Lupinity, Felinity, and the Limits of Method

Sometimes, late at night, when the branches of the large pine outside my window are swaying in a hot breeze and brushing with a sinister whisper against my window panes, and sleep seems to loom far above me like some inaccessible peak floating in the cerulean depths of the Himalayan sky, I find myself worrying obsessively about the thylacine and the fossa. What accounts for them? Are they perhaps signs of some cosmic mystery that the sciences will ultimately prove impotent to penetrate? Are they quadrupedal portents of the transcendent? Or are they signs of a physical determinism so absolute as to be indistinguishable from fate? … Continue Reading »

Kurt Cobain, Nothingness, and Michael Novak

I took a worldview class in college. The professor for the class actually understood worldviews, so rather than mere didactic note-taking on presuppositions we had a healthy dose of cultural participation. Of course, this meant we were held hostage to the professor’s musical horizons, but regardless it was not surprising that the postmodern worldview was introduced by the tunes of Nirvana… . Continue Reading »

Sermonizing Children

Liturgical purists hate them, children’s sermons. I have a friend in New York who positively sneers whenever I mention that, yes, I do children’s sermons. He doesn’t like red barbecue sauce, either, which puts him in a special class of culinary philistines. His critique of children’s sermons is not without merit but, as with barbecue sauce, I have chosen to ignore him… . Continue Reading »

Grace in the Word: Samuel Menashe, 1925-2011

The poet Samuel Menashe (whose work been printed many times in the pages of First Things) died in his sleep on August 22nd, at the age of 85. As the obituaries and tributes have noted, he had been the recipient of the first “Neglected Masters Award” from the Poetry Foundation in 2004, with his New and Selected Poems then being published by the Library of America… . Continue Reading »

Bible Software for Catholics

Remember the 1990s? They brought forth a variety of PC versions of the Bible. Back in the day, they were stunning; although admittedly, these first-generation programs were clunky, and little more than electronic texts of the Bible, marketed to the busy pastor or motivated Bible student. Gradually, speedier processors allowed for more features, including word study, and some graphics, such as maps of biblical lands, etc… . Continue Reading »

38 Ways to Make a Baby

From the time of Adam and Eve until the late 1970s, there was”with one notable exception”only one way to make a baby: the sexual bonding of a man and a woman. That number increased to two in 1978 after the birth of Louise Brown, the first “test tube baby.” Today, there are thirty-eight ways to make a baby, almost all of which can be accomplished without sexual intercourse. … Continue Reading »

9/11, Benedict XVI and Regensburg

In the flood of commentary surrounding the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I found but one reference to a related anniversary of considerable importance: the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg Lecture. That lecture, given the day after the fifth anniversary of 9/11 at the pope’s old university in Germany, identified the two key challenges to 21st-century Islam, if that faith of over a billion people is going to live within today’s world in something other than a condition of war… . Continue Reading »

Within the Clutch

It was 2003. Eight innings into yet-another nail-biter of a series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, there came a guttural wail from the stands at Fenway Park. “For the love of God . . .” It was one lone voice; a man—whose sound was remarkably reminiscent of the late Chris Farley at his most passionately unhinged—was seated close enough to the announcer’s booth that his agony was picked up and broadcast in New York . . . . Continue Reading »

A New Generation of Theologians

Much of the animosity felt by older theologians toward the Vatican or, more generally, toward episcopal authority, has disappeared. Such skirmishes that do occasionally play out the old ‘free-thinking theologian’ versus the ‘heavy-handed bishop’ script simply bore. To young eyes media events dramatizing the conflict between freedom and authority look tired, and to be a pastime for the retiring… . Continue Reading »

Why the Papacy Endures

Whether one believes it is of divine or secular origin, the papacy’s impact on human history has been remarkable. Because its legacy has been so rich and varied, however, it is a challenge to write a full-length history. Most authors can’t master a single pontificate, let alone all 265. Many who make the effort fail. The latest is John Julius Norwich, author of Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy… . Continue Reading »