B. F. Smith

B. F. Smith is a freelance writer and former contributing editor to Crisis Magazine.

recent articles

Mother of the Bride

My daughter first entered our parish church in my arms, to receive the sacrament of baptism. This August, again in a long white gown, she walked on the arm of her Dad to the sacrament of matrimony. There had been sacraments in between. As she came down the aisle a bride, I saw momentarily a … Read more

Just In Case

The last thing I wanted to do on a Saturday morning was discuss my husband’s death with 20 women. Not that he had died; neither had theirs. But, encouraged by him, I signed up for a workshop on what to do if suddenly widowed. Leading this sobering examination was a woman whose fate had been … Read more

Making It Easy

Nothing is more deadly to discourse than Johnny One Note launching another pitch for his particular crusade. I risk sounding a familiar theme only because I just witnessed powerful evidence favoring its cause. I refer to an overwhelming, positive reaction shown by a congregation to a Gregorian chant Mass, given at Saturday five p.m., the … Read more

Common Wisdom: Back to the Future

The startling announcement was made before the last blessing at a recent Mass. It was nothing less than putting the genie back in the bottle. High school students not yet confirmed were urged to contact our new pastor because next year our parish reverts to the traditional practice of eighth-grade confirmation. Twenty-four years ago, the … Read more

Common Wisdom: Up in the Air

Summer rites of passage wind down and the flying public puts away suitcases that actually reappeared on carousels. A recent participant in the melee of terminals teeming with passengers delayed, bumped, or stranded, I was reminded of the anguished faces in Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment and convinced that, if I am dispatched to hell, my … Read more

Common Wisdom: Remembering Mame

I am embarked on a project at once painful and pleasurable, combing through pages of unidentified people in my deceased mother’s photo albums. My daughter remarked she would never know who they were, the implication being, “when you are gone.” She is right, of course. The pictures are of relatives and friends in my early … Read more

Common Wisdom: Passages

My  parish is recovering from a collective swoon that afflicted us when our pastor of 23 years retired. It isn’t simply missing the familiar. His respect for the Magisterium and tradition characterized his pastorate. With him at the helm, we were spared, as much as he could, liturgical lunacies that invaded other parishes. Once or … Read more

Common Wisdom: Looking Back

As the curtains close on the 20th century, we are presented with countless retrospectives. Of particular interest to me is a decade that covers three major chapters in my life: school, work, and marriage. It also happens to be the decade that is routinely ridiculed. If you guessed the 50s, you are correct. The media … Read more

Common Wisdom: Something Old, Something New

For the second time in as many summers, I slipped into my mother-of-the-bride dress for an evening wedding and reception. This year, however, I did not hold the title. I was just another guest, knowing none of the others. The bride was a lapsed Catholic, the bridegroom a non-observant Jew, and they married in an … Read more

Common Wisdom: Just in Case

The last thing I wanted to do on a Saturday morning was discuss my husband’s death with 20 women. Not that he had died; neither had theirs. But, encouraged by him, I signed up for a workshop on what to do if suddenly widowed. Leading this sobering examination was a woman whose fate had been … Read more

Common Wisdom: Strangers in the Night

It had been a convivial dinner dance, and several of us extended the evening by repairing to the hotel’s cocktail lounge. We were there only briefly before a waitress came hurriedly to our table, asking if a doctor were present. In fact there were not one, but two, and a nurse. They followed the waitress, … Read more

Common Wisdom: Mother of the Bride

My daughter first entered our parish church in my arms, to receive the sacrament of baptism. This August, again in a long white gown, she walked on the arm of her Dad to the sacrament of matrimony. There had been sacraments in between. As she came down the aisle a bride, I saw momentarily a … Read more

Common Wisdom: The Doctor Is In

The most shocking talk show in America is not hosted by Jerry Springer. The distinction belongs to a woman who, contrary to contemporary orthodoxy of moral relativism, doles out biblically based directives to troubled callers. Her unapologetic certitude, cheerfully delivered and leavened with humor, propelled her program to number one, according to a recent Arbitron … Read more

Common Wisdom: Being There

With pride and pleasure my daughter invited her Evangelical friend to his first Mass. Her only request was that he should not receive Holy Communion, since he did not believe as Catholics do about the sacrament. When she returned to the pew, however, he was in line. Obviously her plea made no impact. If my … Read more

Common Wisdom: Touched By Confusion

God actually made the cover of TV Guide. Covers spotlight the hottest celebrity du jour, reflecting viewer interest. Interest translates to the entertainment industry’s bottom line and top priority, ratings. The sight of God’s holy name writ large against clouds and a blue sky on the cover was a shock, understood only when I read … Read more

Common Wisdom: Names in the Grass

My youngest cousin is dead of cardiac arrest. Honoring her wishes, against his own, her husband will have her cremated. For years I thought cremation was, literally, the way to go. I was haunted by the trauma of a wake for my godmother’s husband when I was a child. The visual shock of the open … Read more

Common Wisdom: Mass Manners

Pushed to the wall, I would have to say that topping my list of why I’m grateful for my Catholic faith is its constancy. I am also grateful for its truth, of course, about which I become more convinced the longer I live. But constancy is key, that dependable core that holds when all else … Read more

Common Wisdom: Baal Redux

His eyes flashing fear and hostility, the little boy blurted an accusatory, “you are a stranger!” This, in response to my invitational query about a toy lobbed into a Macy’s aisle by his brother in a stroller. “I guess one of us has to pick it up?” Embarrassed by her son’s fury, his mother smiled … Read more

Common Wisdom: Reaching Out

Heading the list of vacant sentiments is the supermarket sign-off, “Have a nice day.” In an era of diminished civility, pleasantries are welcome but meaningless when they become conventional clichés. We—and the president—routinely assure the bereaved, “You are in our prayers,” the most in comfort we can offer. We will pray for them. The question … Read more

Common Wisdom: Making It Easy

Nothing is more deadly to discourse than Johnny One Note launching another pitch for his particular crusade. I risk sounding a familiar theme only because I just witnessed powerful evidence favoring its cause. I refer to an overwhelming, positive reaction shown by a congregation to a Gregorian chant Mass, given at Saturday five p.m., the … Read more

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