May 14, 2020

As my regular readers will know, I spent last summer with Benedictine nuns at the Abbey of Saint Walburga in Colorado. Since the beginning of lockdown, my return to a more monastic lifestyle has enabled me to find great beauty in the midst of the crisis. In a recent essay for the Church Life Journal, I explain how Saint Benedict can transform this time: The circumstances of a life under lockdown, in its utter solitude, monotony, and vulnerability, are radical;... Read more

May 3, 2020

We celebrate on this day both Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocations Sunday. The Church reminds us today that each Christian has one task: to listen to the Shepherd’s voice and heed his call. In the Gospel for today, this unfolds with simplicity: “the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out… and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.” However, I have found that — in my generation in particular — discernment is often a... Read more

April 20, 2020

“I can’t wait for this to be over.” In the month since the UK entered lockdown, I have heard this refrain echoed countless times by friends, colleagues, and strangers. It’s entered my own mind at times. But, while it’s a temptingly easy thing to say, it’s also deeply tragic. Of course, on one level, this phrase is merely expressing a desire for an end to human pain and death. And that’s natural, reasonable. We long for an end to suffering,... Read more

January 12, 2020

The most common question I am asked is “How do you reconcile your Catholic faith with your research?” or the popular rhetorical variation, “You study theology and neuroscience? That’s an odd combination.” It has come up in a multitude of contexts, from Catholic university campuses to the National Institutes of Health, from conversations with strangers on the bus to family reunions. In the conversations that inevitably follow, I have come across a number of [false] assumptions people have about Catholicism,... Read more

December 20, 2019

I have the greatest housemates. Before my arrival I was nervous about housing, because I was assigned to an eleven-bedroom cottage for graduate students. Eleven bedrooms? How can eleven people get along, especially when we study different things and speak different languages and keep different hours? I expected it to devolve quickly. I was spectacularly wrong. I’ve spent many years living with people I’m not related to, but this has been by far the most joyful and easiest arrangement. And... Read more

November 27, 2019

I have two problems with how we celebrate Thanksgiving. First, we often treat it as an isolated event that is both stripped of its historical context and separate from the rest of our own selfish and ungrateful existence. Second, the increasing commercialization of the holiday has turned it into a feast of avarice, in which we pay our respects at the altar of Capitalism with a day of frantic shopping. Thanksgiving is much too important to be celebrated this way.... Read more

November 7, 2019

Our culture fears anything related to death. We fear ageing, not merely out of distaste for the accompanying wrinkles and back pain. We fear illness, and not only because of the pain and high medical bills that it brings. No, we fear ageing and illness as harbingers of death. So we work to keep them at bay, studiously avoiding any reminder of our mortality. Perhaps we shouldn’t. Fear of death does not generate life. No matter how studiously we avoid... Read more

October 31, 2019

My daily commute here at Cambridge is glorious. Depending on the day of the week, I either walk through verdant cow pastures or wind my way through medieval cobblestone streets. By the time I get home, I’m always in a better mood. Time in green, natural spaces relaxes and uplifts me. In August, my return to an urban setting was jarring. I spent the summer at an abbey in the foothills of Colorado; compared the peace of that vast natural... Read more

October 29, 2019

The news is filled with alarming statistics on child health and well-being. Rates of anxiety and depression are skyrocketing; racial disparities persist in childhood trauma; early childhood education remains inaccessible for many American children. And yet, there are signs of hope. Many modern social, technological, and economic changes have the potential to improve child health. Stigma around mental illness is decreasing. Innovations in urban design are improving neighborhood health. Scientific research is correcting and expanding our understanding of child development.... Read more

October 18, 2019

If you know me, you know that I like thinking about death. Not in a morbid way. No, I like it because meditating on death allows me to understand the truth and purpose of my life. Because of this, I always look forward to Week IV of the Psalter. That week, Morning Prayer on Monday begins with one of my favorite meditations on death, Psalm 90. O Lord… / You turn men back to dust / and say: Go back, sons... Read more

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