Can American Writers Write Happy Endings?

10/01/2015 Comments (33)

The British get Tom Jones and Dickens and Shakespeare's comedies, but what do we Americans get? Death and sadness, that's what -- at least in literature. 

Are there American novels with happy endings? This is what my daughter needed to know, since her high school English teacher is letting her choose her own author to research. Like many sensible people, my daughter understands that life is hard, that ambiguity abounds in our time, and that believable, compelling stories aren't going to end up with a rainbow and a unicorn and a tidy bow; however, like many sensible people, she was pretty tired of reading dystopian holocaust suicide apocalypse eating disorder stories, too.

So I asked the...READ MORE

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Your Family Is Not Your Brand

09/29/2015 Comments (37)

By VinnieRattolle [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

The Pope's emphasis on family has got me thinking. It seemed, at first, like his message was mainly things I already know: the family is the seat of earthly love, it was through the family that God brought His Son into the world, the strength of society depends on the strength of families, and so on. 

But he is the  pope, so I listened carefully anyway, and I realized that he's telling us more than what families in general are supposed to be like. He's telling us about our specific families. He's reminding us to focus on the actual people in front of us. This is why he's always urging us to do simple things like to say "please," "thank you," and "I'm sorry," and to try to make peace before...READ MORE

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Blessed Are the Useless

09/22/2015 Comments (9)

A short, unforgettable essay about beauty turned up the other day. It's by Marc Barnes, and it's an old one. I'm grateful that it happened to cross my desk now, because it helped me to unpack what Pope Francis said in Cuba this weekend to a crowd of sisters who serve the poor.

In Barnes' essay, "Humans Are Useless," he says:

Think of a few things which most human beings would agree to crown with the predicate “beautiful”. The Pieta, Mozart’s Requiem, the cool morning sun spilling through summer leaves, a fiery New England autumn, stained glass: What could we answer the man who asks us for the use of these things? We couldn’t, besides to babble an incoherent, self-contradicting set of...READ MORE

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A Church of Oddballs

09/17/2015 Comments (22)

Like a lucky cocker spaniel, interviewer Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air manages to come up with a tasty scrap every once in a while -- but, puppylike, she tends not to know what to do with it. This was the case this afternoon, when she interviewed Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, a heavily tattooed recovering alcoholic who was once a stand up comedian. 

Bolz-Weber says she loved Lutheran liturgy and tradition, but never felt that she fit in with the typical congregation; so, rather than make herself and everyone around her feel uncomfortable, she went to a Lutheran seminary and founded her own church, which she calls "The House for All Sinners and Saints." 

Bolz-Weber's congregation...READ MORE

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Who Do We Really Mean That Jesus Is?

09/15/2015 Comments (7)

Last Sunday, we read how Jesus put his disciples on the spot

Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?” 
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.” 
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?” 
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.” 

Peter answered the question right; but in the very next paragraph, he shows that he's not yet willing to put that answer into action. He says that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one, the savior, the one who came to suffer and die for them. He knows this from the prophesies he would have studied, and from Jesus' own words; but when it becomes evident that Jesus...READ MORE

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Why Does the Church Make Things So Complicated?

09/10/2015 Comments (19)

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682), "The Good Shepherd"

 Here's a letter from a reader:

I hear so much in NCRegister about things like Purgatory, the Rosary, Prayers for the Dead, Confession, Indulgences, etc.  Valid and invalid marriages.  All this discussion, some of it quite bitter, about whether any given ceremony or ordinance is "valid".  Whether or not such and such "counts" ...

Wouldn't it be better to simply focus in on Christian belief, the idea that we are all imperfect, that that lack of perfection is already paid for in the blood of the Risen Christ, and that in Christianity we no longer have to worry, that our sins are forgiven, and that we should try to live as best as we can according to the Bible?  

First, he is onto...READ MORE

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How About Post-Cana Counseling?

09/08/2015 Comments (45) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

As expected, Pope Francis' annulment reforms seem to be both sensible and doctrinally sound.  The first unofficial English translation of the two Apostolic Letters can be found here.  CNN sums up the three main changes this way:

• Eliminating a second review by a cleric before a marriage can be nullified.

• Giving bishops the ability to fast-track and grant the annulments themselves in certain circumstances -- for example, when spousal abuse or an extramarital affair has occurred.

• The process should be free, except for a nominal fee for administrative costs, and should be completed within 45 days.

That second point, as it's reported by CNN, is the one that will probably cause the...READ MORE

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Discernment of Amoral Issues

09/03/2015 Comments (23)

Nicholas Mutton [CC BY-SA 2.0 (].

 A reader writes:

I have two little boys a year apart and my husband and I felt the movement of conscience each time to find out the gender and reveal our babies' names that we had discerned and decided on. We truly feel that since a child's name is linked to their dignity (CCC 203) and that upholding the dignity of a child (unborn or born) to the utmost is a moral issue, that this is no longer "just a matter of preference" or "just a parenting choice" but an interesting moral responsibility in this age of ultrasound technology. Of course, the Church has not spoken to this or declared it a moral obligation, but I cannot understand why some practicing Catholics that I know do not agree...READ MORE

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About Simcha Fisher

Simcha Fisher
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Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs daily at Aleteia. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and ten children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.