I have a ridiculously hard time praying. I probably feel like most people, who, “Instead of fluent conversation…can only manage a few, halting, scraps of the heavenly idiom” (Hans Urs’ von Balthasar, Prayer). The broken phrases are probably a little bit different and a little bit the same for everyone: snatches of the liturgy, mangled Scripture passages, and plenty of incoherent mumbling. Throw in some saint references and you have a Catholic. Sometimes it’s just, “Please help,” and I don’t… Read more

There is a difference between having a will and the ability to use it. Mostly we collapse this distinction and assume that having freedom means we can use it. To put it more colloquially: all I need to do is decide to do something, and then I can do it. But Christianity has never understood freedom this way, and there are all kinds of ordinary experiences that affirm the Christian view rather than this other one. Freedom is a tricky… Read more

And so you leave our hallways, students. I can you see you up ahead of us wearing your mortar boards and robes, and this is how I will always at last see you: turned away to what is ahead, clothed in the thin silk we gave you. How easy it is to tear, to scuff and pull to ragged edges; how little warmth it offers for the cold. And this is what we gave you: the threadbare wealth of an… Read more

I’m not sure I knew I had a sense of humor until maybe after high school. I remember being so serious then, so very grave, the bearer of many deep troubles for which I had no words. I must have laughed; it’s only that I can’t remember it. Whatever was real then, laughter is inescapable for me now, and it is never a neutral thing. I’ve developed a keen interest in saying something ridiculous with a straight face, and I’ve grown… Read more

“At dinner time,” Gregory the Great writes of Saint Benedict, “a raven daily used to come to him from the next wood, which took bread at his hands.” One day, the saint’s friend the raven stopped by as usual, only this time, the raven swooped in to save his life. The raven knew that the bread on Benedict’s plate was poisoned. The bird hopped about and cried out, “as though he would have said that he was willing to obey,” that is, to… Read more

The other day I had to explain to my therapist what the Carolingian Renaissance is. I think sometimes that I must be a very strange patient. But then, I wonder who wouldn’t feel that they were strange. I’m not about to claim that therapy is for everyone, or that it always works out, or that it’s a straightforward enterprise with predictable outcomes. I find it helpful, which I suppose any damaged person like me would. A long history of trauma… Read more

Every Catholic feels like they’re a strange kind of Catholic, I think. No one is a “good” Catholic, anyway. We’re all just a bunch of people trying, and sometimes we’re not even trying to be good. We’re just trying, at all. I always feel a bit tribal. That is my strange way of thinking about it: I am a tribal Catholic. Catholicism is my native culture, something I grew up with, whose many various dialects I’m familiar with and that… Read more

Something I loved about Rogue One was how haunted by the Jedi that universe is, how the ghosts of the Jedi seem to follow the characters around. Even if the most powerful living embodiment of religion had been eradicated, still no one could quite rid themselves of its ghost. We also get to see non-Jedi be religious, get to see them be devoted to the Force in their own ways. Jyn, the central protagonist, has a mother who gives her… Read more

The other day, I saw a brief .gif of a little hedgehog lying on his back on a soft blanket. They’re small creatures often confused with porcupines because they’ve got spikes all along their backs that they hide underneath when they’re threatened. This little guy, though, had let himself be turned over. Everything soft and vulnerable about him was totally exposed, and he lay stretched out in complete bliss as his owner rubbed his tummy. I am, of course, a… Read more

We like victors. We like survivors. We like those who have endured darkness, and came out of it alive. It is important to us to brush against the deep, vertiginous underneath of the world with someone who assures us that it can be overcome. Christ goes before us in all things, including what terrifies us. It’s not so much that we don’t have to go into the dark anymore – oh, we definitely do – as it is that Someone is… Read more

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