Scapegoats, Solitude and Solidarity: Thomas Merton as Quarantine Companion

"We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject. For both have labored in the search for truth and both have helped us in the finding of it." --St. Thomas Aquinas This gentle reminder came to me by way of Thomas Merton, whom I've been reading lately with … Continue reading Scapegoats, Solitude and Solidarity: Thomas Merton as Quarantine Companion

The Prisoner and the Pandemic: The Gift of the Right Read at the Right Time

The pandemic's reality was slow to strike my relatively isolated, poverty-stricken mountain valley. For weeks we watched the worldwide spread of COVID-19 through phones, laptops and television screens, but our lives were going on as usual. In mid-March, everyone at my little school left for spring break and there still wasn't a case in our … Continue reading The Prisoner and the Pandemic: The Gift of the Right Read at the Right Time

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe and a Great Film about the Great War

After watching a televised World War II movie with my father one evening (it may have been Patton or The Guns of Navarone) he turned down the volume during the film's closing credits. "People always give generals like Patton and MacArthur credit for winning World War II," he quietly commented from his recliner. "But that … Continue reading A Hobbit, a Wardrobe and a Great Film about the Great War

Live the Questions this Advent with Sally Read’s Annunciation: A Call to Faith in a Broken World

I don't want sentimental piety at Advent; I crave a seeker's authenticity and a contemplative's conviction. I welcome Sally Read's voice at any time of year, and Advent isn't the occasion that produced Annunciation: A Call to Faith in A Broken World. It's just that Annunciation is the best book of its kind I encountered … Continue reading Live the Questions this Advent with Sally Read’s Annunciation: A Call to Faith in a Broken World

Arguing Religion and the Search Engine of the Soul

I used to teach the art of argument to college freshmen. We read classic texts on the great questions of the centuries and debated our views in passionate discussion laced with laughter and an occasional angry flare. Students then constructed written arguments clarifying their thought and defending their positions. Essay by essay, they honed their … Continue reading Arguing Religion and the Search Engine of the Soul

Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan’s Beatitudes for a Political Leader

"Put not your trust in princes," the psalmist advised long ago. People didn't choose their leaders back then, so they were, on a material level, absolutely beholden to a king's whims for good or ill. The psalmist reminds them of the human tendency to view the world from a material point of view only, forgetting … Continue reading Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan’s Beatitudes for a Political Leader

Loathing and Hopelessness, Juice and Joy: Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Secret Sorrow

"Outwardly I think I am employed to what is of no or little use," Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote in his journal just months before his death. "I was continuing this train of thought this evening when I began to enter on that course of loathing and hopelessness which I have so often felt before..." I … Continue reading Loathing and Hopelessness, Juice and Joy: Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Secret Sorrow

The Tao or the Wow: How Ancient Texts Rehumanize the Heart

The tension in many a good story centers on a hero's struggle, as opposition mounts, to remember his identity or to recall her mission. Succumbing to Sirens and Circes is perilous and treasure greater than victory awaits the unwavering. In Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, for instance, Meg Murry's mission is to rescue her … Continue reading The Tao or the Wow: How Ancient Texts Rehumanize the Heart

Lamenting Notre Dame’s Losses: “Heaven in Stone and Glass”

When I heard, on Tuesday of Holy Week, that Notre Dame Cathedral was engulfed in flames, I immediately texted my oldest son, the family's intrepid world traveler who had just returned from Paris and had visited Notre Dame only days before. (We differ philosophically, but he graciously allowed me to share his photos in this … Continue reading Lamenting Notre Dame’s Losses: “Heaven in Stone and Glass”