Desires are not Rights

“May you live in interesting times.” There is some debate about whether this quote is an ancient Chinese curse or something more recent, yet the fact of the matter is: we live in interesting times. Around the world we hear of the recent violent events in Paris and Mali, combined with the greatest mass migration of a group of people […]

"Adoration of the Lamb" (detail) by van Eyck"Adoration of the Lamb" (detail) by van Eyck

Thanksgiving and the Eucharist

For Americans, the term “Thanksgiving” conjures up images of turkey and cranberry sauce, parades and bowl games.  These “traditions” have come to mark an event made a perpetual institution of American life by President Abraham Lincoln. But why did Lincoln proclaim the last Thursday in November as a national holiday?  Because it was clear to him that the blessings of […]


Armed with My Rosary

According to my confessor and spiritual director, we all have habitual sins. Each of us has an area of weakness, and that’s where our personal tempters and/or the devil attack first. In fact, when we’ve talked about my habitual sin, he used the word “addiction.” I don’t know about you, but thinking of sin as an addiction took some getting […]

Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, San Francisco North Beach
Photography © by Andy CoanSts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, San Francisco North Beach Photography © by Andy Coan

Five Attitudes We Have Toward Football that We Should Have Toward Church

In my days as an evangelical Christian (and even occasionally in my decade as a Catholic), I have heard many a pastor suggest that we would get a lot more out of our attendance at Church if we treated it with the same enthusiasm we display toward sporting events. Some of these pastors, no doubt, would like to see the […]

"Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man" by Nicolas Poussin (1655)"Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man" by Nicolas Poussin (1655)

How do I offer something up?

Someone once pointed out to me that Jesus didn’t cure all the sick in Israel.  We were discussing the mystery of suffering, so it sounded like a nice thought at the time, and I accepted it without much thought.  But it bothered me later. How do we know?  In Matthew 13 we hear that Jesus did not perform many miracles in […]

"St. Jerome Writing" (detail) by Caravaggio"St. Jerome Writing" (detail) by Caravaggio

Whose Bible is it, anyway?

We needn’t be bitter in defending our beliefs. Even though many fundamentalists think the Catholic Church is under the control of Satan and all or most Catholics are headed for hell, not all think that—and we shouldn’t think the same of them. However narrow-minded their faith often is, it’s also usually genuine, both in personal sincerity and in basic Christian […]

The Miraculous MedalThe Miraculous Medal

Mary’s Love Note to Me: Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

It started out as a series of love notes.  He worked in the back of the John Deere dealership, as a mechanic, and I was at the parts counter.  Every morning, I would leave a little note stuck in his toolbox. After a few months of this, I missed a day.  Maybe I was tired that morning, maybe I didn’t […]


The widow’s daily decision

When I used to work at the St. Paul Center, the staff would often toss around a question of the day – one of those open-ended, thought-provoking questions that spur conversation.  One of my favorites involved traveling in a spaceship with a fictional character.  One of the classic ones inquires about eating dinner with historical character.  My list is a pretty long one, […]

René-Descartes by Frans HalsRené-Descartes by Frans Hals

Origins of today’s “God is Dead” Morality: Descartes and the Father of Lies

In North America, October 31 is celebrated as an opportunity for children and adults to dress up in strange, often elaborate and occasionally gruesome costumes. What was once the Feast of All Hallow’s Eve has been transformed and secularized into what is now called Halloween. In the United States, over two billion dollars are spent on candy that will be distributed […]

"Baptism of Christ" (detail) by Perugino"Baptism of Christ" (detail) by Perugino

Why We Need the Sacraments

Four elements stand out in the traditional Catholic doctrine of what a sacrament is. Fundamentalism is suspicious of all four. A sacrament is “a sign that effects what it signifies, instituted by Christ to give grace.” 1. Sacraments are signs and symbols. Fundamentalism is temperamentally wary of symbolism. It has a plain, “no-nonsense” mentality. Symbols are too poetic for its […]