January 1, 2016

A few months ago, I had a Skype conversation with a Catholic writer who is a woman. Though impressed by her work, I had also found it a bit dour in spots. Consequently, I expected to find myself screen-to-screen with a frump. Rarely have I guessed so wrong. Land o’ Goshen, she was a looker – and a charmer to boot, with a smile that could melt steel girders, leaving truthers no room to quibble. The purpose of the call... Read more

December 21, 2015

Last Tuesday, political science associate professor Larycia Hawkins was placed on administrative leave by Wheaton College for posting the following message on Facebook: I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God. It was the last clause that prompted the suspension. Wheaton is an evangelical Christian school, and evangelical Christians don’t believe that they share a God with Muslims.... Read more

December 19, 2015

Kathy Schiffer, my Patheos stable-mate, has made it into The Washington Post for observing that tennis great Serena Williams has made herself look “like a hooker” on her Sports Illustrated cover, and by doing so “took feminism back a generation.” Like Williams’ vampish pose or not, we should take it as a welcome sign that our society can hit the brakes before flying off the gender-insanity cliff. I don’t know what hookers Kathy has in mind, but in the photo,... Read more

December 17, 2015

“One cannot really be a Catholic and grown-up,” wrote George Orwell in an essay on Evelyn Waugh. Orwell never finished the essay; the remark appears in a collection of fragments jotted down for explication at some moment that never arrived. But it seems to refer to the deathbed scene in Brideshead, Revisited, where Lord Marchmain signals his repentance by making the sign of the cross while in a stupor. In Orwell’s world, being grown-up meant recognizing that old rakes never... Read more

December 12, 2015

It’s been six years since I’ve gone away overnight on retreat. The last time was so weird in every respect that it might just last me a lifetime. The retreat’s purpose was vocational discernment; with my convert’s enthusiasm still in full bloom, I indulged the fantasy that God was calling me to join the Order of Preachers, whose habit I found especially dashing. Though some members of the order tried, gently, to steer me in some other direction, the daydream... Read more

December 11, 2015

The thing about him that struck me first was his mode of dress, which was like a grown-up’s. Because of the heat, which persists through December, at least in midday, Arizonans tend to dress like college freshmen, in shorts and t-shirts, whenever they can get away with it. Forced into handouts like greasy black concert shirts, panhandlers typically look worse – like feral high school sophomores. But this person wore a blazer and Oxford shirt, which, despite their shabbiness, made... Read more

December 10, 2015

If you were in peril of your life, with your last hope slipping away, and you had to choose a Bible verse to help jolly you up, you’d probably reach for the Book of Isaiah. At least you would if you were a character in a 1940s war movie – and the results wouldn’t disappoint you. In Northwest Passage, Spencer Tracy recites Isaiah 40:3 — “A voice cries in the wilderness…” — and is almost immediately answered by the sound... Read more

December 10, 2015

Yesterday evening, I planned to write contra Trump, to damn him for a mountebank, an incandescent gasbag, an American Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Just as I was starting to despair of saying anything beyond the obvious, I experienced a flash of grace so startling in its suddenness and clarity that it shoved all other subjects off the table. It struck me, oddly enough, in church, in the course of a Mass honoring the Immaculate Conception. The service itself was nice enough –... Read more

December 7, 2015

Anyone feeling a little desperate to see the connection between Islam and terrorism parsed intelligently will be relieved to read John Azumah’s essay “Challenging Radical Islam.” Published by First Things last January, in the immediate aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, it has, since Paris and San Bernardino, been enjoying a second life thanks to social media. A Ghanian and associate professor of World Christianity and Islam at Columbia Theological Seminary, Azumah uses his scholarly weight to split the difference... Read more

November 30, 2015

According to one strain of conventional runners’ wisdom, whoever can run a half marathon can run a full one. Maybe there’s some truth in it. Yesterday, less than a month after running my first 13.1-mile race, I covered all 26.2 miles of the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon course. I ran it alone, as the actual event won’t be held for another seven weeks. Aristotle wrote that men become builders by building, lyre players by playing the lyre –... Read more


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