Good Letters

Word and Place


I did the math, and during the average waking hour I’m 2,227 feet above the earth. It’s a height that obscures one’s vision—too high to see the particularities, not separated enough from the dirt to see that all of it together is a particularity called creation, and me a part of it, and less and…

The Monstrosity of Christ


This morning, with my wife at work, my four-year-old daughter at pre-school and my infant son asleep in the next room, I watched the 1955 Danish film Ordet directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, recently voted the #1 film religious or “spiritual” film in a poll facilitated by Image and voted on by forty critics and…



There’s a 1920s film clip, available on YouTube, of George Bernard Shaw jauntily arguing that anyone who can’t explain his cost to society should not be allowed to live in it. Said the celebrated playwright: “[I]f you’re not producing as much as you consume or perhaps a little more, then, clearly, we cannot use the…

What to Say


A friend is dying. She’s older, my mother’s age. I’ve known Georganne, as I’ll call her, since my first book was published and she asked if I’d like to give a reading at the private library where she was a trustee. Her voice struck me on that first phone call with its bossy-but-breathy quality, no-nonsense…

Confronting My Poverty


See how thy beggar works in Thee / By art. —George Herbert A long table was set up on the corner of Boylston just outside the main branch of the public library on the edge of Copley Square filled with cellophane bags of bread and Styrofoam plates of lunch meat, and sliced cheese. I had…

The Lost Art of Letter Writing


Letter writing, the kind with real ink and paper, has become something of a cultural anachronism, like rotary phones or washboards. Mention that you plan to spend the afternoon writing a letter, and be prepared to meet the same quick-blinking surprised faces you might receive if, pushing back from a restaurant table, you say, “Excuse…

The First Five Non-Christian Records I Ever Owned


For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading through the final pages (finally!) of my upcoming book Sects, Love, and Rock & Roll, which is a collection of essays about faith and popular music, mostly in the 1990s, and the musical twists and turns life (mine and others’) has taken since then. For the most…

Winter’s Bone: A More Human Hero


When was the last time you saw a big-screen hero kill, gut, and cook a squirrel? Be prepared for that if you see Winter’s Bone. I wasn’t. Let’s not even talk about the chainsaw, which figures prominently at the end of the film. Let’s focus on Ree Dolly, the seventeen year-old girl “bred and buttered”…

The School of Chant


When the email circulated that there would be a traditional Latin Mass at our parish for the Feast of the Assumption on August 15, I immediately and foolishly wrote back that I wanted to be in the Schola Cantorum. The extent of my Gregorian chant experience is one weekend at the Abbey of Gethsemani five…

When We Are Not Enough


I sat down today with the intention of writing about something uplifting. This morning it was cool, so I went for a long walk with my son up to the campus of the college where I teach. Along the way, we saw families of deer, the college grounds crew weed-whacking around the foundations of the…

Image’s Daily Blog

For the humanists of the Renaissance, literature mattered because it was concrete and experiential—it grounded ideas in people’s lives. Their name for this kind of writing was bonae litterae, a phrase we’ve borrowed as the title for our blog. Every weekday, one of the gifted writers on our blogging team will offer a personal essay that makes a fresh connection between the world of faith and the world of daily life, spanning the gap between theology and experience and giving language a human shape.

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