Catholic

Catholic

There’s a common emotional vocabulary in the writings of Catholic women, a fierce devotion strangely coupled with a startling humility. This is ever-so-present in Flannery O'Connor's A Prayer Journal, recently published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

It's a wonderful book: unflinchingly honest, unfailingly wise, and immensely funny:

For over 30 years, The Basilica of Saint Mary in downtown Minneapolis has welcomed animals into their pews for a blessing. The tradition of blessing the animals takes place on the first Sunday in October and commemorates the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi — the patron saint of peace, ecology, and animals — and his love for all creation.

Lots of people are talking about our (still very new) Bishop of Rome — and especially his recent interview in America. Mark Silk says we have a "liberal" pope. So do Rod Dreher and many other commentators.

Maundy Thursday in HyerabadA Christian worshipper at the St. Alphonsus Church in Hyderabad during a Maundy Thursday service. (Photo by Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)

Considered by some to be a living saint, Jean Vanier created L'Arche, a model of community for people with mental disabilities that celebrates power in smallness and light in the darkness of human existence. The French Canadian philosopher and Catholic social innovator speaks about his understanding of humanity and God that has been shaped by Aristotle, Mother Teresa, and people who would once have been locked away from society.

We received hundreds of essays in response to our query about what anchors and unsettles our Catholic audience. So we asked some of you to speak about your tradition. The moving reflections we heard prompted us to depart from our usual format and bring you a fabric of voices from the Church itself.

We speak with Washington insider Joseph Califano, a devout, lifelong Catholic, who held key positions inside the Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter administrations. Califano provides frank insight into the practical difficulties of applying religious ideals in the political arena.

Saint John's University and Abbey in rural Minnesota houses a monastic library that rescues writings from across the centuries and across the world. There are worlds in this place on palm leaf and papyrus, in microfilm and pixels. And the relevance of the past to the present is itself revealed in a new light.

A remarkable Kenyan woman and environmentalist speaks from experience about the links between ecology, human flourishing, war and peace, and democracy. And she shares her thoughts on where God resides.

In over 50 years as a Benedictine nun, Sister Joan Chittister has emerged as a powerful and uncomfortable voice in Roman Catholicism and in global politics. If women were ordained in the Catholic Church in our lifetime, some say, Joan Chittister would be the first female bishop.

Pages