Columns

  • April 28-May 5, 2014

    On Nov. 10, 1958, Thomas Merton wrote a letter to Pope John XXIII in which the famous American monk shared with the new pope some reflections about the world and the church. In one passage Merton describes how he had begun to understand that being a cloistered monk did not necessarily mean withdrawing from the world in some absolute way.

  • April 21, 2014

    Another March Madness is over. We saw a few Davids slay some Goliaths along the way (nice job, Dayton!), but the N.C.A.A. Men’s Basketball Final Four this year remained the home of perennial powerhouses. Not since Villanova knocked off Georgetown almost 30 years ago has a true long shot taken home the title.

    It has been almost as long since the most thrilling, inspiring and emotionally wrenching run of all time in the N.C.A.A...

  • April 14, 2014

    ‘Everyone—certainly every reader of National Review—knows America’s public schools are a disgrace.” That’s the lead sentence from a book review in National Review titled “Save the Next Generation” (3/1). The story is familiar: drop-outs, violence, drugs and the “rubber room” where burned-out tenured teachers rot while Singapore and Finland whip us in...

  • March 31, 2014

    One of the most unexpected blessings of being a Jesuit has been coming to know so many wonderful scholars—men and women deeply learned in a wide variety of fields. Before entering the Jesuits, the only contact I had with academics was listening to them lecture behind a podium.

  • March 24, 2014

    The attention devoted to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy this past November was remarkable. Americans are not a people who look back much, but for a month we looked back at a president who captivated us with his youth, wit and style. On television, radio and in print, the media covered every phase of President Kennedy’s life in what seemed both retrospective and requiem. Tuning in to it, I felt Americans were participating in a...

  • March 17, 2014

    Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—this Lenten trinity of practices has long been the foundation of our penitential season as we prepare for Holy Week and Easter. Many people will adopt new methods of prayer, engage in the spiritual practice of fasting and offer time and resources in the form of almsgiving. Each of these helps us to focus our attention on what we might otherwise overlook and challenges us to, as one option for the distribution of ashes puts it...

  • March 3, 2014

    The priest-theologian David Tracy once wrote of the “three publics” to whom every teacher of theology speaks: the academy, the church and society at large. These are markedly different audiences; what can appear to one audience as wonkish or an argument about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin can be of pressing concern to another.

  • February 24, 2014

    The feeling can best be described as last-minute, Lenten panic. It typically hits in those final hours of Mardi Gras, when it dawns on me that I must soon settle on a Lenten sacrifice. And then, moments later, my worry quickly subsides as I fall back on that old favorite—forgoing sweets—and tuck in to a pre-Lenten bowl of ice cream as though it were my final meal in prison.

  • February 17, 2014

    Over the last few years, whenever I told friends that I was working on a book on Jesus, they invariably laughed. The most common responses were (in order of frequency) “Ha!” “Well, that’s a small topic!” and “Oh, I’ve heard of him!” But one response stuck with me: “So, are you writing about the Jesus of history or the Christ of faith?”

    Unfortunately, those two approaches are often seen as contradictory, when they are in...

  • February 3, 2014

    I remember being told in a philosophy class I took in college years ago that “wherever you go, you meet Plato on the way back.” I dutifully plowed through The Republic, but it wasn’t until years later, when I was reading Plato’s earlier works, the Apology, Crito and Phaedo, that I came to appreciate the truth of that quip.