The Fourth Part of the World

Second Sunday of Lent (B)

“The earth… is divided into three parts, one of which is called Asia, the second Europe, the third Africa… Apart from these three parts of the world there exists a fourth part, beyond the ocean, which is unknown to us.” – St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, c. 600 AD

This quote may challenge the way some of you have viewed European history. Here is someone who lived nearly two centuries after the collapse of Roman rule in Western Europe – during a time often dismissed as the “Dark Ages”. And yet, he reports this concept that the world is more than he or anyone of his era knew – that there is a “fourth part of the world… unknown to us”. This idea doesn’t come from Isidore himself; he reports it, matter-of-factly, as something commonly assumed in his day. A belief that there was more to the physical world than what they could see then.   Continue reading “The Fourth Part of the World”

The Least of My Sisters and Brothers

Monday of the First Week of Lent

Some time ago, I happened upon a story about the old comedian W. C. Fields. According to this story, a friend came into Fields’ dressing room before a show, and noticed that Fields was reading the Bible. The friend found this odd, as Fields had never spoken to him before about the Bible, or religion, so the friend assumed that Fields was not a religious man. When the friend asked Fields why he was reading the Bible, the response came: “I’m looking for loopholes!”  Continue reading “The Least of My Sisters and Brothers”


First Sunday of Lent (B)

In the first reading, the Lord points to the rainbow as the symbol of the covenant He is making with Noah and, through Noah, all humanity. The rainbow is a good symbol for the liturgical year as well. Just as the one white beam of light, passing through a water droplet or a prism, is bent so that its varied colors become visible to us, so, too, the liturgical year “bends” the mystery of what God has done for us in Christ into varied colors that can be seen and contemplated in turn.  Continue reading “Testing”


Ash Wednesday

In my post A Spirituality of Sweets, I tried to make the point that fasting is intended primarily to remove barriers between ourselves and the Lord. We should fast from whatever separates us from the Lord. That is true, of course. Nevertheless, actual physical fasting is an important, even indispensable, part of this conversion.  Continue reading “Fasting”


Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

“Cooties! You have cooties!”

Perhaps you heard that childhood chant aimed at you in the schoolyard when you touched (or were touched by) a child of the opposite sex – or a child that stood out as ‘different’ in some way. Perhaps you aimed that chant at some other unfortunate kid caught in the same circumstance. Children, from a very early age, set up among themselves certain boundaries. Some are marked off – for whatever reason – as ‘radioactive’ or ‘unclean’, and woe to those to transgress the boundaries!  Continue reading “Unclean!”