Author: Byron Miller, CSSR

Another World Is Possible

“Beware the Ides of March.” While the fifteenth of March is best known as the day of Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 bc, it was traditionally the deadline for Romans to settle debts. Likewise, Americans settled their debts to the federal government on March 15, until the tax-filing deadline was...

A High Degree of Certainty

I read somewhere that the sun’s getting hotter every year. It seems that pretty soon the earth’s going to fall into the sun—or wait a minute—it’s just the opposite—the sun’s getting colder every year. Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby We can relate to Tom Buchanan’s solar confusion almost a...

Tremors in the Church

“There was a mini-earthquake in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and New Jersey,” wrote Dorothy Day, the Catholic social activist, in her journal in 1979. “Why was not Manhattan Island affected? What a thought! Unimaginable to think of those two fantastic World Trade towers swaying with a sudden jarring of what we...

Saintly Faces

I have the face of a saint—a Saint Bernard! When I was an infant, my mother held me in her arms as she boarded a streetcar in New Orleans. While she paid the token, the driver exclaimed, “Lady, that’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen.” After she took her seat,...

Come to the Water

Today’s generation may feel superiorly advanced after seeing vintage photos of passengers smoking on airplanes or doctors and nurses lighting up in hospitals. We can even appreciate the irony of the dubious 1940s ad slogan by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company: “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.”...

Good Things Come…Just Wait

The hospital nurse announces that you’re finally going home today, but shortly before nightfall, you’re still waiting for the doctor to sign off on your release. The words patient and patience are derived from the Latin patior, which means, “to suffer,” so we’re undoubtedly called patients because of the insufferable...

Regiving

In anticipation of the holiday season, I’m considering one of those thirty-day diets. So far, I’ve already lost fifteen days! But seriously, friends, for many, the final months on the calendar are marked by an excessive amount of consumption and consumerism. Bathroom scales and credit-card statements remind us of our...

Interaction with the Vampire

There’s a difference between condemning an act and judging the guilt of the actor. Bloodthirsty vampires in literature often symbolize selfish exploitation. In How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Thomas Foster writes: “Using other people to get what we want. Denying someone else’s right to live in the face...

The Hands of a Mother

A number of new priests are reviving an old custom that wasn’t as popular at the time of my ordination. The newly ordained presents his mother with the manutergium (Latin for “hand towel”)—a special cloth that’s used to soak up the chrism oil after a bishop anoints the new priest’s...

Lord of the Dance

When was the last time you danced? That was the question posed in an Easter Vigil homily this year. For some, it was during Roosevelt’s administration—Franklin’s, not Theodore’s—when jazz and jitterbug were the cat’s pajamas. Although I had asked this question in a health-care facility—primarily to priests and brothers in...

The Hurtful Sin of Pride

Attributed to Tennessee Williams, who adopted New Orleans as his home, is a version of this quote, “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” In a similar biased opinion, after journalist Lafcadio Hearn moved from Ohio to New Orleans in the...

What Hath We Wrought?

Some sayings capture the flavor of a city: “Paper or plastic?” (Berkeley, CA, before a 2012 ban on plastic grocery bags) “Frozen or ‘on the rocks’?” (anytime in New Orleans) Some sayings capture the signs of the times: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” (President Ronald Reagan, West Berlin, June...

A Virtuous Life

In 1916, architect John Lloyd Wright invented Lincoln Logs. These sturdy, delightful toy sets used to create model log cabins were especially popular in the 1920s and again in the 1950s and sixties. As I recall the distinctive scent that wafted from the cylindrical storage tin containing the interlocking, stained-wood...

Responsible Dominion

Did you know the three-second memory span for goldfish is a myth? As a youngster, I invested in a tank of bug-eyed goldfish after the loss of my faithful one-eyed Pekinese companion. That’s when “the boy and his inseparable dog” tried to become “the boy at one with his goldfish.”...

Just “Desserts”

For years, I retained an ordinary linen handkerchief as though it were a sacred relic. Unlike the crass, mercenary online postings that offered Britney Spears’ used pumice stone or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chewed cough drop, this cloth possessed no biological history except tears of elation and no value other than sentimental....

Destiny and Destination

In the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Stephen Douglas called Abraham Lincoln two-faced. Lincoln turned to his audience, asking, “I leave it to you, my friends. If I had two faces, would I be wearing this one?” But Lincoln was far less tongue-in-cheek about a two-faced reality in his day: “All men are...

Sunday-morning Satire

“Welcome to our parish, Father. Do you have the Mass this morning?” grumbled the woman in the sacristy. “Yes. I’ll be taking your good pastor’s place at all three Masses today,” the replacement priest replied. “Anything I should know?” “Well, Father, we prefer no incense; it sets off the smoke...

Our Sharpest Tool

Children know thirty to forty offensive words by the time they enter school, suggests data from psychology professors Timothy Jay and Kristin Janschewitz, though no one knows if kids are aware of what the words mean. Likewise, children may not fully understand all the words they use in prayer. I’ve...

Let Us Firmly Resolve

May all your troubles in the coming year be as short-lived as your New Year’s resolutions,” quipped an anonymous realist. Recall the ambitious list of resolutions often created with good intentions at the beginning of each year—intentions to start walking, stop smoking, floss more, fuss less, lose weight, gain indulgences…you...