September 22, 2014
‘The faith is Europe,” Hilaire Belloc claimed a century ago, “and Europe is the faith.” To say the same today might provoke laughter or confusion. When we think of Europe, is the first thing that comes to mind Christianity?
Now, quick—say the first word that pops into your head when you read the word after the colon: Africa.
September 15, 2014
There is still no consensus in the United States about whether caring for children is a worthy expenditure of women’s time. In surveys and in their concrete choices, women express and demonstrate strong interests in caring for children. At the same time, the federal government and influential interest groups insist, in the context of their three-year-old campaign in favor of the Health and Human Services’ “contraceptive mandate,” that the power to avoid...
Sept. 1-8, 2014
‘If you want to meet the poor, take the bus.” That’s a saying I’ve heard many times from my brother Jesuits. It refers not so much to transportation within cities (though it certainly could) as to long-distance travel. My own preference, especially here in the Northeastern United States, is traveling by train: in these parts Amtrak is quick, reliable and relatively inexpensive if you plan far enough in advance. As for planes, well, to be charitable, I’ll...
August 4-11, 2014
Israel is at it again. Given political orthodoxy in the United States, I should probably say Israel and the Palestinians are at it again, or, more precisely, Israel and Hamas are at it again, yet the disproportion between the two sides is such that there is no equivalence. One side is offering ineffectual resistance with rockets that are striking chiefly for their inaccuracy; the other is using the most sophisticated weapons of war to terrorize a population...
July 21-28, 2014
Having grown up in central New York State, not far from the Adirondack Park, I have always had a special place in my heart for the beauty of deciduous forests. The green trees and shrubs, the rolling hills and glacial valleys, the clear blue lakes and streams illustrate for me the truth of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poetic vision, inspired as it was by the Franciscan John Duns Scotus, that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
July 7-14, 2014
In Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory (1940), a soon-to-be-martyred Mexican priest on the run from government troops encounters a haunting sight while saying Mass: local peasants who, having toiled all day at their backbreaking work, come before the altar and spread their arms as if on a crucifix, imitating Christ on the cross. “One more mortification squeezed out of their harsh and painful lives,” thinks the priest.
June 9-16, 2014
My devout Cuban father was afraid that I would leave the faith after seeing the political divisions inside the Catholic Church. He is deceased now, but after 30 years of “church work” that has taken me to most dioceses in the United States and dozens more around the world, I could tell him a few stories. They add up to this: “Yes Dad, there is politics, but there is still more beauty than division, in the form of human beings serving one another according to...
May 26-June 2, 2014
Everybody knows that same-sex marriage and homosexual acts are contrary to Catholic moral teaching. Yet that same teaching also says that gay and lesbian people must be treated with “respect, sensitivity and compassion.” As more states pass laws legalizing same-sex marriage, more gay and lesbian Catholics are entering into these unions. This leaves some Catholics feeling caught between two values: church teaching against same-sex marriage and church teaching...
May 19, 2014
One of the best books of history I’ve read is a slender volume by Arnold J. Toynbee called The World and the West. In it, the late British historian takes as his topic the encounter between the world and the West, an encounter that he notes has been going on for at least 400 or 500 years and in which the world, not the West, is the party that has suffered from the encounter.
April 28-May 5, 2014
On Nov. 10, 1958, Thomas Merton wrote a letter to Pope John XXIII in which the famous American monk shared with the new pope some reflections about the world and the church. In one passage Merton describes how he had begun to understand that being a cloistered monk did not necessarily mean withdrawing from the world in some absolute way.