Who Are the American Muslims?

A Saturday night in late summer and downtown Rochester was completely dark except for an exceedingly lively block of First Avenue Northwest. At one end, a tall Somali man leaned into the window of a black Chevy Cavalier and spoke with a woman wearing a red silk hijab, or headscarf. Behind the Cavalier, three Somali […]

The Ruin

If you were seeking God, you probably wouldn’t think to look in Inver Grove Heights. The fast-growing St. Paul suburb is a good place to buy a fleet of used Cessnas, or a truckload of corn chips, potash, or mechanical heart valves. At the town’s center stands a massive petroleum refinery—a strange, stippled city of […]

Church and State

Every Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. during the legislative session, Chaplain Dan Hall hosts a two-hour prayer meeting. It is held around a long wooden table in Room 118 of the State Capitol building, just around the corner from the governor’s office. Attendance varies, averaging about twenty people who know Hall from his work as […]

A Higher Power

In America today, Jesus is pop culture’s King of Kings, a force in politics, film, music, and books. In the world of contemporary art, though, his presence is less established. While modern curators always seems to make room for dung-smeared Madonnas and crucifixes in urine, where are the works of genuine, unironic reverence? Not in […]

Force of Habit

The bells have been ringing for thirty minutes, but it is the sound of a cane rattling through the empty, cavernous church that suggests prayer. It is held by an old man, his stooped body covered in the flowing black habit of a Benedictine monk. He enters from the sacristy, clicking, clacking, up a barely […]

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First Born

My great-aunt lived in three centuries. She remembered seeing her first automobile. “It was such a novelty. I never thought I’d actually get a ride in one,” she said. She lived through ten popes and twenty presidents. Born in St. Paul, in 1894, Sister Esther was the oldest of eight girls. Her parents moved to […]

Something About Mary

If Christmas marks the birth of Jesus, then you know who deserves most of the credit. As interest in Mary increases among the unwashed masses, the Church has more trouble trying to manage her image, her meaning, and her legacy. Anne and Joe were a typical couple. They married young and drove hard for success, […]

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Father, Forgive Them

Palm Sunday 6:00 a.m. My clock radio goes off. It is set to a local news station. The spiritual maxim is this: Upon awaking in the morning, give your first thoughts to God. I am beginning to learn that clock radios don’t always enable this practice. Before I can give my thoughts to anything in […]

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