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February 7, 2013

On this day in 1878 Bl. Pius IX died. Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferreti was the second-longest reigning pope in history, after St. Peter. He oversaw the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (1854), and became the "prisoner of the Vatican" when the Papal States fell to the army of the new Italian state. He was beatified in 2000. He commonly is said to have been a liberal when he ascended the papal throne in 1846 but became a conservative as he aged....

February 5, 2013

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Adlai Stevenson II (1900-1965), governor of Illinois and twice presidential candidate on the Democratic Party ticket. His final political role was as American ambassador to the United Nations.

In his day Stevenson was considered something of an intellectual among politicians; he certainly would be considered that today. He was not the best judge of character—in 1949 he testified at a Congressional hearing in defense of Alger Hiss—nor the best...

January 31, 2013

Many things the Holy Father doesprobably mostgo unnoticed by the majority of Catholics, and I fear His Holiness’s new Twitter account is unlikely to change that for more than a passing instant, so much do our attentions these days flit from one experience to the next. If I still have you reading after one complex...

January 30, 2013

There is a newly published resource that every apologist will want in his library: Heinrich Denzinger's Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals. This reference book is a sorely needed English update to one of the richest compendiums of Catholic doctrine ever compiled.

Commonly referred to simply as Denzinger (after the German theologian who published it in 1854) this doctrinal compendium...

January 30, 2013

When I first read it, years ago, I thought that Louis Chaigne's biography of Paul Claudel was the best-written biography I had ever come across. The book appeared in 1961, six years after Claudel's death at the age of 86.

Paul Claudel: The Man and the Mystic covers the three men who were Claudel: the diplomat, the poet and playwright, and the Catholic. Chaigne writes lovingly and insightfully of the man who was his friend for thirty years. By the end of the book, I felt...