The lives of saints are invariably paradoxical. Whenever Mother Theresa was asked how she kept the adulation that came with being an international celebrity from infecting her with the sin of pride, she would reply that Jesus had given her a great grace: the deepest conviction of her total nothingness. “If He could find a poorer woman through whom to do his work,” she said, “He would not choose me, but He would choose that woman.”
Last month I had the privilege of joining a study tour to Cuba with former members of Congress — sponsored by the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress (FMC). We met with government and Communist Party officials, members of the National Assembly and Foreign Ministry, artists, scholars, academics, economists, entrepreneurs, even cigar workers. Cubans feel genuine optimism that the recent normalization of relations with the United States may usher in a new era of cooperation. Continue reading Our Moment in Cuba?
Giuseppe Verdi, whose two-hundredth birth anniversary we celebrate this Thursday, is famous as a composer of immortal operas. Also for the bitter battles he waged with censors to get his operas performed. As often happens when an artist squares off against the censors, the artist has the last word. Continue reading Verdi Uncensored
How much significance is the world to attach to Pope Francis’ extraordinary statement on Monday that it was not for him “to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?” And then, “You can’t marginalize these people.”
The pope was responding to a reporters’ questions on gays in the ranks of Catholic clergy. Traditionalists and critics alike were quick to point out that at the same time, the pope reaffirmed church teaching by calling homosexual acts a sin. But the fact remains that this is the first time in history that a pope has spoken out in defense of gay priests. To me, it is an event so dramatic as—well—as to recall St. Francis of Assisi kissing lepers. Continue reading Kissing the Lepers?
I have to admit that I have enjoyed reading about the first actions of the new pope: his paying his own hotel bill; his giving his security detail the slip in order to make a private visit to a church; his preference for simple vestments, his choice of Francis as his pontifical name and so on. It gave me a warm glow of nostalgia as I remembered the accession of Pope John XXIII over fifty years ago. Continue reading Francis I–Another John XXIII?