An Open Letter to the Patriarch of Moscow

Your Holiness: Grace and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ. Remembering with pleasure our meeting in Washington some years ago, I am prompted to write by what I once hoped was a common concern for the unity of Christ’s Church and a shared commitment to bridging the chasm that opened between America and Russia during the Cold War. Continue Reading »

Jesus Came Preaching

At the heart of the Christian faith is a Savior who was a preacher. “And Jesus came preaching” (Mark 1:14). This stands in contrast to the gods of Olympus or the deities of the Roman pantheon whose interaction with mortals, when it happened at all, was transient, ephemeral, detached, like a circle touching a tangent. Zeus thundered, but he did not preach. Nor did the dying and rising savior gods of the mystery religions. There were ablutions and incantations and the babbling utterances of the Sibylline Oracles but nothing that could rightly be called a sermon. Continue Reading »

Why Do People Become Catholic?

We recently hosted a talk by John Beaumont, author of The Mississippi Flows into the Tiber: A Guide to Notable American Catholic Converts to the Catholic Church. It’s a wonderful compilation of convert stories that includes a few folks associated with this fine magazine. John recounted a number of them. He ended with an arresting question: Why do people convert to Catholicism? There’s no one answer, of course, but many reasons, which John winsomely summarized. Continue Reading »

June 13, Catholic Father’s Day

Anthony, O.F.M., age thirty-five, died in Padua on this date in 1231; 352 days later, Pope Gregory IX declared him a saint. In the history of the Western Church, Anthony’s elevation from the grave to the altar remains the fastest since Pope Alexander III, in 1170, removed from local bishops the power to canonize saints and invested it exclusively in the papacy. About twenty years after the Franciscan friar set his posthumous record, a Dominican friar, Peter of Verona, came this close to breaking it: 354 days. Maybe causes for sainthood just tended to move more swiftly back then. Even so, Anthony’s moved faster than the rest. Continue Reading »

Is Spain Regaining Its Faith?

Like Quebec, Ireland, or Boston, Spain has epitomized the fading of Catholic faith. In the twentieth century, religious practice in Spain fell sharply, especially as the country transitioned to democracy and resentment of the Church’s support for Franco’s dictatorship surfaced. Continue Reading »

John Paul and Francis at Yad Vashem

As that familiar parody of bad fiction has it, “it was a dark and stormy night”—March 21, 2000, to be precise—when I made my way from the Jerusalem Hilton to the Notre Dame Center, to meet a Senior Vatican Official who had promised me a diskette with the addresses John Paul II would deliver during his epic visit to the Holy Land. The diskette was duly handed over, and back in my hotel room I browsed through the upcoming speeches, paying particular attention to what the Polish pope would say when he came to the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem—a meeting about which there had been considerable controversy, involving considerable yammering. Continue Reading »