Category Essay

Chicago Diarist: Twelve Years

(Note: I wrote, but apparently did not finish, this post in March, 2013.) We may well never know what proximate cause led Pope Benedict XVI to resign when he did, but without a doubt, such an unusual announcement had a special resonance landing shortly before Ash Wednesday (a resonance that was noted). It occasioned a flurry […]

The Blessed Failure

(Note: I wrote this in October, 2012. I’m republishing it for St. Ansgar’s feast day tomorrow)   As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me […]

Youth in Exile

(Note: I wrote this in May 2010, when the Rolling Stones re-released Exile on Main Street) When I picked up Exile on Main Street in 1992, during the summer after seventh grade, the album was something of a hidden classic. It was not much anthologized on the numerous hits discs and live albums the Stones pumped out […]

I Like Politicians

The loss of this mode of politicking is the less-seen shadow side of the dysfunction and looming institutional crisis created by extreme gerrymandering. Once you know with a mathematical certainly who you don’t need, and where you don’t ever have to go, you are just wasting your time trying to hear out and nod along with some random collection of constituents. You have to tend to your party’s nominating voters and your funders, and they don’t care whether you’re able to empathize with whatever marginal voter you’re chasing at the mosque or the deli or the tavern. 

Time Present

(Note: I wrote this in July 2010. While none of it is left there, it helped prompt me to write a book) Last week I went to a local establishment to watch some baseball and read Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being. In retrospect it was a comical choice. On the screen I watch the momentary […]

Chicago Diarist: A Priestly People

(Note: I wrote this in January 2011) Back when I was just getting started in ministry, early in my seminary career, Christmas was a high point of the year. There is a strange thrill in doing something, as it were, from the inside out–in knowing the alleys that connect the gleaming storefronts, in working while […]

Chicago Diarist: Happy Birthday to Ya

(Note: I wrote this for my blog in January, 2008) Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. at church. The pastor switched the appointed Gospel reading with a passage from the Sermon on the Mount and, between the readings and the children’s sermon, we listened to an excerpt from one of King’s […]

I Wrote a Book. Why Did I Write a Book?

When you write compulsively, people will tell you by way of encouragement or indulgence that you should write a book. The logic of it may not be quite clear, but it can be very persuasive all the same. I heard this and said it to myself over the years, lacking only a firm grasp on […]

Authority at the Edge of the Abyss

The corner of Twitter in which I do most of my reading and arguing has been furiously arguing over the story of Edgardo Mortara, a Jewish child in Bologna secretly baptized by his family’s maid, and Pope Pius IX, who removed him from his home in accordance with law forbidding a Catholic child to be […]

Misconduct in an age of cheap accountability

This is one of those problems that I can articulate without being able to conceive of an answer beyond “lots more people should go to church, but, like, a good church.”