Memorial Day, 2020

To mark Memorial Day, 2007, Peter Collier wrote a magnificent reflection in the Wall Street Journal. Before he died this past November, he gave permission to his friends at Power Line to reprint it. Scott Johnson’s introduction is necessarily succinct: “The column remains timely and is accessible online here. I don’t think we’ll read or hear anything more thoughtful or appropriate to the occasion today.” Under the heading “America’s Honor,” the essay begins:
Once we knew who and what to honor on Memorial Day: those who had given all their tomorrows, as was said of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, for our todays.
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A Dog Story With A Moral

Let me tell you, please, about Bevan’s dog. The anecdote does service to the awkward truth that, often enough, peace has to be imposed. And maintained. It is a brief tale. Inelegant. Some might call it indelicate. But it has bearing, in the crooked way that analogies do, on political news. And on the manner in which news sidles into ecclesial thinking, then into the pulpit. The story came back to me on a Sunday in January when the priest capped the formulaic prayer for peace by adding “especially in the Middle East.” Continue Reading
Mortality, Magic, & Chinese Virus

Mortality was much on the mind of St. Augustine. In The City of God, he exhibits skepticism that a world thoroughly free of death-dealing plague could ever be possible. The tenor of this old quatrain has an Augustinian ring: Doctor, Doctor, will I die? Yes, my child, and so shall I. Like the original wording of many eighteenth century nursery rhymes, the lines irritate modern ears. Twentieth century sensibilities revised it to suit a well-fed, housed, and vaccinated generation poised to dismiss dispiriting reminders of mortality. Continue Reading
Frank Sheed; Love of Enemies; the Death Penalty

A sword lays buried within the mandate to love our enemies. Paul nodded to it in his letter to the Christian community in Rome. He quoted a passage from the wisdom literature familiar among Jews: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Prov. 25: 21-22). There is a compelling paradox here, a tension between kindly acts and anticipation of eventual punitive outcome for the recipient of the kindness—those burning coals! Continue Reading
On Loving Popes & Other Strangers, part 2

Declarations of love for everyone are a bluff. To love Everyman, an abstraction, is akin to loving no one. In our heart of hearts, we concede we cannot love anyone we do not know. Love of neighbor binds us in kindliness to certain others. First among them are individuals we live among. These are family, followed by persons we abide with in friendship, encounter in daily life, greet in passing, conduct business with. St. Paul places “those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. Continue Reading