The Secret Commonwealth

As the feast of All Souls nears, spare a piteous thought, if you will, for the poor Rev. Robert Kirk, who lived from 1644 to 1692, and whose mortal remains rest”or do they?”in his parish kirkyard in Aberfoyle, a Scottish village lying near the Laggan River and at the foot of Craigmore. The great slab of his gravestone is in much the same condition as most of the other funerary markers that survive from the seventeenth century in those latitudes… Continue Reading »

America in Bronze

Augustus Saint-Gaudens was the Walt Whitman of American sculpture. Born in Dublin in 1848 to a French father and Irish mother and soon brought to the New York as an infant, Saint-Gaudens embodied the emerging fresh vitality of a country then entering a period of explosive industrial growth. Too young to serve in the Civil War, Saint-Gaudens came of age in the warm glow of Union victory and the ascendant sense that America was a nation destined to serve the noble purposes of humanity… . Continue Reading »

Reverence for Words: A Case Against Blogging

Someone recently encouraged me to write more, because “words aren’t lifeblood. Words are cheap.” Words are certainly held cheap, and the blogosphere has drastically lowered the going rate. This is a development entirely in conformity with the spirit of the age, which, as Wendell Berry observed, does not ask a man what he can do well but “what he can do fast and cheap.” Berry and I are not alone in thinking that this is a bad state of affairs. It’s no small problem that our society is trying to do very important business with increasingly debased currency. Which brings to mind Neil Postman… Continue Reading »

Why Jews Pray

It was Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Prayer is arguably the most fundamental, intimate, and unique element of a life of faith. The way a person of faith is called to prayer, what words they articulate during prayer, and their thoughts and intentions while praying speak volumes about their particular faith… . Continue Reading »

Obama and the Lama

The received wisdom has it that only Nixon could have gone to China, and I imagine that in this case the received wisdom is right. By the same token, though, I hope it will one day be recognized that only Barack Obama could go to China by stabbing the Dalai Lama in the back. That day will be long in coming, no doubt… . Continue Reading »

The Greatest Grassroots Movement of Our Times

When I received a letter from Dr. Wanda Franz telling me about the “Proudly Pro-Life Award,” I was, quite simply, overcome with emotion. There is no honor or award that could mean more to me than one from my fellow members of what my friend the late Richard John Neuhaus always called “the greatest grassroots movement of our times.” At the same time, I can’t help but be humbled at the thought of the great men and women to whom you have given this honor in the past… . Continue Reading »

Conrad Black and Judaism

In the Tuesday, September 29 edition of the National Post (Toronto), long time columnist Conrad Black wrote “Why I Became a Catholic.” I was intrigued by Lord Black’s story of his spiritual journey to a more intense Christianity, yet I began to recoil when reading his dismissal of Judaism as a real spiritual option for himself (or for anyone else like him)… . Continue Reading »

Roman Polanski, Hollywood, and the Mystery of the Missing Outrage

The arrest in Switzerland of Roman Polanski, and his possible extradition to the United States to stand trial for the rape of a minor, has stirred a surprising public controversy. While many commentators have expressed satisfaction that he might be called to account for his crime, others, especially those in Hollywood, have come to Polanski’s defense. The controversy itself is not so surprising as the character of the defense… . Continue Reading »

Do the Catholic Bishops Really Mean What They Say?

The public opposition of more than eighty Catholic bishops to the University of Notre Dame’s decision to honor pro-abortion President Barack Obama represented an unprecedented public expression of episcopal sentiment on a controversial moral issue. The bishops normally draw back”“prudently,” as they see it”from calling attention to themselves and to the Church. For so many of them to enter into the lists in this particular case surely suggests an enhanced understanding of the seriousness of the central moral issue of our time… . Continue Reading »

The Music of Eternity

A famously cultured friend of mine, now sadly deceased, used to express polite amazement at my ability to enjoy the music of Richard Wagner, despite my almost idolatrous devotion to Bach; apparently this struck him as a combination of tastes as improbable as a successful alloy of fire and water. And, on the one occasion that I touched upon the topic of Anton Bruckner in his presence, he merely arched an eyebrow and directed me to the table where the drinks were being served. Consequently, I never quite learned his opinion of the old Austrian schoolmaster, but I suspect it fell somewhat short of rapt veneration… . Continue Reading »