It’s easy to color another person’s character. We paint a picture of someone in our group of friends, and we don’t let him change much from the mold we’ve given him. “Fred’s always been that way.” Changing his character now would change other things, and those things don’t need changing. It’s simply more comfortable to deal with our image of someone rather than who he really is.
In a seemingly insignificant detail in one of the appendices of his masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien notes that the destruction of the One Ring and the defeat of Sauron took place on March 25. What might have led Tolkien to date the destruction of the ring with such precision? Being a devout Catholic, Tolkien most likely was subtly weaving into his work an ancient Christian tradition regarding the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the feast the Church celebrates today.
According to this tradition, the date of the Annunciation coincided with a number of significant events in salvation history. March 25 was not only the day on which Christ was conceived in Our Lady’s womb; it was also the day of the creation of the world, the day Adam and Eve fell, the day Abraham (nearly) sacrificed his son Isaac, the day the Israelites were set free from Egypt, and the day of the crucifixion.
For a school that forbade the use of personal CD players, St. Gregory’s Academy has produced a remarkable discography. Founded by alumni of the Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas, St. Gregory’s was a Catholic boarding school that cultivated an environment in which boys were immersed in the great experiences of nature, human culture, and the Catholic faith. One important dimension of the school was a ban on the use of personal computers, television, and most forms of pre-recorded music. This strictly enforced “technology fast” created a situation in which the sixty-odd students at the Academy had to learn how to entertain themselves in the hours that weren’t devoted to rugby, prayer, and study. In this context, Irish and American folk music became a homespun soundtrack to life at the Academy, drifting down the hallway or making the rafters roar. But despite this ban on the private listening of recorded music, the students and alumni of St. Gregory’s and its successor Gregory the Great Academy have produced countless recordings of their music, entrusting their strums and voices to the carrion comfort of tape, CD, and Mp3.
“You prepare a table before me
In the presence of my enemies.”
We’ve heard it so many times, that we can easily skip over the details of Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd, yadda, yadda…” But what an odd sentence we have above. The psalmist is under attack from violent foes, and what does God have up his almighty sleeve? He decides to set the table. “Great strategy, God. Now they’ll never get us!”
Is “I’ve been blessed” “The one thing Christians should stop saying” about temporal goods? That is the premise of a blog post on The Accidental Missionary by Scott Dannemiller that has been making its way around social media. He claims that “calling myself blessed because of material good fortune is just plain wrong.” While the point he is trying to make is laudable, Dannemiller’s argument is itself just plain wrong.
Why do I love St. Joseph? I’ll give you four titles of Joseph, four moments from my life, and four reasons why.
Joseph, Foster Father of Jesus
My devotion to St. Joseph started when our family began providing foster care to newborn babies awaiting adoption. One by one, these infants changed my life. They taught me to love, to care for another’s needs, and to form deep bonds even in the face of separation’s pain. These newborns also taught me about God’s love for us, what it means to call God “Abba, Father,” how He hears our cries, He delights in us, and He holds us through our crankiest fits.
Millions of tourists come to New York each year, many of them hoping to see such landmarks as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Ellis Island. And as famous and iconic as these destinations are, there are some tourists (and many locals) who insist on crowning any trip to “the City” with a visit to a still more ancient institution: a bar. McSorley’s Alehouse has been open since 1854 (for those keeping track, that’s 38 years before Ellis Island opened, 32 years before the Statue of Liberty was dedicated, and 75 years before the Empire State Building was even started).
I don’t like eating fish. Partly it’s a taste thing. Although I have had delicious pan-fried tuna once in my life, most fish dishes do not compare favorably against a delectable cheeseburger or a slice of meat-lover’s pizza. Partly this aquatic aversion is due to sentimentality: I grew up with a large number of pets, including some very friendly fish. So eating fish is a good penance for me, aiming to “bridle concupiscence,” as St. Thomas says (ST II-II, 147, 6). But if this were the only reason for eating fish (assuming one chooses fish over cheese pizza), perhaps an even better penance would be eating cauliflower, leaks, or liver and onions. Are there more reasons to eat fish on Fridays beyond its lack of palatial satisfaction? Is there a positive reason to choose fish over some other less appetizing entree? A memory from my childhood perhaps produces one.
Of the writing of many books there is no end, says Ecclesiastes. If Quoheleth had lived during the last year, he might well have said, “Of the making of many myths about Pope Francis there is no end.” As we give thanks to God for the Holy Father on this first anniversary of his papacy, it’s worth taking a moment to look back on some of the myths about Pope Francis that have made the rounds on the Internet this year. While this list could be many more pages long, what follows is my own Top Ten List of Myths about Pope Francis.