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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 »

Uncluttering the House of the Mind

thank Headmaster Crowe for that gracious introduction. And I thank Professor Owen Anderson of Arizona State University for introducing me to the headmaster, and to the wonderful venture of the Great Hearts Academies, which are doing such good in the world, one teacher, one student, one person at a time. One person at a time, I think, is really the only way to do any good in the world, for human beings are individual persons in communities, not statistics in a collective or parts in a machine. So on this happy day, as the students of the class of 2014 celebrate a milestone achievement with their families, their friends, and their teachers, I come to congratulate you, to wish you well, and to address each of you as a person who has received the good turn of a fine education, and who should feel a responsibility to repay the debt of that education by living well as a person, mindful of the personhood, the individuality, and the good of others around you, in the various communities through which your life will take you. 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 »

No Indispensable Woman

Ross Douthat has rightly argued that the Democratic political coalition is vulnerable, but he’s wrong to suggest Hillary Clinton is the only one who can hold it together. The success of the Democratic coalition will be determined by events that are out of the easy control of any elected official, namely the ability of center-left political elites to work together effectively, and the ability of the center-right to adjust to the realities of present-day America (to say nothing of the course of the economy and developments in foreign countries). 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 »

Can Christian Music Be Real Rock and Roll?

Christopher Partridge’s new book, The Lyre of Orpheus, provides an amazing wealth of information about religion and popular music. It should be read while sitting at a computer, since you will want to search YouTube or Spotify for the songs that he so passionately discusses. Unfortunately, his larger theory is not nearly as interesting as his close reading of individual artists. Continue Reading »

Lamb Ascendant

When John ascends to heaven, he steps into the middle of a continuous worship service in a transcendent temple (Revelation 4). Twenty-four heavenly priests encircle a throne that is banded by a rainbow, where “one enthroned” sparkles like sardius and jasper above four living creatures. In front of the throne, the seven Spirits burn like lamps, brightening a sea of crystalline glass. When the cherubim say the Sanctus, the elders prostrate themselves and shout the worthiness of the one on the throne at the center of it all. Continue Reading »

Innocents Abroad

Seeing as the Catholic Church has itself been the victim of a damaging disinformation campaign, one might expect that Church leaders would be careful not to allow themselves to be drawn into a similar slander operation. But, although the Church is still defending itself against charges of wartime anti-Semitism, many Church leaders seem to see nothing wrong with current efforts to vilify Israel. Continue Reading »

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