a refugee who has been in the United States for ten years. As we pulled away from the triple decker where the family had been placed, Jeanette began to chat with one of the teenaged girls in Kinyarwanda, the principal language of Rwanda. Before long they were laughing and the pace of conversation had … [Read more...]

Book Review: “Called to Community: The Life Jesus Wants for His People”

I write today for the purpose of recommending “Called to Community: The Life Jesus Wants for His People,” the latest book from Plough Publishing. Edited and introduced by Charles Moore, with a foreword by Stanley Hauerwas, “Called to Community” is an essential collection of 82 essays and perspectives on the broad themes of a call to community, forming community, life in community, and engaging the world through community.Plough Publishing is an arm of the Bruderhof (“place of brothers”), an A … [Read more...]

Boxed In

A few years ago, my wife and I were assigned a case through our local conference of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul. It involved a family – Dave, his girlfriend Ellen and their three small children* – who had fallen behind on their rent and electricity bill. When we met with the family, Dave explained that he was a full-time employee of Home Depot. He had moved to southern New England from Maine when Home Depot offered him a position as manager of a department at the local store. The position o … [Read more...]

Good Friday Through a Mother’s Eyes

Morning. 6:00 am  You never really slept last night, and now the ache is settling in. At 47, you are already quite old, and your body is beginning to betray you. This rootless existence you've led since your husband died isn't helping any. Without warning an image floats into your mind of a beautiful young woman and her snuffling baby boy, the two of them curled up in sweet, dreamless repose, without back pain or worry. What you wouldn't give...How can I even think of sleep at a time like … [Read more...]

The Passion of the Poor

"Ah, the pain, the anguish, the sin and despair, the remorse, at not living as one knows one should live, as a human being should live, fully and abundantly! The poor feel guilty too. It has been dinned into them so often that here we have a land of opportunity, of equality, of abundance. What is wrong with them that they cannot get out of the morass, they wonder. One of the saddest things about the poor and the destitute is that they are blamed for it too. Everything is expected of them." - … [Read more...]

Not Just Another Option

By Josh BrumfieldI confess I like the Benedict Option. I am attracted to the notion of intentional community. I trust in the long-term missionary potential of practices of stability. One might say I have lived in a BenOp community, although most of us living there would not describe it as such, and some would overtly dispute the claim. I have argued at conferences for Ratzinger’s Benedict Option, but I think Ratzinger’s Benedictine idea of creative minorities might have more in common with th … [Read more...]

The Mystery of the Poor

“Christ is at once rich and poor: as God, rich; as a human person, poor. Truly, that Man rose to heaven already rich, and now sits at the right hand of the Father, but here, among us, he still suffers hunger, thirst and nakedness: here he is poor and is in the poor.” -St. AugustineChrist “is poor and is in the poor,” says St. Augustine, providing a most succinct justification of the Church’s “preferential option.” Structurally, the poor share an intimate identity with Christ that demands our … [Read more...]