Life’s Sweet Promise

Easter/Passover 2019

The last week–with seemingly more stresses, distractions and interruptions, not  to mention conflagrations and reports on investigations–has left less time for the work I write about here.

So I turn to an older tradition, one I’ve been reading about, and hopefully will turn to soon: festivity. Celebration is important to everyone’s soul and it’s important to nurture that part of us.

Two great faith traditions use this time of year to mark the promise of rebirth and renewal. In that spirit, I wish you all the bounties and blessings of the season.



A Building Which is on Fire

Thoughts the morning after the Notre Dame fire

The great world city I know best after my hometown is Paris.  If New York stands a monument to commerce and the ever-changing, Paris stands the same to the eternal and the beautiful.

Notre Dame sits at the center of that city, the great metropolis rippling out in circles from those two small isles in the River Seine. This morning she still stands .

A building, an architect once said, is in a grudge match with gravity. Notre Dame has been grappling with that elemental force for nearly a millennium. There are older buildings and monuments on earth, some of which have been destroyed deliberately. Why the fuss about a building? And this one in particular?

It’s not as simple as passing the test of time. A church, we are told, isn’t a building, it’s the people who come together in it. It strikes me the same definition, more or less, holds true for a city. It isn’t the building that burned, it’s the humanity that built it and tended it and entered it and passed by it and admired it and took it for granted that
caught spark.

In that sense, it is humanity’s common property and our common loss.

I’ve spent days walking about Paris, crossing back and forth across the river, the cathedral a smiling presence in day time and a great brooding mystery late at night, always there. Like many, I’ve entered and been overwhelmed by the beauty. Like some, I have stood in the crypt and felt this was a holy place, where people had  long gathered  to commune with what is bigger than them.

Pulling us out of ourselves to recognize we cannot exist alone, that we must exist together is a task for the ages. That a mass of wood, stone and glass honed by the skilled hands of craftsmen–most of whom would not live to see the work completed–can have such an effect is a miracle.

Maybe, even, a bit of God within us.


Soft be Her Tears

Le-TricoloreParis grieves and I do with her.

It seems pointless to stick to a normal schedule in the wake of such madness. Those of us who were in Manhattan on a September morn fourteen years ago know too well the shock, sadness and anger Paris is experiencing.

Paris is the world city I know best after New York. I’ve rambled all over its streets, ridden the Metro to points more distant, relaxed in its cafes and ambience. It is difficult to remember that the City of Light has often seen, as it is seeing now, war.

War is a harsh word, one Mssr. Hollande, I am sure, chose carefully.  But it is the apt word. The grand strategists, the students of von Claussewitz and von Metternich, like to say war is diplomacy by other means. But what if diplomacy is not the desired end?

Because before there was grand strategy there was harsh reality: war imposes a cost in blood and treasure so high that at some point it forces a change.  That is the goal that terror seeks, expending lives to take lives in the quest of who knows what end. The logic of war–the lesson of the century just past–is that halfway measures don’t even achieve halfway results.

I fear for the children, my own included. The world seems unlikely to cooperate in delivering security.  I hope for the best but the madness of this moment seems too deep.

For now, I mourn with Paris.



Color Him Father

Thomas L. McCreight
December 2, 1928–June 8, 2015

The Lion in Winter My Dad, May 2015

The Lion in Winter
My Dad, May 2015

Until now this space has limited the personal to opinion. That’s by design. Today I’m breaking that mold to write about my father who passed away on June 8. Roman Catholic ritual doesn’t embrace eulogies so consider this his.

Almost anyone born at the start of or during the Great Depression can tell tales of want and fear. Even my mother-in-law, born in 1932 of two college-educated parents, could summon a tale or two. My dad’s tale is a bit worse than many. Born into difficult circumstances he and his brother, who was two or three years older, were removed from their mother’s care and sent to an orphanage run by Dominican Continue reading