Life in prison without parole. With this sentence the murder trial of Kermit Gosnell has come to an end. Yet another horrific, unmentionable injustice has been addressed by our nation’s legal system. The murder of infants had tipped the golden scales of justice, but with the piercing percussion of a swift gavel strike, the balance was restored. Next case. Could it be that justice is so easy?
To many Christians, recent legal restrictions such as the HHS mandate seem like a “soft persecution.” It is tempting for us to portray such restrictions using the language and imagery of martyrdom. But is it accurate at all? One scholar, writing recently, thinks that contemporary Christians have the whole thing wrong—the history of martyrdom and its application today. Don’t we risk making a ridiculous comparison?
Have you ever been to a portrait gallery? It’s extraordinary, really: a bunch of people walking around for hours, looking at face after face after face. And do you remember your old class photos? Rows upon rows of faces, staring back at you. And if you’ve ever been to a bureau to get a driver’s license, you have probably noticed the same remarkably consistent pattern—you need your face on a card to get your hands on the wheel.
Last week I reread The Great Gatsby for the first time since a summer vacation in high school. With the buzz about the upcoming film (out this Friday), I wanted to revisit what I vaguely remembered to be a good but sad story.
At first, I simply wanted to read some good books. The fact is, I hadn’t kept up with reading literature since I left high school English classes behind. There was a novel or two here or there when I was home on vacation but it was pretty sporadic. It’s not that I didn’t see the value of the classics of literature; I just never set aside the time to read them between my studies in math and science and a good bit of time wasting on the side. When I arrived at the novitiate, where there was limited access to TV and the Internet, the things that had previously been major temptations to waste time were, thankfully, no longer an option. I decided that when I wasn’t occupied in the work, prayer, or study of the novitiate, I would spend some time catching up on reading good books.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when, for fear of the Jews, the doors were locked where the disciples were, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
It wasn’t just Peter, of course. The others had also denied Jesus. When he asked them to stay awake with him and keep watch, they had slept. When he was arrested, they had fled. When he was condemned to death, they had kept their distance. And now he was dead. It was evening, and the doors were locked.
Wedding season is upon us. This spring, summer, and fall, millions more will be tying the knot, and those of us who are lucky enough to attend a Roman Catholic ceremony will hear a vow formula such as this:
I, ____, take you, ____, to be my lawful husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
As a friar, I will obviously never take wedding vows. (My until death moment came last August 11th, when I made solemn profession to God in the Order of Preachers.) Yet if you’ll allow me to share the story of a car I once owned, maybe it can shed some light on the beauty of a true, sacramental, indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman.
Give a boy a patch of back yard to play in, and you’ll soon have some interesting critters on the kitchen table. Give him a few empty lots with a fence that fronts the Australian Outback, and there’s no telling what he’ll find. For twelve-year-old Roy Spencer, the day could have brought home a bird’s nest, a small reptile, or an old license plate, but his treasure that day was a hefty, shiny, black rock. The scene was predictable—mom looks delighted (but firmly commands it not to be left in the kitchen), later dad offers a half-hearted compliment after regarding the rock with the same feigned interest that he once showed to the dozens of other collectables that he’s tripped over this month. And you’ve guessed the ending: Roy’s clunky crystal transitions from imaginary treasure, to magical space shard, to windowsill decoration, to paperweight, to doorstop within two weeks—just another stubborn memento of a carefree summer vacation by the time school starts up again.
“Man, are you guys Jedis or what?” That’s what a surprised inner-city schoolboy said when he first encountered some of my fellow Dominican friars. And the question is not completely without basis. Our white habits and dark leather belts do give us an appearance similar to the legendary guardians of peace and justice in the Star Wars galaxy. We carry rosaries instead of lightsabers, but we are entrusted, like the Jedi Knights, with the task of safeguarding the truth. Yet we differ from the Jedi—as does any Christian—on several points.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of one of the great American movies, The Sandlot. Formative for a generation of children, this movie was one of many movies in the early 90′s that focused on the childhood love of sports and the heartwarming story of an underdog rising to success. The Sandlot has given rise to iconic quotes such as, “You’re killing me Smalls!” and “FOR-EV-ER” as well as a comprehensive list of acceptable nominal references to George Herbert “Babe” Ruth: “The Sultan of Swat, The King of Crash, The Colossus of Clout, The Great Bambino!”