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12 Myths Every Catholic Should Be Able to Answer

Freedom of speech is a great thing. Unfortunately, it comes at a price: When citizens are free to say what they want, they’ll sometimes use that freedom to say some pretty silly things. And that’s the case with the 12 claims we’re about to cover. Some of them are made over and over, others are … Read more

Does anyone like Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court?

Lots of buzz today about President Obama’s pick to replace Justice Stevens on the Supreme Court — Elena Kagan. Conservatives are understandably nervous about her record on abortion; Steve Ertelt at Life News quotes Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony list, saying: “In the past Kagan has been a strong supporter of the … Read more

Evolutionary Art

It happens to most of us who like classic art: You’re reading an article about some contemporary artist who’s making millions selling “art” made from rumpled beds, carved-up corpses, or human waste, and you ask yourself, why? Why can’t art be heroic and life-inspiring? Why does art have to degrade and shock? And what is … Read more

Rescuing Lincoln

Most Americans are familiar with the young Abraham Lincoln. Stories abound of his truth telling, rail splitting, candlelight reading, soil tilling, store keeping, and flatboat driving. Amazingly enough, James M. McPherson has managed to touch on all of them — and a few more besides — in this brief biographical essay written to coincide with … Read more

Reading the Signs

We see a lot of symbols every day, but most just tell the world how much something costs. They mark brand and status, not meaning. The famous Nike “swoosh” just means “expensive shoe.” A little horse on the pocket of a shirt just means “shirt trying to look expensive.”  Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian … Read more

Heretical Times

Meat-and-potatoes history fans, take note: The Great Medieval Heretics is good, solid, reliable history written in a no-nonsense style. Michael Frassetto teaches history at the University of Delaware and is an expert in medieval religion, heresy, and politics. His book delivers a detailed account of the heretics of the medieval period, starting with the false … Read more

More on American Classical Music

Last month, I began talking about modern American classical music. The impetus was the new releases in the stellar Naxos American Classics series, as well as some other new CDs of American music. As I said, I doubt that many readers will have heard of many of the composers. I spent most of the column … Read more

What You Need to Know About Modern American Music

This and next month, I want to talk about modern American music because I have been listening to new releases in the stellar Naxos American Classics series, as well as to some other new CDs of American music. Curiously, the one thing of which I may be sure is that very few readers will have … Read more

Christmas Stocking

All I want for Christmas is more CDs.   Let me qualify that request, as piles of unplayed material accumulate in my study, my family room, my bedroom, my briefcase, and my car. Defying the “death of classical music” predictions, there have been some 1,500 CD releases yearly — and bargains abound. When I was … Read more

Thanksgiving Bounty

  This is my third attempt to get through the fall harvest of superb new CD releases, but it is still fall, and there is a lot to harvest. This abundance illustrates William Buckley’s recent remark in the November issue of the British Gramophone magazine, that "it has to be the greatest gift of modern … Read more

International Treasures

Such has been the abundance of recent classical music releases that I was not able to get past the late 19th century in last month’s review of the fall harvest. Let me try to pick up the threads. We will see how far into the 20th century we can get (don’t be alarmed; it’s wonderful … Read more

Fall Harvest

A round of ritual lamentations on the demise of the classical music recording industry has ushered in yet another bountiful fall harvest of CDs. In fact, according to Newsweek, while overall music sales declined by 5 percent last year, classical music sales grew by 22 percent. A large part of that astonishing figure apparently has … Read more

Faith in Music

  I recently saw the movie Copying Beethoven. There are very few good films about composers. This is not one of them, although it has the compensation of its "electrifying music," as advertised by the quote from the Seattle Times review on the DVD jacket cover, as if the music had been written for the … Read more

Tocqueville’s Catholic America

Alexis de Tocqueville was born—and died—a Catholic. He lost his faith as an adolescent, but it had already broadened and enlightened him (indeed, his childhood tutor was a beloved priest) and made him the brilliant political observer he would become.   Tocqueville was an aristocrat from a family that had stood by the Bourbons and … Read more

The Atheists’ Benchwarmer

To be perfectly frank, Victor J. Stenger is not on the first string of the atheist team. His writing is lackluster, his reasoning is often quite shallow, and he regularly dismisses the most complex points with a self-congratulatory wave. He knows a lot about science (and well he should, since he is emeritus professor of … Read more

England at Prayer

In The Stripping of the Altars—the single most important book in English Reformation studies in the past 50 years—Eamon Duffy demonstrates the vitality of popular religion in England in the years leading up the Reformation. Duffy’s thesis, comprehensively researched and cogently argued, turned inside-out—or, more precisely, upside-down—the received opinion concerning the Reformation in England, namely, … Read more

Stalking the Ten-Pronged Divine Nod

  Does God answer prayers, or do we—by ardently pursuing our heart’s desires—answer our own prayers, gift and bless ourselves?   That is a question anyone reading Anthony DeStefano’s slim volume Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To might instinctively pose, and with some justification. The question could be called a subtext to the book’s … Read more

Ancient Wisdom, Modern Economics

Joseph Pearce’s Small Is Still Beautiful is one part commentary on and one part updated application of E. F. Schumacher’s famous Small Is Beautiful. The constant reference to a book that many consider a minor classic is both a strength and a weakness of Pearce’s own book. Imitating Schumacher, Pearce wants to return us to … Read more

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