Over on the left side of this webpage, you'll see two new items worth clicking on, if you're young and wondering what to do. The top one invites applications for junior fellowships at FIRST THINGS beginning in the late summer of 2006. These are one-year internships for young writers and scholars interested in religion and public life, and offer free housing and a modest stipend.
The second is for the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society. Founded in 1992 by Michael Novak, Rocco Buttiglione, Father Richard John Neuhaus, Father Maciej Zieba, OP, and George Weigel, the seminar seeks to deepen the dialogue on Catholic social doctrine between North American students and students from the new democracies of central and eastern Europe. Each year's seminar class includes 10 to 12 North American students and 20 to 25 students from Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Ukraine, and elsewhere in central and eastern Europe. While the North American contingent has normally been composed of graduate students and young professionals, accomplished juniors and seniors working on relevant bachelor's degrees may also apply. The program is conducted in English.
To get a sense of the Tertio Millennio Seminar, you might read Alicia Mosier's description of her time in Poland. Alicia went on to become a fellow and editor here at FIRST THINGSbefore selfishly deserting the magazine for marriage and children in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Not to say we don't approve of marriage and children. Tulsa, on the other hand . . .
Actually, Tulsa is an interesting place. A couple weeks ago, I was there to give this year's Snuggs Lecturean annual theology lectureship that once upon a time featured such speakers as René Girard, John Milbank, and Robert Louis Wilken, but seems to have fallen on hard times and been forced down to the likes of FIRST THINGS editors. I'd never been to Oklahoma before, and so I grabbed the chance to visit, bringing along my daughter Faith so she could visit her godfather, Russell Hittinger, who teaches at the University of Tulsa.
That may have been a mistake. To start with, the poor eight-year-old had to sit through an hour and a half of her father lecturing the Oklahomans on capital punishment and the role of death in political theory, sitting in the audience and clinging in horror to Alicia while I described various murderers and their punishments.
Then, the next day, Russ took her off to spend the afternoon at the Gilcrease Museum, looking at pictures of cowboys and Indians. I'm sorry I wasn't there, not just because I've never seen the originals of all those Frederic Remington and Charles Russell paintings of the Wild West, but also because I missed Russ Hittinger's running commentary on them. Faith spent most of the plane ride back to New York carefully explaining to her Groovy Girl dolls that they shouldn't worry: Cowboys and Indians are not allowed to do to each other any more all the things that her godfather had apparently told herin excruciating detailthey used to do.
"I liked seeing Oklahoma," she told me as we waited for our suitcases to come round the carousel at LaGuardia. "But I'm glad we're home."
Given that New York was buried under two feet of snow this weekend, I'm not so sure Oklahoma wouldn't be better. There is a strange sensation the city gives after a snow-storma kind of epiphanic feeling, a sense of being taken for a moment out of time. People walk in the middle of the streets. A few pull out their skis and slalom along First Avenue. The taxis all disappear, and for a moment the whitewashed city looks clean and small-townish.
That's nice, of course, but this is New York. It's not supposed to be the New Jerusalem. It's the ultimate time-bound place. It's not supposed to step outside the rush and rattle of commerce. It's the supreme City of Man. It's not supposed to be the City of God. With their town bright and almost pretty, New Yorkers act for a few moments as though things have changedor rather, as though these few moments don't count. As though the apocalypse of falling snow has lifted them out of time. As though the storm had left them for an instant clean and unhurried.
I saw an old-fashioned tobogganten feet long, the wooden slats curling to a two-foot swoosh in frontbeing drawn along 14th Street yesterday, filled with laughing children. Who has room to store a toboggan in New York, on the off-chance of snow? Someone, clearly. Someone who has been waiting years for this white apocalypse.
In addition to which:
Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University, has this to say about the new book by Father Richard John Neuhaus:
"The author of The Catholic Moment has done it again. From its opening meditation on the death of the Pope that Neuhaus was the first to call 'the Great,' to the closing notes on the conclave that elected Benedict XVI, this beguiling book brings the reader into conversation on the current state of the Church with one of the great Catholic thinkers of our time. No one is better than Father Neuhaus at reminding us why, even in times of confusion and controversy, it's a joy to be Catholic!"
The book is Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth and is just out from Basic Books. It can be ordered from Amazon by clicking here.