Being the token Catholic in my family sometimes means feeling like I have to over-explain some things. While visiting family but without much going on in the way of New Year’s Eve festivities, I opted to attend a late-evening Mass at the parish where I had attended Christmas midnight Mass.  As I was preparing to leave, my mother asked me quizzically, “So, is it a New Year’s Mass?”  I explained, not for the first time and with a hint of… Read more

Among the literary gems I picked up at a recent parish bazaar was a compilation of homilies by the 20th-century theological heavyweight Karl Rahner, titled The Great Church Year and organized by liturgical seasons and feasts.  On Christmas Day I opened to the first entry in the “Christmas Season” section and found, at first, a rather dismal proclamation of the insignificance of the world of human activity with a nihilism to rival the Ecclesiastes. But then, in the middle of all… Read more

This is not an earth-shattering question, but I am curious:  in your parishes, how long do you kneel after communion?  I ask because my new parish here in Alabama seems to kneel an extraordinarily long time.  In my experience at other parishes, we generally all kneel until  everyone receives communion and the priest returns the sacrament to the tabernacle. Here in Tuscaloosa, we all kneel until the priest and the deacon have purified all the vessels and they have taken… Read more

Driving home Wednesday afternoon, I heard this discussion on NPR’s All Things Considered about the legacy of Cardinal Bernard Law, most famously associated with Boston’s clergy sex abuse cover-up, who had died that morning. May God have mercy on him. When the Boston Globe journalist interviewed on the program, in her summary of Law’s complicated pastoral history, described the Catholic Church in Boston during the time of his tenure as “so powerful, so influential,” contributing to his “prestigious” stature as archbishop, I… Read more

Over the past two weekends, I’ve been performing in the chorus for a Christmas concert with the local symphony orchestra. Among the many prepared remarks the director used to transition between pieces, he always commented on one particular moment during the sing-along portion of the concert, when the orchestra would briefly stop playing and the choir and audience would sing a few measures of “Silent Night” a capella. In that moment, he said, it didn’t matter whether we were male or… Read more

The special senatorial election in Alabama is over, and Doug Jones has eked out a victory over Roy Moore.   This has been a painful election in many, many ways.  The saddest part for me is that almost no conservatives paid any attention to Roy Moore until he was accused of sexual assault (and overall creepiness).  His racism, misogyny, his anti-Islamic bigotry, his authoritarian tendencies, were just part of the package.  Suddenly there was a great crisis of conscience:  “I don’t… Read more

The death of Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner in September drew accolades as well as critiques from, shall we say, some rather strange bedfellows.  Some on the left praised his support for civil rights (that is, he objectified black women too) and his more infamous role in the sexual revolution.  From the right, an editorial in The Federalist bizarrely misnamed his sense of personal entitlement as joie de vivre and his exploitation of women as a celebration of complementarity, and excused all the ugly vulgarity of his… Read more

When I first heard reports about an undocumented teenager’s appeal for an abortion, my heart sank into my stomach.  All I could think was, “This is really, really bad.”  Bad for pro-life concerns and bad for pro-immigrant concerns, because the case can only polarize the two against each other in our current political climate.  And to make matters worse, it presents The Donald with a golden opportunity to style himself as the face of the pro-life movement.  And I shouldn’t… Read more

I’ve begun to suspect I may be approaching a personal metanoia on race.  I didn’t think I needed one.  After all, I was raised with an unquestioned, matter-of-fact sense of racial equity and multicultural awareness, including a cross-cultural living experience, from a young age.  I was taught, implicitly and explicitly, that all human beings are equally loved by God and made in his image.  I believed this easily, and still do. I would like to think that is enough.  I would like to… Read more

Love by Sacrifice: Two Competing Perspectives on Moral Living Note: this piece was originally published at The Flood Magazine: What does it mean to be a good person? This question has been with humans since antiquity, and it has been with me since early childhood. While being raised in the Catholic tradition, I was offered a fairly simple recipe for goodness: thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, honor thy father and mother. As I grew older, the… Read more

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