Author Archive: Brian


“One is hardly tempted to lose confidence in the future after listening to a group of young people discussing the important problems of life. Of course the number who approach the future reflectively and with real appreciation for the issues involved in the readjustment of traditions to new situations is not large. There are not many such groups and even in these the number who really take part in the discussion is small.

“Nevertheless their wholesomeness is impressive. I can’t always withhold a sense of pity for them. With traditions crumbling and accepted standards inundated by a sea of moral relativity, they have a desperate task on their hands to construct new standards adequate for their happiness. There is always the temptation to be too rebellious or too traditional, to be scornful of the old standard even when it preserves obvious virtues, or to flee to it for fear of being lost in the confusion of new standards. Yet the best way of avoiding these dangers is to subject them to the scrutiny of a thoughtful group which knows how to discern the limitations of any position, old or new.”

— Reinhold Niebuhr, Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic (104)

Good encouragement; good caution.

Mennonites Notes from a Catholic University

  • There is a more penetrating paradox of joy and sorrow in receiving a eucharistic blessing than I have ever elsewhere felt. The gentle yet commanding touch of the priest, the exaggerated sign of the cross he imprints on my body, the quiet murmur of a trinitarian blessing intended directly for me: this is surely how it must feel to be embraced and sent by the church! Yet my fellow faithful have just joined a deeper blessing that not only signifies but embodies their unity with each other, with the whole history of the Church, and most especially with the Christ whom they touch, feel, and taste. The sign of my embrace is the sign of my exclusion, not out of malice or in error but because all we can do from our wounded distance is to touch. To touch is to hope for healing.
  • ‘Orthodox’ and ‘Radical’ tend toward the same root, which is the right praise of God. It is all the same tragedy whether Catholics (by assuming that God is contained in their liturgy) ignore the disruptive grace that emerges from proper doxology, or whether Mennonites (by assuming pretentious airs of ‘newness’) undermine the long history of faithful prayer that encompasses every true justice and every true church. There is no Christian doxology without justice and no Christian justice without doxology.
  • A doctrinaire simplicity will never know the wonder of God’s presence inside a building erected with all the extravagance due God’s name, where every detail is molded with care and every resource is quickly marshalled to express our praise. Unflinching extravagance will never discover that a material renunciation for the sake of each other, for the sake of the poor, makes possible the real presence of Christ among all the faithful who have meanwhile become friends. Neither the cathedral nor the house church can be too quickly rejected. Both are beautiful.