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May 9, 2016

A slight detour on a cross-country trip took me to Possum Kingdom. The tiny community is in north-central Texas and lies nestled against the shore of a lake that attracts many people during the summer but few on the chilly day that I visited. I dropped in to see Bill and Mary Keeley, long-time friends of the family. When I was a teenager, they lived across the street from us, and I am godfather to two of their now-grown children.

Bill had sent me an e-mail a few weeks earlier, seeking...

April 4, 2016
Cardinal Robert Sarah

We were gathered around a campfire high in the Sierra Nevada. This was a Catholic backpacking trip, so talk naturally turned to goings on within the Church. After we discussed several topics, there was a lull.

I poked at the fire with a stick, sending a plume of sparks into the air, and looked at the priest to my left. His illuminated face looked Mosaic. A man with extensive contacts in Rome, he knew many of the “players,” so I asked, “When the next conclave comes around, who is on...

February 10, 2016
Lucca, Italy

I’m in Lucca, the walled city.

I arrived yesterday afternoon from Florence. From the train station it was a fifteen-minute walk to my hotel, the San Luca Palace, located within the walled historical center near the westernmost gates, Porta Sant’Anna and Porta San Donato. The hotel is one of the nicest I’ve seen in Italy: an elegant breakfast room, fine parquet flooring along the hallways, and everything new and clean. My room is oversized, with a shower so large I can turn without...

February 5, 2016
The inside dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

The top floor of Giotto’s campanile—just a few feet below the very peak—is 414 ever-narrowing steps above the pavement. That puts you almost at eye level with tourists who stand at the base of the lantern that sits atop Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome, the crowning symbol of Florence and, perhaps, of the entire Renaissance.

A light mist fell today as I looked the length of the duomo and at that magnificent, octagonal, and still-not-quite-finished dome. I imagined the double faith the...

January 25, 2016

“How to win friends and influence people” has a flip side: “How to lose friends.” One of the easiest ways is by sticking to one’s convictions—or, at least, by sticking to them while making them known. There can’t be many readers who have never lost a friend or, at least, annoyed someone dear by maintaining a principle and conforming their actions to it.

Your Uncle Filbert abandoned his wife, got a civil divorce, and now is intending...