Heaven Can Wait

There's a terrific moment in the TV show House, in which the irascible and brilliant Dr. Greg House is explaining to a lapsed Catholic subordinate why he doesn't believe in the afterlife. House, with all the self-lacerating irony that actor Hugh Laurie can impart to the character, says, "I would hate to think that all [...]

Hands to Heaven

There is a line in Scripture that has always infuriated me. It's Timothy 2:15, and for years I could not read it without wanting to hurl my Bible at the wall. "The woman," writes St. Paul, "will be saved by childbearing, if only she continue with faith, love and holiness." Its baptized misogyny was insulting enough [...]

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 [...]

All Is Grace

I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth. . . . God will have to do my will in heaven, because I have never done my own will on earth. The 24-year-old Frenchwoman who spoke these oft-quoted words shortly before her death as a Carmelite nun on September 30, 1897, was Thérèse Martin, born [...]

On Earth as It Is in Heaven

Our Lord teaches us to pray that God's will be done "on earth as it is in Heaven." But I sometimes fancy that we (and I know for certain that I) have seldom given any thought to what that means.   I think that, in part, it's because we don't quite know what to make [...]

Thy Will Be Done

   Years ago, a friend's brother was at Reed College in Oregon. It's one of those schools where the students seem to major in protesting more than in actual studying. After several months of watching silly demonstrations about every conceivable PC cause, the guy decided to create one of his own, just to see how [...]

Who Art in Heaven

  Our Father is not, according to Jesus, merely our Father. He is our Father "who art in heaven." What does that mean?   Getting at the answer to that in our present culture is harder than you'd think, not least because heaven, says C. S. Lewis, is an acquired taste. There are moments, he [...]

Our Father

  In Luke's Gospel, the "Our Father," like so much else in Jesus' teaching, is occasioned by a request from His disciples: "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples" (Lk 11:1). This should get our attention, because it is typical of Jesus' method of revelation that, instead of going around announcing, "Hey! [...]

Put the ‘Mag’ Back in Your Animus

  I'm finishing up a book on the Seven Deadly Sins and their "contrary virtues" -- finishing writing one, that is. I'd much rather do that than read one, just as I'd rather talk than listen. (I find this argument reassures my freshmen rhetoric students.)   Tracing the spectrum of virtue to vice requires a [...]

Christianity Is Not Moralism

  Many Catholics are satisfied with mediocrity. They know that they're morally imperfect, yet make no effort to change their ways. They fulfill their Easter obligation and call it a day.   This is a far cry from what Jesus called Christians to in the gospels. When Christ encountered the woman caught in adultery, after [...]

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 [...]

Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake

  I remember when I was in the fourth grade a rerun of The Twilight Zone was interrupted by a news bulletin announcing that somebody named "Martin Luther King Jr." had been shot. I had not the foggiest idea who that might be, but I could tell from my mom's worried face that he must [...]

Blessed Are the Meek

  Today's Beatitude -- "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Mt 5:5) -- continues Jesus' tradition of transmuting lead into gold. Just as nobody wants to be poor and nobody wants to mourn, so nobody wants to be "meek." That's because we think of the meek as doormats and dartboards. We [...]

Stupid Questions

Some questions have obvious answers and need not be asked. I used to have an acute case of Stupid Question Syndrome: There was a time when they could actually wreck my day, pushing my irritation meter into the dangerous red zone. Some examples: 8:00 a.m. Stand in line for 15 minutes at Starbucks. Arrive at [...]

Susan Boyle, the Whimsy of God, and Heaven

If you are one of the very few people left who has not viewed the video of Susan Boyle singing "I Dreamed a Dream" on Britain's Got Talent, then you must do so immediately, or nothing I have to say will stick to your soul. If you are one of the tens of millions who [...]

The Biblical Basis of Western Science

Science may be a refined form of common sense, but at times all-too refined. Some basic laws of science can, of course, be fully rendered in commonsense terms. One gives the full truth of the three laws of thermodynamics by saying that, first, you cannot win; second, you cannot break even; third, you cannot even [...]

The 1.5th Commandment

    The tricky thing about the Ten Commandments is figuring out how to break them up. The original Hebrew text refers to them as (pedantry alert!) the "Ten Words" but doesn't do all that tidy stuff with the tablets and the Roman numerals clearly delineating where one commandment leaves off and another starts. As [...]

Contemplations for Skiing

I ski, but not well. I devote much of my time skiing in prayer to Jesus, whose protection and humor I must beg every ski season. Skiing leaves plenty of time for prayer, as there's really not much to it: You stand atop a mountain and move forward down the slope until you slam into [...]

A Christmas Pilgrimage

Our Christmas tree still blinks in the window, though most of our neighbors have taken down all signs of Christmas. Our nativity remains on the front lawn, too, and will until after the Feast of the Epiphany. Each year it seems we struggle harder to "keep Christmas" amid the marketeering that now characterizes what most [...]

Coming to Our Senses: The Anagogical Sense of Scripture

  Bound up with the biblical understanding of God from the get-go is the conviction (one almost wants to call it the foregone conclusion) that God knows the future.   This isn't always necessarily the case with those delightful works of pagan imagination called "the gods." In some pagan myths, one gets the impression that [...]