The Ark in Newark


In a fine essay that appeared in the December 2013 issue of First Things, poet and critic Dana Gioia lamented the declension in Catholic literature since the mid-twentieth century, and the depressing homogeneity of contemporary American writing in general.  “To visualize the American Catholic arts today,” he wrote, “don’t imagine Florence or Rome.  Think Newark, New Jersey.”[1]  And thinking Newark conjures up visions of rundown apartment buildings and rattling commuter trains.

But Newark conceals a surprise or two up its well-worn sleeve. Continue reading

Casual Dress and the Body of Christ: A Plea for Bathrobes

My sister-in-law recently alerted me to a humorous announcement in the bulletin of her Catholic parish. The priest of Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Hammond, LA, would like for his parishioners to know:


After much study, our finance committee has determined it would not be feasible to construct an indoor swimming pool in our church. As a result, we can now announce with certainty that those who have been arriving for Mass as if dressed for the pool need not do so. Also, we hope to keep the air conditioning cranking until well into October. So you do not need to wear shorts, tube‐tops, spaghetti straps, camis, or mini shirts to Mass.

I hadn’t seen this bit of satire before, but it turns out that it is a variation of a joke that’s been floating around for at least a couple of years. Though the announcement is humorous, it seems that the priest’s complaint against casual dress is real. Why don’t people get dressed up for church anymore?

Continue reading