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In-Churching Russia

On the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Orthodox Church had 50,000 parishes, a thousand men’s and women’s monasteries, and sixty theological schools. By 1941, Stalin had nearly succeeded in eliminating the Church as a public institution. Perhaps only a hundred and fifty to two hundred . . . . Continue Reading »

Gods and Gopniks

Journalism is the art of translating abysmal ignorance into execrable prose. At least, that is its purest and most minimal essence. There are, of course, practitioners of the trade who possess talents of a higher order—the rare ability, say, to produce complex sentences and coherent . . . . Continue Reading »

The Difference Easter Makes

One of the striking things about the Easter and post-Easter narratives in the New Testament is that they are largely about incomprehension: which is to say that, in the canonical Gospels, the early Church admitted that it took some time for the first Christian believers to understand what had happened in the Resurrection, and how what had happened changed everything. Continue Reading »

How to Tell Time in Heaven

Heaven is hard to conceptualize in terms of space and time. For instance: What kind of memories will we retain? Given that our lives are riddled with sin, the bad things we have done, as well as the bad things that have been done to us, are a large part of who we are. That is true even when we accept God’s free offer of forgiveness, since we cannot simply eliminate our memories without falsifying our identities. Continue Reading »

Editing Each Other

I am an editor. My job is to improve manuscripts submitted by authors and prepare them for publication. I approach every new piece sceptically. I probe. I attack. I play devil’s advocate. I search for error and dispose of it. Often I rely on instinct. Even when I can’t initially diagnose a problem within a text, I can sense when something’s wrong. In such cases I have to work backward to find the answer. This process can be tricky. Writers have egos. Everyone has preferences. There is no right or perfect way to compose a sentence or structure an argument. Continue Reading »

John Paul II’s American Legacy

If ever there was a pope of global stature it was St. John Paul II. He took the message of the Gospel to every corner of the earth, travelling to over one hundred countries during his twenty-six year pontificate, combining modern means of communication with a strong personal charisma. When he visited America, he had a memorable impact, inspiring Catholics who became “the John Paul II generation.” Continue Reading »

On “Christian Nations”

It used to be the case that Americans referred unselfconsciously to their country as “a Christian nation.” The phrase had multiple meanings. A few speakers, no doubt, used it as a taunt: Non-Christians (which, for many, would have meant non-Protestants) should keep quiet or get out. Others used the phrase to indicate that Christianity, in a general way, informed American law and government. That’s what Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story meant, for example, when he wrote that Christianity was part of the common law. Still others used the phrase in a theological sense: America was the New Zion, Chosen of God. Continue Reading »

Clearing the Waters

had the privilege of working for Blessed John Paul II for nine years. As a young priest, I worked in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, and my boss, or perhaps my boss’s boss, was Pope John Paul II. Continue Reading »

Easter Raised an Octave

Sunday is the octave of Easter, which commemorates the eighth day after Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. An octave is a repetition, but a repetition with difference. It’s not the first note played again, but the first note at a higher pitch. Continue Reading »

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