Long Live Absurdity

Everywhere except in the field of jurisprudence, the reductio ad absurdum is accepted as a logical argument. The reductio always takes this form: If you can show that a certain premise leads to an absurd conclusion, then there is something radically wrong with the premise, and you then either have to reject the premise or at least [...]

‘Stand Erect and Raise Your Heads’

"What are we coming to? Where will it all end?" Who among us has not heard anxious questions like those, or asked them ourselves? What is going to happen, we ask, in Afghanistan and Iraq? Will the sorely tried people of those tormented countries ever enjoy peace? When will our brave troops be able to [...]

The Worst Book I Ever Read

When I wrote a book on happiness in 1995, I was required to read a number of the popular self-help books on the subject. It was only dogged persistence and several strong cigars that got me through them. But lo and behold, at the suggestion of a friend, I took a look at the best-selling [...]

A Few Gratitudes

The center of our Faith is Eucharist. Eucharist means "thanksgiving." That means that the center of our Faith is thanksgiving. It is in the form of a thanksgiving meal that our Lord chose to make Himself present to us. And He did so, shockingly, "on the night He was betrayed." In other words, He defiantly [...]

He Came Down from Heaven: A Consolation

  I have been clearing out rooms since the death of my husband and have been sometimes overcome by a sense of the charnel-house. The possessions of the dead can seem loathsome when they have lost all utility and are mere reminders of mortality, of corruption and decay, of grief and loss. Even evidence of [...]

The fight against divorce just got a little harder.

New York recently became the fiftieth state to allow no-fault divorce -- an occasion that prompted New York resident Beverly Willett to reflect on her experience fighting to save her own marriage from divorce eight years ago. It was a grueling, five-year-long battle against a husband who had cheated on her and wanted out on [...]

Breaking: Money can’t buy you happiness.

The column Brian links to below makes for discouraging reading. In an attempt to lighten the mood, I offer the following, as a sort of "bright side" to our current economic woes: With less money to spend, people are finding that they may in fact be happier without it. [T]he practices that consumers have adopted [...]


The Mind of God is not an open book to us -- the finite cannot comprehend the infinite -- yet I have noticed that people (including this correspondent) sometimes speak as if it were. Having thoughtlessly omitted from our intentions the rather crucial "nevertheless, according to Thy will," we presume to know precisely what God [...]

Learning to Forgive

   The Eastern Catholic and Orthodox tradition of Forgiveness Sunday -- otherwise known as Get Out of your Comfort Zone Sunday -- is fast approaching. (As my husband is canonically a Ukrainian Catholic, I have the good fortune of discovering another world of "new" old practices.) On the Sunday before Lent, during a Vespers service, [...]

Hail Mary

In the Old Testament, the standard protocol for angelic appearances is as follows: First, the angel appears. Then, the human to whom he appears either: a) Does not realize he is an angel and so behaves as he would toward a fellow human being (that is, he makes the angel a nice meal and is [...]

Test Your Envy

Last week, I considered the phenomenon of Envy infecting our spiritual aspirations. Envy, as you might recall, is the one sin St. Thomas Aquinas considered entirely devoid of anything good. He defined this vice concisely as "sadness at another's good." Put that way, this vice seems to amount to an almost pure form of malevolence. [...]

Are You Temperate, Insensible, or Insatiable?

Last week I offered some theoretical and practical tips for Temperance. Since this virtue is tied in so tightly to physical health, it takes different forms in various people, and its demands can change with age. A young person with a fast metabolism can healthily eat an amount that is for somebody else "too much," [...]

And Forgive Us Our Trespasses

When asked why he had become a Catholic, G. K. Chesterton famously replied, "To get rid of my sins." The forgiveness of sins is the awesome gift that Christ offers us, a gift so beautiful that words can scarcely express the glory of it. One of the most lovely things you can possibly experience is [...]

Backward Thinking Moves Me Forward

I am such a Neanderthal.    Case in point: One recent day, I was furiously scrubbing the bathtub when my husband Dan peeked into the bathroom doorway.   "Hey, as long as you're doing that," he said, "The toilet in there is looking . . . um . . . really, really gross."   Yes, [...]

Blessed Are Those Persecuted for Christ

The Beatitude before this one pronounces a blessing on those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. Taken in isolation, it would be easy to read that Beatitude as a sort of general, "Rah, rah for the underdog" sentiment. But coupled with this saying, it takes on a very different sense; for this Beatitude is a [...]

The Beatitudes

  Over Lent, we took a good long look at one of the legs of Catholic moral teaching: the Ten Commandments.   Some people have the notion that the Ten Commandments are pretty much all you need for Catholic moral teaching. Hew to them and you'll be a moral person -- and being a moral [...]

What Lies Beneath

I had a fleeting desire to see the newish movie Watchmen, until I heard that it was yet another in the genre of "let's peel off the facade of the world and get down to the truthiest truth underneath, which is, of course, stench and corruption."  This must be an awfully old theme. Older even [...]

An Epiphany

In most years, Epiphany marks the real beginning of winter here in northern Illinois. November and December roll along, as temperatures drop and the days grow shorter, but the weather that we normally associate with the Upper Midwest -- days-long snowstorms, blowing winds, bitter temperatures -- make their appearance about the same time as the [...]

The Forgotten Victims

At first blush, you'd be hard-pressed to figure how a trio of middle-aged nuns could be victims of the Church's sex-abuse scandal. But there's no other way to describe the plight of the three Sisters of Bethany -- one of them a hunched and wrinkled 69 -- who will soon be evicted from the convent [...]

Sense and Nonsense: Dry and Dull on Campus

One Saturday afternoon in Washington, I chanced to buy a day-old Washington Times on K Street. Walking up 20th Street, I noticed an article entitled, "Virginia 'Prohibition' Cramps Life on Campus." "Oh, those poor dears," I thought to myself, "how can they possibly survive in such austerity?" Coincidently, I had been reading Aquinas on the [...]