The "Men's Group": Sanctification through Spiritual Friendship

Feast of St Timothy the Apostle of the 70

Men_Square.jpegI JOINED a men’s group five or six years ago, and we’re still meeting. It’s a strange thing, the phenomenon of the “men’s group,” and it takes many forms. Ours is an amalgamation of accountability, study, therapy, and most of all friendship. The five of us who started the group (there are nine of us now) did so because we... Continue Reading

The Trinity: Friendship's Alpha & Omega

Feast of St Macarius the Great

Trinity_Square_2.jpegWHAT IS friendship? Why is it important and why is it worth cultivating? These axiomatic questions form the heart of the Eighth Day Institute’s Symposium, of which I am honored to be a part. They also form a significant part of the thought and writing of C. S. Lewis. In a letter to his lifelong friend, Arthur Greeves, Lewis touched upon the heart... Continue Reading

Friendship & Community in The Wind in the Willows

Feast of St Anthony the Great

Wind_in_Willows_Square.jpegI AM OF the opinion, and I have it on good authority, that The Wind in the Willows is the most beautiful book ever written in the English language. If you haven’t read it, if you haven’t read it since childhood, if you’ve only seen the cartoon (or if you’ve only been on “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” at Disneyland), I’ll ask you to... Continue Reading

Melancholy Musings on Friendship: Striving for Unity & Opposing Sectarianism

Feast of the Veneration of the Apostle Peter's Chains

Fr_B__Jim_and_Christopher_Square.jpegI HAVE BEEN Catholic now for a bit more than thirteen years. The estrangement from old friends, church families, and institutions has been difficult for me. Some of those relationships are just now really beginning to show any sign of healing. Some of them, because of things like the pesky interference of the limits of mortal life, never will, at... Continue Reading

Friendship & the Mystery of Personhood

Feast of St. Gregory of Nyssa

Adam_and_Eve_Scenes_Square.jpegWITH THE conjoined truths of the Trinity and Incarnation in mind, Christians may aptly consider how it is that the Triune God enlightens us through one of His created and recreated icons of Love – human communion, as seen particularly in the form known to us as Friendship. Though the world of human relationships is all-too-familiar, a close look at human fellowship discloses... Continue Reading

From Bethlehem to Calvary

Feast of St Melania the Younger, Nun of Rome

Nativity_Square_3.jpgCHRIST IS BORN in Bethlehem of Judea. And the angels sing and proclaim the Divine glory, and declare unto earth peace. But to the heavenly good news of peace, the earthly men respond with a gnashing of hatred, suspicion and malice. The very threshold of the Bethlehem cave was sprinkled by an innocent blood, by the blood of the innocent... Continue Reading

The Mystery of Daniel's Thrones

Feast of St Gideon the New Martyr of Mt Athos

Daniel_Square_2.jpegAS WE celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation, it behooves us to remind ourselves how startling this doctrine really is. A second century conversation between rabbis, recorded in Chagigah 14a of the Babylonian Talmud, might help us ponder anew this mystery. The dispute has to do with the appearance of “thrones,” in the plural, in Daniel’s heavenly vision of... Continue Reading

Love Caused Your Incarnation

Feast of the Martyr Juliana of Nicomedia

Nativity_Square_2.jpegST ANSELM famously asked, “Why did God become man?” [Cur Deus Homo]. After much wandering and weaving through a scholastic web of cause and effect, necessity and the freedom of God, the two natures of Christ, and a reflection upon the atonement, Anselm makes the following observation:

Now we have found the compassion of God which appeared lost to you... Continue Reading

Gene Herr: Do You Have Hope?

Feast of the Martyr Susannah the Deaconess

Prodigal_Son_Square_2.jpegON JANUARY 1, 2012 at 6 PM, hope took in a quick breath, released everything it had left for this world, and lay ashen and still on a small bed in a nondescript room. I was sitting solitary by my father’s bedside, willing him to be released. Never did I think this task would be mine, as the youngest child and only daughter in... Continue Reading

A Resurrected Imagination: Belief in Santa Claus & the Power of the Saints

Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra

Nicholas_Square.jpegI KNOW factually that Santa Claus existed, in the past tense: St. Nicholas of Myra was born on the 15th of March, A.D. 270, and died on the 6th of December, A.D. 343. A Christian bishop in what is now Turkey, he attended the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and, according to tradition, was so zealous for the orthodox belief in the Deity of... Continue Reading

Not One Stone Left on Another: A Summons of Return to Our Original Social Covenant - Matthew 24:1-13

Feast of the Prophet Nahum and St Philaret the Merciful

Lincoln_Memorial_Square.jpegThe Temple and the Social Contract
If you were to visit me in Washington, DC, and it was your first visit, I would likely take you to two of my three favorite memorials. These two memorials tell our national story. They are fifteen miles from my home and within walking distance of each other on the Potomac Basin. Northwest of the... Continue Reading

Secularization: Religious Decline or Family Deterioration? - Pt 3 of 3

Feast of St Catherine the Great Martyr of Alexandria

Eberstadt_How_West_Lost_God_Square.jpegFurther Evidence for the Family Factor: Weakened Families Stop Transmitting Christianity
After providing three chapters’ worth of evidence for her theory (see Part 2), Eberstadt offers four additional chapters and a conclusion that works out its implications.

Chapter six explores how churches in the West contributed to their own decline by ignoring the family factor. In other words, Eberstadt suggests, by accepting... Continue Reading

Secularization: Religious Decline or Family Deterioration? - Pt 2 of 3

Feast of St Philip the Apostle

Eberstadt_How_West_Lost_God_Square.jpegMarriage and Fertility: Engines for Faith
Following a survey of the secularization thesis, Eberstadt offers three chapters in defense of her “family factor” theory. She begins by arguing for empirical links among marriage, childbearing, and religiosity. Her argument begins with an article by W. Bradford Wilcox (“As the Family Goes,” First Things 173) in which he offers three reasons why church attendance is connected to... Continue Reading

Secularization: Religious Decline or Family Deterioration? - Pt 1 of 3

Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the other Bodiless Powers: Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Salaphiel, Jegudiel & Barachiel

Eberstadt_How_West_Lost_God_Square.jpegSecularization Theory: Dead or Alive?
If the sociologist Jan Swyngedouw could look back from 1979 at the sheer volume of what had been written on secularization in the 1960s and 1970s and “find it difficult to suppress a certain feeling of ‘indigestion,’” what are we to conclude over five decades into the debate? Swyngedouw... Continue Reading

Wisdom Is Justified by Her Deeds: Was the Reformation Wise?

Feast of St Epimachus of Alexandria

Luther_Thesis_Square.pngAFTER 500 years, it’s worth reflecting on whether it was such a good idea, or not—this whole Reformation, that is. Or, to use the language of today’s Gospel reading: was the Reformation “wise—will Wisdom be justified by her deeds?” (Mt. 11.12-19).

To some extent, you could say it was necessary—the abuses were simply out of control. It was bound to happen one way, or another, whether... Continue Reading

Death Despoiled: A Poem for All Hallow's Eve

Feast of Sts Cleopas and Artemas of the 70

Pumpkin_with_Cross_Square.jpegFRIGID, fallow, the fainting, frosted earth
in silence sullen, souls of sylvan shorn;
wraiths and whispers upon now welter wastes
creep carefully out from crags and caverns.
Ancient arbors, by alien asters
luminous, by lore lyric leering lure,
issue imps in ire instructed idly.
Ghouls from gaps in Gaia’s greenish garment
emerge, ennobled evening ended,
vandals vicious, violence varied.
Beasts beguild,... Continue Reading

All Hallow's Eve: A Concise History of Halloween & Its Cosmic Significance

Feast of the Martyrs Zenobius & Zenobia

Pumpkin_Pantokrator_Square.jpegIN THE MIDDLE Ages, Halloween was known as All Hallow’s Eve. Though today a festival to celebrate the creepy, carnal, and calamitous, historically it was the vigil for All Saints Day (also called All Hallows). On All Hallow’s Eve, the local parish church would hold a vigil and then process to the local cemetery to offer prayers on behalf of the departed. On... Continue Reading

World War I in British Popular Song & Classical Music

Feast of Carpus, Papylus, Agathodorus, & Agathonica, the Martyrs of Pergamus

Royal_Irish_Rifles_ration_party_Somme_July_1916_Square.jpgPOPULAR music during World War I served to rouse the troops, comfort the grieving, and encourage patriotic spirit. Several classical composers served in the British armed forces during the war and their works reflected their experience, as did the works of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and poets like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, subjects of this... Continue Reading

World on Fire: How the Inklings Responded with Hope and Creativity

Feast of the Holy and Glorious Apostle Thomas 

Mordor_Square_1.jpegTHE TWENTIETH century was the bloodiest century in human history. It was characterized by two world wars, which killed collectively between 70-100 million people, and a cold war which potentially could have killed many more people than the two world wars combined. The members of the Inklings, including J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, lived through all three of these... Continue Reading

Washing at Dark

Feast of St Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury

Rich_with_Flowers_Square_3.jpgSOMEDAY I shall be a great saint—like those you see in the windows of magnificent cathedrals. I will have a soul made of sunlight and skin as clear as the stained glass panels that make their skin, and I will shine like they do now—I will shine with the glory that comes over those who rise up early and seek the... Continue Reading