General

What Bethlehem reminded me about Christmas

When I was preparing to go to the Holy Land this summer, everyone who had been there before had the same message for me: You’ll never read the Scriptures the same again. As a Catholic, I should have realized this also meant something else: you’ll never celebrate the liturgical calendar the same again. As we prepare for Christmas, my thoughts […]

"Suffer the little children to come unto me." (detail) by Carl Bloch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

All of Life is Bittersweet

Come, Lord, and tarry not; Bring the long looked-for day; Why these years of waiting here, These ages of delay? (Advent hymn) I left the neuropsychologist’s office dumbfounded. If Sarah had received a diagnosis of autism, I would have understood. If ADHD had been a resounding secondary diagnosis to her Apert syndrome, I wouldn’t have flinched. But, in fact, I […]

Our Merciful Mother — Our Lady of Guadalupe

In every approved Marian apparition, Our Lady has a specific mission. Each one reveals a determined and specific message—a unique and necessary goal. In the Anáhuac Valley of Mexico, on a barren hill called Tepeyac, Our Lady of Guadalupe came as a “merciful Mother,” a healer and restorer of all who are broken in body and in spirit. It is […]

Photography © by Mark Armstrong

Our Lady of Guadalupe — Come to Our Aid Again!

In December, 1531, a man we know today as St. Juan Diego began an encounter with Our Blessed Mother that reverberates to this day.  The fifty-six-year-old Juan Diego was a simple, humble, mat-weaver by trade when he came upon Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.  His indigenous Aztec name, Cuauhtlatatzin, means “the eagle that talks.” Juan’s encounter with Mary would eventually lead […]

"Creation of Adam" (detail) by Michelangelo

Argument from Pascal’s Wager

Most philosophers think Pascal’s Wager is the weakest of all arguments for believing in the existence of God. Pascal thought it was the strongest. After finishing the argument in his Pensées, he wrote, “This is conclusive, and if men are capable of any truth, this is it.” That is the only time Pascal ever wrote a sentence like that, for […]

"Adoration of the Shepherds" (detail) by Balestra

This beloved Christmas song has Mary all wrong

I love Christmas music so much, it’s hard to force myself to wait to listen to it. I make myself wait until at least halfway through Advent, but after that you’ll find me listening to it into January. Of course, there are several Christmas songs that I could do without, and a few that make me want to turn the […]

Blessed Paul VI

Paul VI, Prophet

This coming July, we will mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s deeply controversial encyclical letter Humanae vitae. I won’t bore you with the details of the innumerable battles, disagreements, and ecclesial crises that followed upon this text. Suffice it to say that this short, pithily argued letter became a watershed in the post-conciliar Catholic Church and one of […]

"Charity of St. Elizabeth of Hungary" (detail) by Edmund Blair Leighton

How to Respond When You Meet Suffering

In 2005 while undergoing chemotherapy, I was sitting in an uncomfortable recliner on the sixth floor of the medical facility. An IV dripped poison into my veins that would simultaneously cure me of the cancer in my body, and wreak havoc on it, sending waves of nausea, chills, malaise. The concoction did not discriminate between healthy and cancer cells. It […]

Empty-Handed at the End

Yesterday was the start of the Catholic New Year, the first day of the liturgical year.  Once Advent starts, we begin to think about the birth of Jesus, but the gospels for the first week of Advent don’t seem to align with our joyful anticipation of Christmas.  The first week of Advent gospels always warn us to be ready because […]

"The Exhortation to the Apostles" (detail) by James Tissot

I will give you shepherds

My diocese was given a unique Thanksgiving present this year by Pope Francis. After our bishop died in June, we entered that uncertain time of vacancy in the diocese, that time of transition while waiting for a new bishop. We all had much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving when the Pope gave us our new shepherd the Tuesday before […]