Muhammad and Man At Yale

A good cartoon ought to make its reader shake with laughter, but that was neither the intention nor the effect of the twelve cartoons depicting “the face of Muhammad,” published by the Danish newspaper Jylsend-Posten in September 2005. Over the course of five months, the cartoons became the impetus for Muslim protests and riots across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East that ultimately resulted in the deaths of more than two hundred people. The cartoons stood at the center of what seemed to be a monumental clash between the West’s reverential respect for free speech and Muslim piety… . Continue Reading »

Into the Land of the Living

The second day of November is a busy one for parish priests. On that day, we celebrate three Masses for the dead. These liturgies follow directly on the previous day’s joyous celebration of the saints in glory. The living”those souls who are truly living because they have entered heaven, the Land of the Living”and the dead”those who died in the state of grace yet need purification before they may enter eternal life”are joined to us in worship and prayer… . Continue Reading »

Reformation Day

It was around two o’clock in the afternoon on the eve of the Day of All Saints, October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, hammer in hand, approached the main north door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg and nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses protesting the abuse of indulgences in the teaching and practice of the church of his day. In remembrance of this event, millions of Christians still celebrate this day as the symbolic beginning of the Protestant Reformation… . Continue Reading »

The Drama of Hallowmas

As a friend of mine observed recently, there is something medieval about Halloween. The masks, the running around in the dark, the flicker of candles in pumpkins, the smell of leaves and cold air—all of it feels ancient, even primal, somehow. Despite the now-inevitable preponderance of media-inspired costumes, Halloween seems, in execution, far closer to a Last Judgment scene above a medieval church door, or to a mystery play, than it does to Wal-Mart. Continue Reading »

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 »