August 16, 2022

From as early as I can remember, I had an invisible butler. My mother enjoyed laying my clothes out for the next day when I went to bed, but every once in a while it was clear that someone else was stepping in to take care of my sartorial needs. I would wake up with unmatched socks laid out, or two shirts but nothing for the waist down, or no underwear, or shoes but no socks. Not wanting to insult... Read more

August 14, 2022

Although I occasionally find myself immersed in things medieval with a bunch of freshmen in the spring semester, I am not a medievalist. I must confess that I often find medieval literature, philosophy, theology, and just about everything else medieval largely boring, inscrutable, or both. Still, it’s hard to go wrong in the classroom studying Dante’s Inferno with eighteen-year-olds. Sin, violence, torture—what could be better? Is suicide worse than lying? Is adultery less problematic than treason? How do gluttony and simony... Read more

August 11, 2022

Jeanne asked me a question about my blog the other day that, after I stopped being defensive, got me to thinking carefully about what I actually believe concerning Jesus. I’ll save the specific question and my reaction for a later essay. Her question came on the same day that I had been trying to explain what “Freelance Christianity” is and how it might differ from traditional, mainline Christianity to a questioner on Facebook. My sense was that his question was... Read more

August 9, 2022

I was saddened to hear that David McCullough, one of the great historians of his generation, passed away Sunday at age 89. MuCullough was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner [for Truman (1992) and John Adams (2001)]; the wonderful HBO miniseries John Adams, starring Paul Giamatti in the title role and Laura Linney as Abigail Adams, was based on McCullough’s book. Among his many other claims to fame was being the narrator for Ken Burns’ iconic PBS documentary The Civil War in... Read more

August 7, 2022

I asked my Facebook friends a while ago to list three or four books that changed their lives. Not necessarily books that belong in the Great Books curriculum, but books that came just at the right time and spoke to them in a particular and memorable way. I wrote about one of mine a couple of weeks ago–here’s another one. A candle flame looks beautiful in the light of morning . . . It seems to me to be a... Read more

August 4, 2022

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 The Fall semester of classes on my campus begins three weeks from tomorrow. As I was putting the finishing touches on my General Ethics syllabus, I was grateful that I teach at a Catholic college. Even though I am not Catholic, the range of issues I am able to work on with my students is wider than if I was teaching at a secular college... Read more

August 2, 2022

Jeanne and I hosted our grand-nephews last week–I forgot what it is like to have a 14 and an 11 year old in the house. We survived. We went to the zoo on of the days they were visiting. Roger Williams Park Zoo has no penguins, but they do have my second-favorite animal–giraffes. I once learned something interesting about giraffes from one of my colleagues. He was lecturing on Roman art and architecture; when discussing the Coliseum, he mentioned that... Read more

July 30, 2022

Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made. Immanuel Kant I love many kinds of music, but classical music is my first love. I was classically trained on the piano from age four through high school; my first piano teacher, a Julliard graduate who somehow ended up in northern Vermont teaching piano, was also the organist for the North Country Chorus, a volunteer choral group that was, in the estimation of Vermonters at the time,... Read more

July 27, 2022

As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God Psalm 42:1 I met a deer the other morning, the first deer I’ve met in a long time. I was on my usual early morning bike ride (the closest thing I have to a spiritual practice these days), came down an unfamiliar hill in an unfamiliar neighborhood, and there he was standing in the middle of the road. I stopped far enough away to... Read more

July 26, 2022

We wake, if we ever wake at all, to mystery, rumors of death, beauty, violence. . . . “Seem like we’re just set down here,” a woman said to me recently, “and don’t nobody know why.” Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek A few weeks ago I posted the following on Facebook: What books have changed your life? I don’t mean which books do you think are “greatest” or at the top of the “Great Books” canon, but which books... Read more


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