Where were you on the day John Paul II died? I won’t soon forget, for I was caught in a looking-glass world of improbable encounters and reactions. A friendly neighbor dropped by to deliver his boy for a play date with our son Andy. “Did you hear the pope is dying?” (Yes, I did.) “Can’t see why such a fuss is being made about him.” (I can.
One of my desk drawers is filled with old calendars, which I’ve been saving as a prop for a faulty memory. I suspect it’s a fruitless exercise. Appointments and to-do lists, however necessary, don’t add up to a life, and the dates that really do matter return like faithful comets.
Andy, age nine, is jumping rope without a rope. “Is that your invisible jump rope?” his brother John asks him. “No,” says Andy, “it’s my happy rope!” Anticipating a promised hayride, Andy jumps his happy rope clear across the apple orchard we are visiting, the very picture of energy and exuberance in all its four-foot, 50-pound, never-take-a-nap glory.
Here is a lesson in monastic stability, transposed to a domestic key: I am invited to give a talk to a general chapter of Benedictine monastic communities, meeting at a historic abbey in Italy. Such occasions, which take place only once every eight years, normally are private affairs involving intramural matters like the election of an abbot president and revision of monastic statutes.
Summer is sailing past and we are trying to catch up to it in our 1988 Volvo with its worn upholstery, carpet of crushed Ritz crackers and Freon-guzzling air conditioner. We are on the road, not as carefree summer bohemians, but as the sober, hopeful parents of a high school senior searching for a good liberal arts college.
Cloistered monks and nuns rarely make headlines, especially if they are paragons of the hidden life, but the recent passing of Dame Felicitas Corrigan of Stanbrook Abbey near Worcester, at age 95, has caused a stir in the British press.
On October 5, Jonathan Edwards turns 300. From my vantage point in Northampton, where he preached the Great Awakening and served as pastor for 23 turbulent years, it is tempting to imagine bringing him back in a time machine.
On a summer evening in our town, Carnival came to Main Street. Biker convoys parked their gleaming Harleys outside the Internet café and flocks of teens from the suburbs rivaled the Harleys with their personal adornments of metal trimmings, tattooed limbs and orange and purple–streaked hair. To us locals all this hubbub was normal; we see it every year at Carnival time.
In these days of extraordinary terror and ordinary routine, the future seems at once darker and more open than we had expected. It may be that in the face of war or want, future generations will answer the call to Christian heroism with renewed vigor, and take refuge in Christian hope from failed utopias. It may be that such a change has already begun, though few observers mark it.
In the two decades since MTV captured the restless souls and short attention spans of our youth, it has become increasingly evident that teaching and learning require new strategies. The classroom lecture is dead, reading is an endangered art, and memorization belongs next to exorcism in the dustbin of discarded teaching arts.
Six years before he died, American philosopher William James filled out a questionnaire about religious experience. He was asked, among other things, “Do you pray?” His answer was forthright: “I can’t possibly pray.
September 11, the war in Afghanistan, the impending war in Iraq, the devastating conflict between Israel and Palestine, the crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, the crisis in big business, children missing, snipers shooting, politicians sniping, ethnic cleansing, famines: it’s one of those times when one wishes it were possible to return to the beginning, unravel the ancient enmities and start the