Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

A Defense of Chestertonian Optimism

“I say as do all Christian men, that it is a divine purpose that rules, and not fate.” This sage line appears on the first page of G.K. Chesterton’s epic poem The Ballad of the White Horse. The statement is at the bottom of Robert Austin’s first illustration showing a mounted King Alfred of England riding near his war-ready troops. The passage is said to be King Alfred’s addition to Boethius—the great defender of philosophy and happiness. James Schall wrote in his book on Chesterton that “Alfred’s addition is the most important thing that can be said, yes, even to men of our time.” Schall continues by reminiscing on his reading of Russell Kirk’s The Wise Men Know What Wicked Things Are Written on the Sky; Kirk wrote that what Chesterton had in mind while writing The Ballad of the White Horse was “those people in the twentieth century who declare…

God Is Not Tearing the Nation or World Apart: We Do That

Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith. A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace, for its trust in you. (Isa. 26:2-3) Where is this nation on earth, today—just, faithful, trusting, firm in purpose and thus living in peace? At this moment, the headlines might make us feel less like the hopeful and consoling Isaiah and more like the troubled Jeremiah: They have treated lightly the injury to my people: “Peace, peace!” they say, though there is no peace. (Jer. 6:14) Yes, the nations dress our wounds lightly. Politicians say little that is not platitudinous, or even condescending, whether the issue is high or low. Many nations are increasingly secularized; they—as a UK politico said a while back—“don’t do God.” Self-reliant, self-exalting, they…

How Do We Accept the Holiness of the Church Amidst the Sins of Her Members?

Many Catholics are asking this question: “How can the Church be holy when she sometimes seems packed floor to ceiling with sinners, even among our leadership?” This question needs to be answered, especially in the twenty-first century, when Catholics have increasingly grown justifiably distrustful of all authority figures, including Church hierarchs. The faithful who have given themselves over to the Church knowing her to be the sacrament (or instrumental sign) of intimate union with God, a force for good in the world, have suffered from seemingly endless reports about sex abuse and cover-ups. Such stories are quite naturally scandalous, depressing, and disillusioning. But should this cause us to question the holiness of the Church? Sometimes we defend the holiness of the Church without understanding what makes it holy, even as it is full of sinners. For years, I taught a Church history class, and one of the first lessons covered…

What Peter and Christ Teach Us about Dealing with Past Sins

We all know that Peter was the first pope. What we often forget is that Peter was also a terrible sinner. I can think of at least five times in the Gospels where Peter messed up; but the time that he denied Jesus was the absolute worst. St. Matthew tells us that it was a maid who first approached Peter in the courtyard. The maid recognized Peter as a friend of Jesus, but Peter denied knowing him. Then, another girl—not a woman, but a girl—saw Peter and said, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” Again, Peter denied it. The third time St. Matthew tells us that it was some bystanders who recognized Peter as a friend of Jesus by his speech. And once more, Peter denied knowing Jesus. That’s about as bad as it gets. Just when your best friend needs you most, you deny even knowing him. And it’s…

Buzz Aldrin and the Laws of Spiritual Physics

Last year, on the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing, I bought a box set of archival footage from that historic time. Included in the coverage was an interview with Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin from 1979, on the tenth anniversary of the moon landing. In the interview, Buzz talked about his struggles with alcoholism and depression since he shot to fame as the second man to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969. As he spoke about his recovery, he mentioned the “changes in outlook of a spiritual nature” that helped him to become a different person and beat his addiction. When asked to elaborate, Buzz Aldrin shared how his views towards a higher power have matured over the years and said: Just as there are physical laws that govern material objects, I believe there are spiritual laws that govern the behavior and the…

Embracing the Great Wide Empty of Advent

As we approach the season of Advent, you may be looking forward to liturgical traditions. Perhaps you’ll be lighting the Advent candles cradled in an evergreen wreath on dark winter evenings or decorating a Jesse Tree with ornaments that tell the story of God’s love and care for humanity. Maybe you’ll play the season’s haunting hymns like O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Each of these traditions are designed to orient our hearts toward the Incarnation. We need Advent, and not just as a liturgical season, but as an attitude in our souls oriented toward spiritual growth.  My experience of Advent was forever changed after I read the twentieth century English Catholic writer Caryll Houselander’s The Reed of God. Houselander’s writing about Mary, the Mother of God, in this beautiful spiritual classic helped me to encounter the Advent spirituality of our Lady…

Wonder and Beauty: 5 Christmas Gift Suggestions for 2020

Books and music are (in my very decided opinion) among the very best gifts that one can give. They invite the recipient into an experience that can be enjoyed again and again, and this experience is one that can be shared and talked about—thus deepening bonds of friendship and family connections. And the purchase of books and music enables writers, artists, and musicians to keep on creating, for “the laborer deserves his wages” (1 Tim. 5:18). With that in mind, I’ve come up with five gift recommendations with a particular emphasis on beauty, joy, family, and fellowship. Where possible, I’ve provided links that allow one to purchase more directly from the author or artist. Enjoy!   1. In Caelo et in Terra: 365 Days with the Saints by the Daughters of St. Paul. This book of saints’ lives, with included devotional reflections, is a…

“The War of the Worlds”: The 1950’s Sci-Fi Classic is Faith-Friendly

Science fiction as a genre is not known for being particularly friendly towards religion. Especially in contemporary sci-fi, which is highly secularized, religion is at best ignored or scorned as the relic of an unenlightened past best forgotten. At worst it is treated with naked hostility, reviled as an enemy of freedom and progress. That’s why I find it so refreshing to watch the classic 1953 sci-fi film The War of the Worlds, based on the 1898 novel of the same name, by science-fiction pioneer H.G. Wells. Endlessly imitated—and even remade in 2005 by Steven Spielberg—but never equaled, the 1953 version of The War of the Worlds remains a classic of the sci-fi genre as well as an emotionally gripping and visually stunning film. But most striking to a modern viewer is the movie’s unapologetic embrace of a Judeo-Christian worldview. Christianity and prayer are portrayed throughout as positive forces.

Narcissus and 2020: Peering Past the Surfaces

We are all familiar (or at least should be) with the myth of Narcissus. Narcissus was a young and dashingly handsome demigod. The son, according to some experts in Greek mythology, of a river god and a nymph, Narcissus wandered about hunting and looking beautiful. Women far and near lustily admired him but despaired at his inattention. Echo, a particularly charismatic nymph, was rebuffed by the young man and, in her heartbreak, was cursed and reduced to little more than the answering voice that haunts us in vast canyons and caverns. Such was the punishing allure of Narcissus. But Nemesis, the goddess of anger, had had enough. She cursed the young man—the original Narcissist—with the burden of only ever loving himself. And so it was that this aloof breaker-of-hearts would catch his first glimpse of himself on the sheen of a pool’s surface and fall madly and irretrievably in love.

The “Clash of Freedoms” Demands the Columban Principle

Today is the memorial of a saint who is not well known by most but has something important to teach us about our call to unity in Church and society. St. Columbanus (or St. Columban as he is also called) was an Irish monk, born in 543, who died in Bobbio, in Northwest Italy in 615. In 591, St. Columbanus left his monastery in the north of Ireland, arriving in France before moving to Switzerland, Austria, and finally settling in Italy. In these countries, he founded important monastic holdings, which became centers of education, community, and spirituality and played a vital role in the renaissance of Christianity in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire and the revival of civilization thereafter. As a monastic founder, St. Columbanus left a significant body of writing and instruction, much of which was concerned directly or indirectly with the theme of unity. Columbanus’…