Of Many Things
Sept. 1-8, 2014
The exercise is brief, but revealing. During the first session of my parish’s adult Christian initiation program, the leader challenges the group: Draw what you think of when you hear the word church. The potential candidates and catechumens furrow their brows and grab a marker. Most of them produce a skeletal picture of a building—a square structure beneath a pointy roof with a cross on top, a few stained glass windows, a large door. Sometimes...
August 18-25, 2014
Across the street from the otherwise thoroughly middle-class Havana home of Che Guevara, about an eighth of a mile from the enshrined debris of a downed American U-2 flight, stands the Cristo de La Habana, a 66-foot-high statue of Jesus Christ carved out of 320 tons of marble.
August 4-11, 2014
There is an old chestnut, still circulating among agnostics, secularists and even a few believers, that goes something like this: “I don’t believe in God/organized religion. Look at all the violence religion has caused. Take the Middle East; those people have been killing each other for years.”
July 21-28, 2014
A mere 100 years ago this summer, miscalculation and madness brought forth the War to End All Wars, the first of the 20th century’s twin cataclysms and humankind’s gruesome introduction to total warfare on a global scale. In the opinion of Europe’s intelligentsia at the time, it was not supposed to have happened. As Barbara Tuchman points out in The Guns of August, her masterly account of the initial months of World War I, enlightenment values and...
July 7-14, 2014
Last week, while attending the Catholic Media Convention in Charlotte, N.C., I was lucky enough to catch “Freedom Riders” on my hotel room television set. This PBS documentary from 2012 tells the story of the brave Americans who in 1961 risked their lives just to travel together on buses and trains through the segregated Deep South.
June 23-30, 2014
The smoking gun had been fired on July 23, 1972, during an oval office conversation between President Richard M. Nixon and H. R. Haldeman, the flat-topped former Eagle Scout Mr. Nixon had chosen for White House chief of staff. The two men were discussing the bungled burglary of the Democratic National Committee two months earlier, a scandal that had come to be known as Watergate, after the name of the Washington, D.C., complex that housed the D.N.C....
June 9-16, 2014
By the late spring of 1932, Gov. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president. He already had the support of more than half the delegates to the upcoming Chicago convention, and his closest competitors were Al Smith and John Nance Garner, the also-ran and might-have-been, respectively, of 1928. With the unemployment rate stuck at 20 percent and the most unpopular incumbent president since, well, ever, F...
May 26-June 2, 2014
On the centennial of the start of the First World War, it is appropriate to remember the millions dead and resources wasted, and to heed the great call of Pope Paul VI and his successors: “No more war! War never again!” It is also worth recalling a particularly scandalous aspect of World War I: it involved mostly Christians killing other Christians. Catholic Italy and France were pitted against Catholic Austria-Hungary. Other major players, like Germany...
May 19, 2014
When we hear “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few,” our minds turn at once to priestly or missionary vocations. But there’s more to it than that: The Gospel of Luke isn’t just describing a labor shortage. It is important to keep in mind that the only reason there is a labor shortage is that there is an abundance in the first place.
May 12, 2014
The only cobbled street in Athens, Ga., is the one that leads to the Tree That Owns Itself, a white oak that supposedly holds the legal title to itself and all land within eight feet of its trunk. According to legend, the tree was “deeded to itself” in the early 1800s by Col. William H. Jackson, a professor at the nearby University of Georgia and an arboreal aficionado of sorts. Yet while the tree’s “self-ownership” is an intriguing proposition, says a...