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black and white film image of a bowler hat suspended over a bed of tall daisies

I have had it with the rage. It might drive me off social media. At first, I thought it might just be a problem of living in metropolitan Washington, D.C., where the strident opinions held by many are usually interlinked with what they do for a living. No such luck, though: I’ve been on trips…

My Bad Italy Novel

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Caravaggio's painting of Saint Matthew's inspiration. Matthew stands partially kneeling on a tall stool, looking upwards to an angel who is giving him words. As Michelangelo looks up towards the young angel, he also writes.

February is offseason in Rome, so today the city is a little gray, a little quiet, if ever it could be such a thing. I’m standing on the steps of San Luigi Dei Francesi church, buzzing a little from a sugary espresso. I’m gearing up to enter the church and see, for the fourth time…

Mysteries Sherlock Holmes Can’t Solve

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“No, you should definitely major in English,” I told our babysitter, a high-school senior from our church who is considering an English or Communications degree. “Fiction is just like faith,” I said, “it’s its own kind of knowledge that makes our lives richer.” I really believe that, though I have to renew my conviction from…

Heisenberg and the A-Bomb: Just Say No

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I read through the article breathlessly, astonished at the moral implications of what I was learning. When I got to the end, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, trying to begin to take in the import of what I’d just read. The article was “The Private Heisenberg and the Absent Bomb,” by Thomas Powers,…

Poetry Friday: “Love’s Last”

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The spring equinox was on Monday. I am slowly seeing a flush of new life around me, like plum tree blossoms and nettles, while winter’s dank decay is still lamentably present. Christian Wiman’s haunting and tender poem “Love’s Last” from his collection Once in the West (originally published in Image issue 81) echoes loudly for…

Love Nailed to the Doorpost

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black and white image of a mezuzah on the door post of a house.

The commandment to love is nailed to my doorpost. Ritualistically written on a little piece of parchment, rolled up, tucked inside a beautifully painted ceramic case, and nailed aslant to the doorpost. I almost never notice it. Not when I’m rushing out of the house in the morning, book bag and gym bag slung over…

The Landscape of Grief

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a purple tinted image of a little island in a lake surrounded by deep green, hilly land on the edges. the image is very foggy, hazy, looks wet.

Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. —C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed I drag my three children outside for a walk. They are too young to understand how desperately I need to take advantage of the warm weather even if it’s a landscape of…

Calling the Lapsed

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Black and white film image of the interior of a large white-wooden walled church, with high vaulted ceilings and large windows at the top of the walls. There are three enormous white balloons floating near the ceiling. To the left of the room is a table set up with things on top of it (maybe food). Several people stand in the center, holding a large balloon, and helping set up. The left and right side of the image is a blank strip of light from the film being exposed to light.

  The parish party was a bust. As a member of the Parish Council, I had promised—yet not followed through—on calling the database of lapsed Catholics the Council had acquired by asking parishioners to fill out notecards during Sunday Mass, listing friends and family members who had fallen away. Of the targeted invitees, the lapsed…

Inheriting Trauma

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Until a few months ago, I thought Aleppo, Syria was one word. I’d never seen it in print, only heard it, and just once, from the lips of my grandmother. “I was born in Aleppo, Syria,” she said, and since there was no pause between the “o” and the “s” I figured she was referring…

Poetry Friday: “In Tandem”

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Here is a poem that takes aim at our clichés about aging and death. It does so with subtle cleverness, by putting “in tandem” an old spruce tree and the nursing home resident to whom the poem is addressed. Though there’s no stanza break, the poem divides into two parts, each of nine lines. The…

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For the humanists of the Renaissance, literature mattered because it was concrete and experiential—it grounded ideas in people’s lives. Their name for this kind of writing was bonae litterae, a phrase we’ve borrowed as the title for our blog. Every weekday, one of the gifted writers on our blogging team will offer a personal essay that makes a fresh connection between the world of faith and the world of daily life, spanning the gap between theology and experience and giving language a human shape.

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